In the light of the referendum in Catalunia, this map speaks volumes about the present fragmentation of Europe. In my opinion, the only way out of this madness is in a united Europe of regions.
Read more on this map HERE.
In the light of the referendum in Catalunia, this map speaks volumes about the present fragmentation of Europe. In my opinion, the only way out of this madness is in a united Europe of regions.
Read more on this map HERE.
O blatantly neoliberal view of ecology – with the worship of the so-called ‘free market’ and wild capitalism included; a genuine ‘gospel according to capitalism’.
And, of course, very critical of the biblical and theological critique made by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch to the incessant and unmoderated search for profit with the excuse of looking for the illusionaary greatest good for most people, in spite of the worrying growing disparity between the richesst and the poorest of this world.
Pentru mine, intelegerea sacramentala a euharistiei a fost ultima picatura in paharul meu teologico-eclesial, care a determinat trecerea la anglicanism.
Problema euharistiei este complexa si e greu de epuizat, fie si superficial, intr-un articol de blog. Si cu atit mai putin intr-un scurt comentariu. Totusi, iata citeva consideratii:
1. Anabaptistii sunt orbiti de anticlericalismul lor si transforma sacramentul instituit de Cristos intr-un banal act mnemonic, lipsit de putere de transforare a vietii (adica contesta calitatea lui de a fi un ‘mijloc al harului’). Atunci cind la aceasta se adauga, ca in cazul evanghelicilor – copiii modernitatii, o intelegere literalista a textului biblic, aceasta omoara definitiv simbolica sacramentala (de la cuvintul grec ‘sym-bolon’ – care inseamna ‘ceea ce aduce laolalta doua realitati’, spre deosebire de ‘semn’, care este un indicator ales arbitrar, ca un semn de circulatie, care doar arata spre altceva, cu care nu are nicio legatura organica).
2. Luther nu scapa nici el de aceasta ispita a litteralismului. De aici, cred eu, si obsesia lui cu prezenta ‘fizica’ a lui Cristos in elementele euharistice. De ce aceasta prezenta trebuie sa fie ‘fizica’? Luther, ca si catolicii si ortodocsii, nu reusesc sa faca distinctia radicala, si absolut necesara, intre: a. persoana fizica a lui Isus din Nazaret (cel care a instituit euharistia), b. elementele euharistice – trupul euharistic – carnea si singele – lui Cristos, care nu pot fi acelasi lucru cu trupul lui fizic, caci acesta tocmai instituia sacramentul, si c. trupul mistic al lui Cristos, Biserica, reprezentata la cina originara de apostoli.
3. Cu alte cuvinte, prezenta lui Cristos in euharistia NU POATE FI UNA FIZICA, dar este una reala, insa spirituala, perceputa ca atare prin credinta, NU doar una ideatica, pur mnemonica, precum la Zwingli – caci cum altfel ar putea o simpla amintire, perceputa eronat, sa ucida, asa cum spune Pavel ca se intimpla cu cei care se impartasesc ‘in chip nevrednic’ – NU care sunt nevrednici, care e cu totul altceva, caci toti suntem nevrednici, asa cum afirma explicit rugaciunea de penitenta dinaintea impartasirii in traditiile liturgice.
4. In opinia mea, numai dependenta (nenecesara, cred eu) de o paradigma aristotelica, faca necesara complicatia scolastica a supra-explicatiei numita teoria (sau, daca preferati, doctrina) transubstantierii.
5. Din acest punct de vedere, ‘prefacerea darurilor’ din ortodoxie este ‘aceeasi Marie cu alta palarie, in raport cu transubstantierea, chiar daca exista anumite deosebiri – neesentiale cred eu, intre ele – mai ales absenta sofisticarii scolastice la ortodocsi. De remarcat ca atit numarul sacramentelor (sapte), cit si conceptul ‘prefacerii’, sunt adaugiri tirzii in ortodoxie, ele fiind preluate de fapt din catolicism in perioada de dupa 1642 – Sinodul de la Iasi, numita de Florovski ‘robia babiloneana a ortodoxiei’. (Mai multe despre asta in textele mele desspre Reforma care vor aparea in aceasta perioada in mai multe publicatii.)
Pina atunci, ortodoxia se multumea sa afirme prezenta REALA, prin credinta si epicleza (invocarea Duhului Sfint de catre preot asupra darurilor euharistice), asa cum o fac, in felul lor specific, anglicanii si reformatii magisteriali.
