Had Hoped to See this in Dallas while at General Assembly

But Rain Bomb 2019 meant we could only circle First Park on its side streets. Here’s why it is intriguing:

The one constant about World’s Fairs and Expositions—from Chicago’s White City to the several Expositions Universelles in Paris to the New York World’s Fair of 1939—is that you cannot in any meaningful sense go to see them. It’s not merely that the midways are empty, Buffalo Bill dead, the dancing girls clothed, and “Forbidden Tibet” forbidden. The physical imprint of almost every single exposition of the golden age from the 1870s to the 1930s has been almost completely effaced, with remnants typically constituting one or two relics and some landscaping.

There are very few exceptions. But your best bet for immersion today is in Dallas’s Fair Park, a stunning time capsule from 1936 with 26 buildings remaining from the Texas Centennial Exhibition. Fair Park has been and remains the host of the Texas State Fair since 1886, so a spectacle persists every fall for three weeks. Many decades later, the difficult problem is what to do with these stellar grounds the other 11 months of the year. And the question is how Dallas can enliven this huge urban monument today—even as there is no question that the 1936 legacy of Texas should be both celebrated and preserved.

Though Fair Park’s landmark exhibition was not technically a “World” exposition, it drew on a very considerable range of national and international talent, and lived up to Texas’s reputation for gigantism in all of the best ways. As Jim Parsons and David Bush write in their book, Fair Park Deco: “In 1936, most of the United States knew little about Texas. If Americans thought of the state at all, they probably imagined it as a vast frontier filled with cowboys and oil wells. Centennial publicists, armed with a $500,000 allocation from Austin, were perfectly happy to use those misconceptions to their advantage, spinning them into decidedly sentimental symbols of the Lone Star State.”

But what if fairs were meant to exist only during the event itself (sort of like General Assembly)?

A majority of the great fairs of yesteryear were intrinsically evanescent, built to be destroyed, with many of the most seemingly opulent sharing a material foundation of staff, a compound containing some cement, but much larger amounts of plaster of Paris, often strengthened by fibers or literal sackcloth. It wouldn’t last, and was torn down before it would decay in Paris in 1878 and 1889, Chicago in 1893, Buffalo in 1901, St. Louis in 1904, and elsewhere. This was relative material luxury; later fairs such as Chicago’s Century of Progress were built largely out of plywood—possibly not much progress!

Fair Park was an exception, building structures out of more durable materials. Some were subsequently demolished and many decayed greatly. Much of the art adorning these buildings was painted over. Despite a number of much larger threats over time, the considerable majority survived and restoration efforts beginning in the early 1980s have restored many of their original 1936 features.

Part of the trouble is that, for all of the varied urban sobriquets applied to large expositions and fairs, from Chicago’s White City to Buffalo’s Rainbow City (a common nickname for The Pan-American Exposition of 1901) and onwards, they’ve more often been a vision of fantasy urbanism than the real thing, even beyond their temporary construction. Sometimes their sites are highly central, such as Paris’s Champ de Mars, but more often they are located in fairgrounds or used as schemes to improve or create parkland on the urban periphery. Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens is not exactly well connected to its surroundings. Balboa Park in San Diego, host of the California-Pacific International Exhibition (and the most substantial surviving complex in the U.S. beyond Fair Park), consisted of a simulacrum of a dense urban core in the middle of a park.

Even better connected events, such as the World’s Columbian Exhibition, share a highly anti-urban feature: ticket gates. Walkable and visually appealing urban landscapes behind gates, poorly connected to any street grid, is the story of, well, Disneyland: it’s no surprise that Walt’s father, Elias Disney, worked as a carpenter on the World’s Columbian Exposition. Walt visited others and constructed attractions for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Is this part of a by-gone era of urban life and recreation, or will thee Holy Urbanists have a plan to be in the city, for the city?

Other examples of this type of built environment are relatively rare. Balboa Park in San Diego has a more robust set of tenant institutions, including the city’s main art museum, natural history museum, and science center (with a total of 16 museums) but struggles with some similar issues. Exposition Park in Los Angeles, which is a somewhat smaller version of the same with stronger resident institutions, houses Los Angeles’s major league soccer team, their principal Natural History Museum and Science Center, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and will soon be host to George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art.

