Sunday reflections

In progress we trust

Faith in progress is just as basic to modernity as the Second Coming was to Christianity.

Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies

Sorry if I’ve posted this before. It just says so much in so few words.

Seen and unseen understood

We celebrated Theophany, the third-most important of the Church’s feasts, on January 6. The feast technically continues several days, and included last Sunday:

The true Light has appeared and bestows illumination on all. Christ is baptized with us, even though He is above all purity; and thus He infuses sanctification into the water, which then becomes the purifying agent of our souls. What is seen belongs to earth; but what is understood transcends the heavens. By means of a bath comes salvation; by means of water comes the Spirit; by means of immersion does our ascent to God come to pass. How wonderful are Your works, O Lord! Glory to You.

One of the "Praises" ("Lauds") in Matins ("Orthros") January 9 (emphasis added, because that caught my attention).

American Christianity collection

The "democratic" seeds sown

Every theological vagabond and peddler may drive here his bungling trade, without passport or license, and sell his false ware at pleasure. What is to come of such confusion is not now to be seen.

Philip Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism (1844)

178 years later, we can see a bit more clearly.

To see ourselves as others see us

Author and speaker Christine Caine recently shared that she was stunned by what she encountered when she first visited churches in the United States.

Before coming to the U.S., “I had never seen a flag in a church,” said Caine. “Never.”

Jessica Lea

Unguarded candor

I found my way into this Twitter thread because John MacArthur was quoted as saying:

I don’t even support religious freedom. Religious freedom is what sent people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies. I support hell. I support the kingdom of darkness.

Unfortunately, the quote was accurate, and he doubled down disastrously. MacArthur is a big-name Evangelical of the sort I would have thought fairly moderate.

Comic and tragic

I’m from the Midwest, the home of emotional withdrawal, where I grew up among serious Bible scholars for whom the result of scholarship was schism and bitterness ….

Garrison Keillor.

That Keillor is a low-key comic doesn’t mean it’s not true. Witness this:

New podcast: Reformed Church in America split points to rising tensions in Calvin country — GetReligion

The "Alliance of Reformed Churches" to which conservatives from the RCA are fleeing, is attracting interest from Churches of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) as well. Both a roiled by similar contentious issues, implicating sexuality.

I was already an adult, when the PCA was forming from dissident members of the United Presbyterian Church. Our church was considering affiliating with PCA. They were until recently reputed to be rock-ribbed conservative Calvinists. Now, they’re in some trouble.

Upon completing law school, and before entering the Orthodox Church, I spent roughly 15 years in the CRC.

It blows my mind how the PCA and CRC have changed in so short a time. (If you’re curious, or just not conversant with the polyglot Protestant world, "Presbyterian" and "Reformed" historically are the English and continental Calvinist Churches, respectively; for an American, there’s no high doctrinal barriers between them.)

We’re not total outliers, though

I have been reviewing some of my personal notes, and one portion of Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary has particular religious valence. McGilchrist is a Brit, and so his observations aren’t focused on America, but presumably apply throughout the post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment West:

  • One can see the second process (a rejection of the right hemisphere’s world) in the way in which the decline of metaphoric understanding of ceremony and ritual into the inauthentic repetition of empty procedures in the Middle Ages prompted, not a revitalisation of metaphoric understanding, but an outright rejection of it, with the advent of the Reformation … The Reformation is the first great expression of the search for certainty in modern times. As Schleiermacher put it, the Reformation and the Enlightenment have this in common, that ‘everything mysterious and marvellous is proscribed … What is so compelling here is that the motive force behind the Reformation was the urge to regain authenticity, with which one can only be profoundly sympathetic. The path it soon took was that of the destruction of all means whereby the authentic could have been recaptured.
  • Decapitation of statues by the Reformers took place because of the confounding of the animate and the inanimate, and the impossibility of seeing that one can live in the other metaphorically. In a world where metaphoric understanding is lost we are reduced to ‘either/or’, as Koerner says. Either the statue is God or it is a thing: since it is ‘obviously’ not God, it must be a thing, and therefore ‘mere wood’, in which case it has no place in worship.
  • Protestantism being a manifestation of left-hemisphere cognition is – even though its conscious self-descriptions would deny this – itself inevitably linked to the will to power, since that is the agenda of the left hemisphere.
  • Removing the places of holiness, and effectively dispensing with the dimension of the sacred, eroded the power of the princes of the Church, but it helped to buttress the power of the secular state.
  • In essence the cardinal tenet of Christianity – the Word is made Flesh – becomes reversed, and the Flesh is made Word.
  • There are obvious continuities between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. They share the same marks of left-hemisphere domination: the banishment of wonder; the triumph of the explicit, and, with it, mistrust of metaphor; alienation from the embodied world of the flesh, and a consequent cerebralisation of life and experience.
  • The destruction of the sacerdotal power of the Church was a goal of the French Revolution, as it had been of the Reformation. The Reformation, however, had not been nakedly, explicitly, secular: it had purported to replace a corrupt religion with a purified one. All the same its effect had been to transfer power from the sacerdotal base of the Catholic Church to the state, an essential part of the relentless process of secularisation, in the broadest sense – by which I mean the re-presentation of human experience in purely rationalistic terms, necessarily exclusive of the Other, and the insistence that all questions concerning morality and human welfare can and should be settled within those terms – which I would see as the agenda of the left hemisphere. (I am fascinated at the pregnant qualifiers "nakedly, explicitly".)
  • Eichendorff said that Romanticism was the nostalgia of Protestants for the Catholic tradition.

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Book notes: The Master and His Emissary

Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary is, I’m pretty sure, the heftiest book I read in 2021. I’ve been reviewing my Readwise notes on-and-off now for a full day.

Selected notes are more than enough material for a blog the reader can really chew on for a while. While context is missing, I’ve tried to avoid notes that require the context for any understanding:

  • [B]y showing that the left hemisphere, which underwrites the fragmented vision, is both literally more limited in what it can see, and less capable of understanding what it does see, than the right – and, to cap it all, is less aware of its own limitations – the book gives the reader good reason to reappraise the left hemisphere’s world view, wherever it can be identified as such.
  • [S]ince the Industrial Revolution, but particularly in the last fifty years, we have created a world around us which, in contrast to the natural world, reflects the left hemisphere’s priorities and its vision.
  • A mountain that is a landmark to a navigator, a source of wealth to the prospector, a many-textured form to a painter, or to another the dwelling place of the gods, is changed by the attention given to it. There is no ‘real’ mountain which can be distinguished from these, no one way of thinking which reveals the true mountain. Science, however, purports to be uncovering such a reality. Its apparently value-free descriptions are assumed to deliver the truth about the object, onto which our feelings and desires are later painted. Yet this highly objective stance, this ‘view from nowhere’, to use Nagel’s phrase, is itself value-laden. It is just one particular way of looking at things, a way which privileges detachment, a lack of commitment of the viewer to the object viewed.
  • [I]t is the right hemisphere that has the intuitive sense of numbers and their relative size. However, the sense is approximate and does not have precision. The left hemisphere, by contrast, has precision, but it has no intuitive sense of what it is actually doing, other than following rules and manipulating symbols.
  • ‘If language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, then gesture’s purpose was to disclose them.’ … one feels so hopeless relying on the written word to convey meaning in humanly important and emotionally freighted situations. … It is precisely its accuracy and definiteness that make speech unsuited for expressing what is too complex, changeful and ambiguous. … a right-hemisphere stroke, although not involving speech directly, is in practice more disabling than a left-hemisphere stroke, despite the fact that in a left-hemisphere stroke speech is usually lost.
  • [P]oetry evolved before prose … Prose was at first known as pezos logos, literally ‘pedestrian, or walking, logos’, as opposed to the usual dancing logos of poetry.
  • The belief that one cannot think without language is yet another fallacy of the introspective process, whereby thinking in words about language only serves to confirm the importance of the verbal process. When we consciously introspect, or retrospect, on our own thought processes, and try to construct what happens, how the mind works, we can do so only as we would under those circumstances try to achieve the task, consciously, putting it in words. But the mind is not like this. We carry out most mental processes that would normally constitute what we mean by thinking without doing anything consciously, or in language, at all.
  • [P]hilosophy in the West is essentially a left-hemisphere process. It is verbal and analytic, requiring abstracted, decontextualised, disembodied thinking, dealing in categories, concerning itself with the nature of the general rather than the particular, and adopting a sequential, linear approach to truth, building the edifice of knowledge from the parts, brick by brick. While such a characterisation is not true of most pre-Socratic philosophers, particularly Heraclitus, it is at least true of the majority of philosophers since Plato in the West until the nineteenth century, when, for example, Schopenhauer, Hegel and Nietzsche began to question the basis on which philosophy made its advances.
  • According to the left hemisphere, understanding is built up from the parts … According to the right hemisphere, understanding is derived from the whole ….
  • The statement that ‘there is no such thing as truth’ is itself a truth statement, and implies that it is truer than its opposite, the statement that ‘truth exists’. If we had no concept of truth, we could not state anything at all, and it would even be pointless to act.
  • The fact that in the twentieth century philosophers, like physicists, increasingly arrived at conclusions that are at variance with their own left-hemisphere methodology, and suggest the primacy of the world as the right hemisphere would deliver it, tells us something important.
  • It is only the left hemisphere that thinks there is certainty to be found anywhere.
  • It is not that one or other hemisphere ‘specialises in’, or perhaps even ‘prefers’, whatever it may be, but that each hemisphere has its own disposition towards it, which makes one or another aspect of it come forward – and it is that aspect which is brought out in the world of that hemisphere.
  • The world of the left hemisphere, dependent on denotative language and abstraction, yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualised, explicit, disembodied, general in nature, but ultimately lifeless. The right hemisphere, by contrast, yields a world of individual, changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit, incarnate, living beings within the context of the lived world, but in the nature of things never fully graspable, always imperfectly known – and to this world it exists in a relationship of care.
  • [T]he immediate pre-conceptual sense of awe can evolve into religion only with the help of the left hemisphere: though, if the process stops there, all one has is theology, or sociology, or empty ritual: something else.
  • With the advent of Romanticism, paradox became once more not a sign of error, but, as it had been seen by Western philosophers before Plato, and by all the major schools of thought in the East before and since, as a sign of the necessary limitation of our customary modes of language and thought, to be welcomed, rather than rejected, on the path towards truth. ‘Paradox is everything simultaneously good and great’, wrote Friedrich Schlegel.
  • The means of argument – the three Ls, language, logic and linearity – are all ultimately under left-hemisphere control, so that the cards are heavily stacked in favour of our conscious discourse enforcing the world view re-presented in the hemisphere which speaks, the left hemisphere, rather than the world that is present to the right hemisphere. Its point of view is always easily defensible, because analytic; the difficulty lies with those who are aware that this does not exhaust the possibilities, and have nonetheless to use analytic methods to transcend analysis. … Coupled with its preference for classification, analysis and sequential thinking, this makes [the left hemisphere] very powerful in constructing an argument. By contrast it is hard for the right hemisphere to be heard at all: what it knows is too complex, hasn’t the advantage of having been carved up into pieces that can be neatly strung together, and it hasn’t got a voice anyway.
  • Although language is the only way we can scientifically bridge the chasm between mind and brain, we should always remember that we humans are creatures that can be deceived as easily by logical rigour as by blind faith … It is possible that some of the fuzzier concepts of folk-psychology may lead us to a more fruitful understanding of the integrative functions of the brain than the rigorous, but constrained, languages of visually observable behavioural acts….
  • One can see the second process (a rejection of the right hemisphere’s world) in the way in which the decline of metaphoric understanding of ceremony and ritual into the inauthentic repetition of empty procedures in the Middle Ages prompted, not a revitalisation of metaphoric understanding, but an outright rejection of it, with the advent of the Reformation … The Reformation is the first great expression of the search for certainty in modern times. As Schleiermacher put it, the Reformation and the Enlightenment have this in common, that ‘everything mysterious and marvellous is proscribed … What is so compelling here is that the motive force behind the Reformation was the urge to regain authenticity, with which one can only be profoundly sympathetic. The path it soon took was that of the destruction of all means whereby the authentic could have been recaptured.
  • Decapitation of statues by the Reformers took place because of the confounding of the animate and the inanimate, and the impossibility of seeing that one can live in the other metaphorically. In a world where metaphoric understanding is lost we are reduced to ‘either/or’, as Koerner says. Either the statue is God or it is a thing: since it is ‘obviously’ not God, it must be a thing, and therefore ‘mere wood’, in which case it has no place in worship.
  • Protestantism being a manifestation of left-hemisphere cognition is – even though its conscious self-descriptions would deny this – itself inevitably linked to the will to power, since that is the agenda of the left hemisphere.
  • Removing the places of holiness, and effectively dispensing with the dimension of the sacred, eroded the power of the princes of the Church, but it helped to buttress the power of the secular state.
  • In essence the cardinal tenet of Christianity – the Word is made Flesh – becomes reversed, and the Flesh is made Word.
  • There are obvious continuities between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. They share the same marks of left-hemisphere domination: the banishment of wonder; the triumph of the explicit, and, with it, mistrust of metaphor; alienation from the embodied world of the flesh, and a consequent cerebralisation of life and experience.
  • The destruction of the sacerdotal power of the Church was a goal of the French Revolution, as it had been of the Reformation. The Reformation, however, had not been nakedly, explicitly, secular: it had purported to replace a corrupt religion with a purified one. All the same its effect had been to transfer power from the sacerdotal base of the Catholic Church to the state, an essential part of the relentless process of secularisation, in the broadest sense – by which I mean the re-presentation of human experience in purely rationalistic terms, necessarily exclusive of the Other, and the insistence that all questions concerning morality and human welfare can and should be settled within those terms – which I would see as the agenda of the left hemisphere.
  • The appeal to reason can lead to sweetness and light, but it can also be used to monitor and control, to constrict and repress, in keeping with my view that the aim of the left hemisphere is power. With time, a dark side to the Enlightenment became too obvious to conceal.
  • In Shakespeare, tragedy is no longer the result of a fatal flaw or error: time and again it lies in a clash between two ways of being in the world or looking at the world, neither of which has to be mistaken. In Shakespeare tragedy is in fact the result of the coming together of opposites.
  • Eichendorff said that Romanticism was the nostalgia of Protestants for the Catholic tradition.

Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Holiday Ingathering

You can’t patent, trademark, or copyright routine

Yesterday morning we were reading around the fire and started chatting about pastors and the emphasis in the Protestant church on feelings and niche theology. It is sometimes held that if one feels a certain way or espouses certain esoteric ideas, then one is a “mature” Christian. This, of course, is great for Christian publishers and pastors, who produce books and create experiences that promise to lead people to the holy land of Christian maturity, where a select few live with a sense of satisfying superiority. Gnosticism is alive and well.

But isn’t action essential for holiness—especially repetitive action, like regularly taking the sacraments and doing a daily office? It’s harder (though not impossible) to build a marketable brand on these things, which is perhaps why there are so few celebrity pastors in churches that emphasize routine.

Micah Mattix, Prufrock for December 23 (emphasis added)


Donald Jr.

Emissary to MAGA world

Donald Trump Jr. is both intensely unappealing and uninteresting. He combines in his person corruption, ineptitude, and banality. He is perpetually aggrieved; obsessed with trolling the left; a crude, one-dimensional figure who has done a remarkably good job of keeping from public view any redeeming qualities he might have.

There’s a case to be made that he’s worth ignoring, except for this: Don Jr. has been his father’s chief emissary to MAGA world; he’s one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party; and he’s influential with Republicans in positions of power …

And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go.

Decency is for suckers.

He believes, as his father does, that politics should be practiced ruthlessly, mercilessly, and vengefully. The ends justify the means. Norms and guardrails need to be smashed. Morality and lawfulness must always be subordinated to the pursuit of power and self-interest. That is the Trumpian ethic.

Peter Wehner, ‌The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.

And the assembled hoards at Turning Point USA ate it up.

If the GOP wants to be the party of normals

The Republican visage of the Janus-faced Hulk is investing in stupid as if it were Bitcoin … I’m enjoying the political beclowning of wokeness on the left, but the right’s embrace of jackassery is legitimately bumming me out, because it’s driven by people trying to claim the conservative label.

Consider AmericaFest. For several days now, I’ve been subjected to clips from Charlie Kirk’s confab. If stupid were chocolate, he’d be Willy Wonka, albeit with a revival tent vibe.  Whether it’s his comparison of Kyle Rittenhouse to Jesus or his claim that their election “audit updates” come from a “biblical framework,” he’s peddling snake-oil-flavored everlasting gobstoppers of idiocy.

Before you get offended at me mocking people for declaring their Christian faith, consider that what I’m really mocking is their understanding of Christianity. Here’s Donald Trump Jr.:

““We’ve turned the other cheek and I understand sort of the biblical reference,  I understand the mentality, but it’s gotten us nothing, … It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution.”

My favorite part is the “sort of.” “Turn the other cheek” is “sort of” a biblical reference? What other kind of reference could it be other than some obscure instruction from a photographer to some butt model or what a tattooist says when he’s done with the left side?

… Donnie thinks a core tenet of Christianity needs to go if it doesn’t yield political power (for him). It should not fall to a guy named Goldberg to point this out, but from what I know about Christianity, this is pretty frick’n Roman.

But it’s not just the religion stuff. Sarah Palin, without a hint of irony, says she’ll get vaccinated “over my dead body.” (“Your terms are acceptable”—COVID.) … Madison Cawthorn, who makes Watters seems like Aristotle, told a group of mostly college students (at an event that makes its living feeding off of college students) that most of them should drop out of college. And, of course, Tucker Carlson doled out the usual boob-bait about the Capitol riot.

… I could go on. But the point is that if the GOP wants to be the party of normals, it can’t just take advantage of Democratic abnormalcy. It actually has to be, well, normal.

Jonah Goldberg


Dysfunction-making habits

Famous experiments on animals demonstrate that artificial isolation from their own kind produces dysfunction. We need to understand that humanity is running an analogous experiment on itself. The revolution ushered in facts of life that had never before existed on the scale seen today. Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the imploding nuclear family, the shrinking extended family: All these phenomena are acts of human subtraction. Every one of them has the effect of reducing the number of people to whom we belong, and whom we can call our own.

Mary Eberstadt, Men Are at War with God


Suffering for the common good

[I]t does strike me as odd that many American liberals seem ideologically committed to being miserable all the time. But this is also understandable in light of prevailing moods. Feeling like you’re a victim even if you’re not is the dominant cultural sensibility of the day.

Anthropologically, the need for an “anchor” or “pivot” (to use the Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper’s term) is something that all humans appear to need across space and time …

This innate disposition can cause problems when denied its natural outlets. If a particular segment of the population, on average, is less likely to believe in God, belong to an organized religion, have children, or be married, then they will, on average, need to look elsewhere for anchors and pivots. And we know that meaning can be derived from panic, fear, and even illness, particularly if you believe your suffering is in the service of the common good.

Shadi Hamid, Omicron Panic and Liberal Hysteria


Is the essence of conspiracy theorizing denial of Occam’s Razor?

A group of unvaccinated people who attended a huge conspiracy conference in Dallas earlier this month all became sick in the days after the event with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. Instead of blaming the global COVID pandemic, however, the conspiracy theorists think they were attacked with anthrax.

This far-right conspiracy claim began after a dozen people spent time together in a confined space at the ReAwaken America tour event in Dallas over the weekend of Dec. 10. And the fact that this was likely a COVID outbreak and superspreader event has been almost entirely ignored.

David Gilbert, People Got Sick at a Conspiracy Conference. They’re Sure It’s Anthrax..


… rituals of ideological one-upmanship

The forces at work in healthy party politics are centripetal; they encourage factions and interests to come together to work out common goals and strategies. They oblige everyone to think, or at least speak, about the common good. In movement politics, the forces are all centrifugal, encouraging splits into smaller and smaller factions obsessed with single issues and practicing rituals of ideological one-upmanship.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal


Frolicking in 2022

A Facebook name change? A colossal global chip shortage? Digital art selling for millions? No crystal ball could have shown us what 2021 in tech would look like.

Opening paragraph to Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2022 – WSJ

To give them credit, the authors’ very next thought was that their annual prognostications are very much a lark.


Ambivalence

I couldn’t bear much more than the first five minutes of Netflix’s Emily in Paris (which I set out to watch because … Paris, of course), but maybe I had it all wrong:

[M]any of the haters were also fans. A tweet by the comedian Phillip Henry summed up the dynamic: “1) Emily In Paris is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. 2) I finished it in one sitting.”

Netflix’s ‘Emily in Paris’ Is the Last Guilty Pleasure – The Atlantic

I went back and endured 15 minutes. I guess I’m not a very masochistic personality, because that’s enough and more than enough.


Long on emotion, short on facts

I predict mass communication technology and theory will be further weaponized to the point where increasing numbers of people suffer from a Matrix-like existence; “fake news” leading the way, long on emotion, short on facts.

James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency.

"Long on emotion, short on facts" describes a lot of what I find frustrating about even the more balanced, non-ideological news these days. For just one instance, I think we all now know that hospitalizations has become a better Covid metric than new cases, but you’ll be lucky to find hospitalization numbers in most daily Covid updates. It’s mostly "new cases up; feel bad" or "new cases down; chill a little — until we whipsaw you again."


People who changed their minds in 2021

Because the personal has become political, and because politics has swallowed everything, to change is to risk betrayal: of your people, your culture, your tribe. It is to make yourself suspicious. If you change your mind on something, can you still sit with those friends in the endless high school cafeteria that is modern life? Often, the answer is no.

A year ago, I still believed very much that the best use of my energy was to try to work to shore up the old institutions from the inside. I was wrong. My readers know: This newsletter would not exist if I hadn’t changed my mind.

And once I changed my mind, once I stopped trying to repair a decayed thing from within and set out to build something new, I was suddenly waking up peppy at 5 a.m., no alarm needed. I think that’s because changing your mind is a hopeful act. It means you think there’s a better path forward. It means you’re not done becoming.

Bari Weiss, who proceeds to share some very short essays from people who’ve changed or changed their minds recently.


Shorts

Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it.

Marcus Tullius Cicero


A sentence that would have been gibberish twenty years ago (and isn’t much better today):

Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while vehicle are in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.


None of the Civil War amendments established a right to be free from private-sector discrimination.

David Bernstein, You Can’t Say That!


A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde

The Price is Right, on the tube for 60+ years now, must be the most cynical show on television.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Sacramental Christianity

Sacramental Christianity (versus the others)

[I]t is easy to see how the older, sacramental forms of Christianity conform to this global pattern. The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the core of the religion, and is re-enacted every time there is a liturgy at the altar … When you take the sacramentality out of the religion, as many forms of Protestantism have, it wrecks the symbolism. How can a church that looks like a theatrical space do the symbolic work it is supposed to do?

Let me be clear: it’s not that God is not with people who worship in low-church Protestant temples; it’s that the structures perhaps make it harder for the worshipers to feel God’s presence. This matters for my book project, because I am trying to figure out how we can re-enchant the world, and live more like “religious man” (Eliade’s term) lived in the premodern era. The Protestantization of worship spaces, and the de-sacramentalization of some forms of Christianity, likely contributed to the disenchantment of the world. It wasn’t on purpose — nobody can accuse the Puritans, for example, of wanting to push God out of the world — but their theology, and horror at things that smacked of papistry, might have led them to throw out too much.

Rod Dreher, ‌Mircea Eliade On Temples

More:

If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us.

Quoting Robert Louis Wilen, Church as Culture

And still more:

[A] young kid from the Andes who’s raised to believe that that mountain is an Apu spirit that will direct his or her destiny will be a profoundly different human being and have a different relationship to that resource or that place than a young kid from Montana raised to believe that a mountain is a pile of rock ready to be mined. Whether it’s the abode of a spirit or a pile of ore is irrelevant. What’s interesting is the metaphor that defines the relationship between the individual and the natural world. I was raised in the forests of British Columbia to believe those forests existed to be cut. That made me a different human being than my friends amongst the Kwagiulth who believe that those forests were the abode of Huxwhukw and the Crooked Beak of Heaven and the cannibal spirits that dwelled at the north end of the world, spirits they would have to engage during their Hamatsa initiation.

Quoting Wade Davis

Mostly political

David Shor

I do hope the Democrats listen to [David Shor] even if it means they do better in elections. Why? Well, for several reasons. First, because if they listened to him, the Democratic Party would move rightward. Second, I think the actual policies associated with “defund the police,” “birthing persons,” “Latinx,” etc. are profoundly bad for America. And third, because if the Democrats stopped talking about ridiculous things, it would deny many Republicans the psychological permission to behave like idiots or support demagogic buffoons.

Jonah Goldberg, That Shor Sounds Good

So what’s Shor saying that the Dems should listen to?

At its most basic, Shor’s theory goes something like this: Although young people as a whole turn out to vote at a lower rate than the general population, the aforementioned type of young person is actually overrepresented within the core of the Democratic Party’s infrastructure. According to Shor, the problem with this permanent class of young staffers is that they tend to hold views that are both more liberal and more ideologically motivated than the views of the coveted median voter, and yet they yield a significant amount of influence over the party’s messaging and policy decisions. As a result, Democrats end up spending a lot of time talking about issues that matter to college-educated liberals but not to the multiracial bloc of moderate voters that the party needs to win over to secure governing majorities in Washington.

Ian Ward, ‌The Democrats’ Privileged College-Kid Problem

David Brock

(David Brock left the GOP long before Donald Trump:)

Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.

