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.

Fragmentary oppositions

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

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

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

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


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

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

James Howard Kunstler, The Next New Urbanism


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

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

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

Robin Mark Phillips, Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic.

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


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

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

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


Speaking of open societies:

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

The Danger of Fact-ist Politics


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

Attention Economy (and more)

Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age is one of the more thought-provoking things I’ve read in the past few weeks, and I’ve been reading a lot of thought-provoking things. It’s your introduction to “the attention economy” and it’s worth burning a freebie at the New York Times’ metered paywall.

  • Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.
  • “We struggle to attune ourselves to groups of people who feel they’re not getting the attention they deserve, and we ought to get better at sensing that feeling earlier,” he said. “Because it’s a powerful, dangerous feeling.”

Yesterday, in an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, [Liz Cheney] went further. Trump “does not have a role as the leader of our party going forward,” she asserted, making a public case—to viewers of Trump’s onetime favorite network—that expanded on the one she delivered in the House GOP Conference meeting on Wednesday.

Cheney isn’t alone. Late last week, it became clear that Sen. Ben Sasse was headed toward another censure from the Nebraska Republican Party. Among his supposed offenses: accusing Trump of “pouring gasoline on these fires of division” that led to a riot at the U.S. Capitol and “persistently engag[ing] in public acts of ridicule and calumny” against the former president.

Sasse—who was just elected to a second six-year term—did not shy away from the confrontation, instead cutting a five-minute video response to the Nebraska GOP’s State Central Committee. “You are welcome to censure me again,” he said, “but let’s be clear about why: It’s because I still believe (as you used to) that politics is not about the weird worship of one dude.”

At the end of the message, Sasse, like Cheney, pointed to the future. “We’re gonna have to choose between conservatism and madness,” he said, “between just railing about who we’re mad at, versus actually trying to persuade rising generations of Americans again. That’s where I’m focused. And I sincerely hope that many of you will join in celebrating these big, worthy causes for freedom.”

[Shout-outs to Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and Rep. Peter Meijer omitted.]

… Only 21 percent of Republicans in a recent Echelon Insights poll strongly or somewhat supported impeaching and convicting President Trump.

But the same poll also found Trump’s stranglehold on the party’s voters loosening. In December, according to the survey, 61 percent of GOP voters said they hoped Trump would continue to be “the leading voice” for Republicans going forward. By January, that number had dropped to just 41 percent. After the events of January 6, only 45 percent of Republican voters said they wanted Trump to run for president again in 2024, down from 65 percent the month prior.

The Morning Dispatch

How these sane people live in the same party with Matt Gaetz, MTG and other contemptible clowns is an open question, but I can understand them not wanting to cede the party of Lincoln to limelight-loving loons.


I was shocked that OAN would run Mike Lindell’s 3-hour Absolute Proof conspiracy video, considering reports that it repeats defamatory claims OAN already had retracted under threat of lawsuit. But this extraordinary disclaimer helps me understand.

I won’t watch the video because:

  1. People I trust and respect have already debunked the major “stolen election” evidence — some of which is fabricated, some of which is third-hand hearsay, and some of which may be honest misunderstandings of the significance of first-hand observation (e.g., “when I went to bed, Trump was ahead but when I woke up Biden was pulling away” — a red crest/blue wave that was long predicted and easily understood, but that Trump consciously exploited with his premature victory announcement).
  2. I’m not so sophisticated about election mechanics that I can, on my own and in real time, dismiss all the claims that might be made in a 3-hour video. So watching it would only produce confusion — probably unwarranted (see my appeal to authority in the preceding point) — or require hours and hours more to regain a working clarity.
  3. I do not apologize for trusting analyses of people I’ve found trustworthy. Everyone does it. Everybody budgets how much time to spend on various things, and most people budget little time for seemingly-quixotic quests, If others find a cocaine-addled domestic abuser, conspiracy theorist and TV pitchman more plausible than seasoned political observers, all I can say is “bless their hearts.”

Timothy Wilks, 20, is shot and killed outside of Nashville’s Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. Police told reporters that Wilks was trying to create a viral video of himself staging a fake robbery prank for his YouTube channel. Apparently unaware of the hilarity of having a stranger run at you and your friends with butcher knives, one of Wilks’ intended foils drew a pistol and shot him dead.

The Dangers of the Derp State – The Dispatch

Well, bless his heart, he was just trying to gain the attention to which he’s entitled.


The state of Victoria in Australia … just passed a bill that will considerably intensify the conflict between religious freedom, individual choice, and identity politics. And it might well become a model for laws elsewhere in the democratic world.

