Election, Justices and Sanity

The Election

From “Our choice is Joe Biden*,” an editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 25:

> Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.
>
> While Joe Biden is the clear choice for president, it would be a disservice to the country to send him to the White House without a backstop. We suggest splitting the ballot and electing a healthy dose of GOP senators and representatives. The best governance often comes through compromise. The civility of the Biden administration will help foster such compromise, but a blue wave would be nearly as disastrous for this country as four more years of Trump. It would result in a quagmire of big government programs that will take decades to overcome.

Notable & Quotable: A Footnote to a Biden Endorsement – WSJ

Yes, I agree, but I don’t think for a moment that’s what will happen next Tuesday.


For the people closest to me in terms of education (graduate degree), socioeconomic status (upper-middle-class suburban), region (the northeastern megalopolis stretching from Washington to Boston), and race (white), Donald Trump is an appalling human being in just about every respect. He’s corrupt. He’s cruel. He’s a bigot. He’s ignorant. He’s mendacious. He’s a narcissist. And he’s a jerk. Unlike many previous presidents, there is nothing admirable about him at all. He’s a kind anti-role-model, showing how a person shouldn’t behave in the world — the kind of person about whom you might say to your children, “Whatever you do, don’t be like him.”

But for people who write angry responses to my most critical columns about the president — most of them men, many of them from other parts of the country, quite often with military backgrounds — he looks very different. For them, Trump is a man of strength, of courage. He’s a fighter and a patriot. Even if he’s not particularly admirable as a person overall, he has qualities that we should want to have in a leader, and that are under threat in our country. They are qualities that Americans, and especially boys, should be raised to look up to and emulate, including a refusal to back down, a toughness and tenacity, and a willingness to insist that masculine strength be revered and inculcated.

I suspect this difference is a source of many of our political disputes, and the sense that we now reside in very different countries. That’s because the dispute has to do with an important and deeply significant disagreement about what type of human being, oriented to certain kinds of ideals and rooted in a certain kind of emotional life, we want our country to produce.

As a pundit, I usually shy away from issuing armchair psychological diagnoses of public figures, including our president. Unlike some columnists, I’ve never written that Trump is mentally “unwell.” Yet I have nonetheless become convinced by those who speculate that a good part of his worst behavior — the cruelty, the neediness, the craving for approval, the distinctive combination of comic bravado and paralyzing insecurity — could well be a function of him trying to make up or compensate for a childhood almost totally lacking in parental, and especially paternal, love.

Damon Linker, The very different emotional lives of Trump and Biden voters


[The] fears that religious conservatives feel are real and ought not be brushed off lightly. Losing our shaping and beloved institutions is a grievous loss. But I do not think our fears can ultimately be answered politically … Laws and policies that protect religious liberty are important, but we, as a Christian community, cannot seek those laws at any cost. If we do, we will lose our own souls in the process of preserving our freedoms.

If shoring up religious freedom requires us to champion someone whose administration is responsible for making more than 545 children orphans, someone who in Sen. Ben Sasse’s words “flirts with White supremacy,” who bullies and denigrates others and constantly engages in misogyny, arrogance and divisiveness, then we cannot preserve religious liberty while remaining faithful to the ethical call of Jesus. Self-protectiveness on the part of religious people is understandable, but … [t]he church exists to glorify God by loving and serving our neighbor. If our own institutional preservation trumps all other ethical commitments, then we have already lost what is most dear.

Given the Trump administration’s shutdown of the asylum system and so-called “Muslim ban,” it is debatable if his presidency has actually benefitted the cause of religious liberty … The root of religious freedom amid pluralism is love for our neighbors, especially our ideological or political enemies. We cannot spend eight years supporting a president whose basic modus operandi is meanness and cruelty– who vocally disagrees with the call to love one’s enemy–and then expect anyone to take us seriously when we ask them to respect our religious freedom.