In ce ma priveste pe mine, eu primesc prin credinta afirmatia explicita a scripturii: ‘acesta ESTE (NU DOAR simbolizeaza, NU DOAR reprezinta, NU DOAR aminteste) trupul meu; acesta ESTE singele meu’. Si de aceea cred in prezenta REALA, dar nu FIZICA a lui Cristos in elementele sacramentului euharistic.
Subiectul Euharistiei incită și astăzi, după milenii, spiritele. În vreme ce unii consideră că este o taină, iar alții văd în împărtășanie doar un act simbolic, toată lumea este de acord într-o privință: Euharistia este o temă de discuție care are, încă, multe mistere.
Citesc în prezent cartea „Luther – omul și reformatorul”, Roland H. Bainton. Și, cum tema împărtășaniei a fost una vizată de Reformă, am fost foarte interesat să cunosc profunzimile gândirii lui Luther cu privire la acest subiect. Întâi, m-a frapat explicația pe care o dă Luther prezenței fizice a lui Cristos în pâinea și vinul consacrate. Dar despre asta voi vorbi mai jos puțin. Apoi m-am înviorat văzând poziția categorică în fața puritanilor, grupare precursoare a neoprotestantismului de astăzi ce a susținut, de la început, că „Cina” nu are decât valoare comemorativă. Puritanilor, Luther le răspunde ferm: „Radicalismul lui Karlstadt s-a dezvoltat după ce s-a retras…
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Let’s take a look at the history of mysticism to find our roots and see how we had it, how and why we largely lost it, and to recognize that now we are in the midst of a rediscovery and new appreciation for the mystical, nondual, or contemplative mind (use whichever word you prefer; they are all pointing in the same direction).
Before 800 BC, it seems most people experienced their union with the Divine and Reality through myth, poetry, dance, music, fertility, and nature. Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) called this Pre-axial Consciousness. Although living in an often-violent world and focusing on survival, people still knew that they belonged to something cosmic and meaningful. They inherently participated in an utterly enchanted universe where the “supernatural” was everywhere. This was the pre-existent “church that existed since Abel,” spoken of by St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and the Second Vatican Council. Owen Barfield (1898-1997) called this state of mind “original participation.”  It is reflected in most of the indigenous religions to this day. As Pope John Paul II said, Native Americans have known from the beginning what it’s taking us Catholics a long time to realize: that the Great Spirit has always been available and loveable in the natural world. Read More »
Years ago, someone asked if I could sum up all my teachings in two words. My response was “incarnational mysticism.” The first word, “incarnational,” is Christianity’s specialty and should always be our essential theme. We believe God became incarnate. The early Fathers of the Church professed that God, by taking on human flesh, said yes to all that was physical, material, and earthly. Unfortunately, Christianity lost this full understanding.
Many Christians are scared of the word “mysticism.” But a mystic is simply one who has moved from mere belief or belonging systems to actual inner experience of God. Mysticism is more represented in John’s Gospel than in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) which give us the basic story line of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In fact, the primary reason many are not moved or attracted to John’s Gospel is because they were never taught the mystical mind.Read More »
Source: Post-Truth – Public Orthodoxy
Here is an Orthodox theological view of post-truth. A tough one.
Am citit cu interes acest text. In ce ma priveste, ca ‘high church Anglican’ sunt mai pozitiv fata de ritualul religios decit sunteti dvs. Observ ca traseele noastre religioase sunt opuse, si poate de aici vine diferenta: al dvs este de la ritualul religios catolic (fie el si unul nominal), la saracia simbolica cultului evangelic, in vreme ce a mea este de la aceasta din urma, la bogatia liturgica si sacramentala a crestinismului istoric. In ce ma priveste, teologia, si in special interactiunea cu teologia ortodoxa, este cea care a determinat in cea mai mare masura aceasta traiectorie.
Acestea fiind spuse, dati-mi voie sa fac citeva observatii.
1. Omul este o fiinta simbolica si nu poate trai fara simboluri, metafore, modele, si, in cele din urma, fara ritual. Omul este singura fiinta are marcheaza ritualic nasterea unui prunc, isi celebreaza nunta si isi ingroapa mortii, intre multe altele.
