Thursday thoughts 7/26/12

  1. A Prayer in Time of Drought.
  2. Situational Libertarianism.
  3. Evil ramifies.
  4. At the end of development’s first life-cycle.
  5. Does Christianity evolve?

1

O Master, Lord our God, Who didst hear Elijah the Tishbite because of his zeal for Thee, and for a time didst command that rain be held back from being sent unto the earth, and again at his prayer didst grant it fruit-bearing rain: Do Thou Thyself, O Master of all, Who art being entreated, out of Thy deep compassion grant abundant rain unto Thine inheritance; and, overlooking our sins, do Thou send down Thy rains upon every place entreating and praying for it. Make glad the face of the earth, for the sake of Thy poor people and infants, and animals and all others, for they trust in Thee, that Thou wilt give drink unto them in due season. For Thou art our God, a God Who showeth mercy and saveth, and unto Thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

The work of Kallistos, Patriarch of Constantinople, From the Great Book of Needs, Vol. 4 pg. 50 (HT Lindsey Nelson on FaceBook)

2

George Weigel explains why he thinks the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, supporters of the welfare state for some 50 years now, is re-thinking that support and why, in fact, the welfare state needs to die. This paragraph in particular caught my eye:

A new generation of bishops is not quite as sure as its predecessors that “social justice” always equals “government program.” The rise of aggressive secularism within both state and federal social welfare agencies has also been a sobering experience, as bishops across the country have found that the Church’s success in foster care or work with sex-trafficked women doesn’t count in the eyes of government bureaucrats determined to impose the LGBT and abortion-on-demand agendas with the funding tools at their disposal.

This reminded me of one of only a handful of memorable articles I’ve ever seen in The Christian Lawyer (link may not work), a magazine of the Christian Legal Society. This Spring  (link may not work), Prof. Richard F. Duncan explained “Why I am a Libertarian In Secular America,” beginning:

A little over a decade ago, I was approached by a friend, Professor Michael W. McConnell, who asked me to contribute a paper on “Christian Libertarianism” for a book he was editing on Christian perspectives on law and government. I told him that although I would not attempt to convince fellow Christians to embrace libertarianism as a political theory or Biblical principle for all times and in all places, I would be happy to write about how Christians living in “Babylon,” that is in contemporary secular America, might consider embracing some version of libertarianism as a pragmatic approach to life in these times and in this place.

He continues:

The “ever-expanding reach of government” in Secular America poses a grave threat to Christians and other religious subgroups. Moreover, when you combine a large, activist state with a view of non-establishment that requires religion to retreat as government advances, the state of religious freedom sinks even lower. As Richard Epstein observes, “many of the greatest threats to religious liberty stem from insufficient protection of individual liberty in economic affairs.”

What happens in Babylon when the most sacred dogma of secular-progressives, absolute sexual liberation, collides with the First Freedom, religious liberty? In most cases, religious liberty will lose.

For example, we have recently witnessed a federal health insurance mandate that requires all employers (including religious employers) to provide health insurance that includes coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations. How much longer will it be before Obamacare requires coverage of surgical abortions?

How soon before federal regulations require all hospitals, including hospitals operated as religious ministries, to actually perform surgical abortions? ….

Say what you will about Libertarianism, but at least admit this: a consistent Libertarian will work to dismantle government bureaucracies determined to impose with the funding tools at their disposal the evils their secularism misidentifies as goods.

This isn’t because Libertarians necessarily have a keen eye for evil, but because they have a keen eye for liberty. In Babylon, that keen eye may be all the comfort Christians can find. Duncan: “In other words, despite our different theological traditions, we ought to be able to agree that a small Babylonia government is better than a big Babylonian government.”

As if on cue, two big-city, big-government Democrats, Mayor of Boston and an Alderman in Chicago, brayed that there would be no Chick-Fil-A on their turfs because Chick-Fil-A lacks the right diverse values.

Boston:

The Boston Herald reported Menino as saying,

Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”

Menino wants to limit free speech on the Freedom Trail?

“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.

“It doesn’t send the right message to the country,” Menino said. “We’re a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all.”

Chicago:

[Chicago Alderman] Proco “Joe” Moreno announced this week that he will block Chick-fil-A’s effort to build its second Chicago store … following company President Dan Cathy’s remarks last week that he was “guilty as charged” for supporting the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and woman….

The alderman has the ideological support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” the mayor said in a statement when asked about Moreno’s decision. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

Moreno is relying on a rarely violated Chicago tradition known as aldermanic privilege, which dictates that City Council members defer to the opinion of the ward alderman on local issues. Last year Moreno wielded that weapon to block plans for a Wal-Mart in his ward, saying he had issues with the property owner and that Wal-Mart was not “a perfect fit for the area.” …

The alderman, serving his first full term, dismissed any First Amendment concerns.

