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Posted by on May 31, 2016 | 0 comments

George Herbert, the Church, and the Self

George Herbert, the Church, and the Self

  George Herbert was a Welsh poet and priest born in 1593 to landed aristocracy. His mother, Magdalene Herbert, was the Gertrude Stein of the 17th century English literary scene; Herbert grew up associating with the best and the ablest writers of his age. He could count as friends John Donne, Lancelot Andrews, and Francis Bacon. His brother Sir Edward is known as the father of English deists, whose book de Veritate sought to prove that true religion was composed of five “common notions,” as any more would be excessive.[1] Edward was a hot-blooded monarchist who once fought off six assassins with a broken sword.[2] George Herbert was the opposite of Edward. He was one of the brightest Latin minds of his generation. He was elected orator at Cambridge. He gave speeches in Latin before King James and Prince Charles. He taught rhetoric. By all accounts George Herbert should have become Secretary of State. So, how he ended up becoming a priest in an inconsequential town 75 miles west of...

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Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Pacifism and Politics: The Tank and the Letter

Pacifism and Politics: The Tank and the Letter

Dieser Artikel auf Deutch One has to be careful not to project onto the past what is known to have occurred later, as if, in those days, people had before them two alternatives, with full knowledge of their consequences. We have to admit that certain choices were made in a kind of fog.[1] The most famous pacifist whom Hitler prompted to change his mind was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As is well known, Bonhoeffer concluded that pacifism, while almost always the right approach, could on rare occasions become a way of avoiding responsibility for the hard decisions politicians have to make. But Paul Ricoeur had a similar trajectory. Years before becoming famous as a gentle and irenic philosopher, Ricoeur was a militant pacifist and Marxist, writing revolutionary tracts in French socialist journals.[2] In the 1930s he and his circle demanded that France lay down her arms and not engage in any warfare. We should learn our lesson from the First World War, they said: conflict of nations is nothing more than a...

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 | 3 comments

The Myth of the Christ Figure

The Myth of the Christ Figure

  Mythological embodiment is a common allusion used in everyday English. A Herculean task is something that is difficult to accomplish, an Achilles’ Heel is a weak spot, and if someone has a Midas touch then she is able create success out of anything she sets out to do. Allusions are used in order to maintain a distance between the subject and the thing that gives the allusion meaning. For example, if I were to call you my nemesis I am not actually calling you a Greek goddess sent to punish me, what I am saying is you are my bitter enemy who will do everything within your power to cause my downfall. In doing so I am doing two things. The first is I am acknowledging the gap between the language and the object that gives the language meaning. The second thing I am doing is stripping the mythology from the allusion; I am, in a sense, humanizing it. One of the most common contemporary allusions in Western literature...

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Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 | 0 comments

The Spectacle of Excess: Roland Barthes, Wrestling, and the Eucharist

The Spectacle of Excess: Roland Barthes, Wrestling, and the Eucharist

In 1957, during his structuralist stage, Roland Barthes published a book of collected essays titled Mythologies. Barthes’ whole project in Mythologies was to analyze the structure of the myths that gave meaning to French culture. But instead of looking to the classic myths that gave rise to western society, Barthes examines the cultural milieu of mid-century France with unrepentant scorn. Barthes main critique, with the exception of wrestling for which he had a cheery fondness, is that mass culture numbs the mind while feeding the mouths of the bourgeoisie. In other words, the new opiate of the masses is the insidious religion of mindless consumerism. Barthes criticism of mythology is based on capitalistic consumption. As a consumerist society we are trained to desire that which is owned only by the cultural elite. When we acquire this object of desire it no longer has the power it once had because it is consumable and accessible. It has become ubiquitous and ceases to have the same meaning it once had. Through ubiquity objects become...

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Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 | 0 comments

Murder and Moral Notions

Murder and Moral Notions

In Towards Zero, one of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, Mr. Treves, a retired solicitor and specialist on criminology reflects on how we often begin murder mysteries in a mistaken fashion. We think of the murder as the beginning of the story when rather it is the end. “I like a good detective story,” reflects Mr. Treves. “But, you know, they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that—years before sometimes—with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.”[1] Murder is the end of a series of events, thoughts, plans, and intentions. The novel itself is a reversal of the standard murder mystery story, the actual intended murder does not happen until the last pages of the book.[2] A similar misconception is attached to moral inquiry: in many accounts of moral inquiry, the thinking begins when a decision is named. Like the murder...

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Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 | 3 comments

How Should We Do Apologetics?

How Should We Do Apologetics?

Throughout my life I’ve been simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by apologetics. As a teenager I wanted to help people (including myself) who had sincere questions about the Christian faith. But many of the apologetics books I read seemed overly confident and simplistic in their approach. They gave the impression that their answers were conclusive and final, that nothing more needed to be said on the subject. If that was the case, then why did so many people find these answers insufficient? Should we even want irrefutable answers to every question? Furthermore, I grew up in an environment that often treated “faith without evidence” as a virtue, as if it was commendable to believe something without good reasons. To me, this seemed to obliterate the difference between Christianity and any cult that keeps control of its members by praising blind obedience and punishing honest doubts. But neither could I ignore the way the Bible praises faith as a virtue. What could it all mean? What follows is a three stage...

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