"The takeaway message is this: no one needs churches to be nice or tasteful. If churches have a future, it’s in addressing our existential darkness: sin and death. Progressive politics is important, but it doesn’t do any deep religious work. And liberals in the church will have to rediscover this after we have won our culture wars. What other religion has such a dark image at its centre? And yet my own brand of liberal Christianity too often seeks salvation through a few gentle verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful or lots of self-important dressing up and wandering around in fancy churches. Devoted atheists are never going to be persuaded by a theology of the cross. But no one whatsoever is going to be persuaded by a theology of nice."

Giles Fraser (via ayjay)

"A quarter of the U.S. population — and 40 percent of the population of New York, where my novel is set — self-identify as Catholic. One of the most striking features of the city is that there are churches everywhere, from one of the world’s largest cathedrals to hundreds of storefront churches. And a bit of investigation will reveal that those churches fill up every Sunday. Not to mention the fact that there are more Jews in New York than in any other city in the world. But for some reason the publishing industry in this city tends to view the introduction of religion into contemporary realist novels as a willful act that must have some strong rhetorical justification. From where I stand, the exclusion of religion is the willful act. Novelists never get asked why they don’t include religion in their books, or why the religion they do include — often just a species of madness — bears so little resemblance to religion as it is practiced by the majority of Americans. If they were asked, I suspect, most of these writers would not have a very good answer. It simply doesn’t occur to them. Whatever one’s beliefs, this seems like a basic failure of verisimilitude. Reality includes religion; realism should, too."

— Christopher Beha being interviewed by Harpers about his new novel Arts and Entertainments.  (via unapologetic-book)

(via ayjay)

"

Historians usually note the upsurge of religious enthusiasm that greeted the outbreak of war. German preachers, for instance, debated whether they should see the national mood in terms of Transfiguration or of a New Pentecost. All the main combatants deployed Holy War language, particularly the monarchies with long traditions of state establishment — the Russians, Germans, British, Austro-Hungarians, and Ottoman Turks — but also those notionally secular republics: France, Italy, and (later) the United States. What we may miss, though, is just how persistent and overwhelmingly widespread such language was, and how it was reflected in the enormous outpouring of visual imagery.

More specifically, with the obvious exception of the Turks, it was a Christian war. With startling literalism, visual representations in all the main participant nations placed Christ himself on the battle lines, whether in films, posters, or postcards. Jesus blessed German soldiers going into battle; Jesus comforted the dying victims of German atrocities; Jesus personally led a reluctant Kaiser to confront the consequences of his evil policies. Apart from the obvious spiritual figures — Christ and the Virgin — most combatant nations used an iconography in which their cause was portrayed by that old Crusader icon Saint George, and their enemies as the Dragon. Death in such a righteous cosmic war was a form of sacrifice or martyrdom, elevating the dead soldier to saintly status.

In every country, mainstream media stories offered a constant diet of vision and miracle, angels and apocalypse. Angels supposedly intervened to save beleaguered British troops, the Virgin herself appeared to Russians, while Germany claimed to follow the Archangel Michael. Those stories circulated in the first days of the war, and they persisted through the whole struggle, long after we might expect the armies to be wholly focused on the grim realities of front-line life. When the Germans launched their last great offensive in 1918, of course it was called Operation Michael. For the Allies, religious and apocalyptic hopes crested in 1917 and 1918, with the great symbolic victories in the Middle East. Most evocative were the capture of Jerusalem from the Turks, and the decisive British victory at — honestly — Megiddo, the site of Armageddon.

"

— My colleague Philip Jenkins, on his new book The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (via ayjay)

(via ayjay)

"
  1. Neither the President nor any official in her government denied Madonna any attention or courtesy during her recent visit to Malawi because as far as the administration is concerned there is no defined attention and courtesy that must be followed in respect of her.

  2. In any case, even if the defined parameters of attention and courtesy existed in respect of Madonna, the liberties of discretion to give or not to give that attention or courtesy would ordinarily and naturally remain the preserve of the host. Attention or courtesy is never demanded.

  3. Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude. Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.

