Advantage Becket

Hair’s the thing. When Cesar Gonzales was an infant, he was seriously ill—so ill that his parents made a religious promise to God that, if their son recovered, they would keep a strand of hair on his head uncut as a sign of their faith and gratitude. Cesar got better, and he and his brother Diego both continue to keep their hair uncut and have adopted the promise to God as their own. Their Texas elementary school accommodated their faith, but that changed in seventh grade. Now, the Gonzales brothers are banned from participating in school activities like band performance, robotics team, and athletics⁠—just because of their hair. Becket has stepped in to ask the school to accommodate the Gonzales brothers’ religious exercise.

(Becket Fund email)

This is a very odd case, but I don’t question the Gonzales’ sincerity or religious motivation.

I doubt that ADF would take this case because — well, let’s just say ADF’s cases look relatively homogeneous, with few “very odd cases” — which is why I give roughly double to Becket over ADF for religious freedom support.

On the other hand, and in defense of ADF, it is the more proactive of the two, opposing (for instance) LGBT causes that are still a step or two away from religious freedom’s door. I generally can see the uncomfortable logic of these proactive positions, though it sometimes feel like “borrowing trouble” and is hard for me to defend against facile charges of phobia or mean-spiritedness; there’s just no facile counter to that.

Both are worthy of support. The breadth and consistency of Becket’s approach is why I prefer it. Your mileage may vary, especially if you’re inclined to “take the battle to ‘them’.”

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

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

Posted in Legalia, lifeworks, Religious freedom | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Irenic Politics

Jonathan Haidt has said that conservatives generally understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. I now offer a corollary that Trump supporters understand Never Trump Conservatives no better than liberals do.

Exhibit A is the premise of a column by Never Trumper Peter Wehner, who got a missive from a Trumpist friend:

I have a colleague who claims [talkshow host and now Presidential hopeful Joe] Walsh has instantly become the face of the Never Trump movement (much to his delight) and that his fellow Never Trumpers will never write a word of condemnation of Walsh, thereby proving their disingenuous position.

As a Conservative Never Trumper, I’m astonished at the cluelessness of that. First, I don’t need a “face” for my opposition to Trump. Second, I don’t know who Joe Walsh is well enough to adopt him, and the little I’ve heard makes me consider him quite unsuitable.

Wehner responds similarly, but first turns the tables:

I will get to Mr. Walsh and his racist rants in a moment, but first I will admit that my initial reaction to this email was bemusement at the question posed to me. Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters are now demanding that Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics do what they will not, which is to publicly recoil against a politician — in this case, Mr. Walsh — who appeals to the worst instincts and ugliest sentiments in America.

Their argument seems to be that decency requires the president’s relatively few conservative critics to call out Mr. Walsh for saying detestable things while Mr. Trump’s right-wing supporters cheerfully defend him under any and all circumstances, regardless of the fact that the president’s rhetoric is pathologically dishonest, dehumanizing, cruel, crude, racist and misogynistic. There’s a word for what Trump supporters are doing here: hypocrisy.

Then he does turn to Walsh as promised. Read it yourself if you like.

I should add that I understand Trumpistas about as badly as they understand me, which has been a frustration to me ever since Trump proved that he had nontrivial political support. (Before then, I worried about his fans about as much as I worried about any fans of bloodsport and other spectacle.)

Back to the beginning: there are exceptions to any generality. There’s a newish Know Your Enemy podcast from two lefties (one a former conservative) who admirably describe conservative positions.

I find their attacks after the initial descriptions somewhere between non-existent and unpersuasive — which could be by design, given the literal import of the irenic podcast title (promising knowledge, not persuasion) and assuming a Left audience rather than an undecided or Right audience.

But I wonder whether their podcast, in describing conservatism so well, may turn some of their listeners from Left to some version of Right, given Haidt’s observation of how poorly Left understands Right currently.

Answer: probably not if Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory is correct and there aren’t some other complicating factors it doesn’t cover. But greater mutual understanding would be a helpful alleviator of polarization anyway.

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

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

Posted in conservatism, liberalism, lifeworks, Political Matters, progressivism, realignment | Leave a comment

Weaponizing History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilfred M. McClay, The Weaponization of History.

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

Entropy lives! (And kills.)

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

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

Posted in deathworks, History, Political Matters, Roman Catholicism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My preferential option

There was a time in my childhood when I just assumed that there was a nameless “they” who somehow would “not let you print” dirty words. I don’t recall what words I thought were dirty enough to fall under the ban, but judging from the podcast on the fight to publish Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which battle was fought during that phase of my childhood (1957), I wasn’t far off the mark.

The prosecutor had a slam-dunk case, since Howl not only included the f-word, but associated it with a human anatomical feature more commonly associated with scat than with eros, and to complete the trifecta celebrated repeated explorations that and another orifice with a series of men. Oh: the poet was a man, too, in case you didn’t know.

