Thursday, 4/21/16

  1. Barbarian eduction
  2. How do you argue with high trump?
  3. Hoaxing 101
  4. English/Barbarian translation
  5. What Hellions have in common
  6. Choice and Compulsion
  7. Naked Emperors


Where, O where,  in government is a voice — even one — that is not totally crass about the benefits of education?

Prominent American politicians have decided education has only an economic and utilitarian purpose. Barack Obama, in 2014, essentially declared a degree in art history a waste of time, because it wouldn’t give people a chance to make money. And during a debate in November, Marco Rubio said we “need more welders than philosophers” because “welders make more money.”

Both meant for their comments to encourage people to enter the trades. But both were also expressing a widely-held belief that the humanities are for navel-gazers. Studying them will get you a job at Starbucks and nothing more.

But they, along with others in the culture who endorse this view, are wrong. A full education is one that results in formation. It teaches us to be better human beings and better citizens, and it would do much to address the spiritual malaise facing the United States today.

(Jonathan Bishop, Education for Those Who Love Too Little and Know Too Little)

I won’t deny that there are collateral questions, including the need to make money to pay off college loans. But I’ll suggest that there’s a vicious cycle, that the high cost of university “education” is driven in part by the expectation of making big bucks upon graduation, which is driven in part by vulgar comments like those of Obama and Rubio. And then opportunists pile on by larding university offices with 6-figure administrators while putting food-stamp adjuncts in the classrooms.

And yes, it’s a “spiritual malaise” because it starts with a false anthropology, a skewed and reductionist view that humans are just economic machines who enjoy orgasms on their time off.

It’s dangerous to get me started on this.


I love most Orthodox convert stories, but one I just finished was somehow especially moving, despite its dissimilarity from my own story.

How does one argue [theology] with a man who can tell you what the Greek text literally means and then brings the powerful witness of the Fathers to bear on the topic? The vagaries of “the German School” and neo-conservative theology seemed to pale in comparison.

(Fr. John Moses, in part three of his story of how he became Orthodox. Part one, part two)



Jordan Brown’s error was picking on a most unlikely target, and one with a pile of money to pay lawyers to fight back. If he had picked for his scam a small, independently owned bakery, particularly one run by Christians, he would still be a martyr.

(Rod Dreher, emphasis added; see also Mollie Hemingway)

Mollie’s is funnier than Rod’s by far, but the emphasized part of Rod’s is what’s really painful. The exposure of a “progressive” hoax rarely gets the mainstream play that the hoax got. If the bakery doesn’t have a Whole Foods-sized budget, it hasn’t got a prayer.


Barton Swaim reviewed panned a 50th anniversary edition of John R.W. Stott’s Basic Christianity in First Things. Examples:

[1] It had been many years since I had read Basic Christianity, but somehow that didn’t sound right. Are young people—or were they in the 1950s—really opposed to anything that “looks like an institution”? They didn’t seem opposed, for example, to universities back then. So I took down my old copy of the book, a 1971 reprint also published by ­Eerdmans. In that version, the sentence reads: “They are opposed to anything which savours of institutionalism.” Hold on. Opposing institutionalism is very different from opposing institutions. You might as well equate opposing nationalism with opposing nations. The editor hasn’t simply updated the text; he has changed its meaning. And changed it stupidly.

[2] Of course, the general masculine pronouns are gone: “all other men” becomes “everyone else,” and so on. This and other alterations are relatively innocuous—they do no violence to Stott’s meaning—but they lower the quality of the writing. One example among scores: Whereas in 1958 Stott had written, “In brief, we find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, the one earthly and the other heavenly,” the 2008 version has it, “To put it in a nutshell, we find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, possessing dual nationality, the one earthly and the other heavenly.” Are we to believe that “To put it in a ­nutshell” improves on “In brief,” and that adding the term “dual nationality” better conveys the idea to a ­modern audience?

(Numbers added) And so on.

The American Publisher, Eerdman’s rose to its own defense, basically that Stott himself approved the changes (dubious) and, more relevantly, that “Eerdmans, after all, is only licensed to sell what we receive from IVP-UK.” Point taken.

But First Things isn’t done yet:

Swaim’s interest was not in assigning blame. He was defending the intelligence of readers and their desire for language that has poetry, rather than the tone of a memo from Human Resources. He protests against our tendency to let the present banalities swallow up the beauties of the past. It’s a protest I’m happy to join.

As am I. For Bible translation wonks, for instance, I always was partial to the New English Bible, which likewise has poetry, and which likewise has been abandoned in favor of drek. And since when does literate, even poetic, 1958 English prose need translation into Barbarian in 2008?


One of my favorite authors as a young man, was Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk. In the introduction to his work New Seeds of Contemplation he wrote: “Hell was where no one has anything in common with anyone else except the fact that they all hate one other and cannot get away from each other and from themselves.”

This very much fits with the Orthodox view of hell as being in the presence of God for all eternity, and hating it. For the one who has never loved and who is consumed in his own ego and his own passions, being with God for all eternity will be to him, hell. Without love, we can not experience the Fire of God without being burned.

(Abbot Tryhpon) I’ve said before that a key moment in my journey to Orthodoxy was connecting (1) my behavior to (2) C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce: “Self,” I sez to me, “what are you doing to become the kind of person for whom the eternal presence of God would be heaven, not hell?” The fact was, I had some of that ego and those passions that I wasn’t dealing with at all.

I dropped one bad habit instantly.

But the funny thing is, when you drop a blatant bad habit for God’s sake, your eyes and soul readjust and you start finding more subtle stuff. Only my Priest hears about some of that.


Will they ever get their stories (pardon the expression) straight? Photo caption in the Washington Post:

A transgender woman gathers likeminded North Carolinians in Charlotte to protest the state’s controversial new law that restricts transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their chosen gender.

“Chosen”?! These people change their stories more often than Donald Trump.


Naked Emperors

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“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.