THE INTERNET MONK SATURDAY BRUNCH
”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Welcome to our Saturday brunch. We’re in Lent, so each week we’re highlighting some of the foods people partake of during these days. Creativity with regards to food and food preparation is, of course, traditional during this season because Lent is known as a time of fasting, and over the centuries folks have developed ingenious ways to enjoy less, or different kinds of food in Lent.
A great example is the Lenten emphasis on FISH.
Here’s a good article that gives some background: Lust, Lies, and Empire: The Fishy Tale Behind Eating Fish on Friday.
It sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown thriller: A powerful medieval pope makes a secret pact to prop up the fishing industry that ultimately alters global economics. The result: Millions of Catholics around the world end up eating fish on Fridays as part of a religious observance.
This “realpolitik” explanation of why Catholics eat fish on Friday has circulated for so long, many people grew up believing it as fact. Some, myself included, even learned it in Catholic school. It’s a humdinger of a tale — the kind conspiracy theorists can really sink their teeth into. But is it true?
“Many people have searched the Vatican archives on this, but they have found nothing,” says Brian Fagan, a professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose book, Fish On Friday, explores the impact of this practice on Western culture.
The real economic story behind fish on Fridays turns out to be much better.
Let’s start with a quick lesson in theology: According to Christian teaching, Jesus died on a Friday, and his death redeemed a sinful world. People have written of fasting on Friday to commemorate this sacrifice as early as the first century.
Technically, it’s the flesh of warmblooded animals that’s off limits — an animal “that, in a sense, sacrificed its life for us, if you will,” explains Michael Foley, an associate professor at Baylor University and author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Friday?
Fish are coldblooded, so they’re considered fair game. “If you were inclined to eat a reptile on Friday,” Foley tells The Salt, “you could do that, too.”
Alas, Christendom never really developed a hankering for snake. But fish — well, they’d been associated with sacred holidays even in pre-Christian times. And as the number of meatless days piled up on the medieval Christian calendar — not just Fridays but Wednesdays and Saturdays, Advent and Lent, and other holy days — the hunger for fish grew. Indeed, fish fasting days became central to the growth of the global fishing industry. But not because of a pope and his secret pact.
Oh, there’s a lot more too. Go to the article and find out about herring and cod, and Henry VIII and fish as “popish flesh,” as well as Vatican II and MacDonald’s Filet-O-Fish.
A Few Lenten Fish Recipes:
- Recipes from NYT Cooking
- Fried, grilled, and baked recipes for each Friday in Lent
- 28 fish recipes for the Lenten season
FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE
The World Happiness Report was recently released, measuring the “subjective well being” of the people in a given country. Here is a chart with a few of the happiest and least happiest places on earth:
According to the BBC, the report…
…mainly relies on asking a simple, subjective question of more than 1,000 people every year in more than 150 countries.
“Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top,” the question asks.
“The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”
But the report also tries to understand why some countries might be happier than others, looking at statistics in such factors as economic strength, social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption.
The United States came in 14th place. Happiness levels in the U.S. have been falling, and an entire chapter of the report is devoted to asking why. In the end, they conclude, “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.” They cite such factors as “rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust.”
I said several times during the election that if Donald Trump were elected president, I would move to Norway. Well, I didn’t do it, but maybe there’s still time.
RNS has been reporting on the kerfuffle at Princeton University with regard to Tim Keller.
First, David Gibson reported:
Keller will receive the 2017 Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness at the venerable mainline Protestant seminary in New Jersey on April 6 and will also deliver a lecture on evangelization and “church planting.”
As the seminary said in announcing the award, Keller “is widely known as an innovative theologian and church leader, well-published author, and catalyst for urban mission in major cities around the world.”
But Keller is also a leader in the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, which is the more conservative wing of U.S. Presbyterianism and does not permit the ordination of women or LGBTQ people.
That has prompted criticism from those who believe that a seminary such as Princeton, and one associated with the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), or PCUSA, should not be honoring Keller at all.
