Social scientists discover love

In a column on efforts to help young people in the Dominican Republic, Michael Gerson finds both from an aid worker and a social scientist that the biggest need of troubled children is love.  I’m intrigued by how the social scientist defined it. [Read more...]

George Herbert on Sin, Love, & the Sacrament

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes discusses one of my favorite poems, The Agony by George Herbert.  It is about how we try to measure everything, neglecting what cannot be measured; namely, sin and love.  But these can be known in their depths as they come together in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The poem concludes with these lines on the Sacrament:

Love is that liquor sweet and most divine

Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

[Read more...]

Love songs

Roger Catlin interviews jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway and country artist Rosanne Cash about love songs.  After the jump, I’ll give you what Ms. Callaway, a master of the form, says, including some real insights about the nature of love and her complaint that most of today’s pop songs, though about love, “don’t sound like love.”  And as a bonus Valentine’s Day present, I’ll add some samples of Ms. Callaway practicing what she’s preaching. [Read more...]

Satan’s ordinary attacks

We often think of the Christian life in terms of spectacular events and experiences, but vocation teaches us that Christianity is to be lived in the most ordinary spheres of life.  By the same token, Satan also tries to attack us in those ordinary spheres of life.  Pastor Matt Richard draws on John Kleinig’s spiritual classic-in-the-making Grace Upon Grace to show how that works. [Read more...]

Politics as Dante's Inferno

Literature professor that I am, I appreciate this application of the unutterably great Dante to today’s political and cultural woes.  It’s by Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, who got it published in USA Today:

In Inferno, hell is cold at its deepest levels, not hot. People are frozen in place, eternally. Nothing ever changes. . . .

The hell that Dante envisions is a series of concentric circles, containing the souls of people being punished for a variety of sins. His poem is “the drama of the soul’s choice,” according to English crime writer and poet Dorothy Sayers. The seriousness of the sin increases as the observer moves downward from the first circle to the ninth; for instance, the residents of the second circle are being punished for lust, while the souls in the ninth are suffering for treacherous fraud against individuals and communities. . . .

In Dante’s frozen ninth circle, there are two damned souls who do not face each other. Instead, they are pressed together chest to back, with one gnawing the back of the other’s head. I think of my Facebook friends who send blistering political messages, containing insults that they would never deliver face to face. . . .

Says Peter Hawkins of Yale Divinity School, a Dante scholar, “Among the many things lost at this depth is the notion of e pluribus unum, one out of many.” Here, private egos run wild, with no chance of healthy partnership.

In this ninth circle, the man who is eating the other’s head is an Italian count who was betrayed by an archbishop and locked in a tower to starve to death. The two men are traitors who represent corruption within both the state and the church, but what locks them in hell is the hatred they chose in the last moments of their lives. Dante is reminding us that we don’t have to choose that path.

We can all choose to do better, right along with the characters of The Divine Comedy. As the story moves from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso, the focus of the characters shifts — they gradually move from looking at each other to gazing upward toward “the love which moves the sun and the other stars.”. . .

Politics is so often a zero-sum game, with one candidate’s gain coming from another’s loss, but Dante offers a heavenly ideal of sharing and mutuality. “In the Paradiso,” says Alan Jones, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church in San Francisco, “love is the only ‘commodity’ that isn’t diminished by sharing.”

via Column: When politics freezes over – USATODAY.com.

Voting and the neighbor

Todd Wilkens, host of Issues, Etc., has a provocative post on voting like a Christian.  He is applying to this work of the calling of citizenship what Luther taught is the purpose of all vocations:  To love and serve one’s neighbor.

Why does a Christian vote? A Christian doesn’t vote for the same reason the unbeliever votes.

A Christian doesn’t vote because it’s his right. That’s why the unbeliever votes. For the Christian, his own rights have nothing to do with it.

A Christian doesn’t vote to get his way. That’s also why the unbeliever votes. For the Christian, getting his way has nothing to do with it.

A Christian doesn’t vote to protect his own interests. For the Christian, his own interests have nothing to do with it.

A Christian votes to serve his neighbor —-period.

A Christian votes because he is called to do so by the needs of his neighbor. This means that a Christian will sometimes vote against his own rights, his own way and his own self-interest; but always in favor of his neighbor and his needs. At the ballot box, the neighbor comes first.

On election day, don’t vote like an unbeliever. Make you vote count …for your neighbor.

via Steadfast Lutherans » Why Vote?.

So what difference would this neighbor-centered ethic make?  Which, in your opinion, would be a better neighbor-centered vote, for Obama or for Romney?  Is there only one answer, or might vocation lead different people to different decisions?  If the latter, does that mean that God calls people to contrary actions?  How can that be?


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