52 Albums, Week 25: The Allman Brothers Band
52 Albums, Week 26: Distintegration (The Cure)

Sunday Night Journal, June 25, 2017

I sometimes feel that I'm a bit of an impostor in the former-Anglican culture of the Ordinariate, in which people often refer to "our Anglican [or Episcopalian] heritage," "the hymns and prayers we grew up with," and so forth. But I didn't grow up in Anglicanism, although a certain amount of it had been carried over into the Methodism in which I did grow up. My time as an Episcopalian was really a fairly brief stop (four years or so) on my way from unbelief to the Catholic Church. So there's a fair amount of Anglican lore and terminology that I don't recognize.

One such, for a while, was reference to "the Coverdale psalms." The first time I heard that I had no idea what it meant. I hadn't known that the Anglican Book of Common Prayer had for centuries used a 1535 translation of the Psalms which had been part of a Bible translation by Miles Coverdale. I did, however, know that I very much liked the psalms in the BCP.

For a couple of months now, since sometime in Lent, I've been trying to pray at least one or the other, and preferably both, of the morning and evening prayer sets in Magnificat. These generally include a psalm, and I often read the Coverdale translations instead of the Grail versions which are printed in the magazine. I'm fairly sure that the Coverdale is inaccurate sometimes, and occasionally it uses words that have shifted in connotation enough to make them sound odd or even silly to modern ears: "naughty," for instance, in Psalm 86, where current translations have  "ruthless." But in general the Coverdale translations are much richer, more vivid and more powerful. Here, for instance, is the beginning of Psalm 38 in the Grail translation:

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; reprove me not in your rage. For your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your anger: there is no health in my limbs because of my sin. My guilt towers higher than my head; it is a weight too heavy to bear. My wounds are foul and festering, the result of my own folly. I am bowed and brought to my knees. I go mourning all the day long. All my frame is burning with fever; there is no soundness in my flesh. I am spent and utterly crushed, I cry aloud in anguish of heart.

Now Coverdale:

Put me not to rebuke, O Lord, in thine anger; neither chasten me in thy heavy displeasure, for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no health in my flesh, because of thy displeasure; neither is there any rest in my bones, by reason of my sin. For my wickednesses are gone over my head, and are like a sore burden, too heavy for me to bear. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, through my foolishness. I am brought into so great trouble and misery, that I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a sore disease, and there is no whole part in my body. I am feeble and sore smitten; I have roared for the very disquietness of my heart.

There's nothing wrong with the first one. If I didn' t have the second for comparison, I'd think it was fine. But when juxtaposed this way it seems like Bud Lite followed by Guinness Stout. "Roared" may seem too much for us, but it might be quite accurate for men of less restrained times. 

There is a very nice PDF of the Coverdale Psalms at an Orthodox site called Synaxis. (According to another page at Synaxis, the PDF was prepared by/for a web site called Lutherans Online, but the link to it doesn't work.)


The discussion last week of postmodernism left me leaning more strongly toward something I've long suspected: that postmodernism is not something fundamentally different and separate from modernism, but is rather a late, decadent, and perhaps terminal phase of modernism. The terms are fluid and imprecise and refer to somewhat amorphous developments, and I won't deny that the word "postmodern" entails some useful distinctions. But still, both seem to me to be aspects of the great cultural dissolution that's been in progress for a couple of centuries now.

Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born....
--Matthew Arnold, "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse"

One characteristic of modernity in both its broad and limited senses (that is, the couple of centuries just mentioned as well as the contemporary) is a predilection for dividing history into distinct periods (eras, epochs) with distinct names. Calling our own time "modern" was therefore a failure in planning, and the term "postmodern" is evidence of that. Something has to come next, but the classifiers have boxed themselves in, since everything that comes after "modern" is by definition "postmodern," nor will "modern" make much sense once the era so named is past. Perhaps modernism will not truly have ended until the practice of dividing history into named periods has ended, and we have been for a while in an age that does not attempt to name itself.

