Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Immanentizing the Eschaton

This was quoted in a tweet that didn't indicate the precise source. Walter Lippman wrote it in 1937 but it seems just as relevant right now:
Their doctrine is that disorder and misery can be overcome only by more and more compulsory organization. Their promise is that through the power of the state men can be made happy. Throughout the world, in the name of progress, men who call themselves communists, socialists, fascists, nationalists, progressives, and even liberals, are unanimous in holding that government with its instruments of coercion must by commanding the people how they shall live, direct the course of civilization and fix the shape of things to come .... But the burden of proof is upon those who reject the oecumenical tradition of the western world. It is for them to show that their cult of the Providential State is in truth the new revelation they think it is, and that it is not, as a few still believe, the gigantic heresy of an apostate generation.
I Googled a phrase from the quotation above. The source is The Good Society by Lippman published in 1937.


A few weeks ago Alan Jacobs wrote an appreciation of historian C.V. Wedgwood, "...few historians today, even those rare birds who even make an effort to tell a good story, can hold a candle to Wedgwood." I once owned her A Coffin for King Charles and maybe still do but I can't find it. I enjoyed that but don't recall reading anything else of hers. Today Battlefields in Britain arrived. It was originally published in 1944 near the end of the war in Europe. This is a recent reprint. A description:
Written by the noted historian C.V. Wedgwood, Battlefields in Britain dives deep into the major battles within the British Isles from the Norman Conquest of the eleventh century up to the 1940s. Spanning centuries of tumultuous British history, the accounts of battles are accompanied by a map of each battle area, offering a full scope of the combat. Wedgwood provides wonderfully detailed accounts of conflicts such as the fierce Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066, between the Norman-French and English armies who fought for the throne, and the fifteenth-century battle of Tewkesbury, which effectively wiped out the royal Lancaster family. In her edge-of-your-seat description of the Battle of Culloden, Wedgwood speaks of the palpable impending doom of the invasion, while in the Battle of Britain, fought mostly by plane in British skies, she describes the airmen who "left the quivering air signed with their honor." Wedgwood was famous for visiting the grounds of the original battle sites often during the season or month that the battles took place to pace out the paths of combat, making sure she had a clear vision of the battle scene, and her research is evident in her riveting accounts.

Battlefields in Britain includes battles of the Welsh Wars, Falkirk, Bannockburn, Barnet, Bosworth, Flodden, Edgehill, Marston Moor, Inverlochy, Naseby, Dunbar, Killiecrankie, and Culloden, among many others, making it an indispensable resource for both historians and war buffs.
From her introductory "General Survey":
...who knows what really takes place in battle. Certainly not the combatants: how then the historian? Something more and less than knowledge is needed, something without which knowledge is useless. The sense of the past, the imaginative mind which can think the scene again, call into being the fears and the 'hopes of the brief intensified hour, see that bend of the stream round the willow clump, this gentle dip, that bare hillock as the anxious soldier saw it, feel the sun or the mist of three centuries ago to be the sun and the mist of to-day, let the landscape teem suddenly with its long-buried dead, call up the blood of a hundred humble ancestors and send it racing through twentieth century veins.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke
On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Eye?
  O that was where the Norseman fled,
When Alfred's ships came by.

Trite? Possibly: but how much they miss who lack this sense of place and heritage, who do not see in Maiden estuary the tall black prows of the Danes, or in the Highland glen the crouching clansmen of Montrose? ....
This is going to be good.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The locked-room mystery

From CrimeReads today, "Solving Impossible Crimes."
A murder is committed in a room that is locked from the inside, or sealed, or closely observed by witnesses. Nobody saw the killer escape. Yet that is exactly what has happened. The killer is gone, evidence is scarce and there are no eyewitnesses to the crime. Enter, a detective who is determined to solve this seemingly unsolvable crime. ....

Locked-room mysteries are stories about impossible crimes. They’re literary puzzles about ‘whodunit’ and ‘howdunit.’ ....
especially "howdunit."

