Is Revelation Reasonable?

  1. Is Revelation Reasonable?
  2. Distinguo
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. Diversity and Democracy
  5. ¿Christian White Nationalism?
  6. This river …
  7. Beyond parody
  8. What Trump likes best

1

“How can it be reasonable to submit to help from beyond human reason?” J Budziszewski’s answer, Is Revelation Reasonable?, is too succinct to summarize.

2

Protestant Fundamentalists/Evangelicals early on were captivated by the evangelistic potential of radio (and, later, Television). They scarfed up a remarkably high number of commercial radio licenses. Their success is still apparent as I traveled recently and dicovered that the low end of the FM band, where I search for NPR news, is so chock-full-o-religion that a preset is likely to pick up various religious stations for hundreds of miles — all essentially Evangelical.

That’s related to the common American equation of “Christianity” with “Evangelical Protestantism,” which in turn is identified as a conservative political movement. I suspect — even hope — that that false equation is behind our culture’s increasing rejection of Christianity so understood. Perhaps Christianity rightly understood would have greater appeal, though we have good reason never to expect universal acceptance.

But I said “false equation,” and it is false. Evangelicalism is a johnny-come-lately to the two millennium history of Christianity, and something of a mutant. A time-transported Christian of the first millennium, miraculously equipped with supernatural skills of understanding strange tongues, if set down in an Evangelical Church (especially a megachurch) would have no idea that this rock concert cum inspirational talk was considered a Church. That would not be true were the same hypothetical time-traveler set down in an Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or even Episcopalian (maybe even Lutheran) Church with the shape of the Christian liturgy still discernible.

I’ve said all that to commend, with a one-gun salute, Roman Catholic Deacon Jim Russell’s The Real Nature of Catholic Reparative Therapy.

“Distinguo”—that curious Latin term that reminds us that we need to make essential distinctions between and among similar concepts in order to fully understand them.

And now, with the untimely passing of reparative therapy pioneer Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, which in turn met with an inhumane “glad-you’re-dead” response from ‘gay’-affirming ideologues who refer to Nicolosi’s life’s work as “torture,” faithful Catholics absolutely must make some crucial distinctions.

First, we Catholics must be willing to affirm unswervingly that those experiencing same-sex attraction deserve more dignity than the label “gay” affords them and that the psychological sciences can indeed help many people experience some semblance of liberation from the attractions themselves and more readily lead a life of authentic chastity.

Next, we Catholics must be willing to acknowledge that, unlike the Catholic foundation of Dr. Nicolosi’s pioneering work, some approaches to reparative therapy that are not based on Catholic anthropology have significantly missed the mark because of a fatal flaw in their understanding of the human person. In fact, the garden-variety perceptions of so-called “conversion therapy” or the notions of “ex-gay” and “pray-away-the-gay” really arise from this issue.

Deacon Russell’s “hypothesis” is one of which I have no need (and which strikes me, as does much Catholic thought, as over-thought — though better than Evangelicalism on almost every subject). I’ve set forth my own convictions elsewhere (items 9 and 10 there are particularly salient), and they probably are incomprehensible to an Evangelical mindset. But Deacon Russell’s point that Catholic “reparative therapy” differs from that of the 800 pound gorilla, Evangelicalism, also is well taken.

3

An Orthodox Christian architect, artisan and artistic muse has no use for those who think Disney Studios new Beauty and the Beast is gay propaganda:

Our culture today is obsessed with subversion of gender roles, and this theme is prominent in the new Beauty and the Beast. Gaston and LeFou have an overtly homoerotic relationship. But I would congratulate the writers for not making them anachronistically ‘gay’ in the contemporary sense. Rather, they are both also interested in marriage to women, in addition to cavorting with war widows, groupies, and whoever else amuses them. They are shameless misogynists, interested in women only for conquest and self-pleasure. And Gaston is vain and sadistic to the core. They are the type of men whom Victorians referred to, quite literally, as ‘wicked buggers’. And their relationship with one another is utterly destructive – mismatched as a couple not just in gender, but in every other way too. (How anyone can see these characters as a triumph for the Gay agenda is utterly beyond me. Do people now see the mere existence of something as moral affirmation, regardless of whether it appears good or bad?)

(Andrew Gould) Is the conservative alarm over this movie coming from the same people who condemned Harry Potter?

4

One of the hard truths of human affairs is that diversity and democracy do not go easily together … [I]n the West in recent years, both mass immigration and cultural fragmentation have brought authoritarian temptations back to life.

This pattern runs deep in our species’s history. A new paper from the economists Oded Galor and Marc Klemp finds a strong correlation between diversity and autocracy in pre-colonial societies, with a legacy that extends to today’s institutions as well. The authors suggest that authoritarianism emerges from both bottom-up and top-down pressures: A diverse society seeks strong central institutions for the sake of cohesion and productivity, and internal division, stratification and mistrust increase “the scope for domination” by powerful elites.

