Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
The death of church and pub can only further fuel the modern scourges of loneliness and isolation. And these evils cannot be solved directly by public policy or government initiatives because such things trade in abstractions. Nobody is ever lonely or isolated in the abstract. Loneliness only ever affects people—real, individual people in real, particular circumstances. And it can only be solved by real community. This is where the church actually has a tremendous opportunity.
My annual trip to my home village in England is typically a week when I enter the land that time forgot. Nothing much changes. The shop still sells newspapers and houses the local post office. The view across the valley from my mother’s cottage still reveals nothing—not even a street light or a power cable—that would indicate it has a point of origin in the last century and a half. And the Baptist chapel bell still strikes the hour ten minutes late. But even in this land where nothing seems to change, some things do bear the unmistakable marks of late modernity. There are now more cars than houses, turning the narrow country lanes into parking lots. And most striking, the parish church has closed and is now for sale, with planning permission for it to be turned into a residence.
Closure of churches is nothing new. Over twenty years ago in Aberdeen, I noticed that a number of places of worship I remembered from my postgraduate days had turned into nightclubs. And the old Free Church College was now a bar. The College, its entrance flanked somewhat incongruously by historic plaques commemorating its earlier distinguished denizens: the theologian David Cairns and the Semitic scholar William Robertson Smith. Given the importance of the ownership of space for the social imagination, nothing perhaps indicates the change of Western culture more than the replacement of the seriously religious by the merely entertaining.
My village had two churches, the Anglican parish church and the Baptist chapel. In the nineteenth century, both were central to village life. The current primary (elementary) school was founded by the Baptists in the nineteenth century when their children were effectively excluded from the Anglican school because of their theological beliefs. Religion may have created a fault line, but it was also a deep source of identity and community. It motivated people to act in ways that supported each other, that manifested concern for the future, that gave them a hierarchy of goods that framed communal action. It spoke of belonging, and it gave corporate life a context and a significance. Today, the chapel is marginal, the church has closed, and people increasingly question what the village community is, what it is for.
There is a parallel in the fate of the English village pub.
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By Chris Pandolfo Bill Mears — 3 months ago
In ruling for the government worker, the high court overturned its 1977 precedent that said employers had to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious beliefs and practices, so long as it did not create an “undue hardship” on the business. The new decision tightens the “undue hardship” standard, and could make it easier for some individual employees to secure a religious accommodation in the workplace.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously for a postal worker in Pennsylvania in an important religious liberty dispute, over now far employers should go to accommodate faith-based requests in the workplace.
Gerald Groff, a Christian mail carrier, from Pennsylvania, asked the court to decide if U.S. Postal Service could require him to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays, which he observes as the Sabbath. His attorney, Aaron Streett, argued in April that the court should revisit a 50-year-old precedent that established a test to determine when employers should make accommodations for their employees’ religious practices.
In ruling for the government worker, the high court overturned its 1977 precedent that said employers had to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious beliefs and practices, so long as it did not create an “undue hardship” on the business.
The new decision tightens the “undue hardship” standard, and could make it easier for some individual employees to secure a religious accommodation in the workplace.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices unless doing so would be an “undue hardship” for the business. A Supreme Court case from 1977, Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, said employers could deny religious accommodations to employees when they impose “more than a de minimis cost” on the business.
Streett argued that the court should scrap the “de minimus” test, which he suggested has been abused by lower courts to deny religious accommodations, in favor of the plain language of Title VII, which would define “undue burden” in the same way it is defined in other federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
By T. M. Suffield — 1 year ago
Written by T. M. Suffield |
Friday, May 13, 2022
We should be serious about food, about feasting, about serving the best our resources and skill allows—whether that’s chicken dippers or cordon bleu cuisine. We become friends around a table, because we become friends with God around a table. If at the Lord’s supper God meets with man, then at our tables man can meet with man because God has done so first, even if some round the table have not known this for themselves.
The world is infused with wonder, and the presence of God reveals truth that was previously unseen.
When seen with the eyes of faith, every tree is a song that sings of life, of wisdom, of death that flowers with the scent of unknown spices. Every rock is the Rock and hides honey and gushing water. Every sky is a painting masterfully created for the eyes of a single human, before another masterpiece is hung as the wind blows. Every table is the Table.
I have a thing about tables. You might have picked that up if you’ve been around nuakh for a little while. You will certainly have if we know each other in real life. I’ve written why, or at least the superficial reasons why, and tables make homes, but there’s a deeper reason that I’ve only scouted around the edges of. The Table changes our tables.
Where does God meet man? At a table, where we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Not only there, but if anywhere then there is where we can be assured that God will meet with us.
As our Sunday meetings culminate in this acted story, this symbol, this faith bought opportunity to sup with God, we sit down with God at the Table. And as we eat by faith we are lifted to the heavenly Temple and feast on Christ’s body and blood, a genuine foretaste of the feast at the end of history.
