Tasty Tidbits 9/13/11

  1. Ecumenical etiquette.
  2. Abp. Dolan forsakes “Conservative Christianity”!
  3. Prophesy!
  4. Blowback.
  5. Rationality, R.I.P.
  6. Shallow emotivism.
  7. Harmony.
  8. Stephen White broke out the bubbly.
  9. Extemporizing faith.


Joseph Bottum reports that they threw a memorial Sunday in San Francisco where various religions were free to pray fully within their tradition.

The Buddhists meditated in a Buddhist way. The Muslims prayed to Allah. And the Christians vaguely waved their hands at the—hmm, what to call it?—perhaps the “Great Spirit of the Universe Whom Many People Worship Under Many Different Names.” God, I guess they mean, but God carefully, politely, embarrassedly disguised.

In defense, all I can say is that many Christians would have trouble with this ecumenical shindig, so there likely was a certain selection bias in favor of moralistic therapeutic deists in Christian clothing.


Jacques Berlinerbau, secularist, celebrates Mayor Bloomberg’s victory over the “Conservative Christian Outrage Machine” in keeping clergy out of Sunday’s Ground Zero observances. But add (some?) Roman Catholics to those who have some concerns about ecumenical love-fests:

This victory was made possible by the non-participation of Catholics: Once Archbishop Dolan of New York noted that he had no difficulty with Bloomberg’s decision the game was over!

Be it noted that Abp. Dolan is decidedly conservative. Maybe “Conservative Christian Outrage Machine” paints with too broad a brush?


Joe Beach preached a safe sermon Sunday on Ephesians 1:10. He now wishes he’d prophesied:

What I should have said was what Brueggemann would have said:

We are situated, as prophets most often are, in a national security state that imagines itself to be autonomous and ultimate, an act of distorted imagination that puts us on a path to death…
The national security state MAKES PROMISES it cannot keep, promises of well being and safety;
The national security state invites systemic and PERVASIVE ANXIETY from which it offers no respite;
The national security state breeds efforts at a RELIGION OF CERTITUDE that is sure to be idolatrous.
Prophetic ministry is to expose such a state of mind and such an ideology of public life, to name the false PROMISES, the pervasive ANXIETY, and the ill-gotten CERTITUDE. Prophetic ministry, in the face of such lethal practice, offers a world of fidelity that is alternative to the ersatz world of security and certitude.
Against such formidable claims, prophetic ministry proceeds one text at a time -one oracle, one poem, one narrative, one metaphor –
Such practice is not carping; it is not scolding; it is not confrontation.
It is, rather, a TRUTH that makes free, a HOPE that heals.
There is a desperate waiting among us for such a performance.
Amos, in justifying his venturesome vocation, did so with two statements and two rhetorical questions (Amos 3:8):
Statement: The lion has roared;
Question: Who will not fear?
Statement: The Lord God has spoken;
Question: Who can but prophesy?
From Amos to us, the question lingers and haunts, Who indeed?

Excerpted from Walter Brueggemann, Disruptive Grace (Fortress Press, 2011), 154.


Having been mentioned favorably by John at Notes from a Common Place-book, I now acknowledge my debt to him for pointing me to this piece on “blowback” by Patrick Foy.

In CIA parlance, what happened on 9/11 ten years ago is called “blowback,” the unforeseen or at least unintended consequences of US foreign-policy decisions. It would be wise to understand what Washington, in all its glorious malfeasance, has been doing in our name in the greater Middle East.

Note that the bloodlust was bipartisan. I don’t exonerate Bush, but he had plenty of enablers. The brain dead will call this “blaming the victim.” Nothing I say in response could move the EEG needle anyway, so I’ll leave it at “brain dead” and let the reader discern.

“Blowback” is too good a word, connoting too much that I believe about 9/11 to let it drop from my vocabulary again. Maybe I should write it on the blackboard 100 times?


The post-9/11 opportunity brought out my a lot of my “curse the darkeness” cyberfriends. Rod Dreher lights a small candle, it seems to me, by suggesting that irrationality was one of the winners of 9/11.

That description doesn’t do justice to what Rod’s about, which is not really that our military adventurism has been irrational. What it’s really about is how attempts to find meaning, especially in a sort of “scoop,” can go awry.


David Brooks, perhaps lacking anything highly topical, drops in on a topic dear to my heart: the religious and moral lives of young people today.

In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.
When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.
“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

But of course, “shallow emotivism” probably was learned by them from … Oh! Never mind! Nothing to see here. Move along now.


I don’t pretend to be all gaga for the British Royal Family (except when my wife is erupting in irrational contempt toward them), but my contemporary, Prince Charles, wrote what Rod Dreher calls the best book he read this summer. Visiting the Amazon page for the book discloses a fairly prolific author of books that can fairly be called “Traditionalist.”

He also is President of the World Wildlife Fund UK, and critiqued our way of life in a speech in that capacity.

I sense a possible increase in verbal sparring with my uxor coming on.


Stephen White at CatholicVote.org broke out the bubbly Sunday and threw a little party. Here’s why. I’m with him.


From Silouan Thompson:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:

It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. If we were dependent entirely on ourselves, we would probably pray only the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But God wants it otherwise. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

— in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

This insight – that we must sometimes pray “contrary to our own heart” – is related to my discovery that my extemporaneous prayers paled in comparison to just about any traditional Prayer Book’s prayers, and especially alongside those of Orthodox Prayer Books.

That was a dangerous insight, as it led me to question other religious things I, or other people who poured contempt on Prayer Books as “vain repetition,” had extemporized. So I came home.

* * * * *

Bon appetit!

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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