David Brock

It would be interesting to hear the two Davids, Shor and Brock, debate Democratic Party messenging.

Full disclosure for invitees

Alan Jacobs has a modest proposal:

This is related, in a way, to my previous post: After reading yet another invitation-disinvitation story, I think every university should – in the interests of full disclosure, honesty, and charity – prepare a list of Topics On Which Dissent Is Not Permitted and send that list to everyone who is invited to speak. That way prospective lecturers will know in advance whether they hold views that are not tolerated at those universities and can decline the invitation immediately rather than having to be canceled later on.

When Pandemic becomes Endemic, can we take off our masks?

I didn’t have much hope for ‌How Will Blue America Live With Covid? but it raises good questions.

As we saw after Sept. 11, certain forms of security theater, once established, become extremely difficult to dislodge as long as there is still any arguable threat. So as long as Covid stays in the news, it’s not hard to envision masking requirements for airplanes and trains persisting far into the future, much as we still try to foil Al Qaeda by taking off our shoes for airport security lines. It’s also possible to imagine a future in which the weird emergent norm of “masks for the help but not the V.I.P.s” — visible everywhere from the Met Gala to political fund-raisers to posh hotels — becomes an expected feature of life among the blue-state upper class (as well as a potent symbol for its critics).

Then there are blue-state elementary schools, where some of the constituencies that support mask requirements may not be assuaged even after vaccines are available for younger kids. At that point, according to both polls and personal experience, there will still be lots of vaccine hesitancy among even liberal parents — and you could imagine a coalition of more Covid-fearing parents and teachers’ unions demanding masking requirements until a school hits a vaccination threshold that remains perpetually out of reach.

Endemic Covid ensures that this dynamic will never simply vanish … deep-blue America will have to decide, in a world that’s postpandemic but not post-Covid, whether it wants to become the safety-above-all caricature that deep-red America has made of it — or if it can settle instead on masking a little more every December and January, a reasonable adaptation to the coronavirus experience, while otherwise leaving the age of emergency behind.

Ross Douthat

I’m seeing signs of this division among my acquaintances. And I suspect that public schools that veer into safetyism will find that a straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends more students off to private schools.

… boring me to death

Roughly a half decade or so ago, I started noticing that everyone began to believe that their political opinions were the most interesting thing about them.  When it’s usually exactly the opposite.  As a journalist, I always found that talking to people about their actual lives – their hurts, ambitions, failures, families, amusing asides – produced infinite and pleasant surprises. Only when they started talking politics could I finish all their sentences.  As a right-leaning person throughout my life, I became unwittingly involved in more and more conversations, feeling like a trapped rat all the while, in which my conversational companions gave me their harangues on how biased the liberal media was.  In fairness, the mainstream media does lean liberal, and often is biased.  (Who isn’t, these days?)  But if every other sentence you utter ends in the refrain “liberal media bias,” it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lying or wrong, just that you’re boring me to death over dinner. I get it. But that’s been settled law for decades. Try to be more interesting.

Besides, achieving equanimity isn’t just a natural state, but a choice.  These days, it very much involves swimming against the tide. You nearly have to choose not  to get riled by all the manufactured outrages, Kabuki-theater conflagrations, and faux-Twitter fights that are conducted by catty people, for catty people.  The rage merchants abound, and are all too willing to make a buck from stoking your anger and wet-nursing your resentments  over  “issues” you’d never even heard of five minutes prior.  Don’t be such an easy mark.

Matt Labash

No senses

I’ve long known that ultra-progressives have no sense of humor. Now it appears that perhaps they have no sense of chronology, either:

When I appeared on Megyn Kelly’s podcast, she shared an anecdote (at 46:00 minute mark) about a friend of hers who worked as an editor at a major publishing house. The editor had received a manuscript of a historical novel, based on a true story, of a woman who had to pose as a man in order to receive a medical education and become a surgeon in the 1920’s1. The editor admired the novel and circulated it for feedback from some junior editors.

Perhaps you can anticipate what happened next. The book was attacked by other staffers for its failure to portray the woman who posed as a man in order to practice medicine as transgendered. The author had failed to frame her story through an anachronistic projection of today’s gender ideology onto a past in which the ideology did not yet exist. This meant her work was therefore “transphobic.” The editor was reported to HR for forcing them to read the book and subject to a disciplinary process. He was unable to move forward with the acquisition he had intended.

J.K. Rowling, Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle. They exist in a strange form of cossetted duress. They are still beloved by millions, wealthier and more widely exposed than ever before. But they are pariahs from the official pseudo-consensus that the Successor Ideology has captured and that a growing body of the gullible and the opportunistic alike have signed on to join with the forces that they anticipate will be in the ascendancy soon.

Wesley Yang, Cancellation, or Cultural Change

How do you marginalize normalcy?

No amount of effort at revising my attitudes (not that I’m especially inclined to try, sorry) would do much to change the fact that however effete and aloof and sensitive I may be, (and I am surely in the 95th percentile among men along both of these dimensions), I am nonetheless, for better or worse, unambiguously a cisgendered, (a term that the late comedian Norm MacDonald characterized “a way of marginalizing a normal person), heterosexual man, and all that entails.

Wesley Yang, ‌Preface to a 20-volume Dave Chappelle Review

Pregnant women at SCOTUS

SCOTUS is going to hear the Texas abortion law case on its "rocket docket;" briefing next week, argument November 1:

Justice Sotomayor wrote a six-page dissent. She repeatedly referred to pregnant "women," without a footnote about gender identity. Call the cancellation squad.


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.

Apophats and Cataphats

> In the 1830s, virtually all American theologians—Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Unitarians alike—assumed theology to be a science whose aim was to produce exact formulations based on evidence … Generally, the Bible was thought to be a storehouse of facts and propositions and the task of theologians was to systematize these facts and to ascertain the general principles to be found in them … [A]ll, including the Unitarians, assumed that every passage in the Bible had only one meaning, and that all readers through history could understand it.

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Kindle locations 1065-1070).

This formulation shocked me, but I readily recognized it as accurate even when describing the Evangelicalism of my youth, 130 years later. The conceit that we were getting warranted certainties in sermons and chapel talks was strong, and I suspect it’s still around, if less universal, today. Some of those certainties were toxic falsities, as probably are some of today’s.

Fast forward a few decades from the 1830s to this recognizably similar view from a scholarly sort of Protestantism:

> Scottish Realism with its optimistic, democratic view that anyone could discover the truth appealed to many Americans, and it had particular appeal to the Protestant clergy because it posited the spiritual nature of consciousness and it involved no skepticism about religious truth … As Marsden points out, Old School Presbyterians, raised on the Westminster catechisms, tended to view the truth as a stable entity that, when expressed in precisely stated propositions, would be understood by everyone at all times in exactly the same way … Further, if moral laws could be adduced in the same way as the laws of physics, then theology was a science, too … to systematize the facts of the Bible, and ascertain the principles or general truths which those facts involve … “The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science,” he wrote. “It is his store-house of facts.”

Id., Kindle locations 1305-1326.

Contrast this dissenting view from the 1830s:

> [Horace] Bushnell’s challenge to this whole way of thinking rested on the new science of philology and on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ideas about the indeterminacy of language … Dogma-based theologians, he argued, ignore the instability of the abstractions they use and work out Christian systems that are consistent but false simply because of their consistency … The authors of the Scriptures, the inspired witnesses to spiritual truths, could not convey these truths directly. Rather, like all good writers, they did their best by multiplying forms or figures, and by creating paradoxes and contradictions to give as many hints as they could to their inspiration … [I]t offended piety and intelligence to claim that the meaning of God’s self-expression in Christ could be captured in “a few dull propositions.”

Id., Kindle location 1077-1083.

I’m not endorsing Bushnell’s liberal Protestantism, let alone claiming that he was influenced by Orthodox Christianity, but I was surprised to see that on this occasion, the liberals are much more sympathetic to my Orthodox mind than was the mainstream. The uncertainty reflected in Orthodoxy’s apophatic theology seems to have something of the same look to it, though the lineages of the two are quite different.

Now, something more contemporary.

> Richard Dawkins argued against God’s existence, saying that omniscience and omnipotence are contradictory …

Garrison Keillor

Omniscience and omnipotence are familiar words to Christians, though perhaps only those of a Western sort. Having been a Western Christian, they’re familiar to me.

These are cataphatic, affirming two things about God: that He knows everything and can do everything. These are the kinds of "facts" (themselves abstractions) through which much or most Western Christianity purports to know God.

In contrast, here are a few things Eastern Christian apophatic theology says:

  • No one has seen or can see God (John 1:18).
  • He lives in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16).
  • His ways are unsearchable and unfathomable (Job 11:7-8; Romans 11:33-36).
  • The true knowledge and vision of God consists in this—in seeing that He is invisible, because what we seek lies beyond all knowledge, being wholly separated by the darkness of incomprehensibility (The Life of Moses, Gregory of Nyssa).
  • God is infinite and incomprehensible and all that is comprehensible about Him is His infinity and incomprehensibility (On the Orthodox Faith, John of Damascus).

OrthodoxWiki (hyperlinks omitted). An Orthodox Christian with a truly Orthodox mindset, not unduly influenced by a Western milieu, will still affirm those, and will demur from terms like omniscient and omnipotent.


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

Potpourri 6/6/21

Russell Moore and the Southern Baptists

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

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

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

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

David French is quite interested in all this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Goes On. That’s the news …

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

Garrison Keillor

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

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

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

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

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

TFPOTUS

1

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

Alan Jacobs

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

2

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

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

Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review

3

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

Scott Adams, Win Bigly

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

Undermined democracy

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

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

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

Damon Linker

If you don’t like the Religious Right …

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

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

Peggy Noonan, What Drives Conspiracism (no pay wall)

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

Cruelty is here to stay

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

Freddie deBoer, At the Heart of It All

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

As others see us

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

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

Rod Dreher, reporting from Bucharest

Invisible Revolution

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

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

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

We must do something. Scapegoating is something.

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

The Morning Dispatch

Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind we beat the dog.

The Vicar in the movie 10‌.


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

Catching up …

I’ve been, as previously mentioned, focusing on a fun personal project, which entails lots of rabbit-trails and techie learning. But I’ve noticed a few things that seem worth sharing.


The longer Trump is out of office, and the more the press treatment of Biden so starkly contrasts to that of Trump when they take identical substantive positions (e.g., no action against Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashogi), the more I understand (not to say “agree with”) the Trump revolution. I don’t expect to be backtracking after reading Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites and Martin Gurri’s Revolt of the Public, both on my bookshelf awaiting me.


We are a sick country when Netflix has a show top 10 show, Marriage or Mortgage, featuring couples agonizing over whether to have a vulgarly lavish wedding or whether to buy a vulgarly lavish house and postpone any wedding.

Does nobody ever think of a modest wedding and a modest starter home?


America has gone through four Great Awakenings. The first (1730–1755) and second (1790–1840) were rooted in the conviction that Christ reigns victorious over the invisible economy, that the debts incurred by human transgression have been offset by divine innocence. Christ the Scapegoat, through his unmerited death on the Cross, did what we could not: He paid our debts. He took on the stain of sin in order to wipe it clean. These awakenings had a political significance. By preaching the universality of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy, they helped shape the disparate colonies, and later states, into a nation. One could say something similar about America’s third awakening (1855–1930), which was fired by the social gospel. It sought to employ the universality of divine solicitude to unify the country beyond the divisions of economic class.

We are now undergoing a fourth awakening, and matters are very different. The previous awakenings took place under the firm hand of American Protestantism. But today, Mitchell observes, “we are living in the midst of an American Awakening, without God and without forgiveness.” In the century that separates us from the outburst of the social gospel, our society lost its hope in the Cross but not its sense of guilt. The panic over righting wrongs remains, but gone is the promise of redemption. Without the Cross of Christ, the transactions of the invisible realm must be set to balance wholly within the power dynamics of the visible world.

Mitchell sees the rise of identity politics as a crisis of the invisible economy erupting into the visible. No longer guided by the Christian insight that the universality of sin means its resolution must be a divine act, identity politics apportions guilt and innocence according to a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, each weighed according to intersectional theory. Guilt and innocence no longer attach to one’s freely chosen actions over the course of a life but are imputed on the basis of one’s inherited and immutable characteristics, skin color above all. The idea of original sin abides but is tragically twisted. It is still something one is born with, but it is no longer universal. Rather, like the Angel of Death, it passes over some and lands upon others.

James F. Keating, Woke Religion, reviewing Joshua Mitchell, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time.


I grew up fundamentalist and we avoided rhythm for fear it would lead to dancing and copulation so we praised God in slow mournful voices, like a fishing village whose men had been lost in a storm. We never learned to play a musical instrument for fear we might have talent and this would lead to employment in places where people drink liquor.

What it’s like to be old, if you want to know | Garrison Keillor


When I hear descendants of the Magisterial Reformation saying that sola scriptura isn’t what I think it is, I’m reminded of the perennial excuse of die-hard Communists that “real Communism hasn’t been tried.”

