Sunday, 9/25/22

Taboos versus ontology

Proper order here is defined by the Commandments through moral proscriptions, although the proscriptions, while a useful metric in some situations, cannot reach into ontology, into the places where desire is grounded

“Restoring Young Men to Manhood” in Healing Humanity (emphasis added)

I have long felt that my Christian boarding school offered little beyond the Ten Commandments and a list of extra-Scriptural taboos — nothing that operated ontologically. Most of the taboos, mind you, were sensible ways for maintaining sobriety and order in a residential institution full of adolescents. But they were not so presented; they were presented as the way all Christians should live, based on some unconvincing Bible prooftexts. Insofar as they “formed” young Christians, they formed legalistic prigs or, for those who saw what the rules really were about, cynics.

The contrast between that and what I’ve found in Orthodoxy is stark.

Alcohol

The man who “just feels” that total abstinence from drink or marriage is obligatory is to be treated like the man who “just feels sure” that Henry VIII is not by Shakespeare or that vaccination does no good.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

Alcohol was one of those taboos of the Evangelicalism that formed my childhood and early adulthood. It appears that my doctor is making it taboo for me again.

I’ve long thought that “if you can’t have a good time without it, then your relationship to alcohol is dangerous.” That’s getting put to the test now, and I seem to be passing.

Anachronism

Although both the Roman Catholic Church and the evangelical Protestant movement profess belief in Jesus Christ as God the Son, whose death on a cross provides propitiation for sins, there have been vast differences between the two Christian groups for more than 500 years.

Mark A. Kellner, Why the evangelical editor who called for Trump’s removal became Catholic, September 11, 2020.

I hate to break the news to you, Mr. Kellner, but in 1520, there was no such thing as an “evangelical Protestant movement.” (Yes, I’m aware that Luther used a German version of the word.) Evangelicalism was 200+ years in the future.

Gray world

I rolled on my tongue with a terrible joy, as did all young men of that time, the taunts which Swinburne hurled at the dreariness of the creed—“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilaean, the world has grown gray with Thy breath.” But when I read the same poet’s accounts of paganism (as in “Atalanta”), I gathered that the world was, if possible, more gray before the Galilean breathed on it than afterwards.

G.K. Chesteron, Orthodoxy.

Yeshiva University

I thought the New York Courts were hair-splitting when they said that Yeshiva University was incorporated/chartered as an educational, not religious, institution. Now I’m not so sure:

Yeshiva University’s case could be complicated by the fact that it removed religion from its charter, essentially the text that gives it permission to operate in New York State, in 1967 in an effort to secure more state funding. Some in the Yeshiva University community, reflecting on the simmering tensions around the Pride Alliance, want the school to add its religious mission back to its charter.

(Terry Mattingly, emphasis added)

I don’t think this is conclusive, but it makes for a slightly tougher case.

When Yeshiva gets back to SCOTUS, though, I would give better-than-even odds that the high court won’t mention this fact.

Side comment: I’ve long been baffled (and apprehensive) at the refusal of state courts to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent consistently in the area of religious freedom. A recent Advisory Opinions podcast, though, suggested that defiance of precedent can be a sort of audition for a Supreme Court nomination when the political party in the White House changes.

Jesus and ego

Jesus did not die in order to rescue the ego: He died in order to put the ego to death. When I converted to Orthodoxy, a friend, nurtured in modern liberalism, opined, “Stephen became Orthodox because he was afraid of change.” In truth, I became Orthodox because I was afraid there would be no change – just more of the same negotiations year after year. A life defined only by the success and failures of a boundless ego.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Enculturated

[E]vangelicalism is the form the Christian religion tends to take within modern American culture. It is impossible to be an American Christian without being heavily influenced by evangelicalism—I would even say that it is nearly impossible to be a white, American Christian without being an evangelical … As the proliferation of the so-called “ex-evangelical” online community shows, leaving evangelicalism isn’t always as easy it looks—even when you are keenly engaged in the process of religious deconstruction.

Kirsten Sanders, The Evangelical Question in the History of American Religion.

Sanders seems to be onto something, but I have nothing to add right now, if ever.

Finding existential justification (in all the wrong places)

I would venture to say that most of us have already adopted parts of these secular visions of fullness. To take the most personally convicting example, many of us who profess faith in Christ actually find most of our existential justification in romance or career success or intelligence or beauty or popularity, and we find our meaning in a secular telos of achievement.

Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

This seems apposite:

I have to tell you, spending time with the Bruderhof folks caused an unsettling reaction within me. I was glad that theological differences would keep me from considering living in a Bruderhof — glad because to be honest, I know that I’m too much of a coward to surrender so much autonomy to live in close community. For me, this was a real moment of painful honesty. The Bruderhof communities have some of the things I desire, but they have them because people have voluntarily given up a degree of liberty and autonomy that we all take for granted. I felt like the Rich Young Ruler of the Gospel — the one who wants what Jesus offers, but won’t surrender everything to get it. I talk a good game about community built on religious belief and mutual obligation, but if there were an Orthodox Bruderhof, would I join?

Rod Dreher, With the Bruderhof

False certainties

I remember in my youth delighting at the seeming clarity of comparative tabulations of what various Christian or quasi-Christian groups believed about what the tabulators considered the key points in a sound faith. The commonest uses I recall were comparing true Christianity (I don’t recall how they denominated it) with Roman Catholicism, or with Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, or other Christianish groups.

That memory makes me cringe now.

I have no doubt that one could prepare such a table comparing Evangelicalism and Orthodoxy. But who would pick the questions considered crucial? And what if the other side thought those weren’t the right questions? And when did we start considering a box-checking exercise the test of true Christianity? Bottom line is that an exercise like that would tell you virtually nothing about lived Orthodoxy.

Maybe it never told me anything about the interior experience of those other faiths, either.


[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.

Hobbit Day 2022

I have it on reasonably good authority that today is Hobbit Day, and it turns out that Peter Jackson isn’t the only one to cash in on Hobbits.

Culture

How the Bobos Broke America — key excerpt

I tend to quote a lot of things without comment, but I’m going to say that the following strikes me as true, and so contrary to the recent history of the Democrat and Republican parties that it’s core to why I believe a major realignment is underway. Today’s Republican party is not the same Republican party I left in January 2005. For my taste, it’s worse, but that taste almost certainly is tainted by Orange Man. But I gradually came to see his appeal:

What causes psychic crisis are the whiffs of “smarter than” and “more enlightened than” and “more tolerant than” that the creative class gives off. People who feel that they have been rendered invisible will do anything to make themselves visible; people who feel humiliated will avenge their humiliation. Donald Trump didn’t win in 2016 because he had a fantastic health-care plan. He won because he made the white working class feel heard.

How the Bobos Broke America.

There’s no need to hold a pity party for me, but I’ve spent most of my life too Christian and too socially awkward to be comfortable with social elites, too elite to feel instinctively empathetic or entirely comfortable with the working class.

How unreality spreads

Wrong beliefs and wrong perceptions are contagious whether or not they are sincere, because dissidents tend to self-censor and act like believers. That is how entire societies, such as the Soviet Union, can be built on everyone’s publicly pretending to believe what many privately know to be false.

Jonathan Rauch, Echo Chambers and Confirmation Loops in The Constitution of Knowledge.

I think this has some contemporary relevance. I’ll say no more.

