Bob Dylan is back

Bob Dylan has a new album, Tempest, and it sounds really, really good.  From Washington Post music critic  Chris Richards:

For his 35th studio album, “Tempest,” Bob Dylan wanted to write religious songs and ended up hopping a freight train to the apocalypse.

Couching images of end-times America in old-time American melodies, the 71-year-old has delivered his most compelling release in more than a decade. That’s faint praise for anyone who gave up on Dylan after the Carter administration, sure, but find me another rock demigod crafting tunes this violent in their golden years. You can practically hear the guy tapping his toes in puddles of blood.

But before Dylanologists had heard a bloody note of it, it was the album’s title that made them gasp. “The Tempest” is considered William Shakespeare’s swan song, which might mean that. . .

No, no. Dylan pointed out to Rolling Stone that Shakespeare’s “Tempest” was preceded by the word “the.” Dylan’s “Tempest” is just “Tempest.” Hadn’t one of the greatest lyricists in American song taught us anything about attention to detail?

Regardless, that retirement-rumor kiboshing comes as a relief, because Dylan has found some fresh gravitas in his withering voice. His pipes sound more trashed than ever, so he pulls right up to our ears, making these sinister songs feel eerily intimate. It was a tactic he hinted at with “Christmas in the Heart,” a collection of snarled holiday carols from 2009. The band keeps everything tender and mild while Dylan softly sneers something terrifying.

Listen for it on “Narrow Way,” a nimble jump-blues number that sounds like it survived a nuclear winter. “This is hard country to stay alive in,” Dylan rasps. “Blades are everywhere, and they’re breaking my skin.”

“Duquesne Whistle” employs a similar trick. It’s a classic American train song, its chirping steel guitars channeling hope and wanderlust. Dylan pushes so much wind through his throat that his voice starts to resemble the affectionate roar of Louis Armstrong. But instead of signaling the freedom of a fresh start, this train whistle is “blowing like the sky’s gonna blow apart.”

It gets better, which means it gets worse.

“Tin Angel” recounts a love triangle that ends in gunshots and stab wounds. “Early Roman Kings” takes the 1 percent on a bluesy, five-minute frog march. And over the patter of “Pay in Blood,” Dylan yanks a refrain from his pocket and flicks it open like a rusty switchblade: “I pay in blood, but not my own.”

via – The Washington Post.

I’ve got to get this one.  I’m curious about the characterization of these violent tunes as “religious songs.”  (See this for a discussion of the album’s Christian themes.)  Has anyone heard this album yet?  You can buy it here:

Democrats running as if Mitt Romney were president

The Democratic National Convention was full of angst about how “middle class” Americans are having such a hard time, how “the system is rigged against them” (as Elizabeth Warren put it), how the rich control everything, and other evocations of national misery.  But if things are so bad and electing Obama will solve the problems, why hasn’t he done anything about them so far?  As someone has noted, the Democrats are sounding like they are running against an incumbent President Romney.  But their guy is the one in office!  Their rhetoric is geared against the status quo–but they are the status quo!

“I will show you my faith by my works”

More from Sunday’s sermon, in which Pastor Douthwaite also picked up on the Epistle reading, James 2:1-10:

What James said: I will show you my faith by my works does not mean that I will show you that I believe by what I do – it means that I will show you what I believe by what I do. For everyone believes something. Even Atheists. They believe there is no God and that belief shows in what they do – or don’t do. So too with secularism, humanism, environmentalism, whatever “-ism” you like. If you believe it, it shapes you, and if it shapes you it will show in your life. Because that’s who you are.

So for Christians, for you and me, what do we believe? Some believe they can do whatever they want because Christ will just forgive them later, and they live like that. Some believe that Christ is a new Moses, a new lawgiver, and has come to give us a new set of rules and regulations, and they live like that. Some believe that Christ has come to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise, and they live like that.

But on the basis on this Gospel, and Isaiah, and what we’ve been thinking about today, what do we believe and so how do we live? If Jesus has spoken His ephphatha to you and set you free from sin, death, and the devil, what does that look like? What does it mean to be set free from idolatry, from selfishness, and from fear? It means the freedom to forgive because I am forgiven. It is the freedom to love because I am loved. It is the freedom to give because I receive. It means the freedom to serve because I am served. It is the freedom to provide for others because my Father provides for me. All these things and more because I cannot out-give my Father and Saviour. And as I believe, so I do. I will show you my faith – what I believe – by how I live, by my works.

