Thursday 1/5/17

  1. Points for integrity, anyway
  2. Virginitas in partu?
  3. ConLawProf’s Ironic Legacy
  4. What Trial Lawyers Know
  5. That Ubiquitous Resolution
  6. Wendell Berry’s hierarchy of evil
  7. Taking the Federalist Cure


1

Now, after his near-death experience, his wife told him — more bluntly than she ever had — what she thought was going on. “You know,” Marty said, “I think you ought to stop being a professional Christian, since you don’t believe in God, and you don’t believe in heaven, and you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead three days after dying — and neither do I.” He knew that she was right, and he began telling friends that he was a “post-Christian.”

Now that he had crossed the bridge to apostasy, he needed a new vocation. But as he took stock of the rest of his life, Campolo decided that there was no reason an atheist couldn’t still be a minister too. Instead of comforting people with the good news of Jesus, he’d preach secular humanism, a kinder cousin of atheism. He’d help them accept that we’re all going to die, that this life is all there is and that therefore we have to make the most of our brief, glorious time on earth. And he would spread this message using the best evangelical techniques – the same ones he had mastered as a Christian.

(Mark Oppenheimer on the apostasy of Bart Campolo, Evangelical Celebrity Tony Campolo’s son)

I’m confident that Bart Campolo is not the first pastor-type to lose his faith (it kind of snuck up on him, and then — epiphany!) but not his trade. He’s just higher profile and had the integrity to cease pretending.

2

Most [Wheaton College] students were surprised to discover that the chief Protestant Reformers, Luther, Calvin, even Zwingli, as well as later lights like John Wesley, assented to Mary’s virginity after the birth of Christ, giving most of us pause before dismissing the notion as necessarily unbiblical. Our difficulties with the teaching of Mary’s physiological virginity during the birth of Christ, however, were far more pronounced.

Was this not a refusal to grapple with the gynecological fact of Christmas? Patristic defenses of the issue were ingenious (an appeal to Christ’s walking through the door at Emmaus, for example), but did not strike us as necessary, let alone convincing.

This teaching, still upheld by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, smacked of Gnosticism. Why, one student wondered, would a tradition so eager to emphasize Mary’s suffering with Christ be hesitant to admit that she suffered in labor as well? In partu virginity, the same student pointed out, also seemed at odds with the Marian interpretation of Revelation 12:2: “She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

(Matthew Milliner, Our Lady of Wheaton)

I think I’m fairly well-read on matters of theology, but this one blind-sided me. I had no idea that the Roman Church maintains that Mary was virginitas in partu as well as virginitas ante partum and virginitas post partum (I’ve read up just a little after first encounter).

Suffice that I have never heard this talked about as a belief of Orthodox Christianity, though an EWTN article claims:

This formulation was used by many of the early Church Fathers—St. Augustine, St. Peter Chrysologus, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzus and St. Gregory Nyssa.

I have heard (in one of the hymns of Matins, I believe) a formulation that could imply that the Orthodox believe this as well. Because our hymns are not just pious sentiments by musical types, but are bearers of theological truth, this may be an ecumenical teaching I just hadn’t grokked yet. After all, I’ve only been at this 20 years or so, and the Church runs really deep.

Until somebody tells me that a faithful Orthodox Christian is bound to believe this, my strong inclination is that a woman who has not known a man but has “lost her hymen” in, for instance, strenuous gymnastics, is a virgin in every significant sense — as, a fortiori, is the Theotokos even if the birth of Christ was in the normal manner of human births.

Whether they were right or wrong, kudos to the Wheaton students for suggesting that virginitas in partu smacks of Gnosticism — a hydra-headed epidemic in Evangelicalism that its leaders need to recognize better.

3

Among President Obama’s ironic legacies will be how frequently this former teacher of constitutional law has been called out by the federal courts for his aggressive abuse of executive power.

In sum, another federal court has found the Obama Administration guilty of imposing its policy choices by fiat rather than doing the hard work of democracy and persuading the elected representatives of the American people.

(Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook, Obama Can’t Redefine Sex)

It’s not just abuse of executive power, either. It’s the Worst American Religious Freedom Record Ever.® I can never say that too often.I hope they can retire the trophy and it’s all back up hill from here, but among Obama’s legacies are a stacked Civil Rights Commission that recommends subordination of free exercise to the supposed right to be free of discrimination (which it equates with “civil rights”):

The United States Civil Rights Commission, created in 1957, has eight commissioners serving six-year terms, which can be renewed. Four are appointed by the President and four by the Congress. According to its enabling statute, not more than four members can be of the same political party at any one time. Faced with the reality that there were already two Democrats on the Commission, President Barack Obama  appointed two Democrats and two liberal “Independents” when he took office. So, the liberal/Democrat block is six commissioners of the total of eight.

