Saturday 9/6/14

  1. 3/17: When ethnicity trumps orthodoxy
  2. The thing that used to be Protestant religion
  3. Not an Islam problem; an Arab problem
  4. B.S. + 1600 hours + Hell Freezes Over = Indiana Teaching job
  5. What is economics for?

1

It’s time to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner and all the other “Catholic” traditions that have been hijacked by the world. Better for Catholics to enter their churches and get down on their knees on St. Patrick’s Day to pray in reparation for the foolishness, and to pray for this confused world to return to its senses. Let’s do adoration and pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet unceasingly for this poor old world.

(Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington via Rod Dreher) Meanwhile, an hour or two up the Amtrak corridor, Cardinal Dolan will be Grand Marshall of the new, devolved, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, which will “honor” the Saint even more modernly than the drunken frat boys puking in alleys in Boston (which I observed on 3/17/88).

The Archdiocese of Washington removed or bowdlerized the original after publication, by the way.

Let it not be said that Orthodoxy uniquely tends to allow ethnicity trump orthodoxy.

2

Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen sorta reviews Joseph Bottum’s An Anxious Age, and Christian Smith’s The Sacred Project of American Sociology:

[B]oth books are stories about the “sacred” nature of what we often call “secularism.” Bottum speaks of the decline of Mainline Protestantism and its replacement by the “Post-Protestant” denizens of academe, journalism, entertainment, business, most Protestant religious outside Evangelicalism, many liberal-leaning Catholics and non-Christians, and broad swaths of “non-elites” who have been shaped by these many leaders of culture and opinion. Smith writes of one segment of this population—sociologists—who are the embodiment of what Bottum calls the Post-Protestant “poster-children.” They are what we typically call “secular.” Both these books call into question the purported a-religiosity of this “secularism,” but rather point to the specifically sectarian nature of this particular form of “secularity”—not so much “Post-Protestant,” as Bottum describes, but Protestant after God.

What struck me through my juxtaposed reading of these two books is that they together tell the story of where Protestantism went and what Protestantism became when it ceased to be a “religion.” Bottum rightly focuses on the role of Walter Rauschenbusch in the development of Protestantism away from a “religious” religion and toward a “secular” religion … Rauschenbusch and prominent Protestants of his generation—including John Dewey, Herbert Croly, Jane Addams, and many other minor players in varied positions throughout society—helped to make Protestantism into a social and political project, even while taking it out of the churches. That process is what we call “secularization,” but it’s a deeply and distinctively religious and especially Protestant form of “secularism.”

Christian Smith fills in the express commitments of this purportedly secular, yet deeply “sacred project.” This unchurched (yet highly institutionalized) new-yet-old religion seeks to realize “the emancipation, equality, and moral affirmation of all human beings as autonomous, self-directing, individual agents (who should be) out to live their lives as they personally so desire, by constructing their own favored identities, entering and exiting relationships as they choose, and equally enjoying the gratification of experiential, material, and bodily pleasures” (pp. 7-8; Smith’s emphasis).

… It is still deeply biblical—without the Bible—and Christian—without Christ—and salvific—without heaven—and millennial—without the Second Coming. It is, in effect, where Protestantism went, and what it became, after it moved out of the Mainline churches and into the modern research universities and the glitzy Richard Florida cities and the tony suburbs—where it became fashionable to be “spiritual but not religious.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far … Oh, heck yes I would.

3

Fareed Zakaria reflects on what he missed in his analysis after 9-11. Here’s what I think may be core:

It’s not an Islam problem but an Arab problem. In the early 2000s, Indonesia was our biggest concern because of a series of terrorist attacks there after 9/11. But over the past decade, jihad and even Islamic fundamentalism have not done well in Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world, larger in that sense than Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Gulf states put together. Or look at India, which is right next door to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s headquarters in Pakistan, but very few of its 165 million Muslims are members of al-Qaeda.Zawahiri has announced a bold effort to recruit Indian Muslims, but I suspect it will fail.

Arab political decay. The central point of the essay was that the reason the Arab world produces fanaticism and jihad is political stagnation. By 2001, almost every part of the world had seen significant political progress — Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, even Africa had held many free and fair elections. But the Arab world remained a desert. In 2001, most Arabs had fewer freedoms than they did in 1951.

The one aspect of life that Arab dictators could not ban was religion, so Islam had become the language of political opposition. As the Westernized, secular dictatorships of the Arab world failed — politically, economically and socially — the fundamentalists told the people, “Islam is the solution.”

The Arab world was left with dictatorships on one hand and deeply illiberal opposition groups on the other — Hosni Mubarak or al-Qaeda. The more extreme the regime, the more violent the opposition.

That is not something that had occurred to me before. I’ve know that there are tens of millions, and probably hundreds of millions, of pacific Muslims in the world, and that Islam(s) is/are many, but this – more than Shia or Sunni or Suffi or whatever – may be the key to why some become violent terrorists.

And by analogy, maybe it’s why some ardent Calvinists become Reconstructionists in the Rousas Rushdoony mold: they are living in an increasingly decadent liberal society, with the liberalism imposed from above (the courts) and the decadence inculcated from aliens (the entertainment media) leaving them feeling powerless.

4

A rarity: I’m going to share a sardonic insight from Mrs. Tipsy – not that she doesn’t have them, but few are of such public interest.

Indiana, per Mrs. Tipsy, has notoriously arcane rules for becoming a licensed teacher. It is sort of a protectionist scam: if you go to EdSchool in Indiana, you’ll get the right mix of courses. If not, it’s unlikely that you will.

But Indiana now has blown open a back door by allowing people without the right arcane mix to teach if they have the requisite subject matter substantive knowledge:

In a seven to three vote the State Board of Education passed the Rules for Educator Preparation Accountability, a set of requirements for teaching licenses. Under the requirements there is a “career specialist” license that allows people with a bachelor’s degree and 1600 hours of work experience over the past five years to apply for a teaching license.

(Mrs. Tipsy called the irony to my attention.)

They can teach if, that is, they can get by the school superintendents, whose enthusiasm for the plan, judging from local reaction on the ever-reliable local TV news, was underwhelming. One of them basically said “maybe if it was just me, the career specialist, and a schoolchild on a desert island, or surviving nuclear holocaust.”

5

Most economists today begin with the following presupposition: what best promotes economic growth?   At their best, economists are very good at looking at cost-benefit ratios, stated preferences as expressed through various data sets, and unintended consequences of various policies—but at the end of the day, while they may disagree on how to interpret the data, their basic question is the same: how best to increase economic growth.

Those who think about “third” or “other” ways will begin with different questions, perhaps above all, “how does an economy best support family and communal life” and “what contributes to human flourishing, not only materially, but entirely?”  To some extent economic growth may be a part of that answer—but at best, only a part.  The answer will involve a “moral” dimension—as of course it must, since economics is part of the human, and thus, inescapably moral sciences.  As Aristotle and Aquinas both understood, economics is necessarily part of the study and practice of ethics, broadly conceived.  Economics must serve the human good; it is not the human good itself.

(Patrick Deneen again) Deneen goes on to recommended several books by others that flesh out this human-centered approach to economics.

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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.