National Conservatism could be a boon for religious liberty lawyers

Here’s the national conservatism “Statement of Principles” on God and public religion, signed by dozens of leaders of the national conservatism movement:

No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgment that are found in authentic religious tradition. For millennia, the Bible has been our surest guide, nourishing a fitting orientation toward God, to the political traditions of the nation, to public morals, to the defense of the weak, and to the recognition of things rightly regarded as sacred. The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and non-believers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private. At the same time, Jews and other religious minorities are to be protected in the observance of their own traditions, in the free governance of their communal institutions, and in all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children. Adult individuals should be protected from religious or ideological coercion in their private lives and in their homes. (Emphasis added.)

This paragraph describes a form of religious supremacy that relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting Christianity a position of powerful public privilege.

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that the “moral vision” of the signatories broadly reflects the diversity of Christian belief and practice in the United States. After all, there are churches that host drag queen events, as well as churches that condemn drag queens. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are completely dependent on their Bible-believing, church-going base constituencies (white Evangelicals for Republicans and Black Protestants for Democrats).

Are national conservatives thus satisfied when either party wins, so long as a Christian (Joe Biden, for example) is at the helm?

Of course not. For the term “moral vision” to mean anything, it has to mean a particular version of professed Christian belief and practice.

David French

A polity that "relegates dissenting religious believers to the “private” sphere, while granting [a form of putative] Christianity a position of powerful public privilege" is inconsistent with current Supreme Court thinking, and I don’t think Trump’s nominees change that.

When did modernity begin?

For us, the real Middle Ages extend from the reign of Charlemagne to the opening of the fourteenth century, at which date a new decadence set in that has continued, through various phases and with gathering impetus, up to the present time. This date is the real starting-point of the modern crisis: it is the beginning of the disruption of Christendom, with which the Western civilization of the Middle Ages was essentially identified: at the same time, it marks the origin of the formation of ‘nations’ and the end of the feudal system, which was very closely linked with the existence of Christendom. The origin of the modern period must therefore be placed almost two centuries further back than is usual with historians…

René Guénon Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World.

What Putin lacks

[T]he death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president’s important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.

Ross Douthat, Why Queen Elizabeth’s Strength Is Putin’s Weakness

This takes “self-deprecating” too far

We sat and watched the committal service, we who threw all this away in the 18th century, all the costumery, ribbonry, and titlery and iconic disciplines and endless dignity, in favor of the mess we know all too well …

[A]fter a couple hours of admiring tradition and ceremony and everyone knowing which foot to put where, it dawns on me that this elevation of bureaucracy to an art form is what America fortunately escaped and thus was better able to give the world the phenomenal techno advances of my lifetime, the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines. These things were not created by platoons of people marching in place but by brilliant gamblers and entrepreneurs, nerds of many stripes. (We also gave the world the blues and rock ’n’ roll, but that’s another story.)

An English major in college, I looked down on IT students because they all dressed alike and carried plastic pocket protectors for their ballpoint pens. I saw them as dullards. As it turns out they were at work on data technology that led to the internet, which changed my life and yours too. Meanwhile, the English department and other humanities march along beside the hearse and the horsemen.

I wanted to be eccentric and got my wish but the engineers in my family are more engaged with the real world.

Garrison Keillor.

Once again, I’ll opine.

I like technology entirely too well, but “the laptop, cellphone, GPS, AI, drones, radical reductions in the cost of solar panels and wind energy, new vaccines” do nothing to fill the void in the human soul, and I deny that they are the “real world” in a meaningful sense. Maybe monarchy doesn’t fill the soul-void, either; I don’t know (at least in part) because I’ve never lived in a monarchy. But I think monarchy says something true about reality that all the tech in the world misses.

So maybe we and Great Britain are still joined symbiotically at the hip; they provide the meaning, we provide the toys and the parties.

Correlation

This sort of thing is why I’ll probably renew Jesse Singal’s Substack:

Missed it when it was fresh

[I]t is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

Boris Johnson, mid-2018, on Burqas.

Shorts

Journalism

Two formerly solid journals seem to have picked their tribes, and now assiduously pitch to the worst tribal instincts.

The Decline of First Things

There are many occasions for exposing hypocrisy these days. In the aftermath of the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida home, we can point to Hillary Clinton’s private server. Asked to denounce Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, we can cite Stacey Abrams, who never accepted her defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia.

R.R. Reno opening his big monthly Editorial in First Things.

That is Whataboutism at 190 proof. I have no idea what he thinks the FBI (or someone) ought to have done about Hillary’s server 6-7 years ago, and he certainly doesn’t tell us. He just insinuates that what they didn’t do was hypocritical because of what they later did. As for Stacy Abrams, so far as I know she has dropped “they done me wrong” from her stump speeches, unlike Orange Man (who is dining out on it), even if she has never formally conceded defeat.

That was just the opener. Considering how the column continued, I’m inclined to think that Reno had a bad case of writer’s block, and so resorted to tendentious bullshit.

I am thus reminded why I still (barely, and decreasingly) consider First Things essential reading but have ceased giving its publishing corporation anything beyond the cost of my subscription.

Conservative Radicals

It’s interesting to see a tribe close ranks.

Ron DeSantis’ sending two planefuls of refugees to Martha’s Vineyard is morally indefensible trolling.

So how does his tribe defend it? By focusing on “why the Left went so bat-guano crazy” over it, and implying that DeSantis had effectively taken a chapter from Saul Alinsky:

Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

Ridicule Is Man’s Most Potent Weapon

Apparently “ridicule” is now National Review’s term for instrumentalizing humans who are unpopular with the GOP.

With Kevin Williamson defecting to The Dispatch, I’m almost out of reasons (I can think of just two remaining) to glance at the National Review homepage any more.

Politics

Wrong kind of diversity

Liz Truss, Great Britain’s new Prime Minister, has completed her cabinet. There are no white men. None. But that’s not good enough for Britain’s Left:

“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view …

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn.

Pamela Paul, When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

War? Really?

“Even the people who are responsible for disseminating the laptop admit that, on a human level, what happened to Hunter is horrifying. ‘A lot of stuff I do, I don’t feel great about,’ says one of them, Steve Bannon. ‘But we’re in a war.’”

The Morning Dispatch, recommending a New York Magazine article on the Hunter Biden laptop saga.

Steve Bannon is a very intelligent but quite unprincipled. “War”? Baloney!

J.D. Vance ❤️ Donald J. Trump

Trump went off on a tangent about a New York Times story that said Vance’s campaign didn’t ask Trump to come here. “JD wants my support so bad. He’s kissing my ass.”

Andrew Tobias on Twitter

Is this why we’re to take Trump “seriously if not literally”? He certainly captured the essence of Vance’s metamorphosis.

A Moment of Pleasure

Seldom has a Democrat made me as happy as Letitia James made me on Wednesday.


[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.

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.

Sunday 9/18/22

Liturgies

How Elizabeth experienced her coronation

Over here, people did not get that fairy-tale feeling about the coronation. What impressed most who saw it was the fact that the Queen herself appeared to be quite overwhelmed by the by the sacramental side of what we going on.

C.S. Lewis on the 1953 Coronation of Elizabeth II Regina, attributed to a personal letter.

In contrast to sacramentality, America developed …

Proto-Populism in the Pews

Simply put, the Antichrist now worked his evil machinations through elites of all kind, particularly the clergy.