Protestantism was fissiparous (schism-prone) even during Luther’s lifetime. And if one glosses sola scriptura to require heedfulness to the interpretations of one’s clergy, then what you’re left with is simply scriptura, with no the sola. And adherence to scriptura is not at all uniquely Protestant if one insists on proper and not private interpretation.


The coverage of the Atlanta massage parlor murders this week may have destroyed any vestige of respect for media and elite opinion. I was thinking along those lines, but Andrew Sullivan says it better:

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran ninenine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an antiAsian white supremacist hate crime. Sixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

When The Narrative Replaces The News – The Weekly Dish. There’s more than that:

  • Harvard sent out a note to students premised on this being an anti-Asian crime.
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones wove it into her narrative of “racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”
  • The Root ominously prophesied that “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect ….”
  • Trevor Noah insisted that the killer’s confession was self-evidently false (direct quote from Sullivan).

All of that, on the currently-available evidence, is false and absurd. Sullivan again:

But notice how CRT operates. The only evidence it needs it already has. Check out the identity of the victim or victims, check out the identity of the culprit, and it’s all you need to know. If the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it. 

The only complexity the CRT crowd will admit is multiple, “intersectional” forms of oppression: so this case is about misogyny and white supremacy. The one thing they cannot see are unique individual human beings, driven by a vast range of human emotions, committing crimes with distinctive psychological profiles, from a variety of motives, including prejudices, but far, far more complicated than that.

The longer Trump is out of office, and the more the press treatment of Biden so starkly contrasts to that of Trump when they take identical substantive positions (e.g., no action against Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashogi), the more I understand (not to say “agree with”) the Trump revolution. I don’t expect to be backtracking after reading Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites and Martin Gurri’s Revolt of the Public, both on my bookshelf awaiting me.


We are a sick country when Netflix has a show top 10 show, Marriage or Mortgage, featuring couples agonizing over whether to have a vulgarly lavish wedding or whether to buy a vulgarly lavish house and postpone any wedding.

Does nobody ever think of a modest wedding and a modest starter home?


America has gone through four Great Awakenings. The first (1730–1755) and second (1790–1840) were rooted in the conviction that Christ reigns victorious over the invisible economy, that the debts incurred by human transgression have been offset by divine innocence. Christ the Scapegoat, through his unmerited death on the Cross, did what we could not: He paid our debts. He took on the stain of sin in order to wipe it clean. These awakenings had a political significance. By preaching the universality of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy, they helped shape the disparate colonies, and later states, into a nation. One could say something similar about America’s third awakening (1855–1930), which was fired by the social gospel. It sought to employ the universality of divine solicitude to unify the country beyond the divisions of economic class.

We are now undergoing a fourth awakening, and matters are very different. The previous awakenings took place under the firm hand of American Protestantism. But today, Mitchell observes, “we are living in the midst of an American Awakening, without God and without forgiveness.” In the century that separates us from the outburst of the social gospel, our society lost its hope in the Cross but not its sense of guilt. The panic over righting wrongs remains, but gone is the promise of redemption. Without the Cross of Christ, the transactions of the invisible realm must be set to balance wholly within the power dynamics of the visible world.

Mitchell sees the rise of identity politics as a crisis of the invisible economy erupting into the visible. No longer guided by the Christian insight that the universality of sin means its resolution must be a divine act, identity politics apportions guilt and innocence according to a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, each weighed according to intersectional theory. Guilt and innocence no longer attach to one’s freely chosen actions over the course of a life but are imputed on the basis of one’s inherited and immutable characteristics, skin color above all. The idea of original sin abides but is tragically twisted. It is still something one is born with, but it is no longer universal. Rather, like the Angel of Death, it passes over some and lands upon others.

James F. Keating, Woke Religion, reviewing Joshua Mitchell, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time.


I grew up fundamentalist and we avoided rhythm for fear it would lead to dancing and copulation so we praised God in slow mournful voices, like a fishing village whose men had been lost in a storm. We never learned to play a musical instrument for fear we might have talent and this would lead to employment in places where people drink liquor.

What it’s like to be old, if you want to know | Garrison Keillor


When I hear descendants of the Magisterial Reformation saying that sola scriptura isn’t what I think it is, I’m reminded of the perennial excuse of die-hard Communists that “real Communism hasn’t been tried.”

Protestantism was fissiparous (schism-prone) even during Luther’s lifetime. And if one glosses sola scriptura to require heedfulness to the interpretations of one’s clergy, then what you’re left with is simply scriptura, with no the sola. And adherence to scriptura is not at all uniquely Protestant if one insists on proper and not private interpretation.


The coverage of the Atlanta massage parlor murders this week may have destroyed any vestige of respect for media and elite opinion. I was thinking along those lines, but Andrew Sullivan says it better:

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran ninenine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an antiAsian white supremacist hate crime. Sixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

When The Narrative Replaces The News – The Weekly Dish. There’s more than that:

  • Harvard sent out a note to students premised on this being an anti-Asian crime.
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones wove it into her narrative of “racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”
  • The Root ominously prophesied that “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect ….”
  • Trevor Noah insisted that the killer’s confession was self-evidently false (direct quote from Sullivan).

All of that, on the currently-available evidence, is false and absurd. Sullivan again:

But notice how CRT operates. The only evidence it needs it already has. Check out the identity of the victim or victims, check out the identity of the culprit, and it’s all you need to know. If the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it. 

The only complexity the CRT crowd will admit is multiple, “intersectional” forms of oppression: so this case is about misogyny and white supremacy. The one thing they cannot see are unique individual human beings, driven by a vast range of human emotions, committing crimes with distinctive psychological profiles, from a variety of motives, including prejudices, but far, far more complicated than that.

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.

Others reached that conclusion about media and elite opinion ahead of me. Just because they jumped the gun doesn’t mean they were wrong.

That’s it for now.


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.

Back by Popular Demand

As a retired attorney Never Trumper, I picked a lousy time, January 4 or 5, to damage my first-string computer so badly that it had to be decommissioned and hospitalized. My second-string computer lacks a smooth process for WordPress blogging, since the WordPress block editor strikes me as profoundly stupid and unusable. 

On the bright side, first-stringer has been released from medical care, and I was able to make notes all along the momentous way from Wednesday afternoon the 6th to date. So without further ado, my curated “best-of” notes of the last ten days.

January 6

After the riots began, I was mostly devoted to watching things develop on Television, looking for the least stupid coverage available. I believe I concluded that CNN fit that bill. I also noted:

  • The late 1990s, my wife’s car bore a bumper sticker saying “My Disgust With the Current Administration Cannot Be Expressed Here.” I wish I had one of those bumper stickers now.
  • I wish the press would stop talking about Congress being prevented from discharging its “sacred” duty. I will settle for solemn duty.

January 7

Donald Trump has been deformed and deranged for much of his life. It has been the pattern of his life to lie and to cheat, to intimidate and hurt others, to act without conscience, to show no remorse, and to make everything about himself. None of this was a secret when he ran for president, and certainly none of it was a secret once he became president. His viciousness, volatility, and nihilism were on display almost from the moment he took office. As president, he has acted just as one would have expected. He has never deviated from who he is.

Peter Werner, Republicans Own This Insurrection – The Atlantic


There is no excuse for political violence, and Trump, admittedly, did not ask anyone to engage in violence. However, if you tell people that their votes didn’t count, that the election was a sham, that the election you lost wasn’t even close but in fact a landslide in your favor, it’s only natural to expect that some people will be inclined to resort to violence, because the whole point of elections is to settle political matters without violence. If the election process is a total fraud, then violence is to be expected.

Even in the face of the violence yesterday, Trump, while telling the rioters to go home, also continued to insist that he really won in a landslide, thus continuing to foment violence. He is unfit to be president.

When Are We Going to Admit that Trump is Unfit to be President? – Reason.com


David French
@DavidAFrench

Tell me again that character doesn’t matter.

Tell me again that the only concern about Trump is with his “manners.”

You monumental hypocrites and cowards. Look what you’ve done.


Trump goosed his own mob of supporters in DC this morning, saying in a speech:

> “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats. We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s death involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He said: “We will never take back our country with weakness.”

And then they went in and invaded the Capitol …

Rod Dreher, Trump’s Weimar America


Unlike so many other disturbances over the years, the events at the Capitol yesterday did not represent a policy dispute, a disagreement about a foreign war or the behavior of police. They were part of an argument over the validity of democracy itself: A violent mob declared that it should decide who becomes the next president, and Trump encouraged its members. So did his allies in Congress, and so did the far-right propagandists who support him. For a few hours, they prevailed.

Anne Applebaum, What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America – The Atlantic


18 USC §2384—Seditious Conspiracy
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.(Emphases added)

What Is Seditious Conspiracy? – Reason.com

This was not simple trespass. Some of those people need the full 20 years, starting with Q Shaman, a QAnon leader/celebrity.


The problem here is that it’s Trump’s job to prevent and stop rioting, especially rioting against federal institutions. He’s supposed to prevent and stop such behavior even when it’s promoted by total strangers to him. He has a special responsibility to prevent and stop such behavior by people who are on his side, since those are the ones whom he can most effectively try to calm even when they’re already in a rioting mood.

He most certainly isn’t supposed to say things—even constitutionally protected things—that are pretty likely to cause harms of the sort that we hired him to stop. The incitement test, which applies equally to all speakers, doesn’t capture this factor, nor should it. This factor is all about the special responsibilities of government officials (Presidents, governors, mayors, police chiefs, legislators, and the like). Such officials are supposed to be politically savvy enough to know what’s likely to produce (even contrary to their intentions) criminal conduct, and are supposed to organize their speech and action in a way that minimizes this, rather than making it especially likely.

Trump’s failure was a failure not as a speaker, of the sort that strips speakers of First Amendment protection. It was a failure, a massive and unjustifiable failure, as a public servant.

Incitement and Ordinary Speakers; Duty and Political Leaders – Reason.com

Especially shameful by Trump and his little leg-humpin’ friends:

  • Trump immediately went after the most loyal ally he’s had the past four years: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Marc Short, a top aide to Pence, confirmed that he was denied entry into the White House last night because Trump blamed him for Pence’s “betrayal.”
  • These walkbacks are, without question, a welcome development. But they are also evidence that the legislators’ planned objections were never really about correcting widespread voter fraud—they were about political expediency. Theoretically, nothing that transpired on Wednesday should have changed anybody’s mind about the existence of voter fraud. But it sure heightened the political ramifications of continuing to go along with the mob.

The Morning Dispatch: A Dark Day on Capitol Hill (emphasis added)


“This isn’t who we are as Americans,” the president-elect insisted. Yes, old men are entitled to their delusions, but the rest of us are not obliged to share them. Biden could not be any more wrong: This is exactly who we are.

“We must not normalize Donald Trump!” A hundred thousand variations on that sentence have been published in the past four years. It is a stupid sentence. Donald Trump does not require normalization. He is as normal as diabetes, as all-American as shooting up your high school.

The Trump presidency began in shame and dishonesty. It ends in shame, dishonesty, cowardice, and rebellion against the Constitution. For the past few weeks, the right-wing media, including the big talk-radio shows, has been coyly calling for a revolution. Of course they never thought they’d actually get one: That kind of talk is good for business — keep the rubes riled up and they won’t change the channel when the commercials come around on the half-hour. I never had much hope for the likes of Sean Hannity, tragically born too late to be a 1970s game-show host, but to watch Senator Ted Cruz descend into this kind of dangerous demagoguery as he jockeys to get out in front of the Trump parade as its new grand marshal has induced despair.

On May 4, 2016, I posted a little note to the Corner, headlined: “Pre-Planning My ‘I Told You So.’” It reads, in part: “Republicans, remember: You asked for this.” The path that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have taken in the past four years is not one that was forced on them — it is the product of choices that were made and of compromises that were entered into too willingly by self-interested men and women seeking money, celebrity, and power.

Of course it ends in violence — this is, after all, America.

Kevin D. Williamson


None of his policy achievements outweigh the paranoid extremism he has directed like a missile at the constitutional order. Pointing to his “enemies” does not excuse his behavior.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review

In other words, we’ve become a bunch of damned ideologues who can’t see past our issue checklists to meta-issues, such as “This candidate ticks all the right boxes, but he’s a toxic narcissist, lifelong philanderer, cheat and con man. No way.”

There will be time to sort through the wreckage of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. There is not as much time — a little less than 14 days — to constrain the president before he plunges the nation’s capital into havoc again. Incitement to trespass, harassment, and destruction cannot go unanswered. The Constitution offers remedies. Pursue them — for no other reason than to deter the president from escalation. There must be a costS for reckless endangerment of the United States government. Trump must pay.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review


This attack wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen. At The Dispatch, we have been warning about the possibility of serious political violence for months. The president and many of his supporters have falsely claimed that the presidential election was stolen and have trafficked in transparently ridiculous conspiracy theories. They have told bizarre tales about false and even impossible schemes to corrupt the vote. And they’ve done this while speaking in apocalyptic terms about the fate of the nation.

