20211214 Journal

Our first snow on Thorson Ridge. At just under 3000 feet elevation, our weather here in the Sierra foothills is more like Camino than Pleasant Valley just south.

Snow prompts me to think of renewal and new birth, appropriate for this Advent season. New beginnings can start any day; however, they must be quickly acted upon while things are fresh and clean.

En una noche obscura
Con ansiasen amores inflamada o dichosa uentura
sali sin ser notada
Estando ya mi casa sosegada

Once in the dark of night
when love burned bright with yearning,
I arose (0 windfall of delight!)
and how I left none knows — dead to the world my house in deep repose;

(from “The Poems of St John of the Cross” original Spanish Texts and English Translations by John Frederick Nims, 3rd Edition 1995; University of Chicago Press)

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Memorandum On the Immaculate Conception

(This was written by St John Newman, “This Memorandum is given as written off by the Cardinal for Mr. R. I. Wilberforce, formerly Archdeacon Wilberforce, to aid him in meeting the objections urged by some Protestant friends against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.”)

1. It is so difficult for me to enter into the feelings of a person who understands the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and yet objects to it, that I am diffident about attempting to speak on the subject. I was accused of holding it, in one of the first books I wrote, twenty years ago. On the other hand, this very fact may be an argument against an objector—for why should it not have been difficult to me at that time, if there were a real difficulty in receiving it?

2. Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?

3. Does he not believe that St. John Baptist had the grace of God—i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.

4. We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her Son. Just the contrary, we say that she, of all mere children of Adam, is in the truest sense the fruit and the purchase of His Passion. He has done for her more than for anyone else. To others He gives grace and regeneration at a point in their earthly existence; to her, from the very beginning.

5. We do not make her nature different from others. Though, as St. Austin says, we do not like to name her in the same breath with mention of sin, yet, certainly she would have been a frail being, like Eve, without the grace of God. A more abundant gift of grace made her what she was from the first. It was not her nature which secured her perseverance, but the excess of grace which hindered Nature acting as Nature ever will act. There is no difference in kind between her and us, though an inconceivable difference of degree. She and we are both simply saved by the grace of Christ.

Thus, sincerely speaking, I really do not see what the difficulty is, and should like it set down distinctly in words. I will add that the above statement is no private statement of my own. I never heard of any Catholic who ever had any other view. I never heard of any other put forth by anyone.

II

Next, Was it a primitive doctrine? No one can add to revelation. That was given once for all;—but as time goes on, what was given once for all is understood more and more clearly. The greatest Fathers and Saints in this sense have been in error, that, since the matter of which they spoke had not been sifted, and the Church had not spoken, they did not in their expressions do justice to their own real meaningE.g. (1), the Athanasian Creed says that the Son is “immensus” (in the Protestant version, “incomprehensible”). Bishop Bull, though defending the ante-Nicene Fathers, says that it is a marvel that “nearly all of them have the appearance of being ignorant of the invisibility and immensity of the Son of God.” Do I for a moment think they were ignorant? No, but that they spoke inconsistently, because they were opposing other errors, and did not observe what they said. When the heretic Arius arose, and they saw the use which was made of their admissions, the Fathers retracted them.

(2) The great Fathers of the fourth century seem, most of them, to consider our Lord in His human nature ignorant, and to have grown in knowledge, as St. Luke seems to say. This doctrine was anathematized by the Church in the next century, when the Monophysites arose.

(3) In like manner, there are Fathers who seem to deny original sin, eternal punishment, &c.

(4) Further, the famous symbol “Consubstantial,” as applied to the Son, which is in the Nicene Creed, was condemned by a great Council of Antioch, with Saints in it, seventy years before. Why? Because that Council meant something else by the word.

Now, as to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it was implied in early times, and never denied. In the Middle Ages it was denied by St. Thomas and by St. Bernard, but they took the phrase in a different sense from that in which the Church now takes it. They understood it with reference to our Lady’s mother, and thought it contradicted the text, “In sin hath my mother conceived me”—whereas we do not speak of the Immaculate Conception except as relating to Mary; and the other doctrine (which St. Thomas and St. Bernard did oppose) is really heretical.