“But wait!” I can hear traditional religious people cry, “Even if we are kind, respectful and honoring of our neighbor’s dignity, they will not be respectful of ours. We can be as ‘winsome’ as can be, and we will still be marginalized as bigots.” I think this may be true, but this objection assumes that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only – implied, I think] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy. Christian discipleship calls us to radical love for our neighbor and to honor the dignity of those around us. We are called to work for the common good. We are called to witness to a different kind of King and a different kind of Kingdom. These ethical mandates are not contingent upon—nor a guarantee of—any particular outcome. They are a means to no other end other than to know and glorify God.

Tish Harrison Warren, Don’t vote Trump for religious liberty (emphasis added)


“The chief value proposition of Donald Trump’s presidency is appointees,” Noah Rothman, an editor at Commentary, told me. Barrett’s confirmation may be “the last act of this presidency,” and if Trump loses next week, “Republicans will look back on [it] fondly.”

Emma Green, Republicans Confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court – The Atlantic

“Chief value proposition”: Nice phrase, which being interpreted is “otherwise, he was and is pretty worthless.”


Reading The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium, I’m disappointed how many are voting for Trump, but heartened that three are voting for the American Solidarity Party candidate Brian Carroll.


Amy Coney Barrett

“In a less political time than we find ourselves today, I suspect [Amy Coney Barrett] would have the unanimous support of this body,” said Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

Knowhere News


[T]here is no precedent for judges or justices recusing because a case implicates the interests of the President who nominated them. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh did not recuse in Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars, and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer did not recuse in Clinton v. Jones. Likewise, the only one of President Nixon’s appointees to recuse in United v. Nixon was William Rehnquist, who recused because of his work in the Office of Legal Counsel, not because he was a Nixon appointee.

Jonathan A. Adler, * Should Justice Barrett Recuse from 2020 Election Litigation?*


A fine irony: after spending ~150 years proving that Roman Catholics are good liberal democratic Americans, we get yet another Catholic Justice just as Catholic scholars Deneen, Vermeule, Pappin argue against liberalism.


General Sanity

According to Michael Casey’s description, lectio divina has four stages—lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio—that roughly correspond to the different senses of Scripture—literal, Christological, behavioral, and mystical. Though you need not move through these four stages chronologically, one could move through them in the following way. First, in the lectio stage, read and re-read the text, marking key passages where the author’s argument is clearest. Write in your own words the key ideas, concepts, and arguments. In the meditatio stage, think about the context in which the text was written. What was happening in the world or the author’s life when the book was written? What was the author’s motivation, and to whom does the author write? Third, in the oratio stage, pay attention to how these ideas speak to your conscience and make you reflect on your behavior, habits, and dispositions. Fourth, in the contemplatio stage, think about what these texts say about your relationship with God, either directly or indirectly.

Lectio divina helps us slow down.

Margarita A. Mooney, Lectio Divina and Online Learning | First Things


Yet another pet peeve: consequentialist arguments for Christianity (or “religion” if you must). See Tish Harrison Warren above for repudiation of one such bad argument: “that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy.”


I was leaning toward Supreme Court Term Limits (18-year term, one justice out every two years) until I read this from the son of my late Constitutional Law prof (and himself a ConLaw heavy-hitter). Too many big problems even if you assume a Constitutional Amendment would pass.


Words I hope never to hear in an Orthodox Church: Director of Paintball Ministry. (David French, bless his heart, filled this role at his heterodox church).


I believe we are far advanced down and past the destruction of the republic … [but] maybe Frodo and Sam are, even now, on their way to Mordor to throw the ring of power into Mount Doom.

Andrew Kern, Why We Couldn’t Keep it (I) | Circe Institute

More miscellany, 3/25/20

Some argue that Christianophobia, which is an unreasonable hatred or anger towards Christians, does not exist but rather Christians are merely losing their privilege and being treated like everyone else. But given that the evidence that in academia individuals feel free to support anti-Christian occupational discrimination, it is hard to say that being denied a job due to religious bigotry is merely a loss of privilege.

