Primaries

I’ve got my absentee GOP ballot to complete before travel, but the choices this season seem harder than usual.

For Prosecutor, maybe I’m rationalizing, but the challenger appears to have made one promise of substance: to file charges anytime the police have worked up a plausible case.

Sounds great until you reckon with how the system actually works. Resources are limited. Exercise of discretion not to charge preserves resources.

But I have a bigger personal issue related to resources. Neither the prosecutor’s office nor the courts can take all those extra cases to trial. Most of them are going to be plea bargained. And therein lies a personal bugaboo.

Some of those defendants are going to be innocent. “Innocent” as in “didn’t do it,” not “could wiggle out of it.” For instance, setting aside police corruption and laziness (which do occur — visit the Innocence Project for a while if you doubt me), some cases are built of circumstantial evidence which can make an innocent-but-unlucky person look pretty guilty.

So imagine when (not whether; it will happen) an innocent person is charge with something that, if they’re convicted, is likely to land them in prison for 25 years. The prosecutor offers to let them plead to a lesser offense — perhaps negligent homicide instead of murder — with only a five-year sentence, only one year to be served according to the plea offer. Defendant has a family, and children. So why not take the deal? If he’s guilty, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

But for the innocent defendant, pleading guilty means committing perjury because, at least in my fair state, the defendant will be required to testify under oath that he committed each and every element of the lesser offense, which, in the case of an innocent defendant, will be be perjurious.

No, he won’t get charged with perjury, but he’ll be guilty in God’s eyes, won’t he? (I finally gave up the ambiguity about the sex of the defendant; it likely will be a guy.)

I’d much rather not have a Prosecutor who got elected by promising to file plausible circumstantial cases against even innocent defendants.

So my vote in the Prosecutor’s race goes to the incumbent, the considerable opposition to whom I don’t understand (although I know he can be a hard-ass and can forsake justice to please vindictive police at times).

Now for the harder case.

All three primary candidates for U.S. Senate promise to be loyal foot-soldiers in the Trump army, which is a turnoff since the only Trump agenda I know for sure is racial and religious demonization and demagoguery.

Do I vote for the Congressman who most seems equivocal, perhaps even insincere, in his promise, who the others accuse of being a liberal (and who seemed to have some troubles with John Barleycorn in his twenties)? Or do I vote for the one who’s an outsider, a successful businessman, with some state legislative experience but several lawsuits against his company alleging underpayment of workers in several state business outposts? (I definitely will not vote for my current Congressman, who lied like an S.O.B. In his first Congressional race, hasn’t stopped since, and even sports a smirk suggesting that he considers the voters rubes.)

I can tell you this much: whoever I vote for in the Senate primary cannot bank on my vote in the general election. This is one of the extremely rare times where there’s a Democrat I could vote for in good conscience, who has bucked his feticidal party on abortion extremism.

Speaking of which, I’m aware of my state’s shortcomings, but it warms my heart to hear the shared GOP mantra “pro-life conservative.”

Yeah, fool me ((2016-1973)/2) times, shame on you. Fool me ((2018-1973)/2) times, shame on me. I’ve figured out that the GOP is mostly talk on abortion, but if hypocrisy is the tribute paid to virtue by vice, it’s nice to know we’ve got a bit of cockeyed, arguably naïve virtue in our electorate.

That’s all I have to say, and don’t bet that I won’t change my mind. I’m not mailing my ballot until May 1, just in case more merde hits the air-mover.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

The secret of Dreherbait revealed

Rod Dreher has a propensity so notorious that he sometimes mocks himself for it. The propensity is commenting indignantly on certain types of stories that he calls “Dreherbait.”

Certain Dreherbait events at Dan Quayle’s alma mater caught his scornful attention a few days ago (here and here), and another, this from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, caught his attention in the wee hours of Sunday. Those all fell in the Dreherbait category “campus Social Justice Warriors.”

But in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo indignation, he dove deeper, and explained why those stories are like flame to his moth, but without actually saying it that way.

Here’s why I fear and absolutely loathe the mob, especially racialized mobs. This really happened in my town. I know the identities of every white person involved (they’re all long dead), because one of them confessed on his deathbed to a friend of mine, who was shaken by the news. I do not know the name of the victim, and my attempts to discover his name went nowhere. None of this was publicly recorded.

