Potpourri, 2/11/19

1

So since I know that [government or other establishment] infiltration and manipulation [of dissident media and movements] happens, but I don’t find other people’s whisperings about “controlled opposition” useful, how do I figure out who’s trustworthy and who isn’t? How do I figure out who it’s safe to cite in my work and who to avoid? How do I separate the fool’s gold from the genuine article? The shit from the Shinola?

Here is my answer: I don’t.

I spend no mental energy whatsoever concerning myself with who may or may not be a secret pro-establishment influencer, and for good reason. There’s no way to know for sure if an individual is secretly scheming to sheep dog the populace into support for the status quo, and as long as government agencies remain opaque and unaccountable there will never be a way to know who might be secretly working for them. What I can know is (A) what I’ve learned about the world, (B) the ways the political/media class is lying about what I know about the world, and (C) when someone says something which highlights those lies. I therefore pay attention solely to the message, and no attention to what may or may not be the hidden underlying agenda of the messenger.

In other words, if someone says something which disrupts establishment narratives, I help elevate what they’re saying in that specific instance. I do this not because I know that the speaker is legit and uncorrupted, but because their message in that moment is worthy of elevation. You can navigate the entire political/media landscape in this way.

Since society is made of narrative and power ultimately rests in the hands of those who are able to control those narratives, it makes no sense to fixate on individuals and it makes perfect sense to focus on narrative. What narratives are being pushed by those in power? How are those narratives being disrupted, undermined and debunked by things that are being said by dissident voices? This is the most effective lens through which to view the battle against the unelected power establishment which is crushing us all to death, not some childish fixation on who should or shouldn’t be our hero.

There’s no reason to worry about what journalists, activists and politicians are coming from a place of authenticity if you know yourself to be coming from a place of authenticity.

Caitlyn Johnstone. A very sensible answer, from a writer who might be controlled or manipulated for all I know, though under criteria (A), (B) & (C), I find her pretty reliable.

2

Wilders regularly refers to a supposedly tolerant set of “Christian values” that contrast with allegedly savage Islamic ideals, but in reality, Islam and Christianity, like Judaism, derive from the same Abrahamic roots and draw on similar Greek philosophical traditions.

Khaled Diab, A far-right politician converted to Islam. It’s not as surprising as it sounds.

Yeah, it’s not totally surprising, but that sentence is sheer blather:

Wilders regularly refers to the unreliability of Yugos, but in reality, Yugos derive from seminal 19th Century inventions and are manufactured similarly to Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Lexus.

I don’t know whether Diab was obliged by his employer to mute any criticism of Islam or if he did it free gratis, but he fails Caitlyn Johnstone’s criterion (C).

3

From the Enquirer’s perspective, Mr. Bezos’ pockets are superhumanly deep. He controls the Washington Post. Mr. Pecker, already in legal trouble over Trump dealings, might well find it worrying to have someone of Mr. Bezos’ heft pounding away at the narrative that the Enquirer was not doing what it always does, and is legally entitled to do, shamelessly trafficking in the scandals of the rich and famous. Instead, it was conducting a character assassination on behalf of Mr. Trump or the Saudis, possibly in cahoots with official hackers of Mr. Bezos’ phone or message traffic.

… The paper’s story about Mr. Bezos’ philandering and sexting …, compared with a lot of what’s published as “news” these days, [is] extremely well supported with documentary evidence. Whereas the narrative Mr. Bezos is promoting is speculative. Even if the pro-Trump brother was involved, the story would have been delicious to the Enquirer if there had been no Trump connection. Every story has a source, and sources have motives.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Bezos vs. the Enquirer Could Be a Watershed

4

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.

Alan Jacobs, about 19 months ago. He returns to it now, which prompted me to think about the Democrats’ Dilemma.

I was puzzled by the nearly unanimous Democrat demands that Democrat Ralph Northram resign as Governor of Virginia, but The Daily podcast helped me make sense of it (and gave me a bad case of schadenfreude).

You see, they wanted to put an impassible gulf between their party, the patent sleaze of Donald Trump and the alleged super-creepy mall-trolling of young Roy Moore. So they set a zero tolerance policy, expelling Al Franken and others (from safe Democrat seats). Now it seems that they’re discovering the ubiquity of sin: not every Democrat sinner is in a safe seat.

