Beheading of John the Baptist

Yes, we commemorated the beheading of John the Baptist today, saying some rather pointed things about Herod, Herodias, and that hootchy-kootchy dancer.

Let’s get this out of the way

Afghanistan continues to haunt, partly because I continue getting smacked by distasteful facts. I’d be pulling punches not to share them:

Where Hegel saw the spirit of the new age in the figure of Napoleon riding through Jena, the spirit of the liberal age increasingly came to be consciously and rhetorically centered, at least in part, in the figure of the afghan woman finally getting a chance to play football, celebrate pride month, and studying critical gender theory ….

Malcom Kyeyune, via Angela Nagle, How Will The Empire End?

More from Nagle:

The Spectator commented on “How Ivy League diplomats sought to remake Afghanistan in Harvard’s image” via hundreds of millions spent on gender studies politics, which they persisted with even when it directly caused rebellions, adding this short illustrative video:

…you can see the exact point (specifically, 31 seconds in) where the American mission in Afghanistan dies.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/wdrvpSfJM1w?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0

Or this:

The reality is that America lost its war in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, roughly around the time when CIA officers began bribing aging warlords with Viagra. The Americans knew all about the young boys the tribal leaders kept in their camps; because the sex drug helped Afghan elders rape more boys more often, they were beholden to America’s clandestine service. Losing Afghanistan then is the least of it. When you choose to adopt a foreign cohort’s cultural habits, customs for which the elders of your own tribe would ostracize and perhaps kill you, you have lost your civilization.

Assabiya Wins Every Time – Tablet Magazine

Yet another of the reasons it’s hard for me to look at Afghanistan is that it never occurred to me that when judgment finally fell on us, others would become collateral damage.

It is not entertaining when a writer repeats himself, but what we are experiencing is judgment. If we will not grasp that, we will grasp nothing. We are being judged not so much for the imaginary evils for which violent, deranged thugs despise the country, but for the real evils we have cuddled to our bosoms.  We are just beginning to have the government we deserve.

Politics matters, make no mistake. But what we need is not just a different president, not just a political reform, but sorrow, soul-searching, and conversion. The rest — let us hope — will follow.

J Budziszewski, Why the President Should Not Be Called a Coward

A poem to keep

Because the eye has a short shadow or it is hard to see over heads in the crowd?

If everyone else seems smarter but you need your own secret?

If mystery was never your friend?

If one way could satisfy the infinite heart of the heavens?

If you liked the king on his golden throne more than the villagers carrying baskets of lemons?

If you wanted to be sure his guards would admit you to the party?

The boy with the broken pencil
scrapes his little knife against the lead
turning and turning it as a point
emerges from the wood again

If he would believe his life is like that
he would not follow his father into war

(Naomi Shihab Nye, Fundamentalism, via Poetry Foundation)

Qutb, how liberalism has failed … and what’s the alternative?

The ideas that seized the imagination of millions had deep and diverse intellectual roots. For example, the mid-20th century thinker Sayyid Qutb mounted a comprehensive critique of the soulless materialism of America, tracing it in part to the separation of church and state — the fatal error, he believed, that divided the spirit from the flesh. In the Muslim world, he argued, body and soul should not be split asunder, but should live united in a resurrected caliphate, governed by Shariah law.

David Brooks, This Is How Theocracy Shrivels (The New York Times)

I have not read Qutb, but I’ve read several critiques, home-grown, of how liberalism has failed, and soulless materialism makes cameo appearances in some of them.

The critiques are persuasive. What I haven’t read is a persuasive prescription. I’m far from a great historian, even by amateur standards, but I’ve read enough to have a rich storehouse of yarns on how great ideas go wrong, and every prescription I’ve read has "this will not end well" written all over it.

Those of us who are Christian have no basis to hope for an earthly paradise. The scriptures seem to point against such a thing ever arriving. But we believe, or should, that there are no accidents, no nooks or crevices of the cosmos unnoticed or neglected by divine providence. How all this "works together for good to them that love God" is a mystery, and we have no commission to help the mystery along.

But mystery can become our friend if we use the time we formerly wasted on tilting at windmills to deal with things at least somewhat within our control.

"Conservative evangelicals" take up the mainstream’s worst habit

[On July 8], the Public Religion Research Institute released its brand new 2020 American Religious Landscape.

Some things are not surprising …

But there are two big surprises.

First, the “unaffiliates” are not growing so fast anymore …

The other surprise is bigger.

For the first time (I think ever), the population segment of white evangelicals is shrinking. "Since 2006,” PRRI reports, “white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020."

This is new, arrestingly new. For decades — since the 1970’s — it’s been a truism that conservative evangelicals have bucked the tide of religious decline in America. In 1972, sociologist Dean Kelly wrote a famous book called just that: Why Conservative Churches are Growing. He concluded that while mainline Protestant churches were concerned about popular political issues, conservative evangelical churches were concerned with Biblical demands upon life, relationships and responsibilities.

