Monday, 1/23/17

  1. Shaming
  2. Relationship vs. Communion
  3. The Church is a Hospital
  4. What Three Crimes Today at the Times?
  5. Sean Spicer’s Hostage Video
  6. Sinister & Ludicrous
  7. Reality TV Presidency
  8. A really ugly fad

First Things


Our culture’s language has become increasingly shaming in character. We make global pronouncements at the drop of a hat. The bitterness and pain of our political life, for example, is driven largely by the mutual shaming that occurs. We not only disagree with people, we globalize the argument. They do not merely disagree with me, they are racist, stupid, homophobic, Neanderthal, haters, etc. This is warfare rather than speech – a warfare of shaming that only deepens the spiral of misery. It becomes demonic at some point, in that our adversary utterly hates our existence. And nothing wounds us as effectively as shame.

Nations regularly shame one another and often have a difficult time being reconciled within themselves. The shame of defeat after WWI was, doubtless, the single greatest engine driving the angry rise of Hitlerism. The triumphalism of one nation over another can be a repeated source of shaming. Americans often wonder why they encounter Anti-Americanism. We have excelled in a foreign policy that begets shame. Acts of generosity, well-meant, easily and unwittingly produce shame. The so-called “export of democracy” (as though we were really good at it) can also be a way of saying, “You’re primitive, backwards and don’t even know how to run a nation.”

In our Orthodox prayers, we pray that we may someday stand before the fearful judgment seat of Christ, “without shame.” That would be to stand before God, in the integrity of ourselves-made-whole. Repentance is, on its deepest level, the willingness to “bear a little shame” (in the words of the Elder Sophrony), to reveal ourselves in the truth, the nakedness of our being. The Elder wisely says, “a little,” since we cannot bear more most of the time.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


It is very interesting that we use the word “relationship” to describe everything from God to our lifestyle. More interesting still, is that, used in this manner, the word dates back to only around the mid-20th century. There are older examples, but the psycho-social meaning that it carries today does not appear until around 1940. This also means that no one, prior to that time, spoke about having a “relationship” with God. The word does not belong to the grammar of classical Christianity and represents, at best, a distortion of the faith …

Scripture and the Tradition do not speak of a “relationship” with God. Rather, they speak in terms of “union” (henosis) and “communion” (koinonia). “Relationship” requires a distance – it is inherently the lonely and the Lonely. The faith, however, teaches that what is lost in human sin is not such a notion of “relationship,” but of actual communion, true participation in the life of God.

This reality of communion is the foremost aspect of the Church’s sacramental life. Baptism, for example, is not a personal transaction between a human consciousness and a Divine (“I now have a personal relationship with Christ”). Such a contractual construal of salvation (sometimes hidden by the language of “covenant”) distorts what is given to us in Scripture. Our life with Christ is a life of union, commonality, communion, sharing, coinherence. Very difficult for us is that fact that our culture champions radical individualism and the self as volitional consciousness. We have learned (or been taught) to ignore the larger, truer nature of our existence.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman)


The Church is not like a political party, where we should be required to sign a document where we agree to accept all the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church before the Church has had a chance to transform us. To require such submission before entering the healing institution that is, by her nature, a hospital of the soul, is not part of our tradition. To require such agreement before the individual has had a chance for the Church to work the miracle of transformation of the will, can easily result in either the signing of an agreement because they have to, or sign but not mean it, or, run away from the Church before even getting in the door.

This given, I think it better to start the catechetical instruction with the teachings of the Church’s doctrine, liturgical practices, the Nature of God, the Holy Mysteries, etc., and leave the moral teachings until the very end. the political correctness of our secular and disbelieving society at large has so influenced the populus, the moral teachings of the Church are seen by the vast number of our population as nothing but bigotry and judgmentalism.

(Abbot Tryphon)

Other Things


One of the most elegant statements of the big political question for the country this weekend is “Can Donald Trump control an organization he can’t command?” Well-framed, right?

Of course, the premise that Trump can’t command the government is weakened by the precedent of multiple expansive Executive Orders.

Or what about my one-and-only Ayn Rand quote?

We live in the realm of three felonies a day. That makes the attorney general of the United States perhaps the most powerful man in the country. What will press coverage look like when owners of the press are, each in turn, threatened with invasive prosecution and discovery?

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry) Do you really think Jeff Session wouldn’t enjoy going after some major media via criminal charges against their owners?

And do follow that three felonies a day link.


