Trump’s appeal to inner demons

Many (most?) of our deathworks bear a “progressive” imprimatur, but let’s give “conservatives” credit for besliming us on the matter of immigration.

It was never enough. Nielsen may have been willing to violate the dictates of morality, but she wasn’t willing to actually break the law. The New York Times reports that “the president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.”

… [T]he points earned for gassing women and children were insufficient to save Nielsen’s job. Trump demanded more and more. In California on Friday, CNN reported via Twitter, “Trump told border agents he wanted them to stop letting people cross the border, despite the fact that Central American asylum seekers according to U.S. law can do so.”

Someone had to be blamed for Trump’s failure to control the border, and Nielsen made a convenient scapegoat …

It is time to end the charade. Trump is agitated that Nielsen was not barbarous enough for his depraved tastes. She still retained some vestigial loyalty to the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Given that we are in a time of purported emergency, we can no longer afford such sentimental attachments. Rather than appoint another outsider who will never live down to his expectations, Trump should nominate as her successor the actual mastermind of the administration’s immigration policies: White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller.

This is the 33-year-old wunderkind who orchestrated the Muslim travel ban, vast reductions in refugee admissions, efforts to build the wall, attempts to deport the “dreamers,” the deployment of troops to the southern border, and, of course, the family separations policy — along with the accompanying hysteria about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. He even went so far as to deny that the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty — “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — represents the spirit of America. Miller has further ambitions such as ending “birthright citizenship” and slashing legal immigration. He should assume formal, legal responsibility for this un-American approach.

Max Boot, End the charade. Appoint Stephen Miller to run DHS.

Trump has taken what should be the honor of a lifetime — serving the country at the highest levels of the executive branch — and turned it into a reputational black hole.

… [T]he separation of crying migrant children from their parents as a deterrent, and the housing of children in prisonlike conditions, will be some of the most enduring political images of the Trump era. It says something about Nielsen that she took part in such practices. It says something about Trump that such actions were apparently too moderate and restrained for his taste.

I have no doubt that Trump is using the issue of immigration in a cynical way to solve political problems. But the implications are disturbing. The president clearly regards resentment against migrants as the common, binding purpose of the Republican Party. And, so far, he has not been wrong. The success of Trump’s cynical ploy depends on the existence of genuine enthusiasm for exclusion within his party. His play only works if the party’s nativism is broad and authentic.

… Trump’s appeal to inner demons above better angels proved easier than many of us hoped. And that makes the political and moral damage harder to repair.

Michael Gerson, Trump takes an honor of a lifetime and turns it into a black hole.

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(Christian) School Prayer

Christian schools have largely failed to show students how to pray, for we have not taught our students the historic prayers of the Church. Rather, classical Christian schools prefer old books, old music, old art, and prayers thrown together two seconds ago …

The classical teacher who hastily invents a few banal sentences for God every day before class begins is sending his students contradictory messages. It may be de rigueur for 21st Americans to pray in this fashion, but classical education is committed to tradition, contemplation, reflection, and circumspection, none of which is modeled for students in glib, forgettable, and flimsy two sentence thank-you-for-this- day prayers.

The teacher who begins class with a forgettable post hoc prayer thinks he has communicated to his students that prayer is important, when he has actually communicated that prayer is easy, which is simply not true. Prayer is no easier than fasting and giving alms, both of which are nearly impossible.

Almost all student prayers are simply amalgams of stock phrases borrowed from post hoc teacher prayers: be together, learn about your world, glorify You, grow in wisdom, grow in You, grow together, have a good time, bless the community, and thank you for sending your Son. These are forgettable, disposable praise chorus prayers. If we are willing to admit that a pop Christian song can trivialize the Incarnation, we ought to be willing to admit that a prayer can do so, as well. Such prayers not only teach our students to ask very little from God, but to commit little and expect little from pious practices. “You do not have because you do not ask, and when you ask, you just kind of arbitrarily mumble something off the top of your head that you don’t really mean.” Compare the bringing-us-together-today-just- glorify-you prayer with a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas’s prayer of the student:

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.
Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.
Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.
Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.
I ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

This is a prayer which underwrites the possibility of great faith. It is a prayer worth remembering, worth repeating on a daily basis, worth meditating on. It is a worthy model for other prayers ….

Joshua Gibbs, Teach Classical Students To Pray Classically.

Every word of that resonates deeply within me.

As a Christian Reformed Elder, on those rare occasions when the Pastor was absent and Elders assisted the visiting Pastor in leading worship, I always labored over any prayer I was expected to give, borrowing surreptitiously from an old Book of Common Prayer. In a Reformed Church, that passed muster.

But the bane of “spontaneous prayer,” and being thought unspiritual if you pattern your public prayer on something as worthy as Gibbs’ example, are among the reasons I could never go back to frank Evangelicalism (Christian Reformed is not frankly Evangelical in its traditional expression). They are among the top reasons I reflexively view Evangelicalism as a frivolous religion-unto-itself.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here, but a bit here as well. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Wrestling match

They gave the movie an “R” rating — which meant the trailer could only run before “R”- rated movies and no one younger than 17 could see it without a parent’s permission. A half-dozen major music labels refused producers’ requests to license music for the film. Many major television networks except Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network refused to run ads promoting it. Then, curiously, the movie’s Twitter account was suspended through no fault of its own during opening weekend. (Twitter restored the account after outraged filmgoers flooded them with complaints). Tens of thousands of users (myself included) mysteriously found themselves involuntarily removed from the account’s followers and/or unable to follow it in the first place.

Get the feeling someone doesn’t want you to see “Unplanned”?

The “R” rating didn’t stop “Unplanned.” Instead, it validated the film’s premise. As Ashley Bratcher, the actress who plays Johnson, explained, “We don’t have nudity, we don’t have sex, we don’t have language, so the only thing they could give us an ‘R’ for is violence. So that means they agree that abortion is a violent and disturbing act.” They would not give it an “R” if it depicted a tonsillectomy.

Critics dismiss “Unplanned” as propaganda, but this is incorrect ….

Marc Thiessen, The movie abortion supporters don’t want you to see, Washington Post.

I had no idea how the deathworks were so arrayed against this lifework.

But I can’t say I’m surprised. We wrestle not against flesh and blood ….

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here, but a bit here as well. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights). Twitter can’t shut down your account there.

What Is It Like to Be a Monk?

A very respectful, even loving, account of a religiously ambiguous (Atheist? He says “not exactly”) philosopher’s brief visit to Mount Athos:

I have never seen a church seem so alive. At certain points in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, it felt as if the whole church was glowing gold inside as the sunlight began to come up in the morning light. The physical discipline of the monks was hard to comprehend. They stood for hours on end without moving, twitching, fidgeting or biting their nails. No one drank anything or looked thirsty. At other times, all the candles were extinguished and there was a low droning chant in darkness. Toward the end of the five-hour vigil, around midnight, I noticed one or two stifled yawns, but nothing much. By this time, the monks had been awake for at least 24 hours. At the end, Ioanikios looked as fresh as a daisy. I was shattered, hungry and thirsty (I hadn’t eaten since the previous morning and had only a few hours’ sleep). But I felt such a lightness.

Simon Critchley, What Is It Like to Be a Monk?, New York Times

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here, but a bit here as well. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).