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Quote For The Day

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 6:45pm
by Dish Staff

“[T]he close unity of Incarnation and Cross should be kept in view. Christ came first as a baby, one totally dependent, a pure recipient (and rather like the adopted child example above – unplanned in the extreme). As receiver of the gifts of material comfort, human love and approval, and earthly power, Christ’s reception is marked by self-abnegation at every turn. The truest receptivity of the gifts of others will take the form of suffering; suffering a gift which redefines the form of one’s life completely. A gift, which comes unbidden and may wreak change upon the recipient, finds its most extreme form in death, which Christ accepted with open arms, even while acknowledging its conflict with his own desires: ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ The Incarnation, the voluntary stripping of the Word’s divine prerogatives, foreshadows and even anticipates the Cross, the stripping of life itself, a surrendering posture of utter receptivity which creates the passive material of Resurrection.

For human gift-giving, there’s actually not that much of a practical parallel I can draw here, except that we should feel a little unburdened from the twin Laws of giving the perfect present and perfectly defining one’s taste. We tend to see the season merely as an affirmation of the lives or identities we have chosen, but there’s a disruptive element, too. We identify both with the one whose gift was rejected and as those who did (and still do, at least partially) the rejecting. It’s a time which aims to celebrate not reciprocity in relations, but asymmetry – that oddly-apportioned set of shoes from an uncle, for instance. We can’t live too much in that world now, but we think back on a story of an absolute gift, one beyond the logic of return and exchange, and we look for the new in Advent, too: new beginnings, unexpected gifts, even an intrusive houseguest or two,” – Will McDavid, “Gifts Beyond Reciprocity.”

Face Of The Day

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 6:01pm
by Dish Staff

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Sara Barnes captions:

Photographer Rebecca Rütten is interested in the paintings from the Renaissance period and contemporary fast food culture like Taco Bell and McDonalds. You wouldn’t think that the two would intersect, but in Rütten’s series Contemporary Pieces, they do. The German artist combines elements of the traditional with greasy burgers and fries. ”I became enamored with the eroticism, presentation and charisma of paintings from the Renaissance Period. In the Late Renaissance, Italian and Dutch painters dealt with the middle and lower classes,” she writes in a statement about the work. To Rütten, fast food represents the two social groups. “To eat healthy is expensive,” she continues. “However, one can buy large amounts of food at a fast food restaurant for a comparatively low price.”

Rütten asked tattooed and pierced friends to model for her and recreate the poses of laborers, gypsies, and prostitutes in Caravaggio paintings. The exquisite and dramatic images are simultaneously beautiful and repulsive. For every flower or fancy goblet there are mounds of saturated fat. It’s not only a culture clash, but a fusion of foodstuffs associated with lower class and fine items for the upper crust of society.

It’s A Miracle!

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 5:23pm
by Dish Staff

Or maybe not. Recently Matt Lewis, as part of a longer discussion of modern belief in miracles, mentioned one from his own life:

For instance, once, many years ago, I went out late at night try to start my car and go somewhere (this was at a time in my life when my night didn’t begin until, say, 11 pm). If my car had started, I would have backed onto Maryland’s Route 17, as I always did when heading south, and I would have been hit by a speeding car. Now, I always backed onto the road, but this was not a problem since you could see for a long distance. Except, on this particular night, seconds after my car didn’t start, another car flew by without its headlights on. There is no doubt that something was technically wrong with my car. Had I summoned a mechanic at that instant, he could probably have quantified the reason my ignition failed to start. There would have been a scientific or mechanical reason.

But why did it happen at this very moment when I was in danger? Perhaps it was only a coincidence. But I’d like to think it showed that God intervened, that he has a purpose for me.

Damon Linker asserts that what Lewis describes isn’t really what traditionally has been meant by miracles – instead, his story merely is a form of “soft providentialism” – and goes on to run down the critique of miracles leveled by early modern philosophers like Hobbes, Spinoza, and Hume. How those arguments have shaped the world in which we live:

Centuries later, the philosophical critique of miracles has been so successful that many of the faithful are more comfortable affirming the truth of soft providentialism, which is perfectly compatible with science because it makes no empirically verifiable (or refutable) truth-claims about the world at all. It’s even compatible with Darwinian evolution, which posits the radically non-theistic view that species evolve through a process of random mutation and adaptation, since it’s always possible that God plays a crucial and hidden (but scientifically undemonstrable) role in the process. Perhaps God causes evolution’s seemingly random mutations, or controls the environment to which these mutated organisms adapt themselves.

The good news for religion is that it has survived the philosophical-scientific assault on miracles. But the bad news for religion is that it now lingers on in a profoundly weakened state. Where faith once confidently ventured truth-claims about the whole of creation and its metaphysical underpinnings, now it often offers mere expressions of subjective feeling about a world that science exclusively reveals and explains. That represents a remarkable retreat.