The writer, himself the author of a locked-room mystery, describes some of the best including Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and John Dickson Carr's Three Coffins. His description of the latter:
Written in 1935, this novel by John Dickson Carr, arguably the king of locked-room mysteries, is widely considered the greatest locked-room mystery ever written. A visitor goes into the study of another man. Shots are fired and the first man is discovered by people outside the room to be dying from a gunshot wound. The visitor has disappeared into thin air. The snow on the ground and on the roof by the room’s window is completely undisturbed. There’s not a single footprint.
I was pleased to also find a Sherlockian story from a book I bought in high school and still have. John Dickson Carr again:
"The Adventure of the Sealed Room,"
by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr

This novel written by Arthur Conan Doyle’s son, Adrian, and John Dickson Carr was written in the 1950s. It’s about a couple who are found locked in a room in what was believed to be a murder-suicide attempt with the husband shooting his wife and then killing himself. But Sherlock Holmes has a quite different opinion of what happened once he gets involved.
I think I'll read that this afternoon.

Solving Impossible Crimes: Why Locked-Room Mysteries Still Captivate Crime Fiction Fans | CrimeReads

Monday, July 29, 2019


David French who was a youth pastor in a Kentucky church for a few months in 1998 writes about "Joshua Harris and Evangelical Purity Culture," from which:
.... This wasn’t wanton repression or cruelty. Many parents had entered adulthood wounded by past broken relationships. They regretted the mistakes of their youth and desperately wanted their kids to avoid similar heartbreak. Also — and this is crucial for understanding purity culture — they fervently believed in a specific earthly reward for their child’s youthful obedience. Courtship represented the best method of ensuring a healthy, sexually vibrant marriage to a faithful spouse.

This is what writer Katelyn Beaty called the “sexual prosperity gospel,” an “if/then” transactional relationship with God that manufactures a series of promises from scripture and then creates a form of Christian entitlement and expectation. “I did what you asked, Lord, now may I see my reward?”

Beaty’s critique is well taken, and it’s certainly true that purity culture built a series of (often wildly unrealistic) expectations about the marriage relationship that awaited kids who courted. But I think it did something even darker — in its effect (if not its intent), it reversed the gospel message, teaching Christian kids that they risked being defined by their sins, not by Christ. ....

In point of fact, the gospel message rests first on bad news, then on indescribably good news. The bad news is simple: You were never “pure.” It’s not as if sex or drink or drugs represent the demarcation line between righteous and unrighteous. They are not and were never the “special” sins that created particularly acute separation from God. Yes, they could have profound earthly consequences, but they did not create unique spiritual separation.

The indescribably good news is that from the moment of the confession of faith, believers are not defined by their sin. They’re not defined even by their own meager virtues. They’re defined by Christ. Moreover, they find that “for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This does not by any stretch mean that past sin wasn’t sin — one of my best friends is an eleven-years-sober addict who did dreadful things during his worst days — but it does mean that his past now gives him a unique ability to reach suffering people. His terrible stories and his past pain have been redeemed, transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.

One of my first acts as youth pastor was to lift the ban on dating. Ending legalism is not the same thing as sanctioning sin, and I have no idea if there was more or less extramarital sex as a result of the dating ban or the purity rings. But it was incumbent upon me — in the limited time that I had in leadership — to tell the truth, and the truth was that legalism is its own kind of sin. To create burdens where Christ did not is an act of arrogance. It’s deeply harmful. And, sadly, it’s a way of life in all too many Christian churches. ....

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Messianic schoolmasters"

In "What Were Robespierre’s Pronouns?" Peggy Noonan argues that there are parallels between the French revolutionaries and "the language and behavioral directives that have been coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America." The essay's subtitle is "The French Revolution was led by sociopaths who politicized language, much like today’s Jacobins." The French:
It was more a nationwide psychotic break than a revolt—a great nation at its own throat, swept by a spirit not only of regicide but suicide. For 10 years they simply enjoyed killing each other. They could have done what England was doing—a long nonviolent revolution, a gradual diminution of the power of king and court, an establishment of the rights of the people and their legislators so that the regent ended up a lovely person on a stamp. Instead they chose blood. Scholars like to make a distinction between the Revolution and the Terror that followed, but “the Terror was merely 1789 with a higher body count.” From the Storming of the Bastille onward, “it was apparent that violence was not just an unfortunate side effect.... It was the Revolution’s source of collective energy. It was what made the Revolution revolutionary.”

That is from Simon Schama’s masterpiece Citizens....

