Friday 11/21/14

  1. Which one of these was the Philanthropist?
  2. How the Russian Church Survived
  3. Sex and Character
  4. Preening over People
  5. Don’t worry your pretty little head
  6. “Be fruitful, gelding.”
  7. Preening over Peace
  8. Bill Cosby

1

[T]he mere fact of giving, and this includes the mere fact of giving sums that far exceed what most of us could ever be worth over several lifetimes, doesn’t put all moral concerns to rest. It doesn’t wipe justice off the table or dismiss mercy from the conversation. Dropping the sum that gets your name on a building or on the bricked archway to a college sports complex isn’t exactly the storied and exalted love that covers a multitude of sins, among which hubris ranks highly and conspicuously. The left hand still knows what the right hand is doing, and in some cases that’s about all that the left hand knows. I say this—not knowing, admittedly, the secret lives of philanthropists—as one attempting to voice nothing more than an oft- and probably widely-felt sentiment. We’d all give a lot if we could also keep a lot, which is the one thing the widow in the story of the two mites didn’t do:

And he [Jesus] looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. (St. Luke 21: 1-4; also St. Mark 12: 41-44.)

Wendell Berry … speaks of James Buchanan Duke, benefactor of Duke University. There’s a statue of Mr. Duke on campus, and it serves as an imposing image in the Jefferson Lecture: James Duke, cigar between his fingers, whom the engravings on the pedestal proclaim an “industrialist” and a “philanthropist.”

Berry tells the story of his grandfather’s riding off early one winter morning in 1907 to see his previous year’s crop sold in Louisville. There had been some talk of what to do with the money made once the creditors had been paid off. But there would be no profit. The sale of the crop paid only for the transportation of the crop and the commission of its sale. Berry’s grandfather had been involved in what we now call a zero-sum game. “The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago,” Berry writes, “was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers.” James B. Duke, industrialist and philanthropist, had “followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.”

(Jason Peters)

2

Orthodox Christianity is primarily known for its worship, for the core of our Orthodox Christian life is to be found in the services conducted in our temples. I read somewhere that during the height of the Soviet period of repression, a Roman Catholic cardinal, upon visiting Russia, asked an Orthodox metropolitan how they were managing to survive the horrors and repression of the atheistic State. The metropolitan responded by saying that no matter what, the services were always celebrated. Each and every day, morning and evening, the services continued. Although the Church was forbidden by law to operate schools and hospitals, teach children, or visit the sick and imprisoned, the services continued to be celebrated.

The Russian Church now has chapels in prisons throughout the Russian land, operates schools and hospitals, has serving chaplains in the military ranks, and soup kitchens and charitable agencies serving the poor, yet still, to this day, she sees the celebration of the Divine Services to be the primary work of the Church. The centrality of worship has always been the main work of the Church, and will remain so until the end of time.

(Abbot Tryphon, November 19)

3

Richard Cohen recalls kinder, gentler days when the press didn’t blow the whistle on philandering power-figures. Martin Luther King is his Exhibit A. He sees Gary Hart as the turning point toward nastiness.

Be that as it may, where I clearly take issue with him is here:

[I]t has always been clear to me that, whatever character is, it has precious little to do with one’s sex life.

So character has nothing to do with integrity, which has nothing to do with being who you say you are? You say you’re a husband and a father, but you break the vows whereby you became a husband.

I have come to intuit the temptations for philandering that get thrown at rich or powerful men. It took me a while, being neither handsome enough nor rich enough to have personal experience. But it’s a significant failure to succumb to those temptations, and a mark of flawed character.

I understand flawed heroes. But it’s their deeds I praise, not (if the flaw is deep) their “character.”

4

It seems to me that if you care about women in STEM, maybe you shouldn’t want to communicate the notion that they’re so delicate that they can’t handle pictures of comic-book women. Will we stock our Mars spacecraft with fainting couches?

Not everyone was so censorious. As one female space professional wrote: “Don’t these women and their male cohorts understand that *they* are doing the damage to what/whom they claim to defend!?”

No, they don’t. Or, if they do, their reservations are overcome by the desire to feel important and powerful at others’ expense. Thus, what should have been the greatest day in a man’s life — accomplishing something never before done in the history of humanity — was instead derailed by people with their own axes to grind. As Chloe Price observed: “Imagine the … storm if the scientist had been a woman and everyone focused solely on her clothes and not her achievements.”

Yes, feminists have been telling us for years that women can wear whatever they want, and for men to comment in any way is sexism. But that’s obviously a double standard, since they evidently feel no compunction whatsoever in criticizing what men wear. News flash: Geeks don’t dress like Don Draper.

(Glenn Reynolds via Rod Dreher, emphasis added because it’s just so typical of “progressives” ideologues of all stripes to put preening ahead of people.)

5

Don’t think too much about the terrible consequences of the reckless policy I supported, because that will make it harder for me to sell you on the next one.

(Snarkily attributed to Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, by Daniel Larison. See why.)

6

One epigraph comes to me repeatedly as I think about the state of marriage today:

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

(C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)

But “planned parenthood” is a poor replacement for marriage. Sawhill’s plan to promote long-acting birth control fails to address the core problem of unwed births: the breakdown of relationships between men and women in lower-income and working-class America. Those in the higher income portions of the population continue to participate in marriage at high rates and to reap its benefits. Officially lowering the bar for the other two-thirds of America would put more people at risk for the consequences of family breakdown.

… Many of the approximately eighty means-tested federal welfare programs include a marriage penalty: individuals receive more benefits if they choose to remain unmarried than if they wed. These marriage penalties can be quite substantial. Unfortunately, eliminating marriage penalties overnight would be extremely costly. However, one simple way to ease the marriage penalty would be to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for married couples with children.

(Rachel Sheffield)

I used to think of my family as middle class, but after my parents split up, my mom had four more kids.

(Jairo Gomez, H/T Rod Dreher)

Sigh.

7

Why has the equivalence of same-sex and opposite-sex relations suddenly become a moral and social absolute? That it has is plain to see. In the Supreme Court’s recent ­Windsor decision, which struck down much of the federal Defense of ­Marriage Act, the majority found that the only reason for denying equivalence is a desire to harm same-sex couples. Overcoming this supposed bigotry is now an overriding foreign-policy goal of the United States. It is worth complicating our difficult situation in the Middle East, for example, to fly the rainbow flag over our embassy in Tel Aviv. Nor is general acceptance of homosexuality enough. Prominent voices call for stamping out opposition as hate speech, since its very existence destroys equality by affecting the social environment.

(James Kalb, Sex and the Religion of Me – emphasis added)

8

If there’s a silver lining to the growing conviction that Bill Cosby has sexually assaulted many women over the decades, it’s that some of my conservative Facebook friends will stop posting conservative diatribes mis-attributed to him and I can remove my Snopes bookmark.

* * * * *

“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.