Tasty Tidbits 8/12/11

  1. The underground Church — figurative and literal.
  2. How American Criminalized Poverty
  3. Rick Perry, hawk internationalist.
  4. Rowe Hessler, national Rubik’s Cube champ.
  5. Fixing “Movement Conservatism”
  6. Yet will I rejoice.

1

Sometimes, in some places, it’s necessary for the Church to be “underground” in some sense. In Indonesia, for example, an Orthodox Church was built by Father Daniel Byantoro, but it was so controversial that authorities ordered Father Daniel not to use it, and it has sat idle for 20 years. But Orthodox Christians gather fairly openly at his home, which has been greatly expanded to accommodate them. Go figure.

But in Poland, presumably not because of persecution, a Church — and more — was lovingly and beautifully hewn from a salt mine 200 meters below the surface. Photos: Astounding Subterranean Salt Cathedral in PolandWieliczka Salt Mine – An Astounding Subterranean Salt Cathedral.

2

Seeing poor people is unpleasant. We want every street to look like Disneyland. No riff-raff. Nothing that might make a middle-class or upper-class person a little uncomfortable.

So how do we deal with ugly things of the human variety? Let’s find a reason to lock them up!

Most cities, for example, have ordinances designed to drive the destitute off the streets by outlawing such necessary activities of daily life as sitting, loitering, sleeping, or lying down. Urban officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about such laws: “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a St Petersburg, Florida, city attorney stated in June 2009, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.”

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans – 2.3 million – reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.

(HT Lindsey Nelson)

3

Rick Perry’s identity as an Evangelical, in and of itself, tells me nothing I need to know about his political palatability. “Evangelicals” are far too varied. I’ve belabored that point on other occasions and won’t repeat it.

Rich Perry’s identification as a bellicose interventionist, on the other hand (together with his carrying on the Texas tradition of executing people in dubious circumstances), marks him as someone to vote for whom I would definitely need to hold my nose. (Maybe there’s a better way to write that sentence, but I’m not going to figure it out. So sue me.)

4

I guess I missed quite a cat fight in Iowa last night. Eight or so “conservative” Presidential candidates found themselves quite at odds. Some but not all of it no doubt was the boiling over of hubristic personal ambition.

But “movement conservatism,” like Evangelicalism, is a conveniently unified-sounding label for a fractious and incoherent tendency.

Will adhering to “conservative principles” begin to correct the serious problems now besetting American society and thereby provide what is “best for the American people”? Clearly, that depends on what is meant by “conservative principles.” The think tank intellectuals and hired guns are ready with glib answers. Conservatism means “liberty” or “freedom.” It means “limited government.” It means “constitutionalism,” “free markets,” “private property.” But these are general terms, which can each have very different—even opposite—meanings. Whether the mentioned ideas are good or bad depends upon what is meant and the purposes served in each instance.

Traditional conservatives—from Edmund Burke and John Adams in the eighteenth century to Irving Babbitt and Russell Kirk in the twentieth—supported liberty, property, and restraints on government but not as ultimate ends in themselves. They saw them as conducive to efficient production and other commodious arrangements, but most importantly as means to the higher ends of society, which can be summarized in the term “community.”

… It needs to be understood that in a time of precipitous moral decline freedom may actually become positively destructive of the higher purposes of society. Imagine historical circumstances in which captains of finance have, because of a general moral decline, become unscrupulous, caring little about the welfare of their customers, employees, or society at large. In such a situation, a mentality of unmitigated greed might become pervasive. On the other hand, freedom may become something altogether different where economic and cultural elites embody and expect high standards.

Where Movement Conservatism Went Wrong — And How to Fix It. For the record (I don’t always tip my hand), I think this piece is very much on the right track and needs to be read especially by those who are viscerally anti-liberal, but may be surprised to learn that they are not be truly conservative, either.

5

Had I thought about it, I suppose I would have realized that there are Rubik’s Cube competitions. Rowe Hessler, who worried his parents at the delay before he started speaking, has solved one in 6.94 seconds and is national champion. WSJ story (with video) and Google results.

6

The fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines.
The lavor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no harvest.
The flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Fourth Canticle of the Canon (Habakkuk prophesying the outpouring of the Word, Habakkuk 3:2-12)  (from A Psaltery for Prayer, Holy Trinity Publications, Jordanville, NY 2011).

Bon appetit!