Wednesday 10/26/16

  1. “Highest and Best”
  2. A sickly sub-pagan state
  3. Liberal ultramontanism
  4. BLM
  5. More than a little ironic
  6. Religious Right: theological liberals
  7. Jack Chick, RIP

First Things


I sat at lunch on the patio at Chipotle Monday, right at the edge of a major university campus, admiring a dignified Lutheran Church that’s been there as long as I can remember — which is getting to be a pretty long time.

Had I taken a dozen steps to the west, then looked north past the edge of Chipotle, I could have seen a full city block full of mixed use — commercial on the first floor, apartments above, multi-story parking garage abutting — built in one fell swoop 12-15 years ago, replacing a large, modern United Methodist Church — architecturally a bit brutal, but home to a splendid pipe organ and a fairly thriving congregation.

Again, this was right at the edge of a major university campus.

The Methodists sold out to commercial developers and rebuilt an even less distinguished home not too far from campus, but far enough that congregants almost certainly all drive to Church.

The Lutherans reportedly are selling out, too. There’s commercial property abutting to the east, west and north, with student housing (I believe) to the south.

Economists will say that the “highest and best use” of the Lutheran site is commercial crap, not a House of God.

Got that? “Highest and Best Use.”

The Churches apparently are finding the offers irresistible. Students will just have to drive to Church — assuming they have cars.

Seems to me that everybody‘s overlooking real values that simply aren’t economic. Remember those?

Secondary Things


Let’s get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, prudence for sticks in the mud who worry about people who don’t yet exist. A man who fathers six children upon three women and now wants to turn himself into a “woman” attracted to other women—he is praised for his courage. Justice means that a handful of narrowly educated and egotistical judges get to overturn human culture and biology, at their caprice.

We are not in partibus infidelibus. We are in partibus insanibus.

What shall we do now? The answer is both daunting and liberating. We do everything. That doesn’t mean that I do everything, or that you do everything. Suppose you find yourself in a bombed out city. There are all kinds of things to do, and all of them have to be done. Some needs are more pressing than others, and some things can be done only after other things are in order. But everywhere you turn, there’s work to do. You have to find clean water. You have to find food. You have to tend to the wounded and bury the dead. You have to erect shelters. You have to see which of the few buildings left standing are actually safe. You have to demolish those that are ruined beyond repair. You have to organize work teams. Someone has to prepare the meals. Someone has to keep the children out of trouble. In such a situation, it’s almost absurd to ask whether it’s more important to build a latrine than to gather together some undamaged books. All of it has to be done. So you do what you can do—the work that is ready to your hand.

(Anthony Esolen, Introduction to his forthcoming Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture; H/T Rod Dreher — hyperlink translations added)


[F]ar more illuminating than the WikiLeaks Podesta dump has been watching Progressive Catholicism’s rapid-response team swing into action. Most interesting was the contribution by a friend of this columnist, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne. In addition to echoing the nothing-to-see-here-folks line, Mr. Dionne added that Pope Francis is in fact leading the “Catholic Spring” Mr. Podesta’s correspondent had wished for.

It’s a revealing take. For the great commission of Progressive Catholicism is not about bringing the Gospel to a modern world. It’s about bringing the modern world and its orthodoxies—especially the sexual revolution—into the Catholic Church.

No doubt this is what John Halpin of the Center for American Progress meant when he emailed Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s current communications director, on how conservatives “must be attracted” to the church’s “severely backwards gender relations.” It is also what the Catholic on the bottom half of the Clinton ticket, Tim Kaine, meant when he expressed his confidence that the church will come ’round to the Democratic platform on same-sex marriage.

Say what you will about the prominent Catholics associated with the GOP, moreover, dozens signed a public manifesto co-written by theologian George Weigel and Princeton’s Robert George loudly declaring Donald Trump unfit to be the Republican nominee. These are not people who just go along. In sharp contrast, Progressive Catholicism is all about silence and obedience, to the point where Mr. Kaine tells us Roe v. Wade is beyond question.