There is often a smug quality in contemporary intellectual talk that I suspect is connected with postmodernism. Our culture now values pleasure above all things. Sexual pleasure is the greatest of these, but there are many others, and one of them is the sense of being superior to the past. It's a natural corollary to the notion of progress, but it's much more pronounced now than even fifty years ago. It induces a general spirit of mockery and cynicism which is really just incomprehension and which I suspect can be connected to postmodernism: it views the past as something always on trial, always under attack, always to be"interrogated," always required but always failing to justify itself to us. This again is not new and in a different tone is certainly seen in modernity in general, but it seems to have a different and more unpleasant flavor in postmodernism, as in the literary academic I once heard describe Dante as "a Christian creep." 

Like so many unhealthy things that trickle down from the intellectual class to the masses, this disdain has become an unconscious assumption for a lot of people, and the younger they are they more likely they are to have it. I get the feeling from many young people now that they hardly even know that the past existed except as a sort of nightmare of racism, sexism, and "homophobia." It's natural for young people to be that way to some degree, and maybe this is just my age speaking, but it seems more pronounced now.


I never have liked the phrase "having sex." It's a strikingly cold and empty description. But "hooking up" is worse. It always makes me think of something mechanical, like hooking up two railroad cars. That's a thought provoked by reading a young woman's astonishingly shallow comments on the reasons she does and does not choose to do it with this or that male. 


I apologize in advance for putting into your head the image you're going to see in a moment, but it's too funny for me to keep to myself. Writing for National Review, Kyle Smith devotes some time to making fun of pop singer Katy Perry making an attempt to be all serious 'n' stuff, which seems to be an occupational temptation for entertainers these days. I'm not sure why he bothered, except perhaps that he thought it was fun to do, and I'm not sure why I read it, except that I thought it might be amusing, which it was, especially this: 

[A]s a pundit Katy Perry has about as much appeal as George Will does in a halter top.


In an interesting Facebook post, someone speculated that the current polarization in politics has something to do with the prominence of the baby boomers, and with the tendency of older people to want to simplify their lives, and to care less about what others think of them. The writer suggests that this might result in a tendency for Christian public intellectuals to take positions that are more blunt and less qualified and nuanced. He also suggests this might involve the casting off of a career-related reluctance to avoid giving offense on topic A in order to be heard on topic B, no longer necessary as the end of the career approaches.

I don't exactly qualify as a public intellectual, but I have spent a fair amount of energy over the years voicing my opinions about many things, and I'm 68 years old, so I asked myself if I might be doing this. It's the sort of thing one could fool oneself about--who, me? I'm not like that. But I don't think that particular syndrome is really operative in me; that is, I don't think I've become more harsh and more given to polarizing rhetoric, or that I'm falling into those old-guy mental habits.

I do, however, believe that in objective fact our social-cultural-political situation has changed significantly over my lifetime in that (among other things) our society is very deeply and angrily divided, to a degree that endangers the future of this and perhaps other nations. There have been changes for the better, but this division, this attempt of two hostile cultures to co-exist, is clearly not one of them, and it may be ruinous--and that's apart from whatever harm might be done by the ideas pushed by either side. (I can think of several ways in which that might be the case, but will leave out the specifics for now.)

And in some respects I am definitely on one side of the division. I'm thinking, of course, specifically of the sex-related matters like the assertion that the distinction between male and female has no relevance to marriage. So when I write about that, it may seem that I am in fact falling into old-man syndrome. Perhaps I am. But I argue that this is an objectively bad situation, not just an old man's cranky opinion.

Since I have written very little for pay over the years, and so have mostly been completely free to say exactly what I think, the career-related reasons for reticence have not applied. There is, however, one respect in which they have: since 1990 I've worked for a Jesuit institution, and I haven't said much at all about it. This is not because I have nothing to say. Perhaps one day I'll say it. I don't mean that to be mysterious or threatening; it would not be all bad by any means. But it would not be all good, either.


We had a lot of rain from tropical storm Cindy. On Thursday afternoon, after most of it had passed and the clouds were beginning to break up, I was at the bay with the two grandsons who are staying with me several days a week this summer. For a few minutes one shaft of sunlight dropped straight down from the clouds away to the west. This picture was the best I could do by way of capturing it.



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It always makes me think of something mechanical, like hooking up two railroad cars.

That's called "coupling" and "uncoupling." Nicer than "having sex."


That came out kind of weird.

