Archive | August, 2010

I’m Working On It.

20 Aug

Sorry I haven’t written for such a long period of time.  I’ve moved into a new apartment and we don’t have internet.  Things are going really well down here, though.  I’ve been reading large amounts of material pertinent to the coming year and am really excited to get into the class room.  The professor I have for ‘The American Founding,’ Dr. West, wrote a book published in ’97 titled, ‘Vindicating the Founders.’  I read that yesterday and almost, only almost, found myself assenting to this Lockean form of liberal democracy.  West was very convincing in his arguments for why this system is best and I would heartily recommend the book to both conservatives and liberals alike.  My sticking point, by the end of the work, was the complete absence of excellence as a political end.  It just isn’t mentioned or given consideration!  I’m in the library right now, that’s why I can post.  I’m going to check out a book of Calhoun’s philosophy titled, ‘Union and Liberty.’  West’s book forced me to question most of my political sympathies for the South, I was even impressed by the Lincoln quotes he inserted into the book.  I almost don’t know if the South’s antebellum political philosophy is salvageable.  Did they, those Southern gentlemen, strive for excellence?  Was their Religion actual religion?  This year I’ll be giving alot of thought to the American Founding, which is one of my classes and I’ll be tracing the roots of 20th Century Progressive Thought, which is another class I’m taking.  Essentially, I think the prevailing sentiment at UDallas is that the founding was noble and sought to inculcate a true Republican Virtue but that the nation’s intellectuals around the beginning of the 20th Century began to adopt German Progressive views which then re-defined our notions of Liberty and Equality, which opened the door for the New Liberalism we see today.  Anyway, I’m doing well.  I’m knee deep in academic life and it hasn’t even started in earnest!  Oh, and I’m part timing at the UDallas bookstore!  It’s not as nice as the St. John’s bookstore, but it’s not too bad and I get a 10% discount.  I’m off to find Calhoun.  I miss you all and wish I could transport you down here to read books with me.




Your Moment of Zen.

9 Aug

A Wonderful Night

7 Aug

Yesterday two UD students became Doctors of Political Philosophy.  After their defenses they delivered short lectures on their theses, which I had the privilege of attending.  I only knew a handful of people at the event.  I was extremely impressed by both the two students finishing up and the company they attracted to their dissertation.  The two new Doctors were a young married couple and it seemed most everyone in attendance was married and about to finish up.

To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed and kept thinking that these people really have their lives together.  Will I ever have that confidence of having a thoughtful and pretty wife, an appointment to a university outside of Chicago and the admiration of so many professors and young stylish intelligentsia?  I was thinking all this while Andrea calmly and articulately delivered her lecture; I was sitting behind her husband Paul.  At the height of my being overwhelmed I noticed in the space between the cuff of Paul’s pant leg and the top of his shoe showed a sock with a hole in it.  I found this immensely comforting, “they’re people too.”

After they finished their lectures I hung around and talked with a couple of the professors I’ll have next year (such interesting men!) and met other students from UDallas, University of North Texas and UT Austin.  Everyone was going out to dinner and I was invited to come along, so I did.  The conversation was amazing and I was really enjoying myself.  Now, whenever someone brings up UNT one name is always the reason, Dr. Ruderman.  He was a Chicago graduate and has put out some good work over the years and made UNT’s political philosophy program a fairly popular destination.  So you can imagine my excitement when he came to dinner!  Unfortunately, he was too far away from me to talk to him at dinner.

After dinner we walked down the street to a bar called “The Old Monk” and that’s where we were to spend the remainder of the evening.  By this time I had finished two bourbon and ginger’s; I felt grand.  I found myself at a table with Dr. Ruderman and four other students and we eventually fell into talking about Locke and Rousseau.  The conversation was brilliant and exciting, very lively.  One of the girls was writing her dissertation on Rousseau so we came to focus on that and then on his relationship with Voltaire.  We came to focus on Voltaire because a fatty, who I decided I didn’t like, came in and talked endlessly about Voltaire.  At first I found it very interesting but interest turned to disgust as I realized how much of this guy’s thinking was about the person of Voltaire.  We weren’t wrangling about Voltaire’s ideas but about the person of Voltaire and long after anyone had stopped asking questions the fat man rambled on.  I left the table.  Austin’s wife, Laura did so as well and we got to talk about Nietzsche and Rousseau (she’s the one thinking about writing her dissertation on Rousseau) and then about Nietzsche and Paul.  She even knew about Mr. Grenke (she called him the large man with black hair who’s interested in Nietzsche and works at the Annapolis campus.)  Our conversation was wonderful because I was getting the chance to explain the harmony I saw between Nietzsche and Paul and she was asking very good questions that made me think new things.  Then the fat-man came over and started laughing at me because I liked Paul.  It was really shocking to both Laura and I and thankfully he walked away.  I learned that he wasn’t a UD graduate, but had graduated from somewhere else and was dating a UNT girl.  I’m happy to know I won’t share the same degree as him.  But by this time I was becoming self-conscious.  I had been talking to Austin’s wife for some time and didn’t want him thinking low of me so I drew other people into our conversation and felt much better.  And that’s really how the night went. I really enjoyed wearing nice clothes, drinking bourbon and talking with such wonderful people.

