“Truthiness,” Post-Fact society, and Empire

Steven Cobert coined the term “truthiness” when his TV show, The Cobert Report, launched on Comedy Central. “Steven Cobert believed America to be split between two camps whose philosophies could never reconcile – those who ‘think with their head‘ and those who ‘know with their heart,’ he explained, was the quality of a thing feeling true without any evidence suggesting it actually was.” (Click on truthiness above for the wiki that gives some good examples.)

“Thus by the time Cobert took to the airwaves, by the time James Frey landed in trouble, the rift between the actual and the artificial had already become a topic of wide discussion. For many on the left, it was Bush himself who stood as the clear cause of it. A born-again Christian who credits unquestioning faith with saving him from delinquency, Bush is notoriously, even proudly uncurious about the world. Online, many bloggers highlighted this detachment by branding themselves of ‘the reality-based community.’ This was a reference to an infamous and revealing interview that an unnamed Bush aide had once given to the journalist Ron Suskind. According to the aide, opponents of Bush were part of ‘what we call the reality-based community’ – a label not meant to be complimentary, because to the aide, ‘discernible reality’ was a stock of faltering value. The United States was ‘an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,’ the official told Suskind. ‘And while you’re studying the reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.’” [True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, by Farhad Manjoo, pp.191-192]

I remember a while back reading several articles on Neo-Conservatism and about those within our current administration who were neo-conservatives. One aspect of neo-conservatism mentioned in the articles was the notion of the “American Empire” – we are to be (or already are) an empire and should act as one in the world. Our current foreign policy demonstrates the ascendancy of this ideology. We can also see this ideology within the American-Christian Religious Right and their frenzied attitude concerning America – the idea that the United States is a divinely created and prospered country.
I wrote in a blog post a while back (among several) that I do not want Empire! There is no need for this country to be an empire! Why should we be? What do we gain from being such a thing? Certainly not security.
I contend that there are those who have made the United States of America an idol. American has become their god and they worship at the foot of this nation-state. Their sense of self-worth and purpose is embedded in the “success” of this nation-state and comes from imposing their way of thinking – religiously, politically, culturally – on all others. Their hubris blinds them to “reality” and establishes a fantastical idea of the world and their place in it – “feeling” over “discernible reality .” They would rather have goose-bumps than truth.
I am certainly thankful for the freedoms we have in the U.S., for the opportunities available to those who work hard (at least in the past), for our Constitutional form of government, and for the good that we as a people have done in the past (recognizing the harm that we have also caused), but as a Christian I believe that this is only a nation-state that will wax and wane, be virtuous and corrupt, and will ultimately survive as a worthwhile society only when we put aside our self-interest and work against arrogant-pride and the vainglory of empire.

Just some traditional church architecture

Speaking of traditional church architecture (see below), here are some photos I took of St. Paul’s Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. St. Paul’s is the parish in which I serve. I, for one, love the architecture (Upjohn and Cram).
Click here to see some photos I took during Lent (you’ll notice the purple coverings).
There is a constant stream of people coming in to look at the church whenever the doors are open. It is a fixture in the neighborhood – a traditionally working-class Roman Catholic neighborhood that is gentrifying with bunches of young, yuppy types with strollers. At times, we have “stroller-jams” before and after services. I often hear people describe St. Paul’s as “the English Church.”

Just for the fun of it…

You think some “conservative” Anglicans are down on The Episcopal Church. You think some American-Evangelicals are down on Anglicanism, period. Well, consider how this Fundamentalist website views The Episcopal Church, the Church of England, and Anglicanism.
Let me be like the Religious Right websites when they warn you to click on a link at your own risk.
Clink on this link at your own risk!
A foretaste of glory divine:

” The Episcopalian Religion is straight out of the pits of hell. They teach that performing the seven sacraments are absolutely essential to go to heaven. This is the same damnable heresy which Roman Catholicism teaches.”

