Friday 10/21/16

  1. Sunk costs and new facts
  2. American Folk Religion tries to grok Christianity
  3. Saying two important things
  4. Monistic “diversity”
  5. PEG on the judiciary
  6. Dreher 9 = Trump 70
  7. The Five Stages of Evangelical Grief
  8. Trump worse than Clinton for abortion?
  9. An audaciously bad poll
  10. Wayne Grudem’s at it again


First Things

1

“[I]gnoring sunk costs is a key to smart decision making,” writes Seth Godin on Thursday.

Making a new decision based on new information [] is more difficult than it sounds.

To some people, it means admitting you were wrong.

(But of course, you weren’t wrong. You made a decision based on one set of facts, but now you’re aware of something new.)

[T]o some people, the peer pressure of sticking with the group that you joined when you first made a decision is enough to overwhelm your desire to make a better decision. “What will I tell my friends?”

Rarely do I get so nice a summary of religious conversion,* or at least my religious conversion, from a business coach/guru (or however one describes Seth Godin).

For me, leaving the entire Protestant world where I’d spent nearly five decades was a decision based on new (to me) information.

  • Christ built His Church, against which the gates of hell have not prevailed and which remains today in demonstrable continuity with the earliest Christian witnesses.
  • Whatever the Reformers meant by sola scriptura (by scripture alone), their descendants of whom I was aware have turned it into “just me and my Bible.” I suspect this was inevitable.
  • Tens of millions of “just me and my Bible” free range Christians have combined and permuted millions of personal religions, each calling itself Christian.
  • Christ does not “speak with forked tongue,” telling one person one thing, another person another.

That the information was “new to me” doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong, though.

I considered myself religiously sophisticated. I thought I had found proto-Calvinism in St. Augustine, and that doing so proved I had found the original Christian faith. I stopped looking deeper when I should not have stopped.

I refused to look, gimlet-eyed, at the troubling (I want to say “absurd”) phenomenon of Protestant bonhomie in public (“Nobody here but us Christians”) covering over what we thought, and said, in private (“If they were just honest/smart/educated/etc., they’d read the Bible as we do.”).

We can overlook anything if it’s obvious enough.

For some reason, though, I had no trouble with ignoring the sunk costs, including some I perhaps should have considered (I’m not going to go there), when I awakened.

Glory to God!

* I do think it’s fair to see what happened to me 20 years ago as a “conversion.” To enter ecclesial Christianity — where faith in Christ and faith in His Church is one act of faith, not two — is a much more major than Evangelical-to-Calvinist.

2

Just now I read yet another article in an Evangelical outlet trying to explain why people become Catholic.  A number of motives were suggested:  That Catholicism is older and more traditional, that its liturgy is beautiful, and that the clarity of its teachings makes people feel secure.

Never was it suggested that we might simply find Catholicism more convincing — that we may have concluded that what the Catholic Church teaches is simply true.

Wouldn’t these critics be miffed if someone suggested that people become Evangelicals only because Evangelicalism is a recent development which breaks with tradition, that it has bouncy worship services, and that the Evangelical belief that “once saved, always saved” makes people feel secure?

… Protestants believe that the Catholic Church has distorted the Gospel since earliest times.  Yet when we converts studied the ancient Christian writers, it seemed to us that a different picture emerged.  Catholic doctrine appeared to have developed continuously and faithfully since the time of the Apostles.

(J Budziszewski)

The history of Western Christianity makes Roman Catholicism, apparently, a fairly “easy sell” to Protestants who start looking at the ancient Christian writers.

But in contrast to “develop[ing] continuously and faithfully since the time of the Apostles,” Orthodoxy appeals because it has preserved and transmitted the “faith once delivered” without substantial alteration. Several newly-minted dogmas of Roman Catholicism in the last two centuries particularly are hard to see as faithful.

One thing Budziszewksi and I can agree on: To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant.

3

This is not the kind of Catholic teaching that’s hard to see as faithful:

In Philadelphia I’m struck by how many women I now see on the street wearing the hijab or even the burqa.  Some of my friends are annoyed by that kind of “in your face” Islam.  But I understand it.  The hijab and the burqa say two important things in a morally confused culture:  “I’m not sexually available;” and “I belong to a community different and separate from you and your obsessions.”

I have a long list of concerns with the content of Islam.  But I admire the integrity of those Muslim women.

