Sunday, 5/17/15

  1. If I had a bucket list
  2. Our revenge versus theirs
  3. Liberalism versus Christianity
  4. Hard-to-eradicate myth


If I had a bucket list, visiting Eighth Day Books would be on it.

Mark Oppenheimer has now written about it in the New York Times. I particularly love his last three paragraphs:

I wondered if he considered the store a form of evangelism. “Is it a Christian mission?” I asked.

He thought for a while. Eventually, he decided.

“It’s not a mission,” he said. “I just think by definition, if you have books that articulate truth, that it’s going to be a de facto Christian mission, because I don’t think you can separate different truths from each other. They’re all connected.”

That’s a different way of saying what I’ve said from time to time. I can’t readily find an instance, but I tend to express it in terms of rarely being able to separate what I believe because the Church teaches it from what I believe because I think that’s how things (humans, the cosmos – things like that) really are. (I think that makes me at least partially a realist rather than a nominalist.) The only places I can see daylight between them are those where “baggage” I carry from my past, brought part and parcel with my person into the Church, keeps me from feeling in accord with what the Church clearly teaches. (It’s hard to shake residual nominalism.)

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.


I’ve also said this sort of thing before: This kind of quote makes my blood run cold:

Our local TV station did an uncharacteristically deep story on this case, about which the prosecutor and defense attorney agree: the facts are tragic. A (paranoid?) schizophrenic went off his meds and without hatred or premeditation murdered his mother and half-sister.

But I hold more hope for the salvation of the perpetrator than for the woman who with hatred and premeditation vilified him. I do hope she’s got enough self-awareness to repent next time she’s in Church and gets to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Meanwhile, some Facebook friends of a jet-setting old acquaintance of mine are chortling at the thought of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev getting sodomized by “the general prison population” before execution – not that there’s anything degrading, hostile or otherwise wrong with anal sodomy, mind you. (It’s amusing how people angry people sometimes blurt out explicit or tacit proof that they don’t, deep down, believe what they normally say.)

ISIS fanatics aren’t the only people with revenge porn fantasies.


[I]f there were no such thing as same-sex marriage we would still need the Benedict Option because the logic of liberalism — and by that I mean mainstream, pro-market Republicans as well as lefty Democrats — is destroying orthodox Christianity.

(Rod Dreher, emphasis in original)

There was [in the French Revolution] a profound transformation taking place of the ideological basis of social authority, a struggle between a vision of society rooted in obedience to divine revelation deposited in the institutions and traditions of the church, and a vision rooted on the primary power of individual human reason, with the state as its guardian and “instructor.” These two visions could be made to coexist institutionally, as they arguably do in contemporary France, but first, one had to win decisively. There had to be an absolute sovereign with broad authority to set the terms of any conciliation. As Danièle Hervieu-Léger puts it, “The confrontation between church and state goes back, in the French case, to an inexpungible struggle for mastery of the reference to transcendence.”

(David Sessions quoted by Rod Dreher, emphasis added) Dreher has some marginal agreements with Sessions, but overall substantial disagreement. For starters:

But here’s the thing: this is news to nearly all American Christians. They have not thought through the deep logic of our cultural situation because they have never had to do so. General Christian principles were the framework within which we all moved and thought. The fact of post-Christian America has not occurred to most orthodox Christians. The quick acceptance of same-sex marriage revealed something about American culture that has shocked many Christians, who now must reflect, in a way their ancestors never had to, on the relationship they as people of faith have to their own country, and its ideals. This is what is so radical about the current moment, from an orthodox Christian point of view.

(Dreher, emphasis in original). I commented very recently on the complicity of more-or-less-orthodox Christians in the culture that brought us to SSM despite their horror at what we, not just they (and certainly not God), hath wrought. I’m still waiting for recognition of the complicity, lack of which is closely connected with the incredulity about us being in post-Christian America.


if it is impossible for Sessions to imagine being politically and socially ostracized over this issue, he is utterly deluded. I have been talking to people recently within various professional institutions and industries who are dealing with this right now. Not as any kind of dire prediction of what might happen, but what is happening, at the present moment. Rhetoric like Sessions’s, denying the radicalism of the change now happening (in part by hysterically exaggerating my actual position), is designed to convince the frog not to worry, that the heat rising in the pot of water is just the natural progression of things, and nothing to be anxious about.

Finally, one more bit from Sessions:

In America, that battle for authority was lost before the country ever started; we were always an individualist, progressive nation, suspicious of absolutist social claims. What gay rights has revealed is the finality of the long erosion of our de facto Puritan sexual mores, the full and definitive integration of sexuality into the individualist ethos that American society, including most of its religion, has always embraced.

Emphasis his own. Here, he concedes the historical turning point of the current moment, and frames it as a historical inevitability, given the liberal founding principles of America. I think he’s probably right about this, but why he believes this should not concern orthodox Christians is beyond me.

It is incomparably more important to me to be a good Christian than to be a good American ….

(Dreher, bold added because I get such “cold comfort” reassurances, too.)

I’ve probably pushed fair use already. Go read Dreher’s final paragraph.


Dreher also quotes Matthew Crawford, whose Shop Class As Soulcraft and whose The World Beyond Your Head, which I’ve begun reading.

Liberal agnosticism about the good life has some compelling historical reasons behind it. It is a mind-set that was consciously cultivated as an antidote to the religious wars of centuries ago, when people slaughtered one another over ultimate differences.

(Emphasis added) With all due respect, Matthew Crawford needs to read The Myth of Religious Violence.

But if he did, and could no longer swallow the “wars of religion” myth, it wouldn’t really change his argument, since it is as myth (a story that’s told to explain practices or beliefs) almost beyond challenge today.

* * * * *

“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.