Friday, 3/7/14

    1. The Manners of the Christians
    2. Hallmarkification
    3. Distinction without difference?
    4. Surrender? Hell no!
    5. I ♥ Me
    6. AFP


They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

(The Manner of the Christians, Epistle to of Mathetes to Diognetus, Chapter 6)


I feel like such a fool. I faulted the Huffington Post for soliciting Ash Wednesday selfies.

Well, Pope Francis hasn’t spoken yet, but it turns out that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was soliciting Ash Wednesday selfies before the Huffington Post. I must be mistaken about the meaning of Ash Wednesday after all. Surely the USCCB wouldn’t encourage cheap public posturing that mocks Ash Wednesday and scars the soul?!

So it begins: the Hallmarkification of Ash Wednesday. Soon there will be a booming trade in Ash Wednesday cards and people complaining at store clerks who don’t chirpily wish them “Happy Lent!”

(Other voices here, here, here & here.)


To be an Evangelical is to profess that one’s highest allegiance is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to confess that salvation is in Christ alone and that we do not save ourselves, no matter how good we may be. It is to recognize that God’s grace is freely given and that we can do nothing, not even deciding to follow Jesus, to merit it. That is Evangelicalism at its best.

(David Koyzis, Emotion and Evangelicalism)

Wow. Congratulations. Just two questions:

  1. That differs from other Christians how?
  2. Can you say “insular”?


I heard from a pastor this morning who said a parishioner approached him last week to ask his advice. His parishioner said that a colleague in his workplace is openly gay, and keeps pestering him to declare his views on same-sex marriage. The parishioner is a traditional Christian who doesn’t believe in SSM, but he also doesn’t believe the workplace is where this sort of thing should be discussed. The parishioner just wants to get on with his work, but the colleague, who is in a semi-supervisory capacity, won’t let it drop. The parishioner said that the climate in his workplace — a business that has nothing to do with marriage or social issues — has shifted to where one is expected to declare one’s support for SSM, or be suspected of harboring hateful views. The parishioner just wants to be left alone, but he doesn’t want to be accused of being ashamed of his religious views. He wanted to know what he should do.

This is coming. What is wrong with policing a work colleague’s behavior, not his thoughts? If the parishioner were treating gay colleagues disrespectfully or otherwise unjustly, then sanction him. And if not, what business is it of anybody’s if he’s guilty of thoughtcrime?

(Rod Dreher) This is the Update to a blog where Rod engages Andrew Sullivan, who says that Christians should stop whimpering and articulate their

positive argument about the superior model of a monogamous, procreative, heterosexual marital bond. There is enormous beauty and depth to the Catholic argument for procreative matrimony – an account of sex and gender and human flourishing that contains real wisdom. I think that a church that was able to make that positive case – rather than what is too often a merely negative argument about keeping gays out, or the divorced in limbo – would and should feel liberated by its counter-cultural message.

Dreher responds that

this is impossible now. The climate that now exists, and that will only grow in intensity, is one in which any dissent from the pro-gay consensus, no matter how nuanced or irenically stated, amounts to “hate” that cannot be tolerated. Error Has No Rights. Conor Friedersdorf, who supports gay marriage, writes about the phenomenon of pro-SSM supporters attributing all opposition to hatred and bigotry, and how unfair that is.

Michael Cook at doesn’t mention Dreher, but singles out Dreher’s counterpart in surrender, Ross Douthat, and insists on No White Flag, Ever. Cook may assume more than I’m willing to about the soundness and sufficiency of “pillars of Western culture, including the Enlightenment approach to science as the exploration of reality with reason and evidence,” but has interesting comments on the 1972 declassification of homosexuality as any kind of disorder or pathology by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

His comments are based on work of two British women, Rachel Bingham and Natalie Banner, in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Cook thinks there needed to be evidence for so declassifying, and Bingam and Banner reportedly acknowledge that there was not. Cook:

“It is widely accepted,” they write, “that ultimately the removal of homosexuality was not so much an outcome of new scientific knowledge, as … ‘an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times’.” In other words, declassification was a nakedly political decision. Evidence, shmevidence. Who needs that?

But the change left an embarrassing gap in the discipline of psychiatry. If political pressure, and not reason or facts, explains the declassification of homosexuality, could anything be described as a “disorder” or “deviation”? How about ADHD? Personality disorders? Bipolar disorder in childhood?

The 1973 decision, they admit, placed an ominous question mark over “the legitimacy of psychiatry as a scientific clinical discipline”. Psychiatry works by classifying people as suffering from disorder A or deviance B. But if it is not possible to define these rationally, perhaps there is no point in doing psychiatry at all. Some sort of benchmark is required.

Bingham and Banner have the answer: the benchmark is the normality of homosexuality.

We take as our first premise that homosexuality should be excluded by any useful definition of disorder. We assume without discussion that homosexuality is not a disorder and perceive this to be the consensus among those concerned to delineate the legitimate domain of psychiatry.”

In other words, a psychiatric theory which in any way discredits homosexuality is, ipso facto, false. The starting point of inquiry has shifted from fact to ideology.

This is a Mardi Gras version of creationism. No matter how many Tyrannosaurus rex fossils are dug up, creationists insist that dinosaurs could not have existed because the world was created on the evening before October 23, 4004 BC. Similarly, no matter how strong the statistical, genetic or evolutionary evidence might be, Bingham and Banner contend that nothing can be described as a disorder if the same chain of logic would end up describing homosexuality as one, too.

And, they admit, the chain of logic includes facts: “fact-based definitions of mental disorder, relying on scientific theory, fail to offer a robust definition of mental disorder that excludes homosexuality”.

Behind the psychological jargon, this means that Bingham and Banner’s version of Ockham’s Razor is that all legitimate arguments must support homosexuality. If facts lead elsewhere, they are not facts. If theories lead elsewhere, they are wrong. The legitimacy of homosexuality is the foundation stone of psychiatry.

(Emphasis added) An interesting admission by Bingam and Banner (it’s clear fro the abstract of their article that Cook’s summary is substantially accurate), and far too big a topic to chase down, kill and dissect now. Was evidence required to list it in the first place? Is there evidence to support listing ADHD or Bipolar disorder? Other than illustrating that the normalcy of homosexuality is a premise rather than a conclusion, what does this have to do with Same-Sex Marriage?

I join Cook, though, in thinking that it’s not necessary to surrender. So, for that matter, do Douthat and Dreher, who tacitly indict the jackboots for having power, but nothing but power.


I’m trying to figure out at what level this Whitman poem isn’t utterly appalling:

City of Orgies
by Walt Whitman

City of orgies walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one
day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at
the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows
with goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in the
soiree or feast;
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and
swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own—these repay me,
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.

Oh, yeah. I’ve read more explicit sexual poetry in Poetry magazine, but those are B-Teamers.

That I, Walt Whitman “have lived and sung in your midst will one day make you illustrious,” Manhattan? The “frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me love … Lovers, continual lovers …” – that’s how Whitman is going to be repaid for the glory he (or should it be “He”?) brings to NYC?

Author of “Song of Myself” and spiritual father of the hookup and the selfie, writes himself a love poem: “I ♥ Myself (and ‘The Big O,’ too.)”


Democrats are so wroth with Americans for Prosperity, allegedly an operation of the nefarious Koch Brothers, that they’re going to have their own Koch Brother, George Soros (who was buying influence before anyone heard of Kochs), create their own “AFP”: “Americans for Penury.”

* * * * *

“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.