Truth, beauty, goodness. Theodicies and apologetics from the perspective of beauty...not what we usually thinking when defending the faith. But truth is beautiful, y'all, and not just in a mathematical way, but in a kittens and thunderstorms kind of way.

I often speak of apologetics through aesthetics and beauty on my YouTube channel, and recently received a request for a Top 5 of books that could fit into that category. Here is that video. List of the books can be found below the embedded vid.

The top 5, if you want the spoilers:
5. Walking On Water, Madeleine L'Engle
4. Supper of the Lamb, Francis Farrar Capon
3. Pensees, Pascal
2. Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl, N. D. Wilson
1. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
This Danish journalist claimed that secular humanism just doesn't work, that Europeans men are soft and irresponsible, and that there needs to be a masculine revolution. The interviewer was not happy about all this, sticking with the ol' trope of let's pretend that a problem doesn't exist because it shouldn't exist.

The World Is Too

I have the books to prove
I am a serious history buff.

Discovering my mother’s ancestors
were russian jews suprised me
and you know how I loved my mother.
I can think of only two Hank Williams songs
off the top of my head, but I definitely remember
the name of his hometown
unless I am actually driving through south Alabama.

I want to be a man who says
frivolous were the romantics and shallow Wordsworth,
but I can’t recall the titles to any of his poems
except the world is too much with us.

It is not that I am unmoved. Great God! No.
What if I see great Proteus rise from the sea
or hear old Triton on the horn with those
whose names were never called
when choosing sides for basketball?

It is still tomorrow the waking up
and making coffee mixed with epic butter,
which is not a thing people did
in my father’s time.

If given a new creed I might have sight
to make me less forlorn, but that is not the problem.
The difficulty in moving
the piano way down the wave
is not its weight, nor even time of mistakes.
It’s that the thing is too big
and will not fit through my heart.

Dudes! This new series by N. D. Wilson has all the best stuff. Rattlesnake arms. Gunslingers. Outlaws of time. Bullies and explosions and maybe exploding bullies.

N. D. Wilson moves from strength to strength, y'all. Have great expectations. I can't wait to pick the first one up. And it appears from the trailer that Wilson might be using an entire series to explore self-perception and identity through storytelling. What kind of character are we in a spoken world? Are we heroic or villainous or humble or crappy?

I also wonder when Hollywood's going to crank up and crank out the ol' "based on the novel by N. D. Wilson". It's time.

As always when I share something related to rugby league, I feel compelled to remind my readers that rugby league is not the same thing as real rugby. But Aussies love it, and this Kiwi turned Aussie pretty much gets all of marriage right in this video.

After this you can go watch Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man.

Today I sent my wife a message. I apologized for all the years I so vociferously and promiscuously claimed that I didn't like chocolate. Because today I ate a piece of chocolate and I loved it. I've been traveling and eating only what I've bought for myself or ordered, so I can say with confidence that I have eaten no chocolate in the last month. I have not craved chocolate or wanted chocolate. I haven't given chocolate a thought. And then my granddaddy handed me a piece of chocolate with hazelnuts and it was so delicious.

This moment of pure unaffected chocolate enjoyment forced me to face a truth about myself I've been denying, but that my wife has been aware of for a long time. "I don't like chocolate", I would say, then dig out the M&Ms stash and eat them all at 2 a.m. "I don't like chocolate", I would say, as I ate my wife's last Dove bars. or as I unwrapped a block of baking chocolate.

By their deeds you shall know them.

And please understand, my fellow fellows, that I never lied about it. I wouldn't even say that I lied to myself. I'm still having trouble processing this epiphany of mine. I'll never be passionate about chocolate. I'll never crave chocolate. But I like chocolate, and I've faced it.

Emotion and ideals blinded me. I'm sorry for lying to you all.

Meanwhile in Canada...

According to the CBC the Crown is going to the Supreme Court to revisit the case of Meredith Borowiec, a Calgary mother who killed at least two of her babies. 
Three years, three babies.
They were all placed into garbage bags by their mother while still alive, and thrown away with the trash in a dumpster just steps from her home.
It would be the third baby — found alive by his father in 2010 — who would prompt a police investigation leading to the discovery that two others had died previously in similar situations.
On Wednesday, the Alberta Crown will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn Meredith Borowiec's infanticide convictions and order a new trial on the charges she originally faced of second-degree murder.
It is the first time Canada's highest court will examine the country's infanticide law. The Alberta government will argue the wording of the law is vague, outdated and leaves too much room for new mothers to kill their babies, no matter their moral culpability.
The article linked to above includes a brief but interesting history of infanticide laws in the British commonwealth, and is worth reading.

