Tuesday, 4/26/16

  1. Narratives, true and false
  2. Flashback to a praise song
  3. Things Bonhoeffer never said
  4. Epiphany (but not conversion)
  5. Frank & Bart do Lesbos
  6. No limits?


One of the perils of journalism is the human brain’s penchant for sorting information into narratives. Even false narratives can take on a life of their own because there is always information arriving that can confirm a narrative.

Thus once we in the news media had declared Gerald Ford a klutz (he was actually a graceful athlete), there were always new television clips of him stumbling. Similarly, we unfairly turned Jimmy Carter into a hapless joke …

(Nicholas Kristof) Such is the human condition that we probably can’t avoid narratives, including false narratives. But this is one very good reason to try to think for oneself, to distrust media, and to recognize that every newspaper and every newscast starts with a choice of “what’s newsworthy?” It will mostly be things that fit the narrative with a few “man bites dog” stories thrown in for spice.

My distrust of media is compounded by the realization that their narratives generally aren’t mine. I read them anyway because mine might be wrong.

Kristof, by the way, is trying to say that the “Hillary is crooked” narrative isn’t true. It’s a tough sell, and I think he comes up short.


I had a flashback an hour or so before typing this. In circumstances having nothing to do with the song of which I had a flashback, I saw the phrase “yesterday, today, tomorrow,” and flashed back 45+ years to this:

Yesterday He died for me, yesterday, yesterday
Yesterday, He died for me, yesterday
Yesterday He died for me, died for me
This is history

Today He lives for me, today, today
Today He lives for me, today
Today He lives for me, lives for me
This is victory

Tomorrow He comes for me, He comes, He comes
Tomorrow He comes for me, He comes
Tomorrow He comes for me, comes for me
This is mystery

O friend do you know Him, know Him, know Him
O friend do you know Him, know Him
O friend do you know Him, do you know Him
Jesus Christ the Lord, Jesus Christ the Lord
Jesus Christ the Lord.

Like the author of The Kingdom Now, who reminds me of the full lyrics (but who sounds some critique-worthy notes in his own critique), my Christian friends and I loved singing this in settings like our IVCF Chapter meetings. And like him (I assume it’s a him; never mind why), I could pick it apart. It’s not much deeper than today’s praise songs, after all.

But I loved it. And I wasn’t a totally emotivist crypto-Pentecostal.

So is it possible that there’s something about youth, maybe even something wholesome and age-appropriate about youth, glossing over doctrine and just bonding with some shallow ditties?


Things Bonhoeffer never said: “When Christ calls a man, he calls him to become an amateur theologian.”

I have a besetting amnesia about that.


I have continued reading “Thomas Hobbes,” Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation War. If you want to get a better handle on it, it sounds as if Paul Gottfried finished it.

For once, I had an epiphany without a conversion.

The epiphany is how oppressive and preposterous our regulatory state has become, and how it particularly hurts ordinary people with an entrepreneurial spirit by setting unwarranted high entry barriers. The epiphany came around, I believe, Chapter 4, which if memory serves, is when the narrator has had about all the down time he can afford back in Maine, and decides to try farming. One by one, he learns that his ideas are impractical due to over-regulation (soybean oil if spilled in transport requires the same cleanup as petroleum products, so he dare not risk raising soybeans for oil; he can’t grown potatoes because that land is a protected wetland; etc.).

Cha-ching! The Trumpistas may be venting against that kind of thing!

It hasn’t made me a Trumpista, because I don’t think he’s the answer to that question, but it has given me a better feel for how someone could think (rather, feel) “What’s the point in fighting for a country like that? Whatever defeats and replaces it could only be an improvement.” (That also can help explain Bernie Sanders, the other astonishing insurgent story this year.)

This, too, isn’t true; revolutions often turn out badly, and living in the territory of a failed state would be will be pretty scary. But I haven’t forgotten the urgency of some gut reactions.


The significance of the joint visit to the island of Lesbos, Greece, on Saturday, April 16, 2016, by the leaders of the Christian Churches of the East and West cannot be understated.

(John Chryssavgis, emphasis added) Normally, I could care less about other folks’ mangling of hackneyed journalistic tropes, but any time Frank and Bart get together, it’s kind of a big deal, not a teeny-tiny deal.


In listening to the Bacevich speech, and the follow-up Q&A, last night, something he said struck me with particular force. He said that American policy towards the Middle East is emblematic of a nation that does not believe it has limits.

In this view, America keeps making these catastrophic mistakes because we believe that wanting a certain outcome is enough to make it happen. We are rich enough, powerful enough, and, in our own minds, righteous enough that it should happen. It’s interesting to contemplate how this hubris plays out on the foreign policy and military fronts, while we also observe the same dynamic expressing itself socially and culturally.

For example, most of us, it appears, have come to the conclusion that biology does not matter, that it is nothing more than a conceptual barrier that prevents us from exercising our will, and can therefore be destroyed. Because freedom. We have come to believe that there are no moral strictures or structures (like, say, the natural family) that ought to bind us and guide our conduct.

(Rod Dreher) I think the folks at Front Porch Republic nailed the values: Place. Limits. Liberty.

* * * * *

“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.