What a normal human being looks like

The monasticism of the desert fathers is a major influence in Orthodoxy, and the Apophthegmata Patrum—the sayings of the fathers (and mothers) of the desert—range from remarkably practical advice to a startling sense of participation in the divine. Take these two selections, from Benedicta Ward’s translation in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian Publications):

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Note the words, “the old man.” The idea is preserved in the Greek word for “an elder”—geron—still used of wise monks and spiritual directors, the idea being that it takes time and patience to get there.

At one moment, my friend pointed to where a group of young converts were sitting — all men and women in their twenties — and said to me, “Do you know why they are all here?”

“No,” I said, mindful that he had spent a lot more time talking to them than I had.

“They’re here because they came and found something deep, and real. They all came from Protestantism, which is falling apart. They were looking for something that they could stand firm on, that wasn’t going to collapse. They found it here.

“Look at me,” he went on. “Why do you think I’m here? Well, my wife and I came because you invited us, but we kept coming because we saw the same thing that they saw. That’s why we’re Orthodox. It’s real, more real than anything we had ever seen before.”

Rod Dreher, Abba Joseph’s Fingers (paywall likely)

Note: Abba Joseph is extraordinary only by the low standards fallen humanity has set. Sub specie aeternitatis, he’s normal — what God intended humans to be. It’s just that the rest of us are severely disabled.


The real irony of this past century of innovation is that the modern innovators are perplexed by the outcome which they themselves conditioned. The global pandemic has exposed the irony. COVID is surging and the conditioners cannot understand why people will not simply listen to the experts. Of course, they have ignored the simple question: which experts ought we to listen and why ought we to listen? You cannot derive an ought from an is. The entire foundation of their worldview is instinct, and they have built an entire ethic upon it. However, instincts are the “is” and they desperately want for us to derive from instinct their desired “ought.” Their answer to the question, why, is the paternalistic response, “because I said so.”

We decry the rise of QAnon and wonder aloud why people can no longer think critically. The conditioners built a system which rendered useless the very critical thinking for which they now plead. If there is no universal objective value, then by what measure do we think critically? We have access to endless facts and no mind with which to critique them. How can a student solve a math problem if conditioned to believe that 2+2 has no solution which is transcendent of and objectively discoverable by the pupil’s mind? Universal subjectivity of all truth has no limiting principle. In Lewis’ day, the conditioners came for language. The deconstructionists finished in the 70’s the work begun by Lewis’ contemporaries decades before. Now, the conditioners have come for everything. Subjectivity in biology. Subjectivity in mathematics. Each man is to follow his instincts. Each man has become his own epistemological center. Perception is reality.

Lewis foresaw this inevitability nearly 80 years ago. Now, in the midst of political polarization, rampant conspiracy theorizing, a global pandemic, racial injustice, and economic uncertainty, our conditioners make demands of the polis which they themselves have made impossible. “Follow the science!” “Trust the election officials!” “Do not fall prey to conspiracy theories circulating on social media!” C.S. Lewis provides the response to such demands, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

James Ranieri, The Restoration of a Thinking Polis Has but One Solution: Classical Education, Part One


Similar agencies of deceit, militarism and imperialism now robustly use this same branding tactic. The CIA — in between military coups, domestic disinformation campaigns, planting false stories with their journalist-partners, and drone-assassinating U.S. citizens without due process — joyously celebrates Women’s Day, promotes what it calls The Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers (ANGLE), hosts activities for Pride Month, and organizes events to commemorate Black History Month. The FBI does the same.

It’s so sweet that one is tempted to forget about, or at least be more understanding of, all the bombing campaigns and all the dictatorships they install and prop up that repress and kill the very people that they purport to honor and cherish. Like the GCHQ, how menacing can an intelligence agency be when it is so deeply and sincerely supportive of the rights of the people they routinely spy on, repress and kill?

Again, this does not make the CIA perfect — sure, they make some mistakes and engage in some actions that are worthy of criticism — but to combat real evil, you do not go protest at Langley. They are engaged in important work combating homophobia, racism and misogyny. Thus, real warriors against evil look not to them but instead go searching online for the Boogaloo Boys and boomers on Facebook who post Q-Anon and other problematic memes. That is where your focus should remain if you want to root out the real threats.

Large corporations have obviously witnessed the success of this tactic — to prettify the face of militarism and imperialism with the costumes of social justice — and are now weaponizing it for themselves.

Glenn Greenwald has quickly become one of my indispensible Substack subscriptions. He’s got a fabulous crap detector (sometimes it almost seems like a death wish), and you can’t even distract him by playing “woke” on liberal groin pieties.

Greenwald puts all the big-name media to shame with their lazy facilitation of diversionary tactics by woke capital and governmental power centers. They’re too busy chasing stick figures and, increasingly, simply making stuff up, to really speak truth to power.


What a piece or work Andrew Cuomo is! Revisiting Governor Cuomo’s Hostility Towards Orthodox Jews In Light of His “Fucking Tree Houses” Comment – Reason.com.

I wish the difference between him and me was one of kind rather than of degree. That’s all I’m going to say about that.


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.

Meanderings 4/8/21

I did an interview today with someone in London whose final question contained within it a statement. He said that he is a “cultural Christian” — he doesn’t believe, but he considers himself an ally of the church, and wants to see it thrive. He told me that more and more, he’s having conversations with people who aren’t believers, but who “are saying things now that they never would have said.” He explained that they are saying that the insanity overtaking our civilization has them thinking maybe they should look closer at the Church, and be more than fellow travelers.

I was taken aback by that remark … I [brought] up Auden’s return to Christianity after going to the movie in Manhattan … The English poet was living in New York when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. He went to see a movie at a theater in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, which was heavily German at the time. As a newsreel showed images of German troops brutalizing the Poles, members of the audience stood and began screaming bloody murder, demanding the slaughter of Germany’s enemies.

Auden left shaken, and resolved to return to the faith. Only the Christian faith could muster the force to defeat evil so pure, he reckoned.

Maybe that’s what’s going on with people like my interviewer. Maybe they see that things are falling apart quite rapidly, and are feeling in their bones that they can no longer be free riders on what Christianity has built. I told the man that he could not believe because it seemed like a good thing to do, or because it supported the right things. Jesus is either Lord, or he’s not. But I told him that Christ stands at the door of his heart, and knocks.

