Two clips, 12/11/18

1

Recently billboards have appeared along major U.S. freeways depicting Trump’s face and the quote from John 1 “And the Word became flesh.” Another saying on the billboards is “Make the gospel great again.” Predictably these billboards have raised concerns and questions. The Christians who sponsor the billboards have defended them, claiming that they do not equate Trump with Jesus Christ. But the billboards are what they are. Whatever the sponsor’s thoughts and intentions may be, the billboards scream out that Trump is “up there with Jesus” in terms of messiahship, saviorhood, worthiness of ultimate loyalty.

Again, whatever the billboards’ sponsors say, the billboards communicate a dangerous message and even the most die-hard Trump supporters must speak out against that message. I am not charging the billboards’ creators and sponsors with heresy, apostasy, blasphemy, or idolatry, but I will say the billboards’ message constitutes those. No amount of denial or defense can undo the message; the message is what it is.

Roger W. Olson

I hope that the sponsor, Make the Gospel Great Again, is a false flag operation (they’re not being campy about it—apart from the billboard itself), but the idolatrous echoes of 80 years ago, noted by Olson, prevent me being blasé about it.

2

A French reader e-mails Rod Dreher:

I told you in a previous email that after three centuries of an anomalous absence, anti-clericalism had finally arrived to America. Jenny Nagel proves me right and if things are going by the French textbook it’s only the beginning and Christians can expect the worse in years to come, without any possibility to answer in kind as the most vicious attacks will come from “protected minorities”. Being rubbished by despicable people is something French Catholics have had to live for two centuries, and American Christians will have to live it until either they regain control of the culture (unlikely at this stage) or stop being nice guys (and girls) and fight back. I know, that’s unlikely too – it hasn’t happened yet in France either.

 

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Potpourri, 12/11/18

1

The most common explanation for France’s gilets jaunes protests against fuel-tax hikes is that they arise from too little democracy … The opposite is true. The protests are happening because France has too much democracy. What it’s lacking is politics.

Mr. Macron’s political movement was born of the notion that France needed to become more democratic …

As Economist correspondent Sophie Pedder notes in her illuminating biography of the president, the premise is that as a numerical matter there are enough actual or potential winners from economic reform and globalization that a leader could cull those voters from the old parties and unite them under a new banner. It would then be possible to steamroll minority opposition.

[T]he widespread rioting in France shows the dangers of allowing a healthy dose of democracy to transmogrify into a brutal majoritarianism. Majority rule has its place, but it’s no way to knit together a diverse society

… A center-right Republican Party under its failed 2017 candidate, François Fillon, would have effected some labor-law and civil-service reforms for which there is now broad support, but that party’s rural base would have precluded the green-energy follies that are sinking Mr. Macron.

The other word for this is “politics,” whose practitioners delicately trade interests and strike compromises to make majority rule more palatable to the minority.

Joseph Sternberg, Macron’s Warning to America’s Ascendant Left (WSJ, hyperlink and emphasis added)

This does, however, cut both ways. Trump and his supporters are playing a very dangerous game trying to force their kind of (invidious adjectives omitted) change with less than a “democratic” majority in 2016 and even a smaller minority now. (GOP offenses against good civic manners appear to have enough “legs” that I’m adding the category “democracy” today.)

Those coastal elites could punish the heartland, too, and not just politically. The heartland is lucky they haven’t figured out how to live without the food the breadbasket provides. (The GOP is misbehaving even worse in the states.)

It’s time for our incoming divided Congress to stop sheer pissing on each other and engage in frustrating, productive politics. (But I don’t know of a magic bullet for all the states except to hope for some constitutional theory to void the worst of the high-handedness.)

2

Cognate commentary:

Let us stipulate it’s foolish to pretend the market is without its costs. A 57-year-old General Motors worker in Ohio who will be laid off as his company expands production in Mexico may understandably balk at the argument that, in the larger scheme of things, it’s all for the best.

Yet the recent protests across France ought to remind us that market decisions aren’t the only ones that can make life difficult for those trying to get by on their paychecks …

Today, however, the crisis of good intentions is manifested most dramatically in the green movement, particularly in California … California now has the highest overall poverty rate in the nation … and suffers from a level of inequality “closer to that of Central American banana republics.”

… [T]he upward mobility of any family that isn’t part of Hollywood or Silicon Valley or doesn’t already own their own home is being killed by the state’s climate regime.

So maybe what’s going on in France isn’t as foreign as it may seem. When a once-thriving manufacturing town loses jobs to China, we hear all about the crisis of capitalism. But when progressives squeeze the American worker with high taxes, green agendas and failed government programs, where are the headlines about the crisis of good intentions?

William McGurn, The Crisis of Good Intentions (WSJ)

3

[T]he elite globalist consensus [is] that China can be China and India can be India but Europe can be turned into a repository for anyone in the world who can get there ….

Scott McConnell.

The elite consensus is personified by George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, with “open society” including open borders. It is against this vision that elite media’s villain du jour, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, pushes back. My sympathies, guardedly (I have no crystal ball, after all), are with Orban, though I do not see Soros as consciously evil, as some seem to.

I’m actually more sympathetic with the anti-immigration right in Europe than I am with the anti-immigration American right.

The common factor is wealthy destinations who need (some) immigrants to replace the children they’re not bearing, in order to maintain a simulacrum of normalcy as their traditional populations die off.

But while the people coming north to North America are mostly Christians of some sort, those coming north to Europe include many Muslims, who will be harder to assimilate than Christian refugees.

Plus, our idiotic American subversion of (or warfare against) middle east “strong men” leaders has contributed mightily to the breakdown of public order that facilitates persecution of Christians by their Muslim neighbors, driving them northward.

Will Europe die for our sins?

