Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Politics as usual

Yesterday was another election day.  I find myself trying to avoid most of the coverage to avoid facing the disconnect between our national leadership and the people getting up everyday and getting it done.

But here are some quick quotes to make me feel better (it's nothing new, GK Chesterton, 1910ish):
What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics. I am still as much concerned as ever about the Battle of Armageddon; but I am not so much concerned about the General Election. As a babe I leapt up on my mother's knee at the mere mention of it. No; the vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.

And here's the closing of an argument of two political parties proposing to paint something red or green -
Nearly all the great newspapers, both pompous and frivolous, will declare dogmatically day after day, until every one half believes it, that red and green are the only two colours in the paint-box. THE OBSERVER will say: "No one who knows the solid framework of politics or the emphatic first principles of an Imperial people can suppose for a moment that there is any possible compromise to be made in such a matter; we must either fulfil our manifest racial destiny and crown the edifice of ages with the august figure of a Green Premier, or we must abandon our heritage, break our promise to the Empire, fling ourselves into final anarchy, and allow the flaming and demoniac image of a Red Premier to hover over our dissolution and our doom." The DAILY MAIL would say: "There is no halfway house in this matter; it must be green or red. We wish to see every honest Englishman one colour or the other." And then some funny man in the popular Press would star the sentence with a pun, and say that the DAILY MAIL liked its readers to be green and its paper to be read. But no one would even dare to whisper that there is such a thing as yellow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's in a Name - Washington Redskins

The hubbub over the NFL Washington Redskins name being offensive is gaining momentum.

Truly it is a remnant from a different age.  Culture no longer wishes to cling to offensive antiquated labels that don't apply.  It may bring back outdated mental images of people in a different culture sitting around, drinking and being dependent upon a check or food to show up without any work; because somehow it is owed to them.  It is an offensive caricature to bring up.  Let the name die as we grow to care for each other as human beings, as people rather than to just see groups.

I'm coming to agree the name should be changed.  The team should probably relocate for a clean break too.

Richmond Redskins sounds much better.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On the cause of Saint Gill - Patron Saint of Hipsters

I am a fan of GK Chesterton.  The sky is blue.  Dogs love sticks.

Now that the basics are out of the way I wanted to spell out some thoughts on the recent momentum in the push for Chesterton to become a saint.  The momentum?  There was an announcement from a Bishop that a cleric is being sought to begin the investigation to opening a cause for GK Chesterton.

My initial gut feel was "ugh.  Why?"

I hate to work backwards (having an ends before the logic), but I initially didn't like the idea, and then started to figure out - why? OR why not?

Part of me wonders if his being labelled a Catholic saint would raise walls for the general reader.  The title of Saint would bring with it the whole baggage of the Catholic church.  Chesterton was a profound writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction.  If canonized, does he get labelled as simply a writer of "Catholic stuff".  It's very easy to say I don't want to read "Catholic stuff", I want to read a good story or a good defense of faith with reason, enough for an unreasonable world.  It is an ignorant view that is clinging to a stereotype; but these walls from the outside in were my concern.

I am not Catholic.  I have had a handful of wonderful and thoughtful conversations with some Catholics about faith elements and getting past into some of the basics of the Catholic church.  These conversations were incredibly enlightening and lead me to believe that the Catholic church, along with most other church bodies, has a terrible PR firm.  They and their beliefs are not understood well.  Truly God cares about the heart and not the image.  He wants the ruddy David and while the people seek the strong/tall Saul.  Truth doesn't need a PR firm.

As I was questioning my gut, I did some reading on what it means to be a Catholic saint.  Whatever my preconceived notion was, it was wrong.  From some research I found that a "saint" is confirmed to be in Heaven (the miracles are proof of being in Heaven and the candidates intercession in prayer), while on earth they had a life that exuded some level of favor (holiness) from God.  I fully believe GKC is in Heaven and while on earth he had some grace that set him apart. 

So at the basics it is a non-issue.

I'm in favor of it until I talk to some Catholics.  This is a broad brush I am about to paint with.  I feel the need to point to the target of my concern without pointing to all Catholics.  Bring out the Catho-tons. 

Catho-tons are eager to claim Chesterton as Catholic to the point that he was nothing else.  That is the start of the trouble; his writing is wonderful, why not claim it?  They work to label it as Catholic more than let it shine as Truth.  As if every word written by such a prolific writer was because he was Catholic and every word is Catholic teachings.  His sole motivation was the Roman Catholic Church. 

It forces me to ask:  Was he motivated by the RCC or the Truths that God revealed to him?  Are those truths exclusively Catholic?  If he never took the later life plunge into RCC would they be less true?  Is the Catholic cross different from the cross of Christ?

They are busy building the wall that my gut was worried about.  I was worried about a wall built from the outside and Catho-tons have built it from the inside.

I'm not sure any doctrine or church statement would point to a piece like The Ethics of Elfland.  Certainly it would lack the eloquence.  Where as Elfland certainly does shine the light of truth onto the church.  It provides the color to the paint-by-number of church doctrine.  But God speaks the color where as the doctrine can only try to define it by setting its edges.

 So was it God's irrepressible truth that stirred Chesterton to that piece?
Was it the Roman Catholic church that inspired him to fill in the gap?

The Catho-ton says his witty speaking of truth is Catholic, I'm saying his witty speaking is of Truth.