Back in the 1940s, in my tiny Southern hometown, word reached the sheriff that a black man had been caught raping a white woman. The sheriff put out a call to some trusted white men to come help him track the rapist down and bring him to justice. The sheriff deputized two white men who showed up. They chased the black man through the woods, and upon catching him, bound him and took him back to the parish jail. There they lynched him. This was what they told themselves they had to do to protect the good order of the community.

A couple of days later, the truth came out: the black man and the white woman had been secret lovers. When they were discovered, she accused him of rape to protect herself. After his murder by the sheriff and his men, her conscience wouldn’t let her rest. She confessed all.

In their shame, the white family moved away. Of course no one — not the sheriff, nor his deputies — faced any kind of justice for their murder of an innocent man. That’s not how things worked under white supremacy.

The reason anybody alive today knows about it is because one of the murderers, as he lay dying decades ago, unburdened his conscience.

In a piece I wrote three years ago, “When ISIS Ran The American South,” I talked about what it was like to be a black person living under white supremacy, specifically in the sense of being powerless in the face of unaccountable power, a power that was eager and willing to inflict severe violence, even death, upon you. What prompted the comparison was the news that ISIS had burned a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in a cage. I wrote:

No, the American South (and other parts of America where racial terrorists ran rampant) was never run by fanatical theocrats who used grotesque public murders as a tool of terror. But if you were a black in the years 1877-1950, this was a distinction without much meaningful difference.

I had the case in my hometown in mind when I wrote that. In that post, I quoted a recent report on lynchings in the American South, 1877-1950. One category of lynchings investigators identified:

Lynchings Based on Fear of Interracial Sex. Nearly 25 percent of the lynchings of African Americans in the South were based on charges of sexual assault. The mere accusation of rape, even without an identification by the alleged victim, could arouse a lynch mob. The definition of black-on-white “rape” in the South required no allegation of force because white institutions, laws, and most white people rejected the idea that a white woman would willingly consent to sex with an African American man.

In the case I’m talking about, the mob — in this case, the sheriff and his deputies, as well as the (false) accuser — did not require a dispassionate examination of the evidence in the case. The accuser’s word was enough. It was assumed by white Southern culture of the day that every black man sexually desired every white woman, and that no white woman was capable of sexually desiring a black man. Even black male desire itself was enough to merit execution; if a black man and a white woman had actually been caught in sexual congress, as in this particular case, that was even stronger evidence of rape. Or so that culture thought.

But again: white culture of that time and place was so racially paranoid that all it took was for white people to feel that a black man sexually desired a white woman for that man to be at risk of extrajudicial execution.

This surely is why he refers to analogous “the Social Justice mob” so often, and the analogy fits. But he’s not a dispassionate observer:

It’s important to me to say one more thing here. Back in the summer of 2002, I was reeling from rage over 9/11, and over the Catholic sex abuse scandal. I was so overcome by it that I had to see a dentist to get a mouthguard made for wearing at night, because I was grinding my teeth so fiercely that my wife couldn’t sleep. She was so worried about what was happening to me on the inside. I couldn’t rest. The injustices of these two catastrophic events was eating me alive. She compelled me to swallow my pride and go see a therapist.

The therapist was a Catholic, and, as it turned out, a quack. Long story. But he told me something in that first session that was offensive and painful to hear, and that I furiously rejected. But years later, I came to see that he was right.

What he told me was this: “You need to accept that under the right circumstances, you could have been flying one of those planes. You could have been Mohammed Atta.”

No effing way! I said. No way! I refused to admit that I have anything in common with that monster. What is wrong with this guy? I thought. What kind of relativist is he?

He was right about that. I do, in fact, have that capacity for evil within me. So do you. So do we all. Not too many of us are the kind of sociopaths who choose evil for evil’s sake. We first dress it up as good — as justice, perhaps. Read the final words left behind by Atta.  This is a man convinced that he was acting for the sake of God, of justice, and his tribe (Muslims), against infidels, which at one point he described as “animals” to be slaughtered. It is one long rationale for mass murder as an act of high and selfless virtue.

