Tradition vs. nostalgia

Do people who hold fast to a tradition necessarily live in the past? Not according to Edmund Burke, a conservative icon:

What distinguishes Burke from the French Revolutionaries is not his attachment to things past, but his desire to live fully in the present, to understand it in all its imperfections, and to accept it as the only reality offered to us. …

Burke … recognized the distinction between a backward-looking nostalgia, which is but another form of modern sentimentality, and a genuine tradition, which grants us the courage and the vision with which to live in the modern world.

(Quoted by Peter Lawler at Postmodern Conservative, citing Scruton’s A Political Philosophy.)

One of the things that marks me as Canadian is my tendency to seek the middle ground. In this case, I think there are two extremes to be avoided:

  • Discarding tradition as worthless and useless in the modern context; or
  • Holding so rigidly to tradition that we cease to live authentically in the present.

The middle ground is the terrain Burke sets out to claim for conservatives:  utilizing tradition as a resource for living well in the present.

In fundamentalist circles, Burke’s position would be derided as “liberal”. People with a “liberal” belief system both hold fast to a body of tradition yet maintain a standpoint of critical detachment from it.

I agree with the quote:  the present is the only reality available to us. The mistake made by fundamentalists (whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish) is to hold onto their body of tradition so rigidly that they repudiate modernity and become alienated from present reality.

Thus I like Burke’s distinction between nostalgia and tradition. As I see it:

  • fundamentalists repudiate the present and become captive to nostalgia;
  • modernists repudiate tradition and lose the capacity for critical discernment of the present; and
  • those of us who retain a body of tradition, while reserving the right to critique it, potentially have the best of both worlds.

As Jesus said, “every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Mt. 13:52, NIV).
 

The photo, by Kirsty Wigglesworth of Associated Press, is from this week’s news:

“Part of a recently discovered hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold is displayed at Birmingham Museum in Birmingham, England Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Amateur treasure hunter Terry Herbert was prowling English farmland in Staffordshire, England, with a metal detector when he stumbled upon what has been described as the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered, a massive collection of gold and silver crosses, sword decorations and other items, British archaeologists said Thursday. One expert said the treasure would revolutionize understanding of the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people who ruled England from the fifth century until the Norman conquest in 1066.”

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So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

Don't Panic

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

After joining in on the blogging world here at i, Pundit last summer, it would seem that it is time for me to move on. So when you don’t see any more posts around here from me, don’t panic… it was a thought-out decision.

It’s come about as a result of a couple of factors. The first — chronologically — was that Dad decided not to focus on his book. The initial reason for my joining the blog was to ease the burden on Dad, so that he could spend some time writing larger material. The plan shifted over time, partly because I wasn’t really that great at keeping up with his phenomenal writing pace, and partly because Dad let go of the idea of the book he had in mind.

The second factor is one of shifting tastes. For some time now, I’ve been moving away from blogging as a medium of expression. My hockey blog has been stagnant for some time, and my posts here have largely been short ones. Perhaps it’s because I’m fairly limited on time, and perhaps it’s because of the heavily-saturated blogosphere, but I never felt that I had found a true niche. As I came to accept that, the motivation to blog decreased. Truth is, when it comes to the blogging world, I’m just as happy to be a reader and commenter, instead of a person who is followed. Thus, in a move to minimize my faux commitment to blogging, I’ve removed my hockey blog and will be ceasing my role here.

There was one other factor worth mentioning, though I don’t wish to dwell on it overmuch at this point. When my dad posted two commentaries on Robert Wright’s views on religion, this decision of moving away from i, Pundit became much more important to me. The simple fact is, I belong to that class of people that is referred to as the “religious right” nowadays. I believe that Truth, by nature, is (at least somewhat) exclusive, and that Jesus Christ as a figure spoke directly to the point that he was the only means to reconciliation with God. Now, I am happy to distance myself from some figures within that movement, in that I don’t believe in creating a homogeneous Christian society, and neither do I believe that there is always a clear cut-and-paste answer to every one of life’s questions. There are substantial questions — including the most-prominent Problem of Evil — which I don’t claim to have an answer for. But those differences do not negate the fact that outside of Christianity, there is no other religion which speaks truly to the nature of God, the damage of sin, and the only means by which God can accept men into his presence — Christ.

