Top (from left): Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. Bottom: John Besh, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, and Richard Dreyfuss. (AP images)
The past month or so, we’ve seen incident after incident after incident of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct (Weinstein, Franken, Moore, etc.). We’ve witnessed (or participated in) the #MeToo trend, bringing awareness to and identifying what is apparently a pervasive problem in our society. Yet, as these scandals have unfolded, many have responded with shock and surprise. “I can’t believe that [so and so] did that…”
Christians believe in the doctrine of sin — that humanity is broken and rebellious against God, rejecting his good purposes. And so, on the one hand, Christians are never totally surprised when humanity acts heinously. We have theological categories for this.
On the other hand, there’s a certain level of shock that should always be present — a shock that matches the degree of sin’s audacity. Even as we understand humanity’s disposition to sin and propensity to commit great acts of evil, this reality doesn’t make sin any less appalling. Furthermore, due to God’s (common) restraining grace on humanity, we expect people to treat others with a certain base-level of dignity, even in their sinfulness.
But, at this point in the cultural story, if you’re still surprised when the latest sexual assault scandal emerges, you shouldn’t be.
As always, James K.A. Smith is equally perceptive of cultural habits as he is insightful in his analysis of them.
In today’s The NFL’s Thanksgiving games are a spectacular display of America’s ‘God and country’ obsession, published over at the The Washington Post, Smith plays on a common thesis in his writings:
Whereas many see our culture’s habits, traditions, and institutions as mundane, non-religious affairs, James sees much more at stake. They are competing rituals, or “religious” liturgies competing for our worship and shaping our loves.
Christian worship is formative — forming us into a people who love Christ and his kingdom. Our competing cultural “liturgies” (e.g., here: a traditional NFL Thanksgiving; or in other places in Smith’s writing: e.g., the mall as a house of worship for consumerism — quite relevant for tomorrow’s Black Friday) have a deformative power, pulling on our affections and, in the process, misplacing them (idolatry).
Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is written to those who are Protestant, in an effort to help them sense the theological chasm between Protestantism and Rome. As such, it is not written as much with an eye towards Catholics, to help them understand Protestant convictions or arguments.
Almost all attention is given to unpacking Catholic thought. Protestant views are only mentioned occasionally in so much as to provide a contrast. But they are not expanded upon.
The above is not a critique of the book, just a clarification that if you are looking for a book that contrasts Protestant and Catholic belief, simultaneously making a case for Protestantism, for example, this is not your book. Sproul, rather, is detailing Catholic thought with an aim of depressing inappropriate ecumenical tendencies (i.e., blowing off differences with Rome) among protestants.
As he proceeds towards this aim, Sproul does a fair job presenting Catholic views. He is charitable, and avoids caricatures, which are all too common among protestants. He gives the needed nuance to Catholic views. He wants to help protestants genuinely understand Catholic theology, and to see it’s rationale.
This book is to be recommended for those looking to understand Catholicism better, specifically on those key subjects where it differs most significantly from Protestant thought.
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