2. Ritualurile de trecere, nu sunt doar apanajul omului primitiv. Chiar daca rolul ritualurilor de trecere a slabit in modernitate, acestea continua sa existe, slava Domnului, ele izvorind din natura omului creat dupa chipul lui Dumnezeu. In definitiv, botezul crestin tocmai asta este – un ritual de trecere (fara singe insa, caci pe acesta l-a varsat Cristos). In aceasta privinta refuz fara ezitare conceptia penibila a lui Zwingli despre sacramente, care le transforma in simple semne – daca e asa, adica daca singura lor ratune este sa semnifice, intr-un fel sau altul – caci aceasta este natura semnului: semnificatul este important, nu semnul utilizat, moartea si invierea cuiva in Cristos, de ce nu ‘facem botezul’, de exemplu, cu candidatul intrind cu hainele de strada intr-un dulap – semnificind mormintul, si iesind din el cu haine albe, semnificind invierea sau ‘nasterea din nou’ (intre altele, un concept biblic minor, a carui importanta a fost exagerata de evanghelici). La fel, am putea lua ‘cina’ cu brinza si lapte, daca vinul si piinea sunt doar semne arbitrare. Dar nu sunt. Cum nu e nici apa. Bunul nostru simt de spune asta, chiar daca bezmeticcul Zwigli ar vrea sa credem altceva.
3. Ruptura sacru-profan, oricit de folositoare ar fi ea pentru Eliade si istoria religiilor, este inselatoare din perspectiva crestina. Scopul lui Cristos, nu este sa creeze un soi de homo religiosus, la care doar dimensiunea sacra conteaza, ci ‘ a aduce toate lucrurile in ascultare de Dumnezeu, in Cristos’ (Efes. 1:10). Cu alte cuvinte, daca moderrnitatea a incercat profanarea (si eliminarea) sacrului, Cristos a venit sa sacralizeze intreaga existenta.
4. Da, modernitatea a incercat sa desvrajeasca lumea – lipsa de ritual a evanghelicilor, care sunt copii ai modernitatii, este o alta expresie a acestui efort – dar a esuat lamentabil. Avem de-a face, asa cum bine remarca multi sociologi ai religiei (inclusiv Peter Berger insusi – Dumnezeu sa-l odihnasca, cel care promova cindva teoria secularizarii, iar apoi a realizat ca s-a inselat), lumea a intrat, in postmoderrnitate, intr-un proces de revrajire, chiar daca, asa cum subliniam intr-un pasaj din teza mea de doctorat, este vorba de o revrajire in care transcendentul nu este inca pe deplin restaurat in locul care i se cuvine.
5. Cred ca evenimentul cristic nu schimba prea mult in nevoia omului de ritual. Inainte de Cristos, ritualul arata inainte, spre venirea lui, in vreme ce dupa inviere el arata inapoi, catre ceea ce a facut posibila mintuirea noastra. Atit si nimic mai mult.
In concluzie, convingerea mea este ca fara ritual omul nu este om, ci doar o jivina, fie ea si cuvintatoare.
I love maps. They tell incredible stories. Here is another one, the AuthaGraph World Map, supposedly the most accurate one that exists to date.
Looking at it, I see that Russia and the US are at the centru of the map, as if it was designed at the height on the Cold War.
Imagine how a map would look like if Africa would be at the centre. Or if Antarctica and Australia would be on the upper side of it. Wouldn’t that change a lot in terms of perception?
Revista Dilema veche publica, incepind cu acest numar, si in urmatoarele din octombrie, un numar de articole despre implinirea a 500 de ani de la Reforma protestanta.
Ideea acestei serii de artcole a fost a lui Emanuel Contac. Tot el este cel care s-a ocupat de redactarea textelor (limitate undeva la 1500 de cuvinte). Toata aprecierea pentru aceasta idee si pentru deschiderea manifestata de domnul Matei Plesu in legatura cu realizarea ei.
Sper ca publicarea acestor texte va contribui la indepartarea, fie si partiala, a ignorantei care domina spatiul cultural romanesc, iinclusiv cel evanghelic, cu privire la Reforma.
How is it that after two thousand years of meditation on Jesus Christ we’ve managed to avoid everything that he taught so unequivocally? This is true of every Christian denomination, even those who call themselves orthodox or doctrinally pure. We are all “cafeteria Christians.” All of us have evaded some major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies being the most obvious. Jesus has always been too much for us. He is the only true “orthodoxy” as far as I can see.