Impeach Donald Trump, Remove Him, and Bar Him From Holding Office Ever Again – The Dispatch. Note the “bar him from holding office again” part.

This is from a conservative publication whose purpose is not “Never Trump” but whose sanity and decency has pretty well rooted it in that camp even as it casts its issue nets more widely.

January 8

Trump doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that he lost the election. He doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that his legal challenges, hindered in part by the stubborn facts on the ground and in part by the characteristic half-assedness of most of his endeavors, failed miserably. He doesn’t care about the idea of due process or any process at all, really, except to the extent that it can benefit him. He has consistently called for lawbreaking behavior to be deployed against journalists and activists he dislikes. He thinks he has a right to unleash constant, unhinged conspiracy theories against his enemies, but readily threatens his own critics with lawsuits. This is all deeply ingrained habit for him.

Before there was a single moment of violence yesterday, we were already in unprecedented territory: an outgoing president addressing his most deranged fans, continuing to insist that he had won an election that he had in fact lost by a significant margin (306 votes constituted a ‘landslide’ in 2016, according to the man himself), riling them up in a way that almost certainly led directly to what followed.

Yesterday was also about resentment in its rawest, least focused form. Trump was elected in 2016 in part because he was able to capitalize off a growing sense among many Americans that they have been “left behind.” There are elements of this sentiment that are well-founded and elements that are misguided, and it’s too big a subject to unpack here, but the point is that these feelings have manifested, in Trumpism, more as a general confused populist lashing-out and desire for a heroic figure than as the embrace of any specific politics or policies per se. Sure, in theory Trump voters are against illegal immigration and against China “screwing us” and for “American business” and against “thugs and looters,” but really, their political commitments start and stop at listening to Trump say mean things about the things they dislike and nice things about the things they like. They like Trump because he gives voice to their fuzzy resentments, fuzzily.

A Perfect Ending To The Trump Presidency – Singal-Minded


For roughly the past three decades, right-wing media personalities have enriched themselves by cultivating and encouraging a virulent anti-liberalism among a segment of Republican voters. As the ranks of these voters have grown and they’ve been networked together into virtual communities through social media, increasing numbers of elected officials have begun to chase them, seeking their support, by validating the increasingly deranged views they are fed by media profit-seekers.

Donald Trump’s primary and general-election victories in 2016 massively enhanced the power and intensity of this anti-liberal feedback loop. What we’ve witnessed since the November election has been its fullest flowering yet: the president, right-wing media, and dozens of members of Congress spreading and validating conspiratorial lies among a segment of the electorate — and then doing its bidding in the name of democratic representation.

Why did Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and the others flatter the delusions of those who stormed the Capitol building and cheer them on by casting their symbolic votes to reject the outcome of the election? They did so because, as a YouGov poll conducted on Wednesday made clear, roughly 45 percent of Republican voters approved of what happened in Washington that afternoon.

The insurrectionists are their constituents.

Damon Linker, The bloody power of symbolic gestures


For years now, my central thesis about American public life has been that it is fundamentally unreal, a kind of live action role-playing game augmented by digital technology.

The competing participatory narratives by which we experience politics have almost no connection to the banal reality of a sclerotic two-party system that primarily exists in order to increase the gross domestic product and the share prices of publicly traded corporations. Even at their respective partisan extremes — QAnon, Russiagate conspiracies, “Abolish the family” lunacy — the stories we tell ourselves about the perfidy of our leaders are a kind of ideological fan fiction.

On Wednesday we saw the limits of LARPing. The longed-for irruption of what Marxist intellectuals call “the real” — an actual attempt at the destruction of one of the most enduring symbols of the American civic order — happened. Supporters of a president who only moments before had been insisting that the recent election was illegitimate took him at his word and stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows, occupying the floors of both chambers, vandalizing offices, skirmishing with police officers.

What did Wednesday’s events show us? I wish I could believe that the response would be a collective feeling that something has gone too far, that our tacit encouragement of a lunatic and conspiratorial politics has taken us to a dark place far beyond the comfortable ports of liberal capitalist decadence.
This does not seem to me likely. Instead I expect that in the weeks and months to come all the competing meta-narratives will be reinforced by Wednesday’s violence. The basic epistemic disjuncture in American society will be strengthened. Fifty percent of the country is not going to change its mind about the results of the election. A senile president incapable of maintaining order in the capital of the republic will continue to be regarded as an essentially Hitlerian figure rather than Wall Street’s second choice for the enrichment of our ruling class.

Matthew Walther, The limits of LARPing


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday the company was banning President Trump from its platform “indefinitely,” at least through the end of his term. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. Snapchat and Twitch made similar decisions, while Twitter reinstated the president’s account following a short suspension.

[O]ne group at least seems to be unshaken by the shocking events: The core Trump base. How has the Trump movement avoided soul-searching following a day on which some of its most committed members stormed Congress by force? Simply by rewriting the facts of the event into something consistent with their worldview, in which America’s only violent political insurrectionists come from the radical left.

Mere minutes after the motley crew of Proud Boys, militia members, and other MAGA faithful were evicted from the Capitol Wednesday, a false narrative had already begun going viral among Trump supporters on social media. The people who stormed police barricades by force at the Capitol, the story ran, had actually been Antifa interlopers posing as supporters of the president.

Never mind that the crowd had come to D.C. and marched to Congress at Trump’s explicit request; never mind that some of those filmed trashing the place were well-known alt-right personalities; never mind that others interviewed inside were perfectly chatty about who they were and why they were there; never mind that the only “evidence” provided for this theory was a couple screenshots of misidentified faces and tattoos. Boosted by credulous and sloppy right-wing web media, loose-cannon MAGA celebrities, Fox News hosts “just asking questions,” and even members of Congress, the theory that the Capitol insurrection had been instigated by false-flag leftists almost immediately took over the pro-Trump internet.

Startlingly, even Trump supporters who had been physically present at the riot—who had personally stepped across crumpled barricades, pushed through smoke and tear gas over the Capitol lawn and onto the steps of the building itself, and seen the breach with their own eyes—had come around to this narrative by the following day. On Thursday, your Morning Dispatchers interviewed more than a dozen who had returned to the National Mall for a second consecutive day. Nearly all insisted—without any prompting—that the only people who had been truly violent the day before had been covert Antifa operators.

“The whole thing was set up,” said one South Carolina woman who declined to give her name. “They wanted the people to get pumped up and do that. … The picture of the guy sitting on Pelosi’s desk or whatever? I guarantee you he was working for Antifa—or whoever it is, whatever organization.” (It was, in fact, Richard Barnett from Gravette, Arkansas. The FBI reportedly visited his house yesterday.) 

“There was, you know, a window was broken,” said Christian, a protester who had driven up from Texas earlier this week and said he had witnessed the break-in but not entered the Capitol himself. “Some people were kind of doing it—either they were overzealous or there were some agitators within. It looks like some people have identified a few likely Antifa members based on their tattoos and stuff … For the people who were genuine Trump supporters, which there probably were a few, I don’t know if they were the first in—maybe they just tagged along.”

The Morning Dispatch: Aftermath


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

looking backward


Trump is now and always has been delusional. He lives in an imaginary world. His insistence that he won the last election in a “landslide” is psychologically indistinguishable from his declaration on his first day that his Inaugural crowd was larger than his predecessor’s. For four years, the actual evidence did not matter. It still doesn’t. Any rumor that helps him, however ludicrous, is true; every cold fact that hurts him, however trivial or banal, doesn’t exist. For four years as president, any advisor who told him the truth, rather than perpetuating his delusions, had an immediate expiration date. For four years, an army of volunteer propagandists knowingly disseminated his insane, cascading torrent of lies.

And Trump really believes these fantasies. He is not a calculating man. He is a creature of total impulse. As I wrote almost five years ago now, quoting Plato, a tyrant is a man “not having control of himself [who] attempts to rule others”; a man flooded with fear and love and passion, while having little or no ability to restrain or moderate them; a “real slave to the greatest fawning,” a man who “throughout his entire life … is full of fear, overflowing with convulsions and pains.” For the ancients, a tyrant represented the human whose appetites and fantasies had no form of rational control.

Quotes For The Week
“After this [rally], we’re going to walk down [to the Capitol] and I’ll be there with you. … We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of [the senators] because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” – insurrectionist leader Donald J. Trump, just before the violent assault on the Capitol.
“I do not believe that the founders of our country intended to invest in the vice president the unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted,” – Mike Pence.
“I can’t imagine that the president wanted this,” – Rick Santorum, deluding himself again.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” – Trump.
“We love you. You are very special,” – Trump, in a taped statement addressing the seditionists who attacked the Capitol.
“Arrest everyone who has violated the fencing. Prosecute [the] trespassers [to] the fullest extent of the law for any crime beyond the simple trespass. Conclude the proceeding and confirm the election of President-elect Biden. Rule of law conservatives cannot be silent about this,” – Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing radio host of the old eponymous Dish award “given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous,” on Wednesday.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” – Raphael Warnock, the first black senator from Georgia.
“It turns out telling voters the election is rigged is not a good way to turn out your voters,” – Mitt Romney, on the Democratic triumph in Georgia.
“The Oklahoma City bombing killed the momentum of the small government movement. This is likely to do the same thing to the Trumpian right,” – Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. God I hope so.
“Media: quit labeling DC protestors ‘Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Trump Supporters, etc’ LOOK IN TO WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE who’d choose an apparent leaderless insane swarm to create a perception of condoned violence. KNOCK IT OFF. And to any insincere, fake DC ‘patriots’ used as PLANTS — you will be found out,” – 2008 veep nominee Sarah Palin, implying that the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol was a false flag operation.
“If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them [the electoral college ballots rescued from the Senate floor], they would have been burned by the mob,” – Senator Jeff Merkley, tweeting a photo of the ballot chests.
“We’re storming the Capitol! It’s a revolution!” – a Trump-cult member from Knoxville, Tennessee, on camera.
“This [storming of the Capitol] didn’t happen during the U.S. Civil War,” – Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.
“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” – George W. Bush.
“Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution,” – Republican Senator Ben Sasse.
“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,” – Nikole Hannah-Jones, on the rioting and looting this past summer.
“Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America,” – Barack Obama.
“What’s the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?”- a senior Republican official quoted in the WaPo on November 9, two months before the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol.

Andrew Sullivan, This Is The Face Of The GOP Now – The Weekly Dish (emphasis added)


[T]here’s virtually no popular support for the idea that social media companies should permit insurrectionists (of any ideological stripe) to use their platform to plan or incite violent unrest.
 
But what if the president of the United States is the insurrectionist-in-chief?

When Donald Trump was elevated to the presidency, his core supporters pursued a fundamentally unsustainable course. They simultaneously celebrated his norm-breaking while furiously demanding that the response to Trump follow all applicable norms. Only Trump could be the bull in the china shop. Only Trump could be the horse in the hospital.

Well, the bull has broken a lot of china. And on Wednesday, the nation’s very ability to secure the liberty that’s the lifeblood of the republic wavered and cracked. A Trump mob achieved what the Confederacy could not. It launched a violent, deadly, and sustained occupation of the Capitol. It halted for a time the vital process of counting electoral votes, a process essential to the peaceful transition of power.

Why did this happen? There were many causes, but one cause—perhaps the principal cause—was the president of the United States using private platforms to spew an avalanche of grotesque lies and inflammatory rhetoric into the body politic. He triggered an actual insurrection.

So the advice I gave more than a year ago—advice I thought applied only to unstable countries in the developing world—applies here. It applies now. Should social media companies continue to provide a platform to Trump? No. They should not.

David French, Toss Trump Off Twitter


77 percent of Trump’s voters—77 percent—say he was the rightful winner and that the election was stolen from him.

I don’t think that most of the people in the mainstream of American culture, who have viewed this week with horror, have any idea what they’re up against.

It Could Have Been Worse. – The Triad

January 9

I found myself focusing on things other than our political woes, but made on note:

“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast and the unofficial leader of the white nationalist Groyper Army, angrily tweeted, shortly after Trump released a video Thursday night in which he conceded that Biden would be the next president and called for political reconciliation.

Cassandra Fairbanks, a prominent MAGA activist, tweeted: “[He] tells angry people to march to the capitol [and then] proceeds to throw his supporters under the bus.”

Politico

Had these people really not noticed yet that loyalty for Trump is entirely, utterly, a one-way street? (Not that I think “threw under the bus” is a very good description of what Donald Trump did after Congress finished counting electoral votes, but it speaks to the deluded mindset of people who thought Trump cared.)

January 10

As befits Sunday, I pretty much gave it a rest.