… I found that 29.9% of all Americans have anti-Christian hostility. This is a bit higher than the 16.4% of the population who are anti-Muslim according to these same techniques.

George Yancey


Of course, I don’t know for sure that I have covid-19, because there is no testing where I live. People talk about testing on TV all day long. Usually, I’m listening through a scrim of fitful sleep. It’s like being stuck in the Loch Ness Monster programming on basic cable. There is no Nessie and no testing, but the talk goes on and on and on.

… Seven days into the waves of fever, I was drifting half in and half out of sleep. I was wearing a down jacket with the hood cinched around my head. I was buried under the covers, teeth chattering. A week like that is a very long time. (Nine days, and counting, is still longer.)

David Von Drehle. These are called “mild to moderate” symptoms. Yech!


Though the Erik Wemple Blog is no great booster of cable-news programming, we’ll take it any day over a rambling and lying President Trump. CNN and MSNBC, in fact, need to be more aggressive in cutting off the president in these briefings. There’s no reason their staffers can’t scour the briefing, produce a package with the newsworthy highlights and air it moments after the session concludes. If ever there were a time when Americans can wait for a few minutes, coronavirus is it.

Eric Wemple

I was grateful when my local 6 pm News interrupted Trump’s crypto-campaigning to give us actual news. Wemple is right.

But Team Trump pretends otherwise:

In an email to the Erik Wemple Blog, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denounced the truncated airing of the briefing:

The President has gone to the briefing room every day, along with many experts in various fields in an effort to inform the American public. He and the group are very generous with their time and take many questions from the press. It is astonishing to me that the media is now in the business of deciding what the American people should hear from their President — that’s not their job. It is also the height of hypocrisy for the complaint to now be that the briefings are “too long.” In addition to the most updated information for the health and safety of the country, the President will continue to deliver a message of hope, because that is what a true leader does.

(Emphasis added)


The Senate appeared ready to pass this vital legislation Sunday — until suddenly Democrats balked. They attacked the stabilization program as a “slush fund” and started to issue demands that the relief bill include a host of left-wing priorities that had nothing to do with the coronavirus. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House minority whip, told fellow Democrats in a conference call over the weekend that the relief bill was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced competing legislation that included elements of Democrats’ Green New Deal, including a requirement that airlines fully offset their carbon emissions and list their greenhouse gas emissions from every flight. It includes a requirement that any company receiving loans must report on pay equity and corporate board diversity, and adds other extraneous items such as guaranteed collective bargaining for all federal workers, a bailout for the U.S. Postal Service and requirements that all states allow early voting and same-day voter registration. With the backing of the Democrats’ presumptive nominee Joe Biden, Democrats have also demanded that any relief bill include a minimum of $10,000 per person in forgiveness for federal student loans, despite the fact that President Trump already waived interest on those loans for 60 days starting March 13 and gave student borrowers the option to request a 60-day forbearance on repayments.

Marc Thiesen


Reno, who’s a friend of mine, is passing harsh judgment on priests who are not serving mass to congregations today, accusing them of a lack of faith, and of moral courage. This is so, so wrong. Nobody — not those priests, not the faithful — wants to be away from church now. We do it not out of fear, but as a temporary sacrifice to save lives. You really can communicate the virus to others by your presence.

Rod Dreher


As if his idiocy might not be idiotic enough otherwise, our President insists on Tweeting in ALL CAPS!


If, on March 31, Trump declares “mission accomplished” and tweets that America should be open for business again, each and every governor could simply say no. They could go their own way.

David French

Could and should.


We have multiple things to worry about every day, but Anthony Fauci has been worrying about something like the coronavirus for a long time. An Intelligence Matters podcast from September 2018 that is more timely than ever.


When the Catholic editor of the leading conservative Christian magazine allows the fanatically pro-abortion Andrew Cuomo to outflank him on the issue of the sanctity of human life, well, we have a problem.

