Deep in the heart of Texas

If I were pro-abortion (I still refuse the "pro-choice" label, though in some cases it is no doubt subjectively accurate) but too busy to read beyond the mainstream press, I’d be very queasy and alarmed about the Supreme Court’s refusal Wednesday to prevent Texas’s unprecedented new abortion law from taking effect. As a pro-lifer (yes, I do oppose capital punishment; thanks for asking), I’m surprised, but doubt after reading the nitty-gritty that we’ll finally rid ourselves of the 50-year pretense that our national constitution requires the free world’s most permissive abortion regime.

Wednesday’s decision was preliminary, and "complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which [petitioners did not carry] their burden" mean that it’s not necessarily even an indication that the Supreme Court thinks the law’s challengers are unlikely to prevail ultimately (as denial of preliminary injunction usually implies).

Perhaps the best way to characterize [the situation] is that the law is built specifically to make it as difficult as possible for the courts to temporarily stop its implementation while they ponder its constitutionality. In other words, the law was designed specifically to bring about the situation Texas now finds itself in.

“The reason this is significant is, injunctions only apply to individuals,” Gabriel Malor, an appellate litigator and writer based in Virginia, told The Dispatch. “We have this thing, especially in legal commentary, where we say, ‘Oh, the law was enjoined.’ What we really mean was that an official was enjoined from implementing the law. And here it’s impossible—literally impossible—to enjoin all the citizens of the state of Texas from filing these civil suits. … So we get this weird procedural circumstance where the normal tools that are applied in abortion cases don’t really work here.”

The Morning Dispatch: SCOTUS Lets Texas Heartbeat Law Take Effect

How many citizens of Texas will come forward to file civil suits, given the likelihood that those suits will fail ultimately? I’m afraid that the answer is "None, except those that have very deep convictions (pockets, too) or are fronting for anti-abortion advocacy groups."

But when the smoke clears, assuming the Texas law is ultimately upheld and the Supreme Court’s reasoning effectively reverses Roe, the abortion issue will return to the state legislatures where it belongs. Considering the shift in our sexual culture over the decades, I expect that first trimester abortions will remain legal in most states, which will bring us into line with the rest of the Western world.

But the legislative fights will be ugly, and mainstream media will report limitations on second- and third-trimester abortions in apocalyptic terms.


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.

Beheading of John the Baptist

Yes, we commemorated the beheading of John the Baptist today, saying some rather pointed things about Herod, Herodias, and that hootchy-kootchy dancer.

Let’s get this out of the way

Afghanistan continues to haunt, partly because I continue getting smacked by distasteful facts. I’d be pulling punches not to share them:

Where Hegel saw the spirit of the new age in the figure of Napoleon riding through Jena, the spirit of the liberal age increasingly came to be consciously and rhetorically centered, at least in part, in the figure of the afghan woman finally getting a chance to play football, celebrate pride month, and studying critical gender theory ….

Malcom Kyeyune, via Angela Nagle, How Will The Empire End?

More from Nagle:

The Spectator commented on “How Ivy League diplomats sought to remake Afghanistan in Harvard’s image” via hundreds of millions spent on gender studies politics, which they persisted with even when it directly caused rebellions, adding this short illustrative video:

…you can see the exact point (specifically, 31 seconds in) where the American mission in Afghanistan dies.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/wdrvpSfJM1w?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0

Or this:

The reality is that America lost its war in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, roughly around the time when CIA officers began bribing aging warlords with Viagra. The Americans knew all about the young boys the tribal leaders kept in their camps; because the sex drug helped Afghan elders rape more boys more often, they were beholden to America’s clandestine service. Losing Afghanistan then is the least of it. When you choose to adopt a foreign cohort’s cultural habits, customs for which the elders of your own tribe would ostracize and perhaps kill you, you have lost your civilization.

Assabiya Wins Every Time – Tablet Magazine

Yet another of the reasons it’s hard for me to look at Afghanistan is that it never occurred to me that when judgment finally fell on us, others would become collateral damage.

It is not entertaining when a writer repeats himself, but what we are experiencing is judgment. If we will not grasp that, we will grasp nothing. We are being judged not so much for the imaginary evils for which violent, deranged thugs despise the country, but for the real evils we have cuddled to our bosoms.  We are just beginning to have the government we deserve.

Politics matters, make no mistake. But what we need is not just a different president, not just a political reform, but sorrow, soul-searching, and conversion. The rest — let us hope — will follow.

J Budziszewski, Why the President Should Not Be Called a Coward

A poem to keep

Because the eye has a short shadow or it is hard to see over heads in the crowd?

If everyone else seems smarter but you need your own secret?

If mystery was never your friend?

If one way could satisfy the infinite heart of the heavens?

If you liked the king on his golden throne more than the villagers carrying baskets of lemons?

If you wanted to be sure his guards would admit you to the party?

The boy with the broken pencil
scrapes his little knife against the lead
turning and turning it as a point
emerges from the wood again

If he would believe his life is like that
he would not follow his father into war

(Naomi Shihab Nye, Fundamentalism, via Poetry Foundation)

Qutb, how liberalism has failed … and what’s the alternative?

The ideas that seized the imagination of millions had deep and diverse intellectual roots. For example, the mid-20th century thinker Sayyid Qutb mounted a comprehensive critique of the soulless materialism of America, tracing it in part to the separation of church and state — the fatal error, he believed, that divided the spirit from the flesh. In the Muslim world, he argued, body and soul should not be split asunder, but should live united in a resurrected caliphate, governed by Shariah law.

David Brooks, This Is How Theocracy Shrivels (The New York Times)

I have not read Qutb, but I’ve read several critiques, home-grown, of how liberalism has failed, and soulless materialism makes cameo appearances in some of them.

The critiques are persuasive. What I haven’t read is a persuasive prescription. I’m far from a great historian, even by amateur standards, but I’ve read enough to have a rich storehouse of yarns on how great ideas go wrong, and every prescription I’ve read has "this will not end well" written all over it.

Those of us who are Christian have no basis to hope for an earthly paradise. The scriptures seem to point against such a thing ever arriving. But we believe, or should, that there are no accidents, no nooks or crevices of the cosmos unnoticed or neglected by divine providence. How all this "works together for good to them that love God" is a mystery, and we have no commission to help the mystery along.

But mystery can become our friend if we use the time we formerly wasted on tilting at windmills to deal with things at least somewhat within our control.

"Conservative evangelicals" take up the mainstream’s worst habit

[On July 8], the Public Religion Research Institute released its brand new 2020 American Religious Landscape.

Some things are not surprising …

But there are two big surprises.

First, the “unaffiliates” are not growing so fast anymore …

The other surprise is bigger.

For the first time (I think ever), the population segment of white evangelicals is shrinking. "Since 2006,” PRRI reports, “white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020."

This is new, arrestingly new. For decades — since the 1970’s — it’s been a truism that conservative evangelicals have bucked the tide of religious decline in America. In 1972, sociologist Dean Kelly wrote a famous book called just that: Why Conservative Churches are Growing. He concluded that while mainline Protestant churches were concerned about popular political issues, conservative evangelical churches were concerned with Biblical demands upon life, relationships and responsibilities.

The decline of white evangelicals seems mostly to result from the larger changing demographics of America. This is obvious. There is an irreversible change from a white majority to a plurality of ethnicities in the country. This is happening no matter what one thinks about immigration or voting policies.

