Thursday, 1/28/16

  1. Secularism
  2. The last word on Trump
  3. Aristotle, Socrates, Wendell Berry
  4. Is water wet?
  5. Foundations


In France … the idea that the state isn’t simply neutral toward religion but must banish all things religious, including religious arguments, from the public square. Here note that Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Front is appealing to the French public on the grounds that the party would be the better enforcer of laïcité.

The idea is that when you boot religion off the public square, you remove from public life the religious friction that in centuries past fueled devastating conflicts. This same idea now animates the European Union, and in principle leads to a more liberal, more cohesive and more inclusive society.

That’s the theory.

The reality is that in many European cities today, a Jew cannot walk the streets in safety …

Women are also losing the freedom to walk Europe’s streets in safety …

The reality is not much better for sexual minorities …

To put it another way, not only is Euro-secularism failing to persuade Europe’s growing Muslim minority of its merits; increasingly it cannot protect its own citizens.

American secularism does not require people to deny their religious identities to be good Americans. In an article for the New Republic entitled “Is it Time for France to Abandon Laïcité?,” Elizabeth Winkler puts it this way:

In the wake of terrorist attacks, it may strike some as counterintuitive to loosen—or even abandon—laïcité. But allowing Muslims greater freedom to express their beliefs in peaceful ways may make them feel more accepted and less stigmatized by the country they have made their home. It could also encourage their participation in public institutions, like schools and government workplaces, fostering their adoption of French values and identity—the very thing laïcité aims, but often fails, to do.

Europeans have spent the past decade obsessing about bans on head scarves and burqas. Maybe it’s time they give Tocqueville a try.

(William McGurn, Europe’s Feckless Secularism)


The coming months are going to be vexatious.

I really have little remaining interest in partisan politics. This is not my universal prescription for humanity, though I see little partisan politics that isn’t unhinged and caricaturish; it’s mostly personal burnout from, probably, putting too much hope, too many times, in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation. And I lost interest long enough ago that I have little insight left to share.

But I cannot help but notice that Donald Trump is a sleazy, multiply-adulterous, casino-promoting, eminent-domain-abusing, potty-mouthed demagogue the prospect of whose victory is deeply disturbing (and that I eagerly devour every story about why he’s going to lose — though I’ve unsubscribed most or all purely political blogs to reduce irritation and inflammation).

I’m saying it now in hope that I can resist saying it over and over again in coming months . . . I hope.


In 2008, students at Northfield School of the Liberal Arts in Wichita had some interaction with Wendell Berry, including formulating some written questions to which he typed out answers:

Q: In the final paragraph of the introduction to the book I’ll Take My Stand, it reads, “If a community or a section, or a race, or an age is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation, it must find the way to throw it off.” Our question is, how would you, Mr. Berry, “throw” the industrialistic world off?

A: I don’t think that the industrial system should be, or can be, thrown off by violence. And it cannot be thrown off all at once. It will be thrown off when enough people have changed the standard of their economic life from exploitation to sustainability, or from profitable forms of disease and damage to health. If you look around a bit, you will see that this change is already happening. It probably can happen only slowly, and it will take a long time.

More here.

Considering the consumerist yuppiness and nominalist metaphysics of many “Christian” schools, the model of a classical school, Christian or not, increasingly attracts me.


In response to a really obvious question, I may need to change my response to “Is water wet?” since “Is the Pope Catholic?” no longer has quite so obvious an answer.

The Pope is going to join Lutherans in celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (H/T Rod Dreher) “Some Catholics have criticized the notion of a pope celebrating the anniversary of a schism.” (NYT) One of them is “Fr. Frank,” who remains notably sanguine:

Just me talking, it’s about time we were blessed with a crappy pope! The pope breaks wind, and it’s an infallible statement on the quality of Casa St. Marta cafeteria’s ravioli? You’d think so. I’m one of the finest living minds of the 12th century, and I say Meh! I’m a real Roman Catholic, not a Papolator. Our idiot popes are proof that the Church of Christ is far more than the pronouncements of any one single tiaraed pinhead.

Elizabeth is closer to my view:

I’m with other readers who think you’re wrong about this one, Rod. If orthodox Protestants—and you know they exist! Hans Boersma is one!—if those guys are ever going to be reconciled to the Roman Catholic church, at some point some pope is going to have to admit what the Reformers got *right.* It was a grievous sin to, e.g., burn Tisdale alive for translating the Bible into English. The Church must repent of that. You seem to be saying that popes should go on being wrong forever because they’ve been wrong in the past.

But Dreher’s response to her is apt, too:

Well, again, I think it’s right and just for the Pope to do that. The Catholics did horrible things to spark the Reformation, and horrible things to quell it. The early Protestants did horrible things too. I think it’s good for both sides to admit error and ask forgiveness, careful to stick to their theological convictions. There’s something about a formal ceremony that strikes me as deeply wrong, though, considering what the Catholic Church believes about itself. I can see a man and his former wife, long after their divorce, coming together to admit their own sin in causing the split, and to ask forgiveness. That’s not the same thing as them having a formal party to mark the occasion of the sundering of their bond.

Dreher has the best comment threads (moderated) I’ve ever seen, and he confirmed in brief social conversation that it is a Herculean task (more specifically, Augean) to moderate.


It is not ethical principles, however lofty, or creeds, however orthodox, that lay the foundations for the freedom and autonomy of the individual, but simply and solely the empirical awareness, the incontrovertible experience of an intensely personal, reciprocal relationship between man and an extramundane authority which acts as a counterpoise to the “world” and its “reason.”

(Carl Jung via Sister Vassa Lerin, who was reflecting on “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my tribulations.” Ps 33/34: 3-4)

* * * * *

“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.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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