Rod Dreher, on R.R. Reno’s perverse column.

Unfortunately, Rod doesn’t stop there:

I have been saying on Twitter this week that I believe the Democrats would be wise to find a way to ease Joe Biden out of the presidential race, and nominate Cuomo. This would be a terrible thing for religious and social conservatives. As I said, Cuomo is a hardcore progressive, spiter of social and religious conservatives, and personally ruthless. He has also been quite good in this crisis. As with Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, he might be an SOB, but an SOB is what we needed at that time.

Yeah, right. Elect a known SOB because he seems to be just what the moment calls for. That worked out so well in 2016.

* * * * *

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

[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….

Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed

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.

Caveat Emptor

Michael Pakaluk proposes a prefatory disclosure to David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, implying that the book is a sort of theological fraud:

Warning. St. Basil the Great, a doctor of the Church—who loved Origen but nonetheless did not embrace universalism—as early as the fourth century, warned the faithful against teachings like those which you will find in this book by David Bentley Hart.

Basil taught firmly that such views could only be entertained by those who had, as it were, lost sight of the plain and repeated teachings of the Lord. It would be the height of daring to believe such things, he said—and so, obviously, to teach and promote them would be much worse. To do so, Basil would say, amounts to collaboration with the Devil, who, in his characteristically deceitful ways, would like nothing more than for people to suppose that the everlasting punishment of hell does not exist.

Pakaluk is presumably Roman Catholic. Hart, like me, is Orthodox.

But Hart, as brilliant as he is, is an increasingly arrogant and abusive provocateur, and this book is outside the Orthodox consensus, which I take to be that we may hope for the salvation of all, but we should not expect it.

I do hope for the salvation of all. I do not expect it.

It is also worth noting that Hart is an Orthodox layman and a philosopher, with no known credentials as a theologian (though one not infrequently sees him so identified).

Let the book-buyer beware.

* * * * *

Trump didn’t do the thing he’s accused of doing, but if he did it was fine, and in fact that’s exactly what he did, get over it, because it’s not only fine, it’s precisely what we want from a president, and can you believe that Biden did the same thing, shame on him.

Peter Sunderman

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.

Liturgy, mimesis, humus

I went to a symposium over the weekend, the intimidating theme of which was For I Am Holy: The Command to Be Like God.

Like God?!

But this was my fifth year. I have people who are becoming like family to me. I wanted to see them.

Boy, am I glad I went.

There were no formulae. Holiness formulae can only turn us into delusional, self-righteous Church Lady prigs.

So the emphasis was how the liturgy and encountering great literature (sometimes with holy protagonists) and practicing humility at the most “humus” level can shape us toward holiness.

The Eighth Day Symposia are always ecumenical in the sense that the three main speakers are Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. The commonality comes from moderate to deep knowledge of the Church Fathers.

Christians are divided. This is a fact. We have been since the schism between East and West at the turn of the first millennium and since the Protestant Reformations in the sixteenth century. This is a tragedy. That’s why we believe we have a duty to facilitate a dialogue of love and truth, one that acknowledges our real differences, but one that also seeks to achieve a common mind so we can stand reunited in the One who is the Truth.

There is a separate Florovsky-Newman week to focus on our differences. I’ve never been to one, but I think that’s going to change.

Eighth Day Institute is mutually and enthusiastically supportive of Eighth Day Books, a Christian bibliophile’s “happiest place on earth.”

EDB has just published a paper catalog for the first time in eight years. Get one before they’re gone!

* * * * *

All Christian readers could benefit from listening to the podcast The Struggle Against the Normal Life. It’s a short (11:05) detox for our toxic faux Christian environment.

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.

This (sigh!) is as good as it gets

I’ve been waiting for decades for the orthodox to rout the progressives in a denominational split — which amounts to waiting for the progressives to overplay their hand just once.