But there is another factor that has contributed to the decline. When Dean Kelly wrote his book in 1972, the evangelical community was focussed upon concrete “Biblical lifestyle issues.” Since then, the focus has broadened to involvement in political, partisan issues and the “culture wars” — the very sort of involvement that Kelly had blamed for mainline decline 50 years before.

Now it seems that the chickens have come home to roost. The Pew report of 2019 observed that it was just because of explicit political partisanship that many young adults are leaving the evangelical community, most likely landing squarely in the “unaffiliated” category.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias, ‌Second Terrace: the cost of partisanship

On a related note:

It must have come as a shock to Dad to be plunged into the heart of the American evangelical scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and to suddenly see just who he was urging to take power in the name of returning America to our “Christian roots.” Who would be in charge? Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell? Gary North? Dr. Dobson? Rousas Rushdoony? And what sort of fools would “our people” elect as president or for Congress, given that they had so easily been duped by the flakes, madmen, and charlatans they were hailing (and lavishly funding) as their spiritual leaders?

Frank Schaeffer (son of the late Francis Schaeffer), Crazy for God

I am not a fan of Frank Schaeffer, but I read several of his books after he professed Orthodox Christianity. (I’ll leave it at that.) Occasionally he was perceptive and quotable.

Political war over culture is not culture war

From Ryan Burge, tweet, 2 July 2021.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked?

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926).

We are told that conservatives “lost the culture war.” I dissent from this view: American conservatives never waged a culture war. Conservatives certainly fought, there is no denying that. They fought with every bit of obstruction and scandal their operatives could muster. But this was not a culture war. Rather, America’s conservatives fought a political war over culture. Republicans used cultural issues to gain—or to try to gain—political power. Their brightest minds and greatest efforts went into securing control of judiciary, developing a judicial philosophy for their appointees, securing control of the Capitol, and developing laws that could be implemented in multiple state houses across the nation. No actual attempt to change the culture was attempted.

This was not thought necessary. Conservatives had the people. One decade they were called a “silent” majority; as the culture war heated up, that majority transitioned from “silent” to “moral,” but a majority they remained. In these circumstances it was sufficient to quarantine the cultural dissidents and keep them from using minority maneuvers (“legislating from the bench”) to impose their cultural priorities on the rest of us. Political containment was the name of our game. Republicans played it well. They still play it well, even when the majority of yesterday has melted away.

The left played for different stakes. They fought for American culture as the right fought over it. Their insurgency succeeded as Hemingway’s businessman failed: gradually, then suddenly.

Tanner Greer, Culture Wars are Long Wars. H/T John Brady’s Rags of Light newsletter.

I really appreciate the distinction between culture war and political war over culture. More than eleven years ago, I declared myself a "Conscientious Objector to the Culture Wars." As I review that post today, I actually was objecting to the political wars over culture. Other than that, it was a pretty good post, and I’d stand by most of it today.

Moreover, when I posed the question "So who am I hangin’ out with these days," the answer basically reflected the commonplace that culture is upstream from politics, and I was trying to connect to healthy culture:

Basically, I’m going back and rethinking all things political and cultural. I’m wisdom-hunting. I read Wendell Berry essays and poetry, Bill Kauffman books, Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, Scott Cairns’ Poetry, W.H. Auden (“For the Time Being” is now on my list for every Advent).

My conversion to Orthodox Christianity started it in a way. I soon realized that the Church has not always prevailed, and has produced martyrs in every century. And that’s okay. Better we should lose honorably than win by selling our souls.

Christ: disguised under badly remembered and selectively retold western history

Our world is a “post-Christian” world.  Culturally speaking, Christ and His message is well known, but disguised under layer after layer of badly remembered and selectively retold western history.  Everyone knows the name “Christ,” but very few associate it with anything life-giving.  Even those who believe in Christ, who look to Him for salvation, who are baptized and who have some devotion to the Church, even these no longer take the hierarchy of the Church seriously and have largely accepted a culturally reimagined version of Christ: a nice-guy deity, interested mostly in how I as an individual feel about things.

This, of course, is a far cry from Christ, the God who became human to transfigure human nature into the divine image from which it fell of old in Paradise.  Yet very many Christians today, many Orthodox Christians, do not know this Christ.  They know only the culturally acceptable christ of their imagination. And so they are lost in their own confusion and passions thinking that they follow Christ. And for these, we must pray.  They are like those who have received an inoculation.  They have taken just enough dead virus to put them on the defence against the real.  The false Christ that they have come to know, blinds their eyes and deadens their ears to the real.

Archpriest Michael Gillis, ‌Is It Possible to Live a Holy Life in the World? H/T John Brady (again).


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.

Adiaphora

Who Tells Them Things They Don’t Want to Hear? – by Freddie deBoer – Freddie deBoer. I really can’t keep track of which Substack postings are paywalled and which are freely available, but it’s worth trying to click on this for a takedown of the sick culture at the New York Times (by someone who, like me again on a special offer, reads it).

Excerpts:

If you’re new around here, the basic scenario is that we’ve had a years-long moral panic in which elite white tastemakers adopted the political posture of radical Black academics out of purely competitive social impulses, trying on a ready-made political eschatology that blames the worlds ills on whiteness and men and yet somehow leaves space for an army of good white people and good men to cluck their tongue about it all. Concurrently, the most influential paper in the world emerged from decades of fiscal instability by going hard on digital subscriptions, paywalling more and more of its content and rattling its tin cup more loudly than ever before. The result has been boom times, attenuated only by the end of the immensely lucrative Trump years. (I believe Chris Hayes is covering Trump’s latest spray tan tonight.) The trouble is that this model leaves them even more dependent on a particular social and political caste, namely the educated white professional class that graduates from top 25 universities, moves to Echo Park or Andersonville or Austin, then sends Zane and Daschel to pre-K that costs more than their Audi. Oh and they, like, care about justice and stuff. Conservatives hate-read the NYT and thus have traditionally brought in advertising revenue, but they don’t hate-subscribe, and the end result is that a paper that was about a 6.5 on a ten-point Liberal Elite Scale when I was a kid has moved to a 9.5. And there’s nothing internal to the publication that can stop this leftward march.

You’re unconvinced. Perhaps you work for the New York Times itself. Well then, tell me: who at the paper now would feel empowered to write the piece I’ve just written?

(Two hyphens added). This barely scratches the surface, as only later does Freddie discuss the internal toxicity.

So why does he still read it?

Here’s where I have to insert the caveat that I don’t think and have never suggested that crowdfunded media can replace the basic newsgathering function of newspapers and that the NYT in particular still serves a vital function in its fundamental reportorial duties.

Of course, you could just subscribe and get Freddie in full days before I blog a link (and links that I don’t blog).


Google’s CAPTCHA images … weren’t taken by humans, and they weren’t taken for humans. They are by AI, for AI. They thus lack any sense of human composition or human audience. They are creations of utterly bloodless industrial logic. Google’s CAPTCHA images demand you to look at the world the way an AI does.

Clive Thompson, Why CAPTCHA Pictures Are So Unbearably Depressing


Spotted on one of the only two social media where I have accounts:

Delete LinkedIN!?! But how will I leverage my unique value proposition of digital transformation across multi-discipline sectors?


Homophobia: Being more hostile to homosexuals than is absolutely necessary. (Andrew Sullivan, Homosexual)


This speaks to my inner curmudgeon.


I loved playing with Keith and the band — I still do — but I wasn’t interested in being a pop idol sitting there with girls screaming. It’s not the world I come from. It’s not what I wanted to be, and I still think it’s silly.

Charly Watts, Rolling Stones Drummer, quoted in his New York Times obituary.


