Be of Good Cheer

  1. Be of good cheer
  2. The state’s thumb on the scale
  3. How to screw up a boy
  4. From a Harvard seminar of a century ago
  5. Sen. Sanders’ thought policing

1

We are part of the culture that we decry. It is easy to see what is wrong, but more difficult to seize opportunity in a time of change. Instead, we should stop and realize that every year in alternative classical schools with no hint of fundamentalism, we are graduating hundreds of students with the very skills that leaders need just now. When asked why I am jolly, it is for this reason: when it comes time to discuss Plato dialectically, a task that would not seem to require Christian faith, I find the room full of Christians. If Shakespeare is being performed in your city, the audience will be full of Christians. If you meet someone from Nigeria, India, or even secular Singapore, they will have values closer to US Christians on the hot button issues of our day and will often be Christians.

This is good. We may be in difficult times, but difficult times are an opportunity. In Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the eagles appear and combined with a miracle or two bring victory. I have met the eagles, the classical educators in Pittsburgh this week, and I know a God who does miracles.

Be of good cheer.

(John Mark Reynolds, President of The Saint Constantine School, a school that aspires to preschool through college education.)

Be of good cheer, too, that smart Christian people are pondering how best to teach the STEM disciplines in a Classical School setting:

We must also realize that the quadrivium is essentially obsolete. The trivium can be used to teach the humanities today, but it is based on ancient and medieval thought. Philosophy does not change easily, and many people have opted for the older approach, ingrained in Western thought, than the newer approach, which can produce social justice warriors. Most of what we know about STEM, however, has been learned in the last hundred years. Science today, although built on a foundation laid by many religious people, can stand on its own, at least in most of its practical applications. One plus one equals two, no matter one’s religion, philosophy, or political views. And while great books colleges might try to teach science in the framework of the liberal arts, real STEM universities do not.

The modern classical Christian education programs are typically led by people trained in the humanities. Some schools have large oval desks, which the students sit around. This is great for discussion, but can you imagine teaching algebra with a Socratic session? Trying to put science in a classical paradigm is putting new wine into old wineskins. Jesus warned against this while talking about religion, but that works for science, also. Modern science just does not easily fit into a classical paradigm ….

2

At every spotting of conservative support for the First Amendment Defense Act in Congress, I interject my belief that it’s unconstitutional and that making it a priority is a distraction from more useful things — and it’s not hard to find things more useful that passing a law that will be enjoined before it ever goes into effect and will discredit supporters’ integrity and commitment to religious freedom for all.

Roughly a year ago, a U.S. District Court agreed with me on the core infirmity of such laws (I’m not sure I’d join its reasoning on Equal Protection), invalidating a close Mississippi equivalent of FADA. Here’s the short version with links if you want to go deeper. The core:

HB 1523 grants special rights to citizens who hold one of three “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” reflecting disapproval of lesbian, gay, transgender, and unmarried persons…. That violates both the guarantee of religious neutrality and the promise of equal protection of the laws.

The Establishment Clause is violated because persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected – the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others. Showing such favor tells “nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and . . . adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

The District Court decision has now been reversed, but on grounds that Plaintiff lacked standing, not because the District Court erred in its reasoning (which the appellate court neither endorsed nor criticized).

I take no pleasure in being the bearer of tidings that this emperor has no clothes. The legal and cultural pressures on orthodox Christians because of the insatiable sexual revolution, are very real. But my objection is not that “there’s stinky-poo liberal precedent that won’t allow this.” I agree with the principle that government may not single out one set of views on a topic for special protection.

We are living in a much, much different America than that I grew up in. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars.

3

Andrew T. Walker has penned a perceptive piece on a particular folly of our current moment, The Gender Revolution is Lying to Children. Two women are trying to raise a boy to be genderless:

[T]he lesbian couple interviewed is attempting to parent in such a way as to nullify or erase any masculine or feminine qualities in both their parenting and in their son’s interactions with the world. This isn’t gender non-conformity; rather, what these parents are after is genderlessness altogether.

The mother in the story wants to “queer” her relationship with her son by making him wear tutus and the son doesn’t want to wear them.

The other mother in the story does not want to be called “mom,” but “Baba,” which is a term for parenthood in the transgender community that is neither strictly male or female.

First, the attempt by the parents in this video to actively suppress any innate expressions of masculinity or boyishness that their son displays is a living portrait of what Paul depicts in Romans 1. The Apostle Paul says that sinful humans “suppress the truth” and that “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking” (Romans 1:18, 21). These parents are suppressing what would otherwise be the normal pattern of living for this young boy …

These parents treat their son’s existence as a boy as a problem to be overcome rather than embraced.

They treat his natural instincts as something pliable, thus erasing any concept of objective maleness or femaleness.

They believe children can be re-wired by ideological scripts that align with Western, progressive moorings.

Notice in the video that when the child makes masculine overtures or draws conclusions based on gender, the parents want to correct him.

To believe falsehood requires active suppression of the truth, which is what we see in this video. Truth emerges in the form of this boy acting, well…like a boy, and the parents respond by denying him his boyhood, suppressing his natural instincts, and correcting him by foisting upon him a false narrative based on modern progressive experiments.