The usual progressive ploy is to plead for dialog — again and again for as long as it takes to wear down the orthodox — then to give false assurances of pluralism once their heresy or immorality is grudgingly afforded the status of an option, then to crush the orthodox when they gain power. Or as Neuhaus’s Law puts it, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

It looks like the United Methodist split over homosexuality and same-sex marriage is as close as we’re going to get to an orthodox rout, and even there the progressives are keeping the denomination name (which may prove a blessing in the long run):

This week, a group of church leaders announced a plan for the dissolution of the worldwide church that would allow conservative congregations and conferences to leave the main body and join a new conservative denomination. Under the proposal, the UMC would give the new denomination $25 million and allow departing congregations to keep their property, and departing clergy, their pensions.

(Law & Religion Forum) Keeping property and pensions, and getting a farewell gift to boot, is a smashing victory — relatively speaking.

God bless the Africans, who forced the progressives (a majority in North America) to sue for “peace.” My great-grandchildren may someday need to be evangelized by missionaries from the global south.

* * *

I must also issue a caveat at this point, because the dominant media falsely make disputes like this a matter of good guys versus wicked homophobes.

David French provides an easy way to do so:

The true fracturing point between [progressive and orthodox] churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause … [T]here is a strain of Protestant Christianity that views the Bible as valuable but not infallible or inerrant. Evangelical Christians, by contrast, strongly dissent from that view.

Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the [orthodox and progressive] isn’t over issues—even hot-button cultural and political issues—but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.” …

I’m not for a moment going to pretend that there aren’t homophobes and bigots in [orthodox Christianity]. I’ve encountered more than a few people who turn a blind eye to or rationalize and excuse all manner of heterosexual sin while scorning their gay and lesbian friends and neighbors. But for the thoughtful and faithful dissenters on both sides of the theological aisle, sexuality is the side issue. Differences over scriptural authority and biblical theology represent the central dispute.

Orthodox Christian sexual ethics have absolutely nothing to do with animus against gays and lesbians. In fact, there should be zero animus against any person of any sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, the orthodox Christian sexual ethic—which reserves sex for the marriage between a man and a woman—rests on a sincere conviction that it is not only directly commanded by God through scripture, it’s also best for human flourishing, and it is symbolic of the sacred relationship between Christ and His Church.

And then caveats to the caveat:

French is an Evangelical, which characteristically (and in French’s case) involves a fair amount of parochialism and ecclesiological cluelessness. So I have modified his over-simplified contrast between Evangelicals and Mainstream Protestants to refer to orthodox and progressive more broadly.

Second, for Catholics and capital-O Orthodox, the scriptural teaching on sexuality is important but not all-important, because each Church’s tradition is consistent about the meaning of sexuality. Were I still Protestant, however, I would stand with the lower-o orthodox, because the case that scripture is unclear is dishonest. Here’s an admission against interest to that effect:

I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says… . [However] we must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture… and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.

(Pro-gay Roman Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson)

That will have to suffice, for everything eventually connect to everything else, and I don’t have an eternity to qualify and ramify.

* * * * *

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

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Anecdotes and trends

One man in my parish is very frugal and doesn’t even own a car. He usually gets a ride to our rural church from someone else in the parish. But a few weeks ago, he had to hire a Lyft, and the driver, a Sikh man, asked if he could come in.

He ended up staying for the whole service and coffee hour, taking videos with his smartphone, and was welcomed warmly (there was even a staged photo of him with Father Gregory and another man in the parish with a notable beard).

A few years ago, a Texan Purdue student, from a Hindu family, completed a long catechumenate and was received into the Orthodox Church. Tomorrow, we receive a heavily-tattooed military veteran, formerly in one of the Arminian Christian traditions. A Protestant pastor is a respectful inquirer, and several Roman Catholics are in the catechumenate. Our founding Priest was Episcopalian, our current Priest Lutheran. I was Calvinist. One of my Godsons was Church of Christ, a Goddaughter raised without religion. Converts in our parish probably outnumber “cradle Orthodox,” though some of the converts have many “cradle Orthodox” children that I may be mistakenly thinking of as themselves converts.

