Theophany 2017

  1. Where are the Watchmen?
  2. “Who Decides?” Redux
  3. He should have written about my pet peeve
  4. 3 things the NYT does well
  5. If Russia was democratic
  6. Outgrowing naïvete
  7. Theophany and Epiphany


1

I soon will be going to a Symposium of the Eighth Day Institute, titled “Where Are the Watchmen?” Pre-conference materials have begun arriving:

Perhaps … before asking “Where are the Watchmen?” we need to ask ourselves, “Are we producing Watchmen?” Is the culture of the Church lively and strong enough to create men and women who stand for truth? The production of Watchmen does, in fact, require a whole culture. With Samuel as an example, three prerequisites for Watchmen could be cited. Watchmen require education. Watchmen require courage. Watchmen require holiness. The first two go together: truth and bravery are Christian virtues which St. Paul calls “zeal according to knowledge.” Do we take the education of our children—and the continuing education of adults—to be a primary vocation of our communities? Do we ourselves consider that Jesus came “not to bring peace but a sword,” and that Christian life is a battle for virtue? However, the third prerequisite is the most important. Even if we seem to lack education and courage, we can at least make the offering of faith and trust. Those educated or brave who do not also pray with attentive humility might be professors or soldiers, but they can never be Watchmen.

Dr. Jordan Peterson is apparently not a Watchman, but is an inspirational and courageous professor and soldier north of the border, up Canada way. He inspires me, anyway.

2

Regarding “hate crimes” charges against the four blacks in Chicago who livestreamed their torment of a kidnapped disabled white man:

The attackers are all one race and the victim another, and the video shows the victim lying in the corner as someone shouts “F— Donald Trump” and “F— white people.”

These facts are leading some of our conservative friends to crow in satisfaction that the perpetrators of hate crimes are not limited to white male Republicans. But this way of thinking underscores the divisiveness of the whole idea of hate crimes. Not least of the drama in this case was whether the four would be charged with a hate crime—because everyone knows that this is as much a political as a criminal decision. Which in turn determines who gets to use the crime to advance a political narrative.

Years ago Thomas Sowell noted that “it took centuries of struggle and people putting their lives on the line to get rid of the idea that a crime against ‘A’ should be treated differently than the same crime committed against ‘B.”’ As the attention on this Chicago beating shows, the hate-crime label tends to diminish the actual crime while promoting different standards of justice for different victims.

(Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook) Meanwhile, at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, Eugene Volokh describes the not-quite-hate criterion that make a crime a candidate for “hate crime” escalation:

It’s generally about the attacker discriminatorily selecting a victim, not about “hate” as such. Under Illinois law, for instance, an assault or other such crime is a hate crime when the victim is selected “by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of another individual or group of individuals, regardless of the existence of any other motivating factor or factors.”

Volokh continues with other observations and concludes that he’s merely describing, not approving, hate crimes criteria.

The New York Times, supremely confident that it is a “who” that “gets to use the crime to advance a political narrative,” channels “This Week In Hate” from the SPLC. This week’s list does not include the Chicago attack, but includes many vandalisms involving swastikas (scratched or spray-painted) and two Menorah vandalisms standing alone, with no reported anti-semitic messages expressed.

Pro Tip: Hey, punk! Whether you’re black or white, you can (anonymously) make two national lists of white, Trump-inspired hate crimes by including swastikas in your vandalism!

3

New York Times readers critique J.D. Vance (Hillbilly Elegy) appreciating Barack Obama.

The consensus seems to be that he didn’t digress enough — into criticism of Donald Trump.

It’s going to be a long X years.

4

I must, however, give the New York Times credit for (a) keeping my blood pressure high enough, (b) maybe the world’s best obituaries, and (c) feeding my wanderlust delightfully.

5

Democracies tend to do better than authoritarian regimes over the long term, I believe, not because of any inherent moral worth to democracy, but simply because they have a much less sentimental process for replacing leaders based on results, which leads to more policies being pursued, and more trial and error.

This is often a better process for getting things done than relying on central decision-makers, because those decision-makers are typically too ignorant and too self-important to get things right. Democracies beat authoritarian regimes for the same reasons that markets beat central planners.

Take Vladimir Putin, for example. Putin is the Michael Jordan, or the Zinedine Zidane, of global politics. When you watch him play, it’s like the rest of the people on the field turn into mannequins. That being said, under his rule, the standard of living of the average Russian has declined precipitously. If Russia were a democracy, he’d already be out. Putin has done a lot to boost Russia’s power in the short term, but over the long run, what will determine Russia’s power is the aggregate productivity of its citizens and its population growth, and on both metrics, Russia is doing poorly.

Putin may go on to be remembered as a sort of Russian Charles de Gaulle: an astonishingly brilliant man who hoisted his nation to the front of the international stage through sheer talent and force of will, but whose legacy will remain, in the final analysis, an impotence to alter the structural reasons for its decline.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who appears then to pivot and advocate longer terms even though democracy doesn’t necessarily entail no-confidence votes)

6

Ten years ago I was also a lot more politically-minded. I’m still quite issue-minded, but I no longer think that political parties and leaders can or will or even want to provide real solutions. Ten years ago, for instance, I was writing that gay marriage would be legalized (to the detriment of the natural family and religious freedom) and that the push to eradicate heteronormativity would be next. All of that came true, but I was naive ago back then (sic) to think that at least one political party sort of wanted to stop it.

(Erin Manning, fresh-starting her blog with a new URL because, basically, she’s not quite the person she was when she started blogging ten years ago).

The one thing I am changing to go along with the times is this: I’m not enabling comments. Honestly, most people don’t comment on little blogs like this one anymore; if I actually write anything worth talking about, people seem to share the post on Facebook or other social media and talk about it there. And I don’t really have time (who does?) to wade through “comments” that are really thinly-disguised spam ads for psychic robotic vacuum cleaners (which would actually be awesome, come to think of it).

WordPress has done a pretty good job for me of weeding out the thinly-disguised spam ads, so though I do sort of moderate (the WordPress default seems to be “once you’re approved, you’re approved”), I’ve had no problem with spam comments.

7

Regarding the title today: Western Epiphany and Eastern Theophany coincide when the Easterners are on the “new calendar,” but they aren’t the same feast with different names. It’s hard finding URLs to confirm the distinction, but Epiphany, in my experience, is about the “Three Kings” while Theophany is about Christ’s baptism some thirty years later.

To further confuse matters, much as they have adopted pews in Church (Grrrrr!), some Orthodox in the U.S. have acquiesced in the name “Epiphany,” and “epiphany” (unlike “theophany”) does have a secondary meaning related to having a sudden revelation; Christ’s baptism was a seminal revelation of His deity and of the Trinity of the Godhead:

Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved; and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.

I suppose this item is a misguided mountain-out-of-molehill exercise, but I’m tribally proud of the insight of that Apolytikion hymn, of which I never got a whiff when in low-church Protestantism.

* * * * *

“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.