Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Prelude and Fugue on demons and exorcism in American civil religion (by way of statue toppling and punditry on critical theory)

What I’m about to present is not so much an essay in a usual sense but more as the literary equivalent of a prelude with a fugue--a path of reading by way of a river of citations.  Think of it as a literally prosaic variation on a methodology of quotation used in T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”.

This is a survey of some reading I was doing in 2020 on the topic of statue toppling, statue vandalism, and the reactions of leftist, progressive, liberal, conservative and maybe even some reactionary responses.  I saw a fair bit of coverage that tacitly discussed the toppling of the statues of slave traders and slave owners in terms of political history but less often in terms of civic religion.  The conservative bromides about how toppling statues was a bid to erase history seemed to me in egregiously bad faith because, well, that may give me the opportunity to quote extravagantly from Jaques Ellul’s book The New Demons on the concept of the sacred as it relates to political life.  So ...

Friday, February 26, 2021

Augustine defined music as "the science of mensurating well", but he also built social and cultural context into his definition of music

On Music
The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Volume 4)
Augustine, translated by Robert Catesby Taliaferro
Copyright © 1947 by Ludwig Schopp
ISBN-10 : 0-8132-1319-3
ISBN-13 : 978-0813213194

On Music
Page 172
M. Music is the science of mensurating well. Doesn’t it seem so to you?
D. It might seem so, if it were clear to me what mensuration is.
Page 173
M. Don’t let this disturb you, that, as you just said, in all things made, music included, measure must be observed, and yet that this is called mensuration in music.   …
M. For you to understand that mensuration can regard music alone, while measure, from which the word is derived, can also be in other things. In the same way diction is properly attributed to orators, although anyone who speaks says something, and diction gets its name from saying.  …
Page 174
M. Then, mensuration is not improperly called a certain skill in moving, or at any rate that by which something is made to move well. For we can’t say anything moves well unless it keeps its measure.
Pages 175-176
M. Music is the science of moving well. But that is because whatever moves and keeps harmoniously the measuring of times and intervals can already be said to move well.  For it is already pleasing, and for this reason is already properly called mensuration. Yet it is possible for this harmony and measuring to please when they shouldn’t.  For example, if one should sing sweetly and dance gracefully, wishing there-by to be gay when the occasion demanded gravity, such a person would in no way be using harmonious mensuration well. In other words, that person uses ill or improperly the motion at one time called good because of its harmony. And so it is one thing to mensurate, and another to mensurate well. [emphasis added]
Ever since I read Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History I have been reminded of how there are people who have felt obliged to sound off on Augustine's treatise.  Paul Hindemith, at least, summarized what was actually in De Musica in the lectures that became Hindemith's book A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations, but even his summary was a bit idiosyncratic.  Hindemith may have misunderstood aspects of Augustine's treatise but he didn't foundationally misrepresent what was going on in the book.  Gioa's bid at a history of music has reminded me that when it comes to popular level descriptions of what Augustine did and didn't say about music there are much worse historical and historiographical takes on Augustine than Hindemith's, Gioia's being most prominent. 

Crawford Gribben has new book on emergence of new forms of Christian Reconstructionism in the Pacific Northwest

It looks like it will feature Doug Wilson pretty prominently.  Wilson admirers can seem to keep Wilson's variations of his ideas pretty distinct from the versions of the ideas about men, masculinity and gender roles that Mark Driscoll made use of, at least since 2014, but Mark Driscoll wasn't so creative as to get his ideas about gender roles out of thin air.  It was known across Mars Hill circa 2000 to 2009 that Wilsonian ideals about men and marriage were guidelines within Mars Hill--it's not hard to see how Wilson's ideas were like a person who was taken to the gym, put on steroids and blood-doping, and then sent off to win a couple of bike races but the conceptual connections were there and not hard to spot in even, say, "Pussified Nation".  So an academic monograph that deals with the influence of Doug Wilson and Pacific Northwestern variations of Christian reconstructionism may potentially be of interest to anyone wanting to do a longer-form historical survey of the socio-political conditions pertinent to the emergence of the former Mars Hill.  

Whether Doug Wilson and associates even talk about Mark Driscoll is a bit hard to assess.  He's moved on to other topics and opportunities.  If readers (however many I have by now) read the Gribben book and have feedback the moderated comments box is available. 

UPDATE 3-2-2021 7:15am

Gribben's book Writing the Rapture, a survey of Rapture fiction in American evangelicalism in the last century actually looks like an interesting addition to the big reading list. Since Rapture related themes crop up in spiritual warfare manuals because of eschatological themes a survey of eschatologically themed fiction might be an interesting addition to the ... already sprawling reading list.