It was a revolution largely run by sociopaths. One, Robespierre, the “messianic schoolmaster,” saw it as an opportunity for the moral instruction of the nation. Everything would be politicized, no part of the citizen’s life left untouched. As man was governed by an “empire of images,” in the words of a Jacobin intellectual, the new régime would provide new images to shape new thoughts. There would be pageants, and new names for things. They would change time itself! The first year of the new Republic was no longer 1792, it was Year One. To detach farmers from their superstitions, their Gregorian calendar and its saints’ days, they would rename the months. The first month would be in the fall, named for the harvest. There would be no more weeks, just three 10-day periods each month. ....
They also gave us Celsius, useful in the lab but not reflecting the lived experience of human beings:

 Back to Noonan:
So here is our parallel, our hiccup. I thought of all this this week because I’ve been thinking about the language and behavioral directives that have been coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America. ....

There is a tone of, “I am your moral teacher. Because you are incapable of sensitivity, I will help you, dumb farmer. I will start with the language you speak.”

An odd thing is they always insist they’re doing this in the name of kindness and large-spiritedness. And yet, have you ever met them? They’re not individually kind or large-spirited. They’re more like messianic schoolmasters. ....

Friday, July 26, 2019

John Macnab

It's been a while since I read John Macnab but I remember it as a pleasure. I own it in an omnibus volume with Huntingtower and Three Hostages. Today, from a review of a new biography of Buchan by his grand-daughter:
John Buchan’s 1925 novel John Macnab opens with a prominent Londoner complaining to his doctor of ill health. Told there is nothing physically wrong with him, Ned Leithen insists that there is. In successful middle age, life has gotten too easy, and the good things have lost their savor. Pressed for a remedy, the doctor suggests that Leithen go “steal a horse in some part of the world where a horse-thief is usually hanged.” Scotland doesn’t hang horse thieves, but the poaching adventures that follow are an escapist delight, with something serious to say about politics, journalism, property rights and even archaeology.

Richard Hannay, the hero of The Thirty-Nine Steps and its four sequels, is Buchan’s most famous creation, but Leithen is his most autobiographical. Like his creator, Leithen is a successful lawyer and politician; a serious fly-fisherman and mountaineer; and a botanist with a taste for classical scholarship and English poetry. It’s Leithen who stars in The Power-House (serialized in 1913), the novel that kicked off Buchan’s run of “shockers”—as he called his thrillers and adventure stories. And it is Leithen who brings it to a close in Sick Heart River (1941). If Hannay is the man of empire, all blunt action and luck brought on by confidence, Leithen is the man of the capital, a power broker bent on doing good but also on escaping to the country at week’s end. ....

Buchan wrote 17 shockers, and all bear repeated reading. His historical novels have a fine feeling for olden days and for personages from Oliver Cromwell to Daniel Boone to Samuel Johnson. .... Ignore the papers and read these charming tales. Or John Macnab if you need the stronger medicine of illegally catching a salmon on a dry fly to banish ennui.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

“Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest”

Via Anxious Bench where Chris Gehrz wrote about the origin and meaning of these mealtime prayers:

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest
And let these gifts to us be blessed
Be present at our table, Lord
Be here and everywhere adored
These mercies bless and grant that we
May strengthened for thy service be.

G.K. Chesterton elsewhere:
 You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


"Here Is Love, Vast as the Ocean," is identified many places as the "love song" of the great 1904 Welsh Revival. The music is good, the words are good, and they are good together.

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.
Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.
On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy  
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

From YouTube, a performance by Huw Priday of the first two verses first in Welsh, then English:

YouTube - Here is Love vast as the Ocean, CyberHymnal: Here Is Love, Hymns of Grace, #185

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Monkey trial

.... Almost all of the “conventional wisdom” concerning the Scopes trial is false. Contrary to the impression created by Inherit the Wind and other popular accounts (including the sensational reportage of H.L. Mencken of The Baltimore Sun, one of the leading journalists of his day), the trial was not a fundamentalist inquisition, but an ill-conceived publicity stunt by Dayton businessmen who were trying to attract tourists to the small town—to put Dayton on the map. To generate a test case challenging the statute, the American Civil Liberties Union had offered to defend any teacher charged with violating the Butler Act, gratis. Dayton businessmen recruited Scopes to agree to serve as the defendant, even though he was unsure he had actually taught evolution. Nonetheless, Scopes volunteered to be charged. The trial—for a misdemeanor offense—was staged. Celebrity lawyers were solicited to participate for the sole purpose of increasing public interest in the case. The Baltimore Sun paid part of the defense’s expenses because it knew that the spectacle would sell newspapers, and it did. A lot of them.