If you don’t think you have it within you to write the same sort of testament, you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. Nor do you know history, or the human heart. The men of my town who lynched that innocent black man slept peacefully every night for the rest of their lives — except for the man who, in his final days on this earth, confessed to his wicked deed, in preparation for meeting the great Judge. But they all escaped justice on this earth, because they were all living under a system that held the maintenance of  white supremacy as justice itself.

What progressives advocated in 1964 was progress. What they advocate today is not progress, but returning to the older corruption, this time with different supremacists in power. It is still unjust. It is still evil. It always will be. The Social Justice Warriors and their fellow travelers in power at universities, in corporations, and even in government (see Mayor Harmon above), are summoning up demons that they cannot control.

(Emphasis added) The panics brought about by things like drunken frat boys and sorority girls in black face (or anything that can be so misrepresented) is akin to lynchings (later, mere felony convictions) based on fear of interracial sex. As Rod says,

I do, in fact, have that capacity for evil within me. So do you. So do we all. …

If you don’t think you have it within you to write the same sort of testament, you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.

And that elite college students, the pool from which disproportionately comes our top leaders, know themselves so little is special cause for alarm, which Rod sounds often.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Heckfire and Brimstone

Twice this week, I caught snippets of NPR or APR stories about a Pentecostal preacher who stopped believing in hell. Or maybe it was a single story, replayed, and I caught different snippets.

As Rob Bell discovered, getting squishy about hell is kind of an Evangelical capital offense (at least for now, until Evangelicals’ “firm foundation” slips along the greased Zeitgeist into uncharted territory). So I was unsurprised when today’s radio snippet included that Carlton Pearson’s church had gone bankrupt and that he now is improbably preaching in Unitarian-Universalist Churches. His preaching in such churches is improbable because his preaching style is hellfire-and-brimstone, albeit without the hellfire substance any longer.

I have no reason to think that Pearson came to his new convictions dishonestly. It’s hard for me to see any incentive to deny hell in the Evangelical or Pentecostal world, even if one has a mixture of financial motivation; there’s probably more job security and money in cultivating fear of death and hell, which grows like a weed with minimal encouragement.

In Evangelicalism, although it’s pretty common knowledge that hell is a customary part of the cosmic map, there’s no Pope, Bishops, or Ecumenical Councils recognized as authoritative. If you can put some Bible lipstick on a pig, there’s nobody to say “that’s a pig, not an angel” with any real force behind it, howsoever obvious the truth or vehement the rebuttal. So if an Evangelical erases hell from his personal cosmic map, there’s at best a weak argument that integrity requires abandoning the moniker “Evangelical.”

Apropos of that, I listened as Pearson preached, in black church style, a hell-free-and-brimming-with-hope sermon that was pretty impressive in its intensity. If orthopathos, right feeling, really is the center of Evangelicalism, it’s hard to say that Carlton is peripheral, let alone out of orbit entirely.

I listen to stories like this pretty dispassionately these days. The Orthodox faith by consensus of the Fathers affirms hell, but it never has become credal (“and He shall come in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end” — that’s it), and there have been and still are voices very sympathetic to universalism.* Though I’m with the Fathers, I cannot but admire the compassion for the world that make it hard for some to affirm hell.

In fact, despite my own Calvinist background, just about the only people in these debates about hell who totally creep me out are those who seem to feel some deep emotional need for hell to exist and for most people to go there. This classic statement from Section VII of Article III of the Westminster Confession (which Confession I loved and which statement I accepted, albeit with little enthusiasm) captures something of that feeling:

The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

(Emphasis added) Maybe I’m reading it anachronistically, but that bolded phrase now gives me the willies. Eternal wrath and “glorious justice” seem difficult to reconcile in a way that would permit a decent human being, at least in our current state of seeing as through a glass, darkly, to exult in anyone’s eternal torment.

Yes, anyone’s.

20 years after having left semi-Evangelical Calvinism and 40 years after having left explicit and unequivocal Evangelicalism, I find myself at a loss to understand Evangelical line-drawing, their determination that this is a deal breaker but that is not.

