Thursday, 12/18/14

  1. Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas
  2. The Francis Filtration
  3. Settling for the attainable
  4. Free to investigate, debate and challenge?
  5. Signs of true tolerance


Jindal’s people are saying that this will not be a political rally, but one that focuses solely on matters of the spirit. Nonsense. Anything involving the governor of a state, especially one who is widely believed to be planning a run for the White House, is political. And we have the Rick Perry precedent. It seems that Jindal is trying to become the standard-bearer of the Evangelical-fundamentalist wing of the GOP. I don’t think Jindal has, well, a prayer of being the GOP nominee, but he’s angling for the No. 2 slot on the ticket. If he can deliver the Religious Right bloc, that’s something.

I am not an Evangelical, nor am I a fundamentalist, but I am a religious and social conservative who certainly would like to have a president who shared my beliefs and concerns. But one of the biggest mistakes we Christian conservatives make is thinking that electing politicians who share our views is going to straighten the country out. How many times do we have to learn this lesson? It doesn’t work, and only serves to make the world think that the Body of Christ is the Republican Party at prayer.

Rod Dreher, lamenting Bobby Jindal’s dubious hookup with the American Family Association, a wholly-owned dynasty of the Wildmon family, for a Louisiana iteration of The Response.

I have a rule of thumb: if it comes from AFA, it probably bears false witness, if only in the hysterics.


The Francis Filtration began in earnest during the impromptu press conference in the papal plane while the pope was en route home from World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. That was the presser that produced the single-most quoted line of the pontificate: “Who am I to judge?” But as Cardinal Francis George pointed out in a pre-retirement interview with John Allen, that sound-bite “has been very misused . . . because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution. . . . That’s entirely different than talking [about] someone who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness.” (For the record, the entire quote, which is almost never cited, was “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?”)

But as my journalist-friend suggested, the “bamboo” shoot of “Who am I to judge?” has continued to grow, until it’s now a virtual bamboo curtain. And what’s being filtered out? All the things the pope says that don’t fit the now-established “narrative” of “humane, progressive pope vs. meanie reactionary bishops and hidebound Catholic traditionalists.”

George Weigel continues with examples of how the press is filtering Francis.

I’ve never quite figured out why Unitarian Universalists band together as a religious assembly. I’m not saying it’s a nefarious tax scam, but just that a faith that famously “believes in, at most, one god” strikes me as something I’d sure have trouble getting up for on Sunday morning (or any other time). I also have trouble understanding why the folks at the fictionalized but real St. Dismas Church (of Laodicea Beach, Rod Dreher snarkily adds) carry on, or disgorge their boys from the SUV to serve in the Altar with Fr. Dave.

A world full of St. Dismas Churches is what conservatives suspicious of Pope Francis seem to fear, and the filtration of popular media tends in that direction, doesn’t it?

But Weigel and I would agree that you can’t believe the popular press on Papal matters, maybe more today than ever.


I mock Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (or is it theism?), so why do I have so much trouble with Fr. Stephen Freeman’s recent series on Christianity not being about morality – especially when I think he’s right?

It’s mostly that MTD is touchy-feely and “all about me.” But there’s more: morality seems attainable.

One of the failures of morality is that it seems so tantalizingly possible. And so we distract ourselves as we wrestle with our morals, condemning ourselves for what we somehow imagine that we can and should do.

But think carefully about the commandments of Christ: “Be perfect. Even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Morality withers in the face of such a statement. Christ’s teaching destroys our moral pretensions. He doesn’t say, “Tithe!” (Priests and preachers say “tithe”). Christ says, “Give it all away.” He doesn’t just say, “Love your neighbor.” He says, “Love your enemy.” Such statements should properly send us into an existential crisis.

The disciples recognized this. “Who then can be saved?” They wondered.

Christ responded, “With men it is impossible. But with God all things are possible.”

The modern fascination with morality is a theological travesty for Christians. It is the reduction of the Kingdom of God to the Democracy of the Mediocre: “I give thanks to God, for I’m doing better and making progress!”

But the Kingdom of God is found in what we cannot do. Morality is not a treasure buried in a field – that treasure is nothing less than the Divine Life of God.


Universities, it seems to me, shouldn’t just take the most liability-avoiding, speech-restrictive position in such situations — if they want to continue being taken seriously as places where people are free to investigate, debate and challenge orthodox views. A professor at Marquette … tells me: “[T]he new harassment training … has a chilling quality to it, … then basically urging people, when in doubt, to refrain from expression.” A sad thing to see at a university.

Eugene Volokh, commenting on free speech restrictions in the name of anti-harassment at Marquette University (located a few degrees south of Laodicea, Wisconsin).


“Please do not ask us to violate our religious beliefs. We all must work together to accommodate our sincerely held differences in these matters. Our continued existence as a free, vibrant, tolerant and loving people surely depends upon it.”

(Concluding paragraph of a hypothetical sign in a mom-and-pop shop that desires not to provide services for same-sex weddings.)

The whole article from which this comes is a thoughtful reflection on small family businesses and the juncture at which we find ourselves on gay “marriage.”

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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.