Blue Funk

I have been in a pretty foul mood and don’t have anything edifying to say without making my head explode to find it. If you’re looking for uplift, click this link to Upworthy and then close this browser tab.

Two items about Robert Jeffress are among the sources of my funk:

Robert Jeffress is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, a megachurch right downtown where it’s always been, last I knew. Once upon a time, it was a Evangelical beacon of sorts, but that’s when W.A. Criswell was the pastor — a man with notably more integrity than the current pastor, and before the Moral Majority, when Evangelicals were guiltier of insularity than of idolatry.

Here’s the YouTube of the Jeffress/Hannity abomination (the allusive “abomination” replaces a crude slang term).

I’m going to schedule this for publication Monday morning and then go to Middle Earth. Frodo has figured out that he must destroy the ring. Our situation may be more dire.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

Sunday early, 10/22/17

I’ve got a more political blog coming up later this morning, but I encountered something in my morning devotions. I quote it in full because it might appear a blank page in your browser at Sister Vassa’s site.:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side…” (Lk 16: 19-23)

 

The “rich man” in this parable has no name, while the “poor man” is dignified with a name, Lazarus. Why? Because Lazarus has an identity, having become himself, and self-aware, through his “hunger” that he “longed to satisfy”; that is to say, through his deficiencies. I don’t know if this will make any sense to anyone, but Lazarus has become himself through the painful recognition of, and longing for, the things he wanted, but didn’t have. Conversely, the “rich man,” who never “longed” or wanted for anything, because he “feasted sumptuously every day” of his life, never got to know himself, or to become himself, through any painful recognition of what he lacked, because he never lacked anything and just took it all for granted. That’s why he is nameless in this parable.

So today I am grateful for the things I have longed for, but was not given, because the “not” getting what I wanted has helped me understand who I am, and who I am not, in God’s eyes. I have been denied certain things and certain people that did not “fit” with me, even if I wanted them or their company, and this has, at times, been painful. But through it all, I am guided to become who I am, in God’s loving vision and purpose for me. O Lord, “lead us not into temptation,” amidst any of our wants and longings, “but deliver us” to be with You, where we are meant to be, according to Your vision and purpose.

(Emphasis added)

This adds some depth to the idea of “the deceitfulness of riches” in Christ’s Parable of the Sower, doesn’t it?

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

The test has come

On his blog, Alan Jacobs throws down a gauntlet:

As a Christian, I am accountable to God, and, as I understand things, that means I am also accountable  to the teachings of Holy Scripture and to the witness of the Church throughout history, especially as it has expressed itself in the great ecumenical creeds. I am, further and in a different way, accountable to my local body of believers, who I am instructed to support materially, in service, in prayer, and in common worship.

To those of you on social media, and other media, demanding that I take stands in conformity to your setting forth of The Options regarding The Issues, I am not accountable in any way. I do not care what you say and will not obey you, and if that makes you angry, you may call me any names you want to call me. I do not care.

I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I’m absolutely positive that if you really loved Jesus you’d have clicked that link and shared it on Twitter and Facebook by now.

What are you waiting for, hypocrite?!

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

Where fun goes to die

It’s Saturday noon. Tens Hundreds of thousands of University students are highly inebriated and on their way to watching kickoffs.

But my thoughts turned earlier to the educational enterprise.

Several years ago Robert Zimmer was asked by an audience in China why the University of Chicago was associated with so many winners of the Nobel Prize — 90 in all, counting this month’s win by the behavioral economist Richard Thaler. Zimmer, the university’s president since 2006, answered that the key was a campus culture committed to “discourse, argument and lack of deference.”

[F]ree speech is what makes educational excellence possible. “It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears,” Louis Brandeis wrote 90 years ago in his famous concurrence in Whitney v. California.

It is also the function of free speech to allow people to say foolish things so that, through a process of questioning, challenge and revision, they may in time come to say smarter things.

