Fragmentary oppositions

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

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

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

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


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

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

James Howard Kunstler, The Next New Urbanism


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

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

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

Robin Mark Phillips, Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic.

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


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

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

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


Speaking of open societies:

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

The Danger of Fact-ist Politics


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

Barstool Conservatives and other delights

What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives. Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and “SJWs,” opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia. Whatever their opinions might have been 20 years ago, in 2021 these are people who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, accept pornography, homosexuality, drug use, legalized gambling, and whatever GamerGate was about. On economic questions their views are a curious and at times incoherent mixture of standard libertarian talking points and pseudo-populism, embracing lower taxes on the one hand and stimulus checks and stricter regulation of social media platforms on the other.

… Meanwhile, a small number of earnest social conservatives will be disgusted. But I suspect that a majority of them will gladly make their peace with the new order of things.

This is in part because while Barstool conservatives might regard, say, homeschooling families of 10 as freaks, they do not regard them with loathing, much less consider their very existence a threat to the American way of life as they understand it. Social conservatives themselves have largely accepted that, with the possible exception of abortion, the great battles have been lost for good. Oberfegell will never be overturned even with nine votes on the Supreme Court. Instead the best that can be hoped for is a kind of recusancy, a limited accommodation for a few hundred thousand families who cling to traditions that in the decades to come will appear as bizarre as those of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Matthew Walther, Rise of the Barstool conservatives (emphasis added).

We can quibble over the label, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of social conservatives have resigned themselves to voting for people who “do not regard them with loathing, much less consider their very existence a threat to the American way of life as they understand it.”

I understand the temptation. I considered voting Democrat in the primaries to vote for Bernie, the Democrat who struck me as so fixated on advancing socialism that he had little energy left for anti-Christian pogroms. But I didn’t, and although I’m under no illusions about reversing losses on the issues I’ve loved and lost, a social issue platform of “meh” is not good enough for my vote.


For hundreds of years at common law, moreover, while infertility was no ground for declaring a marriage void, only coitus was recognized as consummating (completing) a marriage. No other sexual act between man and woman could. What could make sense of these two practices?

Ryan T. Anderson et al., What Is Marriage?

I know the battle is lost, but I still can’t resist the opportunity to remind people that same-sex marriage swallows the hedonic marriage view lock, stock and barrel, and conservatives are justified if they ask (as fewer and fewer do) why government should be in the business of issuing licenses for people to enter what amounts to no more than relatively long-term pleasurable pairings.


Tesla posted its first full year of net income in 2020 — but not because of sales to its customers.

Eleven states require automakers sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. If they can’t, the automakers have to buy regulatory credits from another automaker that meets those requirements — such as Tesla, which exclusively sells electric cars.

It’s a lucrative business for Tesla — bringing in $3.3 billion over the course of the last five years, nearly half of that in 2020 alone. The $1.6 billion in regulatory credits it received last year far outweighed Tesla’s net income of $721 million — meaning Tesla would have otherwise posted a net loss in 2020.

“These guys are losing money selling cars. They’re making money selling credits. And the credits are going away,” said Gordon Johnson of GLJ Research and one of the biggest bears on Tesla shares.

Tesla top executives concede the company can’t count on that source of cash continuing.

Tesla’s dirty little secret: Its net profit doesn’t come from selling cars


For many years, congressional Republicans have operated under a few rules:

* My way or the highway (you’re with the party consensus or you’re against the party).
* Politics is a zero-sum game (so there is no such thing as a compromise that can benefit both sides).
* Don’t fraternize across the aisle (which might lead to learning from Democrats or even wanting to compromise with them).

In the last five years, they added two more: If you don’t have something nice to say about Donald Trump, say nothing at all and If you repeat a lie enough times, you can act as if it’s true.

Now that the Republicans have lost control of the Senate, the House, and the presidency, they are both emboldened and scared at the same time. Emboldened because they can revert to their natural mode of obstructionism without responsibility for governing. And scared because two of President Biden’s main themes so far—his pleas for unity and his commitment to reality—directly threaten their tactics of division and fantasy.

The QAnon rioters were gone from the Capitol by the end of the day on January 6, but QAnon is now represented by outspoken members of Congress. It is disturbing to hear Nancy Pelosi say, as she did this week, “The enemy is within.” But she’s not wrong.

Brian Karem, The GOP Has Nothing to Offer – The Bulwark


My take on this is simple: It is better for a good book not to be taught at all than be taught by the people quoted in that article. Yes! — do, please, refuse to teach Shakespeare, Homer, Hawthorne, whoever. Wag your admonitory finger at them. Let them be cast aside, let them be scorned and mocked. Let them be samizdat. Let them be forbidden fruit.

They will find their readers. They always have — long, long before anyone thought to teach them in schools — and they always will.

Alan Jacobs


If you were looking for the faith-free version of [Cicely] Tyson’s life, the natural place to turn was The New York Times.

This story did a great job of capturing her impact on American culture, especially in terms of the sacrifices she made to portray African-American life with style, power and dignity. Here are two crucial summary paragraphs on that essential theme:

“In a remarkable career of seven decades, Ms. Tyson broke ground for serious Black actors by refusing to take parts that demeaned Black people. She urged Black colleagues to do the same, and often went without work. She was critical of films and television programs that cast Black characters as criminal, servile or immoral, and insisted that African-Americans, even if poor or downtrodden, should be portrayed with dignity.

