[percy-l] New reader

RHONDA MCDONNELL rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com
Wed Jun 23 03:50:41 EDT 2004

Thanks for the article, Marcus. I'm not sure that Shadroui has taken the language theory too far--I'm still mulling that one over. Although, I do find it odd to leap into the fray regarding a film that one hasn't seen. In the meantime, I'm remembering my own experience seeing the film and thinking of Medieval Mystery plays, which strove for the same effect through much the same means (minus special effects, but that audience was less jaded) that Gibson did. The intent of such plays (The York Play of the Crucifixion, for example) was to forcefully make clear to the audience that each one watching the play was responsible for the agony of Christ, and that each sin committed was commensurate to re-crucifying Him. Giving the lukewarm quality of much of today's Christianity, maybe the seeing the film, as a triadic experience, isn't a bad idea for professed believers

Nice to see a bit of life on the list.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: marcus at loyno.edu<mailto:marcus at loyno.edu> 
  To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion<mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org> 
  Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 6:20 AM
  Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader

  Yes, welcome to the list. 

  Here's an article that might stir us out of our doldrums. 
  Shadroui uses Percy to beat up on Christopher Hitchens'
  atheistic attack on Mel Gibson's The Passion.  I think
  Shadroui  takes Percy's language theory much further that
  Percy ever did and I have trouble with anyone who describes
  Joe Scarborough as a "fair-minded host."  

  I am always cautious about invoking Percy in the culture
  wars (because Percy had a way of taking unusual approaches),
  but here it is.

  Marcus Smith


  Christopher Hitchens and the Issue of Faith
  by George Shadroui
  22 March 2004
  Christopher Hitchens' criticism of The Passion strikes one
  as the rhetorical excess of someone predisposed to disdain

  Christopher Hitchens, observed one critic recently, is a
  foul-mouthed man of little faith obsessed with
  homosexuality. One can appreciate this response to the
  apostle of atheism, but it misses a great deal as well.
  Hitchens has always gleefully sought to puncture the beliefs
  of those who in his mind hide nefarious motives behind
  sanctimonious claims.

  This is why he skewered Henry Kissinger. How is it, Hitchens
  asked, that a man whose policies led to the deaths of
  hundreds of thousands of people, who acquiesced to the
  violent overthrow of a legitimately elected government, and
  who lied about much of it, could be so honored? (Bear in
  mind I am presenting Hitchens' case, not agreeing with his

  Likewise, Hitchens went after Mother Teresa, a saintly woman
  by virtually all accounts, but who nevertheless had to walk
  the same hard landscape as the rest of us. It was simply
  unconscionable to Hitchens that she might keep company with
  corporate CEOs who behaved sinfully. No saint was she,
  argues Hitchens, but rather a scam artist. At this point, I
  do not think it would be unfair to suggest that Hitchens
  would have likewise chided Jesus for supping with the tax
  collectors and for claiming to make blind beggars see.

  And so we come to Mel Gibson, and his movie about the final
  hours of Christ. Hitchens walked quite willingly into the
  lion's den on Scarborough Country over a week ago when he
  threw not only the kitchen sink at Gibson, but the entire
  inner furnishings of his rhetorical warehouse. Gibson, so
  spoke the apostle of atheism, is an anti-semite and the film
  he made about Jesus' final hours is nothing more than a
  piece of pornography specially wrapped for those who love to
  watch men flogged as an exercise in sexual depravity.

  Joe Scarborough, a fair-minded host, gave Hitchens all the
  time he needed to enflame an already grossly over-reacted to
  cinematic moment. In addition to attacking Gibson, Hitchens,
  no doubt remembering his lessons in Marx, labeled faith in
  transcendence infantile. Defenders of the film called
  Hitchens an outrageous anti-Christian bigot. Peggy Noonan
  later in the show called the uproar about the film a miracle
  of sorts. Better to debate this issue than the latest absurd
  actions by this or that celebrity. A silver lining in a gray
  sky, to be sure.

