Thursday, 12/12/13

    1. What’s trending in Holy Writ?
    2. Progressive Babel invents new universal rights
    3. Bashar Assad’s head (and other considerations)
    4. 4 times better than wretched
    5. Honest Broker?


Matthew Lee Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy (a site that is not Eastern Orthodox, but strives to be what I call “small-O orthodox) is gradually forming and publishing some Christian thoughts on homosexuality.

Most recently, he took on the bean-counting approach to theology – sort of “what’s trending in the Bible – where sexual libertines have discovered that economics is trending (more numerous references; Jon Stewart even mentioned it) and the Bible really doesn’t care about homosex (just six references in the whole collection), contra the sexually repressed economic libertines.

Don’t look to Anderson for sound bites or cherry-picked texts or countertexts. That said, let me cherry-pick Anderson to give you a taste:

How important does Scripture seem to think homosexuality is?  It’s common these days to minimize the concern about this particular question before addressing it on grounds that Scripture says very little that is explicit about the subject, even if the now infamous six explicit verses are all negative.

That humans are created in the “image of God” is not a claim that fills many verses in the Bible; its importance for Christian theological reflection far exceeds its frequency.

Then a passage I had to read several times to understand, but the point is worth the effort:

If those six negative judgments … are the exegetical tips of a theological iceberg, then the authors of Scripture may have few reasons to keep stacking such judgments on top of themselves, as the logic of the entire text would move against it.  A community steeped in that logic might need stronger denunciations of certain practices around money, as money is a universal phenomenon that pervades a community.  But while homosexuality is obviously of incredible importance to those who experience same-sex attraction, it does not draw everyone within a community into its orbit the way financial practices do.  But if this is right, then Scripture’s lack of explicit attention to the phenomenon might be an indication that it emerges into the open when the narrative of Scripture has lost its grip on a community.

“The exegetical tips of a theological iceberg.” They’re not six stand-alone arbitrary rules from a god inventing a new game. (How leery I’ve become of the Bible as Rule-Book! Does that view ever “really nail” anything important?) The six negative judgments arise out of a much deeper understanding of the way things are. To multiply the six references to sixty times six would obscure the deeper “points” and focus unduly on an issue that, until it became a cause célèbre, was of little concern to 95%+ of us who were content to more or less live and let live.

“The way things are” doesn’t mean “These are the rules. You’ll be punished by the referee for violation. Get over it.” It means “Here, by the way, be icebergs. Steer clear or you may make shipwreck. Now let’s think about that iceberg….”

I’m looking forward to more from Anderson.


[T]hese moments of coherence only highlight the glaring inconsistencies. The report envisions a Europe where the damage wrought by internet porn and skanky Abercrombie ads is repaired by school-based “compulsory, age-appropriate and gender-sensitive sexuality and relationship education, provided in a mixed-sex setting, for all children and adolescents.” One hates to make old arguments, but if this education teaches (as other sections of the report make clear that is must) the familiar doctrines about how very wrong it is to impose any kind of normative standard on the many forms that peoples’ desires can take, on what basis does it exclude pornography or the sexualization of young girls as legitimate forms of the varied human sexual appetite?
Essentially, this is a set of sexual Geneva conventions: you never knew it, but not only do you have the right to minimal standards of treatment if you ever become a prisoner of war, but when you were five, you had the right to learn at school all kinds of things about what some people like to do in bed, and if your parents thought that really they’d rather you didn’t hear about that stuff at school, or at least not yet, they were . . . well, they were violating your rights.

Having . . . discerned? willed into existence? . . . this new set of rights, it seems probable that the committee will be persistent in its attempt to have them recognized. They are, after all, according to the language of the report, “universal”—applicable to all men, women and children, at all times, throughout human history, by the very nature of man. If they have been (until now) both unrecognized and unfulfilled, surely that is an injustice that cries out for redress.
Only imagine: the ten-year-old Frederick Douglass was denied the right to learn from a state employee about condom use. His parents were not consulted as “stakeholders” in his sexual education. The eight-year-old Charlemagne; the seven-year-old Hammurabi; the five-year-old Jane Austen were alike denied the right to a free lesson on IUD insertion. The time has come, this committee has decided, for these wrongs to be righted.

(Susannah Black, How to Invent New Rights)


I read Peggy Noonan pretty faithfully because she often sees things I hadn’t noticed. So I dutifully read her blog on who Time will pick as Man of the Year, thinking “who cares?”

Sure enough, she opens with something like “who cares” and then goes on to entertain and inform by analyzing how cunningly Time has created buzz about an award about which, in the end, nobody really cares. “Man of the Year” no doubt is “trending” as I write.

And, yes, it had not occurred to me that Bashar Assad’s “head looks like it was squeezed from a tube.” You’ve got to consider that as you imagine a cover photo.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: So little does “Man of the Year” matter to me that I didn’t know the announcement (Pope Francis, just as Noonan predicted) would precede my anticipated Thursday publication.

How equivocal would it be were I to affirm that “the Pope is worthy” of such a hollow encomium?


NPR was credulously parroting Secretary (“Not Man of the Year“) Sebelius who stuck with the President’s “Night and Day” talking point about the Affordable Care Act and the Federal Insurance Exchange when testifying before Congress Wednesday.

The Federal Exchange site enrolled 110,000 people in November! That’s four times better than October!

My crap detector went wild.

Let’s put it this way: At that rate, they’ll have the country fully enrolled in – let’s see: (300,000,000 people) ÷ (110,000 per month) ÷ (12 months per year) – a little over 227 years.

(I know: state exchanges are enrolling some people, too. Indeed, Indiana apparently denied Medicaid to an eligible person, sending them off to buy an Obamacare policy. And Indiana doesn’t even have an exchange! I think it’s an honest mistake, but who knows? UPDATE: James Taranto runs the numbers a bit more rigorously.)


Perpetually aggrieved direct-mail fundraiser Bill Donohue of the Catholic League gets into the Festivus spirit by airing his grievances on Fox News (where the airing of grievances is a year-round thing).
Donohue is on TV a lot as a self-appointed defender of Catholic honor. It’s interesting, then, that he was oddly quiet when his fellow right-wingers Rush Limbaugh and Stuart Varney decided to bash the pope for his forceful reiteration of Catholic teaching on wealth and poverty. Donohue hasn’t said a word about Limbaugh’s calling Pope Francis a “pure Marxist” who’s “ripping America.” His only comment on the right-wing backlash against Francis’ Gaudium Evangelii was afundraising news release condemning “bogus” Catholics who dared to criticize Limbaugh.
You know what honest brokers look like? Bill Donohue doesn’t look anything like that.

(Slacktivist) Yeah. If Donohue won’t get in Rush Limbaugh’s face for such stuff, he loses whatever credibility he had left, right?

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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.