Nothing is more important to Christianity than proper Trinitarian doctrine, and specifically Christology. But the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood cheerfully solicited and publicized the subscription of the Nashville Statement by two men who deviate from orthodox Trinitarian views (see Alastair Roberts here). I could probably come up with a snarky explanation, but having said I’m at a loss to understand, that would be double-dealing.

* * * * *

* That something is not credal does not imply that it’s unimportant. As noted recently, though, we seem to lack a vocabulary for matters that are neither credal nor adiaphora.

Consecrated

Christianity Today features an article titled “Why God Still Works Through Fools Like Samson.

The very timing of the article hints that many CT readers recognize a particular prominent person (who shall be unnamed by me as he was by the author) as a “fool” of Biblical proportions.

But it’s not pious rationalizations of the fool’s doings. There’s no “12-dimensional chess” or other piffle.

Instead, it puts a surprising spin on how little “spirituality” may be involved in being “consecrated” for some divine purpose. And it stands on its head, for any discerning reader, the faux spiritual assurance that a consecrated fool will Make Anything Great Again. Au contraire.

Samson’s problems, according to the article:

From the start he is impulsive, spoiled, demanding, arrogant, and lacking judgment. He shows no hint of kindness or love or what we would call the evidence of a life stirred by the Spirit. He is cruel and vindictive. Incapable of discernment and immune to advice, he twice marries into the families of the Philistines—the very people who are the enemies of Israel. Disregarding every warning and all counsel, he creates conflicts of interest that prove fatal. Betrayal and disappointment are constant themes in his life.

His own people don’t know what to do with him and the chaos he has created. He is a rogue killing machine, yet no one can touch him. His anger and pride control him, isolating him from everyone around him. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “His whole life is a scene of miracles and follies.” There is nothing in the life of Samson that proves his being motivated by the Spirit of God as we understand it. Nevertheless, he is consecrated by God.

Samson may be the first total narcissist in Scripture. He is a textbook case. Narcissists misjudge their own importance and consider themselves to be indispensable and worthy of special rights and privileges. When opposed, they are furious and blame everyone around them. They infuriate other people, and their excessive pride causes others to work even harder just to cut them down and see them humiliated. While thinking themselves sophisticated and shrewd, they are actually more gullible than the average person. They are betrayed by the very people they think they can trust. Finally, they believe they are destined for greatness and, when crossed, they react with revenge and violence—even at the risk of their own lives.

Oh dear! But it gets worse when you reflect that Samson was consecrated

to defeat an enemy and bring down an entire government. His epitaph reads, “He killed many more when he died than while he lived.” Isn’t that what he was set apart to do?

But just because his life had a purpose does not mean it was well spent. He had no wisdom, no maturity, no relationships of any value. We equate consecrated with spiritual maturity, piety, godliness, and a longing to be more Christlike. That was not Samson. Perhaps he was raised up in the same way as Pharaoh: to display God’s power but then be destroyed.

Yes, Samson was consecrated in that he was singled out and set apart to accomplish one mission. It turns out character is not necessary for being consecrated, which can simply mean “designed and set apart for a purpose.” To be consecrated means to be set apart by God, not to be chosen by a popular vote or based on character qualifications.

It turned out there was little that could govern or rule Samson except his own unpredictable nature and ego. There was nothing else of value he accomplished in his life. He was a weapon—not a leader. He never led the people to battle or to victory. He betrayed himself and everyone around him. But he accomplished his mission.

The writer of Judges doesn’t hide any of that or even attempt to justify or condemn his behavior. It is not a tale with a moral. It is not a warning. It is simply a puzzling illustration of how God’s ways are not ours.

Read the “triumph” of Samson here if you don’t recall it.

* * *

On a totally unrelated note (I speak thus to those who would buy a bridge in Queens if I offered it for sale), I worried this morning at two newspaper items.

  1. From the Wall Street Journal: Sessions Warns White House Not to Fire Rosenstein[:] The attorney general said would consider resigning over such a move.
  2. In the Washington Post, a Joe Scarborough column It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020, which strikes me as wishful thinking and lamentably closes with a kinky fantasy about Nikki (“With all due respect, I do not get confused.”) Haley taking the Presidential “debate stage to coldly cut the Donald down to size, revealing to the world once and for all that this bloated emperor has no clothes.”