Social Credit Bunnies – Daily Dreher

I have no particular bone to pick with Dreher’s response to this remark, but I think I would have been less taken aback by it. In fact, my reflex would probably be "what an opportunity for the Church!"

That would be my reflex because I spent nearly 50 years in Christian traditions that were obsessed with numerical growth, and we were always tempted to generate it with gimmicks. In other words, my response would be perverse.

Every church loves to get new members, of course, and I would be thrilled if American turned en masse toward Christian Orthodoxy.

But if it were up to me, I would try to structure Orthodox Christian catechesis in a way that would flush out real versus notional (or even ulterior) conversions to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Here’s the sort of thing I’m concerned about.

  • In 2016, Matthew Heimbach was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church, which he apparently had joined because of what he thought was an ideological traditionalism. Matthew Heimbach is a pretty nasty piece of work.. In fairness to the Southern Indiana parish that received him into the Church, I don’t think they remotely saw such a thing coming, and he wasn’t even nominally Orthodox for very long before they found out and took care of it.
  • Any number of people who (understandably) have problems with developments in the Episcopal Church (or other Protestant Churches) express interest in the Orthodox Church, when what they really want is a nostalgic, early 20th-century version of the tradition they’re pissed off at. Maybe Orthodoxy would work out for them in the end (i.e., they’d be drawn into something they never imagined when they switched), but even our Western Rite Liturgies are expressing a much different faith than anything in Western Christendom.
  • Joining a Church because of concern over "the insanity overtaking our civilization" could work out, as it apparently did for Auden, but I fear it would further politicize the Church rather than making solid Christians of the new members.

I had a client once, a genteel Episcopalian Republican, who was disgusted with the political liberalism in the Episcopal Church, and kept expressing, on her own behalf and that of a like-minded friend, interest in my Orthodox Church. In my notional catechesis, anyone like that who came and sought catechesis would be kept in catechesis until they reached the point where they wanted to be Orthodox because that’s where they find Christ. That’s the only valid reason for an adult conversion.


Words cannot convey how chilling and authoritarian this all is: watching government officials, hour after hour, demand censorship of political speech and threaten punishment for failures to obey. As I detailed last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they coerce private actors to censor for them — exactly the tyrannical goal to which these hearings are singularly devoted.

There are genuine problems posed by Silicon Valley monopoly power. Monopolies are a threat to both political freedom and competition, which is why economists of most ideological persuasions have long urged the need to prevent them. There is some encouraging legislation pending in Congress with bipartisan support (including in the House Antitrust Subcommittee before which I testified several weeks ago) that would make meaningful and productive strides toward diluting the unaccountable and undemocratic power these monopolies wield over our political and cultural lives. If these hearings were about substantively considering those antitrust measures, they would be meritorious.

But that is hard and difficult work and that is not what these hearings are about. They want the worst of all worlds: to maintain Silicon Valley monopoly power but transfer the immense, menacing power to police our discourse from those companies into the hands of the Democratic-controlled Congress and Executive Branch.

And as I have repeatedly documented, it is not just Democratic politicians agitating for greater political censorship but also their liberal journalistic allies, who cannot tolerate that there may be any places on the internet that they cannot control. That is the petty wannabe-despot mentality that has driven them to police the “unfettered” discussions on the relatively new conversation app Clubhouse, and escalate their attempts to have writers they dislike removed from Substack. Just today, The New York Times warns, on its front page, that there are “unfiltered” discussions taking place on Google-enabled podcasts:

New York Times front page, Mar. 26, 2021

We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a “free” society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday.

Glenn Greenwald. This is the conclusion to the latest of Greenwald’s very, very good work on the specter of government-coerced "private" censorship on the internet.


3. Real creativity will die out. Instead, we shall get a multitude of mediocre pseudo-thinkers and vulgar groups and organizations. Our belief systems will turn into a strange chaotic stew of science, philosophy, and magical beliefs.  “Quantitative colossalism will substitute for qualitative refinement.” What is biggest will be regarded as best. Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers. Instead of genius, technique. Instead of real thought, Information. Instead of inner value, glittering externality.  Instead of sages, smart alecs. The great cultural values of the past will be degraded; “Michelangelos and Rembrandts will be decorating soap and razor blades, washing machines and whiskey bottles.”

Morris Berman, discussing Pitirim Sorokin’s predictions on the collapse of our sensate culture, in 2012.

For more on Sorokin, a fascinating figure, see:


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.

Martinet pronouns (and much more)

Best thing I read Monday: Are We Still Thinking?.

There’s a lot more to it than this, one of my favorite quotes of an American Founder:

In the 1780’s, John Adams wrote:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

I have a reminder set to re-read the article. It’s that good.


Bari Weiss turned most of her column over to the lament of a Romanian-born mathematician:

Sergiu wrote me in an email that the situation in his field reminds him of this line from Thomas Sowell: “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

Bari Weiss, introducing There Is No Such Thing as "White" Math – Common Sense with Bari Weiss

The centerpiece of Sergiu’s complaint is an 83-page piece of idiocy that proves, if nothing else, that its funding source, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, does not have perfect pitch.


Legal writing guru Bryan Garner puts a pin in the "what are your pronouns?" bullshit:

What’s new isn’t the generic pronoun but the referential pronoun: the one that refers to a known person (Bill, John, Krys, or Emily). People are deciding for themselves how they want to be referred to behind their backs — in the third person. If you were addressing them directly, of course, you’d simply use you and your. A social movement is behind the idea that people get to decide how references to them should sound when they’re absent.

Bryan Garner, Pronominal Strife – Los Angeles Review of Books (emphasis added)


"Legislating by letterhead" belongs in our lexicon, though I think I recall conservatives doing the same sort of thing as this:

The precursor to the hearing was a revealing letter sent Monday by two California Democrats, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney. The duo demanded the CEOs of a dozen cable, satellite and broadband providers explain what “response” they intended to take to the “right-wing media ecosystem” that is spreading “lies” and “disinformation” that enable “insurrection” and provokes “non-compliance with public health guidelines.” Specifically they asked each CEO: “Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax and OANN . . .? If so, why?”

