- Salvation for Everyone!
- Dinner with the Babbits.
- 30kHz Politics.
- Technology plays out its hand.
- Beheading of the Forerunner and Baptist John.
I have long believed that the God Who punishes people because they made Him mad is the God Whom atheists do not believe in. It seems some Christians don’t believe in Him, either. This is no surprise, and it’s a question that is many centuries older than these corners of Evangelical theology (and their recent occasional forays into liberal Protestantism) actually reveal. It’s not as if every “traditional” Christian for twenty centuries has believed in a God Who zaps the unrighteous and the ignorant, and now suddenly, we have this idea that perhaps God might love someone, might even be merciful(!).
The afterlife—heaven, hell, whatever—is fundamentally about apokalypsis, the “pulling away of the veil.” On the other side of death, we will experience the glory of God. There are a lot of ways of describing that experience, depending on the capacity with which we receive it. But whatever we bring to that experience, we know that it will be essentially unmitigated. God’s glory will be revealed to all of us to the extent that we are able to receive it without being annihilated in the process.
For some, that revelation will be, ahem, pretty freakin’ awesome. For others, it will be pretty horrible. Why? Because one does not step into outer space without a spacesuit. Because one does not jump off a building without wings. Because one does not dive into the ocean without SCUBA gear. Whatever metaphor you want to use, the truth is that coming face to face with God is going to require some preparation, because we’re broken ….
My path to Orthodoxy, I often say, started with two epiphanies of a doctrinal or dogmatic sort. I tend to forget a third, which is typified by the quote above. The God I had first met as a young child, who loved me but might be disappointed at what I did, had given way to a God who was basically mad at people, but had deigned to save a few of them anyway, for some inscrutable reason or whim. It has been a great joy to become reacquainted as an adult with a “good and gracious Lord, who loves mankind” as we affirm repeatedly in the services of the Church.
But at the same time, I realized that the path I was on was not helping me become the kind of person for whom the revelation of the glory of God “will be, ahem, pretty freakin’ awesome.” I recognized that possibility had been much of the point of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which I had read insensibly as something more like a trifle or a diversion than as a warning. And I realized that crocodile tears of repentance with no real intent to change fooled only me, and thus delayed the days when I would begin, insofar as it lay in my power, again and again, day by day, to get my house in order.
“Howard,” channeling through Dmitri Orlov, commits a faux pas by losing it over dinner with the Babbits:
We were having dinner last week with two other couples. Both are considerably more affluent than we, but not One Percenters – perhaps Five Percenters. They were bloviating about the recovery and bright prospects for the future and I finally got exasperated and declared that the United States will suffer economic collapse within the next decade. This, of course, is a grievous breech of social etiquette today – especially if your dinner companions’ professions include information technology and the airlines industry. But I have been doing a slow burn for some time over the fact that people like these continue to be enablers for the scoundrels who have already destroyed our economy and political system. Why should their complacent denial be accepted as polite dinner conversation, when looking realistically at the situation or, indeed, even trying to warn people about what’s coming is considered antisocial?
Having already caused gasps around the table, and after being derided as foolish and delusional by the husbands, I decided to take them to the mat: I announced that I will back my declaration with a wager of a thousand dollars ….
How would we ever survive without the press to alert us (after they recover from the vapors) when we’re being dog-whistled at?
Here’s what Romney said on Friday, as reported by The Atlantic’s Molly Ball: “Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital, I was born at Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
You can tell this was a dog whistle because different groups of people heard it totally differently. CBS’s Jan Crawford noted on Twitter that there were “two reactions to his birth certificate joke: reporters gasped–and a crowd of thousands laughed and cheered.” The crowd heard the straightforward meaning: It was a joke and an applause line. The watchdogs of the press heard the whistle, and so did other lefties. To judge by this MSNBC clip, and this one, it drove them into a mad and wonderfully entertaining frenzy.
[N.B. In Plato's Phaedrus, Thamus, king of a great city in Upper Egypt, was correct that writing would damage memory and create false wisdom, but his error was "in his believing that writing will be a burden to society and nothing but a burden."]
… Thamus is concerned not only with what people will write; he is concerned that people will write. It is absurd to imagine Thamus advising, in the manner of today’s standard-brain Technophiles, that if only writing would be used for the production of certain kind of text and not others (let us say, a dramatic literature but not for history of philosophy), its disruptions would be minimized. He would regard such counsel as extreme naïveté. He would allow, I imagine, the technology may be barred entry to a culture. But we may learn from Thamus the following: once a technology is admitted, it plays out its hand; it does what it is designed to do. Our task is to understand what that design is – that is to say, when we admit a new technology to the culture, we must do so with our eyes wide open.
We commemorate today the beheading of the Forerunner and Baptizer of Christ, John.
The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise,
but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for You, O Forerunner.
You were shown in truth to be the most honorable of the Prophets,
for You were deemed worthy to baptize in the steams of the Jordan Him Whom they foretold.
Therefore, having suffered for the truth with joy,
You proclaimed to those in hell God Who appeared in the flesh,
Who takes away the sin of the world and grants us great mercy.
* * * * *