Friday the 13th!

  1. Manufacturing Consent
  2. Pornography apophasis
  3. Perfectly orthodox, but they do reject our heresy …
  4. Civil religion for America: anodyne, inoffensive, tolerant
  5. Democrat Party update

1

During the Cold War, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman published a book called Manufacturing Consent describing how the media always slanted the news to favor the right wing in any left-right dispute. I was a cold warrior and am glad that communism, a terrible and murderous social system, is mostly gone. But I didn’t anticipate that the same process of “manufacturing consent” would continue its forward march after the Cold War was won, not by slanting the news against leftist insurgencies in the Third World, but rather by slanting it always in favor of aggressive American meddling, including military intervention, seemingly everywhere …

The best explanation for the Beltway unanimity now expressed by members of Congress, journalists, and think tank people is the career ambition and the groupthink encouraged by the imperatives of the deep state. The last is a term for that large, many-layered complex: the top officers of the armed forces, top career officials of the intelligence agencies, defense contractors, and think tanks that perpetuate themselves and maintain their budgets by overstating threats and never, ever getting caught underestimating them.The best current analysis of how this works come from Tufts professor Michael Glennon, in an important essay that deserves wide attention. One conclusion Glennon draws is that the only way you can advance to a bigger, more influential job is to be seen as “hard-hitting” and “tough minded.” And that means you can never ignore a foreign policy problem, or argue that an issue really isn’t such a big problem, or, perish the thought, muse that “this is not really our concern” in an official meeting and expect to be taken seriously in Washington.

(Scott McConnell, The Ambitions Driving Ukraine Consensus)

2

Many of the blogs I follow are spending a lot of time currently on decrying pornography. The precipitators are the releases of the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, with its nadir cover photo.

I, too, decry pornography, but I find it hard to write or say anything original about it.

I strongly suspect that our pornified society (it’s so pervasive now it’s like white noise, and some think it’s delusional to think we’re pornified at all) is producing pornified male imaginations that, with or without the catalyst of binge drinking (“drink till he’s cute” has the tacit counterpart “drink till I’m irresistible”), contribute to the reputed epidemics of domestic violence and rape.

But to get radical and say “No More” to porn would brand me as puritanical or a foe of Freedom of the Press, the core public purpose of which was to assure that men meet their minimum daily requirement of mammary and pudenda images. And all the cool kids think it’s okay and that the methodologically dubious social science (but I repeat myself) confirm that.

So you’ll not hear me suggest such a thing. Nope. Not me.

3

In any given church, you’ll have people at different stages of their understanding of trinitarian prayer, which leads to some awkwardness. We’ve all heard prayers that start out, “Heavenly Father,” and then within a couple of sentences are saying, “Thank you for dying on the cross for us.” Or prayers that start, “Dear Jesus” and move on to “thank you for sending your Son to save us.” … Anybody in the congregation who is more fluent with trinitarian theology will hear something that sounds alarming. But I doubt that the person praying would fail a simple theology test if you stopped them and administered one (which, by the way, please don’t).

What might evangelicals learn from our Eastern Orthodox friends about the Trinity? Where should we be cautious regarding Eastern Orthodox teaching on the Trinity?

If evangelicals are suffering from a kind of timidity about being explicitly trinitarian, they can get a corrective blast by reading Eastern Orthodox writing or visiting an Orthodox church service. What you’ll read or hear there is pretty much the polar opposite from embarrassment about the doctrine. In fact, it’s about as ostentatious a parading of the extrabiblical technical terminology of the fully developed doctrine as you could imagine. You can hear prayers that say “Glory to the holy, consubstantial, life-creating, and indivisible Trinity,” or “to the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, one in three and three in one, undivided and indivisible” and so on. Add the smells and bells of the incense and music and you definitely get the impression of an intentional liturgical immersion in this doctrine. I wouldn’t want to settle in there, but as an antidote to trinitarian timidity it can be a real tonic.

