- The only wealth is people
- Santo subito?
- A terrible beauty
- Typical, not invariable
- Seen on the beach in Rio
- Political Psychology Graphic
It used to be taken for granted that the best indicator of a nation’s health was its citizens’ desire and capacity to reproduce. And it should still seem self-evident that people’s willingness to have children is not only a sign of confidence in the future, but a sign of cultural health. It’s a signal that people are willing to commit to the most enduring responsibility on Earth, which is raising a child.
But reproduction is also a sign of national health in a more dollars-and-cents way. The more productive people you have in your society, the healthier your country’s economy. It’s an idea that was obvious back in the 17th century, when economist Jean Bodin wrote “the only wealth is people.”
Today we see the problems wrought by the decline in productive populations all over the industrialized world, where polities are ripping each other to shreds over how to pay for various forms of entitlements, especially for old people. The debates play out in different ways in different countries, but in other ways they are exactly the same. That’s because they are ruled by the same ruthless math: The fewer young, productive people you have to pay for entitlements for old, unproductive people, the steeper the bill for the entire society becomes. This basic problem is strangling Europe’s economies. And while the United States is among the least bad of the bunch, it is still headed in the wrong direction.
I’m an Orthodox Christian. How I came to be one puts me in a position where I don’t feel any need to disparage Roman Catholicism, which I acknowledge as a plausible rival for the title “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” We were one Church for 1000+ years, and nobody has yet seems to have found the conclusive proof that the other guys are the schismatics in the Great Schism of, oh, 1054-1204 (the dating is complicated and vague).
But there are differences, and I’m noting one in particular these past weeks that makes me glad to be Orthodox:
Pope Francis, following the barbaric beheading of an elderly French priest, while serving mass … declar[ed] to the world, “I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy. This one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law, and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence ….”
This statement is particularly shocking when compared to the response of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. Following the beheaded in cold blood of 21 Coptic men, only because they are Christians and refused to deny Christ, Pope Tawadros II granted them instantaneous recognition as martyrs[, f]ollowing the ancient tradition that anyone who dies shedding their blood for Christ, martyrs go straight to heaven, regardless of their personal sins.
Had Pope Francis granted this priest, a victim of Islamic terrorism, the title “LE-ISA-SHAHID,” which means “Jesus Martyr” in Arabic, he would have effectively counteracted the heretical (for Islam) support for suicide bombers, who are called in Arabic “ISTA-SHAHID,” or self-martyred.
(Abbot Tryphon, emphasis added) This isn’t a fluke or an just an idiosyncratic tic of the current Pope (though his mea culpa about “Catholic violence” is his own dubious style):
The Ottoman Empire terrorized the Christian world … Muhammad had his admiral Gedik Ahmed Pasha launch a surprise attack on southern Italy, starting with the city of Otranto on July 28 … On August 11, 1480, their walls gave way.
Into the city poured nearly 20,000 Turks and those that stood in their way were mowed down by the Ottoman swords. The attackers pushed to the cathedral, where the found Archbishop Stefano Agricoli, old and weak, dressed in Mass vestments, as well as the city’s count and other clergy and faithful, all praying together for the salvation of their city. At the sight of the invaders, the archbishop urged his flock to remain true to the Faith. The Turks were unmoved by the sight. Archbishop Agricoli was seized and killed on the spot (various accounts have him being sawed in two, chopped to pieces, and beheaded, with his head paraded around the city). The priests of the city, all gathered in the cathedral around their archbishop, were likewise martyred. Then the rest of the city’s surviving inhabitants were rounded up. Any man over 50 was killed; women and children under 15 were taken as slaves.
That left about 800 men. Admiral Pasha spoke to them, offering the choice to convert to Islam or die … Antonio Primaldi, an old tailor, spoke up, rejecting the offer, urging his companions to do the same, to die as martyrs for the Faith. All 800 men agreed, and on August 14, after being offered one last time the chance to save their lives by converting to Islam (again, rejected by all 800 men), they were all killed, their bodies dumped in a mass grave.
… The martyrs of Otranto became local heroes, their remains found and put in the city’s cathedral, and there they were venerated for centuries. They were beatified in 1771 and canonized just three years ago.
(Matthew B. Rose, emphasis added) Santo subito! is not something Rome does as a matter of course for martyrs-for-the-faith.