I fear the Wall Street Journal may have incited metaphorical death sentences for Sessions and Rosenstein, the Washington Post for Nikki Haley. I know only a fool would be so willful, but kings of old committed filicide at the first whiff that some offspring had designs on early ascension to the throne.

I said almost from the get-go that “Trump v. Clinton” had God’s judgment written all over it. Now look where we are:

When power dominates truth, criticism becomes betrayal. Critics cannot appeal to neutral facts and remain loyal, because facts are not neutral. As Hannah Arendt wrote of the 1920s and 1930s, any statement of fact becomes a question of motive. Thus, when H.R. McMaster, a former national security adviser, said (uncontroversially) that Russia had interfered in the election campaign, Mr Trump heard his words as unforgivably hostile. Soon after, he was sacked.

(The Republican Party is organize around one man, The Economist for April 21, 2018)

But those Democrat Philistines still had better be very careful about making sport of him.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Personal French phase book

Preparing for some travel in France soon, and adding practical sentences to my academic French study, I’ve been frustrated at the paucity of truly useful phrases. So I’ve assembled my own phrase book:

  1. Je voyage seul parce que ma femme n’aime pas voyager.
  2. Où puis-je trouver du bon cassoulet?
  3. J’étais ici en juin milles soixante-huit, le mois suivant votre grève générale et pendant la guerre du Vietnam.
  4. J’étais mal préparé pour mon voyage européen de soixante-huit, et je regrette particulièrement ce que j’ai pu manquer à Paris.
  5. J’ai apprécié le récital d’orgue après la messe à Saint Sulpice.
  6. Pardonne-nous d’avoir infligé cet homme au monde. Je n’ai pas voté pour lui. Il m’épouvante.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure these out. Google Translate can absolutely help.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

The Fixer

Every so often, news emerges that explains the mixed esteem in which lawyers are held, and the news that Michael Cohen has been Donald Trump’s “fixer” is the latest.

According to Merriam-Webster, a fixer is “a person who intervenes to enable someone to circumvent the law or obtain a political favor.” The less prestigious Wordnik, citing The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, capture more of the connotations: “A person who uses influence or makes arrangements for another, especially by improper or unlawful means.” Wiktionary, again via Wordnik, goes further: “A person who arranges immunity for defendants by tampering with the justice system via bribery or extortion, especially as a business endeavor for profit.”

Apparently it is “nice work if you can get it.” Michael Cohen says he had just three clients last year: Donald Trump, GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy and Sean Hannity (who insists he paid no fees).

The most offensive thing is how fixers beslime the legal profession, the true ethos of which is helping clients achieve their lawful objectives by lawful means. (That’s pretty close to the Merriam-Webster definition.) My Fair City’s rumored legal fixers were not held in high esteem by judges and lawyers.

Or maybe the most offensive thing is how the existence of fixers proves that some people, if rich enough, can live “above the law” for a substantial while, and how others, if base and shrewd enough, can get rich facilitating life above the law. How many zillionaires so lived, and died unexposed to any but God, is not known.

I would not trade places with any of them for so parlous and spiritually debilitating a life.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Journalism in a Nutshell

Same basic story, two headlines:

I might leave it there, but I’ll attest from personal experience that the Washington Post headline is truer, the National Review headline an indicator of early-onset amnesia in Ms. Timpf. It’s hard to write truthfully about a prickly über-narcissist without sounding petty.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

How Trump seduced the Evangelicals

U.S.—The vast majority of the nation’s evangelical Christians stressed Friday that they were “this close” to abandoning their support of Donald Trump as they coped with a seemingly endless string of moral scandals surrounding the president.

“I swear, if 197 or so more egregious moral failings come to light, I am DONE supporting this guy,” one evangelical from Idaho declared, drawing a clear line in the sand. “My support for this president is not limitless, nor is it unconditional. Just a couple hundred more clear examples of belligerently immoral behavior and I’ll jump off the Trump train so fast it’ll make your head spin.”

At publishing time, American evangelicals had upped the number of passes they’re willing to give the president from one or two hundred to one or two thousand, stating “we didn’t elect him to be the nation’s pastor, for crying out loud.”

