Wednesday, 10/9/13

    1. Is Compassion a finite resource?
    2. The (Tea hee!) Party of small (guffaw!) government
    3. Keeping the South on the Moralistic Plantation
    4. Real Marriage
    5. “Go big or go home” religion

I noted a few days ago that I had a grueling week ahead, and I was right. So there’s no stunning insights about these snippets I’ve picked up.

You’re welcome to your own insight.


Compassion for animals doesn’t drain away some finite reserve of moral energy and idealism, to the detriment of human welfare, but surely adds to the supply. In any case it usually consists in simply not doing bad things to them, and in preventing wrongdoing by others. Cruelty issues like factory farming present specific moral choices. If we’re making the wrong ones, then to shift attention to other woes in the world is just as idle and evasive as when the abortion lobby tries it.

(Matthew Scully in National Review. H/T Rod Dreher)

Actually, I’m not so sure. I sometimes think (and seem to recall some encouragement from C.S. Lewis to think in these terms) that there is such a thing as compassion fatigue, and there’s a fine balance between being an insular jerk and having a heart that bleeds for each and every one of the innumerable evils and injustices in the world. I think I’ve tipped that balance one way or another at times, currently tending toward insular jerk in the guise of sardonic observer.

This is not meant to dismiss Scully’s case against how we raise meat and animal products in 21st century America.


Obamacare is a bad law that addresses a real problem: everyone needs healthcare, insurance is a way of meeting unknown future needs, yet not everyone had insurance. By contrast, Medicare Part D, the prescription-drug add-on to Medicare passed by a Republican House and signed into law by a Republican president in 2003, was gratuitous: a new benefit for the wealthiest age cohort. But the small-government party supported it. And as is well known, Medicare Part D is but an outward and visible sign of the GOP’s overall spending tendencies the last time the party held power.

(Daniel McCarthy)


For Eric Holder, American racial history is frozen in the 1960s. The Supreme Court ruled in June that a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is no longer justified due to racial progress, but the U.S. Attorney General has launched a campaign to undo the decision state-by-state. His latest target is North Carolina, which he seems to think is run from the grave by the early version of George Wallace.

The real current Governor, Republican Pat McCrory, signed a law in August that requires voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polling station, including a state driver’s license or military ID. Voters who show up without one can still cast a provisional ballot pending their return with a photo ID. The law also shortens early voting to 10 days from 17 and ends a program that preregistered high school students before they were eligible to vote.

According to Mr. Holder, this amounts to a shocking return to the Jim Crow era. He describes these modest measures to secure the integrity of the ballot as “aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African Americans.” And he is suing the state to bring it back under the federal supervision of the Voting Rights Act for all of its future voting-law changes.

(Wall Street Journal, Eric Holder’s 2014 Racial Politics)

But but but but but … How will we live and hold our heads up as relatively righteous if we don’t have the South to scorn and subjugate?!


In a regime of no fault divorce, no marital vow, howsoever solemn, is real. The state will set those vows aside, not in a heartbeat, but without you having any way to resist if your spouse decides he or she wants out and is willing to wait through a cooling-off period (60 days in my state). That’s why Maggie Gallagher called no-fault divorce “the abolition of marriage.”

So for those who want real marriages, not vows-with-winks, the Orthodox manner of marrying, without vows because it’s a union, not a contract, conveys a profound truth.

Spoiler: You can’t have an Orthodox Crowning unless you’re Orthodox or marrying an Orthodox.


I love traditional liturgy and theology because they mean something. Because they show me my place in the cosmos. Because one can’t help but notice the absolute seriousness and importance of what is going on up at the altar when one isn’t dodging giant puppets and felt banners and Eucharistic ministers and guitar-strumming minstrels and the tinkling of glad tambourines. Because traditional Catholic piety and worship give rise to a feeling that this religion I have been a part of all my life ACTUALLY ACTS AS THOUGH THE COMPLETELY FANTASTIC THINGS IT CLAIMS TO BELIEVE ARE TRUE rather than perpetually undermining its own teachings with watered-down “worship spaces” and infinitely regressing theological nuance.

Catholicism is a “Go big or go home” religion. Catholicism is radical. It is radical in its claims, in its demands, in its beliefs, in its scope, and in its trappings. When it ceases to be radical, the whole enterprise becomes significantly less credible. It becomes merely one choice among many in a spectrum of religions all more or less following the natural law. It ceases to be the fulfilment of a covenant with a chosen people, and instead becomes a lifestyle choice.

(Steve Skojec, It Doesn’t Take a Rigorist: Why All Catholics Should Be Concerned About Pope Francis, H/T Rod Dreher)

I have a hunch that the label “rigorist” fits Skojec pretty well, disclaimers notwithstanding. His litany of his “laxist” sins marks him as someone who’s been doing hard spiritual work and has gained real insight. He sounds, frankly, kind of like some Saints of the Church have sounded talking about themselves (when forced to).

His blog also contains some images of the sort one sees on Facebook: disturbing images made more so by superimposition of some Pope Francis quotes. In younger, angrier days, I’d copy and re-post them, but Roman Catholicism isn’t my tradition and I probably shouldn’t write as much of it as I do.

On the other hand, it is the best-known western expression of what passes for “traditional” Christianity, and all Christians have some stake in its health.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.