Posted by: readerjohn | January 19, 2017

Thursday 1/19/17

  1. Mocking what he longed for
  2. Imaginative Conservative #Fail
  3. Spiritual Freedom
  4. The best offense is an ex-defense
  5. Like the Mayor of Amity
  6. The Hate that Dare Not Speak Its Name
  7. PLAGAL lives!

1

Interesting insight:

My roommate was an Orthodox Christian, which to me meant that he had icons, that he didn’t eat meat whenever we wanted him to, and that he was at church constantly. The house we shared with a third roommate had many various philosophical discussions, and of course his faith had come up, but it never stuck out in my mind as anything different than what I had seen before. If anything, it seemed excessive. My Christian experiences had shown me that once one accepts Christ into his heart there is no more that needs to be done. His piety to me seemed pointless. Ironically enough, my greatest struggles had always been that my church experiences were too shallow, and yet I mocked the one I saw that went beyond sermons and emotion and into something deeper.

(Adam Lindahl telling of his Journey to Orthodoxy — italics added)

2

[W]hile we do not have open war, it seems clear that America is divided between two groups operating on two sets of fundamentally hostile preconceptions. On one side are those who see America as a fundamentally decent country founded on moral principles and dedicated to protecting religiously-grounded communities. On the other are those who see our nation as fatally flawed and in need of replacement by a new society devoted to radically different principles, replacing traditional norms and institutions with an abstract code valuing the pursuit of individual interests and pleasures and using the state to achieve substantive “justice,” defined in terms of perceived grievances. Moreover, one party in this struggle has declared itself opposed to principles of civility and decorum, even in public deliberative bodies such as the U.S. Senate, seeing its enemies as unworthy of toleration, its goals as mandatory and holy, and its tactics as intrinsically justified, however much damage they may do to persons, processes, political structures, and personal lives.

(Bruce Frohnen at The Imaginative Conservative)

I quote this to say explicitly that I am in neither of these two groups, although I share Frohnen’s concern over the explosive potential of our deep division. The first group is a (mostly) recognizable caricature. The second description is gibberish. The sentence beginning “Moreover” refers to — who? Trump? His alt-right supporters? Progressives? I shouldn’t have to review Frohnen’s CV to infer what a sentence might mean.

My very recent notes on the Where Are the Watchmen? symposium reflect my position which is awkwardly off the political spectrum. If you want your own crash course in a sober view of America the Real, you would do well to take three hours for Thinking Theologically About Politics: A MARS HILL AUDIO Special Series. Kenneth Craycraft is devastating on the myth of religious freedom in particular. I intend to listen again with fewer distractions as soon as possible.

I’ve commended Mars Hill Audio Journal repeatedly, and continue to do so. I just heard one of the best summaries of it: All Things Considered meets God.

3

Speaking of Religious Freedom and the vanishing thereof:

Since the collapse of Communism in 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church has canonized nearly two thousand “new martyrs.” Among them are Tikhon (Bellavin) and Petr (Polianskii). In 1917, just days after the October Revolution, Tikhon was selected patriarch of the Russian Church. Desperately needing someone to run the Diocese of Moscow and negotiate church interests with state authorities, he asked his close associate Petr, a layman, to accept monastic tonsure, priestly ordination, and appointment to the episcopacy in quick succession so that he could occupy a position of ecclesiastical leadership. As Petr prayed about what to do, he told a friend, “If I refuse, I will be a traitor to the Church, but if I agree, I know that I will be signing my own death warrant.” In the end, Petr acceded to Tikhon’s request and assumed responsibility for church relations with the Soviet government, which also meant negotiating with Evgenii Tuchkov, head of the Soviet secret police, to whom Lenin had assigned the task of liquidating the Church.

When Patriarch Tikhon died under suspicious circumstances in 1925, Petr became acting head of the Russian Church …

Tuchkov pressed Petr to renounce publicly his position as patriarchal representative, which, Tuchkov hoped, would allow the Bolsheviks to extend their control over internal church matters such as the appointment and placement of priests and bishops. Petr refused, though without vitriol or bitterness. Even as his health steadily declined under the harsh conditions of exile in Russia’s far north, he continued to address Tuchkov with respect and even dared to appeal to him for mercy. In 1936, state authorities, frustrated by Petr’s recalcitrance, sought to undermine his authority by spreading false rumors of his death. On October 10, 1937, they finally executed him, just as other church leaders were going to their deaths at Butovo …

Lawyers, litigation, and legislation are important for protecting the Church’s public space. Yet the Russian martyrs challenge us to think more deeply and more theologically about religious freedom. The Trump administration and Republican Congress may relax the pressure that many Evangelical and conservative Christians have been feeling from progressive political forces. But let’s not kid ourselves. Every government has totalizing tendencies; every state aspires to tell us what freedom is, and to persuade us that the state alone can provide it. And it’s not just the dominating power of government that threatens us. The principalities and powers of this age—advertising, mass culture, and secularized education—work day and night to make us subject to the “theology” of the unencumbered self. In order to enter into the freedom for which Christ has set us free, we need to learn to live like Petr (Polianskii) and the martyrs at Butovo.

(John P. Burgess, Spiritual Freedom, in the February First Things)

4

It has been abundantly clear for some time that the United States under President Bill Clinton badly mishandled the immediate post-Cold War period. We took advantage of Russian weakness in multiple ways, from corrupting its transition to democracy to facilitating the rape of its economy to transforming a previously defensive alliance (NATO) into a vehicle for American power projection, and expanding that alliance into former Soviet territory. It is not surprising that, in the wake of that experience, Russia has become deeply distrustful of America.

