Tuesday Supplement, 12/5/17

  1. Metanarratives
  2. Sen. Grinch, R, Iowa
  3. The right to be wrong
  4. Spats and Top Hat
  5. Looking for freedom outside the box
  6. Moore’s liberal enablers
  7. Photios Markopulos, Mayan Orphan

1

A Calvinist explains the tsunami of sexual harassment claims in her Calvinist way:

When, years ago, I found out I was pregnant, I scoured the Internet for good name suggestions. Invariably, if I found one I liked, a friend would say something like, “No, I knew a Carson once who was a bully.” Or, “Every Heather I’ve ever known has been cruel.” And so, I went to the Bible, but even the Scriptures offered little hope for humanity’s goodness. Though “David” was a family name for us, the Biblical King David impregnated a married woman, then sent her husband off to die in war. And I certainly didn’t want to name my child after Rachel (who stole idols), Abraham (who risked his wife’s life through his deception), Moses (whose anger kept him from the Promised Land), Peter (who denied Christ), or Aaron (who made a golden calf).

Like the Israelites who worshipped that chunk of metal, we Americans bow to the charismatic characters on morning talk shows and televised dramas, somehow imbuing them with virtue that comes only from God Himself. Our shock at the now-daily public humiliations reveals our idolatry . . . and how misguided we ever were to assume that people are really, actually good.

(Nancy French, A Lesson from This Cultural Tsunami) I once would have said “Amen” to that.

If there’s a locus classicus for the Orthodox Christian view of why people behave badly, it’s not the Calvinist theory of total depravity, but Hebrews 2:15:

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Through fear of death (we feel it “in our bones”), we’re driven to all kinds of behavior, good, bad and mixed. Inject a little evolutionary biology in there (we feel in our bones the need to perpetuate our genes), and you’ve got powerful mortals hitting on attractive lower-status mortals.

Both the Calvinist and the Orthodox explanations can be ridiculed, in this context, as “Just So Stories.” I won’t object to that so long as the accuser acknowledges that a lot of pop evolutionary explanations are equally so.

2

In an interview with The Des Moines Register, Grassley defended the provision of the bill capping the estate tax on the grounds that it rewards those who save as opposed to those unnamed persons, presumably members of the working class, who “are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

When [Chuck] Grassley was a young man, it was possible for someone working in construction to take an extra $20 left over after payday at the end of the week, deposit it at his local bank, and earn 6 percent on it indefinitely while being able to draw upon the capital at any time. This is to say nothing of the staggering amounts of money, totally unknown to my generation, that could once be earned with something as humble as a certificate of deposit. As late as 1985 it was possible to make nearly 11 percent on a six-month CD, just over 12 for a one-year. A woman who put away $1,000 she didn’t need in liquid cash could nearly double her investment in half a decade without risking a penny of it to the vicissitudes of the stock market. Meanwhile a five-year CD taken out in 2017 is due to yield a whopping 0.86 percent.

Why under these conditions would anyone bother saving? Surely it is more sensible to purchase things before they become more expensive, to enjoy a bit more of one’s earnings in the here and now than to bundle them away for no reward.

It is especially cruel of Grassley to condemn consumer spending when the same meliorist religion of limitless economic expansion preached by Republican politicians depends upon the premise that ordinary Americans will purchase more and more things that the senator seems to think they do not need. It gives the lie to all the hoary myths about capitalism and meritocracy beloved of Grassley and his colleagues; ours is a system in which the poor and the working class are expected to spoliate the environment and make themselves obese in the hope that on some economist’s spreadsheet a few numbers will go up by a fraction of a decimal point indicating a healthy rate of growth. For Grassley to denounce his constituents for using money to buy things is like a farmer chastising his cattle for grazing before they find their way to the slaughterhouse.

(Matthew Walther, Spend money joyfully)

3

Progressives engage in culture-war bullying when religious liberty would stand in the way of their social views. One of the Colorado state commissioners in Masterpiece Cakeshop called the Christian baker’s religious-freedom claim “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—to use their religion to hurt others.”

But if religious liberty means anything, it means the right to live according to your beliefs when most people think you are wrong.

So when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stands before the Supreme Court Tuesday, he may have some unlikely allies rooting for him: non-Christian religious minorities. Those groups know better than anyone that religious liberty protects the “right to be wrong.” They have been the main beneficiaries of religious liberty victories in the past, and they will be in the future. You might say a victory for Masterpiece Cakeshop would be a victory for everyone.

(Luke W. Goodrich, Religious Freedom Is for Christians, Too)

4

Insofar as blue-collar voters in places such as Pennsylvania and Ohio delivered unified Republican government, you would think their economic needs and struggles might find some central, or at least symbolic, place in the Republican agenda. So when Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed an amendment to make the child credit fully deductible against payroll taxes (which are the taxes actually paid by the working poor), it was clearly good policy and good politics.

The measure ended up getting only 20 Republican votes and was defeated, 29-71.

How is this for symbolism: In their tax bill, Senate Republicans gave a break to private jet owners but refused to increase the corporate rate by 0.94 percentage points to cover the cost of helping an estimated 12 million working-class families. The 20 percent corporate rate, Rubio and Lee were told, was sacrosanct, nonnegotiable — until the day after the vote, when President Trump conceded it may need to rise anyway. What drives many elected Republicans to embody every destructive, plutocratic stereotype? Do they really need to wear spats and a top hat every time they appear in public?

… It was offensive that most Senate Democrats voted against the amendment, on the crassly partisan theory that nothing they oppose should be improved. It is even a bit disappointing that Lee and Rubio did not threaten to blow up the tax bill — any two Republican senators plus Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), an announced “no,” could have done so — in order to get their amendment included.

(Michael Gerson, Republicans had a chance to reject their inner plutocrat. They blew it.)

5

The internet, despite being partly a product of government invention, is at once the most promising and significant arena in modern society, and the only one in which we have decided to cede it entirely to the logic of big companies.

Put another way: There is no public space on the internet. The net neutrality debate has a free-market problem. In only thinking in terms of what commercial enterprises can and cannot do, we limit ourselves to thinking of the web as a privately owned space.

(Navneet Alang, We’re thinking about internet freedom in all the wrong ways)

6

When your rival is credibly accused of sexual misbehavior with underage girls, the race is yours to lose. And yet Mr. Jones is doing his best to do just that, over a classic Democratic blind spot: abortion.

Alabama is one of America’s most pro-life states. Mr. Jones might have expanded his appeal by opting for the Bill Clinton formula of “safe, legal and rare,” or supporting popular restrictions such as the ban after 20 weeks. Instead, Mr. Jones has opted for the Hillary Clinton view that abortion must be sacrosanct. If he ends up losing, abortion will be a big reason.

(William McGurn, Roy Moore’s Liberal Enablers)

7

The Monastic Brotherhood has welcomed Photios Markopulos, a Mayan from Guatemala, as a possible candidate for the monastic life. Photios was raised in the famous Guatemalan orphanage run by Orthodox nuns. There are an estimated 40,000 Mayan converts in Guatemala, and 100 parishes, making it one of the largest mass conversions in the history of Orthodox Christianity.

(Abbot Tryphon, hyperlink added) The Orphanage has a website, but it was unresponsive when I visited it. In a perverse way, that warms my heart.

* * * * *

I would a thousand times rather have dinner with secular liberals of a certain temperament than with a group of religious conservatives who agreed with me about most things, but who have no sense of humor or irony.

(Rod Dreher)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

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