Ha. Yes, it did. But you're right, it does sound better, which is interesting because it's a long-standing term for sex. Sort of undermines my complaint.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the Jesuits some day, Mac. I often think since I worked there for 13 years and have now been here for 2, that the Baptists are much more in line with conservative Catholic thinking than the Jesuits are.


No further comment at this time.:-)

I don't know Mac. I have been reading the blog for about ten years, and certainly your view is much darker now than ten years ago. I don't say that's just because you retired :), but its an interesting explanation. I do think there's some mileage in the idea that older people are just simplifying their ideas and 'unbottoning' themselves on their opinions. Everyone is.

I agree with QG, Mac. Doesn't seem like the "end times" to me, with the blue and red either battling it out, or living in separate states. Just a dysfunctional political system which is made worse than it is by extreme right and left people.

Yahoo! reports this morning that 35% of white evangelical Christians are okay with gay marriage, and 67% of Catholics are also. Not sure why the ethnicity of the Catholics is not important, while we must know that the evangelicals are "white". What do the black evangelicals think?

Black evangelicals tend to be ignored because they don't fit the narrative.

There are several questions here. The one the Facebook poster was posing is, crudely put, whether old baby boomers are fostering polarization because they are old and cranky. My thinking-out-loud response was to wonder whether that's true of me.

So the first question is not whether my views are darker, or whether they're more up-front, or even whether they're right, but whether age is making me both more simplistic and more confrontational.

I don't *think* that's what's going on--that age is having that effect--but a question like that is intrinsically unanswerable. I don't even think I'm more simplistic and confrontational, or less inhibited about saying what I think.

However, my view of the political situation is definitely darker, and I maintain that it is in fact, objectively, darker. I could probably find some ten-year-old blog posts where I anticipated some of what was going on. I know I was writing about the depth of division at least by 2009, in that post about healthcare that I've often reposted.

We've often discussed Rod Dreher here, and I've probably just as often mentioned that I don't read him regularly because of the feverish sky-is-falling tone of many of his blog posts. But I think his Cassandra-like warnings are very often correct in substance.

For a while I was trying to very coolly point out the dangerous implications of certain trends under the title "What is actually happening." I stopped doing that only because I cut my posting down to two a week, and they're sort of pre-titled. But I still think it's worth doing: to be very clearly aware of what's going on, but not to be freaking out all the time.

I didn't even know who Katy Perry was before. I'd heard her name on NPR, but that's about it.


The one the Facebook poster was posing is, crudely put, whether old baby boomers are fostering polarization because they are old and cranky.

I wish I could find that post again because it didn't strike me quite that way. I really just scanned it, though, so I want to read it again to see what my impression is now.


Do you remember who it was? If so, you can search for the name. If not, I'll email it to you.

Like I said, that's a crude version, and I meant it semi-humorously, and he said it in a much more detailed way, but I don't think it's too far off the mark.

I'm not sure I've ever heard Katy Perry's music, but exposure to gossip about her is the price I pay for using Google News.

There's probably no reason not to mention the name of the person on Facebook, but since it's a private venue I thought I should refrain.

I remember and I looked at the page and I can't find it.


Okay, now I see it. Your posting the link made it show up in my newsfeed again.


Well, I don't see the cranky part.

This: They may, as I've been doing, weed the libraries they've created over years of work. They may reduce their social commitments or move to a smaller house. Complexity is too much trouble, too much work. They also tend to be less concerned with the way others react to them. They expect people to take them as they are. describes me to a T--the next paragraph about speaking more bluntly, not so much. I am more willing to let the cat out of the bag where my opinions are concerned but I try to reveal them in a really non-confrontational way.

I'm not sure that all this is a bad thing.


I don't think it describes me very closely at all. The last two bits (of what you quote)--a little, the others not at all.

I don't think I'm any more or less outspoken than I've ever been. Possibly a bit less, if anything, overall--with the hatred at such a pitch, I don't want to further inflame it.

How do you join the Ordinariate? Can anyone just walk in and become part of it? I'd probably attend if it weren't for the fact I live in Slovakia and the only English Mass is standard US (I think, maybe UK) Roman Rite.

(God willing I'll be getting married in a few months. We have to have vows in both languages, so we're provisionally planning to take the English versions from the Ordinariate rite, though technically we have no right to use the rite, not being members of it. I doubt that prohibits stealing chunks of it though.)

