Saturday Potpourri, 3/8/14

    1. True religious awe today
    2. Putting your job on the line for conscience
    3. If bad in practice, bad in theory
    4. Empty and emptier suits duke it out
    5. Echoes from Mr. Bumble
    6. No life without knowledge
    7. Adam and Christ
    8. Soundbites and Shade Trees

1

Religion is absolutely helpless, not because of the weakness and the fall of religion, but because religion has ceased to be the essential term of reference, the basis of a vision of the world, an evaluation of all these “wants.” I felt it quiet acutely today while attending a report of our church’s committee on investment, including a discussion about what is better, more profitable, secure — some bonds or some stocks. Nobody felt the comical and demonic aspect of a discussion attended by bishops and priests who listened with genuine reverence and admiration to the financial experts: a banker and a broker. I saw for about an hour a true religious awe, which was completely absent when simple church affairs were discussed — in an atmosphere of petty mistrust, intrigue, and verification of every cent spent by the administration. The banker and the broker were listened to with hearty enjoyment, and questions were asked in the way that one used to ask elders, wise men and masters. They talked with the simplicity and the humility of people who know their business, their indispensable place in society. This is the way that religion does not express itself any more, because religion does not have such an indispensable place any more. What does it mean? It means that religion has accepted secular logic and does not see in that acceptance either its fall or even a “problem.” For how could religion survive otherwise?

(The late Father Alexander Schmemann, February 1975, quoted by Rod Dreher)

After this wearying first week of Lent, the first time of my Orthodox life when I found my mind wandering in nightly services, and feelings of resentment welling up because I was being kept from “important” things, it’s good to be reminded that it was not always so, that religion once was for all, and could again be for me, “the essential form of life.”

2

Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher continue, and apparently escalate, their debate over whether the victors are willing to afford the vanquished even the respect of not branding their reasons bigotry. The war, of course, was that over same-sex marriage. Sullivan thinks Dreher is being a crybaby over the possibility that people will say mean things at work if he advances a vision of marriage incompatible with the same-sex marriage oxymoron. Dreher retorts that it’s more than hearing mean things – and provides recent examples of worse:

  • Piers Morgan’s unbelievably imperious treatment of Ryan Anderson, co-author of a magisterial, secular, natural-law defense of the traditional man-woman view.
  • Scott Eckern, Mormon theater director in California, driven out of his job in 2008 because he donated money to Prop 8.

Yes, the likelihood of losing livelihood is worse than “mean words.” Score this round for Dreher.

I probably would not dare blog like this, since my thin pseudonymity is pierced by people including hateful trolls, were I not in the safe (for now) midwest. On one of our left coasts, I’d be writing my way out of a lawfirm and into a solo practice representing goofballs and dregs (or into slightly earlier than intended retirement). It’s called “taking one for the team,” also known as “It is expedient that one man should die ….” (John 11:50, 18:14)

Which brings me to another Dreher blog, on quite another topic, which seems nevertheless connected: seminarians losing (or never having had) a robust Christian faith. I’m tempted to dismiss them as sinister subversives, but some of them presumably feel that the social causes they believe in religiously are a perfectly fine reason to enter pseudo-Christian ministry.

And I think, too, of the terrible dilemma faced by clergy well-established in their profession who lose their faith. Maybe they lose their Christian faith, but the ones I’ve known of and most agonized for are those who lost their, say, Dutch Reformed, or Baptist, or Free Methodist faith, while discovering the Orthodox Church.

How very, very scary to walk away from a pension. The only thing scarier, to my mind, is remaining as a hireling to preach what one doesn’t believe. Some resolve it by seeking bureaucratic paper-shuffling jobs at HQ. But whether its shutting up about theological doubts, or muzzling the most vilified of social opinions, the pressure is great. And those of us who enjoy a measure of insulation from pressure may need to take up the slack.

Remember: Vilification is, in some pro-SSM quarters, a conscious strategy. (It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.) Don’t let the bastards wear you down, and maybe someday not too distant, they’ll be recognized for the thugs and jackboots they are.

3

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway extols (and elides) capitalism and free markets in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Do tell! The picture she paints of the free market’s “invisible hand” is simply lovely.

I wonder how that might work in America, and how we would evict crony capitalism to make it happen?

Sorry, Mollie. I like you, but I think you blew this one. If it doesn’t work as promised in fact, it’s really not “good in theory” at all. Or at least irrelevant.

(I’ll grant this: Human Nature and politics might manage to make a racket and a cruel mockery of Distributism as well. I’ll not see that in my lifetime, though.)

4

A recently-established financial planner, Kevin J. Grant, is vowing to unseat (without raising a dollar and  without party backing) incumbent Todd Rokita with his proverbial million-dollar warchest.

His qualifications? Why, “I’m ready,” of course. Also, he has flown military helicopters and “knows how to hold things together when they’re coming apart.”

Apparently, he’s not (just) bragging when he says the Democrats solicited his candidacy. Perennial Democrat Sheila Klinker acknowledges overtures.

Has it come to this? An empty suit may lose to an emptier suit with a military resumé?

5

When Mr. Bumble, the unhappy spouse of a domineering wife, is told in court that “…the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”, replies:

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass – a idiot”.

(Oliver Twist)

A case in Michigan will soon be decided wherein plaintiffs are claiming that laws “restricting” marriage to male-female pairs lacks even a rational basis, the lowest of constitutional bars to clear.

I’ll say it now: If American law cannot find a rational basis for gendered marriage, then American law is an ass. (And yes, that means the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which pretended it could find no rational basis, is predominately asses.)

6

For in this garden a tree of knowledge and a tree of life hath been planted; yet the tree of knowledge does not kill, but disobedience kills; for the scriptures state clearly how God from the beginning planted a tree of knowledge and a tree of life in the midst of Paradise, revealing life through knowledge; and because our first parents used it not genuinely they were made naked by the deceit of the serpent. For neither is there life without knowledge, nor sound knowledge without true life; therefore the one tree is planted near the other.

(Epistle to Diognetes, Lightfoot Translation)

7

“Adam sleeps, so Eve may be formed; Christ dies, so the Church will be formed” (St. Augustine)

8

From Image Magazine
From Image Magazine

* * * * *

“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.