Boys day out in Brunswick today and Will and I had two goals: acquisition of plumbing hardware ☑️ and wading through MLK Jr’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” delivered at the Detroit Council of Churches’ noon Lenten services. ☑️

No matter which side of whichever aisle you find yourself on, or if maybe you’re like me and don’t feel like you’re even in the same room as anyone else — many different things will be said at many different times, many of them very important, but none more perpetually relevant and requisite for us all than these “words lifted to cosmic proportions,” a command that is “an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization”: love your enemies.

And I submit to you that the first way that one can go about loving his enemy neighbor is to develop the capacity to forgive.

The other thing that we must do in order to love the enemy neighbor is this: we must seek at all times to win his friendship and understanding rather than to defeat him or humiliate him. There may come a time when it will be possible for you to humiliate your worst enemy or even to defeat him, but in order to love the enemy you must not do it. For in the final analysis, love means understanding goodwill for all men and a refusal to defeat any individual. And so somehow love makes it possible for you to place your vision and to center your activity on the evil system and not the individual enemy who may be caught up in that system. […]

And I think this is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemies.” And I’m so happy he didn’t say, “Like your enemies,” because it’s kind of difficult to like some people. Like is sentimental; like is an affectionate sort of thing. And you can’t like anybody who’s bombing your home and threatening your children. It’s hard to like a senator who’s spending all of his time in Washington standing against all of the legislation that will make for better relationships and that will make for brotherhood. It’s difficult to like them. But Jesus says, “Love them,” and love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive, creative goodwill for all men. And so Jesus was expressing something very creative when he said, “Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.” […]

And only by doing this are you able to transform the jangling discords of society into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood and understanding. […]

And this is the meaning of the cross as we move toward Easter. It is not just a meaningless drama taking place on the stage of history, but it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation… Love is the only answer. And so this morning, as I look into your eyes, as I lift my eyes beyond you and look into the eyes of the peoples of the world, I love you. I would rather die than hate you. And I believe that my spirit can meet your spirit, and your spirit, through this process, will meet my spirit; and through this collision of spirits, the kingdom of God will finally emerge.

“Just lemme suck on your chin”

Will and I are really enjoying JD Hunter’s Democracy and Solidarity, which I read to him every morning. So far it’s been a broad, and insightful, overview of America‘s “Hybrid-Enlightenment.” There is a subject, though, that rubs me the wrong way every time it’s mentioned: religious knowledge.

Here’s Hunter:

At the same time that religion remained symbolically important to local and national civic life for the broad mass of Americans, it was, as it turned out, without a great deal of substance. It was a remarkable paradox. To take one example, Bible distribution increased 140 percent between 1949 and 1953. Moreover, eight of ten Americans believed that the Bible was not merely a great piece of literature but in fact the revealed word of God. Yet most Americans couldn’t name the first four Gospels and more than half couldn’t name one of them. Americans revered Scripture, but apparently didn’t read it.

There’s a broader point being made that I don’t dispute. And I certainly take issue with and lament disparities between religious conviction and quality, belief and practice, faith and fruit. But, as I’ve written about before, I’ve never been shown a correlation between religious knowledge and practice. In fact, my assumption is that throughout most of history most people have remained happily, if not beneficially, ignorant of the fine details that move them.

When in history has this not been the case?

I believe it was Stanley Hauerwas who said that most American Christians actually needed their bibles taken away from them. I have for years found it difficult to disagree, and I don’t think it would do an ounce of harm, neither to the truth nor to religious practice.

📚 💬James Davison Hunter:

Like Schlesinger, [Walter] Lippmann recognized the instability of liberal democracy, an instability made more problematic by a general citizenry that had become, in effect, a mob with no capacity or even inclination for self-governance. Lippmann clearly had Senator McCarthy and his populist followers in mind. He found McCarthy’s demagoguery and campaign of fear utterly repellent and McCarthy himself an ambitious and ruthless agitator set on cultivating his following to become “a mere horde of frightened, angry, suspicious and suspected separate egos.” […]

Public opinion, as Lippmann argued, was now shaped by the techniques of mass communication and was therefore subject to manipulation through stereotypes, prejudices, and out-and-out propaganda. Ordinary citizens, then, had evolved into a mob because they had no “objective” understanding of their own interests and no capacity to act on them anyway. Worse still, no one could claim a privileged insight into or authoritative comprehension of the public good. The American public upon whose will democracy depended did not really exist. It was a fiction-in his own words, a “phantom.” […]

In Lippmann’s account, modern democracies had “abandoned the main concepts, principles, precepts, and the general manner of thinking” that characterize the public philosophy, and its cultural heritage had not been transmitted to recent generations. It was, then, essential to “revive,” “renew,” and “rework” the public philosophy for the modern age. The adaptation of its “common and binding principles was more necessary than it had ever been.” If this was not accomplished, then “the free and democratic nations face the totalitarian challenge without a public philosophy which free men believe in and cherish, with no public faith beyond a mere official agnosticism, neutrality and indifference."

…Lippmann found in his reading of Sartre “a proclamation of anarchy” that provides no framework of solidarity within a fragmented society, nor even a will to find any solidarity. The stripping away of any concept of a mind-independent truth creates a vacuum that is filled by “the intoxication of power,” an intoxication that is “the greatest danger of our time.” Indeed, he wrote, “any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disaster.”


Vincent van Gogh to Emile Bernard:

Science — scientific reasoning — strikes me as being an instrument that will go a very long way in the future.

For look: people used to think that the earth was flat. That was true, and still is today, of, say, Paris to Asnières.

But that does not alter the fact that science demonstrates that the earth as a whole is round, something nobody nowadays disputes.

For all that, people still persist in thinking that life is flat and runs from birth to death.

But life, too, is probably round, and much greater in scope and possibilities than the hemisphere we now know.

The steeples of Bath

“Memories were not made to be beaten.”

    ~Kai Cheng Thom~

Ivo Andríc:

I listen carefully to all these discussions, both those between you two and other educated people in this town; also I read the newspapers and reviews. But the more I listen to you, the more I am convinced that the greater part of these spoken or written discussions have no connection with life at all and its real demands and problems. For life, real life, I look at from very close indeed; I see its influence on others and I feel it on myself. It may be that I am mistaken and that I do not know how to express myself well, but I often think that technical progress and the relative peace there is now in the world have created a sort of lull, a special atmosphere, artificial and unreal, in which a single class of men, the so-called intellectuals, can freely devote themselves to idleness and to the interesting game of ideas and ‘views on life and the world’. It is a sort of conservatory of the spirit, with an artificial climate and exotic flowers but without any real connection with the earth, the real hard soil on which the mass of human beings move. You think that you are discussing the fate of these masses and their use in the struggle for the realization of higher aims which you have fixed for them, but in fact the wheels which you turn in your heads have no connection with the life of the masses, nor with life in general. That game of yours becomes dangerous, or least might become dangerous, both for others and for you yourselves."

🍿Movie night last night. Finally found some time to sit down and watch All Illusions Must Be Broken. And wow. What a unique and needed film. See it. And make everyone you know see it.