When Republican members of the committee and outside groups shouted censorship, Ms. Eshoo shrugged. “The First Amendment, my friends, starts with four words: Congress shall make no laws,” and she, Anna Eshoo, had no intention of enacting a law to shut down conservatives. She was merely asking “strong, important questions”—i.e., whether private regulated companies understand that (if they know what’s good for them) they’ll do the dirty work for her, thereby saving her the hassle of complying with the Constitution. She was just asking.

“Right now, the greatest threat to free speech in this country is not any law passed by the government—the First Amendment stands as a bulwark,” says Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr. “The threat comes in the form of legislating by letterhead.

Kim Strassel, ‘Just Asking’ for Censorship – WSJ


After a long absence, Garrison Keillor assaulted my RSS aggregator yesterday with multiple postings. I have no explanation for this delightful onslaught or for the preceding absence.

I’ll be selective, minimizing politics.

I married a pro-vaxxer, which is good to know after all these years — we never discussed vaccines during courtship — and in addition to her respect for science, she has the patience to track down clinics online and spend time on Hold and so now I am vaccinated …

I was not asked for a credit card at any point, or a Medicare card, so evidently the country is slipping into socialism, as Republicans predicted, but I am too old to argue, I obey. Young people wearing badges told me which line to get in and I did. A young woman who said she was a nurse gave the shot and I didn’t ask to see her license. Nor did I ask for assurance that the vaccine did not contain a hallucinogen that would make me accept the Fake News: I already accept that Joe Biden was elected president and that Trump supporters invaded the Capitol on January 6. It’s too laborious to believe otherwise. This is Occam’s Razor, the principle they taught in high school science: the simpler theory tends to be true. You’d have to devote weeks to working up a new theory of massive electoral fraud by Venezuelans and Antifans buying thousands of MAGA hats to storm the Capitol, and at 78 I don’t have the time for that. The vaccine may extend my lifetime but there are no guarantees.

The old scout stands in line at the clinic | Garrison Keillor

The joy at the heart of the lockdown in the pandemic is the daily reassurance that you married the right person. A funny person with her own life who is never at a loss for words and so is good company and who reads the news for me and passes along the good stuff.

She read me a story in the Times last week about the hellish life in the skinny skinny new skyscrapers of Manhattan. Developers have taken tiny lots and thrown up a 90-story needle and sold apartments for vast amounts to people who want to look down on the rest of us but meanwhile high winds cause the needle to sway dramatically, which often snaps water pipes and causes major leaks and brings elevators to a stop and causes eerie whining sounds. It gave us joy, to think that architects and developers have found a way to earn big profits from torturing oligarchs from authoritarian countries who have way too much money.

The pandemic: one man’s appreciation | Garrison Keillor

In the Fifties, they tore down sixteen acres of tenements in Hell’s Kitchen and under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller brothers they built a symphony hall, an opera house, a theater, and a dance theater around a plaza with a fountain. Republicans were behind it and Lincoln’s name is on it and when you attend events here, you brush elbows with a good many moguls and grande dames who probably miss Ronald Reagan keenly and you go in to watch performers, 95 percent of them Democrats, some to the left of Bernie Sanders, but the conflicting views between the stage and the box seats are forgotten in the glory of “Der Rosenkavalier” or Beethoven or “Les Sylphides.” If your heart is open to the gifts of genius, you will walk across the plaza afterward, past the fountain, and feel transformed.

I first saw the U.S. Capitol in 1962, heading for Baltimore to attend a wedding, got lost, saw a lighted dome and realized I was in Washington. I parked and walked up the steps and in the door, past one policeman sitting on a folding chair in the foyer, and walked in under the great dome and looked at the statues and murals, and saw only a couple of cops relaxing in a hallway, not paying much attention to anybody.

When I tell people about that night, it feels like ancient history. Those days will never return. Even at the opera, security men wand you as you come through the turnstile. After the Capitol insurrection of January 6, security will be iron-tight forever to come, metal detectors will beep at every steel zipper, uniformed men with assault weapons will watch your every move. Walking into the Capitol of 1962, the openness of it told you that we are a civilized society with a high level of mutual trust. I don’t care to ever visit Washington again and see our government on wartime alert for attacks by our fellow Americans. Too painful.

A night outside, eating with friends | Garrison Keillor

Will Hollywood rise from the dead when the pandemic ends? It must. Truly. I decided it was my duty to sit down and write a screenplay for a movie to hold a theater of young people transfixed for a hundred and ten minutes, but it’s no use, I’m too old and comfortable, too well-married. I live with a woman who sits across from me at the breakfast table and reads the paper and tells me what I need to know from it, which takes her five minutes, and leaves me free to think my own thoughts. I spend less time worrying about our democracy than I do trying to remember Natalie Wood’s costar in “Splendor In The Grass.” (Warren Beatty.) William Inge wrote that movie and he felt entitled to torture beautiful Natalie and throw her into a loony bin because he was an alcoholic gay male suffering from depression. I don’t have that privilege, having had a happy childhood. I write a scene and it’s two people remembering their childhoods. No drama. Dishes need to be thrown, tables overturned.

The end of the worst, bring on the better | Garrison Keillor


Micah Mattix respects Christopher Lasch, but thinks Robert Penn Warren is needed as a corrective. He starts showing where Lasch over-sold his case:

For Lasch, the unbounded pursuit of capital has led to the commodification of nearly all of life. The decline in American manufacturing has made it difficult for working-class families to live on a single salary. The result, often, is both parents work full-time and outsource child-rearing to “professionals.” Small stores and local hangouts, where people of different classes might interact, have been replaced by big box stores and impersonal chain restaurants in pursuit of greater margins. The result is that informal conversations between groups has ceased. The wealthy go to private cocktail parties and exclusive clubs while the plebs stare at TV screens in Chili’s. The “decline of participatory democracy,” Lasch writes, may be directly related to the disappearance of these “third places.” Education has abandoned moral formation in favor of creating efficient workers while, at the same time, nourishing a sense of entitlement though victimhood narratives that postpone adulthood. Math and science—the golden tools of the market—are funded while history and English are either cut or repurposed to teach “soft skills.” Doing right is replaced with feeling good in homes and churches. The list goes on.

