Archive for May, 2006

The Cartoon Adaptation of Crash

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Allegedly the Da Vinci Code movie can’t even stir up enough interest in the viewer to bore them thrillingly like other classic bad books to bad movie adaptations like Battlefield Earth. But a few months ago, Jimlad asked in a comment what evidence, if any, was there in the Bible to claim that Jesus wasn’t married.

Now there is actually no evidence whatsoever for Jesus having been married but there is actually a strong biblical argument against it. This isn’t an argument that relies on what we know about Jesus’ culture of the time. Instead, Paul implicitly states that Jesus wasn’t married in the first letter he wrote to the church in the city of Corinth. See Paul is arguing that he has a right to get married, a right that he chooses not to take advantage of for his own personal reasons. But to support his case he seeks precedent and reminds his readers that Peter and other leaders of the church are married. He writes:

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

How pointless this argument would be if Jesus had been married. If that had been the case, Paul, Peter and Pope Benedict XVI would all be free without question to shack up with “a believing” woman whenever they found the right one. So, there you have it. The Bible does say that Jesus wasn’t married. Its just it says it by not saying it.

Since the Da Vinci Code seems to suck ass as a movie, here are three to pass the time with:

A beautiful performance of Night Zombies by Sufjan Stevens.

The hilarious Icelandic Eurovision parody Silvia Night getting other people’s feathers ruffled as she racially insults, swears and assaults Greek journalists. I love her more than God loves her. Which is a lot.

Finally, the greatest teen story ever told. Comedy gold.

Your Correspondent, Never really understood this in the first place.

Down With Paganism, Down With Jazz!

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

I was listening to the wireless during the week when with awe I stumbled upon a documentary about an anti-Jazz campaign that began in my family’s home town of Mohill, Co. Leitrim. The transcripts are bizarre- a march down mighty Mohill’s Main St on the first day of 1934 with fine upstanding citizens chanting, “Down with Paganism! Down with Jazz!”, meetings of Dublin city council that discuss whether or not Dubliners were dancing in the fashion of negroes and a speech by the chief instigator himself, Fr. Conefrey, telling the people about how jazz was invented by wealthy Bolsheviks set on the destruction of the Catholic Church.

I only started recording the programme after about 5 minutes, so I thought you’d miss out on the classic bag-pipe frenzied march. But it has been made available by RTE for download here. This programme for me is a great example of the classic weakness of Irish Christianity- the tendency to slip into shocking moralism:

Fr. Ted and Dougal hate the Da Vinci Code too

It isn’t hard to understand the decline of the Irish Catholic church when it sits atop a heritage of replacing the shattering radicalism of Jesus’ message with something to do with “good wholesome Irish dancing… in place of terrible abusive jazz”. When I listened to this documentary I was torn horribly between laughing my ass off at the speeches and crying at the sheer waste of life by the characters involved. These men and women really did embrace the “Jesus Played The GAA” religion which held as its primary doctrine that civilisation reached its peak in a jig and a reel at the crossroads and that the height of immorality was an absence of rabid xenophobia.

All of this seems a little too close to comfort considering the furore about the Da Vinci Code which we’re enduring. Crazy priests looking to increase their profile or boost their moral-balance in the heavenly ledger books are calling for boycotts or threatening lawsuits(!) against Brown. There is nothing to dampen the misconception that Brown’s book fosters about the Catholic church like attempts by the church to stifle, supress and attack anything against it.

I have written about the Da Vinci Code alot on Zoomtard because I had to deliver talks in colleges about it a year or 18 months ago. But the phenomenon has surely reached such saturation point that no one holds out hope that the story of Jesus is as bland as Brown makes it out to be. Everyone by now sees it as a work of fiction. All these Jesus histories trade, in a way, on the failure of the churches to do anything but communicate Christianity by osmosis. We teach it so badly and live it even worse that people pick up caricatures of what Jesus must have been like. When the authentic messengers caricature him, it is only logical that people will have difficulty discerning between it and other, more apparently exciting caricatures. The church I am a part of do intend to hold an open forum in Maynooth some time in June on the book and I will be interested to see the people who turn up. Will it be the Christians seeking reassurance from on high that what they have believed in has substance or will it be cynics waiting to bait the clerics with their twisty questions or will it just be a few homeless guys who are looking forward to a slice of cake? Who knows? Probably Mary Magdalene.

I am preaching at that said church on next Sunday, May 21st. So if any of you have great ideas for heresy that I can drop into the sermon then I’d really appreciate you wrapping it up in a code and mailing me the portrait.

