Culture: September 2004 Archives

Taking the sin out of singleness


Funny, poignant -- For the Day of Atonement, Esther Kustanowitz presents a somewhat tongue-in-cheek litany of repentance for the single and dating. The first line of each three-sentence stanza is to be read by the men, the second by the women, and the third by both together. Some sample stanzas:

We have rejected you for being too fat or too plain. We have rejected you for being too short or too bald. We have judged you according to external appearances and drawn assumptions from the superficial.

We have told you that you were "like a sister" to us. We have told you that you were "a really great guy." We have lacked the fortitude to transition friendship into romance, and consigned you to the torment of "The Friend Zone."

We have eschewed dating in favor of hot wings and professional sports. We have eschewed dating in favor of Cosmos and "Sex and the City." We have escaped into comfort zones of food, alcohol and television to avoid potential heartbreak.

We have bantered too freely, creating a perceived depth to dialogue that was meant only at face value. We have flirted without follow-up, using subtle encouragement to convey enigmatic interest. We have left you in confusion, pondering the true intentions of our fearful hearts.

We have proposed second dates we had no intention of confirming. We have accepted second dates we had no intention of attending. We have chosen a slow fadeout over honesty, denying you the dignity of a truthful closure.

I remember some of that (especially "the torment of the Friend Zone"). Nice to have all that far back in the rear-view mirror.

You can find Esther's blog, My Urban Kvetch, here.

Updated links 2009/06/02

A moral distinction

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Dennis Schenkel draws an interesting parallel to politicians who support abortion rights while proclaiming themselves "personally opposed" to abortion:

I think some politicians have no idea what kind of nonsense they are speaking when they suggest that they are personally opposed to something that is gravely evil, but that they believe it to be a matter of personal conscience. They even believe their Church backs them up on this, and not without cause, since sometimes the same nonsense can be heard spewing from the lips of a priest.

One way to determine whether a difficult moral position is consistent and permissible is to compare it to another, similar moral problem, one in which there is no question about what is right or wrong, and see what we can learn from the comparison.

Consider the case of the hypothetical, fictional German citizen in the 1930's and 1940's...let's call him Johannes Kerrymeister, to make up a name completely at random. Being a faithful Catholic, Herr Kerrymeister is personally opposed to the wholesale slaughter of innocent Jews and others whom society deems to be non-persons.

I'll let you read the rest of it here.

I think this amazing ability to straddle the fence on profound moral issues is rooted in the post-modern rejection of objective truth in the moral realm -- "it may be true for you, but not for me". John Kerry tries to cloak his moral confusion and moral cowardice under the guise of nuance and sophistication.

Increasingly, the key difference between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party seems to be between those who believe that there exist timeless and universal standards of right and wrong and those who do not. This is not to say that voters, candidates, and activists are perfectly sorted between those parties based on that principle, but that seems to be the trend. Some political analysts have noticed a correlation between voting for Democrats and holding loose attitudes regarding sexual morality. As more and more people with strong religious convictions no longer feel at home in the Democrat Party, those who are hostile to religion and who reject moral absolutes have become dominant in that party.

Even among social liberals, you have a contingent of "9/11 Republicans" -- people who hold secularist views on sexual morality, but who are willing to apply the word evil to Islamofascist terrorism, in contrast to other social liberals who seem to fear that measuring anything, even terrorism, by an absolute moral standard will grant a foothold for absolute moral standards to be applied to sexual mores.

That latter group may have a point. In the 1960s, certain liberals were appalled at the weak-kneed, apologetic response of some of the their fellow liberals to oppressive, imperialistic Soviet Communism. Over time this core group of "neo-conservatives," which had broken with the mainstream of liberalism over foreign policy, began to question liberal orthodoxy on domestic policy. Their movement away from liberalism was accelerated by the left's hysterical response to their "apostasy" from the true liberal faith. Time will tell if today's "9/11 Republicans" become tomorrow's "neo-neo-cons".

I am working on some entries to wrap up last week's Republican National Convention, specifically to touch on some important stories that were overshadowed by the nightly speeches and pageantry of the event.

In the meantime, here are some reading assignments:

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes a column almost daily, presented in blog form on the website of radio station WMCA. The conflict between the Christian worldview and other worldviews is at the heart of many of his columns. On his front page today:

  • A review of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey, a book that aims to explain what a worldview is, the distinctives of a Biblical worldview, and how so many Christians are able simultaneously to hold a secular worldview while affirming the tenets of the Christian faith.

  • A critique of The Teen Code, an eye-opening book by a teenager on parent-teen communications:

    The underlying message of the book is that parents can indeed parent their teenagers, so long as we parent them as they will allow themselves to be parented. Now, armed with advice from an adolescent expert, parents are told that we must just accept the fact that vast areas of our children's lives are off limits, and that we should treat our teenagers as autonomous individuals who happen to live in our homes and are doing their best to negotiate around our discipline and moralizing. America's parents owe a debt of gratitude to young Rhett Godfrey for his new book. The Teen Code serves as a prophetic warning and an all-too-accurate description of the teenage mind at work.

  • A critique of Bill Clinton's sermon at Riverside Church a week ago Sunday, in which he exposes a doctrine of "Biblical ambiguity" at the heart of Clinton's remarks -- the Bible can't be understood, so we don't have to worry about obeying its precepts. Mohler contrasts this with the traditional Christian view of Biblical perspicuity -- God made the Bible so that man could understand what God wants us to know about him and what he requires of us.