“Her chiseled face and willowy frame, striking even in her 90s, became familiar to millions in more than 100 film, television and stage roles, including some that had traditionally been given only to white actors. She won three Emmys and many awards from civil rights and women’s groups, and at 88 became the oldest person to win a Tony, for her 2013 Broadway role in a revival of Horton Foote’s ‘The Trip to Bountiful.'”

But the only reference to her Christian faith — negative, of course — came in this bite of biography:

“Cicely Tyson was born in East Harlem on Dec. 19, 1924, the youngest of three children of William and Theodosia (also known as Frederica) Tyson, immigrants from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Her father was a carpenter and painter, and her mother was a domestic worker. Her parents separated when she was 10, and the children were raised by a strict Christian mother who did not permit movies or dates.”

The Times also offered an “appraisal” of Tyson’s career with this striking headline: “Cicely Tyson Kept It Together So We Didn’t Fall Apart.

The New York Times is important, of course, but it is even more important that the Associated Press served up three stories about Tyson’s life, career and cultural impact without a single reference to her Christian faith (other than a fleeting reference to God in a Michelle Obama tribute quotation). These are the stories that would appear in the vast majority of American newspapers.

Now, I am happy to note that the Los Angeles Times package about Tyson did a much better job of weaving her own words into its multi-story package about her death.

It was hard to edit God out of Cicely Tyson’s epic story, but some journalists gave it a try — GetReligion


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waded into the intra-GOP squabbles last night, declaring Rep. Liz Cheney “an important leader in our party and in our nation” and decrying Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” as a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

The Morning Dispatch

Memo to a**h*le Matt Gaetz: If you shoot at the GOAT’s friend, you’re gonna hafta kill the GOAT, too. And you didn’t:

What Wednesday did reveal, however, is the relative strength of the GOP’s various factions. Only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach President Trump last month; on a secret ballot, 145 supported Cheney’s right to do so. A staggering 139 House members objected to the electoral results in at least one state on January 6; on a secret ballot, “only” 61 wanted to boot Cheney for her vote of conscience.

Conservatives concerned with the direction of the GOP in recent years may take solace in these discrepancies. As we’ve written repeatedly, the majority of Republican lawmakers here in Washington are far less Trumpy personally than they would ever let on. But on a political level, the public persona is the one that matters: It’s what voters see, how narratives are shaped, and how decisions are made.

At some point, elected Republicans may once again feel comfortable speaking their whole mind. But not yet. Expect things to revert to normal when the cameras are back on today during the vote to punish Greene.

After all, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll, Greene is significantly more popular with GOP voters than Cheney is, +10 net favorability to -28.

The Morning Dispatch: Cheney Triumphs in Conference Vote


“Trump was our greatest champion, and it still wasn’t enough. He tried his very best. He did so much, but he’s only one man…I even helped stormed(sic) the capitol today, but it only made things worse…Why, God? Why? WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN US? Unless…Trump still has a plan?”

25-year-old LARPER/Loser Jack Griffith, who didn’t even vote in the election he was protesting. Unmistakably reminds me of the Ur-story instantiated here. “I did help. I sent an election.”


Why don’t I think of gentle mockery more often? It’s so much more effective a response to stupidity than my rage is. Jewish Space Laser Agency: We didn’t start the fire – The Forward


The reason why cancel culture has alarmed so many Americans is not because, say, Holocaust deniers face public shame or white supremacists can’t find jobs on network television. It’s because even normal political disagreement has generated extreme, punitive backlash. It’s because intolerant partisans try to treat mainstream dissent as the equivalent of Holocaust denial or white supremacy.

David French, Can We Have (Another) Conversation About Cancel Culture?


James Dobson … is now telling his followers that the outcome of the presidential election remains “unresolved.”

“Sadly, the highest court in the land didn’t review a word of the overwhelming volume of evidence,” wrote the 84-year-old Dobson, whose former employee, Jenna Ellis, was a member of Rudolph Giuliani’s “crack legal team” that sought to overturn election results in dozens of unsuccessful cases.

In the months since the election, the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has regularly provided election skeptics with plentiful ammunition and has embraced men and women in Congress who voted to overturn state election results. Meanwhile, Focus’s partner organization in Washington, D.C., the Family Research Council, continues to claim the election was stolen, and that Antifa—not Trump supporters—caused the Capitol attack on Jan. 6. (There is no evidence to suggest Antifa led the attack, while FBI investigations have linked several militia and far-right extremist groups to the violence.)

… Before the election, Focus, Dobson and their numerous affiliated organizations promoted Trump. After the election, these organizations have promoted unfounded claims of election fraud. And after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, they’ve remained silent about the politicians they’ve endorsed who participated in or incited the insurrectionist mob.

While Christianity teaches that all people sin and fall short of the glory of God, The Daily Citizen promotes heresy: only liberals sin. Reports about Democrats violating their own COVID restrictions (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Governor Gavin Newsom) are a regular feature. Only libs engage in political violence (“12-Year-Old Boy Assaulted by Woman for Pro-Trump Sign, Police Say”).

Steve Rabey, How evangelical media ministry Focus on the Family fueled lies and insurrectionists.

I have quibbled about whether flakes like Paula White qualify as “evangelical.” There is no quibbling about James Dobson: he’s as mainstream evangelical as they come. His bearing of false witness about the election is very wicked.


While pundits (myself included) have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past four years gravely pondering what Republican politics would look like post-Trump, these members of the House GOP [Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene] have given us what now looks to be the most plausible answer. Rather than a smarter, more responsible vehicle for enacting a set of distinctively Trumpian policies on trade, immigration, and foreign policy, let alone a reversion to the pre-Trump status quo (Romney-Ryan 2.0), we’re going to get a politics of bilious, lizard-brained idiocy along with intentionally cultivated and playacted outrage.

