Liberal Protestantism & more

  1. Liberal Protestantism
  2. Thomas Sowell looks back
  3. Nicholas Kristof strikes out
  4. George Will has a few questions
  5. John McCain’s Freudian Slip

1

Rod Dreher has been busy launching his book (The Benedict Option, remember?) in New York, D.C., and (oddly enough) the Hudson River Valley. He gave a couple of major speeches, one followed by a soirée:

At the afterparty, I was pulled every which way, talking to folks. I could have stayed there all night. A friend of mine who stuck around after I was taken to the official dinner told me that he was privy to a conversation involving a liberal Christian from a Mainline Protestant church, in which the liberal expressed real antagonism to my speech. The liberal reportedly said that the Ben Op sounds to him like a form of white supremacism because it equates Christianity with Western civilization.

Now, in the public discussion following my speech, I explicitly answered this charge by saying that in no way to I equate the global religion of Christianity with Western civilization. But I do say that Western civilization is inescapably Christian, because the Christian religion — with its roots in the Hebrew Bible, Greek philosophy, and Roman law — created the civilization that emerged in the West after Rome’s collapse. Pope Benedict XVI offered some detailed thoughts about this here.  Though I am a communicant of the Orthodox Church, I am a man of the West, and I make no apology for wishing to see what remains of Western civilization — which, after the Roman era, was a Christian civilization — preserved and revived. In fact, it is my fervent hope that ties between Christian peoples of all continents — especially the ancient churches of Rome and Byzantium — will be strengthened. People who expect me to hate my patrimony are not going to get what they want — and they’re not going to get it hard, if you follow me.

This particular liberal Protestant, who belongs to one of the dying Mainline churches, fulminated about white, Southern, privileged me not having the right to say what I did, at least without first acknowledging my privilege and noting the many sins of the Christian West. Oh, whatever. This is such ridiculous self-hating prog claptrap. Of course the West and the Western church is stained with blood and sin, but it also boast of glories sometimes matched but never surpassed. Only a blind man or a fool can survey Western civilization and see only misery and cruelty, overlooking Greek philosophy, Roman law and architecture, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Greek sculpture, St. Augustine’s City Of God, the Hagia Sophia, the Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the cathedral of Chartres, Dante, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach, Beethoven, Louis Armstrong — do I really need to go on? There is a reason liberal democracy emerged in the West and nowhere else. There is a reason the ideals of human equality, including the equality of women, came out of the West. I wasn’t present for this conversation, but I would bet money that most of the principles that progressive Christian holds dear came out of Western civilization, and were most refined there.

You cannot separate these things from war, oppression, slavery, exploitation, and all manner of cruelty. Here’s the thing: every single civilization is guilty of the same. Saints are individuals. We don’t have saintly societies, cultures, or civilizations, because we don’t have utopias. The best we can hope for is to create a civilization in which our virtues are stronger than our vices, and it is easier to grow in virtue than it is to sink into vice.

I added the bold to the parts I particularly need to hear.

He had other conversations, including one with a prominent young Evangelical:

In New York, I was talking to a fairly well known young Evangelical about the overall decline in church life. But he also said: “Of all the people I know who are converting, all are converting to one form or the other of orthodox Christianity. There’s just no point to liberal Christianity, and no future.”

True. Thinking about my Evangelical friend’s line in light of the conversation my other friend had with the progressive Mainliner, it occurred to me that we really don’t have much to say to those folks, and shouldn’t waste our time trying to. Nor should they waste their time with us. We follow different religions … They are the left-wing Christian equivalent of the right-wing Christians who are so enmeshed in partisan politics and culture-warring that they’ve lost the point of Christian faith and life. It seems to be a miserable truth of our era: when you’ve lost your religion, you double down on politics.

2

How has America changed over Mr. Sowell’s lifetime? “Oh my God,” he responds, “that is truly a depressing subject.” He laments the “huge degeneration” and what he sees as the spread of “the grievance culture to low-income whites—and even to places like Great Britain.”

An idea has taken root “that you’re entitled to certain things, that you don’t necessarily have to earn them,” he says. “There’s a belief that something’s wrong if you don’t have what other people have—that it’s because you’re ‘disadvantaged.’ A teenage dropout mother is told she has a disadvantage. But if you’re going to call the negative consequences of chosen behavior ‘disadvantage,’ the word is corrupt beyond repair and useful only for propaganda purposes.”

Has there been any change for the better? “Oh, yes, yes, yes,” he says. “In fact, for blacks who have education and who have not succumbed to a new lifestyle—the grievances, and the coarseness represented by rap music—it’s gotten tremendously better. What’s disheartening, though, is that when you study ethnic groups around the world, the ones that are lagging behind are those where their leaders always tell the same story: that it’s other people holding you back, and that therefore you need to stand against those other people and resist their culture. But that culture may be the key to success.”

Here Mr. Sowell pivots to 18th-century Scotland and the philosopher David Hume: “Hume urged Scots to learn the English language,” he says. “He didn’t do that because his job was that of an ethnic leader. He did it because he was an intellectual.” Yet it helped bring progress to his homeland. “One of the most miraculous advances of a people occurred in Scotland from the 18th century into the 19th,” Mr. Sowell says. “A wholly disproportionate share of the leading British thinkers was Scottish. I mean Adam Smith in economics, Hume in philosophy, Sir Walter Scott in literature, James Watt in engineering. You can run through the whole list. A people who were really far behind in one century had suddenly come out of nowhere and were on the forefront of human progress.”

Could black Americans one day be like the Scots? “They can be,” says Mr. Sowell, “and for those who haven’t gotten into this corrosive new culture, they’re already doing that. But it’s going to be very hard. Both the media and academia promote the idea that people fall behind because others are holding them back.”

(Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal)

3

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is having fun implying that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s effort to replace ObamaCare is at odds with Mr. Ryan’s Catholic faith. The column is of a piece with the “Jesus was a socialist” arguments that bounce around the left half of the social media universe.

Without wrestling with any difficult questions of faith or logic, Mr. Kristof simply casts the federal bureaucracy in the role of Jesus. Then the Times man proceeds to suggest through satire that by seeking to reduce outlays and improve incentives in federal programs, Mr. Ryan is defying the will of his God. Of course if federal agencies were ever actually given the statutory mission to do as Jesus would do, Mr. Kristof would be as horrified as anyone. But this seems to be a political season when people who spend much of the year driving religion out of public life abruptly drag it back in as they attempt to justify big government.

(James Freeman, Wall Street Journal, responding to this)

It must be very hard having to produce a column by deadline when your head has gone empty.

And I submit that it’s impossible not to engage in shameless bullshitting when you try single-handedly  to hold forth daily for an hour or more on radio or TV. Remember that, dittoheads.

I don’t know who besides Limbaugh does that these days; I lost my taste for Limbaugh back in the “Gorbasm” and “Feminazi” days, after listening for about 30 minutes, precisely because you had to wade through so much merde to find anything sustaining. Others hung on for the novelty of a brash conservatish voice.

4

George Will poses Questions for Judge Gorsuch. Although they’re good questions in the abstract — very good questions — I would not expect “yes” or “no” answers to many of them. They cut far too close to the bone of issues likely to come before the court.

5

Sen. John McCain accused fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin” on Wednesday because Sen. Paul wouldn’t support admission of Montenegro to NATO. I hadn’t noticed until Daniel Larison pointed it out, supporting Paul.

Well, McCain’s McCarthyite insult at least makes it clear that:

  1. He has no good argument for admitting Montenegro to NATO.
  2. By Freudian Slip, he exposed his bad-faith argument: provoking Putin.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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