  I have not seen the film, but I must concede that the scenes
  widely shown on television, tempered my enthusiasm. Even
  those who have praised the movie have volunteered that the
  violence is difficult to take. My own taste for religious
  films runs more along the lines of Jesus of Nazareth, the
  remarkable epic made in the mid 1970s that depicts Jesus as
  a man of wit, compassion and strength of character whose
  mystical appeal was rooted both in earthly presence and
  divine grace.

  Hitchens is a paid provocateur who has trouble, from time to
  time, governing his tongue and his pen. He is nevertheless a
  man of great rhetorical skill and intellectual insight. And
  he was not alone in finding the film offensive. I doubt
  anyone would confuse Bill Buckley's religious commitments
  or his political affinities with those of Hitchens, but
  Buckley, too, found the film gratuitously violent in places:

  "It isn't only the interminable scourging, which is done
  with endless inventories of instruments. The Bible has
  Christ suffering the weight of the cross as he climbs to
  Golgotha, but that is not enough for Gibson. He has stray
  soldiers impeding Christ every step of the way, bringing
  down their clubs and whips and scourges in something that
  cannot be understood as less than sadistic frenzy."

  That Gibson might have overdone the violence would make him,
  well, like a great many others who direct films. But to
  suggest, as Hitchens does, that the film was anti-semitic
  pornography? This strikes one as the rhetorical excess of
  someone predisposed to disdain Christianity.

  And Hitchens is precisely such a person. He is totally
  immersed in a materialist worldview, which explains his
  infatuation with socialism and his disdain for anything
  smacking of religious insight. He fancies himself, also, the
  debunker of scams and the savior of modern-day lepers -
  homosexuals receive an inordinate amount of his sympathy,
  though, to be fair, he has been outspoken as well about the
  afflictions of slavery and imperialism and the ruthless
  practices of Stalinism. 

  Hitchens caused a stir a while back when he came out in
  support of the Bush administration's war on terror,
  leaving his long-time leftist allies angry and bemused, or
  some combination of both. Bear in mind, of course, that for
  Hitchens this is a war against religious fanaticism, which
  partially explains his enthusiastic reaction. He is right
  about Islamic fascism, but even so, for a man of deep
  critical skills, Hitchens, we fear, has not seriously
  explored the issue of faith. Let us try to escape the
  confines of his Darwinian world for a few moments. 

  C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien, two giant intellects who
  embraced faith, offered this: faith may well be a metaphor,
  but metaphors unveil truths that would be otherwise hidden
  in the forests of every-day parlance. That is why poetry can
  move us. Metaphors are not always literal, yet they produce
  images remarkable for their power and insight. Does this
  make them less or more true? Language can be a mystery
  almost as deep as life itself.

  Walker Percy, in his essay, The Fateful Rift: The San
  Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind, suggested that language is
  a triadic exercise, while other forms of knowledge in our
  natural world are dyadic. (He borrows this idea from Charles
  Pierce, the pragmatist philosopher.) The human capacity to
  form language enables us to address not only our everyday
  needs, but also to frame grand conceptual questions about
  existence and the universe itself.Percy sought to refine
  Descartes. The fundamental formulation isn't "we think,
  therefore we are," but rather we communicate therefore we
  are more than dust. Our use of language requires the
  interplay of creator, audience and thought itself. It is one
  of the great mysteries, Percy argues, and it carries us back
  to a truism that the paths to God are infinite. His own
  expression of his religious views was whimsical and yet
  somehow more profound than Hitchen's easy atheism.

