Friday evening, 10/21/16

  1. Which God don’t you believe in?
  2. Shoring up The Imperium
  3. Lumpy. That’s what we are.
  4. An unexpectedly Safe (Internet) Space
  5. Realism versus Ideology
  6. Never say die
  7. Sane Donald
  8. Judicial Confirmation Question #1


First Things

1

The young man announced at the beginning of a college class, that he was an atheist. I’d been invited as a guest lecturer, and had opened the talk with the observation that everyone has a nous that hungers for God …

I asked him to define the God he’d chosen to deny, and after hearing his definition, I declared that I agreed with him. I, too, did not believe in such a God. The average understanding of just who God is, has largely been based on a concept that is not in sync with the biblical description of God, nor the teachings of the historic Church …

The God that has been revealed in the holy scriptures, and the God we worship within the life of the Church, is a God that so loved us, that He took on our human flesh, that He might experience our hunger, our thirst, our sorrow, our pain, and even our joy. He is not a remote God, incapable of understanding His creation, but, rather, a God who chose to join Himself to His creation, and invite us into communion with Him. We have been invited to share in His divinity, and, through the gift of eternal life, to dwell with Him forever.

(Abbot Tryphon)

* * * * *

Secondary Things

2

The vices of each candidate are well-known. They do not need to be weighed and measured yet again. A Trump election would likely have accelerated our descent into chaos, fueling violent social disintegration and fragmenting the “deep state” into an ad hoc collection of bureaucratic fiefdoms unresponsive to the erratic declarations of an unstable executive whom they regarded as illegitimate. A Clinton election almost certainly means that the juggernaut of progressive Cultural Revolution will proceed unobstructed. Each of these dismal possibilities is sure to bring painful real-world consequences, and together they manifest the exhaustion of liberal order and deep civilizational crisis which we lack the wherewithal to fully recognize or understand. It is this crisis that we should reflect upon.

More:

“There is nothing like a good shock of pain,” writes C.S. Lewis in The Silver Chair, “for dissolving certain kinds of magic.” If there is hope to be found in this painful political year, it is in the fact that the spell which liberal modernity has long cast over the Christian imagination might finally be starting to dissolve even as technocracy tightens its grip on our everyday lives. The fundamental question in the wake of that dissolution and in the face of the interminable juggernaut of technological and liberal order is not whether we can rebuild conservatism or renew the moral foundations of civil society, but whether we can find our way to the fullness of the transcendent faith with all that this implies, and live in the light of a truly eschatological hope.

Or, to put it another way: In the end, shoring up the imperium is not what should concern orthodox Christians in A.D. 2016. Shoring up the church and the living Christian tradition is infinitely more important.

(Michael Hanby, via Rod Dreher who adds the postscript, too.)

3

“Why is it that when we grab for heaven—socialist or capitalist or even religious—we so often produce hell?” she plaintively asks. “I’m not sure, but so it is. Maybe it’s the lumpiness of human beings.” Lumpiness, indeed. Neither Thomas More nor Russell Kirk could have said it better.

(Brad Birzer, writing an appreciation of Margaret Atwood in the American Conservative November 1, 2016)

I’ll admit it. When The Handmaid’s Tale came out in 1985, I read the summaries and put the previously unknown-to-me Ms. Atwood on my, er, fecal roster. I had not reconsidered that until now, despite some major changes in my life.

Brad Birzer, who I trust enough to risk $9.99 on a Kindle edition, has given me a sufficient reason — including that The Handmaid’s Tale now apparently is part of the American literary canon, required in many high schools.

It helps that one of the evil (maybe Atwood isn’t so simplistic as that) characters, Serena Joy, struck Birzer as obviously modeled on Tammy Fae Baker (who I never remotely admired) and that the dystopia was inspired in part by travels to Communist lands (not by cartoonish fear of theocracy from someone who didn’t know diddly-squat about the religious landscape).

* * * * *

Tertiary Things

4

As is typically true, the comments to Dreher’s blog are excellent (he moderates them and thus maintains a Safe Space/No Troll Zone), and offer some of the most evocative <tendentious>excuses</tendentious> I’ve seen to vote for Trump.

5

The history of Western diplomacy alternates between periods of “realism” and ideology. In the first, regimes maneuver for marginal advantage, their conflicts tempered by shared beliefs and interests. In the second, they seek to destroy or transform one another, with much less concern for means. Warfare occurs in both, but it is more limited, easily settled, and fluid with respect to coalitions in the former. In the latter, intervals of “neither war nor peace” and relatively rigid alliance systems punctuate few-holds-barred combat. One setting is a theater for worldly and cynical statesmen; the other for zealots, adventurers, and tyrants. Far better to live during the first’s orderly quadrille than the second’s totentanz.

The world does, of course, continue to be menaced by a brutal ideology, Islamism. But no great state embraces it, each being high on its target list. Moreover, Islamism’s menace is less a matter of its own energies and resources than the faltering confidence and divided diplomacy of the great powers. A concert of realists would crush it. The world as it recently was—organized into competing camps—would probably have kept it much better caged. But the current scene, partly ideologically deflated and partly ideologically confused, allows Islamist radicalism surprising scope for mayhem.

(Stephen H. Balch, For a Concert of Powers: The case for treating strong states realistically, not ideologically, the American Conservative November 1, 2016)

The “strong states” we need to dance with notably include China and our old nemesis Russia.

6

On Facebook: a Massachusetts Catholic woman insists on voting for Trump, though “evil Hillary” leads him by 23 points in the Bay State.

Never say die. It would be unthinkable to vote conscientiously for a third party candidate one actually agrees with as long as she is on the ballot to vote against.

M’aam, I hate to tell you this, but you’re wasting a perfectly good chance to say “I’m fed up and I’m not going to take it any more” to the wretched choices a Higher Authority seems to have weighed in the balance and found wanting.

7

Peggy Noonan on Friday endorsed “Sane Donald Trump for president. Too bad he doesn’t exist.”

Wayne Grudem said he’d vote for Trump’s positions, not for Trump. I replied that I cannot take his “positions” seriously, and I truly cannot because he’s a son of the Father of Lies, lying constantly and breaking his word at the drop of a hat — the habits of 40+ years in as a big city and casino “Developer” with all the brutality and cronyism that title implies.

But what if? What has he said just often enough for me to recall it and wish it were true?

  • That we can work with, not on, Russia.
  • That eleven named individuals are the sorts he’d nominate to Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • That he didn’t want to invade the world and opposed the Iraq invasion.
  • That he didn’t want to invite the world, either. (If we’d stop invading the world and helping topple distasteful rulers in favor of chaos followed by ISIS, there’d be fewer refugees we’re morally obliged to receive.)

There may be others, but those are front and center.

8

I am not unaware that a victory by Hillary Clinton is undesirable:

Mrs. Clinton revealed a view of the Supreme Court that is far more threatening to American liberty [than Trump’s view].

Start with her answer to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about the role of the courts. “The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court,” she said. “And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”

Where to begin with that one? The Supreme Court doesn’t—or shouldn’t—“represent” anyone. In the U.S. system that’s the job of the elected branches. The courts are appointed, not elected, so they can be nonpartisan adjudicators of competing legal claims.

Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that the Court should be a super-legislature that vindicates the will of what she calls “the American people,” which apparently excludes “the powerful.” But last we checked, the Constitution protects everyone, even the powerful. The law is supposed to protect individual rights, not an abstraction called “the people.”

The Democrat went downhill from there, promising to appoint judges who would essentially rewrite the First and Second Amendments …

To put all this another way, Mrs. Clinton believes there is no restriction on abortion she would ever support, and there is no restriction on gun rights she would ever oppose. Carhart, Citizens United and Heller were 5-4 decisions, and Mrs. Clinton wants each of them to be litmus tests for her Supreme Court appointments. She mocks Mr. Trump for saying he won’t abide by the election result, but she wants to rewrite the Constitution to fit her own political views.

(Wall Street Journal, Hillary’s New Constitution) This quote should be on the lips of every Republican Senator grilling her nominees to federal courts.

Further south on the Acela route, Charles Krauthammer lays out his case against Hillary. Since he’s a hawkish neocon, the criticism has mostly to do with cynicism, corruption and raw ambition, not foreign policy, but it’s potent anyway.

* * * * *

“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.