If you agree with my vision of the world—riven with the presence of God through the heart of every atom—then how could this not change the world? Most importantly because we get to eat with God, but how could that event not change the nature of the act of eating on every occasion? We cannot eat anything in the same way ever again—the simple of act of sustenance has gained a new resonance, a significance beyond itself, as though it became a sign itself.
By Sebastian Neri — 4 days ago
If Christendom is to be restored, it will require men who model themselves on the knights of the Round Table: men of faith bound in loyalty, prepared for war, and dedicated to a common cause. Perhaps the standard set by Arthur and his knights is too high for men of a world such as ours. But maybe some are willing to take up the task and to recapture what glory of old Christendom is still possible for us in this age.
Heroes of Christendom Surpass Bronze Age Legends
Ever since the publication of the infamous Bronze Age Mindset, conservatives of various stripes have entered into a seemingly endless conflict over what to make of its erratic prose and challenging content. A number of conservatives, especially those of a more religious inclination, have denounced the book and its author as anti-Christian and fascistic. Yet, there can be no doubt that Bronze Age Pervert holds great purchase among younger conservatives. Further, even a growing number of strongly religious conservatives embrace the text as an empowering exhortation, finding little conflict between BAP’s message and their faith. Can it be that the king of frog Twitter may actually have something to teach conservative Christians?
In order to answer that question, we have to understand what the “Bronze Age mindset” is according to Bronze Age Pervert. Luckily the pseudonymous author tells us explicitly in the third part of his book. According to BAP, there are two principles that set the mindset of the ancients apart. The first was that the secret desire of every Greek was to be worshiped as a god among men. The second was that, for the classical man, life was characterized by the competition of life against life; force against force. The Greek conceived of nature as a manifestation of an inner fire, seeking to gather and discharge power, as Heraclitus described. Every particular being was understood as a manifestation of this universal power, and each being sought the expression of its inner force and differentiation, as a consequence. Hence, the classical man would train and beautify his body in the gymnasium with the aim of attaining eternal fame among men through victory in war. In BAP’s view, it is this vision of life that led to the greatness of classical antiquity, which stands in stark contrast to the spiritual poverty and effusive ugliness of postmodern society, described by BAP as an “iron prison.”
Despite what BAP’s critics argue, there is a great deal of overlap between his worldview and the Christian tradition, particularly the medieval chivalric tradition. Unfortunately, those aspects of Bronze Age Mindset that resonate with Christianity have been obscured by Christianity’s modern pharisaic expositors seeking to reduce Christianity to a mere set of moral axioms. Let us explore this exhortation, section by section, and see for ourselves what a Christian might have to learn from Bronze Age Mindset.
Inner Fire and Physical Beauty
The first part, “The Flame of Life,” serves as an elaboration on the metaphysics of BAP’s Heraclitean vitalist philosophy. BAP argues that the nature of life is not merely a struggle for survival, as Darwinists claim. He argues that there are two kinds of life: “yeast life,” which reproduces aimlessly, and “higher life” which seeks to develop itself upward through greater complexity. “Higher life means many fancy and mysterious things too of course but at its most basic it has to do with differentiation and structure. Yeast is an ‘amorphous blob’ that expands, whereas a higher organism has different parts with different functions, different organs, different systems within itself.” Life at its best is as Nietzsche describes: the development and expression of power. Life is best, in other words, not when it exists for the sake of being—but when it aims at something greater. “Life has a thing inside it that reaches beyond itself… if you don’t reach beyond yourself you are dead!”
The Christian can certainly find agreement in many of these points. After all, the Christian life is about perfection of the soul and spreading the message of the gospel so that others might do the same. All Christians are called to be transformed by God’s love in order that they are able to put their life on the line for God and neighbor. We are always to be reaching beyond ourselves until the end of our lives when we are judged by Christ according to our works.
For BAP, human life can go the path of yeast or the path of higher life, and typically it takes to the former. Human life becomes yeast-like under conditions of pressure, such as slavery or in overcrowded filthy cities. To illustrate the point, BAP gives the famous example of the “longhouse,” which is the prehistoric default communal setting of humanity, where the young were browbeaten by “the old and sclerotic” and “matriarchs.” Under such conditions, human life “devolves… aesthetically, morally, intellectually, physically.” The alternative is the “life of the immortal gods who live in pure mountain air,” symbolized by the “aesthetic physique,” which is a physical manifestation of “energy is marshaled to the production of higher order.” He concludes that “Those who forget the body to pursue a ‘perfect mind’ or ‘perfect soul;’ have no idea where to even start. Only physical beauty is the foundation for a true higher culture of the mind and spirit as well.” Since any given organism, including the human, is its physical body, life on the ascent must begin for BAP with the development and the perfection of the body.