“Modern conditions” are treated as fixed, though the very word “modern” implies that they are fugitive. “Old ideas” are treated as impossible, though their very antiquity often proves their permanence.

G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World?


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.

Sparing the junk

Noticing that my clipping bin was awfully full, I set out to blog the bin to empty. But I was stunned at how much was junky. I’ve spared you that.

You can learn a lot by reading carefully.

Yes, faithful readers, I saw the New York TImes story that ran under this headline: “Catholic Officials on Edge After Reports of Priests Using Grindr.” …

In a way, this Times story was yet another example of an old truth: Conservatives are wrong — simplistic, at the very least — when they claim that elite mainstream news publications are “anti-religion.”

In this Times piece, it’s clear that there are good Catholics and bad Catholics and that the Gray Lady gets to tell readers who is who. …

Yes, this is a Times piece about bad Catholic journalists. But it’s clear that the Times is not an anti-Catholic newspaper; it’s using the same basic doctrinal lens as progressive Catholic newspapers. …

Terry Mattingly, [Wait] a minute: What do New York Times editors think Pope Francis believes about Grindr?‌

A lot of progressive types, including the Times, thinks it’s "bad Catholic" or homophobic to suggest any connection between priests engaging in consensual sexual relations with other adults and clergy sexual abuse of children. But so long as the suggestion includes heterosexual and homosexual clergy unchastity, the connection is pretty well known and agreed on the left and right. Mattingly:

"Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children," [the late A.W. Richard Sipe] wrote, in a 2016 letter to his local shepherd, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy.

"When men in authority — cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors — are having or have had an unacknowledged secret-active-sex-life under the guise of celibacy an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative."

Sipe spent a half century investigating topics linked to sexuality and the Catholic priesthood — and was a man of the Catholic left.

The nexus between widespread unchastity in the Priesthood and keeping mum about pedophile priests is that anyone you blow the whistle on for child abuse might blow the whistle on you for Grindr or your mistress. It’s a kind of Mutual Assured Destruction, so it’s not surprising that few have dared launch the first missile.

Too dumb to fail

The Cyber Ninjas agreed to conduct the [rump Arizona Election 2020] audit for only $150,000–a figure that was always entirely too low to sort through Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots. Why? Probably because the company’s leadership knew they could make up for it with private money from Trump supporters desperate for someone to make their wildest voter-fraud fantasies come true—and indeed, the firm reportedly raked in $5.7 million. And then the Cyber Ninjas, entirely on their own timeline, are supposedly someday returning their “findings” back to the GOP-controlled judiciary committee in the state senate.

The entire thing is a closed feedback loop of election doom that’s, in all honesty, too dumb to fail. The Cyber Ninjas could allege that magic fairy-dust particles grown in a George Soros-funded Chinese bamboo lab blown into voter machines by Antifa changed the ballots from Trump to Biden. It would be accepted as gospel by people who think that OTC horse dewormer is a fine substitute for the COVID vaccine and that D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone is a crisis actor. Stupidity is simply not a deterrent to conspiracy theorists. It’s their shared operating principle that gives them a reason to shitpost.

Amanda Carpenter, The Cyber Ninjas’ Real Finding: Other States Can Run Sham Audits, Too

I quoted this for the amusing second paragraph.

Journalism with Integrity

A quick correction before we get started. In yesterday’s Quick Hits, we wrote this: “Eighteen commercial aircraft will arrive in Kabul in the coming days to aid in the evacuation effort, the Pentagon said Sunday.” Commercial aircraft are assisting with the evacuation, but as the Pentagon statement we linked made clear, those planes are not flying into Kabul itself; rather, they are being used “for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.” We apologize for the error.

The Morning Dispatch

One difference between the Dispatch and the New York Times is that the Times of 2021 would probably have just stealth-edited the story and never admitted error.

What matters is winning

… [T]here is the crux of the matter. Biden’s critics [on the Afghanistan withdrawal] are united in thinking that the United States is responsible for spreading liberal democracy around the world, that our safety depends on the success of this effort, that the effort requires us to use military force against opponents of liberal democracy, and that we must never pull back from that confrontation. Keeping up with the fight or expanding it is honorable. Withdrawing from the fight on grounds of waste or futility is disgraceful. What matters is winning, and winning is defined as keeping opponents of our system of government and moral ideals on the run and under pressure. Like Christian missionaries out to convert the world to their faith, the United States is animated by the messianic impulse to spread liberal democracy and smite its opponents.

Damon Linker, ‌America’s war over Afghanistan is just getting started

Be wise as serpents

Warning About The Woke Workplace fits a genre that frustrates me. The victim of this particular "woke workplace" (and he is the victim, not a wrongdoer) gives a vaguely Christianish rationale for his mad candor.

I highly respected her, and so I saw no alternative but to place my career literally in her hands and honor her with a gentle but honest answer.

Oh, really!? No alternative?

Something like "that’s not a good workplace topic" would have been easy and sufficient. Or "That’s above my pay grade" (the Obama dodge). Or "My faith is as precious to me as your spouse. If there’s a conflict between my faith and your love life, it surely is best not to bring it into the workplace as a source of tension." Or "That’s not for me ultimately to judge." Or even "If, hypothetically, my understanding of Christianity tells me that homosexual behavior is inconsistent with it, would you think I’m a real Christian?"

Gentle as doves, yes, but wise as serpents, too, good people. There are vindictive bastards and bitches out there.

Ill-conceived execution

I got information the other day from the producers raising money for a [Live Not by Lies] documentary here in the US. … I spoke to my friend Tucker Carlson the other day about the book … He agreed to be interviewed for the documentary.

The plan is to get this film made and in distribution in time for the 2022 election season ….

Documentary including Tucker Carlson timed to arrive "in time for the 2022 election season." What could possibly go wrong for Rod Dreher‘s reputation as a fairly honest broker?

I care about Rod, who I’ve "followed" for 15 years, since Crunchy Cons, and I fear this documentary will damage him.

Whatever happened to “strong women”?

At some point in the midst of my first pregnancy, all the official medical and government websites switched from “pregnant mothers” to “pregnant people” and from “nursing mothers” to “lactating people.” This is ridiculous. And it is offensive. I consider myself a deeply religious person [not a Christian], but becoming a mother has been the single most transformative experience of my life. The impact it has had on my relationship to my body, my femininity, my womanhood is profound. I refuse to pretend that this is a gender-neutral experience, and I am offended that it is now routine, considered enlightened even, to suggest as much. And although the physicality of motherhood may be different for adoptive mothers, I would expect they feel the same. It is past time for women to stand up and protest the erasure of our experiences, the theft of our private spaces, the attack on our achievements—not to mention the multifaceted assault on our daughters that the new gender ideology represents. (According to Abigail Shrier’s book (p. 62), schools are now describing women like Joan of Arc and Catherine the Great as “gender non-conforming.” What happened to “strong women”? I guess only [trans-]men can accomplish great things?) If that makes me a TERF, so be it.

Anonymous reader in Attention Cervix-Havers Of California!

Too lazy for long marches

You sometimes hear [“long march through the institutions”] from conservative commentators frustrated by the success of the left in making just such a march through American civil society, through the media and the arts and the universities … Instead of imitating the patience and persistence of the leftist marchers, they long for a strongman … to relieve them of the responsibility for reshaping civil society … Dreams of an omnicompetent strongman are the natural refuge of people too lazy and feckless to begin, much less complete, a long march.

