Sin, Spin & The Applause Meter

  1. We need not struggle alone
  2. Claiming CPO Ryan
  3. But then he went off-script
  4. Where’s the real news
  5. Dow 21,000
  6. Irresolvable discord
  7. Can we move on now?

1

What do we do when we seem to succumb to the same old sins over and over? Do we simply surrender in defeat because we’ve failed to curb our anger, blaming the family members or coworkers who know how to push our buttons? Do we give in to sexual passions because we’ve always done so and curbing our appetite for pleasure would be too difficult? Do we gossip about others or judge them because everyone does so?

Or, do we ask God to help us with our anger and confess before a priest when we have fallen, and ask the person who “pushed our buttons” to forgive us for getting angry? Do we ask for God’s forgiveness when we’ve given in to lust and promise to better guard our heart and our eyes, lest we fall again? Do we choose to remain silent when others around us are gossiping and perhaps even avoid those social settings where we know this will be happening?

The good news is that in our struggle with the passions, we do not have to struggle alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to help us in our quest for purity and holiness. Like the Holy Apostle Paul we can say it is not me, but Christ in me, that enables me to do good. Transformation of the heart is the direct result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, from Whom we are given the power to change. All we have to do is approach God with a humble and contrite heart and victory will be ours.

(Abbot Tryphon) Have I mentioned that Abbot’s Choice coffee is transcendently good?

2

President Trump has done some low-down, rotten things in his cushy life, but shifting the blame for the death of U.S. Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens during a covert mission in Yemen to his military commanders will go down as one of the most contemptible and cowardly acts ever committed by a U.S. commander in chief.

Asked during a Fox News interview about the mission which resulted in Owens becoming the first U.S. service member killed during the line of duty during his administration, Trump said the operation was something his generals “were looking at for a long time”; it was “something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do. And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected.”

Then the president of the United States declared “And they lost Ryan.”

Stomach-turning. A worst cut-and-run on your troops may be hard to find in the annals of American history.

(Colbert King, Washington Post)

There is a ginned-up controversy on the left over remarks the president made earlier in the day in response to another ginned-up controversy about the mission to capture or kill terrorists in Yemen. That mission tragically included the death of Owens, even as it succeeded in its objectives, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and confirmed by Trump in his address. Owens died protecting the nation’s security — and every citizen.

But critics seized on Trump’s comments about the mission following anonymous reports alleging that it was both rushed and botched:

“This was something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do,” Trump told Fox News. “And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. . . . And they lost Ryan.”

To me, a civilian, and to the retired military officer I emailed immediately after the speech, the statement “they lost Ryan” was one of observed grief by the president, an acknowledgment that the SEALs had lost one of their own and that civilians should know about it and grieve with them. It was not an attribution of guilt or malpractice to the “very respected” generals. Far from it. Trump was batting away criticism of them, of the mission operators, and indeed of anyone at all. “They” seemed obviously to mean Owens’s fellow warriors, to express that the mission carried an enormous cost.

Trump’s critics seem to deeply desire to attribute to him what would be a terrible example of blame-shifting by the commander in chief. It isn’t an irrational opinion, but it also isn’t one that rings true. And pressing the argument — pushing the worst possible interpretation of a statement far more easily understood the way I understand it — underscores again the yawning gap between Manhattan-Beltway media elites and flyover country.

(Hugh Hewitt, Washington Post)

3

President Trump went off-script at least once Tuesday night, and provided a perverse peak at the Presidential psyche:

When the audience gave Carryn Owens, Chief Owens’s widow, a standing ovation, Mr. Trump added, “Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.” He was referring, presumably, to the length of the applause.

Mr. Trump has been praised in some quarters for Tuesday’s address, during which he took a more conciliatory tone than he has in recent public appearances. But his comment about Chief Owens showed that even if his language changes slightly, his fundamental outlook stays the same.

In fact, the comment offered a useful peek into the president’s psyche: When he imagines a deceased veteran gazing down from heaven at his widow, the president and the assembled Congress, he sees that veteran measuring the length of his own ovation, and patting himself on the back for breaking a record. In other words, when asked to take the perspective of someone who has “laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom,” Mr. Trump assumes that what would gratify such a person is the same thing that gratifies him: adulation.

