Tuesday, 1/19/16

  1. Unholy marriage
  2. Worth dying for
  3. Spiritual and Metaphysical
  4. Correcting “civil rights” blather
  5. Universal pornification
  6. Standing advice update


I know all about Christianity: I’ve seen Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I want nothing to do with it. I’m not a Republican and disagree with the Republican Party on too many things to become a Christian.

This isn’t a direct quote. One of the Eight Day Symposium presenters in 2016 (which I actually attended; the quotes below from 2015 were from articles reprinted in the 2016 conference notebook) recounted part of the Christian challenge in North America along those lines based on some data from two Notre Dame social scientists.

See what Rod Dreher and Matthew Anderson had to say about the unholy marriage that makes the opening paraphrase plausible. We were warned repeatedly of of this risk, but in a tragic sense we may have had little choice in the marriage.


Reason is not something that inspires greatness in a man. Newman explained that “this is why science has so little of a religious tendency; deductions have no power of persuasion.” He goes longer explain that man is not primarily a reasoning; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal. Newman says that “the heart is commonly reached, not through the reason but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma; no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.”

(Bishop James Conley at the Eighth Day Symposium 2015)


While there is a moral, political, and spiritual story to be told about the emergence of our “secular” age, in many ways the roots are metaphysical. Or perhaps better: the spiritual shifts are at the same time metaphysical shifts.

In ancient, biblical, medieval understandings of the world, creation is “suspended” in God – the entire cosmos “participates” in the sustaining divine in such a way that the material is once charged with the grandeur of God — and thereby expanded and stretched into a fullness it could never possess on its own.

I expect it will be forms of reenchanted Christianity that will actually have a future. Protestant excarnation has basically ceded its business to others: if you are looking for a message, and inspirational idea, some top-up fuel for your intellectual receptacle – well, there are entire cultural industries happy to provide that. Why would you need the church? You can watch Ellen or Oprah or a TED talk.

(James K.A. Smith at the Eighth Day Symposium 2015)

Smith teaches at Calvin College, so I presume he still identifies as Calvinistic. I would just caution that if “Calvinists” fully returned to the views of John Calvin, from which they have generally departed to a great degree, they would not really have returned to reenchanted Christianity.

I’m not even sure it’s possible to reenchant — to suppress the dualism and nominalism, and to appropriate a sacramental worldview within — a Christian tradition that arose after the metaphysical shifts in the Christian West that even antedated the Protestant Reformation.


The American Civil Liberties Union has fought long and hard for religious liberty for all faiths for nearly 100 years, and we believe that freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination, both protected by the Constitutioncan coexist.

Now, on the threshold of a new General Assembly session, the question is how should gay and transgender Hoosiers be treated in the public square and marketplace, where a potential conflict between the freedom to exercise one’s religion and the freedom from discrimination may arise. Our legislators are asking themselves whether government can narrowly tailor enforcement of civil rights protections to limit the intrusion on religious liberty.

(Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, in the January 17 Lafayette Journal & Courier, emphasis added.)

As often as partisans elide inconvenient distinctions and conflate disparate things, the fuller truth needs to be repeated:

  • There is no general right to freedom from discrimination in the Constitution. I.e., there is no general right to have the government force your unwilling neighbor to do business with you, even in the marketplace.
  • There is a right to equal protection of law, which includes freedom from invidious discrimination by government.
  • Laws against discrimination in in the marketplace — including 50-year-old laws forbidding discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion and such — are not, properly speaking, “civil rights laws.” They create “protected class status” for the included attributes. For the attribute of race in particular, they were meant to remediate marketplace and economic marginalization that survived the official end of Jim Crow (whence, I suspect, the confusion of “protected class status” and “civil rights” entered the popular imagination).


“What if they gave a war and nobody came?” was a gentle cry of my generation.

What if they gave a study of the effects of pornography in North America and they could not find enough people for a control group that had not been exposed? This reportedly happened (though I admit that it has the whiff of urban legend about it).

But “what if” anyway?

I wrote out some thoughts of mine on that, but decided to leave it to you to decide what you think the effects of universal pornification would be.


Nota bene: I have edited the “standing advice” linked at the end of every blog.

Gone is the quoted allegation that the federal government is the biggest threat we face, which must have seduced me with uncommonly forceful expression.

Popular culture and public education are bigger threats as they steal or starve our children’s souls — the former via vulgarity, the latter via the exclusion of what my standing advice classifies as “deep sanity.”

* * * * *

“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.