More recent exposition grounds suffer from fewer preservation burdens but similar difficulties just staying tenanted and busy. Hemisfair Park in San Antonio has a number of unused pavilions and has built a hotel and is adding apartments and commercial space. At the site of the 1962 World’s Fair of Space Needle fame, the Seattle Center grounds are relatively vibrant, but some spaces sit empty and unused.

Many of these spaces are of a scale that echoes Jane Jacobs’s criticism of another megaproject, Lincoln Center, as an unnatural isolation of culture from ordinary activity of the city—though the scale of these fairgrounds can make Lincoln Center look positively modest. In any case, when cultural facilities are spread across the urban fabric, they are obviously more easily integrated with their surroundings or repurposed. There is no arguing with a fundamentally unique treasure such as Fair Park, however, and we can only hope that it devises a formula for success.

Fair Park draws widespread plaudits as an institution not merely academically but personally important to the citizens of North Texas. As Willis Winters observes, the place is “so central to our city. My first college football game, my first professional football game, my first opera, my first symphony visit, my first fair—all were at Fair Park. It’s been so important to my life and so important to many residents of this city.”

(By the way, The American Conservative excels in its reporting on new urbanism, architecture, and localism.)

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Sanctification Signaling

Big Green Letters is piling on with niceness. Not only has Jared Wilson repeated the charge that Calvinists are mean, but Ray Ortlund re-quotes John Newton’s oft-cited comments about how to pursue controversy with love. (Justin Taylor may be the first Green Letter to appeal to Newton.)

But here’s the thing that Big Green Letters don’t seem to consider — that the pursuit of nice often ignores both sides of a disagreement. It opts for the third way without really sorting out what’s right and wrong in the controverted issues. Which means, that love or nice is its own sort of polemical meanness because in taking no side and offering no alternative except to say “love” or “be nice,” it ignores the people and principles in view. Imagine doing that in a dispute between a wife and a teenage son over mowing the grass. The dad says, “love each other.”

Sure.

This side of Big Green Letters, this religious affectionism, is what makes evangelicals (even those who think they are Calvinist) so unreliable either in ecclesiastical or civil matters. Liel Liebovitz picked up on this in the spat between Sohrab Ahmari and David French over virtue and the current POTUS:

To put it briefly, the Never Trump argument is that they should be greatly approved of, while Donald Trump should rightly be scorned, because—while they agree with Trump on most things, politically—they are devoted to virtue, while Trump is uniquely despicable. The proofs of Trump’s singular loathsomeness are many, but if you strip him of all the vices he shares with others who had recently held positions of power—a deeply problematic attitude towards women (see under: Clinton, William Jefferson), shady business dealings (see under: Clinton, Hillary Rodham), a problematic attitude towards the free press (see under: Obama, Barack)—you remain with one ur-narrative, the terrifying folk tale that casts Trump as a nefarious troll dispatched by his paymasters in the Kremlin to set American democracy ablaze.

By analogy, The Big Green Letters supposedly agree with “mean” Calvinists about Christianity and church ministry (actually they don’t but go along, please), but want to hold themselves up as the party of sanctification because they don’t fight the way “mean” Calvinists do. But what if Big Green Letters had had a little more fight or agreed more with “mean” Calvinists when deliberating about whether to grant a Big Letter to Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, and James MacDonald?

It gets worse (thanks to Liebovitz) and points to the follow-the-money argument that Carl Trueman has made:

French and the other self-appointed guardians of civility, then, should do us all a favor and drop the civic virtue act. They’re not disinterested guardians of our public institutions; they are actors, working in an industry that rewards them for dressing up in Roman Republican drag and reciting Cicero for the yokels. This is why Bill Kristol, another of the Never Trumpers, could raise money for his vanity website, The Bulwark, and why he could expect his new creation be lauded on CNN as “a conservative site unafraid to take on Trump,” even as the site was staffed by leftist millennials and dutifully followed progressive propaganda lines. Like anyone whose living depends on keeping on the right side of a leftist industry, they understood that there’s only so much you can say if you care about cashing a paycheck—especially when the president and leader of your own party won’t take your phone calls.