But complex history or not, let's be clear: you can kill your own baby and face a maximum penalty of five years. Because it's infanticide, not murder.

And of course, for every baby left in a refuse dump, many thousands are being vacuumed and shredded out of their wombs. Much less obscene, because it's done behind the scenes. Wait, what does obscene mean again?

It's so fun when humanists can't bring themselves to support the infernal logic of their own beliefs. But I suppose I'm glad they hang on to some concept of the imago dei, because if they hadn't, I suppose they'd be coming to kill me too right now.

Are you fighting baby killing? Why not?

Of course we should all be honest men. We know that. Honest like boy scouts and German shepherds. As honest as the day is long. But perhaps we should desire more for ourselves. Perhaps we ought to be hommes honnêtes, honest men, gentlemen.

To be honest is not simply to tell the truth, or even more poorly, simply to avoid telling untruths. Although I admit that that is precisely what our dictionary says it is.

Let us have a richer, fuller, more human, more Christian idea of what this word means, and what it might mean for you to be an honest man.

According to our dictionary, honest was first used in the 14th century (so, basically as early as a modern English word could be used), and it comes from the Latin for honorable, and honor. To be an honest man was to be a worthy man, a good man, an honorable man.

According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, honesto, which we translate "honest", is defined as decent, decorous, modest, honorable, reasonable, just, upright, honored.

When a man is a sincere and dedicated practicer of religion, we say that he is devout or pious. In Spanish he is said to be honesto.

The French word for honesty is honnêteté. It is integrity, wholeness (which is integrity, non?) sincerity, truthfullness, and even innocence.

Before the age of modernity and the expert, before Descartes and Montaigne defined how all men would think to think, the dying Middle Ages in France expressed one last enthusiasm for the good man. There had been the saint. He had been shown to be a fraud. There had been the courtly lover. His sonnets had been mocked near to death. There had been the knight, and he had been shown to be at best a fool chasing windmills. There was even the knight's son, the cavalier. His mustache would soon be made to droop in the dismal battlefields of Flanders and Edgehill.

After what ideal was the Christian man, both the Protestant and the Papist, to model himself? How to describe such men as Coligny or Philip Sidney?

Why, as honest men, of course.

Blaise Pascal was the greatest, but far from the first, explainer of what l'homme honnête was. If you read his Pensées, which you should do, you will often find the term translated as "gentleman". This gentleman was someone ridiculed by Montaigne, primarily because he was a wicked and godless heathen, and secondarily because he believed that the ideal man should be an expert. The honest man, in contrast to this heathen concept, is a generalist. He is balanced, reasonable, and well-rounded. Not only does he comprehend, he apprehends. He is as poetical as he is mathematical. He is cultured without affectation and eloquent without artifice.

He would not be ashamed to embrace G. K. Chesterton's 20th-century maxim that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

He sees no contradiction in being a poet and a warrior, or in using the word philosopher to describe what today we call a scientist.

It is not for nothing, my dear friends, that our priests today are capital-S Scientists. It is not for nothing that we despise the weak and love brute force. It is not for nothing that the will of the majority is automatically what is right. It is not for nothing that we have no concept of justice beyond a forced equality of input and result. It is not for nothing that we cannot see the trees for the forest.

The honest man doesn't just tell the truth. He can see the truth, because he can see. He sees all men, and their God, and the image of God in all men. He does not suffer from the myopia of the expert.

If you, sir, are an expert, consider that you might be a little blind. Be honest with yourself: generalize. If you are an engineer, read a poem. If you are a poet, build a bridge. Go to war. Make peace.

The truth of God is one. And it is everywhere. The diversity of the Trinity is manifest. It is not chaos, and it is not monad. It is one and many, and, honestly, only honest men can see that.

Read the Pensées, my friend. It will do your manhood some good.

Here is the post where I worked my snarkiness on this topic out.