III

As to primitive notion about our Blessed Lady, really, the frequent contrast of Mary with Eve seems very strong indeed. It is found in St. Justin, St. Irenæus, and Tertullian, three of the earliest Fathers, and in three distinct continents—Gaul, Africa, and Syria. For instance, “the knot formed by Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; that what the Virgin Eve tied through unbelief that the Virgin Mary unties through faith.” Again, “The Virgin Mary becomes the Advocate (Paraclete) of the Virgin Eve, that as mankind has been bound to death through a Virgin, through a Virgin it may be saved, the balance being preserved, a Virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience” (St. Irenæus, Hæer. v. 19). Again, “As Eve, becoming disobedient, became the cause of death to herself and to all mankind, so Mary, too, bearing the predestined Man, and yet a Virgin, being obedient, became the CAUSE OF SALVATION both to herself and to all mankind.” Again, “Eve being a Virgin, and incorrupt, bore disobedience and death, but Mary the Virgin, receiving faith and joy, when Gabriel the Angel evangelised her, answered, ‘Be it unto me,'” &c. Again, “What Eve failed in believing, Mary by believing hath blotted out.”

1. Now, can we refuse to see that, according to these Fathers, who are earliest of the early, Mary was a typical woman like Eve, that both were endued with special gifts of grace, and that Mary succeeded where Eve failed?

2. Moreover, what light they cast upon St. Alfonso’s doctrine, of which a talk is sometimes made, of the two ladders. You see according to these most early Fathers, Mary undoes what Eve had done; mankind is saved through a Virgin; the obedience of Mary becomes the cause of salvation to all mankind. Moreover, the distinct way in which Mary does this is pointed out when she is called by the early Fathers an Advocate. The word is used of our Lord and the Holy Ghost—of our Lord, as interceding for us in His own Person; of the Holy Ghost, as interceding in the Saints. This is the white way, as our Lord’s own special way is the red way, viz. of atoning Sacrifice.

3. Further still, what light these passages cast on two texts of Scripture. Our reading is, “She shall bruise thy head.” Now, this fact alone of our reading, “She shall bruise,” has some weight, for why should not, perhaps, our reading be the right one? But take the comparison of Scripture with Scripture, and see how the whole hangs together as we interpret it. A war between a woman and the serpent is spoken of in Genesis. Who is the serpent? Scripture nowhere says till the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. There at last, for the first time, the “Serpent” is interpreted to mean the Evil Spirit. Now, how is he introduced? Why, by the vision again of a Woman, his enemy—and just as, in the first vision in Genesis, the Woman has a “seed,” so here a “Child.” Can we help saying, then, that the Woman is Mary in the third of Genesis? And if so, and our reading is right, the first prophecy ever given contrasts the Second Woman with the First—Mary with Eve, just as St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian do.

4. Moreover, see the direct bearing of this upon the Immaculate Conception. There was war between the woman and the Serpent. This is most emphatically fulfilled if she had nothing to do with sin—for, so far as any one sins, he has an alliance with the Evil One. {85}

IV

Now I wish it observed why I thus adduce the Fathers and Scripture. Not to prove the doctrine, but to rid it of any such monstrous improbability as would make a person scruple to accept it when the Church declares it. A Protestant is apt to say: “Oh, I really never, never can accept such a doctrine from the hands of the Church, and I had a thousand thousand times rather determine that the Church spoke falsely, than that so terrible a doctrine was true.” Now, my good man, WHY? Do not go off in such a wonderful agitation, like a horse shying at he does not know what. Consider what I have said. Is it, after all, certainly irrational? is it certainly against Scripture? is it certainly against the primitive Fathers? is it certainly idolatrous? I cannot help smiling as I put the questions. Rather, may not something be said for it from reason, from piety, from antiquity, from the inspired text? You may see no reason at all to believe the voice of the Church; you may not yet have attained to faith in it—but what on earth this doctrine has to do with shaking your faith in her, if you have faith, or in sending you to the right-about if you are beginning to think she may be from God, is more than my mind can comprehend. Many, many doctrines are far harder than the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of Original Sin is indefinitely harder. Mary just has not this difficulty. It is no difficulty to believe that a soul is united to the flesh without original sin; the great mystery is that any, that millions on millions, are born with it. Our teaching about Mary has just one difficulty less than our teaching about the state of mankind generally.