Alan Jacobs

Craven condescension as antiracism

The University of Wisconsin has apparently done Black people a favor. It lifted away a rock.

It was a big one, 42 tons, and at least some Black students thought of it as a symbol of bigotry. Because, you see, 96 years ago, when the rock was placed where it was until just now, someone in a local newspaper called it — brace yourself — a “niggerhead.”

That didn’t settle in as a permanent nasty local moniker for the rock. It was just something some cigar-chomping scribbler wrote in 1925

The true fault here lies with the school’s administration, whose deer tails popped up as they bolted into the forest, out of a fear of going against the commandments of what we today call antiracism, which apparently includes treating Black people as simpletons and thinking of it as reckoning.

Kabuki as civil rights — it’s fake, it’s self-involved, and it helps no one. Yes, racism persists in our society in many ways, and administrators serving up craven condescension as antiracism are fine examples of it.

John McWhorter’s New York Times newsletter, 8/24/21

This item isn’t about J.D. Vance

I wasn’t all that interested in learning more about J.D. Vance’s Ohio Senate run, so I skipped James Pogue’s piece in American Conservative until the Dispatch praised it Tuesday morning.

It really is excellent, and it’s (mostly) not about J.D. Vance, but about Ohio, and about Ohio as a microcosm of disaffected America.

Oh: it’s also by a second-generation very Lefty.

Trumpist lickspittles forever!

Someone I generally respect quoted an item at thefederalist.com, so I went back to see if it (a bunch of Trumpist lickstpittles during the Trump regime) had become responsible in the Biden regime.

No. It’s still a partisan cesspool.

You are welcome.


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.

Downers and uppers

Afghanistan

This week has been a real downer, but I can’t not mention Afghanistan. Rest assured that I picked four that don’t seem to be echo-chamber fare:

1

Back in 2001 and 2002, Pat Buchanan was warning against the Iraq War, and against nation-building in Afghanistan. He was marginalized as a heretic by the official gatekeepers of the Right. Because Pat Buchanan has objectionable opinions about some things — he was “far right,” in their estimation — he was not to be taken seriously in anything.

But Pat Buchanan was right. He was right about Iraq, and he was right about Afghanistan. The same people who denounced him as a heretic then are leading the chorus of denunciation against Viktor Orban and Hungary. And you know, maybe they’re right. I don’t think they are, but you can make up your own mind about that. I would just strongly urge you to keep an open mind about Hungary, because the anti-Buchananites are the same ones now fashioning themselves as anti-Orbanites. Are you sure you should trust their judgment? Are you sure you should trust their construal of what Hungary is like? Keep that in mind.

Rod Dreher, Andrew Sullivan Vs. Viktor Orban

2

[W]hen faced with a choice of a U.S. style democracy and medieval sharia state the local people chose a sharia state. It’s not like the U.S. didn’t try. Under effective U.S. rule the GDP of Afghanistan grew 500%, women’s rights were improved and vast amount of infrastructure was built. America was putting down the infrastructure to integrate Afghanistan into the globohomo system.

And remember, the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 20 years.

The speed and rapidity of the Taliban advance–most of the time with hardly any fighting at all–showed that American values had completely failed to "take" in Afghan society. The modern American way of life was an unwanted product. As it was in Vietnam.

The bottom line is that institutional America, homo secularis, was taking on the Taliban, homo religiosus and the Taliban won. The point here is that most men are motivated by more than dollars and cents and that sometimes the intangibles are far more important. But what’s also important to note here is that Islam reinforced identity. America was caught in a a rather interesting bind. To be tolerant, it had to allow Islam to flourish but Islam was opposed to America. There was a fundamental incompatibility that doomed the US project from the outset.

The Social Pathologist: Taliban 1: Woke Empire 0

"Globohomo" is not in my vocabulary, and I don’t plan to add it. It is such very short shorthand that I don’t know whether it even communicates much to peripheral members of the author’s tribe.

But it has been reported by at least semi-credible sources that our Embassy in Kabul was recently flying the rainbow flag in celebration of something-or-other, and it’s safe to assume that Afghans are broadly aware of what all it stands for. It’s not really surprising if Afghans chose the Taliban (they gave up awfully easily; maybe a better explanation than "willing surrender" is forthcoming) again over the cosmology of which that flag serves as a condensed symbol — which cosmology they have some reason to believe is the eventuality of liberal democracy.

3

The withdrawal plan always seemed abrupt and arbitrary. Why did the White House think the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was the right date for a pullout? What picture of America do they carry in their heads that told them that would be symbolically satisfying? It is as if they are governed by symbols with no understanding of what the symbols mean.

Peggy Noonan

4

Prophecy for a nation of wankers:

In the next few days, another girl foolish enough to think she can keep going to school will take another bullet to the head, and when that happens, the left is going to lose its mind. … Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott will go 12 rounds in Madison Square Garden to determine which one of them gets to fund girls’ education in Afghan refugee camps. The winner will fund beautiful schools — air-conditioned, STEM-centered schools. And there might even be time for the winner to private-jet herself to the Aspen Ideas Festival to explain the importance of girls’ education before those schools are blown up, along with the girls inside them …

Caitlin Flanagan.

Collect for the Feast of St. Jonathan Swift

A decade ago, when I thought things were getting bad — oh how naïve I was in those days — I wrote an essay “Against Stupidity” in which I argued for the canonization of St. Jonathan Swift and even wrote a collect for his feast day.

Gather around, friends … and let’s bow our heads and say together,

Almighty and most wrathful God, who hate nothing You have made but sometimes repent of having made Man; we thank you this day for the life and work of Your faithful servant Jonathan Swift, who constantly imitated and occasionally exceeded Your own anger at the folly of sin, and who in his works excoriated such folly with a passion that brought him nigh unto madness; and we pray that You may teach us to be imitators of him, so that the follies and stupidities of our own time may receive their proper chastisement; through Christ our Lord, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.

Alan Jacobs.

Politics as fashion

I’m frequently surprised that bog-standard lefty shit now attracts shock and pushback. The most obvious of these is free speech. I don’t support free speech despite being a leftist, I support free speech because I’m a leftist … I’m not interested in giving the pro-free speech case here, but I am asserting the simple fact that free speech has always been a leftist priority … But there has been little opportunity to fight for those values because people seem to have just sort of woken up one morning and decided free speech was out. When did we vote on that? Was there a meeting I missed? If we’re going to make massive changes to basic commitments, we better have a serious process of working that out. Instead free speech is out like mom jeans. It’s politics as fashion.

Same thing with deference to the establishment media. I criticize the NYT or other big-shot MSM property on Facebook and people react in horror. “Criticizing the media?!? Who are you, Tucker Carlson?” But distrust of the media has been a leftist stance since before I was born. The media is the propaganda arm of capitalism and empire. Yes, reporting serves a vital function, but commies like me have distrusted the corporate media for ages. If you think that should change, fine, then argue that. But don’t act like I’m the weird one for not suddenly adopting a dramatically different attitude towards the media out of fear of appearing to be a Republican.

Freddie deBoer, When Nothing is Worked Through, Nothing is Explained, Nothing is Understood

What crooked timber we are!

I think I first saw this nearly three weeks ago, but its weirdness lingers:

Something very strange has been happening in Missouri: A hospital in the state, Ozarks Healthcare, had to create a “private setting” for patients afraid of being seen getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In a video produced by the hospital, the physician Priscilla Frase says, “Several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’” Although they want to protect themselves from the coronavirus and its variants, these patients are desperate to ensure that their vaccine-skeptical friends and family never find out what they have done.

