Thursday, 4/7/16

  1. Hiding in plain view
  2. Which Jesus? How do you know?
  3. Same song, Nth verse
  4. Moral Objections

1

Americans today no longer have a common framework within which to discuss and appreciate these non-material political goods. The “American mind” can no longer lift itself up, however briefly, to embrace political principles that transcend our mere animality. We have lost this ability—for various reasons with long and deeply rooted intellectual histories—and consigned ourselves to wandering around the bargaining tables of plural and relative “values.” The “American mind” is, in short, in the gutter, and Trump and Sanders are taking full advantage of this unfortunate fact.

Bernard Mandeville, one of the best and most underappreciated writers in the history of economic theory, bluntly affirmed that a flourishing commercial society absolutely required “vices” for its sustenance. Selfishness, materialism, individualism, extravagance, and animalistic comfort-seeking motivate an economy and increase general prosperity.

Mandeville also recognized, however—as Rousseau and Marx would later argue—that these vices inevitably lead to the downfall of the flourishing commercial societies to which they initially gave rise. If there is any hope for the long-term survival of such societies, Mandeville seemed to imply, it must come from a source entirely different from the “vicious” features that both give rise to and eventually destroy modern commercial societies.

(S. Adam Seagrave) On the one hand, these observations are obvious. On the other, sometimes the truth hides in plain view and must be pointed out.

2

In my late teen years, I became a Jesus freak, at least, that’s what Time Magazine called us … [W]e did our own street work. Not unlike the friendly approach of panhandlers in the park (“Hey, man. Got any spare change?”), our question to the unsaved was kind, “Do you know Jesus?” …

I have never lost sight of that question and think it was indeed the right way to describe the human problem. I have long ago abandoned the assumptions behind the Evangelicalism that fed the question, however. The question has matured. It is still, “Do you know Jesus?” But it also asks, “Which Jesus do you know?” as well as “How did you come to know Him?”

Speaking about knowing is almost impossible. But “knowing” itself is not. For example, most adults know how to ride a bicycle. It is actually an amazing feat, requiring careful balance. But if anyone asked you “how” to ride a bicycle, you would be without words. There are simply not words for that sort of thing.

Knowing God is much closer to knowing how to ride a bicycle than it is to knowing the multiplication table. God is not a fact – but neither is riding a bicycle …

A great mistake was made at a certain point in Christianity. That point was the reduction of the faith to a set of facts. Preaching was elevated to first place. Congregations became audiences and worship became lectures. Over time, sheer boredom and Christian competition have modified the utterly tedious character of lecture-style Christianity. At present, our entertainment-based culture is now populated with entertainment-oriented Churches.

I tell inquirers and catechumens in my parish to expect to be bored in Orthodox worship. It has no intention or expectation of entertaining them. What takes place is an offering to God.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)

3

[T]he theological and moral issues raised by homosexuality are completely different than those raised by transgenderism. And if we’ve all had a long time to think about homosexuality, we haven’t had much time at all to think about transgenderism, which is effectively new. (There have been crossdressers forever, of course, and men who have “passed” as women and women as men, but surgery and the role of the law in establishing identity create a new situation.)

And nobody is thinking about it now. Nor are many people likely to think about it, because it has become the new battleground in our endlessly absurd and absurdly endless culture war.

For some a rejection of transgenderism is now intrinsic to Christianity, on theological grounds that are almost never articulated (and that they almost certainly could not articulate); but they are largely responding to others for whom making every accommodation to transgender people has become The Great Civil Rights Issue of Our Time and for whom the nuclear option is always the first and only option — because error has no rights, remember? Among these people there’s no interest in thinking, or talking, or persuading; the demand is instant capitulation, or else.

And, it should be noted, most of those making such demands are people who, to put it in the mildest terms I can manage, didn’t give a rat’s mangy ass about transgendered people until about six months ago ….

(Alan Jacobs, being characteristically thoughtful, albeit uncharacteristically blunt and scatological; emphasis added.)

I’m afraid I have fallen into the trap, particularly within the past few weeks, of “responding [viscerally] to others for whom making every accommodation to transgender people has become The Great Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.”

I hereby acknowledge that there are hard cases. I have read about them and clipped them; I could find and reread them fairly readily.

But my guts tell me not to bother, because the other side will never admit that there are easy cases (including people like the young man of my acquaintance who is talking himself into thinking that he is a young woman) and that declaring oneself a different gender than the tale told by genitals is always a grave matter.

In my bad moments, of which there are too many, I like to think there’s an especially hot place in hell for the people who tied that millstone around my young acquaintance’s neck.

4

To believe that something is immoral, you don’t have to believe that it’s functionally destructive, or biologically maladaptive. You can morally condemn a perfectly stable state of affairs.

(“Jones“)

* * * * *

“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.