Mélange 7/18/17

  1. Sentimental reactions
  2. Bernard of Clairveaux’s Jihad
  3. Invoking intersectionality
  4. A quicky on depression
  5. Living in a pratfall paradise
  6. Gaining soul, losing world


Sentimentality is a common response to cultural ills: the culture of death spawned the helicopter parent; the culture of divorce, the lavish wedding; the breakdown of ­authentic ­patriotism, nationalism. These sentimental reactions imply a longing for the good that our culture has trampled, but they do nothing to resurrect that good. If anything, they further its destruction by creating the illusion that we value our children, marriages, and country while ­freeing us from any actual obligations to them.

(Audrey Pollnow in a letter in August/September First Things)


I’ve tended to bite my tongue on this until now, because I’m not a great historian, but I’m now pretty well convinced that Eastern Christendom is almost completely innocent of any Christian outrages in the Crusades. That’s not to say that the West is as guilty as some would have it these days, but my blood curdled when I heard Bernard of Clairveaux regarding the Knights Templar. Sample:

BUT THE KNIGHTS OF CHRIST may safely fight the battles of their Lord, fearing neither sin if they smite the enemy, nor danger at their own death; since to inflict death or to die for Christ is no sin, but rather, an abundant claim to glory. In the first case one gains for Christ, and in the second one gains Christ himself. The Lord freely accepts the death of the foe who has offended him, and yet more freely gives himself for the consolation of his fallen knight.

The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls. Neither does he bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good. If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil. He is evidently the avenger of Christ towards evildoers and he is rightly considered a defender of Christians. Should he be killed himself, we know that he has not perished, but has come safely into port. When he inflicts death it is to Christ’s profit, and when he suffers death, it is for his own gain. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified; while the death of the Christian gives occasion for the King to show his liberality in the rewarding of his knight.

This was a huge deviation from historic Christian teaching, which was maintained in the East. Soldiers who had killed in war were absolved of their sin in confession precisely because killing was a always sin, and it bore a penance — typically, a long period of exclusion from the Eucharist.

Bernard of Clairveaux upended that in the cause of Crusade. If his teaching were holy writ, this would be a grisly equivalent to the bloody Koran — they’re equally bloody, so far as I can tell, though I’m not willing to wallow in the gore to get an exact tally.


I really don’t like rubbing people’s noses in merde, but Teen Vogue had a how-to article on anal sex.

Teen. Vogue. God damn them! Kyrie eleison!

Denny Burk analyzes the self-serving and even self-congratulatory response to backlash by the wellness editor responsible for the abomination, one Vera Papisova. I don’t understand this intersectionality ideology all that well, but if Papisova can invoke intersectionality to congratulate herself for using her privilege to reach down and lift up the marginalized (teen wanting to be sodomized?), then I’m darned if I can see how the pedophiles at NAMBLA can’t say they’re privileged and are lifting up the poor, sex-deprived (i.e., marginalized) boys whose ripe sexuality society won’t acknowledge. Indeed, a quick visit to the NAMBLA website gives hints that they may be doing exactly that. Again, I refuse to stay and wallow.


Either depression is not merely a brain disorder that happens randomly (perhaps by genetic predisposition), or brain disorders involving serotonin uptake can be influenced by social circumstances. I have no other explanation for the surging epidemic of depression and suicide.


Every so often, in a café or restaurant in one of the great cities of the world, I have that same sensation I had in that railway goods office in County Mayo nearly forty-three years ago. I look around and realize that all those present, male and female, make their livings from secondary or tertiary economic activities, unproductive in any fundamental sense—you might even say parasitical on the main business of wealth creation. Yet, invariably, these people—young, well-to-do, fashionably dressed—convey an air of indispensability. If you drive out fifty or a hundred miles and visit a diner or fast-food restaurant, you will be struck by the fact that the very different clientele to be seen there—laborers, miners, tradesmen, factory workers—have about them an air of humility, if not defeat. Those who continue to man the real world are on the wrong side of history, facing obsolescence in an era in which the real is no longer what it says in the dictionary.

The shifts, then, are not just social but existential. We have crossed the road into the simulacrum, ­carrying all our clutter and kit, sleepwalking through the night and awaking in the morning with the vague sense of having moved from someplace else. We enter the simulacrum and become its citizens, and ­instantly take it for the real. We are as avatars, facsimiles of ourselves, standing outside our own beings and moving them about as though pieces on an electronic chessboard or symbols on a handheld video game.