This must be, and is, the Babylon Bee. You can get it by Facebook, RSS, and G*d knows how many other ways.

Evangelical support of Trump has been fertile soil for the Bee’s Christian sense of humor. But I heard somewhere yesterday an uncommonly good explanation of how Trump got Evangelical support in the first place.

It went something like this.

Trump gets together with sundry Evangelical mucky-mucks and poo-bahs and says (or likelier signals) :

Look. There’s no sense playing around here. I’m not a pious man. No way.

But I know you. I respect you. You are important to the nation. And I think you have a right to live how you want to live.

So if I’m elected, I was protect you. I will build a wall around you. A beautiful wall. A magnificent wall.

And I’ll make the progressives pay for it.

 

Well, it’s an uncommonly good if you bracket inconvenient questions like “How did they spread the word without word getting out?”

UPDATE:

If this really is the way it went down, this may be an instance where Trump has fairly steadfastly made good on a promise. Witness, for instance, Roger Severino at HHS:

The Trump administration is deploying civil-rights laws in new ways to defend health-industry workers who object to medical procedures on religious grounds.

Roger Severino, an administration appointee to the Department of Health and Human Services, is heading a new division at the department that will shield health-care workers who object to abortion, assisted suicide, or other procedures they say violate their conscience or deeply held religious beliefs.

HHS has proposed rules that would expand the division’s enforcement ability and require many health organizations to inform workers about their federal protections regarding their personal faith or convictions.

The list of coming changes has many worried that HHS is putting religious priorities ahead of those of a secular state. But Mr. Severino rejects the notion that his office is pushing an evangelical or Catholic agenda, saying his unit will protect people of all faiths.

“It’s not about denial of service based on a person’s identity,” he said in an interview. “A retailer like Target happens not to sell guns; that doesn’t mean they’re denying anyone their right to buy guns.”

Just so.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Neither Nor

Neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, I nevertheless pay a lot of attention to both, because they are where the culturally significant religious action is in my homeland.

Likewise, I pay attention to doings in the Republican and Democrat parties. The sicknesses of those parties is also part of the sickness of my homeland. Politically, I’m not as settled in my American Solidarity Party affiliation as I am in Orthodoxy religiously.

I never was a partisan activist for either party, though I considered myself a Republican until January 20, 2005. GOP insanities bother me more than Democrat insanities because I never hoped for much from the Democrats (though it earlier seemed an inversion of the characteristic party tendencies when Democrats became the party of war on the defenseless unborn while Republicans nominally rose to their defense; I now recognize that the Democrat “party of the ordinary man” is dead).

I think Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter, still considers herself Republican, and she, too, focuses more on GOP shortcomings. If you can get through the paywall, her April 13 Wall Street Journal column will reward you:

Mr. Trump came from the chaos, he didn’t cause it. He just makes it worse each day by adding his own special incoherence … He happened after 20 years of carelessness and the rise of the enraged intersectional left. He … can’t capitalize on this moment—he can’t help what is formless to find form—because he’s not a serious man.

Republicans will have to figure it out on their own. After they lose the House, they will have time!

Here’s what they should do: They should start to think not like economists but like artists.

The thing about artists is that they try to see the real shape of things. They don’t get lost in factoids and facets of problems, they try to see the thing whole. They try to capture reality. They’re creative, intuitive; they make leaps, study human nature …

If an artist of Reagan’s era were looking around America in 2018, what would she or he see? Marvels, miracles and wonders. A church the other day noted on Twitter that all of us now download data from a cloud onto tablets, like Moses.

But think what would startle the artist unhappily. She or he would see broad swaths of the American middle and working class addicted and lethargic …

A Reagan-era artist would be shocked by our culture, by its knuckle dragging nihilism … The artist would be shocked that “the American dream” has been transmuted from something aspirational and lighted by an egalitarian spirit to something weirdly flat—a house, a car, possessions—and weirdly abstract.

And think twice about your saviors. Those NeverTrump folks trying to take back authority within the party—having apparently decided recently not to start a third one—are the very people who made the current mess. They bought into open-borders ideology. They cooked up Iraq. They allied with big donors. They invented Sarah Palin, who as much as anyone ushered in the age of Trump. They detached the Republican Party from the people.