(William McGurn, Hillary Clinton’s Catholic Fan Club, emphasis added)

Yup. Sex is axiomatic; religion is malleable (how else could it be kept comfy?).

Tertiary Things


I heard a disturbing rumor about official Black Lives Matter positions that go far beyond anything I can support. I finally remembered to check it out. It’s substantially true.

From their “Guiding Principles” (emphasis added):

  • We are committed to fostering a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.
  • We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
  • We are committed to embracing and making space for trans brothers and sisters to participate and lead. We are committed to being self-reflexive and doing the work required to dismantle cis-gender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

When they say “Black Lives Matter” is just about police violence, they’re lying. It could have been, and perhaps should have been, but they smuggled in much more.

Don’t say “I support Black Lives Matter” unless you support that “much more.”


Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee, said he was baffled by the bar association’s interference in the committee’s journal.

“It is more than a little ironic,” he said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”

(Adam Liptak, New York Times)


American evangelicalism is enmeshed with the Religious Right
psychologically and institutionally and in terms of reputation in ways the Catholic bishops, the Mormon apostles, or Orthodox rabbis just aren’t.

Moore went all-out condemning religious conservative figures who, in his view, traded their moral principles for first-class seats on the Trump Train. The same movement that condemned Bill Clinton for his immorality and denounced feminists for their hypocrisy in sticking by Clinton for the sake of holding on to power has produced leaders who have done exactly the same thing. For Moore, they are morally bankrupt, and the world knows it, even if they don’t. And it’s their own fault:

Mr. Trump did not give us this. This is a preexisting condition. The Religious Right turns out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about.

For the Religious Right, the strangeness to the world is not where the New Testament places it—in the scandal of the gospel—but in the willingness to say outrageous things on television. Some would suggest that even broaching this topic is “intellectual snobbery.” And yet, imagine a 1960s civil rights movement led not by Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, but by Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright. King did not simply speak to the passions of his followers but to the consciences of his detractors and to the consciences of those on the sidelines, overhearing it all. Behind that was a coherent set of ideas, grounded in the Bible and the Declaration of Independence.

… Moore defined “theological liberalism” as using the Gospel to advance worldly goals. Then, he denounced

the sort of apocalyptic language that presents every presidential election as an Armageddon from whence one cannot recover is the sort of theological liberalism that makes no sense in a religion in which Augustine wrote the City of God in the context of a collapsing Rome.

In sum, if the Religious Right is to be saved, it needs not just a tune-up, but a heart transplant. “Religious conservatives will need a robust religion and a sense of what is, in fact, to be conserved,” he said.

(Rod Dreher, enthusing over Russell Moore’s Monday First Things annual Erasmus Lecture; emphasis added) I likely will return to Moore’s lecture when the full text becomes available at First Things.



Jack Chick has died at age 92. I was a little surprised that the New York Times didn’t have the obituary and I had to Google it to get it from the Los Angeles Times.

Chick’s pulpy, lurid cartoons combined traditional evangelism with frankly conspiracy-minded attacks. He and later other illustrators produced several hundred tracts over the decades. Latching onto the issues of the day, the tracts took aim at abortion, occultism, ecumenism and other perceived evils.

They portrayed everything from rock music to Dungeons & Dragons and Harry Potter as literal traps of the Devil.

So maybe I grew up a little skewed. But I’m not alone. Several Facebook friends — not one of them a fundamentalist like Chick— mentioned it, mentioned reading his tracts, er, religiously, and in one case of being so startled at the tendentiousness of one of them (“Death Cookie”) that he undertook his own study of Christian history and embraced the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which Death Cookie apparently mocked).

Indeed, from the anecdotal evidence of my Facebook friends, Chick might as well have been a double agent, so little did he accomplish for his view and so often do his formerly fundy readers look back and laugh — from a secure position in a sort of Christianity that Chick made no effort either to understand or to portray accurately.

So I guess I’ll miss him, ever so slightly.

* * * * *

“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.