I say it distinctly—there may be many excuses at the last day, good and bad, for not being Catholics; one I cannot conceive: “O Lord, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was so derogatory to Thy grace, so inconsistent with Thy Passion, so at variance with Thy word in Genesis and the Apocalypse, so unlike the teaching of Thy first Saints and Martyrs, as to give me a right to reject it at all risks, and Thy Church for teaching it. It is a doctrine as to which my private judgment is fully justified in opposing the Church’s judgment. And this is my plea for living and dying a Protestant.”

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Bamboozled

It is hard to avoid being bamboozled by the tyranny of the here and now. Especially nowadays given television propaganda. Two contemporary voices to whom I’ve found it useful to listen are Dylan and Solzhenitsyn.

  • Dylan’s Visions of Sin; Christopher Ricks
  • The Solzhenitsyn Reader: 1947-2005

By the way, those two books, and Sarah Rudin’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid are the syllabus for the 10th grade component of my three year literature course at Maude’s Tavern.

The 11th grade syllabus is: Dante’s Comedy (Esolen’s edition), Jane Austen, and Frost.

The 12th grade syllabus is: Shakespeare, Donne, and James.

While this course can prepare for college, I encourage instead working in one of the skilled trades, nursing, etc. and proceeding with marriage and children.

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Against Studied Ambiguity

A religious entity should be as clear as possible about its beliefs. In particular, it should spurn studied ambiguity. Moreover, the Christian tradition professes not the wise getting to God, to the source of all truth, but rather that God got to us. In Christ, God came to us, incarnate. Of course, folks differ in maturity, commitment, ability, and existential engagement and what can be said has to take that into account, recognizing with humility the great Mystery of reality. See, for example, Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Still.

As Einstein said about physical science, things should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler! There is a certain type of studied ambiguity that seems to me particularly deceptive and abhorrent. Suppose a group of folks think A is the case whereas another group thinks B is the case where at most one of A or B can really be true. To be firmly committed to A but to intentionally use words that hid that or even suggest that B might be true is an attack on the existence of Truth itself.

To give one substantial example, while the Orthodox may validly suggest that the Catholic Church is too explicit regarding the mystery of the Eucharist, it seems to me that the Anglican tradition has a studied ambiguity which is politically motivated. The traditional Lutheran, Orthodox, or Catholic doctrines, while different of course, all honor Truth in a way that is not done within the Anglican tradition.

Closer to my home, it seems that Pope Francis is sometimes intentionally ambiguous for political reasons. Better when he is clear even if he is clearly wrong.

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Official Language

Aside from liturgical matters, what is the official language of the Catholic Church now? The Church needs an official language unless it is to go the way of the Orthodox. While the Catholic Church could have, in theory, more than one ‘official’ language for its documents, that will not work out over time.

If the official language is not Latin, then what? I don’t think it would wind up being any of the Romance languages; rather it would end up being English.

What will the next edition of Heinrich Denzinger’s “Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals” look like?

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Education Should Aim at God

Daniel Drain has an excellent article on Church Life Journal entitled ‘Education Should Aim at God, Not the Job Market‘. I think it could well be expanded into a book, elaborating its current three sections with three more (4 Extended Renaissance: Aquinas, Dante, Luther, Shakespeare; 5 Prosaic Pragmatism: Sun Tzu, Confucius; and 6: Christ Crucified).

If, as Plato suggested, poets are not allowed in the republic, then I think we end up with the prosaic pragmatism of Sun Tzu and Confucius rather than the Church for which Christ died.

After the first two sections on Greek culture, Drain concludes section 3 with:

Responding to the present state of affairs, Benedict XVI sketches a few requirements for an “authentic education.” First, “that closeness and trust that are born of love.”[67] The obedience required to truly receive an education is thus best understood as a participation in a love that draws one forward into fullness. Second, an authentic education will be aimed at uncovering and knowing more deeply what is true. It will not ignore the authentic questions born of the human heart. It would be a failure to educate if that desire for knowledge were not acknowledge, fostered, and deepened. But this seeking requires also that we might suffer for it. Which carries an important corollary: the truth is worthy of our suffering. Benedict’s conclusion ties together freedom and discipline.The task of education consists also of finding the right balance between freedom and discipline. Freedom’s primary meaning is not that you are free from some external threat. Freedom, in the first place, is made for truth. You are free for the sake of coming to know and love what is true and good and beautiful. Thus freedom and discipline go hand in hand – there is an order to coming to know things. There is a hierarchy of discovery. G.K. Chesterton says this piquantly in his book Orthodoxy: “Art is limitation: the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”[68]

