Category Archives: Observations

01.27.2023 – I Don’t Have to Get Mad

I don’t like them.  But I don’t have to get mad.

Statues are in the news again, but this time not those that are being torn down.  Rather, a couple of new statues have been unveiled, and I don’t like either of them.  At least not now, and likely never.

You may have heard of the “Embrace,” a bronze statue honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., recently dedicated in its new home in the Boston Common.  Conservative cable news hosts and Twitter influencers have made all sorts of unkind and sometimes lewd comments about the statue. People are mad about it.

Can’t say I like “Embrace.”

This week’s New York Times has another story about a statue temporarily placed on the roof of the state appellate courthouse in Manhattan. She is called “NOW” and is described in the Times article as “a shimmering, golden eight-foot female sculpture, emerging from a pink lotus flower and wearing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s signature lace collar. Staring regally ahead with hair braided like spiraling horns, the sculpture, installed as part of an exhibition that opened last week, is the first female to adorn one of the courthouse’s 10 plinths, dominated for more than a century by now weathered statues representing great lawgivers throughout the ages — all of them men.”

I can’t say I like “NOW.”

“NOW” joins Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster, King Alfred the Great, Saint Louis, Manu, Lycurgus, Solon, and Justinian who have stood on the roof for over a century representing humanity’s great lawgivers (Muhammed was once among them, but his statue was taken down long ago in deference to Muslim belief about images of the prophet and long before statues were partisans in the culture wars).

Besides the startling clash of “NOW’s” yellow bronze with the marble of her compatriots on the roof, her mythological inferences seem out of place with the depiction of historical lawgivers, though we might be reminded that the courthouse statuary includes symbolic female depictions of Justice, Equity, and Truth.

So, informed art critic that I am not, I don’t much care for “Embrace” or “NOW” – or some of the ideology that may be in their creators’ minds.  But I don’t have to get mad.

Interestingly, the National Review, not normally known for its wokeness, published a column by its resident art critic on the “Embrace” statue.  His conclusion?  “It’s unorthodox and not boring, and people will probably come to love it.”  Maybe I will come to love it.  Or maybe not. But I don’t have to get mad.

As has been noted many times by many people, our culture is a culture addicted to rage and anger.  One writer says social media is lighter fluid in a world where we love to see sparks fly. We like to get mad.  Rage is our first response to things we do not like.

Sure enough, as I write this having read the New York Times article published this morning (an article with all its ideological biases on full display, by the way), the usual suspects are shooting lighter fluid in hopes of a major conflagration.  One headline screams about a “‘Satanic golden Medusa’ abortion statue outside New York City Courthouse.”

When the Vietnam Memorial was first unveiled in 1982, I did not much like it. Among other things, I though it detracted from the Lincoln Memorial – a real memorial if their ever was one.  When we visited the Vietnam Memorial a decade later, we experienced its haunting affect as have so many others.  It is a powerful work of art.

Time will not necessarily change my opinions about “Embrace” and “NOW.”  I am likely never to like them.  But I don’t have to get mad.

01.20.2023 – Translating Culture is Hard Work

You may remember that for the past year or so Becky and I have had the privilege of working with an Afghan family evacuated from the country as Kabul fell to the Taliban.  We have become friends and our friendship extends far beyond those who offer help and those who receive help.  Ask about the meal they shared with us last week!

But we still help.

Throughout this past fall and now into the winter, we spend less time with English lessons and more time with culture lessons.  It is encouraging to watch our friends successfully navigate daily encounters with the bureaucracy of government and schools and banks.  They are doing well.  But every so often something comes up that requires some inside-the-culture attention.

Late last spring our friends were able to purchase a used car – and what a good thing that has been.  A 6-month/6,000-mile warranty was included in the purchase price.  Fortunately, they’ve had no need to make a claim against the warranty. The car runs well. Continue reading

01.13.2023 – Jesus and Whataboutism

Document storage in our garage

Whataboutism. They say the word has been around since the 1970s, but I cannot recall hearing in much until the last few years. It is way overused, but I like it. I like the word, not the practice. 

Merriam-Webster defines whataboutism as “the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse.”

We learn whataboutism at an early age – in the sandbox or on the playground. When a teacher or a parent catches us in some misdeed, we are quick to look around and point to a sibling or playmate. “What about Sally?” Timmy asks, seeking to deflect blame and attention from himself.

Whataboutism comes as second nature for the politicians in their sandboxes. We see it all the time and more and more often.

A political leader is accused of some wrongdoing – often an accusation that has all the signs of being true – and we say, “Yeah, but what about_________.”  If you are not sure about the issues involved, filling the blank with the names Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – or John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe — will probably do. Continue reading

01.06.2023 – On Liturgical Clickbait – in praise of faithfulness

This being the Twelfth Day of Christmas, there’s time for one more thought about Christmas. I won’t be writing about twelve drummers drumming, however.

I have a confession to make, though not a confession in the sense of an admission of guilt. This confession is more of the “here I stand, I can do no other” sort:

I don’t much like the new Christmas song everyone likes.

The Christmas Eve worship service we attended began with the new song. I vaguely remember hearing it last year and it seemed to be everywhere this year, the perfect song for our dystopic times. Intentionally provocative, the song is called “O Come, All Ye Unfaithful,” an unapologetic play on the title (and the tune) of the old hymn of similar name.

The song, from Sovereign Grace, first hit the Contemporary Christian Music charts in 2020 and has become ubiquitous. It spoke to a Christmas of lockdowns and now to our post-Covid world. Continue reading

12.30.2022 – What if God Really is Good – all the time

I have never much liked the low church liturgy wherein the worship leader says, “God is good,” and the people respond, “all the time.”  The leader then repeats, “All the time,” and the people say, “God is good.”

In the high churches the liturgist says, “In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,” and the people respond, “Good Lord, deliver us.”

It may be nothing more than a matter of opinion, but I find the first litany to be trite as much as it may be true.  I find the second speaking into the reality of our lives.  Maybe it’s just me.

In fact, God is good. All the time. And we must beseech his deliverance in all times of tribulation and of prosperity.

As the old year ends and the new year begins, we reflect on things just past and wonder about things soon to come.  Christians both reflect and wonder in the light of God’s goodness and our need for deliverance. All the time. Continue reading