Friday, 9/19/14

  1. Palestinian Christians, all the way back
  2. Whittaker Chambers explains the fall of Rome
  3. Religious Freedom, Indivisible
  4. Intrepid Journalist in the cesspool
  5. Miley, Nicki and the NFL
  6. Too small for a republic, too big for an asylum

1

I am married to an American of Palestinian ancestry. People sometimes ask me if that means my wife is Muslim. She is not. She is an Orthodox Christian. Her father is an Orthodox Christian. His father was an Orthodox Christian. And so on. They’re actually not really sure how far back their Christianity goes, but the family originally came from Antioch (which is now in Turkey but was a major Syrian capital in the Roman Empire). I once asked when the family became Christian. One of my wife’s relatives answered, “When Jesus rose from the dead.” There’s a good chance that that’s roughly correct.

(Father Andrew Stephen Damick’s debut (I think) serious piece at First Things. He previously hit its pages obliquely via a link from R.R. Reno to Coffeedoxy and Heterodoxy.)

2

What a find! Matthew Boudway has mined a 1952 Whittaker Chambers essay about St. Benedict from the archives of Commonweal.

(Rod Dreher)

What a find indeed! I knew of Whittaker Chambers’ historic significance, but I had assumed that he was a pariah to the kind of people who run publications like Commonweal, and I had no idea he was such a wonderful writer. Maybe Alger Hiss became an icon later. Or maybe they respected good writing without ideological litmus tests of the writer (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of ‘traditional marriage,’ Mr. Chambers?”).

Dreher, who keeps flirting with what he calls The Benedict Option, has what he considers the money quote. I’ll settle for what I delighted in for the good writing and insight, without trying to put it all in context:

Contemporary Civilization, a course required for all freshmen at Columbia College, was taught by several young men whom I remember chiefly as rather lugubrious—disillusioned veterans of the First World War, and a conscientious objector who had refused to take part in it. One day, the objector, staring at some point far beyond the backs of our heads, observed that “the world is entering upon a new Dark Ages.”

It was one of the few things that I carried away from Contemporary Civilization, required for all freshmen. And it was not so much the meaning of the words, which I was far too unfledged to understand, as the toneless despondency with which they were uttered that struck me. That, and their acceptance of the Dark Ages as something relevant, and possibly recurrent in history.

The Dark Ages were inexcusable and rather disreputable—a bad time when the machine of civilization in its matchless climb to the twentieth century had sheared a whole rank of king-pins and landed mankind in a centuries-long ditch.

If a bright boy, leafing through history, asked: “How did the Dark Ages come about?” he might be told that “Rome fell!”–as if a curtain simply dropped. Boys of ten or twelve, even if bright, are seldom bright enough to say to themselves: “Surely, Rome did not fall in a day.” If a boy had asked: “But were there no great figures in the Dark Ages, like Teddy Roosevelt, King Edward, and the Kaiser?” he might well have been suspected of something like an unhealthy interest in the habits and habitats of spiders. If he had persisted and asked: “But isn’t it clear that the Dark Ages are of a piece with our age of light, that our civilization is by origin Catholic, that, in fact, we cannot understand what we have become without understanding what we came from?” he would have been suspected of something much worse than priggery—a distressing turn to popery.

Go enjoy it yourself.

3

The Martinez case and the plight of IVCF on campuses calls to mind an incident in 1995, some months after a wiser Supreme Court decided Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston. The Hurley court held that a socially conservative organization that for decades had sponsored Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade had the right to exclude a gay-liberation group from marching while displaying its own gay-rights banners and placards.

Writing for the unanimous court, Justice David Souter declared that “a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message” and that the conservative Boston group didn’t have to include marchers who would “alter the expressive content of their parade.” The parade was a form of expression, and organizers didn’t have to include off-message contingents.

One of the lawyers who lost in Hurley told me that he came to have a better understanding, and even an appreciation, of the ruling: He told me he had cited the Hurley opinion as precedent while representing a gay-rights group that went to court to prevent neo-Nazi brownshirts from marching in full regalia in the gay group’s parade. Only when the First Amendment is applied equally to everyone can it fulfill its crucial role.

(Harvey A. Silverglate, The Campus Crusade Against the Constitution – pay wall). The lesson the losing Hurley lawyer learned is one religious freedom advocates have known for decades, as the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom has often defended non-Christian religious groups.

4

The International Business Times had better be better at business than at its religion coverage, which garnered a coveted David Mills Media Facepalm Award Wednesday (whence my discovery of it).

Mills, every inch the intrepid journalistic equal of IBT blogger Tanya Diente, dove into her source dumpster, Now the End Begins, and came up with even more shocking news about the Catholic Church: it worships Satan at the Easter Mass! (Or should that be “!!!!!!!”?) NTEB has a novel translation of the Latin to prove it!!!!!!!

It must be true or they wouldn’t let it be put on the internet, would they? Or did they repeal “Thou shalt not bear false witness” while I wasn’t looking?

Well, what does a “once saved, always saved” person care about commandments? Since they’re saved forever and ever by once upon a time having said some nice things about and to Jesus, they can get right back to projecting: like how being able to get absolution by confessing to a priest emboldens mackerel snappers to violate God’s law shamelessly.

5

It’s hard to escape earnest, expert-larded reflections on violence off the field by NFL players if one tunes in the news these days. It’s a big deal on NPR, so I assume it’s an even bigger deal elsewhere in the media. God forbid I should stumble onto ESPN when no game is airing.

I’m not the most perceptive guy about All Things Sport. I admit it. I never swore off sports, but I definitely lost interest even in spectating. I reflexively say that my sport-watching is limited to our local Big 10 University’s basketball team, and then only if they’re playing well. But that really has become an exaggeration: I don’t think I’d watch them even if they were really good, which currently they’re not.

But I really don’t understand why there is a national outcry that X be banned from the game because he clearly beat his financé senseless, or that Y be suspended for 8 games because he failed to notice that using a switch on your child as vigorous corporal punishment had become anathema since he was on the receiving end a very few decades ago.

If Y is the public face of the Vikings (I remember many team names if not player names), I can understand the Vikings reconsidering. If X is convicted, he should get neither leniency  nor “make an example of him” harshness from the courts because of his current career. Jail time will perforce take him out of the game.

But why is everyone earnestly importuning league commissioners to judge these things and impose penalties for behavior off the field other than, say, use of banned performance enhancing drugs? Really, why?

I’m not even going to throw an answer out there for discussion, because I just don’t get it.

* * *

After I wrote the foregoing, I thought to ask my wife the question, because she’s more attuned to sports than I am. She didn’t hesitate in her answer, though it took some probing before I thought I really got it. And now, by analogy, I get it.

Just as I lament the example of pop tarts (e.g., Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minoj) on poor girls for whom they’re role models, so I ought to be concerned about the example of NFL players on poor boys.

From the NFL’s perspective, they’re protecting the brand (Silly me! I never assumed that the NFL was made up of Churchgoing pussycats) as best they can, which involves a certain amount of balancing between a guy’s star power on the one hand and the likelihood that he’s going to blow up on them on the other hand.

Could we maybe get a Commissioner to clean up Hollywood (maybe another for Nashville)?

Call it hypocrisy if you want. I won’t argue. Call the Church uniquely corrupt in sheltering abusive authority figures and I’ll object strenuously.

6

Kathleen Parker comments on South Carolina politician Mark Sanford’s lingering in limelight:

These events also remind us of two tropes in no danger of dismissal: Love is a form of temporary insanity; and anti-secessionist James Petigru’s 1860 assessment of his state as “too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum.”

“What is it about South Carolina?” is a question I’m frequently asked. From the former governor’s mindless meanderings to the recent assault of the reality show “Southern Charm,” starring former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel, this baffling state seems determined to besaint the besotted and magnify the man-child.

Yeah, but Charleston is gorgeous.

* * * * *

“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.