But this has been going on for much longer than 25 years. I am reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, which was first published in 1952 and which can be read as a commentary on post-WW II life in the South. It’s set in the fictional Taulkinham—a town of shops and movie theaters. “No one was paying any attention to the sky,” O’Connor writes. “The stores . . . stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.” In one scene, a man sets up “an altar” to sell a new kind of potato peeler. All everyone does in Taulkinham is shop and go to the movies. There are no two-parent families in the novel. Young men are either unemployed or work menial jobs. And the only religion that anyone shows any interest in is Hoover Shoat’s prosperity gospel, where, he tells the townsfolk “You don’t have to believe nothing you don’t understand and approve of.”

Warren’s corrective, distilled:

Warren’s argument for role of poetry in a democracy reminds us not only of the importance of taking the long view but also of the centrality of excellence for a good society. This is Lasch’s concern, too, but it cannot be recovered through economic reforms alone.

Micah Mattix, Saving the American Experiment – Law & Liberty


Of the Golden Trump at CPAC 2021:

“It’s definitely not an idol,” Mr. Zegan insisted. (“I was a youth pastor for 18 years,” he noted.) “An idol is something somebody worships and bows down to. This is a sculpture. It’s two different things.”

At CPAC, a Reverence for Trump – The New York Times

"Trust me; I’m a former youth pastor" is a nonsequitur right out of the gate, but "an idol is something somebody worships and bows down to" is a particularly risible affirmation coming from within a Christianish tradition whose dumbed-down "worship" of God almost certainly includes no bowing.


CPAC was full of Trumpists saying they’re conservative, not Republican. I have no taste to vote for saving the Republican Party from their ilk, but I hate to see the term "conservative" debased.


Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

I John 3:2


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.

The Equality Act

When I listen to news, I listen to NPR. I’m aware of its liberal bias, which manifests in how it covers news but also — and this is too rarely appreciated — what it considers "newsworthy" in the first place.

But NPR really dropped the ball on the Equality Act, which comes up for vote in the U.S. House today. Its story doesn’t even mention opposition based on the certain (not speculative) effect of requiring that male-to-female transgender persons be permitted to compete in athletic events against biological women.

A guest opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal identifies other problems besides the Act’s adverse effect on religious and conscience rights:

The Equality Act would threaten the existence of women’s prisons, public-school girls’ locker rooms, and women’s and girls’ sports teams. It would limit freedom of speech, freedom of association, accurate data collection, and scientific inquiry. It would threaten the rights of physicians who doubt the wisdom of performing life-changing, reproduction-limiting procedures, and parents who seek to protect their minor children from such treatment.

This isn’t hyperbole. Similar state laws have already resulted in such harm. In California, Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits for declining to perform life-altering “gender affirmation” surgery in September 2016. In Connecticut, two biologically male athletes won a combined 15 girls state championship races, allegedly taking opportunities for further competition and scholarships from female runners in June 2019. Alaska’s Equal Rights Commission opened an investigation into a women’s shelter after it turned away a biological male in September 2019. H.R. 5 would impose the most extreme form of these laws on the whole country.

The bill is so broad that even some who support the measure in principle have called for Congress to carve out exceptions. Writing in the Washington Post in 2019, tennis legend and activist Martina Navratilova asked Congress to exempt athletic competitions. “The reality,” Ms. Navratilova wrote, “is that putting male- and female-bodied athletes together is co-ed or open sport. And in open sport, females lose.”

Women forced to compete against male athletes risk not only losing competitions, but also serious injury. Ask Tamikka Brents, whose orbital bone was fractured by transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox in the latter’s first professional fight as a woman. Ms. Brents said she felt “overwhelmed” by the fight.

The reason that some contexts require separation of the sexes is obvious: Women have unique physical vulnerabilities. Female inmates are kept separate from male inmates for just this reason. How can we possibly reduce the number of sex crimes against women if the law refuses to recognize such basic differences?

Under the guise of fairness, the Equality Act would forbid policy makers from ever taking into consideration the differences between men and women that are necessary in order to guarantee safety and equality of the sexes.

The Equality Act isn’t about protecting people from discrimination; it’s about compelling adherence to gender ideology. Don’t let its name fool you.

The Equality Act Makes Women Unequal – WSJ

Religious freedom was once held in such high esteem that Congress was almost unanimous on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act less than 30 years ago, and Bill Clinton supported it and signed it. Today, it generally appears in scare quotes, often with intensifiers (e.g., "so-called ‘religious freedom’"), and is to the cultural left a bugaboo like saying "George Soros" to the cultural right.

NPR mis-reported the primary objections to The Equality Act, a bit of liberal groin piety analogous to tax cuts on the right, and I can’t help but suspect that they did so to "poison the well." Selma envy is alive and well as a prime motivation of today’s progressivism.

Smatterings

The greatest threat to free speech in America today is not any law passed by the government—the First Amendment stands as a strong bulwark against that form of censorship by state action. The threat comes in the form of legislating by letterhead. Politicians have realized that they can silence the speech of those with different political viewpoints by public bullying.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr via Glenn Greenwald

See also: Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment – Glenn Greenwald and I Can’t Stand Fox News, But Censoring It Might Be The Dumbest Idea Ever – TK News by Matt Taibbi


As Shakespeare told us, a coward dies a thousand deaths, while the brave man dies but one. The GOP has chosen to die a thousand deaths. Rather than standing up to the Trumpist mob and risking political destruction once, they will die bit by bit, over and over, acquiescing to one indignity after another and destroying the party slowly.

The Trump mobs are working to take over the Republican Party at the state organization level.

There have been a series of votes by state organizations to censure any Republican who supported impeachment, with a Pennsylvania official declaring that when they sent Pat Toomey to the Senate, “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing, or whatever.” They sent him there to reflect their personal loyalty to Donald Trump.

The GOP’s Cowardice Means They Will Live in Fear Forever – The Bulwark


Classic virtues like modesty can’t be ignored; they must be recast as abnormal.

