Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  1. Myth, Truth, Inklings
  2. God’s “selfie”
  3. Bound to conceal the truth
  4. American Exceptionalism at its worst?
  5. Abba Sisoes
  6. How was your University closed?
  7. Hegemeny in drag


Why do the Inklings retain such power to capture the imagination?

On some level, certainly as an expression of myth in the way it is being used here (and as the Inklings themselves used it), the stories of Middle Earth are true. They are certainly far more true than any story found in the pages of a modern Newspaper.

Tolkien, reflecting on Barfields’s work, said, “If God is mythopoetic, then we must become mythopathic.” This is to say that if God’s primary mode of revelation is through the instrument of mythic stories and events, then we ourselves must be open to understanding such mythic expressions of realities. Strangely, myth (in their use of the term) is far better suited to expressing Realism than any possible materialist account.

And this brings us to my original point: Why do the imaginative works of Lewis and Tolkien speak to the modern heart as much as they do?

They do so because they are true! But the truth that they relate is a truth known primarily by the heart and it is this dynamic that gives myth both its nature and its effectiveness.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


You are God’s “selfie.” Ponder it.

The holy icons are doubtless the most abundant expression of the “theology of the face,” and perhaps among the most profound contributions of Orthodoxy to the world and the proclamation of what it truly means to be human. Every saint, from the least to the greatest, shares the same attribute as Christ in their icons. We see all of them, face to face. In the icons, no person is ever depicted in profile – with two exceptions – Judas Iscariot and the demons. For it is in the vision of the face that we encounter someone as person. It is our sin that turns us away from the face of another – our effort to make ourselves somehow other than or less than personal.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


 If the current Regime ever comes in from the golf course and steps away from celebrity White House dinners to boast of openness in government, I think I’ll throw up. Evil today is so hydra-headed that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but here’s one:

Barth Bracy, director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee and a resident of Connecticut, along with his wife, filed suit two months ago because the only health care plans available through the Health Insurance Exchange in Connecticut include abortion coverage.  All enrollees must pay a small separate fee for that coverage.

The complaint (full text) in Bracy v. Sebelius, (D CT, filed 5/1/2014), alleges … that their 1st Amendment right to receive information is infringed by regulations that prohibit insurers or exchanges from advertising whether plans cover abortions, from informing enrollees prior to the time of enrollment whether the plan covers abortion, and prohibits telling enrollees the portion of their total premium that is allocated to abortion coverage.

I don’t think the Regime can deny that the bolded characterization of regulations is substantially true. (H/T Religion Clause) Can someone tell my why that isn’t creepy?


Speaking of creepy, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t find surrogacy a bit creepy. It has taken a while, and some tutoring in the meaning of human sexuality (which included unlearning what I was either taught or aborbed by osmosis from my environment), for me to figure out why that might be, or at least why that reaction is sound even if I experience it for yet-undiscovered reasons.

But this item isn’t about why you should find it creepy, too.

A New York Times story now reveals that the United States is one of only a few places allowing rent-a-womb commodification of children.

In an era of globalization, the market for children crosses national borders; witness the longtime flow of Americans who have gone overseas to adopt babies from South Korea, China, Russia and Guatemala.

Other than the United States, only a few countries — among them India, Thailand, Ukraine and Mexico — allow paid surrogacy …

The traffic highlights a divide between the United States and much of the world over fundamental questions about what constitutes a family, who is considered a legal parent, who is eligible for citizenship and whether paid childbirth is a service or exploitation.

In many nations, a situation that splits motherhood between the biological mother and a surrogate carrier is widely believed to be against the child’s best interests. And even more so when three women are involved: the genetic mother, whose egg is used; the mother who carries the baby; and the one who commissioned and will raise the child.

Not to mention little things like the customer decreeing that there be an abortion when ultrasound reveals that the goods are defective.


