Monthly Archives: May 2013

Boomers & Stickers

That title is a reference to Wendell Berry. A rough translation: Boomers = people who go where ever the opportunity is greatest regardless of the mess they leave behind. Stickers = people who stay in one place because the community is greater than the individual. As with all dualities it is immediately true and false at the same time. Berry’s deeper point I have taken to be that the rules of American society have become too tilted toward Boomers. Even if you were a sticker, the price is individually too high. But a society of all boomers lacks the social capital and cohesion to exist for any length of time.

There are a lot of Christians who have resonated with Wendell Berry. My guess is that many have read him on “place” and sticking and heard echoes of “running the race” and seen his virtues of “place” in the community called the church, which in most Americans experience is a local thing. Yes, in episcopal churches there are far away hierarchies, but even in the Roman Catholic Church in America, the religion of daily life is played out in the local parish. Nobody fears the coming of the inquisition. Coming from a Lutheran standpoint, and I would say Confessional Lutheran based on the Treatise of the Power and Primacy of the Pope (TPPP), that local nature of the church is a correct understanding. The church is found where the word is preached and the sacraments administered correctly. The entire church is present in that local congregation, or maybe said better that congregation is the church in that place. Anything “above” or outside of the congregation is not church although we might call it that. The church above or outside of the congregation is fine, but we should recognize it for what it is – de jure humano – a human construct. The reformers where fine with the Pope so long as he would admit his office was by human law.

Alan Jacobs questions if this resonance is misplaced or even reconcilable with Christianity. His primary evidence is Jesus and Paul who were clearly not “stickers” but in Paul’s case traveled “to the ends of the earth”. To make place a primary commitment is as Berry does is a form of idolatry.

I’d agree with Jacobs in so far as I think Berry’s place is a secularized form of the church. Christians who read Berry and make an equation of church and place are making a jump that Berry doesn’t. But Christians who make that jump are reading the deeper truth that Berry can’t or won’t make. The church is a place. The church is the proleptic or out of time appearance of the Kingdom of God in this dying age. In so far as the Christian is a sticker to the place of the Kingdom, the virtues of place in Berry are applicable. The deepest of those virtues in my understanding is simple the ability to stop coveting the greener grass on the other side of the fence and to recognize our vocations where we are. Some are called to be apostles which would mean a bunch of travel. But wherever they go they are still in the place of the Kingdom living out their vocation. They did not leave because of covetousness but because of call. And to do so is not to leave at all. Likewise the pastor called to the same place for a lifetime, or the layman who works quietly in the vineyard where they have been placed, are also living out their vocations. The world would say to them -“Boom, you are not getting the most out of life, you must go elsewhere.” The church and God instead would say no. There is honor and fulfillment in living your life in place, “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)” Berry’s form of place is idolatry because his place is literally a physical place in this dying world. But Berry, unlike many other forms of secularism, is sanctifiable with a better understanding of place. The Christian’s home is not here, but the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is in every place. One can go and never leave. Likewise one can never leave, but have everywhere in the communion of saints.

Christian Worship & Evangelism

There is nothing that makes a pastor more humble quicker than talking about evangelism. It is real easy to get hard numbers. How many baptisms? How many visitors? How many new members? These are things you can count without a big problem. And there is no end of people and places who will sell you a program. Many congregations and many pastors jump from one program to another to another. I’m not sure where is all started. My guess is that the first pastor of the church at say Thessalonica, about a year after Paul left, had other saying “hey, lets look at what the Temple of Nike is doing to goose attendance”.

