Thursday, 9/7/17

  1. Michael Cromartie
  2. When Trump fans support the Nashville Statement
  3. Paul Simon, prophet
  4. A parable
  5. “Credible news” and SPLC

I already shared two mind-benders this morning via a separate blog. Don’t miss them!


I’ve heard the name “Michael Cromartie” on and off for years, but couldn’t have told you much about him. Then I saw that people I respect were grieving his death of cancer, August 28, at age 67.

Well, I guess I had missed a lot. Maybe the best remembrance was by Carl Cannon of RealClearPolitics. A central vignette:

Mike fancied himself an excellent dancer and basketball player. I’d say this was half-true. Notwithstanding the fact that in college he’d been the Philadelphia 76ers mascot – one known for pulling fans out of the stands and boogying with them at half-court — his dance moves weren’t, let us say, contemporary. Hoops was another matter. As a baller, he was the real deal despite his modest height. A shooting guard at Covenant College, he kept his hand in the game. He taught the sport to his sons, and turned his front-yard into a half-court basketball court.

When Faith Angle was held in Key West, Mike and I would meet there a day early, mostly to ride rental bikes around the island, enjoy some swimming pool time, and look for a pickup basketball game. We rarely found them, but we did find outdoor courts where he and I would play H-O-R-S-E or one-on-one. These contests had a pattern to them: I’d win a few early and then Cromartie would limber up in the warm Florida sun and rediscover the college hoopster inside that middle-aged physique and start draining 20-foot jump shots, woofing and crowing with each made basket.

One year, when we were playing at a recreation center in the African-American part of the island, a neighborhood kid came strolling across the court, talking smack and saying how he could take us both. (In other words, he sounded like Mike.) We incorporated him into a game of “21,” but it immediately became clear that this lad had no game at all. He couldn’t shoot and he couldn’t dribble. He could only talk. I found him annoying; Mike thought he was sweet.

The kid was clearly lonely and desirous of male attention. So Mike talked to the teenager about his home life, about school, about sports, about God. The kid was receptive to it, so much so that Mike tried to teach him how to shoot a free throw. That was a bridge too far, but the young man went away happy. He thanked us, asked us if we’d be on the court again the next day. As he left, Mike said quietly to him: “God bless you.” I could tell that the young man was touched. I know I was. This happened a dozen years ago, and I still think of it anytime I’m tempted to brush someone off. We hadn’t gone to church that Sunday morning, but being with Mike that day was even better for my soul.

That tells you why so many recall him fondly, even worshipfully, but here’s a major reason this estimable person was important:

Michael Cromartie’s really Big Idea was something that came to be known as the Faith Angle Forum. From his perch at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, Mike had for years hosted luncheons and welcomed curious reporters to his office where he’d hand them a relevant book or dispense a quote for our stories. But in 1999, with a grant from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Mike invited a couple dozen journalists to a resort in Maine to sit around a table for a few days and discuss theology and politics with learned scholars. It sounds boring, I know, but it wasn’t.

“It was,” Economist writer Adrian Wooldridge said, “one of the most pleasant, as well as one of the most instructive, experiences in journalism.”

The scholars we invited over the years — Mike put me on a steering committee of journalists to hash out the ideas — ranged from famous evangelical pastors (one conservative, the other liberal) to French scholars on Shiite Islam, to political scientists who study America’s religious attitudes. We’ve had Mormon, Jewish, and Catholic college professors, guitar-playing Christian biologists, presidential speechwriters, atheist authors, devout British scientists, Muslim university chaplains.

The conversation was always civil, always enlightening, and always valuable. Nineteen years and 30 such conferences later, a couple of hundred journalists have imbued thousands of newspaper and online stories, radio and TV broadcasts, interviews, books, and magazine articles with more background and nuance than they would have had otherwise.

Requiem aeternam dona eis domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.


[This is not a political item. It’s a religious item that necessarily involves a political character.]

Rod Dreher‘s out on a speaking gig among Evangelicals. Lunch conversation turned, eventually, to the Nashville Statement:

A couple of people in college ministry were at the table. They said that it is impossible to overstate how alienating the enthusiastic support their parents gave to Donald Trump was to their students. A number of college students have left the church entirely over it …

For a lot of them, their parents’ backing of Donald Trump made everything they had been taught as kids about Christianity a lie. Their parents were the primary face of Evangelical Christianity to them, and to see this happen was shattering. They concluded that Christianity must be all about the economy, or tribalism, and so forth. One pastor said that a young man he ministers to in college posted a criticism of Trump on Facebook, and was cut off financially by his parents because of it.