It’s certainly newsworthy when a just-elected congresswoman says something bizarre. But is it still newsworthy the 10th time she does it? Or the 100th? Maybe it is in the sense that it will generate strong ratings and give on-air talent something sensational to talk about. Is it really telling people anything new? Anything they need to know? I don’t see how.

What it does, far more, is give a powerful megaphone to someone who above all else craves national attention for her obsessions and derangements. In this respect, news organizations that place Greene and others like her at the center of the news cycle are being played. By incentivizing the madness, rendering it a sure path to national fame and notoriety, they play a new and pernicious role in the political ecosystem — as unintended facilitators of fascism, American style.

If the media and the leadership of both political parties really wanted to cut Greene down to size, they would deprive her of what she wants and needs most of all: our attention.

Damon Linker, Marjorie Taylor Greene is getting exactly what she wants


If Donald Trump was the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Josh Hawley is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s Apprentice. They have summoned and unleashed dark forces.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Things to think about after exhaling

Things to think about after exhaling

[Wendell] Berry often quotes Wes Jackson’s book Becoming Native to This Place in this regard. “The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility,” Jackson writes. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major.

Mark T. Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Human Vision of Wendell Berry


The tomb of Ignatius

Here I am not that Cleon celebrated
in Alexandria (where it is hard to astonish them)
for my magnificent houses, for the gardens,
for my horses and for my chariot,
for the jewels and silk that I wore.
God forbid; here I am not that Cleon;
let his 28 years be erased.
I am Ignatius, a reader, who came to my self
quite late; but I lived so for 10 months
happy in the serenity and security of Christ.

(C.P.) Cavafy


Over the years, I’ve bounced around the political spectrum. I was liberal in Texas, more conservative in college, and now I’m somewhere in the middle. Through it all, I saw politics as a fight between left and right. I don’t see it that way anymore. Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed a bigger threat: an all-out attack on the principle that facts must be respected. We used to take that principle for granted; now we must defend it. Politics has become a fight between those who are willing to respect evidence and those who aren’t.

Progressives and conservatives have always quarreled about what’s true. But to make those debates productive, and to correct our country’s mistakes—failed projects, naïve policies, bad wars—we need a common standard for judging truth. That standard can’t be the Bible or identity politics. It has to be the standard we apply in daily life: evidence. If you say the election was stolen, you have to prove it in court. If you accuse a police officer of murder, your story has to withstand investigation.

… Science has a culture of falsification.

Politics doesn’t. When political promises don’t pan out—wars turn into quagmires, public schools underperform, or tax cuts fail to pay for themselves—politicians invent excuses. This has always been a problem, but it’s getting worse. Trump and his acolytes don’t just spin facts; they completely disregard them. They repeat fantastic lies about election fraud, and when they’re confronted with contrary evidence, they’re not even embarrassed.
Advertisement

If we don’t get control of this—if we don’t reestablish an ethic of respect for facts—nothing else will be solved. We can’t extinguish the virus if tens of millions of Americans insist it’s a hoax and refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks. We can’t restore public faith in election results and put down insurrectionism if half the population refuses to believe anything the media report. Repairing the consensus that facts must be respected won’t settle our debates on spending, education, or criminal justice. But without that consensus, the crisis we’re in will get much worse.

Will Saletan, The Enemy Isn’t Republicans


Nevertheless, behind its variegated forms, each attuned to different challenges, are the timeless truths and principles at the heart of conservative ideology: (1) Humans are flawed creatures; (2) Reason is powerful but limited and prone to error; (3) Utopian thinking is dangerous, especially when combined with ideologies that promote concentrated political power; (4) Humans should respect tradition and custom; and (5) Intuition is an important guide to social policy. Modern Republicans, standing among the ruins of the Trump presidency, should turn to these principles, elaborated below, to rebuild a robust and unified coalition that can appeal to all ages and ethnicities.

Bo Wingard, A Return to Tradition: Creating a Post-Trump Conservatism – Quillette. It’s good to be reminded what conservatism is after four years of the term’s gross misuse.


Robby [George] pulled out his phone, then, and asked what I knew about Heinrich Heine. I knew the Nazis had burned his books, that he was a Jew who had converted to Christianity. That was about it.

In 1834, Robby told me, Heine wrote a prose poem that prophesied the evil that would swallow Europe a century later. He read it to the table:

> “Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals.”

Tears rolled down my face as he spoke these lines, as they do now as I re-read them:

> “Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.”

The Great Unraveling – Common Sense with Bari Weiss.

Yes, Bari Weiss has started a Substack blog (how soon until we just call them “substacks”? Maybe it’s here already?)

Did you eat popcorn?

(I want to stop thinking about 45. I also want nothing like him ever to happen to my country again, so I do “go on a bit.”)

“You have to show strength,” you said,
“and you have to be strong.”
You promised to go with them
but chose instead to view the destruction on TV.
I wondered if you understood
that the violence that unfolded was real,
and not something made for television.
Did you order Cokes as you watched?
Did you eat popcorn?

Michael D’Antonio, A Goodbye Letter for the Anti-President, reformatted by Tipsy as poetry.


I’m not a big fan of Nina Totenberg (she is incapable of balanced coverage on some issues), but her Biden’s Solicitor General Faces Tough Choices On Trump Supreme Court Positions was a genuinely interesting account of what happens to a successor when a POTUS shatters norms and suborns frivolous arguments from his Justice Department.