The legislation that just passed is the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 …

The law defines a change or suppression practice as follows:

“a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and for the purpose of changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But the really important part of the bill from a religious perspective is its list of “change or suppression practices.” This includes: “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”

In short, if someone asks a pastor, a priest, or a Christian friend to pray for them that their sexual desires or gender dysphoria might be changed, that pastor, priest, or friend runs the risk of committing a criminal offense. Presumably this also applies to parents praying for their children—or perhaps even parents teaching their children that untrammeled expressions of sexual desire (at least within the canons of contemporary bourgeois taste) are inappropriate.

The legislation also demonstrates one of the oddest results of the modern emphasis on the radical freedom of the individual. In such a world, all must theoretically be allowed to have their own narratives of identity. But because some narratives of identity inevitably stand in opposition to others, some identities must therefore be privileged with legitimate status and others treated as cultural cancers. And that means that, in an ironic twist, the individual ceases to be sovereign and the government has to step in as enforcer. The lobby group of the day then decides who is in and who is out, with the result that, in this instance, the gay or trans person who wants to become straight or “cis” (to use the pretentious jargon), cannot be tolerated. His narrative calls into question that of others. We might say that his very existence is a threat. To grant any degree of legitimacy to his desire is to challenge the normative status of the desires of others.

And so prayer for such heretics must be prohibited, even if they specifically ask for it. This is not so much because it harms the people for whom it is being offered, but simply because it witnesses to the fact that not all people—not even all gay and trans people—buy into the current confections of the politics of sexual identity.

Perhaps that is encouraging. Perhaps at long last Western societies are beginning to wake up to the fact that Christianity at its very core witnesses to the fact that the world is not as it should be ….

Prohibiting Prayer in Australia | Carl R. Trueman | First Things


A Los Angeles Times opinion column is firing up the Internet after Virginia Heffernan wrote about her anguish in not knowing how to respond to neighbors cleared the snow on her driveway. They problem is that they also voted for former President Donald Trump. The column entitled “What can you do about the Trumpites next door?” explores her struggle with how to respond while comparing all Trump supporters to Nazis and Hezbollah. It is unfortunately hardly surprising to see such unhinged hateful comparisons in today’s age of rage. What was surprising is need to publish such a column containing gratuitous attacks on over 70 million voters as compared to genocidal murders or terrorists.

Thank You For Shoveling My Driveway . . . You Nazi? LA Times Runs Bizarre Column Revealing Liberal Angst And Anger – JONATHAN TURLEY


I never thought the end of the world would be so funny.

Jonathan Pageau, Q&A at Seattle Conference – Oct. 2017 – The Symbolic World

Things to think about after exhaling

Things to think about after exhaling

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

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


The tomb of Ignatius

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

(C.P.) Cavafy


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

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

… Science has a culture of falsification.

Politics doesn’t. When political promises don’t pan out—wars turn into quagmires, public schools underperform, or tax cuts fail to pay for themselves—politicians invent excuses. This has always been a problem, but it’s getting worse. Trump and his acolytes don’t just spin facts; they completely disregard them. They repeat fantastic lies about election fraud, and when they’re confronted with contrary evidence, they’re not even embarrassed.
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If we don’t get control of this—if we don’t reestablish an ethic of respect for facts—nothing else will be solved. We can’t extinguish the virus if tens of millions of Americans insist it’s a hoax and refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks. We can’t restore public faith in election results and put down insurrectionism if half the population refuses to believe anything the media report. Repairing the consensus that facts must be respected won’t settle our debates on spending, education, or criminal justice. But without that consensus, the crisis we’re in will get much worse.

Will Saletan, The Enemy Isn’t Republicans


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Great Unraveling – Common Sense with Bari Weiss.

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

Did you eat popcorn?

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

[Harry] Hurt: No.

[Gwenda] Blair: No.

[Michael] D’Antonio: No.

[Tim] O’Brien: No way.

Kruse: So there is no …

Hurt: No.

O’Brien: No.

Blair: No.

Hurt: Next question.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcoming 46 with open — ummmm — adulation

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

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

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

Damon Linker, The media has to do better than this


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

The usual postscript

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

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

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

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

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

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

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

Inauguration, antecedents, accoutrements and sequelae

Out with the old

For a person who pledged to “drain the swamp,” [Trump’s] pardons show an unprecedented sense of sympathy (and clemency) for those who profiteered in public office. Yet, those pardons pales in comparison to the contradiction in one of Trump’s last acts as President: rescinding his bar on current and former members of his administration from lobbying their respective agencies for five years.

