Sunday before Nativity, 2014

  1. Red Letter Day
  2. Proportionate Responses
  3. A spike sticks up no matter what
  4. Marco Rubio, isolationist
  5. God’s Friends

1

Red Letter Day: Tipsy has some nice things to say about a Calvinist (and without dwelling on the caveats).

I’ve been hearing on and off about a pastor in New York City named Tim Keller. The Wall Street Journal’s Kate Bachelder, one of his many thousands of parishioners, interviewed and profiled him a bit.

“What if’s” are always tricky, but I’m very tempted to say that were I still a Calvinist, and if I lived in New York City, I think I’d join his Church.

So, what is there to like?:

  • I was going to say that he’s not pestilentially pounding us with ghost-authored books, using church money to make them best sellers, but it appears that he has written quite a few books, albeit with sober-ish titles, probably no ghost authors, and little enough hype that I didn’t know he’d written them until I looked.
  • He consciously eschews Evangelical insider vocabulary, but without substituting hipsterese.
  • “Often he was asked by fellow Christians: Are you sure you’re called to this? His answer: ‘I have no idea.’ His uncertainty rattled people he knew, but it is part of what he teaches: God is ‘not under any obligation to make me succeed.'” Wow! How refreshing is that!?
  • He’s a pastor, not a phenomenon. “The church doesn’t advertise … He resisted getting a website until a former official at the Federal Communications Commission who attended the church convinced him to purchase the domain name ‘redeemer.com‘ before someone else snapped it up.”
  • He shuns politics.
  • I’ll bet you he shuns prophesy porn and prosperity preaching like the plagues they are. (I believe that from his sobriety, his Westminster Seminary background, and the propensity of Calvinists generally to disbelieve such drivel.)
  • He’s trying to avoid making his career as pastor into its own religion, just as he cautions “driven” New Yorkers that their career obsession bespeaks their religiosity.

He’s not perfect. I see no sign that he’s aware of the riches of Orthodoxy, and that means his parishioners won’t be made aware of them, let alone experience them, through his ministry.

But he’s infinitely better than total phonies like Joel Osteen or Bennie Hinn, who are merely examples of the mind-bogglingly counterfeit crap that not merely passes for, but typifies, Christianity in North America today.

2

When I started this item, I was looking forward to some smart person figuring out how to respond the Pyongyang’s veto of a (reportedly bad) film that derided Kim Wang-Fatso (or whatever the name of that absurd hereditary murderer is). I personally was prepared to buy the DVD and pretend I’d wasted two irreplaceable hours by watching it, but Sony apparently is taking away that option.

Well, the nameless editorialsts at the Wall Street Journal (that’s okay: anonymous opinions and advocacy are as American as hating Kamala Harrishave an idea:

Allow us to offer some suggestions as to what a “proportional” response might be.

As we noted Friday, one good place to start would be for the U.S. government to pay Sony Pictures for the rights to “The Interview” and release the movie for free into the public domain. The comedy, about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Un, could then be seen by the world and translated into Korean, loaded on USB sticks, and floated into North Korea by balloons.

That would teach Pyongyang a useful lesson in the value the free world attaches to free speech. But the corpulent Korean despot also needs to learn a lesson about the costs of hacking and cyberterrorism, which caused Sony to cancel the movie’s scheduled Christmas release.

Trouble is, Sony’s price may be really, really high now:

Hollywood might possibly fear North Korean sleeper cells capable of blowing up theaters that screen anti-Nork films. But Hollywood most definitely fears rogue personnel capable of tearing the lid off of the entertainment industry’s most lurid and repellent secrets.

In fact, Hollywood has amassed so much undisclosed TMZ fodder that it’s willing to do whatever the North says. There is no margin for error, and no taking of chances.

(James Poulos, hyperlink added after I Googled “TMZ” to figure out what the heck he was talking about.) How much more smut was Pyongyang holding – assuming the conventional “wisdom” that it’s the culprit in the cyberattacks (and I’m reserving final judgment on that)?

Rod Dreher has two comments on this stand-off, both interesting in different ways.

First, the implications that go deeper than a Seth Rogan satire’s suppression:

Let’s say you are The New York Times or the Washington Post, and you have a big story on North Korea, or a group like ISIS. You know that if you publish it, they might come at you and hack into your computer system and distribute all the information they find there. What do you do?