One of the more hardy perennials are various fugues on how you can change your worship to appeal to those on the outside. The greatest exponent of that philosophy is Willow Creek. It is Bill Hybels and Willow Creek that popularized the term “seeker services”. The original idea was make your Sunday service as non-threatening as possible. That lead to things like: removal of crosses, replacement of altars with platforms, “worship” songs that don’t reference Jesus directly but instead just God, sermons that focused on “7 things you can do” instead of “this is what Christ has done for you”. That list might sound more negative than I mean it to be. If you were asking me what seeker services accomplished I’d say two things. First, they built a modern agora which is a reference to Paul’s method of going to the public gathering places to preach. All kinds of people will wander through a modern mega-church to talk general spiritual things. Second, the builders of these places are usually great preachers of the law. I don’t mean that is a specific moral law way. They are not great preachers of the 10 commandments. What they do very well is proclaim the way of wisdom. If you do and behave this way, good things will happen to you. And the best of them are wise and dispensing good advice. That is why there are plenty of people they can always bring up as examples. Here is the problem – and if you asked me Rob Bell is probably an example of this – the law kills. Even the best at keeping the law (paging Rob Bell), eventually crack under the strain. (I bring up Rob Bell because his story of hiding in the closet before he was preach one day is an acute case of the law.)

What went missing, and Willow Creek eventually admits something close to this, is the gospel. Thousands of people just burned out and went away mad. Thousands of other felt something lacking or dissatisfied with their spiritual life. They were doing all these things, and it didn’t work. They wouldn’t put it exactly this way, but they lost the bridge from talking in the open market to actually proclaiming Christ crucified for you. Evangelism a noble goal, but if you lose Jesus in the process what are you evangelizing too?

If we believe the small catechism it is the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies. The sheep hear the shepherds voice. It might help if the sheep of the shepherd acted like it, but God’s will is done regardless. We are invited to be part of the mission of God, but it is not dependent upon us. (Thanks be to God!) One of the conclusions I would draw out of that theology is that worship is for Christians. The way the Spirit works is not through our mastery of psychological technique, but through the proclamation of the word and the administration of the sacraments. In a paradoxical way, the stranger those are, the more effective they might be. Because there, in church, in word and sacrament, is where the holy touches the unholy and makes it clean. Hiding the holy is just hiding the face of God and lowering the volume on the Spirit. Another form of what Moses did when he put on the veil when he came down the mountain. After Christ the veil has been lifted. I’ll continue this further.

A Specific God with A Specific Grace – Trinity Sunday

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Biblical Text: John 8:48-59, Athanasian Creed
Full Draft of Sermon

I believe that Trinity Sunday, at least as we normally observe it, is the most offensive Sunday of the Church year. Let me explain that statement. The Sunday School answer – Jesus – is what we proclaim most Sundays. Scratching under that simple statement I would tend to hold that the three theological virtues (faith, hope and charity/love) take up a large amount of Sundays. Closely following or intertwined would be grace and the fruits of the Spirit. I’d like to say that in this I’m just following the texts of the day. And if I am being an orthodox preacher, I am saying what the texts have to say for the people gathered at St. Mark’s. So depending upon the texts you get some other subjects: prayer, discipleship, creation, eschatology (last things), and so on. And it is possible to be winsome and happy and non-offensive on most of those things. Likewise it is possible to be a complete a**. Traditionally the cross was the scandal – the cross was foolishness to the gentile and a scandal/stumbling block to Jews. It is still possible to hear and feel that scandal, but most people giving a preacher a listen don’t seem that shocked at the cross. (And I am aware that many would say that is because you must not be preaching the cross. I don’t think that is the case. If I have one cliche visible motion it is pointing at the cross on the altar like the Issenheim Altarpiece.) In a pluralistic society, the doctrine of God, the Trinity, becomes offensive. The bigger scandal isn’t the scandal of the cross where God dies. The bigger scandal is particularity. There is a God and this specifically is how He has revealed himself. And that specific revelation is the ground of truth and freedom.

Trinity Sunday, when marked by the reading of the Athanasian Creed, is one Sunday given over the the faith which is believed. While most Sundays include faith and some part of the (intellectual) faith which is believed, the emphasis is on encouragement in the faith which believes. The faith which believes, the work of the Spirit within us, is what saves. It does not come from us, but is given to us by grace. And that faith which believes is what grabs onto the cross like the old pictures and stained glass of the man holding onto the cross that is either going over a waterfall or is amidst the wind and waves. This is our stained glass window, but I’ve seen the same icon in other churches. Church Windows 2011-10-04 001 (1024x683) That is a great visual of the faith which believes. Trinity Sunday is about the faith which is believed. It says boldly and clearly – “This is the God we believe in.”