Charles Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land


There is a good adjective to describe Rush Limbaugh: consequential. We should be able to agree on that.

After that, though, assessments vary. I’m with the side who thinks he was a substantial net negative for conservatism, as opposed to right-populism and the GOP. And be it noted that stylistically, he and Trump were very much the same, though Trump’s cruelty was more relentless and tactical.

A few thoughts

I’ve had major, major computer woes over the past eight days and blogging went on the back burner, but I have read a bit a clipped a bit and, well, I have thoughts.


First, an interesting bit of tonic contrariness:

> Frankly, a big problem in our society is that many of our institutions are still too trusted relative to the amount of trust they deserve. Think about blue chip brands like GE or Boeing that were once synonymous with American can-do business, but are now joke companies. The response to the coronavirus should have revealed to everyone the institutional incompetence of much of our public sector. And I’ve been on record for years as writing that most communities would be better off if half of their non-profits disappeared. > > I plan to write an entire future Masculinist on why we should in many cases cease to identify the public good with the continuation and propping up of our failed institutions. As Alasdair Macintyre put it in After Virtue, “A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.” > > Care for your neighbor or the American people does not necessarily have to equate to maintenance of the American “imperium.”

Aaron Renn, The Masculinist


Second, an introduction that’s better, in my opinion, than the overall article that follows:

> People complain about QAnon, but truly lasting, impactful lunacy is always exclusive to intellectuals. Everyone else is constrained. You can’t fish on land for long. Same with using a chainsaw for headache relief. An intellectual may freely mistake bullshit for Lincoln logs and spend a lifetime building palaces.

Matt Taibbi, Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual


On sitting out the new culture wars:

> An actress who rose to prominence in a sport I loathe had been fired from a television program I have no plans of ever watching on an online streaming platform that I would never subscribe to for employing a tired but once-popular Holocaust-derived analogy in an argument about — well, I really don’t know, but I was supposed to be thrilled that she is now engaged in an unnamed new film venture with another journalist whose work I despise. Sandwiched between these two incidents was at least one other pseudo-controversy involving the inconsistent application of privacy rules at the aforementioned paper. It led to a once-pseudonymous blogger, who was supposed to be the subject of an abandoned profile, outing himself and then being written about in a somewhat nastier manner by the same publication. This in turn gave rise to dozens of impassioned defenses of the unlucky scribe by countless other 40-something male bloggers, including one prominent defender of polygamy.

Matthew Walther

I’m about 80% sitting them out, too. The remaining 20% is a weak presumption that any conservative who got cancelled is ipso facto a pretty good ole boy or gal.


Beam me up, Lord:

> An Israeli startup that is developing 3D printers for meat undertook a successful fundraising round that will allow it to distribute its products to restaurants this year. Redefine Meat combines 3D meat modelling, food formulations and food printing to build complex-matrix “meat” on its machines, made from proteins found in legumes and grains and fat from plants. The steaks resemble the texture and taste of choice cuts of beef, but with no cholesterol. Bill Gates this week called on rich countries to switch to “100% synthetic beef” in order to lower greenhouse-gas emissions from the cattle industry.

Business this week | The world this week | The Economist

The "meat" photo with the article looked very good, but I’m really not keen on faux meat. When fasting from meat, I avoid fake meat 99% of the time, especially now that the fakes are so like the real thing.

And seriously, Bill Gates: Is it really all that obvious that synthetic beef is better for the environment (and/or cows) than pastured beef?

As Michael Pollan says, if it’s made of plants, it’s food; if it’s made in a plant, it’s not food.

Eat food.


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

Barstool Conservatives and other delights

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Alan Jacobs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Morning Dispatch

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

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

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

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

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

The Morning Dispatch: Cheney Triumphs in Conference Vote


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Inauguration Day

At noon today, to my extreme delight, the abominable and detestable Donald Trump was finally deprived of the White House (he actually left earlier) and the symbolic and substantive accoutrements thereof (which he retained until noon).

I am less delighted that the price we pay for that is Joe Biden.

But to my countrymen who are Democrats: Thanks. You surely could have done much worse than Biden from the perspective of an observant Orthodox Christian who still, reflexively and by conviction, leans conservative, especially on cultural issues.

Over the next four years, I will criticize Biden, and if Kamala Harris plays an active role, I’m likely to more harshly criticize her (based on her track record, which I assume reflects her actual convictions and wasn’t just pandering a bit to the California Left). But I will remember the alternative, too.

I hope that the Republicans don’t engage in obstructionism to pander to their own bane, a substantial number of Flight 93/MAGA/QAnon ideologues who profess the sheer evil of all things Democrat. The nation needs massive cooperation across the aisles from those (few? many?) of good will in both major parties.

Let’s leave it there and enjoy today’s celebrations.

Shame Culture and lesser things

In twenty minutes or so, the Saints and the Bucaneers, Brees and Brady, will be competing. 85 total years of quarterback. And they’re both still really good. So I’m done websurfing today.

Someone pointed out that according to the prophecies of Q, in turn according to the consensus of Q scholars (since Q is reportedly pretty cryptic), President Trump is to sweep up the evil, cannibalistic, pizza-pedophile Democrats and RINOs. I confess that I’m no Q scholar, but his days are prima facie dwindling down to a precious few.

I’d bet a modest amount that, rather than admitting their delusion, QAnon scholars will reinterpret things. My money is on some version of “this will all come to pass at the great and glorious second coming of The Donald in 2024. It is prophesied.”

This will be the proof, for those in the real world, that Q goes beyond politics, beyond conspiracy theory, and is in fact a new pagan religion (and one that’s less rational than worshipping nature) even if (this being America), it’s a paganism with some distracting Christianish cammo.

Shame culture

David French is trying to analyze some fundamental things, and not being a Southerner, I don’t quickly grasp it. But my absolute favorite Orthodox Priest-Blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman, writes much of the crushing weight of shame, and he writes from southern culture, so French has my attention.

[W]hat we’re watching right now in much of our nation’s Christian politics is an explosion not of godly Christian passion, but rather of ancient southern shame/honor rage.

There’s an enormous amount of literature describing shame/honor culture in the South and shame/honor culture generally, but I like this succinct description from David Brooks:

> In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.

