Good Stuff, Monday 12/19/16

  1. For the Time Being
  2. In no sense a symbol
  3. A different mode of knowing and hearing
  4. Benedict (I) and Francis
  5. Tribal Loyalties
  6. 123 Likes the Shook the Nation
  7. Shaking hands with an innocent man

First Things


We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible.
We who must die demand a miracle.

W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.


Also from For the Time Being, musings of the Righteous Simeon, who held the Christ child at the temple and then prayed the Nunc Dimitis: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people, Israel.”

Remember: this is poetry. Don’t expect it yield immediate prosaic information.

By the event of this birth the true significance of all other events is defined, for of every other occasion it can be said that could’ve been different, but of this birth it is the case that it could in no way be other than it is. And by the existence of this Child, the proper value of all other existences is given, for of every other creature it can be said that it has no extrinsic importance but of this Child it is the case that he is in no sense a symbol.


One of the functions of Church is to move you into a different mode of knowing and hearing. And I think there are lots of other ways of signaling that, in the building and the atmosphere and so on.

(Malcolm Guite, on his seven sonnets on the Advent “O Antiphons,” Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 132 track 5). The sonnets are part of Waiting on the Word, A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

I reflexively alliterate. Guite flat-out owns alliteration. I may need to suppress my reflex forever and ever, world without end, or get sued for trespass.

But back to the block quote.

  • How does your Church move you into a different mode of knowing?
  • Might this “function” help you understand why liturgical churches build and create all the beauty they can afford instead of contentedly hunkering down in, for instance, an economically obsolescent strip mall?

Secondary Things


Rod Dreher has famously coined the term, and pushed discussion about, The Benedict Option. Many have pushed back against it, but mostly by careless caricature.

Less famously, Dreher has amplified such challenges to Pope Francis as the dubia posed by four Cardinals, including American Cardinal Burke. It was predictable that some would push back on that, too, as Francis has fans among conservative Catholics and not merely in the editorial offices of the New York Times (where they’re entertaining fantasies about Francis turning Catholicism into Unitarian Universalism with incense).

Caleb Bernacchio at Ethika Politika has done both, and indeed linked Dreher’s criticism of Francis to a potential source of failure of the Benedict Option.

To his credit, it seems to me that Bernacchio has avoided caricaturing the Benedict Option, or at least has avoided the usual caricatures. But he has, I think, caricatured Dreher’s criticism of Francis as asking him to fill the role of Grand Inquisitor instead of his preferred role of Good Samaritan. I think Dreher would be content with a Good Samaritan who is willing to say, as did Christ to the woman taken in adultery, “go and sin no more” — a message that seems appropriate for a Pope but which Francis seems to eschew.

Remember, Dreher left Roman Catholicism because of its decades of being Good Samaritans to pedophile priests, sending them for therapy and when they were feeling better, assigning them, unacknowledged as problem cases, to new parishes — where they buggered new sets of boys.

I expect Dreher will take up Bernacchio’s challenge within a few days. Iron sharpens iron, they say.

Tertiary Things


For many listeners, nothing was worse than Hillary Clinton. Two decades of vilification had taken their toll: Listeners whom I knew to be decent, thoughtful individuals began forwarding stories with conspiracy theories about President Obama and Mrs. Clinton — that he was a secret Muslim, that she ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor. When I tried to point out that such stories were demonstrably false, they generally refused to accept evidence that came from outside their bubble. The echo chamber had morphed into a full-blown alternate reality silo of conspiracy theories, fake news and propaganda.

And this is where it became painful. Even among Republicans who had no illusions about Mr. Trump’s character or judgment, the demands of that tribal loyalty took precedence. To resist was an act of betrayal.

(Charles Sykes) None of my acquaintances in social media are pushing secret Muslim or sex-out-of-a-pizza-parlor garbage, but I continue to see — tellingly, it seems to me — post-election repeats of How-Godawful-Crooked-Hillary-Is mêmes and even fresh content like this sore-winner spiteful endzone dance.



“The cherished bedrock of our system, the presumption of innocence, is a myth these days …”

He told of a federal judge in Iowa who was known to to shake hands with the defendant and say to the jury pool, “I just shook hands with an innocent man. Is there anyone here who can’t afford him the same presumption of innocence?”

(Article in Res Gestae, the Journal of the Indiana State Bar Association, about Jerry Bunting, advocate for Steven Avery who he says was framed after he sued over a wrongful conviction in 1985)

I like that Iowa judge’s approach.

* * * * *

“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.