John Paul Stevens

I write a second time to note the death of Justice John Paul Stevens. I withdrew the first, this morning, because, almost as soon as I published it, details came back to me that I thought I had forgotten.

My first stab at it.

As noted by Prof. Friedman and five scholars whose work he links at Religion Clause, Justice Stevens was a big fan of our fabled church-state separation, so he caught my motivated attention.

What I can add as a particular sort Christian believer is that Stevens’ reasoning in his opinions did not seem remotely to apprehend what it means to be integrally religious — religious in a way that become part of one’s very identity. His lamentable judicial characterizations of religion frequently struck me as tone-deaf and micro-aggressive. It was as if religion were a hobby like bridge or golf, but markedly less intelligent and quite unworthy of the Right People.

What later came to me was a more detailed account of wherein his view of religion went awry.

Justice Stevens seemed to view religion more or less as LARPing: religious people are in a role-playing game in which a putative (if not punitive) god, our gamemaster, has set the rules, some of which are quite arbitrary. They are, however, The Rules, and some people really, really get into the game, and think that they will suffer terribly through eternity if they break those rules (Don’t ask too many questions. Just believe.). For some reason, probably related to how deadly serious some people are about it, our Founders privileged religious LARPing in the First Amendment.

Integral Christianity (I can’t speak for any other religion, and can speak only second-hand of LARP Christianity), in contrast, thinks that the “one God … almighty, creator of … all things visible and invisible,” has created and invited us into a reality, parts of which we cannot see or conclusively prove. Our loving God has not merely laid down rules for slavish observance, but relates to us lovingly in ways variously analogized to marriage, adoption — even “partaking of the divine nature.”

Integrally Christian people, in short, think they are the true “reality-based community.” They realize that not everybody can perceive the reality. They realize that some (like me) have had no visions or ecstasies or direct revelations and are operating, more or less, on faith — having seen just enough to make faith itself reasonable.

In Justice Stephens’ defense, there’s a depressingly large proportion of LARPers among self-identified religious people. I’ve fulminated about it before, under the rubric of Nominalism versus Realism, and Realism is foundational to Natural Law thought as well.

I don’t think I had acquired even a rudimentary vocabulary of Nominalism versus Realism when Justice Stevens was alive and writing, but I knew that how he described religiosity rang false to how I lived it. He’s entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts.

(Back to my first stab, edited just a bit.)

I have never, as best I can recall, read or heard anyone else remark on the oddity of Justice Stevens’ characterizations of what it means to be religious, on the Nominalism he assumed, over against Realism. (I never even heard, as best I can recall, anyone else remark on his strange compulsion to provide a gratuitous metanarrative of “religion,” a term so diverse that angels fear to define it.)

I consider that academic silence a bad omen for religious liberty cases in the future, for Justice Stevens’ metanarrative of religion would surely subordinate it just about any “right” rooted in something deemed essential, not accidental.

I was happy when Justice Stevens retired, but I cannot allow myself to be happy about anyone’s death. That’s less because my faith commands me against it than because the way reality works is that grudges that deep would deface my soul.

I doubt that he’d have understood that distinction.

R.I.P. anyway.

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Scapegoating

Some people continue to wonder why I won’t announce my probable 2020 vote for our Very Stable Genius (VSG), so terrible is the Democrat field.

I had a Facebook Messenger argument with one of them — an academic who was too intelligent and decent a few short years ago to mouth the kinds of semi-idolatrous stuff about VSG that he now does mouth. He thus demonstrates in his deterioration the toxic effects of standing too close to VSG.

So even were I open to voting for VSG, I wouldn’t admit it lest I find myself dangerously near the Minus Touch.

And why, 16 months in advance, would I announce my assessment that so-and-so is the lesser evil and I’m voting for him? If it ultimately comes to that, the less said about it, the better. I suspect a number of my friends were in that camp in 2016.

