April 19, 2013

"When did the spiritual life become just another trapping of 'lifestyle' — an urgency not at the heart of the good life but of la dolce vita?"

"As one telling example, the protagonist of Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love' — Julia Roberts in the 2010 movie — seeks fulfillment and happiness though prayer, yes, but amplified by world travel, pizza and a hot romance with a Brazilian businessman. It's spiritual quest as spa treatment for the soul."

The opening of a book review for "My Bright Abyss," by Christian Wiman, who, we're told, "does not fall for the sops he sometimes finds in contemporary Christianity, which too often promotes 'a grinning, self-aggrandizing, ironclad kind of happiness that has no truth in it.'"

So, okay, he doesn't "fall for the sops" he sees in people he insults, but does he fall for any sops?

What is a "sop" anyway? The OED tells us "sop" begins as "A piece of bread or the like dipped or steeped in water, wine, etc., before being eaten or cooked." Later, it becomes, as used above, "Something given to appease or pacify the recipient; a bribe." The etymology of the word connects it to "soup."

A "sop" can also be a person: "A dull or foolish fellow; a milksop" or "A person or thing thoroughly soaked or steeped in some way." The OED offers this quote from Shakespeare's "Richard III" : "Chop him into the malmsey But in the next roome... Oh excellent deuice, and make a sop of him."

A rich and sweet wine brought to England from Greece in the 16th century, Malmsey is now produced on the island of Madeira. Shakespeare writes about Malmsey in Love’s Labour’s Lost (5.2.240) and 2 Henry IV (2.1.36), but the most famous reference to Malmsey in all of literature can be found in Richard III, when Richard orders the execution of his brother, the Duke of Clarence. Richard’s hired assassins decide to drown Clarence in a large cask (butt) of the brew. When they arrive at the Tower of London to carry out the task, the unsuspecting Clarence asks for a cup of wine. The Second Murderer offers this ghastly retort: “You shall have wine enough, my lord, anon” (1.4.153).
So here's some wine to go with your pizza and hot romance, you inferior, grinning, self-aggrandizing, ironcladdedly happy religionists.


Ann Althouse said...

What is Althouse trying to say here?

Look out! It's a trap!

52godpickup said...


*adds Wiman to prayer list*

St. George said...

“It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ,” said Fyodor Dostoyevski. “My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”

Christianity doesn't promote a "grinning....happiness that has no truth in it." It's some people who are Christians who have the crazy grins. There are a lot of people out there with crazy grins about a lot of things....

Chuck Currie said...

Milksop = Milk toast or Milquetoast.

One is food (milk toast is what my mother would give us for dinner when my dad worked late...I thought it was the best...didn't know we couldn't afford anything better), the other is a noun that describes Republicans when it comes to core conservative values.


Shanna said...

Christianity doesn't promote a "grinning....happiness that has no truth in it."

I think many people see happiness and assume inauthenticity. Sometimes happiness is true. Sometimes smiles come from within.

traditionalguy said...

Today's meme of being spiritual is a declaration of one's freedom to chose among a thousand gods that exist for relationships at a cost.

That cost is a freely available relationship with the one true God and his Son Jesus the Messiah.

Scriptures say that old time being spiritual is committing adultery with false gods and following doctrines of demons...not that there is anything wrong with that.

Kelly said...

This has made me less happy.

traditionalguy said...

The born again experience does transform one into a happy look on the face from deep within.

After spiritual rebirth, an infant Christian has to feed on the word of God to grow from happiness into mature contentment. Just reliving his new birth experience is not enough. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Brian said...

The link to the review seems to be broken.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Professor Bart Ehrman claims the very concept of heresy was invented by the early Christians, when they invented the first religion centered on belief rather than practice.

slumber_j said...

"No Possum, No Sop, No Taters":


False Majority said...

Fwiw, an epic takedown of "Eat Pray Love," book and movie:


C Stanley said...

The "sop" of political, earthly power?

Just grasping for straws.

The book review link doesn't work, BTW.

Philip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip said...

There's a Judas/Jesus reference here too related to sop. KJV-only, but if Shakespeare, then this, too.

John 13:21-26: When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

Perhaps these 'fallen sops' are indicating the spiritual state of Mr. Wiman as well.