With the liturgy, “you never need words for joy”

Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz points us to the role of the liturgy–including the Psalms and the classic hymns of praise–in the life of J. R. R. Tolkien.  This is from a letter to his son, Christopher:

“If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy.”

via E-nklings: Tolkien on the Liturgy.

HT:  Mary Moerbe

Big campaign developments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the GOP presidential race.  He endorsed Newt Gingrich.  So did Sarah Palin. Ex-candidate Herman Cain, however, endorsed “the people.

Gingrich’s former wife is saying that he wanted “an open marriage” even as he was making speeches about family values.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses.  A miscount had given the victory to Mitt Romney, but it turns out that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

So where does all of this leave us?  If enough candidates drop out, might voters coalesce around someone other than Romney?  If so, who?  Ron Paul is, of course, a major alternative.

Who do you think would be better–or worse–Gingrich or Santorum?

Obama stops oil pipeline

President Obama said “no” to the pipeline that would transport Canadian oil from that country’s vast reserves of oil sand to the refineries of Texas, creating jobs along the whole route.  Even the liberal Washington Post editorial board thinks that decision is foolish and makes the point that stopping the pipeline won’t even help the environment:

Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen — with long-term trends in the global market, it’s far too valuable to keep in the ground — but it would go to China. And, as a State Department report found, U.S. refineries would still import low-quality crude — just from the Middle East. Stopping the pipeline, then, wouldn’t do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers.

Environmentalists and Nebraska politicians say that the route TransCanada proposed might threaten the state’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region. But TransCanada has been willing to tweak the route, in consultation with Nebraska officials, even though a government analysis last year concluded that the original one would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” Surely the Obama administration didn’t have to declare the whole project contrary to the national interest — that’s the standard State was supposed to apply — and force the company to start all over again.

Environmentalists go on to argue that some of the fuel U.S. refineries produce from Canada’s bitumen might be exported elsewhere. But even if that’s true, why force those refineries to obtain their crude from farther away? Anti-Keystone activists insist that building the pipeline will raise gas prices in the Midwest. But shouldn’t environmentalists want that? Finally, pipeline skeptics dispute the estimates of the number of jobs that the project would create. But, clearly, constructing the pipeline would still result in job gains during a sluggish economic recovery.

via Obama’s Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept – The Washington Post.

The internet strike may have worked

The Wikipedia blackout and other protests on the internet to the SOPA bill may have done some good.   Congressmen, including former sponsors in the House and the Senate, are now running away from the bill.  President Obama has also come out against the bill as it stands, provoking Hollywood moguls to threaten to withdraw their financial support of his campaign.


National Champions

Forget about the BCS Bowls, the NCAA tournament, and the tortured definitions of “student athlete.”  To me, I am proudest of these national champions:  Patrick Henry College students J. C. Cartee and Andrew Ferguson who won the national undergraduate moot court championship!

Moot court involves students pretending to argue a case before an appellate court (one of which would be the Supreme Court).  They prepare briefs, make their argument before a judge against an opposing side, and respond to questions from the judge (who sometimes is an appellate or even Supreme Court judge).  It’s an intense exercise in research, analysis, writing, speaking, and thinking on your feet.

The little college where I teach literature and supervise the academic and student life programs has had a team win the national championship for four years in a row!  And six in the last eight!

Not only did J. C. and Andrew, both former students of mine, excel, but so did the other Patrick Henry College teams who ran the gauntlet of regional tournaments to make it to nationals.  Here are some details:

Matched against the 80 top teams in the country, PHC’s moot court program has, for the fourth consecutive year, won the ACMA National Championship at Chapman University Law School in Orange County. Competing against the likes of Duke, the University of Virginia, the Air Force Academy, Holy Cross, Wheaton College, Baylor University and the University of Texas, among many others, the College’s duo of J.C. Cartee and Andrew Ferguson won five rounds in a single day to defeat, by a 2-to-1 margin, a team from the College of New Jersey for the first-place trophy.

With six championships in the past eight years, PHC remains the only ACMA moot court participant to have won more than one title. . . .

Having qualified the maximum number of eight teams for nationals, PHC advanced seven teams to the round of 32 octofinals, six teams to the Sweet 16, four teams to the “Elite Eight” round, and three to the Final Four. In addition to Cartee and Ferguson’s first-place trophy, two PHC teams tied for third place: Micah Walters and Kayla Griesemer and Logan Spena and Samuel Johnson. Ardee Coolidge and Josh Chamberlain, made it to the Elite Eight, and PHC duos Blake Meadows and Bridget Degnan and Ben Williamson and James Compton advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. . . .