This is manipulative and abusive ….

This may win him plaudits in the Southern Baptist Convention, but to put it up on the internet, “in front of God and everyone,” takes balls.

May his ballsy tribe increase.

4

At that time he had very small classes meeting around a table. He came in with a bag bursting full of books, and took out a handful of notes which he arranged around him … Began to sway in his chair, then leaped out upon one of them and poured a barrage of criticism upon some doctrine or some line of poetry, “to cast o’er erring words and deeds a heavenly show.” Buddha, Aristotle, Plato, Horace, Dante, Montaigne, Pascal, Milton, etc … He deluged you with wisdom of the world; his thoughts were unpacked and poured out so fast you couldn’t keep up with them. You didn’t know what he was talking about, but you felt that he was extremely in earnest, that it was tremendously important, that some time it would count; that he was uttering dogmatically things that cut into your beliefs, disposed derisively of what you adored, driving you into a reconstruction of your entire intellectual system. He was at you day after day like a battering ram, knocking down your illusions. He was building up a system of ideas. You never felt for a moment that he was a pedagogue teaching pupils. You felt that he was a Coleridge, a Carlyle, a Buddha, pouring out the full-stuffed cornucopia of the world upon your head. You were no longer in the elementary class. You were with a man who was seeking through literature for illustrations of his philosophy of life. You were dealing with questions on the answer to which the welfare of nations and civilizations depended. He himself seemed to know the right answer and was building a thoroughfare of ideas from the Greeks to our own day. You went out of the room laden down with general ideas that he had made seem tremendously important. … He related for you a multitude of separate and apparently disconnected tendencies to the great central currents of thought. You carried away also a sense of the need for immense reading. He had given you theses about literature, about life, which you would spend a lifetime in verifying.

(A student reminiscence about the late Irving Babbitt’s (1865-1933) undergraduate seminar at Harvard. Babbitt was one of the last century’s great conservatives. Quoted by Bradley T. Birzer in Modern Age Journal, Spring 2017)

More:

Armed with strong reservations about American nationalism and his overt opposition to any form of progressivism, Babbitt called for a reclamation of the word humanist against the romantic sentimentalists he believed had hijacked it.

To make a plea for humanism without explaining the word would give rise to endless misunderstanding. It is equally on the lips of the socialistic dreamer and the exponent of the latest philosophical fad. In an age of happy liberty like the present, when any one can employ almost any general term very much as he pleases, it is perhaps inevitable that the term humanism, which still has certain gracious associations lingering about it, should be appropriated by various theorists, in the hope, apparently, that the benefit of the associations may accrue to an entirely differ- ent order of ideas…. We evidently need a working definition not only of humanism, but of the words with which it is related or confused humane, humanistic, humanitarian, humanitarianism.

And these words, if successfully defined, will help us to a further necessary definition that of the college. For any discussion of the place of literature in the college is conditioned by a previous question: whether there be any college for literature to have a place in. The college has been brought to this predicament not so much perhaps by its avowed enemies as by those who profess to be its friends. Under these circumstances our prayer, like that of Ajax, should be to fight in the light.

I’m encouraged that Babbitt is remembered and celebrated.

I’m also reminded of a client of fundamentalist leanings who was sorely scandalized upon learning that I was responsible for Image, a journal of the Center For Religious Humanism, being on the table in our waiting room. One can only bite one’s tongue, understanding that the feeling of scandal is real even if the cause is silly.

5

In the end, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders said he would have to reject [Nominee Russell] Vought because, “this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

The key question in my column: Would Sanders have rejected a Muslim nominee who was willing to defend his own faith’s claims to absolute truth on issues of salvation and eternal life? Traditional Muslims also reject “universalism,” the belief that all believers are “saved,” no matter what they believe.

Online, many conservative commentators pounced – noting that Sanders appeared to be attacking Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which says “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

For me, however, the most interesting part of this story was that Sanders was debating a point of doctrine that wasn’t linked to Vought’s public work. No one was claiming that he was guilty of acts of discrimination against Muslims, Jews or anyone else. Rather, Vought was being found guilty of a doctrinal sin against – what?

The big idea, as in many public debates (and in mainstream media coverage of them), is that there are good religious believers and then there are bad religious believers. The goal isn’t pure secularism, but forms of religion that are acceptable to those (yes, including some secularists) who get to define (hello James Davison Hunter) the doctrines of the emerging lowest common denominator public faith.

The same thing is happening, right now, on the other side of the Atlantic.

The leader of England’s Liberal Democrats recently resigned after waves of questions about his private, evangelical Protestant beliefs about abortion and sexuality.

The key is that Tim Farron had already taken public stands in favor of legalized abortion and gay marriage. No, the question – pressed by reporters, over and over – was the state of the beliefs in his head and heart. The key word was “sin.”

(Terry Mattingly, emphasis added) Senator Sanders and the British reporters behaved shamefully, but I’m not sure anyone other than morally conservative Christians are calling them on it — and the silence from others is a bad sign.

But go back to the top and read that again. The advice stands. Even James Howard Kunstler, who so far as I can tell does not know a God who works miracles, views our future with a kind of wry good cheer.

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.