A few months ago I wrote a post talking about how humility is no longer a desirable virtue among Christian men, being substituted with vulnerability, a much more anemic and subjective replacement. In it I touched on brokenness a couple of times, but now I'm going to touch it once more, and more intimately, in order to make it uncomfortable with its own masculinity.

Y'all. One of the touchstones of being a man is responsibility. On this I'm sure we can agree. Men must be responsible for the things they've been given charge o'er. Wives and children and whatnot.

People, including, yes, men, are broken. (I almost wrote a whole sentence with a comma after each word!) Bad things are done to us. Daddy failed us. That one teacher hated us. Our sister never loved us. Our wife left us. Our boss plotted against us all that time. Those things all break us a little bit.

We admire people we view as unbreakable, even as we despise or ridicule whatever gifts protect them. Perfect innocence, for example.

This is not a tirade against brokenness, or against broken people. It's a tirade against the culture of brokenness which we, including we men, have embraced. By it we have done ourselves harm, and we have despised people who actually could have been broken, like the character in the hilarious comedy above, who was kidnapped at age 12 and sexually abused for years. Sometimes we truly are victims, but sometimes we are simply products of an unchristian victim culture.

Brokenness happens, and in a manner of speaking, brokenness happens to us all. Our parents divorce hurt. We were sexually abused. We witnessed or suffered an unspeakable violence.

But mostly we're just full of a spirit of vengeance against those who have sinned against us, wanting to strike at our father with his own mediocrity or our pastor with his own indifference.

The problem with brokenness, oh men (since this blog is aimed at you men), is responsibility. When we sit in our small group pouring out our brokenness to everyone the one thing we are not doing is confessing.

Brokenness is the result of what was done to us by others. And often, by nursing and petting this brokenness, we deny the power of God to save.

Confession is the result of acknowledging our own sins. By it we recognize the power of God to save.

Brokenness runs from responsibility. Confession accepts it. Confession is ashes and torn clothes for the right reasons.

How hard life is. How heavy the burden of sin on all men. How often we are left heavy-hearted and speechless with the weight of sin and evil in the world. How many times we've mourned. But sufficient to the day is its own trouble. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

I'm not going to be the one to tell you you're not broken. You might very well be. But I am here to tell you that Jesus saves, that what we bring to the cross is our own sins, and that you ought to consider that in fact you are not broken. Perhaps you are being sanctified even now, moving from strength to strength.

Consider your calling. You are a husband and a father, a brother in Christ. Sufficient to themselves are the troubles of these vocations. Take responsibility for those things, asking that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would remove from you the encumbrances and hobbles that bring you down in your race, both the sins of others and your own.

Lord have mercy.
Here is part 2, which is much less snarky.

Trigger warning: if sad bad things have happened to you in your life, this might make you sad bad. Please be careful, because we just want to look after you and would never want to hurt you.

I was sinking deep in the sins that others have committed against me, far from the peaceful shore. Yep. I was sinking to rise no more, not in my own sin, but in all the terrible things the world, my friends, and the devil had done against me. The Master heard my despairing cry, from the waters of someone else's guilt lifted me, and now safe am I.

Oh, my brothers. We have been sinned grievously against, it is true. In fact, you are the way you are today because I was mean to you when I was your pastor, and also because your mom never loved you. But it is time to forgive others, like Jesus.1

Are you drowning far from God? You are separated from Jesus because other people did things to you. Yes, sin is the chasm between you and God, and only Jesus can bridge that gap. But let's be specific. It's the sin of other people that's the problem, isn't it?

If you had been left to your devices you'd be in church today, lovin' on Jesus. But trials not common to man beset you, and here you are, far from God.

Well, brother, I have a gospel for you. I can tell you how to be near to God: know who to blame, and blame them.

Yes, if you're hurt (at church we call this kind of hurt "butt-hurt"), if you're a victim, there's a greater Victim who died for you. There are some wild heretics out there who would claim that this Victim died because of your sin, but we know that's not really true. This Victim died for the hurt and brokenness and emotional wounds inflicted upon you by others. I'm sorry on behalf of these other so-called Christians if they ever told you that your alienation from God was because of your own rebellion against God. It is not you who killed Jesus, good buddy. It was your mom. And you old pastor.

Once you are saved from butt-hurt, then your life of gospel victimhood can truly begin. Come to Jesus because you're a victim, and live a new life with Jesus' people as a victim.