I don’t know which is worse: the usual hypocrisy or a foolish consistency. But the foolish consistency feels more consistent with our damnable callout culture — which ironically puts the heroic caller-outers in bed with Donald Trump, who like them never asked God for forgiveness because he never did anything wrong.

5

Another very slick technology I won’t use because it’s from one of the companies that most flagrantly monetizes me: It’s the Real World—With Google Maps Layered on Top.

(No, now that you mention it: I can’t get over the death of privacy.)

6

Three months getting a new Tesla 3 bumper to the body shop:

The upstart car company has created a coveted luxury brand but is still learning some of the basics of the auto business.

Thou shalt not covet.

(“Thou also shalt not smirk about not drinking Elon Musk’s Kool-Aid,” he reminded the mirror).

7

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone.

The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism ….

I almost don’t need to say who wrote that, do I? It’s JHK.

8

Speaking of socialism, I may be parting ways with Rod Dreher for a while, as he is writing a new book:

The gist of the book will be a warning to the West about the re-emergence of socialism and the totalitarian mindset that accompanies it. The warning will be in the form of “lessons” told by people who lived under Soviet-bloc socialism, and who are alarmed by what they see happening now in the West. An American college professor who grew up in the USSR told me last week that it shocks her and her emigre parents to see the same mindset that they ran away from manifesting itself in US academia. It will not stay confined to the academy, either.

That sounds much better than some of the foreshadowings in his blog, which seem blind to how equivocal the term “socialism” is today.

By the time I read his Benedict Option, with which I substantially agree, the arguments and anecdotes were very familiar to me — almost stale — from his blog, which for many month felt like a test kitchen.

I’m skeptical enough of the emerging “socialist” demonizing (I think Dreher even will say “cultural Marxism” unironically) that I may have to check out for a while — while continuing to pray for Rod and some others who are on the polemical front lines of the culture wars.

Hey! Maybe Rod is a secret pro-establishment influencer!

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Accumulated clippings, 2/3/19

1

Must every London gentrified street have a Starbucks, a Pret A Manger, a Caffè Nero, a Costa Coffee, a Wagamama, an Itsu, a Tesco Express, an Eat, a Hotel Chocolat, a Foxtons and a Boots? Is that all that’s left?

Emptiness is what people feel. At the end of all the myriad diversions offered up by technology-at-the-service-of-efficiency lies a great hollowness. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,” wrote Leonard Cohen. Modernity is a crack eliminator. The only cracks it allows in its polished, glistening, purring, scented spaces are fake ones.

I think the emptiness produced by watching a rigged globalized system deliver homogenization on a massive scale — one way to think, one way to work, one way to conceive of profit, one way to impose a brand, one way to (not) drink at lunch, one way to eat at your desk, one way to be healthy, one way to deliver a gentrified urban neighborhood — has been underestimated as a source of disruptive fury.

Roger Cohen, The Harm in Hustle Culture

2

Only Democrats can save this president. They can do so by nominating someone loopy enough to panic voters who are asking only for someone cheerful, intelligent and tethered to reality.

George Will

3

With the help of the Chapter “The Emperor’s New Literature” in John Senior’s The Death of Christian Culture, the coin dropped that part of what classical education accomplishes is that classically educated people in various countries are all reading in the Great Tradition, none in provincial or nationalistic ephemera.

That’s not nothing.

4

For a solid month Americans again focused on illegal immigration. In a country that’s never thinking about only one thing, that was a bit of a feat. Also, Mr. Trump in his statements and meetings with the press came across, for perhaps the first time, as sincere and informed. Previously he’d looked like a guy who’d intuited a powerful issue and turned it into a line.

The vast majority of the American people want order and the rule of law returned to the border. How it is done is up to the experts. They just want it done. The word “wall” has been symbolic to many of them too—it means taking the issue seriously.

Peggy Noonan

5

He’s fiscally to the right and on social issues to the left. There’s some market for that, but is it really where America is going?

No, it is not.

America is headed left economically. Two thousand eight changed everything, deeply undermining faith in free-market capitalism. One of the great sins of that time—and all the years after—was that the capitalists themselves, in their vast carelessness, couldn’t even rouse themselves to defend the reputation of the system that made them rich and their country great. In any case, the most significant sound in 2016 was Trump audiences cheering his vows not to cut entitlements. They would have cheered if he’d promised increases, too.