The Never Trumpers, of course, aren’t the first Americans to hide cold careerism behind a wall of virtue-signaling. It’s why so many in the professional punditry went the way of Never Trump: More than anything else, the decision to align oneself with a movement that, ontologically, vows to reject the president a priori, no matter what he might say or do, regardless of your own supposed political beliefs, is a way of affirming one’s professional class loyalties, thus ensuring that your progeny will still be accepted and acceptable at Yale.

A YUGE part of Big Green Letters’ brand is nice. It increases hits at the website, registrations at conferences, sales of books, size of celebrity. In which case, if the New Calvinists really want to follow John Newton’s example and practice their niceness within the boundaries of a Christian communion like the Church of England rather than turning nice Calvinism into a movement.

From Molly Worthen’s Review of Ross Douthat’s Review of Pope Francis (in the Times)

This was Luther’s point (along with a lot of other Reformers):

One might argue that the Catholic hierarchy’s entwinement with state power and wealth from the 4th century until our own time constitutes one long, largely unrepentant heretical act. It is a rebellion against Jesus’ declaration that his “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), that Christians should refrain from serving both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24) and should render unto Caesar only the things that are Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). The pope’s effort to disentangle his church from the excesses of neoliberalism and nationalist politics is a profound act of resistance against the forces of secularization and worldliness, far braver than his opponents’ defense of traditional marriage.

The problem for this reading of Pope Francis is that such “entwinement” with the things of this world has hardly gone away during this pope’s tenure. If as the old adage has it, actions speak louder than words, the Vatican will show that Francis’ words matter when it gives up the Swiss Guard, the Vatican museums, the pope becomes a bishop of a large metropolitan city like any other archbishop (and has to negotiate properties and staff with local governments), the Vatican bank becomes a branch of Bank of America, and well . . .

A lot has to change for the papacy to be its truly spiritual office.

Fundamentalists are Winning

If you had any doubt about the way Trump has turned the advocates of tolerance into fundamentalists, consider David Brooks’ (courtesy of Rod Dreher) assessment of the left and the right:

I’d say the siege mentality explains most of the dysfunctional group behavior these days, on left and right.

You see the siege mentality not just among evangelical Christians but also among the campus social justice warriors and the gun lobbyists, in North Korea and Iran, and in the populist movements across Europe.

The siege mentality starts with a sense of collective victimhood. It’s not just that our group has opponents. The whole “culture” or the whole world is irredeemably hostile.

From this flows a deep sense of pessimism. Things are bad now. Our enemies are growing stronger. And things are about to get worse. The world our children inherit will be horrific. The siege mentality floats on apocalyptic fear.

The odd thing is that the siege mentality feels kind of good to the people who grab on to it. It gives its proponents a straightforward way to interpret the world — the noble us versus the powerful them. It gives them a clear sense of group membership and a clear social identity. It offers a ready explanation for the bad things that happen in life.

Most of all, it gives people a narrative to express their own superiority: We may be losing, but at least we are the holy remnant. We have the innocence of victimhood. We are martyrs in a spiteful world.

This is precisely how I as a fundamentalist youth thought about the world. I can’t imagine graduating from Harvard and thinking like Jack Van Impe (I wonder if he grew up in the CRC). But apparently, the state of America is so bad that the nation’s elites have taken a page out of my ancestor’s playbook.

Word of advice: the only improvement that fundamentalists would make to Ridley Scott’s decision to erase Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World would have been to use Kirk Cameron instead of Christopher Plummer.

What Would Trump Be Like as POTUS?

Think Jerry Jones as president of the Dallas Cowboys?

In charge but not and outspoken about it:

In the locker room after Sunday night’s 31-17 win over the Chicago Bears, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Dez Bryant had X-rays on his injured right knee. He said they revealed a sprain and the star receiver would have an MRI Monday.

However, during his Tuesday morning radio interview, Jones said Bryant still had not had an MRI.

“He hasn’t taken an MRI, to my knowledge,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan’s Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. “I’m assuming that he’s on go [for Sunday]. Will he get an MRI here probably later today? Maybe.

“But he certainly finished the game out. That in and of itself is a good indication. It doesn’t mean he’s going to be free of the symptoms of the injury, but again, we may look at an MRI before this day is over.”

