Curated for 10/27/21

The cure for out-of-parental-control public schools

Terry McAuliffe may have been too candid for his own good, and Republicans may have "pounced" on his statement (“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”), but his statement parallels the state of the law:

[T]he state does not have the power to “standardize its children” or “foster a homogenous people” by completely foreclosing the opportunity of individuals and groups to choose a different path of education. We do not think, however, that this freedom encompasses a fundamental constitutional right to dictate the curriculum at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children.

1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Productions, Inc., via David French.

Since public school parents are not a homogenous bunch, how could any other rule work?

National Review’s Andy McCarthy addresses a bolder claim than a parental constitutional right to dictate public school curriculum, namely that public schools are unconstitutional:

Professor [Philip] Hamburger is right to highlight this project’s offensiveness to the parents of schoolchildren as among its worst features. That said, parental dissent, which is widespread but not unanimous, is just one reason why the project should be resisted. And Hamburger strains mightily not only to portray this dissent as the dispositive objection to progressive curricula, but to portray such curricula as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.

It is an ill-conceived theory, and reliance on it will only disserve a critical cause by giving progressives an easy target to shoot at.

Hamburger asserts:

Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination.

It would be generous to describe these propositions as dubious. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that most pedagogy, like most human interaction, takes the form of speech, and therefore that the whole of education is, as Hamburger maintains, covered by the First Amendment. Even if all that were true, what he is arguing for here would not be freedom of speech, but freedom from speech.

Essentially, he posits that the First Amendment gives one party to a protected communication a veto over the other. By this logic, if parents wanted their children to be taught that two plus two equals five, teachers would be expected to comply. Ironically, moreover, Hamburger’s suggestion that public schools are compelling parents to “make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination,” or at least pressuring them to do so, is belied by the very legal authority that he offers in support of his specious First Amendment claim.

The best solution for parents who don’t like what’s going on in public schools is to get their kids out of public schools.

Two final, somewhat tangential, observations:

  1. I sympathize with public school board members. They are almost always (so far as my experience goes) well-meaning volunteers, dependent on educational professionals for their information, and, realistically, serving these days mostly as lightning rods for those educrats.
  2. Phillip Hamburger’s piece was so flawed that I’ve got to suspect the Wall Street Journal of high-class clickbaiting.

Time to descend from the pulpit

Elections are not prayer meetings, and no one is interested in your personal testimony. They are not therapy sessions or occasions to obtain recognition. They are not seminars or “teaching moments.” They are not about exposing degenerates and running them out of town. If you want to save America’s soul, consider becoming a minister. If you want to force people to confess their sins and convert, don a white robe and head to the River Jordan. If you are determined to bring the Last Judgment down on the United States of America, become a god. But if you want to win the country back from the right, and bring about lasting change for the people you care about, it’s time to descend from the pulpit.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal

As if on cue, Damon Linker on wokeness:

Then why does wokeness nonetheless drive me crazy?

The beginning of an answer can be found in the fact that wokeness makes me feel like I’m attending Sunday school in a denomination and parish I never chose to join. I just turn on the radio or open the paper or scroll through Twitter — and the next thing I know, a finger-wagging do-gooder with institutional power behind him is delivering a sermon, showing me The Way, calling on me to repent, encouraging me to be born again in the moral light.

Do not underestimate Russians

Napoleon at last occupied Moscow as he had occupied the capitals of Austria and Prussia, but instead of surrendering, as those countries did, the Russians retreated and fought on. Suddenly Moscow burned down and Napoleon, facing the Russian winter in a destroyed city, was forced to make a rapid retreat. Assuming that history is made by decisive actions, historians asked whose idea it was to incinerate Moscow. Some credited the city’s furiously patriotic mayor, Rostopchin; others picked other Muscovites. Nonsense, Tolstoy replies. No one decided to burn the city down. No one had to, since a city made of wood, where scarcely a day passes without a fire, “cannot fail to burn when its inhabitants have left it and it is occupied by soldiers who smoke pipes, make campfires . . . and cook themselves meals twice a day.” Likewise, no one ordered the inhabitants to leave—Rostopchin in fact tried to stop them—but the civilian equivalent of “the spirit of the army” led them to feel that they simply could not remain under French rule. By leaving, they unintentionally made the city burn and, without intending it, saved Russia. Tolstoy concludes: “Moscow was burned by its inhabitants, it is true, but by those who abandoned her, not by those who stayed behind.”

Gary Saul Morson, ‌Tolstoy’s Wisdom and Folly

An organized vehicle for neurotic progressivism

But even accounting for their courage, Martin Luther King Jr., who began his career in ministry as a staunch liberal inspired by Unitarian Pastor Theodore Parker, felt compelled to renounce the flimsiness of unitarian liberal theology in a 1960 essay: “liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. … Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking.” The delusional optimism of liberal theology, according to King, could not stand up against the hard, grim reality of human chauvinism and cruelty.

From its inception in 1825, the American Unitarian Association—formed from a schism within the Congregationalist church, with the Unitarian contingent leaving behind those committed to Calvinism—was as much an institution for social reform as a religion. Theologically, however, it could never really get its act together.

… in lieu of having commitments to theology or anything identifiable as the divine, the Unitarian Universalist church has functioned for decades as primarily an organized vehicle for … neurotic progressivism ….

‌The High Church of Wokeism

Seeking status and significance?

[I]n the United States, a record nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, according to the Labor Department, and more than 10 million positions were vacant — slightly down from July, when about 11 million jobs needed filling …

… [T]here might also be something deeper afoot. In its sudden rearrangement of daily life, the pandemic might have prompted many people to entertain a wonderfully un-American new possibility — that our society is entirely too obsessed with work, that employment is not the only avenue through which to derive meaning in life and that sometimes no job is better than a bad job.

… They’re questioning some of the bedrock ideas in modern life, especially life in America: What if paid work is not the only worthwhile use of one’s time? What if crushing it in your career is not the only way to attain status and significance in society? …

Farhad Manjoo, ‌Even With a Dream Job, You Can Be Antiwork.

So the goal is "status" and "significance"?

I don’t think so:

if a man lived in obscurity making his friends in that obscurity, obscurity is not uninteresting.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

And don’t forget that leisure is the basis of culture.

Beta male smackdown

I’m old enough to remember when John Zmirak was bragging to his friends about hanging a picture of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in his Manhattan office. He had much better taste in right-wing strongmen then. They were actually, you know, strong.

Rod Dreher, responding to Trumpkin "failed writer and professional ankle-biter" John Zmirak who called Rod (and others outside the asylum) "beta males." Rod’s response is pretty devastating — especially if one’s familiar with Zmirak.

Empathy failure

Came across this from last year, as I was still reading anything from any plausible source to explain why my fellow-American Trump supporters weren’t patently wrong, but had reasons I could apprehend with enough effort:

…as preposterous as it may sound given Trump’s penchant for exaggeration and sarcasm, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for truth against the overt political propaganda of the corporate media.

Robert Hutchinson, Why so many voters support Donald Trump: a letter to baffled non-Americans

For the record, I highlighted this for the outlandishness, not that it helped me understand. It is not logical to vote for a terrible President because the media lie about him, and Trump’s lies and cruelties were not mere "exaggeration and sarcasm."

I just cannot get into the mind of Trump voters, and their own explanations have more drollery and trolling than plausibility. I only hope that the madness somehow — ummmmm — dies down before 2024, and the only obvious way for that to happen is something that I, not having rightful power over life and death, dare not pray for.

Shithole University

“The Liberty Way”: How Liberty University Discourages and Dismisses Students’ Reports of Sexual Assaults — ProPublica

Is anyone really surprised? My only surprises are:

  • that Liberty hung on to a handful of very good people, like Karen Swallow Prior, as long as it did; and
  • at Liberty, as elsewhere, almost all of the young women who got sexually assaulted were partying and drinking, as were the louts who assaulted them.