As for what are called the social issues, moderation is the future, maybe even a new conservatism, not leftism. The left has demanded too much the past few years, been maximalist in its approach, got in America’s face and space. Its social activism is a daily harassment in ways that don’t show up in the polls. The new abortion regime in the states, bake my cake, the farther edges of #MeToo, demands for changes to our very language. Liberation becomes propaganda and filters up through the media and down to the schools. America once had a lot of “live and let live” in it. Not anymore, and its giving way is causing barely articulable grief, and more broadly than the left imagines.

Wise Democrats are developing reservations. Young conservatives are perhaps about to come alive.

I think Mr. Schultz has it backward.

Peggy Noonan.

I can only hope.

6

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: There is no national security crisis on the southern border.

President Trump claimed otherwise in his nine-minute Oval Office address to the nation … But he was lying.

How do we know this? Because if there were a genuine national security crisis on the southern border, Republicans in the House and Senate would be tripping over themselves to fund — and take credit for funding — Trump’s border wall. There is no political downside whatsoever to taking a strong stand in defense of the country in the midst of a national security crisis.

And yet, what have we seen over the past two years during which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and could have appropriated funds for Trump’s beloved wall at any time? Zip. Nada. Nothing.

[P]ublic opinion has shifted in favor of immigration since the president was elected, no doubt in large part because of the above-mentioned ineptitude and malice the administration has displayed toward immigrants over the past two years. That has, if anything, put the cause of immigration restrictionism in a weaker position politically than it was when he was running for president.

Like King Midas in reverse, every policy Trump touches turns to excrement.

Damon Linker

7

Iranian political culture is deeply authoritarian, and, therefore, whatever political order follows the mullahs is unlikely to be liberal. And that’s okay. We don’t need to replicate liberalism everywhere. Iranians can have a decent, benign regime that is nevertheless responsive to the deep longings in the Persian soul for order, continuity, and visible authority — kingship, in a word. That’s how the political culture is wired. My friends at Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the rest will, of course, find it repellent that I’d say so. But what can I say? I’ve lost a lot of my spread-freedom-everywhere idealism.

Sohrab Ahmari, emphasis added.

I should note that the interview is about Ahmari’s conversion from Shiite Islam to Roman Catholicism.

8

[A]t great cost I bought the first volume of the Works of St. John of the Cross and sat in the room on Perry Street and turned over the first pages, underlining places here and there with a pencil. But it turned out that it would take more than that to make me a saint: because these words I underlined, although they amazed and dazzled me with their import, were all too simple for me to understand.

They were too naked, too stripped of all duplicity and compromise for my complexity, perverted by many appetites. However, I am glad that I was at least able to recognize them, obscurely, as worthy of the greatest respect.

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Clippings and comment, 1/22/19 pm

1

David Brooks:

[I]n the age of social media [polarization is] almost entirely about social type. It’s about finding and spreading the viral soap operas that are supposed to reveal the dark hearts of those who are in the opposite social type from your own.

It’s about finding images that confirm your negative stereotypes about people you don’t know. It’s about reducing a complex human life into one viral moment and then banishing him to oblivion.

You don’t have to read social theory on this phenomenon; just look at the fracas surrounding the Covington Catholic High School boys.

… [I]t’s important to remember that these days the social media tail wags the mainstream media dog. If you want your story to be well placed and if you want to be professionally rewarded, you have to generate page views — you have to incite social media. The way to do that is to reinforce the prejudices of your readers.

… The crucial thing is that the nation’s culture is now enmeshed in a new technology that we don’t yet know how to control.

It’s hard to believe that people are going to continue forever on platforms where they are so cruel to one another. It’s hard to believe that people are going to be content, year after year, to distort their own personalities in service to a platform, making themselves humorless, semi-blind, joyless and grim.

I want Brooks’ story to “be well placed” and Brooks “to be professionally rewarded” for his synthesis of the weekend incident and his framing of the problem it reveals.

2

[T]he vilification of Mrs. Pence makes prophetic Justice Samuel Alito’s prediction in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision throwing out all state laws against same-sex marriage. Justice Alito saw a perilous future for those who still embraced the view Mr. Obama once claimed to hold. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” he wrote, “but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

In the larger sense the faith-shaming of Mrs. Pence exposes an inversion of tropes. In history and literature, typically it has been the religious side that can’t tolerate the slightest disagreement from its dogma and behaves like outraged 17th-century Salemites when they think they have uncovered a witch.

