Get rid of pews?

If you have ever been in one of the big cathedrals of Europe, you may have noticed that the chancel is filled with folding chairs.  Or consider this painting by our main man Lucas Cranach, showing Luther preaching Christ:

Notice how the congregation is mostly standing up.  Some of the women are in chairs, and a child is on the floor.  But there are no pews!  It turns out, pews are a relatively recent invention.  They started as special seats of honor for the nobility or local gentry, which the families had to pay for.  (Notice that if you visit a colonial-era church.)  Still most Orthodox churches do without pews.  Fr. George W. Rutler gives us the history of pews, making the case that they aren’t necessarily a good idea.

[Read more…]

9/11

Today is September 11, aka 9/11, a date that still resonates in infamy.  Where are we as a nation 14 years after those terrorist attacks?  We have waged two wars, more or less inspired by our anger over 9/11.  We killed Osama bin Laden and struck a strong blow against Al Qaeda, but now we have an even more monstrous enemy in ISIS.  We were brought together as a nation 14 years ago, but now we are polarized again.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, artists announced that “irony is dead,” but now irony, compounded by cynicism and nihilism are ascendant again.  Postmodern relativism was also supposed to be dead in the period of moral clarity right after the attacks, but now relativism has resumed its works of demolition.

So did the terrorists win?  Or was it just our naivete that collapsed with those towers?  Or was it something more?  Or have we settled into a long war against terrorism that we realize now will not be easy and that will take a nation-wide patience?  Or what?

A journalist’s experience in Vietnam

The German Lutheran journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto, a friend of mine, has written Duc:  Triumph of the Absurd, a Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam, a memoir of his days as a Vietnam war correspondent, telling of his affection for the Vietnamese people, describing his harrowing experiences, and going on to indict the way the U.S. government and the media handled the war.  The audio book has been released by New Reformation Publications.  It’s a gripping story.  [Read more…]

World War II ended 70 years ago yesterday

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.  Not many of those who fought in that bloody epic conflict are still around.  We should salute those who are.

Do you think a world war on that scale could happen again?  Would we be capable of the same sacrifices, both on the battlefields and on the homefront?

A tribute to the anniversary after the jump. [Read more…]

Did the Q’uran pre-date Muhammed?

Carbon dating of what has been called the world’s oldest Q’uran suggests that the manuscript may have been written before the Muhammed was born, so that the book of which this is a copy would be even older.  Islam teaches that the Q’uran was delivered directly to the prophet from Heaven, but this would indicate that he may have been drawing on a pre-existent text in formulating the new religion.

But in fairness, it is possible to put a different construction on the evidence.  The carbon dating has the manuscript as having been written between 568-645 A.D.   Muhammad lived from 570-632 A.D.   Islamic tradition says that the Q’uran was given to the prophet between 610-632 A.D., with the writings formally collected into a single book around 650 A.D.

Carbon dating gives a range, not a precise date.  And it seems to me that the traditional accounts still fall within this range. [Read more…]

Yeats saw it coming

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both have pieces on W. B. Yeats’ great poem The Second Coming.

One of the defining poems of the 20th century, Yeats wrote it back in 1919, but it seems to predict the rise of Nazi Germany, the growth of Communism, and now postmodernism, the rise of radical Islam, current political trends in Europe, and–for columnist E. J. Dionne–Donald Trump!

The poem, famous for its lines “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”and “The center cannot hold,” is built both on Yeats’ theories of history and his take on the Christian notion that Christ will be followed by Antichrist.  After the jump, read an excellent unpacking of the poem by David Lehmann, and then see what Dionne does in applying it to today’s political situation. [Read more…]