Monday, 5/23/16

  1. Legally, you should be able to sleep
  2. The education of boys
  3. Taranto the cynic
  4. Kierkegaard at the Flicks
  5. “Sex” is gender fluid


A major difference between Christian Orthodoxy and many other Christian traditions:

I find almost nothing as useless, when thinking about God or the human condition, as legal imagery.

Indeed, it’s worse than useless. It leads only to wrong conclusions and even produces the wrong questions …

[T]he law of God has never, never, been an arbitrary set of rules created by God in a manner similar to an earthly legislature …

[In the Old Testament], atonement … involved removing an ontological problem — not satisfying a legal concept. They had to remove something that was really there — not just an idea; certainly not just an idea in God’s mind, but a real problem. Forgiveness was thus the same thing as healing and cleansing.

Imagine standing in a modern court while the judge says “You have been charged with driving 60 miles per hours in a 20 mile per hour zone. How do you plead?” You say “Your honor, have mercy on me! I cannot bear the stain of this sin! I am unclean! Have mercy on me and cleanse me from this abomination!” …

Of course, it’s ridiculous — as is the use of modern legal imagery when we try to speak about God. They’re just not the same thing at all.

Theories of atonement that use modern legal imagery remove any ontological content … We are guilty because God says we are guilty in these schemes, and we deserve punishment, much like we deserve punishment within our human legal system.

But the law of God is not a legal instrument. It’s actually more of a diagnostic tool. The commandments describe the character and details of those things that plunge us into ontological chaos, that mess with our very being.

The most justified executioner in a modern legal system is nevertheless plunged into the morass of human trauma by his act of execution. He is legally free, legally clean, but it doesn’t matter, though, how deserving a prisoner was … of death, or how kind and painless the form of execution. The executioner is involved in death. Something ontological happened, and generally, to take the life of another human being severs the communion for which we were all created. We experience that severance, that’s ontological in the extreme, with various forms of trauma. Even though legally there’s not a problem, there’s still a real problem.

[A neighbor my his childhood was a veteran of World War II.] In a village one day on patrol, he turned a corner and came face-to-face with a young German soldier. Both men froze. But my neighbor came to himself, acted first, and killed the young German man.

It was a war. Had he not killed him, he himself would have been killed. But when I was a child over a decade later, my neighbor still awoke in the middle of the night, night after night after night, tormented with the memory, reliving it every night in his dreams …

A man injured a young girl in an automobile accident. He was not to blame. And yet, he began losing sleep. He was irritable and lost his appetite. And he went to see his doctor.

The doctor said “Have you gone to the young girl and asked her to forgive you?”

He said “But I didn’t do anything wrong! The police said it wasn’t my fault! My lawyer says that I wasn’t to blame.”

The doctor smiled and said “Then legally, you should be able to sleep at night.”

(Father Stephen Freeman) This is part of what’s meant by the Church being a hospital for sinners rather than a club for saints. I repeat: This is part of what’s meant by the Church being a hospital for sinners rather than a club for saints.

If your Church thinks that “legally, you should be able to sleep” should be followed by “so I’ll give you a really potent sleeping pill” instead of “go ask forgiveness,” you’re in a messed-up legal (forensic) mindset.


The education of boys, largely by women who do not think deeply about the needs and the strengths of boys, has proved to be a staggering failure.

Perhaps there is something in the nature of boys, fallen nature or otherwise, that resists daily submission to women in all things great and small, when they know that those women find their masculinity an irritant. And perhaps there are some boys, quite a few in fact, who are simply not equipped to learn well from women at all, once they have passed a certain age.

… If only men can make men out of boys generally speaking, and if education for a boy is ineradicable from coming to be a man, then we can expect that some boys will really flourish when they are taught by men …

The odd thing is that, to the extent that a woman does love men and their masculinity, she will be exactly the sort of woman who could teach boys very well … She would also understand that this need is not something you can simply wish away, or rub out by political propaganda.

Here are the facts. The boys have to be educated, and have to be made into true Christian men. Those are absolutes. They do not admit of compromise. Nothing we do will have complete success. But we can do much better, and have done much better, than we do now. Time to re-build.

(Anthony Esolen)


Hmmmm. Pretty good for National Review:

As I wrote in a column last week, I think Rick Perry has defiled himself. He took a strong, principled stand against Trump early on, likening him to a “cancer” on the GOP. He said that a Trumpified Republican party would lead to “perdition.” It didn’t work out well for him. Now that it’s Trump’s party, he says he wants to help this cancer “any way I can,” including being considered for his running mate.

My friend James Taranto castigated me for that column. He writes:

We’re going to go out on a limb and say Perry did not mean those words literally. Taking them figuratively, he concluded it was no longer wise to demonize Trump. We suppose if [Peter] Wehner ever changes his mind about Trump — a big if, but hey, he wouldn’t be the first — Goldberg will accuse him of wanting to infect people with Zika.

This is bizarre. I may not be the philologist James is, but I do grok that Perry was speaking metaphorically when he said Trump was a cancer and leading us to Hell. But speaking figuratively and speaking seriously are not antipodes. One can use metaphors and still speak with sincerity. When Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,” he was speaking metaphorically but not insincerely. I made the mistake of thinking Rick Perry was serious when he said these things. Perhaps Taranto’s the wiser man for cynically believing words never matter when uttered by politicians. (Apparently the Trump campaign doesn’t think words matter, either.)

(Jonah Goldberg) Goldberg’s right that Taranto is becoming something of a Trump apologist, so the definitive word on not voting for Trump needs to be reiterated:

If Hillary becomes president, it won’t be my fault for not voting Trump, it will be the fault of Trump supporters for nominating such an abysmally terribly candidate in the first place.

Trump fans don’t get to foist this ridiculous buffoon on us and then blame us when he loses. It doesn’t work that way. Sorry. No. If you vote to place Trump in the general election, the inevitable landslide defeat, and the 8 year reign of Queen Hillary, will be on your shoulders.

(Matt Walsh on Facebook introducing this.) This isn’t a mere matter of revulsion at Trump’s style.


I don’t have any particular sense that any reader is writhing in agony asking “What, O what! are the ten most Kierkegaardian movies!?” But here’s your answer if you were.


It is apparently modern orthodoxy that “sex” and “gender identity” are separate things, except when a 44-year-old statute needs a progressive construction. Then sex means “gender identity” (and whatever else progressivism requires).

* * * * *

“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.