Friday 12/23/16

  1. O Emmanuel
  2. Religious pluralism has its benefits
  3. Our strange, strange human race
  4. 83 to 55 versus 5 to 122
  5. “Protecting against Islamophobia”
  6. Are anti-SLAPP laws of any use whatever?

First Things


In my Advent Anthology from Canterbury PressWaiting on the Word, we come to the last of the Seven Great O Antiphons, which was sung on either side of the Magnificat on Christmas Eve, O Emmanuel, O God with us. This is the antiphon from which our lovely Advent hymn takes its name. It was also this final antiphon which revealed the secret message embedded subtly into the whole antiphon sequence. In each of these antiphons we have been calling on Him to come to us, to come as Light as Key, as King, as God-with-us. Now, standing on the brink of Christmas Eve, looking back at the illuminated capital letters for each of the seven titles of Christ we would see an answer to our pleas : ERO CRAS the latin words meaning ‘Tomorrow I will come!”

O Emmanuel

O Rex

O Oriens

O Clavis

O Radix

O Adonai

O Sapientia

I have also tried in my final sonnet to look back across the other titles of Christ, but also to look forward, beyond Christmas, to the new birth for humanity and for the whole cosmos, which is promised in the birth of God in our midst ….

(Malcolm Guite) Visit his blog for the O Antiphon, Guite’s sonnet on it, and Jac Redford’s choral setting of the sonnet.


I’m probably — no, unmistakably — stretching the concept of “first things” today. John Michael Greer, a Canadian Druid, muses on the season, beginning thusly:

One of the many advantages of being a Druid is that you get to open your holiday presents four days early. The winter solstice—Alban Arthuan, to use one term for it in the old-fashioned Druid Revival traditions I practice—is one of the four main holy days of the Druid year. Though the actual moment of solstice wobbles across a narrow wedge of the calendar, the celebration traditionally takes place on December 21.  Yes, Druids give each other presents, hang up decorations, and enjoy as sumptuous a meal as resources permit, to celebrate the rekindling of light and hope in the season of darkness.

Come to think of it, I’m far from sure why more people who don’t practice the Christian faith still celebrate Christmas, rather than the solstice. It’s by no means necessary to believe in the Druid gods and goddesses to find the solstice relevant; a simple faith in orbital inclination is sufficient reason for the season, after all—and since a good many Christians in America these days are less than happy about what’s been done to their holy day, it seems to me that it would be polite to leave Christmas to them, have our celebrations four days earlier, and cover their shifts at work on December 25th in exchange for their covering ours on the 21st. (Back before my writing career got going, when I worked in nursing homes to pay the bills, my Christian coworkers and I did this as a matter of course; we also swapped shifts around Easter and the spring equinox. Religious pluralism has its benefits.)

(Emphasis added) If people took his call seriously, it would have at least two effects:

  1. It would leave December 25 to (a) people who think Christ is part of the Christmas story and (b) those who know that Christmas is part of Christ’s story (H/T Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick). They would celebrate it in their various ways: (a) like the pagans but with some Jesus and Bible thrown in, maybe, and (b) with Church services, breaking of a season of fasting and preparation, and revelry until Epiphany/Theophany.
  2. It would liberate those who don’t practice even a feeble Christian faith to move toward a franker paganism — and as C.S. Lewis says, the pagan in more susceptible to evangelism than is the vaguely Christianish person.

Secondary Things


I am a member of a strange, strange race, that of the humans.

Consider, for instance, the case of “a secular/agnostic Californian … from the liberal bastion of Northern California … who is “experiencing ‘tribe fatigue.’ I’m not tired of The Other, Detestable Tribe. I’m tired of my own.”

Specifically, she has decided to try out

the Christian Right. It is no small feat, switching tribes. It feels stressful and weird to abandon your tribe for the Detested Other Side.

Since November 8, my husband and I have been taking the kids to church. (He is politically conservative with a religious bent, so no argument there.) I have come this close to buying a giant poster of the American flag for the living room. I may do it still.

Right now, I am struggling to accept the basic Christian doctrines (virgin birth, resurrection, second coming) because I feel the Christian tribe may be the right tribe for my family.

The full oddity didn’t hit me at first, but here it is: how did she think to join “the Christian Right” without “basic Christian doctrines”?