Remarkably, despite a disconcerting Judge assignment for the bench trial, the criminal defendants were able to capitalize on a recent Supreme Court precedent to get a ringing acquittal. That summary leaves out a ton of fun, colorful and diverting details.

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Things have changed somewhat in the last 62 years. There has not been even one prosecution of a poem, successful or unsuccessful, during that interval. There’s almost nothing, poetic or not, that “they” don’t let you print, in a prior-restraint sense, and there’s not even that much they can punish you for publishing after you’ve done the dastardly deed.

But that’s not the end of the story. We now have NGOs to serve as censors. The 800 pound gorilla, Amazon.com, may refuse to sell it after you’ve printed it.

The “it” here is not “dirty words,” but the entire written œuvre of one Joseph Nicolosi, one of whose theories aggrieved our  most potent interest group — the group given to alternate uses of bodily orifices. I know he aggrieved them, and I assume that their ire had something to do with Amazon’s decision to make Nicolosi an un-person.

Poof! Gone! (Well, maybe they sell your book if you vilify him, but none of his books.)

For all I know they’ve banned other heretics, damn them.

And that’s why I now have a preferential option for Barnes & Noble, which I visited this afternoon to acquire my “deluxe hardcover commemorative facsimile edition of” Howl, including the City Lights branding (along with a larger volume of poetry and an earlier-in-the-day ebook).

You, too, can make Barnes & Noble your preferential option. There’s even a free Nook app for your smartphone or pad, and a list of ebooks that’s nothing to snort at. There’s nothing wrong with other online options or with making your local indie bookstore your preferential option for tangible books, either.

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

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

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized, woke capital | Tagged | Leave a comment

The virtue least able to stand alone

Children reveal our instinct for fairness, the root concept in the virtue of justice. Of course, as every parent knows, that instinct is often distorted, with the desire for fairness being expressed only as “fairness for me.” Justice is a virtue with deep, visceral content. Whenever it is invoked, it should be accompanied with flags of warning. Of all the virtues, it is the least able to stand alone.

The virtue of justice, when taken alone, moves towards vice. The instinct for fairness quietly blends with the sin of envy, the desire that someone should “get what’s coming to them,” ironically named, “just deserts.” When we take pleasure in another’s misfortune, it is not the virtue of justice – it is the sin of envy. It is quite rare in our world that we find justice standing alone, pure and undefiled.

When mixed with envy, justice has the nightmare problem of no limitations. It is never satisfied with fairness – it requires punishment (inevitably justified as “fairness” or “recompense” or “justice”). The desire for justice, by itself, easily becomes an instrument of great evil … The natural appetite for justice knows no limit. The quiet virtues of temperance and prudence are the necessary antidotes to such excess. They are also much less easily acquired.

… Temperance and prudence require ascetical efforts.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, Justice, Temperance, Prudence and the Virtue of “No”.

Bonus from the same blog:

Conservatism is easily little more than the resistance to change. Receiving a tradition is a matter of a living relationship with what has gone before and recognizing its place in the present. Conservatism treats the past as important – tradition treats the past as still present.

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

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

Posted in Asceticism, conservatism, Fasting, Holy Tradition, Justice, lifeworks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Smashing the Overton Window

I had a dream.

Sohrab Amari and Caitlin Johnstone were stripped down to skimpy little outfits and they were fighting like hell to shift the Overton Window, she left, he right. Finally, exhausted, they collapsed against the wall and it fell over, Overton Window and all.

When I woke up, and after my morning ablutions, I went down to the county jail to see if my friend Joe could tell me what it meant.

“Sure,” he said. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Amari and Johnstone are both illiberal, albeit in different ways. Amari is furious that conservative fusionism not only didn’t get the cultural conservatives what they wanted (he says “we,” but he’s late to the game at least as a Christian conservative), but they’ve lost the culture, too. He has declared all-out war to immanentize the eschaton, a damnfool utopian delusion, not least because, well, his side has lost the culture.”

“Johnstone is an über-progressive atheist or agnostic, but that doesn’t mean she’s without her ideals. Her ideal is perfect social justice, a damnfool utopian delusion, too, and she villifies anyone like, say, Nancy Pelosi who doesn’t think that’s quite exactly politically realistic, since there’s a slightly more conservative party that has a different idea of what politics should do. Further, the conscience-smitten cowards (that’s how Johnstone views realists) think that bravado of Johnstone’s sort, and that of The Squad, just might blow the election prospects for the side that is at least moving toward Johnstone’s perfection.”

“Everyone seems to assume that the Overton Window is what it is and is as big as it has always been and always will be. But knocking down the wall is the ultimate enlargement of the Overton Window, so instead of enjoying a modest window that favors your side, you get no window, just the wild, wild, polarized West, ranging from Stormfront on the Right to Antifa or worse on the Left.”

