Return of the Bible Thumper

Bill Smith tries to pull the church calendar out of the solar year:

Does Dr. Hart really think that the solar year and the interadvental age are at odds with one another? Does not the interadvental age consist of some finite number of solar years? Does living in this interadvental age mean not recalling the works of Christ by which the corner of history was turned and we entered the last age? And how is focusing one’s mind on the redemptive works of Christ by following the Christian year contrary to setting one’s mind on Christ?

Well, what does the Bible say?

Jesus told us how to remember him, right?

18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22)

Isn’t it enough to remember Christ weekly in Word and Sacrament?

I seem to recall Paul also saying something about where we should direct our thoughts. I remember. It’s about Christ in heaven not Christ on earth.

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is youra life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3)

Passages like these may not be slam dunks, but can’t the church-calendar people at least interact with scriptural injunctions about remembering and thinking, or is it the case when the church calendar comes in the Bible goes out?

Here’s the thing: when I think of my beloved parents, I have lots of memories to which I might turn. My mother behind the driver’s wheel, my father rubbing my cherub face on his two-days of stubble while he recovered from surgery, my parents’ singing duets to enraptured cousins, aunts, and uncles during summer vacations (yikes!). I also sometimes think of what their intermediate state might involve (and I know it doesn’t involve looking “down” at me or hearing my prayer requests).

But my parents aren’t Jesus. Duh. How I think about my Lord is on a different order of importance. And get this — the Bible gives some instruction about how I should remember and think about Jesus. Replaying his life and participating in it (Lent) or thinking that I’m preparing for the savior’s birth (Advent) don’t make sense.


Rod Dreher continues to acquire material for his next book — the one on the Benedict Option. (Make that Benedictine Option and I’m there — like yesterday.) And he posts this from a Protestant pastor who supports the notion of some kind of cultural resistance:

I just wanted to let you know that your writings about the Benedict Option have moved me deeply. Your thoughts, plus the guidance of the Spirit, led me to propose a youth discipleship class for the teenagers in our church to our Pastor — a proposal that he quickly endorsed.

A line that you had in a recent blog post “If they’ve heard anything from the Church, it’s something like, ‘Don’t do this because the Bible says not to’ — which is not enough in this time and place.” is exactly what we are trying to combat. It is almost word for word what a youngish (~25) member of our church told me a few weeks ago. She said that when she was growing up and would ask if she could do something that was verboten, her parents would tell her, “No, you can’t do that.” “Why?” “It’s against our religion.” No further explanation was given.

So we are putting together this class and starting it with hard questions. Why do you go to church? Would you go to church if your parents didn’t make you? Is God important to you? Why?

From there, it will lead into discussions about our doctrines, the importance of prayer, how to pray, how to read/study/meditate on the Bible, holiness, how to handle failures, etc. When we start discussing the things that the Lord hates, we aren’t just going to point at the Bible and say, “God says no, so don’t.” One of the questions we will keep bringing up is, “God said don’t do X or that he hates X. Why would God say that?” We want them to be able to put those admonitions into a larger framework.

Why did God say that? Wasn’t that the Serpent’s question to Eve (of course, in a figurative way, vd,t)? Why isn’t a thus saith the Lord sufficient for not doing something? Does this pastor really think he can go behind the curtain of God’s prescriptive will and come back alive?

Speaking from my own experience, parental instruction not to do something, backed up by serious consequences for the backside at younger stages and coping with parental disapproval at later ones, was an effective moral code. Did I observe it? Of course, not. Now that the parents are in the grave (and not eavesdropping on everything I say or think), I can admit that the first movie I saw in a theater was Straw Dogs. How did a 14-year old get pass the ticket taker? I looked old for my age. What did I tell my parents, who specified that their boys were not allowed to go to movies? I told them I went to the Mall, which was sort of true. But on the whole I broke at least 2 commandments that night — the fifth and the ninth — and if you’re keeping score at home with Greg the Terrible, watching this movie likely broke the seventh as well.

But the lesson here is not how to fool fundamentalist parents. It is that a firm set of moral guidelines, even without elaborate moral reasoning apart from the appeal to authority, was as remarkably good way to grow up. I obtained a clear sense of living inside or outside that moral code and I couldn’t blame anyone but myself if I got caught and had to face the music.