With that being said, I know that my religious opinions are far more conservative than most of the readership here. I respect and encourage a diversity of opinions in the world. Do I think it’s wrong to express that God is only a means to a happier society? No. Do I think the concept itself is wrong? Yes. And unlike political differences, which are of secondary importance, I consider God’s nature to be the most important thing a person can ever consider. So, I can’t in right conscience promote anything but, either directly or indirectly.

Rather than attempting to sway readers’ opinions in a series of posts — something which I don’t pretend I have the power to do — I would rather step back from the blog, and focus on other means of evidencing Christ in my life. I would hope that people who know me can attest to my desire to show how much of a difference God has made in my life. I can’t support the thought that God is simply a concept to a better world, because of that difference. Neither can I fight it on such an impersonal forum.

Thus, thanks for the time that you’ve had me around. But it’s time to say “Good bye.”

GWDCS: Manifesto and Episode One

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

GWDCS: Guys Who Do Cool Stuff. It’s the title of our summer men’s program at the Bridge Youth Centre. I’ve been volunteering for the Bridge since this past fall. It is a Christian organization geared around reaching out to “youth” from lower-income backgrounds within urban centres, with “youth” being a loose term that represents people ranging from 10 up to 25. Their tactics are unorthodox, their theology conservative. And often, it’s a stretch for people like myself (middle-class university kids) to get their heads around the world-within-a-world that exists even in innocuous places like downtown Peterborough.

Guys Who Do Cool Stuff is oriented towards young adult men that participate in other programs at the Bridge. It’s a males-only program, as the name implies, which might be politically incorrect in some of the better-off circles in our culture (Cubs is no longer boys only, for example), but hardly raises an eyebrow at the Bridge. And it’s refreshing, in a beat-the-pants-off-that-other-guy sort of way! 🙂

Because of the great time we had with our first get-together this past Wednesday (July 1st), and because I’m stoked for the rest of the summer, I figure I’ll post the videos to the blog, for your viewing pleasure. First, our man-ifesto (and the first taste of the male humour. Sorry ladies, for some of the lame jokes!):

And now the first week’s adventure:

And yes, that’s me, blowing it within three seconds by taking off a friend’s head.

Afterwards, we discussed how men should treat women, and what to look for in a woman. There were life stories, and Biblical examples. Even though we were short on guys, the conversation was solid and the event was great fun. And best of all, we’re reaching out to young people that Sunday morning services simply fail to connect with!

Deciding not to abort: one woman’s courageous decision and its sad consequences

American media are abuzz today with the murder of George Tiller. Tiller was a doctor who carried out abortions in Wichita, Kansas.

Tiller became the target of hostile comment — for example, he was discussed on 29 episodes of Bill O’Reilly’s show — because he was one of the few doctors who performed late-term abortions. O’Reilly routinely referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer”.

The murderer was a member of a particularly strident anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue — a Christian organization.

Andrew Sullivan has been all over this story. I’d like to refer you to one of Sullivan’s posts:  an account of one woman who decided not to abort even though she knew that her baby would not survive very long after birth. I would describe it as a courageous decision — but it had sad consequences for her:

My brother and his wife received a diagnosis at the beginning of the second trimester’s ultrasound that their child had anencephaly — a condition where the fetus’ skull does not completely close and the brain forms partially outside the skull. […] They were told the child would die before, or shortly after, birth. There was no doubt about the diagnosis. My brother and his wife were encouraged by their doctor to go to Kansas for an abortion, the closest place where they could obtain one in the second trimester.

It was an agonizing decision, but they chose not to have the abortion for religious reasons. The pregnancy went to term and the baby lived for several weeks. She was surrounded by love for the brief time she was here.

