Monday, October 23, 2006

"Architecture + Morality" blog

Take a look at Architecture + Morality, "Musings on Architecture, Urbanism, Politics, Economics and Religion", a blog of four members, some of whom at least appear to be Roman-friendly Lutherans. Debate with Protestants is often difficult, due to assuptions such as the opposition between faith and reason, as well as a too-American view of public morality, and that is true with these writings, but they are still interesting.

Some articles of interest:

From Wittenberg to Rome: Retracing Luther’s Steps
But before the theses were ever posted, Luther made a trek through Germany and Italy to get to Rome on monastic business in 1510. It is debatable as to whether or not this trip began the Reformation in some sense: was Luther’s faith beginning to crumble as he witnessed debauchery and apathy among priests? Was he beginning to see Rome not as a Holy See but as a den of thieves?
Unfortunately, Rome and the Church are still full of debauchery and apathy, in clergy and laity alike. But I just need to look into the mirror to see the plank stuck in my own eye! The view of Faith as being objective, and not dependent on unworthy humans (such as myself) makes all of this chaos easier to stomach.
And I also found it hard to accept the sheer opulence of the Vatican. I was torn between the realization that it was all supplemental (at best) to faith and my belief that aesthetic sensibility plays a huge role in the “proper” adoration of Christ.
Catholic art is indeed a supplemental, and dispensible, part of the Faith, but justice demands that we give the best in honor of Him who deserves it. And a lot of Catholics don't like Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, either. We have many partisans of the Romanesque, Byzantine, and Gothic styles, too.
And I, as a Christian, feel greatly indebted to Rome in a spiritual sense for its unwavering stances on doctrine, its reliance upon the Church Fathers, and its sheer volume of believers. The strength of John Paul II against communism and Benedict XVI against “the dictatorship of relativism” literally almost bring a tear to my eye. I owe them a great deal for their strength of character. If only such men were popes in Luther’s day

Is the Conservative Movement Turning In On Itself: Modern Powerbrokers Vs. Postmodern Young Republicans
It seems Rush Limbaugh has created a monster. Say whatever you want about him, his influence on the conservative movement is second only to William F. Buckley or even economists like Milton Friedman. While I have no doubt that many 20-something bloggers regard Limbaugh as a relic, it is hard to deny that he was the tipping point for an awful lot of college-aged kids who were confused as to what politics was all about, and who desperately needed someone, anyone, to explain what they felt already: that conservatism was the way to go. Over the years, it seems this generation of Postmoderns has outgrown Rush, and have even begun to question the master himself...

My level of interest is the bigger sway here, which is that the conservative movement may be turning in on itself.
William F. Buckley created the American conservative movement back in the 1950s, Milton Friedman's economic ideas transformed the American economy back in the 1980s, and radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh sustains the movement today. But the question - What is conservatism? - still perplexes us, is becoming divisive, and many social conservatives are deeply dissapointed with current politics. Now, the liberal/progressive movement has the same kind of questions, but the Democratic party has an iron-fisted Party discipline that de facto defines the movement. But we should keep this distinction in mind:

American Conservatism = European Liberalism
American Liberalism = European Socialism

The Liberal principles and institutions of the Enlightenment defines American 'conservatism', while Marxism defines American 'liberalism'. In the United States, there is no room for tradition or orthodoxy, as both are rejected by both right and left. Perhaps evangelicals fear the road of tradition and orthodoxy, because that road might lead to Rome.

The article continues:
Conservatives, especially Postmodern conservatives, are self-critical. They don’t necessarily even trust each other when it comes to ideas. The reason there is fear of conservatives sitting out the election is because they can debate the major issues of the day, and some even consider a wrong conservative a worse enemy than a liberal.
Postmodernism, the philosophical idea that even if truth is knowable, it could not be communicated, has now taken root in the political right. Postmodern leftists, feeling that they could not intellectually justify their policies, became "ironic liberals", supporting positions that they could not defend. They do what they do just because they feel like it. Many evangelicals on the political right have jumped on this philosophical bandwagon: they can't logically justify their beliefs and practices, but since they are postmodern, they don't have to.

On the contrary, Catholic belief in an objective social order leads to a rejection of the postmodern idea, but this cannot be offered as just an opinion, no better than any other; instead it would be a definitive statement of authority, and hence would seem "un-American".

Can We Create Justice? Or Joy?
We should remind ourselves of all the dictators that makes such grandiose promises of justice, only to commit human rights violations and mass murder in the process of achieving that view of justice. The idea that we can create justice is awfully tempting, but it can also become an idol...

Addendum: For an amazing commentary on this subject, check out Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.
Keeping Out the Riff-Raff: the Morality of Sprawl
The supposedly ‘superior’ architectural typologies embraced by designers are no match to the bland landscapes of the ex-urbs if social stability and comfort are not provided.
Confession: The Value in Moral Self-Expression
Finally, what has happened and what will happen as we get away from our own sin? I have heard that individual confession is gaining, very slowly but surely, in “popularity” again. Priests and pastors are encouraging it, and there are a few more takers than in years past. Good; the process of abandoning the lies we can easily slip into is the beginning of spiritual health. And this isn’t to say we go into the confessional booth to beat ourselves up, or to get beat up. Quite the contrary: we hear about the grace of God in an entirely new way, spoken to us as an individual by a priest or pastor who is acting in the stead of God. Given that many protestants and even some Catholics have never even experienced this once, I lament from time to time that Luther didn’t hang onto Penance as a third sacrament.
Crankin' out the Hits: Why Many Architects Won't Design Traditionally
...Modernism’s lack of precise rules of composition allows anyone to believe that they are generating a scheme as unique as any other. Everyone gets to be a special designer, can create their distinct signature on a building. The only problem is that a miniscule number of such designers actually have the talent to pull off an original but transcendentally beautiful building. For many, the design process is a true joy, but achieving a moving design is extremely hard. It is doubly difficult when applying the Modernist style precisely because the rules are too few or too subtle. In my ideal world, those who are short of design talent (but are good at everything else) should incorporate a traditional style and diligently apply classical rules of proportion and composition. It is a foolproof means toward pleasingly attractive buildings, and would be a much better alternative to the numerous lazy modernist design experiments gone wrong.
There is, I think, a false opposition between tradition and innovation. They are not mutually exclusive. You can, in fact, write in standard, traditional English and still express an infinite number of arbitrarily complex ideas, and the same goes with the architectural tradition. The authors, I think, are not prepared to go all of the way and embrace tradition in architecture.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for linking to us! Architecture and Morality is really just the two of us, "corbusier" and "relievedebtor". As you correctly ascertained, "relievedebtor" is a Lutheran pastor-in-training who seems to grow ever more respectful of catholic tradition. I myself am actually a catholic and appreciate tremendously "relievedebtor's" insights. But I will only write about things I know about which is architecture and whatever my bachelor's degree in poli-sci can conjure up.

    We'll happily blogroll you soon.