Other so-called Christians proclaim a gospel whereby Jesus as Victim saves rebels, the very men who kill him. Those people say "The peace of Christ" or "Peace be with you" when they greet each other, because they mistakenly believe that Jesus brought peace to war and rebellion. You and I, when we shake hands with our brothers, are to say "Ow, you're hurting me." In this way the first will be last and the last will be first. Biggest victim wins.

Spiritual growth consists in revealing and exploring deeper and deeper levels of victimhood. Victim soteriology makes for victim church life. Search for opportunities to say not only "Ow, you're hurting me", but also "What else can you do for me?"

Forgiven criminals and rebels believe they are saved by grace, and believe they should show grace. But we, as recovering victims, are fed by therapy. Therefore we demand to be catered to.

If questions of authority in church life arise, remind your brothers of what you are entitled to. Bad things happen to the best victims, so share early and often. Do not be modest or circumspect, because that will call your holy entitlement into question. Jesus wants to help you and so should everyone else. Tell them all your problems, and how much other people have hurt you. This shows that the Victim is with you.

Lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, come as you are.

Come as you are, as a friend, as I want you to be.

Lay down your burden, but never ever let those hurtful people tell you to lay down your sins.

1 I can't remember now if I intended this to mean that we should forgive others as Jesus did, or if we should forgive Jesus for letting these things happen to us. Either way, though.
Play at Redenção.
This post was originally published at my family's missionary website.

2016 has begun, my family is safely and securely ensconced in a new home, and it's time to start building up the ministry of OMI Reformed here in Brazil. From scratch, my brethren, from scratch. I bake the biscuit, you spread the jam, but it is the Lord who giveth the deliciousness.

It is our intent to start working with youth in the city of Porto Alegre through basketball this year, and our prayer that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will guide us, give us clarity of vision, and bless the work of our hands. 

It is time, then, to start plugging into the local basketball scene. The boys have joined a local basketball program. I look forward to seeing them develop in that, and I hope they can participate also in whatever work we build with OMI.

Yesterday I went to a local park, the Parque Farroupilha, unofficially and more commonly known as Parque da Redenção (Wikipedia article in English about the park). One of my two short-term goals is to get to know the streetball/pickup basketball scene in the city (I'll talk about the other goal in another post). I believe this will help me better decide the who/where/how of our first projects.

So for the first time in Brazil I went out and played a little basketball. I'm still very sore today, after pounding 330 pounds up and down a concrete court for a couple of hours, and one of my big take-aways is that I have to get in better shape if I'm going to get to know the scene through playing. Even out of shape I can keep myself moving on the rugby pitch, the basketball fitness is another animal. I need to bring a little more quickness and a little less weight to that party.

The basketball was of a decent quality. The men knew what they were doing, and had clearly been playing since they were kids, although there was a slight lack of the native flair you would have seen on an American court. I was told by one of the better guys there that Saturday would be when the really good guys would be there, so I'm looking forward to seeing what that's like. That being said, this dude, who was nearly as tall as I and much younger, kept hitting threes on me, so I'm going to have to up my game.

All of this by way of introduction to the theme of this post, which is a bloggy version of the breathless meditation on me and my attitude about Brazil and I sat against the chainlink fence, gassed and unable to keep playing (my team won every game we played, so we kept the court, but I had to beg out, because I'm so out of shape!!). I decided to read my first basketball experience in Brazil as an allegory of our time here, pre-figuring the years to come.

Knowing what you're doing makes you feel like you belong, makes you feel confident. You know how after a bucket or a foul in the U.S. you "check" the basketball up top to restart play? Here they restart by passing it in from underneath the basket, and if you're playing half-court you still have to get the ball out past the three-point line before attacking. This makes it so that there are fewer moments of relaxation, where everyone resets and the old men maybe hold the check for just a little longer. Instead, the ball is under duress the entire time. A lifetime's habit of facing back to the top after a bucket meant that I turned my back on the play several times; after each bucket I made I grabbed the ball out of the net and rolled it back up top, robbing my team of any momentum in the reset.

It goes without saying that there have been many things about our transition to living in another country that have been different just 'cause they're different. Not better or worse, just different. Of course, different does mean that there's a change in quality. For example, waiters are never in a hurry. Which, when you really want something, as an American, is frustrating. But then, it's really nice when you realize that no one's trying to turn the table for the next customers; they think you're not in a hurry either, that you're going to relax and take your time.

