Tuesday, 6/30/15

  1. Why silent on Obamacare?
  2. Evangelical theory, Orthodox reality
  3. “Wonderful plan” vs. “take up your cross”
  4. Short, blunt
  5. Been there, done that
  6. No rush to martyrdom
  7. No despair zone


Why haven’t I savaged Justice Roberts’s Obamacare insurance exchange decision of Thursday?

Well, first of all, there are only so many hours in a day. But frankly (and I’m not trying to convert anyone here), I’m just not all that concerned about Obamacare. I’ve been heeding bioethics debates since before 1988, but that year was a turning point, as I realized (duh!) that the laws of economics apply to healthcare, and that the demand outstrips the supply.

Ergo, we inevitably will have some method of rationing.

We currently ration according to wealth or who your employer is (and how comprehensive is the insurance it provides). This has the psychic benefit of not feeling like rationing if you adjust the blinders narrowly enough. And if the blinders slip, there’s probably some pill your doctor can give you to make you not care – if you’re rich enough or well-insured enough to afford a visit to your doctor.

With Obamacare, we have a complicated system, sort of a compromise but mostly a Democrat ram-rod job, that covers more people with private insurance but bodes fairly explicit rationing sooner or later – whence the “death panel” concerns. And if the rationing is done by gathering some policy wonks who come up with some variant of the QALY protocol, claiming to be objective and not really rationing, I’ll join the death panel hue and cry alongside Not Dead Yet.

So for me (remember, I’m not trying to convert anyone), I can’t get very agitated about one method of rationing over another.

Employer mandates are another matter, but that’s not the current issue.

UPDATE: Clarifying, the current issue isn’t directly “rationing,” rather than “mandate,” but the subsidies are ways to cover people who couldn’t afford insurance (which continues to be our form of rationing for many), and it’s clear to me that the opposition to subsidies where the feds, not the state, runs the insurance exchange was a gleeful way to break Obamacare into 50 pieces and ultimately destroy it.

So the howls about the subsidy decision strike me as “Curses! Foiled again!” from Obamacare’s sworn enemies. And if the Roberts opinion was poorly reasoned, as it probably was, that poor reasoning is bright, shining and lucid compared to Kennedy’s reasoning in the marriage case.


Fr. Josiah Trenham, one of American Orthodoxy’s most powerful young homilists (and not a half-bad scholar) explains his conversion from the Reformed tradition to Orthodoxy:

I would say two things drove me to holy Orthodoxy.  One was a deep sense that my tradition, in which I had been raised, was unstable – that the winds of the secular culture were blowing hard and that the Church was not standing firm …

That sense, that the Protestant Reformed movement, and that Evangelicalism in general, did not have a stake, an unmovable stake for the faith, that was competent to resist the blowing of the winds of unbelief in our own culture deeply affected me. And I was very impressed by holy Orthodoxy, which has a 2,000-year track-record of resisting the opposition of the world, and this was very, very impressive to me. I remember telling my wife – we were married very young – and I remember telling her, “Sweetheart, I can’t imaging investing my life in a church, and raising my children in that church, knowing that my children will not have that church when they become adults.  And that in fact all this investment will be for naught.” That deeply affected me.

And I would say a second … while that was happening, I was reading the Patristic writers, and the more I did that, the more I felt the deep weight, the depth, of Orthodoxy theology, and the breadth, which is far broader than the Reformed tradition, and I began to visit Orthodox Churches.

And I would say this was the final grip – where God just grabbed us and pulled us into the Church – was that the worship of holy Orthodoxy is so profound, so sublime, to worship the Holy Trinity with awe and reverence, as I knew it should be, from reading the text of scripture, but was not my experience in the Reformed tradition. To find this in Orthodox worship was irresistible.

As I grew up in Evangelicalism, there was an unshakable conviction that anything other than sola scriptura left a Church inevitably blown and tossed by the winds of public opinion. It was a nifty little theory, all worked out in the splendid isolation of the echo chamber, oblivious to the overwhelming facts on the ground that both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy (but especially Orthodoxy) are almost infinitely more stable than Evangelicalism. Evangelicals and Catholics even admit it, covering their nakedness with the charge that Orthodoxy is “stagnant.”