For Trump supporters, I would recommend reading the entire post-January 6 debriefing of four Trump biographers by Michael Kruse in Politico, and internalizing that Trump is a con man who conned you big time:

Kruse: … I’m curious: Do you think November 8, 2016, will in the end be the best thing that ever happen to Donald Trump, or the worst?

Tim O’Brien: Both. It’s both the best and the worst. He’s such an egomaniac and so needy for the spotlight that he got the biggest platform in the world in the presidency to fill his need for attention, constant attention, and the media spotlight. And because he’s that damaged and needy he courts these things but then he gets exposed for who he is. And I think he’s permanently sullied his family’s name with at least half the population of the United States, if not more, and it’s historically dark things that they’re going to be associated with—an insurrection, programmatic racism, thuggery, and a real, I think, defaming of the presidency, unlike any other president. And I don’t think he foresaw that … He’s just Mr. Id. And he’s constantly trying to get gratification. He doesn’t care about the consequences. And then they blow up all around him. And so his election as president was both, I think, the best and the worst thing that ever happened to him.

Kruse: Is he capable of some sort of honest personal reckoning …?

[Harry] Hurt: No.

[Gwenda] Blair: No.

[Michael] D’Antonio: No.

[Tim] O’Brien: No way.

Kruse: So there is no …

Hurt: No.

O’Brien: No.

Blair: No.

Hurt: Next question.

‘He Was the Ringmaster in the Demise of His Own Circus’ – POLITICO Subtitle: On the eve of Donald Trump’s exit from power, four biographers who studied him up close reflect on what he wrought on the country. And what he’ll do next.


Phil Vischer, creator of the Christian cartoon series “VeggieTales,” once employed Metaxas as a writer and has known him for years.

“At some point,” he told Religion News Service in an email, “Eric went from idolizing people like Os Guinness to idolizing Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson — right wing political firebrands who live to ‘own the libs.’ I think there’s an adrenaline rush or dopamine hit from engaging in full-fledged culture wars that otherwise thoughtful souls on both sides of the political spectrum can find intoxicating. For some, life is worth living only when ‘the soul of America’ is at stake. So the soul of America is ALWAYS at stake.”

Belmont University professor David Dark, who has appeared on Metaxas’ radio show in the past, said that Metaxas may be influenced by the financial opportunity of the Trump cause. You can make a living appealing to an evangelical Christian audience, Dark said, but only if you give them what they want — in this case, support for Trump.

“I think that the market he has appealed to has gotten narrower and narrower,” he said.

A Greek Orthodox in his youth, he became an evangelical in his 20s and has since believed in personal revelation and signs from God. In a conversion story he recounted in Christianity Today magazine and in “Fish Out of Water,” an autobiography about faith due out in February, he tells of seeing a golden Jesus fish in a dream.

In the autobiography, Metaxas also lists a whole series of miracles and messages from God — including one from a turtle in Central Park — on topics from 9/11 to his rise from obscurity to fame.

How Eric Metaxas went from Trump despiser to true believer (emphasis added)

So did the “golden Jesus fish” tell apostate Metaxas that Trump was his man?

Welcoming 46 with open — ummmm — adulation

Spin is ubiquitous in modern politics. There is nothing new or shocking about it. Yet it is both noteworthy and troubling just how quickly CNN flipped from treating the previous president like a hostile occupying power to uncritically publicizing the brand-new administration’s efforts to cut itself maximal slack. If the media has any hope at all of improving on its image and reversing the collapsing trust of readers and viewers, it will have to do better than this.

The point is not to try and convince the most hostile Republicans to tune back into mainstream media outlets. Many of them are unreachable by this point, showing less interest in doing or seeking out better reporting than in using accusations of double standards and hypocrisy to help build support for the right and attempt to tear down liberal institutions. Some go even further, to use the failings of professional journalism as a justification for pedaling deliberate distortions on alternative platforms. Those who take this position view all so-called news as a form of propaganda or information warfare and defend the deliberate promulgation of lies as a tit-for-tat response to the actions of their enemies: “If the left does it, then so should we, and with even less restraint.”

But there are plenty of Americans situated between the burn-it-all-down hyper-cynical right and the journalists and Democratic Party politicos who naively or enthusiastically passed around the CNN story last week. Whether the right succeeds in persuading more and more people to join them in tuning out mainstream journalism will depend in large part on whether its accusations of dishonesty and bad faith look accurate to observers. Does the media seem fair-minded and scrupulous in what it labels news? Or does it seem highly invested in enhancing the power of one side in our country’s deep political divide?

Damon Linker, The media has to do better than this


Kamala Harris literally swore on a stack of Bibles to uphold the Constitution. I think that means it will be doubleplusbad when she discards the Constitution for partisan purposes, as every administration seems to do eventually.

The usual postscript

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (PDF)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Potpourri 12/19/20

The easy way for me to say this would be to cut-and-paste material I’ve already collected, but it would be inordinately long, imposing on intelligent readers, for me to do so. So let me summarize:

  • Donald Trump’s post-election lawsuits are all crap, with the exception of one he could and should have brought before the election if he was concerned about that state’s new election rules.
  • Trump and his team have been lying shamelessly about fraud in front of the cameras and on social media. The proof is that they don’t follow through by trying to prove it in court. The clearest example is that it admitted in Wisconsin federal court that the case was about little details of the means whereby administrators conducted the election, not about vote fraud. See this Andy McCarthy column (McCarthy supported Trump in the election).