He’s rich, he hangs out with celebrities, and he’s outspoken about it:

Jerry Jones seems to have a story about everyone he’s ever met.

This includes Grammy Award-winning couple Jay Z and Beyonce. The two attended Sunday night’s Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium.

During his Tuesday morning radio interview, Jones said he’s known Beyonce since her former group, Destiny’s Child, performed at halftime of the Cowboys’ 2004 Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium.

“As a matter of fact, they were planning to perform and it was so cold you couldn’t stand it out there on Thanksgiving Day,” Jones recalled on 105.3 The Fan’s Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. “And I got them all coats from Neiman Marcus. And to this day, one of the things that we kind of smile about are those jackets that we got them so that they could go out there and do a good job and give us Thanksgiving Day halftime. Boy, I’m telling you, she’s phenomenal.

What does Jones think about her husband?

“He, as an individual, is one of the neatest people that I’ve met,” Jones said. “Make no mistake about it, he’s the real deal. He’s as easy to be around, talk to, as sharp as anybody I’ve met. I see what she sees in him.”

Don’t forget that Jerry Jones is a patriot and want a great America:

“I got to give a big pat on the back to our entire team, our coaching staff, our entire organization,” Jones told the Cowboys’ flagship station. “We strongly, strongly support the flag in every way we support — and it’s almost ridiculous to be saying it — the people who for generations and generations have given it all up so that we can get out here and show off in front of millions of people on television.

“We respect that so much. That’s the real business. The forum of the NFL and the forum on television is a very significant thing. I’m for it being used in every way we can to support the great, great contributors in our society, and that’s people that have supported America, the flag, and there’s no reason not to go all out right there. And for anybody to use parts of that visibility to do otherwise is really disappointing.”

Is there room in the Constitution for Jerry Jones?

Homosexual Militarism

When I think of gayness, I don’t think of weapons of mass destruction. Call me a homophobe, but the cause of gay rights and the promotion of alternative “lifestyles” has not usually been synonymous with a strong U.S. military or neo-conservative (read interventionist) U.S. foreign policy. Then again, if Gomer Pyle really was gay, maybe the Navy’s decision to name a ship after Harvey Milk makes sense:

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected on Tuesday to formally name a fleet replenishment oiler after gay-rights activist Harvey Milk, but one congressional critic says Mabus’ name choice is putting politics ahead of the Navy’s legacy.

Mabus will participate in a naming ceremony for the USNS Harvey Milk on Tuesday afternoon in Treasure Island, Calif. The oiler, which can carry 156,000 barrels of oil, is the first of six that will be built by General Dynamics NASSCO and will replenish Navy ships, as well as the aircraft deployed on them, while at sea.

Some conservatives are not happy, as you might expect. According to Congressman Duncan Hunter:

What this says to the men and women of the Navy is that there wasn’t one of you — at any time in history — who is more suitable for this honor. There are plenty of names out there to pick from, but Ray Mabus makes every decision with politics in his mind first and foremost, and that’s a real disservice to men and women of the U.S. Navy and the service’s legacy.

But are homosexuals also comfortable with having one of their heroes’ names painted on a ship that doesn’t make love but executes war? If, for instance, Equality California, one of the larger LBGT rights organizations, is currently soliciting support for a proposition against gun violence, are they comfortable with military violence?

Then again, if you want a seat at the table of the U.S. of A., for now that means cozying up to the nation’s military. Isn’t integration grand!

Confused but Not Dazed

Father Dwight has counsel for discouraged Roman Catholics:

4. Regarding Pope Francis – Many conservative Catholics are troubled by Pope Francis. They think he is a textbook 1970s liberal. He’s not. Take time to understand his context and background from Argentina. Read this post to put things into perspective. Get to know the man and pray for him. It is ok to disagree with him and question his judgement. He’s not infallible all the time you know, but you can do so with an open heart and a desire to understand and be with him and learn from him. What’s the alternative? You set yourself up as the judge of the Holy Father? Hmmm. There’s not much mileage in that now is there?

Once upon a time the western church had councils because Rome had three popes.

Also, it’s a free country, right? So separated siblinghood is an alternative. But being Roman Catholic means you have to accept whatever the bishops do? Fr. Dwight might make sense in a pay-pray-obey environment. But the world of immigrant parishes is long gone. Root-root-root for the Fightin’ Irish.

