Saturday, 11/15/14

  1. Who needs Church for cheezy uplift?
  2. Transvaluation update
  3. Liturgy as Anthropology
  4. Prison or Stronghold?
  5. Burn or bury?
  6. How animus analysis works
  7. Health-based echoes of Cambodia
  8. Anna-Maria’s Deep Throat


These widespread bastardizations of religious devotion inspired Thomas Bergler to write an entire dissertation on the immaturity of our contemporary faith lives.  In The Juvenilization of American Christianity, he argues that the twentieth-century focus on making religion palatable to our young people had the pernicious consequence of making youth-group devotion the default model for Christians of all ages.  As he puts it, like it or not, “We’re all adolescents now.”

And ironically, as is apt to happen when we edit the faith to fit the times, our cheesy rebranding has made Christianity seem irrelevant to the very young people it was supposed to be made marketable to.  The reason is simple: This dumbed-down version of orthodoxy offers them nothing they cannot attain without it.

Fellowship, fairness, and fun are all fine things, but Christianity has a monopoly on exactly none of them.  When we present the creed as nothing more than a sunny affirmation of these, with some ambiguous tie to your best buddy Jesus built in, it isn’t long before kids realize that the smiley savior isn’t so necessary for achieving what they had wanted out of this deal in the first place.

In a recent Atlantic article, Larry Alex Taunton describes a study of college-aged atheists that he and his colleagues had conducted, which asked these students what led them to their atheism in the first place.  Perhaps surprisingly, by and large these young adults were raised not in liberal secular homes, but in Christian ones.  They did not complain that their churches had seemed outmoded or boring, as we might expect, but rather that such churches had seemed unextraordinary and superfluous.

Their catechesis had been, generally speaking, neither obnoxiously traditional nor irritatingly intellectual; instead, the now-atheists had found it vague, superficial, and ultimately unsatisfying.  Writes Taunton, “[T]hese students were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a non-belief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable.”

(, lamenting the cheesiness of much modern Christianity)

I first got this “nothing I cannot attain without it” not from an adolescent, but from a colleague, who was quick to say, again and again, “I’m not the most religious guy in the world.” Knowing a bit about his Church, I thought he was probably right that he could get as much from secular self-help books and pep-talks.

His charming son, though, caught the Orthodoxy bug before moving away to the left coast. I hope he got more than an inoculation.


[T]eachers and administrators at secular colleges know what happens in formal and informal discussions of student conduct when someone mentions the word “chastity.”

You can almost hear other words popping into their heads: “repressed,” “uptight,” “out of touch,” “puritanical,” “sexist.” It’s a sign of how thoroughly the sexual revolution has managed to flip moral values, to turn what was once an ideal into a misbegotten anachronism. The dictionary meaning of “chastity” hasn’t changed, but the connotations and associations have gone upside-down.

It makes it hard for people who believe that campus sexual mores and assumptions are irreverent and destructive to speak up. How do you talk about chastity when one second after you do so the stigma commences? Once you open your mouth and regret the hook-ups, attire, partying, and entertainments, a silent distancing begins.

(Mark Bauerlein, Positive Chastity)


One of the most interesting Protestant pilgrimages (or at least I fancy it’s a pilgrimage) is that of James A.K. Smith whose appreciation of of liturgy may prove unable to get any purchase among Protestants:

If we have a cognitivist anthropology of the human person, then we will see the job of the minister as being first and foremost to educate a person’s mind in correct doctrines. What results is that church begins to have a whole feel about it which is more like attending lecture than ascending into the heavenlies. If we emphasize, even implicitly, that worship is first and foremost about the teaching that is imparted and received, then this is probably because we have unconsciously imbibed an anthropology which assumes that our fundamental identity is cognitive. Such an anthropology cannot help but lead to an unbiblical ecclesiology, a subtle-deemphasizing of the sacraments and an inflated premium on doctrinal categories …

(James A.K. Smith via Robin Phillips) I’ve also encountered Smith on Mars Hill Audio Journal, discussing, I believe, what he calls “cultural liturgies.”

