Thursday, 5/1/14

    1. Mea culpa
    2. Prattle deconstructed
    3. Screwtape Letters as a Cartoon?!
    4. John Kerry’s heartening gaffe and non-apology
    5. “John 6.66”

1

It has not escaped my attention that I’ve spent some digital ink on “Gloria Mundi” (as in sic transit gloria mundi), f/k/a Sarah Palin, over the last few days while lamenting the unseriousness of media focus on thing like a rogue racist rancher and an adulterous NBA owner’s private lament to his mistress. Nobody even had to point it out to me (though I’d have tried to swallow my pride and admitted it if they had).

I could probably defend the importance of Sarah Palin’s anti-Christian obscenity versus the triviality of racist remarks by ranchers and raunchy billionaires. But, truth is, I was at least in part gossiping about Palin, whose gloria has transited to the extent that she now is doing high-end rubber chicken circuit speeches and appears unlikely to experience any political resurrection on the national scene. I’ll spare you any further such gossip, insofar as it lies within my power not to return to my vomit. (I may provide a link or two to other gossips, though.)

You’d think I was getting paid for this the way I resort to pandering. Sheesh! It just hasn’t been the same since I noted the scrolling bar graph of how many people have viewed this blog over the last 36 hours or so. (Maximum noted thus far: 14 looks in a single hour.)

2

[David] Brooks says that “it is harder to get people to die for a set of pluralistic procedures to protect faraway places,” and he seems to think that this is a bad thing. What sane person would be willing to die for a “set of pluralistic procedures”? Who really wants other people to be willing to die for this? It would be more accurate to say that it is harder to convince people here at home to support the killing of people in faraway places on the assumption that this has something to do with pluralism and international law, not least because such claims are frequently false and misleading. It should be difficult to persuade people to support unnecessary wars in countries that they are not obliged to defend. This is not a failure of the international system, such as it is, but proof that it is not yet defunct.

(Daniel Larison) Larison also in the last 24 hours or so before this writing has critiqued the “conservative internationalism” of one Henry Nau (e.g., “asserting things that are contentious or untrue as if they were simple statements of fact”) and puzzled over how our client states so readily believe our self-congratulatory internal political blather about them being “allies” – as if we really care about them and will put money and troops everywhere are mouths are. We’re too adventuristic, but even we can’t keep up with our reckless rhetoric.

3

De gustibus non est disputandum. The Open Culture site and blog‘s catholic tastes include much that I find boring, but I don’t think I’ll stop following it, especially because they come up with gems quite often.

For instance, someone has gone to the trouble, no fewer than seven times, to do animated doodles of C.S. Lewis books or notions.

If you’ve never seen animated doodling, and if you have zero artistic ability as I do, it almost seems impossible, like Chinese acrobats or even levitation. Bonus: it reminded me of the virtues of Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, which coincidentally has implications for my ongoing inquiry into the nominalism/realism distinction.

4

A Washington gaffe, as Michael Kinsley once observed, occurs when a politician states an obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say. John Kerry’s closed door remark before a Trilateral Commission (an elite establishment group) gathering, where he said that without a two-state solution, Israel will become an apartheid state, reaches the important gaffe category … [F]or Kerry to suggest, even with a heavy heart, that Israel is headed for apartheid in the absence of a two state solution is to tread into Emperor’s New Clothes territory. It may be true, indeed of course it’s true. But for a high ranking American politician to actually say so falls somewhere between lese majeste and blasphemy.

… Kerry was asked to apologize.

He didn’t—he clarified.  Kerry stated that if he could “rewind the tape” he wouldn’t use the A word, while reminding everyone that current Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livini, and former prime ministers Olmert and Barak had explicitly claimed Israel was headed towards apartheid if it didn’t come to an agreement with the Palestinians. Some saw this statement as a grovel, but it could as easily be read as a non-apologetic “explanation.”

(Scott McConnell) I might actually like John Kerry in this role. I’ve never found him quite as insufferable as Al Gore.

5

The inescapable fact is that the Christian West is living in a patently “John 6.66” moment. If you do not know this verse, with its troubling numerical reference, permit me to refresh your memory:

“After this many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.”

It should be noted that the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity actually experienced a decline in His attendance figures. This was immediately after His troubling doctrinal teaching on the Trinity and the Eucharist.

The Enemy consists of two forces that may or may not be deliberately executed in concert. One is external to the Christian community — and that is the utter consumerification of modern globalized culture. Everything must be commodifiable — if it cannot be (like real doctrine, like sacrament, like real goodness and beauty), then it is relegated to the private sphere. And this private sphere is considered meaningless and without public value.

The other internal force of the Enemy is the ancient degenerative form of religion sloppily called “Gnosticism.” Gnosticism has always been around. It has always opposed theology with sentiment. It has always tried to escape Place and Time. It has always warred against Tradition. It has always tried to disregard the poor and the weak — aristocrats have perennially made the best gnostics.

But Gnosticism has never met such a friendly atmosphere as this present Totalistic Banal Culture of the universal marketplace.

(Fr. Jonathan Tobias, Second Terrace)

CAVEAT: I have a feeling that my clip’n’paste may not accurately convey where Fr. Jonathan is headed with this, apparently the first in a series. But “what it means to me” thus far is tied up in that John 6:66 reference.

Christ’s auditors found his teaching on the Eucharist “a hard saying” (John 6:60). But He didn’t back down from a word of it, and indeed “doubled down” on it. That’s when some of his disciples bugged out. Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood remains a hard saying, one that cannot be commodified. There are other hard ones, too.

Yet Churches that dish up weak tea platitudes are declining even faster than Churches that are putatively “demanding.” Maybe it matters what you demand: well-scrubbed, middle-class, faithful to your current spouse, respectably employed – those are okay.

This enemy accounts for the fact that while most Americans still believe in a God and an afterlife, these beliefs are really “opinions,” and loosely-held attitudes.

Real beliefs actually produce real religion, like church attendance, prayer and charity. But “religious opinions” have no power to produce any real religion.

The mere fact that Americans “agree” with a survey statement reveals only an observation that Americans have a positive opinion on God’s existence, with the strong likelihood that they might not want to do anything at all about that opinion.

Yeah, it’s real religion that’s hard. Most people in North American may have never seen that.

* * * * *

“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.