The assault on truth

The estate of George Orwell owes a debt of gratitude to our Very Stable Genius.

When dealing with a political figure who faces allegations of sexual assault, financial misdeeds and obstruction of justice, it is difficult to sort out the greatest damage to our public life. But a strong case can be made that it is the assault on truth.

Not long ago, I sat on a plane next to a knowledgeable and articulate Trump supporter. The talk turned to the Mueller report, and I mentioned that Robert Mueller was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery in Vietnam. “How do you know that?” snapped my conversation partner. I sputtered something about reading it in multiple, reliable sources. She remained unconvinced.

How is any political conversation or policy discussion possible when citizens inhabit separate universes of truth and meaning? This is Trump’s most dangerous innovation: epistemology as cult of personality.

Michael Gerson, beginning and concluding a must-read column.

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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, Literature, populism | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two sublime aphorisms (and more)

Two sublime aphorisms:

Alfred went on to add that Christian charity is now entirely misunderstood, as a kind of collective effort to improve the world.

We are not asked to undo the work of creation or to rectify the Fall. The duty of a Christian is not to leave this world a better place. His duty is to leave this world a better man.

… [H]e had some harsh words to say concerning the modern approach to education, as an ‘education for life’; such cliches awaken the old recusant instinct, which tells him that people might be entirely mistaken, especially in those beliefs that they take to be self-evident. ‘True education,’ he retorted, ‘is not for life, but for death.’

Fr. Alfred Gilbey via Sir Roger Scruton’s Gentle Regrets, via Rod Dreher.

More from Scruton-via-Dreher:

He opens by relating a sense of being a vandal in visiting churches as an unbeliever, as many tourists are:

Of course, they don’t steal the works of art, nor do they carry away the bones of the local martyr. Their thieving is of the spiritual kind. They take the fruit of pious giving, and empty it of religious sense. This theft of other people’s holiness creates more damage than physical violence. For it compels a community to see itself from outside, as an object of anthropological curiosity. Those holy icons that returned the believer’s gaze from a more heavenly region are suddenly demoted to the level of human inventions. Those once silent, God-filled spaces now sound with sacrilegious chatter, and what had been a place or recuperation, the interface between a community and its God, is translated to the realm of aesthetic values, so as to become unique, irreplaceable, and functionless. The tool that guaranteed a community’s lastingness, becomes a useless symbol of the everlasting.

Scruton then relates his role in an actual minor theft from a country church (of crystal cruets), and how it haunted him for years afterward. The real theft, though, was sacramental — his failed marriage to a Catholic woman, which broke him spiritually. He writes of his lesson as a spiritual thief: “Stay away from holiness, was the lesson. Stay away until you are sure it possesses you.”

 

More than any of Scruton’s political philosophy, Gentle Regrets is now on my wish list, though I suspect I’ll buy it sooner rather than wait (notwithstanding my long list of unread books).

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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 lifeworks | Leave a comment

Joe Biden and the Crackers

I had vaguely registered some backlash against Joe Biden’s comments about James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, and I couldn’t help but wonder (1) was there some malapropism in Biden’s comments that wasn’t being reported and (2) is there anything at all to commend in the backlash?

The answer to both my questions appears to be “no.” This is not just an instance where the younger generation has apprehended some truth my generation has trouble seeing. It is an instance where my generation is right and young progressive pearl-clutchers are out of their right minds.*

I base this opinion on Bret Stephens’ Saturday OpEd in the New York Times, which completely vindicates my antecedent bias.

I cheerfully admit that I haven’t read Biden’s critics on this point, and I cheerfully admit it because life is too short to explore every rabbit trail, or, as my late father once said, “you don’t have to dig through garbage to find food in this country.”

Here is the key passage in Stephens, in my estimation:

All of this is evidence of what psychologist Pamela Paresky calls the “apocalyptic” approach to politics that increasingly typifies today’s progressivism. “It is an apocalyptic view, not a liberal one, that rejects redemption and forgiveness in favor of condemnation and excommunication,” she writes in Psychology Today. “It is an apocalyptic perspective, not a liberal one, that sees the world as needing to be destroyed and replaced rather than improved and perfected.”

Paresky contrasts that to what’s been called the “prophetic culture” in American politics, which takes human nature as it is and gladly goes to work with its crooked timber. Abraham Lincoln was a part of this prophetic culture, as was Martin Luther King Jr. John Brown was part of the apocalyptic one — as is, in its way, the new “cancel culture” of the left.

