Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marrying Alone: The New Elopement

Forget bowling solo. The new trend is getting married alone.

Since I read an excerpt from David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise for class, I have greatly enjoyed stalking the New York Times Wedding page in all its Ivy League-educated, matching eyebrow height glory (See: the photos requirement). A month or so ago, the Times ran an article on the "New Elopement." An increasing number of upscale brides and grooms are planning elaborate weddings without any guests. A comment from one such couple:
“I wanted the dress, the vows, the flowers and the pictures,” said Ms. Provost, 36, who took the unconventional step of turning the couple’s elopement into a blowout. “But when you have guests, we felt like it ends up being more for them, not for the bride and groom. We wanted it to be for us.”
This sentiment is common for eloping couples. From a wedding blog's profile of another "wedding for two":
"We felt from the bottom of their [sic] hearts that we had to bring the focus back on us, regardless of what anybody else wanted and to remember what we would want first and foremost from our day and that was to celebrate our love for each other, our love for traveling, and enjoying every moment of our day with each other." [Emphasis mine.]
I find this idea of a "wedding for two" particularly interesting for two reasons. First, the radical detachment from any importance of relational ties in marriage and second, the drastic difference between what the Christian's idea of where the focus should be in marriage and the extremes of what this kind of individualism means spiritually. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"It All Turns on Affection"

Mr. Berry from the second row(!)
My friends and I went to see Wendell Berry give the 2012 Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center last night. His lecture, "It All Turns on Affection," was quintessentially Wendellian and traced essentially every line of his thought from localism to scale to husbandry to homemaking. You can read more about the lecture here. While I have read many of his essays and some of his fiction, I have not yet read much of his poetry. Last night, Bobbie Ann Mason read a rather moving poem, "VI," from his collection Leavings and now I can say that I intend to read more.

The audience made my friends and I laugh a bit. It was a fantastic mix of Who's Who in this very small subset of conservative thought with grungy agrarian-looking types, a few of whom looked like they had just come from camping out in McPherson Square. It's a big tent.

Last Name Project

My friend (and freshman Bible study leader!) Danielle is hosting a series on her blog "profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry." She graciously gave me the opportunity to submit. You can find my post (and my elusive first name) here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recovering the "Mistress of Herself"

Girls (Photo from here)

HBO's new show Girls and its creator/writer/star Lena Dunham have been attracting a lot of buzz recently. The show centers around four friends living life in New York City, but it's more grungy Williamsburg than Sex and the City Upper West Side. The main character, Hannah, is also a writer, but instead of an advice column regarding shoes and sordid nonsense, she is (briefly, in the show) an unpaid intern at a publishing company who, at age 24, has written 4 out of a projected 9 essays of her "memoirs," which she has not yet completed because she has to live them first. 

I watched it (it was free on YouTube) and enjoyed it. It's funny, but in an extraordinarily sad trombone type of way that earns its comparisons to Louie. The main thrust of the pilot is watching the characters suffer consequences of bad decisions. For me, more than the career mishaps or the silly things Hannah says ("I think I may be the voice of my generation...or at least a voice of a generation."), the bleakest part was the women's relationships. Hannah hooks up with a deadbeat "actor" who pursues woodworking because it's "more honest" while living off his grandmother's $800/mo checks. Jessa gallivants across Europe having seemingly free-spirited flings with an endless menagerie of foreign men only to find herself facing some unintended consequences back in America. Marnie stays with her boyfriend even though she recoils every time she touches him. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's March 31 column entitled "The Bleaker Sex" hits the nail on the head with his question: "Gloria Steinem went to the barricades for this?"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Katniss Everdeen: Local(ist) Hero

If you are interested in the depths to which my boredom and procrastination will take me, I posted a silly essay entitled "On the Local Economy and The Hunger Games" at Back Porch Republic, a blog to which I contribute occasionally. You can find it here.

UPDATE: The big guns (well, the gun I have class with) on the Front Porch have given it a shout out here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baptists and Catholics Together?

Matthew Schmaltz's article on the "On Faith" blog of the Washington Post entitled "Baylor and Notre Dame: Baptist-Catholic competition, cooperation" was about more than simple March Madness mania, but an increasingly visible coalition. He writes of his New England Roman Catholic background and encountering Southern Baptists for the first time in Oklahoma:
During church baseball games in that small Oklahoma town, Catholics and Baptists would eschew discussions about theological differences to speak about their shared concerns over the rights of the unborn, the removal of religion and religious imagery from public life, the spread of pornography, and the sexualization of popular culture. Underlying it all was a feeling of not being taken seriously in and by American society and culture.
GK Chesterton: OG Distributist
Increasingly, conservative Catholics and those on the opposite end of the liturgical spectrum are finding themselves allies in the public square. Schmaltz cites Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President and all-around Reformed Baptist Extraordinaire Al Mohler's defense of religious liberty in response to the HHS mandate on contraception as an example of this seemingly unlikely partnership. Indeed, the Ethics & Culture Conference on secularism at Notre Dame last November showed the increasingly close ties between Baptists and Catholics. Houston Baptist University had a panel all their own and Baylor was a near ubiquitous presence. (Conference dinner conversation - J: "I read in First Things the other day..." St. Thomas student: "Are you sure you're not Catholic?") Questions about social issues have long brought evangelicals and Catholics together, but, especially in the wake of the unseemly greed and crass consumerism that kicked off the recession, I think more Protestants should rally to Catholic Social Teaching that offers a wholesale alternative to rampant free markets. I can call myself a distributist even though Chesterton finds my fondness for the Institutes a dour tragedy. The author of this article from (no friend of the Magisterium) urges Calvinists to "pay attention to, if not embrace altogether as their own" Catholic Social Teaching, "especially the principles of familialism, subsidiarity, and solidarity." 

My own experience among the small remnant of Catholics who occasionally lament Vatican II at Georgetown, a Jesuit school plagued by varying degrees of nominalism depending on who you ask, confirms the importance of this growing coalition. Clearly, we've had many a heated conversation about justification and purgatory, but have come to find that historical Protestantism and conservative Catholicism care about many of the same things: covenantal relationships over contractual, preeminence of natural law in the public square to reflect the created order, and a desire to see the religious voice taken seriously. Concern for "faith, family, and local community" can bridge gaps without denying the important theological distinctions that divide those on one side of the Tiber from the other. One of my favorite Jesuits calls our little band of Calvinists "separated brethren and sistren" (which we answer with teasing questions about the real meaning of "anathema") and while it breaks my heart that we cannot approach the Lord's Table together, I'm thankful we can venture out in the world to speak caritas in veritate on social issues and in the intellectual world, if not in mission.

Naturally, I bristle at the Catholic argument that the Reformation basically caused modernity and made Nietzsche possible (Carl Trueman has a great response to Brad Gregory here), but that's why we Protestants need some of our own Robbie Georges and Alisdair MacIntyres. We can speak a similar language in the Academy and it is encouraging to see places like Baylor begin to develop a similar appreciation for the interaction of faith and reason within the historical Protestant tradition.