If the goal was to generate interest in Dayton, it worked. For eight days, the town was the focus of worldwide attention. During the trial, the population of Dayton swelled from about 1800 to about 5000, with a raucous carnival atmosphere. Yet the trial was cut-and-dried; the jury deliberated only nine minutes before rendering a guilty verdict. Scopes was fined $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court promptly reversed the conviction on a technicality, and the state chose not to retry the case. Tennessee eventually repealed the Butler Act.

The eight-day show trial was a media circus, but little else. It resolved no factual disputes, established no new law, and settled no constitutional issues. It was a purely manufactured controversy—a radio-era precursor to reality TV and cable news. Bizarrely, Bryan died in his sleep (at age 65) five days after the trial ended. Instead of putting Dayton on the map in a positive way, the case left the town in undeserved ignominy.

Many plot features of Inherit the Wind—which was conceived during the Cold War as an anti-McCarthyism allegory—were entirely fabricated. Scopes (Bertram Cates) was not arrested in class and was never jailed; there was no unhinged fundamentalist preacher (Rev. Jeremiah Brown) exhorting the town; the trial was not accompanied by lynch mobs; Scopes/Cates was never burned in effigy and had no conflicted fiancée; and Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) was not a deranged buffoon or hysterical fanatic. Whatever one thinks about Bryan’s political or economic views, scholars regard him as one of the most important figures of the Progressive Era, and even as one of the most influential American politicians who never served as president. His portrayal in Inherit the Wind (by Fredric March) as an incompetent windbag is a disgraceful farce. .... (more)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

As One who speaks with authority

John Stott in Why I Am a Christian, commenting on Matthew 11:25-27:
.... Is it possible for human beings to come to know God, for creatures to know their Creator? And if so, how is it possible for us to do so? Jesus addresses himself to these questions when he says that the Father has ‘hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children’ and that ‘no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’. We note at once that the word common to both affirmations is the verb ‘revealed’. The implication is that there can be no knowledge of God without his initiative in revelation.

First, God is revealed only by Jesus Christ. It may be helpful to jump straight to the second statement of verse 27: ‘No-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ That is to say, only Jesus knows God, so only he can make him known. This means, of course, that God is fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ. It does not deny that there are other and lesser revelations. For example, God is partially revealed in the ordered loveliness of the created universe, in the moral demands of the human conscience and in the unfolding developments of history. But, although creation speaks of God’s glory, conscience of his righteousness, and history of his providence and power, nobody tells us of his love for human beings in their alienation and lostness, or of his plan to rescue us and reconcile us to himself, except Jesus of Nazareth.

This is the claim of Jesus, as we have already seen. And this is why every enquiry into the truth of Christianity must begin with the historic person of Jesus. The most unnerving thing about him is the quiet, unassuming yet confident way in which he advanced his stupendous claims. There was no fanfare of trumpets, no boasting and no ostentation. His manner was altogether unaffected. Yet here he is daring to call ‘the Lord of heaven and earth’ (the creator and sustainer of all things) his Father, and himself the Father’s Son (verse 25), indeed ‘the Son’ in an absolute way; and that all things have been committed to him by his Father (that is, that he is the heir of the universe). And finally he claims that as only he knows the Father, so only the Father knows him; he is an enigma to all others. There therefore exists between them an unparalleled reciprocal relationship. This is Jesus’ multiple claim. It is breathtaking in its sweep. Nobody else has dared to make it, while retaining his moral integrity, sanity and balance. ....

Mindful of mortality

From the instructions "Regarding Christian Death and Burial" in The Book of Common Prayer 2019:
The burial of a Christian is an occasion of both sorrow and joy—our sorrow in the face of death, and our joy in Jesus' promise of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. As the burial liturgy proclaims, "life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens."

The Christian burial liturgy looks forward to eternal life rather than backward to past events. It does not primarily focus on the achievements or failures of the deceased; rather, it calls us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and his triumph over death, even as we celebrate the life and witness of the deceased.

The readings should always be drawn from the Bible, and the prayers and music from the Christian tradition. A wake preceding the service and a reception following the service are appropriate places for personal remembrances. Where possible, the burial liturgy is conducted in a church....

