Saturday, 4/26/14

    1. Simone Weil on Natural Weaknesses
    2. Demonizing isn’t a Policy
    3. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism
    4. Kvetching Up a Sagamore of the Wabash Award
    5. Penal Atonement again


[T]his is the way I am. I do not think it is useful to fight directly our natural weaknesses. We must fight ourselves to act as though we did not have those weaknesses under circumstances where our duty demands it imperiously ; and in the ordinary course of life we have to know them, prudently acknowledge them, and try to make good use out of them, because all of them can be turned to good uses.

(Simone Weil, French Jewish Christian mystic and philosopher, translated by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

The context of this snippet is not what you might think, but in any context, this seems to me a very important distillation of some good advice, currently out of favor: acknowledge weakness as weakness, looking for ways to make good use of what I think of as the obverse side of most weaknesses.

In contrast, “this is the way I am” in contemporary parlance seems a gauntlet thrown down, part of the speaker’s precious snowflake syndrome.


[A]s Henry Kissinger argues, “the demonization of Putin is not a policy. It is an alibi for the absence of one.” What we must recognize is that, Beltway bluster about U.S. troops in the Baltic and warships in the Black Sea aside, the United States is not going to war with Russia over Ukraine, or Estonia. For we cannot defend Estonia either. By bringing the Baltic nations into NATO, as some of us loudly warned at that time, we were handing out war guarantees no sane president was going to honor.

As we hold a weak hand in Ukraine, we should let Putin take the lead. If what he wants is a Ukraine that is not in NATO, a Ukraine that is decentralized, where the East retains cultural and economic ties to Russia while the West has ties to Europe, that is no threat to us. What should we do if Putin seizes Southern Ukraine to Odessa? What did Ike do about Hungary in 1956, or JFK do when the Wall went up? What did LBJ do about Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Reagan do when Solidarity was crushed?

Mature leaders, they accepted militarily what they could not prevent. Like those presidents, Obama should take the military option off the table and use his diplomatic, political, and economic weapons, and keep communications open. There are big issues, like terrorism, where we still agree.

(Pat Buchanan)


Jason continues:

Secondly, their is a certain sense of insularity in terms of ethnocentrism within the Orthodox Church – simply take note of the titles of Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, American Orthodox, and the like. Once, when I inquired of an Eastern Orthodox friend of mine why he did not go to just any Orthodox church, he replied matter-of-factly that “We go where the Russians go” (for he is Russian). But Catholics go where a Catholic Church is, whatever rite it may happen to fall under. In other words, the catholic (universal) nature of the Church is lacking in Eastern Orthodoxy.

I fear a lack of familiarity with the Orthodox Church has led Jason to this perspective.

The local (not ‘ethnic’) boundaries within the Orthodox Church are established for the sake of shepherding a Church throughout the world. After all, this is how there came to be a Church of Rome. But the Roman See and the now fourteen other, local Orthodox churches are now separated. These Orthodox churches are not ‘different churches’ or denominations, but are all part of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. This is how the Church functioned even in the first century.

While Jason’s friend is certainly wrong about his church-selection decision making—unless he lives in Russia, then it makes perfect sense—the Orthodox Church has condemned phyletism as heresy (Synod of Constantinople, A.D. 1872). Of course, Jason’s friend should not be taken as representative of the entirety of the Orthodox Church on this (or any) matter.

Despite his insistence, a Roman Christian will too go to their preferred church, if there are options available. The seemingly unstoppable revolution brought by Vatican II has only made this more and more necessary, I would imagine. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, there was a considerable amount of ‘ethnic divisions’ in the Roman church, as well. Irish people only went to the Irish church; French to the French; and so on.

It should also be noted that, according to Roman canons, one cannot simply transfer from one Rite to another within the Vatican communion. It is a far more complicated—and lengthy—process than in Orthodoxy, where a Baptized, Orthodox person is welcome in every canonical church at all times (throughout the world).

And its worth noting here that ‘catholic’ does not simply mean ‘universal.’ The Orthodox Church claims to be the Catholic Church, as She uniquely preserves the fullness of the apostolic faith.

(Gabe Martini, emphasis added)

As for the bolded material:

  1. The Roman Catholic parishes in my hometown tended historically to be ethic, but maybe the “parish” (neigborhood) was, too. These days, all the Latinos and Latinas, though, go to one parish regardless of where they live. It’s “where the Spanish-speakers go.”
  2. Frank Schaeffer, back before he decided to revamp his writing career by switching to shameful kiss-and-tell books for the lefty market, said that he didn’t become Roman Catholic partly because he couldn’t decide which kind of Roman Catholic to become: clown mass, guitar mass, Tridentine mass, etc. He had as much point as Jason has.


Some Indiana governmental coalition or something a few months ago honored, Betty Cockrum, the President of Indiana’s Planned Parenthood (an organization whose good deeds are far outweighed by its leading role in Indiana’s abortion holocaust) and the Right to Life cybersphere exploded.

I assume that Betty Cockrum’s head exploded this Friday morning. Has cosmic balance been restored? Did Indiana Right to Life kvetch its Director into a Sagamore of the Wabash? (Mike Fichter has been at this for 30 years or more, by the way.)


In the Scriptures, we do not have a legal problem. Sin is not a legal debt or an infraction demanding the satisfaction of justice. Sin is death (Romans 6:21-23). Sin is a life lived out of communion with God, the Lord and giver of life. As such, it is a spiritual entropy, a life that is collapsing. It is slavery and bondage to a growing process of nothingness.

For the gospel writers and the early Church, nothing describes this slavery better than the imagery of Israel’s bondage in Egypt. Their deliverance does not flow from a balance of accounts nor the satisfaction of divine justice. It is the love of God for His people. This imagery continues throughout the early Church, preserved especially in the Christian East. St. Basil’s Eucharistic prayer offers this summary:

Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He obtained us for Himself, to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Having cleansed us in water, and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the Cross into Hades that He might fill all things with Himself, He destroyed the torments of death. And rising on the third day, He made a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be overcome by corruption.

This is the story of the New Exodus. Baptism is the new Red Sea. In it are destroyed all of the enemies of God’s people.

A weakness of penal substitutionary theory is its inherently pagan character. The God who must be satisfied (whether we chalk this up to His justice or not) is a diminished God, rather than the Ground of All Being revealed in Christ.

Penal imagery represents one of the most serious deformations of Christian thought, a sad detour for theology. That it has now passed into fixed dogma within some circles should be of great concern to all Christians. Those who hold to this dogma would do well to return to the fathers and consider the scope of Scripture.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Scope of Passover and Penal Substitution Theory)

I return to this topic not infrequently because I was captive to “penal imagery,” thinking it the orthodox position. That truly was a “serious deformation of Christian thought” for me.

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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.