“But Joe,” I ask. “What’s wrong with seeking to immanentize the eschaton or to achieve metaphysically perfect social justice?”

“Have you ever heard the expression that ‘politics is the art of the possible’? It can be a bitter pill to swallow that the eschaton and perfect justice aren’t possible, but that’s the way it is. You can make yourself crazy acting otherwise.”

“Yeah, I’ve been feeling a bit deranged sometimes.”

“I know that feeling,” Joe sighed, “but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it in here. Sometimes, it’s not just the political perversity of your adversary, either. Sometimes, it’s the ineradicable passions of your fellow-humans — and you, too, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“F’rinstance, by all means punish the Harvey Weinsteins and Jeffrey Epsteins (if you can), but don’t kid yourself that you’ll ever put an end to sexual predation, and don’t allow the government to destroy everything else in pursuit of that impossible dream.”

“Thinking you can stop scary changes, not just manage and ameliorate them, is another instance. That was my big delusion.”

“Are you getting this?”

“I hope so, Joe. I get it at the moment, and it does seem kind of obvious, actually. And I don’t like this polarization. I think my project will be rebuilding the Overton Window just big enough to fit center-left to center-right. (Or maybe I’ll just give to GoFundMe for that.)”

“I’m not sure that’s possible, pal. But if you think so after sleeping on it a couple of nights, good luck. Or better luck than I had anyway.”

“Yeah. joe. I read your manifesto. See you next Visitor’s Day.”

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

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

Posted in Playful, Political Matters | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Joe Biden’s well-nigh perfect pitch

I just discovered for the first time that this WordPress design theme doesn’t embed videos. I learned it because I tried to embed one of the best political speeches I’ve heard in a very, very long time — captured by (God bless him) Brian Lamb’s C-SPAN.

I do believe I could vote for this Joe Biden. Yes, I’m aware that he supports some things I detest. I hope he’s lying about some of them — some evils that have become Democrat orthodoxy. But I can’t detest him.

And I endorse every word he says in this speech about the current occupant of the White House.

I’m leaving the code for the embedded video on the chance that I’m wrong about this theme, or the chance that I’ll change themes again some day (my whole blogging life on WordPress takes up my current design theme).

Meanwhile, here’s a good précis of what I loved about the speech.

Biden made this moral case [against Trump] with feeling, and a wounded sense of patriotism. He invoked previous presidents, including Republicans, who knew how insidiously evil white supremacy is and wouldn’t give any quarter to it. He reminded us that in politics, words are acts, and they have consequences when uttered by a national leader … “… they can also unleash the deepest, darkest forces in this nation.” And this, Biden argues, is what Trump has done: tap that dark psychic force, in an act of malignant and nihilist narcissism.

… There was even a nice line designed to get under Trump’s skin, ridiculing the listless condemnation of white supremacy Trump recited in the wake of the El Paso massacre: that “low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week.” That’s a poignantly wrought description of that sighing, sniffing, singsongy voice that Trump uses when he’s saying something his heart isn’t into.

… for 25 minutes or so this week, I felt as if I were living in America again, the America I love and chose to live in, a deeply flawed America, to be sure, marked forever by slavery’s stain, and racism’s endurance, but an America that, at its heart, is a decent country, full of decent people.

Andrew Sullivan

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

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

Posted in lifeworks, Political Matters

A common baseline of facts and information?

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Crawford since he wrote Shop Class as Soulcraft. His second book, The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, was solid, too.

Now he has published a terrific longread article at American Affairs Journal: Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy. I got pointed to it from here, and I don’t think I could improve on that as a summary of a dense, dense, but rewarding article.

The “density” isn’t from political theory jargon (Crawford has his doctorate in political theory), but from plain-English descriptions of things that have been so far off my radar that it takes a while to apprehend a few of the implications.

My personal take-away, at least tentatively, is to deeply distrust any politician who proposes to unite us with “a common baseline of facts and information” (Barack Obama’s locution). That seems to cash out as “persuade us to trust whatever Google’s opaque and proprietary algorithms serve up in response to our searches,” and I cannot grant that trust since I know that humans wrote the algorithms, humans have biases, and the biases of the humans at Google are of the sort that gets James Damore branded a monster and rode out of town on a rail.

That personal take-away does not do justice to Crawford’s long discussion, so be warned. Be warned, too, that you may need a few hours of punctuated reading to get through the article, but I think you’ll find it rewarding.

Frankly, the “common baseline of facts and information” conceit will probably be that of liberal or progressive politicians. On the other side, we have a narcissist who thinks anything less than fully flattering is “fake news.” The work of citizens in democracy is harder than ever now that we’ve been disenthralled. Heck, I “see through” so much stuff I’m in danger our not just plain seeing anything.

