Why I Love Luther

We must not…reject [or] condemn anything because it is abused. This would result in utter confusion. God has commanded us in Deut. 4 not to lift up our eyes to the sun (and the moon and the stars), etc., that we may not worship them, for they are created to serve all nations. But there are many people who worship the sun and the stars. Therefore we propose to rush in and pull the sun and stars from the skies. No, we had better let it be. Again, wine and women bring many a man to misery and make a fool of him (Ecclus. 19:2; 31:30); so we kill all the women and pour out all the wine. Again, gold and silver cause much evil, so we condemn them. Indeed, if we want to drive away our worst enemy, the one who does us the most harm, we shall have to kill ourselves, for we have no greater enemy than our own heart, as the prophet, Jer. 17, says, “The heart of man is crooked,” or, as I take the meaning, “always twisting to one side.” And so on – what would we not do?

-From his fourth Invocavit sermon from 1522, found in Works [American edition] 51:85.

Money, God and Gree

This book looks really interesting. I highly recommend watching the video, though I have some issue with Richards’ argument that aesthetic choices have no economic consequences.

Finding Our Way: Christ, Art and Modernity

For the next couple of weeks I’m filling in teaching Sunday school for a friend of mine.  He allowed me to choose my topic, and I’m going to take a look at a topic I’ve pegged as Christ, Art and Modernity.  I am working on the idea that here in the twenty-first century we are having a particular problem related to social and personal confusion, and I am referring to movies and novels as proof of this problem.

So I think I will make a few posts on movies and novels, noting how they reveal the depth of our confusion and disorientation in a modern world.  But first, let me explain how I think this happens.

First of all, we are lost of family connections.  The great majority of Americans no longer live in the same community as their families.  And so we have lost a sense of connection to something meaningful beyond ourselves.  Now let me be clear and state that I think this is, in many ways, a good thing.  Otherwise, doctors could only come from that pool of people born in cities wherein one could find a decent medical school.  While I would love to live near my parents and my wife’s parents, to do so would greatly limit my family’s world in such a way as to be unrealistic.  Nevertheless the change in location has created a problem for our society and while it is not the Gospel (not by a long shot), it remains a phenomenon worthy of our consideration.

Secondly, we no longer work with our hands.  It may be easy to brush that off, but farming and woodwork and even plumbing and mechanical work give us a sense of gratification and reward that help build up our human confidence.  Now Christians can look at this and say that it is good that we not pride ourselves in our ability to rebuild an engine or rewire our homes.  And we would be right to do so, but let us not ignore how helpless so many modern people feel as we are no longer capable of caring for ourselves, but are instead dependent fully on corporate farming and hourly workers who gladly milk us for a plumbing job that our grandfathers and country cousins could do blindfolded. 

Finally, however, I think that for some reasons the part the particular sins of the twentieth-century (and they are legion, make no mistake) have left us feeling completely overwhelmed.  To quote the late Richard John Neuhaus, “it is not all our fault, but it is our fault, too…”  There are things done and left undone, both by us and by our forebears, and the weight of these deeds hangs heavy upon us.  And now here we sit in 2009 completely befuddled and disoreinted about who we are and where we are going.  We need to come to our senses and find our way in a dark time, and we can only do so by coming to the Cross

In the following posts, I will look at movies and novels that demonstrate this sense of confusion and malaise, then close by examining what we out to do about it.

Birmingham’s Problem

Just a quick post before I get back to work being a teacher.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about how to improve Birmingham.  Chief among the concerns is the development of a dome stadium and a convention center that can host athletic events and trade shows.  Talk about such a facility hit fever-pitch several weeks back when the Alabama High School Athletic Association announced that it was pulling the finals of the state football playoffs from Birmingham’s Legion Field and placing them in a rotating schedule with Auburn and Tuscaloosa.  Birmingham mayor Larry Langford seized the occasion to remind area residents about the need for a domed stadium.

Let me be fair and say that in some sense Birmingham – the state’s largest city – should have the facilities to host good events, be they concerts, convention or athletic events like the SEC basketball tournament or a Davis Cup qualifying round.  I think Birmingham should probably look at ways to develop such a facility, though I’m reluctant to support taxpayer funding of the endeavor.  Instead, I would rather see private donors and investors take on the responsibility.  There is just no need to put taxpayers on the hook for this sort of thing.  (I also find it interesting that the people calling for a facility – i.e., local sports talk radio hosts – often live well outside the city limits of Birmingham, therefore absolving their own municipalities for any missteps along the way)

On the other hand, Birmingham has far bigger issues than wooing the NCAA basketball tournament or booking Coldplay into a new indoor facility that just hosted a regional interior design tradeshow.  Here’s the bigger problem; most of Birmingham is garbage.  That statement will likely come as a surprise to anyone who knows of my love for the Magic City, but living within the city limits of Birmingham is no good at all.  Now the Birmingham area is great; living in Mountain Brook or Homewood or Hoover or up in Gardendale and Hayden is really nice.  But unless you live in a loft downtown (miles from greenspace or a grocery store), a bungalow in Crestwood, or in a half-million dollar home in Forest Park or Redmont, Birmingham is, in all likelihood, a nauseating place to live.  The taxes are high.  Public transportation is a cruel joke.  The city leadership is so transparently awful that only a fourth-grader would place hope in these scoundrels.  Wild dogs roam streets like a scene from Mad Max.  The only decent neighborhoods within city limits are inhabited by people without children or enough money to send their kids to great schools like the Altamont School, Advent Day or St. Francis Xavier.  Forget about public schools, too, as they are far from adequate.

The point here is that while there are many great things in the Birmingham area – and even Birmingham itself has many great shops and restaurants – existing as an actual resident in Birmingham is not much fun.  So maybe instead of building a domed stadium to house UAB’s woeful football program and host bad country concerts, it seems that Birmingham should spend more money policing its streets and cleaning up bad neighborhoods.  Instead of rallying poor neighborhoods to fund this monstrosity, Birmingham’s leadership would be better served to demand more accountability from its schools and demand that parents live up to their obligations, so that delinquent children would be brought in from the streets, and once lovely neighborhoods could again thrive.  But that would be too difficult, and so our leaders find that demanding new projects and toys is a quicker path to civic rejuvenation.  But it is a false hope, and the only way to restore Birmingham is to make safe for its citizens to live and work and play, and until that happens, no domed stadium will save us.