I wish I could say unequivocally that they made the right decision, but the long-term effects on my sister-in-law’s mental well-being have been serious. She is very much changed from the person that she was before.

Andrew Sullivan has the rest of the story. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to steal the entire post. But it illustrates a point that people too often lose sight of as they debate abortion:  it affects real, live people in a direct and personal way.

Often, in those real-life scenarios, there are no easy solutions.

I’m inclined to a pro-life position, and I genuinely admire the woman who made this difficult decision. (Let’s hope she made it freely, not as the result of undue social duress from her husband and/or her church.) Christianity calls people to make personal sacrifices:  it’s one of the core values of the faith. For example, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” — John 15:13, ESV.

In back of this decision is the idea that human beings should not “play God”. That is, God determines matters of life and death:  to take such decisions into our own hands is presumptuous and forbidden to us.

And yet … in this case, the child’s death was a foregone conclusion. (I wouldn’t attribute the birth defect to God, but it certainly wasn’t the result of any choice made by the parents. Call it an “act of God” in the sense that insurance companies use the expression.) It seems to me that the inevitability of this baby’s death changes the moral equation significantly — but pro-life crusaders don’t make allowances for such considerations.

As things have turned out, it seems that the mother has suffered emotional damage as a result of her experience. Of course, it might have turned out differently. And even in this instance, the woman ultimately may overcome her depression and conclude that she made the right choice.

Jesus didn’t say it would be easy to lay down your life for your friend. On the contrary, he called his followers to choose the difficult way — the way of the cross.

Jesus promises, paradoxically, that the way of self-denial will lead to life. However much it may feel like death in the short term.

That’s the promise on which this woman took her stand. Was she duped? Was she tested beyond what she proved able to bear? Is it facile to apply those Gospel texts to her tragic circumstances, or is that exactly the way we’re supposed to make decisions as Christians?

There are no easy answers. Not when it comes to abortion:  and not when it comes to matters of faith, lived out in the real world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

p.s. There’s an account of a similar situation here. In that case, a Roman Catholic priest surprisingly supported a couple’s decision to abort.

Orwell Versus Tolkien: Human Nature

Human Evolution Garden of Eden

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son: Orwell Versus Tolkien is a series of posts which seek to compare key components of the worldviews presented in Orwell’s 1984 and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by considering excerpts in tandem.

In establishing the worldviews of both 1984 and The Lord of the Rings, one can almost assume certain facets of the theories that follow. However, before more abstract subjects are considered, it is a necessary act to establish the overarching view of human nature which accompanies each worldview. Concepts of human nature are perhaps the most critical portion of a worldview, since it is this which directly affects how one sees almost every intangible or abstract component of life. One cannot understand hope, justice, freedom, love, or any other principle without first understanding human beings, because these ideas are directly linked with a facet of humanity which is not immediately visible in the rest of nature: Imagination. Without imagination, it is impossible to speak of anything beyond immediate, tangible experience. So how we perceive human beings, and thus their capacity to imagine, seriously impacts how we understand those things which are most important to the human experience. Both books manage to give a distinct image of human nature, and although there are a few passages that point to this understanding clearly, as a general rule the concept of human nature tends to rest beneath most of the overt messages of the book, propping them up and introducing both conflict and solutions.

Consider Orwell’s depiction of human nature. This scene comes on the brink of Winston and Julia’s first time having sex. As a rule, sex is forbidden between Party members who are physically attracted to one another. The very first act of rebellion which the two heroes of the story engage in is to sneak off to a field and have sexual intercourse.

“Listen. The more men you’ve had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, perfectly.”

“I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere! I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.”

“Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I’m corrupt to the bones.”

“You like doing this? I don’t mean simply me: I mean the thing in itself?”

“I adore it.”

That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the Party to pieces. He pressed her down upon the grass, among the fallen bluebells. This time there was no difficulty. Presently the rising and falling of their breasts slowed to normal speed, and in a sort of pleasant helplessness they fell apart.

