Tuesday, 8/15/17

  1. Moral formation in the pulpit
  2. Hackneyed kids’ book themes
  3. When civilian leadership fails
  4. Googlegeny recapitulates Collegeny
  5. Time for soul-searching
  6. Revisiting Robert E. Lee’s advice
  7. NRA foolishness
  8. Mencken, our Nostradamus


While this should be obvious, I fear it’s not: Pastors ought to see their pulpit as a vehicle for the proclamation of the gospel, but also for moral formation (the two, I should add, are not in tension). When you stop to consider the teaching function of the pastor, it’s mesmerizing. Where else in America do people voluntarily gather for moral formation? Sure, Americans are formed by any one of their habits, but most aren’t seeking out intentional formation. This means that the pastor has an obligation to speak to this issue as he would on any other issue pressing in on the culture. The pastor-shepherd can cultivate the instincts of his people. We live in an age of anthropological heresies, so we need voices willing to teach, correct, and heal. As I told you when you interviewed me for The Benedict Option, I grew up in a wonderful church, but I cannot recall any message that centered upon the goodness of the human body or why, in God’s economy, the idea of maleness and femaleness are integral to human flourishing and social stability. A theology of the body is missing in most churches, and if there is one, it’s usually done through kitsch euphemism or sermons series that tout “See, we Christians are having sex, too.” We must do better than that. Youth pastors and parents must work in tandem to catechize their children on this issue, or else the culture will do so quite enthusiastically.

(Andrew T. Walker, author of God and the Transgender Debate, via Rod Dreher) I’ve heard enough about this book to think it’s a pretty good guide for the perplexed orthodox Christian. But Walker’s call for more “moral formation” is fraught.

Few — very few — Pastors will be able to draw distinctions that Walker draws after his long study, or to articulate a Christian anthropology in better than cartoonish fashion. Widespread heeding of this advice, in short, is likely to end up as hectoring or as more of the same-old-same-old Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

But if seminaries would start treating Pastoral training as something loftier than a Masters in Church Administration, and tap into pre-American Christianity,* we could get there some day.

* “Pre-American Christianity” is, so far as I can tell, the coinage of another “Reader John” who follows Rod Dreher’s blog — it’s not self-referential.


John Mark N. Reynolds is ready — really ready — for someone to write a different kind of children’s book instead of just changing the costumes and a few trivial details on established themes:

I started a new children series and stopped, not because I was offended, but because I have read the book already, generally several times. Here are some themes that could use a timeout (along with Captain Underpants):

Schools hate imagination and teachers are bad …

The rogue turns out to a a good guy …

An inability to write a lovable rule-following interesting sweet guy …

We need stories about women and more women characters not written into roles men created …

Can somebody be religious as a part of their lives? Anybody? …

Wise kids and dumb or bad parents …

Write a few happy stories …

Romantic relationships are not all of life …


 “Who do we put our faith in today? Maybe, ironically, the F.B.I.,” he said. “With all these military men in the Trump Administration, that’s where we’re putting our hope for the use of reason. It’s not the President. It’s not Congress, which is utterly dysfunctional and run by men who spent decades dividing us in order to keep control, and not even the Supreme Court, because it’s been so politicized.”

(Robin Wright, Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?, quoting David Blight, Yale historian)

The lesson of the war that should never depart from us is that the American people have no exemption from the ordinary fate of humankind. If we sin, we must suffer for our sins, like the Empires that are tottering and the Nations that have perished.

(Same source, quoting Murat Halstead, The War Claims of the South, published in 1867)


“Just wait till those campus snowflakes enter the real world—that’ll shape ’em up!” So goes a typical response to totalitarian hysteria at colleges. The firing of a Google engineer last week for questioning the company’s diversity ideology exposes that hope as naive. The “real world” is being remade in the image of college campuses with breathtaking speed.

A conveyor belt of left-wing conformity runs from the academy into corporations and the government, so that today’s ivory-tower folly becomes tomorrow’s condition of employment. Google’s rationale for firing James Damore perfectly mimics academic victimology—the equation of politically incorrect speech with violence, the silencing of nonconforming views, the refusal to hear what a dissenting speaker is actually saying.

(Heather McDonald, Don’t Even Think About Being Evil)

Bonus points if you catch the allusion in the title.


[S]o here we are. The mainstream Left has been increasingly suckered into walking hand-in-hand with the SJWs while ignoring the most egregious activities of Antifa; the mainstream Right has been increasingly seduced into footsie with alt-right associates while feigning ignorance at the alt-right itself.

That’s why Charlottesville matters: not only because we saw destruction and terror, but because if all Americans of good conscience won’t do some soul-searching and move to excise the evil in their midst, that evil will metastasize. There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.

(Ben Shapiro)


Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, is a more complicated case. He was no great friend of slavery. He wrote in a letter to his wife “that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country” (he added, shamefully, that it was good for blacks — “the painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race”). After the war, he accepted defeat and did his part to promote national healing. Yet, faced with a momentous choice at the start of the war, he decided he was a Virginia patriot rather than an American nationalist. He told one of President Abraham Lincoln’s advisers: “I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four million slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?” …

Lee himself opposed building Confederate monuments in the immediate aftermath of the war. “I think it wiser,” he said, “not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.” After Charlottesville, it’s time to revisit his advice.

(Rich Lowry, calling for removal of public memorials to Confederate figures)


The NRA, formerly a sort of “Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Second Amendment Rights,” has apparently gone off the ad hoc rails and become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump imperium:

Representative Kathleen Rice … has called upon the U.S. government to designate the National Rifle Association and its public faces, including Dana Loesch, “domestic security threats.” This demand comes in response to the NRA’s having shown a recruiting video in which Loesch criticizes sundry progressive bogeymen (the media, Hollywood, etc.) and calls upon like-minded allies to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” It was immediately denounced by the usual opportunistic nincompoops as a call to violence and sedition, even a call to overthrow the government.

It is of course no such thing. It’s a dopey bit of cheap PR hackery from an increasingly partisan NRA that has made the lamentable decision to branch out from what it is good at — its enormously successful and historically bipartisan campaign of agitation for gun rights — and go all-in with Trump (a fickle friend of the Second Amendment) and the kulturkampf associated with his movement. None of that adds up to “domestic security threat” or anything like a domestic security threat. The only thing the NRA or Loesch have done violence to is a decent respect for the limitations of metaphor.

Gun owners and gun enthusiasts have been targeted for some time by Democrats, who have insisted, among other things, that the federal government ought to suspend the constitutional rights of people put on a secret blacklist by the federal government with no due process and no course of appeal. Democrats dream of registries, property seizure, and other invasive measures reminiscent of the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century — so long as those tools of tyranny are used on their political enemies.

(Kevin D. Williamson)


On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

(H.L. Mencken, quoted by George Liebmann)

* * * * *

Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.

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

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.