Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The lie

A lie about the nature of man has spread that threatens our ability to be the people God made us to be. The lie substitutes man’s self-image for the image of God and rejects the dignity of “all men created equal.” It finds unique expression in Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. It was evident in Kennedy’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changing how government defines marriage.

He wrote:

Were their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners’ claims would be of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners’ contentions. This, they say, is their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment. (Emphasis added)

The “immutable nature” phrase is a legal nod to the suspect classes test that judges use when determining whether discrimination is unjustifiable. A man’s maleness is his immutable nature. A black man’s blackness is his immutable nature. An Irishman’s Irishness is his immutable nature. All these accidental facts describe man’s literal genetic makeup and his origins, which are unchangeable. They are historical fact. The idea behind outlawing this type of discrimination is that no man should be limited in his pursuit of happiness because of circumstances of his birth that he had no control over.

Kennedy maintains that same-sex attraction is on the same level as gender, skin pigment, and national origin. He says that if you’re attracted to a person of the same sex, that attraction is part of your innate nature, set at birth and constant through your lifetime. That is false. Who and what we are attracted to changes throughout our lives. “Nurture,” as opposed to “nature,” has a huge impact on sexual development. Why are sexually molested children more likely to become molesters themselves? Why are children raised by same-sex couples, who cannot conceive naturally, more likely to be gay than children of heterosexual parents? Why does watching pornography limit what one finds erotic to those filmed scenarios? Whether we are born sexual blank slates or not, the images we see and the positive and negative reinforcements we receive from our surroundings play a large part in what we find attractive. The fact of the matter is claiming same-sex attraction is fixed, obvious, and immutable is a statement of faith with far less reasoning in support of it than the opposite conclusion, that sexuality is malleable and subject to an infinitude of post-natal factors. (I haven’t mentioned the complex issues of self-identification, behavior, or will.)

Aside from the constitutional harm, the travesty of Kennedy’s decree that there is anything about “immutable” about the petitioners in Obergefell is it forecloses to them the possibility that they can change. To be sure, they will change. It is impossible that they will not change. But the ruling deceives them by spreading the lie that they have no agency in their condition, that their “orientation,” whatever it is now or a year from now or 10 years from now, is hard-coded into them. They are confirmed in the belief that they have no choice in whom-what-where-how they are sexually gratified, and therefore they are entitled to pursuing that gratification, just as the Irishman is entitled to be from Ireland—because he has no choice in where he is from.

Think what effect this has on someone—I should say everyone—who struggles with sin, who treats his spiritual isolation with vain pursuits and empty pleasures, who yearns for God and doesn’t know it. Is he more or less likely to discover his way into God’s glory if he believes he was born like this and there’s nothing he can do to change it? What hope does this person have when he hears the fulfillment through the flesh that eludes him, that tortures him, that mocks him, is his highest aspiration? None.

This consigns man’s body and his time on earth to illegitimate ends. We are not made to find meaning in self-gratification. It leaves no room for the Spirit that changes or individual will. “Futile! Futile! Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!” Solomon concluded (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The truth is better: God provides sanctuary from our diminutive form in His Son’s crucified and risen body. Paul writes:

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Secondly, Kennedy assumes license to redefine marriage in order to give the petitioners the personal fulfillment, which he conflates with dignity, that they seek in marriage’s privileges and responsibilities. He says same-sex marriage is the “only” path to such ends—not only assuring the outcome of the case, but making the petitioners’ dignity dependent on the Court’s action. Combine this with gays’ “immutable nature,” and the Court’s rationalization is complete:

  1. Gays can’t change.
  2. Gays’ only path to dignity is via same-sex marriage.
  3. Therefore, gays must be able to marry.

As Clarence Thomas says in his dissent, government does not sit in the divine judgment seat. Government does not bestow dignity on people by issuing a marriage license. Government does not make one man inherently equal to another by giving official sanction to his desires, innate or otherwise. God has already made him equal. Man’s dignity derives from the Creator.

Government does not make one man less valuable than another because the same law applied equally to them circumscribes his will more than the other. The law is about what is just. It does not change because some find it more difficult to obey than others.

Had the Court denied the petitioners, their dignity would still be intact. The law’s demands of them still would be no different than of anyone else. They would be as they were created: equals before the law. Contrary to Kennedy’s claim, they could deal with the law’s conflict with their nature in a number of ways. They could grudgingly respect it and struggle with it. Or they could ask God to free them from the yoke of sin, to pull them off the path that their own feet have led them down. That would require an admitting fault and a willingness to change.

That’s what the lie expressly forbids, which makes it so insidious. Man substitutes his own truth for God’s, prying him away from the one true remedy to his spiritual condition.

Related: “Thanks for Everything, Justice Kennedy.”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Real faith, circumcised heart

When faith is real, the heart is circumcised. But man cannot see the heart. He sees the body, which is why we cannot judge the heart. “People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” God told Samuel (1 Samuel 16:7).

The legalism of the Pharisees judged the body because the letter of the law concerned the body. Circumcision was of the body. Worship of God that the Pharisees accepted was irrespective of the heart, meaning you could get away with rote, insincere worship. “Watch out! The time is soon coming when I will punish all those who are circumcised only in the flesh,” God told Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:25).

That’s not to say the body is allowed free rein. “Present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service,” Paul wrote (Romans 12:1). A circumcised heart produces fruit in the body. “Be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves,” James wrote (James 1:22). The fruit in the body is good works for God’s glory. They are not a religious test, however. They are not the causes of salvation, but the effects.

Hence, these teachings are not opposite, as they appear on the surface, but coexistent:

  • Jesus taught we should “hate” life and renounce worldly possessions for service to God (Luke 14:25-33).
  • Paul cautioned against “works” in the sense of man earning his way into heaven, justified by his righteousness (e.g., Galatians 2:16). Jesus is man’s justifier (Romans 3:26), not man himself.

