Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Things That Irritate Me

Of Which I Am Foremost

Relatives of Mine

Me. I am usually irritated with me. The reason, to use the language of The Book of Common Prayer, is that I have followed too much the devices and desires of my own heart, have left undone the things I ought to have done, have done those things I ought not to have done, and there is no health in me. I pray without much problem for God to have mercy on this miserable offender, but stumble when I ask him to spare those who are penitent, usually changing it to "as thou dost make me penitent." One of the evidences that there is no health in me is that I often express my irritation with myself with irritation directed at others. Another is that right now I am pleased with myself for admitting all that. However, being irritated with myself seldom hinders me from being irritated about other things, such as...

Traffic Cameras. I have not yet been caught by one of these cameras, though I expect my day will come. It irritates me that people get notices by mail that they turned at a traffic light as it was turning red. This is a nice way for government to make money, but I doubt it has much, if anything, to do with safety. This is one of many ways we have become accustomed to the government keeping its ubiquitous eye on us.

Christian Businesses. I used frequently to go by a used car lot that on its sign prominently called attention to the fact that it was a Christian business. Just about always I thought to myself that, if I were in the market for a used car, that would be the last place I would shop. Why? Because so much of what passes for Christian business is known to cut ethical corners. Then there is treatment of people. I have seen businesses that make no claim to be Christian treat employees with dignity and compassion. On the other hand I have seen businesses operated by Christians according to "Christian principles" where the bottom line is the bottom line and where employees are treated as replaceable parts. This is not by any means universal. I remember a Christian businessman telling me of negotiations with the employees' union and saying his company was going to do a certain thing, because it was the right thing to do. I am afraid that is an exception. Then, there is the  business practice that just about all of us engage in - tipping. I am told that Christians have a reputation for being very bad tippers. I have heard announcements at General Assembly meetings that hotel staffs dread having church conventions because church people are notorious for skimping on the tips. As a father of several sons who worked as servers, this irritates me.

Kirk Cameron and His Bible. I expect that Kirk Cameron is a very sincere and nice Christian. I know he is very concerned about his country and is trying to do what he believes he should to set it right. Nevertheless, I get irritated everytime I see him on televison selling the Geneva Bible with the orginal notes included. All sorts of things, such as the fact that the Geneva Bible helped to bring about the American Revolution, are claimed. At the website there is available a "Patriot's Edition" that contains various documents, including the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights so that the reader can see how dependent these are on the Bible. I am sure all this would suprise those who produced the Geneva Bible. But the thing that most irriates me is the patently false statement that the Geneva Bible is "by the people, for the people." No doubt, if they are able, prophets and apostles turn over in their graves everytime that commercial is played. And no doubt the Author, using the divine and royal plural, says, "We are not amused."

Female Modesty. There has been quite a lot of attention given during this swimsuit season to the subject of female modesty. Much of it misses the obvious. Fallen males, some to a greater, some to lesser extent experience lust. (See the first heading of his blog.) Some fallen females are naively unaware of this reality while others are happily aware. To say that is a male problem (true) and that males just need to deal with it is both unrealistic and silly. However, as was so often the case during his lifetime, Fr. John Neuhaus wrote sane and and applicable words way back in 1994, though Rachel Held Evans is not likely to be instructed:
“The Politics of the Breast” is an opinion piece in the New York Times advocating the right of women to go bare-breasted on the subway. Two years ago the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the state laws against indecent exposure could not be enforced against women who wish to be topless in public. Judge Vito J. Titone wrote that differential treatment of female bodies violated constitutional guarantees of equality and was “rooted in centuries of prejudice and bias toward women.” One suspects he meant to say against women. A certain delicacy about the display of the female body in public is indeed rooted, apparently from the beginning of the species, in an enthusiastic male prejudice and bias toward naked women. Such considerations seem to carry little weight with the court, however. If human nature and the edicts of the court are in conflict, human nature will just have to change. Mayor Giuliani, being a generally sensible fellow, says the transit police will continue to arrest bare-breasted women on the subway. A police spokesman explains that, in the close press of subway travel, a “very, very attractive” topless woman could create excitements that would pose a public danger. Some subway patrons, he opined, could become so distracted that they might fall down escalators or even onto the tracks. The Times writer is buying none of it. She scoffs at the idea that “the power of the female breast is such that it can lure its beholders to untimely demise in subterranean channels.” She concludes that the bare-breasted subway rider is making the point “that her breasts belong to her and not to the onlookers.” It is not, however, the proprietorship but the public display of the items that is in question. To be fair to the writer, this is a man thing and it is perhaps understandable that she just doesn't get it. Her argument and that of the New York court, however, do helpfully illumine why it is so very difficult to make a case for public decency. The concepts of decency and indecency turn upon what is offensive. Today, unless you are a member of a certified victim group, you have not the right to be offended. If you are offended or, as in this case, aroused, the fault is with you. The fun for the more aggressive members of the certified victim group is to taunt and provoke you into protesting what they say or do, thus confirming that they are victims and you the victimizer. But this is old hat by now. And for all the media chatter about bare-breasted subway riders, we know nobody who has seen one to date. One expects it's not for the lack of looking. In any event, the ancient maxim is again vindicated that those whom the gods would destroy are, if madness be the sign, disproportionately New Yorkers.

Personalized Vows.  I recently read of a couple who are admirably committed to the poor. Their wedding was held under a bridge with the homeless as guests of honor. The other guests served the guests of honor by serving them food. I prefer for ecclesiatically sanctioned weddings to be held in church buildings, but then I am a fuddy-duddy. But what irritated me was that the vows had been specially written for this service and that one of the things the couple promised one another was a life of love to the "outcast." My problem is not with making care for the "outcast" an aspect of how they will live together. The problem is with the whole idea that weddings, and in particular the vows, are supposed to be personalized. Weddings, if they are to be public affairs officiated by clergy, are not the time for couples or compliant ministers to put the couple's mark on the service. They are services provided by the church, and it is for the church to impose upon couples the vows it expects them to take. If I had it all to do over again, I would, if the couple inquired about the structure of the service and the content of the vows, hand them them a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and say, "This is what we do here." No exceptions. No negotiations.  Of course, this would have resulted in even more angry brides and grooms, and brides' families getting ticked off at me. However, it would have probably enabled me even more to identify with the outcasts. (In fact I was cast out of at least two weddings, the first within months of ordination because I would not agree to the singing of We've Only Just Begun. I didn't even get a kiss for luck before I was sent on my way.) Surprising as it is to many brides (and grooms) the wedding service is not about the couple. I know many will find that irriatating to be told. 


Steve Boyett said...

Well written sir. As someone who is a server now, your statements hold true. Also, if a business is indeed a "Christian run business" then it doesn't need to advertise that it is (IMHO). Don't align 100% with all that is opined here, but certainly on these two points that I recall. Thanks for sharing!

Curt Day said...

This post proves that you are a Theologically Reformed Andy Rooney. And I share some of your disgruntlements, especially regarding Cameron and the interleafing of Scripture with documents important to our country. This combination is really a self-serving syncretism with syncretism being the pounding of a square peg in a round hole with much violence being done to both.

CNW said...

I think the Christians we really want to do business with are the ones who are mature enough NOT to put their faith on their sign.