[M]ore than every before, people are searching for the One True Church of Christ – they are searching for Orthodoxy.

Roman Catholics are aghast at the Amazonian Synod, the constant vague and confusing statements coming from Rome, and the consistent degeneration of their spirituality. They’re realizing that there is something serious has gone mission, and they know that there is more.

Protestant Christians are tired of the happy, clappy/seeker-friendly service which offers a spiritual experience a mile wide, an inch deep, and is often loaded with gnostic beliefs. They’re realizing that something is wrong, something is missing, and that there is something more.

Non-Christians in these latter days are turning from the world, desperate to find some beacon of Truth in a dystopian society. Many muslims, buddhists, and hindus are finding Christ. They’re having a spiritual awakening. They KNOW something is wrong. They want to fix it themselves, but they don’t know what it takes.

Father John at Journey to Orthodoxy. Need I add that this rings true?

It is also sadly true that some leave the Orthodox faith. That baffles me, but life is hard — harder for some than others — and people struggle with burdens they cannot (or do not) articulate.  But the trend seems to the contrary.

If any of Father John’s descriptions fit you, we’d love to see you.

* * * * *

The Lord is King, be the peoples never so impatient; He that sitteth upon the Cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet.

(Psalm 98:1, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

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

Trade-offs of pluralism

Sohrab Ahmari and David French finally faced off live at Catholic University of America Thursday evening, moderated by Ross Douthat.

In debating terms, it was no contest: French cleaned up. In fairness to Ahmari, his wife had a child on Wednesday, so he had things on his mind more important than a mere livestreamed national debate of sorts.

But again and again, French, in good Evangelical style, spoke of the freedom to preach the Gospel in a content-neutral public square, to lead drag queens to Jesus, and such. That’s pretty consistent with the forward-facing values of ADF, the Evangelical-leaning public-interest law firm for or with whom he formerly worked.

It started to sound as obsessive as Ahmari’s concern over Drag Queen Story Hour. So I was glad to see Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy argue for something a bit thicker than mere neutrality:

For most of the … campus ministries at Nebraska, …universities were convenient social institutions because they rounded up a large number of demographically similar young people into a single place where they would have broadly identical routines, all of which made it very easy to evangelize them. Many of these groups did not think anything of taking their students away from campus regularly on retreats, heavily programming their weeks (thereby cutting into their time to give to their studies), and even sometimes suggesting that their academic work was of mostly incidental importance. The real life happened in Bible studies and when you prayed and over coffee with your discipler or disciplee. College, much like one’s eventual career, was mostly a necessary evil that simply secured material goods for you.

While watching the French-Ahmari debate last night it occurred to me that French seems to have a fairly similar vision of the nation—it’s an incidental good that is useful for advancing certain strictly material goods but it pales in significance when set next to the work of the church …

The point is not necessarily that French should endorse some species of integralism, although it is worth noting that in his handling of rights and the nature of religious doctrine as it relates to public life French is far closer to the Baptists than he is the traditional views of the reformed tradition to which he belongs. But that point aside, French could preserve many of the rights he cares about preserving while anchoring his account of the political in something more real than the pragmatic adjudication of disputes within a pluralistic society.

… That the government could be something more than a mere arbiter who threatens to hit you in the head with a brick if you don’t play nicely with your neighbor seems to be unimaginable ….

There’s much more Jake wrote, but you can go read it yourself readily enough.

By lifelong habit and inititating into the solemn mysteries of “thinking like a lawyer,” I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to leave the camp of classical procedural liberalism, but the Ahmaris and Meadors of the world at least drive home that there are trade-offs in our pluralistic experiment.

* * * * *

[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….

Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed

* * * * *

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

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

Weaponizing History

[H]istory is increasingly employed as a simple bludgeon, which picks its targets mechanically—often based on little more than a popular cliché—and strikes.