Think of a stream, overflowing because the river it feeds is backed up. God is the river, you are the stream. What you who are saved give is overflow from the abundance of grace God gives him through Christ’s body.

Christianity is “lawless” in one sense. The law, which circumcises the flesh, has been fulfilled by the faith of Jesus, which circumcises the heart. Losing the testament of the law is no great loss. The “law is not intended for a righteous person” (1 Timothy 1:9). Those who don’t need the law do well without it. Those who need the law to govern their bodies need a change of heart even more.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Slippery slope

It’s not a fallacy. It’s consistently the result of accepting the logical basis of an argument with no limiting principle.

I save no kindness for the Confederate flag, but give power-mad liberals an inch, and they’ll take a mile. That’s why it’s important to never side with them on anything, even if it seems ethically sound. For then you become party to a vicious iconoclastic movement that knows no bounds. You don’t temporarily switch sides in a war when you find out the other side has a better Social Security plan.

If I trusted the stone throwers would stop at the Confederate flag at the Confederate war memorial in Columbia, South Carolina, I might have agreed with them. But I know their motives and that they would not stop. Rod Dreher, whom I am fond of, fell into their trap at the start of it last week, calling for the Confederate flag to be removed, and now he buries his head in the sand at what has followed.

“If the monuments are strong statements of past values, defacing them is the easiest and loudest way to rebuke those statements.” –Michael Allen

This is lunacy. War memorials; statues of historic figures; stained glass; names of buildings, streets, and towns; even Civil War-themed video games have come under attack. For what, exactly? For being racist throwbacks?

No. This is a test of de facto speech controls. The target is speech activity that offends a race-based political class that can’t forgive the sins of the past no matter how many times forgiveness is asked for, as well as speech activity that uncomfortably does not prove another political class’s non-racism. As is the case with tyranny’s more terrifying, insidious form, the people willingly convert to it, rather than resentfully being imposed on by the state.

And shame on these people for overshadowing what was a great story of redeeming grace into a cynical political play. A literal connection between the Confederate flag and Dylann Roof is nonexistent. But liberals at war can’t let a crisis go to waste, and they are skilled at manufacturing ammo from unlikely sources.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In man’s image

“Government doesn’t define marriage, government recognizes marriage,” is not some facile trope to fall back on when challenged by a libertarian demanding government get out of the “marriage business.” It explains the truth of marriage’s pre-political, or apolitical, foundation in the natural order. Government didn’t define marriage in the first place, so how can it redefine marriage? All government should do is facilitate social reality by formally recognizing it.

It can redefine marriage, of course, if it completely slips its constitutional moorings and asserts creative—nay, divine—authority over nature. C. C. Pecknold writes at National Review:

When the state recognizes the nature of marriage as something prior to itself, it secures its own limits. When we acknowledge and recognize that by nature we are both social and political, we suddenly change the nature of politics. Our government no longer is tempted to define the whole of reality.

Why would a constitutional republic want to legislate everything? Conversely, why wouldn’t a totalitarian state want to legislate everything? Under Leviathan, everything is political, especially the personal. There is no part of human life it dares not touch. It’s motivation is in Adam and Eve’s original sin, that man knows better than God who created him who man is and what man is. Marriage, along with everything else, is remade to suit a whim, whatever artifice those in power fancy themselves living under instead of the created order.

As I’ve written before, a state that thinks it commands nature is destined for a hard fall. Reality is not up for debate, and only a delicate infrastructure of interconnected lies can keep the pretense up. Even then, the truth beats on it like a hurricane on a beach house: relentlessly, eroding the foundation, until the structure collapses. Because the lie cannot win on an even playing field, totalitarians must suppress the truth (for example, calling it “bigotry”).

More Pecknold:

The redefinition of marriage has been underway for some time, as many have noted. But we often miss the political significance of redefining marriage. What has happened is that the conjugal union is no longer posited as being prior to the political union, as it was for Aristotle, and even more strongly in the later development of the Western tradition. We have been witnessing the steady erasure of pre-political limits.

Marriage has been severed from nature as such, and it has certainly been severed from any notion that marriage is for the propagation of the next generation of a society. We may think of the cultural transformation happening organically, but everything from contraception to no-fault divorce to abortion has been enforced by the government—most often at the highest level of the judiciary. But we should ask ourselves: Who stands to benefit from these erosions of marriage? One reason why a state might enforce a legal redefinition of marriage is that the conjugal definition reminds us that there’s something natural on which the state depends.

All the branches of our government stand to win a temporary increase in power from the erosion of marriage. The state will not resist any cultural attacks on conjugal marriage because such attacks further erase any notion of a social nature prior to the state.

To put it bluntly, the reason why we have seen so much power behind redefining marriage is not because it serves 1.8 percent of the population. It is because it serves Leviathan—the Hobbesian vision of an absolutely sovereign state with ever-expansive control over every aspect of our lives.

No matter what hubristic nonsense erupts out of the Roberts court by month’s end, this will be as true then as now, as true as it has ever been.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Odds and ends 6/24/2015

The Red Pill Report is basically defunct. For a time I was the only one posting there. But the site’s inactivity relative to the hustle and bustle of 2012 has resulted in a huge drop in web traffic, especially this year. My requests of the site owners to transfer administrator rights to me, the only active contributor of late, have gone unanswered. So I’m finished with the Red Pill Report.

How do, and don’t, we judge? Richard Mansel answers:

Matthew 7:1 does not mean we cannot judge. It means we must not judge based on faulty information or by standards we do not wish to be judged by. We judge lovingly by the word of God, alone (1 John 4:1; Ephesians 4:15).