It is a bitter disappointment that eight days after a snarky Wall Street Journal Op-Ed questioning Jill Biden’s insistence on the title “Doctor,” the pissing contest back and forth continues, with National Review descending into stuff like reading Dr. Biden’s dissertation and branding it “garbage.” See here, here and here.

I’m glad I’ve cut back on news consumption because it’s mostly manufactured controversies like this any more (and the Wall Street Journal knowingly manufactured it).

For what it’s worth, my late father referred to each of the Purdue professors in our Church as “Doc” — Doc Mott, Doc Remple, Doc Stanley, etc.


What’s even worse is First Things publishing a column that solemnly weighs the evidence of fraud, every instance of which has been thoroughly debunked if the author would pull his eyes out of his navel, his ears out the echo chamber, for a few minutes. See An Unstable System | John William O’Sullivan | First Things.

This is the sort of refutation that’s readily available:

Sure, it is easy to look at Biden and ask, “How could we possibly lose to this guy?” But Democrats are at least equally baffled that 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and, after four years of watching him in office, that 74 million did in 2020. The candidates on offer in both 2016 and 2020 were deeply distressing to a lot of Americans, many of whom no longer understand their neigh bors and most of whom decided to choose what they saw as a lesser evil. Trump, in particular, spent four years inflaming his critics’ loathing of him. He made the infuriating of liberals (“owning the libs,” in Internet-speak) central to his brand. Should we be surprised that liberals turned out in droves, if not to support Biden, then simply to stop being infuriated by Trump?

Yes, Biden held few in-person events, and drew far fewer in-person votes. But Bi den’s supporters were disproportionately people who preferred to err on the side of caution. For months, Democrats preached that in-person voting was unsafe; for months, Republicans preached that mail-in voting was untrustworthy. It should sur prise nobody that the two parties’ voters behaved in starkly different fashion.

… the timeline of vote counts was so predictable in 2020 that it had a name before Election Day: the “red mirage.” Because Democrats were more likely to vote by mail, and because the most heavily Democratic cities already tend to be the last counters owing to urban inefficiency, it was widely predicted that in those cities the counting of mail-in ballots would delay the most Democratic portion of the vote tally until the end. This did not happen everywhere: States such as Florida and Texas allowed mail-in ballots to be tabulated before Election Day. But Republican legislatures in the Midwest blocked early counting, and the result was in fact a high concen tration of Democratic ballots at the end. Everybody who was paying attention saw this coming a mile away.

Dan Mclaughlin, Presidential Election: ‘It Must Have Been Stolen’ | National Review


O sacred monarch, do not leave us. But if you do, we your faithful people will await your coming again in glory in 2024.

Alan Jacobs, The Return of the King (Snakes and Ladders)


On a much brighter note:

What’s especially striking to me is the reversal of the long historical pattern of the Rs representing the well-off and the Ds representing the struggling working people. That has reversed here just as it has nationally: The wealthier someone is around here, the more likely they are to be D … The Democratic Party that I knew and supported for 40 years was on the side of the working people, but that just isn’t true now, either legislatively or culturally … I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: If Democrats want to ‘unify’ the country—and I frankly don’t believe that they do—they’d get off their god damned high horses for once, and ditch their overweening, self-declared superiority, and join the human race.

Charlie Wilson, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

All other things aside, Trump’s basic lack of competency disqualifies him. I’m pretty sure a lot of people who voted for him wouldn’t want him for a boss, co-worker, or subordinate, yet they vote for him the way they might vote for a contestant on a TV reality show.

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

I’ve lived in SE Michigan my entire life, and have always been a Republican—part of the Evangelical-Republican alliance, back when it was, I believe, honorable. But Evangelicals as a whole lost their way many years ago when the alliance became a religious cause in itself, a cause larger than our former convictions … We became so enamored with power, it should have been no surprise to me (though it was) that evangelicals were and are willing to sacrifice our moral reputations for the sake of ‘winning.’ … I’ve hated every moment of Trump’s presidency, because of what I fear it’s done to the Gospel, and the reputations of those who claim to believe it.

Pastor Ken Brown, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

(But perhaps Pastor Brown has conflated charismatic flakes with traditional Evangelicals. See my recantation. The more I look, the more these New Apostolic Reformation theocrats seem clearly outside the commonest accepted boundaries of Evangelicalism. See, too, this Evangelical source that’s trying to be careful about NAR.)

“As with many if not most of our large institutions, these two parties are hollowed out … We saw in 2016, two outsiders, Sanders and Trump—not even historical members of the parties—were arguably the only candidates who brought any real dynamism to the race, whereas if these organizations were strong and highly functional, they wouldn’t even have permitted them to run under their party’s banners.”

In this regard, Rosenthal is a man after my own heart: I’m a firm believer that no conversation about institutional decline in America can be had without examining the deterioration of both major parties as gatekeepers to separate serious people from sideshows ….

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted (with approval) by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

The whole Tim Alberta ‘splainer is worth your time if you want to hate your countrymen less.


You’ll notice we are not having a national debate about paying off poor people’s mortgages. We could do that just as easily if the self-declared champions of the poor had any interest in anything other than their own status and their own appetites. They don’t.

Kevin Williamson

The only explanation I’ve heard from the Democrats is that while the middle- and upper-classes have more student debt, student loan forgiveness would improve the net worth of poor debtors more.

Nice try. I do believe that Oren Cass’s campaign to make the GOP a union-friendly worker’s party has got real merit.