Your Correspondent, Selling The Musical Soul Of The Nation

The Student’s Tea Table

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Five minutes ago I was preparing the sites I intend to link to and there was a bit of noise as God moved his furniture up in heaven. Now the thunder is rolling incessantly and my perfect backgarden is waterlogged. Nature needs to be taught a lesson. Who wants to come around here and pour some crushed up pop-tarts, pendimethalin and DDT into the local water supply?

Dance and getting just a little naughty, wanna get….
We had Lukas, a common commentator on this site around for dinner earlier in the week. Lukas is the definition egg-head philosopher and he’ll love me for saying that. He is studying something very important in UCD. I can’t recall the exact title but I think it’s something about whether or not handicap is biological or learnt, nature of nurture? Anyway, fervent conversation jumped from whether Augustine was neo-platonic to how best to deal with housemate hate and onto other subjects. One of the great things about people like Lukas is that describing hanging out with him makes you sound clever. While he’s here I’m bluffing and nodding earnestly as he discusses Heidegger but when you ask me what we got up to you get the impression that I should be nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Anyway, one of the things we were discussing was dirt. Lukas was telling us about how its just a social construct and that there is nothing wrong with having a toilet brush in the sink. I may not have fully understood the point he was trying to make but that must have been the gist of it. No, seriously though, he was describing some ideas by a clever lady with big eyes called Martha Nussbaum. She has lots of useful things to say (I presume) but one of the ideas Lukas gave us still troubles me. He was saying that the codes of hygiene that we hold today are in part social norms. His reasoning for this, via Nussbaum, is that we had certain ideas about hygiene before we had any ideas about germs and viruses. So, back in the 1600s before the discovery of microbial nasties, it was considered dirty to put your boots on the surfaces you ate from. In ancient Israel, it was considered dirty to eat pork products. Throughout all societies, it has been considered dirty to use your dwelling areas as toilets. Peasants didn’t know that harmful bacteria lived in the dirt, Jews didn’t know that virii (viruses?) could run rampant in pigs if the meat wasn’t treated and cooked well and no one could examine poo under a microscope until, well, we invented microscopes. Therefore, Nussbaum and Lukas argue, all these cleanliness codes were created purely by socieities.

This seems to me to be a classic modern myth and I want you to think about this. Looking back from what we now think is a rather spiffing level of technological advancement, we can often think that the people of the past were acting a little less than rationally when they decided certain things. Categorically we can state that our ancestors couldn’t articulate their reasons for thinking mud and food didn’t go well together but they were the same reasons. They realised through painful experience that mud plus food equalled sickness and today we realise the same thing but we have lots of experiences of a very specific kind to back us up. This specific experience is as a result of the empirical method. We have science to supplement our reasoning and to give words to our reasoning but our reasoning is the same.

What I am stuck on with Nussbaum (I think Lukas will agree with me) is the idea that the point of scientific discovery is the point of rationalisation. The way I see it, the old ‘uns were being fully rational when they avoided certain dirty things. We just have more ways of arguing the rationale and a greater degree of certainty about it.

What I really want to know though is when Lukas will publish his paper on Aguilera and the Dirrty Societal Norms.

The Rounding Dance of God
There is a small set of issues where Christianity is completely in conflict with how we in today’s society would like to live. (Interestingly, I think all eras have the same conflicts but just voiced differently) One of the things that I really instinctively don’t want to accept is the idea that Jesus is the only way. Jesus, unfortunately, said, “I am The Way” so there isn’t much wiggle room on this one but we Christians continue in our proud tradition of watering down the hard things he says and we find a way to wiggle. The way that is most commonly used today is that Jesus says HE is the way. He doesn’t say that Christianity is THE way. This smartass little theory rests on the idea that the institutional church has somehow lost its way a little and therefore the venn diagram of the church and the venn diagram of Jesus do not line up entirely.

That seems pretty indisputable to me. But it doesn’t quite go so far as to imply that people who aren’t Christians could still be followers of Christ*. An alternative reading of is that some people who are Christians are not followers of Christ. I see that one could easily get tangled up in words here so I have drawn the three relevant venn diagrams on the foil of the chocolate I was munching on:

Diagram A is the ideal situation where the Christian churches perfectly represent Jesus. Diagram B is the clever wriggle trick that says that the churches represent Jesus but they don’t cover all the different ways of Jesus. There are lots of people in Jesus who aren’t in the church. Diagram C is the position I am least attracted to instinctively and it says that the church does lots of things that have nothing to do with Jesus so there are lots of people in the church who aren’t in Jesus. The brown thing is delicious rich dark chocolate. No, you can’t have any. I realise this is a crass simplification but run with me. Its purpose is to help illustrate how I find myself, besides my instincts, in camp C, the Exclusivist camp, the Biblical camp, the camp that doesn’t come natural.