(Archbishop Charles Chaput, 10/19/16) Amen to that! I hope that a failure to appreciate that was not behind Wheaton College’s controversy.

* * * * *

Secondary Things

4

For all its talk of diversity, democracy is finally monist.  It begins by protecting the autonomy of the individual but can easily end by eliminating competing centers of authority and absorbing civil society into the state.  Even the family, seen through secular democratic eyes, can be cast as inefficient, parochial and a potential greenhouse of social problems.  Parental authority can become suspect because it escapes the scrutiny and guidance of the state.  And the state can easily present itself as better able to educate the young because of its superior resources and broader grasp of the needs of society.

(Archbishop Charles Chaput, 10/19/16)

* * * * *

Tertiary Things

5

Republican senators are right to reject any Obama or Clinton nominee out of hand, because these nominees hold an incorrect view of the Constitution. If, when begrudging the Senate’s unwillingness to accept a nominee, progressives are going to throw around arguments about legitimacy and political norms, they are sawing the branch on which they are sitting.

Conservatives believe legal texts should be interpreted according to their meaning at the time the text was adopted as law. On the flip side, the progressive method of interpretation is more like deciding what you want the text to mean and then shoehorning that meaning into the text. They believe a judge’s job is to decide what the law should say and then figure out a way to make the law say that.

If conservatives were equivalent on this front, you would have dozens of conservative jurists, scholars, and jurists lining up to explain that, say, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution protects the right to life of every embryo and fetus. Instead, they pointedly don’t do that, because abortion is not among the things the Constitution says the federal government can deal with, and so the issue is left up to the states. A court of nine Scalias would not enact a federal ban on abortion. And no conservative is calling for appointing justices that will do such a thing, even though it would accomplish with a stroke of a pen everything for which pro-lifers have been fighting for decades. To do so would be a travesty, and a joke.

A judge might believe that the law is wrong and his own beliefs are right. But is that really how we want them to judge?

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

6

[Y]ou’ve got to concede that Trump himself has given voters, especially women voters, ample reason to reject him. That’s not the result of conspiracies. There is something deeply, deeply wrong with that man.

Trump’s behavior reminds me of my own when I was a little kid, and would run foot races with my little sister. She was two years younger than I, but a really good athlete. I couldn’t stand the prospect of being beaten by her. She was a girl, after all, and she was younger than I was. Sometimes, my ego would be so great that as we approached the finish line, and I could see she was going to win, I deliberately fell, and claimed that I had tripped. Anything to deny her the satisfaction of knowing she beat me.

It was cheap and revealed a lack of character, but I did it. I was nine. Trump is 70.

(Rod Dreher)

7

Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process. It is a coming to terms with the reality of the situation. And it is not easy to achieve. What it looks like generally varies from person to person, but its application to the Christian political situation is a bit clearer: we’ve lost cultural ground, and that’s OK. It’s OK because the Christian hopes not in solely political process but in the active working of God. It’s OK because, to quote a famous poem, we are not the masters of our own fate, nor is Donald Trump the captain of our souls.

Acceptance of the new political landscape post-Trump will not be easy for many evangelicals to achieve. The reason for this will likely be our continued denial of our lost ground and power. Other more theologically inclined evangelicals may despair of the state of the whole mess we are in. But hope is not to be lost. If Trump represents the bargaining stage, then it’s very possible that we are actually progressing through the stages like we should. Further work on our part may lead to greater progress. After all, the night is darkest just before the dawn.

(Brian Mesimer, The Five Stages of Evangelical Grief) The “grief,” of course, is over loss of political “power, influence, and integrity.” Mesimer assesses that Evangelicals haven’t reached acceptance yet, but are stuck at “bargaining,” with its loss of integrity.

8

The pro-life movement has long recognized that a comprehensive approach to ending abortion is the only way forward. A “culture of life” has sociological, cultural, moral, and political dimensions and requires far more than overturning Roe v. Wade

Sadly, this sort of fool’s wager is exactly what pro-life Trump advocates are arguing for. Clinton may want to increase the supply for abortion, but Trump will increase demand. Donald Trump is the apotheosis of the sexual revolution’s worst male impulses. He has spent his entire life creating the culture that encourages abortions. He has profited off of the exploitation of women and spoken openly of his own proclivity for sexual assault—both of which undermine any argument pro-life conservatives might ever make for a culture of life. By forcing prominent conservatives to downplay or dismiss these, Trump actively tarnishes their credibility and turns the moral high ground they might otherwise stand on into quicksand.

