Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bits and Pieces July 11, 2007 (Hint It's all about romantic realism)

It's been a while -- I was on vacation for two weeks, but now I'm back in the saddle. Here's a few points of provocative reading/digesting for you.

John Schroeder muses on the moral obligation of happiness. It's a great article and I think he's right on:
Heaviness, unhappiness, is indeed a burden to those around us, and therfore certainly represents a lack of virtue because of that burden. By contrast, lightheartedness, happiness is a measure of faith: Heb 10:34 - For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.Of
course, many of us so doggedly pursue faith as to take all the joy out of it. But that is the beauty of being Reformed - even our faith is supplied, we do not pursue, we accept. And in accepting, we gain happiness.

Lest you think he's being hard on folks -- remember that John has been through a traumatic time these past few months in the loss of his father. He says in a companion post on Pessimism:
Regular readers know the bleakness of my life in recent weeks, but I hold to my Lord and therefore I HAVE HOPE. If my hopes are not realized in accordance with my expectations, still I will have hope for my hope is not in my expectations, but in my Lord.

Which segues nicely into Marvin Olasky's column in the latest World magazine -- in which he talks about "romantic realism" -- the reality in the scriptures that the fallen world is a painful, mucky, and difficult place and yet we have hope and confidence that all will be well and all will be well and all will be well:
The basic idea is that Christianity is the only religion that is both gruesomely accurate in its depiction of abundant sin but also hopeful in its showing that humans are not alone—for the bridegroom, Christ, does not give up even when repeatedly spurned.

My favorite authors depict life as both horror film and the romance of God and man: See Whittaker Chambers' autobiography, Witness (1952), and Jose Gironella's novel, The Cypresses Believe in God (1955). It's exceedingly rare that a movie combines both sides successfully, so I happily settle for both violent guy films (like The Departed) that depict the ravages of sin and some goofy chick flicks (like You've Got Mail) that show the comedic ravishing of hearts.

The Bible, of course, is the romantic realist book that best shows both graves and grace. It doesn't pretend that life is either heavenly or hellish, but shows how we're all thigh-deep in muck yet able, through God's grace, to see the sun. Jesus not only turned water into wine but turned Simon, who dreamed of fish, into Peter, a fisher of men—and he can do that to each of us.
This column alone was worth the subscription cost.

Now I don't think I can tie the other kibble I've assembled here in, but let me at least try. In the face of a world of pain, we have some options... some other than the romantic realism that Olasky talks about. David Brooks has an insightful column showing that one mode of facing the world of pain is by becoming a hard bitten cynic (and he uses the lyrics of contemporary female pop singers to illustrate). Interestingly, his column highlights a social trend that has been painfully obvious for the past couple of decades. Garance Franke-Ruta comments on Brooks with insight, pointing to the loser behavior of single guys as contributing to this trend. All I could think of was A Clockwork Orange -- that's what Brooks is describing.

Well -- there may be more pieces to share -- but I'm out of time for this evening. Dinner guests are coming.