If someone’s life clearly violates God’s will, we are not sinfully judging by recognizing the obvious fact. Instead, they have judged God and they are arguing with him, not the Christian (Luke 13:3-5).

Charles Pope writes more completely:

Any time the Church or an individual Christian points to a certain behavior as wrong or sinful, inevitably wagging fingers are raised and an indignant tone ensues which says something to the effect, “Ah, ah, ah ... you’re being judgmental! The Bible says, judge not. Who are you to judge your neighbor!?” etc. This is clearly an attempt to shut down discussion quickly and to shame the Christian, or the Church into silence. To a large degree this tactic has worked and modern culture has succeeded in shaming many Christians from this essential work of correcting the sinner. Too many are terrified and simply shamed when they are said to be “judging” someone because they call attention to sin or wrongdoing. In a culture where tolerance is one of the only virtues left, to “judge” is a capital offense. “How dare we do such a thing!” The world protests, “Who are you to judge someone else?!”

But pay careful attention to what this Gospel text is actually saying. The judgment in question is not as to the question of right and wrong. Rather, the judgment in question regards punishment or condemnation. The next sentence makes this clear when it speaks of the measure we use. The measure in question is the level of condemnation, harshness or punishment that is used. A parallel passage in Luke makes this clear: Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. ... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38). Hence the word “judge” here is understood to mean an unnecessarily harsh and punitive condemnation. To paraphrase the opening verses here would be to say, “Be careful not to be condemning for If you lower the boom on others, you will have the boom lowered on you. If you throw the book at others, it will also be thrown at you.”

Further, the parable that follows in the passage above about the plank in one’s eye does NOT say not to correct sinners. It says in effect, get right with God yourself and understand your own sin so that you will see clearly enough to properly correct your brother. Hence, far from forbidding the correction of the sinner the passage actually emphasizes the importance of correction by underscoring the importance of doing it well and with humility and integrity.

In these times one of the most forgotten virtues and obligations we have is the duty to correct the sinner. It is listed among the Spiritual Works of Mercy. St. Thomas Aquinas lists it in the Summa as a work of Charity: [F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well. (II, IIae, 33.1)

Now to be sure, there are some judgments that are forbidden us. For example we cannot assess that we are better or worse than someone else before God. Neither can we always understand the ultimate culpability or inner intentions of another person as though we were God. Scripture says regarding judgments such as these: Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Further we are instructed that we cannot make the judgment of condemnation. That is to say, we do not have the power or knowledge to condemn someone to Hell. God alone is judge in this sense. The same scriptures also caution us against being unnecessarily harsh or punitive. As we already read from Luke, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. .... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38). So in this text “to judge” means to condemn or to be unmerciful, to be unreasonably harsh.

Andrew Lynn considers the Benedict Option at Ethika Politika:

MacIntyre’s wider work envisions thick moral communities that are as revolutionary as they are retreatist, and that encompass both inward-facing and outward-facing virtues and practices. In Dependent Rational Animals MacIntyre develops from Aquinas the virtue of just generosity, a form of solidarity that extends to those with needs outside one’s immediate community. This openness to and concern for the outsider reflects the practices of Benedictine monasteries themselves.

So is this retreatist? Or could this vision entail bonds of solidarity that actually surpass the “contract of mutual indifference” found in liberalism? Turning away from “imperium maintenance” to the local politics of “grassroot organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, small businesses that serve neighborhood needs, schools, clinics, and transport systems” is hardly political quietism or indifference. Such activities work within the niches and cracks of existing structures to build alternative practices and social relations that resist dominant cultural norms—what Erik Olin Wright labels “interstitial” strategies of transformation.

Or, think small.

I admit, I’m ready to abandon macro-political discourse as a means of reaching others. Given my new focus in bringing people into communion with God, most of what I’ve been writing about since 2012 seems futile and pointless.

“Not every decision is an economic decision.” –Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on his corporate backing of same-sex marriage

That’s right. Beyond a minimum level of income, people, right or wrong, care about more important things than getting paid.

That’s why the “the color of money is green” rationalization the Dodgers owner uses in the beginning of 42: The Jackie Robinson Story sounds so trite and disingenuous. He integrated his team not for profit, but because he believed it was right.

Daniel Payne at the Federalist comments on the upside-down-ness of it all:

As my colleague Robert Tracinski recently pointed out, the growing normalization of insanity has resulted in the concurrent stigmatization of normalcy itself. Perhaps more than any other political and philosophical debate in recent memory, transgenderism has revealed this dismaying tendency in much of politics: if someone does not agree with the tenets of Progressive gender politics, then he will be painted as a deranged, antediluvian, backwards-looking hatemonger who can’t get past his own outmoded psychological neuroses. Conservatives are increasingly on the receiving end of a full-blown gaslighting, while progressives and libertarians congratulate themselves on how open-minded and tolerant they are.

Rod Dreher comments:

I can’t tell if Dolezal really believes this fairy tale, or if she’s putting up a brave front. What makes this so delicious is that she doesn’t say, “OK, you got me, I’m white, but was passing as black.” No, she insists that she really is black, solely because she says she is. And she calls her “biological identity” something that was pressed upon her—that is, not a fact rooted in observable reality, but a narrative, a story that she did not choose. So, by identifying as black, she overthrows her oppressive parents, and oppressive biology.

To be clear: what’s interesting about Dolezal’s case is not that she claims to be a white woman who has chosen to masquerade as black; she claims to be black.

If Dolezal is wrong, then why is Bruce Jenner right to claim that he is really a woman, and not a man who chooses to present himself as a woman? After all, the biological fact is that Jenner is male; he is even retaining his penis. He is only a woman because he says he is, and enough people agree with him to make this biological fiction true.