But I do believe that reality is out there (I think that was a tag-line for something but I’m too out of pop culture to tell you what it was), and the real work of politics, in the traditional sense, is persuasion, not surreptitious curation.

(I’m classifying this as “lifeworks” because it’s about Crawford. I’d class it as deathworks if it were about the curators.)

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

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

Posted in liberalism, lifeworks, Political Matters, populism, progressivism

Trump in Evangelical Texas

Wahington Post’s Elizabeth Breunig went to Texas around Easter to visit Evangelical family and try to figure out the Trump-Evangelical bond.

“I give to everybody,” [Trump] declared in 2015, during the first Republican primary debate. “When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” For a frustrated conservative wondering why Republican presidents had never seemed to make good on their promises to evangelicals while their cultural cachet continued to slip, Trump’s blatant indictment of corrupt, money-driven politics must have seemed refreshingly honest — even if part of his admission was that he himself participated in it.

“I really think one of the things that’s changed since I did my fieldwork at the very end of the Bush administration is a rejection of politics in general as a means to advance the common good, even in a conservative vein.” In that case, politics “becomes a bloodsport, where you’re punishing and striking back at people you don’t like” without much hope of changing anything.

(Quoting Lydia Bean, a researcher who devoted her graduate sociological work at Harvard to studying the comparative politics of evangelicals in the United States and Canada.)

“We’re deplorables,” the [Baptist] Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” [Pastor] Barber added.

Is there a way to reverse hostilities between the two cultures in a way that might provoke a truce? It is hard to see. Is it even possible to return to a style of evangelical politics that favored “family values” candidates and a Billy Graham-like engagement with the world, all with an eye toward revival and persuasion? It is hard to imagine.

Or was a truly evangelical politics — with an eye toward cultural transformation — less effective than the defensive evangelical politics of today, which seems focused on achieving protective accommodations against a broader, more liberal national culture? Was the former always destined to collapse into the latter? And will the evangelical politics of the post-Bush era continue to favor the rise of figures such as Trump, who are willing to dispense with any hint of personal Christian virtue while promising to pause the decline of evangelical fortunes — whatever it takes? And if hostilities can’t be reduced and a detente can’t be reached, are the evangelicals who foretell the apocalypse really wrong?

Elizabeth Breunig, In God’s country, where she asks “Evangelicals view Trump as their protector. Will they stand by him in 2020?” and does an outstanding job of qualifying her answer. Someone at the Post, though, thought her answer was “Yes, they will,” and that tipoff crept into the page title in my browser.

Breunig opens with an implied question and the four frankly condescending theories/answers she knows:

Theories about Trump’s connection with evangelical voters have long been dubiously elegant. The simplest, and perhaps most comfortable for Trump’s bewildered and furious opposition, is that evangelicals are and always were hypocrites, demanding moral rectitude from their enemies that they don’t expect from their friends. Others held that evangelicals must simply be ignorant, taken in by a campaign narrative that attempted to depict Trump as privately devoted to Christ, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Some argued that evangelicals just wanted an invincible champion to fight the culture wars, even if he didn’t share their vision of the good life. And then there was the transactional theory: Their votes were just about the Supreme Court.

I ended up thinking the “invincible champion” theory, condescending or not, was the most plausible of the theories (though I’m not sure any of the four suffices) based on a couple of portions of the article that surprised me:

  • “‘It’s spiritual warfare,’ Dale Ivy added, emphasizing Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.” My first reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding! Donald Trump as Spiritual Champion!?”
  • But then there was this second synthesis: “By voting for Trump — even over more identifiably Christian candidates — evangelicals seem to have found a way to outsource their fears and instead reserve a strictly spiritual space for themselves inside politics without placing evangelical politicians themselves in power. In that sense, they can be both active political agents and a semi-cloistered religious minority, both of the world and removed from it, advancing their values while retreating to their own societies.”

The idea of sending up an adulterous pagan to do spiritual warfare in your stead really is unhinged. Evil spirits would chew him out an spit him out faster than the eye could follow. But if “spiritual warfare” is hyperbole, as I suspect it is, the theory of “invincible champion” becomes more plausible.

Rod Dreher had to bring this to my attention because I deliberately allowed my Washington Post subscription to expire. If my experience holds for you, you can get a year of digital-only access to the Post, which has the best religion coverage of any major newspaper I know, for $40. I couldn’t resist that offer. Just sayin’.

 

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

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

Posted in Christianity generally, Evangelicalism, grievance mongering, Journalism, Political Matters | Tagged , ,

Inviting Jesus into her heart

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

THE_PLATYTERA_DETAIL-web

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

Fr. Jonathan Tobias.

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

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

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

Posted in Christianity generally, lifeworks, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism