Saturday, 10/4/14

  1. Apple’s Edward Snowden tattoo
  2. Shut up about being a burden. I love you.
  3. Lest we forget at the Synod On the Family
  4. Breaching the Warranty of Whiteness
  5. Missionary Medicine
  6. Palpable Holiness
  7. Reader’s Racket Awards
  8. Reflecting, briefly, on blog changes


Apple is prepared soon to offer a download for iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) that will make it impossible for Apple to decipher contents even if law enforcement presents them a device and a properly executed judicial search warrant. This has generated a great deal of controversy.

How do you boil down the case against the download?

Apple is a lot like a teenager getting Edward Snowden’s name tattooed up her arm. The excitement will die, but the regrets will last. For all of us. Most Americans believe in privacy from government searches, but not for criminals. The Constitution protects a citizen’s “houses, papers and effects” only until a judge finds probable cause that the citizen has committed a crime. This year, the Supreme Court ruled that the police need a warrant to search cellphones seized at the time of arrest. But with Apple’s new encryption, probable cause and a warrant will be of little help to the police who seize a suspect’s iPhone and want to search it. That decision should not be left to Apple alone. And it won’t be. Companies do not want to give their employees the power to roam corporate networks in secrecy. And even if they did, their regulators wouldn’t let them. If Apple wants to sell iPhones for business use, it will have to give companies a way to read their employees’ business communications. Corporate IT departments won’t welcome a technology that could help workers hide misdeeds from their employer. And as a global company, Apple is subject to regulation and market pressure everywhere. If China doesn’t like Apple’s new policy, it can ban the iPhone or simply encourage China’s mobile carriers to slow Apple’s already weak sales there. Even democracies like India, and U.S. allies like the United Arab Emirates, have shown the determination and the clout to force changes in phone makers’ security choices. So if Apple wants to sell its iPhone everywhere, it will have to compromise. But then what? Will it really give China’s authoritarian regime more access to iPhone data than it gives to American police trying to stop crimes in this country? And if so, how will its management sleep at night?

Well played, Stewart Baker. Well played.


Ezekiel Emmanuel’s desire to die at 75 continues to spark discussion. John McGinnis, for one:

But youth and good health do not measure humanity. Millions in diminished health enjoy life, being with their relatives, laughing at old movies, even just sitting in the breeze and sunshine. And their relatives and friends enjoy being with them. Indeed, they may find in the elderly’s struggle with aging an inspiration and a reaffirmation of life. In caring for the frail, weak and sometimes woebegone, they may also expand their own sympathies and express some small measure of gratitude for the debt of a good upbringing that can never be fully repaid. That is certainly my experience watching my parents age well past 75. I have never admired my father more than when at the cusp of ninety he faces down his own infirmities and cares for my mother who has Parkinson’s disease. And although much is taken from my mother, much abides—her concern for others, her delight in reading new novels and rereading old ones. Emanuel argues that in seeing the decline of those we love, we may forget our happy memories of them in their years of vigor and achievement. But those memories do not need to summoned at particular times, because they infuse my being. In any event, the most valuable memories of all are not defined by physical wellbeing but by spirit and character. For so many people beyond 75 the forging of character continues and the power of their spirit at their end will instruct us by example at our own.

A bit more bluntly, Giles Fraser anticipates Emmanuel’s general schtick 16 months in advance:

No, we are not brains in vats. We are not solitary self-defining intellectual identities who form temporary alliances with each other for short-term mutual advantage. My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. Of course, I will clean you up. Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this.

Fraser’s title and subtitle, too: I want to be a burden on my family as I die, and for them to be a burden on me – My problem with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live.


The immolation of marriage continues apace, and I probably focus too rarely on the hetero barbarians who are pouring on gasoline.

The Roman Catholic Church is beginning a Synod on the Family. It will disappoint media so foolish as to expect serious proposals for recognizing same-sex marriage, and probably will disappoint those who anticipate liberalizing “reform” of Catholicism’s annulment-riddled pseudo-ban on divorce.

Nathaniel Peters hopes it will focus, more than often happens, on how divorce affects children – and not just children of tender age.

Divorce ends the world that the child knows. It says that the foundation of her life, the structure that produced her and formed her is no more. This is captured well in the title of a book by a professor of youth ministry, Andrew Root: The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being. The title is not an exaggeration. Root describes his twenty-three-year-old fiancée (now wife) upon hearing the news that her parents were getting divorce:

Her more distressing questions were existential; they seemed to come from the core of her being. In the middle of many nights she would call me, awakened from a deep sleep in a state of terror. Kara felt as if the split in her parents’ marriage had become a split in her own being, ‘I have to start all over again. I mean seriously, who am I?’ she stated repeatedly.

A short time later, Root discovered the mutual adultery of his own parents. Though he had known that their marriage had not been solid, he was totally devasted:

[I felt] as if I were being sucked into a dark pit. In a real sense I started to wonder who I was, to question whether my very existence rested on anything solid at all. I couldn’t help but feel that their actions attacked me, the core of my person. After all, I was the product, quite literally, of their love and commitment. I came into being out of their union, their mutual desire that created a community called ‘parents’ to love and care for me. I existed because of their choice, and now they were choosing to destroy the very communion that made me. Their disunion threatened me nothing less than ontologically, which is to say that it shook my very being and existence.

A ten-year-old may not be capable of articulating that feeling with the same precision, but that does not diminish her feeling it. Many children of divorce experience feelings akin to these. In time, their parents and teachers will tell them to get over this lost sense of self. These things happen to many people, the story goes. It was all for the better, and you need to move on. The teaching of Jesus compels bishops, priests, and lay ministers to do better ….


Speaking of doing better, from the Chronicle of Commodified Conception, the story of a two-year-old in Ohio who’s facing something probably weirder and more disorienting than divorce:

A white Ohio woman is suing a Downers Grove-based sperm bank, alleging that the company mistakenly gave her vials from an African-American donor, a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter in an all-white community.

Jennifer Cramblett, of Uniontown, Ohio, alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court that Midwest Sperm Bank sent her the vials of an African-American donor’s sperm in September 2011 instead of those of a white donor that she and her white partner had ordered.

Maybe I should have mentioned that you need to be a human being without blinders to everything except techno-triumphalism (if we can do it, we must do it) and legal “rights” (I didn’t get what I wanted; someone’s gonna pay) to notice the 2-year-old and think about her future. But this story has been going viral in the 12 hours since I saw it, and most people don’t comment on the poor girl: defective goods to her mother and a supposed source of controversy in her community. Is this Münchausen syndrome by proxy?

I hope this little girl isn’t named “Damn!”

(H/T Rod Dreher)

I guess Ohio’s just fine with two mommies, but the thought of one of then getting intimate with a vial of Old Darky #330 instead of Nordic #380 is just too gross.

There’s a Facebook group called “Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives” that takes umbrage at this commodification, too:

We are playing God, my friends. We are treating lives and human beings and babies and sexuality and all that wonderful human condition mess/blessing/amazing ‘stuff’ … like a grocery store run. This road will come back and bite us.


Our historic ambivalence toward missionary medicine has crystallized into suspicion over the past several decades. It’s great that these people are doing God’s work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?<
Missionaries have been dealing with this kind of criticism for a very, very long time. More than a century ago, the undercurrent of discontent with missionary work had already become so widespread that experienced missionary James Levi Barton penned a book-length defense of his career. Many of his points are, even to my modern ears, reasonably persuasive. No one complains when the West crams its commercial values down the throats of Africans, Indians, and Chinese, he pointed out in 1908. We insist that these unfortunate, uncivilized people buy our wheat flour and bicycles, even though rice and rickshaws are probably just as good. How is that different from what missionaries do? They simply offer Christianity rather than consumerism. … In his Lancet article, Lowenberg quotes a missionary who insists he does not proselytize, even though he tells his patients, “I’m treating you because of what God has given me and his love for me.” That statement—which strikes me as obvious proselytizing— suggests that some missionaries are incapable of separating their religious work from their medical work. Whether implicitly or explicitly, some missionaries pressure their patients, at moments of maximum vulnerability and desperation, to convert. That troubles me. I suspect that many others have the same visceral discomfort with the mingling of religion and health care.

(Brian Palmer in Slate; H/T Rod Dreher) Rod Dreher’s juxtaposition has some obvious validity:

On recent threads, lots of people keep saying, “If Christians REALLY believed what the bible says, they would stop worrying about sex and start saving poor people.” OK. Great. Lots of doctors are doing that! In fact, it’s a good thing they are because it seems like super Christian doctors are the only ones willing to take it in the teeth and try to heal the poorest of the poor. “Oh really? OK, then. That’s bad, too.” So to be clear, Christians should stop worrying about teh gayz and start making huge sacrifices, in the image of Christ, and help the poor. Unless they are making huge sacrifices in the image of Christ and helping the poor. In which case… maybe they should keep doing that, but only until non-Christians decide to. Because it’s deeply concerning when Christians make huge sacrifices in the image of Christ and help the poor.

But I was struck by the sheer hubris of Palmer’s article: he doesn’t like missionary doctors because he’s not sure how many they are, and they’re sometimes working with inadequate staff, and they don’t spend enough time on the bureaucratic data-gathering and scholarly publishing that warm his shriveled little soul. In other words, they’re not doing it his way, under his control and the control of those like him for whom the wonky little details of the system matters more than people who happen to be dying. If atheist Palmer wasn’t real, some Christian should have invented him as a foil.


The very first time I entered an Orthodox church I felt drawn to Her. There was a tangible, inner tug, and an overwhelming sense of peace, holiness, and awe, emanating from the very walls of the temple. The serving clergy were not the focus of the service, as I’d experienced in my protestant upbringing, but seemed to be moving within the walls of their temple, as if servants, or, given the beauty of their vestments, courtiers to an emperor. The focus was not on men, but on the holiness of God. I felt an overwhelming desire to be a part of this religion ….

(Abbot Tryphon) As my Church nears completion of our “proper Orthodox Church building,” we’re offering our old building (acquired from the neo-Arian Jehovah’s Witnesses) for sale, and just walking through the building, with no service under way, affected our prospective buyer the way the Abbot describes.

By the way: a few months ago, I decided to support the Abbot’s monastery by buying some of its coffee – “taking one for the team,” I thought. Wow! It’s really good – at least the two varieties, Abbot’s Choice and Organic Shade-Grown French Roast. I supported the monastery again last night with a new order.


The local newspaper’s “Readers’ Choice” award season closes tomorrow, which means that nominee businesses have been nagging me for votes since – gosh, it seems like forever.

One letter reminds me that I can vote once on each device. Oh, great. From under my roof, we can stuff the ballot box with 7 votes, because I’m a gadget guy – and that’s without bringing any old gadgets out of retirement (I wonder if we can vote by Kindle, too?) And of course there’s the office computer, too, and a couple of spares. Is anything not a racket any more?

On principle, I’m not voting for anyone in any category unless there’s a “best Church” category and mine’s a nominee. Fat chance of that, but they’re avoiding it mostly because they think religion (if they think of it at all) is less important than, say, pulled pork or, probably, pole dancers.


I’ve been thinking about my blogging.

I said some time back I’d be blogging less, and I have. I’ve also taken, I think, less time to reflect in print on some of the articles I’m passing along for your consideration.

Only a few times have I slowed down and really invested some time in thinking and writing on a topic to share. And religion has been more prominent and explicit, as befits a guy with a Medicare card and relatively little time left for soul work.

I hope my remaining readers (hits have dropped) are okay with that, because I am.

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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.