Saturday, 8/15/15

  1. Self-inflicted hypersensitivity
  2. Natural law as cottage industry
  3. Imaging Grace
  4. Odd readings from the scales of justice
  5. A sentence to slime you

1

It’s sorely tempting to mock precious snowflakes like Katherine Byron, and The Onion seems to have done so, as have, by implication, FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff and moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt in an article currently generating buzz.

And it’s sorely tempting to lament loudly and with bafflement the hookup culture which may be exaggerated, but does seem to exist with technology-enabled ease.

Can we bring those two laments together?

Consider the oddity that we think college students are competent moral agents when engaging in sexual hookups but too fragile to endure uncongenial topics or opinions, among which keeps popping up “rape.” Might college students be inflicting on themselves, by hookups (see the Sex is More … Important Than You Think), the psychic damage that leaves them incapable of enduring discussions of educated people, especially about matters sexual?

How about if the first “safe places” we create are re-segregated college dormitories, for instance? My wife escaped the pernicious trends of open visitation by marrying me before her senior year, and I was predicting even then that the Katy-bar-the-door hands off policy that left lechers leering in women’s dorm hallways at night was going to lead to rape and eventual murder – which I thought would lead to lawsuits against universities for making their dorms less safe than off-campus apartments (which at least let you pee at 2 am without unlocking the door and going outside for a restroom).

I lead with this because as far as I know, the insight (or delusion) is original with me. I hereby declare it open source, part of the public patrimony.

2

The Planned Parenthood videos have stirred up a cottage industry of defending or criticizing the tactic of lying to get the incriminating videos. I’m prompted to enter the fray gingerly by a nearly indefensible screed penned by John Zmirak. It reads like an invitation: how many logical fallacies can you spot?

My guard was already up before the second paragraph was winding down:

[I]f you tune out the Trump-induced static at the last Republican debate, you will hear one message loud and clear: The Republican party has committed itself to advancing protection for unborn children, to extending legal rights to one class after another of vulnerable unborn Americans as it becomes politically feasible, and slashing the funding of the organ-profiteering eugenics organization Planned Parenthood that targets the urban, black poor for abortions.

In other news, Lucy VanPelt has promised to hold the football securely for Charlie Brown’s place kick.

Such partisan credence signals someone whose crassly political motives are being suppressed or who is delusional. And he tips his hand as a Protestant or crypto-Protestant here:

We must each use our reason to consider this question seriously and come to honest conclusions whose implications we’re willing to live with.

The special object of Zmirak’s ire is blogger Mark Shea, who apparently has taken a pretty consistent Catholic line that lying is wrong and that the abortion industry will discredit pro-lifers by exploiting their willingness to lie. At long last, a series of sting videos appears destined to overcome that second half of the objection by making unedited video available concurrent with the edited versions. I’m not sure Shea was right about even the earlier sting videos being counter-productive, as if productive or counterproductive were the decisive question.

I don’t have time to read all of Shea’s alleged tens of thousands of words denouncing criticizing pro-life investigative reporters who infiltrated Planned Parenthood to see if Zmirak’s hand waving is warranted, but at a quick glance, Shea appears temperately to say that lying’s wrong even in a good cause.

That’s a respectable opinion, and one that I share. It’s when he adds that it’s counterproductive that I think he’s slipping a bit loose from reality.

That I share his opinion on the wrongness of lying doesn’t mean I think the video makers are going to hell or should be repudiated. I use the analogy of killing in war as it’s treated in the Orthodox Church: the Church does not forbid men from serving in the military, but the canons call for a period of exclusion from the eucharist for those who have killed in war – not as punishment but as medicine to aid repentance, confident that God who is gracious and loves mankind receives repentant sinners.

Granted, it’s kind of hard to imaging saying “I’m going to do this evil for a good cause and repent later,” as the first part suggests that the “repentance” is less than whole-hearted.

But, hey, who am I to judge?

3

It’s a point I never heard until I was Orthodox, but many heresies begin when someone tries to turn a Christian mystery into something understandable. Take Lutheran Satire’s estimable cartoon of St. Patrick trying to explain the Holy Trinity to a couple of simple Irishmen.

So when I hear of a young woman converted from atheism to Roman Catholicism trying to understand and explain the Atonement, I get pretty edgy. But I don’t think this she did half badly:

For instance, when trying to wrap her mind around the Atonement—how exactly Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection saved us—she uses computer science and math, writing that Christ entering Hell after His death is “like a program crashing when you ask it to divide by zero.”

I like computer analogy (essentially, “God into hell doesn’t go.” If the whole of the Old Testament is Christological, full of types of Christ, is the Dragon in Bel and the Dragon – Daniel 14:27 in the full Old Testament – a type of Hell?), which reminds me of the climax of St. John Chrysostom’s immortal Paschal homily:

Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

On confession and penance:

[Her] discussion of confession includes one of my favorite examples in the book. She explains a Japanese method of repairing pottery called kitsugi, in which gold dust is put into the glue that’s used to repair cracks. When the pottery is fixed, the “scar” left by the crack is visible, but the gold dust makes it beautiful. This, for [her], is an image of how confession works: God uses the sacrament to heal us, leaving behind a scar made beautiful. Instead of being a distraction from or distortion of beauty, the healed scar then becomes part of the ‘work of art’ that is our life.

That’s lovely, and it’s hard to introduce heresy by a mere image.

“She” is Leah Libresco, who

started a blog on Patheos’s atheist channel during college as a way to “crowdsource” the arguments she was having with Christians at her university, eventually becoming one of the most prominent atheist bloggers on the internet thanks to her tendency to “skip past the normal scripts and have the weird arguments.” When she announced her surprise conversion to Catholicism, the news was covered on CNN. Libresco switched her blog over to Patheos’s Catholic channel, where she’s been writing ever since.

Well, she has written a book, too.

When religious converts write books soon after their conversions, they often write apologetics or narrative spiritual autobiography—giving their reasons, intellectual or personal. But in Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer, Leah Libresco has produced a very different kind of book: an account of seven prayers that structure her prayer life, and a portrait of someone diving headfirst into the pursuit of holiness.

Block quotes other than the Paschal Homily from here.

My backlog of books is long, and my tradition isn’t Roman Catholic, but it sounds as if this might be a good read, especially for someone starting to feel a little uncertainty about dogmatic atheism. Christianity may not be as stupid as you think.

4

Whereas at one time the state wouldn’t substantially burden religious exercise and would use the least restrictive means to further “compelling interests,” the state today is inclined to substantially burden a Christian by the mere fact that someone’s feelings are hurt.

(David Harsanyi, Hey Christians, Say Goodbye To Religious Freedom (There will be plenty of cake, though)

5

“The U.S. taxpayer was lending money to the largest bank in the world (owned by the Chinese government) to buy corporate jets from Goldman Sachs.”

That is a sentence that makes me feel like I need a shower.

Kevin Williamson, What’s Happening in China Is Happening Here (H/T Mike Bennett on Facebook)

* * * * *

“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.