Dormition 2016

  1. My last word on Trump?
  2. Just a twitching bundle of desires
  3. Religious neutrality paradox
  4. Snappy comeback
  5. All religions are fundamentally alike
  6. Dormition

I didn’t expect to blog today. It just kinda happened.

1

I return to a distressing and divisive topic, intending, once again, to make this the last trip. I don’t think this is repetitive. So far as I know, it is original (i.e., I am unaware of plagiarizing) It may be helpful.

I think it may be the last one because I’ve tried to get to rock bottom of my opposition to Trump — the things I don’t think will change about Trump or my concerns about him, and which render all talk of his putative position on this-or-that entirely irrelevant.

Every argument for voting for Trump assumes that he is:

  1. sane,
  2. not suffering any stage of dementia (I got the idea that he might be from Kathleen Parker),
  3. not possessing such severe personality disorders as to be a world menace (as head of the world’s sole remaining superpower),
  4. capable of truthfulness,
  5. actually truthful about his current positions and intentions if elected, even though many of them are opposite to what he has professed in the past, and
  6. stable enough to hold those positions over four years.

Every one of those six assumptions is necessary, I think. Every one of them is dubious (although I do believe Trump is technically sane).

I think his supporters ignore the first three because they assume that

  1. He is successful in business.
  2. A dangerously flawed person cannot succeed in business.
  3. Therefore the first three assumptions must be true.

I’m unconvinced that he is successful in business, recalling the farmer who, after winning the lottery, was asked what he would do now. “Reckon I’ll go on farming ’till it’s all gone.” Trump’s inheritance is not all gone, I’ll grant you. I wouldn’t bet he has multiplied it much.

More important, I cannot get past that third assumption. Trump cannot put 5 sentences together without a detour into self-adulation (narcissism). He is cruel to those who cross him (sociopathy — think “disabled reporter”), sometimes obsessively (think Khan). This is why I would be terrified at his election and cannot imagine voting to give such a person the nuclear codes.

My extreme skepticism about assumptions 4 through 6 is why Trump’s putative “positions” are meaningless to me. I’ve heard a few imputed to him that I agree with — if only he were truthful and stable. I just cannot take his positions seriously, so I refuse to argue about them. (I concede that 4 may be an epiphenomenon of 3.)

I am sorry that barbarians made off with the GOP so swiftly. I am very sorry that Trump’s major-party adversary is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is unsuitable for different reasons. But I cannot overlook, or share, that third assumption, even if I were satisfied on the other five.

2

My local paper, the Washington Post, is best read for its sports and op-ed pages and its often-sensible editorials on foreign policy. Alas, the Post editorial board’s IQ drops well below the Mendoza Line when the subject is the Catholic Church. After decades of grumbling about this seemingly permanent feature of life along the Potomac littoral, I realized recently that the problem here isn’t gross ignorance about matters Catholic; the problem is that the Post is all-in for another, competing religion.

The prophet of that religion—call it the Church of the Imperial Autonomous Self or, if you prefer something punchier, the Church of Me—is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. For almost a quarter-century, Justice Kennedy has preached a notion of freedom that the Post regularly applauds and promotes, dismissing other views as bigoted. The idea of freedom in the Church of Me was neatly captured by that great moral philosopher, Frank Sinatra, when he sang, “I did it my way.” Underwriting that self-centered (indeed, selfish) concept of freedom is the idea that the human person is just a twitching bundle of desires, the satisfaction of which is what we mean by “human rights.”

Let me now suggest some follow-up for the editors. Read St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body—or, if that’s too much to ask, read the summary of it in my Witness to Hope. Then see if that portrait of human love, noble self-giving, and mature, humble self-mastery isn’t a more attractive vision of human possibility than Justice Kennedy’s twitching bundle of desires.

The editors challenged “Church traditionalists” to “open themselves to a ‘God of surprises’.” Let’s see if the Post’s editorial board has the nerve to take its own advice.

(George Weigel) (Note: I confess to ignorance of the Post’s sports pages, except for a little Olympic coverage lately, and disagreement with Weigel on the sensibility of neocon foreign policy.)

And do not forget that the Church of Me is rooted in philosophical nominalism that is very, very widely shared (if unconsciously), even by “conservative” religious people.

3

“There is no religiously neutral understanding of religious neutrality.” (Ken Myers, paraphrasing or synthesizing Steven D. Smith of University of San Diego School of Law)

4

After a speech at a law school, philosopher Francis J. Beckwith was challenged that “all his arguments were religious.”

“What a relief,” he replied. “I thought you were going to say they were bad arguments.”

5

Interviewing Francis J. Beckwith, Ken Myer told a story about a comprehensive study of all world religions, seeking to find what they shared.

The conclusion was they all had something to do with candles.

Maybe the story’s apocryphal.

6

Today is the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

If you have zero interest in theology, that translates into “Tipsy can have meat again after two weeks without.” But that lonesome salami really isn’t the most important aspect.

* * * * *

“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.