  "This life is much too much trouble, far too strange, to
  arrive at the end of it and then be asked what you make of
  it and have to answer, `scientific humanism.' That won't
  do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love a delight.
  Therefore, I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for
  nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite
  delight; i.e. God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle
  for anything less. I don't see why anyone should settle
  for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed ahold of God and
  wouldn't let go until God identified himself and blessed

  G. K. Chesterton and Malcolm Muggeridge, who were Hitchens
  sorts in their early years, found themselves circling always
  back to the realization that truth emerged not from the
  hustle and bustle of human beings caught in the material
  web, but from words - words spoken 2000 years ago.
  Muggeridge, about whom Hitchens has written some nice
  things, suggested that faith leads us to a glimpse of
  eternity and that doubt is integral to faith. Only atheists
  are certain, Muggeridge suggested, which claim Hitchens

  And yet, men and women far greater than Hitchens have
  concluded that if there is divine truth available to human
  discovery, it is certainly revealed in the Sermon on the
  Mount. We can stack up the genius of a hundred generations
  and not come to the insight of a single parable spoken by
  Jesus. His metaphors remain light-shedding guides and they
  are open, with all respect to my fundamentalist brothers, to
  critique, interpretation and layers of mystery. And yet the
  deeper you explore in humility and grace, the closer you
  come to inspired understanding.

  How ironic that Hitchens, who would claim to be at least
  partially a child of the Enlightenment, cannot see that the
  mission of Jesus came to fruition not in the medieval mind,
  but precisely in the Enlightenment he celebrates. That each
  individual has value in the eyes of God was a notion that
  began to shape the political context only when Enlightenment
  thinkers successfully challenged the notion that God worked
  directly through a single man - whether he be Ceasar, the
  Pope, or a given Monarch. God lives in everyman, and men
  should not be entangled in the yoke of bondage. 

  It is not the teachings of Jesus that have caused the
  repression so obvious in Christendom and other religions,
  but the failure of human beings to allow their faith to
  transcend human passion, ego and tribalism. The record of my
  faith is mixed, generosity, compassion and love on the one
  hand, schism and sin on the other. Even so, whatever the
  sins of Christians, it remains soberly true that the most
  atrocious killing machines in history were run by modern-day

  Percy and other great Christian writers were on to
  something, I think, when they argued that language, the tool
  of Hitchens' trade, offers a glimpse at the eternal even
  if it does not guarantee human wisdom. Should Hitchens, wit
  and writer that he is, ever entertain a moment of doubt, he
  might yet find himself reading with renewed insight this
  sentence: in the beginning was the word.Thus does a
  different kind of journey begin.

  George Shadroui has been published in more than two dozen
  newspapers and magazines, including National Review and

  ----- Original Message Follows -----
  From: JHForest at cs.com<mailto:JHForest at cs.com>
  To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org<mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
  Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader
  Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 05:59:58 EDT

  > In a message dated 6/22/2004 5:48:42 AM Romance Daylight
  > Time,  billjee at hotmail.com<mailto:billjee at hotmail.com> writes: 
  > > 
  > > I am a new subscriber to the list.  I first read Lost in
  > > the Cosmos in college a few years ago and was hooked.  I
  > > hope to learn more about the man and his thinking
  > through this discussion forum.
  > Welcome to the List! It has in fact been a rather quiet
  > list lately -- the  end of the school year, etc.
  > What Percy books have you read since Lost in the Cosmos?
  > Jim Forest
  > * * *
  > Jim & Nancy Forest
  > Kanisstraat 5 / 1811 GJ Alkmaar / The Netherlands
  > Jim's e-mail: <jhforest at cs.com<mailto:jhforest at cs.com>>
  > Nancy's e-mail: <forestflier at cs.com<mailto:forestflier at cs.com>>
  > tel: (+31-72) 511-2545 / fax: (+31-72) 515-4180
  > Orthodox Peace Fellowship web site:
  > http://www.incommunion.org<http://www.incommunion.org/> Jim & Nancy Forest web site:
  > http://www.incommunion.org/home.htm<http://www.incommunion.org/home.htm> * * *
  > --
  > An archive of all list discussion is available at
  > http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail<http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail>
  > Visit the Walker Percy Project at
  > http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy<http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>
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