Tuesday 2/21/17

  1. How long has this been going on?
  2. Rotten to the core
  3. The Democrats’ cultural advantage
  4. A President of Biblical proportions
  5. Public accommodation

1

According to religious statistics, old Europe is still a part of the earth that is almost completely Christian. But there is hardly another case in which everyone knows as well as they do here that the statistic is false: This so-called Christian Europe for almost four hundred years has become the birthplace of a new paganism, which is growing steadily in the heart of the Church, and threatens to undermine her from within. The outward shape of the modern Church is determined essentially by the fact that, in a totally new way, she has become the Church of pagans, and is constantly becoming even more so. She is no longer, as she once was, a Church composed of pagans who have become Christians, but a Church of pagans, who still call themselves Christians, but actually have become pagans. Paganism resides today in the Church herself, and precisely that is the characteristic of the Church of our day, and that of the new paganism, so that it is a matter of a paganism in the Church, and of a Church in whose heart paganism is living.

Therefore, in this connection, one should not speak about the paganism, which in eastern atheism has already become a strong enemy against the Church, and as a new anti-christian power opposes the community of believers. Yet, when concerning this movement, one should not forget that it has its peculiarity in the fact that it is a new paganism, and therefore, a paganism that was born in the Church, and has borrowed from her the essential elements that definitely determine its outward form and its power. One should speak rather about the much more characteristic phenomenon of our time, which determines the real attack against the Christian, from the paganism within the Church herself, from the “desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be” (Mk 13:14).

(Joseph Ratzinger, 1958; H/T Rod Dreher)

2

Fascists the world over have gained popularity by calling forth the idea that the world is rotten to the core. In “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt described how fascism invites people to “throw off the mask of hypocrisy” and adopt the worldview that there is no right and wrong, only winners and losers. Hypocrisy can be aspirational: Political actors claim that they are motivated by ideals perhaps to a greater extent than they really are; shedding the mask of hypocrisy asserts that greed, vengeance and gratuitous cruelty aren’t wrong, but are legitimate motivations for political behavior.

(Masha Gessen, In Praise of Hypocrisy) I’m not likely to quote Gessen very often — heck, I rarely run across her writing — but neither will I withhold a decent insight in anticipation of ad hominem dismissals.

In a related development, scientists rallied in Boston against perceived threats to science from the Trump administration.

Those organizing the event cited not only the issue of climate change, on which Trump and his appointees have often challenged the scientific consensus that it is mostly caused by humans, but also charged that there has been “muzzling” of scientists and that research data has been deleted by his administration.

However, many science policy watchdogs and observers do not agree that the Trump administration has yet gone beyond what any other new U.S. administration might do when it comes to getting communications organized at different federal agencies and figuring out how each will disseminate its message.

(Washington Post) I’m not taking sides on whether the Administration is suppressing science, but it’s nice to see someone, of whatever political persuasion, insisting by protest sign that “Objective Reality Exists.”

Take that thought and run with it, folks.

3

During both the Clinton and Obama presidencies, conservatives and liberals alike were impressed by the message discipline and loyalty shown by presidential aides. Reports of jealousy and backbiting were notably absent in the press, and both administrations spoke as one on policy. Such discipline seemed all the more remarkable in light of the general indiscipline shown by Democrats within the legislative process and in other areas of political action. (Many critics remarked with arch sarcasm—and others with a frightening level of earnestness—that “loyalty” to the Clintons was really their staffs’ fear for their lives if they should be suspected of crossing them. No one expressed such fears in regard to Mr. Obama.)

Part of the reason for this disparity in loyalty has to do with Democrats’ cultural advantage. For example, where Mr. O’Neill would leak to allies in the press in order to burnish his image, making certain that he got positive coverage in the New York Times, no one in either the Clinton or the Obama Administration cared to receive positive press from the Washington Times, let alone Fox News.

(Bruce Frohnen and Robert Waters, Why So Many Leaks in Trump’s Ship of State?)

4

Inside a plain, two-story brick building in Ferndale hums the nerve center for a growing, Catholic fringe group hoping the forces that elected President Donald Trump will tear down the wall between church and state.

Its leader, Michael Voris, has compared Trump with Constantine, the Roman emperor whom he says was “not a moral man” but a “power-hungry egomaniac,” but who saw it desirable to end the persecution of Christians. He was a human vessel who elevated Catholicism to the state religion, Voris said.

(Detroit Free Press) I heard similar analogies from Evangelical Protestants in the run-up to the election. Without giving the Detroit Free Press undue credence (the lede is full of lurid characterizations), Voris appears to engaged in a game anyone can play with any President.

If I were to play it, I’d likelier cast Trump as King Saul, anointed reluctantly after the people demanded a king like all the cool kids had — and who lived down fully to what God said a king would do.

Speculative analogies should not be mistaken for sound Christian social thought in any Christian tradition.

5

The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling shortchanges our nation’s most fundamental freedom in favor of ideological conformity. Barronelle Stutzman followed her genuinely held beliefs without hostility toward any, and yet finds herself the target of a government that wants to steamroll her constitutional rights. The Court held that the government can force citizens to use their creative gifts and expressive speech to participate in and endorse acts they believe to be immoral. This decision is a loss not only for Barronelle Stutzman but for every American who values liberty and civility over coercion by the government. My prayer is that this ruling would be overturned and that the U.S. Supreme Court would recognize the crucial importance of religious liberty.

(Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)

I agree with Moore, but I’d flip it over, too, and say that “[t]he Washington Supreme Court’s ruling shortchanges our nation’s most fundamental freedom in favor of ideological conformity” is pretty close to another way of saying “Washington has passed a ‘neutral law of general applicability‘ from which there is, courtesy of Antonin Scalia, no right to a religious exemption.” If, though, there’s even some kind of “Mrs. Murphy’s boarding house” exemption to Washington’s anti-discrimination law, it could be vulnerable to attack as not truly of general applicability. Religion gets a sort of most favored nation status when it comes to laws with exemptions.

In related news, an administrative law judge in Florida has upheld the right of a bakery there to decline an order for a cake proclaiming “Homosexuality is an abomination unto the Lord” (oddly, the only purported Bible verse the Christian-impersonating customer wannabe could quote). The judge’s lead theory, and a sufficient one, was that the bakery was not a “public accommodation” because it was not principally engaged in selling food for consumption onsite. That’s presumably an oddity of Florida anti-discrimination law, and perhaps a shaky theory because the judge followed it with alternative theories.

But I for one would like to see public accommodation defined a bit more narrowly to exclude the custom order portion of any creative business.

Thus, for instance, the cookies, éclairs, crème horns and other baked goods on display would be subject to anti-discrimination laws but custom orders would not. Ditto the flower arrangements to grab and go from the florist’s refrigerator, but not the custom creations. But the side that’s “on a roll” has no inclination to give any quarter to us Christofascists.

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.