Tasty Tidbits 9/29/11

  1. We’re homeless. What a relief!
  2. What, Mead worry?
  3. The only good (newsworthy) Christian is a bad Christian.
  4. J.K. Rowlings breadth and depth.
  5. WKB, RIP


Writing one of the best personal “localist” essays I’ve ever read, Rod Dreher recounts how he was at his sister Ruthie’s long wake back home in Louisiana when he and his wife got an epiphany:

Julie and I knew something was going on inside us when, at Ruthie’s wake — which was over four hours long, to accomodate the long, long line of people who waited in the rain to pay their respects — Julie took a break, checked her e-mail, and learned that we had lost the Bucks County farmhouse we loved, and were one day from signing a lease on. Our startled mutual response: Relief .

Why? We explored that question. The obvious answer was that we both wanted to be part of what we saw in West Feliciana Parish….

I moved away at 16, a restless and unhappy teenager, and never looked back. Ruthie and I were water and oil in this way. She was happiest in St. Francisville. The only time she ever lived away from there was her four years at LSU, only 30 miles or so away in Baton Rouge — and even then she came home every weekend to be with Mike, her high school sweetheart and eventual husband. This was her place on earth. I didn’t have a place on earth, but I was sure that if I did, it was in the big city somewhere. Willie Morris’s evocative memoir “North Toward Home” was my guidebook. And off I went.

I love Manhattan. I understand that New York City is made up of lots of little neighborhoods, which may be far more humane and personal than the suburbs.

But New York City’s not my home. I wish all the best to those for whom it is home. But there’s hundreds of thousands of people there humming “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” who might just get a little epiphany of their own, and start humming Lyle Lovett’s Family Reserve, if they’ll stop to read Rod’s essay.

There’s quite a long piece around the excerpt I quote, and one commenter got it right: “Shit, Rod, that is a piece of writing right there.”

It is well worth your while if you’re the least bit Front Porchy and especially if, like younger Rod, you “don’t have a place on earth, but if you do, it’s in some big city somewhere.”


In ancient times, the damage to two unique symbols of national identity by something as rare as an East Coast earthquake which did little or no damage to more pedestrian and less symbolic structures would have been highly noteworthy.  We would be rending our garments, consulting the Sibylline books and repenting in sackcloth and ashes after so a clear a demonstration of divine wrath.

These days we do nothing at all.  No doubt this is much more progressive and intelligent.  After all, there is absolutely nothing going on in Washington or the country at large that could cause anyone or anything to warn us to mend our ways …

Walter Russell Mead, speculating that damage to the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral might just awaken a twinge of concern that someone might be giving us a reminder. His title? “In God We Trust” Is Out. “What, me worry?” Is In.

Mead see contrary signs, too. He sees the growth of extraction (e.g., mining and drilling) jobs as proof that “the American future looks much, much brighter than grumpy greens and dejected declinists would have you believe,” and the curious fractoid (sorry for the pun) that we imported less than half our oil in 2010 as a hint that “[m]aybe God still has a special providence for drunks, fools and the United States of America.”

I have high regard for Mead, but I think he’s wrong on oil – what James Howard Kunstler, that most cheerful of doomsters, calls “cornucopian.” Still, his “fractoid” gives me a glimmer of energy hope (which I fear is of the false kind).


Is it too much to ask a press that quickly reports some vague Christianoid mutterings of Anders Breivik to mention, in her obituary, the Christian faith of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai? Maybe even that she was Roman Catholic?

Yeah, it probably is.


There are only so many hours in a day. I haven’t read the Harry Potter series because because I’m not a kid, I’m not raising a kid, and my wife, a grade school librarian, whose judgment on children’s literature I trust, has read them with pleasure and approval.

But I have heard some very interesting lectures about them, partly because the initial reaction in many Evangelical and Charismatic circles was to boycott them for the magic, and better-rooted Christians like John Granger had to step in to supply some major corrective.

But for a glimpse at the erudition of the author, check the Wednesday Writer’s Almanac note on the birthday of scrivener and alchemist Nicholas Flamel.


Today is the 13th anniversary of my Dad’s unexpected and painless “repose in the Lord” — and I use that Orthodox nomenclature advisedly, though he live his last 50+ years as an Evangelical, for Dad proved that an Evangelical can be a surpassingly good Christian.

I criticize Evangelicalism a great deal in this blog because I lived it for the first 30-50 years of my life (depending on the close call of whether I was simultaneously Evangelical and Calvinist), and it seems to me that “surpassingly good Christians” in Evangelicalism are swimming against a powerful orthopathetic and ahistorical stream of eschatological sewage.

In other words, I’m summoning Christ-lovers to wake up, get out, wash up, and start over in the surpassingly better place I incredulously stumbled onto 15 years ago, and then was won over.

(I seldom criticize Calvinism, although I held it more recently than I held frank Evangelicalism, because it is more than enough against Calvinism to say that, as a Calvinist, I could not look someone in the eye and say “God loves you.”)

Speaking of bad eschatology:

(HT Justin Miller on Facebook)

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Bon appetit!

(To save time on preparing this blog, which some days consumes way too much time, I’ve asked some guy named @RogerWmBennett to Tweet a lot of links about which I have little or nothing to add. Check the “Latest Tweets” in the upper right pane or follow him on Twitter.)

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