  • An essay titled "Oprah Winfrey: Agent of Moral Insanity", about a recent Oprah show promoting the notion of teenage transexualism.

Mohler's got several more essays showing that the left is actively and consciously engaged in a culture war -- the culture war is not the product of rampant right-wing fears but a real conflict over the control of cultural institutions.

And saving perhaps the best for last, an essay reminding Christians of our duty to be engaged in the political process, grounded in the distinction between Augustine's City of God and City of Man:

Thus, Christians bear important responsibilities in both cities. Even as we know that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and even as we set our sights on the glory of the City of God, we must work for good, justice, and righteousness in the City of Man. We do so, not merely because we are commanded to love its citizens, but because we know that they are loved by the very God we serve.

From generation to generation, Christians often swing between two extremes, either ignoring the City of Man or considering it to be our main concern. A biblical balance establishes the fact that the City of Man is indeed passing, and chastens us from believing that the City of Man and its realities can ever be of ultimate importance. Yet, we also know that each of us is, by God's own design, a citizen--though temporarily--of the City of Man. When Jesus instructed that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, He pointed His followers to the City of Man and gave us a clear assignment. The only alternatives that remain are obedience and disobedience to this call.

Love of neighbor for the sake of loving God is a profound political philosophy that strikes a balance between the disobedience of political disengagement and the idolatry of politics as our main priority. As evangelical Christians, we must engage in political action, not because we believe the conceit that politics is ultimate, but because we must obey our Redeemer when He commanded that we must love our neighbor.

Go read it all, and add Al Mohler to your daily reading list.

Electric Bouguereau


A lot of bloggers have had Bouguereau on the mind of late:

Eight days ago, Mikki and I were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, getting a whirlwind tour, in between church, brunch, and a Broadway play, from Dawn Eden. We started in the European painting gallery, and as we entered the first room, Dawn pointed out a couple of works by 19th century French painter William Bouguereau, "The Proposal" and "Young Mother Gazing at Her Child". I mentioned that Tulsa's Philbrook Museum had a prominently displayed work that I thought was a Bouguereau -- "The Shepherdess", which has pride of place in the first gallery. The name of the artist of that work was one of the few questions that stumped our team at the Holland Hall School trivia night back in January (we won decisively).

Late last night I verified that Bouguereau was the artist of the painting at Philbrook. Meanwhile, Dean Esmay was composing an essay on culture and female beauty (another topic I blogged about yesterday), and the heart of the piece was an appreciation of a certain 19th century French painter:

Back in the late 1800s, there was an artist who I believe truly captured the beauty of the female form. In my mind, he should be revered as much as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and maybe even Da Vinci. He was a truly great artist. Perhaps he is forgotten because his work came just before the explosion of the expressionists, the cubists, the dadaists, the abstractionists, and so on. Perhaps he was just too old-fashioned, for he was completely overshadowed by the modern artists. But he should be remembered.

Who was he? His name was William Bouguereau. ...

I see two things when I see William Bouguereau's work. First, I see a man who drew in the classical style at a time when it was out of fashion, archaic, and underapreciated. This is tragic enough. Yet I also see an artist who, more than any other, appreciated the grace, the beauty, and the poetry of the feminine form, the true feminine form.

Women--real women--aren't they beautiful?


Dean's entry includes a selection of Bouguereau's work and a link to an essay and online gallery of more than 200 paintings.

Hat tip to Charles of Dustbury for the link.

Beauty on beauty


Candace, one of the bloggers I met in NYC, has some thoughts worthy of pondering in an entry titled "Women do a lot of stupid things to feel beautiful". After a long list of said stupid things that includes overconsumption of alcohol, extreme blisters, starvation, vomiting, and credit card debt, she writes:

And why? All these things do is give us tear lines. They cross our faces with sadnesses that don't belong there. They take the beauty we got here with and chew on it until it's unrecognizable, and then they spit us out on the feet of our fathers, who tried so hard to protect us.

I should mention, because it's relevant in this context, that Candace is a lovely young woman. (I hope the Fatha of da Revolution will not send me to Siberia for noticing.)

There were several interesting comments on the entry, including this one from Missie:

it's always been my hypothesis such woman lacked affirmation from their father at a time when their self-identity, and thus self-esteem, was being established.... i'm very well aware that despite the petty things i do to feel EXTRA beautiful, none the less, I still am because long time ago, my father, through endless compliments and gasps of delights each time he saw me for the first time that day, made feel like i was a bombshell. t[o] solve this dilema, it is my belief, woman realize who made them and therefore rest in the assurance of his great craftmanship.

As a father of a little girl -- only four years old now -- I love to watch her dance like a ballerina and to see her delight in wearing a pretty dress. And she delights in the praise of dad, mom, and grandparents. We must continue to affirm her as often as we can, but the day will almost surely come when all our affirmation will be unable to outweigh the doubts cast by her peers. I can only hope we do our best to impart the true nature of beauty:

Do not let your adorning be external -- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing -- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

The end of that comment is significant too -- we need to help our little girl realize that she is God's handiwork, and thus can "rest in the assurance of his great craftmanship."

Candace has more good stuff -- including another first hand account of the Communists for Kerry rally and her mom's thoughts on the hostage situation in Russia.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from September 2004.

Culture: July 2004 is the previous archive.

Culture: October 2004 is the next archive.

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