Second, responding to Poulos, implications that go deeper than suppression of a news story about a terrorist state:

For me, this is the epitome of mixed emotions. I would not mind one bit seeing those [Hollywood] people hoisted on their high-and-mighty petards. But civilization depends [on] hypocrisy, and the ability to count on certain secrets being kept. That’s hyperbolic, but only a bit. I do not need or want to read the e-mails of all the people I know. I don’t want to know who among the townspeople is cheating on his wife, who smokes crack, who is stealing from his boss, who secretly hates whom, and so forth. Nobody can live that way. A society without veils, without hypocrisy, is a society that is unfree.

And yet, if Hollywood’s filthy secrets leak, thanks to Pyongyang or a disgruntled insider, it will be indecent and scary … but I know myself well enough to know I’ll be clicking Gawker like everybody else, including you.

For the record, and with no particular pride: no, not me. I don’t ever plan to go back to TMZ and I don’t frequent the Gawker. I only vaguely picked up that someone in Hollywood said something snarky about Angelina Jolie, and the other perps and targets of intra-Hollywood snark were lost on me because I don’t know who these people are.

3

Okay, having disclaimed interest in knowing Hollywood smut, it’s time for a more detailed disclaimer of particular pride:

The sun shines on all alike, and vainglory beams on all activities. For instance, I am vainglorious when I fast; and when I relax the fast in order to be unnoticed, I am again vainglorious over my prudence. When well-dressed I am quite overcome by vainglory, and when I put on poor clothes I am vainglorious again. When I talk I am defeated, and when I am silent I am again defeated by it. However I throw this prickly pear, a spike stands upright.

(Ladder of Divine Ascent 22.5, p. 133, via Dynamis).

4

Rubio is quick to accuse others of favoring “retreat” and “disengagement” from the world, but there are few other members of Congress that have been as resistant to diplomatic engagement in practice as Rubio. He has wanted to set conditions for any deal with Iran that would make it impossible to reach a deal, he insisted on recalling our ambassador to Syria almost as soon as Ford got there, and he has taken the lead in denouncing normalization with Cuba. Now I think that the isolationist label doesn’t accurately fit anyone in modern America (nor was it an accurate description of many people in the past), but refusing to engage in diplomacy and commerce with other countries is as close to it as one is likely to get nowadays.

(Daniel Larison, commenting on Rand Paul’s deliciously branding Marco Rubio an “isolationist.”)

5

Speaking of “the riches of Orthodoxy,” the Matins Service always commemorates the Saints du jour:

On this day, the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we have been enjoined by our holy and God-bearing Fathers to commemorate all those who from the beginning of time were well-pleasing to God, from Adam to Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, according to the genealogy, as the Evangelist Luke enumerated in historical order; and also the Prophets and Prophetesses.

We commemorate Adam and Eve, the first fashioned.

We commemorate the righteous Abel, the son of Adam.

We commemorate the righteous Seth, the son of Adam.

We commemorate the righteous Enosh, the son of Seth.

We commemorate the righteous Cainan, the son of Enosh.

We commemorate the righteous Mahalalel, the son of Cainan.

We commemorate the righteous Jared, the son of Mahalalel.

We commemorate the righteous Enoch, the son of Jared.

We commemorate the righteous Methuselah, the son of Enoch.

We commemorate the righteous Lamech, the son of Methuselah.

We commemorate the righteous Noah, the son of Lamech.

We commemorate the righteous Shem, the son of Noah.

We commemorate the righteous Japheth, the son of Noah.

We commemorate the righteous Arphaxad, the son of Shem.

We commemorate the righteous Cainan, the son of Arphaxad.

We commemorate the righteous Shelah, the son of Cainan.

We commemorate the righteous Eber, from whom the Jews were called Hebrews.

We commemorate the righteous Peleg, the son of Eber.

We commemorate Reu, the son of Peleg.

We commemorate the righteous Serug, the son of Reu.

We commemorate the righteous Nahor, the son of Serug.

We commemorate the righteous Terah, the son of Nahor.

We commemorate the righteous Patriarch Abraham, the son of Terah.

We commemorate the Patriarch Isaac, the son of Abraham.

We commemorate the Patriarch Jacob, the son of Isaac.