In a plural society such clarity doesn’t leave room for “muddling on” or a soft syncretism blending a little of Buddha, a little of the great spirit, a little of gentle Jesus and a little of precious moments. That is why I think it is the most offensive. It is also very necessary. Quoting myself in the sermon, please excuse me, “A lowest common denominator faith eventually betrays both – producing a confusion of God, which is no god at all, and a smear of cheap grace, which is not grace.” Are you building on the rock or on sand? The creeds, like Jesus in the festival discourse in John 7-8, are a statement of the rock.

The Vocabulary of the Spirit

David Brooks gets it, at least from a secular point, and in a way (especially if you look at the comments from the clueless multitude of Times readers) that is terribly sad. In this essay, he preaches half of my sermon this week much better than I could. The problem, as Babel told us, is not the system. The problem is the individual human heart. As Brooks talks about, the individual no longer resonated to words like fortitude and courage. Aquinas and virtue theologians would put those as the cornerstone of the virtues. If you don’t have fortitude, the others will fall as well. When you no longer build virtue, you resort to the law to force something like virtue. Hence,

Meanwhile, usage of words associated with the ability to deliver, like “discipline” and “dependability” rose over the century, as did the usage of words associated with fairness. The Kesebirs point out that these sorts of virtues are most relevant to economic production and exchange.

The law is always quid pro quo; it is a market. And it is always inadequate to the task. If the law can’t convict you of sin (second use, mirror) and move you toward virtue in the gospel (3rd use, rule) the best it can do is be a curb (first use or civil use). Hence,

The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.

That is the result of turning away from the call of the Holy Spirit. The only solution is the recovery of the vocabulary of the Spirit. A re-moralization is not about the law, although it has a role. It starts with repentance. And repentance doesn’t come about until the old Adam is dead, until we no longer want to keep our life but are willing to lose it for the gospel. And that might be why David Brooks can be so melancholy. Walking that necessary path is going to hurt. Our Polis, our politics, is not about virtue but about mere technique. Which technique do you want – delay and deny (liberal) or time to pay the piper (conservative)? A more wise Polis would be talking about prudence, patience, fortitude and temperance along with faith, hope and charity. But those require belief in something beyond the market. A belief we no longer have the Spirit for. “Take not you Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11)…”

From Babel to the New Jerusalem

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Biblical Text: Genesis 11:1-9
Full Sermon Draft

How does the Spirit work? That might be a question that leads to a just-so-story. But just-so-stories don’t give the Bible, and its author the Holy Spirit, enough credit. Such stories can be manipulative. If you are taking Babel as a just-so-story, the real purpose is to say “know your place”. It would be the Biblical Icarus, and God would be the capricious Zeus. But that is not the story told at Babel and Pentecost.

The story told is of a God who saves us from the worst of ourselves. The story told is of a Spirit that takes the wounds of sin an glorifies them. No longer are all the languages a reminder of how sin turns us inward, but they are a testament to the width of the love of God. The new creation comes not through compelling force or manipulative story, but through an invite to the heart. God’s will is done, the New Jerusalem is built, one heart (one stone heart turned to flesh) at a time.

The Terms of Unity

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Biblical Text: John 17:20-26
Full Sermon Draft

…But Jesus prayer for unity continues and we might say gets tougher in verses 22 and 23. The basis of the unity in these verses is the glory. The glory that you have given me, I have given to them…that they may be one.

Now we’d love to see glory, because we think we know what it looks like. And our thoughts are glory are not completely false, just out of order. I say that because I’m assuming that most of our definitions of glory would probably be gleaming surfaces, gold streets, never ending crops, basically what John sees in the reading from revelation. But bringing that definition in at this point is out of order. That is the glory of the world to come.

The glory of this world is the cross.