A Jewish publication blames Wednesday’s riot on post-Christian pagans.
Christian David French blames it on sorely misguided Christians.
I’m going to have to chew on this one a while.

January 11

The Atlantic’s Caitlyn Flanagan gave me some guilty pleasure lampooning the insurrectionists:

Here they were, a coalition of the willing: deadbeat dads, YouPorn enthusiasts, slow students, and MMA fans. They had heard the rebel yell, packed up their Confederate flags and Trump banners, and GPS-ed their way to Washington. After a few wrong turns, they had pulled into the swamp with bellies full of beer and Sausage McMuffins, maybe a little high on Adderall, ready to get it done. Like Rush Limbaugh before them, they were in search of their own Presidential Medals of Freedom, and like Donald Trump himself, they were ready to relieve themselves on the withering soul of the nation and the marble floors of the Capitol building. Out of darkness we were born and into darkness we were returning.

The Viking guy was frightening, until it turned out that he’s a notorious ham who shows up at lots of Trump events and loves publicity. Last May, in Phoenix, he was pounding his drum and yelling, “Thank you, President Trump!” and “Thank you, Q!” until a reporter approached him to ask for an interview, and in an instant he turned into Beto O’Rourke. “My name is Jake Angeli,” he said smoothly. “That’s J-A-K-E and A-N-G-E-L-I. Angel with an i.”

The comedian Norm MacDonald has observed that the second-worst job in the world is Crack Whore and that the worst job in the world is Assistant Crack Whore. So let us cast our lonely eyes on the specter of Assistant Viking, Aaron Mostofsky, who was dressed in pelts and carried a police riot shield and who—in a rare Viking flourish—was bespectacled. Can you tell us what you’re doing here today? a reporter asked him. “What I’m doing here today is,” he began, but here the words began to fail him. He looked around and then said he was there to “express my opinion as a free American, my beliefs that this election was stolen. Um—we were cheated.” He adjusted one of his pelts and said that certain blue states—“like New York”—had once been red, and “were stolen.”

Why had she come to Washington? “We’re storming the Capitol!” she whined. “It’s a revolution!” Patty Hearst was more up to speed on the philosophy and goals of the Symbionese Liberation Army before she got out of the trunk. These people were dressed like cartoon characters, they believe that the country is under attack from pedophiles and “globalists,” and they are certain that Donald Trump won the election. In other words, the Founders’ worst fear—that a bunch of dumbasses would elect a tyrant—had come to pass.

All things are born, live, and then die. We can remember who we are, and keep going—maybe even moving forward. Or we can make a mockery of ourselves and die in filth.

Caitlyn Flanagan, Worst Revolution Ever – The Atlantic]

Thanks, Caitlyn. That (especially the first paragraph) was cathartic in a guilty pleasure sort of way.


  • Ronna McDaniel and Tommy Hicks were reelected chair and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, respectively. The pair—who are both close allies of President Trump—will serve through the 2022 midterm elections.
  • Alt-right activist Ali Alexander claimed in a video posted before the protest that he was working with three House Republicans—Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Mo Brooks—to organize the event. Alexander said he consulted the lawmakers as he “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting…”
  • Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist who claimed the Sandy Hook shootings were faked and has been publicly praised by President Trump, claimed in a video that the White House asked him three days before the event to lead the march to the Capitol.
  • And sources familiar with the investigation tell The Dispatch that there are indications some of the militia groups involved had plans that included harming lawmakers and harming or capturing Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Who should be held accountable for Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol? According to conservative columnist George Will, President Trump, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Ted Cruz. “The three repulsive architects of Wednesday’s heartbreaking spectacle—mobs desecrating the Republic’s noblest building and preventing the completion of a constitutional process—must be named and forevermore shunned,” he writes in his latest column. Even though Trump “lit the fuse for the riot in the weeks before the election,” the president’s conspiratorial antics were enabled by Hawley and Cruz and their refusal to certify the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, Will writes. While Trump is gone in just over a week, it will take longer to “scrub” Hawley and Cruz from public life. “Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet ‘S’ as a seditionist.”

The Morning Dispatch: It Could Have Been So Much Worse

January 12

Republican Attorney General Official Resigns Over Group’s Role in Capitol March
Adam Piper was executive director of Republican Attorneys General Association, which sent robocalls asking people to join rally that turned into deadly riot

The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association resigned after the group was criticized for soliciting thousands of Trump supporters to march on the Capitol last week and fight to support President Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Republican Attorneys General Association’s policy arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, authorized robocall messages urging “patriots” to join last Wednesday’s march to “fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”

… Within the organization, however, Mr. Marshall has called for an internal investigation into the robocall messages. “We are engaging in a vigorous review,” he told reporters in Montgomery, Ala., Monday. “I was completely unaware of our connection to this rally,” he said.

Other Republican attorneys general have also distanced themselves from last week’s violence.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, former chair of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, disavowed involvement.

“AG Reyes was not involved in organizing the rally in Washington DC,” his office said in a statement Friday, noting that “under his tenure, RLDF was not involved in any political rallies.”

What does a rally have to do with the (nonexistent) legal merits of “stop the steal”? None. Then why would AGs push a political rally?

January 13

What do you call it when rightwingnuts do something horrible and then pretend it was leftwingnuts conducting a “false flag” operation? Is that a “false flag false flag” operation?


Pence Says He Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment, Setting Stage for Impeachment Vote
Some Republican lawmakers say they would vote to impeach Trump in the wake of Capitol riot. House Democrats passed a resolution Tuesday demanding that Pence and a majority of the cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment.

Pence had no good options. Or, to put it another way, “lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas” is a cosmic law, and he lay down with a dog in 2016.


One of the chief reasons I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump is the ugly way he talks about human beings. That said, I underestimated how many people may have voted for him because of his rough, threatening, even violent talk, rather than despite. I never thought we would see what we saw in the Capitol. I do think it reached a whole new level post-election, but as I said in my syndicated column this week, people such as Jonah Goldberg, Jay Nordlinger, and David French were right to constantly sound alarms.

This is a time for humility and repentance, and for the Left, too. We’ve been too polarized and ideologically driven with a religious-like fervor on both sides. Hurt people are hurting hurt people. We need a president who honestly wants to be president of all Americans. Including peaceful ones at the Trump rally last Wednesday.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, A Mea Culpa


Don’t skim this too lightly. It’s wicked good.

At a joint press conference, a dozen or more of the most prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement gather. There’s Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich, and a claque of Fox News primetime anchors. (Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are at a separate table, because no one will agree to sit with them.)

“We are here to ‘revise and extend our remarks,’” McCarthy begins in an attempt at congressional wit.

“Joe Biden is president-elect. He won. Donald Trump lost. This has been the case since a few days after election night. There was no fraud worth speaking of; the courts from one end of the country to the other have thrown out every claim of irregularity. To our eternal regret, many in my party, out of ignorance, delusion, mendacity, or fear of our own constituents, endlessly repeated outright lies emanating from the fevered mind of our delusional president, whom we never should have nominated in the first place. This helped create the climate for the most violent assault on the Capitol in 200 years. I am ashamed personally, and for my party.”

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is next.

“While I urged my colleagues to accept the electoral vote count, I bear heavy responsibility in spending the last four years ignoring the increasingly lunatic actions and rhetoric of the president. As long as he gave me my judges, I turned away from the behavior that culminated in a presidentially triggered riot. In the interest of unity, I am asking the various committee chairs to move swiftly to put President-elect Biden’s economic and national security team in place as close to January 20th as possible.

Newt Gingrich rises—slowly, with great difficulty—to acknowledge that “as a world-class historian, I knew better than to embrace the mad-as-a-hatter fantasies of the president. It’s not as if I have the mental acuity of Louie ‘Bag of Hammers’ Gohmert. But I was too busy selling my books, CDs, and commemorative coins to think about the harm I was doing to the country. I am now offering a ‘Collector’s Item’ special of videos and pen holders in honor of Joe Biden’s inaugural, just call this toll-free—”

When Gingrich has returned—slowly, painfully—to his seat, Senators Hawley and Cruz take the podium together.

“Of course we know the truth,” they recite together. “We are two of the smartest, best-credentialed senators ever: Stanford and Princeton, Yale Law and Harvard Law. But our joint lust for the presidential nomination unmoored us from any sense of decency. We are resigning our seats and—like the British politician John Profumo, who left in scandal and spent the rest of his life doing charity work—we intend to spend the coming years doing menial labor for the Little Sisters of the Poor, while engaging in prayerful meditation so that we might somehow become less reprehensible human beings.”

A few moments later, after the Fox News primetime team pledges a vow of silence, the gathering ends. And peace and tranquility settle upon our divided land.

Jeff Greenfield, Yes, by All Means, Let the Healing Begin


I hadn’t thought, before sometime in the last year, about the connotation of “impunity.” The real “tells” in last week’s riots at the U.S. Capital were the maskless rioters, smirking and taking selfies, obviously thinking that Trump and sundry Congressrats had their backs and that they were acting with impunity.

Dumbasses. Some of them are going to prison for long terms.

And, by the way, after some initial hesitation about calling the riots a “coup attempt,” because the rioters did not want personally to govern, I’m now entirely comfortable with calling a “coup attempt” the effort to disrupt the peaceful transition of power to the duly elected President so that your demagogue can remain in power.


If the price of winning your next primary is remaining silent on the question of Trump and his post-election behavior, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol by a “Hang Mike Pence!” mob, then you have lost your priorities. If you cannot explain to voters why they are wrong to give a pass to a president who behaved as Trump has done, and what it means to have a president who fouls American democracy by rousing the rabble to break down the doors of the Capitol and shout for lynching the vice president, then why are you in public service? If that’s what it takes to keep your job, why would you even want a job like that? Honestly, I do not get it.

I had an extremely frustrating conversation this evening with a friend who believes all of this was invented by the Left to discredit the president. The narrative is unfalsifiable. It’s not a question of a political disagreement; it’s about living outside of reality. All day long I’ve been getting e-mails from people who are really suffering because beloved friends and family members — even elderly parents — are completely lost in this toxic unreality of paranoia and conspiracy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, aside from woke militants. Something demonic is in the air. We might not need an impeachment and conviction so much as we need an exorcism.

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


The conservative Catholic writer John Jalsevac explains why he’s so angry right now. Excerpts:

> Nothing, absolutely nothing, has disturbed me more over the past four years, than the weird misuse of Christian religious language, spirituality and mysticism in service of the Trumpist political agenda ….

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson expanded upon some of the themes we touched on above in his newsletter yesterday. Cancel culture exists, and it is a threat, he writes. But that’s not what we’re seeing in the wake of last week’s insurrection. “No, I am not sympathetic to you over major corporations deciding not to give you a penny. No, I am not sympathetic to you getting your internet social media accounts canceled. No, I am not sympathetic to you having your rising career in politics ruined,” he writes of those facing repercussions for their role in Wednesday’s events. “This was bound to happen because you overplayed your hand and your action is causing a reaction. It is an equal and opposite reaction. Trying to cancel a presidential election causes a cancelation rebound.”

The Morning Dispatch


If you asked today “what’s an evangelical?” to most people, I would want them to say: someone who believes Jesus died on the cross for our sin and in our place and we’re supposed to tell everyone about it. But for most people they’d say, “Oh, those are those people who are really super supportive of the president no matter what he does.”

Ed Stetzer interviewed in ‘How Did We Get Here?’ A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump


A related argument, lent weight by the president himself yesterday, is to suggest, hint, insinuate, or outright proclaim that impeachment could lead to violence. It could tear apart the country. Yada, yada, yada.

> “This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and you’re doing it and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” he added, in his first public comments since the deadly assault on the Capitol.
>
> “For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr. Trump concluded before heading across the South Lawn to Marine One.

Maybe it could spark violence—and even if that were the case, since when do conservatives argue that we should appease potential rioters? I’ve been writing about the pernicious “riot ideology” of the 1960s left for 20 years. Lo and behold, the right has now embraced it. Moreover, the mere fact that it is plausible that Trump’s second impeachment could spark violence is an argument for why he should be impeached. Forget that he’s threatening Congress with the possibility of violence; the fact that the threat is plausible is testament to the environment he deliberately created.

But here’s my point: If Trump actually believes this stuff, the incandescently obvious moral choice is for him to resign, to spare America even greater turmoil and strife. That would be a display of Trump putting the interests of America first. The only reason for him to stick around is vanity. It’s not like there’s anything more he can do policy-wise, save issue a bunch of easily rescinded executive orders or hand out more pardons.