Anyway, I’m far from clear that, in his entire person, VSG (a very evil and toxic man) is the lesser evil. Consider:

[O]nce nationalists control the government, they feel tempted to insist that they have succeeded in restoring greatness long before any restoration is accomplished. In Trump’s case this temptation is a compulsion: In a little over two years we have gone from “American carnage” to yesterday’s tweeted proclamation that America “has never been stronger than it is now — rebuilt military, highest stock market ever, lowest unemployment and more people working than ever before. Keep America great!”

In other words, the problems that brought me to power can’t be problems any more now that I’m in charge — which requires, in turn, that anyone who insists that there actually are still problems must be the problem themselves. It’s in this spirit that nationalists-in-power often end up scapegoating some group of malcontents or critics within the nation, implying that they are saboteurs and wreckers, that their complaints are treasonous, that they should be expelled.

And it’s this spirit that infuses the strange-but-predictable spectacle of Trump, just over two years removed from a campaign that constantly emphasized his country’s failings, railing against a squad of left-wing congresswomen for their own criticisms of America and demanding that they go back to the foreign countries whence three of them did not in fact arrive.

Ross Douthat. Scapegoating, you may recall, can lead to the darkest places our history records.

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Taking the bait

Some people are taking Farhad Manjoo’s slow-day op-ed exscrecence more seriously than I did.

Sometimes a piece of writing so perfectly distills a cultural moment and mood that it deserves to be given outsized attention. That’s very much the case with Farhad Manjoo’s op-ed column in Thursday’s New York Times, “The Perfect Pronoun: Singular ‘They’.”

Little in the column is original to Manjoo. In 2019, one encounters similar arguments, assertions, and assumptions every day in published essays, on social media, in lavish advertising campaigns, and increasingly in the literature produced and enforced by corporate HR departments. Yet Manjoo’s column is worth focusing on because it presents such a concise and cogent statement of the emerging elite-progressive consensus.

… There is almost no chance at all that the Farhad Manjoo of 2009 sat around pondering and lamenting the oppressiveness of his peers referring to “him” as “he.” That’s because (as far as I know) Manjoo is a man, with XY chromosomes, male reproductive organs, and typically male hormone levels, and a mere decade ago referring to such a person as “he” was considered to be merely descriptive of a rather mundane aspect of reality. His freedom was not infringed, or implicated, in any way by this convention. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to think or feel otherwise. Freedom was something else and about other things.

The emergence and spread of the contrary idea — that “gender is a ubiquitous prison of the mind” — can be traced to a precise point in time: the six months following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Almost immediately after that decision was handed down, progressive activists took up the cause of championing transgender rights as the next front in the culture war — and here we are, just four short years later, born free but everywhere in chains.

[A]ll societies — as collectivities of individuals sharing a common culture as well as common laws, rules, and norms (including linguistic rules and norms) — invariably constrain individuals more than they would be if they lived in absolute isolation from others. Any one of those limits on the individual will can feel as if it’s an intolerable constraint, and the principle of individual freedom can always be invoked in order to combat it.

This is how a progressive in 2014 can consider it an unacceptable limitation on individual freedom for gay couples to be denied the right to marry — and base that argument on the claim that a gay man’s love and natural desire for another man, like a lesbian’s love and natural desire for another woman, is irreducible and ineradicable — and then insist just five years later that it is an unacceptable limitation on individual freedom for anyone to be presumed a man or a woman at all.

As Andrew Sullivan has powerfully argued, the two positions are fundamentally incompatible. The first, which morally justifies same-sex marriage, presumes that biological sex and binary gender differences are real, that they matter, and that they can’t just be erased at will. The second, which Manjoo and many transgender activists embrace and espouse, presumes the opposite — that those differences can and should be immediately dissolved. To affirm the truth of both positions is to embrace incoherence.

But that assumes that we’re treating them as arguments. If, instead, we view them as expressions of what it can feel like at two different moments in a society devoted to the principle of individualism, they can be brought into a kind of alignment. Each is simply an expression of rebellion against a different but equally intolerable constraint on the individual. All that’s changed is the object of rebellion.

Damon Linker.

See Alan Jacobs, too.

UPDATE:

And see Michael Brendan Dougherty and Rod Dreher and who knows how many more before it’s over.