But we’re not supposed to notice the nexus between getting blasted and getting sexually assaulted, because that would be blaming the victim. So the only effective preventive — sobriety in comportment and drinking — is off-limits for discussion.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

School Devolution

Too many of my blogs are a mish-mash. I’m going to publish a series of short blogs over the next hours or days.

First up:

A student who [spoke at the Fairfax County School Board meeting] that evening defended the contested [library] material, saying “there is nothing that is inappropriate unless you go looking for it.” [PTSA President Harry] Jackson takes it as a backhanded admission. “I am glad to see we agree there’s pornographic material in the library,” he says.

Like many of those rallying outside Thursday night’s meeting, Mr. Jackson wore a T-shirt saying “Parents are not ‘domestic terrorists.’ ” It’s a reference to a Sept. 29 National School Boards Association letter asking President Biden to investigate threats or disruptions at school board meetings as a possible form of “domestic terrorism.” In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. attorneys to look into the threats.

Mr. Jackson sees the school board protests as fallout from the Covid-19 lockdowns. “Because kids were home and learning online, parents got a look at what their kids were being taught in the classroom, and they didn’t like it,” he says. “Now they’re speaking up.”

They’re also learning the school system isn’t interested in what they have to say. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic candidate for governor, confirmed suspicions during a recent debate when he declared, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” It was the ultimate gaffe—a politician inadvertently telling the truth.

William McGurn, WSJ

These are parents, mostly Democrats and racially very mixed, with students at Thomas Jefferson High School. These are not yahoos and riff-raff.

Take school devolution seriously.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Disenthralling again

I probably had gone 18-24 hours without disenthrallment, and was going into a giddy mania.

Or something like that.

Then Paul Kingsnorth’s latest Substack post rescued me.


If we can convince ourselves that we live in ‘liberal democracies’, for example, we can tell a comforting story that such horrors as slavery, forced labour, colonialism and the mass destruction of nature for profit are either things of the past or are being steadily wiped out by ‘progress’. We don’t have to look at the reality: that our entire way of life is dependent on these things continuing – though usually at a convenient distance. What George Orwell wrote in 1942 of the British empire and its critics remains true of today’s empire, the ‘global economy’, and of the elite classes who shill for it:

We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are ‘enlightened’ all maintain that these coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our ‘enlightenment’, demands that the robbery shall continue.

The Machine, in short, is a creature of the cities, and the cities are the creation of the Machine.

… The city provides opportunities for wealth that the village never could, but it treats its poor and marginalised with a contempt that the village would regard with incomprehension.

Paul Kingsnorth, The Great Wen


City: an impermanent collection of structures for making money. (Paul Kingsnorth)


‌I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

(Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias; H/T Paul Kingsnorth)


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Downers and uppers

Afghanistan

This week has been a real downer, but I can’t not mention Afghanistan. Rest assured that I picked four that don’t seem to be echo-chamber fare:

1

Back in 2001 and 2002, Pat Buchanan was warning against the Iraq War, and against nation-building in Afghanistan. He was marginalized as a heretic by the official gatekeepers of the Right. Because Pat Buchanan has objectionable opinions about some things — he was “far right,” in their estimation — he was not to be taken seriously in anything.

But Pat Buchanan was right. He was right about Iraq, and he was right about Afghanistan. The same people who denounced him as a heretic then are leading the chorus of denunciation against Viktor Orban and Hungary. And you know, maybe they’re right. I don’t think they are, but you can make up your own mind about that. I would just strongly urge you to keep an open mind about Hungary, because the anti-Buchananites are the same ones now fashioning themselves as anti-Orbanites. Are you sure you should trust their judgment? Are you sure you should trust their construal of what Hungary is like? Keep that in mind.

Rod Dreher, Andrew Sullivan Vs. Viktor Orban

2

[W]hen faced with a choice of a U.S. style democracy and medieval sharia state the local people chose a sharia state. It’s not like the U.S. didn’t try. Under effective U.S. rule the GDP of Afghanistan grew 500%, women’s rights were improved and vast amount of infrastructure was built. America was putting down the infrastructure to integrate Afghanistan into the globohomo system.

And remember, the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 20 years.

The speed and rapidity of the Taliban advance–most of the time with hardly any fighting at all–showed that American values had completely failed to "take" in Afghan society. The modern American way of life was an unwanted product. As it was in Vietnam.

The bottom line is that institutional America, homo secularis, was taking on the Taliban, homo religiosus and the Taliban won. The point here is that most men are motivated by more than dollars and cents and that sometimes the intangibles are far more important. But what’s also important to note here is that Islam reinforced identity. America was caught in a a rather interesting bind. To be tolerant, it had to allow Islam to flourish but Islam was opposed to America. There was a fundamental incompatibility that doomed the US project from the outset.

The Social Pathologist: Taliban 1: Woke Empire 0

"Globohomo" is not in my vocabulary, and I don’t plan to add it. It is such very short shorthand that I don’t know whether it even communicates much to peripheral members of the author’s tribe.

But it has been reported by at least semi-credible sources that our Embassy in Kabul was recently flying the rainbow flag in celebration of something-or-other, and it’s safe to assume that Afghans are broadly aware of what all it stands for. It’s not really surprising if Afghans chose the Taliban (they gave up awfully easily; maybe a better explanation than "willing surrender" is forthcoming) again over the cosmology of which that flag serves as a condensed symbol — which cosmology they have some reason to believe is the eventuality of liberal democracy.

3

The withdrawal plan always seemed abrupt and arbitrary. Why did the White House think the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was the right date for a pullout? What picture of America do they carry in their heads that told them that would be symbolically satisfying? It is as if they are governed by symbols with no understanding of what the symbols mean.

Peggy Noonan

4

Prophecy for a nation of wankers:

In the next few days, another girl foolish enough to think she can keep going to school will take another bullet to the head, and when that happens, the left is going to lose its mind. … Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott will go 12 rounds in Madison Square Garden to determine which one of them gets to fund girls’ education in Afghan refugee camps. The winner will fund beautiful schools — air-conditioned, STEM-centered schools. And there might even be time for the winner to private-jet herself to the Aspen Ideas Festival to explain the importance of girls’ education before those schools are blown up, along with the girls inside them …

Caitlin Flanagan.

Collect for the Feast of St. Jonathan Swift

A decade ago, when I thought things were getting bad — oh how naïve I was in those days — I wrote an essay “Against Stupidity” in which I argued for the canonization of St. Jonathan Swift and even wrote a collect for his feast day.

Gather around, friends … and let’s bow our heads and say together,

Almighty and most wrathful God, who hate nothing You have made but sometimes repent of having made Man; we thank you this day for the life and work of Your faithful servant Jonathan Swift, who constantly imitated and occasionally exceeded Your own anger at the folly of sin, and who in his works excoriated such folly with a passion that brought him nigh unto madness; and we pray that You may teach us to be imitators of him, so that the follies and stupidities of our own time may receive their proper chastisement; through Christ our Lord, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.

Alan Jacobs.

Politics as fashion

I’m frequently surprised that bog-standard lefty shit now attracts shock and pushback. The most obvious of these is free speech. I don’t support free speech despite being a leftist, I support free speech because I’m a leftist … I’m not interested in giving the pro-free speech case here, but I am asserting the simple fact that free speech has always been a leftist priority … But there has been little opportunity to fight for those values because people seem to have just sort of woken up one morning and decided free speech was out. When did we vote on that? Was there a meeting I missed? If we’re going to make massive changes to basic commitments, we better have a serious process of working that out. Instead free speech is out like mom jeans. It’s politics as fashion.

