Tuesday, 9/8/15

  1. Kim Davis fatigue
  2. Fox News Conservatism
  3. A nation buried within another
  4. Ted Cruz lie update
  5. How best to do charity
  6. Define “evangelical,” please
  7. Evangelical modernists (but I repeat myself)
  8. What the Monday holiday was all about

1

The Kim Davis affair is getting out of hand.

I just spent hours fretting, and more than a little time writing, about a “Letter From A Carter County Jail,” by one @KimDavis917, that turned out to be an elaborate hoax (Rod Dreher, who fell for it, calls it a “trolling prank”). Things being as they are, I don’t expect to see the end of it soon, as those whose confirmation bias it tickles will share it promiscuously.

I personally was preparing to share it as part of something like eating crow — not that I’ve been an ardent defender of Davis personally, let alone a believer in the surpassingly wonderfulness of the legal merits of her case, but I have given her a presumption of sincerity and of not being part of some grand conspiracy. Davis’ letter, if genuine, would have changed the gestalt of her case for me. Mercifully, it was bogus.

I now disagree with an earlier Dreher blog that her case is unwinnable, by the way, but that’s because I now realize that “her case” needs disambiguation. I think she may have a winnable Kentucky RFRA case, but:

  • The best she’ll get under Kentucky’s RFRA is a clumsy accommodation of her convictions along the lines of letting marriage certificates go out bearing “Rowan County Clerk” rather than her name. I’m not going to spend any money to help her achieve that Meh result. See Eugene Volokh and now Ryan T. Anderson.
  • Her position (at least as the impression of it has taken shape) that she’s entitled to hold a job without doing it yet still collect a paycheck is indefensible.
  • Her lawyer, Matt Staver, is smart enough and experienced enough to know that a Kentucky RFRA win is small potatoes (for everyone but her), while the other version of “her case” really is unwinnable.
  • I’m still with Thomas More rather than with Roper, which earns me an undeserved scarlet N (for Nominalist) from some of today’s irrascible metaphysical realists.

Meanwhile, there’s a case shaping up in Oregon with someone who appears to be a more attractive emblem and whose cause is more defensible than Davis’s. See here, here and here. Rod Dreher has caught wind of it, too.

Thought-provoking update (pre-publication):

2

Somehow, although Fox-type patriots deem the U.S. incapable of executing domestic postal duties without botching the job, Uncle Sam should be thought competent to superintend tortuous political, religious, and tribal complexities abroad. This forms part of an inverted political-emotional calculation whereby the degree to which you denigrate America as it actually exists becomes a measure of how much you love it in the abstract, and ceaselessly claiming that America doesn’t work in practice somehow lends credibility to the assertion that it could still work in theory.

(Jon Zobenica, How Lenin Beat Reagan: The USSR is gone, but its ethos lives on at Fox News, in The American Conservative)

3

“I am a Southerner and for all my travel and schooling, I am not able to put aside the certain otherness that sets a Southerner apart from the rest of America even in the midst of the 20th century.” “The South,” he maintained, “is a nation buried within another.”

(Allen Mendenhall on John William Corrington in The American Conservative)

4

From the Department of Ted Cruz is Smart Enough to Know Better (and therefore is lying):

Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America. I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court decision. … For every politician — Democrat and Republican — who is tut-tutting that Davis must resign, they are defending a hypocritical standard. Where is the call for the mayor of San Francisco to resign for creating a sanctuary city — resulting in the murder of American citizens by criminal illegal aliens welcomed by his lawlessness? Where is the call for President Obama to resign for ignoring and defying our immigration laws, our welfare reform laws, and even his own Obamacare? When the mayor of San Francisco and President Obama resign, then we can talk about Kim Davis. Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position. Or, if Christians do serve in public office, they must disregard their religious faith–or be sent to jail.

(Via Culturewatch, a blog I stumbled onto and don’t expect to follow)

Let me explain:

Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.

In context, he could be referring only to the USA, so I’ll disregard Joan of Arc. But how about Rosa Parks, with whom some are comparing Davis?

Where is the call for the mayor of San Francisco to resign for creating a sanctuary city — resulting in the murder of American citizens by criminal illegal aliens welcomed by his lawlessness?

“Sanctuary City” is a nice piece of progressive sanctimony, but all it means is that local officials aren’t going to help the feds enforce federal immigration laws — which help the locals aren’t obliged to provide. Call me when local police open fire on INS.

Where is the call for President Obama to resign for ignoring and defying our immigration laws, our welfare reform laws, and even his own Obamacare?