The Obama administration’s attempt to curtail religious liberty has been stopped by the Supreme Court three times in the last four years. Both the Hosanna Tabor (2012) and Hobby Lobby (2014) decisions were unprecedented for the reason that the federal government had never litigated against religious persons and organizations under the pretexts the administration argued in those cases. Hosanna Tabor stands for the stupendously important principle, unanimously recognized by the Supreme Court but not by the Obama administration, that religious institutions may select their own teachers and ministers. And against the increasingly prevalent view of progressive society that religion is okay so long as it is restricted to Sunday morning services while progressives are otherwise at brunch, Hobby Lobby means that religious people may live their religion all the time. Lastly, in remanding the case for further consideration, the Court did not give in to the Obama Administration in the Little Sisters of the Poor case of 2016.

But the Civil Rights Commission goes several steps further in its “Peaceful Coexistence” report. It emphatically repudiates the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby and begrudgingly accepts with major reservations the decision in Hosanna Tabor. The Report was prepared before the Little Sisters case, but the issues in that case are effectively rejected as well. Beyond mere laws and the Constitution, civil rights “policies,” and “nondiscrimination principles,” are “preeminent,” the Commission asserts. What it disparagingly calls “religious exemptions” based on the “tenets of faith” have the effect of “significantly infring[ing] upon these civil rights.” Thus, the constitutional situation is reversed. The superior and free-standing principle of “nondiscrimination” is placed above the explicitly stated constitutional rights to religious liberty in the First Amendment.

(Thomas Ascik, The U.S. Civil Rights Commission & the End of Religious Liberty)

4

[A]ttributing a Trump victory to racism and misogyny is a quick, cheap, easy way out. People aren’t that simple. Americans didn’t conclusively reject racism by electing President Obama, and didn’t conclusively embrace it by electing President Trump. Trial lawyers know this: people don’t make decisions like computers. People don’t tend to weigh all the evidence or consider all the factors or evaluate every counter-argument to every argument. People tend, in small decisions and big ones, to latch on to a few main ideas, come to a conclusion, and then stop considering contrary evidence. A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest. Obama’s election didn’t mean Americans were free of racism; it meant that Obama effectively communicated big ideas that connected and shut down the other voices whispering in our ears. Certainly some Trump supporters are avowedly racist, but some of them latched on to big ideas and stopped listening to the rest — like his troubling flirtation with evil.

(Popehat)

There is one current topic on which my sympathies are very counter-cultural and opposed by all three major newspapers I read. I must make a conscious effort, as I did Wednesday morning (a small victory), not to ignore contrary evidence.

But try howsoever hard we do, Popehat has captured our tendency perfectly. Je ne suis pas Monsieur Spock.

5

The only diet I’ve ever used that did a bit of good was going on a low-sugar/low carb regimen. In fact, the only time in my life that I weighed almost as much as I do now was the fall of 2001. I lost thirty pounds in three months on that diet, and felt better than I ever had before or since.

Back then, I was living in New York, and walking everywhere. Plus, I was about to turn 35. Now I’m living in Baton Rouge, and walking nowhere. And I’m about to turn 50. It’s never going to get any easier to lose this weight, and my woebegone lower back is not helped by my walking around with all this weight on my belly.

The writer happens to be Rod Dreher, but many could say similar things. New York is so huge it doesn’t fit my paradigm of “walkable,” but as a vacationer there, under no time constraints, I walked and walked and walked and walked — and even the blocks to and from the subway are more walking than we in smaller cities built in the post-WW2 manner tend to get.

6

For such an affable Kentuckian, Wendell Berry sure can raise some debate.

I must say this newest offering is quite interesting and, I think, persuasive. It suggests not only that Berry takes evil in Agraria seriously, but that he has an implied hierarchy of evils:

That said, there’s a further point to make about how Berry understands evil. One of the complaints that Murphy seems to have, though she never puts it quite this way, is that Berry sees the evil of an agribusinessman like Troy Chatham as being qualitatively different than the evil of the traditional farmer who is cruel to his children. For Murphy, Berry has no real warrant for that and so it is another example of his idealization of agrarian life. What goes largely unconsidered is the possibility that Berry might be right in seeing these two evils as being qualitatively different.

Berry treats the sin of the industrialists, of the modern-day Sarumans, as being qualitatively different than the sins of the old Agrarians. To be sure, both sorts of sin are damning: Thad Coulter’s sin will send him to hell as quickly as Chatham’s. But there is still a significant difference in that Chatham’s sin transforms the created world and thus has much more far-reaching consequences than the sin of someone like Thad Coulter.

When Thad Coulter sins, he destroys his life and radically transforms the life of the Feltners. But it is damage that can be made right with the aid of the Gospel and the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. But when Chatham depletes the soil, destroys his family’s wealth built over generations, and chops down the family’s beloved forest called the Nest Egg, the consequences are much more far reaching.

It was good enough that I paid actual money as approbation, Mere Orthodoxy having taking up blegging at the end of each blog.

7

Megan McArdle likened our politics to a bad divorce. Ilya Somin thinks Federalism could save the marriage.

Sometimes first principles get overlooked.

* * * * *

“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.