Sunday fare, 11/13/22

Christians in Partisan Politics

I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left-wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, “humbled and chastened.” He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.

Another reason Christians these days cannot allow the church to be fully identified with any particular party is the problem of what the British ethicist James Mumford calls “package-deal ethics.” Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.

Tim Keller, 9/29/18.

Dreams, visions and curious converts

I began to have dreams. I dreamed I was a soldier in the First World War. I was a private, and was with my captain. I had broken my arm. It was all mangled. The captain looked at my arm – I hadn’t noticed it was broken – and he said, “Look at your arm. You’ve done such a good job trying to fix it yourself. I can fix it for you, but if I fix it for you, I’m going to have to break it.” I suddenly knew in the dream who I was in the presence of. I knew. I knew. And I gave him my broken arm. If it hurt, it only hurt for a second.

Mythologist Martin Shaw on his conversion to Christianity.

The whole story is very interesting and boundary-challenging. Martin Shaw learned a lot of truth about reality by sleeping in the Devonian wood and immersing in mythological tales. But Someone wanted him to have more.

My own conversion story is so black and white alongside Shaw’s technicolor!

Orthodoxy is getting some very interesting converts (yes, after searching for a Church, Martin Shaw found Orthodoxy and should be received in January).

But I do fear that we’re too often rushing famous-ish converts into the limelight and looking to them for more insight than they may possess. That’s good neither for us or for them.

Marriage as a natural institution — and more

Christian advocacy for a family-centered society has almost without exception focused on marriage as a natural institution. There have been good reasons of principle and of strategy for doing so. Marriage is a natural institution, and recognizing it as such is a necessary part of restoring the public understanding of the bond: As Pius XI affirmed in his encyclical letter on marriage, Casti connubii, the essential duties of marriage aren’t just applicable to “religious” marriages, but to all properly executed marital covenants.

In an era of secular states and secular politics, focusing on natural marriage has also made sense practically. Arguing that the truth about marriage is accessible and practicable by “public reasons,” to use the Rawlsian term, was essential to campaigns for state recognition of the truth about natural marriage. We’re all acclimated to the idea that only secular arguments are permissible in the public square, and so those are the arguments most Christian advocates make.

As a result, we’ve argued ourselves into assuming that strictly natural marriages—that is, marriages contracted without the benefit of the Sacrament of Matrimony—are sufficient to give society an enduring strength and structure. But this is a semi-Pelagian illusion, another lie of liberalism which only serves to obscure the essential role of divine grace and sacramentality in human life and the social order—one that also leads to the foreclosure of family solidarity to the bankrupt institution of secularism.

Scott Hahn, The Sacrament That Restores Nations

Hahn goes on to reach some illiberal conclusions that I think are unwarranted, but this transcribed address (or address manuscript) is worth your time.

Cowboy Church

The raison d’etre of the cowboy churches is their particular hobby, or fashion preference. In my mind, this has trivialized Christianity down to the point where it cannot go much further.

Two final points and I’ll stop beating this dead horse. American religious groups of all stripes have long adopted casual dress in worship. (I have no problem with this, up to a point, because what bothers me more than casualness is pretense.) I never heard of anyone being turned away from any Protestant church around here for showing up in boots and jeans. It just wasn’t an issue. So there was no real need for any separate churches. And I wonder what my reception would be at the All Around Cowboy Church if I showed up in khakis and loafers? It’s just the same old thing. Finally, the image of the cowboy in American culture is one of lonely, rugged, and individualistic self-reliance. While these traits may serve you well in taming the frontier, I don’t see a single one that should be a characteristic of Life in Christ.

Terry Cowan, Give Me That Rodeo Religion

Pre-Evangelism Today

So many well-meaning Christians believe that the best way for the Church to influence American culture is by imitating as much as possible whatever way of life happens to be fashionable and popular, in the hopes that people will like us and listen to us.

Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

Repentance today

Are Minnesota Lutherans and other denominations going to sell their church properties to give the money to black and Native Americans? No. Christian repentance, in their eyes, means lobbying the government to tax other people to fund reparations.

R.R. Reno

This is just another twist on an old charge against liberals by conservatives, but it persists for a reason.


[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 to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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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