A couple of possibilities suggest themselves:

  1. The Christian Right’s “Right-ness” so overshadows the basic Christian doctrines that she hadn’t noticed the latter.
  2. American Folk Religion, a/k/a Evangelicalism, a/k/a one of two public faces of Christianity in America (the other being Catholic clergy) presents in public more as a tribe, even putting politics aside, than as a body bound together by shared beliefs. (The Babylon Bee has played around with satire along these lines.)
  3. That she has a sense of the need to belong far more acute than mine. (This could shed light on how people become Unitarian-Universalists, a religion so devoid of what I consider religious that I have trouble seeing the point of styling it a religion.)
  4. That I insufficiently appreciate the multitudinous paths whereby one can come to Christian faith. I simply must have most of my doctrinal duckies in a row to consider a switch, as was true of my switch to Orthodox Christianity (where my newfound ecclesiology — a major doctrine in its own right — taught me to trust the Church more than my deformed mind for the loose end doctrines).
  5. That she is really cruising for bitter disappointment if she thinks her target tribe is free of the smugness and shallowness of her departure tribe.
  6. ???

Her story has now spawned two Rod Dreher blogs (My Fellow Liberals, I’m Tired of You and More On The Fed-Up Secular Liberal) and many, many comments.

Tertiary Things


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) looked at the Cabinet and declared it full of “Goldman, Generals, and Gazillionaires.” Hedge fund manager Ray Dalio quantified just how much private sector experience Trump’s picks have: a cumulative 83 years in the private sector vs. 55 years in either government or military (mostly military). By contrast, Obama’s first Cabinet had achieved a cumulative of five years in the private sector vs. 122 years in the government or military (mostly government) before joining his incoming administration. Trump’s Cabinet is tilted more toward the private sector than any administration in history, and Dalio predicts this may inject into the economy the “animal spirits” that spurred so much growth in the 1980s.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty)

I don’t consider this 83/55 tilt terribly ominous. Obama’s 5/122 seems more weirdly unbalanced to me.

But I have roughly zero hope for those animal spirits bringing back the growth of the 1980s.


Police in Bristol have stepped up patrols in the city centre due to concerns about Islamophobia in the wake of the Berlin terror attack.

The Christmas markets in the German city were the target of a terrorist attack on Monday where a lorry was driven into crowds of people, killing 12 and injuring another 48.

Since then mounted police officers, bobbies on the beat and PCSOs have been spotted around the Bristol Christmas market in Broadmead.

If you read the story, you’ll see that the lede wasn’t simply a matter of media spin, but what the police spokesman said. Do the police actually believe this lie, or do they feel that they have to say it? Either way, it’s pathetic.

(Rod Dreher) Yeah. They’re patrolling the Bristol Christmas market to avoid an Islamophobic attack like the one in Germany. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Most charitable construction: Stockholm Syndrome.

Someone I respect (I forget who) makes it a point to read Joseph Pieper’s Abuse of Language — Abuse of Power once each year. I’m overdue, but intend to fix that within the 24 hours after I type this.

One of the great Catholic philosophers of our day reflects on the way language has been abused so that, instead of being a means of communicating the truth and entering more deeply into it, and of the acquisition of wisdom, it is being used to control people and manipulate them to achieve practical ends. Reality becomes intelligible through words. Man speaks so that through naming things, what is real may become intelligible. This mediating character of language, however, is being increasingly corrupted. Tyranny, propaganda, mass-media destroy and distort words. They offer us apparent realities whose fictive character threatens to become opaque. Josef Pieper shows with energetic zeal, but also with ascetical restraint, the path out of this dangerous situation. We are constrained to see things again as they are and from the truth thus grasped, to live and to work.

(Amazon book note)


Are anti-SLAPP laws of any use whatever?

Thursday morning the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that Michael Mann’s defamation suit against Rand Simberg, Mark Steyn, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute over blog postswritten by Simberg and Steyn may proceed. More than two years since hearing oral argument, the court sided with the defendants on a procedural question, but ultimately rejected their effort to have the defamation suit dismissed (with one small exception). However intemperate the original blog posts at issue, this decision is tremendously unfortunate, as it threatens to make it too easy for public figures to file lawsuits against their critics and, as a consequence, threatens to chill robust political debate.

(Jonathan Adler, Making Defamation Law Great Again: Michael Mann’s suit may continue) Read the whole blog, and follow the links to Ken White and Dan Farber, too.

As I snarked on Twitter, Donald Trump has not even been sworn in yet, and it’s already becoming easier for public figures to sue people in the nation’s capital.


* * * * *

“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.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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