“If you believe that Trump has actual pro-life principles or that he will honor any sort of pledge to only appoint pro-life justices, then you have to be one of the most monumental suckers who has ever lived.”

(Matthew Loftus, Donald Trump Would Set Back The Pro-Life Cause More Than Hillary Would), quoting Leon Wolf in the last paragraph)

I disagree with Loftus about one thing: Donald Trump has not “forc[ed] prominent conservatives to downplay or dismiss” his exploitation of women and sexual assaults. They did it freely, calculatedly, willing to abase themselves rather than admit that the Religious Right is dead.

9

I got a couple of paragraphs into this and laughed it off. Then, over the next day or so, I started seething at the audacity of it:

For months the mainstream media has conducted a number of skewed polls with results taken from small samples in areas that predominantly vote towards one political ideology (Democrat).

The Arizona Freedom Alliance Conducted a poll of 1000 people from every state and intentionally called 33% Democrats 33% Republicans and 33% Independents with a total of 50,000 people being polled. The results were Trump winning by a landslide. Constitution.com reported: ” We’ve been telling you the difference between a media poll and an internal poll. Media polls are driven by the desire to achieve a certain outcome.

That is why you think Hillary is leading Trump by 10 points. If you were paying attention, one of these polls had Hillary up by 15 points before the GOP convention. After the convention, Trump was up 15 points, a 30% jump! Statistically impossible. After the democrat convention, Hillary was up 10 points, a 25% swing.

Again, can’t happen. The media is jerking our chain. DO NOT believe them. The only polls that can be believed are internal polls that are rarely made public. While the poll below is not an internal poll, it was done in a most interesting manner – with no perceived bias. And it is YUGE!”

I wish I could readily find a detailed refutation, which I don’t have time to write (I’ve spent too much time on this blog already).

To start with, if you really want to know who’s winning — instead of creating a poll for Trumpista rubes who want to believe the election is “rigged” — you don’t give equal polling weight to states with few Electors. But that’s exactly what they did by calling 1,000 in each of the 50 states. You also probably don’t call Democrats, Republicans and Independents equally, unless Independents have grown larger than I think they have.

The fact is that there are huge concentrations of electors on the “blue” coasts and relatively few electors in flyover country where I live. Traveling over the weekend, I saw in Forrest, Ohio Trump signs in an astonishing proportion of yards. So what? California has 55 Electors to Ohio’s 18. This is sort of a replay of the maps that showed some Republican or other winning an overwhelming majority of the North American land mass — a sea of red with fringe and fleks of blue.

In short, this poll was either hopelessly naïve or cynically skewed — precisely the accusation they made toward “mainstream media” polls. And the crowning hypocrisy? The link takes you to “truthfeed.com.”

Yeah. Truthfeed. Right.

(I don’t rule out a Trump win in defiance of the polls. I don’t know how many secret votes he has from people who wouldn’t tell a pollster they’re voting for him because they know it’s frowned upon.)

10

Wayne Grudem, Evangelical mucky-muck and on again/off again Trumpista, is on again:

On the Supreme Court, abortion, religious liberty, sexual orientation regulations, taxes, economic growth, the minimum wage, school choice, Obamacare, protection from terrorists, immigration, the military, energy, and safety in our cities, I think Trump is far better than Clinton (see below for details). Again and again, Trump supports the policies I advocated in my 2010 book Politics According to the Bible.

(4) “If you vote for Trump you’ll never have credibility in the future when you say that character matters.”

Answer: I disagree. The current chaos over Trump’s candidacy (and Clinton’s) is mostly because of character issues, and character will continue to matter in future elections, perhaps even more so because of this election.

On the other hand, if you refuse to vote for Trump, how can you ever have credibility in the future when you say that the policy differences between candidates and between political parties matter?

Seriously, Mr. Grudem: How can you write as if this human pinball had a discernible position on anything? How can you take this former Democrat sex industry profiteer (yes, that means the strip club and the softcore Miss USA) and sufferer from satyriasis as a credible boon to the pro-life cause? Seriously, dude, a wet-behind-the-ears doctor from Sudan can do better than you.

People who think Trump is just an unusually colorful candidate with positions, instead of a narcissistic sociopath running a teaser for his new Trump Network (or something) strike me as fatally deficient in discernment.

* * * * *

“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.