4

After agreeing that religious arguments should not be front and center in debates about transgenderism, a caution for those who think science is unequivocally on the side of the sexual binary:

There are solid scientific reasons to resist the claim that biological males and females who consider themselves to be of the other gender, and who demand that everyone else recognize that, should be accommodated. Unfortunately, science itself is being coopted by the cultural revolution. The authoritative science magazine Nature published an editorial in October strongly denouncing a reported initiative by the Department of HHS to define male and female by biological characteristics. The editorial takes the line that people ought to be defined by the gender they choose. Nature is a very big deal.

We should by no means assume that science is immune from politicization. In the Soviet Union, as in our own materialist order, Science is considered to be the greatest authority. Science was corrupted by the communists as a matter of course, made to serve the revolution’s ends. The same thing is happening here.

Rod Dreher.

5

[T]here are good Catholics and bad Catholics and … the [New York] Times team gets to decide who is who.

Terry Mattingly, Tale of two New York Times stories: Seeking links in ultimate anti-Pope Francis conspiracy (Get Religion)

6

Now, a story you may not want to know about. I’ll introduce it elliptically, since this is a family blog (or something):

“My dad asked me if I were allowed to wear pants, if I would do it. I said, ‘I don’t know’ — as a kid you’re terrified — I don’t know. He said, ‘Because you can’t tell me right now, that means you are not a Christian. You are not going to heaven because a Christian would never hesitate at that question.’ ”

— Leah Elliott, Indiana

“I was nursing, but the pastor outlawed nursing. No women were allowed to nurse because it kept them from church. I went to the bathroom to cry, and I’m getting engorged — you have to nurse, you get in a lot of pain if you don’t. I’m in the bathroom, and the nursery worker came into the stall with me. I think I was just grabbing toilet paper to blow my nose, she barged in and said, ‘The devil wants you to miss this sermon that’s happening right now. You get back in there.’ ”

— Kara Blocker, Oregon

“I have so few memories of my cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles that it scares me. We were allowed to see them about once a year, until the church decided that the ‘good church members’ shouldn’t fellowship with their non-believing relatives. We were pretty much cut off after that. My grandparents still don’t understand why we were withheld from them.”

— Anonymous, Ohio

Former independent fundamental Baptists share their stories, part of a Fort Worth Star-Telegram series on clergy sexual (mostly) abuse in “Independent Fundamental Baptist” churches.

As I was growing up, some fundamentalist (who probably knew my father from the Gideons) made sure that our family always had a subscription to Sword of the Lord, a very explicitly and unapologetically fundamentalist tabloid out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My parents were unenthusiastic about it, but didn’t seem to think it fit only for the bottom of the bird cage. As a teenager and college student, I generally read each issue for entertainment.

Pastor Jack Hybels of Hammond, Indiana was one of Publisher John R. Rice‘s favorites, and he fits prominently in this hot-off-the-presses series both as the father of one of the chief IFB perverts, Dave Hybels, and as proprietor of a reliable refuge (his Hammond Church) for IFB pastors who needed to be—ahem!—rotated out of their current role due to—ahem! again—accusations by some of the many brazen 14-year-old tarts that kept seducing defenseless IFB pastors.

When I was a young Evangelical, I was quite obsessed with cults — you know, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, (Herbert W. Armstrong’s) Worldwide Church of God, maybe even the Seventh Day Adventists. Though I knew from the Sword of the Lord that these IFB-types were fundamentalists and thus disreputable (they thought we were to be shunned, too; it was reciprocal), I never would have though of Independent Fundamental Baptists as a cult that would shelter perverts in the pulpit.

My bad. The problem is too widespread in this denomination-in-disguise to pretend that “Independent” is more than a legal fiction, that the unthinkability of police reports isn’t symptomatic of a sick system, or that the pastoral reassignments are not all too familiar.

I must henceforth think of IFB churches as cults.

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Emollients (I hope)

1

I would find it more convincing that Trump is “shaking up his administration,” as the press reports every day or two, if they’d first report the deep complacency that needs roiling. (I just haven’t noticed that on my own.)

2

Peggy Noonan thinks Bush I should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, and she, ever the speech writer, wished for more articulation of what he was doing:

[The collapse of Communism] was a crucial event in the history of the West, and its meaning needed stating by the American president. There was much to be lauded, from the hard-won unity of the West to Russia’s decision to move bravely toward new ways. Much could be said without triumphalism.

It is a delicate question, in statecraft as in life, when to speak and when not to. George Bush thought it was enough to do it, not say it, as the eulogists asserted. He trusted the people to infer his reasoning from his actions. (This was his approach on his tax increase, also.) But in the end, to me, leadership is persuasion and honest argument: This is my thinking. I ask you to see it my way.

Something deeply admirable, though: No modern president now considers silence to be an option, ever. It is moving to remember one who did, who trusted the people to perceive and understand his actions. Who respected them that much.

Peggy Noonan (emphasis added)

3

[L]ook at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.

Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan lays out the religious fervor of both the Trumpistas and the Social Justice warriors. Of the latter, he notes, “A Christian is born again; an activist gets woke.

But I never expected much from secular progressives, so I’m going to focus on his indictment of Evangelical Trumpistas:

  1. Their leaders have turned Christianity into a political and social identity, not a lived faith.
  2. They have tribalized a religion explicitly built by Jesus as anti-tribal.
  3. They have turned to idols — including their blasphemous belief in America as God’s chosen country.
  4. They have embraced wealth and nationalism as core goods, two ideas utterly anathema to Christ.
  5. They are indifferent to the destruction of the creation they say they believe God made.
  6. Because their faith is unmoored but their religious impulse is strong, they seek a replacement for religion.

His conclusion: “The terrible truth of the last three years is that the fresh appeal of a leader-cult has overwhelmed the fading truths of Christianity.”

If that is true, we who still hold those fading truths can thank God that Trump is always shaking up his crypto-complacent administration rather than brewing up some Kool-Aid.