Nathan Hatch, Thundering Legions in The Democratization of American Christianity

Or so Americans leaned to think. Bereft of sacrament, they invented tawdry substitutes, personal and collective:

C.S. Lewis on Christian patriotism

From Screwtape Letters:

Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of the partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ’cause’, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here,

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape

I think things would be better if supposedly serious Christian people stopped talking like demons, don’t you?

Jake Meador

What happens to churches that forsake liturgy

What strikes me about certain low church communities is that they sometimes imagine themselves to have no liturgy at all. In some cases, they might even be overtly hostile to the very idea of a liturgy. This is interesting to me because, in practice, it is not that they have no liturgy at all as they imagine—they simply end up with an unacknowledged liturgy of a different sort. Their services also feature predictable patterns and rhythms, as well as common cadences and formulations, even if they are not formally expressed or delineated and although they differ from the patterns and rhythms of high church congregations. It’s not that you get no church calendar, for example, it’s that you end up trading the old ecclesial calendar of holy days and seasons, such as Advent, Epiphany, and Lent, for a more contemporary calendar of national and sentimental holidays, which is to say those that have been most thoroughly commercialized.

L.M. Sacasas, The Convivial Society

What happens to politicians formed spiritually in such churches

When Vice President Mike Pence delivered his speech at the Republican National Convention, it was like witnessing a Walker Percy satire. Pence remixed Hebrews 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:17, by replacing “Jesus” with “Old Glory,” the “saints” with “this land of heroes,” and even interjected his own biblical gloss—“that means freedom always wins.”

In Love in the Ruins, the Roman Catholic Church has split into three groups, one of which is the American Catholic Church, whose new “Rome” is Cicero, Illinois. The protagonist Tom More attends church there with his mother to celebrate Property Rights Sunday, a major feast day for the church.

Unlike its forebear, the American Catholic Church “emphasizes property rights and the integrity of neighborhoods, retained the Latin Mass, and plays ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the elevation.”

In response to Pence’s speech, some Christian leaders denounced his idolatry, a great start to warding off Percy’s “Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world.” However, if we want to avert the American apocalypse, we need better readers and thinkers of the Word. As Americans, we should prioritize reading well, learning what words mean, why context matters, and how to be comfortable with mystery.

Jessica Hooten Wilson, Percy and Pence and the American Sense of Scripture

The Religion of American Greatness

Paul D. Miller, Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University, recognizes that most of the existing works on Christian nationalism “are rather extreme and almost comical examples of beating up on straw men—or would be, if they weren’t also fear-mongering scurrilous libel masquerading as scholarship.” In The Religion of American Greatness, Miller, who identifies himself as a “Christian scholar, political theorist, veteran, and former White House staffer,” proposes to offer a “detailed portrait of—and case against—Christian nationalism.”

Mark David Hall, Christian Nationalism: An Existential Threat?

Deja Vu

I guess it’s time for somebody to mention, and even to elaborate upon, white Evangelicalism’s pathetic, unbiblical obsession with celebrities: Richard Ostling Is celebrity culture eroding American evangelicalism? This publishing insider says ‘yes’

Yes, I send “unbiblical.” Elevating novice Christian celebrities is pathetic and it’s dangerous to the celebrities themselves.

None of the periodic commentary on this weakness has changed a damned thing, of course.

Hidden life

Enough of my rough and critical thoughts on American religious life.

God Saved the Queen

In all of human history Queen Elizabeth II is the single person who has been most prayed for. From her birth in 1926 she was included in a petition myriads of people prayed day after day: It called upon the Almighty to bless and preserve “all the Royal Family.” From her accession to the throne in 1952, millions began to pray for her daily by name: “That it might please thee to keep and strengthen . . . thy Servant Elizabeth, our most gracious Queen and Governor.” A modern form introduced during her reign that is often used today pleads, “Guard and strengthen your servant Elizabeth our Queen.”

Prayers Answered: God Saved the Queen via Alan Jacobs. The author goes on with other notable things about the late Queen.

Learning to Let Things Be

We seem to be on the verge of choosing what and whether human life—and with it, all life—will continue to be on this planet. Whether science fiction or not there are a lot of brainy people with a lot of money behind them trying to turn us into something quite different than what we have been. I think they will fail. But I don’t really know, maybe they won’t. They will likely do tremendous of damage in the process regardless. Yet nobody is able to give a fully coherent explanation of what we are doing or why. Instead, we are drowning in partial, often unhelpful explanations. I have to wonder whether our situation even can be understood. Have we reached our cognitive and moral limits? Or are the cacophony of reasons we give merely an implicit way of admitting we don’t really know why we do what we do? Admitting our fundamental ignorance would at least be refreshing in its honesty. Instead, it is not unusual to find various deep, sincere, erudite, and eloquent views of our situation that are in nearly complete contradiction with one another. It actually is quite common. Many of them are done with the same air of certainty—where there likely is none.

I myself offer only the Arsenios Option, i.e., fleeing the world of distraction and ambition, being silent, and dwelling in stillness. I don’t offer it as way to understand our situation. It’s what you do when all explanations have failed and when talking turns to gibberish … It is the hope that we can go deeper than the problem itself. In silence, stillness not-knowing, we might possibly learn to stop trying to fix everything. Maybe thereby we can avoid the inevitable catastrophe our solutions themselves are causing. We can learn to accept that we don’t see things clearly and that we probably never will. We can accept that we don’t really know and that not-knowing is actually the better and more human way to live. We can live humbly with each other and upon the earth and with the Divine. We can finally learn to simply let things be.

For although at certain times and in certain circumstances it is necessary and useful to dwell on the particular situation and activity of people and things, during this work it is almost useless. Thinking and remembering are forms of spiritual understanding in which the eye of the spirit is opened and closed upon things as the eye of a marksman is on his target. But I tell you that everything you dwell upon during this work becomes an obstacle to union with God. For if your mind is cluttered with these concerns there is no room for him.

—The Cloud of Unknowing

Jack Leahy, Cloud-Hidden (footnotes omitted)


[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.

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.

Sunday, 9/11/22

Yes, it’s the 21st anniversary of the Twin Towers (and related) attack.

Orthodoxy

Strangers in Strange Lands

In traditional Orthodox countries, the general culture supports, or at least is not hostile toward, Orthodox phronema. But in other countries, Orthodox Christians are usually a tiny minority in a sea of other religious traditions. Acquiring and maintaining our Orthodox phronema in a very pluralistic society is much more difficult and requires real effort and dedication.

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox

Theodicy

God allowed suffering to enter the world. He did this not out of vengeance, but out of love for man, so that through suffering arising from self-love, sensual pleasure, and the resulting desire for created things, man might see through the illusion of his self sufficiency and return to his original designation: the state of pristine simplicity and communion with the Way.

Hieromonk Damascene, Christ the Eternal Tao

Repentance

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

Five takes on Protestantism

I didn’t set out to collect critiques, but these all came to my attention (several through Readwise, which I enjoy and recommend), and they felt compelling.

I’ve been Protestant, remember — just one beggar suggesting to another that there’s no bread here.

