Sunday, 2/9/14

    1. Fiat Lux … then silence
    2. Ugly American Journalists
    3. What we can learn from Scotland
    4. “Spare”
    5. Woody Allen’s denial


Recent pop culture presented a debate between a scientist and a fundamentalist Christian over evolution and creation. The Christian, a Biblical literalist, holds to the idea of a “young creation,” a universe that is roughly 6,000 years old – this – based on calculating from the Biblical record. It is the most extreme form of Biblical literalism – one in which the appearances of the universe to be much older must be themselves understood as “effects” of how God created the world. God created a universe that only looks 14 billion years old.

(Emphasis added) I used to play Devil’s Advocate for young earth creationism: Did Adam have a navel? If so, didn’t he appear deceptively to have a mother? If not, didn’t he weirdly not look like use? Did the first tree have rings? What would a tree be like without rings? But if the first tree had rings, didn’t it appear deceptively to be X years old, where X is the number of rings?

This kind of argument seems stalemated and speculative to me – stalemated because the counter is that the appearance of age makes God a deceiver, speculative for obvious reasons. I truth, I think the young earth creationists are mistaken, and although I’m not a scientist, I’ve come for religious reasons to think their mistake is even deeper than I used to think. But it’s hard if not impossible to be Christian without believing creation in a more mysterious, Nicene Creed sense.

The Biblical account of creation portrays God speaking all things into existence with the words: “Let there be light!”

And now we begin to engage in theological reflection. What does it mean to say that God created? How did He create? How did God cause the universe? It is at these questions that theological reflection enters into silence. For the nature and work of God’s causation cannot be known. They are not objects or works within the universe that can be observed and studied….

It is the teaching of the Church that God cannot be known. He is utterly transcendent, beyond observation and all knowing. It is also the teaching of the Church that the God-Who-Cannot-Be-Known made Himself known in the God-Man, Jesus Christ. What we know of God, we know through Christ.

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (Joh 1:18 NKJ)

But saying that Christ has made God known, is not the same thing as saying that Christ has now brought the nature of God’s causation into the world of phenomena. The God who cannot be known remains hidden, except as He chooses to reveal Himself in Christ.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

This renders the creative work of God opaque to His creation. We may see its effects but cannot pass beyond those effects to gaze at the cause, for the Christian teaching is that God Himself is the Cause.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, Evolution, Creation and the Hidden Cause)

“Creationist” is an equivocal term, but I believe it tends to imply the young earth version, I think we Christians who believe in creation in Father Stephen’s sense are better off without “ism” and “ist” elaborations.


The New York Times has been pretty restrained in its coverage now that the Olympics are actually here. I’m referring to it not writing as if gay rights were the story of the Olympics. In contrast, NPR Saturday evening was totally shameless, though they had trouble finding a Russian gay or lesbian who would put on the full pouty “woe is me” victim show for them. Therein may lie a tale. It may even have some relationship to the rest of this item.

The other problem with Olympic coverage, though, has nothing to do with gays and lesbians. It has to with what journalist Vicki Boykis calls “playing the Ugly American Broadcaster” and what Rod Dreher called Putinfreude.

[I]t’s fine to make fun of something, but when that something is not your own, not something you understand, babies, goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind as Kurt Vonnegut would say. And kindness from journalists means adding context and not being sensationalist. Not playing the Ugly American Broadcaster.

I love her blog artwork:


And her byline: “Come for the American cynicism, stay for the Russian despair.” She doesn’t think that the tweetable schadenfreude stuff is the good coverage of Russia, so I’ll not try to give you any of it but invite you to her account.

Why does this matter to me? I’ve never even been to Russia.

But I remember when Russia was under the Communist yoke. The expression may be banal, but that’s what it was like. I remember my elders uncomprehendingly talking as if Russians were godless atheists. I intuit how hard it must be to recover a faith integral to Russian society after it was most brutally suppressed for most of 72 years. I see American Protestants now trying to strip away from Russians their Orthodox Christian birthright to replace it with a mess of sub-Christian consumerist pottage. And I see the Russian government trying to get the Church to back it, much as it backed the Tsars less than a century ago, if not to co-opt it entirely. (In other words, it may be almost as hard to be a balanced Christian in Russia as it it to be one in the United States, where the seductions are intense and relentless, and where the cloud of dhimmitude is on the horizon.)