I spend a lot of time thinking about whether it is arrogant or unreasonable or unbelievable of Jesus to claim that he is the one and only way to approach God. I write about it alot on Zoomtard too. But I think I have an answer that might have some real depth in it. I therefore am almost sure that when I go to seminary I will discover that someone else thought of this first. Back in the 800s, John Damascene came up with a term to describe the Trinitarian nature of God called perichoresis. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? It is the Greek word for dance (peri meaning round and choresis meaning dance) and it describes what the three persons in the One God do all the time. Well, maybe not in a céilí dance sense like you are no doubt imagining but rather, as Barth puts it the dance:

asserts that the divine modes of existence condition and permeate one another mutually with such perfection, that one is as invariably in the other two as the other two are in the one.

What has this got to do with whether or not Jesus is the one true way or whether you can be a Christian and a Buddhist at the same time? Well think about the different religions as we seek to integrate them. When we want Jesus to be inclusive to other faith traditions, what we are asking for is that Jesus’ ministry could fit well with Buddhism or Secular Humanism or Islam. We can imagine every belief system has a shape, where the boundary lines are drawn by the core doctrines of the belief. If Jesus is to be listened to at all, he has to have been telling the truth when he said that he was God and the God he was talking about is the God of perichoresis. In fact, it is because we believe that Jesus is God that we can envision God dancing in three. So if Jesus is to be taken seriously at all, we have to imagine him bounded up in a dance with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. There is no space in this God-dance for interaction with the atheism of Buddhism or the stationary monotheism of Islam.

If Jesus is divine then Jesus is part of the Trinity. If Jesus is part of the Trinity then Jesus is too busy in an intimate dance with the Spirit and with the Father than to make special allowances for Tom Cruise. Every sinew in me instinctively wants the message of Jesus to require no relationship with Jesus. That is one more reason I let my brain do my thinking and leave the sinewising to sinews. The God of Christianity is defined by how it relates, threefold, to Himself. Jesus is all about relationship. You are with Jesus when you relate to him and let him relate back. There are lots of people who are members of churches who are not pursuing relationships with Jesus but I can’t imagine someone trying to seriously relate to Jesus without being part of a church. That is why I end up siding with Diagram C.

* Christian does mean Christ follower but you know what I mean

Piglets make for bad foot stools

I was going to publish my list of top 10 signs That You’re A Wannabe Theologian in the key of Liam McDermott. I knew Liam when he couldn’t talk yet but then again when I first met him, I couldn’t pronounce any words with “s”, “sh”, “z” or “g” in them, so I can’t make too much fun of him. He has a MySpace account where he shows how authentic he is by bitterly mocking losers and fools on that weird adolescent corner of the internet. Neuro and I came up with a parody list where I proved my true calling as a theologian by making fun of other prominent theology blogs like JollyBlogger, Johnny Baker and Real Live Preacher. Then we realised that we’d be sinking to his level so I’ll just leave it in the unpublished files, thereby maintaining the moral high ground and still getting my dig in. Go me!

When I die, you can repackage the notes in that folder called “Dead Letter Office” as a book and make a fortune off it, just like they did with CS Lewis.

MySpace and its even more mutated cousin Bebo are weirdly adolescent versions of the web. Think about it in the sense of adolescent meaning transitionally mature. They both mimic the grown up internet by being awesomely powerful tools of communication but they don’t quite capture the essential part of the www, which is that the information is freely available to everyone. Instead, you have to register and log in before you frolic in the fairyland of hormonal wonder that is MyBebo.

The weather, before its little tantrum this evening, has been amazing the last couple of days. I need help compiling a playlist for the car consisting of ultimate summertime tracks. Imagine you were going on a roadtrip with some close friends, the windows were down, the sun was out- what music would you pick. Answers on a postcard, a neon sign or in the form of a comment please.

Your Correspondent, Obbsessed with finding a new brain

Lurching From Ig to Noble

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

A while back I claimed that the greatest link of all time could be found at a church website. Judging from the lack of people asking for access to my Amazon wishlist to thank me in gift-form, I presume the webular adventure required to access their parodies of the Jesus movie was too daunting for most of you amateurs. But Vintage 21 have now made them available at Google Video so you can access them without getting a doctorate in semiotics now.