Dreher:

Does this seem overwrought to you? After all, we’re just talking about a dopey column by a sweet, nerdy Millennial NYT columnist, right? See, though, this is exactly how this stuff gets institutionalized. As Linker points out, four years ago, what Manjoo claims in his piece is arbitrary and oppressive was so normal that nobody even thought about it. Now this kind of thing is quickly becoming orthodoxy within the Inner Party leading progressive circles.

Manjoo engages in a classic piece of left-liberal rhetoric here, saying he wishes that our world were one

… in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs

See what he does here? The people who object to his absolutely radical proposal to alter English as it has been spoken for centuries, so that it can fit a bizarre model of biology that only a relative tiny elite of progressives accepts — hey, they’re the ones who are “obsessed” by meaningless flesh in people’s crotches. Fifteen years ago, progressives taunted those who questioned the wisdom of smashing the traditional model of marriage as being “obsessed” with what other people did behind closed doors, etc. The idea is to stigmatize norms as being arbitrary, irrational, and even immoral, as a way to pave the way for the uncompromising introduction of new norms … which are presented as obviously true and good.

(Emphasis added)

Dougherty:

Writing in the New York Times, tech writer Farhad Manjoo says that we ought to eliminate “gendered” pronouns. Manjoo wants to eighty-six “he” and “she”; “him” and “her.” Our techie isn’t for some of the newly proposed pronouns like “ze,” because studies have shown people don’t know what or who ze is. Perhaps ze should be left to gender nonconforming people. That’s ze truth.

Manjoo’s truth is that he wants us to use “they” as a singular pronoun. “It’s flexible, inclusive, unobtrusive and obviates the risk of inadvertent misgendering.” Manjoo personally wants to be referred to as “they.”

Well, here goes.

Only two types of people object to Farhad’s proposal, they (Manjoo) writes. They (the types) are the grammarians and “the plainly intolerant.” They (Manjoo) has two children, a boy and a girl. They (Manjoo) says they (Manjoo) has been watching them (their’s children) grow up and adapt themselves (their’s children) to roles prescribed by their (all of the above) society. This horrifies them.

By “them” I mean them (Manjoo).

Okay, I can’t do this anymore …

Manjoo writes of his children:

From their very earliest days, my kids, fed by marketing and entertainment and (surely) their parents’ modeling, seemed to hem themselves into silly gender norms. They gravitated to boy toys and girl toys, boy colors and girl colors, boy TV shows and girl TV shows. This was all so sad to me: I see them limiting their thoughts and their ambitions, their preferences and their identity, their very liberty, only to satisfy some collective abstraction.

To Manjoo, this looks like oppression. To conservatives, it looks like the joyful early days of assimilation and appropriation ….

This led to a Twitter exchange:

FM: “This criticism of my column has this interesting bit. personally I can’t understand anyone who doesn’t question every inherited part of the culture and seek to justify it. That’s the point of reason, I feel ”

MBD: You can’t understand *anyone* who doesn’t question *everything?* Maybe other people are both more humble about their reasoning ability, and more grateful that hundreds or thousands of years of human practical experience supplies answers where individual abstract reasoning fails.

Dreher weighs in:

Manjoo seems oblivious to the ideological privilege he has. Try questioning publicly “every inherited part of the culture and seek to justify it” when the inherited part of the office culture is the standard progressive roster of Thou Shalt Nots — including questioning the abandonment of the gender binary.

 

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Posted in Natural Law, progressivism, Sundry flakes, Virtue signaling | Tagged | Leave a comment

Life goes on — and maybe gets better

I have been enjoying Jake Meador and the other young folks who write for Mere Orthodoxy for several years now, as it accelerates its publishing pace and the breadth of its author pool.

I can’t say for sure I’ve encountered Bart Gingerich more than once before, and that one encounter was at Mere Orthodoxy, too. Now I’m recommending another article from him, this time for orthodox Christians who are feeling anxious about their future in a world where the new civic religion, Pride, forces itself on one and all for the full month of June, and where woke capital guard against excessive virtue the remaining 11 months as well.

