Cranach’s utter coolness

The artist, that is, not the blog. A big tip of the beret to Paul McCain’s Cyberbrethren for alerting me to this story from England about a big Lucas Cranach exhibit at the Royal Academy. The art critic goes on and on about the creativity, the “unruly talent,” and the darting imagination of Luther’s crony at Wittenberg. From “Cranach’s flashes of inspiration” in the London Times Online :

The fantastical religious paintings that surround The Martyrdom of St Catherine in the first outburst of his career confirm the impression that a momentous and unruly talent has been unleashed. Familiar subjects – the Crucifixion, the stigmatisation of St Francis – are reinvented outrageously by an artist determined not to do anything the way others did it. If the religious convolutions in the foregrounds are too complex for you, there are always the backgrounds to enjoy. Cranach was a superb landscapist who always set his biblical duels in recognisable stretches of Upper Franconia, where tottering Harry Potter castles wobble atop mysterious riverside crags.

Because his imagination darted about so much, there wasn’t much he didn’t try. There are portraits, altarpieces, bits of contemporary genre pictures that tug your heartstrings and ones that make you laugh. His woodcuts throb and squirm with events, like an angler’s worm tin. And a gorgeous nocturnal Nativity sets him the tough task of painting candlelit reflections at night. Nowhere does his art settle on a standard look.

Darting from one thing to another, tugging your heart strings, making you laugh, throbbing and squirming with events, religious convolutions, biblical duels. Maybe that DOES describe this blog in his honor!

Secular liturgies

Who says people today aren’t oriented to liturgies? Consider this article on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s press conference, which observes that all of these press conferences in which a politician caught in wrongdoing follow exactly the same pattern: Ritual of Repentance .

First, we watch the news conference. There’s Spitzer, with his wife by his side. He says, “I want to briefly address a private matter.” Then he expresses remorse (albeit vaguely) and promises to “dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

Then, we call Mark Geragos, the high-profile criminal defense attorney, who — as it happens — has not actually seen the news conference. He proceeds to describe the news conference that he has not seen.

“You’ve got to have the dutiful wife and you have to have the ‘it’s a private matter,’ ” Geragos says. “And remorse for the past and plans for the future.”


“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all,” Geragos says.

What are some other secular liturgies?

The fall of a governor

The governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, a democrat who made a name for himself prosecuting white-collar shenanigans, was found to be a client of a high-price prostitution ring. His involvement was discovered when law enforcement officials saw suspicious wire transfers of funds that made them think the governor was laundering bribes!

As a rule, sexual misconduct dooms Republicans, but it usually is forgiven Democrats. This, however, looks to be an exception.

Power seems to blind some people, not only to morality but to common sense. Surely a reasonable governor would know that he is a public figure and so he had better stay away from activities that, if discovered, would ruin him. Perhaps such figures rise so high that they think they are entitled to whatever they want, that rules for lesser beings cannot apply to them. The mystery–and stupidity–of iniquity.

If you let me win, you can be vice-president

The Clintons are offering to make Barack Obama Hillary’s vice-presidential running mate. See Hillary and Bill push idea of Clinton, Obama ticket. But that is rather presumptuous since Obama is ahead of her! Obama is scorning the idea.

Culture Wars over or about to explode?

E. J. Dionne has a column arguing that religious influence goes in cycles and that, based on the relatively secular candidates now vying for president, the culture wars are over.

Do you think that’s right? I think this grand announcement could prove highly ironic. If California starts persecuting homeschoolers, the culture wars will explode.

Ancient-Future Worship

The “Washington Post” published an article on how many evangelical churches are now, in a big departure for many of them, practicing Lent. The article went on to deal with an bigger phenomenon, that cutting-edge congregations are abandoning the baby boomer church growth movement in favor of what they are callingancient-future worship:

This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime. Others have formed monastic communities, such as Casa Chirilagua in Alexandria, modeled on the monasteries that arose in Christianity’s early years.

This represents a “major sea change in evangelical life,” according to D.H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. “Evangelicalism is coming to point where the early church has become the newest staple of its diet.”

Experts say most who have taken on such practices have grown disillusioned with the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches embraced by baby boomers, with their casually dressed ministers and rock-band praise music.

Instead, evangelicals — many of them young — are adopting a trend that has come to be known as “worship renewal” or “ancient-future worship.”

Those familiar with the trend say it is practiced mostly by small, avant-garde evangelical churches, though not always. Last summer, the national convention of the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, an evangelical wing of the Lutheran denomination, voted to revive private confession.

“I definitely sense a hunger for acknowledgment of life’s mysteries and of the mystery and beauty of God,” said John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., which recently hosted a “worship renewal” conference for 1,500 people. “There’s a hunger for deeper engagement — ‘Don’t just sell me a product at church, but really put me in touch with the mystery and beauty of God.’ “

Right, the LCMS is a BIG avant-garde evangelical church! Actually, we have ALWAYS had confession and absolution, as codified in our 16th century doctrinal statements, though it has fallen into disuse among many congregations (but by no means all). Anyway, I’ll let that go. I realize that this gets tied up with the “Emerging church” movement, which has problems of its own. The point, though–that “the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches” will not satisfy for long and will produce a hunger for historic Christianity–is what I have been writing about and predicting for a long time.