Form and Feeling

In arguments about worship, both sides often cast the issues in terms of “formal styles” vs. “emotional styles.” That has always seemed a false dichotomy. To me, our formal, liturgical Lutheran services are very emotionally moving. Besides, the opposite of “formal” is “informal,” and the opposite of “emotional” is “unemotional.” And “informal” worship styles happen to leave me cold; that is, it leaves me “unemotional.” I realize that other people react differently.

The point is, form and feeling can actually support each other. That is practically a literary principle. A sonnet is among the most emotional of poems, and yet its form is among the strictest. This is even evident in the Bible.
Justin Taylor pointed me to these observations about the Book of Lamentations from John Piper:

First, Lamentations is a deeply emotional book. Jeremiah writes about what means most to him, and he writes in agony. He feels all the upheaval of Jerusalem in ruins. There is weeping (1:2), desolation (1:4), mockery (1:7), groaning (1:8), hunger (1:11), grief (2:11), and the horrid loss of compassion as mothers boil their own children to eat them (2:20; 4:10). If there ever was intensity and fervor in the expression of passion from the heart, this is it.

The second observation, then, comes as a surprise: This seems to be the most formally crafted book in the Old Testament. Of the five chapters, chapters 1, 2, and 4 are each divided into twenty-two stanzas (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet), and each stanza begins with a different letter of the alphabet. They are three acrostics.

Chapter 3 is even more tightly structured. Again there are twenty-two stanzas, but now each stanza has exactly three lines. The three lines in each stanza begin with the same letter, and each of the twenty-two stanzas begins with a different letter in alphabetical order.

This is the only chapter that is not an acrostic. But it still has twenty-two lines in conformity with the acrostic pattern of chapters 1-4. Now what do these two observations imply? First, they imply that genuine, heartfelt expression of our deepest emotions does not require spontaneity. Just think of all the mental work involved in finding all the right words to construct four alphabetical acrostics!

What constraint, what limitation, what submission to form! Yet what passion and power and heart! There is no necessary contradiction between form and fire.

via Let the River Run Deep, Desiring God by John Piper – Desiring God, John Piper.

Tolkien vs. the Beatles

Imagine:

Once upon a time, the Fab Four—having slain the pop charts—decided to set their sights on the Dark Lord Sauron by making a Lord of the Rings feature, starring themselves. One man dared stand in their way: J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the ’60s—and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.”It was something John was driving, and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage, but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson said.

via Little-known sci-fi facts: Tolkien killed a Beatles LOTR movie | Blastr.

HT: Joe Carter

Grisham’s latest hero is a Lutheran pastor

Lutheran pastors must be considered cool, at least in popular fiction.  There is the one in
Warrior Monk.  Now bestselling author John Grisham features one in his latest blockbust of legal suspense, The Confession.  From a review in the Washington Post:

The novel opens with a classic noir situation in which an ordinary Joe finds himself suddenly thrust by fate into a nightmare. In this case, our flummoxed hero is the Rev. Keith Schroeder, pastor of a Lutheran church in Topeka, Kan. Sitting in his church office one cold morning, Keith is paid a visit by a monster. Travis Boyette is a convicted felon, out on parole, whose rap sheet for sexual assault is as long as a fresh roll of yellow “crime scene” tape. Boyette tells Keith that he’s dying from a malignant brain tumor and that he (maybe) wants to confess to the abduction, rape and murder of Nicole Yarber, a high school cheerleader from the small town of Slone, Tex., who disappeared almost 10 years ago.

After a couple of days of agonized dithering, Boyette shows Keith convincing proof of his guilt and the unlikely duo hatches a plan of action: If Keith drives Boyette to Slone — and, thus, becomes his accomplice in breaking parole — Boyette will confess to the authorities and take them to the spot where he buried Nicole’s body. By the time the two men pile into Keith’s clunker for the ultimate road trip from hell, speed is of the essence. In less than 24 hours, Donté Drumm, a former classmate of Nicole’s, will be put to death for a murder he didn’t commit.

via John Grisham’s “The Confession,” reviewed by Maureen Corrigan.

