Potpourri 8/22/18

1

As a means of exposing those who insist of seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a reincarnation of Josef Stalin, it would be good to look at Putin’s relationship with the great Soviet dissident and anti-communist hero, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose centenary we celebrate this year.

Discussing the cooling of relations between Russia and the West, Solzhenitsyn’s analysis of the history of the previous fifteen years highlighted the sharpness with which he viewed contemporary events. When he had returned to Russia he discovered that the West was “practically being worshipped.” This was caused “not so much by real knowledge or a conscious choice, but by the natural disgust with the Bolshevik regime and its anti-Western propaganda.” The positive view of many Russians towards the West began to sour following “the cruel NATO bombings of Serbia”: “It’s fair to say that all layers of Russian society were deeply and indelibly shocked by those bombings.” The situation worsened as NATO sought to widen its influence to the former Soviet republics. “So, the perception of the West as mostly a ‘knight of democracy’ has been replaced with the disappointed belief that pragmatism, often cynical and selfish, lies at the core of Western policies. For many Russians it was a grave disillusionment, a crushing of ideals.”

As for the West, it was “enjoying its victory after the exhausting Cold War” and was observing the anarchy in Russian under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. It seemed as though Russia was becoming “almost a Third World country and would remain so forever.” In consequence, the re-emergence of Russia as a political power caused unease in the West, a panic “based on erstwhile fears.” It was “too bad” that the West was unable to distinguish between Russia and the Soviet Union.

What more need be said? In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the greatest classic of anti-communist literature is now compulsory reading in all high schools. If the same could be said of the high schools of the United States, we would not have the endemic historical and political ignorance that has led to the widespread sympathy for communism among young Americans. In light of this, and in light of Mr. Putin’s evident admiration for Solzhenitsyn, let’s not try to pretend that Russia is a communist nation. We don’t need to like Vladimir Putin. We don’t need to admire him. But we do need to acknowledge that Russia has moved on from evils of socialism, even as we are in danger of embracing those very same evils.

Joseph Pearce. Can there be any doubt that Putin 2018 is an improvement over Stalin 1948, or the whole sorry history of Russian Communism from the Revolution until collapse?

2

The great flaw in anti-sacramental thinking is its abstracted notion of “spiritual.” It is presumed that for something to be “spiritual,” it must have nothing to do with the material world. That “talking to Jesus” only consists in words spoken in our heads. In truth, it is a preference for the imaginary over the real. The Word did not become flesh only to get our attention so that we would no longer have anything to do with the material world. It is the Word who became flesh Who gives us His Body and His Blood, the waters of Baptism, the marriage bed, the Apostolic ministry, the oil of healing, the laying on of hands, the lifting of the voice and all such things.

Non-sacramental Christianity has a long history of delusional teaching and practices. If the encounter with God is primarily the stuff going on in my head, then the strange results are fairly predictable. Nothing is more subject to manipulation and delusion than our subjectivity ….

Fr. Stephen Freeman, A Mediated Presence – Thank God.

3

I was away from home this afternoon, but caught All Things Considered breaking the news that Michael Cohen would plead guilty and the jury had a Paul Manafort verdict.

(Fade to modest restaurant dinner.)

The silent TV is playing talking heads, claiming (via close captioning) that Cohen fingered Trump in his guilty plea.

Home again at 9:45 pm. Wall Street Journal (Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says Trump Told Him to Pay Off Women) and New York Times (Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction) agree that Cohen fingered Trump. Meaning no respect to news on TV — no, actually, I do mean disrespect — only now do I believe the fact or the interpretation.

This should be huge, possibly leading to impeachment. But I have given up political prognosticating because I don’t understand the Vichy Republicans. And I’m not convinced that the cure of impeachment wouldn’t be worse than the disease of Trump anyway.

That’s all I have to say for now. If a gypsy cursed me with “May you live in interesting times,” I do believe the curse “took.”

4

On a brighter and unexpected note, Congress apparently is forgoing August recess to take up budget matters, passing non-controversial spending piecemeal, and doing so in bipartisan fashion.

It’s almost as if someone exercised forethought: “What if Trump ‘shut down’ government because we can’t agree on ‘the wall,’ but the shutdown was entirely harmless mostly because all the no-brainers were passed in August, before the President’s confected crisis of September?”

One cheer out of three.

5

Data point: Reader Matt in VA, a Rod Dreher reader who is non-celibate gay, agrees in substance with Daniel Mattson that, as Mattson put it, “men with homosexual tendencies find it particularly difficult to live out the demands of chastity.” Reader Matt’s version is:

I think it’s absolutely to be expected that a clergy full of gay men will find chastity harder than a clergy full of straight men. Again, it’s so much easier to have quick, furtive sex with another man than it is with a woman.

We’re still in a state of denial that make this controversial enough that only a gay man can say it with minimal blow-back. (Well, gay men and Camille Paglia.)

I shouldn’t say it even apart from political correctness because I can’t back it up except by citing Reader Matt, Mr. Mattson (which I have now done), and Ms. Paglia (who surely has said this somewhere or other). I have neither personal experience nor data nor scholarly literature.

I’m not sure how this relates to Eve Tushnet’s focus on the closet versus the orientation, but it seems to undermine her.

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Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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