Sunday 11/30/14

  1. Pavlov Press
  2. Out-creeping Peter Singer
  3. A euphemism I’ll avoid
  4. What’s the best risk?
  5. The test of religious bigotry
  6. Grateful to be gay

1

My Fair City has taken to having a periodic “One Great Read” event where all participants read the same book and discussions ensue.

Ferguson is kind of like that. Except it’s hard to escape, even though I didn’t sign up to participate. And there are no Great Reads about Ferguson. And the murkiness of the facts makes it a Rorschach Test and invites shouting matches.

Ferguson means one thing: mob mentality lives on the street in pointless riots and on social media in pointless opinions. (I, on the other hand, only traffic in highly illuminating facts and commentary that support my inclinations in the matter.)

What nefarious doings are being done as Pavlov Press distracts us with – Look! Kim Kardashian! Chaz Bono! American Idol! Shiny! (HT Mark Shea)

2

Speaking of shouting matches, IQ2US had a pretty good one recently as it set up an “Oxford style debate” on legalizing assisted suicide.

Assisted Suicide supporter Andrew Solomon came across as particularly toxic – far more than his debate partner Peter Singer – opening with a story about his mother and a pre-emptive strike that the opponents were monsters since they ipso facto wanted his mother to suffer the tortures of the damned.

The good news: the opponents of assisted suicide won the debate handily.

The bad news: winning means you move more to your side, but the supporters came in with 65% audience support (!) and ended with 67%. The opponents won by going from 10% to 22%, moving a bunch of the initial 25% “undecideds.”

3

On two friends’ joint blog appears the euphemism, previously unknown to me, of “progressive sexual ethics.” My friends are laboring at the awkward intersection of orthodox Christianity and LGBT sexuality, which definitely can present lexicographical challenges, but that is a euphemism I will never use, ever, unless in scare quotes.

For some reason, this quote comes to mind:

Every one of the popular modern phases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid talking about what is good … The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is, logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.”

(​G.K. Chesterton)

4

I appreciate your concern that “Even if the use of images in worship may not always be idolatrous in the strict sense, the mere potential for idolatry to creep in is itself sufficient grounds to object to such practices.” Certainly idolatry is always a danger whenever a good thing is embraced. However, to try to eradicate all potential for idolatry (which seems to be what motivates you to eliminate all visual aids in worship) would be to dismiss every good gift which the Lord has given us. This is the basic problem with your slippery slope argument.

It also seems that we should be cautious of the tendency to guard most tenaciously against those heresies that are generally not temptations to us, while lowering our defenses against those excesses which we really ought to be guarding against. High church Protestants like myself love to talk about the dangers of dualism just as modern evangelicals love to talk about the dangers of externalism and ritualism, while fundamentalists like to focus on the dangers of liberalism. At some level, such polemics can function to obscure the idols in our own midst. Applied to the question before us, we would do well to question whether the paranoia among you and your Calvinist friends against the alleged idolatry of using visual objects in worship has obscured the Gnosticism, Docetism and semi-Manichaeism in your own camp. (OK, I’m being intentionally polemical, but the question is a legitimate one.) Moreover, by attempting to remove visual apparatuses from the place of worship, are you not subtly underscoring the secular axiom that religion has its locale only in the heart rather than the physical realm? Are you not implicitly colluding with the Gnostic notion (revived by post-enlightenment spirituality) that spiritual truth must be kept unbodied?

This is not merely an academic concern: In my youth I was involved in more than one Protestant group that descended down the slippery slope from the matter/spiritual dualism of radical Protestantism (complete with a large dose of iconoclasm) to Gnosticism and then finally to the New Age.

(Robin Phillips to a Calvinist mentor “Geneva George”) Phillips was growing away from Calvinism when he wrote a series of these anonymous letter to an imaginary interlocutor. He came to rest in Orthodoxy.

I’ve been an Evangelical and a Calvinist and now I’m Orthodox. I can tell you that in my case if no other, the temptation to idolatry toward icons is non-existent, whereas the tincture of Gnosticism was always present in my Protestantism.

The real temptation in Orthodoxy is ritualism, going on auto pilot and just going through the motions. But I have never been in a church that didn’t either (1) have a liturgy an order of worship that was susceptible of mere ritualism or (2) have regular emotionalistic manipulations or a calculated “what can we shock them with this week” showmanship that put the focus on the “worship leaders.” I’ll risk ritualism over emotionalism or novelty-mongering any day of the week.

5

The most obvious test of bigotry is not that of outright persecution; it is whether representatives of one’s group are always singled out for a religious identification.

(Daniel Callahan)

6

How completely unself-aware do you have to be to declare that you are immune from being a complete prick because you were born gay, or believe in Jesus, or anything else? You’re a human being, aren’t you? Being a homosexual does not give you special protection from being as big of a jerk as the rest of us (though given the media coverage of the past 10 years, it’s not hard to see how Stern got that idea). This must be the gay version of Spike Lee, 20 years or more ago, saying that black people could not be racist.

The oppressed becoming liberated then turning as bad or worse than their former oppressors is a very old story. Seems to me you’d have to be shockingly ignorant of human nature to write an essay bragging that you’re grateful to be gay because it means you cannot be a horrible person. I wonder what Mark Joseph Stern’s colleagues think of this piece.

(Rod Dreher, after calling out Stern on a Thanksgiving day column so Pharisaical that it invites, fair and square, Rod’s charge that Stern is claiming immaculate conception for himself.)

* * * * *

“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.

One thought on “Sunday 11/30/14

  1. We wanted to stop by your comment section because you raise a fair point as to whether we endorse particular positions (through careful choice of euphemism). Our choice of words comes as we do our best to have a conversation with diverse readership coming from a range of convictions. Sometimes it’s important to know what words people use to describe themselves if you want to signal a desire to talk with them. We’ve found the bifurcation of traditional and progressive to be the most useful when describing categories of sexual ethics as most people know which word they would use to describe their own sensibilities, but no bifurcation is without controversy.

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