Understood in these terms as a certain unity of love, freedom, and discipline, education is not primarily a program to be exacted, or a problematic requiring calculation. It is instead a basic human activity. At its heart, education is contemplative, endeavoring to affirm the meaning of reality in its integrity, priori of any technological or mechanistic planning with respect to its potential “usefulness.” When rightly ordered, education as contemplation organically manifests as action, bearing its fruit in integrated human beings who bear no patience for a body-soul dualism, or its concomitant separation of love from knowledge, freedom from discipline. The task of coming to know things is of a piece with the Christian task of profound love for that which God loves. The formation of one’s soul, an ordering of one’s desires, and a deepening of one’s love: education is a life-form before it is a program.

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The Novels of Willa Cather

If someone is unfamiliar with the novels of Willa Cather, AS Byatt has written an interesting article about them, titled American Pastorial, of which I quote the last part:

In her 50s Cather published three novels which are often called tragedies – A Lost Lady (1923), The Professor’s House (1925) and My Mortal Enemy (1926). Both A Lost Lady and The Professor’s House are tragic in the sense that they present the slow process described in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them … when the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.

Both novels present a vision of the youth and strength of the early European explorers and settlers of north America as a kind of primeval Eden, full of light and life, which has fallen away into vulgarity, real estate, ugly urban life. The decay of the pioneering vision of the land goes with the ageing of the central characters. In A Lost Lady the young male narrator idealises Marian Forrester, the beautiful and generous wife of a railway pioneer who loses his fortune compensating his shareholders in a market crash. She degenerates, taking lovers, drinking, becoming shoddy and shabby, and even becomes the mistress of the snake in the garden, the evil Ivy Peters, who is first seen putting out the eyes of a woodpecker for fun. Desire fails, both in narrator and his beloved, and is replaced by world-weariness.

I sometimes think The Professor’s House is Cather’s masterpiece. It is almost perfectly constructed, peculiarly moving, and completely original. It is the story of Godfrey St Peter, a successful professor whose great work has been a history of “Spanish Adventurers in North America”. The adventurers are related to the railway pioneers in A Lost Lady – Cather herself compares both to the crusaders, brave men with a vision. In an early essay (1896) on “The Kingdom of Art” the young Cather had compared the daring artist also to the crusaders, who suffered and died in the burning deserts, and found no paradise – “only death and the truth”. St Peter is happily married, with two daughters. He lives near the shore of Lake Michigan. The novel is the tale of his experience of the failure of desire. There are two “houses” – a brand-new one, purchased with the prize-money he won for his masterpiece, into which he is expected to move, and the old house, where he persists in working in his old study, which doubles as a sewing-room, and is inhabited by two dressmakers’ “forms” – one made of “a dead opaque, lumpy solidity, like chunks of putty or tightly packed sawdust”, one in wire, with no legs, no viscera, and a bosom like a bird-cage. They are household gods, turned to lifeless yet threatening idols.

At this point I must emphasise the other side of Cather, the teller of tales about great journeys, hard endeavours, single-mindedness. She can describe domestic comforts, the minutiae of pots, pans, food, so as to make them glittering and strange, as though seen for the first time. She wrote perceptively about Katherine Mansfield and her great gift for showing the simultaneous beauty and terror of group life, domestic life. She studies French domestic subtleties, tended by women, or by priests, in alien American landscapes, hot New Mexico, cold Quebec. She believes passionately in civilisation, as Virgil saw it, as the Dutch painters recorded it in their domestic interiors. In the essay on Mansfield she describes human relationships as “the tragic necessity of human life; they can never be wholly satisfactory, every ego is half the time greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them”.

The professor has sought them, and is now pulling away from them.

The triumph of the novel is the story inserted into it. “Tom Outland’s Story” is the tale of a brilliant young man, who later became the professor’s student, made a scientific discovery of a gas that left him rich, and died in the first world war, before he could marry St Peters’s daughter, to whom he left his patents.