The Book of Common Prayer has always admonished Christians to be mindful of their mortality. It is therefore the duty of all Christians, as faithful stewards, to draw up a Last Will and Testament, making provision for the well-being of their families and not neglecting to leave bequests for the mission of the Church. In addition, it is important while in health to provide direction for one's own funeral arrangements, place of burial, and the Scripture readings and hymns of the burial liturgy, and to make them known to the Priest. (emphases added)
The Book of Common Prayer 2019

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The good way

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, 
and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
But they said, We will not walk therein.
Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Lovers of truth, when they are not heated with political debate."

The entry at Anecdotal Evidence this morning included a quotation from Barton Swaim's 2010 review of a collection of Samuel Johnson's writings. From that review in the now unfortunately defunct Weekly Standard:
...Johnson was more concerned with morality than with politics; he cared about individual rather than societal reform, and so could never be the father, or even the uncle, of any variety of political conservatism.

...Johnson’s is a moral and intellectual, not a political, conservatism, but it is no less relevant for that. If there is any truth to Michael Oakeshott’s claim that conservatism is a disposition rather than a creed, that disposition was given its fullest and most memorable expression in the works of Samuel Johnson: preeminently in his essays from The Rambler, The Idler, and The Adventurer, and in his short philosophical novel, Rasselas; but also in his literary criticism and other occasional writings. ....

Johnson was not, as those who’ve read only Boswell have often concluded, a reactionary. He thought of himself as a Tory, but that label did not mean for him a hidebound attitude toward all things modern. He certainly had a perverse streak (as, surely, all conservatives must have if they wish to preserve their sanity), and he enjoyed making outrageous and abusive remarks in conversation. But Johnson’s views were in chief respects more forward-looking and Whiggish than otherwise. In the essays reprinted in this volume, he inveighs against punishing debtors with prison sentences, men who take advantage of vulnerable women, the ill-treatment of children by fathers, and of Indians by the North American settlers. ....

...[H]is refusal to countenance any belief that oversimplified the human experience, and his dim view of man’s benevolence—made him skeptical of the claims of politics. The mental vulgarity of politics robs men of good cheer, and gives them the moral license to say things they know to be untrue. In Idler 10, Johnson discusses two of his friends. “They are both men of integrity,” he says, “where no factious interest is to be promoted; and both lovers of truth, when they are not heated with political debate.”

Politics usurps the mind, and tempts its participants to exaggerate the importance of government policies beyond all rational bounds. .... (much more)

Thursday, July 11, 2019


Michael Dirda in The Washington Post: "Johnston McCulley dreamed up Zorro 100 years ago":
1940 film version
...[O]n Aug. 9, 1919 — All-Story Weekly published the opening installment of a serial entitled “The Curse of Capistrano.” Set in a highly idealized Southern California during the early 19th century, when Spanish grandees ruled vast estates and Franciscan missions brought Christianity to the indigenous population, the novel introduced a new adventure hero, the masked avenger of the downtrodden and oppressed, the daring and debonair swordsman Zorro. .... In the late 1950s, Zorro grew especially popular because of a Disney television series featuring handsome Guy Williams as the daredevil highwayman. Even now, I can remember the thrilling words of the show’s musical opening:
Out of the night
When the full moon is bright
Comes a horseman
Known as Zorro!
When Johnston McCulley published “The Curse of Capistrano,” he clearly didn’t expect to write more stories about its protagonist. At the end of the novel, he reveals — what any reader will have guessed much earlier — that the languid aesthete Don Diego Vega is actually Zorro. What’s more, McCulley obviously copied this central plot device (as well as Zorro’s league of noble caballeros) from Baroness Orczy’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” In that thrilling swashbuckler, the foppish, slightly dim Sir Percy Blakeney is secretly the intrepid Scarlet Pimpernel, whose guerrilla actions help save the innocent from the guillotine during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. ....

Given that it’s midsummer, you might consider putting aside those emotionally wrenching novels you don’t really want to read or those dispiriting analyses of our national politics. They can wait until September. Now is the time to ride with Zorro.
The Curse of Capistrano

And this...

Monday, July 8, 2019

Prayer books

My copy of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 arrived in the mail this morning. I value this sort of thing primarily for the prayers although I also very much like some of the specific orders of worship, especially because they keep the focus of worship where it ought to be — on God. I've accumulated several versions of the Book of Common Prayer. The 1559 version was used in the time of Elizabeth I. The 1928 Episcopal book is valued by American traditionalists. The new 2019 revision was prepared for the Anglican Church in North America, a denomination that split from today's Episcopalians over issues regarding the authority of Scripture. Here, in the second row, are some of the other collections that I have used when preparing to lead worship.