Brooke Harrington, ‌Vaccine Refusers Don’t Want Blue America’s Respect

Degenerate natural law

When the Supreme Court announced a “right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”, some thought it was rejecting the very idea of natural law. Really it was asserting a degenerate theory of natural law, one widely held in the culture—or at least in those parts of it which our controllers choose to recognize, such as law schools, abortion facilities, and liberal seminaries. It was propounding a universal moral right not to recognize the universal moral laws on which all rights depend. Such liberty has infinite length but zero depth.

J Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know

Hillsong just doesn’t cut it any more

I received an e-mail the other day from a longtime reader of my blog, a megachurch Protestant who quit going to his normal church when the congregation became defiantly committed to the idea that Covid is a hoax. He and his wife are both medically compromised, so they couldn’t take the risk of attending services there anymore. He wrote:

Based on your writings, I decided to give the Greek Orthodox Church a try.  I’ve been attending on and off for 8 months.  Now that we are vaccinated, I am also back at my old church, but after a service that opens a window to Heaven so the congregation can sing the Trisagion [“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us”] with the angels, Hillsong pop music falls flat.  Having seen the members participate in the last supper with the Lord, passing around a tray of sliced up pie crust to "commemorate" the event doesn’t cut it.  Bottom line, I’m likely on my way to Orthodoxy.

This is what “come and see” means.

Rod Dreher

Rinsing one book off with another

I am re-reading Kyriacos C. Markides, The Mountain of Silence. After reading Frances FitzGerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, I feel the need for something clean and wholesome.

Most of this book was about events during my lifetime. I caught the author in a few trivial factual mistakes and, as she warmed to the task of demolishing religious right leaders, unwarranted or even absurd interpretations and commentary.

But the arc of her account rings true, and she’s right far oftener than she’s wrong.

The big-name Religious Right leaders — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson particularly — loved the limelight (Robertson denied it) and eventually came to instantiate the folk-definition of a fanatic: one who, having forgotten his goal, redoubles his efforts. Such redoubling too often involved wild-ass hyperbole, apocalyptic predictions about Democrat rule, over-promising and, in general, neglect of the very religious precepts they were supposed to be defending.

In the end, their discreditable behavior discredited them, the GOP, the Conservative cause, and worst of all, the reputation of the Christian faith.

Fr. Maximos, a young but advanced Athonite monk ordered to go to a monastery on Cyprus, is nothing like that.

Food news

I’ve taste-tested it twice now and can confirm that the Strawberry Brie Burger at Bryant, just outside of West Lafayette, Indiana, is one of the best burgers on the face of the earth.

Get it medium-rare. Salty, sweet, creamy, unctuous and smoky. What more could you ask?


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.

Three especially for Churchmen

How should we live?

  • First, live as though in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into the world and the outcome of history has already been determined. (Quit worrying)
  • Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
  • Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
  • Fourth, quit arguing about politics as though the political realm were the answer to the world’s problems. It gives it power that is not legitimate and enables a project that is anti-God.
  • Fifth, learn to love your enemies. God did not place them in the world for us to fix or eliminate. If possible, refrain from violence.
  • Sixth, raise the taking of human life to a matter of prime importance and refuse to accept violence as a means to peace. Every single life is a vast and irreplaceable treasure.
  • Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
  • Eighth, as much as possible, think small. You are not in charge of the world. Love what is local, at hand, personal, intimate, unique, and natural. It’s a preference that matters.
  • Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
  • Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Violence of Modernity

I’ve probably shared these before, but I review them monthly for my own sake, so I thought you might benefit, too. In fact, I just reviewed the full blog post and all of it is excellent.

Zero-sum church

From an institutional perspective [Pope Francis’] move [against the Latin Mass] arguably appears perverse: Here you have a Western church conspicuously lacking in public zeal, religious vocations, large families, liturgical seriousness … and yet the leaders of the church have decided to act punitively against a small minority that, whatever its highly-debated growth rate, clearly is a locus for intense forms of piety and practice. It’s as if a major auto manufacturer whose big brands were all struggling decided to kill off one of its few profitable lines of cars, because it only turned a profit in a niche market and wasn’t big enough to subsidize the whole. A strange decision …

… but under the psychological conditions created by decline also an understandable one. In a general corporate climate of diminishment and disappointment a small form of success invites resentment: If the small brand isn’t capable of subsidizing the whole, then why are its engineers and salesman wasting their talents on its niche market, when they should be contributing to saving the larger company? Shouldn’t they be expected to chip in where the need is greatest, in the main brands — by analogy, big, empty diocesan seminaries and struggling Novus Ordo parishes and schools — instead of concentrating their talents serving a more intense but (it’s assumed) self-limited market?

In the specific case of traditionalism, it was that sense of relative stability that helped pave the way for the Latin Mass’s return from its 1970s exile, for the permissions issued by first by John Paul and then more sweepingly by Benedict. And then it’s the subsequent weakening of both conservative and liberal Catholicism — the former pushing more right-wing Catholics tradward, the latter making tradness appear more of a threat to a necessary acceleration of the Vatican II revolution — that’s given us the sharpened conflicts between traditionalism and Pope Francis, and now the attempt at outright suppression.

Ross Douthat, ‌The Latin Mass in the Zero Sum Church (first two ellipses in original; hyperlink likely paywalled).

My reaction to Pope Francis’ suppression of the Latin Mass (after reading some articulate howls from its proponents) was "doesn’t Francis see that this move tends to eradicate the Catholicism of his own youth and tends to the schism of those who won’t give it up?!" After reading Douthat, my reaction is "Of course he knows that. He wants a Novus Ordo Catholicism purged of Latin Mass Catholicism. He even said the Novus Ordo is now the exclusive Lex Orandi of the Church, and that he may be remembered as the Pope who split the Church."

In retirement, I have little occasion to bump into highly traditionalist Catholics (and a round of well-warranted litigation by my firm on behalf of the siblings of one of them estranged us even before I retired). But I read a few of them, and with Covid and Afghanistan and seeming national collapse of the U.S., and now the suppression of the Mass they love by a Pope they are obliged to obey, this is not a happy time to to be an American Latin Mass Catholic.

Always in the wrong

Revolutionaries are always in the wrong, since, in their juvenile fervor for everything new, in their hopes for a better future, and a way of life built on justice, they always base themselves on theories that are abstract and artificial, making a clean sweep of living tradition which is, after all, founded on the experience of centuries.

Conservatives are always wrong, too, despite being rich in life experience, despite being shrewd and prudent, intelligent and skeptical. For, in their desire to preserve ancient institutions that have withstood the test of time, they decry the necessity of renewal, and man’s yearning for a better way of life.

Both attitudes carry within themselves the seeds of death. Is there, then, a third way? Another destiny for society than of always being subject to the threat of revolutions which destroy life, or reactionary attitudes which mummify it? Or is this the inevitable fate of all terrestrial cities, the natural law of their existence?

In fact, only in the Church can we find both a Tradition that knows no revolution and at the same time the impetus towards a new life that has no end. Her theory (understood in the true sense of the word, namely “vision”) is based on a constant experience of Truth. Which is why she is in possession of those infinite resources upon which may draw all who are called to govern the perishable cities of this world.

Vladimir Lossky in Seven Days on the Roads of France, his account of fleeing the Nazis from Paris as he and his father had previously fled the Bolsheviks. (Via Fr. Stephen Freeman). I’ve ordered the book.


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.