(I think it was Ross Douthat who said “If you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait ’till you see the irreligious right.” On Sullivan’s reading, it might be “post-Christian Right” or even “post-Christian politics” generally. But I like Douthat’s version better, nevertheless granting Sullivan’s point about our incorrigible religiosity.)

4

As much as Trump’s defenders may want to minimize “process crimes,” it remains a fact that the last two articles of impeachment drafted against American presidents featured clear evidence of, yes, process crimes. Process crimes are still crimes. It is an enduring feature of political corruption that politicians will lie about things that aren’t illegal but are politically or personally embarrassing — and when they lie under oath or cause others to lie under oath they violate the law.

David French

  1. Objectively, Trump is in a heap’o’trouble.
  2. Somehow, though, he brazens his way through so far. (See item 3.)

5

Trump, I suspect, isn’t unfunny. He’s anti-funny. Humor humanizes. It uncorks, unstuffs, informalizes. Used well, it puts people at ease. Trump’s method is the opposite: He wants people ill at ease. Doing so preserves his capacity to wound, his sense of superiority, his distance. Good jokes highlight the ridiculous. Trump’s jokes merely ridicule. They are caustics, not emollients.

… This is an angry age, in which Trump’s critics also simmer in rage, ridicule, self-importance, self-pity — and hatred, too. They think they’re reproaching the president. Increasingly they reflect him. [Alan] Simpson’s message contains a warning to us all.

Bret Stephens, A Presidency Without Humor.

That’s an important warning, but our humor should not leave history wondering if we were complacent. No, we’re still pretty shaken up.

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Clippings, 12/7/18

1

Republicans tax churches to help pay for big corporate giveaway.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is a headline from the Onion or the fantasy of some left-wing website. But it’s exactly what happened in the big corporate tax cut the GOP passed last year.

Now … embarrassed leaders … are trying to fix a provision that is a monument to both their carelessness and their hypocrisy.

The authors of the measure apparently didn’t even understand what they were doing — or that’s their alibi to faith groups now. It’s not much of a defense …

At stake is a provision in the $1.5trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that directed not-for-profits of all kinds — houses of worship but also, for example, universities, museums and orchestras — to pay a 21 percent tax on certain fringe benefits for their employees, such as parking and meals.

GOP leaders have told representatives of religious organizations that they had no intention of taxing them. They were focused on what they saw as liberal bastions in the third sector: universities, foundations and the like.

But this excuse only makes the story worse. It shows how slipshod the architects of this tax bill were, and it demonstrates their deeply partisan motives. After all, limiting the state and local deduction raises taxes far more on middle-class and well-off taxpayers in Democratic states than on their counterparts in Republican states. No wonder blue states such as California, New Jersey and New York evicted so many House Republicans last month.

E.J. Dionne Jr..

This delightful egg-on-their-partisan-faces story doesn’t quite add up. It’s awfully hard to imagine the religious lobbying groups themselves not noticing this unintended consequence. But I have no better story.

2

This points to the idea that, on another level, our present crisis is really one of consciousness. When faith suddenly “drops out,” an abscess forms in our self-perception. We find that faith isn’t so much something we “have,” but something that shapes and even creates the “I” we inhabit.

Losing faith doesn’t mean that the propositions of faith no longer make sense to us—that Jesus is the Son of God, or that Mary is the immaculate virgin mother of God. Losing faith means that these propositions no longer help to form our perspectives on other propositions: e.g., that belief in divine causes is more sane than reductive materialism, or that the Church is a culturally important, even indispensable institution.

Andrew M. Haines, How to Understand the Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis.

I skipped over this when I first saw it, figuring (wrongly) that it was another “Ya just gotta believe because only the Catholic Church has the precious and life-giving body and blood of Christ” apologetic. But then Rod Dreher quoted part of all of what I’ve now quoted, which I thought evokes the faith part of an integrated life—and how a loss of faith really is a personal crisis, as it entails dis-integration.

3

Do you think [Trump] has kept his promises? Has he achieved his goals?

No.

He hasn’t?

No. His chief promises were that he would build the wall, de-fund planned parenthood, and repeal Obamacare, and he hasn’t done any of those things. There are a lot of reasons for that, but since I finished writing the book, I’ve come to believe that Trump’s role is not as a conventional president who promises to get certain things achieved to the Congress and then does. I don’t think he’s capable. I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus. I don’t think he understands the system. I don’t think the Congress is on his side. I don’t think his own agencies support him. He’s not going to do that.

Tucker Carlson, of all people, being interviewed by the Swiss weekly Weltwoche (emphasis added). H/T Rod Dreher.

Watching our President sulking into George H.W. Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral, holding Melania’s hand (“to watch grown men cry” as he once put it) and perfunctorily shaking hands with the Obamas, I was struck again at what a total clod he is, lacking almost completely all “social graces.” He make me look like Fred Astaire.

But my countrymen elected him, and even if I were to hide behind the mythical “popular vote,” a big chunk of my countrymen preferred him.

4

The media does not believe that Christians can be hated in the same way as other groups. Media members may have been sympathetic to Christians as individuals but are very hesitant to say that they are victims of hate. This may explain why church shootings are rarely described as a hate crime unless the church is black ….

George Yancey, stating one of the conclusions from his new book about media bias, based on an “audit study” of media.

5

“If more than half of us are sick, what does it mean to be normal?” (From the New York Times obituary of iconoclast Dr. Lisa Schwartz)

6

Today is my late father’s 99th birthday (yes, he became 22 the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor) and events have converged to make it a propitious day for me to finally and officially retire from the practice of law by signing an “Affidavit or Retirement” and sending it in to the Admission and Discipline Office—which I shall do within the hour.