If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly. Your ideas will be built on a pile of assumptions you’ve never examined for yourself and may thus be unable to defend from radical challenges. You will be unable to test an original thought for fear that it might be labeled an offensive one …

That is the real crux of Zimmer’s case for free speech: Not that it’s necessary for democracy (strictly speaking, it isn’t), but because it’s our salvation from intellectual mediocrity and social ossification. In a speech in July, he addressed the notion that unfettered free speech could set back the cause of “inclusion” because it risked upsetting members of a community.

“Inclusion into what?” Zimmer wondered. “An inferior and less challenging education? One that fails to prepare students for the challenge of different ideas and the evaluation of their own assumptions? A world in which their feelings take precedence over other matters that need to be confronted?”

These are not earth-shattering questions. But they are the right ones, and they lay bare the extent to which the softer nostrums of higher ed today shortchange the intended beneficiaries.

(Bret Stephens, profiling University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, emphasis added)

But I’m not sure that Zimmer’s answer to the Chinese is complete. He’s standing on the shoulders of Robert Hutchins:

After the 1939 season, Hutchins abolished football at Chicago University. And he did it during Christmas break, while the students were off campus.  This decision (along with Hutchins eliminating fraternities and religious organizations from campus) caused a decrease in enrollment and financial backing.

Now to his credit, Chicago became one of the premier schools in the country ….

Well, yes, there’s that, I suppose. Where fun goes to die and future Nobel laureates go to do whatever magic it is that makes Nobel laureates.

But I was surprised to learn that the University pioneered women’s sports and is still involved in intercollegiate athletics, having been a charter member of a unique Division III conference (as once it helped found the Big Ten):

In 1987-88, Chicago became a charter member of a new and unique NCAA Division III conference, the University Athletic Association. Comprised of some of the nation’s leading research institutions, UAA members include Brandeis University, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, the University of Rochester, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The UAA provides its member institutions and student-athletes with some of the best athletic competition in the country, as evidenced by the fact that the UAA has sent 129 teams to NCAA postseason play and has produced 11 national champions in its 11-year history. Many student-athletes at UAA institutions are capable of competing at the NCAA Division I level, but choose the UAA experience because of the unique combination of academic, athletic, and travel opportunities the Association afford its members.

 

Mitch Daniels has deservedly gotten much attention for innovations to prepare Purdue for a changing environment, but I see no sign that his vision is as bold as dropping out of Division I to focus more on education.

Is it okay that I had fun poking around a bit, reminding myself that Division III isn’t incompatible with first-rate education, and writing this?

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

American “leadership”

I thought I might fail to blog today, but a kerfuffle between the President and Senator John McCain got the juices running.

When I read stories about “far right” European parties or candidates, I keep encountering the same feelings.

  • First, there’s appreciation that immigration can change a society, destroying much of what current citizens value.
  • Second, the appreciation that many of the immigrants in issue are refugees, and that American actions (with varying complicity by Western European nations) arguably have created the refugee crisis.
  • Third, and weakest, a suspicion that if we hadn’t broken the Middle East, something else would have. How long can strongmen like Sadaam Hussein and Bashir Al Assad keep power and order in their lands, U.S. support or opposition notwithstanding?

Which brings me to the kerfuffle:

Mr. McCain condemned “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats” than solve problems.

“You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice,” the president said. “But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

“It’s fine with me,” Mr. McCain responded on Tuesday to Mr. Trump’s remark. “I’ve faced some fairly significant adversaries in the past.”

The verbal sparring was the latest round of animosity between Mr. Trump and the Republican senator, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The president has criticized and taunted Mr. McCain, most recently for his vote dooming a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act; early in the presidential campaign he said Mr. McCain was “not a war hero” and that “I like people who weren’t captured.”

In Philadelphia on Monday night, Mr. McCain spoke after the National Constitution Center bestowed on him an award honoring his fight for liberty. He emphasized the benefits that arise from America’s willingness to engage with the world.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” the Arizona Republican told hundreds who gathered and applauded outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

“We live in a land made of ideals,” he said, “not blood and soil. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

(Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal) The money line in this, of course, is “some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

But another line gave me, and others, pause.

John McCain is being applauded for delivering a fiery speech denouncing “half-baked, spurious nationalism” as he accepted the National Constitution Center Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday.

