The Awkward Language of Creation

DSC_0102Creation is part of Christian conviction, yet for the most part Christians continue to struggle with how to express engagement. On other social movements there is often an underlying Christian template of justice or redemption that can sustain political conversation, however on green issues and climate issues there is a missing story.

Of course, it’s not for want of trying. Our Christian language defaults to the celebration of the variety of creation, so Ps 148:

7Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds!

This missing internal voice has two consequences: first, it defaults to external frameworks, leaving Christian voices more as allies rather than as contributors to the discussion. Second, there is an internal turn to focus on Creation, ante-Redemption. This recovers a voice but leaves the larger story of God’s intervention and rescue in Jesus Christ as a minor part.

Conservative voices have been reluctant to pick up the green or climate change issues, since at best it seems little more than politics, and at worst a surrender to a sort of panentheism.

Out of all this, there may be one more item to bring to mind. In an era of climate change, and that often of a disastrous nature, the Christian may bring another, more pertinent voice: that of tragedy. With the change and its destruction comes the grief, the sense of loss: how does one stand before catastrophe? How does one hope? Here, perhaps is where the Christian tongue may be released, not in a language of celebration or of politics, but of lament, of knowing that loss is not the final word.

 

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Take that, future!

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.42.41 PM.pngThe door to our future opens in many ways. For Caitlin Flanagan, it was through pulp fiction.

Modesty Blaise was merely a cartoon character turned into a bit of pulp fiction, but in the midst of my unhappy adolescence, she changed the way I thought about myself and my future. … for the first time, I imagined what it would be like to be physically unafraid in the world, to walk down any city street I wanted, at any time of night, and not give a second’s thought to the special care a girl has to take. I thought about what it would be like to be deeply loved by a man, deeply known, but still be the main character in my life story, the only one with her name in the title. Time passed, and I learned in a hundred hard ways how careful you have to be if you’re born female, how many places hold dangers—even just an ordinary office with a respected male boss.

The Comic-Strip Heroine I’ll Never Forget

 

*Illustration by WG600; Modesty Blaise: The Killing Game (Titan Books), © Associated Newspapers LTD / Solo Syndication

David Geltner

Conor Friedersdorf has a fascinating interchange with Geltner in the Atlantic. The ideas are rich and wide ranging. In an era of STEM, the computer scientist has other things on his mind, not least, how we nurture our soul.

 As important as scholarship and science are, arts and religion are more important. … Arts and religion define, in a sense, a single spectrum rather than two topics. And this spectrum is where you find mankind’s deepest attempts to figure out what’s going on in the universe. A student who doesn’t know the slow movement of Schubert’s B-flat major op post sonata, or the story of David and Absalom, needs to go back to school and learn better.

HT: Micah Mattix, Prufrock

Behind the scenes

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 1.47.13 PM.png

David Maraniss points to one of the critical components of Motown in the the early 60s. Not only was there a vibrant jazz and blues community, not only were the sounds available on the radio, not only did the performers live in close proximity (a key component of growth, our urban theorists will tell us), there were the schools.

“But connecting these was the least appreciated and perhaps most important factor of all: the music teachers and programs in Detroit public schools.”

p. 100, Once in a Great City.

Our schools build our tomorrows.

 

Bridging a Great Divergence

Alana Semuels at The Atlantic posted a somewhat gloomy assessment of American life, entitled “America’s Great Divergence.” America is separating into different spheres denominated not by race or ethnicity, but by education, and so implicitly, by rural v. urban. In one sense it’s the old problem of how do you keep the kids on the farm?

Jason Ellis wonders if this only one more skewing to the four-year college.

The problem with these statistics is that “college degree” includes Physicians and Nuclear Engineers just as much as the 24 year old with $70,000 in debt and a degree in Literature from a private college who is working at Starbucks. In other words, it’s skewed and a 4 year degree isn’t for everyone regardless what the Higher Ed lobby wants you to think.

That skew is the problem. Post secondary education, whether as a two-year associates or in its variety of certifications is an option that is underplayed (and under-funded).  What Semuels misses  is that the nature of start-up culture is actually distributed, an archipelago of tech, not unlike the way industrialization was spread throughout the midwest. James Fallows at The American Futures project has a lot to say on this.

Technical education, iow, is the key for a longer term  development.

Senator Milquetoast

It’s good that U.S. Senator Gary Peters has spoken out against the President’s anti-immigration Executive Order. But sadly, the voice is muffled.

“As a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees, my top priority is ensuring we’re doing everything we can to keep Americans safe. But I am also proud to represent vibrant Muslim and Arab American communities that are integral to Michigan’s culture and our economy.

The first sentence is pure political muffery: “my top priority… doing everything… keep Americans safe.” What is missing is a clear point of view, what he (or his office) thinks. The second sentence is little better: he’s “proud to represent.” yeah yeah yeah. This is indirect speech, at a distant from a straight forward presentation of the case.

There are big, legitimate issues of national security involved. This is the natural forceful lead. And it’s powerful, as Mother Jones demonstrates.

In the second paragraph Sen. Peters compounds his wishy-washiness.

“One of America’s founding – and most sacred – principles is the freedom of religion. I am extremely alarmed by President Trump’s executive order that effectively implements a religious test for those seeking to enter the United States…

The shift to First Amendment issues has a nice ring to it, but again one may ask whether it demonstrates a grasp of the actual Constitutional issues involved with the Executive Order. If anything the focus on Freedom of Religion plays into the cultural push of the President’s order, namely that of privileging Christian America. Immediate feedback from Trump supporters indicates their approval of the action. So rather than change opinion the appeal to the First is a sign of political boundary making. It is a lost opportunity.

And then finally there is a return to muffery with the final sentence:

 “While I support continued strengthening of the refugee screening process, I remain opposed to the suspension of the refugee admissions program.”

This is the sound of a man trying to have it both ways. “While I….” Oh, be direct. Know what time it is, and what the issues are. In the days ahead the battle needs far more direct, far clearer expression of ideas. Now is no time to waffle.