Bags of Bran


I Have Absolutely No Idea.
April 5, 2016, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

During my weekly *ahem* research (OK, my breaks from sermon prep and such), I occasionally stumble across some ferociously interesting things. Often, time permitting, I post them with a few comments over at Religious Affections for the extra credit students.

It is rare, however, that I stumble across something so comically contrived, so curiously festooned in the draperies of faux-learning as this article.

An acquaintance of mine once tied a big, shiny wrench to the end of a fishing line and sat behind a dense hedge, waiting for suckers. When suckers came along and grabbed for the wrench, zing! He’d yank it away, and he and his co-lurkers would have a laugh at the expense of the mystified person staring blankly into the bushes.

That is exactly what this author is doing: he purposefully uses the kind of deconstructionist language that defies meaning at all cost. You might try to understand one sentence, but he has changed his references in the next sentence, and so you are lost. You grab for the meaning, but zing! Meanwhile, he and his buddies behind the bushes smirk knowingly at you for trying to pin him down.

In the essay, the author does what he is paid to do: he explores liturgy and gaming. He uses insider terminology: not Christian insider, but gamer insider. It is not difficult to tell which is the controlling idea in his essay. What overlap could there be between those two categories, you might ask? Perhaps the better question is why liturgy and video games would need to be reconciled with each other. Someone could have preempted the whole article by saying ‘Fine, have your hobby; you don’t need to prop it up with fathomless billows of hogwash.’

To press not forward, but to press over. To see ourselves not as one typically does, but as we might see a stranger from afar. To observe the stranger’s movements as we control them. To speculate about their motivations, their goals and their desires, and then to internalize them for ourselves. What does it mean to care for them so dearly that their failures are ours?

He continues:

When we control another and take for granted that their success is ours, we begin to learn a posture of support. It is a liturgy of obsessive empathy, a ritual of active concern for whomever happens to be within our field of view.

To walk from left to right is to succeed vicariously through another, whose identity we have taken as our own.

To walk from left to right is mentorship.

But here we have fathomless billows of hogwash. What could he possibly mean by ‘liturgy of obsessive empathy?’ Nobody actually believes that we grow in our understanding of human nature, that we become better neighbors, friends, sons, daughters, or Christians by slaving away in front of video game consoles. Nobody believes that he is being mentored while he is saving two-dimensional princesses. The author is not trying to inform you, he is trying to impress you when he says things like “Mario may have been a weird, incomprehensible person, but he was a whole person.” Mankind (not just the Christian portion of mankind, but the whole) has universally understood personhood differently.

But this article is exactly the kind of fashionable nonsense that many Christians now demand. They desire thinkpieces that bear the trappings of intellectual profundity, such as technical jargon, needlessly difficult sentences, and incorporation of comforting cultural furniture. At the same time, they desire that such displays pose absolutely no threat to their own idolatrous notions of the god of ‘luv.‘*

*Kreeft is Catholic. Set your filter accordingly.

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