Because of the naturalist humanist perspective which is presented by 1984, human nature is linked very closely with “animal instinct”. If there is no active God, then human beings are only different insofar as they have evolved beyond other animals. As a result, those things which are most natural to human beings are often those things which are most animal-like: sex, consumption, violence… essentially, anything which contains that “pleasant helplessness”. Of course, reason and intelligence play a factor here. There’s no sense that Orwell is denying that humans can think. After all, Winston is very thoughtful and deliberate in his defiance of the Party. But ultimately, those things which are central to the human being are individual desires which run contrary to the cold reason of the Collective.

However, this establishes a conflict in itself. For the Party, which understands this side of people, utilizes instincts to exert control. One example is the constant warfare which takes place in the society. By creating a sense of fear — and a very powerful desire for safety — the Party manages to convince members to suppress their other desires. This is also seen in a more direct sense, where the Thought Police manage to bring about even more fear for the individual. So afraid are Winston and his fellow citizens that they can literally control their external features from demonstrating any emotions, to avoid the ever-present eyes of the Party. But, because of the acknowledgement that other animal instincts will emerge eventually, the Party also arranges for a variety of events — the Two-Minute Hate, Hate Week, show trials — which allow an outburst of anger and violence periodically. In a sense, this societal suppression is a dampening of human nature. In another sense, though, it fulfils human nature, since we are naturally collective beings.

The result is a very Freudian depiction of human beings. The Freudian model is Id (desires) -> Ego (reason) -> Superego (society). In 1984, the animal desires are present and undeniable, but the society’s desires and power are sufficient to generally oppress the individual desires. The result is that men and women generally suppress those desires for long-term preservation, and find ways to express those desires in more constructive, socially-acceptable ways. In the case of Winston and Julia, the Ego seems to have found a way around the Superego, but the entire time it is apparent that their rebellion will be short-lived.

The Lord of the Rings has a very different concept of human nature. Because it is flowing from a Christian worldview, Tolkien’s writing focuses on a very different contrast than the Freudian model. Consider this passage, which comes on the wake of Gandalf explaining to Frodo the life story of Gollum:

“Gollum!” cried Frodo.”Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!”

“I think it is a sad story,” said the wizard, “and it might have happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known.”

“I can’t believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however distantly,” said Frodo with some heat. “What an abominable notion!”

“It is true, all the same,” replied Gandalf. “About their origins, at any rate, I know more than hobbits do themselves. And even Bilbo’s story suggests the kinship. There was a great deal in the background of their minds and memories that was very similar. They understood one another remarkably well, very much better than a hobbit would understand, say, a Dwarf, or an Orc, or even and Elf. Think of the riddles they both knew, for one thing.”

“Yes,” said Frodo. “Though other folks besides hobbits ask riddles, and of much the same sort. And hobbits don’t cheat. Gollum meant to cheat all the time. He was just trying to put poor Bilbo off his guard. And I daresay it amused his wickedness to start a game which might end in providing him with an easy victim, but if he lost would not hurt him.”

“Only too true, I fear,” said Gandalf. “But there was something else in it, I think, which you don’t see yet. Even Gollum was not wholly ruined. He had proved tougher than even one of the Wise would have guessed — as a hobbit might. There was a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came through it, as though a chink in the dark: light out of the past. It was actually pleasant, I think, to hear a kindly voice again, bringing up memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass, and such forgotten things.”

The Christian perspective offers a binary in place of a trinity for human nature. Men were created perfect and in the image of God. In their “natural” state, they would live collectively, and appreciate one another’s company. The Shire is an idyllic portrayal of a quasi-human society, such that one can perhaps see it as a pre-fallen world. Hobbits have minor conflicts, but these do not result in violence, but simple disgruntlement. In general, they live comfortably, close to the land (even living in pits), close to one another (giving and getting gifts at least once a week), and close to God (the Shire is the point which is geographically closest to “Heaven” in Tolkien’s maps). However, another component of human nature is the fallen portion — Sin. In this excerpt, the Ring which Gollum found impacted his life for the worse. The influence of Sin not only affects the individual, it permeates him, replacing his nature with a new one which is tainted and ugly. So different is a person under the Ring’s influence that it is disgusting to compare the idyllic human to him. And yet, it is inevitable and necessary to understand concepts like good, evil, and salvation. All of these depend on the interplay of the two sides of humanity, and the conclusion that something within the individual is potentially good still, even when the Ring has impacted them so.