Searching for Authenticity in All the Wrong Places

The Reformation is the first great expression of the search for certainty in modern times. As Schleiermacher put it, the Reformation and the Enlightenment have this in common, that ‘everything mysterious and marvellous is proscribed. Imagination is not to be filled with [what are now thought of as] airy images.’ In their search for the one truth, both movements attempted to do away with the visual image, the vehicle par excellence of the right hemisphere, particularly in its mythical and metaphoric function, in favour of the word, the stronghold of the left hemisphere, in pursuit of unambiguous certainty. … What is so compelling here is that the motive force behind the Reformation was the urge to regain authenticity, with which one can only be profoundly sympathetic. The path it soon took was that of the destruction of all means whereby the authentic could have been recaptured.

Iaia McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

Performance Art

America is a Protestant country and we skipped the foot-washing, love-thy-neighbor aspects of the faith, preferring preaching, a performance art that lets you despise your neighbor and thereby raise yourself up. Our politics today is tortured by its Protestantism. The Sisters of St. Mary who founded this hospital may have inherited some dreadful theology but they took a better path, they lay hands on the suffering, they soothed the fevered brow, they lifted the fallen.

Garrison Keillor, reflecting on his medical procedures at a Catholic hospital in the Mayo Clinic system.

Happy imposture

It is an imposture—this grotto stuff—but it is one that all men ought to thank the Catholics for. Wherever they ferret out a lost locality made holy by some Scriptural event, they straightway build a massive—almost imperishable—church there, and preserve the memory of that locality for the gratification of future generations. If it had been left to Protestants to do this most worthy work, we would not even know where Jerusalem is to-day, and the man who could go and put his finger on Nazareth would be too wise for this world. The world owes the Catholics its good will even for the happy rascality of hewing out these bogus grottoes in the rock; for it is infinitely more satisfactory to look at a grotto, where people have faithfully believed for centuries that the Virgin once lived, than to have to imagine a dwelling-place for her somewhere, any where, nowhere, loose and at large all over this town of Nazareth.

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (emphasis added)

Populism

What then is the driving force behind American Christianity if it is not the quality of its organization, the status of its clergy, or the power of its intellectual life? I have suggested that a central force has been its democratic or populist orientation.

Nathan Hatch, “Epilogue: The Recurring Populist Impulse in American Christianity” in The Democratization of American Christianity

Escapist Fiction

The pre-Tribulationist party eventually gained the upper hand for reasons that, according to Sandeen, had less to do with their superior skill at exegesis than with the attractiveness of their position that Christians would be raptured before the Tribulations.

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals

Healthcare-sharing ministries

California congressman demands more transparency from health care sharing ministries

This question was bound to arise and probably needs to. If people aren’t already disguising their sketchy health insurance plans as “ministries,” they soon enough will.


[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.

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.

Thursday, 9/8/22

Culture

Bravery

“Many people praised me for my bravery for having done this — to which I could only say: Millions of people do this kind of work every day for their entire lives — haven’t you noticed them?” she said in 2018 in an acceptance speech after receiving the Erasmus Prize, given to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to the humanities, the social sciences or the arts.

From the New York Times obituary for Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Ehrenreich went “underground,” trying to live on various minimum wage jobs.

I’m sure I read some of her journalistic writing, and even looked forward to the byline as a harbinger of good writing, but I apparently missed how well-regarded she really was.

Conservative academia

Do ten conservative American academics even exist? (Try naming ten outside of Hillsdale College. I’ll go: Harvey Mansfield, Niall Ferguson, Ruth Wisse, Robby George. Struggling to come up with a fifth without Google.) Then again, we wouldn’t know because they are closeted.

Bari Weiss, Dissidents and Doublethinkers in our Democracy

Too stupid for ranked-choice voting?

It seems to me that Damon Linker is arguing “America is too paranoid and too stupid for ranked-choice voting.”

I agree, though, that it’s not likely to prove a panacea.

Todd Rokita does something right for a change

In a stunning development, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has done something necessary and with minimal fanfare:

Nineteen state attorneys general wrote a letter last month to BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink. They warned that BlackRock’s environmental, social and governance investment policies appear to involve “rampant violations” of the sole interest rule, a well-established legal principle. The sole interest rule requires investment fiduciaries to act to maximize financial returns, not to promote social or political objectives. Last week Attorneys General Jeff Landry and Todd Rokita of Louisiana and Indiana, respectively, went further. Each issued a letter warning his state pension board that ESG investing is likely a violation of fiduciary duty.

ESG Can’t Square With Fiduciary Duty

I am inclined to think that these (presumably Republican) Attorneys General are “on the wrong side of history.” I think the sole interest rule will fall because it ignores corporate externalities.

Think of it this way: would an institutional investor before the Clean Water Act have been morally justified in avoiding companies that used streams and rivers as a dumping ground for toxic byproducts? But it would have been unlawful under the sole interest rule.

Now draw analogies.

But meanwhile, we don’t elect attorneys general to be on the right side of history. We elect them to enforce the laws as they are.

A question not worth researching

Cable news is for idiots, so I’m not going to subject myself to hours and hours of watching it to evaluate whether the average political positioning of a CNN guest has changed. But I think the circulation of the particular Francesca Chambers clip you cite as supposed evidence of a Trumpy shift at CNN is weaksauce — and boy have I been seeing a lot of apoplectic liberals share it on Twitter. (Jesus, people, will you get a hobby already?)

Chambers, who covers the White House for USA Today, has been a fixture on cable news for years, not just on CNN but also on MSNBC and Fox News. That she made an inane jump to “optics” when asked about Trump bringing the aunt of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli on stage at a Pennsylvania rally — Hale-Cusanelli is the January 6 riot convict who praised Hitler and posed with a Hitler mustache (in order to be “ironic”, he says, of course) — does not say anything about CNN changing. It just reflects that cable news political panel discussions have always consisted of replacement-level-or-lower armchair political strategizing and posturing — there are hours and hours and hours of time to fill, and they have been filled with this crap my entire adult life. (By the way, Sara Fay and I wrote back in January about how to book an actually good political conversation panel, based on our experience at Left, Right & Center.)

Josh Barro

Politics

Metapolitics

The Right denies the reality of events, clueless to its eventual Emperor Has No Clothes moment. The Left, however, seeks to deny the very nature of humanity itself. Both worship at the same altar, but their beliefs are predicated upon differing hermeneutical approaches within the Cult of Progress. The former believes the fantasy of a technological harnessing of apparently limitless resources to produce an ever-expanding material prosperity, all without consequential damage to the society at large. The Left believes in the fantasy of a technological harnessing of the apparently limitless ability to refashion mankind itself, regardless of the demolition of existing societal structures, and again, all without serious consequences. This latter one, while indeed the more extreme, worries me the least, as it is the more difficult case to make—indeed, often farcical in its extremities—and seems likely to eventually collapse in upon itself. The former, however, I consider the more dangerous at this moment in history, as they appear fully ready and prepared to project and maintain their Will to Power. At these times, you cannot go wrong by referencing Shakespeare, “a plague of both your houses.”

Terry Cowan, Grand Delusions, Past and Present

Political promises then and now

It is, of course, true that wars never do half the good which the leaders of the belligerents say they are going to do. Nothing ever does half the good—perhaps nothing ever does half the evil—which is expected of it. And that may be a sound argument for not pitching one’s propaganda too high. But it is no argument against war.

C.S. Lewis, “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” in The Weight of Glory

Our last Conservative President

When I hear politicians promising that we can have it all — particularly that our postwar “happy motoring” can continue forever, only electrified instead of gas-powered — I’m reminded that Jimmy Carter, who urged some voluntary austerity, was our last conservative President.