You just have to have some kind of Anglican background. If you grew up in the CofE that would certainly qualify. That's for actual membership, which is a transfer of residence, ecclesiastically speaking--the Ordinariate bishop becomes your bishop, with all that that entails.

Congratulations on you impending wedding! I'm not sure there even is an official Ordinariate wedding rite yet--there's a missal but a lot of the other stuff is in the works. It's way more complicated than I would have thought to reconcile all the variations and Catholicize them. But by all means help yourself to whatever you can find.

Of course anybody is welcome to attend the Ordinariate Masses and any Catholic welcome to receive communion.

Going back to the boomers and polarization, Janet said:

"I am more willing to let the cat out of the bag where my opinions are concerned but I try to reveal them in a really non-confrontational way.

I'm not sure that all this is a bad thing."

No, it's not, of course. I think what the Facebook post was describing was something less conciliatory, something closer to "Here's what I think and if you don't like it I don't care." Taken all together, I don't think "cranky" was an unfair reduction, although like I said I meant that semi-humorously.

I said I didn't think what Janet quoted was applicable to me. Most of all that's true of "Complexity is too much trouble, too much work." On the contrary, complexity is a big part of the reason why I've never identified myself closely with any political movement, much less a party.

It occurs to me, though, that there is a sort of reverse complexity filter operating on my blog posts, more so now than it used to be. My posts are more casual now and usually hit more than one topic, where they used to be very focused little essays. This doesn't lend itself to addressing complexity, so if something is going to need more than seven or eight hundred words or so to express it I'm probably not going to go into it here. That might give the impression that I'm avoiding complexity, but in fact I may be writing about it with some other outlet in mind.

I was thinking of complexity on an entirely different level, I think. For instance, I used to keep a very detailed and complex budget. I just can't do that anymore. I used to work word puzzles--crosswords and the like on the highest level. Forget that.

If we are talking about complex political ideas, well, I never have cared enough about politics to spend that kind of mental energy on it, but if you're saying that you don't identify with a party because you see the issues from so many different angles that you can't accept the simplicity of the talking points of current politics, well, I get that.

I am still very interested in complex spiritual and theological ideas, although I am ill-equipped to wade very deep in the latter and I rarely have the time needed to read that sort of thing.


"...complex spiritual and theological ideas.." Yes, it occurs to me that I am in fact simplifying my life in some respects: I'm accepting that there are some things I've wanted to do that I'm just not going to have time for, and sort of writing them off. And one of them is the effort to gain any sort of deep and broad knowledge of philosophy and theology. I'll continue to learn but it'll be piecemeal, things that happen to catch my interest, not with the aim of giving myself any sort of thorough education.

And this is really pretty much what I was saying a while back when we were discussing the Benedict Option and other such big efforts to respond to and/or fix and/or replace our cultural-political problems. As I said then, it's a valid effort, but I'm pretty much bowing out of it.

Sort of funny to say baby boomers are skewing the ideas of Christian public intellectuals because they're old and so basically out of it. Full circle back to the boomer line of never trust anyone over 30, isn't it?

And I definitely do not think Mac's "falling into old-man syndrome", but that the times are, as he said, objectively bad.

Of course, I’m even older than he is, so ... ;-)

Glad to hear it. I have to admit that even if it's somewhat at my expense it amuses me to hear my generation denounced as old and out of it. Of course it amuses me most when baby boomer leftists are the object, but it's kind of funny no matter what the ideology. Sometimes it gets quite nasty--people basically wishing we would hurry up and die, blaming us for everything wrong with the world, etc.

"Congratulations on you impending wedding! I'm not sure there even is an official Ordinariate wedding rite yet--there's a missal but a lot of the other stuff is in the works."

Thanks! There is, as it happens - https://ordinariate.net/documents/resources/AC_Marriage_Rite.pdf - very similar to the old-school Anglican rite, and presumably to the previous English Catholic rites ("with this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship").

Cool! Those vows are so beautiful and moving. I hereby give you permission to use it on condition that you say a prayer for my little group, The Society of St. Gregory the Great. We are barely managing to stay in existence. I learned from our "pastoral coordinator" that we are tied for smallest of the Ordinariate congregations (U.S. and Canada).

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