Now look at the Immanuel Christian School. Those who run it know they and those who think like them are the big losers in America’s culture war. All they ask is to be allowed, within the confines of their community, to uphold 2,000 years of Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and the human person.

When Obergefell was decided, it was sold as live-and-let-live. But as Justice Alito foresaw, today some sweet mysteries of the universe are more equal than others. In other words, it isn’t enough for the victors to win; the new sense of justice requires that those who still don’t agree must be compelled to violate their deepest beliefs ….

William McGurn

3

A very good point:

But for the sake of arguing let us assume that the boys did just what the initial story alleged them to do. They went and harassed a Native American while that Indian made his protest. What then? Is what they did terrible? Yeah. Should they be punished? Absolutely. Should that punishment be that they are doxed, tarred as a racist, and casted out of respectable society for the rest of their lives? Once again, have you ever been 16? Or to put it another way do you want to be judged for the rest of your live by the worst thing you have ever done?

My point is that even if the initial story was correct this overreaction says a lot about what we have become. Do we really think that we should not forgive them? Criminals who break into our homes can get forgiven, but not 16 year old kids. Assault them? Dox them? Did people actually listen to what they are saying, or read what they are writing, when they decided to dehumanize these boys? Or did it just feel good to have a villain that we can treat like dirt?

[L]et us not let the elephant in the room go unnoticed. The boys made for convenient villains because they were wearing MAGA hats. They also white males who are likely heterosexual and Catholic. For certain groups in our society individuals with such characteristics should not have a place in our public square. Therefore, we are allowed to dehumanize individuals with these characteristics. There is a narrative whereby we should not be concern with “white tears.” After all even if whites are mistreated, it is nothing compared to how they have mistreated, and continue to mistreat, other right? This argument gives some people license to ignore any complaints from white Christian males.

4

While the petition now before us is based solely on the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, petitioner still has live claims under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … Petitioner’s decision to rely primarily on his free speech claims as opposed to these alternative claims may be due to certain decisions of this Court.

In Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872 (1990), the Court drastically cut back on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause, and in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U. S. 63 (1977), the Court opined that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion does not require an employer to make any accommodation that imposes more than a de minimis burden. In this case, however, we have not been asked to revisit those decisions.

Statement of Justice Alito, joined by Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, respecting the denial of certiorari in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 586 U.S. ____ (January 22, 2019). Eugene Volokh thinks this signals willingness of these justices to reconsider Employment Div. v. Smith, and

What’s more, Justice Breyer had earlier (in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997)) made clear that he thought Employment Division v. Smith was indeed wrongly decided and should be overruled.

Reading the two first-quoted paragraphs in context, I emphatically agree with Volokh about what they signal. So there may be a majority ready to restore a more robust free exercise clause, which I’ve supported ever since Employment Div. v. Smith emasculated (can one still say that?) free exercise (or at least lowered its testosterone level dramatically).

Unlike either of the stereotypes Volokh describes regarding who favored broad free exercise right in the past versus now, I have always favored them, with little concern for government efficiency (is that an oxymoron?). But I must admit that the people getting the short end of parsimonious free exercise rights these days are more like me (Christian, traditional on sexual behavior and marriage, etc. — see item 2, above) than free exercise claimants used to be, and that would make broadening particularly congenial.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Potpourri, 1/19/19

Trump and his defenders

1

George Will:

By his comportment, the president benefits his media detractors with serial vindications of their disparagements … [M]any journalists consider[] him an excuse for a four-year sabbatical from thinking about anything other than the shiny thing that mesmerizes them by dangling himself in front of them.

Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

The shabbiest U.S. president ever is an inexpressibly sad specimen.

2

Trump defenders want to defend everything Trump does outside of the lines of normalcy on the grounds that he is a disrupter. There are several problems with this argument, but I’ll focus on two. The first is that much of Trump’s disruptiveness is characterological, not programmatic or ideological. If you want to defend the president’s prerogative to question the value of NATO, that’s fine. That’s one kind of disruption, to be sure. But his personal behavior from his pettiness, impulsiveness, and constant mendacity is disruptive, too. And you can’t expect people un-besotted with him to compartmentalize the two the way you do. Trump’s erratic behavior is endearing to some and worrisome to others. Expecting those endeared to find it troubling is as foolhardy as expecting the worriers to find it charming, particularly if the worrier has a responsibility to act.

