Monday 8/11/14

  1. What’s destroying the world
  2. Blood and geography
  3. Odds are about 1 in 26,000 that they’re right
  4. 0.5% of $0.00 is $0.00

1

The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better people than the others who think differently …

When we lump people into groups, quickly label them, and assume we know everything about them and their life based on a perceived world view, how they look, where they come from, etc., we are not behaving as full human beings. When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters ….

(Andrew W.K. at, of all places, the Village Voice, defending the humanity of a “right-wing asshole” father of his interlocutor. H/T Rod Dreher)

2

Older societies tended to create bonds of blood and geography. Kinship brings a certain natural bond, and if reinforced by culture, can be extremely strong. Geography has something of the same character, with ethnic (near-blood) and cultural ties reinforcing the bond.

The modern world has worked hard to overcome these bonds of nature. Multiculturalism is a synonym for the absence of kinship and geography. The makers of public opinion have worked hard to turn this feature of modernity into a virtue.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman) At this point, I broke into a cheer. “Yay! Another example of ‘Making a virtue of necessity!'” But maybe it’s not so simple:

Christianity is perhaps the first voice to have spoken about the transcendence of blood and ethnicity (even gender).

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:27-29 NKJ)

And Christ Himself:

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luk 14:26 NKJ)

Such verses are easily given a false understanding and are easily elevated in modern culture (the Galatians passage has almost become a slogan of contemporary Christianity). But the meaning of such statements in the context of relatively stable blood and ethnic geography is quite different than in the contractual multiculturalism of modernity.

There may be neither slave nor free, but in our culture economic status and condition are perhaps the strongest cultural markers. Very few Churches transcend economic barriers. Nor is there any transcendence required for something that doesn’t exist (the extended family).

If you know how to subscribe to a blog, you should subscribe to Fr. Stephen’s Glory to God for All Things. I’ll still comment on things or, oftener, pull an especially good passage, but why would you settle for my poor, second-hand, mediated-and-mangled versions? What other Priest would illustrate a blog on The Bonds of Humanity with an image from Edward Scissorhands?

3

Just outside the perimeter of the Farmer’s Market Saturday, in front of a new tattoo parlor, stood an improbable-looking couple in their late 50s or older, all decked out in their “Sunday go to meetin’ clothes.” On my second siting, I saw that they had set up some wheeled tract rack, inviting people to find out “What does the Bible really teach?” I saw nothing identifying about them from 50 feet, though the approach they were taking is a pretty good litmus test for a smallish Evangelical sect or an outright heresy like Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I thought of engaging them in conversation, maybe with an opener like “Which of the 26,000 Bible-only traditions in America do you belong to?,” but thought better of it. Such conversations are either like drive-by shootings or else more protracted than I had time for.

One key thing I know: The church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Tim. 3:15) The reason we have 26,000 (or however many) denominations/traditions is that people have foolishly tried to read the Bible in a historic vacuum  or, worse, as if the writers were moderns. They ended up convinced that they had discovered what the Bible really teaches. All 26,000 of them, and their adherents.

Peter Leithart no doubt is right that antiquity is no guaranty of soundness, and that there’s no reason why someone cannot make an important discovery or incisive interpretation today. But I’d say the odds are against – so heavily against – any important discovery or interpretation that I need not tune in every Sunday morning to the Spiritual Novelty Hour lest I miss it.

Heck, or that I ever need to tune in.

4

The key to opening people’s minds on matters of specific public import is to go down the abstraction ladder. While categorical positioning is strong at the aforementioned higher levels of generalization and labels, going down to situations where people live, work, buy, eat, raise their children, and play invites a different kind of thinking—one that reflects people’s sense of fairness, their desire for health and safety, their inherent fondness for the harmonious wisdom that often was called “plain old common sense.”

The time-tested approach by the few who wish to politically dominate the many is to pull the many up the abstraction ladder, away from the realities on the ground into the stratosphere of general principles, values, symbols, myths, and particularly images, whether these are secular or selective religious references.

(Ralph Nader) That’s actually a pretty good insight. Lowering the level of generality winnows out a lot of bullshit. (I wish the Supreme Court would do that more often.)

The name of Nader’s book is Unstoppable, but a couple of his ideas for convergence between left and right have seemed so misguided that I was tempted to stop.

For instance, he proposes 0.5% a tax on – well, I’m not sure what exactly. He calls it “chasing derivatives,” but earlier he talks about robots trading with robots in the space of milliseconds. So I think it’s something like a tax on day trading or computerized trading.

He says it will produce $300 billion of revenue. I’d lower that by about 100%.  I doubt that those trades have 0.5% profit margins, so a 0.5% tax would effectively stop them (since the whole motivation of the traders is to make money). That crypto-ban might or might not be a good thing, but it’s not a revenue stream, so far as I can tell.

But then he comes up with some that sound plausible, and I’m wondering if I’m missing a flaw obvious to others.

In other words, read it, but with your crap detector turned on and the sensitivity cranked up.

* * * * *

“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.