“You have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right,” he said, adding that he also had concerns about traffic in the area….

I’m a recovering Republican, who has said plenty of nasty things about the GOP, but I rarely feel with them, as I do with smiling, “moderate” Democrats that this kind of crap is up their sleeve, ready to be pulled out when the wind shifts a bit. (Think 2008 Obama on marriage versus today’s Obama.)

You can consult previous blogs on why I’m not all that keen on the GOP alternative and why I’m flirting with Liberatrians as the least of three evils.

3

It is good to remember from time to time that evils like sex-selection abortion aren’t just abstractly or privately evil, but ramify ominously.

4

At the Strong Towns blog, Jake Krohn describes how reality is playing out in his North Dakota home town, as, among other things, 14 homes on a 500-foot cul-du-sac face assessments of $22,500 each for infrastructure repair.

[The Mayor] said although the city’s population is decreasing, the infrastructure is still expanding and needs to be maintained.

“I hear that ‘the population is down, why aren’t we cutting people?’ Well, we have more miles of street to take care of, more miles of water lines, of sewer lines, and we ought to keep that in mind, too,” he said.

The (federal government) helped fund it, but when they left town; they left town, said Wahpeton mayor Jim Sturdevant. “The responsibility of maintaining all that stuff on Dakota Avenue, like any other project, is our responsibility.”

The market arguably is starting to correct this as young people especially gravitate toward city centers – at least a small sign of hope, in my opinion.

Closer to home, the City Council in Logansport, Indiana, want to extend tax incentive financing to a new movie theater, but the volunteer Redevelopment Commission says “no.” For their trouble, the volunteers will be dismissed.

For $225,000 in assistance, the City bodes to get (hold onto your hats) “four full-time and up to 25 part-time jobs, mostly for high school students.” The City lawyered up and got counsel to come up from Indianapolis to say “there are a lot of cities that would give this incentive.”

5

Be it noted, as a preliminary matter, that if “evolution” is given it’s most benign, even banal, bait-and-switch definition of “change over time,” then some traditions calling themselves “Christian” have evolved and continue to evolve.

Now, leaving behind that kind of “who’s to say what’s true Christianity?,” and addressing serious people who believe there is such a thing as true Christianity, consider this quote:

I doubt the sophisticated American [Orthodox] convert really reverts to the real practices of Russian peasants of 200 years ago, and I suspect he really transforms icons, etc. into a kind of ideology and that this theology functions that way just as much as the worship of the Westminster Confession among Protestants….

Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy seem to be in the same soup as Presbyterians and Lutherans and Baptists in terms of the kind of idolatry that we are really struggling with. Converts to earlier forms of the church have simply complicated things by making ideologies of childhood toys. (emphasis added)

What is implied by the locution “earlier forms of the church”? As an adherent of primitive (i.e., Orthodox) Christianity, I’d be inclined to take it gratefully as a back-handed compliment were I inattentive. But Fr. Andrew S. Damick wouldn’t let me stay inattentive:

This really is something new. Consider this: The Reformation’s claim all along was that it was restoring true Christianity, that Rome (and, by implication, Orthodoxy, especially after the Tübingen theologians figured out that the Ecumenical Patriarch wasn’t a Greek Lutheran) had betrayed Christ and the Reformers were bringing Christians back to Him. Almost every Protestant communion is founded precisely on this essential claim, with later generations of them adding into their list of traitors their fellow Protestants. Yet here were have Reformed Catholicity claiming not that Rome and Orthodoxy have betrayed the true Christian faith, [that] they were apostate movements, but that they are earlier forms of the Church. By implication, therefore, they were formerly legitimate, but the Church has essentially moved on.

This should astound us, because I think it is indeed quite a new idea.

Now Fr. Andrew might be accused of cherry picking, but it really does seem that Peter Leithart, an intellectual leader within the PCA (a “conservative” Calvinist denomination formed basically within the past 40 years in dissent from liberal Presbyterianism), is (a) struggling with ecclesiology and (b) coming up with some answers that are way out there, like “Protestantism is dizzily open-ended, like life. To rejoice before an unruly future is to cease to be Catholic.”

Indeed, it takes Leithart back, inadvertently I trust, to the unserious position of “who’s to say what’s true Christianity?” And to appeals like it being “edgy” not to convert away from Protestantism to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

There’s quite a bit more to be said; I’ve merely, I hope, whetted a few appetites. (And some of those appetites may, I suppose, gobble up Leithart’s lines.)

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.