The middle book in the top row is the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer containing the 1928 revision. It was given to me by a fellow teacher who had once studied for the Episcopal priesthood. The Presbyterian collection from 1906 includes a lot of prayers from various traditions and also prayers for home/family worship. The final book, The Worship Sourcebook (2004), is published by Christian Reformed affiliated houses and is a really good resource.

Sunday, July 7, 2019


One of the most important books that informed my understanding of conservatism was The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 by George Nash. City Journal has an interesting article about  "George H. Nash: Conservatism’s Historian." Nash has recently published a new book, Reappraising the Right, in which he observes that:
By the 1990s...the movement had come to resemble a hand, with each digit representing a different branch of the broad conservative coalition. Here is how he describes the conservative movement:
[Conservatism] is a coalition of five distinct parts: 1) libertarians apprehensive of the threat of overweening government and the welfare state to individual liberty and free-market capitalism; 2) “traditionalist” conservatives, appalled by the weakening of the ethical norms and institutional foundations of American society at the hands of secular, relativistic liberalism; 3) anti-communist cold warriors, convinced that America was increasingly imperiled by an evil empire seeking the conquest of the world; 4) neoconservatives—disillusioned men and women of the left who had been “mugged by reality” and were gravitating toward the conservative camp; and 5) the Religious Right, traumatized by the moral wreckage unleashed upon America by the courts and by the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s.
Fusionism was an attempt, led by Frank Meyer of National Review, to reconcile the first two branches. It succeeded, at least insofar as it managed to establish a basic conservative consensus that combined a defense of Judeo-Christian values, support for capitalism, and—something all conservatives could agree on—anti-Communism. Nash’s own brand of fusionism accepts capitalism and the individual liberty on which it is based: “Liberty,” he avers, “is a vital component of what conservatives need to defend.” But liberty is not enough, and traditionalism complements libertarianism in answering a question that Nash finds central: “What kind of life should you lead once you are given freedom?” By emphasizing the importance of religious customs and the pursuit of personal virtue, traditionalists captured Nash’s sympathies.
That was the kind of conservatism that I believed in. That is the kind of conservative I still am. But, "Nash argues that Trump has shattered the fusionist consensus within conservatism. On every front, Nash claims, Trump has challenged or subverted the conservative orthodoxy. ...." I used to feel at home in what I thought of as the "Conservative Movement." I haven't felt that way since the upheaval in 2016. If you're interested in these kinds of questions you may find this interesting.

Friday, July 5, 2019


C.S. Lewis on faith:
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11 "Faith" (1952)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Born on the 4th of July

In 1926 on the day after his birthday and the one-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday of the United States Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech in Philadelphia:
.... It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. ....

.... A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause. ....

Independence Day

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

"The pleasure of hating"

At the Wall Street Journal yesterday, one explanation of our current predicament:
.... We Americans are becoming ever better at vilifying people who disagree with us. This taste for hate seems perverse, an intentional pursuit of displeasure. Hate disturbs one’s inner peace, as does being hated.

But the compensatory pleasures of hatred—in particular its enhancement of self-esteem—are underrated. Hatred is self-congratulatory. It involves expressing superiority to its objects, and patting yourself on the back for not being them.

The pleasure of hating is also the quickest and most effective method of bringing people together. When you declare your opponents to be obviously evil and stupid, you are congratulating not only yourself but the people who agree with you for being intelligent and good. Any expressions of disagreement in your vicinity, on the other hand, threaten your sense of the purity of your own motives and the indubitable truth of your opinions. Such things menace your self-regard, and hence the meaning of your life.

Meanwhile your opponents are off in their “bubble,” “silo” or “ghetto” congratulating themselves and one another by their vilification of you and your ilk. This makes everyone feel good, but also makes any sort of political dialogue across the line impossible, not to mention dangerous.

For a couple of generations, educators have taken as obvious that their purpose is to enhance young people’s self-esteem, and that extreme self-esteem is tantamount to redemption. A couple of generations of Americans who grew up in those schools learned that having their self-esteem damaged is tantamount to being violently victimized. ....