The important Protestant differences with Eastern Orthodoxy lie elsewhere, in pretty obvious places: in the doctrines of Scriptural authority and of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Those solas don’t budge. But on the Trinity, there is such wonderful and substantial agreement that I’m all for throwing an ecumenical party around that doctrine.

(Fred Sanders, being interviewed at thegospelcoalition.org) H/T Nathan Duffy, who tweets:

The Gospel Coalition concedes the Orthodox have Trinitarian worship/prayer mastered …

“BUT! But the Orthodox refuse to adopt our doctrinal innovations and deviations. So, caveat emptor.”

I knew long before becoming Orthodox that most heresies involved, and thus most “cults”* erred at the point of, Christology, the doctrine of the Second Person of the most holy and undivided Trinity. I did not know, however, that we Evangelicals (that’s what I was when I first apprehended this) were standing on the shoulders of Orthodoxy insofar as we were right about Christ and wallowing in confusion in practical application – including our emotively individualist prayers.

Is it triumphalist or prideful to say this? As C.S. Lewis said (more or less), we’re in an era when people are “humble” about the truth while boastful about themselves, which inverts the proper order. I’m just a dumb sinner who stumbled into an Orthodox Church one day (to make a longer and more complicated story short). I didn’t invent the Faith and can take no personal pride in it.

But it’s there, and it’s true.  Make of it what you will.

(* This was the era when Evangelicalese used “cult” as an umbrella term for Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists (sometimes, sometimes not) and others who strayed even further from historic Christianity than we had.)

4

Theologically speaking, this watered-down, anemic, insipid form of Judeo-Christianity is pretty repulsive. But politically speaking, it’s perfect: thoroughly anodyne, inoffensive, tolerant. And that makes it perfectly suited to serve as the civil religion of the highly differentiated twenty-first century United States.

(Damon Linker, praising Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, via Rod Dreher) Ross Douthat responded:

[L]et’s say you think that the biggest problems facing America in the Bush years were, I dunno, the botched handling of the Iraq occupation and a massive and an unsustainable housing and financial bubble. In that case, you don’t have to look terribly hard to see a connection between the kind of self-centered, sentimental, and panglossian religion described above and the spirit of unwarranted optimism and metaphysical self-regard that animated some of Bush’s worst hours as President (his second inaugural address could have been subtitled: “Moral Therapeutic Deism Goes to War”) and some of his fellow Americans’ worst hours as homeowners and investors. In the wake of two consecutive bubble economies, it takes an inordinate fear of culture war, I think, to immerse yourself in the literature of Oprahfied religion – from nominal Christians like Joel Osteen to New Age gurus like Eckhart Tolle and Rhonda Byrne – and come away convinced that this theological turn has been “salutary” for the country overall.

5

[T]here is nothing the Democratic Party won’t do to religious believers in the name of advancing LGBT rights. This is why the Democrats keep people like me voting Republican, however unhappy and frustrated that makes me. For the Anti-Christian brand of Democrat, extremism in defense of the LGBT agenda is no vice.

(Rod Dreher) If you think Dreher’s exaggerating, read the column this quote concludes.

Opponents said [the defeated Colorado religious freedom bill] was about skirting a 1999 Supreme Court decision in Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez, which stated a student Christian organization recognized by a public university must accept non-Christians and gays as members.

(Denver Post, emphasis added) That characterization is a lie. CLS v. Martinez stated no such thing. It stated (in the Oyez summary, which is accurate) that “the college’s all-comers policy is a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the student organization forum; and, therefore, did not transgress First Amendment limitations” – a holding that in no way is “skirted” by a state saying that its public institutions may nave no such policies.

If you re-read the preceding three sentences and say you can’t tell the difference between the lie version and the real version, you’re an idiot or, like Colorado Democrat opponents, a liar.

Like Dreher, I vote for Republicans oftener than Democrats because the Republicans aren’t yet ready to be so open about their hostility to Christianity.

* * * * *

“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.