My pseudonym here has worn thin, but I see no need to out myself completely. All my opinions have been my own, with none of them censored or cleared in advance with my law partners. By the same token, I’ve imposed no self-censorship for the sake of protecting the firm my Dad founded, either.

There are, indeed, a few opinions I hold that just aren’t spoken in polite society. I’ve spoken a few of them anyway, if I thought it was important enough. Others I’ve held back because it wasn’t worth the fallout. Those instinctive rules of thumb, too, will continue.

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Potpourri, 12/5/18

1

There is nothing NSFW about the thread — it’s just screenshots of these users’ profiles. Such as:

You get the idea. Twitter is kicking off anyone who “deadnames” or “misgenders” a trans person, but allows stuff like this.

Rod Dreher.

That was the last straw. I have deactivated my Twitter account.

 

2

When my conservative evangelical parents and I left the theater [after watching Boy, Erased, they said to me, “That was so powerful.” My dad observed, “Some movies seem to drag and lose your attention. Not this one.” My mom said, “It’s all just so sad — and cultish.” Evangelical Christians still tempted to embrace the conversion therapy framework should ponder why it is that two people who (unwittingly) reared a gay son while looking to James Dobson for parenting advice had that reaction to this film.

Not only has conversion therapy heaped false guilt on the shoulders of parents, it has left many of its participants unable to distinguish between true Christian holiness and the straitjacket of mid-twentieth century gender norms. It’s high time we left it behind and joined its victims in lamenting its sad legacy.

Wesley Hill.

Reading this reminds me that I once considered Joseph Nicolosi and NARTH “experts” on how homosexuality happens and how to “cure” it. I wasn’t deeply into it because I had no gayness to cure, but they guided my half-baked attitudes. It had not occurred to me that the parents of gay kids suffered false guilt because of those theories.

My attitudes may still be half-baked, but Wesley Hill and other abstinent gay Christians are who I listen to now.

 

3

Bryan Behar did something unconscionable.

He praised George H.W. Bush.

The former president had just died. In Behar’s view, it was a moment to recognize any merit in the man and his legacy.

Many of his followers disagreed. They depended on Behar for righteous liberal passion, which left no room for such Bush-flattering adjectives and phrases as “good,” “decent” and “a life of dignity.” How dare Behar lavish them on a man who leaned on the despicable Willie Horton ad, who nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, who did too little in the face of AIDS, whose privilege often blinded him to need.

They lashed out at Behar. They unfollowed him. And they demonstrated the transcendent curse of these tribal times: Americans’ diminishing ability to hold two thoughts at once.

We like our villains without redemption and our heroes without blemish ….

Frank Bruni, who’s nearly as good as Ross Douthat this Wednesday morning. They’re both behind the New York Times’ metered paywall, so choose Douthat first; it’s a column for the ages — I highlighted almost every word in my “keeper” copy. His thesis is we’re pining for WASP aristocrats like 41, because the meritocrats (starting with 42) are such a sorry lot in comparison.

 

4

From Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe:

In October 2015 the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, criticised Soros publicly as one of a circle of activists who “support anything that weakens nation states.” Soros responded publicly to confirm that the numerous groups he was funding were indeed working for the ends described by Orban. In an email to Bloomberg, Soros said that it was his foundation which was seeking to “uphold European values,” while he accused Orban of trying to “undermine those values.” Soros went on to say of Orban: “His plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.” The dialogues ceased before anyone could ask Soros how long those European values might last once Europe could be walked into by people from all over the world.

… Orban leads a tiny and relatively poor Central European country of fewer than 10 million people, is desperately attempting to prevent that country from committing cultural suicide like the rest of Europe. It is hard for Americans to understand what the world looks like from the perspective of a country like that …

… Orban considers Soros’s university to be an agent of real corruption in the heart of his embattled nation. Consider something as petty as the gender studies program at the university. That’s a garbage discipline that promotes an ideology that destroys marriage and family …

Rod Dreher.

One may, I suppose, view Soros’ project as benign or even admirable, but I am sympathetic to Orban (and suspicious—cui bono?)—that billionaire Soros’ “Open Society” is designed in part to clear the path, for him and his kindred, to more billions.

 

5

A few years ago, I first encountered members of a fundamentalist church who believed that fiction is wrong. They taught that reading about characters and events which are not literally real violates the ninth commandment because it involves sentences which, out of context, convey falsehoods. “Once upon a time there lived a princess named Snow White” is a lie, according to this thinking, because there technically never was such a person.

When I asked these Christians to explain Jesus’ parables (which are stories), they insisted that there really must have been a Prodigal Son, a Good Samaritan, and a man who built his house on the sand! They couldn’t prove this claim, of course, except by begging their first principle that all technical non-facts are lies. I pointed out that this was circular. That was more or less the end of the discussion. I think we moved on to debating whether C. S. Lewis was a warlock.

Is Santa Claus a lie?

 

6

Even for a hit piece the article feels incredibly forced, ham-fisted and desperate. Reading it gives you the feeling as if [name omitted] is leaning way into your personal space, pressing his face against your ear, and saying “You are not to believe the things that horrible man says about what is happening in your world. I will tell you what you are to believe about those controversial events. Big Brother is your friend. You love Big Brother.”

Caitlyn Johnstone

Johnstone embeds a video without (that I noticed) saying why, but it’s an interview of Noam Chomsky by journalist Andrew Marr, with a typical click-baity description. Excerpts:

Chomsky: … Unpopular ideas can be silenced without any force.
Marr: How?
Chomsky: He [Orwell] gives a two-sentence reponse … “Two reasons: The press is owned by wealthy men who have every interest in having certain things not appear; but, second, the whole education system from the beginning on through, gets you to understand that there are certain things you just do not say ….”
Marr: This is what I don’t get. It suggests that [unintelligle] are self-censoring …
Chomsky: Not self-censoring. There’s a filtering system that starts in kindergarten and goes all the way through … It selects for obedience and subordination. And especially …
Marr: So stroppy people won’t make it …
Chomsky: … behavior problems. If you read applications to graduate school, you’ll see that people will tell you “he’s not good, doesn’t get along too well with his colleagues,” and you know how to interpret those things.