Praxis has a good read on the hypocrisy of accepting Jenner but not Dolezal for what they say they are:

What’s important—that is, what’s revealing about contemporary consciousness—is the asymmetry between the mass media’s embrace of Bruce/Caitlyn and their mocking condemnation of White/Black Rachel (or, at the very least, their assumption that something is very wrong with this woman and her choice of careers).

The media punished anyone who voiced what was, no doubt, all of our gut reactions when we saw Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair cover: “That’s gross/ridiculous/sad.” But behind this enforcement of dogma lay a tacit sense that little was really at stake, that Caitlyn’s act was ultimately personal and harmless to others. In the words of Kris Jenner, Caitlyn’s supportive ex-wife, “[I]t’s about you, and I just want you to be happy.”

Rachel’s transformation is something altogether different. Putting aside legal questions of fraud, Rachel engaged, not in self-actualization, but in identity theft. She stole and demeaned African-Americans’ being and history. The media’s punishment of Rachel—greater than that inflicted on those who ridiculed Caitlyn—reveals the degree to which race really matters, especially to those who identify as liberal and leftist.

In understanding this, it is important not to take leftist dogma at face value. According to “social justice” logic, Rachel was, in fact, Black. For some eight years, she forewent “White skin privilege” and lived her life as a Black woman, recognized as such by White and Black alike. But ultimately, she can’t be Black. And in a month or so, at the end of her running the media’s freak-show gauntlet, she will be remember as a disturbed ... hilariously bizarre ... maybe tragic White woman. That’s a fate Rachel will never escape.

Nor will Jenner, in the end. Honeymoons don’t last forever.

Father Lawrence Farley writes eloquently about how the zeitgeist tries to redefine Jesus to assimilate Christianity:

It is not simply a moral issue; it is a Christological one. If we continue ecumenical dialogue with groups that bless homosexuality, at best we are wasting our breath. At worst we are adding credibility to what Paul called “another gospel.”

The problem, of course, is a perennial one. In every age, there are Christians who compromise with the standards of their age, and accept the world’s values as their own. These people always call themselves “Christians” and denounce those who disagree with them as rigid and wrong. But the Christ whom they preach is not the real Christ. They in fact misrepresent Him, and preach a Christ made up by themselves, one who conforms more closely to their own secular age. St. Paul, St. John, and St. Athanasius pulled the mask off them in their day, and denied them the label of “Christian.” It is time that we Orthodox follow in their footsteps now and do the same to those who offer a counterfeit faith and another Jesus.

Controlling 300 million people is hard. Controlling the handful of companies that provide their healthcare is easy. Here’s the Wall Street Journal:

The economics of ObamaCare reward scale over competition. Benefits are standardized and premiums are de facto price-controlled. With margins compressed to commodity levels, buying more consumers via mergers is simpler than appealing to them with better products, to the extent the latter is still legal.

David Gayvert reviews Kirsten Powers’s book, The Silencing. Excerpt from the review:

No doubt Powers is genuinely offended by what she labels the “illiberal” impulses and practices of progressives who attack rather than argue against opinions that do not comport with their own enlightened views. She cites example after example of attempts by these leftists to shame, defame, destroy, and otherwise shut down debate and politicize virtually every issue, public and private. Throughout the book, Powers proudly professes her liberalism, and posits, but doesn’t really argue—i.e., provide evidence other than her own sensibilities—that “true” liberalism requires free and respectful debate and consideration of the opinions of others. In this she convinces the reader of her fair-mindedness, if not her clear thinking. She cites a litany of dots, but can’t bring herself to connect them. The reader is left thinking: how can she catalog and condemn all this leftist behavior and not see its connection to its underlying philosophy?

For what is hugely missing in Powers’s book—and powerfully present in say, David Mamet’s tale of conversion from a “brain dead” liberal in good standing to a thinking conservative—is the recognition that the attitudes and practices that she abhors are not a distortion or aberrational trend of her professed political proclivities, but an inescapable consequence. Notwithstanding the lofty rhetoric about helping the downtrodden and the “little guy,” the left has ever been about seizing and holding power to enforce equality of condition upon all but the elite who exercise that power. That goal can ultimately brook no dissent. Powers constantly emphasizes her personal preference for respectful debate, but fails to recognize that with very few exceptions, modern liberals have no interest in engaging in free and fact-based debate to persuade others; they see themselves as possessors of the “Secret Knowledge,” and want to impose it upon the benighted masses who are incapable of leading useful lives without it.

As I like to put it, liberalism suppresses the truth in order to elevate equality. They are motivated by envy of the natural order of cause and effect.

Peggy Noonan gushes praise for Charleston:

I have never seen anything like what I saw on television this afternoon. Did you hear the statements made at the bond hearing of the alleged Charleston, S.C., shooter?

Nine beautiful people slaughtered Wednesday night during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their relatives were invited to make a statement today in court. Did you hear what they said?

They spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”


As I watched I felt I was witnessing something miraculous. I think I did. It was people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way.

What a country that makes such people. Do you ever despair about America? If they are America we are going to be just fine.

Matthew Schmitz of First Things guest-writes an analysis of Pope Francis’s encyclical for the Washington Post. It’s a generous analysis, ignoring much of the social justice pablum that taints Francis’s socio-economic statements.

It turns out Francis is channelling Berdyaev and Dooley. Excerpt from Schmitz:

Francis’s notion of “human ecology”—one of the document’s guiding terms—is hardly your standard-issue environmentalism. Part of respecting nature is “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity.” He also states that “concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”

In the nineteenth century, Pope Gregory XVI banned railroads from the papal states, calling them chemins d’enfer, or ways of hell, a play on their French name, chemins de fer, or ways of iron. His fear was that they would spread bourgeois and republican ideas subversive to papal authority and right faith. Gregory’s belief that technology profoundly shapes belief and so must be carefully weighed and, at times, resisted is the central conviction of Francis’s new encyclical. Whatever one thinks of any particular condemnation from Gregory or Francis—be it of planes, trains, or automobiles—this is not a foolish view of technology.

