Friday, 9/7/18

1

Evelyn Waugh’s gently satirical Scott-King’s Modern Europe follows the declining career of a classics teacher at Granchester, a fictional English public school. Granchester is “entirely respectable” but in need of a bit of modernizing, at least in the opinion of its pragmatic headmaster, who is attuned to consumer demands. The story ends with a poignant conversation between Scott-King and the headmaster:

“You know,” [the headmaster] said, “we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?”

“I thought that would be about the number.”

“As you know I’m an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”

“Oh yes,” said Scott-King. “I can and do.”

“I always say you are a much more important man here than I am. One couldn’t conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?”

“Oh yes. Often.”

“What I was going to suggest was—I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?”

“No, headmaster.”

“But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead.”

“Yes, headmaster.”

“Then what do you intend to do?”

“If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

“It’s a short-sighted view, Scott-King.”

“There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take.”

Richard Gamble, To Be Unfit for the Modern World.

2

Midway through Revelation, John sees a pantomime of the Gospel’s beginning, enacted in the sky (Rev. 12). There’s a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, crowned with twelve stars, laboring to bring a boy into the world. Near her is a dragon, ready to devour the infant …

We’ve seen plenty of sea monsters over the past few centuries, from the de-Christianization purge of the French Revolution to the personality cult of today’s North Korea. Even cuddly liberal house pets can turn into monsters. But oppressive political regimes aren’t the only threat. The dragon always calls monsters from the sea and monsters from the land, monsters of the state and monsters of the church.

Easy examples come to mind: Compromised German churches under the Nazis; Orthodox priests double-timing as KGB agents. But there are land beasts closer to home: Churches that support the fascism of the new sexual regime and persecute traditionalists; churches that cheer on every American war without asking whether it’s just or unjust; churches that serve as court prophets of humanistic internationalism; churches that serve as court prophets of humanistic nationalism.

Revelation unmasks the satanic monsters that lurk behind the veil of power, and it reminds us that sea monsters are never alone. Whenever a thuggish state tramples on the faithful, there will be thuggish pseudo-saints nearby, piously cheering it on.

Peter J. Leithart

3

Any discussion of the family must presuppose that it can be defined. That definition until recent times has always been accepted to be the natural or traditional family. It’s not possible to talk about alternative families, different kinds of families without first having a primary model.

Family First (New Zealand) board member Bruce Logan, quoted by Carolyn Moynihan.

Family First faces loss of charitable status because it advocates for the traditional family, whereas New Zealand now has thrown open “family,” which means that Family First advocates (drum roll) discriminaaaaaation! How could that possibly be a permissible charitable purpose.

QED

4

Someone wrote the other day:

Unlike the many, many online commentators who are extremely performative in their iconoclasm (yet somehow always managing to comfort the powerful), [Fredrik] deBoer is truly orthogonal to established ideologies.

That packs in quite a lot, and it seems like a good description of why many folks want to encounter deBoer.

Thursday, he did it again, in self-care is just another set of expectations you’ll never realize. It defies my summarization, but it seems to me that we’d miss a lot if we thought only about self-care when we read it. It applies to more than that, as I assume he intended.

5

We sang many hymns together. For the most part, our hymns served collectively to frame what would prove to be the centerpiece of our Sunday services: the sermon that—I now recognize—replaced centuries-old liturgical worship with something akin to a classroom whose lessons were punctuated by a soundtrack.

The hymns employed within that frame, by and large, fell into two categories: preparation for the sermon and altar call. Most were sentimental and didactic, speaking to the choir—as it were—while pretending to speak to God. That is also how most of our public prayer worked—with the pastor overtly addressing God while more pointedly admonishing the flock.

In any case, one hymn stood profoundly apart from the others, as it seemed to me more like prayer than any other utterance we made; it was, moreover, a prayer that I found myself praying as I sang the words. That hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” therefore has always moved me.

Poet Scott Cairns, in Image Journal.

6

Deneen said he lead at Notre Dame a class on the idea of utopia, from ancient days until now. At the end, he polled the class to ask them which society of those he presented would they least want to live in, and which they would most want to live in. They all said 1984 is the one they wouldn’t want to live in. But which would they choose? A handful chose the world Wendell Berry presents in Hannah Coulter. But about half the class said Brave New World.

“It was stunning that they saw it as a utopia,” Deneen said. “That’s liberalism succeeding, and that’s liberalism failing.”

Rod Dreher (emphasis in original).

Notre Dame (My emphasis).

This came to mind as I read Nicholas Zinos, Erotic Love and the Totalitarian State, which agrees with me that Huxley got sex in dystopia better than Orwell, and who introduced me to One Evening in 2217, a 1906 classic available as part of a collection of Red Star Tales: A Century of Russian and Soviet Science Fiction, in English translation.

I find Brave New World scarily prophetic — so far, more so every time I read it.

7

It is perfectly necessary and routine for hired and appointed officials to give advice that runs contrary to a president’s wishes and instincts. It is perfectly legitimate to try to guard any president against his worst defects of judgment and character, and such stories are the stuff of all White House memoirs. And it is necessary for advisers and attorneys to warn a president about the constitutional and moral limits that should restrain his ambitions.

What is disturbing about the Times op-ed author is that he or she admits not to doing the above, but to actively subverting the agenda of the president on policy questions that were hotly debated and thrashed out publicly in the campaign, questions on which this adviser’s side arguably lost the popular debate.

And yet, one shouldn’t feel too bad for Trump. It is President Trump’s inability to hire and staff his campaign and his administration with competent and ethical people willing and able to translate the ideologically heterodox promises of his campaign into workable policy that gives this resistance staying power, and that constantly humiliates him in the press. Trump has not hired enough of the best people. He’s hired too many self-flatterers, grifters, and people who proudly identify with the swamp. If he can’t get out of his own way, no one else will either.

Kevin D. Williamson

8

If you prick him, does he not explode? If you stroke him, does he not purr?

The testimony of the tell-alls is remarkably consistent. Some around Trump are completely corrupted by the access to power. But others — who might have served in any Republican administration — spend much of their time preventing the president from doing stupid and dangerous things.

Michael Gerson, We are a superpower run by a simpleton.

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Friday Potpourri 8/24/18

1

Do you support religious liberty or LGBT individuals? It needn’t be an either–or proposition. Just as many who identify as LGBT hold conservative values, so many religious social conservatives count LGBT individuals among their beloved friends, family, and colleagues. This allows conservatives to take a compassionate, solution-oriented approach to addressing the problems faced by LGBT individuals. Such an approach can negate the need to treat sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

Andrew Koppelman, an LGBT advocate [and Northwestern University Law professor], admits that blanket denial of service for LGBT people is rare:

Hardly any of these cases have occurred: a handful in a country of 300 million people. In all of them, the people who objected to the law were asked directly to facilitate same-sex relationships, by providing wedding, adoption, or artificial insemination services, counseling, or rental of bedrooms. There have been no claims of a right to simply refuse to deal with gay people.

Our society is already fairly tolerant, with next to no cases of people flat-out denying service to LGBT individuals solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. What the Left often fails to realize is that true tolerance cuts both ways. Existing SOGI policies should be narrowly interpreted so that they act as shields against truly discriminatory practices, not as swords to punish religious beliefs. This approach promotes mutual tolerance and penalizes no persons for either their identity or their beliefs.

Monica Burke and Jared Eckert, Don’t Typecast Conservatives: They, Too, Respect the Dignity of LGBT Persons, at National Review online.

2

Writing of the Colorado Civil Right Commission, which is pursuing Jack Phillips again at the behest of Transgender Troll, Esq.:

[T]he governor makes all appointments to the commission unilaterally and the commissioners don’t have to be attorneys or have virtually any other qualifications except that a majority must be from a traditionally discriminated class, which as of 2008 included sexual orientation and transgender status.

But there is also no requirement for diversity of class, thus, the governor could appoint a majority or even all commissioners who openly identify as LGBT and seek a seat on the commission specifically because of that identification. Religion is also a traditionally protected class, so I’d love to see a future governor appoint a majority of commissioners who are specifically Christian and watch how fast the Democrats would try to shut down the Commission then.

Jenna Ellis. Or we could, maybe, try that better way.

3

Will we try the way of coercion or of civil society?

Unlike some of my fellow conservatives, I resist the idea that SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) anti-discrimination laws are part of a conspiracy to eradicate authentic Christianity. I say that even though the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was quite explicitly bigoted against Jack Phillips and so blinded by ideology as to be incapable of acknowledging that they were not punishing a homophobe but trying to coerce a conscientious artist into creating a work of art to celebrate what his conscience could not celebrate.

No, the impetus for SOGI laws lies in the felt need of “sexual minorities” for explicit affirmation — and some outrage, real or confected, when they get toleration instead of whole-hearted affirmation in every corner of civil society they choose to visit.

It’s heartening to me that some progressives of good will are starting to see, if not exactly what I see, at least that the stick of anti-discrimination laws is producing some real injustices.

4

We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.

Screwtape, to Wormwood, via Shane Morris.

5

A Catholic priest who had finished morning prayers inside an Indiana church earlier this week said he was attacked by a man who told him, “This is for all the little kids.”

Then, he said, he blacked out.

The priest, Rev. Basil John Hutsko, was knocked unconscious by an unknown person about 9 a.m. Monday at St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Merrillville, Indiana, police told the Chicago Tribune.

Hutsko, who was taken to a hospital, was left with bruises on his face and body.

(USA Today, 8/24/18)

6

Cynthia Nixon’s challenge to New York governor Andrew Cuomo nudges the thinking adult toward that least conservative of all political sentiments: “Couldn’t be any worse.”

Things can always be worse.

