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.

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