Who’s inside that body?

  1. Losing our Story sequel
  2. Trust fund ignoramuses
  3. Who’s inside the body?!
  4. Take from the poor, entertain the rich
  5. Trump isn’t worth that price
  6. Drinking muddy water
  7. My cup overfloweth

I was a little light yesterday. Today I was overwhelmed.

An item that took some time to write moved over to being scheduled for Saturday, so as to give it due prominence. Stay tuned on that.

1

I blogged yesterday about David Brooks’ thoughts on our loss of a national story. Rod Dreher’s thoughts far surpass my quick take:

I agree with most of this, but I would take the critique a bit deeper: we have a Telos Crisis in America not simply because we have lost a sense of collective meaning, but because here in late modernity, most of us have lost a belief that there can be meaning independent of our individual desires … Even most Christians today believe in a God whose purpose is to validate our quest for happiness — which is not the same thing as holiness. 

David says the Exodus story from the Hebrew Bible ought to be our national mythological template. We have to remember that the Hebrews coming out of Egypt believed they were going somewhere definite. Where is America going? When we had a shared Judeo-Christian ethic, we at least had a picture of what the Promised Land (so to speak) to which we as a people should aspire. We believed that because we believed, however imperfectly, that there was a moral order independent of ourselves by which we were all called to live. That moral order was revealed and guaranteed by the God of the Bible.

The 20th century cultural revolution — which included a revolution in theology — left this in shambles. As Brad East pointed out last week, Christian theologians and cultural critics have been talking about this for decades. Awareness of this stark new reality long predates The Benedict Option, a book written in response to the crisis. The problem David Brooks identifies — the loss of a binding national narrative — is not something American Christians are prepared to address because we ourselves have also lost our religious narrative.

We cannot give the world what we do not ourselves have …

Where does this leave the Telos Crisis identified by Brooks? I don’t know, but more to the point, I don’t care about it as much as I used to. I don’t believe there will be any national rediscovery of a telos, because the nature of modernity, including our consumerist popular culture, is anti-teleological. This is what it means for the therapeutic to triumph. How is civics education going to produce a narrative stronger than “Ye shall be as gods”? Stronger than “ye shall create your own truth, and you will use it to set yourself free”? …

Religion is no guarantee of anything. A friend of mine, an observant conservative Catholic, is fighting to rescue his teenage son from far-right, conspiracy-driven hatred — malevolent ideas he acquired from his friends at school. But if not religion — a religion not of moralistic therapy, but of holy terror (in the Rieffan sense) — then what? There is nothing else.

2

In last Thursday’s story, “Americans excited to visit ‘ball parks,’” the sport of baseball was repeatedly spelled bayspall. The number of ‘bases’ was given as five; the correct number is three. “Home plate” is a marker embedded in the ground, not a trophy awarded to the winner of the World Series. “Babe” Ruth was the popular nickname of George Herman Ruth Jr. (1895–1948), generally regarded the greatest baseballer of the early twentieth century, and not the African-American mistress of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter F. O’Malley as stated in the article. The Times regrets the errors.

Seriously? What the heck is that about?

Well, no, not seriously. Satirically. Recounted by M.Z. Hemingway in conjunction with her reporting of this incident:

The New York Times published a fairly straightforward story about Pope Francis’ first Urbi et Orbi message. With this paragraph:

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection into heaven of Jesus, three days after he was crucified, the premise for the Christian belief in an everlasting life. In urging peace, Francis called on Jesus to ”change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.”

Yes, the professionals at The New York Times are confused about what Easter marks. If you were satirizing the poor state of the Grey Lady’s understanding of religion, this would seem over-the-top. And yet it’s real. My favorite part is the correction to the piece – yes, it was corrected to drop the “into heaven” and replace it with “from the dead.” The correction is:

An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.

To be clear, not only is Easter not about Jesus’ “resurrection into heaven,” Christians don’t believe Jesus “resurrected into heaven” – period.

Journalism may be a bastion of trust-fund kids, but whoever said that trust fund kids were religiously literate?

3

“Who’s inside the body?” You can’t make body/soul (or body/identity) dualism much starker than that. The real you is independent of your embodiment.

I learned it’s illegal in my state to refuse to use someone’s preferred pronoun. Almost every presenter had a story of a time they got a coworker, employee, or boss fired. A speaker (pronouns xe, xyr, xemself) passionately told us of a time when xe had an older coworker who referred to xem as “ma’am.” When xe repeatedly told him xe preferred to be referred to as xem, he responded that he couldn’t, because he had been brought up to be polite and use sir and ma’am.

A quick visit to the supervisor resulted in the coworker being fired. There was standing ovation in the conference hall, with one member of the audience saying how “brave” xe was to enact change. Xe publicly responded that xe “needed to go above his head to get what I needed.”

(Trans Conference Celebrates Getting People Fired For Not Calling Men Women)

The anonymous author of this Orwellian tale closes with a question which presumably would be shouted down, as it presumably has no answer:

If gender is not biological, then why do we think someone who claims to be trans-black is crazy?

But of course, Rod Dreher, Anthony Esolen and Abp. Charles Chaput are just silly alarmists.

4

Redistribution is bad public policy since it simultaneously encourages inactivity and dependency among recipients and discourages activity and initiative by taxpayers.

That’s the standard argument against conventional handouts such as welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, EITC, and housing subsidies. The plethora of such programs in Washington is bad news for both taxpayers and poor people.

But there’s another type of redistribution that’s far worse, and that’s when politicians use the coercive power of government to take money from lower-income people in order to provide goodies for upper-income people.

The National Endowment of the Arts is a federal program that subsidizes art, with upper-income people reaping the vast majority of the benefits.

(Daniel J. Mitchell) It’s a pretty darned good argument for defunding the National Endowment for the Arts.

5

The tweets … are exposing something else in many of Trump’s friends and supporters — an extremely high tolerance for dishonesty and an oft-enthusiastic willingness to defend sheer nonsense. Yes, I know full well that many of his supporters take him “seriously, not literally,” but that’s a grave mistake. My words are of far lesser consequence than the president’s, yet I live my life knowing that willful, reckless, or even negligent falsehood can end my career overnight. It can end friendships instantaneously. Why is the truth somehow less important when the falsehoods come from the most powerful and arguably most famous man in the world?

I’ve watched Christian friends laugh hysterically at Trump’s tweets, positively delighted that they cause fits of rage on the other side. I’ve watched them excuse falsehoods from reflexively-defensive White House aides, claiming “it’s just their job” to defend the president. Since when is it any person’s job to help their boss spew falsehoods into the public domain? And if that does somehow come to be your job, aren’t you bound by honor to resign?

(David French)

6

I just don’t have time to write anything about this worthy reading:

  1. Media and Trump Share Blame for the Death of Truth
  2. 5Q: Talking religion, news and the ties that bind with Rod Dreher, author of ‘The Benedict Option’
  3. Porn, Technology, & Christians
  4. The Nazism Of Narnia

7

I think I’d rather drink muddy water than win the Powerball. Our local $435 million winner, who protected his identity by setting up an LLC, keeps getting unsolicited advice to spend on this or that charitable cause.

* * * * *

“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.