The decline of white evangelicals seems mostly to result from the larger changing demographics of America. This is obvious. There is an irreversible change from a white majority to a plurality of ethnicities in the country. This is happening no matter what one thinks about immigration or voting policies.

But there is another factor that has contributed to the decline. When Dean Kelly wrote his book in 1972, the evangelical community was focussed upon concrete “Biblical lifestyle issues.” Since then, the focus has broadened to involvement in political, partisan issues and the “culture wars” — the very sort of involvement that Kelly had blamed for mainline decline 50 years before.

Now it seems that the chickens have come home to roost. The Pew report of 2019 observed that it was just because of explicit political partisanship that many young adults are leaving the evangelical community, most likely landing squarely in the “unaffiliated” category.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias, ‌Second Terrace: the cost of partisanship

On a related note:

It must have come as a shock to Dad to be plunged into the heart of the American evangelical scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and to suddenly see just who he was urging to take power in the name of returning America to our “Christian roots.” Who would be in charge? Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell? Gary North? Dr. Dobson? Rousas Rushdoony? And what sort of fools would “our people” elect as president or for Congress, given that they had so easily been duped by the flakes, madmen, and charlatans they were hailing (and lavishly funding) as their spiritual leaders?

Frank Schaeffer (son of the late Francis Schaeffer), Crazy for God

I am not a fan of Frank Schaeffer, but I read several of his books after he professed Orthodox Christianity. (I’ll leave it at that.) Occasionally he was perceptive and quotable.

Political war over culture is not culture war

From Ryan Burge, tweet, 2 July 2021.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked?

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926).

We are told that conservatives “lost the culture war.” I dissent from this view: American conservatives never waged a culture war. Conservatives certainly fought, there is no denying that. They fought with every bit of obstruction and scandal their operatives could muster. But this was not a culture war. Rather, America’s conservatives fought a political war over culture. Republicans used cultural issues to gain—or to try to gain—political power. Their brightest minds and greatest efforts went into securing control of judiciary, developing a judicial philosophy for their appointees, securing control of the Capitol, and developing laws that could be implemented in multiple state houses across the nation. No actual attempt to change the culture was attempted.

This was not thought necessary. Conservatives had the people. One decade they were called a “silent” majority; as the culture war heated up, that majority transitioned from “silent” to “moral,” but a majority they remained. In these circumstances it was sufficient to quarantine the cultural dissidents and keep them from using minority maneuvers (“legislating from the bench”) to impose their cultural priorities on the rest of us. Political containment was the name of our game. Republicans played it well. They still play it well, even when the majority of yesterday has melted away.

The left played for different stakes. They fought for American culture as the right fought over it. Their insurgency succeeded as Hemingway’s businessman failed: gradually, then suddenly.

Tanner Greer, Culture Wars are Long Wars. H/T John Brady’s Rags of Light newsletter.

I really appreciate the distinction between culture war and political war over culture. More than eleven years ago, I declared myself a "Conscientious Objector to the Culture Wars." As I review that post today, I actually was objecting to the political wars over culture. Other than that, it was a pretty good post, and I’d stand by most of it today.

Moreover, when I posed the question "So who am I hangin’ out with these days," the answer basically reflected the commonplace that culture is upstream from politics, and I was trying to connect to healthy culture:

Basically, I’m going back and rethinking all things political and cultural. I’m wisdom-hunting. I read Wendell Berry essays and poetry, Bill Kauffman books, Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, Scott Cairns’ Poetry, W.H. Auden (“For the Time Being” is now on my list for every Advent).

My conversion to Orthodox Christianity started it in a way. I soon realized that the Church has not always prevailed, and has produced martyrs in every century. And that’s okay. Better we should lose honorably than win by selling our souls.

Christ: disguised under badly remembered and selectively retold western history

Our world is a “post-Christian” world.  Culturally speaking, Christ and His message is well known, but disguised under layer after layer of badly remembered and selectively retold western history.  Everyone knows the name “Christ,” but very few associate it with anything life-giving.  Even those who believe in Christ, who look to Him for salvation, who are baptized and who have some devotion to the Church, even these no longer take the hierarchy of the Church seriously and have largely accepted a culturally reimagined version of Christ: a nice-guy deity, interested mostly in how I as an individual feel about things.

This, of course, is a far cry from Christ, the God who became human to transfigure human nature into the divine image from which it fell of old in Paradise.  Yet very many Christians today, many Orthodox Christians, do not know this Christ.  They know only the culturally acceptable christ of their imagination. And so they are lost in their own confusion and passions thinking that they follow Christ. And for these, we must pray.  They are like those who have received an inoculation.  They have taken just enough dead virus to put them on the defence against the real.  The false Christ that they have come to know, blinds their eyes and deadens their ears to the real.

Archpriest Michael Gillis, ‌Is It Possible to Live a Holy Life in the World? H/T John Brady (again).


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