Reflecting partly on the subject of my last Raw Tact post (which, in less than a week, has become my fourth most read post ever), the links between suffering, joy, and God's work in us have been on my mind lately. I often play this song when I think about these things. It may be my favorite song ever -- reading it through a spiritual lens its authoress most likely didn't have in mind.
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My friend Joey Prever, the author of the Steve Gershom blog, just put up a new post, which is (as always) excellent. One of the things that struck me about it was that, as it happens, he touches on the subject of pedophiles in it, and takes a very human perspective on those subject to that terrible condition. I've sometimes wondered whether our nation's massive and reflexive loathing of pedophiles may not have more to do with our reassuring ourselves that we do have moral standards about sex -- kind of a "We don't demand much, but for that very reason, you damn well better give us what we do demand!" -- and a little less, maybe, to do with our real (and legitimate) horror of the act. I am not insensitive to that horror; I was victimized myself; but if we really believe that every sin can be forgiven, that one counts.
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I'm an exceedingly flippant person, to the point that I frequently joke about my own griefs and those of other people. Some people find this an amiable quality; I like it, but I've always worried that it makes me a bad person, or that I'll accidentally hurt somebody's feelings. To me, it feels totally natural -- chiefly because I don't see that making a joke out of something makes it unimportant, or even suggests that you don't feel deeply about it. Chesterton (I think it was) said that all the best and oldest jokes are about the most momentous things, and I believe he was exactly right. Long faces don't make things easier to bear. Of course, there are places where I don't crack jokes because it would spoil the mood, like Mass. But I would happily tell a joke about Mass.
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I'm sorry, Fleet Foxes, but your music is not any more interesting just because you made it sound echoey. Please stop calling in the middle of the night and blasting "White Winter Hymnal" at me over the phone.
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One of the things that attracted me to the Anglican Use community, in addition to the enchanting liturgy, was the ties (many of them expressed in that liturgy) to the English literary tradition. The Book of Common Prayer and the King James translation of the Bible are obvious examples, though we use neither of them directly; the poetry of men like John Donne and T. S. Eliot, and the writings of authors like Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy Sayers, all entranced me with their beauty and literary power -- whether homely and direct, or elevated and magnanimous. They were, additionally, influences in my own conversion to Catholicism, though my conversion predates the existence of the Ordinariate: both their rationalism and their mysticism suggested that a multitude of things I had taught (or taught myself) to dismiss simply because they were Catholic -- like the veneration of the saints or the use of Confession -- could be believed just on the strength of being true, that is, on their historical, Biblical, and rational merits. Their fidelity to Christian history, their sense of going back through the centuries in an unbroken succession, was powerfully attractive as well -- not like the tradition I was raised in, which seemed almost to feel that the Church had more or less ceased to exist between the departure of St. John the Divine (or St. Augustine, on a good day) and the nailing up of the Ninety-Five Theses.
For example, this happened, which is fucking awesome.
I don't regard the Anglican heritage in the same light Anglicans do -- well, obviously, or I'd be an Anglican myself. But I have not forgotten my debt of gratitude.