All they see is a bunch of leaders of a movement who voted for a sexually corrupt man like Donald Trump are now trying to take a public stand on sexual morality for gay. It’s totally hypocritical to them. I don’t know how the Nashville Statement drafters and signers didn’t see this coming.”

(This is from the Update to a longer post.)

Let’s flip this on its head, setting aside the “will we scandalize our children?” question this implies. I emphasize that I’m not taking a stand on whether Trump was a less bad choice than Clinton.

Are the kids right? Are the enthusiastic Trump-supporting Evangelicals showing themselves liars, whose commitment was never to Jesus Christ, or even to a consistent Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but to tribe or something else unspoken? How otherwise could they actually have been enthusiastic in their support of Trump, whose sexual sins were manifold and the rumor of whose conversion, at the hands of a prosperity gospel heretic, didn’t even rise to the level of fig leaf?

Now let’s flip it back: are the kids just so sold on the entire gay rights cause (“When you have membership with no theological or doctrinal depth that you have neglected to equip with the tools to wrestle with hard issues, the moment ickiness no longer rings true with young believers, their faith is destroyed.“) that they’re just looking for a casus belli?

Or is this the perfect storm: hypocritical parents meet kids looking for an excuse to bail out?


There always is some irony in sharing something like this on social media — even a blog, which is a relatively unsocial medium. But here goes:

(H/T Rod Dreher)


G.K. Chesterton has a parable. Suppose a commotion arises on the street about a streetlight, which an influential group wants torn down. As the discussion rages, someone asks an Augustinian monk his position. The monk begins, “We must first consider the value of light. And —.” At this point, someone else knocks out the monk, calling him old fashioned. Everyone then rushes to tear down the streetlight. After congratulating each other on being progressive, they realize that each person tore down the streetlight for a different reason. One has torn down the streetlight to replace it with a renewable-energy model; another because the light kept him up; another wanted to replace it with a cheaper running model. So, there they are, discussing the value of light as the monk suggested. Only now, they must do so in the dark.

I am reminded of Chesterton’s parable during discussions about Religious Liberty ….

(Armen Oganessian at Ethika Politika) Love the parable, but I’m less sold on how effectively Oganessian makes his point, with which I’m sympathetic, after that.


“The SPLC is an attack dog of the political left,” leaders argue. “Having evolved from laudable origins battling the Klan in the 1970’s, the SPLC has realized the profitability of defamation, churning out fundraising letters, and publishing ‘hit pieces’ on conservatives to promote its agenda and pad its substantial endowment (of $319 million).”

“Anyone who opposes them, including many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and traditional conservatives,” the letter continues, “is slandered and slapped with the ‘extremist’ label or even worse, their ‘hate group’ designation. At one point, the SPLC even added Dr. Ben Carson to its ‘extremist’ list because of his biblical views (and only took him off the list after public outcry).”

“We believe the media outlets that have cited the SPLC in recent days have not intended to target mainstream political groups for violent attack,” explains the letter, “but by recklessly linking the Charlottesville melee to the mainstream groups named on the SPLC website – those that advocate in the courts, the halls of Congress, and the press for the protection of conventional, Judeo-Christian values – we are left to wonder if another Floyd Lee Corkins will soon be incited to violence by this incendiary information.”

The letter asks whether journalists would run a story based on a hypothetical “Here’s Where the Baby Killers are Located in Your State” map produced by a pro-life advocacy group to illustrate its argument, correctly asserting the press would never publish such an article.

(Washington Examiner, quoting a coalition of conservative groups challenging “all reputable news organizations” to stop citing the SPLC)

“But but but but but … how can we write facile stories about the rise of hate groups without faux-authoritative support?!”

* * * * *

“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)

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

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

One thought on “Thursday, 9/7/17

  1. The comment I made about Donald Trump recently (which you did not receive) I herewith send it again in quotation marks. ” I would not have voted for Trump or Clinton had I lived in America because I see them as mirror images of each other and evil. Trump is a “right wing pagan” and Clinton is a “left wing pagan.” Having made my position clear, I believe that Donald Trump was correct when he said that there were violent elements in both opposing groups in Charlottesville (or words to that effect.) Sometimes even evil people state that which is true.”

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