Young Gingerich’s message is twofold:

  1. We’ve lost on the sexual revolution, humanly speaking, for an indeterminate future. Get over it. We have plenty of rot in our own church environs to occupy us for the duration.
  2. We are not helpless economically against the predations of woke capital. There are things we can and should do.

Excerpts:

Be Holy

In a certain sense, our current “post-Obergefell moment” presents an opportunity to take stock of ourselves as American Christians. With such an important battle for sexual morality lost, now is a time to turn our focus and attention to things matters of holiness afflicting the Church. In being so focused on the homosexuality issue and the political fights that took place in legislatures and court rooms, I fear many Christians have ignored other pressing matters of holiness that are just as deleterious to the Church and to the nation at large.

Having a fulsome Christian sexual ethic that is enforced consistently across the board in our ecclesiastical contexts makes our teaching on LGBT issues credible to up-and-coming generations. But the main motivating factor for us to pursue sexual holiness corporately is because it pleases the Lord. So let us not waste our Obergefell; let us recommit ourselves to holiness.

Be Strong for Others

This is an old maxim from the days of chivalry: might for right. In this case, I have economic might in mind. I beseech those in the Church who are talented and enterprising: consider bulking up to provide shelter to the brethren …

This is not to say that enterprising Christians should not pursue old stand-bys: the trades, contracting, real estate, farming, and more. The goal, as Pastor Chris Wiley says in his excellent little book Man of the House, is to acquire productive property …

This is part of what it means to be strong for others … [W]ith ownership comes liberty. This is why political concerns still matter. Lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and more will have a big effect on other Christian business owners. But many decisions on this front have been encouraging, making self-employment and ownership of productive property a desirable alternative to laboring for a progressive institution.

… [A]cross the board, this is likely going to involve making households productive again. No longer will households be simply centers of recreation, which is where we find ourselves today thanks to the Industrial Revolution and other shifts. The homeplace will once again be the workplace, and that will be a good thing …

Be Anxious for Nothing: Love One Another

At the heart of the previous section and this one is this: no one is going to starve. Plenty of vitriol in Christian reactions to the LGBT+ agenda has been fueled by disgust for homosexual and transsexual promiscuity and its effect on our families, communities, nation, and world. But there is also a desperation apparent in the rhetoric and activism that springs from a fear for survival, both materially in terms of livelihood and spiritually in terms of the Church’s continued existence in the United States. I would like to tackle the former fear first: no one is going to starve.

… If things continue on their current trajectory in the United States (and that is a big “if,” for history if full of surprises), the individualism and isolation that has become so typical of the American Church is going to come to an end due to necessity.

Bart Gingerich, Traditional Christians in America Post-Obergefell: Now What?

This is serious analysis. I’d paraphrase part of his “Be Strong for Others” as “stop thinking about jobs and start thinking about vocations.” And I’d also note that this vision for economic well-being at a more intimate scale than that of the progressive corporations is essentially Distributist.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Posted in Benedict Option, Christianity generally, Corporatism, Distributism, Economia, Gaying away the Pray, History, lifeworks, Pinch of Incense, progressivism, Sexualia, Small is Beautiful, Transvaluation of Values, woke capital | Tagged | Leave a comment

Does “Constantinius” rhyme with “Obama”?

Caveat: I’m not sure this is even half-baked yet.

Rod Dreher invoked in a Polish context and I’m extending to our American context a possibly instructive historic type, involving the epochal replacement of one dominant religion by another:

Constantine died in 337, and civil conflict followed. Roman leaders faced pressure from more radical Christians to step up the de-paganization, and tried to walk a balance between their demands and not upsetting the still large pagan population. In 356, Constantius stepped up the anti-pagan laws.

