Thursday 12/1/16

  1. Evangelical Reboot/Rebrand
  2. Jane Mayer, Incorrigibly Ignorant
  3. Lt. Marty. He’s pregnant, you know.
  4. Dodging The Good
  5. Bless those who curse you
  6. A “hard ask” of Democrats

Secondary Things

1

Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne take to the suspect pages of the New York Times to virtue-signal that the Evangelical “movement” (a telling locution)  has been tarnished and it’s time for a reboot and a rebranding.

“Always reforming” is a trope I heard a lot in Evangelicalism. “Red Letter Christians,” with which aging Campolo (I get out my garlic bouquet and hand-cross, just in case, whenever I see his byline) and hip Claiborne are both associated, is a deeply misguided effort to reform by focusing on the words of Jesus. I suspect that’s “focus” as in the simplistic “Forget those old white men Moses, Peter and Paul: Jesus never condemned [insert your favorite sin].”

I don’t expect “always reforming” or its equivalent ever to end because Protestantism slipped its moorings 500 years ago, separating from an ecclesial body that itself had slipped its moorings in 1054 (conventionally dated). By downplaying or disregarding all of the Bible that didn’t come out of Jesus’ mouth, Campolo and Claiborne may be starting yet another schism — than which, I suspect, nothing would please them more.

“The Church of the Scarlet Letter.” I can see it now.

2

It’s one thing to have a religion reporter who is religiously illiterate. It’s quite another, and more remarkable, to have one who is incorrigibly religiously illiterate.

The New Yorker is a remarkable magazine, and Jane Mayer is its incorrigible reporter. She reported that Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, was a member of the “deeply conservative Dutch Reformed Church.”

Enter Calvin College philosophy professor James K.A. Smith, who challenged Mayer, who in turn resisted correction. There is no “Dutch Reformed Church” in the United States and the Christian Reformed denomination (with which DeVos is historically affiliated though not a member) is viewed as liberal by Evangelicals.

Even when challenged, Mayer insisted “The Dutch Reformed Church was her denomination for years, then merged, split and renamed itself 2004,” apparently relying on a Wikipedia article about “Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk or NHK [formerly] the largest Christian denomination in the Netherlands.”

It’s a jungle out there. Safest to stay away from traditional media if you don’t want to get some of that there false news we’re been agonizing about of late.

(H/T GetReligion.org)

3

The Department of Risible Social Experimentation Defense has promulgated a 72-page manual for implementing transgender service in the U.S. Military.

For example, take the hypothetical case of Lieutenant Marty (pp. 50-51):

Lieutenant Marty changed his gender marker in the Service personnel data system from female to male after completing an approved transition plan. Lieutenant Marty has not had sex reassignment surgery as part of the transition plan and is working with his MMP on a plan to start a family. Lieutenant Marty approached his commanding officer a few weeks ago and mentioned he was pregnant.

The document gives advice to Marty and to the Commanding Officer. The strangest instruction is surely this:

Even though Lieutenant Marty has maintained female anatomy, he must be screened for pregnancy prior to deployment. If Lieutenant Marty became pregnant on deployment he will be transferred in accordance with Service policy.

Notice that: Even though Lieutenant Marty has maintained female anatomy, he should be screened for pregnancy before being deployed. Perhaps it is a typo, but as it stands—in an official government document—it is simply bizarre: “O.K., (s)he is still really a woman, but (s)he might actually be pregnant as (s)he claims.” Setting that aside, here’s the thing: If we are ultimately to make no distinction between genders, then the Kantian imperatives of our contemporary political culture mean that we must ultimately start screening all soldiers (male and female) for pregnancy, for to require only those with female anatomy to undergo such would seem to me to be a sign of cissexism, transphobia, etc., etc., etc.

You say it will never happen? But this logic has already prevailed in other areas. My son had to be screened for sickle cell anemia when he ran track at college, even though it was patently obvious that he was not in any remote danger of having it. Why then did he have to have the test? Because, as his coach told him, it would be racist to require the test only from those who might actually have the disease …

Transgenderism rests upon a metaphysics of personhood that will attempt to rewrite all of social reality as we know it (case in point: the Department of Defense’s Handbook). It represents the apotheosis of Philip Rieff’s Psychological Man. We have now become whoever and whatever we happen to think we are, and the world needs to be remade in a manner that plays to our fantasies.

