Postpandemic Partying, Stuffy and Trendy Jesus, and the Revolt Against Free Love

A recovering environmentalist, a reactionary feminist, and Moses walk into Three Things.

Upcoming Event—What Do We Do With Richard Rohr?

Join us for a talk and discussion about the elder statesman for disenfranchised evangelicals on June 24th at 8:00 pm.

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The popular and controversial Franciscan priest and Christian mystic, Father Richard Rohr, has become an elder statesman for disenfranchised evangelicals and spiritual seekers of every stripe. He presents a version of Christianity that syncs with modern progressive values, but changes the meaning of almost every central Christian teaching. His unique theological mashup of Christian elements with Buddhism, New Age thinking, and modern intuitions has proved to be a “theology for the modern era” and many people find what he has to say both attractive and personally helpful.

Come listen to Andy lay out his views on why Rohr is so popular and his critique of Rohr’s unique version of Christianity—then stay for the discussion afterwards.

Now on to the issue.

Moses’ Guide to Postpandemic Parties

Why God’s people should feast after COVID

Michael Rhodes doesn’t want to go back to church. Thanks to lockdown, he no longer feels the need for community or the desire to be with other believers in person. “I like these ideas in theory, of course,” he writes. “But I don’t miss them in my bones.”

Rhodes spends his days teaching the Old Testament to college students. His current feelings remind him of Israel’s wilderness wanderings and how Moses warned them that the transition to the Promised Land would provide new opportunities for “rebellion and division”, the very temptations many Christians are experiencing now.

How do God’s people resist? By feasting. As Moses commanded, “You shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place which he will choose to establish his name, all the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and of the firstborn of your herd and flock, in order that you will learn to fear YHWH your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). Rhodes asks,

Why does the Lord invite the people to feast with him? Because he wants them to know, deep in their bones, that their desires can only ever be satisfied at the table of their divine King. And the way to get that knowledge into their bones is through their bellies. Israel will be a people who have tasted—quite literally—the extravagant generosity of their God.

The lesson the Lord is teaching them, though, can’t be learned alone. The feast that the Lord invites them to is a feast in his presence and alongside the full community.

Read Moses’ Guide to Postpandemic Parties over at CT. For more from Michael Rhodes, check out Practicing the King's Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give.

The Sexual Counterrevolution is Coming

Mary Harrington on the revolt against free love

Meet Charlotte and Narayan, two twenty-something Ivy-league graduates who would each like to marry and settle down. To get there, Charlotte has taken on ‘modest dress’, eschewing anything that would reveal her collarbones, shoulders or legs above the knee. Narayan, for his part, has no desire to ‘play the field’. He’s dating to marry and, along with his closest male friends, would like to marry a virgin.

“Charlotte and Narayan are not the uptight fundamentalists or ugly, embittered feminists of stereotype,” writes Mary Harrington. They are part of a new wave of young people pushing back against the fusion of sex and commerce that began in the twentieth century.

The pill and Playboy were supposed to be liberating, but birth control stripped women of the most convincing reason to say ‘No’ to unwanted sexual advances and porn has mushroomed into a billion-dollar industry that ceaselessly perpetuates abuse. Charlotte and Narayan are fed up – and they are not alone. As Harrington writes,

When it comes to sexuality, the question is less how we can have it all than ‘what are we willing to trade?’ The sexual revolution sought to ease the burden of shame and social constraint — especially for women. Yet if we listen to its inheritors, the outcome has not been polymorphous pleasure but escalating degradation; not female erotic emancipation but violence masquerading as desire; not a garden of earthly delights but desensitization, loneliness and a collapsing birth rate.

The price of fusing empowerment and freedom with desire and commerce turned out to be human intimacy

Read The Sexual Counterrevolution is Coming at The Spectator (it does have some graphic bits, so be forewarned). For more from ‘reactionary feminist’ Mary Harrington, check out Love in the Marketplace: What’s for sale on online dating sites? over at Plough or her elegant bashing of Friends.

The Cross and the Machine

The unlikely conversion of Paul Kingsnorth

Growing up in urban England, novelist, essayist and poet Paul Kingsnorth was surrounded by two kinds of Christianity. One was stuffy and trafficked in basic morality lessons. The other was trendy and desperate for relevance. Neither were worth noticing, so his search for truth and wisdom took him everywhere else.

Environmental activism consumed Kingsnorth’s life for many years. It helped him see how our “globalized, uniform, interconnected, digitized, hyper-real, monitored, always-on” world is “building a machine to replace God.” It’s a big machine – unprecedented, unlimited, and immensely destructive – and it makes our cultural rules.

Every living culture in history, from the smallest tribe to the largest civilization, has been built around a spiritual core: a central claim about the relationship between human culture, nonhuman nature, and divinity. Every culture that lasts, I suspect, understands that living within limits—limits set by natural law, by cultural tradition, by ecological boundaries—is a cultural necessity and a spiritual imperative. There seems to be only one culture in history that has held none of this to be true, and it happens to be the one we’re living in.

…the rebellion against God has become a rebellion against everything: roots, culture, community, families, biology itself. Machine progress—the triumph of the Nietzschean will—­dissolves the glue that once held us. 

In a culture that magnifies human desire and will, Kingsnorth began looking for the right limits. And suddenly, during a season as a Zen witch, he found himself pursued by Jesus. Not a stuffy or trendy Jesus, but the “battered and bleeding god-man calling you to pick up your cross and follow him.”

Read The Cross and the Machine over at First Things for the whole story. You can find Paul over at The Abbey of Misrule where he is setting out to understand the spiritual pull of the machine we’ve built to replace God.

After a false alarm for Baby 2, Phillip is in need of tasks to make life feel normal until the time comes. Thanks for reading this issue, his latest distraction. No man knoweth the day nor the hour.

Reading: Phillip is halfway through a recent podcast with Iain McGilchrist about the divided brain, so he’s got Ways of Attending queued up for after. On a related note, too much Zoom has him reconsidering a theology of the body. Two new books are on the top of the pile: Sam Allberry’s What God Has to Say about Our Bodies and John Kleineg’s Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body.

Watching: Phillip watched Minari on a small screen, but wishes he’d seen it bigger. If you’re looking to return to the cinema, go in cold, pay attention to fire and water, and give props to Lee Isaac Chung for a pitch-perfect cameo from Michael W. Smith.

Andy is enjoying the look of his and Phillip’s fancy new avatars drawn by the wonderful Rachel Finegan. And if you scroll down, you’ll see the brand new footer Rachel put together for Three Things. At last… we’re a real newsletter.

Reading: Just more LitRPGs. If you’re nerdy enough to be interested, email.

Writing: Last month, Andy mentioned he is working on a project to re-translate all 150 Psalms and write poems inspired by the translations. There is also a Substack for the project in the works that will include the translations, poems, and Andy’s notes on both.

If you would like to receive the poems and translations via email, sign up here.

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