"

— Read the full statement from the government of Malawi here. (via ayjay)

(via ayjay)

"Cosmos, like most pop histories of science, teaches the false narrative that the history of science is that of a few, heroic, lone geniuses doing battle with the masses and forces of institutional darkness.The reality, of course, is that science is a collaborative (and competitive) process, slowly evolving over the centuries thanks to the work of millions of people and supported by large institutions and governments, without which progress would be impossible. Mark Twain put it best in a letter he wrote to Helen Keller:”It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others.” It’s an important lesson to remember."

Alex Knapp: A Corrective To Cosmos  (via ayjay)

(via ayjay)

silentgiantla:

Animated artwork by Rebecca Mock

Fine, detailed and subtle animated artwork created by New York illustrator Rebecca Mock. Apparently the animated gif back to stay, gradually more and more people are exploring this old format and customers asking for shouting. Several of these illustrations were created for the New York Times or The Warlus magazine.

(via pegobry)

wasbella102:

Autumn Sun by Cathy McMurray

wasbella102:

Autumn Sun by Cathy McMurray

(via pegobry)

"

Some time ago, I was invited to begin some reflections on beauty and conservatism in this forum, in hopes that years in the political wilderness might motivate conservatives to consider cultural matters more seriously. But because of the prominence of the prejudice I myself indulged, this is a harder task than I had imagined. Conservatives frequently tend to trust only tested formulae. This is praiseworthy, to an extent. Traditional patterns should be valued, and they are frequently revelatory, especially now, after their long eclipse.  Still, tradition offers us no guarantee. Beauty does not always obey rules any more than it always breaks them.

Currently, the little energy conservatives tend to devote to contemporary cultural matters seems to be entirely expended in attack. Will conservatives eventually begin to accept and appreciate the new patterns of contemporary architecture? The enduring values in which conservatives believe—beauty among them—are more fecund than we think. We ought to be open to their new and unexpected manifestations. After all, what future is there for a movement without capacity for surprise?

"

Nameless Beauty: Conservatism’s Architecture Problem — by the invaluable Matt Milliner, once more (via ayjay)

"

Remember how Lupin says Harry’s instincts are good and nearly always right? Why are you mistrusting him at this late juncture? In fact, Harry gains infinitely more by choosing Ginevra Weasley over Hermione Granger.

Ginny brings with her the bright, abundant dowry of the things he always wanted in life and never had. He gains a wide wizarding family, full of people he already admires and loves—and even the requisite family priss-pot, somebody about whom everybody else can complain. What does Hermione offer in the way of family? A pair of nice … dentists. A future that means a tiny nuclear group. In the expansive Weasley clan, Harry will be an uncle many times over as well as a father. There, he has a second pair of parents who already care about him. He has big brothers. He possesses a resonant history with them all, and he is attached to the memory of their dead. We can even say that Harry becomes a kind of fraternal twin to make up for the dead Weasley twin, Fred, for he and Ron are the same age and share boyish passion for broomsticks and quidditch. His best friend becomes his brother.

Now then, what about Hermione, his other best friend? (Let’s note here that the books press onward toward the restoration of Harry’s broken world, and that Hermione and others help in that restoration. If you accept that idea, you accept that the thrust of story is not about Hermione—it’s not even about romance or who ends up with whom.) In the context of a Harry-Ginny union, having Hermione marry Ron becomes an added bonus for Harry—she too becomes his family when she marries Ron and becomes his sister. In this way, Harry becomes related to all the living people he loves most. And this is the only way they can all be related, the only way that nobody is left out of the circle of Harry’s deepest loves.

You see? Harry takes home all the toys. The cupboard child who was last is now first.

"

"The cupboard child," an open letter to J. K. Rowling, in which the brilliant and wonderful Marly Youmans explains to our beloved author that the marriages at the end of her Harry Potter books are, among other things, about preserving and strengthening the bonds of friendship. (via wesleyhill)

"A population that does not take care of the elderly and of the children and the young has no future because it abuses both its memory and its promise."

— Pope Francis (via ofmelodiesanddandelionwishes)

(via pegobry)