Tuesday 12/13/16

  1. Religionless Christianity Ain’t
  2. What Jesus wanted
  3. Schadenfreude: Mortal or Venial?
  4. Obama’s national security weakness
  5. Shrugging it off
  6. Clerical error
  7. Hitting the jackpot

First Things


Christianity as “relationship” and not “religion” is a frequent trope in many sectors of revivalist and revivalist-influenced Protestantism. It’s everywhere. True Christians don’t have “religion” but “relationship.” Religion is shorthand for everything modern revivalists think is wrong with Christian expressions they see as cold, institutional, ritualistic, dead, rigorist, Pharisaical, hypocritical, pursuing a works-salvation, etc. Religion is “man-made” and therefore bad, but “relationship” is what Jesus Christ offers in salvation.

… I think there is … a big problem with using religion like this, especially without actually explaining how this usage differs from what just about everyone else in the English-speaking world means by it, which is ably if prosaically summed up by dictionary definitions like this one:

religion, noun. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

This is what most people mean by the term. Religion is beliefs and practices relating to these things … To say that Christianity is not a religion in this sense is just nonsense to most people. Despite the protestations of most low-church Protestants, even a Quaker has devotional and ritual observances.

What most Protestants mean when they critique “ritual” (especially “dead ritual”) is just that they don’t want to practice those other rituals. They still have rituals, though. They’re fine with their choirs or worship teams or hand-raising or baby dedications or baptisms, etc.

And one has to appreciate the irony of Driscoll’s tweet including hashtag #PrayLikeJesus. Alongside the moments of Jesus praying alone to His Father that we see in the Gospels, we also see Him praying corporately in the synagogue and Temple, getting baptized, and even celebrating feast days, which all looks like classic religiosity by nearly anyone’s definition.

(Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, Stop Using “Religion” to Mean Bad Religion — bold added)

I bolded that paragraph because it is a horrible Evangelical blind spot to think that they have no rituals and that Catholics (and Orthodox) have no real relationship with God, yet I know it was true when I left.

In the reality-based world, people roll their eyes and check out emotionally when they hear someone start in that “Christianity isn’t a religion.”


She was raised in a strict church, and says from the time she was young, she was asking all kinds of questions about God. She told me something interesting. Despite belonging to a church and actually going to church, she was the only member of her family who ever thought that Jesus really wanted his followers to change the way they were living.

(Rod Dreher, Why Don’t Poor People Move? — emphasis added)

Tertiary Things


Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet seems to have counted his chickens six months before they hatched, concluded that he had a controlling majority, and gave (insofar as it lay in his power to issue orders) his marching orders to the now-unconstrained liberal legal academy and judiciary: Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.

It was bold and brash. I agreed with Tushnet about just two things:

  1. Siring Eve Tushnet (she was obviously raised by barbarians, God bless her!).
  2. The italicized opening to his point 6 (and I mean it differently than does he).

Tushnet ends with a wink:

Of course all bets are off if Donald Trump becomes President. But if he does, constitutional doctrine is going to be the least of our worries.

Bwahahahaha! Donald Trump becoming President! What a cut-up this guy is! …


Randy Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, taking pages from Tushnet, suggests a bold abandonment of defensive crouch conservatism now, but with a twist:

[W]here the text has itself been misinterpreted, or where doctrine is not implementing the text in good faith–that is, consistent not only with its letter but also with its spirit–then that doctrine should be reversed.

So it’s not the timid conservativish decisions of the past thirty years that need to be repudiated as “wrong the day they were decided,” but New Deal, Warren Court and Burger Court decisions — not because they’re progressive (Tushnet’s touchstone), but because they’re inconsistent with the Constitution.

One would have to have a heart of stone not to rejoice at Barnett’s exploitation of Tushnet’s audacity.

Barnett is really not proposing “paybacks are hell, Mark,” but Tushnet may see it differently. (If he didn’t want to inspire schadenfreude, he shouldn’t have been so damned smug about it.)

Again, I’m reminded of the silver lining to the dark cloud that is our President Elect: Mark Tushnet isn’t on the Supreme Court short list.


This took a minute to sink in.


Markets shrugged off the Brexit vote in a couple of days. They shrugged off Donald Trump’s election in a single day. They shrugged off the Italian referendum result in a couple of hours. Heck, in this mood they would shrug off an alien invasion of planet Earth.

(Albert Edwards, Société Générale via James Howard Kunstler)


[The rediscovery of men] must account, at least in part, for the post-election hysteria among the social justice folk and their mentors at the Prog end of politics, especially those bent on suppressing or eliminating men. Of course, it’s only been the last year or so that their long-running animus became explicit, their writ against white men in particular. Before, it was all sub rosa, really just a byproduct of the campaign to uplift women, people-of-color, and the many theoretical gender categories vying for supremacy of the moral high ground. Hillary was expected to drive the final wooden stake through masculinity’s demonic heart… but something went wrong… and she was disarmed… and now this cheeto-headed monster in a red necktie is the president-elect. There must have been a clerical error.

Donald Trump was about as far from my sense of the male ideal as anything short of the Golem. His accomplishments in life — developing hotels that look like bowling trophies and producing moronic TV shows — seem as flimsy as the plastic golden heraldry plastered on his casinos. His knowledge of the world appears to be on the level of a fifth grader. He can barely string together two coherent sentences off-teleprompter …

But then consider the freak show that American culture has become in our time and it shouldn’t be surprising that a cartoon nation has ended up with a cartoon of a man as head-of-state.

(James Howard Kunstler)


Nothing pleases the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto more than catching his liberal crosstown rivals with their pants down. He scored big-time yesterday:

“Top Republicans must reject the ridiculous notion that a national election can be ‘rigged,’ ” the New York Times demanded in an Oct. 18 editorial. That was then, this is now: “[President-elect] Trump should be leading the call for a thorough investigation, since it would be the only way to remove this darkening cloud from his presidency. Failing to resolve the questions about Russia would feed suspicion among millions of Americans that a dominant theme of his candidacy turned out to be true: The election was indeed rigged.”

* * * * *

“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.