New Year’s Eve

  1. No-fault tragedy
  2. Rhetorical stalemate?
  3. On re-reading Schmemann
  4. But all the kids are eating pig slops, Mom!”
  5. Ways to make states cooperate

1

Tamir Rice is certainly in the news again.

I do not trust grand juries to do the right thing, and the Prosecutor in this case may have deliberately set himself up for failure (if “success” means “indictment”).

But from what I’ve read of the facts, this case was, to put it simply, a tragedy in the classical and literary sense. There doesn’t have to be a guilty party every time something terrible happens.

I see no villains. I cannot tell the world, of a 12-year-old boy brandishing a toy gun made to look real, “it was his own fault.” Given what was reported to police, Tamir’s reported adult-size profile, and Tamir’s decision to reach for the toy gun for some reason, I cannot say it was their fault. It was the perfect storm of clueless play, a 911 call, and split-second decisions by Tamir and police. There may have been some personal flaws in Tamir or the officers that contributed to that perfect storm, but tragic flaws are an element of tragedy.

2

[T]wo of the apostles carried swords while they were following Jesus. Significantly, the disciples may have been violating the sword control laws, as many of the earliest readers of Luke would have known. Roman law forbade the Jews and other subject people to carry swords.See Edwin R. Goodenough, The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts of Egypt: Legal Administration by the Jews under the Early Roman Empire as Described by Philo Judeaus (Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2002; 1st pub. 1929), p. 151, citing L. Mitteis & U. Wilcken, Grundzüge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde (Fundamentals and Collection of Papyrus Knowledge), vol. 1, part 2 (Leipzig, Germany: 1912), no. 19. The weapons prohibition was enacted sometime between 35 B.C.E. and 5 C.E. One disciple, Matthew, was a tax collector, so his sword carrying might have been lawful.

(David Kopel, critiquing Rob Schenck’s argument that “I’m an evangelical preacher. You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun“)

I’ll give Schenck definite credit for calling out Evangelical “fear mongering, contempt and bravado” about guns, but I think his argument fails. If, that is, the headline actually represents “his argument” rather than a jazzed-up editorial touch. And if “be[ing] … pro-gun” means owning a gun for self-defense, which is far from the unequivocal meaning.

Almost nothing in the words of the piece suggests to me that Schenck is professing pacifism or repudiating the right to self defense as Kopel says. But, Schenck’s argument is in this form:

  • I believed in self-defense, in the Second Amendment as understood by SCOTUS and the NRA, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.
  • Now I believe that Evangelicals engage in too much pro-gun fear mongering, contempt and bravado.

The two really aren’t in clear opposition. And despite some vulgar credential-burnishing and name-dropping, Schenck makes a pretty good case for the second bullet point. However, he utterly fails to repudiate any Christian right to self-defense, and Kopel’s not totally off base to think that’s what he was attempting.

Read both. “I’m a conscientious objector with pacifist leanings. You can’t be pro-life and full of pro-gun fear mongering, contempt and bravado.” That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Oh: Kopel’s quip about violating sword control laws is cute and new to me.

3

I started reading Hans Boersma’s Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry Tuesday. I had barely started when I thought “Am I, an Orthodox Christian, being stupid by interrupting my reading of For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann to pick up a similar theme from a Protestant?” Partway into Boersma’s Introduction, he gave a shout-out to Schmemann, so I’m now interrupting my interruption.

Wow! How much I missed 15-20 years ago reading Schmemann as a Catechumen or baby Orthodoxen! Granted, I may have been treating it as one more items to check off on a “Thoughtful Orthodox Convert’s Bucket List,” but there’s a lot of it I don’t think I could have gotten (and a lot I’m probably still not getting), no matter how much I’d tried, just because I lacked the experience and the consequent ethos (or as we Orthodoxen say, phronema).

It’s still like drinking from a firehose.

4

I know you say the Ben Op is not a cult, not a retreat, but it has to be. I mean TV is the message. Just think how much people talk about TV. Regular people I mean. Now don’t. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I don’t watch True Blood. I don’t watch anything, and I know the names of these things! When your 16 year old who doesn’t know anything about pop culture meets his peers, he finds out he has no peers! There is no connection ….

(A commenter to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, speaking of the “dark side” of his upbringing in a Anabaptist community after his parents decided the Catholic Church wasn’t safe.) It is difficult to express in words suitable to a family blog how contemptuous I am of the idea of mandatory TV watching so your kids will have peers among TV watchers at public school.

I’d say this commenter was indeed warped by his experience: he has become obsessive about his deprivation of precisely the sorts of garbage of which any sane parent wants to “deprive” his child.

Along the way, some of his perceptions of the famously insular Amish may be true.

5

The federal government cannot force states to adopt the REAL ID Act’s requirements for “secure” identification. Such commandeering of state governments is clearly prohibited under New York v. United States and Printz v. United States. The federal government can, however, put pressure on states. This is often done by threatening to withhold funds for state programs. Here, however, the leverage comes from threatening to make air travel far more inconvenient for a noncompliant state’s citizens. According to the NYT report, the TSA will release a schedule for rejecting noncompliant state IDs in the coming days.

(Jonathan Adler) Hey, if toymakers can sell toys by advertising to kids who’ll nag their parents, why can’t TSA sell REAL ID by annoying travelers who’ll nag their states?

* * * * *

“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.