Same thing with deference to the establishment media. I criticize the NYT or other big-shot MSM property on Facebook and people react in horror. “Criticizing the media?!? Who are you, Tucker Carlson?” But distrust of the media has been a leftist stance since before I was born. The media is the propaganda arm of capitalism and empire. Yes, reporting serves a vital function, but commies like me have distrusted the corporate media for ages. If you think that should change, fine, then argue that. But don’t act like I’m the weird one for not suddenly adopting a dramatically different attitude towards the media out of fear of appearing to be a Republican.

Freddie deBoer, When Nothing is Worked Through, Nothing is Explained, Nothing is Understood

What crooked timber we are!

I think I first saw this nearly three weeks ago, but its weirdness lingers:

Something very strange has been happening in Missouri: A hospital in the state, Ozarks Healthcare, had to create a “private setting” for patients afraid of being seen getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In a video produced by the hospital, the physician Priscilla Frase says, “Several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’” Although they want to protect themselves from the coronavirus and its variants, these patients are desperate to ensure that their vaccine-skeptical friends and family never find out what they have done.

Brooke Harrington, ‌Vaccine Refusers Don’t Want Blue America’s Respect

Degenerate natural law

When the Supreme Court announced a “right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”, some thought it was rejecting the very idea of natural law. Really it was asserting a degenerate theory of natural law, one widely held in the culture—or at least in those parts of it which our controllers choose to recognize, such as law schools, abortion facilities, and liberal seminaries. It was propounding a universal moral right not to recognize the universal moral laws on which all rights depend. Such liberty has infinite length but zero depth.

J Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know

Hillsong just doesn’t cut it any more

I received an e-mail the other day from a longtime reader of my blog, a megachurch Protestant who quit going to his normal church when the congregation became defiantly committed to the idea that Covid is a hoax. He and his wife are both medically compromised, so they couldn’t take the risk of attending services there anymore. He wrote:

Based on your writings, I decided to give the Greek Orthodox Church a try.  I’ve been attending on and off for 8 months.  Now that we are vaccinated, I am also back at my old church, but after a service that opens a window to Heaven so the congregation can sing the Trisagion [“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us”] with the angels, Hillsong pop music falls flat.  Having seen the members participate in the last supper with the Lord, passing around a tray of sliced up pie crust to "commemorate" the event doesn’t cut it.  Bottom line, I’m likely on my way to Orthodoxy.

This is what “come and see” means.

Rod Dreher

Rinsing one book off with another

I am re-reading Kyriacos C. Markides, The Mountain of Silence. After reading Frances FitzGerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, I feel the need for something clean and wholesome.

Most of this book was about events during my lifetime. I caught the author in a few trivial factual mistakes and, as she warmed to the task of demolishing religious right leaders, unwarranted or even absurd interpretations and commentary.

But the arc of her account rings true, and she’s right far oftener than she’s wrong.

The big-name Religious Right leaders — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson particularly — loved the limelight (Robertson denied it) and eventually came to instantiate the folk-definition of a fanatic: one who, having forgotten his goal, redoubles his efforts. Such redoubling too often involved wild-ass hyperbole, apocalyptic predictions about Democrat rule, over-promising and, in general, neglect of the very religious precepts they were supposed to be defending.

In the end, their discreditable behavior discredited them, the GOP, the Conservative cause, and worst of all, the reputation of the Christian faith.

Fr. Maximos, a young but advanced Athonite monk ordered to go to a monastery on Cyprus, is nothing like that.

Food news

I’ve taste-tested it twice now and can confirm that the Strawberry Brie Burger at Bryant, just outside of West Lafayette, Indiana, is one of the best burgers on the face of the earth.

Get it medium-rare. Salty, sweet, creamy, unctuous and smoky. What more could you ask?


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Potpourri 6/6/21

Russell Moore and the Southern Baptists

I will not comply with another secret task force meant to silence me about issues I believe are issues of obedience to Christ. I will not sign another “unity” statement meant to “call off the dogs” of scrutiny so that the beatings may begin again in private. If the Southern Baptist Convention wants to be part of a house of prayer for all peoples, then that’s what I signed up for. If the Southern Baptist Convention wants to be one big retirement home for a furious royal family, then, that’s not what I signed up for.

When God called me to himself in Jesus, and when he called me to serve him in ministry, he called me to stand for the truth, to point the way to the kingdom, to die to self, and to carry the cross. He did not call me to provide cover for racial bigotry and child molestation.

Russell Moore, to the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Freedom Trustees, February 2020. And now they’ve lost him — forced him to resign or formed another secret task force or something. He not only left his position; he left the Southern Baptist Convention entirely.

The knives are out already, but it sounds as if the knives were out before he left the SBC, too.

David French is quite interested in all this:

Late last month, Religion News reported that the SBC has lost a stunning 435,632 members since its 2020 annual report. Some of those individuals have left for other churches. Some have left the faith entirely.

Why? It’s not hard to analyze. A tolerance for predation and corruption demonstrates no fear of God. A pervasive fear of the world (or “the left”) demonstrates no faith in God. Brazen abusers disregard God’s justice. Fearful believers behave as if the Maker of the heavens and earth needs corrupt politicians or corrupt pastors to preserve his people’s presence in this land.

I can’t put it better than Russell Moore. Writing in April, shortly before his departure from the SBC, Moore said young Evangelicals are “walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches.” In other words, young Americans are saying to church leaders, “Why should I believe when you so obviously do not?”

One last point. It’s hard to overemphasize how much the church’s defensiveness is at odds with the imperative of repentance. Standing in front of the world, when undeniable scandals rock so many of our most important institutions, and declaring, “We’re better than you think” is the opposite of a penitent spirit.

David French, Russell Moore’s Warnings Should Bring a Reckoning

I probably — no, almost certainly — still spend too much time wallowing in the news despite a very great and intentional reduction of news consumption. Clickbait is effective more often than I like to admit. I really should be more like Gary:

I am going to focus on what I hear directly from people I know. I know two women who recently gave birth to their first babies and are joyful and so are their men and that is real news. A grandson is starting college. A daughter is moving. A friend has finished a novel. A widowed friend, marrying again at 84, writes to say he is well and adds, “And it’s none of your business but the sex is great.” A cousin attended a graduation ceremony at a school for intellectually disabled children and one poor graduate stammered through a speech of which little could be understood and the crowd clapped all the harder for him.

Life Goes On. That’s the news …

I believe in a fraction of what I was taught, my faith wavers … But I do believe that when Jesus, surrounded by the sick and impoverished and oppressed, the blind and demon-possessed, said to his disciples, “Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do for me and your Father in heaven,” he spoke the truth, and if you wish for some truth in your life, along with your interesting attitudes and opinions, this is the one to go for.

Garrison Keillor

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that much of Evangelicalism was (is?) about ginning up emotions, and affirming happiness as if saying it could make it true, and recruitment of others ("evangelism") as a kind of MLM buttress to one’s own faith. These days, I’ll take a humble faith like Garrison Keillor expresses here over any of that.

It’s not that my own faith is quite as weak as his — if he has a mustard seed, I’ve maybe got a corn kernel — but that all that emotional jag brought me no closer to God and distracted me from things that might.

It feels as if it could be a good time for Orthodox Churches to start advertising:

Sick of Evangelicalism but can’t shake Jesus? Come and see.

("Come and see" isn’t just for "exvangelicals," but I think, perhaps naïvely, that they have a relatively high proportion of "can’t shake Jesus" folks.)

TFPOTUS

1

In my reflections on Donald Trump when he was running for President in 2016, I made one significant error: I didn’t think he would nominate responsible judges and Justices. I thought he would hand out judicial appointments like candy to friends and toadies. But it turned out that the judiciary couldn’t capture his attention, so he farmed out the decisions to others who acted on sound conservative principles. (Given how many of the very judges he appointed ruled against his recent frivolous lawsuits, precisely because they were honest conservative jurists rather than toadies, I wonder if he’s belatedly reassessing his priorities.)

