Saturday, 6/6/15

  1. Independent America
  2. Allowing real discussion
  3. Aslan is on the move
  4. Preaching Bruce

1

We can’t be the world’s policeman; we’re not Superman. We must “declare independence from the need to solve other people’s problems and . . . finally realize our country’s enormous untapped potential by focusing our attentions at home.” We spend too much on the military, which not only adds to our debt but guarantees our weapons will be used: “Policymakers will find uses for them to justify their expense,” which will “implicate us in crises that are none of our business.”

In this view, our national-security bureaucracy threatens our own freedoms and strains relations with allies. The hidden costs of war include individual anguish, cultural stress and a demand for secrecy that “poisons American democracy.” Drones seem neat and effective, but their use is dangerous: “Our actions in the Middle East and South Asia make us more vulnerable at home, by persuading a new generation of Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others that it’s better to attack Americans who aren’t wearing state-of-the-art body armor.” Not every country wants democracy. “For all the damage a foolish foreign policy inflicts on US interests abroad, the greatest damage is done in the United States.” It follows that we must reorient our thinking: “It is not power that makes America exceptional. It is freedom.”

Is “Independent America” a pleasant term for isolationism? That charge, Mr. Bremmer argues, “is not meant to shed light but to close conversation”—to dismiss “every legitimate reservation that ordinary Americans have” about U.S. foreign-policy excesses and miscalculations. The best way to promote our values around the world is by “perfecting democracy at home.” Among the priorities: protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack “that might push America permanently off course,” protect our borders and infrastructure, clean up and invest in public education, put more money back in taxpayers’ pockets. Stronger at home will mean stronger in the world, which will note our renewal.

(Peggy Noonan, reviewing Ian Bremmer’s Superpower) The option described is the most modest of the three options, and the one Bremmer recommends.

2

You’ll hear the most startlingly obvious things when the noisemakers inexplicably retreat and allow actual discussion:

[T]he Sexual Revolution has claimed many victims, whom are almost completely invisible in our society. Many Children of Divorce have been deeply harmed by the divorce and remarriage of their parents, often feeling like leftovers from previous relationships and strangers in their own homes. I pointed out that this is a structural injustice to children. No matter how kind and well-intentioned the adults may be, it is an injustice to separate a child from his or her parents without good reason.

Genderless marriage, a second structural injustice against children, will create genderless parenting. Children in these homes will have their rights violated in many of the same ways as stepchildren. Why are we doing this, I asked? Have we really considered the full implications of having the government claim that children don’t need, and aren’t entitled to relationships with their own parents?

During the question period, … I said, “We often hear a lot of noise around these issues, but we don’t always hear all the arguments we need to make an informed judgment. Did tonight’s lecture make you think about things you’ve never thought of before?” Many of them nodded in agreement. I continued: “And we had a group of people who literally made noise, and walked out before any discussion at all.”

The students saw the point.

(Jennifer Roback Morse) Be it acknowledged that few seem able to articulate a defense of natural marriage as clearly as Morse, so the noisemakers usually carry the “debate.”

3

“Aslan is on the move. You just have to have eyes to see and know where to look.” (Roberto Rivera)

Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is a tradition with which I have almost as little first-hand experience as I do with Roman Catholicism, but its global growth is the story that the Pew Survey of North American religious affiliation drowned out for a fortnight or so.

Don’t forget that. “Religion” (a generic term of very limited usefulness) is not dying out. Christianity is not dying.

Only an incorrigible navel-gazer could miss the picture outside Western Europe and North America – the lands of some arguable Christian decline that, coincidentally or not, are those where “The Church,” after the Great Schism 939 years ago (conventionally dated), meant the Roman Patriarchate.

I’m aware that the foregoing is drive-by analysis, too brief and impressionistic to do justice to the big picture. Rivera goes into some more depth, Phillip Jenkins far more.

4

Peter Leithart asks a provocative question:

Should pastors grease the Kardashian celebrity machine by mentioning Bruce Jenner from the pulpit? There are good arguments for ignoring the whole thing, but I think that’s a pastoral mistake. So much of our cultural trajectory converges on Bruce: our rampant Gnosticism, our confidence in technology, our moral libertarianism and determined flight from biblical standards, our cult of fame, our sexual self-contradictions. Bruce Jenner will be forgotten soon enough, but what he represents isn’t going away, because transgressiveness is one of the few cultural imperatives that we are not permitted to transgress.

If we preach about Bruce, what should we say? When I asked the Jewish theologian David Novak how a synagogue would respond, his answer was stunning in its simplicity: …

Novak’s answer follows.

* * * * *

“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.