Thursday 3/20/14

    1. Hedging against The Progressive Fallacy
    2. Putin’s tu quoque
    3. “Wagging the dog’s” star pupil
    4. Where have the Crystal Cathedral faithful gone?


Ross Douthat has a superb blog item on religious freedom as essential to true pluralism, and he fully understands that “the whole point of [religious freedom] is to enable groups to “throw up a shield” against the pressure of consensus, and develop and promote alternatives that are rejected the powerful, or by society as a whole.”

Oh? Really? And why should we allow that?

[O]ne of the advantages that pluralism offers to modern societies in particular is a kind of hedge against the progressive fallacy — a way for a culture rushing to embrace a new paradigm to concede, along the way, the possibility that it might be making a mistake, and that even capital-p Progress might benefit from having critics …

[I]t’s precisely when people in liberal societies see themselves as out on the vanguard of history that they’re least likely to concede that they might, just might, be making a mistake, and most inclined to feel instead that the thing to do is shatter the shield wall around the remaining bastions of unenlightenment rather than permit them to persist.

(The Challenge of Pluralism) I recall nearly 45 years ago referring to this, in a college essay – and in the context of private colleges, religious colleges, maybe even all-male and all-female colleges – as institutions to preserve ideas that may have fallen out of favor.

And I’m glad to see Douthat advancing it again because I think we’re doing some extremely damnfool things in our collective progressive hubris, and it may be easier to find our way home if there’s someone there sending out beacons of light. (Actually, I’ll be staying behind or – I pray the courage to make it so – sitting in jail for rejection of the new dogma that some animals are more equal than others.)


Eric Posner of University of Chicago Law School discusses Putin’s speech to the Duma on the annexation of Crimea, giving the devil his due when Putin’s right and pointing out where he’s misdirecting or maybe even lying. He concludes with this summary:

In other words, we did not act illegally but if we did, you did first. The subtext, I think, is that the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it.

Not just where we can’t compete, but where we have no strategic interests.


Meanwhile, at the Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins stops the general chest-thumping of the Opinion page briefly to discuss why Putin has enough domestic problems that he needs conflict with “the outside world” and especially with us as a distraction from failed domestic policies.

I don’t see any reason to disagree with this, but again, how (apart from neither Obama or Dubya having blown up a building and blamed it on others – an uncommonly large “domestic policy failure”) is that so different from how our Presidents regularly wag the dog?


So, the question remains, where are all the people who once thronged the Crystal Cathedral. The Charlottesville correspondent explains to the American scholars: “They are at home, having their self-esteem puffed up by a new breed of prosperity-Gospel preacher, including Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and T.D. Jakes.”

This is exactly right. The prosperity gospel isn’t just another brand of evangelicalism. It isn’t “evangelical” at all because it’s rooted in a different gospel from the one preached and embodied by Jesus Christ.

(Russell Moore, an affable Southern Baptist, whose Convention – “denomination” in baptist-speak – is also subject to the charge that “it’s rooted in a different gospel from the one preached and embodied by Jesus Christ,” though they try harder and come closer than Robert Schuler did.)

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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.