Alan Jacobs

I, too, did not trust Trump to fulfill any campaign promise, however explicit and solemn.

2

Just how far out there is Trump’s theory? Consider that, even if it were true that the 2020 election had been stolen — which it is absolutely not — his belief would still be absurd. It could be confirmed tomorrow that agents working for a combination of al-Qaeda, Venezuela, and George Soros had hacked into every single voting machine in the country and altered the totals by tens of millions, and it would remain the case there is no mechanism within the American legal order for a do-over of any sort. In such an eventuality, there would be indictments, an impeachment drive, and a constitutional crisis. But, however bad it got, Donald Trump would not be “reinstated” to the presidency. That is not how America works, how America has ever worked, or how America can ever work. American politicians do not lose their reelection races only to be reinstalled later on, as might the second-place horse in a race whose winner was disqualified. The idea is otherworldly and obscene.

There is nothing to be gained for conservatism by pretending otherwise. To acknowledge that Trump is living in a fantasy world does not wipe out his achievements or render anything else he has said incorrect. It does not endorse Joe Biden or hand the Republican Party over to Bill Kristol or knock down an inch of the wall on the border. It merely demands that Donald Trump be treated like any other person: subject to gravity, open to rebuttal, and liable to be laughed at when he becomes so unmoored from the real world that it is hard to know where to begin in attempting to explain him.

Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review

3

On August 13, 2015, I predicted in my blog that Donald Trump had a 98 percent chance of winning the presidency based on his persuasion skills. A week earlier, the most respected political forecaster in the United States—Nate Silver—had put Trump’s odds of winning the Republican nomination at 2 percent in his FiveThirtyEight.com blog.

Scott Adams, Win Bigly

"… based on his persuasion skills"?! Trump is to persuasion as a rapist is to seduction.

Undermined democracy

I … consider the GOP’s efforts to use various institutional tricks to win maximal power while failing to win popular majorities or even pluralities to be civically corrosive — and its Trump-inspired flirtation with outright defiance of the results of free and fair elections genuinely dangerous.

But in truth, I don’t simply, or even mainly, fear these developments because I see authoritarianism on the horizon (to paraphrase the headlines of countless opinion columns over the past few months). I fear them far more because such efforts are an expression of political desperation — the actions of a party that considers losing unacceptable. I also fear them because they will drive Democrats to their own acts of desperation, which will justify more Republican panic which will justify more Democratic alarm — with all of it, on both sides, motivated by the intensifying conviction that the only legitimate outcome is for one’s own party to rule uncontested.

Partisan disagreement over policy and even zero-sum cultural disputes are one thing. But liberal democracy — self-government, the system itself — only works if the rules for the alternation of political power are considered legitimate by everyone. What just a few years ago was a sharply polarized partisan environment is now rapidly becoming a battle over these common rules, with the two parties no longer able to reach or maintain consensus about what those rules should be, about what should be considered legitimate.

Damon Linker

If you don’t like the Religious Right …

America is a lonely place. When you hold to a conspiracy theory, you join a community. You’re suddenly part of something. You have new friends you can talk to on the internet to whom you’re joined at the brain. They see the world the way you do; it is a very intimate connection.

Church affiliation and practice have been falling for decades, but people always have a spiritual hole inside, and if God can’t fill it, Q will do.

Peggy Noonan, What Drives Conspiracism (no pay wall)

Never forget the memorable saying: "If you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait ’till you see the Irreligious Right."

Cruelty is here to stay

I promise you that every single day high school students are absolutely savage to each other. What’s more, human nature being what it is, I’m sure that they now do so explicitly utilizing the politicized and therapeutic language that proponents of social justice norms foolishly assume is an antidote to that bad behavior. Because interpersonal cruelty is a universal aspect of the human condition and any philosophy can be bent to its use. This condition can perhaps at times be ameliorated but it can never be eliminated and learning this reality is an important part of growing up. Cruelty is here to stay.

Freddie deBoer, At the Heart of It All

I left the GOP when Dubya delusionally declared it our national policy to eradicate tyranny from the world. One of many reasons why I haven’t become Democrat is that they’re just as delusional about hate, cruelty, bullying and such.

As others see us

We had great conversation about the political and cultural situation here, and in the world. I heard some of the same sadness about America’s self-destruction that I’ve been hearing in Budapest. One of my dining companions said, “Maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t really care if America destroys itself. I worry that it’s going to destroy us too.”

“Yes,” said the man across the table. “Everything that starts in America eventually comes here.”

Rod Dreher, reporting from Bucharest

Invisible Revolution

I always thought that if you lived through a revolution it would be obvious to everyone. As it turns out, that’s not true. Revolutions can be bloodless, incremental and subtle. And they don’t require a strongman. They just require a sufficient number of well-positioned true believers and cowards, like those sitting in the C-suite of nearly every major institution in American life.

That’s one of the lessons I have learned over the past few years as the institutions that have upheld the liberal order — our publishing houses, our universities, our schools, our non-profits, our tech companies — have embraced a Manichean ideology that divides people by identity and punishes anyone that doesn’t adhere to every aspect of that orthodoxy.

Bari Weiss, introducing a long guest essay on Manichean medicine by Katie Herzog.

We must do something. Scapegoating is something.

"What we have to do is make these attacks so costly and painful for the bad guys that they decide the rewards aren’t worth it,” [AEI’s Klon] Kitchen continued. “And specifically, we have to change the political calculus of government leaders like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

The Morning Dispatch

Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind we beat the dog.

The Vicar in the movie 10‌.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

… But I won’t do that

Things I won’t do

Bari Weiss lends her Substack to a Bitcoin debate. Balaji S. Srinivasan says Bitcoin Is Civilization. Michael W. Green makes The Case Against Bitcoin.

I understand Bitcoin a bit better now. Still won’t go there.


I haven’t been willing to invest the time to gain pop-culture literacy, but the way Alan Jacobs uses Walter White’s decision to hold Krazy-8 captive in a basement, I kinda wish I knew more about Breaking Bad.

> I think I better understand the Republican capitulation to Donald Trump when I think of their decision to nominate him as the GOP Presidential candidate in 2016 as the equivalent of Walter White’s decision to hold Krazy-8 captive in a basement.  > > Breaking bad walter and krazy 8 episode 3 > > I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time — it seemed like the only real option. But then, once you have him in the basement, what do you do with him? Until you decide, you are as much his prisoner as he is yours.

I’m still not going to pursue pop-culture literacy, though. My pop-culture literacy pretty much ceased when my son went off to college (though before that, I did listen to some Meatloaf, whence today’s title).

Something the New York Times won’t do

First, Bari Weiss, now Elizabeth Bruenig. It’s not good enough to be a center-left same-sex married bisexual (though Weiss shuns sexuality labels) or a progressive Catholic; if you’re not totally, unequivocally committed to the successor ideology, you’re not welcome in the trenches of the newspaper of record.

What will it take for New York Times’ management to wrest control back from the toxic Jacobins in the newsroom?

Artistic Directors are gods

One of two choirs I sing in, Lafayette Master Chorale, is announcing on Thursday our return and our concert schedule for 2021-22 — after abruptly ceasing rehearsals and concerts 14 months ago. We’ve missed singing. We believe and hope that our patrons have missed us.