The fact that Mr. Trump engaged in this little reverie, a rare unscripted moment during Tuesday’s address, is revealing.

The president is capable of doing presidential things, like paying tribute to the memory of a service member killed in the line of duty. He is even capable of using the language of religion — a language that is relatively new to him — to memorialize the deceased. “As the Bible teaches us,” he said, “there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

But when he goes off-script, when he speaks from the heart, as it were, he reverts to what he knows: the language of popularity, ratings and records. His use of that language with respect to Chief Owens shows it to be not merely an obsession, but an entire worldview. Not only is Mr. Trump motivated by popularity in the barest, most numerical sense — he believes everyone is.

… Americans would do well to take Tuesday’s address not as a change of course for the president but as yet another example of one of his most entrenched traits: his willingness to say whatever he needs to say to get an audience to like him.

Despite his frequent claims that he delivers unvarnished truth without regard to the reaction, he cares so much about what people think of him that he may not be able to imagine caring about anything else.

(Anna North, Donald Trump’s Obsession With Applause)

Adherents of American Folk Religion say lots of sappy, unbiblical and theological obtuse things about death — “got her angel wings” and yadda, yadda, yadda. Sometimes, it includes people looking down from heaven, generally to watch over their loved ones.

Not President Trump outdid them. He knows that CPO Owens — ignoring the Lord in whose presence he now dwelt (if, indeed, he was in heaven), and looking down from heaven past the wife and three children he left behind — whipped out a celestial stopwatch to measure the length of a standing ovation from Congress. That seems to me more like the perspective of a hell-dweller. (Draw from that whatever inference you will.)

Of that standing ovation itself, and the emotional tug that prompted it, there’s more to say, but I don’t think I’ll say them — they’re in the “if you don’t already get it, there’s no good way to explain it” category. And not one of them is critical of Carryn Owens, who so far as I can tell nobody is criticizing, creepy, shameless rightwing lies notwithstanding.

4

Pro Tip: The next time someone is ranting about “fake news” from the “enemy of the people,” ask them to enumerate the major fake news sources and then ask them where, having excluded major media (as they presumably will have done), do they go for real news?

I can think of a couple of possible answers (and their implications):

  1. Crickets (you just laid down a Royal Flush).
  2. Nowhere. The media are all liars. (“Fake news” is a mere epithet, meaning “I don’t like it,” because there’s no real news against which to measure fake news and find it wanting. All that counts is assertion and the will to believe.)
  3. Some alt-sight (that is demonstrably more biased and error-ridden than the major media, who are biased as hell, but do tend to respect basic facts.)

I am well aware of media bias, starting with the invisible bias of “newsworthiness.” But professional journalism is our touchstone, our benchmark, for what’s factual about events we didn’t personally observe. I

f there’s a better one, where is it? C’mon: spit it out, man! Or shut up back off.

5

Is gloating over “Dow 21,000” a covert form of argumentum ad populum?

6

Indeed, liberalism and Christianity are in conflict; there really is an irresolvable kernel of discord between them, and in that respect Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option is not exactly wrong. Yet it’s not exactly right, either. But as I hope to demonstrate, some level of wrongness does not preclude value or insight, which is, incidentally, where I disagree most with Dreher, whose response to the wrongness threaded into liberalism is essentially to abandon modernity altogether.

Emphasis mine. This is the thing that [Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig] and I agree on, but the conclusions we draw from that agreement are very different. This is a valuable insight for the Ben Op conversation going forward, though, because so much thoughtless opposition to these ideas seems to me premised on the idea that there is no meaningful disagreement between Christianity and liberalism. To the extent that there is disagreement, the liberal churches side with liberalism, and have hollowed themselves out because of it. The ugly truth that conservative churches hide from themselves is that deep down, many of us side with liberalism too, though we don’t want to admit it.

This is not always bad. Liberalism has brought us some good things, things worth conserving. But if we are not going to lose amid the triumph of secular liberalism the things we Christians must hang on to at all costs, we are going to have to be more self-searching and honest with ourselves about what we are doing.

(Rod Dreher)

7

Dear Newspapers:

Yeah. Somebody screwed up the Best Picture Award. Can we move on now?

Respectfully,

Tipsy

* * * * *

“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.