Mental Health Break

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

Watch as fog fills the Grand Canyon:

by Dish Staff

Last week marked three hundred years since the birth of George Whitefield, whom Thomas Kidd, author of George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Fatherdescribes as “the greatest evangelist of the eighteenth century, and the best known person in colonial America prior to the Revolution.” More background from Kidd:

George Whitefield, born on Dec. 16, 1714, was a Church of England minister who led the Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals that swept through dish_whitefieldBritain and America in the mid-1700s. Whitefield drew enormous audiences wherever he went on both sides of the Atlantic, and his publications alone doubled the output of the American colonial presses between 1739 and 1742. If there is a modern figure comparable to Whitefield, it is Billy Graham. But even Mr. Graham has followed a path first cut by Whitefield.

What made Whitefield and his gospel message so famous? First, he mastered the period’s new media. Cultivating a vast network of newspaper publicity, printers and letter-writing correspondents, Whitefield used all means available to get the word out. Most important, he joined with Benjamin Franklin, who became Whitefield’s main printer in America, even though Franklin was no evangelical. Their business relationship transformed into a close friendship, although Whitefield routinely pressed Franklin, unsuccessfully, about his need for Jesus.

In an interview, Kidd draws out Whitefield’s importance for American history:

To call Whitefield “America’s Spiritual Founding Father” is, in part, just to acknowledge that before the Revolution he was the most famous man in America, period. I also think he represents a kind of evangelical faith that continues to have huge cultural traction in America in a way that it does not in the U.K. And in an inarticulate, symbolic way, Americans at the time of the Revolution appropriated Whitefield as their spiritual founding father.

The best example of this is when the Continental Army is on a 1775 campaign against Canada. They stop in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on the Sabbath, and they don’t want to march on the Sabbath, so they have a service in the Presbyterian church where Whitefield is buried. They go down to the crypt, the officers open up the crypt, and there’s Whitefield’s dead body. They take his clerical collar and wristbands, cut the things up, and pass them out to the troops. They never explain why they do this. It’s just something that seems like the right thing to do, because what Whitefield is about is what we’re about. Whitefield is somehow about liberty and freedom, and we love him, and he’s our hero. So this passing out of Whitefield’s relics just makes sense to the officers of the Continental Army in 1775.

Adelle M. Banks notes Whitefield’s support for slavery:

In his early visits to the U.S., Whitefield condemned the beating of slaves by their masters and encouraged evangelizing slaves. But he later became a slave owner.

“I think he probably shares in some respect the sort of failure … of evangelicals as well as the larger culture to understand the horrors of slavery,” said Haykin, whose seminary held a conference on Whitefield in October. “He was the man directly responsible for the introduction of slavery into Georgia.”

Some scholars wonder what difference Whitefield could have made if he had condemned slavery — as fellow evangelist John Wesley did after Whitefield’s death in 1770. “No one was more influential than Whitefield at the time. What if he had crusaded against slavery instead of advocating for it?” wrote blogger Alan Cross, author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, in SBC Voices. “Would the United States have begun differently 30, 40 years later?”

(Portrait of Whitefield, 1770, via Wikimedia Commons)

Bright Ideas

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 1:28pm
by Dish Staff

Today is the shortest day of the year, leading Brian Handwerk to examine the health benefits of sunshine:

Light treatments using both natural light and artificial lamps have some history as preventative measures and even as treatments for diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency. And moderate exposure to natural light usually produces an appropriate amount of vitamin D, although the exact amount varies greatly with climate, skin pigment and other factors. … “The most interesting recent development to me is the [number of] probable other beneficial effects of a bit of sun exposure or time outdoors,” says epidemiologist Robyn Lucas at the Australian National University. Lucas was lead author of a World Health Organization study about the global health burden due to UV exposure. “There are recent studies showing beneficial effects on blood pressure, development of obesity and modulation of immune function to be less autoreactive, so lower incidence of autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis.”

One recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested that exposing skin to sunlight can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, possibly because it alters levels of nitric oxide in human skin and blood. When the sun shines, small amounts of this messenger molecule are transferred from the skin to the circulatory system, dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, the research posits. And in preliminary work in laboratory mice, nitric oxide released by UV exposure seemed to help curb weight gain and lower the risk of diabetes—although the researchers caution that they can’t yet be sure whether the effects translate to people.

The View From Your Window

Dish Staff —  Dec 21 2014 @ 12:31pm
by Dish Staff

image

Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar, 10.15 am

The reader who sent this window view captions it:

The temple dogs at this Shan monastery take some refreshment.