Interestingly, the pagan elites didn’t take all this too seriously …

Towards the end of his reign, Constantius’s anti-pagan laws grew even stronger, but paganism was still such a vivid and powerful presence in daily life that the pagan elites felt confident that the danger would pass when the emperor did …

Constantius was succeeded in the 360s by Julian the Apostate, so called because he had been raised a Christian, but left the faith and sought to re-establish paganism. He rolled back some of his predecessor’s pro-Christian laws, and most controversially, promulgated a law that would have prevented Christians from teaching in schools. Watts points out that these laws were strange, in part because Julian involved the state in regulating pagan belief in ways that it had not been before, even when the Empire was pagan. The laws didn’t survive Julian. According to Watts, the reality of the Empire, at least among the elites of that time, was such that pagans and Christians were already knitted together in a social fabric that could not effectively be sundered by imperial decree. That is, pagans didn’t want to see Christians thrown out of their jobs, or punished.

One of the young conservative Catholics I met in Warsaw expressed his deep anxiety over what he sees as essentially a “Julian the Apostate” move by the current populist conservative government (for which he voted!) to reinstate the Catholic faith as the source of political and social norms. This man told me that he agrees with those norms, but what older Catholic conservatives don’t understand is how thin those norms, and the faith on which they are based, are within his generation. This was the guy who told me that he believes that Catholic Poland will go the way of Catholic Ireland within a decade or two.

Rod Dreher (emphasis added)

Now imagine orthodox Christians as the passing pagan order, Progressives as the ascendant faith (and remember: history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes):

  • Was Obama our (effectively pagan) Constantinius, conducting the funeral of orthodox Christendom on behalf of Progressivism in its liberal Christian manifestation?
  • Is Trump making a Julian the Apostate move, trying to suppress Progressivism and to revive Christendom as imagined by his Evangelical base and “historian” David Barton)?

The rhyme is imperfect, of course. For instance, some people on the Left do want to see Christians thrown out of their jobs, or punished, merely for refusing to offer their pinch of incense (e.g., bake the custom cake). That complicates things.

And there’s a third America for whom the new religion combines NASCAR and NFL (Ivan Illich wrote of such things), with overlap between them and the other two constellations of rites. There dwell some people — some very prominent people — who want heretics (those who won’t stand when the standard hymn is sung at the preliminary patriotic orgy) cast our of their jobs.

But I think I’m onto something even if counter-narratives can be spun and even if our left coasts and our flyover land in this grand empire have competing religions.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Posted in Christianity generally, deathworks, Evangelicalism, History, paganism | 1 Comment

Wonder

Wonder, in fact, was accepted so instinctively as essential to a human life that in the quarrels and discussions that centered on Christological doctrine there was an argument in favor of the full humanity of Christ which might be called “an argument from wonder“ … If Jesus could “marvel“, Aquinas says, we must suppose the presence of that which is capable of marvel, of the mens humana, the human mind, of the spiritual soul in addition to the presence of the Divine Word and the sensual soul (both of which are, as we have seen, not capable of “wonder“). Only a spiritual capacity for knowledge that does not know everything it knows at once and perfectly is capable of being gradually aware of the deeper and more essential world beyond the sensual, physical world – only the human spirit is capable of wonder.

Josef Pieper, The Philosophical Act (included in the Ignatius Press edition of Leisure: The Basis of Culture.

Note: While moderns tend to reject the divinity of Christ, for the ancients it was much harder to accept His humanity — that God would so sully himself as to take on humanity.

Kind of brings to mind “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), doesn’t it?

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Subliminal religion in politics

“Chase religious ideas out one door and they inevitably come in another — because the human mind naturally rebels against a worldview as incomplete, as manifestly threadbare, as pure materialism.” Ross Douthat

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I used to say “I’m not religious. I’m a Christian,” which was not entirely misleading about Evangelicalism: Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio Journal once referred to Evangelicalism, in its doctrinal diversity if not chaos, as orthopathos, “right feeling,” rather than orthodoxy, “right belief.”

I am fortunate that I was kidding myself about the “not religious” part, and that the truth finally manifested itself. With my religion now being capital-O Orthodox Christianity, I have no hesitation calling myself “religious” (and for today, at least, I have no interest in quibbling over the etymology of the word).