The irony here is that the left’s apocalyptic tendencies have everything in common with the behavior of the Trumpian right: the smash-mouth partisanship; the loathing for moderates on its own side; the conviction that its opponents are unbelievably stupid as well as irredeemably evil; the belief that the only political victories worth gaining are total ones.

The apocalyptic view (remember “The Flight 93 Election”?) does not bode well for political peace any time soon. I can only hope that the press has amplified it a hundredfold for commercial reasons, and that its prevalence in the electorate at large is negligible.

* Update: Okay, okay, okay. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son’” was a malapropism, and since Biden never is Mr. Malaprope, he must have meant something totally toxic and un-American by it.

Posted in alt-right, antifa, deathworks, grievance mongering, History, Journalism, Political Matters, progressivism, Sundry flakes, the worst are full of passionate intensity | Tagged | Leave a comment

Patriarchy is dead

Giant media companies like Disney, Netflix, and Warner Media have threatened to cripple Georgia’s film industry if its residents don’t bend the knee and betray their pro-life convictions. And just last Monday, the New York Times ran a full-page advertisement organized by the pro-abortion lobby and signed by the CEOs of hundreds of companies saying that legal protections for unborn babies are “bad for business.” How disgusting is that? Caring for a little baby is “bad for business.”

Now, I get why outfits like Planned Parenthood or NARAL would say babies are “bad for business.” Abortion is their business, after all, and they’re just protecting their market share. But what about those other CEOs? Why do they think babies are “bad for business?”

Perhaps because they want their workers to focus single-mindedly on working—not building a family and raising children. All these politically correct CEOs want company men and women, not family men and women. They’ll support your individuality and self-expression just so long as you stay unattached and on the clock.

You couldn’t find a more perfect example of this than &Pizza, one of the companies whose CEO signed the pro-abortion ad. &Pizza doesn’t even offer paid maternity leave to all its employees ….

Tom Cotton, The Dictatorship of Woke Capital

All the Handmaiden’s Tale regalia seems curiously oblivious to our current reality, where women are not forced to conceive and bear children, but “empowered” by their self-interested corporate masters to be barren – or else.

Posted in Abortion distortion factor, Corporatism, deathworks | Leave a comment

An anniversary and a testimonial

Today is the 52nd anniversary of my high school graduation.

It might sound odd to remember that, but high school was formative for me because, almost impetuously, my parents and I agreed that I should go to a Christian (specifically Evangelical) boarding school. So off I went at age 14 (specifically, Labor Day 1963) to forge a life somewhat separate from my parents — an experience most of my contemporaries postponed for another four years. By that point in my life, living in dormitories was “old hat,” college “same old, same old.”

I should qualify the preceding paragraph by noting that only 40% of my school was boarding students. The other 60% was commuters from the nearby Evangelical Jerusalem: Wheaton, Illinois. I suspect that Wheaton Academy itself was “old hat” for my commuter classmates, many of whom had attended Wheaton Christian Grammar School, whereas I had attended public schools to that point in my life (with my parents requesting some exemptions to let me observe Evangelical taboos about, say, dancing — public schools were not yet required to teach fornication).

We Evangelicals, of course, were very focused on the Scriptures (which we received from the historic Church pretty much unacknowledged) because they, in theory, were our final authority. But those Scriptures are many (66 by Evangelical count, more than that historically) and varied. The inability to fully harmonize them, or to credibly discern the science of cosmic creation therein, leads some Evangelicals to the shipwreck of faith.

There is a different and much more historic way to approach Scripture, and it always amuses me when the New Atheists and their ilk presume that the Evangelical (shared closely with Fundamentalists) approach is the exclusively correct one — before using it to rip such Christian faith to shreds — a presumption betraying an ignorance so profound that they really should just shut up.

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As I write, early in the morning, I’m still re-orienting from a very intense weekend wherein my Orthodox Christian parish Church was consecrated by our Bishop with the assistance of multiple priests and with me leading the singing of unfamiliar hymns proper to a consecration. My Christian pilgrimage has taken me there, deep into the historic roots of Christianity and thus a long way from Evangelicalism, for Evangelicalism is rooted mostly in the frontier revivalist vein of the Second Great Awakening of some 200 years ago.

