Potpourri 6/10/17

  1. A deeply commercialized religion
  2. Happy-Clappy Jibber-Jabber
  3. Winning a Pyrrhic victory?
  4. Two opinions in one
  5. The nature of the person
  6. Pre-eminent for ability and virtue
  7. Credo in unum eros
  8. Allegiance

1

The implicit idea in play here is that the church is a kind of social enterprise with a customer base comprised of different target demographics which must be reached by various marketing techniques … [T]his sort of language is pervasive in evangelicalism. After all, we long ago made piece with the language and concepts of big business and building churches on the principles of entrepreneurialism … Evangelical Christianity is a deeply, deeply commercialized form of religion. We have celebrity pastors and nationally known musicians who write all our Sunday morning worship music. We have our gurus and a notable addiction to fads and trends that we can use to market ourselves … I’m worried about the language being used here because I actually want the same things JB does but I worry that her language isn’t going to help resolve the problem.

(Jake Meador, Evangelical, How Marketing Jargon Poisons Christian Community)

2

Yesterday I had a conversation with one conferee who told me some pretty distressing things about the state of the church in his part of the country. Yet I found that encouraging in one specific sense: there was none of this happy-clappy jibber-jabber meant to disguise the nature and degree of the crisis. The first step to effective resistance is understanding the nature of the crisis.

I find that the more I talk about The Benedict Option, the clearer this becomes to me. For example, someone here said yesterday that what we are really dealing with in these various crises is what C.S. Lewis called “the abolition of man.”  That is to say … what we’re really arguing about (at least as Christians) is what it means to be human.

(Rod Dreher, commenting on a “Benedict Option” conference he’s attending) He then transitions to quoting Michael Aaron:

[I]t is between the modernists and postmodernists where the future of society is being fought. Modernists are those who believe in human progress within a classical Western tradition. They believe that the world can continuously be improved through science, technology, and rationality. Unlike traditionalists, they seek progress rather than reversal, but what they share in common is an interest in preserving the basic structures of Western society. Most modernists could be classified as centrists (either left or right-leaning), classical liberals and libertarians.

Postmodernists, on the other hand, eschew any notion of objectivity, perceiving knowledge as a construct of power differentials rather than anything that could possibly be mutually agreed upon. Informed by such thinkers as Foucault and Derrida, science therefore becomes an instrument of Western oppression; indeed, all discourse is a power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. In this scheme, there is no Western civilization to preserve—as the more powerful force in the world, it automatically takes on the role of oppressor and therefore any form of equity must consequently then involve the overthrow of Western “hegemony.” These folks form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs). These are all very different groups, but they all share a postmodernist ethos.

I need all the help I can with postmodernism, because Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard and their ilk were nowhere on my radar as I was coming of age. I suppose their mothers loved them, but since I’m not working on a PhD in Oppression Studies, I’m not seeing much reason why I should.

Back to Dreher:

Aaron’s piece — read the whole thing — is really important, in large part because he points out that the reason the progressive administrators at Evergreen State have been so weak in the face of the postmodernist mobs is because confronting them would require the administrators to re-evaluate the things they have been teaching these kids. Says Aaron:

[T]aking a stand against the students would require administrators and professors to re-evaluate the meaning and value of the entire raison d’etre of their adult professional careers. Holding on to madness is a way of forestalling dealing with the grief that comes with the realization that one’s higher purpose has been a fraud. I am not sure of the final outcome, as this kind of process is long, difficult, and very, very painful.

This is true, and it’s perhaps ever more true, and important, for traditional/conservative Christians, and Christian leaders, to grasp about ourselves and where we stand. I keep pointing out that we have been defeated not because that gives me any pleasure, but because the Faith is the most important thing to me, and I want to do my utmost to keep it alive, and keep the Church strong through this time of great trial.

No room for happy-clappy jibber-jabber. Not if you’re serious.