I still casually follow doings in the Evangelical and Calvinist Christian traditions, but even someone who is “interested in religion” as well as “religious” cannot keep up with every tradition other than his own. Part of what I can’t keep up with is the menagerie of people today who earnestly deny being religious (my old denial was playful) while clearly toying with ideas that do not enjoy a Neil deGrasse Tyson Seal of Approval.®

So I was grateful for today’s Ross Douthat column on The Meaning of Marianne Williamson, which was extremely stimulating for anyone who acknowledges that religion is both consequential and ubiquitous. He helped me place Williamson, heretofore only very vaguely known to me, in a religious neighborhood to which I’ve at least paid a little attention in the past.

Douthat’s point is not that Williamson is a serious contender for the Democrat nomination or election in 2020 (though she might be a forerunner in something of the way Pat Buchanan foreshadowed our Very Stable Genius). I would have been a very hard sell on that, as are the pollsters so far.

Rather, I’d call Douthat’s perspective “meta,” in the the sense that he uses Williamson partly as a springboard into the sometimes conflicted psyches of people who fancy themselves staunch adherents of reason and science, and specifically the possible development of a “Religious Left.”

An appetizer:

A recurring question in American politics since the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition has been “where is the religious left?” One possible version has been hiding in plain sight since the 1970s, in the form of Williamson’s style of mysticism, the revivalism of the Oprah circuit, the soul craft of the wellness movement, the pantheistic-gnostic-occultish territory at the edges of American Christianity’s fraying map. We don’t necessarily see it as a “left” only because it has acted indirectly on politics, reshaping liberalism and the wider culture from within and below, rather than acting through mass movements and political campaigns.

Certainly in the eternal pundit’s quest to figure out what a “Donald Trump of the left” would look like, a figure like Williamson is an interesting contender. If Trumpism spoke to an underground, often-conspiratorial populism unacknowledged by the official G.O.P., Williamson speaks to a low-on-data, long-on-feelings spirit that simmers just below the We Are on the Side of Science and Reason surface of the contemporary liberal project.

It’s not a coincidence, against this background, that some of the refugees from contemporary progressivism who form the so-called Intellectual Dark Web or publish in journals like Quillette have commonalities with the Bush-era new atheists who once bashed right-wingers for their religiosity — or indeed are Bush-era new atheists, in the case of Sam Harris, born again as an I.D.W. eminence and scourge of the progressive left. In this trajectory you can see one potential arc for proudly secular liberals, if the left’s future belongs to woke covens and progressive pantheism …

… but then it’s also not a coincidence that perhaps the most popular of the Intellectual Dark Webbers, Jordan Peterson, talks about Enlightenment values in one breath while offering Jungian wisdom and invoking biblical archetypes in the next. Chase religious ideas out one door and they inevitably come in another — because the human mind naturally rebels against a worldview as incomplete, as manifestly threadbare, as pure materialism.

It would take the entire course in miracles to put Williamson in the White House, but she’s right about one big thing: There’s more to heaven and earth, and even to national politics, than is dreamed of in the liberal technocrat’s philosophy.

At this level of abstraction and speculation, other approaches probably are plausible, but by all means read Douthat all if his approach intrigues you. I think you’ll find it rewarding.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Posted in "Spiritual" (maybe Religious), Evangelicalism, Faith & Ideology, Moralistic therapeutic deism, Orthopathos, Political Matters, realignment, Religiopreneurs, Sundry flakes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our faves

It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated ….

Christine Pelosi, about the indictment of billionaire glitterati ephebophile sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, on Twitter.

“Some of our [Pelosi family] faves.” I. Can’t. Wait.

Some day soon, I’m pretty sure, opposition to child molesting will be labeled some kind of phobia.

Yes, I mean that. Our putative concern for children is a fig leaf. Our overarching concern is the sexual gratification of adults, who thus are distracted from grim temporal and sublime eternal realities, alternating between orgasm and shopping on credit.

We will probably justify destigmatizing ephebophila and pedophilia as removing the taboos that keep children from the sexual pleasures they could be having. That will be the fig leaf.

