Tuesday, 9/29/15

  1. An Agent Orange way of thinking
  2. When politics precedes culture
  3. No easy road
  4. We return to vulgar normalcy
  5. From slander to diagnosis
  6. Atheism for Dummies
  7. Winning’s not what matters
  8. Value voters

Oops! Premature publication Monday late afternoon. My bad.


  • Eliminate racism and even the “the vestiges of racism.” That sounds morally uplifting, but in truth it’s an Agent Orange way of thinking. In our world, populated as it is by fallen men and women, to eliminate injustices and the vestiges of injustice requires us to eliminate pretty much everything human beings have done.
  • The Yale petitioners note, “Seeing the world through other people’s eyes is a necessary condition for social progress.” I’d have said it’s a necessary condition for the development of a humane mind.

(R.R. Reno in First Things)


In any society where government does not express or represent the moral community of the citizens, but is instead a set of institutional arrangements for imposing a bureaucratized unity on a society which lacks genuine moral consensus, the nature of political obligation becomes systematically unclear. Patriotism is or was a virtue founded on attachment primarily to a political and moral community and only secondarily to the government of that community ….

(From Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, University of Notre Dame Press, second edition 1984; via Mars Hill Audio Journal)


To be same sex attracted in an environment with lingering homophobia and publicly celibate in a sexually free society is no easy road to walk.

(Beverley Belgau, at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia; transcript of prepared remarks here)

I hope no long-time readers are surprised to know that I’m in almost complete agreement with everything Beverly and her son Ron say in the linked transcript.

The issue of same-sex marriage is very important, and I address it often. But it’s not an issue of my Church, or of the Belgau’s Roman Catholic Church. There, it’s settled.

But it is an issue in the public square, where I think it’s very bad social policy. I believe those thoughtful family policy wonks who say it’s a (further) blow to the family, but I have no special expertise there.

One of the most important ways I need to deal with it — a task for which I do have some qualifications — is in the threat the juggernaut poses to first amendment free speech and free exercise of religion.

My crystal ball is out of order. How this all plays out over the next decades and years is a mystery to me. But I suspect we’ll not regain social sanity on the subject of sexuality (including homosexuality) until Christianity has learned to answer Ron Belgau’s call: What’s something positive we can tell a lesbian, gay, or bisexual friend about how the Church’s teaching on chastity can help them to live a good life? Or, for that matter, what can we tell a woman who justifiably divorced a dangerously violent or adulterous husband?

That question is one I’m professionally and personally ill-suited to answer, but I’m cheering for those are better-qualified (and inserting my 2¢ occasionally).


The Pope’s days in New York are accompanied by extreme excitement and rapture.  What remains is that one can see something quite genuine (man’s longing for goodness) and something obviously connected with our civilization: television, “media,” etc.  What worries me is this: this popularity will recede as soon as the pope concretely expresses his faith. Then the euphoria will end… And then will begin: “crucify him” and “we have no King, but Caesar…” — i.e., a return to the present.  (Mark 15:13-14, John 19:15)

(Fr. Alexander Schmemann, 1979(!), regarding a visit of Pope John Paul II, via Rod Dreher. See Dreher on winsomeness, too)


The effort to turn “homophobia” from a tedious slander into a clinical diagnosis continues.


I guess it ought to be mentioned, quite apart from the question of whether anything [Lawrence] Krauss says [in A Universe from Nothing] turns out to be true or false, that the whole business of approaching the struggle with religion as if it were a card game, or a horse race, or some kind of battle of wits, just feels all wrong — or it does, at any rate, to me. When I was growing up, where I was growing up, there was a critique of religion according to which religion was cruel, and a lie, and a mechanism of enslavement, and something full of loathing and contempt for every­thing essentially human. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn’t, but it had to do with important things — it had to do, that is, with history, and with suffering, and with the hope of a better world — and it seems like a pity, and more than a pity, and worse than a pity, with all that in the back of one’s head, to think that all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb.

(David Albert)


[Molly] Worthen highlights the work of my friends Gabe Lyons and Eric Metaxas, and the way their circles favor the word “winsome” to describe the kind of temperament they think Christians should bring to cultural engagement. I love Gabe and Eric, and I much prefer their way of being Christian — they love Jesus, but they’re not pissed off about it — than that of the more aggressive culture warriors on our side. But something rubs me the wrong way about the word “winsome” in this context. It’s not that winsomeness is a bad thing, but I fear that too many Christians think that being nice is going to make the other side like them. As I told the Q Ideas gathering this spring, in a speech that many of them did not like, you can be as winsome as you like as a conservative Christian who holds to traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, and they’re still going to hate you, because they think you are the moral equivalent of a racist. We should be firm but kind in our dealings with the world, not because it will improve our standing, but because it is the right thing to do.

St. Benedict did not leave Rome for the forest with the goal of saving what was left of Roman civilization. He left because he needed to be in a place of quiet where he could hear the voice of God, and pray, and worship as he was called to do. All that followed — the founding of the Benedictine order, the writing of the Rule, and in the subsequent centuries, the spread of monasticism and the evangelization of western Europe — came because that one monk, Benedict of Nursia, put the kingdom of God first. Remember what Alasdair MacIntyre said:

A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognising fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.

It’s like this: I would like my children and my children’s children to grow up in a free, prosperous, democratic country. But it matters infinitely more to me that they hold on to the Christian faith. Better that they live in an unfree, poor, undemocratic country, but one in which their faith is strong, than a rich one that has forgotten God.

(Rod Dreher, hyperlink added)


Ted Cruz has won his third straight Values Voter Summit straw poll.

“Values” aren’t what they used to be or I’m not what I used to be.

* * * * *

“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.