- Sore winners staying woke
- Rupturing the suburban syncretism
- Neomontanist “discernment bloggers”
- ‘This is too easy”
- No compromise
- The O’Reilly fester
Eric Mader reviews The Benedict Option from an atypical perspective:
I come to Dreher’s book from a unique place, a personal history that all but forces me to recognize the troubling truth in his main arguments. Dreher insists that American Christians have for a couple decades now been ignoring their real position in American culture. He is right. What’s more, I believe his widely misunderstood ideas about what must come next, if Christianity is to survive, are right as well.
For most of my adult life I counted myself on the left … Many lifelong friendships began in Madison, and this web of friends for many years kept me committed to a politically left reading of the world and American culture. That commitment, however, started to crack in 2011.
Already back in university I was something of an odd man out, because I was also Christian. I defined myself as a “left Christian”, of course, stressing the social doctrine side of the Gospel, but always had a strong sense of the divine Presence in the world, of a Mystery that wasn’t to be seized in language but must nonetheless be reverenced. Early on I understood that this reverence for God was connected to anything the West might mean by human rights. My focus on European literatures gave me in addition a deep respect for the Western tradition.
All through those years, and up to the start of the new century, there were things in the American left I didn’t support; causes my peers considered progressive but that I stood against. At that time, back in 1989, in 1995, perhaps even in 2003, this was still possible: I could be a faithful Christian but still part of the American left.
All that has changed. The new century has seen our “left” almost completely abandon the goals that kept people like me in solidarity. Worse, it has seen the rise to prominence of all the elements I didn’t support: the shrill identity politics, the speech codes, abortion “rights” as the meaning of womanhood; and most noticeable of all, the now fanatical fetish of sexual self-definition–the more perverse the better–as the very meaning of “progressive”.
[Discussion of the sexual revolution, culminating — thus far — in the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision.]
How did this revolutionary victory, once realized, affect the culture? Myself I noticed a very tangible shift in the terrain during Obama’s second term. I now attribute it to awareness among liberals and leftists that, with “marriage equality”, the old regime had finally been routed. This meant a new kind of relationship to those like myself who were, on some matters, still part of that old regime. If previously the left could consider me one of them, a somewhat eccentric religious guy whose “heart was in the right place”, suddenly there was a new coldness. In the past it had always been “Well, Eric, you subscribe to a religious interpretation, I don’t”–but our conversation, whatever the subject, would go on. Now any time the discussion, whether face to face or online, got near any part of my Christianity, their point seemed to be that the conversation would not go on. I’d get the equivalent of a scowl, as if even mentioning the Christian tradition was repugnant: all such thinking needed to be finally and utterly pushed out of sight.
I’d always had gay friends, written on gay writers, supported gays and lesbians in their struggles against the anathema conservatives placed on them. I’d always found the bourgeois Christian stigma on sexual sin over the top; it was often cruel and un-Christian–seeming to imply as it did that sexual sin was in a special category that made it worse, even qualitatively different, than sins like pride or greed. I never thought this way myself. But any nuances in my thought made no difference in the new climate. When it became clear to liberal acquaintances that I didn’t agree to their fickle redefinition of marriage, they jumped straight to ostracism. It was not any more that I “disagreed” with them (as I always had on abortion)–no, I had to be made to disappear. Those who held to the old view of marriage were to have no place in our Brave New World. They could be given no place even to speak …
The logic of Enlightenment, the way this logic has been pushed and combined with the Sexual Revolution, has in fact made sexual self-definition the very center of a new cosmology, even a new religion of sorts …
If we view the Sexual Revolution through this lens of past political revolution, it’s pretty clear where we are at present. The revolution has been won, sexual Utopia still hasn’t arrived (because, duh, it never can arrive) and the only thing that might keep our successful revolutionaries busy for the next decade is mopping up what remains of those who refused to drink the Rainbow Kool-Aid when it was first served–i.e. us orthodox religious people. Religious conservatives must be mopped up because, according to the logic, it is our mere existence that prevents Utopia’s final arrival.