Over my intense weekend, I made the acquaintance of a professional who joined his son, a recent Purdue graduate who was active in our parish, for the consecration and following Liturgy and banquet. His professional specialty is the same as one of my Wheaton Academy classmates, whose practice has grown large and, by what reputation I knew, very prominent.

I asked our guest if he knew of it, and it turned out he knew it, thought very highly of it, and almost joined it after interviewing with my classmate, his son and his daughter-in-law, all professionals in that field. He confirmed the practice’s excellence, and confirmed my impression that my classmate is still “very tightly wound” (my characterization) — adding some praise of the family’s Evangelical and charitable involvement as well, for it sounds as if the large practice is still owned and controlled largely or entirely by my classmate’s family and presumably has yielded considerable wealth.

Such thoughts of my classmate, and of my different Christian path, brought back to mind our different “life verses” (an ironically extrabiblical bit of Evangelical youth piety). Any time I say “life verse” from now on, you may gloss it as “important Bible verses favored by or associated with this person.”

My classmate’s life verse at the time seemed to be II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” That always seemed to me (though I don’t know my classmate’s mind) like the outward-looking verse of a doer, and my classmate has done a lot — enough that I felt like a slacker in comparison until I went back to school at age 30 for some graduate work of my own. He himself uttered that verse as a life verse (or close to it); the association isn’t my projection.

I’m pretty sure I never declared any “life verse,” but I believe I wrote by my signature in schoolmates’ yearbooks “Ephesians 3:17-19” which reads (in the King James Version):

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

That always seemed to be to contrast with my classmate’s verse — in my favor, of course, or I could have changed.

I was also quite taken by Hebrews 5:12 – 6:3:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.

This puzzled and challenged me, as “laying again (and again, and again, and again) the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” seemed rather the whole point of our revivalist (remember: Second Great Awakening) “altar calls,” and I thought “the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” were very deep — meaty, not milky.

Finally, although it may (though I think not) have first obsessed me somewhat later than high school, Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” What makes me think it may have grabbed me later than high school is that I pretty much translated that to “thinking Christianly” (which “mind” justifies better than does the untranslatable Greek nous), and I think that “translation” came in college or even a bit later still.

All three of my passages/”life verses” seem to me introspective, or at least relatively so — “figuring stuff out” more than “doing,” and sinking roots more than (to use the modern barbarianism) “moving fast and breaking things.”

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I don’t know if the best way to characterize our different verses, mine and my classmates, is as acorns, as in “mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.” That metaphor seems like the idea that encouraged us Evangelical lads and lasses, very wet behind the ears, presumptuously to grasp the nettle by picking a life verse anyway.

I tend to think a better organic metaphor is “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” or even Immanuel Kant‘s “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”

Scriptures are many and varied. There’s no scriptural reason why one should be guided primarily by II Timothy 1, another by Ephesians 3, Romans 12, and Hebrews 5 and 6. I suspect we latch onto verses because of how our twigs were bent by our DNA, our upbringing and such — even our our gut flora, as science seems to be finding. But I don’t think relativisticly that Evangelicalism is the “right” Christian tradition for my classmate, Orthodoxy for me, because of such things.

I believe there is a deeper human nature to which Orthodoxy responds fully and of which Evangelicalism at its rare best only dreams of. Orthodox Christianity is what I was dreaming of as unawares as I dreamed of  being rooted and grounded in love, filled with all the fulness of God, going onto perfection, renewing my nous.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to 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.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just

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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 Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Orthopathos, Pre-American Christianity, Sacramental Tapestry, Science, Worship | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

James Carroll’s faerie tale

 

Christianity was very different at the beginning. The first reference to the Jesus movement in a nonbiblical source comes from the Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus, writing around the same time that the Gospels were taking form. Josephus described the followers of Jesus simply as “those that loved him at the first and did not let go of their affection for him.” There was no priesthood yet, and the movement was egalitarian. Christians worshipped and broke bread in one another’s homes. But under Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, Christianity effectively became the imperial religion and took on the trappings of the empire itself. A diocese was originally a Roman administrative unit. A basilica, a monumental hall where the emperor sat in majesty, became a place of worship. A diverse and decentralized group of churches was transformed into a quasi-imperial institution—centralized and hierarchical, with the bishop of Rome reigning as a monarch. Church councils defined a single set of beliefs as orthodox, and everything else as heresy.

James Carroll, Abolish the Priesthood, the sensational cover story in the June Atlantic.