Shame/honor cultures are very focused on group reputation and group identity. Again, here’s Brooks:

> People are extremely anxious that their group might be condemned or denigrated. They demand instant respect and recognition for their group. They feel some moral wrong has been perpetrated when their group has been disrespected, and react with the most violent intensity.

Brooks was writing about the general growth of shame culture in America, including in left-wing circles on campus. But doesn’t this sound familiar on the right? Have you noticed how much of the GOP, the party of white Evangelicals, is often positively obsessed with grievance, how it marinates in anger at the insults of the “elite” or the “ruling class”?

Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has done an immense amount of good through his organization, Samaritan’s Purse. He and his legion of Christian employees and volunteers have sacrificially served the sickest and most vulnerable members of society. But when it comes to politics, Graham’s voice is radically angry and viciously tribal.

David French, Where Does the South End and Christianity Begin?

This is of concern to me in part because my Christian tradition has by some accounts grown faster in the south than elsewhere, but angry tribalism contradicts the Orthodox faith profoundly.

Trump’s Big Lie

[I]t was striking that President-elect Joe Biden chose the term [“big lie”] when he slammed two Republican senators — Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley — who have amplified Trump’s falsehood.

“I think the American public has a real good, clear look at who they are,” Biden told reporters two days after the Capitol was attacked. “They’re part of the big lie, the big lie.”

Biden nodded to the term’s origin in Nazi Germany, as embodied in Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

“We’re told that, you know, Goebbels and the great lie. You keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie,” Biden said. “The degree to which it becomes corrosive is in direct proportion to the number of people who say it.”

A big lie has singular potency, says Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, whose books include studies of Hitler, Josef Stalin, the Holocaust and tyranny.

“There are lies that, if you believe in them, rearrange everything,” he says.

“Hannah Arendt, the political thinker, talked about the fabric of reality,” Snyder says. “And a big lie is a lie which is big enough that it tears the fabric of reality.”

In his cover story for The New York Times Magazine this week, Snyder calls Trump “the high priest of the big lie.”

As for where big lies lead, Snyder writes: “Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president.”

Can The Forces Unleashed By Trump’s Big Election Lie Be Undone?

Flight 93 (still)

Somewhere along the line, the “Flight 93 Election” proponents decided that their insane gamble with the country had paid off in a fabulously successful Presidency, and that was that, in saecula saeculorum. After January 6, they’re trying to change the subject:

[Laura] Ingraham says that the idea that character and norms don’t mean anything to people like her is a “straw man argument,” while always only being willing to criticize Trump’s “tone” and “style” and praising Trump for “fighting for others.” Is that what he was doing when he lied about having won the election and encouraged an angry mob of wayward souls to march on the legislative branch and his own vice president? Who was doing the fighting that day? Who was fighting for whom? And how many ultimately died? Ingraham says that the rioters were not intent on overthrowing the republic, but were just “desperate people.” Who, exactly, made them feel so desperate? Who told them their country was being “stolen” from them? It wasn’t Mitt Romney, and it wasn’t National Review.

Enter Anton, who took a brief victory lap on “predicting” that the Left would get crazier before asking if National Review’s subscribers knew that its editor had made the case for supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 (he didn’t), and blasting Lowry for publishing his column in Politico where they couldn’t see it. Of course, Lowry’s column is now up here at National Review, where all of his Politico pieces eventually go up, but even if it wasn’t, he has not exactly hidden the ball on this site.

That Anton and Ingraham disregard the truth so blatantly and resort to such tinny arguments is probably a sign that they know that their Flight 93 presidency is ending very badly, that the project that they invested in so fully and threw away every standard to support is coming apart at the seams.

They’re letting their desperation show.

Isaac Schorr, Ingraham and Anton vs. Lowry: The Sad Descent of the Flight 93 Apologists | National Review

Cruz’s and Hawley’s Infamy

Some Republicans are hurtin’ because of what their party did over their objections. Not one pair — who are involved not romantically, but as rivals for Trump’s shitty mantle:

After the fact, the White House very quickly found itself in a supercharged version of the situation that Cruz and Hawley are also in. They presumed they could cynically ride this movement for their own ends. They gleefully lit match after match, and eventually to their horror they managed to set themselves on fire along with everyone else. They clearly incited these events. They saw them spin rapidly out of control. They ended Wednesday afternoon with five people dead, the Capitol defiled, and the country stunned. They definitely wanted to overturn the election, which by itself is a subversion of representative government. Their efforts produced a messy putsch into the bargain, and got people killed. They should be punished for it as severely as the law permits, and they should never be allowed to live down their responsibility for what happened.

Kieran Healy, What Happened? H/T Conor Friedersdorf, Recommended Reading (a paid Mailchimp weekly email)

The Falkirk Center — Liberty University’s continuing shame

Helfenbein has stated that the goal of the Falkirk Center is to have “massive cultural influence,” and I believe him after watching 12 hours of Falkirk’s nonsense podcast episodes, reading months’ worth of its articles, and scrolling through its near-endless social media feeds. “This is not your dad’s or granddad’s think tank,” says Helfenbein. Yeah, well it’s not your dad’s or granddad’s critical thinking either.

Much of Falkirk’s content is facially ridiculous, deceptive, or easily debunked. But that’s because Falkirk is not selling truth. Like any propaganda outlet, Falkirk melds partial truths with distortions to create a coherent worldview—one that comforts the audience while misleading it. There is no other way to explain the debunked claims of election fraud that Falkirk treats seriously, or the consistently shoddy interpretations of the Bible and history that would be considered sophomoric in Liberty’s own undergraduate classes. The Falkirk Center doesn’t even do a good job at creating alternate realities. Everything falls apart under the barest level of scrutiny—that is, if you can steel yourself to actually engage with all the mind-numbing content.

The Falkirk Center: Liberty University’s Slime Factory – The Bulwark

Antifa? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

One of the organizers of the Trump boat parade that sank a family’s boat in Portland, Oregon, in August was arrested Wednesday in the attempted coup on the Capitol.

Kristina Malimon, 28, was arrested on charges of unlawful entry and violating curfew. Her mother, Yevgeniya Malimon, 54, was also arrested on the same charges.