But it is not obvious how or why Nixon, a celebrity neophyte, would be worse than Cuomo, a corrupt and incompetent heir to a half-assed political legacy. Nixon at least can boast of being an excellent actress — what exactly is it Andrew Cuomo is good at? Choosing his parents?

Of course she’s a naïf, and a borderline jackass. She’s new to this. But clearing the bar of “preferable to Andrew Cuomo” is not that difficult.

This is a new day in politics, and nobody is quite sure how it will shake out.

Kevin D. Williamson, who’s fun to read even when writing of matters of no immediate personal concern.

7

Last Thursday, hundreds of newspapers nationwide simultaneously published editorials attacking Mr. Trump in the guise of promoting a free press. The president regularly accuses news outlets of biased coverage ….

Jason Riley, WSJ (emphasis added).

Trump calls the press “Enemies of the People” and purveyors of “fake news.” His followers curse, flip-off and menace the press. Riley’s bland version is the sort of “nothing to see here; move along now” spin that makes me say the Wall Street Journal, no less than the New York Times, is a bit unhinged.

8

The Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, in his wonderful little book For the Life of the World, defines secularism as the negation of man as a “worshipping being”. He correctly points out that many secularists “believe in God” (heck, as I often tell my students, “even Satan believes in God”), and that they may even have a sense of the spiritual and a semblance of a prayer life. Overt, full-blown, ideological atheism is still a minority position in America. But what makes these believers in God “secular” is their denial of the important of man as “homo adorans”. They deny that the very essence of what it means to be human involves giving “true worship” to God or that such worship constitutes the very perfection of who we are. Liturgy is thus robbed of any divine meaning or significance (for good reason do we call it “the Divine Liturgy”) and it is reduced in stature to a mere ritualized projection of our own subjective “tastes” in matters religious, on an equal footing with my preferences for Bourbon over Scotch, and Quarter Pounders over Big Macs: de gustibus non est disputandum.

And the secular ethos cuts across all ideological spectrums in the Church and deep into her soul ….

Larry Chapp in a letter to Rod Dreher. Right about now, I’m feeling pretty good about “homo adorans” in the header of this blog.

* * * * *

Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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

Small, dull, boring, trite, trendy, and commonplace

[I]n order to fix the situation, the [Roman Catholic] bishops in Germany need to get rid of those “monumental church buildings” and appoint lay people to lead Communion services and whatnot, preferably in small ugly buildings that, by their sheer depressing lack of visual appeal (combined, one can only hope, with wretchedly bad music inspired by 1960s rock and a total absence of anything recognizable as art), will paradoxically reveal God’s glory by showing so piercingly what He isn’t: small, dull, boring, trite, trendy, and commonplace. After all, that’s been the approach in America’s Catholic churches since the end of the Second Vatican Council, and you can see how well it’s working here.

(Erin Manning, It usually ends in tears; or, the situation of the Church in Germany)

* * * * *

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

The unbearable lightness of decline

I prefer blogs to Tweetstorms, so I’m taking the liberty of reformatting the latter as the former:

Just had a terrible encounter with what George Weigel calls Catholicism Lite. I won’t name the parish. I prefer the Old Rite, obviously, but even according to the rubrics and standards of the new, this was shoddy and irreverent.

  • The Confiteor was not said (it’s too awkward, I suppose, to confess to the Blessed Virgin and the saints?).
  • The moral instruction in the homily, such as it was, amounted to: We’re all good but we can all try a little harder.
  • When crossing before the Tabernacle, priest and parishioners gave, at most, a little hasty nod.
  • And I’m sorry but I can never get used to the Creator of the universe being handled casually by parishioners, male or female.

Remarkably, the pastor spoke of a vocations and Mass-attendance crisis in the diocese. But he couldn’t connect the dots between the unbearable lightness of his liturgical practice and this crisis. Look at the places that are thriving, Fr., I thought. They offer reverent liturgy, whether Latin or vernacular, Old Rite or New.

When the Church sets high expectations in Sacramental life and offers hard teachings, the people will rise and follow. But when Catholicism makes no demands, when it shuns our Lady and the saints and 2,000 years of Tradition, of course the people fall away.

I agree with Weigel: Catholicism Lite will not last. It’s dying. The priests who offer it are always, always in their 70s+. And there’s no reason to despair. Go to Tradition-minded parishes and you see packed pews. This is reality.

(Sohrab Ahmari, in a Tweetstorm beginning here)

As always, I feel awkward-but-compelled to blog on matters involving the not-my-Church based in Rome. For better or worse, it is what people think of in the U.S. when someone refers to The Church. Its scandals generally are imputed to western Christianity generally—and I fully intended to say “generally” twice (though “western” was a mistake).

It’s tempting to say that “the same thing happens in any church that gets lax,” but it strikes me as especially grievous when a contender for the title “The Church” sleepwalks though its service/Mass/Liturgy, and as insulting to Rome to say “it’s just exactly the same with liberal Methodists and Presbyterians, too.”

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.