Aging (and other stuff)

Aging is a cultural treasure

Looking around at the tables around ours, I didn’t see anybody over the age of thirty-five, and sitting there, half-deaf, I enjoyed being alien, just as in Paris I make no attempt to appear French. I seemed to be the only guy on the block who had owned an Underwood typewriter, used carbon paper, had cut the head off a chicken with an axe, been baptized total-immersion, and seen Rod Carew steal home. I felt like a cultural treasure.

Irrelevance is a great blessing. You realize we are not in control. Maybe $88 billion cannot buy a functional democratic government in a tribal country up against forces that espouse cruel misogyny and bribery, and I’m not referring to Texas. So I skip reading the newspaper, preferring not to waste the day in hopeless anger, and instead drink my coffee and write a wedding sonnet for a couple in California and joke with my daughter who is starting a new life in a new city and sit with my wife and enjoy the breeze and smell the hydrangeas.

Garrison Keillor

I appreciate such gentle wisdom from a close-enough age cohort.

But in some ways, I’ve been an old soul for a long, long time.

One of my favorite songs of all time, which nobody seems to sing any more (and none of my Pandora stations have in rotation) is This Is All I Ask, and Tony Bennett’s 1963 rendition may have been what hooked me (I can’t think of a single song where I prefer Old Blue Eyes to Tony).

Lyrics:

As I approach the prime of my life
I find I have the time of my life
Learning to enjoy at my leisure
All the simple pleasures and so I happily concede

That this is all I ask
This is all I need

Beautiful girls
Walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets
Stay a little longer with the lonely sea

Children everywhere
When you shoot at bad men, shoot at me
Take me to that strange
Enchanted land, grown-ups seldom understand

Wandering rainbows
Leave a bit of color for my heart to own
Stars in the sky
Make my wish come true before the night has flown

And let the music play
As long as there’s a song to sing
And I will stay younger than Spring

On the other hand …

Notwithstanding the individual pleasures of getting old, it’s pretty clearly not good for a whole culture.

The age data is straightforward. We already had a sense from April’s data that U.S. fertility had continued to slow over the last decade; the overall population growth of just north of 7 percent over 10 years was the slowest on record. But the latest age data shone a glaring spotlight on that phenomenon: Over the last 10 years, the total number of children living in America actually decreased, from 74.2 million in 2010 to 73.1 million in 2020. By comparison, the U.S. has 258.3 million adults, up from 234.6 million a year ago.

The Morning Dispatch.

This does not bode well. People who think we should, and can without economic disruption, stop allowing immigration, or replace it with greater fertility by Real ‘Muricans, are living in a fantasy.

On the third hand …

… it is worrisome that our young future elite leaders are systematically being shielded from stuff that might make them uncomfortable.

This is not going to get any better. I want you to recall something I’ve written about in this space before. It’s what a European friend told me was the upshot of his time doing graduate studies a couple of years ago at Harvard. He said it was shocking to him to see how so many students asked professors not to talk about issues and topics that triggered their anxiety — and how professors yielded to these crazy requests. My friend said this happened in class after class. It scandalized him. He said that not one of his fellow students doubted that they were destined to enter into the elite class of leadership. It shook him up. He said that his country depends on a strong USA, but he could tell that the next generation of leadership elites are going to be even more fragile and wrongheaded than the current one.

Rod Dreher (emphasis added).

Steel-manning as reflex

The term "steel-manning" has come into vogue of late as a polar opposite of straw-manning.

Barack Obama was a master of it. He could state the conservative case for policies better than their conservative supporters. (Then without even poking holes in the conservative argument, he invariably rejected it. Sigh.)

A relaxed conversation with my brothers over the weekend (first time we’ve all been together for almost seven years) reminded me that "steel-manning" is substantially what my older brother’s high school’s debate team did every debate season because they never knew before a debate which side of the year’s resolution they would be assigned. Yes, it might be easier to argue both sides on a debate topic on which you had no strong opinion, but the practice still built up skills and, perhaps, habits.

Outside of the context of formal debate competitions, steel-manning, it seems to me, gives your ideological adversary the dignity of knowing he’s been heard. That all by itself lowers the temperature of differences — as I’ve noticed ever since I first observed Small Claims Court (where the quality of legal reasoning was sometimes shaky but where the parties both got to state their cases before the judge decided for one of them or, not infrequently, "split the baby").

We could really use a lot more people reflexively steel-manning instead of straw-manning, couldn’t we?


Why don’t we build infrastructure to last a thousand years? Others have.

Interesting article.


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.

Apophats and Cataphats

> In the 1830s, virtually all American theologians—Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Unitarians alike—assumed theology to be a science whose aim was to produce exact formulations based on evidence … Generally, the Bible was thought to be a storehouse of facts and propositions and the task of theologians was to systematize these facts and to ascertain the general principles to be found in them … [A]ll, including the Unitarians, assumed that every passage in the Bible had only one meaning, and that all readers through history could understand it.

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Kindle locations 1065-1070).

This formulation shocked me, but I readily recognized it as accurate even when describing the Evangelicalism of my youth, 130 years later. The conceit that we were getting warranted certainties in sermons and chapel talks was strong, and I suspect it’s still around, if less universal, today. Some of those certainties were toxic falsities, as probably are some of today’s.

Fast forward a few decades from the 1830s to this recognizably similar view from a scholarly sort of Protestantism:

> Scottish Realism with its optimistic, democratic view that anyone could discover the truth appealed to many Americans, and it had particular appeal to the Protestant clergy because it posited the spiritual nature of consciousness and it involved no skepticism about religious truth … As Marsden points out, Old School Presbyterians, raised on the Westminster catechisms, tended to view the truth as a stable entity that, when expressed in precisely stated propositions, would be understood by everyone at all times in exactly the same way … Further, if moral laws could be adduced in the same way as the laws of physics, then theology was a science, too … to systematize the facts of the Bible, and ascertain the principles or general truths which those facts involve … “The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science,” he wrote. “It is his store-house of facts.”

Id., Kindle locations 1305-1326.

Contrast this dissenting view from the 1830s:

> [Horace] Bushnell’s challenge to this whole way of thinking rested on the new science of philology and on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ideas about the indeterminacy of language … Dogma-based theologians, he argued, ignore the instability of the abstractions they use and work out Christian systems that are consistent but false simply because of their consistency … The authors of the Scriptures, the inspired witnesses to spiritual truths, could not convey these truths directly. Rather, like all good writers, they did their best by multiplying forms or figures, and by creating paradoxes and contradictions to give as many hints as they could to their inspiration … [I]t offended piety and intelligence to claim that the meaning of God’s self-expression in Christ could be captured in “a few dull propositions.”

Id., Kindle location 1077-1083.

I’m not endorsing Bushnell’s liberal Protestantism, let alone claiming that he was influenced by Orthodox Christianity, but I was surprised to see that on this occasion, the liberals are much more sympathetic to my Orthodox mind than was the mainstream. The uncertainty reflected in Orthodoxy’s apophatic theology seems to have something of the same look to it, though the lineages of the two are quite different.

Now, something more contemporary.

> Richard Dawkins argued against God’s existence, saying that omniscience and omnipotence are contradictory …

Garrison Keillor

Omniscience and omnipotence are familiar words to Christians, though perhaps only those of a Western sort. Having been a Western Christian, they’re familiar to me.

These are cataphatic, affirming two things about God: that He knows everything and can do everything. These are the kinds of "facts" (themselves abstractions) through which much or most Western Christianity purports to know God.