3

But let’s keep this all in perspective, too. I had a thought that brings two formerly separate threads together. It would be like a Reeces Peanut Butter Cup if the two tastes were sweet and savory like milk chocolate and peanut butter. Alas, they’re bitter and fetid, like a sh*t sandwich.

Christians in North America, while safe and secure by world standards, are in a world of hurt, relatively speaking. See Rod Dreher. Heck, see the Babylon Bee. I’ve been an ardent supporter of religious liberty for too long to forget it.

But the whole country is in its own world of hurt, having experienced a forced choice between Trump and Hillary, and now being led by a extreme narcissist (if not sociopath — his habitual disparagement and cruelty to people strikes me as sociopathic) wannabe dictator. On of the founders thought election of his ilk was impossible. Removal of him will elevate a bland and inoffensive guy (that’s my take, but your mileage may vary) who’s less likely to blow up the world but unlikely to satisfy those of Trump’s supporters who thought sociopathy was a feature, not a bug.

So our national divisions will persist; our politics will remain so vicious that only (a) people who think they have no embarrassing secrets and (b) the most obsessively power-hungry will put themselves through the sliming we call “running for national office.”

I truly believe our days, as anything like the America we’ve recently known, are numbered. Regaining more robust religious freedom (a cause to which Trump doesn’t seem hostile) likely will be a Pyrrhic victory, a mere rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Thank you. You may now roll your eyes and return to happy-clappy jibber-jabber. I’ve made my record — assuming the internet survives.

4

I’m losing what little faith I had left in journalists and commentators. Email today from National Review’s Jim Geraghty included both these propositions:

  1. Trump foes didn’t gather in bars yesterday in excitement and full of hope that this all ends in Flynn and/or Manafort and/or Page getting nailed on failure to file the proper foreign-agent registration and compensation paperwork. They’re hoping this all ends in impeachment. Much to their surprise, they ended the day further from that goal than when they started.
  2. Thursday wasn’t a good day for President Trump. Comey painted an ugly portrait of the president as flagrantly and shamelessly dishonest, oblivious to traditional limits on presidential power, obsessed with personal loyalty to him, having no regard for the independence of law enforcement and the justice system, petty, micromanaging, erratic, mercurial, and vindictive. This description of Trump is undoubtedly shocking to all of the Americans who were in comas for the entirety of the 2016 election.

Despite its vicious characterization of Trump, Item 2 actually understates the criminality of what Trump did. From the standpoint of plausibly high crime and misdemeanors, I think Trump foes are closer than ever to impeachment.

Of course, as we’ve heard over and over again, impeachment is a political act. I don’t think removing Trump will even  begin to heal the deep division of our nation, but his foes might proceed if only to get this deranged man away from the nuclear codes.

5

In the three hours I sat transfixed in Room 216 of the Hart Building, 15 feet behind the fired FBI director, the line that chilled me more than any other was Comey’s account of why he wrote extensive, real-time notes of his conversations with Trump. “The nature of the person,” Comey explained in part. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”

The nature of the person.

This was the essence of Comey’s testimony: that the president of the United States is at his core a dishonest and untrustworthy man. It was judgment on character, not a legal opinion, and even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee made no real attempt to dispel it.

By itself, it’s neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor for a president to be dishonorable. But it’s a stain on the country, and it defines this moment. This is why Trump can’t get legislation through Congress and can’t get allies to cooperate, and why so many worry that he will disregard constitutional restraints. The president is not to be trusted.

(Dana Milbank)

6

[T]he office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single state; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of president of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.

(Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 68, via Dana Milbank)

7

Credo in unum eros.

If that household believes that there’s no difference between the love of man and wife spouses and the love of parent and child, then somebody had better call Child Protective Services.

8

I would like to contend that the words “under God” are essential for Christians, or indeed probably any people of theistic faith, to say the pledge.

My hang up is the word “allegiance.”

(Aaron Linderman)

* * * * *

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“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.