Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Trump phenomenon and a call for common decency

I am trying to muster up some trenchant commentary on Donald Trump's candidacy, but have been so appalled that I haven't been able to find words. I've been hoping for others to speak for me.

It may be that Max Lucado, a leading conservative-evangelical minister with a reputation free from the usual scandals, will be the one to call his community to its senses. I think this piece that he wrote has already gone viral, but I'm glad to add my blog to the chorus:

Equally good is this op-ed column in The New York Times, by a self-identified evangelical, called "What Wouldn't Jesus Do?"

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Justice Scalia's funeral sets an example for us all

Once before I posted about a near-perfect funeral:

From what I have read so far, Justice Scalia's funeral was pretty much perfect also. Clergy of all denominations, and those of us planning our own funerals, please take note!

Best of all, perhaps, to get the idea in just a couple of minutes, read the letter that Scalia wrote in 1998 after attending the funeral of Justice Lewis Powell at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond. He wrote to compliment the presiding minister: 
In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians, I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that...Even when the deceased was an admirable person--indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person--praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner....Perhaps the clergymen who conduct relatively secular services are moved by a desire not to offend the nonbelievers in attendance--whose numbers tend to increase in proportion to the prominence of the deceased. What a great mistake.  Weddings and funerals (but especially funerals) are the principal occasions left in modern America when you can preach the Good News not just to the faithful, but to those who have never really heard it. 

Trump's and Hillary's language analyzed by a master

Anyone who cares about language will be fascinated by Barton Swaim's analysis of political language, in the Washington Post. There aren't many people anywhere who know as much as Swaim does about this subject (Google him, he's fascinating--and quite a charmer in person, I've learned. I admire him and invited him to lunch in Columbia, SC, where he lives and is active in a Presbyterian church).
And here is more from Barton, both amusing and wise:

And here's still more about political language, both amusing and depressing:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Two types of masculine spectacle: Donald Trump and the Edwards family of Surry, Virginia

The conservative (somewhat) Republican commentator David Brooks, whose persona on television and in his New York Times column is gentlemanly, thoughtful and wise, writes on the morning after the Iowa caucuses that the present political situation can be explained, in part, by a growing appetite for “masculine spectacle.” He compares Donald Trump’s aggressive and bombastic behavior to that of professional wrestlers, whose performances are partially faked to dramatize a primitive story line of conquest and dominance. Brooks suggests that the current cultural trends, with traditional notions of male and female identity increasingly being challenged, reinterpreted, or undermined, has resulted in a climate of confusion about masculinity and fear of disempowerment among many men, particularly in the working class. (I would argue that it’s a problem among the privileged classes of men also, though less visible because hidden under various veneers.) Trump’s public behavior, Brooks observes, arises not only out of his megalomania but out of his canny marketing instincts. He grasps the anger that many socially and/or economically insecure men feel, and he taps into it very effectively with displays of contempt and outrage sprayed in all sorts of “politically incorrect” directions. This, he implies in his performances, is the way that “real men” behave. Alas for polite, reflective, “low-energy” Jeb Bush, who stands no chance in this arena.

In the same issue of the New York Times, there is a vivid portrait of a very different sort of masculinity, written by the reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg. I grew up in Tidewater Virginia where the legendary Edwards Virginia Smokehouse just burned to the ground, sending shock waves throughout the area and beyond. The family business was founded in 1926 by the grandfather of the current president and “cure-master,” Samuel W. Edwards III. The Edwards family’s sustainable methods of raising hogs and smoking meats are respected throughout the United States, with foodies comparing their ham to the best of Italy and Spain. (The Smithfield Ham leviathan just a few miles down the James River is now owned by the Chinese, to the utter disgust of all true Virginians.) The Edwards retail shop, like the smokehouse, is in Surry County, Virginia, across the river from Jamestown. I paid a ritual visit to the store just a few years ago; it was as authentic as the Cracker Barrel stores are phony.

The Times article describes how Sam Edwards III, “a big man with an easy manner,” inherited the business and learned the art of smoking ham from his father, Sam Jr., who in turn was taught it by his father, SWE Sr. Mr. Edwards III escorted the Times reporter through the property. He said, “I look at it like this is life. As heartbroken as we are, I’m a plodder. I’ll just keep going on.” He vows to rebuild and to continue to pay his workforce if he possibly can. His lifelong friend and hog breeder Tony Seward said, “He’ll be the one that’s going to get me through all this.”

Last week, young “Sammy” Edwards IV, age 26, went through the charred remains of the smokehouse with the maintenance manager, J. C. Judkins III, looking for the brass skeleton key to the original smokehouse built by SWE Sr. When they found it, scorched but intact, Sammy cradled the precious object in his hands and Mr. Judkins, “a burly man in a knitted cap,” fought back tears. “It’s not one of those things you can find words for,” he said. “This is all extended family.”

The reporter, Ms. Stohlberg, concludes:

Mr. Edwards [III] is more stoic than tearful. Yet there is an image he cannot get out of his mind: a photograph taken as his company burned down. Part of the sign that read EDWARDS had dropped off, leaving only four letters: D-A-D-S.

He wondered, he said, if his father and grandfather were talking to him.

Which “masculine spectacle” do you prefer?

Here are the links:


PS. If the Edwards family are Trump supporters, don’t ever tell me.