The best example may be the evergreen argumentum ad Hitlerum … The detention centers on America’s southern border should be called “concentration camps,” according to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When questioned, the young, irrepressible Democrat advised Americans: “This is an opportunity for us to talk about how we learn from our history.” But that history isn’t ours. By invoking such an emotionally laden term, she was playing on a potent theme, but in a way that underscored the limited range of her historical reference, as well as the public’s.

A more disturbing example is the pell-mell rush to pass judgment against heroes of the past and tear down or rename the monuments to them … Are we really so faint of heart that we can no longer bear to allow the honoring of great men of the past who fail in some respects to meet our current specifications?

… [T]he transformation of history into a weapon depends upon a brutal simplification of the historical record. Such is the approach of the New York Times’s audacious “1619 Project,” which argues “that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”

The weaponizing of history corresponds invariably with a remarkable hostility to history. Its practitioners are content to slice a single fact out of a web of details, then repeat that fact with the stubbornness of protesters who have memorized a chant.

… Once history becomes a club, it quickly loses its credibility as history. The grossly exaggerated claims of the Times’s “1619 Project” are likely to bring on just such discredit.

… Our task is to recover the humane insight of Herbert Butterfield, who taught that the historian should be a “recording angel” rather than a “hanging judge”—let alone a summary executioner.

Wilfred M. McClay, The Weaponization of History.

Although McClay’s examples are from the Left, this is a game anyone can play, and we have been. Mark Bauerlein of First Things (which has been making high-stakes wagers with its credibility lately), for instance, very recently interviewed the old-but-still-irrepressible David Horowitz, who flung around “communist” with reckless abandon and referred to Dostoyevsy in The Brothers Karamazov writing a “damning portrait of the Roman Church” and its indulgences.

Entropy lives! (And kills.)

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

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

Inviting Jesus into her heart

Today, both Latin (Roman Catholic) and Greek (Orthodox) Christians remember the falling asleep of the Mother of God.

THE_PLATYTERA_DETAIL-web

Using some of the terminology from our revivalist friends, Mary became the very first to accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior, and invited Him thus into her heart (which is exactly what the Platytera Icon shows).

Fr. Jonathan Tobias.

You cannot get any more “lifework” than a young virgin saying, in the Latin version, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, in response to the Archangel’s invitation.

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

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

An open letter to Josh Harris, seeker

Dear Josh:

I hope I can call you Josh, though we’ve never met and I was way too old in the 90s to get caught up in “purity culture.” (Heck, even my son was a bit too old.)

What I have to offer, despite that, is the different way to practice Christian faith that you reportedly are looking for and most certainly need. I was discovering that different way when purity culture was turning into a big deal, and I’ve been following it for more than twenty years now.

I thought of your recent announcements as a kind of “apostasy,” though I hadn’t focused on what you actually said. Still, since I was no longer in the Evangelical world, I wasn’t threatened by it. I had no “horse in that race” so to speak. I’ve known for a long time now that “Christian” doesn’t have a very clear, agreed meaning in the U.S., and leaving some kinds of “Christianity” may be a very good move (especially if you move toward the right kind).

I felt kindly toward you for honesty: not reinterpreting scripture so you could go on being a megachurch pastor and Christian celebrity. From the way I see you telling your story now, that may not even have been existentially possible for you.

In fact, I’m dropping the label “apostasy.” “Rehab.” “Recovery from PTSD.” Those seem more apt.

Not all those who wander are lost, J.R.R. Tolkien observed. The corollary is that not all who lead know where they’re going. Both these statements are true of Joshua Harris, the former pastor and author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (1997), who acknowledged on Instagram last week that “by all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

[*I Kissed Dating Goodbye]’s message became “a big part of my identity, and almost my own sense of self-worth,” Mr. Harris told me last December. “So to even open the door to think that maybe it was, on the whole, unhelpful, and hurt people—it was just hard to go there.”

