9/11 + 15 years

In memory of the terrorism at the twin towers, the blog is scheduled for release 15 years to the minute from Flight 11 crashing into the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. Of the events of that day, I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said prayed ten million times over: Κύριε ελέησον!

  1. Woohoo! She gets it!
  2. Emotionally incompetent to believe?
  3. Schlafly’s strength and limitation
  4. Seals & Croft’s blasphemy

1

I began to understand that chastity goes much deeper than a long list of do’s and don’ts. I started researching the topic in more depth. The result was my college thesis, Chastity in the Modern World and the Fulfillment of Chastity Within the Catholic Church.

My thesis was based on the book Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John Paul II. In this book, Wojtyla explained that every human being is a sexual being, but that we’re also rational – which means we don’t have to be mastered by our physical desires.

In the case of the single person, chastity does mean not having sex before marriage, but it also means striving toward the perfection of love. We must all aim to love ourselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible – this is chastity in its fullness.

(Kate Bryan in the Washington Post)

Bryan is a 32-year-old virgin, and she described her life as a “feminist dream.” So of course, she quickly got superficial push-back. The message that sex is optional is a modern blasphemy (kudos to the Jezebel push-back author for at least feigning liberality toward what she sees as merely quirky expressive individualism instead of as something objectively virtuous).

What I appreciated most about the essay is that Bryan actually “gets it” that chastity, a virtue, is more than abstention from coitus before marriage.

2

I only attended low-church evangelical congregations for a few years after I became a Christian, but those were tough times for me, and more than once along the way I wondered if I had made a big mistake by trying to follow Jesus — at least, through trying to follow him alongside other people, in church. It wasn’t that I thought I was better than them — in fact, I usually thought I was worse. I especially felt I was too emotionally incompetent to be an evangelical. I mean, the pastor would tell me how happy I ought to be that Jesus had saved me from my sins, so I tried to be super-happy, but I could never quite get where he thought I needed to be. And then five minutes later he’d tell me how grieved I should be when I realized how deeply sinful I am, and I’d try to make myself appropriately sad at what I, through my rebellion, had done to God — but if I couldn’t climb the mountain of happiness I also couldn’t make my way down into the depths of the pit of sadness. Again: emotionally incompetent.

(Alan Jacobs. H/T Corey French on Facebook) Read Jacobs’ whole piece — all four short paragraphs — on how he remained and thrived as a Christian.

And note that

  • his experience in Anglicanism is equally or more true in Orthodoxy and
  • liturgical worship is not just “the sort of thing you’ll like if you like that sort of thing,” but God’s plan, and the Church’s practice, from the beginning.

An emotional “high” is not worship (and vice-versa). Evangelicalism’s attempts at mood manipulation (don’t tell me they don’t; I knew they did even when I was an Evangelical myself; evangelists leading to altar calls are the worst) is not New Testament Christianity. It’s not Reformation-era Christianity — not how Luther, Calvin, Zwingli or any of the others worshipped. It is an artifact from the revival tents of a mere 200 years ago.

So if you, too, feel as if you don’t “feel” aright, that may be a sign of spiritual health, and you just may be ready for the Ancient Faith.

3

Excellent distillation:

Looking back, it is interesting to reevaluate Schlafly’s dire warnings about the advent of unisex bathrooms and showers, same-sex marriage, gender-selection abortion, future attacks on religious liberty and even a military draft that includes young women.

No matter what you think of her, it’s hard to argue that Schlafly was wrong on most of those issues. At the same time, it’s also hard to argue that her defeat of the ERA wasn’t, in many ways, a hollow victory.

The key is that, in the end, American politics is downstream from culture (and education). How much clout to cultural conservatives have when it comes to shaping the doctrines taught by Hollywood, big business and the law schools at Harvard and Yale? Leaders of conservative religious and educational institutions need to wrestle with that fact. Meanwhile, the country-club Republicans will continue to roll with the tide.

(Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, emphasis added)

Phyllis Schlafly was a skilled political operator. That was her strength and, more importantly, her limitation. Her death should produce reflection on the futility of even the most skillful (or pious) politics in the face of a contrary culture — a reflection that’s especially timely in this or any election cycle.

And yet many Evangelicals of the Religious Right, in what may be its last gasp, keep grasping at rationales to let them feel good about voting for Trump, a great vulgarizer of culture with his casinos (and even a strip club), Playboy interviews and such.

The latest rationale to come to my attention is a pastoral reflection on God’s providential use of bad people like Cyrus, and Churchill, and Patton, to meet the needs of their hour. Here’s the second version of this I encountered:

Just outside the ballroom I catch up with Dexter Sanders, an evangelist from Orlando …

“God has used different people throughout the course of history, especially during Biblical times. The strangest people do the most enormous things in our world. And so the fact that [God] might choose a Donald Trump in this country that other presidents and other politicians have not been able to step up and do, would not be surprising to me at all.”

Sanders adds, who is he to question God?

(Transcribed from podcast, not from the print version) But if you want to argue that God can use bad people to accomplish His purposes (which, of course, He unceasingly does), then why not include Hillary? After all, her party symbol is a donkey, and God once used Balaam’s ass. Sounds like an Evangelical biblical argument to me. Who am I to question God?

I can’t not care about Evangelicals so transparently abasing themselves any more than I can disregard the doings in Roman Catholicism. Because of their desire to evangelize, Evangelicals snatched up a disproportionate share of broadcast licenses early in the life of broadcasting and by that and other very public presentations, like the Billy Graham Crusades, they became, and remain, the public face of Christianity in North America — more than Roman Catholicism and infinitely more than Orthodoxy. The disgrace they bring on themselves carries over, unjustifably but understandably, to Christians generally.

When Evangelicals prove that they are little more than the Republican Party at Prayer, they disgrace the Lord we both (variously) serve and drive the exodus of North Americans from vaguely Christian identification to “None.” I care about that much more than about which pair of reprobates occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 2013-16.

4

Seals and Croft blasphemed in 1974. They set this poem to music:

Oh little baby, you’ll never cry, nor will you hear a sweet lullabye.

Oh unborn child, if you only knew just what your momma was plannin’ to do.
You’re still a-clingin’ to the tree of life, but soon you’ll be cut off before you get ripe.
Oh unborn child, beginning to grow inside your momma, but you’ll never know.
Oh tiny bud, that grows in the womb, only to be crushed before you can bloom.

Mama stop! Turn around, go back, think it over.
Now stop, turn around, go back, think it over.
Stop, turn around, go back think it over.

Then the made it the title track of their album Unborn Child. Fortunately for them, the penalty for blaspheming against expressive sexual individualism was not as severe back then.

* * * * *

“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.