Marr: How can you know that I’m self-censoring?
Chomsky: I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting there.

Chomsky speaks softly and confidently, but this is a perverse example of Bulverism.

The inverview video is just a clip of a longer video, so maybe Chomsky gets into how Marr is wrong, and not just why (i.e., he’s been carefully groomed and filtered and deemed worthy to front for The Man). But that Johnstone might think the clip profound does not speak all that well of Johnstone, who always writes colorfully and entertainingly, but also, too often, flippantly, in the sense of assuming that the joke on her target has already been made, and that it’s time for ritual mockery.

 

7

“Deplorables” was bad, but the most insulting thing anyone said about Trump supporters in 2016 was said by Trump himself: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Can you live down to that, Trump fans?

 

8

Rudy makes a fool of himself. Details. Summary:

Giuliani spent 16 years as a security consultant and was originally brought on to the Trump team as a cybersecurity adviser. Be terrified. https://t.co/OTK6KERlyT

— Alex Laird (@alexdlaird) December 5, 2018

All because he can’t type, accidentally creating the URL G-20.in, and then tried to blame a Twitter conspiracy against him.

 

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Sunday, 12/2/18

Why boastest thou thyself in thy wickedness, O man of power? the loving-kindness of God endureth daily. Thy tongue imagineth mischief, and is like a sharp razor, that cutteth deceitfully. Thou dost love evil more than good, and lies more than to speak the truth. Selah. Thou lovest all words that may destroy: O deceitful tongue! So shall God destroy thee forever: he shall take thee and pluck thee out of thy tabernacle, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.

Psalm 52:1-5 (1599 Geneva Bible, because I just don’t trust those wishy-washy modern version from 1611)


 

I became restless. I was looking for more depth in my faith, longed for worship not compromised by pop culture, and sought deep roots.

Dave Bugbee, who found it all in Orthodox Christianity.

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Clippings and commentary, 12/1/18

1

For a couple of months now, I’ve asked myself a question as I begin to blog on this platform:

Since Alan Jacobs and Caitlin Johnstone are right, what’s really worth blogging today? How about the practical outworkings of their respective insights?

I think that has been helpful, but the two mostly articulate what I knew in my bones already—not that I’ve known it all that long, but a couple of years at least. So I’m not sure that all that much has changed.

2

In that light, Andrew Sullivan was on fire Friday.

His weekly contribution to New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer typically is in three unrelated parts, and often his second or third part drops off into something regarding his (homo)sexuality. Those often bore me.

But this week he had three strong parts, the first on The Right’s Climate Change Shame:

I honestly can’t see how the science of this can be right or left. It’s either our best working hypothesis or not. And absolutely, we can have a debate about how to best counter it: massive investment in new green technology; a carbon tax; cap and trade; private-sector innovation of the kind that has helped restrain emissions in the U.S. already. And this debate could be had on right-left lines. But we cannot even have the debate because American conservatism has ruled it out of bounds.

Then there is the final, classic Republican nonargument: “I don’t see it.” When nothing else works, just subjectively deny all objective reality.

This title piece is very strong.

3

True to form, the second part is about sex, but he’s very stimulating:

Does the fact that less than one percent of humans feel psychologically at odds with their biological sex mean that biological sex really doesn’t exist and needs to be defined away entirely? Or does it underline just how deep the connection between sex and gender almost always is?

… the fact that this society is run overwhelmingly on heterosexual lines makes sense to me, given their overwhelming majority. As long as the government does not actively persecute or enable the persecution of a minority, who cares? An intersex person is as deeply human as anyone else. So is a gay or transgender person. It’s stupid to pretend they are entirely normal, because it gives the concept of normality too much power over us ….

4

Finally, he gets into his own sexuality but in context of a delightful reductio ad absurdum of intersectionality:

[A]n oppressor can also be identified in multiple, intersectional ways. I spend my days oppressing marginalized people and women, because, according to social-justice ideology, I am not just male, but also white and cisgendered. My sin — like the virtue of the oppressed — is multifaceted. So multifaceted, in fact, that being gay must surely be included. Also: HIV-positive. Come to think of it: immigrant. And an English Catholic — which makes me a victim in my childhood and adolescence. Suddenly, I’m a little more complicated, aren’t I? But wait! As a Catholic, I am also an oppressive enabler of a misogynist institution, and at the same time, as a gay Catholic, I’m a marginalized member of an oppressed “LGBTQ” community, as well as sustaining an institution that oppresses other gays.

It can get very complicated very fast. I remain confident that I remain an oppressor because my sex, gender, and race — let alone my belief in liberal constitutionalism and limited government — probably trump all my victim points. But that is a pretty arbitrary line, is it not? Think of the recent leftist discourse around white women. One minute, they are the vanguard of the fight against patriarchy; the next minute, they are quislings devoted to white supremacy and saturated with false consciousness.

And that’s why I favor more intersectionality, not less. Let’s push this to its logical conclusion. Let’s pile on identity after identity for any individual person; place her in multiple, overlapping oppression dynamics, victim and victimizer, oppressor and oppressed; map her class, race, region, religion, marital status, politics, nationality, language, disability, attractiveness, body weight, and any other form of identity you can. After a while, with any individual’s multifaceted past, present, and future, you will end up in this multicultural world with countless unique combinations of endless identities in a near-infinite loop of victim and victimizer. You will, in fact, end up with … an individual human being!

In the end, all totalizing ideologies disappear up their own assholes. With intersectionality, we have now entered the lower colon.