Will we have Bill Bright to thank when millions of Evangelicals decide that it’s just too much trouble to be identified as supporters of natural marriage?

Francis Beckwith, who was President of the Evangelical Theological Society until his departure for Roman Catholicism, suggests so, as we’ve come to expect that God’s “wonderful plan for your life” is a sort of Easy Street:

[A]s the hostility to Christian faith continues to mount in the United States – especially on issues that will require government coercion in matters of religious conscience –many of our fellow believers, unwilling to entertain the possibility that they must suffer as Christ suffered, will continue to acquiesce to the spirit of the age and construct a Jesus that conforms to that spirit. This Lord will wind up agreeing – or at least, not disputing – any of the pieties of the secular intelligentsia.

The economic, social, and familial pressures will seem so unbearable – so inconsistent with that “wonderful plan for your life” – they will quickly and enthusiastically distance themselves from those brethren who choose to pick up the cross and not check the “like” button. Whatever it is that hangs in the balance – professional honor, academic respectability, securing a lucrative business contract, or thirty pieces of silver – it will surely be described as the place to which “the Lord is leading us.”

That last line captures perfectly the decades-long idiom of apostatizing Evangelicals, but the whole piece is powerful. (H/T Rod Dreher)

I suspect that the future of Christian support of natural marriage will be Tor (which was originally created by our government for foreign dissidents) and the Dark Net, not Easy Street.


“Sin makes you stupid” is probably the most artless—but truthful–way to say it.

(Deacon Jim Russell) That’s the opener, and to my mind it’s mostly downhill from there, as in “that’s as good as it gets” rather than as in “on a roll.”


For the first few centuries of the Church (until about 900 AD), when early Christians got married, they first went to the city magistrate (kind of like our “Justice of the Peace”) and entered into a “civil union.” Then, soon afterward, they had their marriage blessed in Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony — or, better, the “Holy Mystery of Nuptial Union” — goes far beyond the interests of society. Marriage, in the Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy, is an eternal union of a man and a woman (just like Adam and Eve, and — more profoundly — Christ and His Bride the Church). Every sacramental marriage is a part and a beginning of the cosmic reconciliation of Christ returning all of Creation to the Father in universal transfiguration. Marriage includes the possibility of children, but it extends into love and joy in every moment between the husband and wife.

[I]n the event that everyone who performs the “civil marriage” within the church ceremony — which I and every other clergy do for the State in a wedding — might be required by law to perform a same-sex marriage … then I — and every other traditional priest — will stop performing the civil part (i.e., I would no longer sign the marriage license).

I do not think this is a very big deal in itself. The “clergy-signed marriage license” was always a government function, starting around 900 AD with the hugely significant “Novella 89” of Leo VI. Historically, I think that any and every entanglement with the State has turned out to be a huge mistake.

(Fr. Jonathan Tobias) I have excerpted the part I find most interesting and agree with most thoroughly, but with the caveat that it would be a misinterpretation of Fr. Jonathan to say that Friday’s Supreme Court decision is a matter of indifference to Orthodox Christians. Rather, I think Fr. Jonathan is recognizing, as I do, that although the pendulum is swinging back swiftly, the Church with 2,000 years or endurance has “been here, done that,” and will survive just fine.


An apparently liberalish retired United Methodist minister set himself on fire and died to prick the conscience of his old hometown.

That is not the Christian way:

While silence can be one trap, the desire for the simple fate of martyrdom is another. [Thomas] More’s example teaches us also that it is our duty as Christians and as reasonable people not to “jump the shark” for martyrdom but to dig deeply into the grit of our lives, into “the stuff of which martyrs are made” as he puts it, and to discern carefully what we’re called and compelled to do in the present moment. Those who are eager can imagine a martyr’s fate as being bloody or unbloody, and depending on which prevails upon us more it can look a lot like a culture war or the Benedict Option. In any case, a fatalist approach to martyrdom turns out to be either morally deafening or inconsequential.

(Andrew M. Haines)


If Friday’s marriage decision has you near despair, or just a little down in the dumps, Some Words Against Despair is well worth the two minutes it takes.

* * * * *

“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.