And if you and I don’t do these things, if you find yourself struggling to do these things, you know what? It’s not a works problem! And so the answer isn’t just to buckle down and try harder or for me to stand up here and either give you a pep talk or berate you. (We got enough of that kind of thing at the political conventions these past two weeks!) No, if we find ourselves not doing these things or struggling with them, it’s a faith problem. Not that you don’t have faith, but that our faith is sometimes weak and that faith is often hard. And so the answer is to be ephphatha-ed again, to be opened again, to receive again and again the love and forgiveness and healing of Jesus here for you. For that is what changes you. That is what raises you. That is what makes the difference.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 15 Sermon.

I know, I know, you atheists, your argument that you can be moral without belief in God and that you are always insisting on how good you are.  That’s not what this is saying.  Your belief or lack of belief influences your behavior.  If you don’t believe in God, you sleep in on Sunday mornings.  If you are charitable, you don’t give money to churches but to causes like Planned Parenthood.  Right?  To switch the example, someone who believes in the God of the Bible is unlikely to worship in a Hindu temple, and if he does, it is reasonable to question his allegiance to a deity who forbids worshipping other gods.  And someone with faith in the Gospel of Christ cannot be self-righteous and, being conscious of having received mercy, cannot be merciless.

Look who’s waging the culture war

Christian conservatives and Republicans in general have been criticized for waging the so-called “culture wars,” making political issues out of  abortion, gay marriage, and other divisive moral issues.  But now it’s the Democrats who are raising those divisive issues.

At the Republican National Convention, hardly anything was said about abortion or gay marriage.  But at the Democratic National Convention, speakers wouldn’t shut up about the goodness of abortion and gay marriage.

It sounds like both sides believe being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage are losing propositions.  The Democrats apparently think they can win voters by emphasizing the Republicans’ official stance on these issues.

Are they right? Have conservatives lost the “culture wars”?  Or are Democrats over-reaching?  Should Republicans be more assertive about their usual pro-life, pro-traditional-family stand?  Or would that doom their chances and put the Democrats in power?

Chicago teachers’ strike

Chicago teachers are on strike, even though they are among the highest paid in the country and they were offered a 16% raise.  But they don’t want to be held accountable for their effectiveness:

For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city — and to a national audience — less than a week after most schools opened for fall.

The walkout forced hundreds of thousands of parents to scramble for a place to send idle children and created an unwelcome political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.

The two sides resumed negotiations Monday but failed to reach a settlement, meaning the strike will extend into at least a second day.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said board and union negotiators did not even get around to bargaining on the two biggest issues, performance evaluations or recall rights for laid-off teachers. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that was because the district did not change its proposals.

“This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,” said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.”

The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district had offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day. With an average annual salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But negotiators were still divided on job security measures and a system for evaluating teachers that hinged in part on students’ standardized test scores.

via The Associated Press: Chicago teachers strike in bitter contract dispute.

What is at stake, if other teachers’ unions follow suit, is educational reform.  The politics here are interesting:  Unions and teachers’ unions in particular are key activists in the Democratic party.  And yet, these teachers have risen up against educational reforms pushed by Democrats.  The mayor of Chicago, who has taken on these teachers, is Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign.  Could improving education, even against the opposition of incompetent teachers and their enablers, become a bi-partisan cause?  Or will political pressure from the unions derail educational reform?

Iranian pastor under death sentence freed

That Iranian pastor who had been sentenced to death in Iran (we blogged about him here and here) has been freed after three years in prison:

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been released from prison in Iran, where he has been held for almost three years on charges of apostasy from Islam, as well as evangelizing. On its website, “Present Truth Ministries” quotes a Luther-like Nardakhani in court:

“During one hearing he was told to recant and he responded, ‘You ask me to recant. Recant means to return. What do you wish me to return to? The blasphemy that I was in before Christ?’ The judges responded, ‘To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.’ Youcef replied, ‘I cannot.’”

The effort to get Nadarkhani released seems to have been spearheaded by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ, obviously not to be confused with the ACLU). This American organization offers legal services when rights, especially religious ones, have been inhibited. The ACLJ was in contact with the U.S. State Department and was instrumental in making people aware of Nadarkhani’s imprisonment (especially through Twitter, with over 3 million people re-tweeting the ACLJ’s “Tweets for Youcef.”)

via Steadfast Lutherans » Steadfast Guest — After Three Years, Freedom by Pr. Timothy Winterstein.

HT:  Anthony Sacramone, who comments, “Most of us will never have to endure anything more onerous than a snarky remark or a sneer as the price of our faith, so take a moment to consider a man who clearly counted the cost of following Christ and persevered under terrible duress for three years—and who also had a wife and two young sons who no doubt suffered terribly as well.  Of course, Pastor Nadarkhani was already free long before his captors opened the gates of his cell.”

For more details, see this.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X