In both books, and thus both worldviews, humans are depicted as part of an internal conflict which defines their self as well as the society around them. The real difference between the two is centred around the overall worldview. In Orwell’s writing, humans are evolved animals, and thus expressing animal instincts is a manifestation of freedom while society is an entirely oppressive force. In Tolkien’s writing, humans are endowed with good traits by God, and evil traits subvert this goodness by exerting their own influence. The human is shaped much more by external forces than by themselves. Both of these will set up the primary conflicts and resolutions (or lack thereof) within the books.

Orwell Versus Tolkien: Worldviews

1984 LOTR Cover

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son: Orwell Versus Tolkien is a series of posts which seek to compare key components of the worldviews presented in Orwell’s 1984 and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by considering excerpts in tandem.

Having just finished George Orwell’s 1984 Thursday night (okay, technically Friday morning…), I felt an intriguing desire to reread Lord of the Rings. This is an interesting circumstance for a couple reasons. First, as a bit of a side note, I’m surprised I had never felt the urge to read 1984 in the past, since it is considered a staple of political thought and I am studying politics at Trent University. Also, I don’t often reread books, so the desire to read The Lord of the Rings a second time is a testament to the degree of love I have for the work, as well as the power of my thoughts concerning 1984. But the real reason behind this desire, I believe, is because both books consider very similar topics — albeit in a very different manner — but that each discusses those topics from a different worldview. Orwell’s thoughts are very much derived from a natural humanist viewpoint, while Tolkien’s writing conveys a deeply Christian understanding on issues. It is this difference in worldview that drew me to The Lord of the Rings in response to 1984, and which has inspired this series of posts.

Before considering specific issues, this first post is designed to establish a mutual understanding of what is meant by each worldview. Consider this passage from 1984:

“I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe — I don’t know, some spirit, some principle — that you will never overcome.”

“Do you believe in God, Winston?”

“No.”

“Then what is it, this principle that will defeat us?”

“I don’t know. The spirit of Man.”

“And do you consider yourself a man?”

“Yes.”

“If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are nonexistent.” His manner changed and he said more harshly: “And you consider yourself morally superior to us, with our lies and our cruelty?”

“Yes, I consider myself morally superior.”

1984 contains a powerful interplay between a natural humanist perspective on morality, and an entirely subjective perspective on morality. It was very well done, and without giving too much away, it’s sufficient to say that the subjective perspective wins out in the book, at least as far as maintaining power is concerned (which you could see coming from the start — it’s a dystopic novel). This passage provides a perfect example of what I will refer to as “natural humanism”. This philosophy consists of two components. First, it is naturalist, in that it denies the existence of God, or at least it denies his presence and interference in human affairs. Second, it is humanist, in that it attempts to place some value on human life by depending on empirical commonalities. Although the subjective moralists win in the book, the emotions of the reader are clearly drawn out in favour of Winston the Humanist, who believes in freedom and the goodness of human nature.

This particular scene demonstrates both aspects effectively, although both are at constant play throughout the novel. First, the concept that God is the central figure of the story is undermined, with the statement by Winston that he does not believe that God exists. This is in fact a bit misleading, as Winston entertained the idea of God earlier in the book, stating that he sometimes believes it, sometimes doesn’t. However, what is clear is that even if a God does exist, he doesn’t intervene in human affairs, doesn’t stand up for Winston, and any morality is not intrinsically derived from him or his nature. This is a very good picture of naturalism, as it does not necessarily deny that there is a God, but it holds to the fact that he does not directly alter the flow of nature Nature is absolute and autonomous.