The differences can be sources of stress and frustration, of course. I realized the first time I sent the ball the wrong way that I was hurting my team, But force of habit being what it is, I kept doing it. By the end of the day I was better. Next time I go out I think I'll only look dumb a few times. As y'all know, I speak Portuguese fluently. Sometimes when I do or say something particularly boneheaded out in the great wide Brazilian world, I think to myself, "This guy might still think I'm Brazilian. I'd better play up my Americanness so he doesn't think I'm really dumb." Which is a really insecure thing to do, y'all.

One of the last times I threw the ball to the top of the key I got a friendly pat of sympathy from an opponent. Poor dumb gringo big guy. But the pat did make me feel better.

​Kimberly and I have really been enjoying our time here, our new church, our new home, the people we're meeting. But we've been praying (and you can to) that we'd not fall into a pit we've already kind of fallen into. Being in a new country has its endemic difficulties. Pile on top of that difficulties that you know go beyond just troubles of language or superficial culture, like the overwhelming bureaucracy, and the sinful nature just wants to complain. 

I am looking forward to what's on the other side of this transition and our whining about it. What's waiting on the other side is how Brazilians count the score in pickup ball. Allow me to explain.

In September of last year Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland wrote a fantastic piece about how to fix pickup basketball. It addressed the biggest problem of pickup basketball, a problem that has been a source of personal discontent for a long time, but which I'd never seen anyone else criticize in concerted and organized fashion. The problem is that the scoring of pickup ball, in order to be simplified, makes regular baskets worth 1 point and long-range shots worth 2 instead of 3 points. This means that "three-point shots " are worth twice what a normal basket is. Pickup ball often degenerates into three-point shooting contests. This ruins it as basketball, but you can probably see why this would be also personally vexing for a man like me, who stands at 6'9" and weighs in at 330.

Y'all. These dudes at Redenção were playing real basketball. Real. Basketball. And why?

Because the baskets were worth two and three points. 

So while I briefly allowed the awkwardness of the new rules and new basketball culture to frustrate me, this becomes clear. The way I've been made, and the way I do things, there can be no doubt: I belong here.

This pic comes from the lovely Suzannah Rowntree's Instagram feed (Rowntree is she of Vintage Novels) . It's from Dorothy Sayers' translation of the Song of Roland. The medieval world was, according to Sayers, "a world abounding in self-confidence." And it's true. You can tell just by talking to the people who lived it. But our age is old and insecure and sad and suicidal. The Middle Ages were young, but we moderns are past even our middle age, holding desperately on to what is left of the bone of our lives, gumming toothlessly on it.

Next time you're enjoying Don Quixote, just remember that that book was part of the inauguration of the death of the West. Only mean spirits laugh at windmill tilters. Maybe rather read Beowulf, and The Song of the Cid, and the Song of Roland. Theirs was a young and confident age, unafraid to bleed and die, wanting to die well instead of mocking those who risked death.

How far we have fallen out of a world of mud and fire and wagon wheels. Our world of chrome and plasma and rockets is a poor, Christless substitute.

Roland died young and poetically, and today his legacy is that historians pedantically teach that the historical Roland erred in entering that valley. But the truth is the poetic one, that...
Count Roland lifts the horn up to his mouth,
Then sets his lips and blows it with great force.
The hills are high; the horn's voice loud and long;
They hear it echoing full thirty leagues.
And then he dies. Such a death that songs are sung of. Death by tactical error is a far better fate than that which awaits modern man. We just come upon the battle when it is well over, like Roland's king...
"God," says the king, "how wearisome my life!"
He weeps and pulls at his white beard.
Thus ends the poem that Turoldus declines.
May we all grow Frankish mustaches, eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, and pick up our hammers and axes. We may be middle-aged, or even old, but by God's grace our hands will recall their old skill.
Blessed be Jehovah my rock,
Who teacheth my hands to war,
And my fingers to fight:
My lovingkindness, and my fortress,
My high tower, and my deliverer;
My shield, and he in whom I take refuge;
Who subdueth my people under me.
Jehovah, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that thou makest account of him?
Man is like to vanity:
His days are as a shadow that passeth away.
Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah, and come down:
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
Cast forth lightning, and scatter them;
Send out thine arrows, and discomfit them.
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God:
Upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
When our sons shall be as plants grown up in their youth,
And our daughters as corner-stones hewn after the fashion of a palace;
When our garners are full, affording all manner of store,
And our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;
When our oxen are well laden;
When there is no breaking in, and no going forth,
And no outcry in our streets:
Happy is the people that is in such a case;
Yea, happy is the people whose God is Jehovah.
Man is nothing, only a vanity. And yet, it matters that our God bends his heaven down to us, builds our daughters up to be a brick house, and gives us sheep by the thousand. Man is vanity, but God gives us meaning, and we can say that happy is the people whose God is Jehovah.