Jonathan Turley, Refilling the Swamp? Trump Rescinded The Ethical Lobbying Bar For Aides As He Was Leaving Office (emphasis added)

Indeed, some QAnon zombies realized at 12:01 pm Wednesday that they’d been punked, and they responded by feeling sick to their stomachs because their bodies weren’t accustomed to truth.

But far more — infinitely more — anyone who thought Trump had any intention of draining the swamp should be writhing in agony at allowing members of his administration to begin lobbying and otherwise cashing in immediately — a major if not defining marker of swampiness. It makes utter mockery of his ostentatious imposition of the bar in the first place.


Of all the figures around Trump, including Trump himself, Giuliani’s descent into villainy is the most tragic, because tragedy is about the downfall of heroes. Like all good villains, Giuliani is at peace with what he’s become. When warned by friends he’s setting fire to his legacy, Giuliani said, “My attitude about my legacy is f— it.”

Mission accomplished, Mr. Mayor.

Jonah Goldberg, The Remarkable Descent of Rudy Giuliani – The Dispatch

Because “tragedy is about the downfall of heroes,” Trump’s downfall will never qualify as tragic.


[V]ast swaths of the right still don’t see that they were wrong about anything.

Nearly all the usual suspects are like little kids who like to play with matches, despite constant warnings not to, standing in front of the smoldering ashes of their own home. When you say, “Do you understand now?” They’re like, “What? What’s the big deal?”

Worse, they’re constantly whining about how everything is so unfair. Newt Gingrich is blathering about how Democrats want to “exterminate” Republicans. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are pretending they were right all along, and Jim Jordan is spewing nonsense about how impeachment is the apotheosis of unjust cancel culture. Hell, Bill Bennett is demanding that Biden “apologize” for Trump’s first impeachment (and stop the unjust and divisive second one). I am unaware of Bill saying that Trump has anything to apologize for in the events that got him impeached either time—or for anything else. My friend Bill Bennett—The author of The Death of Outrage, The Book of Virtues, The Moral Compass, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, et al.—looks upon Donald Trump, consults his clipboard of virtue, and says, “Yep. This checks out.”

My point is that while there’s plenty to gloat about, I don’t feel like gloating (much), because these people are taking all the fun out of it by doubling down on many of the worst aspects of Trumpism, starting with an utter denial that they did—or are doing—anything wrong. It’s one thing to dance in the end zone and celebrate a win. But when the losing team and its fans call the scoreboard “fake news” and just keep bleating about how they didn’t really lose, or that the game was rigged, or that they did nothing wrong when they told their fans to storm the field and wreck the place, gloating is robbed of some of its luster. And when good sportsmanship is redefined as pretending the losers were in fact cheated, anger is hard to keep at bay.

Jonah Goldberg, I’m Not Going To Say I Told You So … But – The G-File


“But the judges!” you protest. Fair point: Trump’s absurd attempts to overturn the election through specious legal challenges were laughed out of court by the very men and women he appointed to the bench. Even his judges think he’s a joke.

Everybody has figured that out. Except you.

And so, goodbye, Donald J. Trump, the man who wanted to be Conrad Hilton but turned out to be Paris Hilton. Au revoir, Ivanka and Jared, Uday and Qusay — there’s a table for four reserved for you at Dorsia. So long, Melania — it’s still not entirely clear what you got out of this, but I hope it was worth it. A fond farewell to Ted Cruz’s reputation and Mike Pence’s self-respect, Lindsey Graham’s manhood and Fox News’s business model. In with “Dr.” Jill Biden, out with “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka.

Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

I’m sure we’ll all meet again. But I’d really rather we didn’t.

Kevin D. Williamson, Witless Ape Rides Helicopter


The great theme of the Trump years, the one historians will note a century from now, was the failure of America’s expert class. The people who were supposed to know what they were talking about, didn’t.

Barton Swaim, Trump and the Failure of the Expert Class – WSJ.

There is more than a little irony in Swaim speculating about future historians’ verdict on the Trump era. At least the experts he derides speculated about things that were testable over the short term, whereas Swaim speculates about something a century in the future.

That experts don’t know what they’re talking about, of course, correct, though they’re not demostrably worse than the WSJ guy at the end of the bar after his seventh shot.

This is why I will be reducing my consumption of news and punditry again now that we have survived Trump’s assault on Democracy (during which assault I just couldn’t help myself). I prefer my own delusional predictions to others’.