Oh, and while we’re at it, it does actually pick my pocket, in that the convoluted government policies and their implementation are funded by my tax dollars. And while it may not directly break my leg, the bizarre culture of counterintuitive rules and convoluted, asinine procedures it has inspired looks likely to hinder the efficient performance of those who are paid to protect my leg from being broken by others.

(Carl R. Trueman, with humor assistance from the DoD; emphasis added)

Are you sleeping well knowing that Lt. Marty is on duty?

Tertiary Things

4

The two parties are, unwittingly, committed to the same plan of technological, progressive capitalism. To put it starkly, both Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have more in common with Hilary Clinton than any of them do with the authors of the Federalist Papers. If the generation of the so-called founding fathers were mainly interested in republicanism because it puts limits on power and keeps decisions local, and if they were mainly motivated by a mistrust of the human tendency to consolidate power, all three of these modern politicians I have mentioned are committed to a view of political leadership as providing for unlimited growth. Our contemporary politicians are rather like our cities, which keep encircling themselves with rings of new looping highways; whereas an older view saw politics as essentially a process of limits, more like an older city which had a kind of centripetal force, moving around public buildings situated at the center of the community.

(Jason Baxter, emphasis added)

This is the first time I recall reading anything by Prof. Baxter, but I look forward to installments 2 and 3 of Can the Humanities Contribute Anything to the Modern World?, of which this is a small, but I hope evocative, excerpt.

Here’s my short answer to the series question: The Humanties teach us something about what is good.

Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “education”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is, logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.” He says, “Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.” This, logically stated, means, “Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.” He says, “Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.” This, clearly expressed, means, “We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”

(G.K. Chesterton) Of course, my answer assumed that identifying what is good would be a contribution to the “Modern World.” The two major parties are united in Good-Dodging.

5

Garrison Keillor concludes his light-hearted “bless those that [literally] curse thee” reflection on President-Elect Trump and his supporters:

Maybe God did choose this bloated narcissist and compulsive liar and con man to be president, and maybe He will send a couple of Corinthians to light his pathway.

I have my doubts. You grow up to be skeptical of the hormone treatment that eliminates wrinkles, the metal detector that will locate buried treasure, the school that will teach you the secrets of getting rich, the great leader who will make the country great again.

But it does seem like the very thing God might do. Put an idiot in charge and cluster his clueless children around him and a coterie of old hacks and opportunists and thereby teach us haughty journalists a lesson. God made Balaam’s donkey open its mouth and say, “Quit hitting me, stupid.” And if He could do that, He could make this moose a halfway-decent president.

Meanwhile, blessings on all who cursed me. May you thrive and prosper. I hope you have not cursed your children.

6

If the idea of moving rightward seems distinctly strange to today’s Democrats, it’s partially because until this month’s rude awakening, much of liberalism was in thrall to demographic triumphalism: Convinced that the party’s leftward drift under President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton was in line with the drift of the country as a whole, and confident that with every birth and death and naturalization and 18th birthday their structural advantage would only grow.

Because Trump won without the popular vote, a version of this theory is still intact — but it shouldn’t be. The Democratic coalition is a losing coalition in most states, most House districts, most Senate races; the party’s national bench is thin, its statehouse power shattered, its congressional leadership aged and inert. It has less political power than it did after the Reagan revolution and the Gingrich sweep …

The Democrats have ceded a lot of territory in their recent gallop leftward, and it wouldn’t be that hard to come up with a revised version of the (again, Bill) Clinton playbook suited to the present time.

For instance: Democrats could attempt to declare a culture-war truce, consolidating the gains of the Obama era while disavowing attempts to regulate institutions and communities that don’t follow the current social-liberal line. That would mean no more fines for Catholic charities and hospitals, no more transgender-bathroom directives handed down from the White House to local schools, and restraint rather than ruthlessness in future debates over funding and accreditation for conservative religious schools …

This is a hard ask, since even modest shifts require compromising deeply held (if, in some cases, recently discovered) ideals. And it’s made much harder by the fact that liberals spent the last four years telling themselves that such compromises were not necessary anymore, that they belonged to the benighted 1990s and need trouble liberal consciences no more.

But that was a lie. And harder truths are what the buckling Democratic Party needs now.

(Ross Douthat)

* * * * *

“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.