Let the haters hate. Let the mockers write their Don Quixote and Lazarillo de Tormes and Candide. Because of them the priests of the Guarani are scattered, and the people but a memory. Because of them the faithful were massacred on the Piedmont and on St. Bartholomew's Day. Because of them we declared that life was a cruel joke, a power play. Because of them we opened the dark satanic mills and killed sex. Because of them we slaughtered Jews and infants.

But today we wake up, and we are young again, and we are not afraid to be innocent and strong.

Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Make your life a romance. Be young. Throw your life away. The Saracens are coming and you are going to die well.

Post script addendum thing: I discovered Miss Rowntree is conducting a read-along of the Chanson de Roland. What's a read-along? I didn't know either until today. It involves reading books and sharing on social media. Read about her read-along here.
Stern now was Éomer's mood, and his mind clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.
"Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!"
These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

A History of Christian Art in Decoupage

A Poem in Excerpts From the Middle Ages to Today

Childe Rowland to the dark tower came.

My Lord Cid Don Rodrigo
Straight for the gateway made.
And they that held it when they saw
That swift attack begin fled in great fear.

Unto the foot of the tower we came at last.

Then came Arthur out of his tower
And had under his gown a jesseraunt
Of double mail, and went with him
The Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lo! Yonder is (said she) the brazen tower!

Those are not giants, they are windmills.
Before that ruin came, for centuries
Tough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees
Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs.

That night three unsuccessful bombing attacks
Were made on the Tower at Wancourt.

I am waiting for Childe Roland to come
To the final darkest tower.
And I am waiting for Aphrodite.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulu

The King of the Zulu is an important political figure in South Africa, a relatively prosperous country that people from all over Africa and even the Middle East try to move to. In March of this year the King told a "Moral Regeneration" gathering "We urge all foreigners to pack their bags and leave."

There was immediately a wave of violent attacks by Zulus on immigrants. So far, so normal, really; this is a common occurrence in South Africa. Some tried to lay the crime wave at the feet of the king, but he denied that it had anything to do with his words. He claimed that he had been misunderstood, particularly because he'd been speaking in isiZulu. Pressured to clarify his remarks, he addressed the issue a month later at a stadium speech in front of thousands.

“The people who listened to my speech at Pongola have not killed anyone, or committed any crimes. What has been said about me is not true. I need to clarify what I said, because the media has misrepresented me.”

In a nutshell, I had nothing to do with the fact that many immigrants were beaten and some killed. But...

"If I indeed had called for violence, then this country would burn to ashes."

So, really, people don't respond to my words with violence, but if I wanted violence, I'd use my words.

Cardinal Francis. You might have heard of him. He's a pope.

When the BBC asked about a certain video of Pope Francis made in May of this year but broadcast five months later, a Vatican spokesman said "We know about the video, but we'd prefer not to comment." The video in question? One in which the pope lectures Chilean lay officers of the Catholic church, which had reported on the reactions in the Chilean city of Osorno over a regional sexual abuse scandal in the church. The officers had said that the church in Osorno was "praying and suffering for you", to which the mighty cardinal responded:

"You're right, Osorno is suffering, because they're dumb (tonto)."


As if that hadn't been enough, he added, "Think with your heads and don't let the lefties lead you around by the nose." At least this demolishes the idea that this pope is a lefty himself! The response of the Chileans he lectured? "Thank you for your patience." Video here.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

In November of this year Canada's Justin Trudeau busted out a gem of obfuscaspeech. Trudeau is the most beautiful head of state we have ever seen. I mean, don't you just want to oil up his abs and musically rub your fingers up and down that buttered-up politically correct stomach to the tune of The Bold Canadian? I know I do.