One of the books Francis cites most frequently is Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. The dystopian novel imagines a future in which religion has nearly disappeared but the Pope now reigns in Rome, having exchanged all the church’s other properties in Italy for sovereignty of the city. One of his first acts is to ban technology, reasoning that “on the whole the latter-day discoveries of man tended to distract immortal souls from a contemplation of eternal verities.”

He admits that the banned technologies are “good in themselves, since after all they gave insight into the wonderful laws of God.” Nonetheless, he judges “that at present they were too exciting to the imagination.” His conclusion, one very close to Francis’ in Laudato Si, leads him to remove “the trams . . . the laboratories, the manufactories.” And so, Benson writes, “the trains ceased to run.”

Francis’ encyclical synthesizes the great cultural critiques of his two most recent predecessors—Benedict XVI’s “dictatorship of relativism” John Paul II’s “culture of death”—in terms of opposition to the locomotive of technological rationality. Francis writes that “We should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm, the rise of a relativism,” which leads to sexual exploitation, abandonment of the elderly, and the taking of innocent life. Francis identifies a “throwaway culture” and what John Paul II called the culture of death. In Laudato Si, Francis reframes the philosophical points of his predecessors in more technological and ecological terms. He is opposing modernism—that old antagonist of the Church—not just as a philosophical proposition but also as a material reality.

Of course, neither a one-world authority nor a thriftier use of electricity nor a ban on trains can solve the spiritual crisis Francis foresees. In one of the best moments of the fascinating, sprawling encyclical, he rejects solutionism—that false belief that life is a series of problems that we must solve rather than live—as yet another aspect of technological rationality. This does not mean that his many suggestions are in vain, for they all aim to goad the reader—believer or unbeliever—toward a life of self-sacrifice. Whether or not this kind of ecological conversion can be sustained without a Christian conversion, one can be grateful that Francis has offered not so much a set of solutions as a great challenge.

Make a place your home and preserve it for your flourishing.

Lest you think the Pope had turned a corner...

He calls for a “true world political authority.” Fossil fuels “need to be replaced without delay.” We should also consider taking public transit, car-pooling, planting trees, turning off the lights and recycling. Alongside these practical suggestions appear a few spiritual ones: saying prayers before and after meals, resting on the Sabbath, reconsidering Jubilee.

This is the takeaway for enviro-statists. The rest they won’t pay attention to.

Will a “true world political authority” circumcise the heart or the body? So much for subsidiarity.

Gordan Runyan writes at Freedom Outpost:

No humanistic theory is able to sort out the philosophical puzzle called the problem of the one and the many. That is, while rejecting the revelation of God, no government is going to be able to provide the proper balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the larger community. Communism goes all the way over to the community side (and thus the name of it) while secular libertarianism occupies the opposite end of the spectrum. But the God of the Christian is Himself both a unity and a community, as per the historic doctrine of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell together as separate Persons, and yet in perfect oneness. The Christian God, in His own nature, is the ultimate solution to the problem of the one and the many. As we implement His word to us, in every area of our lives, we will strike that balance that humanists will never know.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ultimate test of democracy

Note: This is a follow-up to “Debt catatonia.”

Greece, the birthplace of democracy, faces the ultimate test of democracy. Only one outcome guarantees they will pass the test.

Greeks’ elected representatives, especially Syriza, must have their constituents’ support to pay their debt to Europe. If they don’t have that support, they will either accede to Europe’s demands, incurring rebellion, or kill the deal, thereby forcing a snap election to form a new government, as the prime minister has pledged. Who knows what government that would give rise to.

But, if you think default is inevitable, if you think Greeks can’t forsake their socialism, if you think Greeks will never make good on their debt, defaulting sooner is preferable to defaulting later. Defaulting later just prolongs the pain of Greece’s economic depression.

Related: “Divided we fall.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

Debt catatonia

The specter of default has instigated a fatal bank run in Greece. Greeks want their money securely in hand before an emergency conversion from the euro back to the drachma and subsequent devaluation diminishes their bank-held assets. The cash crisis and the Greek government’s fear of a Tarir Square-like rebellion is the Europeans’ best bargaining chip in bringing the West’s problem child to heel.

With friends like the these, old enemies can suddenly become allies. Russia is opening its arms to those who’ve had their fill of failed liberal democracy. The Financial Times reports:

As Washington tries to maintain a united western front in support of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, a Greek default could provide Moscow an opportunity to sow new divisions among America’s European allies.

“You can easily see how geopolitically this would be a gift to Russia,” says Sebastian Mallaby at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You do not want Europe to have to deal with a Greece that is a member of Nato but which all of a sudden hates the west and is cosying up to Russia.”

Greece was regarded as a frontline state against the advance of Soviet-backed communism during the cold war. Its EU accession in 1981 is one factor that cemented its identity as a western democracy, something that was deepened 20 years later with the adoption of the euro.

Just so.

“The West is decadent and divided!” rings in my mind. That line was said by a comically bellicose Soviet general in the 1983 James Bond flick Octopussy, back in the days when we made fun of Russia’s false assuredness of strength. Does the West carry the same claims to superiority as it did then? Our debt catatonia suggests not.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charleston testifies

The testimony out of Charleston is nothing less than a miracle. The media’s race narratives are being drowned out by the lifting up of hands to God. Evil is being overcome with good (Romans 12:21).

When mass murderer-to-be Dylann Roof walked into a black church in Charleston, he found people whose lives were images of the Gospel. From the Associated Press:

Dylann Roof, 21, arrested on Thursday in connection with the murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has reportedly confessed to the crime.