In fact, I have gone so far as to say, if Jesus never talked about it once, the churches will tend to be preoccupied with it (abortion, birth control, and homosexuality are current examples), and if Jesus made an unequivocal statement about it (for example, the rich, the camel, and the eye of a needle), we tend to quietly shelve it and forget it. This is not even hard to prove.Read More »
Seventh, a prophet confronts the status quo. With the prophet, there is no sitting back. The powerful are challenged, empires resisted, systemic justices exposed. Prophets vigorously rock the leaky ship of the state and shake our somnolent complacency. . . .
Eighth, for the prophet, the secure life is usually denied. More often than not the prophet is in trouble. Prophets call for love of our nation’s enemies. They topple the nation’s idols, upset the rich and powerful, and break the laws that would legalize mass murder. The warlike culture takes offense and dismisses the prophet, not merely as an agitator but as obsessed and unbalanced. Consequently, the prophet ends up outcast, rejected, harassed, and marginalized—and, eventually, punished, threatened, targeted, bugged, followed, jailed, and sometimes killed.
Ninth, prophets bring the incandescent word to the very heart of grudging religious institutions. There the prophet confronts the blindness and complacency of the religious leader—the bishops and priests who keep silent amid national crimes; the ministers who trace a cross over industries of death and rake blood money into churchly coffers. A bitter irony and an ancient story—and all but inevitable. The institution that goes by the name of God often turns away the prophet of God.Read More »
(via Richard Rohr)
First, a prophet is someone who listens attentively to the word of God, a contemplative, a mystic who hears God and takes God at God’s word, and then goes into the world to tell the world God’s message. So a prophet speaks God’s message fearlessly, publicly, without compromise, despite the times, whether fair or foul.
Second, morning, noon, and night, the prophet is centered on God. The prophet does not do his or her own will or speak his or her own message. The prophet does God’s will and speaks God’s message. . . . In the process, the prophet tells us who God is and what God wants, and thus who we are and how we can become fully human.
Third, a prophet interprets the signs of the times. The prophet is concerned with the world, here and now, in the daily events of the whole human race, not just our little backyard or some ineffable hereafter. The prophet sees the big picture—war, starvation, poverty, corporate greed, nationalism, systemic violence, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction. The prophet interprets these current realities through God’s eyes, not through the eyes of analysts or pundits or Pentagon press spokespeople. The prophet tells us God’s take on what’s happening.Read More »
Source: O școală care pervertește mintea
A prophet is one who keeps God free for people and who keeps people free for God. Both of these are much needed and vital tasks. God has been imprisoned and made inaccessible, and far too many people have been shamed and taught guilt to keep us clergy in business. Our job became “sin management.” Sadly the laity bought into this negative story line. That is what happens when priests are not informed by prophets.
The priestly class invariably makes God less accessible instead of more so, “neither entering yourselves nor letting others enter in,” as Jesus says (Matthew 23:13). For the sake of our own job security, the priestly message is often: “You can only come to God through us, by doing the right rituals, obeying the rules, and believing the right doctrines.” This is like telling God who God is allowed to love! The clergy and religious leaders, unintentionally perhaps, teach their disciples “learned helplessness.” Thus the prophets spend much of their time destroying and dismissing these barriers and trying to create “a straight highway to God” (Matthew 3:3). Both John the Baptist and Jesus tried to free God for the people, and it got them killed.
Inga Leonova, editor of The Wheel, a quarterly journal of Orthodoxy and culture, writes on the ugly face of deadly fascist (supposedly Orthodox) ideolofy of the Iron Guard in Romania and the role it played in the violent recent events oon Charlottesville, Va.
I would have never imagined I will one day be so enthusiastic after reading a text written by a Southern Baptist. But here it is. Yes! Well done, Russell Moore!
Here is an eye witness report. Really worth reading.
Source: Race, the Gospel, and the Moment
A good word, from a man of God.
An American evangelical says ‘enough is enough’:
‘The evangelical Christian movement in America is being compromised and discredited by the way prominent leaders have associated themselves with, first, the Donald J. Trump campaign and now, the Trump presidency. If this is allowed to define evangelical attitudes toward political power, the public witness of Christianity will be undermined in durable ways.‘
Explicatii juridice clare, pentru cei cu mintea lipede, despre o initiativa legislativa inutila si cu rol pur propagandistic, dar care a dat prilej celor mai josnice atitudini homofobe si extremiste, in special in comunitatile religioase fundamentaliste – ortodoxee, catolice si protestant-evanghelice – din Romania.
