Saturday, 12/12/15

  1. Conservative?
  2. Largest Xian U in the Cosmos
  3. The Osteens and their critics
  4. The Grey Lady’s current fixation


Are you a conservative and/or a Republican who hates the GOP Counterestablishment? If so, why?

It occurs to me that if I’m asking readers to put their cards on the table, I should do the same with mine. In my case, I don’t “hate” either one. I don’t care enough about politics any longer to hate any faction, even among the liberals and the Democrats. That’s not so much a virtue as it is the effect of sheer exhaustion turning into indifference.

(Rod Dreher) In this, as in quite a few other matters, Rod and I appear to be of one mind, except that I have trouble unequivocally identifying as “conservative.”

To be sure, I have difficulty not thinking of myself as “conservative,” but that’s more a habit than a conviction. By conviction, I’m more in line with Rod’s own Crunchy Cons or Thomas Storck:

Some time ago I saw an amusing description of the gathering known as the Philadelphia Society, a meeting that takes place every year in that Pennsylvania city. The writer called it a place for anyone who considers himself a conservative, from those who want to sell off public parks to the highest bidder to those who yearn for a restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy. But I have a question about this: What unites those who attend this meeting? Obviously it could be hostility toward those who call themselves liberals … These sorts of reflections produce one conclusion in me: the term “conservative” is so meaningless that we would do well to abandon it altogether. It is not a helpful shorthand to simplify our thinking, but a sure way to muddle our thoughts.

In the 1970s I discovered the papal social encyclicals and eventually entered the Catholic Church early in 1978. One question I had to deal with during this time was this: Was I a conservative? I certainly knew that I was not any sort of liberal. But was I a conservative? I opposed abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, the nascent homosexual movement, but I also opposed capitalism, the notion that the government should be reduced to as small a size as possible …

[W]hatever some writers might claim about what “true” or “real” conservatism was or should be, in the popular mind conservatism was inextricably linked with an economic philosophy that I knew was in reality a form of liberalism, something that the more clear-thinking upholders of the free market, such as Milton Friedman, have always claimed. An economic system that has no explicit care for the common good is simply part of that revolt against Christian civilization which began in the sixteenth century, a revolt against the economic morality of the Middle Ages.

[A]ll disciples of John Locke (which includes nearly every American political thinker) regard the state as having arisen from a social compact (real or simulated) and to be limited in its purposes to man’s external life, chiefly his liberty and property. But for the ancients and especially for the Catholic tradition, the state is a natural institution and has a kind of care for man’s moral development, for virtue. Thus I think it likely that before one can begin to compare political philosophies one must place them within their broad intellectual traditions. A genuine Catholic political philosophy is neither to the left nor to the right of any Lockean position. They are incommensurable.

The Distributist revival is on my “ought to look into this more some day” list, but for now, it seems too Quixotic for the front burner.


I recall when Jerry Falwell boasted that Liberty University, which he had started fairly recently, was going to become aggressive in athletics because it was “time for a Christian University to have a first-class football program” or words to that effect. Notre Dame grads and fans howled derisively at the characteristic Evangelical/Fundamentalist exclusion of other Christian traditions from their consciousness.

Now his son and (of course) successor to the fiefdom has made threatening noises about guns and Muslims and Christians (Oh, My!), and one Tyler Huckabee at Relevant Magazine responds:

Falwell speaks for the largest Christian university in the United States, and publicly calls for death to thunderous applause.

I howled derisively and set out to prove that, e.g., Notre Dame was larger. What I found surprised me: Liberty claims to be the largest Christian University in the world, and thus presumably in the cosmos!

They used 95,000+ “online students” to inflate their numbers. But even from their claimed 14,500 residential enrollment, “59.1% of resident students live on campus; 40.9% commute.” That means 8570 are “residential” in a traditional sense, and even that winnowed number exceeds Notre Dame’s.

Go figure — as liars can. It’s still a notable accomplishment. GOP POTUS hopefuls really must stop by and kiss the ring of Falwell Jr., who by merely shooting off his mouth about packing heat and killing Muslims elicited a mighty roar from many of some 10,000 present in that auditorium. I can’t feel very sanguine about that.


A Facebook friend posted a video of Victoria Osteen free-associating sheer heresy:

Jesus was man until God touched him and put the spirit of of the living God on the inside of him. And that’s encouraging today.

At that point, some hip-looking guy comes on an deadpans to an empty auditorium “No, that’s heretical today.”

Googling “Joel and Victoria Osteen heresies,” though, was depressing for a surprising reason. The first couple of pages of hits were people earnestly criticizing an Osteen inanity that was was considerably less malignant than screwing up Christology, yet they all touted how “biblical” they were being in their critique the gnat while many of them probably swallow a Christological camel.

Call me bad names if you like for calling the Virgin Mary “Theotokos” (bearer or birthgiver or Mother of God).  The Ecumenical Fathers who dogmatized that term had proto-Osteeens (and proto-Protestants more generally) on their radar when they did it, and I’m ever so glad they did (and that I stumbled into it).


The latest crusade of the New York Times is “transgender.” It’s pretty unmistakable, as one of Saturday’s lead stories (gender reassignment surgery on Medicaid’s dime) reminded me to mention. It’s an exercise of the “primordial power” of the press by the journalistic institution that defines “news” more comprehensively than any other.


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“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.