Sources told NBC News that during his confession, he said he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” but in the end decided he had to “go through with his mission.”

Yesterday it was reported that Roof entered the church on Wednesday night and sat with a prayer group for nearly an hour before launching a racist tirade, producing his weapon, and opening fire, killing pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney along with eight others. Law enforcement officials told the Washington Post Roof “sat silently” during the prayer meeting, whose topic for the evening was the Gsopel according to Mark, while “declining to join the discussion.”

As an unchurched, single man who joined a congregation of about a thousand people, I know how intimidating joining a large club can be. Everyone knows each other, and you’re worried there’s no place for them to accept you like a brother. My church is attentive to young visitors like me circa 2012 and encourages them to get involved. The more active you are, the quicker you make friends and get integrated.

It sounds like this church was no different, only evil had set upon Roof’s heart. He was impressed with the individuals he had intentions for, but the ends of his Nietzschean “mission” dehumanized them sufficiently to justify their slaying in his twisted thinking.

Can you imagine if Roof changed his mind that night, if he didn’t kill those church folk. If he went home, stashed away the gun, and came back on Sunday to hear more. If by hearing he also believed, and he accepted Jesus into his life. It sounds unbelievable, but how unbelievable is it really, when you look at the healing power of forgiveness already at work in Charleston?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blind relativism

An alternate headline for this piece could have been: “Attention-seeking stoner mocks religion.” The deference shown to him is maddening.

The self-proclaimed minister of love and “Grand Pooba” has created The First Church of Cannabis, described on the church’s Go Fund Me page as “based on love and faith with the plant we know and love.”

Possession of marijuana is illegal in the state, but [Bill] Levin claims its usage in his church is a religious practice, undoubtedly testing the law. Members of the First Church—cannabiterians—will light up in worship at 12:01 p.m. July 1 in Indianapolis—just one minute after RFRA becomes a valid defense for religious practices in Indiana. “It’s possibly going to be one of the greatest test cases in the world—religious freedom,” Levin told MSNBC. “We’ll find out how religious freedom really works here in Indiana.”

The First Church has gained recognition as a tax exempt religious organization and purchased a church building, joining the national ranks of religious institutions—some whose religious practices seem just as odd as those of The First Church of Cannabis.


Churches that meet the basic description of a church outlined by the Internal Revenue Service automatically receive a tax exemption. No application is required for these unconventional churches to receive the same religious classification afforded to denominations of yesteryear.

“This is the problem when you have the government involved in deciding what is and what is not a religion by giving [churches] that preferential treatment—that [the government] can’t make that judgment call about whether this is a sincerely held belief or not,” Nick Fish, the national program director for the American Atheist Center, told RealClearReligion. “They have to take [churches’] word for it.”

The IRS Manual says it “cannot pass judgment on the merits of the applicant’s asserted religious belief.”

Secular materialists faithfully fall back on this argument. To preserve a Constitutionally mandated neutrality, the state has to play dumb, they say.

Do they really expect us to believe the Establishment Clause dictates that you can’t tell the difference between phonies like Levin and people who worship and are inspired to good works by the God of mercy and grace? The Founders were too discerning to believe such obtuse silliness.

A limited government respectful of citizens is vested in their ability to support each other. Even from a secular point of view, belief in Jesus’ divinity and incumbent commandments to love your neighbor and serve the weak is an attitude you want to encourage. The same cannot be said for getting high. A state that wants to oppress citizens is equally vested in such waste of human and intellectual capital.

As for Levin, he’s a walking, talking proof of concept. He deserves the tyranny that his abuse of liberty solicits—which would be fine with me if he lived in a hermetically sealed bubble. But, unfortunately, that tyranny must also apply to more people, nobler people, than just him. In a free society, the rights the state allows you is proportional to the responsibility you show in exercising them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

True colors

Bruce Jenner didn’t break new ground. He’s only the highest-profile case of a transgender gaining mainstream acceptance, which the LGBT cult has been working at for years. If anything was accomplished, the event broadened the ever-expanding category of people it is acceptable to call bigots.

I find that Rachel Dolezal cuts a more fascinating, more sympathetic figure. Her life as a transracial woman hasn’t gotten off the block well:

She resigned Monday as president of the Spokane, Washington, branch of the NAACP, lost her position as a part-time African studies instructor at a local university, was fired as a freelance newspaper columnist and is being investigated by the city Ethics Commission over whether she lied about her race on her application when she landed an appointment to Spokane’s police oversight board.

The usual suspects who normally bend over backwards to the idol of tolerance have no tolerance for Dolezal. And why not?

According to the prevailing socio-racial basis for blackness, Dolezal is black. If it’s true (which it’s not) black men like Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain aren’t “really black” because they’re conservative and successful and they’re not social justice agitators, then the opposite must be true. “Acting black” is the meaningful qualifier for blackness. It takes priority over skin pigment. Therefore, if she “acts black,” she’s black. The melanin-deficient Dolezal thought so, because that’s what’s taught.

Furthermore, the racial motives of the organizations that hired Dolezal couldn’t be more transparent now that they’ve fired her. Before she was revealed to have white parents, she had all the social justice credentials and qualifications they were looking for. Now that the black mask is shed, she’s dispensable.

It’s their true colors, not Dolezal’s, that have been revealed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Odds and ends 6/10/2015

“George Orwell devoted his later years to warning us that while the fascist method of destroying free expression was easily identified (albeit only with difficulty combatted), the leftwing totalitarian impulse to squelch unpopular speech was far harder to resist—couched as it was in sloganeering about the ‘people’ and ‘social justice.’” –Victor Davis Hanson

Kirsten Powers reprimands Mike Huckabee:

What’s ridiculous—and sad—is that Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and his audience appear to believe that transgender people are perpetrating some sort of hoax so they can gain access to public restrooms or locker rooms. Or that they’ve chosen to identify with a particular gender on a whim. This disregards the actual lives of transgender people, some of whom (though not all) have described feeling trapped in the wrong body from a young age. What’s so funny about that?