Second, Trump supporters simultaneously celebrate his disruptiveness, and even his violation of democratic norms, but are scandalized when he provokes equally disruptive or norm-violating responses. When I hear Kevin McCarthy complain that Nancy Pelosi’s quasi disinvitation to deliver the State of the Union is “beneath” the office of the speaker, or when I hear praetorian pundits denounce the profane language of his opponents as if they shock the conscience of Trump supporters, I want to resort to the international sign-language gesture for Onanism.

Jonah Goldberg

Trump’s eventuality

3

The point I want to make is this: the ideologically-driven anti-Christian aggression of the Spanish Republican Left eventually drove Christians into the arms of a military man who turned into a dictator. Over and over on this Spanish trip, I heard Catholics say some version of: Franco may have been bad, but at least he didn’t want to kill us. What choice did we have?

The Left lost the first war, but from a Catholic point of view, ultimately triumphed. Spain has mostly de-Christianized. The Catholic Church is a shell of its former self — this, according to Spanish Catholics with whom I talked in every city I visited. It was remarkable to me — astonishing, really — to encounter in these ordinary lay Catholics deep anger at Catholic institutions (the bishops, many clergy, Catholic schools). I saw this over and over …

For the entirety of the Franco dictatorship — from 1939, until his death in 1975 — the Catholic Church enjoyed a privileged position in Spanish public life. After Franco, it all collapsed. This is the danger of relying on a political solution. One older man told me that in the 1950s, when he was a boy, the teaching of religion in Spain was by rote. There was no life in it. We didn’t get to talk about it in depth, but it’s not hard to imagine that the Spanish church grew fat and complacent, and came to see its role as more or less managers of the Sacrament Factory, whose monopoly was protected and enforced by the dictatorial state. Those American Catholics who believe integralism is the answer for the problems of liberalism ought to come to Spain and see what Franco’s legacy has been for the faith.

Rod Dreher, A Yankee Franco & The Long Defeat. Ponder that title.

For that matter, read the whole (long) blog, which has some solecisms that I assume are the result of travel fatigue (Dreher is on a book tour in Spain and Ireland). Solecisms aside, there are some powerful analogies between the Spanish moment of the early 30s and our present American moment.

Donald Trump was not a fluke. The only reason I personally could see to vote for him (which I did not do) was that he had allied with semi-orthodox Christianish volk (the Evangelicals) and probably would leave me alone, unlike Hillary who would have zestfully pursued all manner of progressive suppression of orthodox Christianity outside the eight walls of home and church. That reason sufficed for untold numbers of voters.

4

As if to vindicate Dreher’s “there will be hell to pay for Christians’ perceived alignment with Trump,” some adolescent Roman Catholic high-schoolers from Kentucky, wearing their school sweatshirts and MAGA hats, broke away from Friday’s March for Life to confront, intimidate and mock a 64-year-old native American drummer. The resultant video has gone viral and the incident is in mainstream press.

Antsy McClain “gets” the optics of this.

Some Girardian scape-goating of the lads by their priests and principal back in the Bluegrass State may be necessary—punishing them not only for bad acts, but for bringing disgrace to the pro-life cause, the Roman Catholic Church, and their school.

UPDATE: I was probably misled on this story, in which the media apparently was credulous about a story that fit their biases too nicely to not be true. Here’s some corrective.

More positive notes

5

The other pre-requisite for living sanely in an insane world is an attitude toward life, which I can describe no further than as gratitude and joy in the very fact of one’s existence, and in the existence of one’s fellow human beings. The cynic responds, why should one be joyful in life, when in no time it is followed by death, and when with each person‘s death the whole universe, provide person, ceases to exist? My answer strikes me as reasonable, though perhaps it is merely a rationalization of my own joy. Scientists, as we know, deal improbabilities rather than, as was once thought, in absolute laws. Anything that happens with the probability of, say, 10 to the millionth power to one, is pretty much a sure thing. If the theory of evolution has any validity (I regard it as somewhat silly, a confirmation of Chesterton’s comment that people who don’t believe in God will believe in anything), if it does have any validity, I say, what do you suppose the probability of man’s existence is? I am speaking of the movement up through the countless environmental changes and mutations necessary for the evolution from primordial ooze to humanity. I can assure you that it is considerably more far-fetched than a ten-to-the-millionth-power-to-one shot; it is approximately as likely as the spontaneous transformation of every atom in this room into an atom of plutonium.