It seems to me in a just sayin’ way that if you want a real Benedict option, it is not to turn adolescents into people who can compete with Benedict XVI or Alasdair MacIntyre on virtue ethics. It is rather to create a moral universe akin to Benedict’s monastery where those who belong to the community have a clear sense of what’s right and wrong on the inside and how that differs from the world outside. In other words, respecting authority is more important than explaining why authority is important.

Postscript: this was NOT my experience:

Sadly, in spite of my Christian upbringing, no one ever told me what was wrong with the hook up culture. In fact, sex before marriage was encouraged by much of my Christian family and by the unanimous agreement of my Christian friends, who both mentioned preventing unwanted pregnancies, but never voiced the option of abstinence. What is worse, I never heard about the topic of sex in church. It was not until my involvement with a Christian campus ministry that I heard someone speak against premarital sex using biblical teaching.

This being my experience, I urge the Church, particularly parents raising children in the Church, to speak out on this issue and embrace the God’s intention for sex. Parents, do not make your child wait until he is a legal adult to hear about it from someone else. Talking about it may be awkward, but it could save your child from making a huge mistake and dealing with a lifetime of baggage for it.

Jay and Ellen Hart didn’t talk about the mechanics but Don and Darryl knew full well that sex outside marriage was verboten (inside marriage, well, okay, if you must).

When Blogs Imitate Facebook (I guess)

I am back on the road, this time heading to the Academy of Philosophy and Letters annual meeting not in Linthicum but Linthicum HEIGHTS, Maryland (outside Baltimore). This should be an intellectually stimulating time and also personally depressing (if you care about the local and traditional).

I have made a pit stop in Hancock, Maryland, just over the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders. The only resemblance to Turkey is that cell phone coverage is spotty. I took a pleasant stroll along the Chesapeake & Ohio Rail Trail and tried to call the Mrs. but wireless antennae would not cooperate. The drive has provided time for a few reflections (beware: all about me).

Birthday cake deprivation: my parents would have celebrated their birthdays this week. Ellen Marie Hart was born on this day in 1923. Jay Glenn Hart came into the world on June 11, 1922. I miss weeks crammed with birthday cake. I miss the people who supplied the ingredients and baked the cakes more.

Ohio giveth and Ohio taketh away: I have made the drive between Hillsdale and the East Coast several times now and I give the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike high marks (not to mention that the 70 mph speed limit gives ample joy). Compared to the virtuous commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s or Michigan’s, Ohio’s stops are attractive, spacious, and easy to use. Whether construction materials — they are all brand new — will age well is another matter. But what’s up with the miles of highway narrowed for road construction and workers only doing repairs in a fraction of the hazard area. Traffic has not been terrible so having lanes reduced from three to two has not been onerous. What is a pain is the reduction of speed to 50. I find this unusual and objectionable if only because on two-lane roads in America, outside city environments, the speed limit is always 55. One explanation might be that drivers need to slow down for workers. But why slow down for all seven miles when the workers are located in one tenth of that space? It makes me wonder if Ohio had an excess of 50 mph signs and needed to use them.

What are Jimmy and Bunk up to these days? Music is almost as evocative as smell. Today when I played Thom Yorke’s solo cd, one song in particular reminded me of The Wire. It must be that I bought the cd when Mrs. Hart and I were deeply embedded in our first viewing of the series. I miss those characters and am still reeling from the end of the series when we had to say so long to them.

Stephen Daldry rules: another disk I played was the soundtrack from Billy Eliot. This was Stephen Daldry’s first stab at motion-picture directing. It is a wonderful movie and chokes up this vinegary Calvinist in ways reminiscent of dad, Jay Hart, who was a genuine weeper. From Billy Eliot, Daldry went on to direct The Hours, The Reader, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. All of these are worthy of four stars and as many thumbs as you can find to put in the up position. The man knows how to pick good material and what to do with it.

Nothing could be finer: is there any prettier view than having the Appalachian Mountains on the horizon? (Having recently rewatched The Trip, I will grant that the Lake District gives the Blue Ridge region a real run for the money.) Granted, the East Coast’s mountain range would only count as hills in places like Turkey and Southern California. And they don’t have the grandeur of the Rockies, Alps, or Pontic Mountains. But the Appalachians possess a subtlety that should appeal to Reformed sensibilities shaped by the power of simplicity and order.

Of course, as our nemesis, PLM would remind us, all of this proves with utter certainty, epistemological and metaphysical, the truth of 2K.