Familia și căsătoria: Constituția consacră două drepturi distincte: dreptul la viață familială (art. 26) și dreptul la căsătorie (art.48). Aceleași drepturi distincte sunt consacrate de Convenția Europeană a Drepturilor Omului care are prioritate în dreptul nostru dacă ar veni în contradicție cu legislația României: dreptul la respectarea vieții private și de familie (art. 8) și dreptul la căsătorie (art. 12). Cu alte cuvinte: prin căsătorie se naște o familie, dar o familie nu este neaparat rezultatul unei căsătorii.
Tipuri de familii: Este important să facem această distincție de la bun început, întrucât „noțiunea de viaţă de familie este complexă, cuprinzând inclusiv raporturile de familie de fapt, distinct de relaţiile de familie rezultând din căsătorie” (para. 40 din Decizia CCR 580/2016).
Așa cum am arătat și cu alt prilej, există mai multe tipuri de familie: familia nucleară (alcătuită din bărbat, femeie și copil) care…
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Al cincilea episod din amintirile lui Daniel Branzai. Aici mai ales despre Iasi.
Here are, according tto Roger Olson, the ‘symptoms’ of the spiritual disease called ‘fundamentalism’:
1) A tendency to elevate doctrines historically considered “secondary” (non-essentials) to the status of dogmas such that anyone who questions them questions the gospel itself.
2) A tendency to eschew “Christian fellowship” with fellow evangelical Christians considered doctrinally “impure” along with a tendency to misrepresent them in order to influence others to avoid them.
3) A tendency to “hunt” for “heresies” among fellow evangelical Christians and to reward fellow fundamentalists who “find” and “expose” them—even where said “heresies” are not truly heresies by any major confessional standards shared among evangelical Protestants.
4) A tendency to place doctrinal “truth” above ethics such that misrepresenting others’ views in order to exclude or marginalize them, if not get them fired, is considered justified.
5) A tendency to be obsessed with “liberal theological thinking” that leads to seeing it where it does not exist along with a tendency to be averse to all ambiguity or uncertainty about doctrinal and biblical matters.
(Source, ‘What Is “Fundamentalism?”’)
NOTE: In case you wonder if you are a fundamentalist.
Here are, according to Roger Olson, the ‘hallmarks’ of modern liberal theology:
1) A tendency to reduce the Bible to “the Christian classic” that is “inspired” insofar as it is inspiring;
2) A tendency to reduce Christianity itself to ethics such that doctrine is an expression of collective opinion always open to revision in light of changing cultural conditions;
3) A tendency to embrace and promote individualism in spirituality and doctrine while insisting on certain controversial ethical positions as matters of justice and therefore beyond debate;Read More »
Dr Ramachandra, prophetically again, about how science undermines itself these days, by becoming a servant of Big Business.
Kelly Flanagan on digital detox. NOT A SAFE POST! 🙂
In case you wondered what Fr Rohr thinks about the Cross (I know my dear friend Eugen Matei does). This spells it out a bit.
My precious virtual friend Vinoth Ramachandra, the IFES Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement, wrote today in an email:
The American (Eastern Orthodox) theologian David Bentley Hart raises some thought-provoking questions about the American church that if raised by others would immediately be brushed aside as symptomatic of “anti-Americanism”. In an article (“The Angels of Sacré-Coeur”) first published in 2011, Hart writes:
“It is very much an open and troubling question whether American religiosity has the resources to help sustain a culture as a culture- whether, that is, it can create a meaningful future, or whether it can only prepare for the end times. Is the American religious temperament so apocalyptic as to be incapable of culture in any but the most local and ephemeral sense? Does it know of any city other than Babylon the Great or the New Jerusalem? For all the moral will it engenders in persons and communities, can it cultivate the kind of moral intelligence necessary to live in eternity and in historical time simultaneously, without contradiction?”
And he ends with the sober judgment: “European Christendom has at least left a singularly presentable corpse behind. If the American religion were to evaporate tomorrow, it would leave behind little more than the brutal banality of late modernity.”
Harsh words, perhaps, but they stem from a passion to see the Lordship of Christ embracing and permeating every area of the church’s life and engagement with the world. The apostle Paul too used harsh language in denouncing the way the face of Christ was distorted by both false teaching and behaviour inconsistent with the Gospel.