… [I]t is reasonable to wonder whether the relationship between our countries would be on a better footing than it is now notwithstanding if we had handled things better then.

We confront the world as it is, though, not as we wish it had been or how it might have been had we acted with greater foresight …

And in the world as it is, we have extended security guarantees to the Baltic states. We can regret having done so, but simply withdrawing those guarantees because we’ve thought better of the matter has broader implications for how America’s word is perceived.

(Noah Millman)

5

[M]any of us are like the Mayor of Amity in Jaws: ignoring the threat because the cost of facing it realistically is too high.

(Rod Dreher on global warming) Nobody who has ever posted a Facebook picture of a blizzard accompanied by derisive comments about global warming has standing to disagree with Rod “T-Shirts in January” Dreher. But Dreher doesn’t stop with his anecdote about how warm this Louisiana winter has been:

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

(Quoting the New York Times) He also reports how nearly impossible a solution is and why.

I accept the consensus of science, aware that there are dissenters on global warming. I’m trying to do what I can without gimmicks and tax subsidies (I think Tesla, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and the other all-electrics are a scam, economic and environmental non-starters were it not for government’s thumb on the scale) by driving a hybrid, but that’s because I’m convinced of peak oil, not because I’m deeply convinced on global warming.

Yeah, I know: there are smart-ass comebacks on peak oil, too — the equivalent of blizzard pictures — but the frackers are operating on billions of borrowed bucks and not making any profit when debt service is figured in. And when the combined effect of a fracked natural gas glut and government regulation has killed coal, we may live to regret it.

6

Much of the pushback against Trump’s impending presidency, in turn, is heavily larded with that same sneering contempt and condescension—the unending claims, for example, that the only reason people could possibly have chosen to vote for Trump was because they were racist misogynistic morons, and the like. (These days, terms such as “racist” and “misogynistic,” in the mouths of the affluent, are as often as not class-based insults rather than objective descriptions of attitudes.) The question I’d like to raise at this point, though, is why the affluent don’t seem to be able to bring themselves to come right out and denounce Trump as the candidate of the filthy rabble. Why must they borrow the rhetoric of identity politics and twist it (and themselves) into pretzel shapes instead?

There, dear reader, hangs a tale.

In the aftermath of the social convulsions of the 1960s, the wealthy elite occupying the core positions of power in the United States offered a tacit bargain to a variety of movements for social change.  Those individuals and groups who were willing to give up the struggle to change the system, and settled instead for a slightly improved place within it, suddenly started to receive corporate and government funding, and carefully vetted leaders from within the movements in question were brought into elite circles as junior partners. Those individuals and groups who refused these blandishments were marginalized, generally with the help of their more compliant peers.

If you ever wondered, for example, why environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth changed so quickly from scruffy fire-breathing activists to slickly groomed and well-funded corporate enablers, well, now you know. Equally, that’s why mainstream feminist organizations by and large stopped worrying about the concerns of the majority of women and fixated instead on “breaking the glass ceiling”—that is to say, giving women who already belong to the privileged classes access to more privilege than they have already. The core demand placed on former radicals who wanted to cash in on the offer, though, was that they drop their demands for economic justice—and American society being what it is, that meant that they had to stop talking about class issues.

As Donald Trump becomes the forty-fifth president of the United States and begins to push the agenda that got him into the White House, it may be useful to have a convenient way to sort through the mix of signals and noise from the opposition. When you hear people raising reasoned objections to Trump’s policies and appointments, odds are that you’re listening to the sort of thoughtful dissent that’s essential to any semblance of democracy, and it may be worth taking seriously. When you hear people criticizing Trump and his appointees for doing the same thing his rivals would have done, or his predecessors did, odds are that you’re getting the normal hypocrisy of partisan politics, and you can roll your eyes and stroll on.

But when you hear people shrieking that Donald Trump is the illegitimate result of a one-night stand between Ming the Merciless and Cruella de Vil, that he cackles in Russian while barbecuing babies on a bonfire, that everyone who voted for him must be a card-carrying Nazi who hates the human race, or whatever other bit of over-the-top hate speech happens to be fashionable among the chattering classes at the moment—why, then, dear reader, you’re hearing a phenomenon as omnipresent and unmentionable in today’s America as sex was in Victorian England. You’re hearing the voice of class bigotry: the hate that dare not speak its name.

(John Michael Greer, The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name)

Although everything Donald Trump does gives me the willies (I can abide Pat Freakin’ Robertson better than Trump, for goodness sakes!) I do not think that an appreciable number of those who voted for him did so from racism, misogyny or such.

It’s the “character matters” party, the Evangelicals who not only voted for him but pretended he was good, not just a lesser evil, who baffle and repel me.

7

It lives! It lives!

I used to get its mailings in plain brown envelopes (well, maybe they showed the initials without saying what they stood for).

Yes, in my quest for unlikely/non-stereotypical abortion opponents, I was on the mailing list of — er — PLAGAL. Glad to see it’s still around, and I’m miffed (dialed down from the outrage others are expressing) that it was bumped as a sponsor of the upcoming “Women’s March” because it’s heretical on abortion.

* * * * *

“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.


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