Election heuristics

Years ago my friend Bill, an Army officer and fellow grad student, hosted our department for a cookout. While everyone was happy to eat his food and drink his beer, most of our colleagues despised Bill’s beliefs. One of them—call her Jane—took Bill’s small children aside, taught them a left-wing chant, then led them, her eyes glittering with hateful glee, on a little protest march through the gathering. Ever since that day, I’ve found voting to be a snap. I simply identify the candidate most likely to embody Jane’s hopes for America, and I vote against that son of a bitch with everything I’ve got.

Tony Woodlief, The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium

That’s a pretty lousy heuristic, but a pretty good story.

Amtrack Joe’s Big Warning

Spare us the pieties while you knee-cap us, please

How can an American president go wrong in identifying threats to democracy? Biden offered a master class.

[I]n describing their goals, he cast a net so wide it included everyone from those who cheered the attack on the Capitol and the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, to those who oppose abortion rights and gay marriage.

As categories go, this one is capacious.

It includes violent Oath Keepers and Proud Boys — as well as every faithful Catholic or evangelical Christian whose deeply held moral convictions bring them to oppose legalized abortion.

In other words, Biden claimed to distinguish MAGA Republicans from mainstream ones and then proceeded to conflate them. That may resonate with partisan Democrats who have never seen a conservative they didn’t consider a bigot or a fool. But it gives the lie to the idea that dismantling MAGA Republicanism is the prime objective of the president or his party.

Bret Stephens, ‌With Malice Toward Quite a Few

I did not listen to the speech, but when someone as sober as Bret Stephens says Biden lumps together January 6 insurrectionists and faithful Catholics who vote Republican based on the abortion issue, I’ve got to think that’s a fair characterization.

And “devout Catholic” Biden invites just contempt for doing that.

Stephens again:

Is that smart as hardball politics? Maybe. But Biden could have spared us the pieties about timeless American values. As far as I can tell, he has yet to say a word in public against the [Democrat] ad buys [to elect MAGA candidates in GOP primaries], much less tried to stop them. Instead, his speech makes a neat bookend to a strategy of promoting MAGA extremists so they can be denounced as MAGA extremists. Some liberals took a similar approach in 2016, all but rooting for Trump to win the nomination on the theory that he’d be Hillary Clinton’s weakest opponent. Look how that worked out.

Dark Brandon

Surely it’s damning that what so many people seem to remember isn’t Mr. Biden’s message but the nakedly political use of the uniformed Marines behind him (calling Gen. Mark Milley)—and the neon illumination that made the stately face of Independence Hall look like the entrance to a bordello in some red-light district.

Even more striking was the tone. Gone was genial Joe from Scranton, the man who persuaded Americans that he would give them a calm and drama-free presidency. In its place was Dark Brandon, a superhero saving America from imaginary armies of fascism.

William McGurn, Biden is Angry, But Not Serious

Is his church the enemy?

Biden’s speech conflated the refusal to accept election outcomes with opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage — implying that the positions of his own Catholic Church are part of a “MAGA Republican” threat to democracy itself — while touting a State of the Union-style list of policy achievements, a cascade of liberal self-praise.

Ross Douthat, Does Biden Really Believe We Are in a Crisis of Democracy?

Realignment

Today’s Right implicitly understands itself as the outside party, oppressed by the powerful and banging on the windows of the institutions. Today’s Left implicitly understands itself as the insider, enforcing norms and demanding conformity.

Yuval Levin via Jason Willick

How small this narcissist is!

Yesterday, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump addressed a rally supposedly in support of Republican candidates in the state: Mehmet Oz for the Senate; the January 6 apologist Doug Mastriano for governor … [T]his was what led local news: “Donald Trump Blasts Philadelphia, President Biden During Rally for Doug Mastriano, Dr. Oz in Wilkes-Barre.”

Yes, you read that right: Campaigning in Pennsylvania, the ex-president denounced the state’s largest city …

The rally format allowed time for only brief remarks by the two candidates actually on the ballot, Oz and Mastriano. Its message was otherwise all Trump, Trump, Trump. A Republican vote is a Trump vote. A Republican vote is a vote to endorse lies about the 2020 presidential election.

On and on it went, in a protracted display of narcissistic injury that was exactly the behavior that Biden’s Philadelphia speech had been designed to elicit.

David Frum, Biden Laid the Trap. Trump Walked Into It.


[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.

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.

Sunday, 9/4/22

Pray for your pastor

A pastor in Indiana told me that no one in her church denied the importance of Covid precautions, but the new demands that the pandemic placed on her contributed to a sense of burnout.

“I never got tired of pastoring or thinking about Scripture and preaching,” she said. “I just started associating ministry with having to learn new computer programs and having embarrassing, anxious moments around technology.” She continued, “Over time pastoral ministry started to seem like a total absurdity. The world around me was on fire and I was stuck in an empty church building figuring out Zoom.”

Tish Harrison Warren, Why Pastors Are Burning Out

Another difference between East and West

Even during the critical debates of the fourth century, when theological terminology was being fleshed out, Fathers such as Gregory the Theologian rejected the use of clever argumentation and Aristotelian syllogisms, preferring the philosophy of the fisherman, the Tradition of the Church.

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox

That the Christian Latin West turned eventually toward argumentation and syllogism is a major font of the differences between it and the Christian “Greek” East.

Therapeutic friendship

Since we last met, Marco lost his wife to cancer, and I lost mine to divorce. As I expected, my old friend was in great spirits. With Marco, he’s never faking cheerfulness. It comes from his faith. You can’t imagine faith like he has! When I was on French television a few years ago, the host asked me who my hero is. “Marco Sermarini,” I said, and it was true. I explained that it’s because here is an ordinary man, just like the rest of us, who loves life with great passion, and who has done extraordinary things because above all, he loves Christ.

Rod Dreher, The Gift Of Friendship

I’m glad Rod is spending some time with Marco. He needs it.

Blue Laws

Of course, “lowering religious participation” was always the intent and purpose of repealing blue laws, and this all negatively confirms that law is a teacher, and sometimes teaches what is false and demonstrably bad for a people. The activists who sought (in their hatred of Christianity) to repeal such laws, and the legislators and justices who did the repealing, failed to foresee how damaging the loss of such laws would be on “the social fabric of communities generally.” Among their findings is that the loss of blue laws depressed religious participation, and that this in turn made very significant portion of the population unstable, lacking the strength of “religiosity,” unable to deal with “enormous negative shocks” such as large-scale wars and natural disasters—which is to say, unable to deal with suffering.

Restoring blue laws is not a panacea. Yet as the authors show, the decline of religious adherence in America is not simply one correlative among many, but rather it is so highly correlative as to be reasonably considered the principal cause of our despair. Of course, as a theologian, I could’ve told you that, but it’s nice to have some confirmation from those who practice the dismal science as well.

Chad Pecknold, To Reverse Our Despair. (Emphasis added)

It’s sad to see Pecknold, a solid-enough guy most of the time, fairly obviously making shit up. I guess truth and sobriety come in second (or lower) behind promoting the "Postliberal Order."

Episcopalians

In the early 20th Century, there was extensive rapprochement between the Orthodox and Episcopalians. That eventually broke down, and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. has gone on to pioneer many deviations from historic Christianity, starting, by some accounts, with approving contraception. (What? You’re surprised that all Churches opposed contraception until a loosening began in the 1930s?)