In the inserted story he explores a mesa in New Mexico, working as a cattle driver. The golden silence of New Mexico, the thin air of the heights, the riding and work, are the equivalent in this novel of the grey seas glimpsed through the window in a Dutch painting. In it Outland discovers “a little city of stone, asleep”. “I knew at once that I had come upon the city of some extinct civilisation, hidden away in this inaccessible mesa for centuries, preserved in the dry air and almost perpetual sunlight like a fly in amber.”

Cather said she wanted to juxtapose the stone city, the “fresh air that blew off the Blue Mesa” with “Professor St Peter’s house, rather over-crowded and stuffy with new things; American proprieties, clothes furs, petty ambitions, quivering jealousies”. The young man, Outland, on the uninhabited mesa feels pure energy. “Nothing tired me. Up there, alone, a close neighbour to the sun, I seemed to get the solar energy in some direct way.” Cather describes the sun, the rock, the jars made by the vanished people, the mysterious body of a woman, violently killed, so that each detail is unforgettable. Then she returns us to St Peter, in danger of dying from escaping house-gas on his lumpy sofa, thinking grimly of Longfellow’s translation of an Anglo-Saxon poem about a third kind of house.

For thee a house was built
Ere thou wast born;
For thee a mould was made
Ere thou of woman camest.

He is reminded by his sagging sofa of “the sham upholstery that is put in coffins”.

“Just the equivocal American way of dealing with serious facts, he reflected. Why pretend that it is possible to soften that last hard bed.” He thinks he would rather be alone in the grave than with his wife – whom he loves. “He thought of eternal solitude with gratefulness, as a release from every obligation, from every form of effort. It was the Truth.”

No one has written better about the pull of solitude. Most novels are about human relations. This one is about the desire to be released from them. Nietzsche thought a “strong pessimism” was what human beings needed. It is paradoxically invigorating.

My Mortal Enemy is a real tragedy, constructed out of a real romance – the story of a rich and determined young woman, who ran away with a penniless lover, seen through the eyes of a much younger woman narrator. This story too is of the failing of desire – a failing so complete that the “heroine” comes to refer to her loving and patient husband as “my mortal enemy”. The word mortal here is of course, completely double. A mortal enemy is a determined destroyer. A mortal enemy is simply a mortal man. The book is brief, and at first I liked it less than some of the apparently stranger and more complicated ones. But the writer in me thinks about it now almost more than about any other. In it Cather has completely achieved her aim of telling by showing, and showing by making an arrested, mysterious image. Nellie Birdseye, the narrator is a good observer of things and expressions, pleasant and unpleasant, about the not-entirely romantic Myra. Each brief, glancing episode is a perfect revelation of something new and unexpected. It is still and violent. Not one word is wasted or redundant. It is distant and at the same time unbearably moving. The writer knows completely the tale she is telling, its beginning and its end.

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My Cultural Roots

Israel

Rome

  • Greek New Testament: Readers ed.
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; Sarah Ruden translation
  • Homilies on John; St John Chrysostom
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • The City of God; by Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; Saint Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • The Christian East; Aristeides Papadakis
  • Compendium to the Catholic Catechism

Albion

  • Sonnets & Plays; William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Complete English Works; George Herbert
  • Collected Poetry & Prose; Robert Frost
  • Mathematics and Its History; Stillwell
  • Letters & Speeches; Theodore Roosevelt
  • The Solzhenitsyn Reader: 1947-2005

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Trump: Existential Threat as Civic Promise

by L.Q. Cincinnatus

Both Joe Biden and President Trump agree on one thing: the Trump presidency is “an existential threat” to the American ruling class.

The difference is that Trump sees the elites as a threat to the populace, and Biden regards the populace as a threat to the elites. The distinction could not be any more vivid.

It’s clear to most of us that this one man — Donald J. Trump — is a lightning rod. He has channeled incredible political energy to reveal the stomach-churning rot and corruption at the heart of our most trusted public institutions. He has galvanized vast numbers of middle American voters, who have been fed up with the shenanigans inside the Beltway since the LBJ/Nixon era. Moreover, he has electrified the Left, revealing them to be unwitting supporters of the essential, ugly truth that the classic “liberal” dream has become exactly the crazed, socialist plan we were all warned was at its core. The Left hasn’t taken their fight to “red” America; rather it has launched its salvos against the Progressive enclaves, (Portland, Seattle, New York) places that haven’t seen fiscal or social sanity for generations.