In saying that, he probably has made himself an Enemy of the People—the kind of creeps who don’t just tweet insults, but who show up at your home en masse, beating on the door and threatening imminent harm.

For the rest of us, Sullivan provided some material to save the world (or rebuild after collapse).

5

For two years, Democrats have denounced President Trump’s rhetoric as divisive, and sometimes they’ve been right. Yet they’re also only too happy to polarize the electorate along racial lines, insinuating that Republicans steal elections and pick judges who nurse old bigotries.

WSJ Editorial Board, Democrats and Racial Division

6

Garry Kasparov, the chess champion and chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative (with which I’m associated), has an excellent suggestion for how to respond immediately to Russia’s attack Sunday on three Ukrainian naval ships operating in their own territorial waters: Send a flotilla of U.S. and NATO warships through the narrow Kerch Strait to pay a port call to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov.

The move would be Trumanesque, recalling the Berlin airlift of 1948. It would symbolize the West’s solidarity with our embattled Ukrainian ally, our rejection of Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and our defiance of the Kremlin’s arrogant, violent, lawless behavior. And it would serve as powerful evidence that, when it comes to standing up for the free world, Donald Trump is not, after all, Vladimir Putin’s poodle.

In other words, don’t count on it.

Where’s Sean Hannity when you need him to be embarrassed for his country?

Bret Stephens

Russia is our whipping boy (the Republicans’ after the cold war, now the Democrats’ and the elites’), and my reflex at new accusations against it is skepticism. But darned if that bridge over the Kerch Straits isn’t deliberately too low for big ships. Sometimes the accusations may be true.

7

Mr. Bush came to the Oval Office under the towering, sharply defined shadow of Ronald Reagan, a onetime rival for whom he had served as vice president.

No president before had arrived with his breadth of experience: decorated Navy pilot, successful oil executive, congressman, United Nations delegate, Republican Party chairman, envoy to Beijing, director of Central Intelligence.

Over the course of a single term that began on Jan. 20, 1989, Mr. Bush found himself at the helm of the world’s only remaining superpower. The Berlin Wall fell; the Soviet Union ceased to exist; the communist bloc in Eastern Europe broke up; the Cold War ended.

His firm, restrained diplomatic sense helped assure the harmony and peace with which these world-shaking events played out, one after the other.

Karen Tumulty, Washington Post. In other words, his greatest accommplishment may have been the war on falling Russia that did not happen.

R.I.P.

8

Alan Jacobs has been far less obsessive about debunking “cultural Marxism” as a useful category than various bloggers have been in accusing people of it.

Jacobs’ latest, starting with the definition of someone who thinks the term is useful:

So what is cultural Marxism? In brief, it is a belief that cultural productions (books, institutions, etc.) and ideas are emanations of underlying power structures, so we must scrutinize and judge all culture and ideas based on their relation to power.

The problem here, put as succinctly as I can put it, is that you can take this view of culture without being a Marxist, and you can be a Marxist without taking this view of culture.

(enough with the “Cultural Marxism” already)

I hope I’ve never personally used the term here, but if I have, I repent in sackcloth and ashes. The internet neighborhoods I frequent tend to be populated by people who use the term (no, they are not notably anti-Semitic), so it may have made its way into a quotation.

Maybe I should use its use as a categorical diqualification to join my Feedly stream—not as a litmus test for anti-Semitism, but as a litmus test for loose thinking.

9

I think the most powerful argument I have for my fellow Christians is that supporting Trump is destructive to the way we represent Christ. Some Christians talked about trying to guide Trump through our support and help him be a better man. Maybe they actually believe that would happen, but the opposite has happened. Evangelicals have become worse rather than Trump becoming better. Evangelicals once believed that our sexual morals mattered in leadership but no more. The defense of Trump by some evangelicals reaches the height of hypocrisy. I have Christian contacts who were very hard on Trump during the primaries and were disgusted with Trump in the general election. If they did vote for Trump, they held their nose while they did it. Today, to my dismay, some of those same Christians have turned into some of his biggest supporters. Christians did not save Trump. Trump corrupted them.

And none of this is to ignore that by supporting Trump, Christians have tied themselves to his race baiting, sexism, lying and incompetence. I know that many of my Christian friends hated that argument when I used it. They pointed out that just because they voted for Trump does not mean they agree with him on everything. I understand that logically. But in reality people are going to associate a vote with Trump as an affirmation of all the characteristics linked to him. It does not matter that you voted for Trump because you did not like Clinton; when you vote Trump you get the whole package. All the lying, race-baiting, sexism and the rest is something you will be seen as endorsing. So that 81 percent of white evangelicals number will continue to plague evangelicalism for some time to come.

It is better to stand for something, even if that something is rejected by the larger society, than to show oneself as willing to compromise one’s own morals to achieve political victories ….

George Yancey, Being Destroyed from Within

10

There is no level of fraudulence, falsity, and charlatanism that our elites will not eat up on the subject of “education,” because the subject itself is empty of content (hey-hey-ho-ho Western-Civ-has-got-to-go led to the most appalling vacuum) and thus all of the grifters, shakedown artists, hucksters, frauds, and the like have come flooding in to fill the void.

Matt in VA, quoted in Rod Dreher’s story on a fraudulent Louisiana alternative school.

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Mene, mene tekel upharsin

In a short piece on the conservative Reformed blog The Aquila Report, Dan Winiarski reports from a meeting of All One Body, an activist lobby within the Christian Reformed Church in North America (Dutch Calvinists) that is trying to convince the conservative denomination to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism …

The meeting’s leaders advised those gathered on strategies to undermine and replace the church’s biblically orthodox stance. Excerpt:

… one of the board members of A1B gave the audience a piece of advice: Do not use Scripture to convince your fellow CRC members of the beauty of full inclusion. Instead, rely on personal stories. “Everyone has a story,” she said. “We can argue back and forth all day about Scripture, but we’re never going to win that way. Nobody can argue with your story.”