We also just released our virtual recording As If We Never Said Goodbye, a piece we’ve never rehearsed or performed together:

> I dont know why I’m frightened
> I know my way around here
> The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here
> Yes, a world to rediscover
> But I’m not in any hurry
> And I need a moment > > The whispered conversations
> In overcrowded hallways
> The atmosphere as thrilling here as always
> Feel the early morning madness
> Feel the magic in the making
> Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye
> > I’ve spent so many mornings
> Just trying to resist you
> I’m trembling now, you can’t know how I’ve missed you
> Missed the fairy tale adventures
> In this ever-spinning playground
> We were young together
> I’m coming out of makeup
> The lights already burning
> Not long until the cameras will start turning
> And the early morning madness
> And the magic in the making
> Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye > > I don’t want to be alone
> That’s all in the past
> This world’s waited long enough
> I’ve come home at last > > And this time will be bigger
> And brighter than we knew it
> So watch me fly, we all know I can do it
> Could I stop my hand from shaking?
> Has there ever been a moment with so much to live for? > > The whispered conversations
> In overcrowded hallways
> So much to say, not just today, but always
> We’ll have early morning madness
> We’ll have magic in the making
> Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

The conjunction is kinda magical.

Political Punditry

Peggy Noonan

> What is to become of the Republican Party? It will either break up or hold together. If the latter, it will require time to work through divisions; there will be state fights and losses as the party stumbles through cycle to cycle. But in time one side or general tendency will win and define the party. Splits get resolved when somebody wins big and nationally. Eisenhower’s landslides in 1952 and ’56 announced to the party that it was moderate. Reagan’s in 1980 and ’84 revealed it was conservative. The different factions get the message and follow the winner like metal filings to a magnet. > > The future, according to this space, is and should be economically populist and socially conservative. > > The future GOP, and the current one for that matter, is a party of conservatism with important Trumpian inflections. The great outstanding question: Will those inflections be those of attitude—wildness, garish personalities and conspiracy-mindedness? If so, the party will often lose. Or will the inflections be those of actual policy, in which case they will often win? > > … > > One of the scoops of the Cheney drama was when the Washington Post reported that in a briefing at an April GOP retreat the National Republican Congressional Committee hid from its members polling information on battleground districts. That information showed Mr. Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones: “Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.” Bad numbers had been covered up before. Ms. Cheney concluded party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid acknowledging the damage Trump could do to Republican candidates. ate Peggy Noonan (UPDATE: Link switched from WSJ to her blog, which doesn’t have a paywall.)

How the GOP Could, In A Parallel Universe, Deserve to Win

> The Tories now have a 15-point lead over Labour in the polls. Blair noted Boris Johnson’s achievement: “The Conservative parties of Western politics have adapted and adjusted. But by and large they’re finding a new economic and cultural coalition.” > > This too is in the GOP’s grasp. The party did much better in the last election than anyone thought in the House and would have held the Senate without Trump’s antics in Georgia. > > … > > And here’s how you get that to stick with Trump voters. Credit him for bringing some newly potent issues to the fore — mass immigration, trade, the culturally left-behind, woke authoritarianism, non-interventionism in foreign policy, new wariness of China. Thank him, but stress the need to move forward. The truth is: Trump may have been helpful in creating a new Republican politics, but he did so entirely in service to his own vainglory. There is, in fact, no future path forward for Trumpism if Trump sticks around. Absorbed entirely into one man’s ego, the GOP is simply a backward-looking grievance and conspiracy machine, driven not by policy but by Trump’s own psychological inability to concede defeat.

Andrew Sullivan (emphasis added). I had not thought about it, but it is becoming received wisdom among anti-Trump and NeverTrump Republicans that his undermining of the integrity of the electoral system suppressed Republican voting in Georgia enough to cost them the two Senate seats. Considering how close both races were, that’s very plausible.

And the GOP clings to him still.

Short-takes

  • “When Cheney’s liberal critics place her support for democracy alongside her other positions, they implicitly endorse the same calculation made by her conservative opponents: that the rule of law is just another issue,” – Jon Chait.
  • “According to the Club For Growth, which has the gold standard of scorecards in Washington for measuring conservatism, Ilhan Omar has a better score for fiscal conservatism than Elisa Stefanik,” – Erick Erickson.
  • “We did not immigrate to this country for our children to be taught in taxpayer-funded schools that punctuality and hard work are white values,” – an anonymous father quoted by Erika Sanzi, the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

The Bulwark (Never-Trumpers)

> Here’s what this really comes down to. Cheney’s ouster is about one thing, and one thing only: Liddle Donny Trump’s feelings. Liddle Donny couldn’t take the fact that “Sleepy Joe” wiped the floor with him in November … Liddly Donny is throwing a tantrum down in South Florida, and all of his butt boys in Congress are rushing to coddle him.

Tim Miller

Wire Reports

Trump’s right. The election was fraudulent.

> DENVER – A Colorado man suspected in the death of his wife, who disappeared on Mother’s Day 2020, is also accused of submitting a fraudulent vote on her behalf for Donald Trump in November’s presidential election, newly released court documents show. Barry Morphew told investigators he mailed the ballot on behalf of his wife, Suzanne Morphew, to help Trump win, saying “all these other guys are cheating,” and that he thought his wife would have voted for Trump, anyway, according to an arrest warrant affidavit signed Thursday.

Wire Reports in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, May 15.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Backwater news and commentary

A strange story out of Israel.

Michael Elkohen, born Elk, has been holding forth for a decade or so as an Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in Israel, all the while intending to lead Jews to his conception of Christianity.

He apparently was a fairly persuasive humbug, as he had many followers and was entrusted with circumcisions, copying Talmud scrolls and such. (On the other hand, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copland and Joel Osteen have plenty of followers, implausible though they be. Go figure and caveat emptor.)

Persuasive Elk/Elkohen has, however, been pretty persuasively unmasked, though he denies the accusations — sort of (He says something along the lines of "Yeah, I was doing that but I repented.") If you read the stories, though, I think you’ll discern that they’ve nailed him. Here are three very overlapping accounts:

  1. NJ ‘orthodox rabbi’ accused of double life as missionary in Israel
  2. EXCLUSIVE: Unmasked, the Christian missionary who went undercover in Jerusalem as an Orthodox rabbi
  3. ‘Good Jewish boy’ or chief ‘infiltrator’? NJ man spent years as fake rabbi in Israel, groups say

So much for the basic story. Here’s what fascinates me, though: Elk/Elkohen may not be unequivocally fake, even if the exposés are true.

Michael Elk came from the marriage of a non-observant Methodist and a non-observant Mennonite. (Rod Dreher wrote of his own youth something very like this, which my memory dishes up: "We didn’t go to church much, and the church we didn’t go to was Methodist.") Elk "got religion" around age 17 and went off to an evangelical college. By the time he graduated, he was living as a Messianic Jew and claiming that both of his parents were Jewish.

> Elk’s path to Judaism appears to have begun around the time of his graduation. By that time, he was in a serious relationship with Crystal Tracy, whom he had met at Eastern University. > > At the time, she told the JC, Elk was attending a ‘Messianic synagogue’ (for Jews who follow Jesus) called Beth Yeshua, in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. > > He also worshipped at a charismatic evangelical church called Vineyard. Yet he was dressing like an Orthodox Jew, always wearing a white shirt, black trousers and kippah.

(EXCLUSIVE: Unmasked, the Christian missionary who went undercover in Jerusalem as an Orthodox rabbi)

He convinced Ms. Terry that he’d discovered her Jewish ancestry, too, so they could be married — in a wedding with some Jewish accoutrements. He apparently did something similar with his second wife, after Ms. Terry woke up and dumped him (he’d lost a job over accusations of flim-flammery with the time clock). Then off he went to Israel with wife two, where they were fruitful, and multiplied, and filled the earth with five little Elkohens.