In contrast, here are a few things Eastern Christian apophatic theology says:

  • No one has seen or can see God (John 1:18).
  • He lives in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16).
  • His ways are unsearchable and unfathomable (Job 11:7-8; Romans 11:33-36).
  • The true knowledge and vision of God consists in this—in seeing that He is invisible, because what we seek lies beyond all knowledge, being wholly separated by the darkness of incomprehensibility (The Life of Moses, Gregory of Nyssa).
  • God is infinite and incomprehensible and all that is comprehensible about Him is His infinity and incomprehensibility (On the Orthodox Faith, John of Damascus).

OrthodoxWiki (hyperlinks omitted). An Orthodox Christian with a truly Orthodox mindset, not unduly influenced by a Western milieu, will still affirm those, and will demur from terms like omniscient and omnipotent.


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.

Our collapse proceeds apace

Shifting the arc of history

The elites kind of have a Martin Luther King, Jr. envy. Every generation want to have that moral quality, that sense that they are shifting the arc of history in a better way, even though we’ve generally done about as much as we possibly can to do that — in terms of within the possibilities (sic) of a liberal system.

Andrew Sullivan, interviewed on the Conversations with Tyler podcast.

"As much as we possibly can … within the possibilities of a liberal system" is perceptive — and ominous, since the impulse for "equity" may consider destruction of our liberal system a very acceptable price to pay.

It’s my hypothesis (in what I’ve called "Selma envy" in parallel with what Sullivan calls it) that part of today’s madness is that progressive organizations that achieve their ultimate objective won’t declare victory, close down, and move on. Instead, they dream up some new objective even when the new objective is, objectively, quite mad.

Most of the trans phenomenon seems to fit that pattern; why didn’t the Human Rights Campaign, for instance, wind up its affairs starting the day after Obergefell? As I recall, Andrew Sullivan — an early and influential proponent of same-sex marriage — has the same question.

Note that "Selma envy" is not meant to demean. The human desire for meaning is strong, and when so many religious options for meaning-formation have fallen into disrepute, both Left and Right may end up in crazy places.

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Michael Brendan Dougherty steps away from the pages of National Review to voice white-hot objection to Pope Francis’ suppression of the Latin Mass.

If I were Roman Catholic, I think his piece would describe my position perfectly.

Of course, that’s a very big "if." Because if I were a Roman Catholic who had subjected himself to the Novus Ordo for decades, and had not availed himself of the Latin Mass during the blessed hiatus in its suppression sanctioned by Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum, I might have been "form[ed] … to a new faith," as Dougherty puts it.

This, too:

I learned that the Latin language was not the only distinguishing feature of this form of worship. The entire ritual was different from the post-Vatican II Mass. It wasn’t a mere translation into the modern vernacular; less than 20 percent of the Latin Mass survived into the new.

A freshman religious studies major would know that revising all the vocal and physical aspects of a ceremony and changing the rationale for it constitutes a true change of religion. Only overconfident Catholic bishops could imagine otherwise.

Just so. This is why we Orthodox guard our Liturgy (and our Liturgy guards us).

I had written the preceding part when I came across an interesting phrase in Fraces Fitzgerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape a Nation:

… [Paul] Weyrich, a Catholic so conservative he joined an Eastern Rite church after Vatican II ….

The implication is that the Orthodox Liturgy (used in the Eastern Rite with different diptychs) is more traditionally Catholic than the Novus Ordo.

That’s not wrong.

Institutions, internet, information

[T]hose who love the [Roman Catholic] Church’s traditions and choose to believe that she is truly the “perfect society” have, in actuality, zero power to preserve or protect her. They are left, therefore, with no choice but to obey papal innovations and be crushed, or to rebel against them, and thereby become the very opposite of what they espouse. Obedience to everything but sin is what the tradition recommends; rebellion against an unjust but not immoral order is anything but traditional.

Steve Skojec, Casual Saints and The De-Mythologizing of the Church – The Skojec File. H/T Rod Dreher.

Dreher continues on the corrosive difficulty of maintaining trust in institutions — any institutions — in the Information Age:

[I]t is certainly true that our governmental and health authorities have not covered themselves with glory in their management of information around Covid … [W]hen we saw last summer health authorities saying that it was okay to cast aside their warnings against public gatherings, for the sake of attending George Floyd protests, that instantly discredited them in the eyes of many of us. These things really do matter. At the same time public health authorities are giving warnings about Covid, and liberals are demanding that we TRUST THE SCIENCE, we are seeing things like the American Medical Association say that we should do away with “male” and “female” on birth certificates, because sex doesn’t exist. Now, it is perfectly possible that medical authorities could be telling the truth about how to deal with Covid, and be completely bonkers and politicized about sex and gender. But normal people see how quickly doctors are falling for the trendy ideologization of medicine, and wonder how much they can be trusted on anything.

Similarly, it is entirely possible that school systems are correct to mandate masks for students coming back to school in the time of the Delta variant. But when many school systems are also mandating teaching of radical neoracist ideologies based on Critical Race Theory, normal people can’t be faulted for doubting the judgment of those authorities.

I could cite examples all day. The point is this: authority is not the same thing as power. An institution that has squandered its authority has nothing left but power. And if it doesn’t have power to coerce others — as in today’s churches — what does it have? If it does have the power to coerce others, including those who don’t accept its authority, it risks being or becoming a tyranny.

You could say that the total information environment is good in that it compels institutions to become more honest and competent. Maybe. But humans are not machines. We are going to fail. If we live in a society where people regard all human failure as malicious, and freak out completely in the face of it, we aren’t going to make it.

(Emphasis added)

Relative dangers, Left and Right

Wokesters, a/k/a the Successor Ideology, is the current and is like a low-stage cancer, and the body politic has awakened to their presence and is responding. Left illiberalism has lost the element of surprise (surprise that it so swiftly leapt from the Ivy Tower to the street), and faces increasing resistance in the culture.

The more radically Trumpist Right, is an institutional disinformation organization, "flooding the zone with shit" about "rigged" elections and either violently seizing power or having red-state legislatures replace Democrat electoral winners with Republican losers. That’s more like an impending massive heart attack.

(Summarizing a portion of Monday’s Advisory Opinions podcast with Jonathan Rauch, author of The Constitution of Knowledge.)

This was an excellent discussion, including Rauch’s admiration for NIH head Francis Collins, who led the mapping of the human genome and is a faithful Christian. Looking at the considerable numbers of thoughtful believers in contrast to his contentedly-atheist self, Rauch hypothesizes that his atheism is perhaps like color-blindness.

That seems like a pretty good analogy, in part because a person who isn’t color-blind cannot with integrity deny the distinction between, say, red and green.

20 Hungarian Lessons the West Is Still Missing

There has been a lot of stupid, stupid stuff written about Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and some admirers on the American Right. 20 Hungarian Lessons the West Is Still Missing is a smart, balanced, longish piece written by Eric D’Amato, who knows Hungary well from 15 years there.

It’s embarrassing that so little commentary comes anywhere near this level, but I guess there must be loudly stupid things written on minor topics before there’s a market for smart ones.

Afghan collapse

After a long quote from a bitter, bitter blog from an ex-soldier who deployed twice to Afhanistan, Rod Dreher demurs just a teensy bit:

I think Joe Biden deserves criticism for the terrible way his administration handled the endgame. But Joe Biden didn’t lose this war. This war was lost not the day George W. Bush decided to attack Afghanistan — the Taliban government deserved it for harboring Osama bin Laden — but rather on the day that George W. Bush decided that we were going to nation-build in Afghanistan.