Not unexpectedly, the College also filled the upper tier of the tournament’s Top Orator rankings, earning second through seventh Top Speaker Awards, which included, respectively, (2nd) freshman Ben Williamson, (3rd) sophomore Blake Meadows, (4th) freshman James Compton, (5th) freshman Samuel Johnson, (6th) senior Nicole Frazer and (7th) senior Logan Spena. Junior James Nelson came in 11th. In the Brief Writing Competition, PHC teams of Kyle Niewoehner/Nicole Frazer and Samuel Johnson/ Kira Clark won third and fourth places, respectively. The team of Mackenzi Siebert and Tait Deems placed fourth in the Top Respondent Brief Competition.

via Patrick Henry College.

I am proud of all of them!

The Bible’s physical form

We Lutherans believe in the supernatural efficacy of “Word and Sacrament.”  Other Christians believe in the power of God’s Word, but deny that water, bread, and wine, when joined to God’s Word, can have any more than a symbolic significance.  After all, how can the physical convey what is spiritual?  Part of my answer has always been that the Word too is a physical thing–ink on paper, sound waves in the air–that God uses sacramentally to bring us His grace.

David Neff of Christianity Today has written an interesting piece on the physical form of Bibles from the middle ages to our present-day “Bible apps.”

The default meaning of Bible for Christians in my group was the King James Version. The default physical form was a black leather binding.

The physical form of the Bible matters because it influences the way Christians use their sacred book. In the countercultural 1960s, for example, publishers shucked the black leather uniform in favor of more contemporary dress. The aim was to reach those who might not otherwise pick up the Scriptures. The American Bible Society’s Good News for Modern Man resembled a mass market paperback, and Tyndale House’s Reach Out: The Living New Testament looked just plain “groovy.”

Three centuries before Luther’s New Testament first came off the press in 1522, workshops in Paris produced one-volume Bibles called pandects. Unlike the large multivolume Bibles that sat in churches, monasteries, and rich men’s libraries, these could be conveniently carried by Sor-bonne students and mendicant preachers. Thus began the revolutionary shift from communal reading of Scripture to its private, individual consumption.

In 1735, the Bible emerged in another physical form—the family Bible. An English publisher named William Rayner produced The Compleat History of the Old and New Testament or a Family Bible. This was the first time that phrase was used, according to Liana Lupas, curator of the American Bible Society’s collection of rare Bibles.

The purpose of these Bibles, says Lupas, who curated a current exhibition of family Bibles for the Bible Society’s MOBIA gallery, was to provide study helps to answer questions that readers might have, and also to stimulate families to center their common devotions on the Bible.

People soon found other uses for these Bibles, pressing flowers, preserving locks of hair, and protecting other keepsakes. Families had already used the blank pages at the beginning or end of large Bibles to preserve genealogical information, recording births, marriages, and deaths. Dedicated family history pages were a natural development. And so in 1791, Isaiah Thomas published the first American Bible to contain pages dedicated to this purpose.

Placing the family Bible at the physical center of the ideal American home helped entrench the idea of the family as the main training ground in Christian living.Both Catholic families and Eastern Seaboard Protestants traditionally enshrined their family histories in parish registers and churchyard burial plots. But the American family became mobile, and American faith became more baptistic and individualized. Families who moved west left their family networks behind, and the family Bible became a portable shrine, recording the family as a sacred institution. . . .

Placing the family Bible at the physical center of the idealized American home also helped entrench the Puritan ideal of the family as the main training ground in Christian living. . . .

Today, many of us use Bibles with no physical properties of their own. They borrow their frame from computers, iPads, and smartphones—also markers of middle class existence—but created for individual use. Will this digital revolution cement the decline of family spirituality that was once fostered by the family Bible? God knows.

via How the Physical Form of a Bible Shapes Us | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Of course, the Word of God is living and active, even as it exists on an iPhone screen.  Just as the Blood of our Lord can be conveyed in plastic cups no less than in a silver chalice.  And yet, do you think the physical form of a Bible can have significance?  If people know the Word mainly as electronic information flashing across a screen, might that contribute to the Gnostic tendency we are seeing today, wherein faith is reduced to “knowledge” by way of “information” and the physical realm of creation, incarnation, sacrament, body, world,  and vocation are giving way to a less-than-Christian hyperspiritualism?  Or will reading it online lead to taking it in just short bits and pieces, in accord with much online reading, as opposed to extensive, sustained reading and study?  On the other hand, might reading the Bible on a Kindle, say, or other e-reader, mean a return to the continuous unfolding text of the ancient scrolls, rather than the chapter and verse breakdowns of the bound volume?  Or what?