Malimon is the vice chair for the Young Republicans of Oregon. According to her bio on the organization’s website, she is also an ambassador to Turning Point USA and Liberty University’s pro-Trump think tank, the Falkirk Center. She is also listed as a delegate for the Multnomah County Republican Party.

Julia Reinstein, Kristina Malimon, Organizer Of A Trump Boat Parade, Arrested (Buzzfeed).

Yeah. It was all Antifa false flag stuff. That’s the ticket.

TOS

We talked about why we need more social media bans earlier this week and a friend who works in a tech-adjacent sector sent along something great. My buddy drafted the “Terms of Service” agreement he would use in the event he created a social network. Here they are:

> This social network is like a party I’m throwing at my house, and you’re all invited. So here’s the deal. I’m not gonna write a whole list of rules on a chalkboard like I’m your third-grade substitute teacher. I don’t mind you being rowdy because this is a fun party in my house. But if you cross the line, I’ll kick you out on your ass. Where is the line? I’m not going to try to explain it to you, so just keep yourself in check so you don’t cross it.
>
> But I’m not going to make any pretense here that I’m “fair” or “objective”. If I like you, I’ll probably let you get away with more. If I don’t like you but you’re still making the party cool, I’ll probably cut you some slack. You might get a warning, or you might not. Look, I’m partying too, and I don’t always have time to do warnings. Sometimes there will be a misunderstanding and I’ll kick you out when I should not have, and maybe I’ll regret it later. But probably not.
>
> But if you’re a real ass, you’ll be kicked out so hard that you’ll be staggering your drunken way down the street, mumbling to yourself about how unfair it was, and hearing the loud music from my amazing party which will be going on without you. And we won’t even miss you.
>
> So don’t complain to me about my party. Behave yourself and know that I am arbitrary and capricious in defense of the rocking time we are having. And don’t ask me to be “fair” because I’m just not.

This is exactly right. A TOS is not Hammurabi’s Code. It’s a set of guidelines subject to change at any minute that exist not to protect any individual “rights” but to make the product the company owns function better.

And people who pretend that this isn’t the case are either lying. Or socialists.

Jonathan V. Last, This Cult Is Ruining People’s Lives – The Triad

This, too, needs to be said:

I am insisting upon a different sort of consistency, one that rejects easy explanations and accepts that occurrences like the breaching of the Capitol on January 6 are as complex as any other part of human life. What I refuse to concede is the inhumanity of the costumed hundreds — a fraction of the total number of those who had traveled to Washington to hear President Trump speak. It is absurd, as Dickens once put it, to talk of such an event

> as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown—as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it—as if observers of the wretched millions … and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw.

Last year I recognized the unmistakable signs of coming violence, and not only of the sort we are used to regarding as “political,” the surge in crime rates, drug addiction, sexual exploitation of children, and so-called deaths of despair. I for one do not understand how it is that people accustomed to talking about the very real consequences of unemployment, who take mental health seriously and understand the relationship between crime, education, poverty, and civil unrest, were able to wave away the cost of our lockdown measures.

… Washington, D.C., is under martial law, which means thousands of National Guardsmen reading Atlas Shrugged or sleeping under the same statues protesters would have been allowed to destroy only a few weary months ago. Joe Biden’s inauguration will become what President Trump once fantasized about: a military event, a quasi-fascistic spectacle of raw power, like the proclamation of a new emperor by a detail of leering praetorians.

This is the sort of thing people usually protest.

Matthew Walther, Where do riots come from?.

Not all January 6 demonstrators are criminals in any sense, insofar as not all entered the Capitol.

Not all January 6 demonstrators who entered the Capitol are guilty of the same seditious crimes.

For Civic Hygiene and deterrence, we need to hammer the worse offenders with the most serious charges the evidence supports. I don’t know how many of those there are, but I wouldn’t be surprised by hundreds of 10+ year sentences.

But I’ll be disappointed if some who entered the Capitol, if convincingly chastened, don’t get something like probation with low felonies reduced to high misdemeanors if the probationary period is completed without violation of any conditions.

Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas

This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.

Rand Paul, quoted by Zachary Evans, Rand Paul: Senator Warns Republicans Will Leave Party if GOP Senators Back Impeachment | National Review

He’s probably right, which is what makes doing the right thing for the country so hard now that Trump has taken the GOP from Zombie Reaganism to the main host of QAnon.


The Four Caucuses of the GOP.

Here’s where we are: the GOP (at least in the House) broke down into four broad groups: The Profiles in Courage; the Sedition Caucus; the Mugwumps; and the Terrified.

I. The Profiles in Courage Caucus

The 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump

II. The Mugwump Caucus

This consisted of representatives who seemed to fully understand the enormity of Trump’s conduct… but still voted against impeachment.

III. The Sedition Caucus

We know their names: the 138 GOP reps who voted to overturn the presidential election, even after the failed insurrection attempt. Many of them had also signed a letter of support for the absurd and mendacious Texas lawsuit that sought to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters, and overturn the presidential election.

They make up nearly 2/3 of the House GOP Conference.

IV. The Terrified.

We don’t know how many Republicans were simply too afraid to vote yes, but fear was definitely a factor.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots


When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.

In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.

Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.)

Senator Ben Sasse (emphasis added) did not willingly lie down with the Orange dog, but his party did. He really grasps the nettle here. Highly recommended unless you shun politics entirely.

Church and State, but not Church/State

Where religion and politics meet

David French is not happy with his co-religionists, who he provincially calls “the Church”:

… core biblical values are contingent, but support for Donald Trump is not …

We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. There is no other way to say this. A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.

It’s clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be “God’s anointed” they did not mean that his presidency was “instituted by God” in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.)

No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation. They were not “holding their nose” to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.

We know that mainstream American Christian leaders can unite to condemn secular and progressive movements and ideas they find biblically problematic. For example, late last month the presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries united to declare that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

As I’ve written, critical race theory has its uses and its flaws, but I wonder—how many critical race theorists are in conservative Christian pews? But how many more election conspiracy theorists and Christian nationalists are sitting right there, including in my own denomination, fervently believing lies and fervently praying for actions and outcomes that are fundamentally unjust?