This is in fact just how it is playing out in America, in our media and in our courts. Note especially the new plank that was quickly added to the revolutionary platform: the trans movement. There’s really no surprise in the meteoric rise of this raging trans craze. All the revolutionary zeal left over after the victory on marriage–something had to be done with it, no? To keep momentum going, the woke among the liberal intelligentsia had to quick set about destroying the very idea of sexual difference. “Yes, let’s invent thirty new genders and demand citizens use new pronouns. Those who don’t will face fines. Let’s put biological males in teen girls’ locker rooms. See how the rubes like that!”
It’s all both supremely perverse and, and, given where we’re at, depressingly predictable ….
Well, I certainly didn’t predict trans as the new frontier, but I did predict that Obergefell would not put the issue to rest because of sore winners.
And why are the winners sore? Because inner peace keeps eluding them.
Every time they say “if only X, we’d be content,” when X arrives their own consciences still accuse them, but they mistake the accusation as external. Or “according to the logic, it is our mere existence that prevents Utopia’s final arrival,” as Mader has it.
Their desire for affirmation is insatiable because the thirst is within them, and no outward affirmation can slake it.
I have sometimes said that even Catholics are Protestant today. But some young priests apparently would like to become more Catholic, and are getting push-back from the crypto-Protestants:
Restoration-minded pastors, most who came of age well after Vatican II, are ordering the changes. Gone are what they sometimes disparage as “Pizza Hut” churches. The goal is to restore tradition. They impose altar rails, the placement of the Blessed Sacrament near the altar, and use expensive marble on the floor to seal off the sanctuary area as a polished and exclusive arena for clerical liturgical action. Sometimes the choir gets relegated to a back loft, providing disembodied sound. In other parishes, circular seating arrangements are abandoned in favor of long rows of pews.
[Church building consultant and theology professor Michael] DeSanctis … writes in Emmanuel Magazine that these changes in church architecture are manifestations of what he describes as a new clericalism. The goal is to set off the priest from his congregation, in opposition to a Vatican II theology that focused on lay participation and the de-emphasizing of barriers.
“Architecture is how we express our liturgy,” DeSanctis recently told NCR in a phone interview, noting that the generation of post-Vatican II priests routinely came out of the sanctuary to interact with their parishioners during liturgy. They built churches with a focus on circular design, to bring the congregation closer together, as well lowered the altar to bring the priest closer to the congregation.
But that has changed with the emergence of many younger clergy, schooled in seminary with the thought of Pope Benedict …
In his article, DeSanctis offers a defense for the much-maligned modernist suburban church, with its focus on nurturing community.
He begins with St. Jude the Apostle Church in Erie, a product of postwar Catholicism. It is a modernist structure with a distinctive summit cross, built to be “a place of worship completely at home in the modern world.”
DeSanctis writes: “Modernity was something the people of St. Jude found neither foreign nor especially threatening but a condition of life as potent to the imaginations of prosperous, college-educated Catholics in post-World War II America as the ancient rites of their church. A distinctly modern ambience pervaded every inch of the shiny, suburban landscape they’d chosen to inhabit with their young families.”
St. Jude’s, he notes, fit into the modern suburban American landscape, and that was its strength, nothing to be apologetic about, even if it didn’t look like the cathedrals of old Europe.
His design goal is “to come up with a liturgical and architectural style that is authentic for our time.” As examples, he points to St. Michael’s Church in Wheaton, Illinois, a design he consulted on, and the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California.
For some, this is the front line of the liturgy wars, and a recent return to traditional forms has ruptured the important syncretism between suburban modernity and our places of worship. By restoring traditional elements, we’ve adopted forms and structures foreign to our culture, and this deference to the past threatens faith’s assimilation to and acceptance by the prevailing culture.
It sounds to me as if someone has been asking “What would it look like to live out the Catholic faith in this time and in this place?” (Did Ed Stetzer consult onSt. Michael’s Church in Wheaton?) In the process, they’ve produced buildings that are relatively ugly, undignified, and which move Catholicism in the direction of a warm and fuzzy group-grope. (Don’t blame me. I’m only paraphrasing DeSanctis.)
But those buildings are consonant with the individualist, consumerist, capitalist and suburban culture to which it seeks to pander, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?
I hate to sound monomaniacal, but Hank Hanegraaf’s reception into Orthodox Christianity really is a gift that keeps on giving.