And given the existence of human beings, the probabilities against my existence – or yours – are again as high as those against the existence of man. You can attribute this to God, or to big bangs, or to sheer blind luck; all I can do a shout hallelujah, I got here! My God, I got here! In the face of this colossal fact, I must exult in my gratitude, for everything else is trivial: no matter what the uncertainties, whether things are better or worse, whether I am hungry or well fed, whether I am sick or healthy, or cold or comfortable, or honored and respected, or despised and kicked and beaten, even that I shall soon be leaving, all is trivial compared to the miracle that I got here. Fellow miracles, let us rejoice together.

Forrest McDonald, 2002, to the last class he taught.

6

The instantaneous awareness of so much folly is not, I now think, healthy for the human mind. Spending time on Twitter became, for me, a deeply demoralizing experience. Often, especially when some controversy of national importance provoked large numbers of users into tweeting their opinions about it, I would come away from Twitter exasperated almost to the point of madness.

I thought of a verse from the 94th Psalm: “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.” After an hour or so of watching humanity’s stupidities scroll across my screen, I felt I had peeked into some dreadful abyss into which only God can safely look. It was not for me to know the thoughts of man.

Barton Swaim. Yeah. Even without Twitter, I had twelve clippings today I could have shared, mostly downers. Further withdrawal from wallowing in news and commentary likely is called for.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

The Vincentian Canon

I long ago committed to memory — in Latin, no less — quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ab omnibus creditum est. I also made sure I knew the English meaning, since I don’t speak Latin (and nobody has set that to music so could sing it).

I probably was introduced to it by C.S. Lewis, but just learned today that this distillation leaves out an important premise: the scopes of semper, ubique, and omnibus.

The noble intention of C.S. Lewis’s famous book Mere Christianity was to defend not this sect or that sect, but rather those teachings which had been held by almost all Christians in almost all times and places.

Though Lewis himself proceeded differently, the idea itself goes back to a criterion of orthodoxy proposed by St. Vincent of Lerins in his famous Commonitory. Here are St. Vincent’s own words:

“I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

“But here someone perhaps will ask, ”Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?” For this reason — because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

“Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.”

J. Budziszewski (emphasis shifted).

“Catholic,” of course, does not exclude Orthodox in this context. St. Vincent was born more than 600 years before the Great Schism, and is venerated by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican alike. He was untainted by the Reformation solas, but tacitly allows (in theory) much of the premises of sola scriptura:

… the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything …

But then he takes back with his reality hand what he’d given with his theoretical hand:

… owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.

Surely this is an undeniable empirical fact, is it not? I don’t want to bear false witness, but I’m pretty sure that more than 10,000 denominations have been counted, and I frequently hear multiples of that number. Luther had barely put his hammer away after his visit to the Wittenburg Door when he was forced to fight against Anabaptists, and the beat goes on, and on, and on.

That being so, the Protestant notion of perspicacity of scripture seems empirically false. The only alternative to that, I think, is that hundreds of millions are interpreting the perspicacious scriptures in bad faith. It really is necessary to read “in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.”

Moreover, the tacit principle of antiquity absolves me for disbelieving Roman Catholic innovations since the Great Schism, conventionally dated 1054 — which innovations particularly multiplied in the 19th Century (for reasons I may some day apprehend; I’m assuming it arose from something putting particular pressure on the Roman Church).

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Sunday Potpourri, 12/23/18

1

Faith is not the supposition that something might be true, but the assurance that someone is there.

Bishop Kallistos Ware

2

“Unless you like stats / just skip the begats,” wrote Jeanne and William Steig in their “Old Testament Made Easy.” But before he gets to the angels and the wise men Matthew gives us 39 of them, from the famous names (“Abraham begat Isaac … David begat Solomon”) to the rather more esoteric, like Jechoniah, the father of Shealtiel.

If you only know the Bible vaguely, this litany of names probably sounds a bit pompous, an attempt to elevate the infant Jesus by linking him to great patriarchs and noble kings. But the truth is roughly the opposite: The more you know about Genesis or Chronicles or Kings, the more remarkable it is that Matthew announced the birth of the son of God by linking him to a pack of egregious sinners.

