Sunday 1/3/16

  1. If not, then why?
  2. Gay rights vs. Religious freedom
  3. Bill Cosby
  4. The mandate of heaven
  5. Crypto-deconstructionists

1

We confess one and the same individual as perfect God and perfect Man.

He is God the Word Which was flesh.

For if He was not flesh, why was Mary chosen? And if He is not God, whom does Gabriel call Lord?

If He was not flesh, who was laid in a manger? And if He is not God, whom did the angels who came down from heaven glorify?

If He was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if He is not God, in whose honor did the star appear? …

St. Ephraim the Syrian continues in this same vein through the events of the Gospel Narratives. He was answering the questions of his age and place, but there’s nothing distinctively time- and culture-bound about them. People continue trying to wrap their heads around Jesus, usually to the detriment of either His humanity or His deity. St. Ephraim’s tonic is as healthy today as ever.

2

I have warned that the gay rights movement in general is a threat to religious freedom. As I’ve been so warning, the wind of public opinion seems to have shifted in the direction of “so what?,” or, in the clumsy and facile locution, “That’s not religious freedom! That’s discrimination!” In other words, define the problem away.

The Washington Post has a reasonably balanced story that probably frustrates partisans for the other side as much as it frustrates me by the inconclusive “some say/others say” format. But that’s as good as one really can expect in a “secular” newspaper.

Here’s a pretty good statement of something that resonates with me:

The question in courts will be how to balance competing interests. In Massachusetts, Laycock said, the judge said the state has a compelling interest in fighting employment discrimination

“But that is not the question. [The question is:] does it have a compelling interest in fighting religiously motivated discrimination inside the church? We’re not talking about the whole economy, we’re talking about a small subset of jobs,” he said.

But this, too, resonates with me:

Higgins [] wasn’t challenging the church’s teaching. His situation was brought to the pastor, she noted, by a parishioner who did online research in an effort to out Higgins.

Higgins said he was very surprised to be fired. He went to the Catholic University and worked at another large parish in the Archdiocese and felt accepted. He didn’t work to hide his sexuality but didn’t “advertise” it out of respect, he said. He never considered he could be fired.

“The reason I didn’t think about it a lot was because when I was 15 years old, I told a priest in confession. He took my head in his hands and said: ‘God made you this way and he loves you exactly as you are,’” Higgins recalled. “From that moment on I understood God loved me, so why should I think any different?”

I can fault Higgins for being legally clueless and for not considering that gay marriage might be a bridge too far even for a “God made you this way and loves you exactly as you are” ambiguous non-absolution, but I detest sneaks and people bent on “outing” others. The Church must protect itself from scandal, but I sure hate it when the scandal comes not from some ActUp type in the Church, but from some voyeur (see my Cosby item below) on a mission to purge sick people from the hospital. (I hate it even more when it’s some paranoiac trying to ferret out the unadvertised sexuality of teachers in a public high school, as was done locally 20-25 years ago, by people who confided their suspicions to me under the mistaken impression that I’d applaud their sexual McCarthyism.)

I appreciate the Post assigning someone to the religion beat and doing as well as it does.

I may blog separately on the idea of “purging sick people from the hospital.”

3

I have made brief comments about Bill Cosby three prior times. This one is a bit and more personal.

Bill Cosby was one of my absolute favorites — not exactly “hero;” just “favorite.” As a newlywed, an argument with my mother, in the presence of Mrs. Tipsy, about “Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed” landed me deep in the doghouse with both. Decades later, I was forever running Snopes on Facebook mêmes of very conservative things he supposedly said, most of which he didn’t say. No problem: Cosby was a black guy who couldn’t be expected to to channel 100% of exasperated theories that “they’ve been emancipated 150 years; it’s their own damned fault now.”

I can’t bear to dwell on the accusations against him. I don’t want to believe they’re true.

I’ve been in an analogous place once before. A personal friend was skillfully skewered in a book as an obsessive martinet and ideologue in his private and family life. The author was one of his grown daughters, who had become an accomplished professional writer. I noted that the purpose of the book was to honor her late brother, not to screw over mom and dad, and read just enough about the book to see that the author’s candor about herself and a few other details I already knew made the whole story quite plausible.

I therefore couldn’t bear the thought of reading it.

If I avert my eyes (and why shouldn’t I? Neither situation is anything I can do something about), I’m “in denial.” If I watch, I’m a voyeur, one or two clicks up from tabloid readers. Of the two alternatives, I fear voyeurism more than “being in denial.”

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

(Philippians 4:8) This doesn’t demand boosterism and Babbitry, but it puts some things presumptively off-limits: all that’s salacious, gossipy, impure.

As for Cosby, may the truth come out. I’ve not affirmed his innocence or pre-judged his guilt. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to wallow in the outcome.

4

Establishment Republicans have lost what the Chinese used to call the mandate of heaven. Despite their blather, they never secured the border in 25 years. They talk populism at election time but haul water in Washington for corporate America by signing on to trade treaties, like NAFTA, GATT and TPP, that workers detest and that send U.S. jobs overseas and cause U.S. wages to sink.

And they have plunged us into unnecessary wars they knew not how to end or win. The Bush era in the Republican Party is over.

Americans could be at a watershed moment when Sen. Lindsey Graham, an articulate voice for deeper intervention in the Middle East, is forced to drop out with less than 1 percent in the polls.

(Pat Buchanan) Buchanan also reflects on other thoughts about the annual winners and losers awards at The McLaughlin Group.

5

When I was in school, “deconstruction” of texts was not yet an academic fad, Derrida just having dropped his bomb in 1967. But multiple interpretations of Biblical texts (probably others as well; they’re just not my focus) already had appeared without any fancy deconstructionist foundation.

But here’s the thing: that was nothing remotely new:

Denouncing the Gnostic mishandling of Scriptures, St. Irenaeus introduced a picturesque simile. A skillful artist has made a beautiful image of a king, composed of many precious jewels. Now, another man takes this mosaic image apart, re-arranges the stones in another pattern so as to produce the image of a dog or of a fox. Then he starts claiming that this was the original picture, by the first master, under the pretext that the gems were authentic. In fact, however, the original design had been destroyed. This is precisely what the heretics do with the Scripture. They disregard and disrupt “the order and connection” of the Holy Writ and “dismember the truth.”  Words, expressions, and images are genuine, indeed, but the design, the υποθεσις (hypothesis), is arbitrary and false.

(Fr. Georges Florovsky)

Maybe those who’ve absorbed deconstructionism will assume the dog is as legitimate an interpretation of the tiles as the king. St. Irenaus sure didn’t. Prior centuries of Christians haven’t.

Mainstream Evangelicals? On the one hand, they claim that the scriptures are clear and uneqivocal on point after point. On the other hand, most of them shrug off thousands of denominations with conflicting interpretations. They even say things like “isn’t it nice that there’s a Church for every preference.”

Are they crypto-deconstructionists?

* * * * *

“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.