Some fundamentalist or Calvinist guys (I can’t be troubled to dig down through the mire to discern which they are, but I think it’s Calvinism on hallucinogens), being engaged sub nom “Pulpit & Pen” in a genre that I think is called “discernment blogging,” have been notably harsh toward Hanegraaf.
I was going to let a recent major screed pass without comment, even though it enrages me to see the body of Christ maligned so, but Rod Dreher took them on, and in this excerpt he captured my thoughts:
If you take from these statements the idea that P&P writers shoot their mouths off maliciously without knowing what they’re talking about, you’d be correct. Today, the website turns its Eye of Sauron on Orthodox Christianity, which it describes as a “cult.” Jeff Maples of the site went to Hank Hanegraaf’s new Greek Orthodox parish looking for abomination. Lo and behold, he found a-plenty. Excerpts:
Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early.
These knotheads didn’t even realize that they were at the Paschal liturgy. What lovely Christian men, though, to have gone to the holiest church service of the year with the intention of getting up in the face of a new convert.
(Emphasis added) Exactly. If they had come to my Parish minded to make trouble at the Paschal Liturgy, I’d have gladly joined in expelling them, with force and violence if necessary. Visitors — even hostile ones — are always welcome, provided they not disrupt or desecrate.
[T]his Jeff Maples piece sounds like it was written by the equivalent of a rusticated banjo picker who wanders into a performance of Aïda and storms out fuming that that ain’t real music.
Being old doesn’t make a thing correct, but it’s worth considering that Orthodox Christians were worshiping God using that liturgy when Jeff Maples’s and my ancestors in northern Europe were still worshiping trees.
And reader Eric Todd gets my shout-out for this:
They are like the Montanists who invent new interpretations of Scripture and then declare the rest of Christendom apostate for not following their innovations.
‘This is too easy,” Barack Obama is recorded as saying in “Shattered,” an exhaustive account of Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated 2016 presidential campaign. The president had just delivered a well-received speech in praise of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy; both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton had derided Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, as a malignant nincompoop. John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman, looked at the president doubtfully. Too easy? “All right, all right, all right,” Mr. Obama playfully conceded. “There’s just so much material.”
Mrs. Clinton didn’t know why she wanted to be president. At one point no fewer than 10 senior aides were working on her campaign announcement speech; not one had a clear understanding of why Americans should cast their votes for Mrs. Clinton and not someone else. The speech, when she finally delivered it, was a flop—aimless, boring, devoid of much beyond bromides. (Compare that to Donald Trump’s announcement: disjointed, funny, written by no one—but the speaker knew why he wanted to be president and wanted you to know why, too.)
The Clinton campaign’s other failure was rooted in a mistaken assumption about the nature of politics. The campaign relied too much on analyzing data and too little on getting the candidate in touch with actual people. Mrs. Clinton’s young staffers came of age during Barack Obama’s campaigns and thought they’d mastered the art of electoral politics. They failed to realize that Mr. Obama won for a variety of sociological and political reasons that had nothing to do with his campaign’s analysis of data. Successful politicians must have a tacit sense of what voters want to hear and how they might be persuaded. Mrs. Clinton—in stark contrast to her husband—was never interested in that component of campaigning. You got the feeling she didn’t like people all that much.
The book is also too long: 400 pages of Clintonian self-aggrandizement, campaign malpractice and passive-aggressive blame-shifting are more than any ordinary reader can bear. Then again, there’s just so much material.
A spokesman for the university, Dan Mogulof, said that the university simply didn’t get word of Ms. Coulter’s scheduled appearance in time.
“We have two commitments, we have a commitment to the First Amendment and free speech regardless of the person’s perspective,” he said. “And second is we have a commitment to the security and well being of our students, and we are not going to compromise on either of those.”
You just did compromise one of those values, free speech, by anticipating and ratifying a heckler’s veto, Mr. Mogulof.
Anticipated rescheduling suggestion from Mr. Mogulof: “How about never? Is never good for you?”
Call me a cynic, but I have trouble believing that Bill O’Reilly’s sexually predatory behavior came as news recently to Fox News. He’s fired because the scandal, now public, outweighs the reportedly 9-figure revenue stream from his ugly version of news commentary. That’s one heckuva scandal.
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“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)