If you want to see how you get from that to Mother’s Day (or at least an attempt) read/listen to the whole…

What does the data say?

There is something called the GSS, the General Social Survey. It is a large sample survey of the US population regarding several interesting data-sets like religious identity. It starts roughly in the 1970’s and has continued through today. Here is wikipedia on the GSS.

Here is a post by much better social scientists than I, looking at protestant affiliation across time through the GSS. Their point is the dramatic decline of denominations. And this is true, but I also think it covers up something else. What I think it is covering up is actually a great sorting out. Inside each one of those grouping that they have put together is a constant core. What you are seeing is the collapse of a specific type of American Christianity and a sorting out along the way.

A note on the methodology. The list of denominations that the GSS records might be called “pre-schism”. Lutherans are pretty easy as we schism-ed early and often. What I’ve done is taken the ELCA bodies and the “Lutheran don’t know specifics” and put them in the same bucket. I’ve put the LCMS and the other specific bodies together. My assumption is that if you know enough to answer a specific denomination you have some tie to its theology. If you don’t there is an accomodationist grouping that doesn’t care about doctrine in any serious way. What I’m trying to construct is what I call a “proto-denomination”. The Episcopal Church, the PC-USA, the ELCA and the United Methodists are all in pulpit sharing arrangements with each other. What that means is that a minister who is ordained from one of those bodies is able to take a call or be a pastor of a congregation in any of those bodies. They have declared that any doctrinal divisions do not stand in the way of spiritually leading a congregation. So while church politics might keep them separate, and by church politics I mean that bishops in each body don’t want to risk losing a chair as long as the money holds out, those bodies are effectively one denomination or moving that way. I’ve kept all Baptists together. There are portions of presbyterians (PCA), Episcopal (Anglicans) and United Methodist that I’d have loved to split out, but this is the pre-schism problem. The GSS just doesn’t have those bodies. But when you look at the graph, I don’t think you need to see that to get the point. I’ve included the historically black denominations in the other line. And the last methodology note is that for the graph I’ve taken a 5 sample moving average to smooth the graph. What that means is that any one survey tends to jump around. For example, from 1986 survey to 1987 survey the Baptists went from 32% to 41% of the sample. That is the nature of a sample. Averaging over 5 years, each point having the preceding 5 survey points, helps to smooth such single survey effects.

This is the resulting graph:

GSS Prot Aff 5yrMA

Here is what I see – 3 flat lines and 2 converging lines. Baptists moving around 32% of protestants with little movement 80’s – today. Other/non-denom’s hovering around 23%. Lutherans hovering around 5%. The accomodationist proto-denomination hovering around 30% until roughly 2000 where it entered a steep decline. Around exactly the same inflection point “none” goes from 7% on a steep upward slope.

So, what does this mean? Well, other than nothing because I messed up the data which is a possibility, this is what I think. First, none of this says anything about how these groups do in comparison to the population. If the share of the population that gets lumped none-none (i.e. atheist/agnostic) is growing (and other surveys say it is) that is a separate point. This is within the religious world. Second, those groups that maintain differentiation are holding their own. Maybe not in reported membership. The LCMS has been declining in reported membership, but in survey response which is more akin to attendance than membership, it holds its own. Likewise with baptists and non-denoms. There might be an argument that just wait, the kink down is coming, but the fact that there are denominational groups that haven’t would seem to say not all denominations are the same. Third, the decline and growth is really a story of the accomodationist grouping. The great sort is happening or has happened. If you “believe, teach and confess” a specific doctrinal body you probably know it and find it significant enough to maintain. You might have troubles keeping some congregations going because the “don’t knows” have drifted away, but it should be possible given some political grace to stand. (What I mean by that is some congregational consolidation is probably necessary, and that might mean driving a little further for some, but the results should be larger and more vibrant/healthy congregations.) But the accomodationist grouping doesn’t have that core body of doctrine. They are not a theological group but a sociological grouping. And looking at the data, sociology is not enough to maintain them. There is a remnant in there – a portion of the UM, the PCA, the ACNA. My guess is that if we could split them out, the accomodationist group would look worse.

