Month: August 2017

In honor of the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin:

Saint Mary in stained glass, at St Mary’s Church, County Cork, Ireland; by A F Borcher, 2012; used in accordance with Creative Commons 3.0 license.

When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life — particularly human life — such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.

Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others-to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictability and originality, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a “biophilic” person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a “necrophilic character type,” whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.

Evil then, for the moment, is the force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.”
― (M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil).

I am not alone in feeling leery about revealing too much about myself. When researching information about 15th century scholar Lorenzo Valla, I ran into the blog by Roger Pearse, at He speaks from experience:

About Roger Pearse

This page was written in 1999, when this website was new. It contained my photograph, my email address, and various personal, educational and professional details and so forth.

Little by little, it has grown shorter. The internet is not so small a place as it was in those days. A troll was merely a nuisance, not a brutal thug determined to use the compulsive element in social media to drive a vulnerable teenager to suicide, and to jeer at them afterwards on their memorial Facebook page. A spammer was merely an advertiser, not an internet criminal determined to steal your every shekel, and your identity with it. Privacy was taken for granted. None of this is true today.

My email address was the first to go. That change was forced upon me by the torrent of spam. I created a form — which the spammers soon learned to attack — but this stemmed much of the trouble.

Next to go was my photograph, once I found that the nastier people online sought out personal information in order to use it to inflict pain on their victims. Professional details went next, for the same reason.

Today I have decided to remove the rest. It is a wrench, it is true. But I see no alternative. If I were to join the internet today, I suspect that I would not use my own name at all, but a pen-name. Anything else puts you at risk from the criminal element online.

I myself feel uncomfortable writing online under any name but my own. Occasionally some forum software prevents me from using my own name; but it is a weird feeling. But I think it would be absurd for me to attempt to use a pseudonym at this time of day.

All the same, I cannot sensibly allow personal details to remain on the web when I can prevent this. Nor should you.

Mr. Pearse’s advice is taken to heart. I am sure that over time, the clues I will have offered here and there might allow for someone to guess who I am in “real life”, but I don’t plan to make it easy.

I came across an interesting essay regarding the powerful impact that a single generation has had on Christian life in the U.S. The author of “The Six Commandments of the Boomers” is Reverend Todd Wilken, a blogger, speaker, and pastor within the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Wilken, himself a member of the “Baby Boom” generation (those with birth dates between 1946 and 1964), begins his piece with a sweeping critique of his cohorts as being generally narcissistic and self absorbed. They are now 28 percent of the U.S. population, and all of our societal institutions and power centers are firmly in their control.

Their influence on the churches of our land has been no less sweeping than it has been on other aspects of life.

Boomers seek to recreate the institution in their own Boomer image. The Boomers have brought this imperative of the individual to bear upon the Church. The Church is here to provide whatever the Boomers want or think they need… The Church has undertaken more innovations in the last generation than in all the previous generations combined, mostly at the insistence of the Boomers.

One area has been music:

And in the Church of the Boomers music is THE issue. Music was the Boomers’ voice. In large part, their music was what defined them as “hip.” Suckled at the breast of what began as tinpan alley and quickly became the music industry, the Boomers can’t wean themselves. Their kind of music is hip and that imperative of hip extends even to the Church. Again, Veith observes:

“Certainly Baby Boomers often do demand their kind of music in church. This is another of their traits —to be demanding and self-absorbed and intolerant of other styles. The World War II generation never demanded worship styles with Big Band music.”

I have been fond of saying that we seem to be stuck in a dichotomy: Boomer theology and traditional music (your average mainline denominational church), versus boomer music and traditional theology (a typical evangelical church). I now realize that I underappreciated even the sinister influence that the “Boomer worldview” has had on theology that is otherwise outwardly orthodox:

In the Church of the Boomers this rebellion against authority manifests itself as a skeptical approach to the Church’s doctrinal standards, pastoral authority, and polity.

However, the bigger problem is that in the Church there is an unquestioned authority: the authority of the Bible. The Church of the Boomers rejects this authority in one of two ways; they either deny the authority of the Bible outright, as in liberal Churches, or they relativize the authority of the Bible, as in much of Protestant Evangelicalism. The first kind of rebellion against Scripture’s authority is obvious. The second is much more subtle, and therefore more dangerous.

The relativizing of the Scripture allows the Boomers to affirm Scripture’s authority in theory while denying it in practice. They can say that they are Bible believing, that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, and even authoritative. The problem isn’t in what the Boomers say about the Bible, the problem is in how they use the Bible.

When studying the Bible there is a big difference between asking, “what does it mean?” and asking, “what does it mean to me?” The former seeks objective truth, the latter seeks subjective, relative truth. The former affirms Scripture’s authority, the latter denies it. Bible study in the Church of the Boomers is mostly the latter. If the meaning of the Bible is determined by each individual’s private interpretation, then the issue of the Bible’s objective authority is rendered moot.

Read it all at the link above.

Summer is blazing away here, with temperatures rising perilously close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. On these kinds of days, a certain listlessness sets in. We have terms that reflect this, such as “summer doldrums”. “Doldrums” is borrowed directly from a nautical term describing a windless area in which sailing vessels flounder and languish.

In the stock market, trading volumes drop as investors heed the old adage “Sell in May and go away”. School is out, leaving just a skeleton crew of secretaries and teachers doing inventory; The vast empty parking lots are almost spooky reminders of the activities that will resume again in just a few weeks.

In many churches, a seasonal ebb is also noted. The pews are emptier. The choir is gone for the summer. The A-team of church leaders (the senior pastor / rector / bishop / head priest / etc) are often away on vacation, leaving church business and Sunday services in the hands of their assistants.

However, this is not the whole story. There is another way to view summer. Summer is also a time of refreshment. Beads of condensation slide delightfully down the smooth glassy curves of a piña colada, or of an icy lemonade. Pools and beaches are great places to cool off and splash around. Pigs grunt and artisans sell woven goods at summer fairs. Vacation trips allow us to travel the cities and markets of the world, or to marvel at the natural wonders of rivers, oceans, mountains and canyons.

There you have it: Two ways of looking at a season–one positive and one negative. This brings me to a point about the power of perception. I have in memory a title of a book I read in the 1990s. Unfortunately the title is about all I remember, because it was so awesome: The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, by Thomas Moore.

For all its otherworldliness and dedication to the things of God, Christianity is much about reenchanting this life with a new perspective.

Enjoy your summer. May it be for you a time of refreshment