Jonah Goldberg

January 14

  • President Trump issued a statement yesterday (which was also texted to campaign supporters) calling for calm leading up to and on Inauguration Day. “I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” he said. “This is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.” He expanded upon this message in a pre-recorded video as well. “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for,” he said. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.” (The New illustrative case of the No True Scotsman fallacy.)
  • … ten Republicans broke ranks—sufficient to make it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history.
  • Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy … said the president bore responsibility for the attack … [but] argued … that the most prudent course of action would not be impeachment, but rather a “fact-finding commission and a censure resolution.” … McCarthy conditioned his comments on President Trump “accept[ing] his share of responsibility” for last week’s violence and “quell[ing] the brewing unrest.” While the former will almost assuredly never happen (at least in public) ….
  • “I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears, talking to me and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.” (Rep. Jason Crow)
  • The Freedom Caucus, founded to promote limited government and reducing spending, has become in recent years little more than an enforcer of Trump loyalty ….
  • The Republican Party has a choice to make: Does it want leaders who bury their convictions for public political gain, or leaders who act on their conscience even at the risk of short-term political loss? Using Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney as examples of the two paths, Steve argues for the latter in a piece on the site. “I suspect in two years, in five years, in 10 years, the overwhelming majority of the country and even the majority of Republicans will look back on this moment and wonder how anyone could have voted against impeaching the president on substantive grounds,” he writes. “And the procedural arguments against doing so—there’s no time, the Senate isn’t in session, his presidency is almost finished—will feel even smaller than they feel today.”

The Morning Dispatch


Lucky are the foreign ministers of very small, very consensus-driven countries, for those who play their cards right sometimes get to hold office for many years. One of the luckiest card players out there is Jean Asselborn, the amusing polyglot who has been the foreign minister of Luxembourg since 2004. Although his country is tiny (population 613,000), the longevity of Luxembourg’s top diplomat gives him the confidence to say what he thinks—even if it is, well, undiplomatic. Last week, following the insurrection in Washington, D.C., Asselborn did exactly that: “Trump is a criminal,” he told RTL, his country’s leading broadcaster.* “A political pyromaniac who should be sent to criminal court. He’s a person who was elected democratically but who isn’t interested in democracy in the slightest.”

Anne Applebaum


It certainly was not one of those “Tell your grandchildren” moments. For the second time in a year, Donald Trump was impeached on Wednesday afternoon in the House of Representatives by a vote of 232-197, which included 10 members of his own party, after a few hours of unmemorable speechifying. The most shocking thing about it was not not being able to read Trump’s own reaction.

Matthew Walther. The remainder of Walther’s tendentious column confirms that when he’s bad, he’s dumber than a box of rocks.


The days since last Wednesday’s insurrection against the legislative branch of the United States have felt extremely odd and quite out of keeping with much of the past four years.

There’s also a different feeling in the political air — one that might best be described as being snapped back to wakefulness from a semi-conscious dream state. Or maybe a feeling of rubber hitting road after a long, drawn out sideways skid on civic black ice. We may not right our course before we crash, but at least it feels like we might have a brief window and a chance to regain control over our direction.

For the moment, at least, there’s a sense in our public life that we’ve returned to reality after four interminable years of psychological torture and abuse — a time during which the president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

Damon Linker


Hypothesis: Evangelical susceptibility to QAnon is a natural extension of Evangelicalism’s steady diet of prophecy porn over more than 50 years. New Apostolic Reformation may have been an intermediate step. Hal Lindsey is a primary offender, but a teacher at my Evangelical boarding school warned us in 1964 that if Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater, the Communists planned an immediate takeover.

This crap isn’t brand new.


Insurrection and impeachment, yesterday’s All the President’s Lawyers podcast, is an extremely good discussion of the criminal law consequences and prosecutorial strategy surrounding last Wednesday’s insurrectionary Capitol riots. More than fun banter this week.


Of reports that insurrectionists are on DC dating apps, providing pictures and videos of themselves to women they’re trying to impress – some of whom are only pretending to be conservative and are sending the evidence to the FBI:

Progressive women catfishing conservative men to turn them in to the FBI. They think it’s a game. Politics justifies everything, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Rod Dreher.

Sorry, Rod, but I support those women even if they do think it’s a game. It is important that the insurrectionists and their friends understand that there are consequences – really bad ones – for following Trump into insurrection.


At 7 p.m. Eastern on Newsmax, Kelly said that there’s “overwhelming” evidence that Trump “did nothing wrong” on the day of the attack. At 8 p.m. on One America News, host Dan Ball said the Republicans who spoke out against the “political theater” of impeachment were “brave patriots.” At 9 p.m. on Fox, Sean Hannity bashed the “ten swamp Republicans” that “went along with the stunt.” Oh, and QAnon-promoting congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Newsmax that she will file articles of impeachment against Biden on January 21.

CNN


Why would we listen to my friend Joe, who says he’s a Christian and who’s telling me about Jesus, if he also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of some pizza restaurant?

Ari Shapiro, * How QAnon Conspiracy Is Spreading In Christian Communities Across The U.S.*, quoting a Texas pastor who’s trying to fight QAnon.

More, and very important, stuff:

SHAPIRO: I guess one question is, if these pastors are the voices of authority within the church community, why aren’t they able to talk their parishioners out of this false belief?

BEATY: The pastors that I spoke with talked about a crisis of authority that they feel acutely as spiritual leaders. They perceive that we’re in this time when traditional forms of credibility, of verifying truth, of looking at authoritative figures as holding truth – we’re in a time when there’s a lot of mistrust of traditional sources of authority and truth. And they feel that themselves as church leaders. So they’re concerned that if they try to take on QAnon directly and speak truth instead of falsehood, that they just – they won’t be trusted. They won’t be believed.

And, also, if they try to point their church members to credible news sources, to mainstream media, that none of that will come through because, of course, according to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the mainstream media is part of the cover-up. So I think a lot of the pastors felt that their hands are tied in this time, and they’re concerned that members of their church are not only accepting falsehood and kind of believing in these falsehoods but also spreading falsehood to other people in the church. And that’s especially problematic when QAnon is being espoused by other pastors in a denomination or by leaders in a particular church.

SHAPIRO: Do you think we would find a growing belief in QAnon in any community that includes a lot of Trump supporters, or is there something specific to the white evangelical church that makes it susceptible to these messages?

BEATY: That’s a great question. I think about a poll conducted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical institution in the Chicago suburbs. This was a poll conducted in 2018 that found that over half of evangelicals, as defined by belief, are strongly convinced that the mainstream media produced fake news. And Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, noted that that distrust in mainstream media and that willingness to write off mainstream media information as fake news opens the door for a lot of evangelicals to turn to alternative and fringe news sources, including those that traffic in conspiracy theories. So I certainly think there’s a connection there.

But, also, again, it’s that QAnon uses this explicitly spiritual language that sounds Christian. You know, there’s a clear battle between good and evil. There’s the promise of this great awakening. More people are going to wake up to these prophecies, if you will, that’s coming from Q. And so it’s easy for many white evangelicals to read their Bibles and connect the dots between what they read there and what they’re hearing from QAnon sources.

(Emphasis added)

I feel a bit of schadenfreude at the emphasized part, because bog standard American Evangelicalism is rooted in schismatic rebelliousness, and was seen as an extension of democracy in the U.S. 190-240 years ago.

I’m not even talking about guys like the Methodist Wesleys, the heirs of rebellion against Roman Catholicism (a rebellion I understand, but that’s a long story); no, sober voices like the Wesleys were the ones being rejected in favor of fire-breathers like Asbury, and innumerable individual judgments, and almost-innumerable sects and cults being born.

So it feels as if “Christian” America is reaping the whirlwind of Evangelical Protestantism’s fissiparousness. Every man is now his own pope. Pastors are, at best, facilitators or advisors. (Evanglicalism is too incoherent for this to be the whole story, but it’s a part of the story I think I know well enough to opine.)

America’s Third Great Awakening needs to be a repentant return to the Orthodox Christian faith from which Western Christendom split a thousand years ago. With God, it’s possible, but I’m not so sure it will happen until we’ve sunk even further, if then. We’re not God’s special pet.


The impeachment vote will be a vote on the president and these things. But it’ll also tell us a lot about the kinds of leaders Republicans want. Do they want leaders willing to amplify lies and deceive their constituents in the interest of political expediency? Or do they want leaders who will act out of conviction, who will do the right thing and try to persuade others, even when the short-term politics are daunting?

Any party that chooses the former doesn’t deserve to survive.

Steve Hayes, * What Kind of Leaders Do Republicans Want?*


[T]he president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

What we’ve confronted at long last this past week, as shock from the events on Capitol Hill have sunk in and reverberated throughout the nation, is that lies can have dire consequences — that if enough people believe enough of them, the result can be an all-too-real disaster. That has had the salutary effect of inspiring genuine concern in some of those who, until now, have been perfectly content to play along with the game, convinced that they benefitted from the transformation of our public life into a lunatic asylum.

… [There is] a growing realization that turning our politics into an unhinged reality show has turned reality itself into a madhouse — that the president and his party piling lie upon lie upon lie has had terrible consequences, transforming a segment of the American public into lunatics convinced they must burn down American democracy in order to save it.

“What Trump taught the right is that if you are completely shameless all the time, you gain a sort of political superpower. You can get away with (almost) anything.” The advantage of telling lies all day, every day is that nothing real — no outrage, no crime, no act of cruelty or incompetence — can gain traction in the world. Instead, truth, lies, evidence, and substantive policy goals dissolve “in a stew of culture war grievance, resentment, and lunacy,” allowing free reign for every corrupt bad actor around.

Damon Linker, * America’s rendezvous with reality*


Liz Cheney’s was a moment of real stature. Standing alone in the well of the House, the third-ranking member of the Republican leadership said, of the events of Jan. 6: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

And so she would vote to impeach. Her remarks implicitly urged others in her party to do so, and the bluntness and power of what she said offered them cover: They could be tough too. But most couldn’t. They were stupid and cowardly.

They claimed high-minded concern for the nation’s well-being, but they didn’t seem to believe their own arguments; some rushed through their statements, some gestured wildly as if hoping their arms could convince their brains they were sincere.

Impeachment is needlessly divisive. They weren’t concerned about division when they refused to accept the Electoral College result …

The distinguishing characteristic of the House Republican Caucus right now is that whenever you say, “Could they be that stupid?” the answer—always—is, “Oh yes!”

… This week, before the vote, Mr. Jordan was awarded the Medal of Freedom. I am not sure that great honor will ever recover. No press were allowed, but I’m sure the ceremony was elevated, like P.T. Barnum knighting Tom Thumb with a wooden sword in the center ring of the circus.

Peggy Noonan

January 15

“I spent the last couple of days looking at what happened that day and what the president was doing while it was happening,” [South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice] said in an interview Thursday. “And the more I looked at it, the madder I got.”

Mr. Rice said that for him, the question of whether Mr. Trump had incited the crowd wasn’t the most important question. Rather, it was whether he had done enough to try to stop it, or later, to take any responsibility.

“When people are in the Capitol, ransacking the Capitol and trying to get to the Senate chamber and House chamber, and Vice President Mike Pence is in the Capitol and the president is tweeting the vice president lacks courage, I just cannot abide that,” Mr. Rice said. “It was a vote I felt I didn’t have a choice on. The path was clear.”

“I’ll be surprised if I don’t get one,” Mr. Rice said of a primary challenge. He said he had already heard plenty of both positive and negative feedback in the less than 24 hours since he cast his vote.

“I hope I get re-elected,” Mr. Rice said. “If they decide based on this vote, which I know was the right vote, that they don’t want me to be their representative, so be it.”

(Wall Street Journal, 1/15/21)


Wall Street Journal has a Guest Opinion, How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical, by Yahya Cholil Staquf.

I’m not mad at them for running it, but news I could use is How to Make Notorious Swaths of American Evangelicalism Less Radical.


The incitement case against [Donald Trump] isn’t just the use of a few words he uttered before the assault by his followers on the Capitol but the conduct over an extended period leading up to his rally before the assault on the Capitol.

Context matters. President Trump had repetitively falsely stated, as he did again at his rally on Jan. 6, that the electoral results were fraudulent and that he (and therefore his followers) had been robbed of a legitimately elected presidency. He had urged his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a “wild” day. At the Trump rally itself, his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, called on his followers to engage in “trial by combat,” and the president himself called on his followers to accompany him to the Capitol to combat the supposed “election theft” that he was “not going to let . . . happen” and for them “to show strength,” and “to be strong.” And as his supporters yelled out “fight for Trump,” his response was “we will not take it anymore . . . we will stop the steal.”

All this is the equivalent of waving a flock of red flags before a bull. The Supreme Court has admirably defined incitement narrowly to avoid stifling free speech, but like Mr. Shapiro it has never had an incitement case involving Donald Trump or Trump-like speech before it. We may yet hear from the court.

FLOYD ABRAMS
New York

(Source: Wall Street Journal). When Floyd Abrams thinks you’ve crossed a free speech line, you probably have crossed it.


