Wednesday, 10/11/17

    1. “It’s grace.”
    2. Bob Corker
    3. Hollywood seismographs hoppin’
    4. Reach exceeding grasp



Isn’t it something, how we get what we need at just the right time? The right book comes along at just the right time. The right friend comes along at just the right time. The right conversation comes along at just the right time. It’s grace.

(Wendell Berry, quoted from memory by Russell Moore) That serves as epigram:

As a teenager, I grappled with a call to ministry, but I was reluctant to enter the Bible-Belt ministry of the time, suspicious as it was of the intellect and imagination. For a few months, I wondered if the problem was evangelicalism itself, so I visited a couple of mainline Methodist and Presbyterian churches, which gave off the vibe of mortician more than shepherd.

Then, meandering through a local library’s used book sale, I found Buechner. The book was his collection of essays, A Room Called Remember. This was someone who didn’t seek to manipulate my emotions or enlist me in a cause. He just told the truth as he saw it. And he clearly loved Jesus. So I voraciously consumed everything he ever wrote—and in the 30 or so years since, I’ve read much of it over and over again …

Buechner does not always say what I want him to say, but I never wonder if he’s telling me anything less than what he believes to be the truth. In an era of kinetic marketing and spin—as much within the church as anywhere else—that alone is remarkable.

If you’re new to Buechner, pick up these books and let them lead you backward into his writings—to a complicated con artist named Bebb, to a conflicted monk named Godric, to a lost-and-found boy named Buechner. If you already love Buechner, pick up the conversation again, and maybe hand a book to a friend who is crying through a deep suffering or, even more important, to a friend who has stopped crying altogether.

While you’re at it, consider tossing a copy into your local library’s donation bin. Who knows? Maybe there’s a 15-year-old evangelical out there grappling with whether Christianity can speak to his innermost hopes and fears, to her intellect and imagination. Maybe, like me, this evangelical will find not just the musings of an old man but a long-distance friend for life. Maybe these books will come along at just the right time.

Did you notice what I noticed?

“[S]omeone who didn’t seek to manipulate my emotions or enlist me in a cause. He just told the truth as he saw it … I never wonder if he’s telling me anything less than what he believes to be the truth. In an era of kinetic marketing and spin—as much within the church as anywhere else—that alone is remarkable.”

It’s sad that scrupulous truth-telling is remarkable. And Moore, a Southern Baptist, hears a lot of “kinetic marketing and spin” in a typical work week, I’d wager. That’s evangelicalism at less than its best.

Russell Moore, from what I’ve seen, towers above it, as Frederick Buechner rises above the mortician vibe of the mainstream.


I absolutely agree with Corker that the president of the United States behaves like a toddler and in other ways that are grave and alarming. The difference is that I haven’t spent the past year obfuscating about that for political gain.

Bob Corker isn’t an opponent of Donald Trump. He is his enabler.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Hypocrisy of Bob Corker)


A friend reminds me that there was a period when Miramax bought the rights to every big story published in magazines throughout the city. Why mess with Weinstein when that big new female star you’re trying to wrangle for the June cover is headlining a Miramax release? Do you think that glossy magazine editor who threw the swankiest Oscar party in Hollywood was trying to “nail down” the Weinstein story? Right, just like the hundreds of journalists who were ferried across the river for the big party at the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the premiere of Talk—they were all there sipping champagne and sniffing coke with models in order to “nail down” the story about how their host was a rapist.

That’s why the story about Harvey Weinstein finally broke now. It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays. They’re broke because Facebook and Google have swallowed all the digital advertising money that was supposed to save the press as print advertising continued to tank.

Which brings us, finally, to the other reason the Weinstein story came out now: Because the court over which Bill Clinton once presided, a court in which Weinstein was one part jester, one part exchequer, and one part executioner, no longer exists.

A thought experiment: Would the Weinstein story have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? No, and not because he is a big Democratic fundraiser. It’s because if the story was published during the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it wouldn’t have really been about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey would have been seen as a proxy for the president’s husband and it would have embarrassed the president, the first female president.

Bill Clinton offered get-out-of-jail-free cards to a whole army of sleazeballs, from Jeffrey Epstein to Harvey Weinstein to the foreign donors to the Clinton Global Initiative. The deal was simple: Pay up, genuflect, and get on with your existence. It was like a papacy selling indulgences, at the same time that everyone knew that the cardinals were up to no good. The 2016 election demolished Clinton world once and for all, to be replaced by the cult of Obama, an austere sect designated by their tailored hair shirts with Nehru collars. “That is not who we are as Americans,” they chant, as Harvey Weinstein’s ashes are scattered in the wind.

(Lee Smith, The Human Stain: Why the Harvey Weinstein Story Is Worse Than You Think)

My Twitter feed is shimmying like a seismograph before a major earthquake:

I prefer stuff that’s edifying, but sometimes you’ve gotta tear down an edifice of lies before building anew. A “Catholic Church-style explosion of buried secrets” would be welcome.


Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?

(Robert Browning) I know quite well what prompted me to say that:

  • I’ve been doing a project with younger people who decided (before I came onboard) that Bitbucket was the best platform for collaboration.
  • I just installed Keybase on all my personal devices and
    • established my identity
    • Got a PGP public key
    • Proved my Twitter
    • Proved my Facebook
    • Tagged my devices in case they’re stolen.

Please don’t ask me what any of that means in practical terms. I’ve got approximately one glimmer.

* * * * *

“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.