Sunday, 1/24/16

Sorry for the intrusion of a bit of politics — and dogs.

  1. The least of my brethren
  2. Any stick to beat a dog
  3. Old Man Trump
  4. A dog that don’t hunt Cruz
  5. Peer pressure


Missionaries have always had their critics. Some have accused them of being tools of empire and Western power. In some places and times, the accusations had merit, as with the missionaries who accompanied the Spanish conquistadors subjugating native peoples of the Americas. But just as often, missionaries clashed with imperial authorities over the abuse and enslavement of colonized people.

(Thomas S. Kidd, on the death of missionary Michael Riddering in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso.) There’s a lot packed in there, but let me add two observations:

  1. Blanket condemnations of missionaries for Western imperialism may be assuming that Christianity is a “Western” religion, overlooking “Eastern” Orthodox missionaries.
  2. Russian Orthodox Missionaries in Alaska did indeed protect the native peoples from the worst abuses apt to come from Russian traders.


Speaking of abuse of colonized people,

On Thursday the Labour shadow cabinet minister and former Anglican priest, Chris Bryant, declared he had left the Church of England for good. The Church’s decision will one day ‘seem [as] wrong as supporting slavery’ he tweeted. On Saturday the Times [of London, I assume – Tipsy] published a full-blown invective. The Church has no right, the editorial claimed, to maintain its traditional doctrine of marriage.

The preposterous claim that the contemporary church’s view of marriage is like supporting slavery is still worth deconstructing. There are only two ways you could plausibly make this argument. First, if today’s church supported using the coercive power of the state to uphold its teaching on marriage. Secondly, if the church – simply by teaching traditional views on sexuality – is indirectly responsible for persecuting homosexuals.

(James Mumford in the Spectator)

But imperialism isn’t just an atavistic British reflex. Colbert King, Washington Post opinion writer, bestirs himself from the blizzard to opine that

It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It, not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.

King — who here serves the role of African-American critic of the African Anglican Church so as to disguise the tacit imperialism — predictably writes nothing to back up his bluster that the Anglican Church has departed from “the faith and teachings of Jesus.” Calling King out on that empty rhetorical flourish needs to be done up front, although I count it a small blessing that he at least felt the need to project his feelings onto Jesus.

This isn’t a question of competing bona fide interpretations. It’s the Great Tradition versus the accusatory and anodyne emotivism King offers:

  • The Anglican church has “thrown in its lot with some of the most anti-gay regimes in the world”
  • “In March 2011, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a statement …”
  • “we’re committed to being a house of prayer for all”
  • “decisions that we believe are faithful to the love of Jesus”
  • “LGBT Christians are beloved members of the Body of Christ”

I suppose the relatively wealthy American Episcopalians will indeed impose financial sanctions on the savages who challenged them. But the Africans have known for a Baker’s Dozen of years that ECUSA dollars come with strings, and have stricken preemptively:

African bishops became positively apoplectic when V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was elected bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese in 2003 … The Anglican bishop of South Rwenzori Diocese in Uganda withdrew a request for funds from the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania to support an HIV/AIDS program after he learned that the Pennsylvania diocese had voted yes on Robinson’s election.

(King, italics added) How dare they spurn our money! How can we buy someone who says Thy money perish with thee? Is there no depth to which they won’t stoop!

It’s easy to find a stick to beat a dog when you don’t mind abasing yourself for The Cause:

Anglican leaders, recognizing the rapid growth of African churches, bought the argument that requiring converts to Anglicanism to discard all but one wife would be a slap at African culture. So the Communion came up with this:

“A polygamist who . . . wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions: That the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive” and “that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer.”

Hypocrisy or what?

The Anglican response to African polygamy (King omitted a lot of material from the full resolution that deserved separate ellipses, by the way) is well-precedented and not based on fear of slapping at African culture: the Anglican Bishop of Natal in 1855, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and some group called Frontline Fellowship have taken similar positions — the last admitting polygamists to membership but denying leadership because the baggage they brought with them into the faith must not become even tacitly exemplary — and that’s just what turned up with one Google search* and excluding treatment of polygamist Mormons.

But if the response was put “away all your wives but one,” misogyny would do just as well for beating the dog (“just look at the social deprivation of women!”) and hypocrisy (“see, they’re don’t really believe in the ‘permanency’ of marriage”) would still be available, too. Isn’t it just great to buy your ink by the barrel?

The point is they are not with us on same-sex marriage. Their otherness is an existential threat and must be crushed! Back to the Diversity Plantation! Colbert King will be your overseer!

A friend on Facebook alludes (in analogous context: Joe Biden goading the mucky-mucks at Davos to continue hectoring recalcitrant countries about gay rights) to Neuhaus’ Law, which I’d forgotten as The Law of Merited Impossibility seemed more pointed:

Neuhaus’s Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

Law of Merited Impossibility: “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

Who needs crypto-imperialist missionaries when your side’s got corporate power, foreign aid, Episcopalian dollars, and barrels of ink?

There: I feel much better now. The internet can be a leveler.

* (On a lighter note, when I Googled “how have Christian churches responded to polygamist converts?” the top hit was this:

Learn How To Do Anything · Expert Advice · 1000s of Videos · DIY Tutorials
So the internet can be pretty stupid, too.)


I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project

There was also this:

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just cain’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

(Woody Guthrie lyrics, roughly 1950, about Donald Trump’s corrupt father)


Drawing inferences about a candidate based on his legal work can be a tricky affair, because lawyers don’t necessarily get to pick their clients, and there is a longstanding legal tradition of lawyers advocating zealously for their clients, even if they don’t agree with them.

The adversarial system “depends on people representing both sides,” said Indiana University law professor Charles Geyh.

Mr. Tyler said that as a private attorney, Mr. Cruz had a duty to represent his clients, and he did so to the best of his ability. “It’s not up to him to make political judgments about their cases,” he said.

(Brent Kendall and Heather Haddon, Wall Street Journal, apropos of some of Ted Cruz’s clients in private practice).

I very much doubt that Ted Cruz, former Texas Solicitor General with multiple Supreme Court cases under his belt, was a powerless lackey of senior partners.

But we talked in law school about line-drawing. Maybe a lawyer is so repulsed and rattled by the idea of someone raping a nun that he could not effectively represent anyone accused of doing so. If so, he/she should decline to represent someone so charged, deferring to someone who, maybe, thinks nun-raping jokes are funny. A lawyer generally need give no reason for declining a case, though I’m sure there will be test cases some day, probably in disciplinary proceeding involving accusations of prohibited discrimination.

What I’m saying is that as repulsive as I find Cruz, I see no cases he took in private practice to feed my revulsion. Set the hounds on Cruz’s cynical verbal provocation of the crowd assembled In Defense of Christians, or any of his other bad or cynical behaviors, but the case selection dog just don’t hunt.


To be righteous among the righteous is a great and praiseworthy thing, but it is a far greater and more praiseworthy thing to be a righteous man among the unrighteous.

(Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue from Ochrid, quoted by Abbot Tryphon warning about adult peer pressure).

* * * * *

“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.