For a variety of reasons, and increasingly as I grew older because of their deviations from historic Christianity, I have always been very leery of the Episcopal Church — so leery, in fact, that I could not quite imagine why a believing Christian from another tradition would become Episcopalian. (By “believing Christian” I mean to exclude those who would become Episcopalian to climb the social ladder.)

Yet I have seen that happen quite a few times in my life, and although I feel no personal draw in that direction, I think I have finally figured out why someone else might: revulsion at frivolousness or bigotry in their corner of Christianity, attraction to well-executed Episcopalian forms of worship, or both.

A large choir I’m in is preparing a celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Anniversary, and our repertoire is entirely music that was sung at Westminster Abby at her Coronation in 1953. Some of it is still sung by my local Episcopal Church choir (there’s a lot of overlap between our choir and its choir). I have viewed on YouTube grainy black-and-white videos from the coronation itself, and more recent performances of the same music, and I’ve got to say: if sacred worship music in western Christendom gets any better than that, I sure as heck don’t know where. In fact, it’s widely agreed that Episcopalians do liturgy better than Roman Catholics. (I used to jibe that “Of course they do; it’s all they’ve got.” I’ve softened on any hint that having that isn’t worth much.)

As for frivolousness or bigotry elsewhere, if you can’t spot that on your own I’m not going to wade into fetid waters to point it out. Not today anyway. (And I don’t doubt that Episcopalians are vulnerable to their own peculiar bigotries.)

For me, sound doctrine (as I then saw it) without sound worship was less unpalatable than the opposite. It would be a closer call today, but I’m in a place that has both.

I think that’s all I’ll say for now.

A certain catholic je ne sais quoi

After Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School of Indianapolis did not comply with a directive to fire one of its teachers, Archbishop Charles Thompson tried to strip the school of its Catholic school status.

(Caption on an AP photo of the Archbishop, Lafayette Journal & Courier, 9/3/22)

“Tried to”? Really?

Brebeuf, by refusing to rid itself of a scandal as directed, is now just as Catholic as are the excommunicated schismatics styled “Roman Catholic Womenpriests.”

“Catholic” is not ineffable and interior, like “gender identity.”

Orwell in the Mediation Room

Maybe I’m missing something, but “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” has always sounded Orwellian to me. Then came Covid, and reconciliation and grace seem to have gone away.

Doing politics Christianly

Christians seeking social influence should do so not by joining interest groups that fight for their narrow rights and certainly not those animated by hatred, fear, phobias, vengeance or violence.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post, via Alan Jacobs

True Christians and sin

A true Christian is made so by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the words of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to salvation’ (cf. Luke 5:32); ‘There is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones’ (cf. Luke 15:7). Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched his feet, He deigned to say to Simon the Pharisee: ‘To one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be required’ (cf. Luke 7:47). From these considerations a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and pay not the least attention to despair that is inflicted on one.

St. Herman of Alaska

A recurring cautionary note

The shift from church power to state power is not the victory of peaceable reason over irrational religious violence. The more we tell ourselves it is, the more we are capable of ignoring the violence we do in the name of reason and freedom.

William T. Kavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence


[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.

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.

Monday, 8/28/22

Student Loan Forgiveness

Student Loan Forgiveness 1

The bigger problem with student debt cancellation, however, is that it’s an ad-hoc, one-off move that does absolutely nothing to fix the deep pathologies in the way America financed undergraduate education. Matt Yglesias was exactly right to ask [on Twitter] what happens on the morning after the debt cancellation:

What is the plan for the day after universal debt cancellation when masters programs raise tuition and tell prospective students not to worry about it because the debt will be cancelled down the road?

But this perverse incentive, which economists call moral hazard, will only exacerbate an underlying problem. For decades, our strategy has been to limit the supply of available college seats while using subsidized loans to pump up the demand for those limited spots.

So we need to ask ourselves why we’re merely applying an expensive band-aid instead of addressing the deeper issue — and why we’re still so enamored of the idea of hurling big wads of cash at already-overpriced service industries.

Noah Smith, America is not fixing its college financing system (H/T The Morning Dispatch)

Student Loan Forgiveness 2

We were propagandized my entire high school simply to go to college, and we were promised if we did we would make more money and have a better life (“College graduates make 1 million dollars more than those who only graduate from high school!”). We received no guidance about which colleges to go to, how much money to take out, what to major in if we wanted return-on-investment, etc. Every guidance counselor told us this; every hallway had a poster proclaiming this; every teacher drilled it into us; from ages 13-18.

And we listened to them. And then we (as a generation) found out we’d have the equivalent of mortgages to pay off before we could get a real house and also that Boomers were not retiring so we couldn’t get jobs.

To put the question simply: In sussing out responsibility for the choice to take on debt, I don’t think “was someone holding a gun to your head when you took out the loan?” is the right question. I think something closer to “when you took out this loan—almost certainly while still a teenager or in your extremely early 20s—did anyone help you understand what you were doing and what the real ramifications of this choice would be?” In most cases, I think the answer is “not really.” Does it follow, therefore, that all the loan must be forgiven? Perhaps not. But at the very least we need to reckon with agency in a serious, thoughtful way and not in the simplistic terms being put forward by many commentators.

Jake Meador, Two Bad Reasons to Oppose Loan Debt Forgiveness and Two Better Ones

No comment

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe made the economic realities inadvertently stark when he tweeted on the day of Biden’s [student loan forgiveness] announcement, “Good news for thousands of my former students. I’m grateful on their behalf, Mr. President.”

David French, Is There a Christian Case for Biden’s Debt Relief Plan?.

Yes, I relented on my intention to pay no more heed to French on the intersection of politics and religion. And, yes, the wisdom of that resolve was confirmed; IMHO, French shed no real religious light on his stated topic.

Rank politics

The Rarest Thing in Politics

Like my friend, I disagree with Liz Cheney’s political positions.

But there is something about her.

As much as I disagree with her, I trust her.

Why? Because she has demonstrated a quality that is so rare in American politics today — perhaps, also, in American life — that we cannot help but find that quality to be attractive.

Liz Cheney has integrity.

When I see Liz Cheney, I feel that I am in the presence of an American patriot. True, I disagree with her. But I know we would have a respectful conversation. Like I said, I trust her.

Liz Cheney makes me think of one of the later verses of “America the Beautiful” — the ones that we rarely sing, but which I think are among the finest lyrics to ever appear in a patriotic song.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life

The verse might have been referring to American heroes who proved themselves in military battle. They loved their country more than they loved their own lives. That is the meaning of sacrifice.

Liz Cheney exemplifies those words as well. When she led a principled fight against Donald Trump, she knew she was sacrificing her run for reelection. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Jeffrey Salkin, It’s Cheney-mania!

Whatever happened to the Emerging Democratic Majority?

We didn’t anticipate the extent to which cultural liberalism might segue into cultural radicalism and the extent to which that view, particularly as driven by younger cohorts, would wind up imprinting itself on the entire infrastructure in and around the Democratic Party—the advocacy groups, the foundations, academia of course, certainly the lower and middle levels of the Democratic Party infrastructure itself.

Ruy Teixara, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, on why his Emerging Democratic Majority hasn’t emerged.

A Real Problem for Republicans

The main thing holding the GOP back from a complete takeover? The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis is surely onto something when he notes that the Party of Lincoln, in its Trumpified version, has a fondness for nominating “idiots” to run for office.