Talking in Tongues? Stupid.

5 Aug

I have been reading through the bible in a very lazy manner this past year and last night I read 1st Corinthians.  In chapter 14, Paul writes to the church in Corinth about speaking in tongues.  I thought it would be a good place, if one were interested, to begin to see scripture as a theological-political work.  I’ve always found the things of scripture to pertain to men, not just to the afterlife of men.  And the most identifying mark of a human is his political nature.  It will be easy for me to write about this passage because no one, well, very few people will be upset if we were to find speaking in tongues an unauthentic expression of faith.

To begin we have to understand what the letter to the Corinthians is, that is, it is a letter from Paul who is a representative of the Spirit of God to the Christian community in Corinth.  His purpose in writing to Corinth is twofold, to keep the peace within the Christian community at Corinth and to instruct them by way of writing, in some truths of the Spirit.

In chapter 14 Paul addresses the habit of some in the community of speaking in tongues.  When the community congregates there seems to be an excessive number of people who speak in tongues while there are others who prophesy and still others who sing.  This hodgepodge of activity would seem to be the primary gathering of Christians on some sort of regular basis.

Paul begins by saying, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries of the Spirit.  On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.  The one who speaks in tongues builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.”  This is an incredibly tactful statement.  He appeases those who speak in tongues by saying that they are truthfully speaking to God while showing the value of prophecy, a value much greater than that of speaking in tongues.  About the value of speaking in tongues, I believe him to be lying.  Or at least sincerely doubting that those speaking in tongues at Corinth were actually speaking in tongues.  Paul knows about the Pentecost, and he knows that what was amazing about the event wasn’t the Apostles speaking jibberish but that the foreigners understood their words because the Apostles were speaking in their language or at least in something they understood.  Paul makes it clear that anyone babbling about incoherently is useless to the community but he does so in a way not to harm the peace of the community over some member’s immature desire for attention.

He continues to keep the tongue-speakers happy by writing, “Thus tongues are a sign not for the believers but for the unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.”  I take this to refer to the Pentecost, where the believers had no idea what the hell was happening but the foreigners heard their language spoken and were amazed and he again shows that prophecy, which is spoken and wise to be beneficial. Immediately after this apparent resolution between prophecy and tongues Paul shows is doubt in the show of the fake-speakers when in the next sentence he writes, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues and the outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?  But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all … he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”  It is spoken wisdom not a mindless show that draws unbelievers into community.  He lets the fake-speakers feel important to avoid trouble but shows to the discerning reader what it is that will benefit their community.

He goes on to finish his discourse on speaking in tongues by laying down a general rule for their gatherings, “[when you are together] let all things be done for building up.  If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.  But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.”  Paul lays emphasis throughout one speech and conversation during their gatherings because these are actual political activities that benefit both the individuals and the whole.  No one benefits from hearing barbaric fake-speak.  And those who do this fake speaking are themselves harmed because they grow accustomed to self-flattery.  Goodness knows how annoyed the church leaders must’ve been with this.


One may object along the lines that a little earlier in chapter 14 Paul himself says, “I thank God I speak in tongues…” but this is also the man who in this same letter writes, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

This “all things to all people” really gets under peoples skin but truly it isn’t that different than distinguishing the necessary from the unnecessary.  Earlier in the letter Paul is absolutely pissed that people were dividing in Corinth by saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” about this nonsense and confusion (for while allegiances we may have, they should never be divisive for we are one in the gospel.) Paul tells them, “Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.  But I will come soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.  For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.  What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”  That’s a man with some steel in his spine.

The PC(USA) at Its Finest

3 Aug

This was the processional that opened the General Assembly in 2010.  That is the highest governing authority in my denomination.