The North American Patristics Society has jumped onto the woke bandwagon. A recent notice calling for nominations for committee membership ran down the lead-lined grooves of the usual invocations offered up to today’s political deities:
The Nominating Committee supports the Society’s efforts to be a more inclusive, diverse and equitable organization. To that end, we encourage nominators to consider the diversity of the membership’s races, ethnicities, genders, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, disabilities, economic status and other diverse backgrounds. We also seek diverse research expertise (regions, languages, methodologies, and disciplines that strengthen this Society’s work) in various governance bodies. And we seek nominations that will foster governance that better reflects the diversity of institutional settings, academic ranks, independent non-tenure-track scholars, and other historically underrepresented groups that comprise NAPS.
No doubt these measures will lead to a blossoming of scholarly excellence. Though one wonders about the organization’s name. Patristics? Doesn’t that sound frighteningly similar to patriarchy? Surely it’s got to go.
R.R. Reno. Yes, surely it must and will.
C. S. Lewis writing about the proper virtue of patriotism:
For a long time yet, or perhaps forever, nations will live in danger. Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defense. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for “their country” they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilisation, or humanity. This is a step down, not up.
As Lewis goes on to say, it is humbug to pretend that the interests of one’s nation, however just, are simply those of Justice herself: “And nonsense draws evil after it. If our country’s cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation. A false transcendence is given to things very much of this world.” When it comes to world affairs, it’s a very American habit to claim this kind of false transcendence.
What it means to be Christian
Some decades ago, I made the acquaintance of a new lawyer in town. He had at least one very distinguished family predecessor in the law, and we would occasionally get together for God-talk.
I was still Protestant. He was Roman Catholic, but he had attended one of the few Evangelical law schools in the land. He joked that his fellow-students were incredulous: "What’s a Catholic doing in a Christian law school?" was their amusingly provincial question.
When I a few years later told him that I was becoming Orthodox, though, he exclaimed "It will be so good to have another Christian lawyer in town!"
His exclusion of his fellow-Catholic attorneys from "Christian" was surely similar to his Evangelical law school classmates did to him as a Catholic.
Having had more than 25 years to chew on it, though, I can’t take his seeming double-standard as sheer hypocrisy. The meaning of "Christian" is contextual and even then is pretty equivocal.
I attended a visitation this week for an old friend. It was held in the kind of Protestant Church that has sent its denominational affiliation down the memory hole. It’s no longer "Baptist" in its name, but like virtually every independent and pseudo-independent Church, it’s baptist just the same. (Just ask them to baptize your infant if you don’t believe me.) The surfaces in the warehouse auditorium were mostly flat black. The pulpit was plexiglas. There were keyboards and drum sets and such. All standard issue megachurch wannabe.
But there was one big shock. There were scads of photos of the decedent from a young age, monuments to his athletic successes, pictures of family, family present to condole, many friends to do the condoling, but … no decedent. Not even in a closed-casket. And this was not one of those delayed-because-of-Covid "Celebrations of Life." He had died just days before.
They already had cremated him (which by itself makes me cringe, but I thought cremation (cringe!) was usually done after the viewing).
The word that leapt to mind was "gnostic": believing, explicitly or implicitly, that the body is evil (at best a vessel for the "real you") and that death frees the soul from it.
That really was a kind of gut-punch. That is extremely unlike traditional Christianity.
So "Christian" sort of needs to be elastic and contextual just for us all to get along in a society that is, however decadently, part of The Thing That Used to Be Western Christendom. And I do not doubt for a moment that decedent and his wife claim(ed) that title sincerely and fervently. But I’m having some trouble seeing how theirs is substantially the same faith as mine (the one I embraced 25 years ago). Symbols matter. Reductionism is sub-Christian (if we’re being rigorous rather than sociable). Cremation, too.
This whole society is much closer to my late friend’s view than to mine. I’m the oddball, relatively speaking.
I take comfort for my deceased friend that we’re not saved by holding perfect doctrine, though holding wrong doctrine ramifies dangerously. That’s why the Church held ecumenical councils to condemn some of the wrongest wrong doctrines and to lay some boundary-stones.
Hot & Bothered
[T]o anyone who honestly faces the human condition, it seems clear that mankind will worship something. So in the absence of the Transcendent it should be no surprise that, at least in this country, we have made our politics into a something of a secular religion, both among the camps of the Right and of the Left. And it is not a particularly contemplative faith, but rather one that gets us all hot and bothered. This broad brush approach addresses extremities, and I know there is a middle ground where this is not as applicable; but the leavening effects of these trends work back towards the middle.
Terry Cowan, who blogged too rarely for my taste but is making up for it on Substack.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven …. (Matthew 5:11-12a)
Orthodoxy has finally arrived in America: NPR has done a hatchet-job on it.
Yes, Matthew Heimbach is a real person who was, very briefly, a newbie Orthodox Christian before his Priest discovered his racist attitudes and excommunicated him, calling on him to repent. The rest of the NPR piece is insinuation and uncorroborated "findings" from progressives within Orthodoxy or adjacent to it.
There was a time when I’d have told you that you cannot by any means trust anything from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but its 2014 piece centered on Heimbach and his "Traditionalist Youth Network" is ironically better-balanced than the NPR piece. The money quote:
Despite their prominence in white nationalist circles, Heimbach and his compatriots remain marginal figures in the Orthodox community. Metropolitan Savas Zembillas, chairman of the Committee for Church and Society of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, says that they just don’t understand Orthodoxy. According to Savas, it’s not unusual to encounter “converts to Orthodoxy who came in carrying baggage from other jurisdictions, just barely Orthodox, still wet from their chrismations [the ceremony through which one becomes a member of the Orthodox Church]. But they came to Orthodoxy because they imagined it reinforced their deepest held convictions, which were on the spectrum that would lead to Nazism, although not yet there.”
Short of politicizing Orthodoxy by a kind of profiling — giving heightened scrutiny to the political and racial beliefs of all young white males seeking admission — I’m not sure what we (Orthodoxy) are supposed to do. And I’m glad I wasn’t excluded because of my particular "baggage" once I made clear my intention to trust the trustworthy Church.
What’s wrong with this picture?
American Christians have gained a tremendous amount of legal liberty in the last few decades, but they’ve lost quite a bit of power. They are not happy about the trade. (H/T David French, interviewed by Andrew Sullivan
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