Saturday, May 30, 2009

YouTube orthodoxy and Saturday miscellania

In this video Fr. Robert Barron comments on Bob Dylan. I pulled this video up as the result of reading an article he wrote in the current issue of America magazine, entitled YouTube Heresies. In his recent interview Dylan somewhat confirms what Barron contends in his piece, at least as much as Dylan confirms any question asked to him directly, that the Bible has been influential for him. He also talks about, among others, Chuck Barry, Carl Sandburg, Woody Guthrie, and Jack Kerouac. About Kerouac's On the Road, Dylan says it "speeds by like freight train...It's all movement and words and lusty instincts that come alive like you're riding on a train...No ambiguity." I remember reading On the Road as a senior in college on my own. I started about eight o' clock in the evening and finished it about one or two the next morning, then reread it.

Douglas Brinkley, who interviewed Dylan for Rolling Stone, writes: "I decide to push him on the importance of Christian Scripture in his life. 'Well, sure' he says, 'that and those other first books I read were really biblical stuff. Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur. Those were the books I remembered reading and finding religion in. Later on, I started reading over and over again Plutarch and his Roman Lives. And the writers Cicero, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius...I like the morality thing'." Here is where Dylan says something so wise and concise you might miss it: "People talk about [morality] all the time. Some say you can't legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person's morality. And then dictate the types of behavior patterns you'd use to respond in any given situation. I don't look at morality as a religious thing."

The fact that he does not see morality as necessarily "a religious thing" is not an affront to religion, far from it. Our Catholic faith is in synch with this view. Dylan is absolutely correct, the fundamental source of morality is not revelation (i.e., the Bible), it is reason. Indeed, the four elements that make up what he sees as Roman moral thought are the cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Restraint (i.e., Temperance/Moderation), Courage. Cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge. Hence, these virtues are so called because the door of the moral life swings on them.

Brinkley's interview with Dylan, at least the first part before it goes to a page in the back of the magazine, is followed by an article entitled Mike Tyson Repents, which, in turn, is followed by a profile of porn actress Sasha Grey: The Dirtiest Girl in the World. Grey wants "to tell young women that sex is OK." She also wants to let them know that "[i]t's OK to be a slut." Then she latches on to this tired old discourse: "If I am working out any issues through porn, it's anger at society for not being open about sex." This from a young woman who describes catching "gonorrhea twice and chlamydia once" as "getting the common cold." She says, "When you're in the industry, and your body is what you sell" catching a STD "makes you feel like shit." I think catching a STD probably has that effect whether you're in the industry or not- Utah has one of the highest chlamydia rates in the U.S. I recently saw this on the side of a UTA bus: is it alright to play marco polo with someone who has chlamydia? According Sasha, she now has "a good enough reputation" that she can "demand tests from" those who perform with her. What about those young women who follow her advice and whose reputations, so to speak, are not that good? All of this apart from the fact that it is completely dualistic to think you can sell your body and not your soul.

Prescinding from reason to faith, not that they are knowledge of different species, that, too, is dualistic, let's look at what the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ" (1 Cor. 6:13b-15)?

When discussing art with Dylan, Brinkley mentions Andy Warhol, which makes Dylan glare at him while saying that he regards Warhol as "Only a cultural figure...Not as an artist." Whereas, Sasha Grey has Philosophy of Andy Warhol (notice the all too chic absent definite article The before Philosophy in the title) on her bookshelf next to some of her films, like Apprentass, to name only one work in her increasing ouvre.

Since this post has miscellania in the title, I point you to an article that appears in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune about a good friend of mine, Brian Diggs, a Methodist minister who recently left the pastorate of his church to run the United Methodist Committee on Relief depot here in Salt Lake City. Brian earned his M.Div at Duke, studying with Stanley Hauerwas.

I have to end by asking, How does it feel?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.


  1. Great post. I love the way you do culture and theology together! I wish I were not so ignorant about music, but I think I'm just more visual.

  2. Thank you, Sharon. It is a compliment well-taken, especially coming from you.

    I am definitely a music and word person.


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