The tension here lay therefore in the exaltation of the body over the soul. A Christian certainly cannot abide by deifying the body at the expense of the soul. However, the body does play a central role in Christian theology. After all, God Himself took on a physical human body in which he lived, died, resurrected and ascended to heaven. All of mankind is also expected to be resurrected at the end of time in order to enter the New Jerusalem or into eternal punishment for all of eternity. We are creatures intended to possess a physical body and we are incomplete without one.
Consequently, it would make sense that training the body is relevant to the perfection of the spirit. Austerity through fasting and abstinence has always been common practice for Christians seeking to direct instincts and emotions toward their proper end. In this sense, Christianity is decidedly against the gluttony characteristic of the contemporary American approach to food. Further, training the body to increase physical power, and consequently beauty, is in no way alien to Christianity. The medieval knight, for instance, would have found physical training an essential aspect of his lifestyle in order to prepare for combat, since a strong body would have been necessary to defend the innocent in battle and gain honors thereby. The knight also beautified himself with ornate sets of armor and weaponry. In the medieval world, strength and beauty were to be put in the service of loving self-sacrifice. Although there is something to be said for potential excess or vanity, strength and beauty directed toward noble ends can only ever be a good thing.
However, love of beauty in itself does not exhaust the issue, since for BAP what is most important is the beauty of the body itself. Although Christianity is not anti-body or against physical beauty, as previously acknowledged, the Christian tradition does not seem to exalt the body in the same way as the classics have. Where in antiquity the young handsome quick-footed Achilles was considered to be the ideal human type, Christians have tended instead to idolize the monkish priestly type, like St Francis of Assisi for whom bodily beauty is unimportant, and in some cases considered a hindrance.
A major aspect of BAM’s appeal is the sexiness of his aesthetics, to put it bluntly. As it turns out, men want to be physically powerful adventurers and warriors, and women are attracted to men who embody that type of ethos. For Christianity to survive and appeal to men in the modern day, it must move beyond the preaching and navel gazing of the priest, and provide an ideal with some vitality in it. Emulation of priests and monks has certainly had some appeal, as evidenced by the tendencies of many modern traditionalists and integralists. Further, there is nothing wrong with priests as such, but merely their exaltation as a model for all men. It’s not priestly moralizing that establishes (and re-establishes) civilization. Instead, that is the prerogative of the noble warrior or knight who wrests territory from the hands of the enemy and secures it against threats internal and external. It is Lancelot that ought to serve as a model for Christians today. Endlessly preaching about the need for a rejection of modernity in favor of communitarian escapism comes off as stuffy and weak. Calling men forth to friendship and adventure with concrete benefits makes for a much more attractive message.
C.S. Lewis acknowledged this specific point in his essay “The Necessity of Chivalry.” Lewis argues that in order for Christian civilization to thrive, it must produce men like Lancelot of the Arthurian mythos. He describes Lancelot as “a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-of limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth.” He argues that the knight is the middle ages’ unique contribution to mankind, as the middle ground between the ignorant brute and the effeminate man of culture. Unfortunately, it would appear many traditionalists today fall into the latter camp, advocating forms of escapism and self-comforting admonitions of their enemies, rather than actively taking up the fight. If only Christians would have heeded Lewis in his exhortation to emulate the chivalric ideal.
For the knight to do his work, he must develop a powerful physique that strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies and inspires those squires under his tutelage. However, he will not fall victim to the vulgar body obsession of many modern bodybuilders and fitness influencers. His beautiful body should not be abused for the sake of vanity or licentiousness, nor is a well-developed body alone sufficient for the knightly vocation. Rather it ought to reflect a more beautiful soul and serve as an instrument of God’s will.
Human Biological Hierarchy
Elaborating further on the significance of the body, BAP argues in the second and third parts that there are politically important biological differences between the sexes and among ethnic groups. He argues fervently that there are insurmountable biological and behavioral differences between men and women that have severe political consequences if ignored. Although women have a penchant for positive characteristics, such as farseeing intuition and childlike carelessness, BAP considers giving women authority to rule over men to be a fatal mistake. In BAP’s view, rule by women results in the stifling of freedom and life’s proper development.
This should not be controversial to the Christian, since scripture itself attests to the same reality. Various passages from Old Testament wisdom literature contain warnings for men against the wiles of women who lead men to ruin when men submit to women. “Give not your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings” (Proverbs 31:3). Additionally, the prophet Isaiah associates rule by women with waywardness, as he says, “My people—children are their oppressors and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths.” (Isaiah 3:12).
The New Testament is in some ways even more explicit than the Old. For instance, Saint Paul writes in both first Corinthians and Ephesians that men ought to be the head of their wives and families just as Christ is the head of the church. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:22-26). In the traditional Christian view, wives submit to their husbands and husbands sacrifice themselves for their wives, just like Christ. It’s also very telling that Christ Himself appointed only men as apostles to lead his church. This fact has been used as a justification not only to support the general assertion that men should occupy leadership positions but also the more particular practice of ordaining exclusively male priests, as maintained by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In any case, the polarity of male and female has always been accepted by Christians and is explicitly preached in scripture.