We commemorate the Patriarch Reuben, the son of Jacob.

We commemorate the Patriarch Simeon, the son of Jacob.

We commemorate the Patriarch Levi, the son of Jacob.

We commemorate the Patriarch Judah, the son of Jacob, from whose tribe Christ was born.

We commemorate the Patriarch Zebulun, the son of Jacob, whose tribe was by the sea.

We commemorate the Patriarch Issachar, the son of Jacob, whose tribe cultivated the earth.

We commemorate the Patriarch Dan, the son of Jacob, whose tribe was the tribe of Judges.

We commemorate the Patriarch Gad, the son of Jacob, whose tribe is plundered and plundering.

We commemorate the Patriarch Asher, the son of Jacob, whose tribe was wealthy in wheatlands.

We commemorate the Patriarch Naphtali, the son of Jacob, whose tribe became a great multitude.

We commemorate the Patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob, whose tribe was right glorious and illustrious.

We commemorate the Patriarch Benjamin, the son of Jacob, whose tribe, though once fierce, became gentle.

We commemorate Perez and Zerah, the twins, the sons of Judah the Patriarch.

We commemorate Hezron, the son of Perez.

We commemorate Ram, the son of Hezron.

We commemorate Amminadab, the son of Ram.

We commemorate Nahshon, the son of Amminadab.

We commemorate Salmon, the son of Nahshon.

We commemorate Boaz, the son of Salmon.

We commemorate Obed, the son of Boaz by Ruth.

We commemorate Jesse, the son of Obed.

We commemorate David the King, the son of Jesse.

We commemorate Solomon the King, the son of David.

We commemorate Rehoboam the King, the son of Solomon.

We commemorate Abijah the King, the son of Rehoboam.

We commemorate Asa the King, the son of Abijah.

We commemorate Jehoshaphat the King, the son of Asa.

We commemorate Joram the King, the son of Jehoshaphat.

We commemorate Uzziah the King, the son of Joram.

We commemorate Jotham the King, the son of Uzziah.

We commemorate Ahaz the King, the son of Jotham.

We commemorate Hezekiah the King, the son of Ahaz.

We commemorate Manasseh the King, the son of Hezekiah.

We commemorate Amon the King, the son of Manasseh.

We commemorate Josiah the King son of Amon.

We commemorate Jeconiah the King, the son of Josiah.

We commemorate Shealtiel, the son of Jeconiah.

We commemorate Zerubbabel, who again raised up the Temple in Jerusalem when it had been burned.

We commemorate Abiud, the son of Zerubbabel.

We commemorate Eliakim, the son of Abiud.

We commemorate Azor, the son of Eliakim.

We commemorate Zadok, the son of Azor.

We commemorate Achim, the son of Zadok.

We commemorate Eliud, the son of Achim.

We commemorate Eleazar, the son of Eliud.

We commemorate Matthan, the son of Eleazar.

We commemorate Jacob, the son of Matthan.

We commemorate Joseph the Betrothed, the son of Jacob.

We commemorate the righteous Melchizedek.

We commemorate the righteous Job.

We commemorate the Prophet Moses, and Hur and Aaron the Priests.

We commemorate Joshua the son of Nun.

We commemorate the holy Prophet Samuel.

We commemorate the Prophet Nathan.

We commemorate the holy Prophet Daniel.

We commemorate the holy Three Servants.

We commemorate the righteous Sarah, the wife of Abraham.

We commemorate the righteous Rebecca, the wife of Isaac.

We commemorate the righteous Leah, the first wife of Jacob.

We commemorate the righteous Rachel, the second wife of Jacob.

We commemorate the righteous Asenath, the wife of Joseph the All-comely.

We commemorate the righteous Miriam, the sister of Moses.

We commemorate the righteous Deborah, who judged Israel.

We commemorate the righteous Ruth.

We commemorate the righteous Widow of Zarephath, unto whom Elijah was sent.

We commemorate the righteous Shunammite Woman, the gave hospitality to Elisha.

We commemorate the righteous Judith, who slew Holofernes.

We commemorate the righteous Esther, who delivered Israel from death.

We commemorate the righteous Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet.

We commemorate the righteous Susanna.

By their holy intercessions, O God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

(From Ages Initiative, where I get my Matins materials.)

* * * * *

“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.