Friday, May 03, 2013

Carl Trueman on the depressing observation that evangelical supermen employ the aesthetics of power

HT City of God

After a depressing afternoon hearing about the upfront speaker-fee schedules of men with well-paying day jobs, along with the need to pay for their personal assistants/wives/whatever to travel with them when away from home for a couple of nights, it was good to go back home, feel appropriately dirtied by it all and then think about the Psalms.  If I ruled the world (a most unlikely prospect, I admit) I would make sure that no man with a fee schedule or a minimum attendance requirement ever spoke in any church or Christian gathering anywhere; only those who never raise the issue of 'How much?' or "How many?' (distinctly un-Pauline concerns, I would suggest) are worth listening to.  There are well-known men like that.  But not as many as there should be.  The Emperor is not naked but actually has clothes: tailor made silk suits from Savile Row.

That the aesthetics of power have moved from the televangelists of the 80s to the orthodox evangelical Ubermenschen of the present day is most depressing.  It is also perhaps the greatest example of postmodern irony, given how oddly and obviously deconstructive it is: at least the televangelists preached an upfront message of worldly aspirations in an idiom which was only in the vaguest sense Christian.  We use the aesthetics of power to preach the theology of the cross.

There's a little more but this is the core stuff.

Practical Theology for Women: The Serenity Prayer is Not Cheesy

As usual, Wendy speaks for herself well enough I have almost nothing to add.  :)

The Serenity Prayer is just one thing in a long list of things that I thought were cheesy in my youth and disregarded during my twenties, but which now seem great wisdom each year older I get. Who in their youth wants to believe they are going to counter the exact same kinds of problems that the last generation faced in their homes and ministries? It was easier to think that they talked so much about enduring because they had compromised at some point so that they were only just getting by in ministry. We, of course, would not make those same kinds of mistakes, because we, as new Bible college graduates, had greater insight into their mistakes than they ever had. To quote a college professor of mine, I speak as a fool. 
Well, this much can be added, this was the naivete that all of us who helped establish a certain megachurch fell prey to, a kind of hubris and self-confidence married to a lack of thorough grounding in church history and theological tradition that led us to imagine that we were doing something really new instead of needlessly reinventing a couple of perfectly good wheels and butchering things up along the way. 

HT Mockingbird: Too Much Sociology
The chief virtue of critical sociology, to its American adopters and apostles, was its ability to account for the paradox of greater (cultural) diversity within greater (economic) inequality, without ignoring either. In Cultural Capital, one of the first academic books to import Bourdieu’s ideas into literary and cultural studies, John Guillory made the counterintuitive suggestion that the exhausting canon debates of the 1980s culture wars were really “a crisis in the market value of [the literary curriculum’s] cultural capital, occasioned by the emergence of a professional-managerial class which no longer requires the [primarily literary] cultural capital of the old bourgeoisie.” In other words, the canon debates were not about empowering women and “non-Western” or minority cultures through education, but a sign that these previously subordinate groups already had increased in power to the point where they could create alternate canons, literary or postliterary, which reflected their new status within a capitalist order. Canon formation and reformation being something elite groups did whenever they became aware of themselves as elites. [emphasis added]

It’s worth slowing down Guillory’s and Khan’s arguments to make explicit certain assumptions they share about the university and the culture it promotes: that its purpose is to train a professional-managerial class or a technocratic elite; that those who attend such schools do so with an intention, no matter how unconscious, of becoming members of either the professional-managerial middle class or the elite managers of those managers; and that such groups need distinguishing markers, the equivalent of secret handshakes, that allow them to recognize themselves as a class, and which, apart from their professional training, are provided by “culture,” which offers, at best, a way for people with shared interests to frame their lives to themselves, and for one another, in ways that are mostly flattering to their self-esteem.

In other words a fairly straightforward left critique that universities as systems establish the intellectual and cultural boundary-markers of hierarchy and that sociological analyses, which at one point attempted to observe how this process took place in economic and social terms, has been so utterly co-opted into the academia that establishes the arbiters of hegemony that sociology in any fashion is incapable of remedying the problems it can observe because it is itself symptomatic of and inextricably bound to that which it could critique, academia as the arm of how a hegemony perpetuates itself. 

From the right a critique of contemporary academia is that they pressure people to spend absurd quantities of money earning degrees that have little to no value in the job market, degrees in which discussions of the hegemonic nature of just about everything except academia is likely to be a point of discussion.

Having said that, the part in bold is worth emphasizing.  It does make sense to frame debates about canons less in terms of the traditional white Anglo-European canon being assaulted by multiculturalism as much as reframing the subject of artistic canons in terms of canons emerging within other traditions.  For those to whom the emergence of any artistic canon is equivalent to hierarchy, hegemony and evil it's just gonna suck that Armstrong, Basie, Morton, Ellington, Monk, Mingus, Parker, Coleman, and Coltrane and Davis are all part of a jazz canon that gets defended by any Marsalis.  There's a rock and roll hall of fame into which some people want some people to never be inducted.

Maybe the left and right are both actually correct in their assessments of what's been flagging American academia.  Who says these separate criticisms have to never somehow overlap in a Venn diagram? 

Church organists continuing the use of parody and quotation in liturgical music

Unless you know what a "parody mass" is the joke in the title might be a bit too dry.  It might be a bit too dry even if you do know that.

The Atlantic: The Real Problems with Psychiatry/ Slate: perhaps the entire field of psychiatry and the DSM is a noble lie

Aspies take note, your condition apparently won't be recognized in DSM V. 

Really, It's OK to ignore Game of Thrones and Mad Men

Having written succinctly about Jane Austen earlier this year, Noah Berlatsky (who's contracted to write a book on Wonder Woman) opines on why it's all right to ignore Game of Thrones and Mad Men.

... But while I don't agree with the Frankfurt School or Allan Bloom, I do wonder if their utter marginalization has been entirely to the good. It's been a long while since a cultural arbiter of any standing has been willing to just flat-out dismiss pop culture, or to insist that massive popularity is inevitably linked to massive banality. Instead we seem to have reached the point—perhaps especially with the snootier television dramas—where popularity seems to confer critical bona fides, while critical bona fides feed into popularity, which in turn confers critical bona fides, in an ever-ascending spiral of adulation and hype.

It's natural that people talk about popular things, of course; that's what it means to be popular. But the death of academic pop-culture snobbery and the scrabble for Internet readers seems to have created a particularly vociferous and endless chorus of group think. Orwell was wrong: It's not Big Brother controlling your thoughts. It's millions of pundits chanting Dan Draper's name, sacrificing slivers of everyone's brain to the hungry god of their own much-touted perspicacity. Cultural studies and the academies' enthusiastic embrace of pop was supposed to release us all from the grinding heel of elitist snobbery, but in the end it just seems like it means that we have to kowtow even more abjectly to the flavor of the moment than we ever did to the canon.

about a year ago Mars Hill Portland was vandalized, updates?

If anyone has updates on whether any suspects were considered or if it was just a hit-and-run, feel free to post.  In the wake of the vandalism some expressed the idea that the vandalism could be a false operation.  It wouldn't be the first and likely won't be the last time a Mars Hill site has been vandalized in some fashion but the vandalism happened close enough to its opening in a historic church in the city of Portland to net local and even some national coverage.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

JS Bangs on children's TV and music

J.S. Bangs@jsbpax6h
Tolerability of children's TV is determined mostly by the sort of music it uses. Wonder Pets has lovely showtunes pastiches, which is win.