“It is clear that the way forward for Canada will be in a solution that resembles Canada, that is shared values and shared desires for outcomes and different approaches to achieve those outcomes right across this great country.”

The Good Colonel Brian Tribus, U.S. Army

This guy counts as a politician because he's a spokesman for the Army, and spokesmen are as political an animal as ever existed. When the New York Times broke a story claiming that U.S. soldiers were subject to a policy of not reporting systemic child rape by Afghan security forces, an email he wrote explaining the situation to the Times was quoted. The army later tried to back off what he said. 'Cause, you know, people didn't like what he said.

“Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.”

“...there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.”

Unless rape was being used as a tool of war. Then they'd have to say something.

Dilma Roussef, President of Brazil

In July of 2015 Brazilian prez Dilma uttered a sequence of words that were so ridiculous they immediately became the subject of a million memes, and even entered into the everyday parlance of this country of 200 million.
"How many shall we drink?"

While giving a speech on the potential of an educational initiative, she said:

"We're not going to set a target. We're going to leave the target open, but, when we hit that target, we're going to double that target."

Now in Brazil if you ask how much food to bring to a party, or how many beers the group will drink, or how many people to invite, or how much you'll need of anything, really, the Brazilian will say, "we're not going to set a target" with a snicker. And he might add "when we hit the target, we're gonna double the target."

Goh Chok Tong, former Prime Minister and "Senior Minister Emeritus" in Singapore

They made up a new political position for this guy when he retired from his elected post, just so he could say:

“We are our own check. The integrity of our leaders, of our MPs. That’s where the check comes from. … not this seductive lie of check and balance.”

A fundamental precept of democratic republics is a "seductive lie". Nice. What is Singapore's form of government, you ask? It's a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. Emphasis on unitary, apparently.

Amazing! Elderly Christian man boldly proclaims Christ in crowd of mocking Muslims
Posted by International Christian Concern on Saturday, November 14, 2015


There's been quite a reaction to this bit I posted showing male Marine recruits singing an anemic ropey-dopey praise song and contrasting it to regular folks singing a robust praise song. Several people have written in asking about talking to friends and loved ones who are all about the ol' Hillsong scene. How to converse with a brother about worship, maturity, and masculinity without offending him? 'Cause, you know, men are sensitive and tender.

One note specifically mentioned the ol' David-dancing-before-the-Lord defense of acting goofy or going into dance-trances. I am no theologian, dear friends. Je suis un artiste with a waxed mustache. But I'm going to tackle this David thing for you. Gonna dunk on it, really. And then you can go read some more serious people on the topic. Then I'm going to ask that the Hillsongy types reconsider how they view worship in the first place. Then I'm going to drop C. S. Lewis and De La Soul on this party.

King David's Dancing

The undignified dancing like a fool part of David's march in 2 Samuel 6 probably looked a lot different than what we've been trained to imagine. He was, after all, a king. That's not to say he wasn't naked and embarrassing people, but I suspect it was much more masculine looking than the hippy-dippy that we do trippy in our worship services today. A mighty warlord and king, the greatest warrior of his time, whose beard was surely dark and curled and massive, stripped down to a loincloth "leaping and dancing before the Lord". If we read that without post-hippy-music-festival eyes, we are likely to visualize something much more like the folk/traditional dances we are familiar with from NatGeo: war dances, mating dances, celebratory dances. Masculine dances. Not trance flower-power dances.

So often I have heard David's dancing given as a justification for crazed pentecostal pew-jumping, or glossolalic spinning hand-flailing, or even just losing yourself or being undignified in the moment. And while Christians should certainly shed the self-importance that makes us concerned for how others perceive us, behaviors in which we lose ourselves are ultimately a rejection of the Gospel in which we find ourselves.

Michal didn't despise David because he started acting all goofy. She despised him because he took off the robes of his kingly dignity in order to better dance with all his might before the Lord. This was, above all other adjectives, a mighty dance.

(Incidentally, it is not to be blithely assumed that Michal was wrong in her reaction to David's dancing, although I think she was. When it came to his women, David was often the one in the wrong.)

David's dance happened in a very liturgical setting, in which the Levites and mighty men were in a great procession, taking six steps and giving a sacrifice every seventh. David was a part of that liturgy, but he was also a Christ figure inaugurating a new era of worship in Israel's history. He was of the procession but also above it, at its head, making a new thing. In that sense it is like the showbread moment. These moments show that he was a special Christ figure.

