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Saturday, March 9, 2019

What to Do About Sacrifice?

By the time you read this, the season of sacrifice for many Christians (Lent) will have been underway for three days. This reflection on the relationship of sacrifice to the “liberal order is worth pondering during this season of the church year. As I have to regularly make clear, by “liberal order” the author, Peter Leithart, does not mean the Democratic Party or socialism but how (since the Enlightenment) our culture conceives of human flourishing, which is decidedly sub-Christian.
Liberalism’s concept of progress is deeply anti-sacrificial. Given what Eagleton calls its “remarkably indulgent view of humankind,” liberalism tries to tinker its way to utopia, adjusting a valve here and pulling a lever there. Political renewal can happen without “that fundamental breaking and refashioning of which sacrifice has been one traditional sign.” Liberal culture rigorously separates life and death, and so misses the sacrificial mystery that “life springs from death.” Sacrifice shatters the consoling myth that “fulfillment can be achieved without a fundamental rupture and rebirth.” Liberalism promises the heavenly city without the appalling mess of apocalypse. It offers resurrection without the cross.
What to Do with the Works of Disgraced Writers?
What is a Christian bookstore or publisher to do with all the books of a Bill Hybels or James MacDonald or other discredited leaders or writers? It is not a problem peculiar to Christian publishing, of course. When a popular secular figure falls from grace, the temptation to erase them from society’s memory is strong, no matter the content of their work. We’ve seen that recently with a number of comedians, actors, and the like. But this is not a new problem, and I for one think the poet W. H. Auden’s response to a controversy of his time was wise. The issue was whether the (very much non-political) poetry of Ezra Pound should be reprinted in an upcoming (in 1946, that is) Random House An Anthology of Famous English and American Poetry. The problem for some was that Pound was a Fascist and defender of Hitler. To republish his poetry, some reasoned, was to give fascism a pass. Nonsense, said Auden. As he put it to publisher Bennett Cerf:
The issue is far more serious than it appears at first sight; the relation of an author to his work only one out of many, and once you accept the idea that one thing to which a man stands related shares in his guilt, you will presently extend it to others; begin by banning his poems not because you object to them but because you object to him, and you will end, as the nazis did, by slaughtering his wife and children.
The interchange between Auden and Cerf is a fascinating read.
The Metaphysics of Mind
The following article interested me for two reasons. First, the most idiosyncratic: A good friend named one of his daughters Macrina, and that has raised my curiosity about this woman in church history. Second, I have been intrigued (to be honest, as much as I could understand) with David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, in which he argues that human consciousness is a decisive pointer to God’s reality. So when I came across an article suggesting that Macrina, the sister of the more well-known theologians Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, argued that the mind was more than a physical reality (an argument closely related to the argument for consciousness), well, I was hooked. This may be more metaphysical that some GR readers care for, but it is something that interests me now and then.
The Physics of Cleanliness
This is not only the season of soul cleaning, but in a few weeks, spring cleaning as well. I thought this piece on “The New Household Rules: Ditch Your Toilet Brush and Wash Much, Much More” had the virtue of being entertaining. As to its wisdom, let the reader decide.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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