American Christian Fundamentalism (ACF) has made deep inroads into churches all over the world since the Second World War, and its influence has been magnified with the rise of satellite TV and the Internet. I have often said that, with the decline of old-style European theological liberalism, ACF poses a far bigger threat to the global church than Islamist fundamentalism. Why? Because the biggest threats arise not from those who can only kill the body but from those who kill our souls in the name of religion.
Here are four reasons, among others, for my concern:
Franciscans never believed that “blood atonement” was required for God to love us. We believed that Christ was Plan A from the very beginning (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:1-18). Christ wasn’t a Plan B after the first humans sinned, which is the way most people seem to understand the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Great Mystery of Incarnation could not be a mere mop-up exercise, a problem-solving technique, or dependent on human beings messing up. The Incarnation was not motivated by a problem but by love.
Did God intend no meaning or purpose for creation during the first 13.8 billion years? Did the sun, moon, and galaxies have no divine significance? The fish, the birds, the animals were just waiting for humans to appear? Was there no Divine Blueprint (“Logos”) from the beginning? This thinking reveals the hubris of the human species and our tendency to anthropomorphize the whole story around ourselves.Read More »
Note: See how similar is the Franciscan view of salvation as a nonviolent process to the Orthodox view, and how radically diferent from the juridical emphasis that dominates mainline Catholicand almost all Protestant and Evangelical atonement theories (based on the view of an angry God – as opposed to a loving one, who had to punish his Son in order to be able to, again, reluctanty, love his human creatures).
In the thirteenth century, the Franciscans and the Dominicans invariably took opposing positions in the great debates in the universities of Paris, Cologne, Bologna, and Oxford. Both opinions usually passed the tests of orthodoxy, although one was preferred. The Franciscans often ended up presenting the minority position. Like the United States’ Supreme Court, the Church could have both a majority and a minority opinion, and the minority position was not kicked out! It was just not taught in most seminaries. However, it was taught in some Franciscan formation centers, and I was a lucky recipient of this “alternative orthodoxy” at Duns Scotus College in Michigan from 1962-1966.
I share this background to illustrate that my understanding of the atonement theory is not heretical or new, but has quite traditional and orthodox foundations, beginning with many theologians in the Patristic period.
Source: Reading Wars – Philip Yancey
Don’t you love the always candid Philip Yancey? I really do.
This is an article everybody should read. Please find below a few excerpts:
‘ I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (OK, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.
The internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from The Atlantic or The New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at CNN.com reading Donald Trump’s latest Tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.’
‘Neuroscientists have an explanation for this phenomenon. When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush; functional-MRI brain scans show the brain’s pleasure centers lighting up. In a famous experiment, rats keep pressing a lever to get that dopamine rush, choosing it over food or sex. In humans, emails also satisfy that pleasure center, as do Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.
Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows analyzes the phenomenon, and its subtitle says it all: “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” Carr spells out that most Americans, and young people especially, are showing a precipitous decline in the amount of time spent reading. He says, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” A 2016 Nielsen report calculates that the average American devotes more than ten hours per day to consuming media—including radio, TV, and all electronic devices. That constitutes 65 percent of waking hours, leaving little time for the much harder work of focused concentration on reading.’
‘I’ve concluded that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish. Christians especially need that sheltering space, for quiet meditation is one of the most important spiritual disciplines.’
‘Boredom, say the researchers, is when creativity happens. A wandering mind wanders into new, unexpected places. When I retire to the mountains and unplug for a few days, something magical takes place. I’ll go to bed puzzling over a roadblock in my writing, and the next morning wake up with the solution crystal-clear—something that never happens when I spend my spare time cruising social media and the internet.
I find that poetry helps. You can’t zoom through poetry; it forces you to slow down, think, concentrate, relish words and phrases. I now try to begin each day with a selection from George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or R. S. Thomas.
For deep reading, I’m searching for an hour a day when mental energy is at a peak, not a scrap of time salvaged from other tasks. I put on headphones and listen to soothing music, shutting out distractions.’
‘We’re engaged in a war, and technology wields the heavy weapons. Rod Dreher published a bestseller called The Benedict Option, in which he urged people of faith to retreat behind monastic walls as the Benedictines did—after all, they preserved literacy and culture during one of the darkest eras of human history. I don’t completely agree with Dreher, though I’m convinced that the preservation of reading will require something akin to the Benedict option.
I’m still working on that fortress of habit, trying to resurrect the rich nourishment that reading has long provided for me.’