  • An internal FBI bulletin earlier this week warned that additional armed demonstrations will likely take place in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals this Sunday, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. FBI Director Chris Wray warned of an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” yesterday in a joint press conference with Vice President Mike Pence, who, for all intents and purposes, has been carrying out the bulk of executive branch responsibilities in recent days.
  • In the wake of last week’s events, Rich Lowry revisited Michael Anton’s (in)famous 2016 “Flight 93 Election” essay, in which Anton urged Republicans to “charge the cockpit” (vote for Trump), or risk “dying” under a Clinton presidency. “Donald Trump finally did exactly what the foremost metaphor associated with his political rise would have suggested,” Lowry writes. “He plowed his plane straight into the ground.” Anton, Lowry continues, “wrote as if the end of the republic were upon us, and there’s nothing like a rabble storming a citadel of American democracy—assaulting police officers, ransacking the place and disrupting a constitutional procedure—to shake confidence in the stability of our system. Of course, it was the man Anton believed could be our savior who whipped up and urged on this crowd. The mob didn’t charge the cockpit metaphorically, but charged the Capitol literally, in the grip of a more extreme, rough-hewn version of Anton’s logic and narrative.”
  • Missing from a lot of the conversation about whether President Trump should have been impeached, and whether he should be convicted in the Senate, is the simple fact that the vast majority of Republican voters still like the guy … [E]lected officials who believe Trump to have been reckless—like freshman GOP Rep. Nancy Mace—are attempting to bridge the divide. “It’s clear that people, some people, have been brainwashed,” Mace said. “And I’m grappling with: How do we carefully and honestly pull these people out of it and bring them back into reality?”

The Morning Dispatch


Jeong is falling for the fundamental attribution error. When those guys over there do something bad, it’s because they are bad. When our side does something bad, we just got temporarily out of hand, perhaps because we were so upset about genuine injustice (which is not something the other side, stupid and evil as they are, cares about). Our bad acts don’t reflect our essential character; their bad acts do.

But there’s no such thing as “essential character” in anything but the most zonked-out hippie sense. All there are are actions. The marks we leave on the world, the bruises and flower patches. And while I understand that people want to focus on right-wing violence at the moment — it does pose the most imminent threat — it should disturb us that so many people are willing to excuse so much violence and destruction because they think that when ‘our’ side does it, it’s warranted. This is how things really and truly degenerate — this is how more people die.

Jesse Singal


Item 1

Dear Republican Party,

Tax cuts and economic stimulus are good for business.

Lying about elections as part of a plot to overthrow US constitutional democracy that causes violent insurrection is bad for business.

Plan accordingly.

Item 2

One way to understand the partisan divide is “everyone’s entitled to healthcare (even if they can’t afford it)” vs. “everyone’s entitled to social media (even if they violate terms of service).”

Item 3

Not trying to overturn election:
Congress follows Constitutional procedures to hold POTUS accountable for actions in office.

Trying to overturn election:
Pressure state election officials to reverse results based on debunked lies, violently attack Congress to stop certification.

Item 4

If you want to attack the United States, you need the element of surprise.
In war: Japan.
Terrorism: Al Qaeda.
Information warfare: Russia.
Insurrection: Dead-end Trumpists, QAnon, far right militias.
You get one shot. After that, defenses and countermeasures ramp up.

Item 5

Who cares that violent insurrectionists will be mad if we treat their violent insurrection like a violent insurrection?
They’re already mad. That’s why they attacked America. Coddling their feelings is not our primary concern.

Love,
Corporate America

Prior five items from Nicholas Grossman on Twitter. I now Follow.


Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand.

David Brooks


Donald Trump is, of course, a class-A strange-o, a man whose youngest son is named after the imaginary friend he invented to lie to the New York gossip pages about who he was cheating on his wife with. His gold-plated plumbing fixtures are about No. 1,883,441 on the list of weird things about Donald J. Trump, possessor of a Liberace-meets-Caligula sense of taste that can only be produced by the confluence of vast inherited wealth, neurotic masculine insecurity, and an IQ of 85.

But, seriously, what is it with these people and toilets?

In 2019, Trump made an impassioned, detailed — detailed in his daft way — case for a national program to build big, beautiful, perfect toilets, complaining that, after years of misgovernment under Barack Obama et al., Americans are forced to flush too many times. In the nearest thing Trump has ever offered to a Gettysburg Address, he declared: “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on, and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet, and you don’t get any water. They take a shower. And water comes dripping out. Just dripping out. Very quietly. Dripping out.”

The result? Americans are forced to flush “ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

Funny thing about that. Nancy Pelosi has flushed twice, but there he floats.

Kevin D. Williamson, Trump & Toilets: Family Obsession | National Review


Politico’s Tim Alberta …:

> Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members want to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered. Not spinning or covering for anyone. Just stating the chilling reality.
>
> This is why, as I’ve written/said before, Republicans should have asserted themselves and held Trump accountable from Day One. Their silence in the face of his manifest abuses contributed to the formation of a cult that now threatens their lives. Never should have come to this.
>
> And yes: Trump’s rhetoric the last 5 years has stirred constant threats of violence against immigrants, journalists, Democratic lawmakers and others. Republicans are not the only ones being terrorized here. All the more reason for Americans to band together and say never again.

The bottom-line: threats and intimidation have become — and are likely to remain — an essential feature of Republican politics.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


No unity until his morally bankrupt defenders get over him and repent

Tom Nichols in USA Today:

The president’s supporters, however, now plead for understanding and inclusion, for lowering the temperature, for moving on. In speech after speech Wednesday on the floor of the House, the same Republicans who had no objections to the president’s incitement to insurrection now have deep concerns about parliamentary process, the rule of law and national unity.

This is moral charlatanism and I say to hell with it.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer moral poverty of the people calling now for unity. Elected Republicans now admit they fear for their physical safety from their own constituents, but instead of thunderous defenses of the Constitution, we have soft mewling from people like Sen. Marco Rubio and his Bible-Verse-A-Day tweets, or the head-spinning duplicity of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who within days of saying “count me out” of any further sedition was jollying it up with the president on Air Force One.

Via Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


This is really a helluva lede.

> Ted Cruz has long had a public reputation as an unctuous asshole. Even so, his staffers have tended to hold him in high regard as a kind and geeky man who treated his underlings well even while his fellow senators loathed him. Now though “most of Cruzworld is pretty disgusted” with the senator for choosing to back Donald Trump’s absurd claims of widespread election fraud, in the words of one former aide. As another former aide put it, “everyone is upset with the direction things have gone, and the longer they’ve been with the senator, the more distaste they are expressing.”

January 16

Shortly after becoming the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, President Trump summoned political advisers and demanded to know more about the 10 Republicans who had voted against him.

Mr. Trump, who had feared an even larger number of defections, wanted to know who the lawmakers were and whether he had ever done anything for them, according to people familiar with the meeting. He also inquired who might run against them when they face re-election in two years, the people said.

Even some of his close allies say his handling of his election loss has created an entirely avoidable crisis that will overshadow his accomplishments in office and complicate his future business and political aims.

The Trump Organization has already faced some fallout from the riot, including PGA of America’s decision to terminate an agreement to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at the Trump New Jersey golf club, a move that left Mr. Trump fuming, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

As he prepares to depart, advisers describe the president as sullen and regretful about the events of the last week, though he says he is not responsible for prompting them …

the president sought to reach a detente with Mr. Pence, whom he invited to a meeting on Monday after the two men didn’t speak for five days in the wake of the riot, during which the president attacked Mr. Pence on Twitter for not helping him overturn the election.

The president, who has often turned on allies over the last four years, was taken aback by the level of loyalty to Mr. Pence in the White House, one adviser said.

Trump Spends Final Days Focused on GOP Defectors, Senate Defense – WSJ


Decent people who think Facebook and Twitter censor too much presumably have not seen Gab and Parler, the two leading open-sewer examples of what goes on when there’s no threat of censorship.


It has always bugged me that dirty money guys like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson were enthusiastic Republican Party supporters.


TO PARAPHRASE Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged. And so it has proved inside the Republican leadership. A week after Donald Trump’s MAGA mob erected a gallows besides the Capitol reflecting pool then invaded the building, the president’s party is for the first time seriously reviewing its loyalty to him …

It is hard to exaggerate how dramatic a turnaround this already is. Although inciting the attack itself was worse than anything Mr Trump has done, it revealed nothing fundamentally new about his character. And his newly emboldened Republican critics did not merely stomach his earlier abuses—of ethics rules, migrant children, and so on—but vociferously defended them.

Lexington – The conscience of some conservatives | United States | The Economist


Ever since Donald Trump came down the escalator on June 14, 2015, his rise has been aided and abetted by the reluctance to do the hard thing and take him on directly. Instead, always and forever people hoped that he’d destroy himself, that “this time” he’d go too far.

There is no easy path to ridding our nation of Donald Trump or the movement he inspired. As Jonah has always said, this ends in tears. This ends in anguish. Republicans in the Senate have a choice: Take the risk to end it now, or appease the mob, appease talk radio and Fox, and hope and pray it ends later. There is only one responsible answer. Do the hard thing. Convict Donald Trump.

David French, GOP Senators Must Take the Hard Path – The French Press


If God tells you something:

  1. Keep it to yourself.
  2. If you share it, understand that I’m going to respond somewhere between utter indifference and active contempt.

Private revelations are private.

E.g., this Economist story


Thinking about this one tells you a lot about social media complicity in our woes:

On November 5, Facebook removed one of the first “Stop the Steal” groups, which had grown to 350,000 members—but only after the platform’s own algorithms “drove 100 new people to join [that] group every 10 seconds,” according to research from Ryerson University.

Joan Donovan, MAGA Isn’t a Typical Protest Movement – The Atlantic

Entangled musings

So long as worship of the Emperor as a God was required by law of all citizens, to become a Christian meant to become a criminal. In consequence, the Christians of the first four centuries A.D., subject like everyone else to the temptations of the Flesh and the Devil, had been spared the Temptations of the World. One could become a converted and remain a thorough rascal, but one could not be converted and remain a gentleman.

(W.H. Auden, in the Introduction to The Complete Poems of Cavafy)

My former activism on behalf of unpopular causes (e.g., against abortion, against mandatory social leveling on behalf of practitioners of trendy vices) was never a strategy to “get my name out there” so people would seek my legal services. Insofar as it did bring me clients, they strongly tended toward eccentricity if not outright crackpottery.

We were not formally criminals, my clients and I, but we knew that we could not aspire to unequivocal worldly respectability, either. (That is not a characterization of all my clients — just the ones who I knew as co-belligerents in lost causes.)

Most of these activism-related clients were “conservative” Protestants, as was I then. Most of them plainly were either tacitly Nominalists or at least utterly incapable of framing a confident argument in Realist terms. They were the proverbial “Bible-thumpers,” pulling out their favored proof-texts that sodomy is sinful, or that God knows each of us en ventre sa mère. The problem came connecting such things to law.

In a recent podcast, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon opines that Nominalism is probably, “the deepest flaw in the whole Protestant enterprise” (Luther referred to William of Ockham, the Franciscan popularizer of Nominalism, as his “mein meister”, and the Church of England still commemorates Ockham on April 10.) Fr. Pat’s podcast is actually a pretty succinct introduction to the Nominalist-Realist contrast. (Quick: is adultery wrong because God forbade it or did God forbid it because is wrong — contrary to reality as he created it?)

Somehow, I was a Realist, or leaning strongly Realist, even before I knew the Nominalist-Realist distinction and well before Orthodoxy. I frequently lamented, if only in private, the embarrassing and counter-productive arguments of my co-belligerents in the causes we all supported (or, likelier, opposed).

My tacit Realism (which I’m fairly sure developed unawares after my adolescence) may have been another factor, along with my earlier-in-life onset of temperamental partiality to contemplation more than action, that made Orthodox Christianity click for me when I finally encountered it. I wish I were confident that North American Orthodox Christians, especially my fellow converts, were solidly Realist, because we’re living in parallel ecclesial realities if they’re not.

But I began talking about “my activism.” Do I contradict myself, interjecting contemplation? I think not. My “activism” was argumentation, verbal and in writing, which is a fairly contemplative form of activism. I’ve never raided a draft board, lain down in a street, or otherwise gotten into the physical scrum.

And is there some latent negativity in my oppositional activism (rather than supportive activism)? Again I think not, though it may, once more, dovetail with an aspect of Orthodoxy: apophasis, known in Latin as the via negativa. More specifically, I’m less confident of the location of the “this is right and good and pure” bullseye than I am about “wherever that bullseye is, it ain’t here.”

After more than 22 year in Orthodoxy, I’m still picking up threads that I think helped to lead me here. Picking them up, and acknowledging their entanglement and, sometimes, ineffability seems true to life — which is notoriously messy — more generally.

* * * * *

Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress:—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it.

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, Appendix 1

I appreciate Donald Trump’s judicial appointments and a few other things he has done, but I’m utterly opposed to allowing that hateful, unstable and completely self-serving man to serve as President. Maybe by saying it here, I’ll feel less compelled to fault his multiple daily outrages — mere corroboration of his dark soul and tormented mind — in the body of the blog.

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.