The only thing in the article more absurd than this crypto-Protestant précis of Church History (pretty much straight out of Dan Brown, from what I’ve heard of Dan Brown) is Carroll’s insouciant sketch of the future, after the masses have arisen, overthrown the clerisy, and replaced priests with “sacramental enablers”:

The future will come at us invisibly, frame by frame, as it always does—comprehensible only when run together and projected retrospectively at some distant moment. But it is coming. One hundred years from now, there will be a Catholic Church. Count on it. If, down through the ages, it was appropriate for the Church to take on the political structures of the broader culture—imperial Rome, feudal Europe—then why shouldn’t Catholicism now absorb the ethos and form of liberal democracy? This may not be inevitable, but it is more than possible. The Church I foresee will be governed by laypeople, although the verb govern may apply less than serve. There will be leaders who gather communities in worship, and because the tradition is rich, striking chords deep in human history, such sacramental enablers may well be known as priests. They will include women and married people. They will be ontologically equal to everyone else. They will not owe fealty to a feudal superior. Catholic schools and universities will continue to submit faith to reason—and vice versa. Catholic hospitals will be a crucial part of the global health-care infrastructure. Catholic religious orders of men and women, some voluntarily celibate, will continue to protect and enshrine the varieties of contemplative practice and the social Gospel. Jesuits and Dominicans, Benedictines and Franciscans, the Catholic Worker Movement and other communities of liberation theology—all of these will survive in as yet unimagined forms. The Church will be fully alive at the local level, even if the faith is practiced more in living rooms than in basilicas. And the Church will still have a worldwide reach, with some kind of organizing center, perhaps even in Rome for old times’ sake. But that center will be protected from Catholic triumphalism by being openly engaged with other Christian denominations. This imagined Church of the future will have more in common with ancient tradition than the pope-idolizing Catholicism of modernity ever did. And as all of this implies, clericalism will be long dead. Instead of destroying a Catholic’s love of the Church, the vantage of internal exile can reinforce it—making the essence of the faith more apparent than ever.

And then pink faeries will fly out of our nether regions and we’ll all live happily ever after.

The End.


Seriously, the problems of the Catholic Church are many and deep. I try not to meddle in the affairs of this not-my-Church.

But Carroll does a much better job of sketching the problems than he does of selling his solution.

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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 Ecclesiology, History, Roman Catholicism | Leave a comment

French scores a TKO

Sohrab Amari (Trumpist) picked a stupid fight with David French (Never Trumpist).

The gist of [Sohrab] Ahmari’s argument is this: [David] French is a classical liberal, who argues in terms suited to classical liberalism. But classical liberalism is a dead end for Christians, and is nothing more than a way of negotiating our complete surrender to those who hate us and what we stand for. Better to fight with all we’ve got, with the expectation of winning and re-establishing Christian standards in the public square, than to keep ceding ground to those who have no intention at all of tolerating us.

The Ahmari vs. French standoff is a version of what Patrick Deneen, in a 2014 TAC article, identified as “a Catholic showdown worth watching.” Deneen identifies the antagonists not as left vs. right, but a dispute between two kinds of conservatives within US Catholicism. On one side are classical liberals — the Neuhaus/Novak/Weigel folks — who believe that Christianity can be reconciled with liberalism, and enrich it. On the other are those — Alasdair MacIntyre, David Schindler — who believe that they are fundamentally incompatible.

Though Ahmari is Catholic and French is Evangelical, this is near the core of their argument …

Rod Dreher

Dreher is correct that this is the sort of show-down Deneen predicted. Oddly, my visceral sympathies are with MacIntyre, Schindler and, yes, Patrick “Why Liberalism Failed” Deneen, but my reasoning throws me into the uncomfortable neo-conservative company of Neuhaus/Novak/Weigel.

It’s also a fight between the primacy of politics and the primacy of culture. Dreher is, correctly I think, on the primacy of culture side, pretty much because we have no realistic alternative. His full analysis, too, is worth reading, not just my excerpt.

The 2014 Deneen article is worth your reading or re-reading especially now. I clipped it at the time and have revisited it repeatedly.

The Amari/French fight has gone several rounds now, but I think French won on a technical knock-out yesterday:

[M]eet [Sohrab Ahmari’s] fictional Donald Trump. See if you recognize this person as the 45th President of the United States:

With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism. His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion. He believes that the political community — and not just the church, family, and individual — has its own legitimate scope for action. He believes it can help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control.