Spiritually, what I would say is what Christ says to the church of Philadelphia in Rev 3:10-11. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”

My Spreadsheet

Public Morals and The People We Are

Melanchthon, quoting Erasmus, at Luther’s funeral – God has sent in this latter age a violent physician on account of the magnitude of the existing disorders…

So many of the conversations that I have seem to center around “the magnitude of the existing disorders”. Many people realize “that ain’t right”. But there is an unwillingness, or an inability to say so publicly. And there is no willingness to bear the cost of correcting it. A big part of the disorders are a huge misunderstanding between the correct and necessary application of grace to the private person, and the public rightness of insisting upon the law (i.e. public morals).

The presenting case is one Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who “went walking the Appalachian Trail” and came back with his South American “soulmate”. Roughly three years later, the same Mark Sanford, presents himself as a candidate for the US House of Representatives. This presents us with a pickle. The Christian religion instructs us to forgive. The former Governor has repented, has married his “soulmate” and presented his candidacy as a request for forgiveness. This is a terrible mash-up of public and private. The former Governor from the outside appears to have done everything necessary to receive absolution, privately. He is perfectly able to walk in grace in private life. As 1 Thessalonians would say, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs (1 Thessalonians 4:11).” There is a big bridge between that quiet private life, and a public one. When you present yourself for public office there is a much different standard. It is not exactly the same thing, but a good place to look for a public standard might be what St. Paul requires of ministers otherwise know as the office of public ministry. Let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The only changes that I might make to such a list for public office in a pluralistic state would be when Paul speaks of “holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” I might substitute something like support the constitution with a clear conscience. That would exclude any revolutionary candidate whose true purpose would be to subvert public order. Otherwise, that list for overseers and deacons (aka bishops/pastors and elders) would serve as a good list of requirements for secular (or temporal) public office. It is not a list marked by strict holiness, but a smart practical list of traits in one who governs. As St. Paul says, to desire public office is no shame but is in fact noble. But, there is no requirement to grant public office. And there is no shame in a quiet private life. To desire the noble public task there are certain requirements – like one wife, not prone to fall into disgrace, faithful in all things. If you don’t meet this, thank you for your desire, but you don’t meet the first requirements.

We can forgive former governor Sanford. We can find like Jonah Goldberg “something quaint” about his scandal. Compared to pressing young interns and sending pictures of your crotch, going walking with an age appropriate soulmate almost sounds sweet. We can also say, such actions disqualify you from public office. In fact Christians should say such things. The appropriate time to have done so for the ministers of South Carolina was during the primaries so that the sword of Damocles didn’t hang over the voters head, where you could vote for someone who would vote for what you like but who is himself unqualified for office, or vote for the person taking you in the wrong direction but meets more fundamental qualifications. Yes, I know that makes us judgmental. You know what, good. The mature should “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 6:14).” Until we are able to do so, the magnitude of the existing disorders will only increase. If you give an inch, the devil takes a mile.

And what this ultimately does is discredit what we believe in most dear – the gospel. (Douthat gets it.) You cannot come to the gospel without hearing the law. The law is both our tutor in our need for the gospel, and our guide to living the God fearing life. Our problem today is not the same as in Luther’s. Our problem is not that we are beset by a lot of holy-made-up-work crushing our souls. Our problem today is cheap grace. Our problem today is not hearing that the life of a Christian is one of daily drowning and arising. We can’t sacrifice a house seat for a few months, so we live with someone not fit for office. We can’t pick-up our cross or deal with life in community (i.e. the church) so we walk out and go “spiritual”. If the magnitude of the disorders are so great, pray for a violent doctor, because the other option is a disappearance beneath the waves. On this Ascension Day, it is the Lord who raises up and who dispatches. Our time on the stage might be drawing to a close. Just like all those other empires of history.

Follow your passion?

