Wednesday, 12/23/15

  1. Middle America
  2. Two Christless Gods
  3. Hot competition for top jerk

1

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.
The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.
You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.
White Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, “That’s my guy.”

(David Frum, Atlantic) Do you know what we used to call people like that? We called them Democrats, and they were a key Democratic party constituency. That changed in 1972, and it has gotten progressively bleaker for them regardless of how they vote.

They’re screwed. They have no Democrat champion. They are getting tired of the usual Republican suspects, for whom they’ve tended to vote for 40+ years now (or at least 35). And if Frum’s right, Trump may be tougher to beat than every bien pensant (including me) hopes.

2

I engaged some Protestants very recently on the “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” question. One of them gave it the old college try and came up with a plausible way to equate the Christian* and Jewish* Gods while denying equivalence of Christian and Muslim* Gods.

The plausible answer, conflated from two original communiqués:

When I read the Old Testament, I feel like I am seeing a portrait of God. It’s a great likeness. All of his attributes are there and perfectly represented but in one dimensional space. Somehow life is missing. When I read about Christ in the gospels, I feel like I am meeting the person himself. God in the flesh. For me, the gospels answer the question. “If God were in the flesh, what would he be like?” When I read the Koran, I feel like I am looking at a caricature of God. His attributes are so distorted that it’s hard to see the God I know in there at all. The attributes of wrath and vengeance are drawn too big, while Love and Grace are nearly missing. I want to know Jesus, God in the flesh. Where I can learn more about him by studying the Old Testament’s portrait of God, I will. Even though I am reading the Koran in order to understand the Muslim faith, I won’t be distracted by the caricature of God I find there.

“If a person worships a god whose character has been so distorted from the true character of God as to be nearly unrecognizable can that person still be said to be a worshiper of the true God?” In this scenario it seems to me that we may be able to have different answers to the question regarding the modern Jew and the Muslim. I’m not playing logic games here although it might seem that way. I don’t believe the God of the Old Testament and the God of the Koran can be equated in character even though they are superficially the same.

Although not all readers of the Old Testament recognize the New Testament God, this approach is about twelve times as subtle as the usual meat-ax argument of “But! but! but! but! but! … no Jesus!”

I’m unconvinced, but the question is one that I do not try to answer unequivocally because you cannot even begin to answer it without refinement: which *Christians?; which *Jews?; which *Muslims? In fairness, I didn’t drop that nuke into the discussion. It raises the equivocation of the question by orders of magnitude. (No, in no comparison is the God identical, but “Christian God” just isn’t unequivocal.  There are versions closer to Islam and versions further from Islam.)

I think I should step away from the question, as one can spend inordinate amounts of time on faux answers that conceal more than they reveal.

3

On a much, much lighter note, Popehat gives the rundown on candidates for Censorious Asshat of 2015.

So many worthies. Only one award. Sigh.

* * * * *

“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.