Put on your thinking cap

  1. Baiting the Bear
  2. On ne naît pas femme, on le devient
  3. Capitalism is not conservative
  4. God is more than a choice
  5. I found the pony!
  6. Dead, but culturally triumphant
  7. Harvard according to Dreher

1

One thinks of Russia less frequently when U.S. policy failures are examined. In 1991, Russia was a superpower. Today it is a convenience, a straw man fortuitously produced whenever someone in power wants to justify weapons expenditures or the initiation of new military interventions in faraway places. Much of the negative interaction between Washington and Moscow is driven by the consensus among policymakers, the Western media, and the inside-the-beltway crowd that Russia is again—or perhaps is still and always will be—the enemy du jour …

Nearly everything Russia does is considered wrong or even threatening by the White House, Congress, and the U.S. media. I was reminded of that predilection when I read recent accounts of Russian “harassment” of American diplomats overseas. The story described how, in one instance, a U.S. embassy officer returning to the building late at night was challenged by a Russian guard and a scuffle ensued. In other alleged incidents the apartments of employees were searched, and it was even claimed that a pet dog had been killed. Certainly the incidents are deplorable, but they are not exactly unusual in the world where spies and spy-catchers interact.

(Philip Giralidi, Russian Harassment and Other Fables)

2

People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: ‘male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female — hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves.

(Pope Benedict XVI, “Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia,” 21 December 2012, via Mars Hill Audio Addendum)

3

Repeat after me: Capitalism is not conservative.

Modern social scientists have changed the original meaning of ‘taboo’ into the socially and psychologically ‘forbidden’, in the attempt to teach us that restraints are not sacred. This is of course useful to a capitalist society because everything must be made instrumental to the forwarding of ‘production’, and the sacred restraints cannot be made instrumental. Social scientists follow their creator, because social science was created by capitalist society.

(George Parkin Grant, “Faith and the Multiversity,” in Technology and Justice, University of Notre Dame Press, 1986, via Mars Hill Audio Addendum)

4

From the end of a brief, but dense and challenging, reflection on why religious freedom in the U.S. (perhaps in the current WEIRD world generally) is poorly understood and vulnerable:

“Sandel thinks that such a view ‘does not serve religious liberty well’ since ‘it confuses the pursuit of preference with the exercise of duties.’ He says that ‘the respect that this neutrality commands is not, strictly speaking, respect for religion, but respect for the self whose religion it is.’ For the Court, ‘choosing’ a religion is not qualitatively distinct from choosing a college or even a brand of toothpaste. In ruling as it has, ‘the Court gives constitutional expression to the version of liberalism that conceives the right as prior to the good and the self as prior to its ends.’ This view of the person ‘ill equips the Court to secure religious liberty for those who regard themselves to be claimed by religious commitments they have not chosen.’”

(Via Mars Hill Audio Addendum, tellingly captioned “God is more than a choice”)

5

It’s kind of like the punchline “with all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!” I finally found the pony, buried in a lot of manure from a liberal “intefaith” religious statement in opposition to FADA:

[T]he “First Amendment Defense Act” violates the core constitutional principle that the federal government will not prefer a faith tradition or religious tenet over another by endorsing and privileging certain religious perspectives on marriage and sexuality.

That’s the pony. There’s more manure at ThinkProgress (H/T Religion Clause blog) and at the Daily Signal.

Now will Ryan T. Anderson, Roger Severino and other FADA supporters kindly deign to stop flinging their manure and talk about the pony?

6

Rod Dreher is at a week-long program on the Harvard campus, “the Vatican of the Meritocracy”:

One thing that struck me walking around was passing a couple of old-line Protestant churches — I mean, really old-line, like, from the 17th century — and seeing what they’re passionate about, according to the banners and flags they display: gay rights and Black Lives Matter. Above, a scene outside a UCC Church (founded 1633). The photos are of victims who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting. Nothing wrong with memorializing them, but it’s telling that this is what the church wears on its sleeve, so to speak. It’s where this parish’s heart is. Around the corner is the Unitarian Universalist church, which claims the same roots as the UCC parish; they separated in the 19th century, with that parish becoming Unitarian, and the separated brethren (the conservatives!) becoming the parish that is now affiliated with the UCC.

No idea how many people go to those churches …. Yesterday, somebody tweeted to me a link to Matthew Rose’s paywalled new piece in First Things, an excerpt of which you can read here. It’s about the 50th anniversary of the infamous “God Is Dead”Time magazine cover story. Excerpt of the excerpt:

Elson and his editors at Time, however, were prophetic in giving Death of God theology such attention. The United States today looks a lot like the society van Buren, Altizer, and Hamilton wished to midwife. Their ideas about the relationship between Christianity and secularization express, in exaggerated form to be sure, some of the most deeply felt religious intuitions of our culture. They also anticipated a crucial but under-examined phenomenon of our time: the institutional defeat and cultural victory of liberal Protestantism.

And so, fifty years on, to revisit the Death of God movement is not to witness the absurd apotheosis of sixties-era religion. It is to encounter a moment, at once traditional and radical, when liberal Protestantism sought a new dispensation to justify the moral supremacy over American life that it continues to enjoy to this day.

I feel that I walked through Rose’s point today. The religious traditions epitomized in these two historic churches at the very gates of Harvard are dead, dead, dead in American religious life. But culturally, they have won. Go inside the Vatican of the Meritocracy, and you will find far more people who believe in the values espoused by these churches that few people attend than you will find people who believe in the tenets espoused by the 15-million strong Southern Baptist Convention.

7

I have only been to Harvard once before this, on a tour of colleges with my high school class of junior, in the Spring of 1984. I remembered exactly nothing of it, except eating ice cream at a Früsen Gladjé (‘memba them?) shop near Harvard Square. Such is the mind of a 17-year-old who had his heart set on Georgetown and its School of Foreign Service …

Anyway, what matters to me is that I ate two dozen Island Creeks on the half-shell last night at Russell House Tavern, after 11, when they were only a dollar. Best thing about Boston? Their glorious oysters.

Yes, I guess Rod Dreher is an inveterate foodie.

* * * * *

“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.