Metropolitan Kallistos Ware reposed in the Lord last Tuesday.
“Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say "Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.”
Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
Against David Frenchism
I may have finally reached a tipping point trying to process David French’s commentaries on religion and politics. Henceforth, I will either not bother at all or at least approach his columns and podcasts with an attitude of “tell me, in the first paragraph or two, why I should stick around and hear you out.”
I’ll still listen to him on law, but I don’t think he has anything I need to hear about the intersection of religion and politics.
That problem isn’t that he’s anti-Trump, goodness knows. The problem is that he’s reflexively parochial, and his “parish” is white Evangelicalism; that he says “Christians” when he means “white Evangelicals” drives me to distraction.
I suppose this bugs me so much because French is writing and podcasting in secular, not Evangelical, spaces. He’s being read by people who may judge all of Christianity by his fixations on North American white Evangelical grotesqueries.
There is a Church that is rooted far deeper in history than the Second Great Awakening, utterly orthodox in its Christianity, and ambivalent-to-indifferent in its politics (the impressions of some American converts notwithstanding). If you’ve read me for long, you know where I think it’s found. All we ask of a polity is that we may lead a calm and peaceful lives in all godliness and sanctity.
But you’d never appreciate that by reading David French, who basically tells the Western world that “Christians be like Falwell Jr. and Orange Man.” That’s just not true, and eliding Christianity with Evangelicalism turns people off to the holy and life-giving potential of authentic, historic Christianity.
Up with Jake Meadorism
Here is one of the arguments some friends have made in defending the evangelical hard pivot toward Trump and right-wing politics more generally: The country is changing. No one will be friendly to all of our beliefs or values. However, if the progressives win, the likeliest outcome is some blending of dhimmitude and persecution. On the other hand, if the right wins, religious liberty will at least mostly be safe and we’ll be left alone. So it makes sense for orthodox Christians to migrate rightward.
The difficulty I see with this: Our churches do not exist within sealed spaces closed off from the world outside the congregation. Rather, our parishioners are being discipled all the time by the networks they participate in. So when we strengthen our ties to the political right and, in particular, when we tend to look past or gloss over the right’s sins for sakes of the political coalition (which is just a reality of life with any political coalition you try to participate in), we aren’t simply retreating into a stable space where right-wing governments protect our stable, faithful Christian communities. Rather, our communities are being shaped through the very act of partnering with specific groups, of speaking about some sins and not speaking about others. These things are, in themselves, formative.
To get his core insight, I had to quote most of his short post, but there is a bit of good stuff left, and with no paywall, either.
Jake Meador, Places of Refuge are Places of Discipleship. Meador, too, is Protestant, and as a Reformed Christian, he (as did I) appears to think himself Evangelical or Evangelical-adjacent. Unlike French, he doesn’t parochially collapse Christianity into Evangelicalism.
Why I Will Disregard any American Episcopalian Who Complains About Small States Getting As Many Senators as Big States
“Yes, a bishop’s episcopal charism does not depend on the number of worshipers in their see. But when almost all the micro-dioceses are in the west, and when western bishops are disproportionately present at Lambeth 2022, this is white privilege in action," he wrote. "Lambeth 2022 is taking place even though the bishops of half of African Anglicans have refused to come. Their dioceses constitute a third of the total Anglican Communion. Western bishops may say ‘it was their choice not to come.’ But this is not a good look."
- Many western bishops lead "micro-dioceses" with under 1,000 active members or "mini-dioceses" with fewer than 5,000.
- The Church of Nigeria claims 17 million members and 22 million active participants.
- Uganda has 10 million members
- Rwanda has 1 million members.
A Christian Culture (for the very first time)
By pretty much all measures, the Orthodox Christian countries of Eastern Europe take their faith more seriously than the Catholic countries further West or the Protestant countries which mainly lie around the continent’s fringes. I should really say ‘former Protestant countries’ because, as I have written here in the past, these countries – including mine, Britain – are now post-religious. Faith has been replaced by politics, ideology, activism or the material and technological idolatry which we call ‘progress.’
All of which means that I have until recently never seen a real Christian culture, of the kind my country used to be many centuries ago, and my adopted country, Ireland, used to be until more recently.
Paul Kingsnorth, Intermission: Monasteries of Romania #1
Godsplaining to the Archbishop
“If we say our God is an all-loving god, how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay?” he asked. “Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, ‘You have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?’”
Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, recently deceased, to the New York Times in 2009, roughly seven years after exposure of his hush money payment to a male lover (or rape victim).
It is suggestive that “the religions of the world” seem, to the disgraced Archbishop, to speak with one voice. How could that be if the idea of lifelong sexual abstinence is so stupid? Might it be that the spirit of our age is the anomaly, the deviation from the wisdom of the ages?
Did the Archbishop not confess that Mary, the “Mother of God,” remained ever a virgin? Or did he, like a highly multiparous protestant I corresponded with at some length, rule out Mary’s ever-virginity because that would be “perverted”?
Further, it is famously not just the Church that tells people “You have to” do something you’d rather not do, See, e.g., decalogue.
Still further, surely a substantial part of the work of the Church is dealing sacramentally and pastorally with people who fail to live up to divine expectations. See, e.g., confession.
Finally, the surmised number of gay people is irrelevant to the correct answer to the Archbishop’s tendentious question.
To get other glimpses of the odious decedent, see Rembert Weakland, Proud Vandal
Youth alienation then and now
[T]he thing that disturbs me the most right now is that the conversations often that I’m having with younger evangelicals. When someone says to me I’m thinking about walking away, it’s usually a very different conversation than I would have had 10 years ago. 10 years ago, it would have been with a younger person saying I just can’t believe the supernatural stuff that we believe anymore. Or I really think the moral ideas of the church are too strict and too judgmental, and I want to walk away.
Now it’s almost the reverse, almost directly the reverse. It’s people who are saying, I don’t think the church believes what it says it believes and what it’s taught me, or at least I fear that it doesn’t.
[W]e’re not looking for some Christian America in the past because in order to do that, we would have to redefine what we mean by Christian … [i]n all sorts of ways that I think are harmful.
Repentance is everything you do to get sin, those inborn passions, out of you. It’s reading, thinking, praying, weeding out disruptive influences in your life, sharing time with fellow Christians, following the guidance of the saints. Repentance is the renunciation of what harms us and the acquisition of what is beneficial to us, writes a holy counselor.
Dee Pennock, God’s Path to Sanity
Demoting free exercise
In essence, [Employment Division v.] Smith demoted the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to a glorified nondiscrimination doctrine. Rather than granting Americans an affirmative right to practice their religion absent compelling governmental reasons to restrict that practice, the Free Exercise Clause becomes almost entirely defensive—impotent against government encroachment absent evidence of targeted attack or unequal treatment.
[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.
Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge
The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.
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.