The case for remaining Catholic in this moment, then, is basically that all this has happened before and will happen again — in what G.K. Chesterton once called the “five deaths of the faith,” the moments across two thousand years when every human probability pointed to the church of Rome passing into history, becoming one with Nineveh and Tyre.

For American Catholics at least, this era feels understandably like another death — in which the saints seem hidden, the would-be prophets don’t agree with one another, the reformers keep losing. And it is all-too-understandable that people would choose to leave a dying church.

But it is the season’s promise, and in the long run its testable hypothesis, that those who stay and pray and fight will see it improbably reborn.

Ross Douthat. Our homily this morning, in my Orthodox parish, similarly was on the disreputable ancestors of Christ, the source of His humanity.

But to appropriate those prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, deceivers and such to support “all this has happened before and will happen again” seems unlikely to assuage the doubts of those for whom Rome’s claim to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church have become simply implausible.

3

The Defiance of Mariah’s Lambs: Maria Carey means Christmas to most of us, and much more to some of us.

Rich Juzwiak at the New York Times.

“Maria Carey means Christmas to most of us”? Seriously?

4

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of France, crowned himself emperor, defeated four European coalitions against him, invaded Russia, lost, was defeated and exiled, returned, and was defeated and exiled a second time, all in less time than the United States has spent trying to turn Afghanistan into a stable country.

Tucker Carlson in the January-February American Conservative

5

I would give myself too much credit were I to imply that my early opposition to our national policy of endless war (which just might possibly be coming to an end) was born of my own insight, but it’s remarkable how uniformly bereft of such opposition are the major newspapers of the nation.

For sanity on war policy (let’s stop calling it the Department of Defense while we’re at it), one must look to the cranky opinion journals and blogs of the disreputable Left and the Right.

That they are disreputable shows the negligible value of reputation.

6

All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.

Dr. John Arbuthnot, quoted by Aram Bakshian Jr. in the January-February American Conservative

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

Potpourri, 12/14/18

1

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in a podcast recounted a professor at an Anglican divinity school complaining that much commentary on Pauline epistles focus disproportionately on the first halves, what God has done for us, to the neglect of the second halves, what we should now do.

2

Christian struggle against evil in this world is not, in its first instance, political or social, but ascetical.

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, commenting on Psalm 57 (Septuagint numbering)

3

Women’s magazines and news outlets depict women who vote Republican as deviants. Vogue headlined a postelection commentary “Why Do White Women Keep Voting for the GOP and Against Their Own Interests?” The Guardian asked: “Half of White Women Continue to Vote Republican. What’s Wrong with Them?” The latter article asserted that “white women vote for Republicans for the same reason that white men do: because they are racist.” Barbra Streisand claimed “a lot of women vote the way their husbands vote; they don’t believe enough in their own thoughts.” Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Madeleine Albright have all expressed similar sentiments in public.

Far-left activists next month march on Washington again under the banner “the Women’s March.” The media will present them as simply “women”—as if women with other views don’t exist.

Carrie Lukas

4

Peggy Noonan reports (among other things) some polling data that prove the worthlessness of some polls (such as “Four in 10 expect Mueller will find evidence of crimes, while just over half of those polled do not think they will be impeachable offenses.”), then settles in to her real point:

Politics is part theater, part showbiz, it’s always been emotional, but we’ve gotten too emotional, both parties. It’s too much about feelings and how moved you are. The balance is off. We have been electing magic ponies in our presidential contests, and we have done this while slighting qualities like experience, hard and concrete political accomplishment, even personal maturity. Barack Obama, whatever else he was, was a magic pony. Donald Trump too. Beto O’Rourke, who is so electrifying Democrats, also appears to be a magic pony.

Messrs. Obama and Trump represented a mood. They didn’t ask for or elicit rigorous judgment, they excited voters. Mr. Trump’s election was driven by a feeling of indignation and pushback: You elites treat me like a nobody in my own country, I’m about to show you who’s boss. His supporters didn’t consider it disqualifying that he’d never held office. They saw it as proof he wasn’t in the club and could turn things around. His ignorance was taken as authenticity. In this he was like Sarah Palin, another magic pony.