Simply put, there should be at least as much concern about injustice and sin from the religious right as from the secular left.

David French, The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism

French’s column (along with Damon Linker’s gimlet-eyed identification of Trump as “demonic”) has me musing about whether Donald Trump qualifies for the title “AntiChrist” according to the standards of those who obsess over identifying AntiChrist.

And French’s labeling of Christianish Trumpists as part of “the church” reinforces my skepticism about Evangelical ecclesiology (French is Evangelical or at least Evangelical-adjacent; I think he’d choose the former) — about the possibility of Christ’s Church being so expansive as to take in delusional political freaks whose main interest in Christ seems to be His political utility.

Sigh! It’s none of my business to stake out the boundaries of the Church, but I can understand the reflex “if this is Christianity, I want no part of it.” I wish I could say “this is not, in any sense, Christianity,” but I can’t. I can (and do below) say something else that’s just as decisive for me.


Evangelicalism has figured out how to avoid the numerical decline besetting many religions: become so identified with Republican politics that people whose Lord and Savior is the GOP will self-identify as “Evangelical,” albeit without darkening the doors of church. For instance,

for 2008, 2012, and 2016 low attending evangelicals all start in basically the same spot – 35–40% conservative. But look at the solid pink line representing the data from 2019. Nearly half of self-identified evangelicals who never go to church identified as conservative (a jump of basically ten points).

the most religiously devout evangelical in 2019 is a bit less likely to be conservative than a devout evangelical from 2008.

Ryan P. Burge, So, Why is Evangelicalism Not Declining? Because Non-Attenders Are Taking On the Label (Religion in Public).

Burge, by the way, is becoming huge in social scientific scrutiny of American religion.


I left frank Evangelicalism in my late 20s over the issue of dispensationalism, which I perceived as so pervasive as to almost define Evangelicalism. (I left basically as soon as I discovered that my skepticism about dispensationalist prophecy porn — “Rapture crap” — was shared by others, serious Calvinists, who were not compromising with unbelief.)

At age 49, I was Orthodox, no longer Calvinist, and thus not even “Evangelical-adjacent.”

So I cannot begin to persuade Evangelical Trumpists to repent their folly.

So why do I rail against them as if I could change their minds?

Partly because I persist in the increasingly-implausible instinct that some of them are sane and sincere. But probably a bigger part is performative: I want the world to know that I am not an Evangelical, that Evangelicalsm is well out of the historic Christian mainstream (in its prophecy obsession, yes, but more in its rejection of liturgy and sacrament), and that disgust with Evangelicalism (and Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse, for that matter) does not necessitate rejection of Christianity or adoption of some sort of me-and-Jesus-who-needs-Church delusion.

I other words, when all else fails, consider Orthodoxy. If there’s no Orthodox Church nearby, that’s curable in many cases.


I include this from Evangelical-leaning Anglican Alan Jacobs because he identifies an ascendant Evangelical vice:

There is no infallible means for discerning when a religious believer has been spoken to, directly and personally, by God. However, there is a reliable way to disconfirm such a claim. When a person demands that other people immediately accept that he has been spoken to by God, and treats with insult and contempt those who do not acknowledge his claim to unique revelation, then we can be sure that no genuine message has been received, and that the voice echoing in that person’s mind is not that of God but that of his own ego.

Alan Jacobs again, testing the spirits.

I suspect this has to do with Saturday’s “Jericho Marches,” which started with some guy who claimed that God told him to do it. I don’t recall whether he claimed that God told him that all Real Christians® must join him.


Evangelicals aren’t the only ones mucking about in political matters.

With America facing a bitterly divisive election, Episcopal Church leaders did what they do in tense times — they held a National Cathedral service rallying the Washington, D.C., establishment.

This online “Holding onto Hope” service featured a Sikh filmmaker, a female rabbi from Chicago, the Islamic Society of North America’s former interfaith relations director, the female presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Jesuit priest known for promoting LGBTQ tolerance and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Our ideals, values, principles and dreams of beloved community matter,” said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the church’s first African-American leader. “They matter to our life as a nation and as a world. Our values matter!”

This was the kind of rite – think National Public Radio at prayer – a church can offer when its history includes 11 U.S. presidents and countless legislators and judges from coast to coast.

Continuing its recent trends, “relevance” isn’t working for the ECUSA much better in 2020 than in other recent decades — witness the title Terrifying statistics from 2019 offer another Groundhog Day jolt for Episcopalians — GetReligion

Law and politics, straight up

When conservatives defend their fight to overturn the election as an answer to the way Democrats reacted to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, they are correct in the sense that most of their arguments and proposed tactics have antecedents on the liberal side …

The difference, though, is that the right’s fantasy has been embraced from the start by a Republican president (Hillary Clinton was a follower rather than a leader in calling Trump “illegitimate”), and it has penetrated much faster and further into the apparatus of Republican politics. In January 2017, only a handful of Democratic backbenchers objected to Congress’s certification of Trump’s election. But you can find the name of the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on a brief supporting the ridiculous Texas lawsuit.

The Texas lawsuit didn’t torch any city blocks, but all those congressional signatures on the amicus brief did make it feel like something more than just another meme. The crucial question it raises is whether people can be fed on fantasies forever — or whether once enough politicians have endorsed dreampolitik, the pressure to make the dream into reality will inexorably build.

Ross Douthat, The Texas Lawsuit and the Age of Dreampolitik


On Saturday, a federal district court judge in Wisconsin issued an opinion explaining why, on the merits, Texas’s substantive arguments were without merit. And, as occurred on the Supreme Court, a judge appointed by President Trump, Brett Ludwig, ruled against him.

Some Trump supporters are inclined to suggest the campaign’s court losses are the result of progressive judicial activism or #Resistance judging. This is nonsense. Dozens of election suits have been filed, and dozens of judges of all political stripes and judicial philosophies have ruled against the claims put forward by the Trump campaign and its allies. In this case, the opinion was written by a judge appointed by President Trump in September. Trump and his allies claim they want their legal claims heard by judges who will apply the law. They have been.

Jonathan Adler, Another Court Loss for Trump Campaign in Wisconsin


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

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

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

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

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