This is the sort of thing that makes us crazy ex-Protestant Orthodox converts wink knowingly and dust off the Welcome mat. What he seems to be longing for, we’ve got. What he seems to be longing for, if ingested by most Protestant Churches, would swell up and explode them if they didn’t vomit it out first.


Smith is about more than ecclesial and cultural liturgies, though:

If you’re a progressive, every fence looks like a corral. But those same fences might also provide protection, so losing them isn’t always liberation—it can also expose us to new threats. … [W]hile liberal elites demolish longstanding sexual norms, they nonetheless continue to live by them, and it is the poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt of such “progress.”

(H/T Rod Dreher)


I took a good swipe at cremation the other day. David Mills, coincidentally, I’m sure, does likewise, and with greater depth:

… As the Catechism of the Catholic Church tersely puts it, “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of belief in the resurrection of the body.”

But still, it feels wrong to burn a body that could be laid to rest. It may be “licit,” in the technical language of canon law, but it does not seem to me proper. It may be permitted, but that does not mean it is good when you can accomplish the ideal.

My daughter and I were both thinking of what it means, what it symbolizes, to bury and to burn the body. You burn something to destroy it, often, as in burning brush, because that is the easiest and cheapest way to dispose of it. Nothing, except the human body, do we reduce to ashes and then treat the ashes as if they were the original. Ashes are in every other case something you throw away. They are waste, trash, leavings, debris, a burden and often an expense.

Sometimes, of course, we burn things as a gesture of contempt and defiance of the realities for which they stand. Think of book burnings and flag burnings. Think how you would react to the news that someone had set down a Bible on the town square, soaked it with gasoline, and lit it.

We bury things we want to preserve, like time capsules, or to transform, like seeds and bulbs. Planting is the main symbol we think of when we think of burying something. It is an act of hope, of trust. And so we bury things we reverence, like the bodies of those we love, in the hope of their rising again.

There is a reason the pagans burned their dead, and still do, while Jews and Christians buried them. I suspect, but could not now argue, that there is some connection between the growth in cremation among Christians and their declining birth rate. We burn what we will not bear.

The Natural Instincts

I don’t think belief in the Resurrection will long survive cremation, once it becomes the standard among Christians, since it goes so hard against the natural instincts, guided by the natural symbols, to lay to rest those we have loved. The coffin means something different than the urn ….


The conspirators at the Volokh Conspiracy are reliably and seemingly uniformly wrong about same-sex marriage.

Dale Carpenter explains “how animus analysis actually works in the Supreme Court’s quadrilogy of animus cases (Moreno, Cleburne, Romer, and Windsor).” Animus analysis is how the federal courts have commenced to strike down otherwise permissible laws and referenda – especially those involving LGBT folk – by discerning animus in those who passed them.

I’ll make it simple: once our black robed rulers have foisted off some progressive pro-gay policy on us, we peons can’t fight back, because fighting back will certainly evoke some hateful comments from the lunatic fringe and those hateful remarks prove animus.

Once animus is found to be a motivating factor (not the sole factor or even the dominant factorbehind the law, as the district court recognized, the analysis is over. The law, as I have characterized it, is “tainted” by animus and is unconstitutional.

Got that? Now get back to licking those judicial boots, peon!

I’m not faulting Carpenter’s analysis by the way. This really is how it works, and I’m getting tired of Justice Kennedy crying “Hate! Hate! Hate!”


One of the sponsors of NPR’s Morning Edition, Novo Nordisk, says it’s committed to “changing the fact that 2/3 of people with diabetes live in cities.” I can’t hear that without thinking of Cambodia. Their website pictures (as of this morning) a bunch of Chinese doing Tai Chi or something on a public square, which is less than reassuring.

A bit of corporate lore was Chevy having to re-brand the Nova in countries where Nova meant “won’t go.” I think Novo Nordisk may have a cultural insensitivity issue here.


Sorry for the clickbait headline. It was an irresistible allusion:


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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.