Wednesday 9/7/16

  1. Embracing the absurdity
  2. Freeing one family jewel
  3. Selma, ND
  4. Where’s Reinhold?
  5. Neo-populist imperialism vs. a neo-populist isolationism
  6. Cheap talk, lame gestures

1

Given the choice between the teaching of the Magisterium of Holy Church and an organ of right wing propaganda in the service of Americanism, listen to the Magisterium. That way, you don’t wind up embracing the absurdity of polytheism just to keep from acknowledging the things Christians, Jews, and Muslims have in common.

(Mark Shea, refuting a claim in Crisis that Christians and Muslims worship different Gods.)

I have a couple of bones to pick with Mr. Shea on this:

  1. The “Muslims worship a different God” teachers and preachers are less polytheists than henotheists.
  2. If a Christian needs a prooftext from the Catchism of the Catholic Church to reject polytheism (or henotheism), we’re in trouble — trouble in the form of “those who do not know Biblical history are doomed to recapitulate it.”

I could add a third, but it’s not a bone to pick with Mark Shea: we are indeed in trouble, because Crisis isn’t the only errant, befuddled henotheist organ out there. I have heard repeatedly, including from people who definitely should know better (and are in leadership positions where they should remain silent until they do know better) the “different Gods” line.

2

James K. Glassman explains in the New York Times why I must vote for Hillary to save the GOP.

For all the hand-waving and personal professions of long loyalty to the GOP, it comes down to this: the two parties have us by the short hairs.

Even before Mr. Trump entered the race, I saw this coming. I worked to open a pathway for an independent — a solid third candidate who would attract the votes of the roughly two-thirds of Americans in the center. A serious contender would force the two major-party candidates to compete for votes in the middle, rather than appealing to the wings. I spent a year and a half on the project, but a month ago threw in the towel.

The deck is stacked by the parties against anyone but a Republican or Democrat ….

So if I don’t vote for Hillary, Party A, which has a grasp on Testicle A’, may die and let go? Sounds like a great idea.

Maybe the adolescent rebellion isn’t out of me yet, but (a) I stopped (at least by about 95%) caring about the Republican Party some time within the last 11 years, 9 months; (b) I grew up disliking the Democrat Party and that hasn’t changed, though the reasons have changed (deepened actually, since it’s no longer My Team versus Their Team); (c) I don’t think either party is worth saving and I’ll settle for liberating one of the two family jewels for now.

The Last Great Act of Defiance is exhilarating. You should try it.

3

A pipeline company in North Dakota reportedly raced in on Saturday to destroy Indian burial grounds before the North Dakota preservation office could intervene. Company goons ended up macing and siccing police dogs on Indian protesters.

I hope that there was an injunction in place pendente lite, that the judge holds the company in contempt, and that he/she then fines them to the edge of bankruptcy for violating it.

Hey, all you people with Selma Envy: Go make yourself useful for a change! North Dakota beckons!

4

Alan Jacobs muses at Harpers (and at length) on the virtually complete disappearance of “Christian intellectuals.”

The Christian intellectuals of World War II found their society shaking at its foundations. They were deeply concerned that even if the Allies won, it would be because of technological and economic, not moral and spiritual, superiority; and if technocrats were deemed responsible for winning the war, then those technocrats would control the postwar world. (It is hard to deny that those Christian intellectuals were, on this point at least, truly prophetic.)

If we wish to know why this species became extinct, the short answer is that the Christian intellectual was the product of World War II, and when that war was over, the epiphenomena it had generated simply faded away. But there is also a longer and more complex answer.

At the time, the president of Harvard was James Bryant Conant, a chemist who had become captivated by the techno-utopian mood of the era. One of the dominant figures of American intellectual culture, Conant had been the chairman of the National Defense Research Committee during World War II, and as such had overseen the Manhattan Project. (He was present at the first atomic-bomb test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July 1945.) His experiences in the war years intensified his determination to transform Harvard from a liberal-arts school into America’s leading institution for the study and promotion of science and technology. “When I was delivering my Phi Beta Kappa poem in Cambridge,” Auden later told his friend Alan Ansen, “I met Conant for about five minutes. ‘This is the real enemy,’ I thought to myself. And I’m sure he had the same impression about me.” But it was clear to Auden which of them had the power to impose his vision on America.

In 1996 Stanley Fish, the literary and legal theorist, put it this way — curiously enough, in the pages of Neuhaus’s First Things:

If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers.

As Stanley Fish once shrewdly commented,

What, after all, is the difference between a sectarian school which disallows challenges to the divinity of Christ and a so-called nonideological school which disallows discussion of the same question? In both contexts something goes without saying and something else cannot be said (Christ is not God or he is). There is of course a difference, not however between a closed environment and an open one but between environments that are differently closed.

It was the Sixties that changed everything, and not primarily because of the Vietnam War or the cause of civil rights. There were many Christians on both sides of those divides. The primary conflict was over the sexual revolution and the changes in the American legal system that accompanied it: changes in divorce law, for instance, but especially in abortion law. (Many Christians supported and continue to support abortion rights, of course; but abortion is rarely if ever the central, faith-defining issue for them that it often is for those in the pro-life camp.) By the time these changes happened and Christian intellectuals found themselves suddenly outside the circles of power, no longer at the head table of liberalism, Christians had built up sufficient institutional stability and financial resourcefulness to be able to create their own subaltern counterpublics. And this temptation proved irresistible.

The essay was so excellent that it incited me to subscribe to Harpers after a bit of poking around and eye-popping at the contents of the current issue.

If I have half a brain, Harpers will supplant some of my internet browsing. Harpers, Good. Internet, increasingly lame, shrill, and echoing.

5

Over a series of essays here at The Imaginative Conservative, I would like to re-examine Burke and his arguments. The present moment in Western Civilization seems right to do so as well, especially since the two major political parties have embraced a sort of neo-populist imperialism vs. a neo-populist isolationism. At this moment, at least, there is no voice that represents at any serious level the conservatism of Burke and de Tocqueville. Indeed, each party more or less embodies exactly what Burke and de Tocqueville feared and despised. And, The Imaginative Conservative seems the right place to consider not only the first principles of conservatism but its modern deviations as well. As a historian and as a conservative, I am fully convinced that the great American political movements of Goldwater and Reagan found their animating principles in the thought of Burke and de Tocqueville, and any future successful conservative movements must, at least at some level, do the same.

(Brad Birzer)

6

I applaud [Colin Kaepernick’s]  refusal to stand for the national anthem, though not for the reasons he stated. Rather, because I’m sick of vulgar symbolism in a dark moment of a fraying culture that demands more than cheap talk and lame gestures.

In case you’re wondering, the reason we’re subject to all these repetitions of The Star Spangled Banner is not for love-of-country but something quite the opposite: the fear that its promises are empty. Ever wonder why every public official in the land has to wear a flag lapel pin? Should it be necessary for the president of the US to signal his devotion to duty? Wouldn’t we normally just assume this to be the case? No, it signals the widespread and generalized anxiety that the national condition is dire and that we don’t have the confidence or the clarity to face the challenges of the time. President Obama might as well wear a crucifix or a bulb of garlic in his lapel.

In this presidential election year especially, Labor Day serves as a sort of collective deep breath before the plunge into a season of political anguish. The number of potential voters disgusted with the choice between two clueless monsters of egotism must be epic. If WalMart held a sale on bullshit filters, they might stand a chance of turning a Q3 profit.

(James Howard Kunstler)

* * * * *

“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.