Another member of the panel shared the focal point of this “personal story” strategy. He said it is all about convincing people, through stories about real people who have embraced the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lifestyle, that such people bear healthier fruit than those who are non-inclusive. Whereas the panel referred to “the old teachings of the church” as “toxic,” A1B wants the CRC as a whole to accept the new teachings of full-inclusion, yielding good fruit.

… [T]he A1B activists understand well that in our bourgeois society, well being, wealth, and conformity to middle-class norms — and above all, avoiding suffering — are the marks of the church. It’s a false church, one that has turned from the Holy Spirit to the Zeitgeist, but this is how many ecclesial communities roll in post-Christian America.

In the early 1990s, when I was considering converting from non-practicing Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to Catholicism, I went through a period when I tried to reconcile sexual liberty with the Christian faith … It was so clear to me from the very beginning of our courtship that the three years (four, if you count our courtship) that I lived chastely, out of obedience, had been a period of profound purification and maturation. I did not know what was happening to me when I was in the middle of it. I just trudged onward … The thing is, the ascetic desert also prepared me for living within marriage …

These are harder stories to tell in our culture, because they are so countercultural. But we orthodox Christians had better get good at telling them. The other side is good at “narrative theology,” and they have the mass media on their side. Our culture, even the culture within many of our churches, presents the faith as an electric blanket, when in fact it is the Cross (said Flannery O’Connor). Nobody wants to hear that today, but it’s the truth — a truth that saves lives, both here and in eternity.

Rod Dreher, emphasis added.

The Aquila Report is worth reading beyond Dreher’s excerpts because the innovators have a second strategy, beyond storytelling, and that is the “judicial option””

… the panel revealed their preference for a strategy of using “judicial” rulings similar to the way the secular activists won their case at the United States Supreme Court with Obergefell.

A1B’s plan to transform the CRC will proceed as follows. They will identify a current CRC pastor who is sympathetic to their cause, who is willing to perform a homosexual “wedding” ceremony. Or taking another route, they will find a CRC congregation that is willing to elect an elder or deacon who is openly and proudly living in a homosexual partnership. Inevitably, this will cause a firestorm of protest in the CRC. Complaints will be filed. Debate will ensue. The Banner will publish articles both for and against. The great brouhaha will eventually make its way to Synod.

And the hope on the part of A1B is that Synodical delegates will embrace the path of least resistance and rule in favor of the pastor, or the church, or the office bearer. Synod might decide, as it has done with other controversial topics, that the LGBTQ+ question is a matter for each local church council to decide. Or, if the personal story of the individual involved is especially powerful, Synod may embrace empathy as the path toward inclusion. Perhaps a desire to prove the CRC’s relevancy credentials will convince Synod to “get with the times.”

Whatever reasoning Synod uses, the panel members representing A1B were in agreement (and the audience was too) that the “judicial” plan presented their best path to victory.

I’ve seen that strategy at work in many other denominations. The dissident pastor, after all, will have a touching story to tell of how s/he came in good faith to transvalue values, so it would be mean to do anything orthodox in response.

The Christian Reformed Church was my Church for nearly two decades before I entered Orthodoxy. After I left, a member came to me addled about what Orthodoxy was but thinking I’d be a sympathetic ear for his private religious opinions—which were decidedly sub-Christian. He’s still there as has served as an officer in the Church.

The heated debates of my years in the CRC all resolved in favor of the innovators. I have no doubt, barring divine intervention (which I do not expect; mene mene tekel upharsin), that they’ll win again.

The CRC’s professed adherence to Scripture Alone (sola scriptura) is delusional. As Dreher says:

[I]n our bourgeois society, well being, wealth, and conformity to middle-class norms — and above all, avoiding suffering — are the marks of the church.

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Potpourri 11/27/18

1

An obese man wants to lose weight. He hires a personal trainer and a nutritionist and informs them he wants to go from 300 pounds to 200. “I am willing to diet and exercise,” he tells them earnestly. The obese man purchases an expensive program with the personal trainer, whom he sees five days a week. The nutritionist advises the obese man on meal plans, and he begins eating grains for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and lean white meat and vegetables for dinner. He jogs a mile every morning, then works with his trainer at the gym for ninety minutes.

Three months pass and the man has lost no weight. The nutritionist inquires about his eating habits, and the man says he has eaten exactly what she told him to eat.

“Are you eating anything besides what I told you to eat?”

The man replies, “Before bed, I’ll have pizza, cake and ice cream, and a few Russian imperial stouts.”

The nutritionist asks, “Is that the only time you eat that kind of food?”

The man replies, “It’s typically what I eat on weekends. Monday through Friday, though, from breakfast till dinner, I keep the diet and do the exercise.”

Of course, merely keeping a diet for eight hours a day, five days a week, will not be sufficient to improve a man’s health. Neither will a classical education do much good if it is only kept on weekdays during business hours. It is possible for a man to undo his daily diet every night before bed, and it is likewise possible for everything that happens between 8am and 3pm at school to be erased at home between 3pm and bedtime.

If classical education were mainly concerned with students knowing what is right, then whatever took place in the life of the student between 3pm and bedtime would not matter so much. For all their faults, video games, pop music, and social media are not likely to scrub the memory. However, a classical education is more concerned with loving what is right than merely knowing it ….

Joshua Gibbs, A Classical Education Demands A Classical Home.

2

In the forties, there were many who turned against their old beliefs, but there were very few who understood what had been wrong with those beliefs. Far from giving up their belief in history and success, they simply changed trains, as it were; the train of Socialism and Communism had been wrong, and they changed to the train of Capitalism or Freudianism or some refined Marxism, or a sophisticated mixture of all three. Auden, instead, became a Christian; that is, he left the train of History altogether. I don’t know whether Stephen Spender is right in asserting that “prayer corresponded to his deepest need”—I suspect that his deepest need was simply to write verses—but I am reasonably sure that his sanity, the great good sense that illuminated all his prose writings (his essays and book reviews), was due in no small measure to the protective shield of orthodoxy.