Indeed, as Nellie [Bowles] noted only last week, there isn’t enough cocaine in the world to keep Mitch McConnell and voters everywhere from recognizing that “candidate quality” is a real problem for Republicans. They tend to nominate people with absolutely zero experience even running for office, much less holding it. The results aren’t just Dr. Oz alienating Pennsylvania voters by suggesting that John Fetterman brought about his own stroke, but Georgia’s favorite son, Herschel Walker, yammering on about too many trees while being unable to accurately count his own children. 

Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance managed to win his primary in Ohio with just 32 percent of the vote but rarely goes a week without some sort of gaffe, such as suggesting that women should stay in violent marriages.

Nick Gillespie

Democrats nominate an occasional loose cannon, but I wouldn’t be all that keen on eliminating party primaries were I a Democrat: the Republican base keeps delivering candidates that a relatively easy to beat.

Russia 2016, USA 2022

A report published this week by Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory indicated that Twitter and Meta, for the first time, recently removed a set of fake accounts from their respective platforms for “using deceptive tactics to promote pro-Western narratives in the Middle East and Central Asia.” The influence campaign had reportedly been active for years, promoting the interests of the United States and its allies, spreading anti-extremism messaging, and opposing countries like Russia, China, and Iran. Neither tech platform directly attributed the activity to the U.S. government, but the U.S. and United Kingdom were listed as the “presumptive” countries of origin.

The Morning Dispatch.

Could you remind me again how evil Russia is for trying surreptitiously to influence things like our 2016 election?

Just because it’s a fun simile

We remember Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and not Hillary Clinton’s almost-certainly criminal cattle-futures shenanigans because most people know what sex is and understand that you’re not supposed to cheat on your spouse, but trying to explain futures trading to the typical voter is like trying to get a dachshund to bark in terza rima — they just aren’t equipped. But people naturally get hypocrisy, or at least a dumbed-down version of it.

Kevin D. Williamson, Hypocrisy for Dummies

Culture

Whence cancel culture?

I had to drive a couple of hours yesterday, and I heard on a podcast a sober but startling theory I really need to pass along.

Roughly one-third (I believe he said) of college graduates are supporting themselves through jobs that require no more than a high-school education because there are not enough jobs in “the managerial class” for which they’ve been groomed. We are college-educating more people than the market requires. So the competition for managerial class jobs is fierce.

Whence cancel culture. If you can pick off a superior with a grainy home movie of him in blackface decades ago, you might just move up the ladder — assuming you’re on the ladder. If you’re not on the ladder but want on, picking off a peer by exposing a tasteless Tweet just might eliminate her from consideration.

The dynamics of the New York Times staff as described by escapees seems to fit this theory “to a T.” Restless youngsters have knocked off a number of their bosses, older colleagues and peers.

So cancel culture is (just?) the war of all against all in modern garb.

Do the math

It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here: oil companies haven’t invested in new and better domestic refineries because they know that, even in this hour of essentially free money, their profit margins are shrinking and there aren’t 30 years of crude in the ground to pay off 30-year mortgages on new refineries. The oil companies are in a “sunset industry” and they know it.

James Howard Kunstler, Adapt or Die: Kunstler’s Guide to Living in the Long Emergency.

I like the epigram to this article, too:

It is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that a writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.”

—George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Maggots doing what comes naturally

A sprawling campus, part of the University …, covers their eastern reaches. The waters are channelled into generic, forgettable pools fringed with generic, forgettable buildings. It is, of course, the modern kind of forgettable architecture. Every chunk of grey and glass has its own unique variation on the shape of a shoebox. The innovations are of the type that everyone in the world has seen so much of that only those paid to do so can even pretend to care anymore.

In this, the University … is no better or worse than every other university. They have all spread their aggressively mediocre buildings across the cities and towns: shiny lumps of architectural conformity that advertise the shallowness, greed, and transience of the institutions to the whole world. We should be thankful for them. They physically represent the death of the modern university’s soul, and so make it obvious. Now a university is just a machine for uprooting humanity. It takes the young from home but gives then no adult responsibilities, drops them into a society of other uprooted youth, habituates them to the mentality of the virtual class, and leaves them drifting in debt and doubt.

At this point, some readers may hope I will criticise the ‘woke’. I will not. A worm digesting a living human being is a problem. A worm digesting a corpse is just the natural order of things. The universities are corpses and fashionable ideologies are maggots.

A terrible decision killed the universities. History, always Sphinx-like, showed them three good things, but only let them keep two. The one that they left on the table was the one that they should have treasured. Without it, their wyrd was written. The three gifts history offered were called ‘important’, ‘new’, and ‘true’.

FFatalism, Academic landscapes.

More: An earnest young postgraduate once told me that texts have no meaning. I said I didn’t know what he meant. He tried to explain it to me again. I’m not sure why. He must have thought that he was saying something.

Quintessentially Legal and Quite Mad

Arkansas banned healthcare professionals providing gender transition procedures to anyone under 18. A Federal District (trial) Court and Circuit (appellate) court have both now held that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause:

[U]nder the Act, medical procedures that are permitted for a minor of one sex are prohibited for a minor of another sex. A minor born as a male may be prescribed testosterone or have breast tissue surgically removed, for example, but a minor born as a female is not permitted to seek the same medical treatment. Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex.

H/T Religion Clause.

I have seen this kind of reasoning over and over as the courts impose on us, and on legislators who beg to differ, their view of “discrimination on the basis of sex.” For instance, if John can marry Suzy then Sally should be allowed to “marry” Suzy.

I’m not alone:

As the [Franciscan Alliance] argues in its brief, in 2016 the government interpreted ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination provisions “to require doctors and hospitals nationwide to perform and insure gender-transition procedures and abortions or else be liable for ‘sex’ discrimination.”

Specifically, the feds read the law to require that services be offered on an equal basis. “If a gynecologist performs a hysterectomy for a woman with uterine cancer,” the alliance’s brief says, “she must do the same for a woman who wants to remove a healthy uterus to live as a man.”

This cultural clash isn’t going away, and the country is in for more trouble if progressives can’t rediscover the principle of pluralism. The government’s appeal shows a bloody-mindedness that is difficult to fathom.

Transgender Patients vs. Religious Doctors – WSJ

However often I’ve seen it, I’ve never been able to get used to such reasoning as being sane. It strikes me as sophistry, though when we set out to outlaw sex discrimination, we implicitly set out to eradicate invidious sexual stereotypes. If we leave it to individual judges to determine what’s invidious, won’t decisions be all over the map? Isn’t a stupid, sophistical woodenness better than that?

Nah!

A Child’s Purpose

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up,” Herzen says. “But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what only lives for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment … Life’s bounty is in its flow. Later is too late.”

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks


[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.

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.

Sunday, 8/28/22

Memory eternal!

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has reposed in the Lord

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.

(Deep breath.)

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."

Terry Mattingly, Some trends in global Anglican Communion are starting to look rather Black and White — GetReligion

Context:

  • 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.

Russell Moore

Repentance

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.

David French


[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.

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.

Wednesday, 8/24/22

Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces …?

On January 6, 2021, from a parking garage under the Capitol Visitor Center, then–Vice President Mike Pence ordered the military to defend the Capitol against a violent insurrection. According to a taped deposition of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pence “issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders” to him and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller: “Get the military down here. Get the Guard here. Put down this situation.”