So what I thought was going to be the story of a very bright guy who had undergone extensive spy-like training starts to look like a story of a guy who got deluded fairly young and stayed deluded for the long haul — perhaps even up until now. It’s no less interesting a story for that, but press coverage seems to favor the humbug theory even while reporting the tidbits that make me suspect delusion. (Some of the Israel-based stories don’t seem very conversant with the countless Protestant groups around. One referred to the simple cross on the tombstone of Elk’s father as a "crucifix.")

Arguing against the delusion theory, though, is a 2011 MorningStar Ministries TV appearance:

> In the interview, he openly praised Jesus and prayed together with other Christian devotees. The Jews, he said, needed to be “stirred to jealousy” until they followed Christ.

(Id.) But overall, I get the impression that he was a Christian Judaizer, syncretistically blending Jewish ritual with Christian doctrine. (That’s why I suggest that he’s not unequivocally fake.) Or as one of the stories put it, perhaps not knowing that there are Christian Judaizers:

> The idea of these messianic groups is to blur distinctions in order to lure Jews who would otherwise resist the Christian message.

(NJ ‘orthodox rabbi’ accused of double life as missionary in Israel)

A version of such distinction-blurring was repudiated at the very first Council of the Christian Church, in Jerusalem, where the Church held that Gentile Christians need not be circumcised, as a substantial party of Jewish Christians argued they must be. Later, Paul harshly and thoroughly warned the Galatians about such Judaizing in the Epistle to the Galatians, chapters 3 and 4.

Moreover, MorningStar Ministries, allegedly his sponsoring missionary agency, bears a distinctive mark of dispensational premillennialism, a second heresy but one that tends to go along with evangelical Judaizing:

> As time went on, Ms Tracy said, Elk became more and more committed to the group. Elk considered going to their ministry school, she said, and was “very, very devoted” to their teachings. > > “He carried on with MorningStar after the divorce,” she recalled. “They are very much about converting the Jews to bring on the end times. I heard this all the time.”

(EXCLUSIVE: Unmasked, above)

So sincere or not, a conscious deceiver or a deluded heretic, "Rabbi" Michael Elkohen deserves adherence neither by Jews nor Gentile Christians who recognize heresies.

And he reportedly is not the only covert Christian Missionary working in Israel.

Restless Natives In Judeo-Christendom

> [A]dministrators made it clear to me that members of certain religious groups were overrepresented on campus. This was why the college wanted to get rid of chaplaincy programs. I suddenly realized what was at stake in the move from the civil rights work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, or Thomas Chatterton Williams, for example, to the antiracism of Ibram Kendi or Robin DiAngelo. Telling me that the “number one priority of the college is antiracism,” my supervisor in Student Life explained:   > >> And because of the colleges’ commitment to antiracism and equity the question finally becomes, Is chaplaincy sustainable? Our Jewish community has the support of its alumni donor. How do we manage that? And Roman Catholic students and others interested in Catholicism can apply for grants from an endowed fund for Roman Catholic Studies. And in order to be antiracist we have to have equal resources for Hindu students, Muslim students, Buddhist students, or we need to do away with Spiritual Life groups all together. > > My supervisor was echoing Ibram X. Kendi, who writes, “If discrimination is creating equity then it is antiracist.” Inequity, in this case, means any difference between ethnic groups that isn’t reflected in the racial demographics of the United States. How does this relate to religion? I didn’t think that it did. But here this administrator decided that because Jews, being a tiny percentage of the US population are overrepresented in higher education generally, and at the college where I worked in particular, antiracism in this instance required that the number of Jewish students be reduced. Moreover, because there were 60 students at Shabbat and only a handful of Muslim students on campus, the Jewish group should not exist.

Anna Keating, The Problem with “Western” Religions on Campus – The Hedgehog Review

Contemptuous Familiarity with a Counterfeit

> I found a Christianity that had retained its ancient heart—a faith with living saints and a central ritual of deep and inexplicable power. I found a faith that, unlike the one I had seen as a boy, was not a dusty moral template but a mystical path, an ancient and rooted thing, pointing to a world in which the divine is not absent but everywhere present, moving in the mountains and the waters. The story I had heard a thousand times turned out to be a story I had never heard at all.

Paul Kingsnorth, The Cross and the Machine

I appreciate that Kingsnorth is open about his conversion, but also that he’s wise enough not to be argumentative about it ("None of this is rationally explicable, and there is no point in arguing with me about it. There is no point in my arguing with myself about it: I gave up after a while."). That’s better than how I did it.

The Averted Gaze

I recently watched the Netflix documentary on Operation Varsity Blues and would summarize it as timorous.

Wealthy clients of Rick Singer spent in the high six-figures or more to get their failsons and boopsies into elite schools, making it likelier that they would graduate from merely "wealthy" to "upper-class," just one step down from fully "elite" (see Aaron M. Renn, Rediscovering E. Digby Baltzell’s Sociology of Elites (American Affairs Journal).

But that’s only part of the story. Liberal ameliorative legislation like Title IX and the ADA set the stage for some of Singer’s trickery (while not actually creating "legal loopholes").

> The water polo angle may give the scandal a WASPy flavor but that’s a red herring … > > In fact, if the water polo angle signifies anything, it’s the crucial importance of liberal policies in making Singer’s schemes possible. The reason schools have so many recruitment slots in boutique sports like women’s crew is Title IX, which forced colleges to equalize spending on men’s and women’s athletics. “Institutions with football programs can have upwards of 100 men on those teams,” Unacceptable explains. “To maintain equitable opportunity, they may have built really, really big women’s rowing programs.” > > The biggest silent revolution in education today is the proliferation of diagnosed disabilities among affluent students. In the last ten years, elite parents discovered that getting their kid labeled with ADHD or anxiety allows them to request special accommodations on tests, like extra time or a private room. Singer encouraged clients to get bogus diagnoses so he could channel their kids to special testing sites and put his designated proctor in the room with them to correct their answers. > > Students with special accommodations used to have asterisks next to their SAT scores when the College Board sent them out. In 2003, those asterisks were removed — not because wealthy parents flexed their influence, but because of a civil rights lawsuit brought by a disability advocacy group. Eliminating the “scarlet asterisk” would protect disabled students from discrimination, they said. Instead it enabled canny operators like Singer to commit fraud on a large scale.

Helen Andrews, Operation Varsity Blues: Elite Anxiety, Not Elite Privilege.

> Because of Title IX gender equity rules, colleges are far more likely to have a women’s crew team than a men’s squad. Athletic departments use women’s crew teams to balance out male sports like football and wrestling. Unlike men’s rowing, women’s crew is an official NCAA sport with a sanctioned championship. Women’s Division I rowing teams are allowed to hand out the equivalent of 20 full scholarships, more than any other women’s sport.

For an edge in Ivy League admissions, grab an oar and row – Chicago Tribune

See also Hal Berghel, A Critical Look at the 2019 College Admissions Scandal

Reporting on bad behavior by rich celebrities is easy, but for me, the untold parts of the story, the parts too hot to handle, include (1) the insidious corruption of education by sports and (2) the insidious corruptibility of ameliorative legislation.

Is the Sum of Evangelical Parachurch Ministries Called "Christendom"?

I’m not exactly sour on David French, but I read him ever more critically when he (currently a Calvinist with a meandering background) addresses Christian matters. Most recently, How American Christendom Weakens American Christianity seems both formulaic and confused:

  • He provincially conflates Evangelical "parachurch" ministries with "Christendom" even though the ministries he names neither sought nor gained sway over governments. (See below.)
  • He poisons the well by insinuating that doctrinally orthodox, spiritually lukewarm institutions are in it for the money.
  • He implies that lukewarm orthodox Christians ("Christendom") were a problem to be solved rather than an inevitability.

There’s probably more.