Dreher then goes on to quote a 2002 column that predicted, with what we now can all see was extreme accuracy, how our Afghanistan adventure could not and would not end well.

The neocon hatred for paleocons like Pat Buchanan, the author of that 2002 column, knows no bounds. I look forward to David Frum, one of the former, writing a ‘splainer in the Atlantic on how the débâcle is all Buchanan’s fault for not joining the imperialist cheer squad.

And I should add that Donald J. Trump, in addition to appointing a bunch of very good Federal judges (all of whom, remarkably, have "betrayed" him by staying faithful to their oaths of office) deserves credit for not starting any more of these perverse wars, as he promised (or at least implied) he wouldn’t.

Adiaphora

Andrew Cuomo Resigned Because the Democrats Aren’t a Cult
Normal political parties can police their own.

Benjamin Parker

Andrew Cuomo’s resignation shows 1 party is still capable of shame

Damon Linker. Linker continues:

Within hours of the attorney general’s press conference last week, the president of the United States, leading Democrats in Washington, and key members of the New York State Assembly had called on Cuomo to step down. With polls showing a majority favoring resignation, pressure in Albany mounting, and defenders dwindling, attempting to hang on would have been maximally risky. That made Cuomo’s decision a no-brainer.

The contrast with the Republican Party couldn’t be sharper.

Since Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the party in 2016, the GOP has adopted an ethos of merciless bellicosity. Fighting is what counts and what gets rewarded. Sacrificing for the sake of principle is denigrated and dismissed. To resign is to give up power voluntarily. It’s therefore a choice reserved only for suckers and chumps.

Add in the cult of personality that has accompanied this shift in moral orientation and we’re left with a party overwhelmingly predisposed to forgive transgressions of the most charismatic and politically potent members of the team.


There was a time when I said I listened to NPR news because it made me feel at least a little bit smarter, whereas most network and radio news was stultifying.

Well, I haven’t been listening to much news, but I went back to NPR today, only to be teased for a story on the increasing hospitalization rates for "pregnant people" with Covid.

It’s weird when no broadcast news is helpful. I’ve heard that BBC World News remains excellent, but they spend so much time on in-depth stories from halfway around the world — stories that (this probably means I’m a bad person) just are not all that keenly interesting to me.


Sex-Toy Makers Lovehoney, WOW Tech Merge in $1.2 Billion Deal as Lockdowns Spur Demand
Germany’s WOW Tech Group and U.K.-based Lovehoney said they have agreed to merge in a deal that values the combined company at around $1.2 billion, as the pandemic helps fuel global demand for sex toys.

I guess if you’re the Wall Street Journal, you report all kinds of business news. (August 12 digital edition). It makes one excited at the news possibilities should prostitution be legalized.


Here is the evidence that trans women are really women, and that trans men are really men: They say they are. This has been confirmed in study after study. So stop opposing Science, bigots.

J Budziszewski


I have had it with Rand Paul.


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.

Tasty tidbits

An unexpected take on Afghanistan

As for the Afghans, they assuredly suffered in the war, but they suffered more under Taliban rule. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution figures that the war may have cost 400,000 Afghan lives over the past 20 years, but he guesstimates that U.S. activities there saved a million or more lives, a significant net positive.

Consider: Infant mortality dropped by half during the U.S. operation. Life expectancy improved by six years. Electricity consumption, a key quality of life indicator, increased by a factor of 10. Years in school increased by at least three years for men and four for women. University graduates rose from under 31,000 to almost 200,000. (Those and other indicators are available at the Brookings Afghanistan index.)

Those are a lot of lives saved and improved. Even at their most monstrous, the Taliban cannot roll back all the gains of the past 20 years. In fact, back in power, they would find a different country than the one they left: one with a substantial Western-educated elite and a population that has known peace and progress. “That’s what’s going to challenge the Taliban or anyone who comes in to take over leadership,” Shuja Rabbani, an Afghan expatriate and son of a former president, told me. “They’re going to have a very different kind of fight to put up.”

All of that is before reckoning the Big Payoff, which is not what you see but what you don’t see: For 20 years, there has been no major attack on the U.S. homeland.

For all of those reasons, I am resolutely agnostic on Biden’s withdrawal decision. Anyone who thinks the answer is obvious hasn’t thought seriously about it ….

Jonathan Rauch, The Afghanistan War Was a (Partial) Success‌

Okay, I guess.

Machen’s convincing case

This paragraph provided a possible key to a perennial frustration:

Christianity and Liberalism was widely read, and not just by religious conservatives. Indeed, several influential secular commentators wrote that Machen had made a convincing case. Walter Lippmann called the book “the best popular argument produced by either side in the current controversy.” The Nation and The New Republic published essays arguing that the fundamentalists had logic on their side when they invited the modernists to leave their denominations, for if the modernists contradicted the traditional creeds, then it would be only gentlemanly for them to withdraw and found churches of their own. “Fundamentalism,” the editor of The Nation wrote, “is undoubtedly in the main stream of Christian tradition while modernism represents a religious revolution as far-reaching as the Protestant Reformation.” These secular intellectuals had, it seemed, become so detached from religion that they imagined seventeenth-century reasoning normative for the church. Yet such was their prestige that many liberal Protestants feared that the logic of the fundamentalist position had prevailed.

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Kindle location 2183)

I complain that secular people and mainstream media read the Bible through a fundamentalist lens before rejecting it contemptuously as absurd, or wicked, or something. That problem — the eclipse of historic Christian hermeneutics by novel Anglo-American hermeneutics — may be a century old, and may have arisen because J. Gresham Machen wrote such a very persuasive defense of fundamentalism as then understood.

I note that Christianity and Liberalism is still in print, including free PDF downloads. I’d read it but I’m expecting an emergency phone call, if you know what I mean.

History rhymes

Respectability, however, did not suit him. True to his country roots (which he shared with Lyndon Johnson) he had what an acolyte called “a barnyard vernacular,” a coruscating wit, and a need to dominate every other man in the room. He called making converts “hanging hides on a barn door.”

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Kindle location 2711)

Sounds like narcissist Mark Driscoll, late of the late Mars Hill Church in Seattle, but it’s actually narcissist J. Frank Norris, pastor of First Baptist Church Fort Worth a century or so ago.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (Had to throw in some French since, sigh, I just cancelled a September-October trip to Paris due to the continuing Covid saga.)

Orthodox laity vs. Catholic theology students

I decided to ask people at the picnic whether it made any difference that Jesus rose from the dead. I began with my eighteen-year-old niece and my seventy-year-old mother. Neither had any theological education. I questioned each independently: “Does the Resurrection of Jesus make any difference?”

“Yes,” they both answered immediately.

“Why?” I asked. I remained silent as each of them struggled to articulate a response. But eventually they both arrived at the same correct answer. My niece said that the Resurrection of Christ restored the relationship between us and God, and my mother said that it opened up heaven to us. I was impressed. Every Orthodox Christian of whom I have asked this question has also given me a similar response.

This only fueled my curiosity: Why did these ordinary Orthodox Christians know the theological significance of the Resurrection of Christ—and believe it mattered—when my graduate school theology classmates seemingly did not?

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox

Prophecy

Forth-telling

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of window and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything,” – C.S. Lewis, in his 1945 novel That Hideous Strength.

Foretelling

The Savage was silent for a little. “All the same,” he insisted obstinately, “Othello’s good, Othello’s better than those feelies.” “Of course it is,” the Controller agreed. “But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead.” “But they don’t mean anything.” “They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience.” “But they’re . . . they’re told by an idiot.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


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.