Silo mentality

MSNBC and FOX.jpg

I love this New Yorker cartoon, where a husband and wife watch the news on a serpentine sofa, absorbed in their respective media silos. MSNBC and FOX News exist for the confirmation bias of their viewers: current events are framed to confirm preexisting beliefs, facts bend to ideology, and reality gets lost in the midst. No wonder civil discourse becomes nearly impossible today.

Here’s a way to start breaking out of the silo mentality*: read Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

* Or, if you’re more ambitious, read Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Poetics, St. Augustine’s City of God, Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law (Summa Theologica, Questions 90-97), The Federalist Papers, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society, and Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations and The Ways of Judgment. 


An honest greeting

Hello.jpgAt my church, we are encouraged to wear name tags during the service to connect with each other. When I saw this New Yorker cartoon, I thought the man’s self-identification has theological significance for the church, which is really a hospital for the wrecked. Recall what Jesus said to the scribes of the Pharisees, who, conveniently overlooking their own condition, judged the company he kept with tax collectors and sinners: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Mistaken identity


No one does cartoons better than The New Yorker, so I relish the desk calendar of daily cartoons that entertains and puzzles me every day. This cartoon capitalizes upon a pet peeve of mine when posers mistake the true identity of Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). I also laugh because I would be that guy at a party correcting some ignoramus. Does that make me a monster?

Waiting for the Gift

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 11.52.43 PMThe devil of commerce is behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Just prior to the Advent season, he distracts us from the truths of Nativity, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulated in a letter to his fiancée from prison on December 13, 1943: “God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.” Nothing could be more opposite to the commercialization of Christmas than the idea of “wealth in poverty.” Our affluent society has given rise to the lie attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The New Yorker cartoon above is a trenchant rebuttal to the vulgar capitalist, and his impatient acquisition of material goods. More is not more. Wealth in poverty means less is more, which is why I need Advent, “a season of waiting,” which teaches me that Jesus Christ is the most good and perfect gift “coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17). I am poor, but He is rich. I cannot buy the Gift. I can only receive the Gift with a heart that waits, Advent to Advent, for “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” hidden therein (Col. 2:3). In the poverty of his prison cell, Bonhoeffer discovered, more acutely, the poverty of his own heart — a prerequisite to celebrating the Nativity. He says to his fiancée: “I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: ‘We’re beggars; it’s true.’ The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”