5. Regarding Cafeteria Catholics – Are you maddened by so called “devout Catholics” who openly endorse same sex marriage, women priests and are “pro choice”? Join the club. They annoy me too. Are you also annoyed by the bishops and priests who take the same view? I’m with you. However, remember that the Catholic Church is universal. We’re not a sect where everyone agrees. We’re inclusive and that’s why we’re Catholic. The Church has always had dissidents, rebels and downright bad Catholics. Have you ever read the Old Testament or taken a close look at the twelve apostles? The saints and sinners are all in together. The weeds and the wheat, the goat and the sheep are mixed. Jesus will sort it out one day, and stop for a moment and ask yourself, are you a perfect saint yet? I’m not. I’m still learning and growing and repenting. So I guess we must offer the mercy (and benefit of the doubt) to others that we would wish to receive.

Isn’t the church supposed to stand for the truth? And if observers of Pope Francis need context to understand him and his unwillingness to do something about dissent and error in the church, has not Fr. Dwight entered the cafeteria of choosing what he wants to believe? Why does he get to have perspective on the church’s problems that Pope Francis doesn’t because of his Argentinian background?

6. Regarding You and the Church – I’ve heard some Catholics grumble that the church has let them down. But what did you expect of the church in the first place? The church is divine, but she is also human. The church is a work in progress, an ark of wounded warriors, a tribe of troubled pilgrims, a family of lost children looking and longing for home. When you see the church like this, instead of hoping that the church will be the instant answer to all your problems you will be more content. Our role in the church is to be faithful, prayerful, hard working and stable in our love for Christ and his people.

But Roman Catholicism was supposed to be an upgrade, better than Protestantism. Isn’t that why Fr. Dwight left fundamentalism for Anglicanism and then left Anglicanism for Rome? So shouldn’t the standards for the bearer of the truth, the only true church, be higher? If converts knew that Rome was going to be as incoherent and liberal as the PCUSA or the Church of England, why leave Tim Keller? Or is it that this is godly mess and Protestants only have ungodly messes (and of course, having ONE mess is better than having many).

7. Regarding Priorities – The main thing is to stay close to Jesus and Mary. How do you do this? The Catechism says we experience Christ in five specific ways: 1) in the Sacred Scriptures 2) in the person of the priest 3) in the person of the poor 4) in the fellowship of believers 5) in the Eucharist. I can guarantee you, if you make these five things your priorities, then you will have a solid, sure and secure relationship with Jesus Christ. These five meeting places of Christ assume that your life is bathed in prayer and that you have as your main priority being with Jesus and Mary in these ways. If you get this right the other worries fall away.

Jesus is good and having his Spirit is really good. Mary is good but she is not exactly going to save. But is Fr. Dwight suggesting we can have Mary or Jesus apart from the Bishop of Rome?

Lots of sorting to do. Sure would be nice to have a hierarchy to do this for the faithful.

2k is Unobjectionable

Here’s why:

If all 2K people want is for Christians to speak as individuals rather than through the institutional church except in cases extraordinary, I have no serious objection.

The only qualification to make is that when Christians speak as individuals they do so not as the Bishop of Rome. That means that when Christian persons speak, they do not define the Christian religion or the normative, Christian view of gay marriage legislation, baking recipes, who plumbers fix leaks, or which method an accountant should use (accrual vs. cash). Just because a Christian is speaking doesn’t mean any other Christian needs to recognize or heed the person who invokes Christianity for his or her views. And just because a beliver thinks Christianity requires a certain curricular choice, a specific set of historical circumstances, a particular policy initiative, doesn’t make it so.

In other words, if the institutional church is near to your understanding of Christianity, as in you need to belong to the body of Christ, then what churches say about Christianity carries weight. What church members say is like just an opinion, man. (Remember, in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, study committee reports are merely pious advise.)

And when you look at what institutional churches say about public policy, you find surprising little or nothing, unless, of course, you belong to the Roman Catholic Church where for over a century popes have pontificated about almost every square inch.

Yet another reason why anti-2k is the gateway drug to Christendom and the bishops who created it.