NPR had a short segment on a question that was sent to Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution). The hook was for those upcoming graduates who are lucky enough not to get sucked into the maw of this economy, what should they pursue if they didn’t really have “a passion”? And Dr. Cowen expressed some inability to answer it describing it:

The fact that Max and other young college graduates can even entertain this question — “What is my passion?” — is a new conundrum, and still a luxury not everybody enjoys. Yet, Tyler recently told me, it is “a central question of our time.”

So what’s the best, most rational answer for Max? It seems like economics could help; after all, it’s about costs and benefits and modeling complicated decisions.

But, Tyler says, “it was a truly difficult, tough question to make any progress on.”

For Christians St. Paul has a simple answer. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, which is deeply rooted in the summary of the 10 commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. What are you called to do, even when you don’t feel a call? Love God and love your neighbor. What does loving your neighbor look like?

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Now given the difference between the 1st century and the 21st century, the working with your hands might not be a directly possible. I don’t think that St. Paul was saying everyone should be making tents or plumbing. What that meant was do something that was not just being idle. Work is important in itself. One of the large idols of the day is that there are only specific roles that are “meaningful”. That is a false and destructive idol as people idle away waiting for meaningful work. No, serving your neighbor, a proper thing to follow, consists in living quietly, minding your own affairs and doing something that allows you to walk properly before outsiders. How boring! How suburban! But there it is, the bedrock of Christian calling, rooted in the 10 commandments.

A Proper Burial

From the Iliad – Book 22 –

With this, Achilles drew his bronze-tipped spear from the corpse and laid it down, and as he began to strip the blood-stained armour from Hector’s shoulders he was joined by others of the Greeks, who ran to gaze at Hector’s size and wondrous form. Yet all who approached struck the body a blow, and turning to a comrade, one said: ‘See, Hector’s easier to deal with now than when he set the ships ablaze.’ With that, he wounded the corpse.

When noble Achilles, the great runner, had stripped away the armour, he rose and made a speech to the Achaeans: ‘Friends, leaders, princes of the Argives, now the gods have let us kill this man, who harmed us more than all the rest together, let us make an armed reconnaissance of the city, while we see what the Trojans have in mind, whether they’ll abandon the city now their champion has fallen, or whether they’ll fight on, though Hector is no more. But why think of that? There is another corpse, unwept, unburied lying by the ships, that of Patroclus, my dear friend, whom I shall not forget as long as I walk the earth among the living. And though in the House of Hades men may forget their dead, even there I shall remember him. So, you sons of Achaea, raise the song of triumph, and drag this corpse back to the ships. We have won great glory, and killed the noble Hector, whom the Trojans prayed to like a god, in Troy.’

So saying, he found a way to defile the fallen prince. He pierced the tendons of both feet behind from heel to ankle, and through them threaded ox-hide thongs, tying them to his chariot, leaving the corpse’s head to trail along the ground. Then lifting the glorious armour aboard, he mounted and touched the horses with his whip, and they eagerly leapt forward. Dragged behind, Hector’s corpse raised a cloud of dust, while his outspread hair flowed, black, on either side. That head, once so fine, trailed in the dirt, now Zeus allowed his enemies to mutilate his corpse on his own native soil.

What do you do with the body – the remains – of a terrorist?

Do you follow Achilles? Do we mutilate it? Do we take what once was a “wondrous form” and “trail it in the dirt”? Do we dump it at sea as we did with Bin Laden? Burial at sea being proper for death at sea or for a man who spent his life at sea, but how is that different than lashing the body to our war chariots and dragging it around the walls of Troy?

Isn’t don’t do that Homer’s point? The civilized had been made barbarian. The body of Hector for the body of Patroclus?

Regardless of the deeds of the person, the remains are the remains of what might have been. They are the wondrous remains of what God once fashioned good in his own image but what we have twisted. If we want to degrade ourselves, drag the body. Dump it in the garbage heap. You are not making a statement about the departed. You are making a statement about what you think we are. A better people would quietly put the remains to the ground with a few words to our tragic corruption of what was once so fine. This is how a strong and civilized people act, not with the bombs of corruption, nor with the calls for mutilation, but with a simple respect for what we all share.