I proposed to my husband, Chasten, in an airport terminal.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, joking about his qualifications after being nominated for Transportation Secretary by President-elect Joe Biden.

(Knowhere News)

It’s nice to know that there may be a sense of playfulness on Team Biden, but this (out of context, as it came to me) goes beyond playful to flippant or defiant. I trust that the Senate will wipe any smirk off his face in confirmation hearings.


America’s constitutional order, the political scientist Gregory Weiner argues, depends on a style of politics that the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called “nomocratic.” Nomocratic regimes hold themselves accountable to public processes (such as voting) whose outcome no one can be sure of in advance. They commit themselves to the rule of law and democratic decision making, even if the other side wins. Teleocratic politics, by contrast, is accountable to particular outcomes. Legitimacy comes not from following the agreed-upon rules but from obtaining the desired result. In other words, the election is valid—provided our side wins.

Trump has placed himself explicitly in the teleocratic camp. Teleocracy is incompatible with democracy and the rule of law; Trump’s position would once have horrified Republicans.

… Until Trump, no American politician had ever imagined running a fire-hose-of-falsehood campaign against the American public, much less had figured out how to do it. Trump saw the possibilities and capitalized on them. He opened the disinformation spigot on the first day of his presidency, with a blatant lie about the size of his inauguration crowd, and then spewed falsehoods at a rate that defied fact-checking—in October, more than 50 falsehoods a day.

… Trump’s development of an American model for mass disinformation may prove to be his most important and pernicious legacy.

Jonathan Rausch, What Trump Is Doing to the Country Right Now – The Atlantic


I called Klain the other day to ask him how he knew, to such a granular degree, that the Trump-Fauci relationship would go sideways. “We knew already that Trump has a style of governing that rejects facts and that demands that people see the world his way, that they live in his counterfactual reality,” he said. “He also has a tendency to downplay threats, whatever kind of threats they are. I knew Dr. Fauci well enough to know that he was going to tell the truth and speak out and that sooner or later that would run afoul of the Trump approach to governance.”

Klain was in a unique position to make predictions about COVID-19. As the coordinator of Obama’s successful fight against Ebola, he had developed important knowledge about infectious disease. But he also gained an understanding of Trump’s destructive impact on public health.

“One thing people forget is that after ‘birtherism’ blew up on Trump, he faded from view for a little while and only emerged back into our politics around Ebola,” Klain said. “He was the leading public voice attacking Obama’s Ebola response. His tweets—there are studies that show this—were a main cause of the fear that galvanized around Ebola. He tweeted that the efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa were a mistake, that bringing home the doctor who had contracted Ebola in West Africa was a mistake—he said he should be left to die. Trump was completely unhinged from science, and this had a significant impact on the public psyche. It gave me an early indication of how he would handle a pandemic.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, Ron Klain on Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Outbreak – The Atlantic


Last, but sadly not least:

Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won.

Kyle McGowan, quoted by Noah Weiland, ‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C.. I was afraid I was seeing that in “real time.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

More dramatic than I imagined:

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 3.39.29 PM

(link) and

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 3.39.55 PM

(link).

Those are stunning contrasts. So why do I not feel tribal loyalty to the GOP?

A superficial answer would be that for a conservative, I rate shocking low on loyalty in Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory. But I’m almost positive there’s something more important than that.

First, a distinction.

Dissatisfied with my superficial reading habits, I am currently reading Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (revised and updated 1972). Chapter 8 is titled “Coming to Terms with an Author”:

[I]n the analytical reading of a book, coming to terms is the first step beyond the outline. Unless the reader comes to terms with the author, the communication of knowledge from one to the other does not take place. For a term is the basic element of communicable knowledge.

A term is not a word–at least, not just a word without further qualifications … [A] word can have many meanings, especially an important word. If the author uses a word in one meaning, and the reader reads it in another, words have passed between them, but they have not come to terms.

Second, a story, which may be apocryphal, but I did not make it up.

A conservative returned to his alma mater for a commencement address and opened thusly:

By a strange coincidence, I am a graduate of a vastly different institution which occupied this very site 40 years ago and even bore the same name …

For some 23 years now, I’ve been an adherent of a religion called “Christianity,” based on the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and glorious second coming of Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man. It was once, under the necessity of distinguishing it from a particular heresy, partially summarized in a Creed. To distinguish it from other versions, it’s called “Orthodox,” with a capital-O.

Meanwhile, my country is breathing the last few whiffs of an empty bottle labeled, by a strange coincidence, “Christianity,” which apparently is based on the intuition that God wants us to be nice and happy or, in its robust “Evangelical” versions, that Jesus Christ was very special and died a horrible death so that God would get over his anger issues with us and we could get on with being nice and happy.

Its proper name is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Although we share a mostly-overlapping vocabulary of words, I cannot come to terms with it, except in relatively brief and exhausting bursts of attempted empathy.

I remember from some 55 years ago an even more rigorous version, to which I then and for several more decades adhered, but it lives on today mostly notionally, in the scribblings of über-fissiparous “discernment bloggers.” I stay as far from them (and it) as I can, because I’m recovering from a mild-to-moderate case of that mindset and I’ve seen the harm it can cause, including when someone brings that mindset into Orthodox Christianity.

There were and are some other versions of “Christianity,” with some of which I have more or less come to terms, but they are not all that easily pigeon-holed politically.

So back to the question:  “why do I not feel tribal loyalty to the GOP?”

