Saturday 12/10/16

  1. Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Secret
  2. Theologoumena
  3. Remembering Memories
  4. Scott Pruitt
  5. Does reality violate equal protection of law?
  6. I miss dead trees sometimes


First Things

1

We need to see the Oscar Wilde that the museum in Paris has kept locked away in a closet so that we won’t be shocked when we visit the exhibition. We need to see the really outrageous Wilde that his biographers have brushed under the rug in their embarrassed efforts to keep his dirty secret hidden from the public. To cut to the chase, we need to know the love that dare not speak its name. We need to know the lifelong love affair that Oscar Wilde had with Christ and His Church, a love affair that was finally consummated on Wilde’s death bed.

This is the dirty secret that the Paris exhibition is hiding from the public. This is the love that dare not speak its name. It is the love of Christ which calls sinners to repentance, and the love of the penitent soul for the forgiveness of God. It is a love that is so shocking that it must be thrust into a closet and hidden.

(Joseph Pearce, Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Secret)

2

The Christian satire website Babylon Bee on Friday had an item titled Sweating John MacArthur Awakens From Nightmare In Which He’s Unsure About Something.

The need for certainty about everything is something I’ve pretty much gotten over in Orthodoxy. I’ll stand firmly for every word of the Nicene Creed and some other things the Church firmly teaches, but there’s a surprising lot of theologoumena (i.e., “your mileage may vary”) in Orthodoxy, including such as this:

Wisdom is articulated in sacrament because it is persuaded of a peaceful eschaton. All things move, because of their essence, toward a universal reconciliation — a union that perfects difference and cancels all violence.

Hell may be a reality, but it is never a theological necessity. It cannot be co-infinite with God. It may be indefinite, but this lack of closure should attract more skepticism than does the conceptual case of  universalism, mainly because of the claim that some will remain always lost. This possibility should bother, perennially, the orthodox.

A religion that makes hell philosophically necessary will inevitably weaken and fade, simply because of its apostasy from wisdom. Hell cannot become a dogmatic cause, or even the subject of definition. There is no “logos” or rationality with hell or about “hell” … [W]hen hell is given doctrinal status, then it enters the mind (or cultural mindset) as a virus and infects the entire ethos. It injects a necessary violence into what should be a narrative of primordial peace. Salvation, for instance, is devolved into an escape from a deserved penal sentence — a devolution that completely subverts the gospel of an eternal elaboration of beauty, in creaturely union with the Creator.

Hell is contained in history. It is certainly an anti-mystical theme in a meta-narrative of violence. In short, hell is anti-wisdom, if goodness is existence according to essence. Hell is something that makes perfect sense to atheists. And that fact should give us pause ….

(Fr. Jonathan Tobias, angel of counsel, prince of peace)

I believe that Orthodoxy has neither dogmatized nor anathematized universalism, and that doesn’t bother me. My task is to strive in concert with God to attain what he created me for — to become like Him, indeed to be a “partaker of the divine nature.” (Don’t be scandalized, dear Evangelicals; this is what y’all called “sanctification” when I was a young Evangelical.) Were I certain that hell did not exist (I’m not), that should not change.

Fr. Jonathan above and in the linked article sketches some reasons to think hell doesn’t exist, that all will be reconciled, and that hell certainly (as he sees it) does not exist as a theological necessity.

I read a newish convert to Orthodoxy, a man of strong religious and philosophical learning for years before coming into the Church, joining issue online in favor of universalism while someone who apparently was an old friend stood appalled, insisting that universalism was a “deal-breaker” (as in, I think, “if Orthodoxy can entertain the possibility of universal salvation, with nobody damned, I cannot ever consider becoming Orthodox”).

That is, I think, the “hell is a theological necessity” position translated into common parlance. If it comes from a position of “there must be a hell or else why do I believe, and why do I sacrifice some pleasures for the sake of my belief?”, then it bothers me more than the idea that God will eventually reconcile all things and souls to himself — yes, including the worst monsters you can think of.

Secondary Things

3

You’ll remember Memories Pizza as the small-town Indiana pizza shop whose Evangelical Christian owners were more or less set up by an Indiana TV reporter, amid the Indiana RFRA debacle, who asked them if they would cater a gay wedding. They said no, an answer which, upon broadcast, brought down a hateful national mob on their heads. They closed the business for a few days, and considered never opening again. They got death threats. I wrote about it all here at the time, saying:

This may not be the America the gay rights movement and its allies, especially in the media, wanted. But this is the America they have created. And it’s just starting.

I don’t know that I ever would have recommended watching a Milo video, but this one is genuinely informative, even moving. The interview with owners Kevin O’Connor and his daughter Crystal doesn’t start until the nine-minute mark, so fast-forward. They are gentle, kind, normal, small-town people. This interview really amplifies the horror of what the Social Justice Warrior mob did to them. It’s a relief to see that their business still thrives.

(Rod Dreher) It’s Milo’s thesis that the Memories Pizza incident galvanized America against what Rod formerly called “the America the gay rights movement and its allies, especially in the media … created.” He’s not alone in thinking that it contributed to the election of Donald Trump. Dreher provides some corroboration from how his own longstanding “Benedict Option” musings finally got some legs under them.

I’ve teed up the YouTube video to the 9:03 mark where Milo, Kevin and Crystal sit down and talk.

Tertiary Things

4

“Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.” That’s from a “news” story in the New York Times, the same paper that’s complaining about “the proliferation of raw opinion that passes for news.”

(James Taranto, Fake News Funhouse)

Under the Clean Air Act, states are allowed to craft their own implementation plans. If the EPA disapproves of a state plan, it is empowered to impose a federal one—one of the most aggressive actions the agency can take against a state, since it is the equivalent of a seizure of authority. In the entirety of the presidencies of George H.W. Bush,Bill Clinton andGeorge W. Bush, the EPA imposed five federal implementation plans on states. By last count, the Obama administration has imposed at least 56.

Much of Mr. Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma’s AG was about trying to stuff federal agencies back into their legal boxes. Most of the press either never understood this, or never wanted to. When the media wrote about state lawsuits against ObamaCare or the Clean Power Plan or the Water of the United States rule, the suggestion usually was that this litigation was ideologically motivated, and a naked attempt to do what a Republican Congress could not—tank the president’s agenda.

The basis of nearly every one of these lawsuits was in fact violations of states’ constitutional and statutory rights—and it is why so many of the cases were successful. It was all a valiant attempt to force the federal government to follow the law.

(Kimberly Strassel, Trump’s Federalist Revival)

5

It struck me, as a citizen-tourist from one Washington visiting the other, that it will take all the sentiments embodied in marble to contain the dangerous excesses of Donald Trump. Most everything inscribed in stone will be tested.

(Timothy Egan, Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day Walk)

Welcome to my world, Mr. Egan, where all that was solid has been melting into air. For instance (in a rare restoration of solidity after testing):

Arkansas’ highest court on Thursday threw out a judge’s ruling that could have allowed all married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their children’s birth certificates without a court order, saying it doesn’t violate equal protection “to acknowledge basic biological truths.”

6

There are downsides to reading newspapers on the web instead of on dead trees. I’m thinking of things that linger for days and days on digital opinion pages like:

* * * * *

“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.