The list of Roman Catholic politicians who publicly oppose by their words and actions the official teachings of their Church is a long one. Protestants probably fare no better. But it may be that, due to our denominational fragmentation and lack of public profile, we Protestants are better able to hide our lies under a bushel.
(Carl Trueman) I like that “hide our lies under a bushel” line. Who can really say, on any topic (except possibly sola scriptura“) that “Protestants believe [any single, agreed thing]”? Without that, how can you nail a Protestant for infidelity to the faith?
Trueman continues in bracing terms, unlike anything I can remember, connecting the “Benedict Option” to Church discipline — especially salient as people keep carping “the Benedict Option is just the Church doing what the Church does” with BenOp advocates responding, “In theory, sure; but when was the last time the Church acted like the Church?”:
I have made it clear before that I believe Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option seems to build on the most realistic premise: that we must despair of national politics delivering anything for us and refocus on the local. This, as Dreher has pointed out again and again, will require withdrawal from certain spheres.
But I suggest that it will mean more than simple withdrawal. It will also require the drawing of certain lines and thereby the exclusion of certain people from church circles. We cannot bring clarity to the identity and testimony of the church unless we draw some pretty clear boundaries about who belongs and which beliefs and behaviors are legitimate. If nothing you say or do can merit your removal from the Church, then the Church really has no distinct identity and ultimately no distinct mission.
Trueman follows with a specific suggestion that a certain Vice President, who united a same-sex couple in unholy trumpery, should be at the top of the “exclude” list.
If every Roman Catholic bishop in the country wrote such a letter to every Roman Catholic politician who made a mockery of Church teaching, the effect would be predictably stunning. The scorn and hatred poured down on the hierarchy would be awesome to behold. Christians would be reviled by the media from dawn till dusk. But a terrible beauty would be born, because it would become absolutely clear that the Church stands for something other than the spirit of the age.
Key to the religious future of the United States is the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It alone has the status and the potential cohesion to make a difference.
Trueman’s observation is empirically true of the U.S., but if it’s you and yours you’re concerned about more than “the religious future of the United States,” the Ark of Salvation is still boarding on the other side of the Great Schism.
(I wrote the foregoing before Rod Dreher wrote this. Great minds …?)
As an aspiring vegan (mostly for health reasons), I think I have standing to say “Yes!” when a hoary old Diet for a Small Planet myth gets denied for the correct reason:
There is land used for grazing animals that is simply unsuitable for growing crops. Veganism is the only diet that uses no perennial cropland – such as that used for cultivating grain for livestock consumption. ‘When applied to an entire global population, the vegan diet wastes available land that could otherwise feed more people’, concludes the website Quartz.
(Patrick West at Spiked) The current model of vast annual monocultures on any tillable land, raised to feed meat animals, skews things toward the “ideological” vegan case, but there’s still that remnant of land that is unsuitable for growing crops.
Unfortunately, West then pontificates ignorantly:
Whereas plain old plodding vegetarianism is based on down-to-earth expedience – an aversion to the idea of killing animals – veganism is invariably an absolutist stance. Much in the way that gays used to deride bisexuals for being cowardly or half-hearted, vegans have forever berated us vegetarians and pescetarians for our consumption of eggs and cheese. This is rarely on environmental grounds. The objection here is to ‘taking’ something that ‘belongs’ to another being. If meat is murder then eggs are rape and cheese is harassment.
That may be typical, but it is not “invariable.”
On a lighter note:
Brazilian men also do not appear to suffer from body shame. You see men of all ages and sizes wearing minimal Speedo-type package-display bathing suits. A lot of the men, even the older ones, engage in strenuous beach athletics — volleyball, soccer, paddleball and beyond. I saw one group of middle-aged men who had half-buried a large blue exercise ball in the sand; they were using it as a trampoline, launching themselves in the air, doing flips and landing with varying degrees of success. I cannot imagine middle-aged American men doing this on a public beach. Even if they tried, the authorities would stop them. Or squadrons of product-liability lawyers would arrive via Jet Ski, and within minutes the jumpers would all be wearing neck braces and suing the ball manufacturer for failing to specify DO NOT DO FLIPS OFF BALL in the instructions.
* * * * *
“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)