Monday, 5/26/14

    1. Prophecy, not platitudes
    2. Their freedom guarantees ours
    3. Where does gravy come from? It emerges
    4. Who’s common values?
    5. I’m Okay, You’re Factually Challenged


Of the upcoming meeting of the Ecumenical Patrarch and the Pope, Fr. Lawrence Farley suggests how they realistically might carpe diem:

What we can hope for is a statement of common commitment to certain priorities, and the statement will have all the more moral weight because it comes from these two men … The temptation, given media attention and how the media applauds so heartily whenever the church agrees with the secular world, is to make popular pronouncements throwing the church’s weight behind things no one ever dreamed of denying, and that the secular world already believes. Thus the churches could solemnly announce that air pollution is bad, that feeding the hungry is good, that war is to be avoided, that justice for the oppressed is to be vigorously pursued. That would, I suppose, garner the world’s applause, though I imagine that the applause would be more tepid than thunderous. But more significant and needed would be a warning against things which the world is currently ignoring, or at least not giving sufficient attention. After all, the world will continue to try to feed the hungry and end war (with whatever success) regardless of what the churches say.

The two clear and present dangers I have in mind are the tsunami of moral decadence and filth flooding the secular west, and the actual persecution of Christians world-wide, especially in the east. In the case of the first, the danger is not regarded as a danger at all, but celebrated as progress. In the case of the second, the persecution is under-reported. Sometimes hundreds of school-girls are abducted, and this makes the news. But the daily suffering of Christians in the middle east (such as in Palestine where they will be meeting) or in the Islamic world somehow never ends up on the front pages, and we save our moral indignation for what happens in Crimea … Together they could utter a mighty prophetic word, and people would have to report it. After all, they are the pope and the patriarch.


[A]s I learned in my years as an Episcopalian, homosexuality plays a very important symbolic role in the moral imaginations of heterosexuals. When it comes to sex and transgression, their freedom from moral censure guarantees ours. Which is why gay rights are so very popular among American elites who can’t imagine themselves anything other than good people.

But the most significant reason to be pessimistic about what’s coming is also the deepest reason to be optimistic in the long term. “The law is written on their hearts,” St. Paul tells us. Moral truth bubbles up in our souls, even if we outwardly deny it. For this reason, the gay rights movement will come up against limits that stimulate resentment and redoubled effort. It will seek ruthlessly to suppress dissent—not because discrimination against gays and lesbians remains a persistent problem, but because even the slightest whisper of moral judgment stirs up conscience, including the consciences of the most ardent champions of gay rights.

(R.R. Reno – likely paywall)


We know where software comes from. It’s created by brilliant computer scientists like David Gelernter. But consciousness? Reductive materialists can’t use the master analogy here; consciousness has to come from the hardware itself rather than a creative “programmer.” As a result, “most computationalists default to the Origins of Gravy theory set forth by Walter Matthau in the film of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Challenged to account for the emergence of gravy, Matthau explains that, when you cook the roast, ‘it comes.’ That is basically how consciousness arises too, according to computationalists. It just comes.” I suppose we can call it an Emergence in the Gaps argument.

(R.R. Reno – likely paywall)


In a February speech, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rhapsodized about the positive potential for a stronger partnership between Russia and the European Union. On one point, however, he was negative. It concerned morality, not questions of democracy or economic policy. “I cannot disagree that common values should be used as cement when constructing a common European home,” he affirmed. “However we need to agree what they are like and who determines them.” On this issue the West cannot be trusted, because we now promote “moral relativism, propagation of all-permissiveness and hedonism, reinforcement of volitions of militant atheism, refusal of traditional values.” Moreover, “such ideas are promoted with the insistence of a messiah both inside countries and in relations with neighbors.” For those of us who would like to see liberal democratic culture take root in Russia and elsewhere, it’s frustrating that we’ve given him such a strong argument against us.

(R.R. Reno, emphasis added – likely paywall)


Referring to an Amicus Curiae brief supporting same-sex marriage, signed of on by Alan Simpson and Nancy Kassebaum:

One line from the brief fascinates: “Marriage is strengthened and its benefits, importance to society, and the social stability of the family unit are promoted” when we allow gays and lesbians to marry. That’s an empirical claim for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Ironically, when announcing the brief, the group allowed that “deeply held social, cultural, and religious tenets lead sincere and fair-minded people to take the opposite view.” They then go on to say, “No matter how ­strongly or sincerely they are held, the law is clear that such views cannot serve as the basis for denying a certain class of people the benefits of marriage in the absence of a legitimate fact-based governmental goal.”

Ah, I get it. There’s a strict fact-based standard for those of us who oppose gay marriage, while those who support it can make pious pronouncements about the supposed boon of same-sex marriage and its wonderful contributions to the common good. Put simply, for progressives and their growing cohort of fellow travelers, marriage is what they say it is, and the benefits are what they say they are. Reality? That’s for the other side to worry about.

(R.R. Reno – likely paywall)

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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.