Buy the novel here.

If any of you have read it, please report.

LCMS pastor, action hero

I haven’t read it, but I’ve got to.   Novelist Ray Keating has started a spy, adventure, thriller series whose hero is a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  From a review by Russell E. Saltzman:

Here is a fun adventure romp, a first novel by former Newsday columnist Ray Keating. Stephen Grant is an ex-CIA agent with notches on his pistol who, with a little bit of angst, turns his back on his secret life and becomes, get this, a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We first meet Grant as he dispatches an opposing agent within the nave of a French Catholic church (because for discreet meetings between rival spies, the empty churches of Europe are ideal). Grant next shows up as pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on the east end of Long Island, where he slays an eco-terrorist who is trying to shoot choir members at rehearsal (not, from the description in the novel, that choir’s rendering of A Mighty Fortress didn’t give the effort some merit).

Well, after that, one thing sort of leads to another thing and pretty soon Pr. Grant saves the life of Pope Augustine from a knife-wielding priest shouting “apostate,” shares “decaffeinated black currant tea” thereafter with same (um, the pope, not the assailant), and at different stops along the way vanquishes liberal theologians, spars with arrogant media-types, and incidentally helps the Vatican advance an ecumenical initiative called “A Public Mission of Mere Christianity.” St. Mary’s, by the way, seems to be a parish that functions well in the pastor’s absence.

via Heroic LCMS Pastor Saves Pope » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

I’m buying it.  How can I not?  You buy it too and we’ll discuss it on this blog.

Hobbits are non-union

There is trouble with Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit.  Efforts to unionize the project in  the New Zealand have failed, so Hollywood union members, including the Screen Actor’s Guild, are urging their members to boycott the production:

An international group of actors’ unions, including SAG, has warned members not to work on “The Hobbit” because of failed efforts to organize the film’s New Zealand production — a move Peter Jackson disparages as a “power grab.”

Members were advised [1] in an alert sent over the weekend “not to accept work on this non-union production” of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting — tentatively scheduled for next year — can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.

But Jackson fired back in a statement Sunday, saying the Kiwi organization represents a very tiny percentage of actors there, and is leveraging his production to gain membership.

Actors guilds are known to issue member alerts of this sort from time to time, but it is extremely rare for a major studio franchise film to be involved.

Here’s the full text of the alert:

The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production.

If you are contacted to be engaged on The Hobbit please notify your union immediately.

via Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Unions Threaten to Destroy ‘Hobbit’ Films; Peter Jackson Fights Back.

The Tea Party and the Myth of Antaeus

Stanley Fish sheds light on contemporary politics by means of his vocation as a classically-educated literary scholar:

And the Democrats will be helping them [Republicans] by saying scathing and dismissive things about the Tea Party and its candidates. The Greek mythological figure Antaeus won victory after victory because his opponents repeatedly threw him to the ground, not realizing that it was the earth (in the figure of his mother, Gaia) that nourished him and gave him renewed strength. The Tea Party’s strength comes from the down-to-earth rhetoric it responds to and proclaims, and whenever high-brow critics heap the dirt of scorn and derision upon the party, its powers increase. . . .

What to do? It is easier, of course, to say what not to do, and what not to do is what Democrats and their allies are prone to do — poke gleeful fun at the lesser mortals who say and believe strange things and betray an ignorance of history.

That won’t work. Better, perhaps, to take a cue from Hercules, who figured out the source of Antaeus’s strength and defeated him by embracing him in a bear hug, lifting him up high, and preventing him from touching the ground. Don’t sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.

via Antaeus and the Tea Party – NYTimes.com.

Does anybody know any other myths or legends that might have applications to our times?

HT:Joseph Bottum


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