Sunday, 3/8/15

  1. Nunc dimmitus
  2. NPR Surprise
  3. PBS Surprse
  4. Prelate practices what he preaches!
  5. Michael Schiavo’s supporters
  6. Thou shalt not merely say “thou shalt not”
  7. Prog Christian ad hoc political theory
  8. The Disenchanted World


Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen a Christopher Manion article that pretty well takes away my need ever to blog on “conservative” Republicans again. It just about says it all, and things have gotten no better in the 3+ ensuing years.

I loved the initial epigram:

“Socrates understood … that a reform cannot be achieved by a well-intentioned leader who recruits his followers from the very people whose moral confusion is the cause of the disorder.”
— Eric Voegelin, Plato and Aristotle

I’d comment some more but what’s the point? I’m in the presence of greatness.


Two pleasant surprises from Public Broadcasting Thursday evening.

First, on All Things Considered on NPR, a backgrounder on the announcement that the parents of Michael Brown will sue Ferguson, Missouri and the policeman who killed Michael in disputed circumstances. What was a surprise was not that it didn’t sound like MSNBC (or, of course, like Fox), but that the African-American academic who studies institutional racism helpfully pointed out that a policeman who has a mutually unpleasant encounter with an African-American may be doing his job perfectly, but that racism still may be implicated “upstream” – say, in the failure of the schools toward the now criminal.

Yeah, let’s not make one policeman the scape-goat for a bigger problem.


Then The New Hour on PBS had a segment on artisans like bakers who decline engagement for same-sex weddings (well, receptions, actually). It was a filler story, aired only on those stations not doing pledge drives, and begins at 39:53 here.

What was a pleasant surprise was that the baker was sympathetic, his lawyer from ADF was adequate, and the gay guys and their lawyer, meanwhile, were veritable self-caricatures.


If anyone thinks that Rome picks it prelates for local palatability, they need to look at what’s happening in the People’s Republic of San Francisco, where an Archbishop who actually thinks the Church and its schools should be Catholic is up against a culture that wants nothing more coherent than Joel Osteen.

During contract renegotiations with nearly 500 staff members last month, the archdiocese issued an updated faculty guide for its Catholic high schools. The addendum introduced three new clauses—which staff members are required to “affirm and believe”—denouncing masturbation, pornography, same-sex marriage, contraception and other issues that, in line with Catholic teaching, are described as “gravely evil.”

These beliefs shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the Catholic Church—the 2,000-year-old institution has clearly defined its moral teachings throughout the years. Yet lawmakers objected, contending in a Feb. 17 letter to the archdiocese that the new guide is “divisive.” They asserted that by spelling out the teachings of the Catholic Church and requiring high-school staff to not publicly undermine those teachings, teachers could be dismissed for private decisions not in accord with Catholic teaching.

The archbishop responded, calling the idea that the clauses could apply to an employee’s private life a “falsehood” in a Feb. 19 letter. Then he put a question to the lawmakers: “Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?” Of course they wouldn’t, and Archbishop Cordileone summed up the problem: “I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.”

(Emphasis added)

Will asking legislators to live by the Golden Rule be deemed divisive too?

Oh. I forgot. Silly me. Religious freedom is not under attack. Nothing to see here. Move along now.


Those who support Michael[ Schiavo]’s successful effort to remove her feeding tube—including most of those in the bioethics movement—tend to adhere to the “quality of life” ethic that perceives some lives as not worth living. This is usually framed as a question of personal autonomy—for example, as the “right to die.” But behind that rationale lingers a profound loathing or disregard for impaired human life ….

(Wesley J. Smith)


[I]f all you give them is “thou shalt not,” it won’t be enough.

(Rod Dreher, commenting on the decadence of popular culture.)

I’m not going to pick up Dreher’s lament, but his admonition.

As far as I’m concerned, a series of “thou shalt nots” with nothing more was a huge defect in my moral, and specifically sexual, formation. I really don’t think it was a matter of “in one ear, out the other.” I honestly don’t recall more idea of “chastity” than “thou shalt not put that thing in there” and “thou shalt not wank.” Anything short of putting that thing in there was bad, if at all, only because it might lead you to lose your head and put that thing in there after all.

In short, I recall having no idea of chastity as a virtue, rather than as mere abstinence from a vice, very narrowly defined. This is my experience of 1950s and 1960s Evangelicalism. And although I’m not sure how compliant I’d have been had I been taught chastity as virtue, I kind of resent not being given the challenge.

And that is why I’m very passionate about holding up the virtues for emulation, not just spewing a bunch of commandments which, even if observed, do not make one even a scintilla more admirable, and risk turning one into a self-righteous prig.



How do disenchanted Christians deal with the world as sacrament? Within broad reaches of Protestantism, the sacraments themselves were long ago disenchanted, reduced to mere ceremonial reminders of a theologoumenon. They eat and remember, or baptize in obedience, but nothing happens. Not only is the world disenchanted, but for some among them, the world must be disenchanted as a matter of dogma.

There have also been manifold modern efforts to render the sacraments more relevant, more meaningful (meaning “less enchanted”), even within Catholicism. The Mass as a locus of democracy, devoid of alienating mystery and complex ritual, validates democracy, but only succeeds in reducing the Mass itself. Tragically, everyone already believes in democracy – it’s God that they cannot believe.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Disenchanted World)

Yes, everyone so thoroughly believes in Democracy that some Christians are passing around approvingly a YouTube video that praises religion for how it supports democracy – how an inherent good buttresses an instrumental good.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.