The cheers are understandable. Whatever your views of his Senate voting record, McCain is an American hero who is justly celebrated for his sacrifices in Vietnam. He is showing grace and resilience in fighting a terrible illness. And yes, his targets are clearly the likes of President Trump and former White House strategist Stephen Bannon.

Nevertheless, there is much about McCain’s remarks that is wrong or at least incomplete. And his errors are precisely what is fanning the flames of the populist and nationalist backlash he now denounces to such great fanfare.

”We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain declared. This is something the man who beat McCain in the 2008 presidential race might describe as as “false choice.”

James W. Antle III McCain’s Abstract America. The editor’s sub headline was that “McCain appeals to abstractions as much to avoid debate as to engage in it.” “A land made of ideals” surely was in mind.

Peter Beinart at the Atlantic almost perfectly captures my ambivalence about John McCain and confirms my wisdom in subscribing:

[Y]ou can’t help but notice that many of the conservatives who condemn Trump most passionately—Bill Kristol, Bret Stephens, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin—remain wedded to the foreign policy legacy of George W. Bush. And in criticizing Trump’s amoral “isolationism,” they backhandedly defend the disastrous interventionism that helped produce his presidency in the first place.

The godfather of this brand of hawkish, anti-Trump conservatism is John McCain …. Sure, McCain—being a Republican Senator—doesn’t condemn Trump as forthrightly as his “neoconservative” allies in the press. But the terms of his critique are similar.

Look at his speech on Tuesday after being awarded the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal …

As a man, McCain is as honorable as Trump is dishonorable. But this narrative is false. The last seventy-five years of American foreign policy are not the story of a country consistently pursuing democratic ideals, only to see them undermined now by a fearful “blood and soil” isolationism.

[A]nti-communism … justified America’s overthrow of elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. It justified Ronald Reagan’s decision to label Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress a terrorist organization and America’s longtime assistance to the kleptocratic Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. And far from keeping the peace, it led the United States to drop more bombs on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War than it had during World War II.

Since 1989 … [t]he United States has sought to extend its global preeminence while battling a range of enemies—from “rogue states” seeking “weapons of mass destruction” to hyper-nationalists murdering ethnic minorities to jihadist terrorist groups—that challenge the American-led order. During the Gulf War, this imperative led the United States to strengthen the United Nations and defend international law. But during the Iraq War, it led the United States to defy international law and obliterate the Iraqi state, thus creating the conditions for ISIS. In Bosnia and Kosovo, American power helped stop genocide. In Libya, it helped create chaos.

All of that narrative brings me back to my “we broke it so we bought it” suspicions that we must not turn our backs on the human beings whose “refugee” status our policies helped create.

Beinart continues:

The point is that American “leadership” sometimes furthers the ideals that Americans revere and sometimes it desecrates them. Sometimes it makes America stronger; sometimes it doesn’t. McCain’s implication is that it’s only when American “abandon[s]” and “refuse[s]” its leadership role that it fails its people and the world. But that’s not true. Over the last fifteen years, in a spasm of military hyperactivity, the United States has toppled governments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in wars that have cost America dearly, and bred more conflict in their wake. Trump won the Republican nomination, in part, because—facing establishment candidates who would not criticize George W. Bush’s foreign policy—he condemned such adventures and pledged to avoid new ones.

McCain is right to (obliquely) condemn Trump’s hostility to refugees, his indifference to human rights and obsession with ensuring that America’s allies don’t rip it off. But that’s not the same as foreign policy restraint. Sometimes America best serves its people and its ideals by not trying to bend the world to its will …

John McCain once understood that. As a young congressman in 1985, he told the Los Angeles Times that America was neither “omniscient nor omnipotent. If we do become involved in combat, that involvement must be of relatively short duration and must be readily explained to the man in the street in one or two sentences.” In violating that principle, George W. Bush—with the support of an older John McCain—helped discredit the Republican foreign policy establishment, and lay the groundwork for Trump’s nationalist insurgency.

Now McCain and many of his hawkish allies are criticizing Trump’s amoral nationalism, which is good. But until they question the disastrous overstretch that helped create it, they will remain his useful ideological foils.

So take the refugees but stop trying to bend the world to our will.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.