Friday, 7/8/22

I didn’t have enough to share Thursday, but I’ve got some now. I also add a new category, "Mysticism," the first new one in quite a while.

You may want to skip the adiaphora, which is kind of a speen-venting exercise.

Things that matter

"Christian" Politics, Christian Piety

I quoted an excerpt of this recently, but a larger excerpt is worthy

There is a problem with Christian politics today, but it isn’t any of these options, or the fierce debates surrounding them. It isn’t this or that policy that Christians are in general for or against. In democratic politics, it’s just as legitimate for Christians as for any other group to advocate with passion, even granting that such passion regularly generates outlandish behavior and outsize rhetoric. That comes with the territory; it is the inevitable spillover from democratic give-and-take.

Is the problem the desire to win? Not at all. Who among us cares about the common good but doesn’t want to win? If you think your platform or candidate would make the world a better place – whether you are conservative or progressive, libertarian or socialist – you should want to win. The will to lose betrays a lack of confidence in your own proposals.

No, the problem isn’t wanting to win. The problem is the unwillingness to lose. That is, the problem is the impossibility of imagining that certain forms of losing might be preferable to certain forms of winning – that some things might not be worth doing even if not doing them would entail losing.

Brad East, Another Option for Christian Politics.

"Your power has been totally taken away,” but under a Trump administration, “you’ll have great power to do good things."

Donald Trump to a group of Christian pastors in Orlando, August 2016, via The Dispatch.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
Grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen..

The Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria, prayed by Orthodox Christians particularly in Lent (emphasis added).

In response to Trump’s campaign pitch aimed at them, 81 percent of White, self-identified evangelical voters cast their votes for him, and they remained a core base of his support throughout his presidency.

The Dispatch, excerpting Paul D. Miller, The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism.

Simone Weil on mysticism

She read the Gospels and was immediately convinced that Jesus is God, but she also studied classical texts from non-Christian religions, finding resonances therein with her own unexpected mystical encounters. She had always loved the Greeks, but now as she read her favorite authors–Plato and Homer–she found the former to be a mystic and the latter to be “bathed in Christian light.” Indeed, she found “intimations of Christianity” throughout Greek literature, from the early myths through the great tragedians. This confirmation of the universality of mystical experiences like hers, coupled with the Catholic Church’s exclusive claim to be the vehicle of God’s presence in the world, was the greatest impediment to her joining the church.

Simone Weil, Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us (Plough Spiritual Guides: Backpack Classics) . Plough Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

I had not recalled that explanation of why Weil held back from joining the Church. If the Catholic Church "claims to be the" sole "vehicle of God’s presence in the world," I’d reject it for that reason in addition to my other reasons.

I’ll leave it at that for now, but as it’s related to some current interests of mine, as reflected below.

Recapturing wonder

How to recapture this in adulthood? Wordsworth’s answer is given in his entire life’s work: in and through poetry, which with its reliance on metaphor and implicit meaning allows the right hemisphere to circumvent the ordinary processes of everyday language which inevitably return us to the familiar, and reduce the numinous to the quotidian. There is always a paradox involved, in that he is trying to reproduce the unself-consciousness that permits experience of the numinous, the condition of such unself-consciousness being that it cannot be consciously reproduced. In revisiting his childhood self and trying to bring him to life he is intently focussed on a being whose essential importance to the poet is that he was completely unself-aware.

Ian McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

Making things holy

It may not look like much, not with all these other distractions, but we make things holy by the kind of attention we give them. … I say it again: we make things holy by the kind of attention we give them.

Martin Shaw

Much ado about nothing

There was once a time when I would have found Liberty Counsel’s Naughty & Nice list (link is to a PDF that may download) mildly amusing: encouragement to shop at places that "recognize and celebrate Christmas" and to shun those that "silence and censor" Christmas. I now think it’s cheap, tawdry, and highly provincial.

For the historic Church, Christmas is not even the most important Christian Holiday. In fact, it’s not even called "Christmas."

Making such a big deal out of whether retailers "foreground" the distinctly Christianish trappings of our national consumer orgy is just preposterous.


Four political vignettes

I cannot judge any of these folks in the sense of declaring (or even predicting) eternal destiny, but I’ve got a pretty good idea who I might and wouldn’t vote for.

One Sign of Hope …

Republicans see other areas outside of the spotlight, including data privacy, digital assets and mental health, as equally fertile ground. … "I have people back home saying, ‘You can’t agree with Biden on anything." And I say, "Well what happens if he’s right every once and a while?"

Jordain Carney in Politico quoting Reps. Don Bacon.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Don Bacon before. Maybe he’s just not doing enough of the truly vital work of appearing on Fox and MSNBC.

… Another of despair.

I thought my Congressman, Jim Baird, was just a cipher — harmless enough.

Wednesday, though, brought a fundraising letter than opened thus:

I didn’t fight to protect American Freedom and American Life in Vietnam to see it destroyed by Pinkos in Pink Hats 50 years later.

(formatting in original)

I can’t say it went downhill from there, but it sure kept up the hyperbole, preposterous capitalizations, and claims of existential threat.

I’ll never vote for Jim Baird. There are worse Congressmen, but my bar is a lot higher than "at least he’s not Matt Gaetz."


What Britain has is a prime minister with instincts, sometimes good, sometimes bad, who almost as a point of principle refuses ever to temper or abrogate them in any way … These same instincts now look as though they will cost Johnson his job. He continually disregards official advice, and attempts to bypass the rules or ignores them altogether, seeing them as little more than officialdom’s devices to control him. … This is the great paradox about Johnson: He is both the most self-aware political leader I’ve come across, a leader who seems to genuinely reflect on his character flaws, and the one who seems most determined to do absolutely nothing about them. And so Britain bounces from scandal to scandal, instinct to instinct, without direction or purpose, unmoored and ungoverned.

Tom McTague via The Morning Dispatch.

What a fascinating train-wreck Boris Johnson has been. I’ll probably miss him a bit.

Gavin Newsom

Dinner at The French Laundry during Covid lockdown, vacation in Montana, which he declared off-limits. Yeah, Gavin Newsom is a real piece of "rules for thee but not for me."

I’ll never vote for him, either.

Recommended reading

I try to read opposing views on current events, but find that in fact, my reading is narrowing mostly to center-Left to center-Right. Further to the Left or Right there’s too much lunacy. (Possible exceptions: Marxist Freddie deBoer on the Left, the Integralist and crypto-Integralist academics on the Right.)

Recent discovery on the center-Left, and recommended, is Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American.

If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

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