Jillian Kay Melchior, Wall Street Journal (emphasis added).

Apparently you did open the door and go there, and got an earful that would shake up any conscientious person. I’ve read some of them, and my godson is one of those who got poisoned (he’s recovering well).

Thus:

In July, Mr. Harris made two personal announcements on Instagram: He and his wife were separating, and he had “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.

Many Christians responded with mourning, but I’m hopeful. Abandoning untrue beliefs is progress ….

(Emphasis added again)

I can whole-heartedly recommend “a different way to practice faith” than you’ve ever known, and of which you may even have no clue (having a clue and knowing something are not the same).

Ignore any “different way to practice faith” that baptizes the sexual revolution. Doing that would harm people as much or more than anything you’ve done before.

Ignore (I’m sure you will) any way that permanently anathematizes all who’ve ever sinned sexually. Ignore them if the first sexual sin gets you kicked out or branded with a scarlet letter of some sort.

Get thee to an Orthodox Church, with a capital-O, and just observe for a few months.

The Orthodox Church is probably a mystery to you because you grew up in the West, where the only visible claimant to the title The Church was Roman Catholicism. We Orthodox know that body well, because a thousand years ago, Roman Catholicism was Orthodox (and, to be fair, Orthodoxy more freely used the moniker “catholic”). We were one big family, with a few minor quarrels and personality differences. But then the Bishop of Rome, one of five Patriarchs of the Church, got too big for his britches (a crude shorthand, I know, but I’m not writing a theological treatise or Church history here) and eventually split — went into schism — from the other four Patriarchs and the Churches they represented.

That schism has never been healed. The Bishop of Rome increasingly took his church off the rails, adding doctrines that didn’t belong and tying down things that needed to remain freer.

The other four Patriarchs (Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch) never closed up shop, but they’ve been concentrated mostly east of Rome’s turf. They have preserved the ancient Christian faith without innovations and defining everything to death.

So Orthodoxy will probably look a lot like Roman Catholicism to you. (They’ve screwed up the Mass, bless their hearts, but it’s still recognizable.)

Like I say: Don’t commit. Just go and observe for a while. Russian, Greek, Romanian, Antiochian, even my own obscure Carpatho-Rusyn — Orthodox is Orthodox, and we’re working on shedding those ethnic labels in the U.S., since they don’t really belong.

That reminds me: If you stumble onto an Orthodox Church that doesn’t worship in English, keep moving. They’re not “wrong,” but you probably won’t get much out of it. There are plenty that use English now.

When you get there, open your heart and your mind. Those icons that may trouble you are stand-ins (and more) for the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews.

Talk to the Priest with your questions. The people around you may be less knowledgeable, in a Protestant doctrinal sense, than you’re used to, because the center of the worship is Christ and His Eucharist, not the sermon. But the Priest almost certainly has formal education and has some idea where a Protestant inquirer is coming from. Odds are, he was once a Protestant, too, if you’re in the U.S.

Then settle in for the long haul. There will be some formal catechism and then a formal reception service if you decide to stay.  They may even conclude that you should be baptized again (though we don’t re-baptize if a prior baptism was done more or less as we baptize, as mine was, for instance).

Don’t count on being a leader again. Maybe, maybe not. But do expect that some well-meaning someone-or-other will make a big deal of it if you officially become Orthodox. We are in America, after all, and we’re sadly susceptible to celebrity culture. I wish it weren’t so. People can be destroyed by getting elevated too fast, as the Apostle Paul knew.

My advice: Say something like “I’m still healing from my past life and I don’t think it would be helpful for me to get into the limelight again.” Because that’s probably true, and I think you know it now.

Don’t let any elation about entering Orthodoxy make you think you’ve arrived. It means you’ve started in earnest. There’s going to be some serious interior remodeling, not just rearranging some furniture.

This is, after all, a really different way of practicing faith.

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

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