And this paradox—that an Ed Koch-style, pragmatic, liberal, Democrat turned Republican can be represented as a misogynistic, hard Right Nazi—provides the fuel that makes the Establishment and the Left explode with such bright intensity.

continue at Letters from a Flyover Country

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2020 Election

THOMAS KLINGENSTEIN: My name is Tom Klingenstein. I am the chair of the board of the Claremont Institute which is a conservative think tank, managing partner of a New York investment firm and playwright.

I wish to make three points. First, Trump is the perfect man for these times, not all times, perhaps not most times, but these times. Second, Republicans are not doing a good job explaining the stakes in this election. They must explain, and this is my third point, that the Democratic Party, which has been taken by its radical wing, is leading a revolution. This makes the coming election the most important one since the election of 1860. Let’s begin there.

Unlike most elections, this one is much more than a contest over particular policies—like health care or taxes. Rather, like the election of 1860, this election is a contest between two competing regimes, or ways of life. Two ways of life that cannot exist peacefully together.

One way of life, I’ll call it “the traditional American way of life,” is based on individual rights, the rule of law, and a shared understanding of the common good. This way of life values hard work, self-reliance, volunteerism, patriotism, and so on.

In this way of life there are no hyphenated Americans. We are all just Americans. Colorblindness is our aspiration.

The other way of life I call multiculturalism. Others call it “identity politics” or “cultural Marxism” or “Intersectionality”.

The multicultural movement, which has taken over the Democratic party, is a revolutionary movement. I do not mean a metaphorical revolution. It is not like a revolution; it is a revolution, an attempt to overthrow the American Founding as President Trump said in his excellent Mt. Rushmore speech. Republicans should say the same thing. Republicans everywhere, at every level, and at every opportunity.

Multiculturalism conceives of society, not as a community of individuals with equal rights but as a collection of cultural identity groups—defined by race, ethnicity, gender, and so forth. According to the multiculturalists, all these identity groups are oppressed by white males.

Their goal is to have each identity group proportionally represented in all institutions of American society. As should be immediately clear, achieving this proportional representation requires a never-ending redistribution of wealth and power from some groups—and not just from whites—to other groups. Such a massive redistribution can only be achieved by a tyrannical government and like in all tyrannies, one where dissenters are silenced.

In order to achieve this proportional representation, the Democrats require not just endless affirmative action but genuine socialism, open borders, unrestricted trade, seizing guns, sanctuary cities, and much more.

The Black Lives Matter/Democrats understand (which Republicans seem not to), that if they are to achieve this policy agenda they must get Americans to change their values, their principles, and the way they understand themselves.

They must get us to believe that national borders and colorblindness are racist; that we are not one culture but many; that the most important thing in our history—the thing around which all else pivots—is slavery. More broadly, the multiculturalists must get us to believe that we are unworthy—not just that we have sinned (which of course we have)—but that we are irredeemably sinful, or, in the language of today, “systemically racist.” And sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and all the other “ists” and phobias. Simply put, multiculturalism must get us to believe we are bad

This suggests one way to frame the coming election: as a contest between a man, Trump, who believes America is good and a man, Biden, who is controlled by a movement that believes America is bad. I do not think it is any more complicated than that. . . .

Continued at: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/10/13/claremont_institute_chairman_thomas_klingenstein_trump_2020_a_man_vs_a_movement.html

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Theo-Drama: The Action

From the preface to Hans Urs von Balthazar’s THEO-DRAMA, THEOLOGICAL DRAMATIC THEORY, VOLUME IV, THE ACTION

We have prepared at considerable length for the “action” that is the subject of this volume. First, in the Prelegomena, we prepared the way for our use of dramatic categories in the understanding of revelation (“theology”).  The next task was to introduce the dramatis personae themselves. But here we discovered a tension: on the one hand, the creature is manifestly free before God (volume 2) and, on the other hand, this very freedom is a freedom “in Christ” –and, it is only “in Christ” that theological persons can exist at all (volume 3). This tension is so explosive that it was bound to burst into flame in the conflagration of the action; accordingly, we begin this volume “under the sign of the Apocalypse”.