Donald Trump wouldn’t even fully grasp what this paragraph means, much less recognize it as a governing philosophy. He is a man of prodigious personal appetites. A man who proudly hangs a Playboy cover on the wall of his office. A man who marries and then marries again and again, yet still feels compelled to find porn stars to bed. In his essay, Ahmari condemns the man who craves autonomy above all else. He is, without knowing it, condemning Trump.

So, there you have it. To Ahmari, the alignment of forces looks like this: In one corner is the nice milquetoast libertarian, David French. In the other corner is the strong instrument of social cohesion, Donald Trump.

If this were a real binary conflict and I had to choose, I’d go with Trump, too …

I firmly believe that the defense of … political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.”

I’m a deeply flawed person in daily (or even hourly) need of God’s grace, so I don’t always live up to those ideals. But I see them for what they are: commands to God’s people, not tactics to try until they fail. Ahmari does not wrestle with these dictates in his essay. He should have.

David French

Ben Domenech at The Federalist supported Amari.

Amari and Domenech are raising adolescent hell, as befits their publications, while French is soberly assessing reality, which sometimes makes him odd man out at NRO, but look at the last two paragraphs I quoted and I think you’ll see why he plays it that way.

Maybe Christians will need to make a strategic alliance with alt-right barbarians some day, but for now I think the alt-right ways are to be shunned as deathworks, while “David French-ism” is a lifework.

UPDATE: I couldn’t imagine what more remained to be said about Amari’s folly, but Bret Stephens finds something to say that isn’t just bouncing the rubble:

There’s something to the point that the bullying moral spirit of modern progressivism isn’t going to be mollified by David French’s niceness alone. More likely, it will be deflated over time (and only partially) by South Park-style mockery and a natural impatience with the moral scolds of any political persuasion.

But [Sohrab] Ahmari is after something else. What’s needed, he writes, is “to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” That’s the voice of a would-be theocrat speaking, even if he hasn’t yet mustered the courage to acknowledge the conviction.

I wish Ahmari were speaking for himself alone. He isn’t. He’s just the latest conservative writer I know who has found his own way to Trumpism — proving, if nothing else, that the only things intellectuals find hard to see are the facts that stare them in the face.

Here’s what stares me in the face: Ahmari’s life story — a Muslim immigrant who wound up becoming a Trumpian moralist by way of Marxism and then free-market conservatism — is a tribute to the value-neutral liberalism he now claims to despise. Whatever hopes remain of a decent conservative movement rest in rejecting the illiberalism he now embraces — the one that would close the door to some future Ahmari, embarking on an experiment in living all his own.

(emphasis added)

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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 conservatism, deathworks, grievance mongering, Integralism, liberalism, lifeworks, populism, progressivism, Religious freedom | Leave a comment

Bridging, not widening

We Orthodox Christians hear again and again our our services that God is good and loves mankind.

But doesn’t every Christian group believe that? I very much doubt that they believe it in the same way — the way illustrated here, where an experienced Orthodox Priest describes how the rubber of sacramental confession meets the road of God’s love:

Among the more interesting experiences for a priest is the confession of children. The one thing I am certain to avoid is trying to teach children about sin when it is not part of their conscious existence. Convincing a child that there is an external parent (God) watching and judging their every thought and action is almost certain to create a certain distance from the soul itself. The question, “Am I ok?” is the language of shame, of broken communion, even communion with the soul. But, having done this now for 40 years, I can say that I see a gradual awakening in each child, an awareness of broken communion. The role of a confessor is not to widen that gap, but to help a child learn how it is bridged in Christ. I tell parents, “The only thing I want a child to know at first is the absolute certainty of God’s unchanging and unconditional love.” It is only in the context of such safety that, in time, an older adolescent can find the forgiveness and healing that they will inevitably need.

Fr. Stephen Freeman (emphasis added)

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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 lifeworks, Orthodoxy | Tagged

Sacrificing Coventry

This story seemed to ripen while I was traveling abroad and otherwise occupied, but the new abortion bans in some states merit mention.

It has been decades since I was anywhere near the heart of pro-life litigation strategy — meaning cool heads figuring out how to chip away at the Supreme Court’s illicit abortion jurisprudence, as Thurgood Marshall once chippped away at segregation jurisprudence. That’s a caveat to all that follows.