First, because it forfeited any claim to my loyalty:

In 2000 and 2004, it was Dubya. He was, we were told, a good Evangelical Christian. He cited Jesus as his favorite philosopher. He talked about America walking humbly in the foreign policy world.

Then 9-11 came, and he turned into a fierce Commander In Chief …

And then came, too, the second inaugural, when he declared as U.S. policy the eradication of tyranny from the world and the planting of democracy. If you don’t understand how delusional that is, read it again: eradicating tyranny from the world. As national policy.

(Conscientious Objector to the Culture Wars | War Correspondence ن)

Second, I have no confidence that was a blip, a lapse. In fact, the ensuing years have confirmed that endless war truly is the position of the party insiders (even though party voters chose a putatively antiwar mad, toxic and incompetent man for President in 2016).

Third, the Churches these Republicans so assiduously attend engage in worship that’s pure glucose and teach religion(s) with which I cannot come to terms sufficiently to form any kind of alliance. That Republicans are so much likelier to attend Church weekly is not all that interesting considering the Churches they attend.

I knew that 10 years ago (if not earlier, but I drove a stake in the ground then — a blog that’s held up surprisingly well) and they drove a stake though whatever remained of “Republican” in my heart on November 8, 2016.

That’s why.

* * *

Perhaps some day I’ll post a more nuanced version of why it’s difficult for a former-Evangelical, former-Calvinist, now-Orthodox, to “come to terms” with typical versions of contemporary American “Christianity.” I acknowledge painting here with a broad brush, but if there’s no glimmer of recognition, then you may to inattentive, gentle reader.

* * * * *

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Psalm 146:3

* * * * *

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

Same God?

Hang on here. I purposefully meander a bit today, which is a fitting way of sharing a little epiphany I had while reading un-Christmassy stuff (Thomas S. Kuhn and Ian Hacking, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition) on Christmas Eve.

Do we, however, really need to describe what separates Galileo from Aristotle, or Lavoisier from Priestley, as a transformation of vision? Did these men really see different things when looking at the same sorts of objects? Is there any legitimate sense in which we can say that they pursued their research in different worlds? Those questions can no longer be postponed, for there is obviously another and far more usual way to describe all of the historical examples outlined above. Many readers will surely want to say that what changes with a paradigm is only the scientist’s interpretation of observations that themselves are fixed once and for all by the nature of the environment and of the perceptual apparatus. On this view, Priestley and Lavoisier both saw oxygen, but they interpreted their observations differently; Aristotle and Galileo both saw pendulums, but they differed in their interpretations of what they both had seen.

(Page 120, Kindle edition)

These sorts of questions could be extended to other areas, which was why Stanley Fish so insistently schooled Nico Perrino, on one So to Speak podcast:

[Stanley]: Do you believe in the distinction between faith on the one hand and reason or empirical investigation on the other?

Nico: Yes.

Stanley: Yes, I thought you would.

Nico: Of course, I do. So, I’ve fallen into your trap.

Stanley: Because I don’t. I taught a course yesterday on Inherit the Wind. It’s a movie about the Scopes Trial in the early part of the 20th century.

Nico: Yeah, Scopes Trial.

Stanley: That’s a movie produced and directed by Stanley Kramer who is a stalwart First Amendment liberal. The entire dramatic rhetoric of the movie depends on the distinction between faith on the one hand and reason, especially reason associated with scientific experiments, on the other hand. That distinction doesn’t hold up for a second. That distinction doesn’t hold up. What’s you’re dealing with in science as opposed to let’s say orthodox Christianity or something else are two different faiths.

Two different kinds of faiths undergirded by radically opposed assumptions and presuppositions. But it’s presupposition and assumptions which are generating the evidence and facts on both sides. Again, you have – I can tell and say this with all the generosity – you are deeply mired in the basic assumptions and presuppositions of classical liberalism. Anything else that is brought to you, anything that is brought to you by some kind of retrograde sinner like me sounds outlandish and obviously perverse.

Nico: No, not necessarily. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you.

Stanley: Good point.

Nico: But, you know, we’re at the corner of what? 5th and 12th Avenue. Are you telling me it’s not a fact that we’re at the corner of 5th and 12th Avenue?

Stanley: Oh, come on. Come on. Look, have you ever read The Structure of Scientific Revolution?

Nico: I have not.

Stanley: Okay. Do you know what it is?

Nico: No.

Stanley: Okay. It’s a book that is probably the most influential book in the social sciences and humanities for the past 75 years. That’s not an understatement. That is not an overstatement. Kuhn, his project, is the history of science as his title suggests. What he does is challenge the picture that I’ve already referred to where he says that science is not an activity in which one generation because of using its powers of observation and experiment adds to the details of the description of nature that was begun by previous generations.

What he’s saying is that scientific knowledge is not cumulative in the way that the usual picture of science suggests. Instead, scientific knowledge, that is the establishment of scientific fact, depends on what he calls paradigms. What’s a paradigm? A paradigm is the set of in place assumptions and authorized methodologies that govern and are in fact the content of scientific investigation at any moment. Paradigms rather than any direct confrontation between the observer and the world. Paradigms are what produces evidence and interpretations.

Finally, interpretations that are persuasive and successful for a while until that paradigm, for reasons that he details, is dislodged by another. When that happens, when the paradigm within which scientific observers work Kuhn says changes. One might say without exaggeration that without the world in which the scientific practitioner works has itself changed.

Nico: See, I don’t buy it though because there are things that scientist do maybe through this paradigm that produce a tangible result that only come as a result of. Changing the paradigm won’t change the result.