Today is the Feast of the Desert Father, Abba Sisoes (d. AD 429). He lived as a hermit in the cave of the great St. Anthony, and said, “In the cave of a lion, a fox makes his home.”

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers says this about his last hours:

It was said of Abba Sisoes when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers [other monks] were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, “Look, Abba Anthony is coming.” A little later he said, “Look, the choir of prophets is coming.” Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, “Look, the choir of apostles is coming.”
His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men asked him, “With whom are you speaking, Father?” He said, “Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.” The old man said to him, “You have no need to do penance, Father.” But [Sisoes] replied, “Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.” Now they all knew that he was perfect.
Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said, “Look, the Lord is coming and he’s saying, ‘Bring me the vessel from the desert.’” Then there was a flash as of lightning, and all the house was filled with a sweet odor.

Another story about Abba Sisoes. It is said that Sisoes saw the open tomb of Alexander the Great and looked upon his remains. There’s no ancient documentation for this story, but the event is possibly historic, because during Sisoes’s lifetime there were riots in Alexandria and pagan temples and tombs were destroyed.
The icon called “The Astonishment of Sisoes” first appears in the fifteenth century. It shows him looking into the broken tomb and seeing the bones lying there. This text is lettered onto the icon:

“Sisoes, the great among ascetics, stood before the tomb of Alexander, Emperor of Greeks, who at one time had shone with glory. Astonished, he weeps for the inexorable passing of time and the transience of glory. He cries out with tears, ‘Beholding you, O Tomb, I shed tears from my heart, and weep for the common debt of all mankind! How shall I bear this? O Death, who can escape you?’”


(Frederica Matthewes-Green on Facebook Sunday July 6)


Peter Conn is appalled that Christian colleges can get accredited, as I noticed (but didn’t “note” here) when a link went up at Arts & Letters Daily.

By awarding accreditation to religious colleges, the process confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education.

Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research. However, such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth. The contradiction is obvious.

Alan Jacobs wasted little time in reponding:

I taught at Wheaton for twenty-nine years, and when people asked me why I stayed there for so long my answer was always the same: I was there for the academic freedom. My interests were in the intersection of theology, religious practice, and literature — a very rich field, but one that in most secular universities I would have been strongly discouraged from pursuing except in a corrosively skeptical way. Certainly in such an environment I would never have dared to write a book on the theology of reading — and yet what I learned in writing that book has been foundational for the rest of my career.

Conn — in keeping with the simplistic dichotomies that he evidently prefers — is perhaps incapable of understanding that academic freedom is a concept relative to the beliefs of the academics involved. I have a sneaking suspicion that he is even naïve enough to believe that the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches, is, unlike Wheaton, a value-neutral institution. But as Stanley Fish pointed out years ago, “What, after all, is the difference between a sectarian school which disallows challenges to the divinity of Christ and a so-called nonideological school which disallows discussion of the same question? In both contexts something goes without saying and something else cannot be said (Christ is not God or he is). There is of course a difference, not however between a closed environment and an open one but between environments that are differently closed.” Wheaton is differently closed than Penn; and for the people who teach there and study there, that difference is typically liberating rather than confining. It certainly was for me.

(Emphasis added) I left Wheaton after 40 semester hours, having learned more there with a 2.5 GPA than I learned elsewhere with a 3.8 or whatever it was (top of my department, anyway). I then went to a Krustian “University” that perhaps didn’t deserve accreditation (if someone can rise to the level of Dean of Students and remain capable of trying to dissuade a conscientious objector with the insult “anyone who wouldn’t kill a commie who tried to rape his mother is less than a man!,” his institution has some, er, issues). One dare not be too categorical about these things.


“We dress our hegemony up with the language of democracy and universal rights.” (Rod Dreher)

* * * * *

“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.

One thought on “Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  1. Re: rent-a-womb

    “I ordered an alpha from the Central Indianapolis Hatchery, but this is a gamma. I demand a replacement!”

    O brave new world, that has such people in it …

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