Saturday, April 6, 2019

Oscar Wilde, predator

Trinity College, Dublin
"although Wilde has long been acclaimed as a gay martyr and hero, he needs to be treated with care.
"we should be cautious about adopting a new double standard, and judging more leniently a writer who bought the bodies of penniless young boys in late-nineteenth-century Algiers or Naples than we would a businessman who buys the bodies of penniless young girls in early-twenty-first-century Bangkok or Manila. . . .
"One London reviewer of [Matthew] Surgis's book [Oscar:  a life] said that 'if these and all the others had been young women rather than young men, Wilde would today be seen not as an icon, but as a predator.'  But shouldn't we see him as a predator anyway?  We may be dismayed by Wilde's sufferings in prison, but a hundred years later he would likely have received a longer sentence. . . .
"the law to which [the Labouchere amendment] was appended, the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, was in its main purpose wholly commendable. . . .  the act was intended to suppress that evil [(child prostitution in London)].  Wouldn't most of us admire that, and the aim of protecting young girls—or boys—then or now?
"however gaudy and extraordinary [Wilde's] life was, we honor him more by remembering not the man but his work. . . ."

     Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "'Feasting with panthers,'" The New York review of books 66, no. 5 (March 21, 2019), 41 (40-41).  If I understand him aright, Wheatcroft is implying that when, "At his first trial as a defendant, Wilde gave an impassioned spontaneous speech . . . about 'the "Love that dare not speak its name,"' he was surreptitiously enlisting the love of Jonathan for David in support of the love of men for—not men but—boys.

Bolshevik intolerance

"'in conditions of fierce class struggle, in a large Party intimately connected to the broad masses, . . . the personal can become the political. . . .  When we fight, we do not fight the way liberals do.  They are the ones who separate the personal from the political.  Among us, it does not work that way:  if your politics are lousy, then you are a lousy, good-for-nothing person, and if your politics are wonderful, then you are a wonderful person.'"

     The "disgraced" Mikhail Pavolovich Tomsky, "in his confession to the Sixteenth Party Congress" of 26 June-13 July 1930, as translated by and quoted in Yuri Slezkine, The house of government:  a saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2017), 304.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

John Calvin's prayer before going to work

Prayer [to be said before doing one's work]

     "Our good God, Father and Savior, since You have pleased to command us to work to meet our needs, by Your grace may You so bless our labor that Your benediction may extend to us:  without it we cannot continue to live.  And may [Your] favor serve us as a witness of Your goodness and presence, that by it we may recognize the fatherly care You have for us.

     "Moreover, O Lord, please grant us aid by Your Holy Spirit, so that we may faithfully work in our place and vocation, without any fraud or deception; may we pay attention to following Your ordinance rather than satisfying our own lust for gain.  And if it please You to prosper our labor, may You also give us the heart to support those who are in need according to the ability You have given to us—but always without our wishing to set ourselves above those who have not received such generosity from You.  And where You choose to give us greater poverty and lack than our flesh would like, You, O Lord, grant us the grace to acknowledge that You always feed us by Your goodness, so that we may not be tempted to defy You.  But may we wait with patience for You to fill us not only with Your temporal graces but also with spiritual ones, so that we may always have greater reason and occasion to thank You and to repose entirely on Your goodness alone.  Hear us, most merciful Father, by Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen."

     John Calvin:  writings on pastoral piety, ed. Elsie Anne McKee, Classics of western spirituality:  a library of the great spiritual masters (New York:  Paulist Press, 2001), 215-215.  According to McKee  (210), this, the second of the two such prayers (hence the square brackets in the heading), appeared first in  L'ABC françois of 1551 (I know of only the 1553 online (which doesn't contain the prayer), though there does seem to be a 1551 in the full-text  Brill collection Huguenots Online), and then again in "some [1561] editions of the liturgy and catechism", including the 1561 Forme des prières.  Cf. CO 6 =CR 34, 137-138, where it appears as a variant.  John H. Leith reproduced the so-called Beveridge translation in The Christian life (Cambridge, MA:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984), 79-80, as follows, though I have yet to find it in the work cited by Leith, Beveridge's 19th-century edition of the Tracts and treatises:

     "Our good God, Father and Savior, since thou hast commanded us to work in order to meet our needs, sanctify our labor so that thy blessing extends even to us, without which no one can ever prosper well.  Let such favor attend us as a witness of thy goodness and help, making us aware through it of the fatherly care thou hast for us.  Also, Lord, be pleased to assist us through the Holy Spirit to the end that we are able faithfully to fulfill our calling without any deceit or fraud, that we regard ourselves as following thy law rather than fulfilling our desire to enrich ourselves.  Nevertheless, let it please thee to prosper our labor.  Give thou also to us a good heart to supply those who are poor, maintaining us in all humility to the end that we may never exalt ourselves over those who have not received such largesse from your liberality.  Now if thou should call us into greater poverty or need than we humanly desire, let us not sink into defiance but rather let us wait patiently for thee to replenish us not only with temporal grace but also with thy spiritual grace to the end that we may always have more ample cause and occasion to thank thee and to rest entirely upon thy goodness.  Grant this to us, Father of all mercy, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior.  Amen."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Confirmation as administered by a born-again evangelical in a state church

Given that "only a few" will "find the way to life," "the general confession [(das gemeinsame Bekenntnis)]" of faith "must be composed in such a way as to render it suitable for [both] those who have been born again and those who have not [(Wiedergeborene und Unwiedergeborene)].  My memory is that one year [Pastor Mumssen] put but a single question to his confirmands:  “If you are able to confirm that I have born witness to this faith in your presence, then answer Yes [(Bestätigt ihr mir, daß ich euch diesen Glauben bezeugt habe, so antwortet mir:  Ja)]."

     Pastor Carol Richter, Pastor und Propst Rudgar Mumssen, Hamburg (geboren 7. Dezember 1876, gestorben 30 März 1944):  Erinnerungen aus dem Leben meines Konfirmators, Sonderdruck aus dem Gnadauer Gemeinschafstblatt, Dezember 1962 (Detmold / Lippe, 1962), 2-3.
     Though confirmation wasn't, for Luther, a sacrament, this still seems odd.  Is that because Mumssen doesn't even require an outward confession, but only confirmation that they've been instructed?  Because the confirmands give confirmation (but not even that they assent to anything, if only outwardly!), not the church?