Friday, 6/20/14

    1. Creation
    2. Capitalism as moral imperative
    3. Misappropriating the Early Church Uncles
    4. Reductio ad Hitlerum vs. George Santayana
    5. The telos of business
    6. Worse than Mickey Spillane
    7. George Will’s bad rap
    8. Christian chain letters


Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 121 includes a very evocative interview between host Ken Myers and Michael Hanby.

Insight one: for many (including me), “creation” tends to mean that God started this all. Only this and nothing more. I’m not sure that’s different than Deism on this one point at least.

A more robust view is that creation is a noun that’s better than the usual “nature” because (insight two), that this is creation means than everything is intrinsically related to the creator at all times.

These are personal reactions 12 hours after auditing that track for the second time. The official track description also reflects the seriousness and depth of the topic:

Michael Hanby, on why there is no “neutral” science, how all accounts of what science does and why contain metaphysical and theological assumptions.


As I’ve been arguing for years, economic issues, for tea partiers, are inseparable from social ones. It’s the (largely) Protestant version of the seamless garment: capitalism is part of God’s blueprint for human society, just like traditional marriage and heteronormativity. Ironically echoing the atheist Ayn Rand, this worldview values capitalism not merely as an instrumental good, a man’s-estate-reliever, but as a moral imperative.

Research by David E. Campbell and Robert Putnam and long-form reporting by Jill Lepore have lent empirical weight to my intuition that the tea party is a religious movement by proxy. Ed Kilgore put it bluntly: “scratch a ‘fiscal conservative’ and you’ll find a culture-warrior of one sort or another right under the surface.”

(Scott Galupo, David Brat’s Half-Cocked Theological-Economic Fusionism)

The embedded video, by the way, does not involve David Brat, but a couple of Calvinist Cromwell Wannabes. My secret and guilty suspicion that liberal democracy is the best we can do is driven in part by the reality that the “authority given Christ on earth” would be mediated by whack-jobs like these two, whose exegetical skills are inversely proportionate to their level of certitude.


Apparently, cocksure Protestants can butcher the Church fathers as readily as they butcher the Bible:

The Evangelical appropriation of the Fathers is not unproblematic. The impulse and intuition it expresses is as I say a great thing, but has its limits. The appropriator has to read them too selectively, using canons he imposes upon them, a way of reading them that I think tends too radically to distort what they believed and said. It requires claiming them as authorities while actually using them as resources — which is to say, not exactly as Fathers but more as uncles.

(David Mills)


 When I was an adolescent, I began cussing to shock people into recognition of the wrongness of things I really felt were very wrong. 45 years later and I’m still trying to get rid of the potty-mouth I so cultivated.

It was a stupid idea on multiple grounds. There was profanity enough in the air that the only novelty in mine was that I hadn’t theretofore been notably profane, scatological or otherwise given to corrupt communication, so those few who knew me might be surprised the first time or two. But it didn’t stop at one or two. There’s just too much really very wrong in the world.

I’m not the only one who falls into sloppy (or worse) rhetorical habits. The Reductio ad Hitlerum and its kin no doubt are badly over-used. But I reject the first corollary of Godwin’s Law:  whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. I do so because Godwin’s Law is a bit of internet fluff while George Santayana endures: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

God help us, for instance, if we ever forget that eugenics was a progressive cause until Hitler discredited it with his application, or disparage Leo Alexander’s dissection of that chapter of history. Call that an ad hominem, and me an ipso facto loser, if you like.


A claim often made by libertarians is that for markets to work, they need less interference from the outside and more virtue on the inside. This is certainly the view of the Acton Institute. A variant of this position can also be found in Cardinal Dolan’s recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

At a basic level, this is surely right. But going beyond the basic level, we can see immediately that this tenet rests on flimsy foundations. Why? Because it’s not just about personal honesty—it’s also about purpose, about telos. Virtue without telos is hollow virtue.

We need to ask a basic question: what is the true purpose of business?

(Virtue and Economic Life, Ethika Politika) The piece goes on with examples of what happens when the sole goal of business is to maximize shareholder returns.


I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.

(Flannery O’Connor)


I mentioned the other day, without endorsement, a claim that George Will had become a hack. I’m glad I didn’t endorse it, because he’s apparently been getting a bum rap for this column, the bumness of which rap is explicated by David Bernstein.


There is something on the internet, which I encounter often on Facebook, called “I F***ing Love Science.” I think there should be room for “I F***ing Hate Christian Chain Letters,” like this gem I got from a shirt-tail relative Thursday:

Read at least the first two lines….Never thought of it!
Jesus died over 2000 years ago.

Nobody has ever referred to HIM as the late Jesus,
Not even the heathens.
Nowhere in history.
Nowhere has HE ever been referred to in the past tense
HE ‘is’ the Living God!

When Jesus died on the cross HE was thinking of you!
If you are one of the 3% who will stand up for HIM, forward this.
“May God Smile on You Today.”

Having proven that I’m in the 3% of the righteous (which is considerably more commodious than the neo-Arian 144,000), I think I now shall go honk because I love Jesus. It makes as much sense as passing on drivel.

* * * * *

“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.