Caveat: I have no idea how many Levis will get rises in them from the thought of kiddie sex. I’ve got to think it’s relatively few, but the fewness of the beneficiaries hasn’t stopped other aspects of the ongoing sexual revolution.

Caveat 2: And I can’t rule out a powerful backlash from normal people. The pendulum can only swing so far, but I’m not sure how much further in the current direction that is.

UPDATE: “I wonder what brought on this outburst?”, you might be asking (because I did).

It may, now that I think of it, be a delayed reaction to some late-night reading last night:

I received a call from a Scientific American reporter to talk about robots and our future. During that conversation, he accused me of harboring sentiments that would put me squarely in the camp of those who have for so long stood in the way of marriage for homosexual couples. I was stunned, first because I harbor no such sentiments, but also because his accusation was prompted not by any objection I had made to the mating or marriage of people. The reporter was bothered because I had objected to the mating and marriage of people to robots.

Sherry Turkle, Alone Together, pp. 4-5. She finished writing this book in 2010. This call came around 2006. If we think that “marriage” to a robot could ever be a real thing, and we think that at the elite level of Scientific American, surely we have lost our way quite badly.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Posted in deathworks, Sexualia, Thrown down gauntlet | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The PCA and The Nashville Statement

[The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)] endorsing the Nashville Statement was an odd move. The Statement itself is a jumble. It purports to be a broad account of Christian teachings on sexuality, but has nothing to say about divorce, contraception, or biomedical tech, and says very little about procreation as an essential good in Christian marriage. This makes the statement lopsided in its teachings about sexuality in ways that are evangelistically disastrous where the [Tim Keller and Reformed University Fellowship] wing of the PCA tends to be most active.

… The right … needs to recognize that what they confuse for progressive drift is usually the more banal work of finding ways to present the faith to people with minimal knowledge of Christianity, or with some deep hostility to orthodoxy …

Contrary to some hyperbolic claims, there is no serious movement in the PCA to reject historic teachings about sexuality. Those who dissented on Nashville did not do so because they are progressive on sexual ethics, but because of the procedural and pastoral issues cited above—as well as the lopsidedness of the statement itself.

Jake Meador

Apart from garbling a little denominational history (the PCA did not exist in the late 60s when the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy was issued — but then neither did Jake), Jake nails this.

I read the Nashville Statement and many reactions to it when it was issued (I clipped 20 items on the topic), and it was both sloppy (e.g., what’s the “homosexual self-conception” Christians should not adopt?) and lopsided (what about the sexual sins and dubious practices of heterosexuals? [Crickets.])

I often object to “whataboutism” as a rhetorical ploy to defend the indefensible, but the Preamble of the Nashville Statement does indeed promise “a broad account of Christian teachings on sexuality,” whereas the Statement is negative only on homosexuality, with flaws both rhetorical and pastoral, and without coming anywhere near stepping on any heterosexual toes about un-natural practices that have been adopted wholesale and uncritically.

People should not feel compelled to endorse sloppy and lopsided statements to prove their orthodoxy.

[This post is not categorized “lifework” or “deathwork,” just to prove that I maintain some sense of proportion. But had I waded in on the topics about which the Nashville Statement is silent, the “deathwork” category probably would have been invoked.]

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Posted in Calvinism, Evangelicalism, Liturgy, Natural Law, Nominalism and Realism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Serenity in leisure

There is a certain serenity in leisure. That serenity springs precisely from our inability to understand, from a recognition of the mysterious nature of the universe; it springs from the courage of deep confidence, so that we are content to let things take their course; and there is something about it which Konrad Weiss, the poet, called “confidence in the fragmentariness of life and history.”

Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture, page 47.

Boy, could I use some of that!

I’ve joked that my headstone should say “Darn! Just when I almost had it all figured out!”

But I know I’ll never figure it all out — not even close. I am confident in a sense. But something about the compulsion to figure it out tells me that my confidence is shallow.

Pieper’s book, which I shamefully am only now reading for the first time, is going onto a very short list of “books I must re-read regularly.” Another by him, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, is already on that list.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Posted in Asceticism, lifeworks, Sacramental Tapestry | Tagged | Leave a comment