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Friday, August 12, 2005


Reading a profoundly good book recommended by a friend (thanks Matthew!), Peter Leithart's "Against Christianity". (It is a collection of essays: Against Christianity, Against Theology, Against Sacraments, Against Ethics, and For Constantine) If you are intrigued by the title, get it and read it. If you are intimidated by the title, or slightly unsettled, get it and read it. Etc. You get the idea. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Ritual is simultaneously conservative and revolutionary in the way carpentry is. Once you have mastered the technique of driving a nail, there is no reason to experiment with new ways of doing it; but you learn to drive nails because you want to build /new/ things. Far from yearning for a golden, changeless past "ritualists" are the most progressive of men, fearlessly facing the unknown future so long as they can take along their prayer books and water, their wafers and their wine.
(from Against Sacraments)

The psalms are also a textbook of prayer, frequently employing language that is unnerving in its vehemence. Psalms indicate that an overwhelming desire for justice should animate our prayers, that we should express our disappointment with honesty, that prayer is not "quiet time" but a time of wrestling and passion. Contemporary hymnology, by contrast, gives words for a small segment of our experience, the happy, fluffy, light experiences of life. If we are trained in prayer by contemporary praise choruses, when we face the pains and tests of life we will lack the vocabulary to name them.
(from Against Theology -- I think)

Jesus ate with the wrong /people/, thus establishing the theology of baptism.
Jesus /ate/with the wrong people, thus establishing the theology of the supper.
(Against Sacraments)

and finally for tonight:

Romans normally excluded children from the dinner table until the age of fifteen or sixteen, at which age boys received the /toga virilis/ that marked their entrance to manhood. Family dinner as we know it was a Christian invention, not some "natural" form of family life. The family dinner is a reflection of the eucharistic meal, the meal that welcomed all members of Christ to the table.
Opposition to communion of children is pagan and seeks to reverse th revolutionary table fellowship established by the Church. It is an attempt to return to Egypt.
(Against Sacraments)

Leithart's writing is so spare and muscular you could pull out just about any paragraph at ranndom and stand it up on its own, as I have done with a few above. Best of all: he only uses commas when /absolutely/ necessary; a practice I highly approve of. (As you can see I don't give a fig about the 'don't end a sentence with a preposition' thing. If you gotta, you gotta. As someone whose name escapes me now said, "Everyone regards everyone else's usage as pedantic or philistine except his own" -- it went something like that.)


Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm running out to order the book from Amazon -- it's cheap! :-).

Fr. John S.

thomasw said...

terse writing is clear. as well, i agree with you about ending sentences with prepositions. the point leithart makes about admittance to the eucharistic meal and it being a sort of revolt against the pagan roman custom is something i never thought of.