[A] disinterested ruler — a good emperor, let’s call him — would see a crucial part of his role as reassurance, recognizing that in a diverse, fragmented and distrustful landscape, any governing coalition is going to look dangerous to those who aren’t included in it. If he comes from a historically dominant group and speaks on their behalf, he needs to go out of his way to address the anxieties of minorities and newcomers. If he’s building a coalition of minority groups, he needs to reassure the former majority that the country of the future still has a place for them. Whatever the basis of his power, he needs to be constantly attuned to the ways that diversity, difference and distrust can make political conflict seem far more existential than it should.

Our last two chief executives recognized that they needed to make efforts along these lines, but with exceptions … they were not particularly successful. In Obama’s case, his White House failed to grasp the feeling of abandonment and crisis in the white heartland, and the extent to which that feeling was creating a new identity-based voting bloc. He failed to grasp, too, how threatening the regulatory state’s enforcement of liberal sexual norms was to religious conservatives, how much it made them feel like strangers in their own country.

From that alienation and fear came Trump, who is barely even trying to reach out and reassure, to make his nationalism seem larger than just white identity politics, to make the groups who feel afraid of his administration sense that he has their anxieties in mind. There might be a form of nationalism that helps bind a diverse society together, but Trump’s seems more likely to bind a “real American” ex-majority in opposition to every other race and faith and group.

(Ross Douthat) This entire column, In Search of a Good Emperor, was an outstanding survey of the tensions between diversity and democracy. I think I understand better the extreme personal hostility toward former President Obama that I saw in many places around me. And, yes, race was the backdrop if Douthat is right.

5

Manifestly Europe has entered a post-Christian era. But its Christianity was not killed by outsiders coming in. This was death by suicide. If Europe’s Islamic population threatens anything, it is the cramped and arid secularism that long ago replaced Christianity as the Continent’s reigning creed and is so plainly ill-equipped to meet today’s challenge.

Meanwhile, Christianity continues to grow in the global South, upending many a pet assumption in the process … [W]hile whiteness may once have been a fact of European Christian civilization, Christianity is subversive of the idea that a young girl shivering with AIDS in Africa is any way inferior in dignity or worth to a white American. Which may be why those most obsessed with white identity get that Christianity is a problem for them.

Take Richard Spencer, the man credited with coining the term “alt-right.” Recently Mr. Spencer tweeted out an article from his website cautioning followers “not to fall prey to the pro-life temptation.” The white-identity movement, the article suggests, ought to recognize that those most likely to avail themselves of abortion are “the least intelligent and responsible members of society: women who are disproportionately Black, Hispanic and poor.”

In an Atlantic piece about what happens when conservatives stop going to church, Peter Beinart makes a … point. “The alt-right is ultraconservatism for a more secular age,” Mr. Beinart writes. “Its leaders like Christendom, an old-fashioned word for the West. But they’re suspicious of Christianity itself, because it crosses boundaries of blood and soil.”

Indeed. How ironic that the champions of white nationalism are finding their most formidable obstacle to be global Christianity—and especially its increasingly nonwhite demographic.

(William McGurn, The Twilight of White Christianity)

6

Yes, yes, you can’t step into the same
river twice, but all the same, this river
is one of the things that has changed
least in my life …

(Opening of The Same River, a poem by Jeffrey Harrison, from the Writer’s Almanac for April 5)

7

Rod Dreher’s right: this effort by corporate America to monetize “the Resistance” defies parody.

I wouldn’t bet anything I couldn’t afford to lose that this kitsch won’t sell Pepsi, though.

Pre-publication update: This ad not only offended good taste and defied parody, but fatally offended some certified victims at Black Lives Matter, so Pepsi took it down.

It featured Kendall Jenner doing a fashion shoot as a Black Lives Matter-type march filed past. After getting and giving soulful looks to a dark-skinned protester, she ripped off the blond wig, wiped off the ruby red lipstick, somehow miraculously converted a micro-miniskirt into blue jeans in broad daylight in front of hundreds, and joined the fetching dark-skinned lad. Then the bold white heroine defused a tense situation between protesters and police by stepping out, giving a policeman a Pepsi, and watching him throw it back to a roar of crowd approval.

Actually, it’s just about as bad in print as it was on YouTube.

8

By the end of March, Trump had signed 17 pieces of legislation. One of them renamed a community outpatient clinic in American Samoa …

Nothing is getting done, but the sound of fighting is everywhere. Talk radio against Never Trumpers! New nationalists against libertarians! Populists versus the establishment! Outsiders trashing media insiders!

No one took the chance to win gracefully, mollify, and lead. Instead, the populists, sensing that establishment conservatives never got on board the Trump train, are settling scores.

The populists are the coalition of the snubbed and excluded. In Trump they found their victory, but they have no idea what to do with it. And the tone belongs to the boss himself. Trump has shown no signs of aligning talent and brainpower to translate his campaign visions into a workable governing philosophy. What he can do is whine about the media, and his unfair treatment at the hands of the establishment.

If Trump is going to continue spending his political capital watching cable news, and complaining about the Clintons, why shouldn’t the little Trumps spend more of his administration’s time and energy dancing on the graves of their rivals? Sure beats governing.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty, Trump doesn’t care about governing. But he sure loves feuding)

* * * * *

“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.