Tuesday, 5/20/14

    1. Smug cluelessness of left liberalism
    2. Great Satan in flagrante delicto
    3. Ruthless reason-seekers
    4. Water is Wet, Study Finds
    5. Christian: One who tells Christ where He’s all wet.


I dedicate this item to all the insular and provincial left liberals who fancy themselves cosmopolitan and neutral.

Because it claims to serve the common good and at the same time to sustain authenticity with exemplary nonjudgmentalism, liberalism cannot recognize itself as merely one view among others. It must see itself as transcending the worldviews competing for control over American society (and, increasingly, over world culture). It is this conceit that supports the tyrannies of liberalism, which range from full-blown political correctness and the politics of denunciation (“opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry”) to various forms of social exclusion of the kind so blatantly expressed by Richard Rorty (“that’s not the way we talk about things”). Thus, higher education doesn’t discriminate against conservatives; the hiring committees are merely trying to avoid hiring the bad and stupid people. Thus, NGOs aren’t imposing ideological views of gender, family, and sex; they’re defending “human rights.”

(R.R. Reno at First Things) There’s a smug cluelessness to right liberals, too, but mocking that’s my usual fare.

There’d probably be a smug cluelessness of conservatives, too, were we not surrounded by left and right liberals to keep us alert.


[T]he image of America in the world is now entirely the product of American popular culture, which has succeeded in giving a worse name to America than anything that could conceivably have been implanted by the Soviet propaganda machine. The Muslim peasant in his village has only to turn on the television to witness the Great Satan in flagrante delicto, and even if he is not immediately prompted to join al-Qaeda he is likely to be glad that others are doing so, with a view to punishing the blasphemies and obscenities that pour out across the screen.

Martha Bayles is an intelligent, learned, and sensitive person who has spent a long time studying the world of morons, apparently without going mad in the process …

Much was gained by the liberation of Eastern Europe from communism; something too was lost. After 1989, American popular culture became the obstreperous and unignorable voice of a new and liberated world. Almost overnight, the young people of Eastern Europe let go of their past, and with it, the things that had inspired their search for freedom. What they obtained was freedom, too—but a freedom released from all the constraints that make freedom valuable. And no cultural diplomacy will give them back what they have lost.

Roger Scruton, reviewing Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad by Martha Bayles, at First Things.


But as someone with a thick faith, I think this is wrong. For every complex religious, scientific, moral, or philosophical belief that I have, there seems to be some reason or other that partially supports it. And these reasons come from a variety of sources. I believe that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, because, given all the data about previous sunrises, it is the prediction with the most inductive support. I believe that kicking puppies for fun is morally wrong because I believe that puppies feel pain and that it is wrong to cause sentient creatures pain for fun. I believe God exists, because I think he is one part of the best explanation for the order in the universe, because I have considered and trust the testimony of other believers, and because I think there are times in my life when I have perceived God’s presence.

These are all reasons, if not perfectly decisive ones. Are all of the reasons purely “from faith”? It is hard to say—some come from perception, some come from philosophical and scientific observation, some come just from believing observations others have made. Even the mysteries of faith are mysteries not because they are believed with no reason whatsoever, but rather because we depend on God to reveal the evidence of these mysteries to us. In other words, there is reason for mysteries, just not the kind of reasons we can get to under our own epistemic steam. Religious faith, like every other part of our cognitive lives, always looks for reasons, and reasons come from many sources. Doubt can be so crippling because we are ruthless reason seekers.

(Meghan Sullivan, Uneasy Grace)


Even Jackie Kennedy, the illustrious and highly fashionable wife of President John F. Kennedy, wrestled with her faith. Her struggle came after her husband was assassinated.

(Should Jackie Kennedy’s private letters on faith have been shared at all?, Deseret News National Edition) Do you mean fame and fortune can’t buy complete happiness in life?! If only JFK hadn’t been assassinated, I’m sure all would have been well.

In other words, that’s one of the lamest leads to a story I’ve read in a long time.


I’m so old I remember when a Christian was a follower of Jesus, not His leader.

I think Matthew Vines has fully internalized all the self-esteem crap we feed our kids today.

Okay, having vented my spleen at Vines, a few more thoughts, all based on “if what they say is true” since I generally avoid Evangelical ephemera, in which case Vines appears to qualify for that ephemera label:

  • Who’s to read Vines out of the Evangelical Club? Where are the fixed boundaries?
  • Snarky “leading Jesus instead of following” aside, what can’t you call Christian once you accept the principle that We Know Better Than You Now, Jesus?
  • Why would you call yourself a Christian is Christ was so igggerunt?

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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.