Zoomtard has also linked to the hilarious Colbert report in recent entries. He addressed the annual Whitehouse journalists’ love-in a while back and now through the wonder of Google’s unending reach, we can view it in our homes. Until television technology is perfected, Google Video will be our home.

Usually people talk to me about theology. If they don’t talk to me about theology they talk to Neuro about philosophy. Some might think that there is something about our personalities that bring that about but I like to live in the fantasy of Zoomland where people spend most of their days dreaming of finding a true member of the Nerd Patrol who knows that there is no 3rd Letter to the Corinthians or that Heisenberg was not just the guy who invented lederhosen. When they find me and Neuro, sitting over in our corners organising our stamps or making homemade greeting cards they internally yelp with excitement and it takes about six or seven minutes for them to reach deep inside their intellectual resources to throw a medieval monk at us. The dreaded Ockham Razor will always be brought to play in any theological or philosophical discussion. I am sure there is a version of Godwin’s Law that could capture this. In fact, maybe I’ll coin it right now.

Zoomtard’s Second Law:
As an informal theological or philosophical discussion grows longer, the probability of the utilisation of Ockham’s Razor approaches one

Occam’s Razor is a brilliantly sharp device but you can’t use it to slice open every problem. I was never able to put my finger on my frustration until I read a post by Scott Adams over at Dilbertblog called Occam’s Stupid Razor. Adams is a clever and witty guy who doesn’t get the props he deserves because of over-saturation and a bias against cartoonists. Well, maybe that and the awful “metaphysical” books he wrote a few years back. God is the only one with forgiveness wells deep enough to blot out those transgressions. But Adams makes the point that Ockham’s Razor has become almost religious for a skeptic. He sums up the Ockham problem brilliantly with what he calls the Adams Razor:

The explanation that you believe is correct will always seem simplest to you.

What has the last 3 minutes brought you- excellent religious satire from a church, excellent political satire from an American and two new rules to bring to the intellectual field of play. I’ll link you to that wishlist if you send me a mail.

Your Correspondent, Thanks You For Hearing Him

Don’t Be Offended, This Is All My Opinion

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Well continuing on from that last bombshell dropped here at Zoomtard Central, check out this article from Books and Culture about the apostle we have put in drag, Junia. This is a pretty complete survey of the situation by a whipsmart theologist called Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. I know, first a female apostle and now a female theologian. Surely the horsemen of the Apocolypse are on their way. Props to Dr. Mitchel for the link to that article. You really should comment sometime, elder!

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson is actually a quite brilliant writer. She is also doing a PhD in Systematic Theology at the college they’ll probably ship me off to when my hair turns grey so I have really enjoyed reading everything of hers that is freely available online. That is quite a lot of stuff but my favourites are her article on Subversive Virginity and a review of the book Against Love: A Polemic.

Babette made a reference in her latest entry to an acquaintence using the word “shambolic”, unaware that we were no longer in 1995. I suspect that acquaintence was me because everything in Zoomland is a shambles, from other drivers to Neuro’s knicker drawer and especially the state of gravity subsidies in Ireland. But since reading that post two days ago I have heard newsreaders use the word shambolic on two radio stations. Newstalk 106 and RTE Radio 1 are obviously stuck in the mid-90s with me. Anne Doyle and George Hook are fine companions. All I need now is a Pearl Jam album and a lumberjack shirt.

Check and check.

Can I ask a question of those of you who are foolish enough to drive cars in Dublin? Why don’t we set an exclusion zone between the two canals and Heuston Station on the east and charge a congestion fee to drive in there (unless you live in there)? Then we can use the M50 and the big n4 and n7 and nn roads to to big car parks where we get on buses and empty Dublin of all its manky carbon dioxide and heart attacking traffic! I think this is a great idea and at next year’s election I will ask every candidate, without context, to explain why they are not implementing it. If they fail to answer well enough, I will refuse to vote for them.

Final thing. I have all my great ideas in the shower. Yes, it is true that once a week my brain gets innovative. So I am moving into a new house in July and I want some way to record all my amazing ideas. Would a blackboard work in a shower? What about a whiteboard? If they don’t work, can you, venerable Zoomreader, help me by suggesting a notation device for my inspiration?

Your Correspondent, Gonna Start A Revolution From His Bed