I intuit how hard it must be for former serfs, then cogs in the wheel of a clumsy command economy, to recover gain “overnight” (24 years isn’t all that long) the habits of self-reliance, innovation, and initiative necessary to big-time success in modern economies.

I remember, from my reading of less-tendentious-than-usual World War II history, how we would not have defeated Hitler without the unbelievable heroic resistance of the Russian people, which was forgotten if not suppressed as soon as the war was over and they became simply “godless commies.”

And most of all, I hear my grandchildren speaking to their mother in Russian – her native tongue – which not merely shapes the mind as bilingual upbringing always does, but facilitates their communicating with grandmother and great-grandmother.

I see my son and his family practicing freely in America the faith my daughter-in-law’s living ancestors – people I break bread with – could not practice freely in their “birthland” for most of their lives. I hear a lot of other Russians at coffee hour after Church, too. (You know, there’s some truth in the idea that phobia diminishes when you get to know some of “them.”)

Of all the subtly different flavorings of Orthodoxy, American converts like me tend to gravitate to the Russian, if only because the music is less alien and, at its best, ravishingly beautiful. I cannot help but want the best for the land that gave me something so precious, and to which so many friends retain attachments, emotional and familial.

So for the duration of the Olympics, I’m a Russian. Don’t piss me off with glib class-clown potshots about my country.

(N.B. Rod Dreher feels about his part of the South the way I feel about Russia for the duration. He put me onto Vicki Boykis.)


I’m occasionally puzzled and disturbed by how my British “cousins” function in the presence of established religion, but we – and by “we” I mean the secular fascisti of Massachusetts – could stand to learn from them on this one:

In St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society v. Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, (SCAP, Jan. 31, 2014),the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel overturned the decision of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that had directed a Catholic adoption agency to end its adoption placement preference for Catholic couples who have been married for at least two years and its placing on low preference non-Catholics and same-sex couples (since they can only enter civil partnerships). The Appeals Panel held that the agency is a religious organization that can assert its, and its members, right to freedom of religious expression under Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Discussing application of the Equality Act, the Appeals Panel said:

The Panel has decided that there is indirect discrimination but that indirect discrimination is allowed in terms of The Equality Act because it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The Panel found both the charities exception and the religious exception as contained in The Equality Act to apply….

(Bold Italics added) Unlike the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel, Massachusetts decided they could do without Catholic Charities’ involvement in adoptions if Catholic Charities wouldn’t pretend that all families are created equal in their suitability for adoption through a Catholic agency.

Next thing I expect is liberals to cite this as proof that Catholics are hypocrital pro-birthers, not pro-lifers, because they got out of adoptions in Massachusetts, whereas it’s the state that said, in effect, “if children must suffer while someone fills Catholic Charities’ place, it’s a small price to pay for our egalitarian dogmas.”


In “Home­com­ing,” a po­em from the col­lec­tion here in its en­tire­ty, Ms. Ku­min wrote:

Hav­ing come un­to
the tall house of our habit

(From the obituary of Maxine Kumin, “whose spare, de­cep­tive­ly sim­ple lines ex­plored some of the most com­plex as­pects of hu­man ex­ist­ence ….”)

Yeah. I’d say “spare” fits that pretty well.


Since I’ve reported the accusation of Dylan Farrow, I suppose I should note that Woody Allen has responded:

Meanwhile the Connecticut police turned for help to a special investigative unit they relied on in such cases, the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital. This group of impartial, experienced men and women whom the district attorney looked to for guidance as to whether to prosecute, spent months doing a meticulous investigation, interviewing everyone concerned, and checking every piece of evidence. Finally they wrote their conclusion which I quote here: “It is our expert opinion that Dylan was not sexually abused by Mr. Allen. Further, we believe that Dylan’s statements on videotape and her statements to us during our evaluation do not refer to actual events that occurred to her on August 4th, 1992… In developing our opinion we considered three hypotheses to explain Dylan’s statements. First, that Dylan’s statements were true and that Mr. Allen had sexually abused her; second, that Dylan’s statements were not true but were made up by an emotionally vulnerable child who was caught up in a disturbed family and who was responding to the stresses in the family; and third, that Dylan was coached or influenced by her mother, Ms. Farrow. While we can conclude that Dylan was not sexually abused, we can not be definite about whether the second formulation by itself or the third formulation by itself is true. We believe that it is more likely that a combination of these two formulations best explains Dylan’s allegations of sexual abuse.”

* * * * *

“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.