“Ignoring or defying our immigration laws” is arguably nothing more than triaging cases according to what seems more urgent — a discretionary function. We cannot arrest everyone for violation of every law, and setting priorities is always a necessity by every administration.

You can criticize the Administration for giving too low a priority to immigration, and you can suspect that they’re effectively ignoring the law, but I don’t see a “smoking gun.”

Kim Davis in contrast refuses to carry out a ministerial function; County Clerks have no discretion to deny licenses to applicants who meet the stupid, court-created and not-yet-codified criteria. (Take a look at that link: the code requirement to issue licenses has not been brought into conformity with Anthony Kennedy’s reverie yet, which may give Davis a sliver of daylight.)

I know that some will disagree with me on what I just wrote and what I’m about to write (they won’t be the same people), but give me credit for respecting the rule of law even if I balance it differently than you do when it comes to respecting SCOTUS opinions. And trust me on this: Kim Davis is not the test case you want to push back against Obergefell.

Now to offend readers that aren’t already offended at my indictment of Cruz: Christians in this country have good reason to say that their religious freedom is threatened and in some cases already is being sacrificed on the altar of formal equality that disregards real differences — especially formal equality in all matters genital. I just think they jumped the gun by calling Kim Davis the Rubicon, as Culturewatch does.

Beware crying wolf.

5

James Howard Kunstler avers that sentimentalism about refugees from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a dangerous sentiment inasmuch as things are changing world-wide. I get that, and my political view are now duly informed (if they weren’t before).

But I can’t shake that we destabilized MENA. Maybe that region was going to die anyway from the end of the oil era, but we pushed them from the roof before their time.

Anyway, I have some stuff I don’t need, and cannot escape the call of the least of these my brethren, especially my fellow Christians in Syria. But there’s still a dilemma:

  • Do I give to an apparently secular relief organization that’s 99% efficient or to Christian organizations that are maybe 90% efficient?
  • Do I give to a less efficient organization that’s particularly strong in the part of the world that’s currently hurting the worst?

I’m not going to remain frozen in indecision, but the question will recur in later crises.

6

“Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are the two largest religious communities in North America,” writes the evangelical dean. That sounds right because we’ve heard such things for so long and because Krustian religionpreneurs have become the virtual face of Christianity.

But honestly: can anyone tell me what in the world an evangelical is? Where are the boundaries?

The author starts off with his best understanding of evangelicalism as “a renewal movement within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” citing “four wells of Christian wisdom” from which evangelicals have “drawn deeply” “across time.”

Setting aside my sense that three of those four wells are pretty tainted, I don’t see in evangelicalism any “renewal movement within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Rather, I see almost exclusively thinness, shallowness, and the vulnerability “to the idolatries of the present moment.”

I quoted this once before, but Father Josiah Trenham, a powerful youngish preacher and writer, explains his conversion 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 ….

(Emphasis added) Again: can anyone tell me what an evangelical is? If you think you know, can you tell me what an evangelical was 50 years ago, when I was coming of age (it seems to me that it was much different) or credibly assure me that it will still be recognizable 50 years hence? Is it an ineffable process of entropy?

Timothy George, the author, appears to be approaching retirement age. He has devoted 27 years just as founding dean of his current evangelical divinity school. I read his piece as a denial that his investment has been for naught, despite the manifold evidence that it has been. By his definition, it seems to me that “true evangelicalism” is by definition wonderful, sort of like true communism inasmuch as neither has ever been truly tried.

But there comes a time when that dog just won’t hunt any more.

7

“As long as the old covenant was in force the temporal and terrestrial blessings were a part of the promise given to Abraham,” but with the advent of Christ and the coming of the Spirit, “the temporal, earthly, typical elements of the old dispensation were dropped from the great house of salvation as scaffolding from the finished edifice.” These are the words not of Harnack but of Paul Jewett, a contemporary evangelical theologian of some stature. Yet the similarity is striking. For all their real differences in approach to the Bible, evangelicals are at one with Protestant modernism in their rejection of typology and, frequently enough, in their belief that Christianity is more or less purely internal, a religion of unmediated individual contact with God. Nor is this tangential to evangelicalism: Every student of the movement has noted the distinctive emphasis on “new birth,” understood as a private encounter with God.

(Peter Leithart, defending typology in approaching the Old Testament.) If evangelicalism is rooted in an emphasis on “new birth” as a private encounter with God, no wonder it strays so easily.

I’m getting fired up for a 100-day guided Orthodox reading through the Old Testament, by the way, and looking forward to it a lot. I expect to be encountering many types.

8

(Hyperlink added to first tweet)

* * * * *

“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.