Month: July 2010

Christopher Hitchens’ Loss of Faith

Santiago Ramos reviews Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22:

Hitch-22: A MemoirBut because so much has already been said about what makes Hitchens interesting, and because, thanks to this memoir, it is so easy to verify for one’s self that this is so, I’d like to spend this review pointing out the one way in which Hitchens has become less interesting in the second half of his life: his loss of faith. Not his faith in God – in his memoir, Hitchens says that he probably never had much of a faith in God to begin with – but his faith in Marxism. Not (as the pundits would have it) his supposed switch from “leftist” to “neocon,” but rather his much more dramatic, and underappreciated, transformation from being a revolutionary to just another voter like the rest of us. … [More]

C.S. Lewis on "membership in a Christian community"

C.S. Lewis was once asked, ‘Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?’

His answer was as follows:

‘That’s a question which I cannot answer. My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; and then later I found that it was the only way of flying your flag; and, of course, I found that this meant being a target. It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to Church. It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to Church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house.

If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can’t do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off.

I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.’”

(C.S. Lewis — God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics)posted by William Collier @ Commonweal, in connection with a discussion of the Ann Rice announcement that she has “quit being a Christian”).

Relics.

A friend inherited his father’s religious items when he passed a few years ago. Boxes and boxes and boxes full of things. He kept them in storage and little by little opened and inventoried each one. Mostly there were books, some quite valuable, but also a very large collection of relics. He finally found and unpacked the bulk of them earlier this year. So when he called to ask for my help in identifying and organizing what he had, I practically tripped over myself getting over there. …

Read the rest at Sanctus Christopher: “More than I ever thought I’d know about relics”. July 25, 2010.

"The End of Forgetting"

For some technology enthusiasts, the Web was supposed to be the second flowering of the open frontier, and the ability to segment our identities with an endless supply of pseudonyms, avatars and categories of friendship was supposed to let people present different sides of their personalities in different contexts. What seemed within our grasp was a power that only Proteus possessed: namely, perfect control over our shifting identities.

But the hope that we could carefully control how others view us in different contexts has proved to be another myth. As social-networking sites expanded, it was no longer quite so easy to have segmented identities: now that so many people use a single platform to post constant status updates and photos about their private and public activities, the idea of a home self, a work self, a family self and a high-school-friends self has become increasingly untenable. In fact, the attempt to maintain different selves often arouses suspicion. Moreover, far from giving us a new sense of control over the face we present to the world, the Internet is shackling us to everything that we have ever said, or that anyone has said about us, making the possibility of digital self-reinvention seem like an ideal from a distant era.

The Web Means the End of Forgetting, by Jeffrey Rosen. New York Times Magazine July 19, 2010.

John Médaille visits The Cloisters

One cannot help but be moved by the quality, care, and faith that made this art. Or at least, I thought so until I made the mistake of taking the “tour.” The tour guide, although more or less competent in matters of the art itself, kept making statements like, “They really believed in such things,” a statement which never failed to bring guffaws from the assembled yokels.

As a person who still “believes in such things,” I was offended, but as there is some Government Regulation or other against striking Metropolitan Museum Tour Guides about the head and shoulders, I refrained from expressing my opinion.

John Médaille (Front Porch Republic)