Hannah Arendt, writing about W.H. Auden.

3

I texted over the weekend with a European friend with whom I had not been in touch for a couple of decades. Over the course of our conversation, I revealed to him that since we had last been in touch, I had left Catholicism. He said he had too. It turns out that a kid he had once been an altar boy with told him that Father had molested him back then. My friend said it was “just dumb luck” that he wasn’t attacked also. He has learned, as have we all, that rapey Father was not unusual, and that bishops have known about dirty priests like him for a long time, and done little or nothing about it. My friend couldn’t take any of it seriously after that. He told me that he misses certain things, but that he is not going to take his young sons into the Church, as he regards the Catholic priesthood as “a refuge for homosexuals and child molesters.”

Now, you can regard that European man as a fool if you like, but the fact is that the Catholic faith, which has been faithfully handed down in his family from time immemorial, stops with his generation, and may never again be known among his line ….

Rod Dreher.

4

I’ve never been one for name-dropping, but … Wess Stafford.

It seemed at one point as if everybody in my former Evangelical circles knew who he was, but the irony is that I didn’t — though I’d gone to school with him, graduating with him, in a very small school (i.e., graduating class of about 60).

Wess Stafford arrived at Wheaton Academy during the blizzard of ’67 hopeless, alone, and angry. The way he saw it, he had two choices – run away or end it all. Today, when asked, Dr. Stafford would tell you that what followed was a transformation so powerful that he now refers to his life as “before Wheaton Academy and after Wheaton Academy!”

(Wheaton Academy Giving Tuesday email)

That’s all true. I know Wess now and we’re on first-name basis. But I didn’t know him then because his arrival was the beginning of our last semester, and he quickly learned that his education (beginning on the African mission field) to that point had been woefully inadequate. (Things that had happened to him — hint: see item 3 — didn’t help matters any.) He was going to have to study like mad to begin to catch up, and though he had hoped to outrun our track coach, Gil Dodds, athletics weren’t going to fit into his schedule, which left little time for anything but intense study.

He did what he had to do and went on to become famous for his charity work.

So, his slipping into our stream at the last minute and then having to bury himself in his room and in the library is my excuse for not remembering him.

The world is full of interesting stories. I hope this was one.

5

For what it’s worth, I have zero indignation about the woman in Mississippi, running for public office, who said “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be right there in the front row.” (Or something like that.)

The reporting has been free of all context except that she’s white, her opponent is black, she attended a private school that was segregated, and it is, above all, Mississippi (wink, wink, home of deplorables).

I have no sympathy with racism, but the remark, without context, is susceptible of non-racist interpretations, and I’m sick of the game of “Gotcha!,” where the press helps gin up the “controversy.” The press failure to provide more context leaves me very, very suspicious that they’re just trying to keep our rapt attention.

6

It’s so great that we have a very stable genius businessman for President!

When GM announced that it was cutting 15,000 jobs, our very stable genius businessman/President said he wasn’t happy about it (his happiness is the measure of all things) and they should try making something that people will buy.

Why didn’t GM think of that? Duh!

MAGA!

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Jonathan Chau

There’s a fair amount of buzz about the death of American Jonathan Chau at the hands of Sentinelese islanders near India. Here’s the New York Times, for instance.

A secularist blogger at Patheos seized the opportunity to mock and vilify Christians, some (perhaps many) of whom are calling Chau a “martyr.” One group even wants the Sentinelese killers prosecuted. (That group is laser-focused on persecution of Christian around the world, so it has an incentive to see every Christian’s violent death as a persecution.)

Here’s my own initial and limited take.

There is no inconsistency between (1) recognizing the illegality and foolhardiness of Chau’s effort and (2) acknowledging him as a martyr because he was trying to preach the Gospel.

But I personally do not call Chau a Christian martyr because he is in almost every way not worthy of emulation:

  1. He was not in communion with the Orthodox Church, but rather with a group multiple schisms removed from it — a group I might even think heretical if I knew more about it than the debased label “Christian.” That he graduated from Oral Roberts University is no reassurance.
  2. He was deliberately violating a reasonable law that was not enacted to prevent evangelization of the Sentinelese. (That’s setting aside any question about what it was intended to do.)
  3. He was, from what I’ve read, totally unprepared actually to evangelize the Sentinelese; he didn’t know their language and he had no training to master languages from scratch. I’m not even sure that he was any kind of commissioned missionary (versus an enthusiastic world traveler).
  4. He was, frankly, grandstanding. Whatever else he was doing, he was doing that. (I might be dissuaded on this point.)
  5. The Sentinelese killed him for his invasion of their island, not for his faith.

In short, I see his letters home as a sort of “hold my beer (and don’t call the Coast Guard) while I go through the motions of declaring Jesus to these folks who won’t understand me and who I can’t understand. And tell Mom I love her.”

God is merciful and loves mankind, so I still can hope for a blessed repose for this foolish and willful young man.

UPDATE 11/29/18: I have just learned that Chau did have some preparation, including linguistic training, vaccinations and quarantine, and was commissioned as a missionary. I need to acknowledge that in light of my third and fourth points and my snarky summary—all based on what I knew or had reason to know at the time I wrote them.

If you want to understand what might motivate a young man to take a very high risk with his life (and his freedom if caught by legal authorities), Ed Stetzer’s “Acts of Faith” item in the Washington Post would be good to read.

UPDATE 2 (reaching this group was a long obsession of Chao, and the missionary agency boot camp was oriented to that, making the mission agency complicit in the illegality).

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