Saturday, 8/30/14

  1. Religious and, yes, conservative humanism
  2. Dems join GOP in brain death
  3. A pessimist catches himself kvetching
  4. Well played, Mr. K!
  5. Diversity: Rainbow Progressivism
  6. Communion versus Kum-Bah-Yah

1

The biblical plumbline reveals that the real deviant is not the shouting street preacher but the thoroughly well-adjusted man, the completely self-controlled woman, the utterly successful American.

(Prof. Ralph Wood, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, via Rod Dreher)

This is introductory material to a Dreher blog about (or at least launching from) another milestone in cultural decline: a new TV Program called “Sex Box,” about which program I intend to write not another word.

Jeremiads aside, Dreher links to a Brad Birzer article with a more positive vision. It’s even positive that Birzer is against labels, given his reasons:

I despise labels. I always have, and I probably always will. Almost all labels, even well-intended ones, tend to allow us to categorize one another, to consider one aspect of an extremely (incomprehensibly) complex person as the sum total of that person, or, when not well-intended, to dismiss another—more often than not in history because of the accidents of birth. Regardless of intent, labels almost always diminish rather than elevate.

That bears repeating, and I probably will. For now, it reminds me of a cold slap in the face (rhetorical) I experienced a few weeks ago: roughly, that self-adopted sexual labels (take your pick from G, L, B, T, Q and at least 45 more) are far from the most interesting things about anybody.

Birzer, though, has taken an academic position that comes with the label “Conservative.”

My own tradition of conservatism—whether I live up to it or do it justice—is one that is, for all intents and purposes, humanist. I believe there is a line of continuity from Heraclitus to Socrates to Zeno to Cicero to Virgil to St. John to St. Augustine to the Venerable Bede, Alcuin, and the Beowulf poet, to Thomas Aquinas to Petrach to Thomas More to Edmund Burke. The last one hundred years saw a fierce and mighty revival of the humanist tradition, embracing and unifying (more or less) T.E. Hulme, Paul Elmer More, Irving Babbitt, Willa Cather, G.K. Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Sigrid Unset, Nicholas Berdayeev, Sister Madeleva Wolff, T.S. Eliot, Romano Guardini, Dorothy Day, Gabriel Marcel, Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Leo Strauss, Flannery O’Connor, and Russell Kirk, to name a few.

I probably should stop writing now and get to the syllabus.

The Publisher of the gorgeous Image journal, by the way, is the Center For Religious Humanism. I hope never again to hear, let alone utter, the phrase “secular humanism” with equal contempuous emphasis on both words.

2

I’ve had many harsh things to say about The Thing That Used to be the GOP, but let’s give the Dems due credit for miraculously walking and talking despite conclusive proof of brain death.

3

Glass half empty: everywhere I want to go, the streets are torn up for construction!

Glass half full: I’m really lucky to live where there’s still enough money to repair and improve infrastructure!

4

It’s (snicker, snicker!) absolutely absurd to think that a corporation, a mere piece of paper could exercise religion (Bwahahahah!) or have a conscience. But it’s contemptible when a corporation is so lacking in patriotism (Boo! Hiss!) that it would consider doing a corporate inversion for tax reasons (Pfffffft!).

Democrats used to wax indignant about having one’s patriotism questioned. Now they throw around the charge with abandon, tossing it at corporations that refuse to do the economically patriotic thing of paying the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world.

Odder still because Democrats routinely ridicule the very notion of corporations as persons. After Mitt Romney suggested this in 2011, Democrats mocked him right through Election Day. In the Hobby Lobby case, they challenged the very idea that corporations can have religious convictions. Now, however, Democrats are demanding that corporations exercise a patriotic conscience. Which is it?

Well played, Mr. Krauthammer! Well played!

5

There’s been some buzz about a Christianity Today piece recounting how Vanderbilt University stripped its Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter of official university recognition because they would not pledge to allow anyone to become a leader, regardless of whether they held the group’s credal and moral commitments. This isn’t the first such case, nor is Vanderbilt acting unlawfully in being jerks. A public university (subject to a different and higher standard) stripped the Christian Legal Society Chapter of recognition on the same basis and got away with it – all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (a rare case where I called a SCOTUS religious freedom case incorrectly).

So let’s get real about this:

The terrible problem that these policies seek to remedy seems to be that people have distinctive beliefs. The policy’s aim seems to be to compel all associations to reflect certain core commitments, which in turn destroys their own distinctive creeds, thereby demolishing what is special about them in the first place:

Like most campus groups, InterVarsity welcomes anyone as a member. But it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect. Any belief—particularly those about the authority of Scripture or the church—could potentially constrain sexual activity or identity. So what began as a concern about sexuality and pluralism quickly became a conversation about whether robustly religious communities would be allowed on campus.

In effect, the new policy privileged certain belief groups and forbade all others. Religious organizations were welcome as long as they were malleable: as long as their leaders didn’t need to profess anything in particular; as long as they could be governed by sheer democracy and adjust to popular mores or trends; as long as they didn’t prioritize theological stability. Creedal statements were allowed, but as an accessory, a historic document, or a suggested guideline. They could not have binding authority to shape or govern the teaching and practices of a campus religious community.

( at the Center for Law and Religion Forum; emphasis added) For all the fine talk about “diversity,” our society increasingly is sliding into authoritarian progressivism. “Diversity” is a euphemistic term of art for “Moderate eunuchs and progressives of all skin colors, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender identities.”

6

I got a Wheaton College Alumni magazine this week. It was celebrating the retirement of Wheaton’s longest-serving Chaplain, and told of his planning an all-school communion Chapel.

It is a mark of how far I’ve come (for better or worse) that I recoiled in shock. I’ve pretty deeply internalized that “communion” (to use a rather dumbed-down term) is a sacrament of the Church, and that a non-denominational college has no business is approaching sacrilege by engaging in such mummery.

They should just lock arms and sing Kum-Bah-Yah or, better, We Are One In the Spirit (which at least passingly admits all the schisms) if they want to bond share a bonding experience together as one.

* * * * *

“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.