I also listened to a fascinating podcast last night on a late drive back from a meeting in Indianapolis.

Historian Michael Doran from the Hudson Institute traces The Theological Roots of Foreign Policy, American foreign policy in particular. He starts with Andrew Jackson and traces the “Jacksonian tendency” through the manufacture of dispensational premillenialism with its Zionist obsessions, William Jennings Bryan, Harry Truman and to Donald Trump (in a party jump that’s part of our ongoing realignment — my comment, not his).

Then he traces the competing “progressivist tendency” from mainline missionaries (who substituted imperialist-tinged foreign aid for the mandate to preach, baptize, and teach the Christian faith) through its descendants — John D. Rockefeller, Harry Emerson Fosdick, William Sloan Coffin and others less familiar and memorable to me because they’s not my religious kin as are the Jacksonians.

If you’re looking for a satisfactory wrap-up, it’s not here. Once again, I’m neither-nor.

UPDATE: Doran’s article appears in print, close to verbatim from his speech so far as I can tell. By June 1, it should be free.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Evangelicalism at its best

Evangelicalism is a motley mess greatly varied. A substantial proportion having beslimed themselves by worship of 45, a few others soldier on as serious thinkers.

The lads (I can say that: they’re young, terribly young, in comparison to me) at Mere Orthodoxy and the related Mere Fidelity podcast are, for my money, among Evangelicalism’s finest.

For example, last year some “complementarian” Evangelicals brought forth the Nashville Statement under the auspices of the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. At the time, I was forced to confront the oddness of the claim that the matters of sexuality discussed therein were “at the core of the Christian faith,” or words to that effect. (That concept did not come directly from the Statement, so far as I can recall, but from discussion surrounding it.)

“At the core” seemed not quite right, yet not quite wrong, either.

It must have felt the same to the Mere Orthodoxy lads because they brought forth a podcast on the topic of Orthodoxy and Sexual Ethics last September, which I audited for the first time Wednesday afternoon. It was quite good and clarified my impression the we lack the vocabulary for the importance of topics like sexuality to the Christian faith.

Some of my take-aways:

  • When someone like James K.A. Smith approaches this subject, in close proximity to the Nashville Statement, the context of the questions and answers matters a great deal.
  • If anything fits the Vincentian Canon, the kinds of propositions about sexuality affirmed by the Nashville Statement do (at least most of them). They are not adiaphora.
  • There were Christians who supported slavery, and had a hermeneutic to back them up. Was opposition to slavery therefore not a “core tenet”?
  • “Entailed by orthodoxy” does not mean “entailed by the creeds.” Orthodoxy is more capacious than the creeds.
  • The “arc” and anthropology of Christianity makes sexuality if not core, then entailed by the core.
  • “Part of the Catholicity of the Church” is an alternate formulation of “core.”

I was also reminded of some of the calculations that go into individual decisions to subscribe or not subscribe something like the Nashville Statement:

  • One’s own tradition may have already spoken on the topic to an extent that makes signing another statement superfluous.
  • Some of the featured signers of the Nashville Statement are heretical in their view of the Holy Trinity. Is this Statement so clearly right, timely and groundbreaking as to make subscription morally obligatory despite such disreputable company?
  • Subscription of a Statement under the auspices of the complementarian CBMW associates one with views one may not hold, and the tacit buttressing of those broader views is part of the context of a decision to sign or not to sign. Is this Statement so clearly right, timely and groundbreaking as to make subscription morally obligatory despite the aid and comfort it gives a disputed view of proper gender relations in Christianity?
  • Oddly, the Englishmen on the Mere Fidelity podcast had signed while the Americans had not. I think the Americans were more aware of the preceding questions of context.

Of course, it’s also the case that the Nashville Statement had nothing to say about the scandalous rates of divorce among self-identified Evangelicals. Could it be that “speaking the truth in love” is something one does only to gay Christians? (Then it’s not the least courageous, by criteria of C.S. Lewis.)

It absolutely is not the case that I’d still choose Evangelicalism were Evangelicals all like these Mere Orthodoxy lads. The reasons why are beyond my scope today. But I respect those youngsters very much, and occasionally put a few shekels where my mouth is.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.