There is a prayer card that has been circulated:

The line that raises my hackles is "his lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary".  GKC joined the Roman Catholic church in 1922 and his wife joined him in 1926.  Prior to this he attended an Anglican church with his wife.  From a few accounts there was much tension over this.  To call him a lifelong Catholic is a very Calvinistic view (once Catholic, always Catholic?).  It does not follow that to be with Frances he had to be Anglican; when they met he was not a believer.  The RCC could be claimed as a final destination of his faith, but the Anglican church was not a prison to appease his wife, at the minimum it was a stepping stone.  Since being saved, he certainly always had a regard for Mary (as all Christians should and generally do); but he was not immediately a Catholic as his own words state in his "Autobiography" - " reckless course in becoming a Christian, an orthodox Christian, and finally a Catholic in the sense of a Roman Catholic."

He was catholic from his first day of faith and Catholic in his later life.  I'd rather not confuse the two.

I have no issues with GKC being recognized as a saint.  I doubt he would approve, but few saints would (it is neither proof nor dis-proof).  My concern is still there.  His logic is relentless, his writing overflows with seeing joy in the mysterious.  He was a craftsman with words.

 I think the world would be a better place if it would read more GK Chesterton.  I state that with the belief that all conviction and conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

He adeptly makes points of God's beauty, that I fall short, and I need Jesus.  In his published arguments with Blatchford he replied to "What do you mean by the word Christianity?" with - "The belief that a certain human being whom we call Christ stood to a certain superhuman Being whom we call God in a certain unique transcendental relation which we call sonship."

Catho-tons think "the world would be a better place if it were more Catholic."  I was at a Chesterton Society meeting where that was said - not sought Jesus more, or enjoyed the family more, it needs to be more Catholic.

The best example I can find of this are some comments by Dale Ahlquist.  He is president of the American Chesterton Society.  Their official press release contains the following:

G.K. Chesterton’s prophetic writings are being embraced by a new generation who are drawn to his eloquent defense of the Catholic faith, of the traditional family, the sanctity of life, and economic justice. He is known for his great wit, humility, and profound Catholic joy. He was a major influence on such figures on Archbishop Fulton Sheen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Day, and Jorge Luis Borges. “I think he is very much a saint for our time and could draw many people into the Catholic Church,” Ahlquist added.
I'm not bashing Dale, it may have been a passing comment in the midst of an interview, and I'm straining gnats.  Chesterton was a spiritual hipster, he defended faith before it was Catholic.  He draws people to Jesus, not just the Catholic Church.  In my readings of GKC I see much that appeals to the masses and much less that appeals to the Mass.

 I really have no issue with GKC being recognized by the RCC as a Saint.  I think I would gladly send my children to The Chesterton Academy (there is one in Minnesota), I might send them to St. Gilbert's School, and as I sit currently I would never send my child to St. Gilbert's Catholic School.

There is nothing on the face of the action that is unsettling.  It is the Catho-ton defenses that stir me.  I struggle with ears straining to hear them proclaiming how we share common ground and only hear all ground being claimed as Roman Catholic. 

If becoming a Saint makes Chesterton less catholic (universal) and only Catholic - I for one am opposed.  I don't want to say one individual is larger than a long church tradition and should be held with higher regard than the denomination.  Yet certain individuals stand out beyond the Christian tradition to which they are a part - Thomas Aquinas, CS Lewis, John Wesley, George MacDonald, GK Chesterton. 

Now one week out I am in favor of it. Strongly.

I think the Catholic church might become more catholic.  As the average church member hears the rumblings of the news they may have to wrestle with the hailstorm that is Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

If the declaration of Sainthood on Chesterton, with all his wit, can nudge the Catholic church to talk to people how GKC did:  to enjoy communion with his fellow man in the pew, and beer with the cabman in the street; to battle the strongest minds with logic, top to bottom, and still present grace and love.  He didn't need a committee or a drive to reach out to people.  He saw their passion and their sense, their love and their loyalty; and he admired them for it.

Please mark him as a Saint and celebrate a feast.  Study his volumes of writing and dwell in the poetic prose.  Wrestle with the paradox.  But do not take away the cigar smoking, cheese eating, beer drinking, raucous personality that he was. 

"Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump, lest you free him of being a camel."


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inside the Art and "Beyond the Frame" - Andy Gullahorn's newest album

I've been a fan of Andy Gullahorn for about 4 years.

He is a singer/songwriter in Nash-Vegas TN.  I initially became aware of him as a "Captain Courageous" who tours frequently with Andrew Peterson.  He has some of his own albums (why do we still call them albums?) out there and just released "Beyond the Frame".

I am a big fan of his work.  I think he is one of the absolute best singers for delivery of a complex truth in a simple way.  He doesn't try to do too much with a song.  Similar to the parables being able to offend your common sense (who sells all that they own for a piece of land?) his songs hammer a point.  Some might bother you.  He lets you sit being bothered; he lets the silence speak to you.

Andy is also a master with humor.  Many songs draw out a chuckle or smile and then the point is driven home while my guard is down.

I've heard a few of his songs live at Hutchmoot and am very excited for his playing at Center Presbyterian Church in Grove City this Friday (8/23/13).  His stage presence has the listener on the edge of his seat wondering - "will this story be incredibly funny or make me cry?  Either way I'll enjoy it." 

I've had "Beyond the Frame" available to my ears for a few days now and wanted to put my thoughts to digital paper.

It is very different from his previous work and I like it.  From the start it has a different sound; a different vibe might be a better way to say it.  It plays slower and is more insightful.  There is notable piano in some songs which he had not included before.  In some of the songs (I Will, Nowhere to be Found) the intro offers a sense of the mood before the rhythm is established.  It actually feels like the mood of each song carries it more than the lyric/melody combination.

If you're familiar with his earlier works don't despair, "Skinny Jeans" and "Flash in the Pan" delivers that sense of laughter from a guy in the middle that Andy is so adept at.  It reminds me of "More of a Man" or "Nobody Wants to Work" yet makes me laugh to the level of "Workin' Man".

So I highly recommend the album.  It's a roller coaster that is worth the ride.