Jottings, May Day 2015

  1. Violent reason and freedom
  2. Canaries in the Infrastructure Coal Mine?
  3. Dropping the mask
  4. Not Eden, but an Ark
  5. Aha!


Though we are accustomed to reading the English Civil War through the eyes of Hobbes and Locke, most historians today see it not as the final gasp of religious fanaticism to which the state provided the answer, but as one example of a general European phenomenon of resistance to the ambitions of state-building elites by those who had the most to lose.

As Eric Hobsbawm has pointed out, ours is an unliturgical age in most respects, with one enormous exception: the public life of the citizen of the nation-state. Citizenship in secular countries is tied to symbols and rituals that have been invented for the purpose of expressing and reinforcing devotion to the nation-state.

The shift from church power to state power is not the victory of peaceable reason over irrational religious violence. The more we tell ourselves it is, the more we are capable of ignoring the violence we do in the name of reason and freedom.

(William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence) I’d say I was “devouring” this book except I keep stopping to highlight and annotate in my Kindle. So “savor” is probably a better word.


My point in bringing up a rather wholesome, crime-free [Turkish Golden Mountain] slum is this: its existence demonstrates how formidable is the fabric of which Turkish Muslim culture is made. A culture this strong has the potential to dominate the Middle East once again. Slums are litmus tests for innate cultural strengths and weaknesses. Those peoples whose cultures can harbor extensive slum life without decomposing will be, relatively speaking, the future’s winners. Those whose cultures cannot will be the future’s victims. Slums—in the sociological sense—do not exist in Turkish cities. The mortar between people and family groups is stronger here than in Africa. Resurgent Islam and Turkic cultural identity have produced a civilization with natural muscle tone. Turks, history’s perennial nomads, take disruption in stride.

(Robert D. Kaplan, 1994, via Rod Dreher) I mentioned Thursday (in an item written earlier) that Rod is a bit excitable at times, and Wednesday morning, right on cue, he showed him at his worst, as he went on a Baltimore rant. 12 hours later, he apologized and reflected on what had underlain his outburst.

This quote from Kaplan grabbed me. Why are (were?) the poor slums of the Golden Mountain home to actual families, and orderly despite the poverty, while we get … Ferguson and Baltimore?

It’s not a rhetorical question. Part of it may be that Ferguson was designed for cars, not people, and is too expensive to maintain any more – our canary in our infrastructure coal mine.

But Baltimore is older, probably (I don’t know) not a sprawling concrete mess. And (H/T Rod again) poor Appalachia certainly isn’t a sprawling concrete mess.

Are we at the end stage of liberal democracy? Is this how the Enlightenment project ends?


[O]nly a few years ago, when the legalization of same-sex marriage didn’t appear so inevitable, gay-marriage advocates eagerly assured a skeptical public that scenarios like those above would never happen. Typical was since-retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who wrote in the 2008 decision legalizing gay marriage in that state: “Affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person.”

The victors have dropped their conciliatory stance. Bubonic plague-level hysteria surged through the media, academia and mega-corporate America in March after Indiana passed a law—modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—that would enable religious believers to opt out of universally applicable laws under some circumstances.

Amid threats of business boycotts, the Indiana legislature amended the law ….

(Charlotte Allen)


Bruce Frohnen seriously misinterprets How Dante Can Save Your Life if he thinks that I’m saying that the Church is a new Eden. I made that great mistake when I was a Catholic. No Church is Eden, or can be.

(Rod Dreher, again, as launching pad)

Not Eden, but an Ark. And as we in the Ark say, “If it wasn’t for that flood, the stench in here would be intolerable!”

Reading Bruce Frohnen’s essay, I realize that I have written a trilogy about roots in contemporary America — a trilogy in which none of these books can fully be understood without relation to the other. There’s something Dantean about that.

Yeah, maybe a trilogy: Crunchy Cons, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dare he ruin it with his Benedict Option book?


It just dawned on me that the reason I channel so much Rod Dreher through this blog is that, pace Patrick Deneen, Rod’s the most prolific popularizer of the darker orthodox Christian conservative view that I’ve found increasingly persuasive. By reading him, I have many “Aha!” moments of connecting threads that had been lying about loose.

William Cavanaugh, whose book I’ve been savoring, is less prolific and “popular,” but he’s not impenetrable to me as are some of the thought leaders of that darker view.

* * * * *

“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.