What’s funny is that facts are being molded to conform to confusion, the logical conclusion of relativism. Abnormal is the new normal. The exceptions are the rules. Under the new constitution, we ask “Does it offend gays or trannies?” before “Is it true?”

Dr. Paul McHugh lays it all out there at Public Discourse:

Publicity, especially from early examples such as “Christine” Jorgenson, “Jan” Morris, and “Renee” Richards, has promoted the idea that one’s biological sex is a choice, leading to widespread cultural acceptance of the concept. And, that idea, quickly accepted in the 1980s, has since run through the American public like a revelation or “meme” affecting much of our thought about sex.

The champions of this meme, encouraged by their alliance with the broader LGBT movement, claim that whether you are a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, is more of a disposition or feeling about yourself than a fact of nature. And, much like any other feeling, it can change at any time, and for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, no one could predict who would swap this fact of their makeup, nor could one justifiably criticize such a decision.


What is needed now is public clamor for coherent science—biological and therapeutic science—examining the real effects of these efforts to “support” transgendering. Although much is made of a rare “intersex” individual, no evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions. Plenty of evidence demonstrates that with him and most others, transgendering is a psychological rather than a biological matter.

In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it. With youngsters, this is best done in family therapy.

The larger issue is the meme itself. The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture and is reflected everywhere in the media, the theater, the classroom, and in many medical clinics. It has taken on cult-like features: its own special lingo, internet chat rooms providing slick answers to new recruits, and clubs for easy access to dresses and styles supporting the sex change. It is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges.

Via Rod Dreher, Father Robert Barron writes:

The gnostic heresy has proven remarkably durable, reasserting itself across the centuries. Its most distinctive mark is precisely the denigration of matter and the tendency to set the spirit and the body in an antagonistic relationship. This is why many thinkers have identified the anthropology of René Descartes, which has radically influenced modern and contemporary attitudes, as neo-gnostic. Descartes famously drove a wedge between spirit and matter, or in his language, between the res cogitans (thinking thing) and the res extensa (thing extended in space). In line with gnostic intuitions, Descartes felt that the former belongs to a higher and more privileged dimension and that the latter is legitimately the object of manipulation and re-organization. Hence he says that the purpose of philosophy and science is to “master” nature, rather than to contemplate it. One would have to be blind not to notice how massively impactful that observation has proven to be. Echoes of Descartes’s dualism can be heard in the writings of Kant, Hegel, and many of the master philosophers of modernity, and they can be discerned, as well, in the speech and attitudes of millions of ordinary people today.

All of which brings me back to Bruce Jenner. ... In justifying the transformation that he has undergone, Jenner consistently says something along these lines: “Deep down, I always knew that I was a woman, but I felt trapped in the body of a man. Therefore, I have the right to change my body to bring it in line with my true identity.” Notice how the mind or the will—the inner self—is casually identified as the “real me” whereas the body is presented as an antagonist which can and should be manipulated by the authentic self. The soul and the body are in a master/slave relationship, the former legitimately dominating and re-making the latter. This schema is, to a tee, gnostic—and just as repugnant to Biblical religion as it was 1,900 years ago.

For Biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul’s manipulation. Moreover, the mind or will is not the “true self” standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self. Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue.

I might suggest the “true self” is none other than being God’s people.

Paul was a judgy pants:

I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:3-5)

A few verses later Paul permits the Corinthians to associate with sinners, for Christians and sinners share the world.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)

He means to not associate with a hypocrite, one who sins willfully while under grace.

Practically speaking, we associate with the living because we are living. We serve as disciples and ministers of truth in a fallen world. We don’t withhold the gospel from sinners, for how would they be saved without hearing the good news? And if the gospel isn’t intended for sinners, who then is it for?

Michael L. Grable grasps the argument that ought to end the prospect of court-ordered same-sex marriage:

Race—as one Obergefell brief notes—is an immutable condition. Homosexuality isn’t. It’s a sexual activity. Applying the Equal Protection Clause to immutable conditions is one thing; applying it to sexual activities is another.

Too bad Anthony Kennedy is not listening.

Who do you think helped kill traditional marriage in Texas by leaving Texans vulnerable to an activist Supreme Court? The business lobby. WOAI reports:

The bill to prevent county clerks from issuing gay marriage licenses failed under pressure from traditionally Republican-oriented groups, like the Texas Association of Business. Those groups would be expected to again work to defeat the measure in a special session.

Big business is pro-gay. The cost-benefit analysis of defending marriage keeps coming up negative. There’s too much money to be lost by leaving your brand vulnerable to the gay mafia’s negative publicity racket.

I was too generous in my defense of Paul Ryan. There is a strong anti-social, materialist streak in Republicans’ business/libertarian/individualist wing. They have more neoliberal instincts than conservative ones. It’s become clear to me as they’ve taken cynical positions detrimental to social man and the civil society.

The same-sex marriage-toting National Review runs some common sense by Matthew J. Franck:

Clearly the makers of [anti-miscegenation] laws understood that marriage was naturally possible for interracial couples. Ironically, these laws were premised exactly on a recognition of childbearing’s centrality to the meaning of marriage; they were all about “mongrelization” and the “amalgamation” of the races. The Supreme Court that struck them down recognized them as a white-supremacist intrusion on a fundamental right to marry of couples who could marry, and who would marry if the law let them alone.

Contrast this with the “bans” on same-sex marriage enacted by many states in the past two decades. They actually prohibit nothing on the part of same-sex couples — forestalling only state recognition of their relationships as marriages. No act is criminalized, and no relationships of adults with each other or with children are targeted for disruption.

