Friday, October 12, 2012

  1. Weed: Do it for the Children.
  2. The Canary in the Coal Mine.
  3. Democracy, Dictatorship, and “Who Wins?”
  4. Prejudice or Tradition?
  5. When God Calls.
  6. New Standing “Advice.”


Quite apart from the practical merits of legalizing marijuana (which I have never tried, inhaling or not), it troubles me when proponents promise that the first $40 million of new tax revenue will go to build schools. I can hear the spinmeisters formulating lines like “He opposed a measure to raise $40 million for new school construction,” uttered over atmospheric music with perhaps some “Black Helicopter” video thrown in.


“Seventy-five percent of the Catholic parishes in Austria will close within a decade.” (Rod Dreher)

These days, when somebody tells me they’ve left the Christian faith, I need to ask which Christian faith they left. It may not be anything like mine apart from a few overlapping terms (used with greatly varying meanings). For instance, two of  “the fundamentals” of Fundamentalism are not in the Nicene Creed and strike me as not particularly fundamental, while the remaining three are, in varying degrees, fleshed out differently by fundamentalists than by historic Christianity.

But nuance is largely lost on the popular culture. And, truth be told, Orthodox and Catholic understandings of most things are quite similar. So the terrible state of Catholicism in Austria is ominous, as is the atheism of once-Catholic France and the consumerist attitudes encroaching on American Christians of virtually all traditions.

I suspect things could get really ugly, really fast; and that’s not “prophesy” unless prophesy is just alertly observing a trajectory.


The insincerity of American commitment to democracy in foreign lands is illustrated by how The Establishment reacts when the “wrong” guy wins. The rest of the world isn’t stupid. Our insincerity is not lost on them.

The fact is, it’s not obvious that we ought to be pushing democracy willy-nilly, as the excellent Intelligence Squared debate on the question Better Elected Islamists Than Dictators (takes an hour or so to listen to or watch), illustrates. The sorry fate of Copts and other Middle Eastern Christians (not to mention vocal modernizers) under democratic Islamists tilts me against the question, but the proponents think that’s just part of an adjustment period after decades of dictatorships. Long-term, it’s a very close call.


If Scripture is merely a code to be broken, then we can enter into it by ourselves, armed with lexicons and concordances, to declare its true meaning. But a deeper reflection will reveal that this leaves us with no defense against our own prejudices and the ways in which we have been shaped by our culture. It would seem that Vines has absorbed the problematic attitudes of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

C. S. Lewis, in his introduction to St. Athanasius’ De Incarnatione, offers words Vines would do well to heed: “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

No approach to Scripture can be unmediated. The only question is: Will my approach be mediated only by the prejudices, concerns, strengths, and weaknesses of my own day, or will they be balanced by the weight of Christian tradition?

(Why Matthew Vines Is Wrong About the Bible and Homosexuality) The observation abut how one’s approach to Scripture is mediated is much broader than the ever-timely topic of sexuality, but sexuality illustrates it starkly.


“If God calls, don’t put him on hold.” 96-year-old woman to her 70-year-old physician son.


This seems to have become a permanent fixture of our religious, economic and political lives: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. (II Timothy 3:4)

It’s time to add it to my standing advice, I think.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

[Item 4 was updated early in the day to extend the quotation.]