In ordinary circumstances, Pence’s actions would be unconstitutional. Indeed, a vice president who usurped the president’s constitutional authority, and the Cabinet and military officers who followed his orders, could be committing an impeachable offense. …

Jefferson also insisted, the officer who exercises emergency power must justify his actions to “his fellow citizens generally.” For Jefferson, “the good officer” must throw “himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.”

From his title (Mike Pence Owes the Country an Explanation) and the first paragraph, I easily figured out where George Thomas was headed and why: he wants Pence to say he perceived an emergency if only because Donald Trump was failing to put down the rump insurrection.

What I didn’t expect was that he would bring Jefferson and Lincoln into it and would persuade me of his case — and by inference to repent of my former judgment on Lincoln for his ultra vires acts.

Yup, the world is messy sometimes. This once was one of my favorite quotes, in part because it challenged my purity fetish:

Purity … is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures 14 and 15, via here.

Sorting out a jumble

[W]e have no ideal path forward. We’re damned if Attorney General Merrick Garland goes forward with a Trump prosecution and damned if Garland holds off. But the latter path should nonetheless be treated as a viable Plan B because it permits the Democrats to continue beating Trump in the political arena by the widest possible margin. That involves all kinds of risks as well, but it’s less risky than the legal option.

Damon Linker, summarizing the case against prosecution that he’s been trying to make.

More:

  • To use the full powers of federal law enforcement during a Democratic administration to indict, try, convict, and punish this man would drive large numbers of Republicans even further into Trump’s arms …
  • The goal should be his political defeat—turning him into a loser in the court of public opinion—not using an extra-political workaround to try and exile him from political competition. If you think making Hitler and Chamberlain analogies clarifies these issues, good for you. I think it’s pretty idiotic.
  • For the sake of argument, I’ve been happy to concede the point and assume Trump is guilty of … something. But is it true? [] After reading a highly illuminating exchange between widely respected legal scholar Jack Goldsmith and journalist Josh Marshall, I’m honestly not sure.
  • Could it be that all of the sound and fury I’ve seen online from the left about the imperative of punishing Trump’s self-evident criminality is based on nothing more than a feeling, a conviction, a moral certainty that he simply must be guilty of something? If so, that would be a further sign that loathing for the former president is a fundamentally political impulse, not a legal one.

Maybe I’ll take a position on “prosecute or nolle prosequi” when someone convincingly shows that Trump committed an actual crime, and that prosecution will be a slam-dunk. Considering the proportion of Trumpists in the land, I’m not sure you’ll ever impanel a jury without one or with one that will vote to convict.

Why colleges are failing

The present model of colleges and universities is failing, for in the first place they have forgotten or even turned against their original mission; in the second, they have picked up a whole lot of unrelated sidelines, none of which they do very well, such as universal job certification; and in the third, the public is beginning to catch on that they cost far too much, and that other institutions can usually do each of these sidelines better.  Barring root and branch reform – for which we must never give up hope — it’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, serious humanities teaching will have to migrate to other settings than colleges and universities.

J Budziszewski

Detritus

In a nutshell

Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.

Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents

Be careful what you ask for …

History is a prankster. You order a Gray Champion, and cosmic room service sends up a casino developer and New York real estate mogul with a laughable hairdo…

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency

How low can we go?

Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump seemed like some kind of nadir, but the Florida panhandle is showing that we can go even lower: Matt Gaetz versus Rebekah Jones

Institutions trumping instinct

But it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts.

Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

One thing leads to another …

I was good at menial jobs like parking cars but went into radio because it was Minnesota and vacuum tubes give off heat. It was public radio where all the announcers sound like Methodist ministers except not as friendly and there is no Jesus, and I distinguished myself by telling jokes and stem-winding stories about a small town. People liked it; go figure.

Garrison Keillor

American exceptionalism plus

It’s American exceptionalism but goes beyond that. It says that we are the next version of Israel from the Old Testament, that we are God’s chosen nation, and that is a special covenant — a two-way agreement with God. We can’t break it, and if we do, what happened to Israel will happen to us: We will be overrun by whatever the next Babylon is, taken into captivity, and He will remove His blessing from us.

Zack Stanton, It’s Time to Talk About Violent Christian Extremism – POLITICO

Maybe a bit harsh

I would rather have gonorrhea than a record of passionate and convinced #MAGA tweeting.

Graeme Wood, What to Do With Trumpists – The Atlantic.

Maybe a bit harsh, but then it’s dated 1/19/21, the day before Joe Biden officially became President despite Trump’s lawless efforts to retain the Presidency.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

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.

Sunday, 8/21/22

Archeology: a fancy word for speculating about our ancestors

Another distinguished writer, again, in commenting on the cave-drawings attributed to the neolithic men of the reindeer period, said that none of their pictures appeared to have any religious purpose; and he seemed almost to infer that they had no religion. I can hardly imagine a thinner thread of argument than this which reconstructs the very inmost moods of the prehistoric mind from the fact that somebody who has scrawled a few sketches on a rock, from what motive we do not know, for what purpose we do not know, acting under what customs or conventions we do not know, may possibly have found it easier to draw reindeer than to draw religion.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

In the same vein, David MacCauley, Motel of the Mysteries

Worth repeating

Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.

Phillip Yancey, Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz

The Machine almost compels a bit of hypocrisy

To fail to reach lofty goals is not hypocritical, and even to publicly defend those goals while knowing you have failed to reach them is not hypocritical if you are open about your limits.

… If stepping outside the Machine were possible, then it would not be necessary.

Irony is politically important. It is important because anything less than an unreachable ideal will be caught by the Machine, eviscerated, repackaged, and sold back to you in a form that is exactly the same apart from the way that it drains everything good from your soul. No idea, no belief, no institution, and no practice is beyond the Machine’s grasp. Only the ideal, being formless, is safe. Of course, the ideal, being formless, is also beyond our grasp, so we cannot cling to it for safety. If we try, then we will cling instead to our idea of it; and if we do that, we will soon find out that our idea was the Machine’s all along. The only way to succeed is by committing so completely that failure is inevitable. And this is the other reason why we need irony. The completeness of our failures reveals to us the depths of our absurdity. This is a gift. Will-to-power needs us take ourselves seriously. It is the product of pride and it struggles when we genuinely laugh at ourselves.

FFatalism, Is asceticism ascetic?

Reassurance

I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam era, who ended up serving his country by, so to speak, emptying bedpans in Peoria. In the ensuing decades, I’ve never become a hawk, but I’ve wondered whether I was right back then, whether I was trying to retain a purity that this fallen world doesn’t really allow.

Yesterday, I read this (including the full surrounding essay) from a Priest who, serving as chaplain “for the airmen who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and gave them his blessing”:

Ethical hairsplitting over the morality of various types of instruments and structures of mass slaughter is not what the world needs from the church, although it is what the world has come to expect from the followers of Christ. What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, in language that the simplest soul could understand, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies.

For the 300 years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community.

Yet the church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians. Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic.

Father George Zabelka, Blessing the Bombs.

Father George is right about Christian history. The Orthodox Church required a time of repentance, including abstention from the Eucharist, for soldiers who had killed even in a “just war.”

I find reassurance for my youthful conscientious objection in that, thought I was inspired more by Menno Simons (“Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.“) than by the Fathers of the Church.


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.