Two things over the weekend that might seem like trivia on the surface yielded more on Rod Dreher’s closer look.

“You’re so vain, you probably think this March is about you” read one sign, and of course it was about him — that was the only thing on which all  marchers agreed. But the March officially turned vulgar at the podium as Madonna and Ashley Judd lambasted Trump, whose vulgarity ironically was a major causus belli. I wonder how many good women who marched feel badly slimed today?

My point (not Dreher’s, though he brought Madonna and Judd to my attention) from this? Trump is more symptom than disease. Madonna vulgarly protesting vulgarity is my ironclad proof (I couldn’t really tell you anything about Ashley Judd).

And then the Sean Spicer episode. The White House press secretary called a Saturday press conference, and then, in front of reporters, delivered a blistering statement complaining about an unfair tweet, and about reports that the Trump inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama’s first inauguration crowd. In the statement he lied, or at least abused the truth, then stormed off the stage without taking questions.

I watched the clip, and thought, “This is the United States of America?!” It beggars belief. A friend texted:

That press briefing is such a pathetic embarrassment. Honestly. Four more years of thin-skinned lackeys carrying the water of a thin-skinned, self-absorbed narcissist. They didn’t have to say anything. How small they look already. How much they have already diminished the prestige of the office with their petty headcounts.

It’s true. Are we really going to have to endure idiocy like this every time Trump gets wound up about some penny-ante tweet from a reporter? Is it going to be nothing but chaos and outrage? Jonathan V. Last writes:

Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.

But like I said, this isn’t about Spicer.

What’s worrisome is that Spicer wouldn’t have blown his credibility with the national press on Day 2 of the administration unless it was vitally important to Trump.

(Dreher, Bold added) One of the adjectives I used about Trump during the campaign was “narcissistic.” I probably should have added adverbs “blatantly and uncontrollably.”

After Spicer, Trump deployed Kellyanne Conway Sunday morning to run “alternate facts” up the flagpole. Nobody saluted.

Dreher ends with 5 observant predictions and, of course, a commendation of the Benedict Option.


Quotable controversy from David Gelertner, Trump’s chosen science advisor who, absurdly, has been called “anti-intellectual”:

It has been clear since the 1980s that U.S. colleges are failing. They spend more every year to finance their growing administrations and pass the bill to students, while indulging their penchant for being sinister and ludicrous at the same time. Over 90% of U.S. colleges will be gone within the next generation, as the higher-education world inevitably flips over and sinks.

“Sinister and ludicrous at the same time” is a gem. His predictions for the future of colleges and universities are at least plausible, though I’m uncertain that MOOCs and such are a good cure.


You can tell from his tweets that Trump spends part of every day watching television and reading the tabloids. He fires off zingers about his successor on The Celebrity Apprentice. He comments on Fox News and Morning Joe segments. He sends columnists and newspaper editors notes on their work. He uses social media and interviews to discuss himself, and his enemies, in the same way reality TV stars use the “confessional” mode to narrate their lives to the camera.

In a way, the conventions of television and tabloids provide Trump a kind of map for navigating life. For him, these media seem to function in the same way that liturgy does for religious believers or the way that great literature and fine art does for the cultured. They provide him with the archetypes for understanding how the universe works: what kinds of characters he deals with in life, and how their storylines will eventually resolve. They also provide him with a guide for how to stay mutually engaged with the public.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty, The reality TV Presidency begins)


Disorders of gender identity have probably always existed, inside and outside Europe (Heiman 1975). It seems that the incidence of transsexualism is very roughly 1 in 60 000 males and 1 in 100 000 females, and it seems to have remained constant (Landen 1996).

(James Barrett, August 2011)

At the Tavistock and Portman, the only NHS service for children and adolescents with gender dysphoria, referrals have increased ‘about 50% a year since 2010-11.’ In the year leading up to this Guardian report, the rate of change in child referrals showed ‘an unexpected and unprecedented increase of 100%, up from 697 to 1,398 referrals’.

In the same 2016 Guardian article, Charing Cross GIC lead clinician James Barrett comments jocularly on this sudden increase in demand:

‘It obviously can’t continue like that forever because we’d be treating everyone in the country, but there isn’t any sign of that levelling off.’

(The Guardian, July 2016)

What the heck!? What in the world is going on!? A fad? A fad of claiming that your gender isn’t in alignment with your body? Really?

(H/T 4thWaveNow)

* * * * *

“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.