I fully appreciate that the sexual abuses of Ravi Zacharias and Kanakuk Kamp have been much on French’s mind, but to address them as a problem of "Christendom" reads like a brainstorm he had but should have abandoned as far too facile. It seems, though, that French had this "evangelical parachurch ministries as Christendom" brainstorm a few years ago and clings to it still:

> The Evangelical analogue to the state religious establishments of years past — the “Christendom” that all-too-often redefined the faith as a kind of cultural and legal conformity, a rote adherence to external religious dictates — is the creation of a series of extraordinarily wealthy, powerful, and influential institutions that not only reach and influence Americans by the tens of millions, but also shape the course and conduct of the domestic and foreign policy of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

I’m unconvinced that the Evangelical institutions are as powerful and influential as French thinks. I’m even less convinced that they’re a plausible analogy to "Christendom" as traditionally understood.

But I’ve lamented that when Americans hear "Christian" they probably think of Evangelicals, or perhaps Roman Catholics in a few instances, and that neither tradition remotely represents me. So maybe those Evangelical institutions have a bigger "Christendom-like" footprint than I’m appreciating.

Tidbits

A local grade school principal challenged her students to collect 1000 cereal boxes in a week, promising that if they did, she’d let them duct-tape her to the wall. They did and she did.

In completely unrelated news, schoolchildren reportedly have problems with disrespecting their teachers and administrators.


> "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient," he explains. "There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."

Bill Gates, quoted in In Search of the Real Bill Gates – TIME, 1/13/1997.

I must be aiming somewhere other than where Bill Gates is aiming, because I consider church indispensible.


> Doyle has 43,000 Twitter followers, a fan base 20 times smaller than that of the Sarcastic Mars Rover parody account.

How Substack Soap Operas Change the Media Business – The Atlantic

Comparative measures of smallness, fewness and such are a usage I’ll never consider proper.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Three shorts

Our society has attached a meaning to greatness that is not as far away from Hitler’s as it would like to believe, despite our cant about democracy and freedom. Our idols today are economic conquest, unending ‘growth’ built on turning all life into ‘resources’ for human consumption, scientism disguised as objective inquiry, manic forward-motion, and the same old quest for perfectability.

We in the West invented this thing called ‘modernity’, and then we took it out into the world, whether the world wanted it or not. Once we called this process ‘the white man’s burden’ and exported it with dreadnoughts. Now we call it ‘development’ and export it via the World Bank. But – and here is the point so often missed, especially by the ‘progressives’ currently leading the charge in the culture wars – before we could eat the world, we first had to eat ourselves. Or rather: our states, our elites, our ideologues and power-mongers, had to dispossess their own people before they could venture out to dispossess others. We were the prototype; the guinea pigs in a giant global experiment. Now we find ourselves rootless, rudderless, unmoored in a great sea of chaos; angry, confused, shouting at the world and each other. We have made of our world a nihil. We are both perpetrators and victims of a Great Unsettling.

[P]eople don’t tend to talk much about their ‘identity’ unless it is under threat. The louder you have to talk about it, the more you have lost. Once an entire country is talking about nothing else, that’s a pretty good sign that the Machine has sprayed the roots of its people with Roundup and ploughed the remains into the field.

Paul Kingsnorth, The Great Unsettling (The Abbey of Misrule)


[T]he most remarkable thing about Great Hearts’ college-admissions culture is its lack of emphasis on elite universities. Kathryn LeTrent, a drama and poetry teacher at Glendale Prep, reflects: “We ask our students to reflect and write on the connection between virtue and happiness. If we emphasized that they needed to attend an elite college, that would be very hypocritical.”

Max Eden, Great Hearts Academies Charter School Network Gets Results


Nobody is going to cancel a Christian for his or her traditional beliefs and practices regarding luxury, avarice, gluttony, or any of the other so-called “deadly sins”. But resist the world’s view on lust, and you find yourself in a world of trouble.

… [T]he fundamental materialism of our consumerist, hedonistic society is profoundly anti-Christian. This challenge to fidelity would exist even if the Sexual Revolution had never happened.

The ugly truth is that far too many of us conservatives — Christian and otherwise — are not really conservatives, but anti-liberals.

Rod Dreher, What’s The Source Of The Church’s Problems

I enjoy David French quite a lot on legal analysis, but the more he writes about religion, the more I recognize a gulf between his version of Calvinism and Orthodox Christianity. Rod Dreher apparently noticed something like that, too.

If I were to summarize, I’d make up a quote and put it in French’s mouth: "Original sin! Total depravity! Now what’s your question?"

(Inspired by this misfire).


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Fragmentary oppositions

Forty years ago, a group of Situationists, building on their original 1968 manifesto, wrote of the progress of the ‘spectacle’, the name that Guy Debord had given to the bread-and-circuses face of modern Machine capitalism. They maintained that ongoing, surface-level conflict – what we would today call a culture war – was not a manifestation of rebellion against the Machine, but an necessary part of its functioning:

Fragmentary oppositions are like the teeth on cogwheels: they mesh with each other and make the machine go round — the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power.

Unlike many of their fellow travellers on the left, the Situationists had identified the true tenor of the times: no longer a clarifying class war over the means of production, but a fog of constructed and managed lies, consumer images, competing media narratives and fomented cultural divisions, all of it serving the interests of those who run the show. Fragmentary oppositions, the machine of the spectacle, the machine of power: it’s a description of our time. There are a lot of people out there who benefit daily from us all being at each others’ throats: arguing furiously over surface trivia while the money and the power funnel upwards, as they ever did.

Paul Kingsnorth, Under the spreading walnut tree, the introduction to his new Substack, The Abbey of Misrule.


Based on the conversations I hear these days among the New Urbanists, there is a division now in the movement between those on-board with a techno-utopian vision of an alt-energy economy that allows us to maintain the current standard of living, with all its comforts and conveniences, and another faction who recognize that something quite different and rather ominous is underway—a combination of economic de-growth, vanishing capital resources, political disorder, and environmental crises. The first group tends to get the most attention, because “green optimism” has such palliative appeal, just as the purity of modernism was so appealing after the gigantic mess of World War II. But the second faction, the adaptationists, have a better grip on reality.

I’m for the adaptationists because they are more in tune with the way circumstances actually roll out, that is, emergently. Societies are organisms that respond to the forces that reality brings to bear at a particular time. They self-organize and reorganize as reality compels them to. The signals now say: get smaller, get simpler, get less technocratic, get finer, and get more local. Despite all the portentous chatter about a “great reset” or a coming global government, centralized authority (in the U.S., anyway) only becomes increasingly impotent and ineffectual. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will “solve” the problems at hand. The real trend is not to greater concentrations of power but dispersed autarky, or local self-reliance. We’re on our own.

James Howard Kunstler, The Next New Urbanism


For our reading group, we decided to go through N.T. Wright’s 2008 publication Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. This work expanded on many of the concerns Wright had raised when I heard him speak in 2006. He shared a body of evidence which suggested that there has been widespread compromise with the heresy of Gnosticism. “A good many Christian hymns and poems,” he warned, “wander off unthinkingly in the direction of Gnosticism.” Wright used the doctrine of physical resurrection as the linchpin to refute this implicit Gnosticism, as well as to undermine a type of evangelical pietism that is so heavenly minded that it ceases to be of any earthly good. Using scriptural exegesis, Wright showed that although going to heaven is important, it is only one part of the Christian hope. The early Christians, he pointed out, actually believed that heaven is more like a waiting room where we will anticipate the final resurrection. In the final resurrection, the faithful will be given new bodies to enjoy in the renewed heaven and earth. This scriptural hope, Wright suggested, has implications in the here-and-now, transforming how we view the earth and the mission of the church …

I did not expect Surprised by Hope to be particularly controversial, as it simply articulates the historic Christian hope. Nevertheless, much of the public reaction to Wright’s book treated his teaching as something of a novelty. In February 26, 2008, ABC news ran a story claiming that Wright’s idea that “God will literally remake our physical bodies” was “a radical departure from traditional belief.” Although the Nicene Creed contains the statement “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, and although the Apostles’ Creed professed belief in “the resurrection of the body”, the wider public appeared to assume that this is no longer part of traditional Christian belief. The widespread assumption seemed to be that eternal disembodiment is the orthodox Christian hope. For example, in his compendium of information about what happens after death, Biochemical researcher Brian Innes observed that “current orthodox Christianity no longer holds to the belief in physical resurrection, preferring the concept of the eternal existence of the soul, although some creeds still cling to the old ideas.”