But it also has long been clear to me that many “pro-life” politicians are more interested in grand, bold, and self-aggrandizing gestures than in finding plausible litigation paths through a legal minefield.

I’ll concede that if you see every abortion as a homicide, there’s a temptation toward reckless abandon, be it blowing up abortuaries or passing laws with negligible chance of withstanding constitutional challenge.

But my guiding light is, at least notionally, Winston Churchill, who knew that an air defense of Coventry (I believe it was Coventry, not another city) against an attack he knew was coming would clearly betray the Allies having quietly cracked German cryptography, thus compromising more strategic use of code-cracking.

He sacrificed Coventry — an incident that leaves me breathless at the burdens of power. A “long game” seldom is an unbroken string of successes, and the interim losses can be agonizing.

I don’t think that shenanigans like those in Alabama and Louisiana were conceived in high councils of cool legal heads. Banning all abortions, or disguising such a ban under the rubric of heartbeat detection, is exceedingly likely to fail in the courts and to be a public relations setback for the pro-life cause. I don’t think the Supreme Court is anything like nakedly political on this issue, nor would I want it to be.

Eventually, Roe v. Wade and its progeny will fall. But that will just send the abortion issue back to the legislatures, where for better or worse it belongs. In anticipation of that day, we must win hearts and minds if we’re someday going to make abortion not just unlawful, but unthinkable.

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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 Abortion distortion factor, Anodynes & Nostrums, deathworks, Life political issues

Making it up on our own

Over the Christmas holiday 1969-70, I attended Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s “Urbana 70” Missionary Conference, along with, as I recall, 10,000 or so other young people.

Two episodes at the conference stood out in my memory these 50 years later. One is irrelevant for present purpose.

The other was an epiphanic episode wherein it was first announced that communion would be served to conferees at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall in a New Years Eve service. It made me feel all warm and comfy inside.

Then some spoilsport posed a question that conference organizers felt they must answer: By what authority was a parachurch organization enacting a sacrament of Christ’s Church? The question stunned this low Protestant boy, who had no answer, yet somehow felt that the proposed service was meet and right.

Organizers farmed the question out for answering to the late John R.W. Stott, low church only by the standards of high-church Anglicanism, who invented, live and in front of mostly smart and pious kids, a completely unpersuasive (and thus unmemorable) answer.

The show went on, but I was left pondering a conundrum, whenever that memory came back, until events decades later cut the Gordian knot: The questioner was right: IVCF had no authority to administer sacraments and should not have.

Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship was tacitly Inter-Varsity Low Protestant Fellowship when the rubber met the road, just as Christian Legal Society was really Low Protestant Legal Society. It’s an error it’s easy to make in America, where even the public schools in my childhood were tacitly Protestant.

That episode in my life came back to me as I read the following in a paean to the late Rachel Held Evans:

At every conference she hosted, Communion was served, and the table was always open. She knew how important its tangible reminders were, especially for those told they had no business imbibing the bread and wine.

I crave your forgiveness if it seems too proximate to her death to say anything, but I didn’t go looking for this; RHE’s own friends brought it up to eulogize her, and I’m loathe to let it pass.

I don’t doubt that this felt right to her, and that she meant as well as she knew how to mean. But at this point in my life, it shocks me, as something analogous apparently shocked someone 50 years ago at Urbana 70.

My shock today has little or nothing to do with her table being open, with all that implies in the context of her life, because surely all that was on the open table was “bread and wine,” not the body and blood of Christ. My shock has to do with the scotoma of “sacrament” without church. (Learning the meaning of “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” was part of what cut that Gordian IVCF knot for me.)

Some critical analysis in a long-form piece from 30 months ago, which I just discovered, is highly relevant: Alastair Roberts, The Social Crisis of Distrust and Untruth in America and Evangelicalism. It surprised and delighted me with its insight into how we get anti-vaxxers, President Donald Trump, autodidact super-peers — and, by implication, your Uncle Harry the climate denier (who has “done a lot of research on this hoax”) and churchless sacraments. It’s longish, but joins a very select club of clipped articles I’ve tagged as “important.”

Let he who has ears to hear, hear: This is not about Rachel Held Evans; it is about Church, about rightful authority, about the erosion of trust in rightful authority, and about the unreliability of most of those who, uncredentialed, fill the resultant void.

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Posted in deathworks, Protestantism, Sacramental Tapestry, Sundry flakes