Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gil Meche and $$$$

Back in December 2010, Cliff Lee turned down a big paycheck from the Yankees--running afoul we said of the American religion of money making. In today's news, Tyler Kepner reports for the New York Times that Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals took it a step further. Injured, and feeling that he would not earn the $12 million he would be paid this year, Meche retired. Were he not a pitcher, we'd call this a home run.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

God, On Trial

Summons: you are herewith called to jury duty.

The defendant is God. The charges are many, but the most serious is ‘crimes against humanity.’ Discrete charges include genocide, hate mongering, inciting war, demonization of others, the rape and victimization of the innocent, and dehumanization (the destruction of human reason). A problem for the prosecution is that the defendant cannot be delivered to court, and there are serious doubts about his actual existence.

Some prosecutors thus invoke RICO, to show a broader pattern of corruption. Here, God is viewed as the Boss of a crime family, to be tried in absentia. God’s underboss, consigliere, capos and soldatos can be brought to trial, and indeed some have perpetrated terrible crimes—and are now doing time. On the other hand, intense investigation has revealed that some of the family members live profoundly good lives, as even the prosecutors recognize. Some spend their lives giving to others, seeking nothing for themselves.

In the long history of this crime family, even some underbosses have comported themselves in saintly fashion. Yet even these ‘good capos’ do the work of the Boss, and he is, so the case goes, the source of hellish malice. That he allows some good work to be done in the community—caring for the little old ladies once in awhile to maintain image—should not allow us to forget that he is a master criminal, intent on destroying all of his adversaries. He would be quite happy to use a WMD, if he gets his hands on one.

Defense attorneys have called character witnesses to show that God’s fundamental goodness is revealed in the making and staffing of hospitals, caring for the poor, championing justice, and the creating the dynamics that power civilizations. Parts of the trial have been marked by intense cross-examination, with images of brutal killing, dismemberment, and rape being countered by images of healing, love for enemies, and extraordinary compassion.

Yet another innovative defense strategy claims that God may not be tried, since he is creator of all, and thus surpasses justice. This legal brief claimed that only God’s own testimony could count as evidence of divine guilt. Some prosecutors have found old, hand written notes in which God does in fact express remorse and guilt. There’s even a curious recurring episode—found in three of the central families: the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic, where the Boss tries and in one case succeeds at having the underboss killed. Defense attorneys and prosecutors alike see this is probative evidence, but they differ in regard to its meaning. Prosecutors see it as evidence that the Boss is as morally corrupt as they have been alleging, but defense attorneys see it as evidence of the Boss’s moral goodness.

Image courtesy of Ondřej Žváček
via Wikimedia Commons
Some bystanders want the charges to be dismissed, but others continue to clamor for a trial. The prosecutors feel the pinch of political pressure and allure of glory. Thus, the trial continues. Defense attorneys have uncovered evidence that all is not well on the prosecutors side of the table. Indeed, some of the prosecutors themselves have committed acts that outrage the conscience. Some parts of the prosecutorial apparatus seem also amenable to RICO statute prosecution, but the prosecution is no more able to put itself on trial than God is. Fireworks related to these allegations distracted from the trial but did not mean much about the guilt or innocence of the Boss.

In light of these extraordinary circumstances, a world-wide jury has been convened to hear the case. It’s a sad fact that many jury members showed up to the trial with their minds already made up—some believing the Boss was guilty, and others believing that he was innocent. But not all. Some arrived to trial expecting to deliberate on the basis of evidence presented.

Join the trial. Court is in session.

Rated R Theological Analysis

Check it out, if you're cool with the Rated R quality of it...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Theology listens to Barber's Adagio for Strings

I am thinking tonight about Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, trying to comprehend its power. Its melancholy suits it perfectly to provide evocative background in film, and indeed this is frequently where I hear it. Why does the piece resonate so deeply?

It seems to convey simultaneous sadness and beauty, rooted in the experience of something that can’t be let go but can’t be kept, something that harms us to know and hold because its loss is unpreventable. This is a quintessential human experience. The highest moment, the most tender embrace, the deepest love, the newest unfolding—each of these, by definition,  is expected without realization and if experienced soon lost. The candle of infinity always flickers out.

Yet for all this, we can’t resist the pull and call of this deep connection, whether it’s love, feeling, beauty—their combination in procreation or vocation—or some other basic need.

Theology holds that this deep yearning is a call of the divine, which is not necessarily to say ‘God.’ But, forsaking caution, let us name this call ‘God,’ and with it invite the realization that our lives are fragmented and momentary—brief and wondrous. That also suggests ‘God’ does not solve this dilemma for us, but is rather a melancholic way of stating its invitation to and claim upon us.

The temptation is surrender to inurement and willful distraction, a refusal to experience possibility as a means of preventing the sting of loss. The tragedy of this approach is that it ensures a deeper loss, since it denies the possibility of gain. It forsakes life itself.

The Adagio for Strings is a hearing, a prayer of gain and its loss, of the sad beauty of life. 


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