In speaking to a Hillsong friend I might emphasize that the most important horizontal aspects of worship are togetherness (everyone doing everything together, no one on their own agenda), and solemnity (in the C. S. Lewis sense), although you might not want to use the word solemnity. And that in the vertical aspects of worship, those same things, communion-togetherness and joy-solemnity, are how God relates to us.

God's people are summoned and they are to worship as a people, together, in unison. That doesn't mean they worship in robotic sameness, but it means that worship designed to carry an individual off to an isolated island of trance or meditation is not meant for corporate worship. The purposeful loss of emotional or intellectual control is not God-honoring, because it abstracts the individual from the people. When we gather, everything is plural, everything is corporate. David was king. Christ is king. We are the people.

Corporate Solemnity, Even In Song

C.S. Lewis, in his Preface to Paradise Lost, talks about the old English word solempne as exemplary of an attitude which we have lost, and need to recover:
“Like solemn it implies the opposite of what is familiar, free and easy, or ordinary. But unlike solemn it does not suggest gloom, oppression, or austerity. The ball in the first act of Romeo and Juliet was a ‘solemnity’. The feast at the beginning of Gawain and the Green Knight is very much a solemnity. A great mass by Mozart or Beethoven is as much a solemnity in its hilarious gloria as in its poignant crucifixus est. Feasts are, in this sense, more solemn than fasts. Easter is solempne, Good Friday is not. The Solempne is the festal which is also the stately and the ceremonial, the proper occasion for a pomp–and the very fact that pompous is now used only in a bad sense measures the degree to which we have lost the old idea of a 'solemnity’. To recover it you must think of a court ball, or a coronation, or a victory march, as these things appear to people to enjoy them; in an age when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in. Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connection with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar’s head at a Christmas feast–all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual… . You are to expect pomp. You are to 'assist’, as the French say, at a great festal action.”
"Fruit of a widespread inferiority complex". So much of our contemporary worship spring from the idea that we are not worthy to worship God. That in making something that went beyond feelings into doing and building and thinking and offering our very best, we'd be telling God that our very best was good enough. But this is a deadly false humility. God has told us that we're worthy to offer him things, not because of us, but because of Jesus. And it's real. We ought to offer our poor and sinful most magnificent, because it will be covered over by Jesus' most magnificent. No need for false humility, take hold of being a son of God.

So worship ought to be heavy with weight. Solemn with joy. Large with feast. And large and feast require all of all the people, not just some of you. God summons his people to a great feast, to a mighty worship. And he summons you the individual as far as you are a member of his people.

This corporate focus doesn't make you less called by God, by the way. If anything, it reminds you that you're called whether you're feeling it or not. He doesn't call you to some nebulous ecstatic union. What are you, a transcendentalist? He calls to a very real, very spiritual (which is to say, hyper-real), very concrete feast. The people of God are having communion, having conversation, with God. Y'all have things to say. Real things. Not mantras, but real praise and thanksgiving.

Of course, if one wants evidence that contemporary worship is obsessed with the self and the individual's relationship with God apart from the church, one has only to look at lyrics that abound in "being De La". It's just me, myself, and I. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. (If you're too young for this song to mean anything, it's not a praise song, it's just me having fun with the words "me, myself, and I".)

Musically and lyrically isolating the individual from the group, I sing a song of myself. I raise my hands when I feel it. I kneel when I feel it. I sing when I know the songs and am familiar with the band, 'cause every band "performs" the same song in different ways, repeating this or that line over and over again, going back to this or that verse because they feel it, and I've got to follow as best as I can.

I would not, by the way, call for a return to some perfect previously achieved ideal form of worship. There ought to be a great diversity through time and space of how God's people biblically worship him. But we ought to be a part of the stream of time, the great cloud of witnesses, the mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won. And we ought to be thinking corporately, congregationally, as the people of God. Our worship music can't be this thin individual stuff anymore.

Are we going to dance? Are we going to raise our hands? Are we going to embrace? Fabulous. Let's be engaged about it, let's be awake about it. Not "do what you feel", but "all together now", and with as much excellence and solemnity as our sinful people can muster. For God already accepts our works.

And yes, even when they're Hillsong tunes.