Holy Week gleanings

This is Orthodox Holy Week. For me as the parish cantor, it’s pretty grueling (tonight’s service runs almost three hours, for instance, and we had 90 minutes this morning) — and with that, rewarding.

I haven’t foresworn all news for the week, but I’m continuing to reduce news consumption, and find that I’m less interested in most of what I do see.

So here, with minimal commentary, is some of what I found a bit interesting.

All versions of things usually suck

Classical Educator Joshua Gibbs writes some pretty sharp quasi-Socratic dialogues, and his most recent was a dandy:

Student: I know how you feel about the matter, but I’m thinking about going to a secular college next year.

Gibbs: How come?

Student: I don’t want to live in a bubble. If I don’t go to a secular college, I’m worried I’ll go through my whole life without ever knowing anything about other people’s views.

Gibbs: Huh. You think college is your last chance to encounter “other people’s views”?

Student: Sort of.

Gibbs: What a strange life you must have planned for yourself after college …

[After enough dialog to establish that the student’s reason doesn’t hold water]:

Student: I’m dying for you to tell me what I’m thinking, old man. What’s my real reason?

Gibbs: You don’t want to go to a Christian university because the Christian version of things usually sucks.

Student: Wrong, that’s not… Aw, who am I kidding? Yes, that’s it.

Gibbs: Respectable. But wrong.

Student: What are you talking about? I know you. You listen to Radiohead and Brian Eno. You like Sofia Coppola movies. You’re not into Casting Crowns and Kirk Cameron and all that trash. You know the Christian version always sucks.

Gibbs: Not exactly. When you think of “the Christian version” of anything, you think of Castings Crowns and Kirk Cameron, but I think of Dante, John Milton, Constantine, Charlemagne, Jane Austen, Boethius, Charlotte Bronte, El Greco, Macrina the Younger, Bach, St. John of the Ladder, Josquin des Prez, John Paul II, not to mention the pious old women of my church who stand for three-hour prayer vigils. And when I suggest you go to a Christian college, I don’t mean any Christian college, but the sort of Christian college that takes Dante, John Milton, and Constantine seriously. When you think of “Christian architecture,” it’s not unfair to think of gawdy, wretched megachurch stadiums, but neither is it unfair to think of Notre Dame and the Hagia Sophia. If you’re afraid of going to a Christian college because you’re fed up with the sappy, soundtrack-to-apostasy pop they make you sing at youth group, I don’t blame you …

[Y]our impression of the difference between Christian colleges and secular colleges is wildly inaccurate. I don’t like pop Christian culture any more than you do, but the sort of Christian colleges I would recommend to you are small, traditional, and can offer you a greater range of views than a secular college can. That is not the primary reason I would recommend them to you, but it is nonetheless true.

Student: What’s the primary reason?

Gibbs: When Christians complain about Christian culture, they tend to compare the worst examples of contemporary Christian culture with the best examples of secular culture. But for every Radiohead, there are twenty Smash Mouths. For every There Will Be Blood, there are a hundred Project Runway_s. And there’s absolutely no secularist equivalent of _Paradise Lost or Bach or Dante… I could go on.

Student: Okay.

Gibbs: I get it, though. You don’t take contemporary Christian culture seriously, but some of the adults in your life do. This worries you. You want to trust adults, but it’s hard when so many of them can’t see that contemporary Christian culture is often just a trite, hackneyed imitation of secular culture with a “Gospel message” tacked on. Adults have shown you ridiculous, preachy Christian films and told you they were good. Adults have asked you to treat banal, simple-minded worship songs like significant musical accomplishments. You’ve heard about Christian kids giving up the faith in secular colleges, but you’re not worried about that happening to you. Why? Because even though you’re a Christian, the preachy Christian films and silly songs never really got to you. They didn’t change you. And you’re convinced that none of the preachy anti-Christian culture in college is going to get to you either. At the end of the day, though, the idea of spending four years and a hundred grand on Veggie Tales College is terrifying.

Student: It is.

Gibbs: And I’m sure there are Christian colleges out there which would give you just that. But not all of them.

I think another way of saying this is that most cultural products, Christian or not, are mediocre (or worse) and ephemeral. Get over it.

Integral faith

Beha’s return to his faith did not make him think his job as a writer was to serve as a Catholic witness, but he acknowledged its influence on his work. “I don’t think of my writing as a form of apologetics. I don’t think of it as a form of proselytizing,” he said. “Writing is a central part of the project of my life, and my Catholicism is an essential part of the project of my life, so they are inevitably bound up with each other.”

Yes. That. And more.

Every public argument made in religious terms will be disregarded by essentially everyone who doesn’t share the arguer’s religion. But arguments about public policy, made in non-religious terms, must not be dismissed as crypto-religious merely because the arguer is known to be “religious” or “very religious” (leaving aside how vexing the construct of “religion” is).

I don’t design arguments as crypto-religious trojan horses, and to act as if I do is a kind of disenfranchisement.