Stanley: Tangible result is itself along with other talismanic phrases like that – tangible result will be recognized as one depending on what pragmatic point of view you are situated. What Kuhn would say, he’s not the only one and I’m not the only one, is that any conclusion that you might reach and be confident in is not supported by some correspondents between your methodological, descriptive protocol and the world. Rather it’s produced by the paradigm within which you are ensconced and of which you are in some sense an extension.

I really urge to read this book because he considers – he’s not debunking science. He’s not debunking scientific achievement. He’s just giving a different picture of it which challenges what he thinks of as the over simplified picture, again, of a world out there waiting to be correctly described. We, as rational observers, having the task to describe it.

Having now read a bit more than half of Kuhn, I understand what Stanley was saying, and I’m less inclined to agree with with Nico.

Anyway, one extension of the “paradigm” (or “gestalt,” as Kuhn so often has it) is the continually vexed question of “whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” which I have visited several times in the past (here, here, and even here in passing).

My paradigm, which led me to say “of course they do“ is monotheism strictly and literally speaking: There is only one God, howsoever He may be misunderstood. Those who say they do not worship the same God strike me as tacitly embracing henotheism, usually with some vehement tribal pride thrown in about the superiority of our God.

But in fairness, the paradigm of the “different God” folks is perhaps doctrine, and “common parlance” rather than strict and literal monotheism. A sufficiently different understanding of God (as the Islamic understanding differs from the orthodox Christian) is, figuratively, “another God,” much as scientists after a gestalt shift are figuratively in “a different world,” according to Kuhn (and Fish?).

Further, my paradigm is apparently flexible. I sometimes ruminate on how the “loving God” I met in bedtime Bible stories as a child, and in childhood Sunday School, got displaced by an “angry God,” prickly, even furious, at how our screwups besmirch His dignity, as if He were a feudal lord. They do indeed feel like different Gods. (I found the loving God again, once and for all, in Orthodox Christianity, but that story is too tangential today.)

Likewise, a “progressive Christian” profession that Matthew 25 is the “heart of the Gospel” arises from a different hermeneutic than mine and, I suspect, is a convenient way of making Christ’s incarnate deity an optional doctrine and doing away with “the scandal of the Cross.” In their paradigm/gestalt, Matthew 25 being the heart of the Gospel is almost axiomatic, and the stupendous paradox we celebrated yesterday is at best tangential, likelier credulous or even incomprehensible. They and I are divided by our nominally common (“Christian”) faith. (It also makes Christian sexual morality, which rivals the Cross for scandal-giving these days, optional.)

And then there are the Jews. I and they, too, worship different Gods if you want to be very figurative about it, though their non-Trinitarian God is pre-Christian rather than anti-Christian. I wonder, though, how many of the “Muslims-worship-a-different-God” folks even think about the Jews when blasting the Muslims?

So what? So can we, on this second day of Christmas (indeed, on all days) be less hasty with expressions that needlessly divide us with intimations that The Other believes as he believes because he’s pure evil rather than out of a very different, good faith, perspective?

That doesn’t mean we all unequivocally worship the same God, for God’s sake, but might our divisions can produce yearning instead of angry denunciations?

* * * * *

Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Job’s Comforters

I’ve never recoiled from Job’s Comforters. At least they were “there for him” after a fashion, right?

Maybe I’m on the Autism Spectrum, or haven’t shaken off the last of my “former delusion,” repudiated when I entered Orthodoxy.

But the promised blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy were not sui generis in the Old Testament henotheistic millieu. That gods reward their followers and punish deviants was hardly an outrageous or (if I may wax anachronistic) Pharisaical worldview before Christ.

Some of the Psalms presented a more equivocal view, and we’ve learned from the highest of authorities, through pericopes like the man born blind, that into each life some rain must fall.

But the lessons that grief is not the time for theodicy, and that “I’m so sorry” is generally the best thing we can say when we’re tempted to something more “pious,” are not learned and remembered easily.

I’ve even heard dubieties coming from the mouths of the putatively grieving, trying to comfort their comforters. I’m thinking especially of a Calvinist father whose young adult son wrapped his car around a tree while home on leave. “We prayed that God would keep him from apostasy, and this apparently was the answer.”

That seemed very pious at the time. Now it seems reptilian. Another of his children did apostatize, and wrote a kiss-and-tell book about growing up in that household. I couldn’t bear to read it, but it sounded all too plausible from the reviews.

I guess Job wouldn’t have been much of a story if three guys showed up and just kept saying “we’re so sorry, Job.”

And we can always be grateful for Bildad the Shuhite as the punchline for “Who’s the shorted man in the Bible?”

* * * * *

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

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

C.S. Lewis: Forever relevant

Lewis on the Manichean temptation

I trust that at least one  very contemporary example of this comes readily to mind.

But if that’s the only example you can think of — if you’ve forgotten Pizzagate and birtherism and Obama’s-a-Muslim — or if you think those are materially different, then you, too, may be a hell-bound Manichean.

* * * * *

You can read my more impromptu stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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.

Detour & Frolic

We interrupt sporadic attempts at serious commentary to laugh scornfully at Jerry Falwell, Jr. (here), and to wonder just what the hell kind of educational institutions (both founded by Jerry Falwell, Sr.) could turn out such a clown.

We now return to our irregularly scheduled blogging.

* * * * *

“While saints are engaged in introspection, burly sinners run the world.” (John Dewey) Be a saint anyway. (Tipsy)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.