Maybe this is one of the reasons the U.S. is not a very happy place these days.
Can we please find it possible to honor someone for actual achievements and learn to respect and appreciate the good in his/her life and work without expecting that person to line up perfectly with all our cultural and political standards, even our “biblical” standards?
Can’t we listen to a reasonable argument anymore, like that offered by seminary president Craig Barnes? He weighed in “that ‘censorship’ was antithetical to the seminary’s mission and identity;” it is, Barnes wrote, “a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school,” he wrote, noting that speakers from other wings of Protestantism as well as from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have spoken there.
In a follow-up article, Gibson wrote, “Faced with mounting criticism for its decision to give a major award to the Rev. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and one of the country’s best-known conservative Christian thinkers, Princeton Theological Seminary has reversed course and said Keller will not receive the honor.” And President Barnes, who had so eloquently defended the choice earlier, slunk away from his commitment, saying the school did not want to give the impression of “endorsing” Keller’s views. Ridiculous.
As Jonathan Merritt, a progressive himself, opined in a piece directed toward his peers, “If Christians like Tim Keller are unworthy of honor and deserve to be marginalized, American Christianity is in serious trouble.”
Let me say it without reservation: American Christianity is in serious trouble. On all sides.
Several alert readers notified me of this article in Salon about “The rise of ‘network’ Christianity,” which, apparently, is a new name for a movement that has been variously described over the years as Christian nationalist, reconstructionist, dominionist, theocratic, part of the New Apostolic Reformation, and advocating the “Seven Mountains” approach to gaining power and control over American culture.
INC Christianity is the fastest-growing Christian group in America and possibly around the world. Over the 40 years from 1970 to 2010, the number of regular attenders of Protestant churches as a whole shrunk by an average of .05 percent per year, while independent neo-charismatic congregations (a category in which INC groups reside) grew by an average of 3.24 percent per year.
Its impact, however, is much greater than can be measured in church attendance. This is because INC Christianity is not centrally concerned with building congregations, but spreading beliefs and practices.
The influence of INC Christianity can be seen in the millions of hits on many of their web-based media sites, large turnouts at stadium rallies and conferences, and millions of dollars in media sales. In our interviews with leaders, we found that Bethel, an INC ministry based in Redding, California, for example, in 2013 had an income of US$8.4 million in media sales (music, books, DVDs, web-based content) and $7 million in tuition to their Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.
According to the director of media services at the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer (IHOP), their website receives over 25 million hits every year from all over the world…
The authors note that “[m]ost INC Christian groups we studied seek to bring heaven or God’s intended perfect society to Earth by placing “kingdom-minded people” in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society,” following the “seven mountains” approach.
One sympathetic website writes breathlessly about how the election of President Trump is the breakthrough to revival and reformation of the U.S. that they have been waiting and praying for:
With a Kingdom-friendly administration, led by many Kingdom-minded department heads, such as in education, energy, state department, etc., God is going to use these people to bring changes in attitudes and belief systems. Along with a powerful move of God’s Holy Spirit bringing another Great Awakening, we will see God’s involvement in every sphere of society in ways we’ve never seen in our life-times. There will actually be a significant reversal of the moral values decline we have seen for many decades.
This will lead to scientists abandoning their “faith in the theory of evolution,” the number of abortions will be greatly reduced or eliminated, there will be a great “wave of acceptance” of Christianity by the Jewish people, morals and family life will be restored, “clean and biblical movies” and TV will become popular. Furthermore, “Left-wing media will decrease and truth-seeking media will increase,” and “People will be so excited about miracles taking place in huge religious rallies that they will have to talk about it to keep viewers tuned in.”
These are just a few of the “blessings” INC Christianity is looking forward to in days to come.
Sigh. And again I say, American Christianity is in serious trouble.
THIS WEEK IN MUSIC…
Picked up tickets for one of the items on my bucket list the other day. In June, we’ll be heading over to Cincinnati to hear Paul Simon in concert.
I’m sure we’ll hear this song from my youth. Its message may be just as relevant today.