The Successor Ideology is harming people

Julie, 27, who also transitioned and then detransitioned, likens the policy to the practice of lobotomy. “I have this intense rage in me over the harm that was done to me,” said Julie, who didn’t want to be identified out of fear of backlash from activists.   

She called her treatment a “collaborative idiocy”—drawing together her parents, therapists and doctors. “It took a goddamn village.” 

“I asked my doctor about concerns I was having about my heart health, and she told me, ‘Listen, you signed a waiver,’ which scared me,” she said. After five years on hormones, Julie stopped taking them.

She was not against trans people. Just like Phoenix and Helena and Chloe and all of them. They just felt like they’d been rushed through this heavily medicalized funnel when all they really needed was a little time to grow up. 

Suzy Weiss, The Testosterone Hangover, chock-a-block with stories of “gender-affirming care” gone wrong.

Unfortunately, the “progressive” march through the institutions having succeeded in creating a mad hegemony (the Successor Ideology), this and similar articles haven’t done much so far.

Punching down in the name of punching up

Journalists like to think of ourselves as champions of the powerless against abuse by mighty political and economic oppressors. But two decades into the 21st century, things are a little more complicated than that self-congratulatory story implies.  

The Washington Post may at times be animated by the spirit of the original progressive muckrakers, but it has also become a very powerful organization in its own right, with formidable institutional allies throughout the culture and political system. Those institutions now confront a new set of muckrakers, and that the institutions lean left and the muckrakers lean right doesn’t change the hierarchical character of their conflict. Neither does the fact that the muckrakers often have powerful allies of their own. 

When a person working for a powerful media outlet goes after an ordinary citizen, it can’t help but look like ideologically motivated bullying — which, of course, confirms everything today’s right-wing muckrakers say about their progressive opponents. The best way for the Post and other leading institutions of American public life to defend themselves against the populist onslaught from the right, then, is for them to resist the temptation to sink to the same level. The powerful will never beat muckrakers at their own game.

Damon Linker, ‌How a Washington Post exposé played into right-wing muckrakers’ hands, on Taylor Lorenz’s doxxing of the woman behind the Libs of Tik-Tok Twitter account.

When the center shifts leftward

I don’t think Biden is an extremist, but I don’t think he’s a moderate either. He’s a moderate Democrat, and as such has moved left with his party. The examples abound. 

It wasn’t enough to pass an infrastructure package that Trump couldn’t pass. He had to move towards an FDR-style “Build Back Better” platform that even a president who possessed a popular mandate would struggle to pass.

It wasn’t enough to ratify largely-existing legal protections for LGBT Americans. He had to support an Equality Act that would take direct aim at religious liberty and sweep even into arenas—like athletics—where very real biological differences between men and women should be acknowledged and respected.

It wasn’t enough to try to target electoral reforms at the weak point that almost caused a constitutional crisis, the Electoral Count Act. He had to support a massive, sweeping rewrite of the entire electoral system that included a number of provisions that blatantly violated the Constitution

Even where Biden’s solidly in the mainstream, he’s suffered from imprudence. The prime example, and the moment where his approval rating really started its decline, was the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I’ve said it many times—Americans wanted to end the war, but they did not want to lose the war. A more prudent leader would have recognized the distinction.

David French, ‌Can’t Anything Be Normal for Five Minutes?

So how is this supposed to work?

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis … signed legislation earlier this month codifying Coloradan’s “right to make reproductive health-care decisions free from government interference.”

The Morning Dispatch, ‌States Prepare for a Possible Post-Roe Future

I’m not sure how a law like that would work. If there’s no Colorado law interfering with “reproductive health-care decisions,” the law does nothing. Should such an “interfering” law pass, would it not implicitly supersede this law where they conflict?? Is the Colorado law mostly aimed at restrictions coming from Cities and Counties?

Squandered credibility

In his Very Serious newsletter, Josh Barro had one of the most eminently reasonable takes on the end of the federal public transportation mask mandate. “Mourning the rule we lost yesterday only makes sense if your interest in masks is more about how we should regard COVID than how we should prevent it. That is, if you just liked seeing people forced to make sartorial expressions like your own about how much they care about COVID, then yesterday was indeed a sad day for you,” he writes. “The public health establishment still has not grappled with the damage it’s done to its reputation by failing to respect the fact that members of the public have different values and preferences than their own, or to place any value at all on individual freedom. There is a cost to ordering people around all the time, and if you’re too obnoxious about it, your powers to do so will be taken away. This is part of why leaving the transportation mandate in place so long was such a mistake: The more capricious an enforcement measure looks, the more likely it is the courts will find some justification to throw it out.”

The Morning Dispatch

Wordplay

My wife first noticed it and now I see it everywhere. Example:

Big rise seen in amount of EU migrant entries

Not number, but amount.

I guess it feels a bit dehumanizing to think of people being measured by the cubic yard (or some other measure) rather than as individuals.


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