In with the new

In May 2016, the federal government issued a mandate that would require a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. The mandate required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy or face severe penalties and legal action.

But there were two major insurance plans exempted from HHS’s mandate—the plans run by HHS itself: Medicare and Medicaid. Why? Research shows that not only are there significant risks with gender reassignment therapy – especially in childhood – such as heart conditions, increased cancer risk, and loss of bone density, but studies show that children with gender dysphoria found that fewer than 1-in-4 children referred for gender dysphoria continued to experience that condition into adulthood. Some grew out of it, but many of the children ended up realizing that they were not transgender but instead gay. The government’s own panel of medical experts concluded that these therapies can be harmful and advised against requiring coverage of these medical and surgical procedures under Medicare and Medicaid.

Sisters of Mercy v. Azar – Becket.

This is the sort of liberal groin piety I fear will be institutionalized in the Biden administration. It is quite mad, but it appears to be every bit as much Democrat orthodoxy as tax cuts are now Republican orthodoxy.


The late novelist Michael Crichton once wrote:

> Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
>
> In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
>
> That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

True, true. It’s not just journalists, though, but all of us, about something. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Rod Dreher’s “Daily Dreher” Substack blog

So what is the purpose of the press? Is it merely to shape a consensus narrative, however removed from reality, that we can all live with?


Without doubt, there are non-Western groups that resist Western colonialism violently. But given that, in Selengut’s own account, the West is the aggressor, why is this not framed as an account of the violence of secularism? Or, if we take Selengut’s words about the proselytizing approach and religious conviction with which secularism is imposed on the rest of the world, why doesn’t Western secularism count as a type of religion? Either way, there is no basis for using this account of colonial violence and anticolonial reaction as evidence that the religious is peculiarly prone to violence in ways that the secular is not.

William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

[T]here is something in man that hungers for the exaltation of his own will, that thirsts after his own glory, something that longs for violence, for conquest and power — something that refuses to be civilized.

Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England

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.

Potpourri 12/19/20

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


On a much brighter note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Kevin Williamson

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

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


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

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

(Knowhere News)

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Last, but sadly not least:

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

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

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

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).

Trumpist alternative facts don’t lead me where they want me to go

Let’s take Trump’s claims seriously, just for the sake of argument. I don’t think my conclusion is his conclusion.

As I understand it, in this alternate world, Team Biden:

  • secretly organized a huge, multi-state conspiracy,
  • consisting of Republicans, Democrats, virtually every pollster and presumably a few Libertarians and independents,
  • including Governors, Secretaries of State, County and City officials, volunteers who help with elections, and
  • including federal and state judges at trial and appellate levels,
  • including Trump appointees, both trial and appellate (who Trump boasted would reliably do his will),
  • without any leaks or defections, and
  • without leaving a trace of articulable evidence (other than statistical sophistry that competent authorities demolish).

Whew!

Team Trump, in contrast, succeeded in four years at:

  • picking names off a list of prime judicial nominees handed to him by the Federalist Society and then letting Cocaine Mitch work his bright magic
  • mis-managing a pandemic response at the cost of scores- or hundreds-of-thousands of lives
  • implementing a “no good deed goes unpunished” policy for officials who take too seriously their oaths to uphold the law and Constitution
  • mean-Tweeting one or two gross of power-hungry Republican dipwads at the federal level into repeatedly and vigorously humping Trump’s leg.

I don’t want to minimize the feral cunning it takes to reduce a lot of ambitious manicured and razor-cut Republican hotshots to abject sycophancy, but apparently all that takes is demonically tireless mean-Tweeting (or threatening to mean-Tweet).

Team Biden’s exploit, in contrast, ipso facto proves that they are prepared to unite and govern a diverse and complicated country, including things that must be done without fanfare or even in secrecy.

It also proves that peaceful resistance to election of Biden is futile, and I’ll be damned (literally) if I’m stupid and evil enough to take up arms for the Orange Toxin.

He’s not known for coherence, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Team Trump wants me to conclude.

(Reminder: This was an exercise in the eventuality of “alternate facts.” And remember that Conspiracy Theories Are Incompatible With Conservatism.)