The fact that the media treated Bishop Wright as a novelty for simply articulating the doctrine of physical resurrection, convinced me that I needed to take another look at the phenomenon of implicit Gnosticism ….

Robin Mark Phillips, Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic.

It is astonishing that orthodox, historic, credal Christianity should be flagged by media as a novelty, but I think Robin Phillips was onto something when he proposed that the West’s implicit theology is gnostic.


I just (as I’m writing, undecided when to publish) finished listening to a Vox Conversations podcast about George Soros (Who is the real George Soros?), of whom I have an unfashionably neutral-tending-positive opinion.

There came a point in the podcast, though, where I yelled bad words at the participants. They had just set up a trick bag to the effect that one cannot criticize the "open society" idea because it’s antisemitic to do so because the open society idea is associated with Jews and criticism of it is always, and by definition, implicitly antisemitic.

If that sounds confusing and circular, it’s because it was. And I have enough sympathy for the case against the open society (and especially some of what have become its corollaries, like open borders) that it infuriates me to hear it insouciantly dismissed out of hand as tainted.


Speaking of open societies:

Because [Karl] Popper did not anticipate threats to open societies outside of grand historical narratives, he did not imagine that the source of fanatical certitude would one day be individuals, who would fashion it out of a veritable flood of discordant facts and suspicions … Americans have increasingly come to see themselves as capable of sifting through all the available evidence to discover unerring truths that their political opponents are too biased, ignorant, or corrupt to see.

The Danger of Fact-ist Politics


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Meanderings 4/8/21

I did an interview today with someone in London whose final question contained within it a statement. He said that he is a “cultural Christian” — he doesn’t believe, but he considers himself an ally of the church, and wants to see it thrive. He told me that more and more, he’s having conversations with people who aren’t believers, but who “are saying things now that they never would have said.” He explained that they are saying that the insanity overtaking our civilization has them thinking maybe they should look closer at the Church, and be more than fellow travelers.

I was taken aback by that remark … I [brought] up Auden’s return to Christianity after going to the movie in Manhattan … The English poet was living in New York when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. He went to see a movie at a theater in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, which was heavily German at the time. As a newsreel showed images of German troops brutalizing the Poles, members of the audience stood and began screaming bloody murder, demanding the slaughter of Germany’s enemies.

Auden left shaken, and resolved to return to the faith. Only the Christian faith could muster the force to defeat evil so pure, he reckoned.

Maybe that’s what’s going on with people like my interviewer. Maybe they see that things are falling apart quite rapidly, and are feeling in their bones that they can no longer be free riders on what Christianity has built. I told the man that he could not believe because it seemed like a good thing to do, or because it supported the right things. Jesus is either Lord, or he’s not. But I told him that Christ stands at the door of his heart, and knocks.

Social Credit Bunnies – Daily Dreher

I have no particular bone to pick with Dreher’s response to this remark, but I think I would have been less taken aback by it. In fact, my reflex would probably be "what an opportunity for the Church!"

That would be my reflex because I spent nearly 50 years in Christian traditions that were obsessed with numerical growth, and we were always tempted to generate it with gimmicks. In other words, my response would be perverse.

Every church loves to get new members, of course, and I would be thrilled if American turned en masse toward Christian Orthodoxy.

But if it were up to me, I would try to structure Orthodox Christian catechesis in a way that would flush out real versus notional (or even ulterior) conversions to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Here’s the sort of thing I’m concerned about.

  • In 2016, Matthew Heimbach was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church, which he apparently had joined because of what he thought was an ideological traditionalism. Matthew Heimbach is a pretty nasty piece of work.. In fairness to the Southern Indiana parish that received him into the Church, I don’t think they remotely saw such a thing coming, and he wasn’t even nominally Orthodox for very long before they found out and took care of it.
  • Any number of people who (understandably) have problems with developments in the Episcopal Church (or other Protestant Churches) express interest in the Orthodox Church, when what they really want is a nostalgic, early 20th-century version of the tradition they’re pissed off at. Maybe Orthodoxy would work out for them in the end (i.e., they’d be drawn into something they never imagined when they switched), but even our Western Rite Liturgies are expressing a much different faith than anything in Western Christendom.
  • Joining a Church because of concern over "the insanity overtaking our civilization" could work out, as it apparently did for Auden, but I fear it would further politicize the Church rather than making solid Christians of the new members.

I had a client once, a genteel Episcopalian Republican, who was disgusted with the political liberalism in the Episcopal Church, and kept expressing, on her own behalf and that of a like-minded friend, interest in my Orthodox Church. In my notional catechesis, anyone like that who came and sought catechesis would be kept in catechesis until they reached the point where they wanted to be Orthodox because that’s where they find Christ. That’s the only valid reason for an adult conversion.


Words cannot convey how chilling and authoritarian this all is: watching government officials, hour after hour, demand censorship of political speech and threaten punishment for failures to obey. As I detailed last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they coerce private actors to censor for them — exactly the tyrannical goal to which these hearings are singularly devoted.

There are genuine problems posed by Silicon Valley monopoly power. Monopolies are a threat to both political freedom and competition, which is why economists of most ideological persuasions have long urged the need to prevent them. There is some encouraging legislation pending in Congress with bipartisan support (including in the House Antitrust Subcommittee before which I testified several weeks ago) that would make meaningful and productive strides toward diluting the unaccountable and undemocratic power these monopolies wield over our political and cultural lives. If these hearings were about substantively considering those antitrust measures, they would be meritorious.

But that is hard and difficult work and that is not what these hearings are about. They want the worst of all worlds: to maintain Silicon Valley monopoly power but transfer the immense, menacing power to police our discourse from those companies into the hands of the Democratic-controlled Congress and Executive Branch.

And as I have repeatedly documented, it is not just Democratic politicians agitating for greater political censorship but also their liberal journalistic allies, who cannot tolerate that there may be any places on the internet that they cannot control. That is the petty wannabe-despot mentality that has driven them to police the “unfettered” discussions on the relatively new conversation app Clubhouse, and escalate their attempts to have writers they dislike removed from Substack. Just today, The New York Times warns, on its front page, that there are “unfiltered” discussions taking place on Google-enabled podcasts:

New York Times front page, Mar. 26, 2021

We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a “free” society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday.

Glenn Greenwald. This is the conclusion to the latest of Greenwald’s very, very good work on the specter of government-coerced "private" censorship on the internet.


3. Real creativity will die out. Instead, we shall get a multitude of mediocre pseudo-thinkers and vulgar groups and organizations. Our belief systems will turn into a strange chaotic stew of science, philosophy, and magical beliefs.  “Quantitative colossalism will substitute for qualitative refinement.” What is biggest will be regarded as best. Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers. Instead of genius, technique. Instead of real thought, Information. Instead of inner value, glittering externality.  Instead of sages, smart alecs. The great cultural values of the past will be degraded; “Michelangelos and Rembrandts will be decorating soap and razor blades, washing machines and whiskey bottles.”

Morris Berman, discussing Pitirim Sorokin’s predictions on the collapse of our sensate culture, in 2012.

For more on Sorokin, a fascinating figure, see:


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.