Alan Jacobs

Living in Reality

I believe I’ve mentioned Alan Jacobs’ book The Year Of Our Lord 1943 before. I think that book may be where I first heard of Jacques Ellul, even though it’s more about Auden, Weil, Eliot, Lewis and Maritain. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Jacobs in The Point magazine with interesting background on Ellul (bold emphasis added):

RK: You conclude this unlikely story with a nod to Jacques Ellul, who became one of the leading prophets and critics of the burgeoning technocratic society. Anticipating how problem-solver culture would take hold, Ellul envisioned a future starved of creativity, devoid of spiritual depth and purpose, where “children are educated to become precisely what society expects of them.” Apart from the fact that aspects of his vision seem to have come to life, why was it so important to give Ellul the final word?

AJ: Auden was born in 1907, Weil in 1909, Ellul in 1912. He’s not that much younger than them, but the difference is significant. Also, he lived in occupied France, where Weil wanted to be but couldn’t get to. During the war she was mainly in London, Auden in various parts of America, but Ellul was trying to raise food for his family, preach sermons to his tiny Reformed congregation, and smuggle Jews out of France. This was an existentially threatening time for Ellul, and it happened when he was still a very young man — so the whole war was formative for him in ways it wasn’t for any of my main characters. And perhaps for this reason Ellul saw with remarkable immediacy and clarity that the victory was not that of democracy but rather technocracy. The other five lived through a great struggle for, as they all would have seen it, the soul of the West; but Ellul came into his intellectual maturity when that struggle had been concluded. I thought it important to end with a look at a brilliant thinker who didn’t worry about whether rule of the technocratic elite could be averted, because that rule was already established, and the only question remaining, for thoughtful and serious Christians, was how to live in it.

Ephemera, 06/27/23

At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok makes some valid and interesting points as to why the modern “leisure class” feels so “harried.” But I think it’s okay to acknowledge that something has produced both good and bad effects, and to seek to find ways to mitigate the bad. This post sounds like the only response is to “make different choices” (eg, read books instead of multitasking!) without acknowledging that the culture makes this more difficult than it should be. Not that I have any solutions to offer other than, well, make different choices.

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The split over same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church was sad and tragic. I wasn’t part of the church at the time and have only read about it. Personally I am glad that I am able to worship in a parish that both supports me in my marriage and remains committed to orthodox faith in the Creeds, but I would have no issue sharing the pews with those who disagree (about my marriage; less so the Creeds). I think that Bishop Daniel Martins, in his ruminating memoir of the 2003 General Convention, is correct to grieve what happened, but his graciousness toward his ideological allies does not seem to extend toward those with whom he disagrees. There was no right “side” in this fight, no victors, no spoils.

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“It’s time to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  It’s time to seek the good of the city in which we live as pilgrims. It’s time to preach the Gospel in season and out of season. All these metaphors of disaster are just distractions from our undramatic daily calling. ‘The rest is not our business.’” – Alan Jacobs