But sober judgment, serious accomplishment, deep knowledge and personal maturity are most important in our political leaders, because of the complexity of the problems we face. History will be confounded that at such a crucial time, trying to come up with a plan to address such issues as artificial intelligence and robotics and the future of work and a rising China and the stresses of the nuclear world, we kept choosing magic ponies and hoping for the best.

5

“There are some people in our party here who are just plain anti-Muslim,” said Tarrant County [TX] GOP chairman Darl Easton, who appointed Dr. Shafi to his post. “There are more than I expected there to be.”

Muslim GOP Leader Targeted by Party Activists in Texas.

That leader is a Pakistani immigrant surgeon, who came here before 1990. The kerfuffle reminds me of 1960, when JFK had to promise some Texans (history rhymes) that he was, in effect, American first, Roman Catholic second.

Even if Roman Catholicism or Islam entail some political positions at odds with American political and constitutional traditions, which I do not concede, it is part of America’s dubious genius so to “assimiliate” people that such entailments drop away.

Dare I suggest that Texas should worry more about its home-grown Independent Fundamental Baptists than about 53-year-old Muslim immigrant surgeons? Those IFBs seem to think that 14-year-old girls are temptresses agains whose wiles its male pastors are powerless. Sounds un-American to me.

But in the category of “probably not fake news,” the Wall Street Journal reports that pro-Kremlin activists want to bring back monarchy, perhaps with Vladimir Putin as Czar. I say it’s probably not fake because, heck, I know some American Orthodox converts who gratuitously hanker for a Czar/Tsar in Russia again.

Maybe Orthodox Christians shouldn’t be trusted to hold office in America? (It might be a blessing.)

6

A confused mother writes to The New York Times‘s advice column:

I’m the mother of an amazing teenage daughter. Our relationship is close, but recently things have gotten complicated. She came out to us as pansexual when she was 11. I was concerned about her labeling herself at such a young age and being bullied.

Came out as pansexual at age 11. Hoo boy. I’d bet cash money that this mother is not remotely worried about bullying; she was rightly worried that her daughter was weirdly and inappropriately sexualizing herself at a young age. But she can’t say that in her culture, because we are crazy people.

Rod Dreher. I’d take that bet for a modest amount, Rod, because we may be a crazier people than you recognize. Remember the little girls’ beauty pageants, with the girls all tarted up by their moms? The sexualization is just a public school thing.

Don’t miss Reader Zapollo in Dreher’s UPDATE.

7

Every once and a while, Caitlin Johnstone comes up with something that’s not expressly political. I like this poem. I can’t help it.

8

From the Department of Denial Is Not A River In Egypt:

As for men and women with homosexual tendencies who have already made religious vows, Francis ordered them not to act upon their desires in any way: “It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life.”

… [S]ome 80 percent of the victims of priestly sexual malfeasance have been male. And more than 95 percent of those boys haven’t been prepubescent children (whose predators have their own pathology) but adolescents past puberty and sexually mature in body if not in mind. In other words, the bulk of the entire unsavory enterprise concerned run-of-the-mill homosexual activity conducted under the cover of priestly reputation for holiness and a strikingly lopsided adult-teen power dynamic.

Charlotte Allen.

9

Saved for last, a news Dump-On-Trump.


Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex musters evidence that Donald Trump hasn’t even been good at promoting Trumpism, which, if true, would have to rank among the most abject of failures.


[T]his president leav[es] his constituency high and dry through political incompetence, behavioral incontinence, an inability to maintain a focus on anything, and an incapacity to think or act coherently.

Robert Merry, American Conservative. This is not an earth-shattering reversal, as the American Conservative has tended to the #NeverTrump side, but I thought it well-expressed.


I find Barr to be awful, but in a conventional way. So — Whitaker, the acting AG, I find to be awful in a norm-violating, Trump-administration type of way.

Ken White (a/k/a Popehat) in the All The Presidents Lawyers podcast of 12/10/18.


Many Never-Trumper Christians have acknowledged solid Federal Court nominees and a cooling of government hostility toward orthodox Christians (perhaps a better record on religious freedom overall, even, despite the rhetoric unmistakably targeting Muslim immigrants). Other Christians support Trump, period, full stop.

George Yancey has an instructive analogy for the supporters, in which analogy the Never-Trumpers will recognize their own concerns.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

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.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

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.

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.

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!

* * * * *

Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items and … well, it’s evolving. Or, if you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com.