Turning the heat down, but slowly

One of one or two semi-famous people I hang out with on micro.blog (Twitterish without the toxicity, largely non-political) is Alan Jacobs, formerly of Wheaton College, now in the Honors Program at Baylor (with perhaps a stop at Notre Dame in between, I seem vaguely to recall). He blogged this (on his pre-existing blog, not micro.blog) today, and it’s clarifying:

The United States of America has long had a two-party political system, but it now has a two-party social system also. The social system is not divided between Republicans and Democrats but rather between Manichaeans and Humanists. The Manichaean Party is headed by Donald Trump. He works in close concert with Ibram X. Kendi, Eric Metaxas, Xavier Becerra, and Rush Limbaugh, but really, the Party wouldn’t exist at all without him. The Humanist Party, by contrast, doesn’t have an obvious leadership structure and doesn’t make a lot of noise; its chief concern is less to enforce an agenda than to make it a little harder for the Manichaeans to enforce theirs.

The Manichaeans say, all together and in a very loud voice, You are wholly with us or wholly against us! Make your decision! I don’t know when I’ve had an easier choice.

the two parties – Snakes and Ladders

I’m not sure that the Manichean Party would disappear without Trump, but Trump makes a great many of us pretty crazy, inducing in me my first presidential “derangement syndrome.” I think the Manichean party would deflate, but not disappear without the Orange Toxin.

I, too, cast my lot with the Humanists.


I hope the the Trump effort to steal the 2020 Election will go away, and that I’ll soon have nothing further to say (or quote) about it. But today’s not that day.

Rudy Giuliani, who has been leading the Trump campaign’s legal challenge to Joe Biden’s election, says the vast criminal conspiracy that supposedly denied the president his rightful victory is “easily provable.” Yet he and other Trump supporters have not come close to proving it in court, where they have either failed to present credible evidence or failed even to allege the sort of massive fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election. Trump’s motion to intervene in Texas v. Pennsylvania, a last-ditch effort to prevent Biden from taking office, continues that pattern.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the Supreme Court to rule that Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin violated the Constitution by changing election procedures without authorization from their state legislatures. Seeking to join that lawsuit, Trump attorney John Eastman acknowledges the lack of evidence to support the president’s conspiracy theories.

“Despite the chaos of election night and the days which followed, the media has consistently proclaimed that no widespread voter fraud has been proven,” Eastman writes. “But this observation misses the point. The constitutional issue is not whether voters committed fraud but whether state officials violated the law by systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

According to this account, the scheme to fraudulently anoint Biden as the president-elect, far from being “easily provable,” was so clever that it was “undetectable.” That argument completely contradicts everything that Trump, Giuliani, and pro-Trump lawyers such as Sidney Powell have been saying for weeks.

Jacob Sullum, Trump’s Lawyers Claim the Conspiracy To Steal the Election Is Both ‘Easily Provable’ and Impossible to Prove – Reason.com

Jacob Sullum had fallen off my radar, but he always was pretty sharp.

In a less colorful mode, I note that all the public hand-waving about fraud is almost completely performative, whereas the actual court pleading filed on Trump’s behalf are unanimous, or nearly so, in not alleging fraud, probably because the Rules of Civil Procedure in most states require that fraud be pleaded “with particularity” and particularity is exactly what Team Trump is lacking.

There’s an old lawyer saying:

When the law is on your side, argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the law nor the facts is on your side, bang loudly on the table.


Unlike all too many GOP politicians, the conservative justices showed tonight that they are neither Trump toadies nor partisan hacks, and reaffirmed the Court’s independence.

Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Unanimous Rejection of the Texas Election Lawsuit – Reason.com

By the way: don’t buy Trump’s lie that Alito and Thomas sided with him.

Alito and Thomas have long held a minority opinion (not dumb, but not yet accepted by the other seven) that the court has no discretion to bar its hallowed doors to an Original Action. They believe that the court must let it in and then refuse the relief requested if that’s what they find appropriate. That was the entire gist of their separate statement, in my opinion, though Howard Bashman thinks Alito left a sliver of ambiguity that could have been eliminated with a tiny tweak.


… this wise, just, and unassailable decision by the Supreme Court will not stem the tide of power-hungry jackwads defiling the Constitution in the name of sycophancy to Donald Trump. It will only embolden them.

Releash the Kraken – The G-File

Jonah Goldberg’s whole column is both hilarious and infuriating. I am so glad I left the GOP almost 16 years ago, though I can by no means join today’s Democrats.


The modern house is not a response to its place, but rather to the affluence and social status of its owner.

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America


Optimism says that everything can only get better. But that’s not realistic. Hope, on the other hand, says that things might get better, but if they don’t, and we meet bad times in the right spirit, that God can use them, and us, for good.

Rod Dreher, Of Comets And Falling Men