In our entire legal history, no one bothered to legislate a restriction of marriage to sexually complementary couples until the day before yesterday because everyone understood what “marriage” meant and would (if asked) have thought it naturally impossible for two men or two women to marry. No injustice to anyone was ever the intent or purpose of American marriage laws where same-sex couples are concerned—in stark contrast to the purposeful Jim Crow attack on men and women of different races. When states began in the 1990s and 2000s to legislate the man-woman definition of marriage, it was to protect the conjugal meaning from redefinition by culture warriors and judicial activists—not to interfere with marriages everyone recognized as actual ones but wished to prevent for the sake of a racist ideology. And this time the law’s salute to children’s centrality to marriage was embodied merely in the elementary recognition that the institution should be restricted to those who can be mother and father to a family built on their union.

“Scientists” adjusted the hot 1930s and the cool 1970s out of existence. Now they’ve ret-conned the inconvenient temperature flatline since 1997. The Los Angeles Times catapults the propaganda:

A fresh look at the way sea temperatures are measured has led government scientists to make a surprising claim: The puzzling apparent hiatus in global surface warming never really happened.

In a study published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote that Earth’s global average surface temperature had climbed 0.2 of a degree Fahrenheit each decade since 1950, without interruption, due to the heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases.

That conclusion seemingly negated an awkward piece of evidence in the debate over whether human activity is indeed warming the planet.


“It’s always good to go back and look at the data as carefully as possible and make sure it’s calibrated correctly,” said William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “But the hiatus is history and it was real.”

The future is determined. It’s the past that’s always changing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Milking McKinney

This business in McKinney is so tedious, so pathetic I find it difficult to muster any kind of reaction.

The race agitation, professional rabble rousers are getting worked up yet again, this time over an event where no one was hurt, where a cop didn’t even fire his gun. Are they so bored that they’re not content destroying one city at a time? There are still abandoned buildings in Baltimore to burn.

These profiteers of hate have no clue what they’re saying. They read from the same script, no matter the reality of what they’re commenting on.

I watched the video. It was chaos, a crime scene waiting to happen, if it hadn’t happened already. The cop skinned his pistol when a bunch of punks ran up while he was crouched, surrounded him, and made ready to throw down. What’s the district attorney going to discipline—much less prosecute—him for? He’s mob appeasement collateral damage, if nothing else. I’ve seen videos of cops being criminals, killing people for no good reason, like in Staten Island, like in North Charleston. This McKinney cop isn’t one of them.

Nothing good comes from this charade. Nothing. Just futility and anger.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Judgy pants

Kyle Smith highlights the zeitgeist in the New York Post:

Americans are simply, broadly, more tolerant of others who are unlike them. As a general trend, that’s heartening. On the other hand, what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life?

Let’s say we grant that it’s morally acceptable to smoke weed. Is it morally acceptable, then, to spark up a joint every day at lunch? Sure, as long as you’re not endangering others. It’s still not terribly wise, though.

If your unemployed roommate drifts through life perpetually stoned, you may resist telling him what he’s doing is morally wrong, but it is, in some sense, not OK. Does being a good and tolerant citizen mean you should shrug when a person chooses to spend his life wasted?

Increasingly, we don’t want to judge others for anything, even if what they’re doing is destructive. But is being non-judgmental the same as granting tacit approval, even support?

A priest of the new civic religion—Andrew Sullivan, say—is going to have to explain the difference between what most people contemptuously call “judging” and moral correction. Because as it stands I see no difference between them.

It’s Christian doctrine to not judge others, that is, to not hold yourself righteous before others because you’re less a sinner than they are (Romans 2:1). It’s also Christian doctrine to be sober, avoid licentiousness, and love your neighbors. Reminding people of God’s plan for them isn’t judging. Sometimes it hurts, but always it helps. If it didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be working like it’s supposed to. There are harsh consequences for turning from God towards the barbed embrace of “what I want.”

As for the revolution’s “silence,” it was plenty loud enough. The only silence was from those who didn’t fight it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bruce Jenner, self-unmade man

ABC News fixes a quote from someone who lives on Bruce Jenner Lane who refers to Bruce Jenner with masculine pronouns. They change “he” to “she” as if correcting a factual misstatement. There’s not one reference to Bruce Jenner’s real gender in this appalling article.

“I don’t care what [she] did with [her] life because that’s [her] personal choice,” one resident told ABC News. “But I’d rather not change the street name. That’s just a lot of paperwork, you know?”

It sounds like a job for the Ministry of Truth. First they’ll rename the street as if the nonexistent “Caitlyn” Jenner won the gold in the women’s decathlon at the 1976 Olympics. Next they’ll redact the name of the actual female winner from the record books. Some male name will be made up to replace Bruce Jenner as winner of the men’s decathlon.

We mock Communist state media arms like Pravda for their cognitive dissonance and sickly devotion to an immoral cause. But the fealty to transgenderism is not coerced by state power. It’s bought into willingly. American elite media are worse than apparatchiks just following orders. They’re true believers.

Polite society lauds Bruce Jenner’s obvious mental illness as normal, and anyone who dares call it abnormal is being a judgy pants. This is the result of years of indoctrination in a cultural milieu of neo-Marxist nondiscernment. Jenner will waste his millions cosmetically defacing his body, while the illusion of radical self-redefinition encumbers American kids’ growth into mature adults. They’ll rage bitterly against their own anatomies because they won’t be able to hear the politically incorrect truth that God made them in His image.

Putin banned this suicidal propaganda. Bans, we’re told, are bad. Choice is good, so it goes. What of the thing that is banned? Judge the thing on its merits, not on reaction to the ban.