This scene also demonstrates the humanist aspect of the book effectively, with the statements that follow the discounting of God. First, the idea that there is some indomitable “spirit of Man” which exists. This spirit is individualist, although also universal and communal. It believes in truth and the value of the observed. It follows natural inclinations, such as desiring sexual intercourse and loving music. It exists most freely — although most unconsciously — within uneducated people. Although the characteristics vary from argument to argument, this is essentially the core idea of humanism — that common values and traits give human beings as individuals some moral value. Thus, when Winston says that he is morally superior, it is on the grounds that he accepts what he observes (which the Party attempts to alter — the “lies” mentioned by the interrogator, O’Brien), and he values human life (which the Party doesn’t, as demonstrated by the torture surrounding this excerpt). Although O’Brien eventually forces Winston’s will to break, Orwell’s desire seems to be to stand up for these things which Winston himself represents, and the dystopia is made complete when it manages to overcome Winston’s resistance. Just because lies may hold some power does not mean they are correct — which is the core of Orwell’s humanist argument.

Combined, the two form a naturalist humanist perspective, which is the core of all of Orwell’s implied or stated arguments within the novel.

On the other hand, Tolkien’s writing takes a different bent. Consider this passage from The Lord of the Rings:

Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

The Lord of the Rings is not written from an overtly Christian viewpoint. Unlike C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings is not directly allegorical.  There is no reference to the Christian God (although the prequel, The Silmarillion, is much more theologically-constructed). There is not even a Christ figure, unlike a series like Harry Potter. However, despite this, Tolkien’s masterpiece is embedded with Christianity. In some senses, this is represented by God appearing behind the scenes in the text. In other senses, it is conveyed through the absense of God. Tolkien’s book ends on a rather melancholy note, and it is said that the reason for this, as stated by Tolkien, is that the lack of Christ means that ultimately these characters have no true purpose in life. He apparently could not bring himself to write a sequel because the future of Middle Earth is far darker than even The Lord of the Rings.

However, for the sake of comparing the two books, the most important aspect of Tolkien’s work is the Christian Worldview which lies underneath the entire book. This passage is an excellent sample, and one I will refer to again. There is no universal Christian Worldview, however certain characteristics are essential, and it is these which Tolkien uses in The Lord of the Rings. One is that God exists, in and of himself, from eternity past to eternity future. Another is that he created the world, and ultimately he has control over the world, and can stop the world from existing as easily as he created it. These are important factors in Sam’s realization in Mordor. By looking out upon the sky, he is considering the limited nature of the world and his own circumstances. The conclusion — that it is all unimportant in the grand scheme of things — is only reached because of the eternity which Sam observes. Although Tolkien does not state that God is the reason for this, it is clear that God’s eternity is the factor Tolkien is pointing us to. A Christian worldview is key to understanding The Lord of the Rings‘ interpretation of things like freedom, hope, humanity, and morality.

These two worldviews can be compared through the two works. Both give an excellent perspective on the main problems faced by each worldview, and the ways that they deal with those problems. Without going into detail of the arguments to be presented later in the series, it is important to establish that each of these worldviews is present and consistently applied within the books, because the overall impact of each one largely rests on the underlying assumptions and solutions to problems.

What would which Jesus do?

When a youtube video shows up on Andrew Sullivan’s blog AND Dan Gardner’s blog, you know it’s a good one:

Those are excerpts from the British comedy series, Outnumbered. Whoever wrote the script has a fine appreciation of Christianity’s inner tensions.

It’s OK to ask yourself, What would Jesus do?, but it gives rise to a follow-up question:  Which Jesus?

Jesus was meek and mild.

Yes, that’s true, Karen.

And besides, he knew that when King Herod got to hell, that God would roast him until his eyeballs exploded.

That tension — between the Jesus who would never “zap” a polar bear (let alone a human being) and the Jesus who will enjoy watching Herod roast in hell until his eyeballs explode — the Church is divided along that fault line.

Guess which part of the Church dominates the public agenda, at least in the USA?

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