The “unchurched” and church architecture

Interesting results from a study on church architecture and the “unchurched,”

“Stetzer suggested that the unchurched may prefer the more aesthetically pleasing look of the Gothic cathedral because it speaks to a connectedness to the past. Young unchurched people were particularly drawn to the Gothic look. Those between the ages of 25 to 34 used an average of 58.9 of their preference points on the more ornate church exterior. Those over the age of 70 only used an average of 32.9 of their 100 preference points on that particular church exterior.
“I don’t like modern churches, they seem cold,” said one survey respondent who chose the Gothic design. “I like the smell of candles burning, stained-glass windows, [and] an intimacy that’s transcendent.”
More than half of the unchurched indicated the design of a church building would impact their enjoyment of a visit to church. Twenty-two percent said the design of the church would strongly impact their enjoyment of the visit and 32 percent indicated it would have some impact. More than a third said it would have no impact whatsoever on their visit.
Stetzer noted that despite these survey results, most of the churches that look like a cathedral are in decline. Just because someone has a preference for the aesthetically pleasing, Gothic churches doesn’t mean they’ll visit the church if that’s the only connection point they have to the congregation, he said.

It is a small study and I don’t think we can made concluding or definitive statements because of it, but it does add to the continuing body of evidence and the realization that things are a-changin’, and not in the direction that certain people want things to go. Read the whole article here.
Hat-tip: Titus19

Try experiments on my rats

I just want to repeat a portion of the C.S. Lewis quote below. I think it needs repeating:

“Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude the question, ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

What’s dangerous about this naïveté

A quote from the book, “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society,” by Farhad Manjoo:

“It’s important to remember that the death penalty advocates and opponents in Ross and Lepper’s study didn’t know that they were interpreting information in a skewed way. Indeed, Ross says, each of us thinks that on any given subject our views are essentially objective, the product of a dispassionate, realistic accounting of the world. This is naive realism, though, because we are incapable of recognizing the biases that operate upon us. Think of the Dartmouth and Princeton football fans I told you about earlier. When they looked at identical film clips of a game, each side ‘saw’ a different reality. They did not know – and really, could not know – that their perception of the event didn’t match the reality of it because, for them, the perception was indistinguishable from its reality. How they ‘saw’ the game was how it really was.
“What’s dangerous about this naïveté is that it spins out into our appraisals of other people. We’re jarred and offended when other people don’t agree with what, to us, is so brilliantly clear. ‘If we think we see the world the way it is,’ Ross explains, ‘then we think that reasonable people ought to agree with us. And to the extent that people disagree with us, we conclude that they are not reasonable – they’re biased’… ‘If we let you look at other people’s responses, we find that exactly to the extent that the other person disagrees with you, you think they’re biased. You think their opinion reflects biases rather than rational consideration.'” (p. 152)

Do you think this may well explain our current Anglican inability to meet one another in a form of understanding that can lead to compromise?

The City #21

Riding the subway this morning, I had a feeling of dread thinking about the verdict coming this morning concerning the Shawn Bell trial. I’m worried about the outcome.
Update: The verdict is in and all three policemen were acquitted. What happens, now?
This morning I debated wearing clericals at the last minute before I left for work. Friday’s are “business casual” at CPG, and frankly I didn’t want to wear anything around my neck. Sitting on the subway, I wish I had.
There were a couple black people sitting around me, and I wanted to ask them what they thought would happen this afternoon. I wanted to know what they were thinking and feeling about all this. I didn’t because I am a “white-boy asking stupid questions,” someone intruding upon personal space. There comes a point when a person just doesn’t want to try to explain a lifetime of experience to someone they know they will never see again – especially someone they think cannot understand to begin with.
Wearing a collar, well, there is still an identification with something more than someone who just can’t understand and who won’t do anything anyway. (Don’t laugh.) With a collar, there is a generally understood justification for asking such questions. People still recognize a “something more than self-interest” – a concern that goes beyond the individual, beyond race, beyond being worried about my own lily-white behind.
The other thing is that the collar still gets a priest into places a “regular/normal” person can’t go. The collar still gives me an entré into people’s lives (strangers) that I can’t enter otherwise (and of course the opposite can be true, too). There is still, remarkably, a respect for the collar. It’s also becoming a curiosity.
Anyway, I wish I would have gone with my instincts and worn clericals. My soul is heavy, right now. There are no easy answers, and too many people will be terribly grieved this day. Was the judge right in his decision? Hindsight will tell us, but right now it doesn’t make a difference. People are functioning on emotion and not rational thought. Tomorrow and the days ahead, hopefully we will be rational.