Baudrillard thinks we have entered a kind of pratfall paradise, crossed the line into a catastrophic dream. His later work seems to balance on a thin thread between nostalgia for a lost paradise and nihilism predicated on his fascination with the illusion of the simulacrum …

More than forty years ago, when I departed the Irish education system, I thought nothing of the fact that I was coming away without a tradable craft. Had I considered this at all, I would probably have regarded it as close to a virtue. In this sense I was pretty typical of the late twentieth-century school-leavers. If I felt deeper down that I was missing something, I had no inkling of what it might be. I now sense what I lacked: my father’s capacity to integrate his view of reality with the objects he manipulated with his hands. In him, the processes of thinking and doing were fully integrated; in me they were separated. His view of politics and economics was rooted firmly in his sense of how a door frame should be mortised together, how a valve should be ground, how a tree should be pruned.

(John Waters, Back to Work)


The meaning of Indiana was that this was the first time corporate America took sides in the culture war — and it sided dramatically, powerfully, and consequentially with pro-LGBT activists, against the cause of religious liberty. In so doing, corporate America forced a Republican legislature and a Republican governor of a solidly red state to surrender. And get this: relatively few people objected.

[T]he constituency for religious liberty, when it conflicts with gay-rights claims, is disappearing. In The Benedict Option, I feature the comments of a former GOP state legislative leader, and a current lobbyist for religious liberty, describing how hostile the environment to it is in statehouses — and how powerful corporate interests are. In my view, there are still a vast number of Christians who do not understand any of this (the mainstream media is certainly not going to point it out to them), and who believe that the Republican Party is a faithful ally. It’s not true, and we’re fools if we think so.

But to be fair to the Republican Party, its goal is to win elections. If defending religious liberty costs it votes and campaign contributions, then it won’t defend religious liberty. If failing to defend religious liberty doesn’t cost it anything, then why should it take the risk of being called bigots and haters, and losing campaign contributions? The point I’m trying to make is that the Indiana RFRA moment was one of those times when the tide suddenly goes out, and you see who’s wearing a bathing suit, and who isn’t.

(Rod Dreher) This is just one snippet from Rod’s response to a two-hour panel discussion about The Benedict Option, sponsored by the Institute for Religion and Democracy, and held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. With that setup, you might justifiably surmise that the panelists would be a bunch of religious mucky-mucks, sophisticated in a way — and you would be right:

Anglican Cherie Harder of the Trinity Forum, evangelical Alison Howard of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Joseph Capizzi of the Catholic University of America, Joseph Hartman of Georgetown University, and Bruce Ashford of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Almost all of these are beltway denizens, and of at least some it’s apt to note that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

A poignant Dreher snippet that captures another facet, echoing John Waters after a fashion:

I’m not quite sure why Cherie [Harder, who Dreher counts as a friend] characterizes my book as saying that we all need to move to Elk County, Pa., and train our kids to be Latin-reading die fitters. That’s one example I use in the book to illustrate the kind of creativity faithful Christians are going to need in the future. It’s an example of rethinking what it means to live a good and successful life. I would rather have my son be a Latin-reading die fitter and live as a faithful Christian family man (if he is called to be a husband and father) than go to a top law school and get a job with a white-shoe firm in New York or Washington … and lose his soul, or the souls of his children. We are not all called to the trades, but far, far too many middle-class Christians don’t think of them as a plausible future for our children. Besides, the broader point I make in The Benedict Option is that we are rapidly moving to a professional environment in which orthodox Christians will be effectively prevented from participating in certain professional fields because of their convictions.

This is not alarmist rhetoric. I talked to legal experts, medical professionals, and others who see it coming. What are we going to do when and if it does? Are we thinking about that? If we’re not, we’re fools.

(Emphasis shifted)

I’ll soon cut another check to ADF, because there are battles that can still, probably, be won in the courts. But the long-term outlook is bleak partly because, as Dreher suggests, we may run out of religious persons who so refuse to capitulate to the Zeitgeist as to give the kind of offense that lands them in, say, a Human Relations Commission hearing under our new regime of presumed regulation.

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

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

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.