The Book of Revelation make sit quite clear that the action set in train by human freedom is not overridden or trivialized by the all-encompassing action of the “Lamb as though it had been slain”. What we have here is not the kind of apokatastasis that subsumes the Christian’s wrestling with God and God’s wrestling with him in an overall philosophical perspective (in the manner of Plotinus or Hegel), according to which the world proceeds from the divine and subsequently returns to it. No; for we are faced with a titanic rejection on man’s part: he resists being embraced by this very mystery of the Cross. This anti-Christian aversion is something new; it has only existed since the coming of Christ: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.”  It is only when heaven is wide open that hell too yawns at our feet. So this examination of the action will not not unveil what is ultimate; but, where the action is transparent, it will give us an intimation, a shadowy awareness of that ultimate reality. The final drama has not yet taken place.

 

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In the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts;

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  — Theodore Roosevelt

Here is a link to the full text of the speech.

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Cambridge School Shakespeare

The Cambridge School Shakespeare series is useful for teaching and performing Shakespeare:

“An active approach to classroom Shakespeare enables students to inhabit Shakespeare’s imaginative world in accessible and creative ways. Students are encouraged to share Shakespeare’s love of language, interest in character and sense of theatre. Substantially revised and extended in full colour, classroom activities are thematically organised in distinctive ‘Stagecraft’, ‘Write about it’, ‘Language in the play’, ‘Characters’ and ‘Themes’ features. Extended glossaries are aligned with the play text for easy reference. Expanded endnotes include extensive essay-writing guidance for ‘Twelfth Night’ and Shakespeare. Includes rich, exciting colour photos of performances of ‘Twelfth Night’ from around the world.”

I have copies for several of my favorite plays:

  • Midsummer Nights Dream
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Twelfth Night
  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • King Lear

Other Resources:

  •    Twelfth Night – movie directed by Trevor Nunn, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley, Nigel Hawthorne, Imogen Stubbs
  •    How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig. “I’ve been teaching Shakespeare to my children since they were six years old. I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fanatic, and it occurred to me when my daughter was in first grade that if there was any skill — any single area of learning and culture — that I could impart to her while we were both healthy and happy and able to share things together in a calm, focused, pre-teen way, then Shakespeare was it.”

With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.”

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Several Faulkner Novels

The Library of America has five volumes of Faulkner’s works. For example:

Novels 1930–1935, containing As I Lay DyingSanctuaryLight in AugustPylon

Novels 1942–1954, containing Go Down, MosesIntruder in the DustRequiem for a NunA Fable

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Feast Day: St Stephen the Martyr

A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe

The armour of love

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.
  Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
  Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
  And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
  Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exults, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
  Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
  My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
℟. Yesterday the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in heaven;* he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.
℣. Yesterday our king came forth from the virgin’s womb, clothed in a garment of flesh;* he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.
See also Msgr. Charles Pope’s meditation on the Bloody Octave of Christmas.
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Morality and Politics

Dennis Prager wrote the following:

The editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, wrote an editorial calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In my view, this editorial only serves to confirm one of the sadder realizations of my life: that religious conviction guarantees neither moral clarity nor common sense.

The gist of the editorial—and of most religious and conservative opposition to President Trump—is that any good the president has done is dwarfed by his character defects.

This is an amoral view that says more about Galli than it does about the president. He and the people who share his opinion are making the following statement: No matter how much good this president does, it is less important than his character flaws.

Why is this wrong?

First, because it devalues policies that benefit millions of people.

And second, because it is a simplistic view of character.

I do not know how to assess a person’s character—including my own—outside of how one’s actions affect others. Since I agree with almost all of President Trump’s actions as president and believe they have positively affected millions of people, I have to conclude that as president, Trump thus far has been a man of particularly good character.

Of course, if you think his policies have harmed millions of people, you will assess his character negatively. But that is not what NeverTrump conservatives or Christians such as the Christianity Today editor-in-chief argue. They argue that his policies have indeed helped America (and even the world), but this fact is far less significant than his character.

In the words of Galli: “[I]t’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.”

This rhetorical sleight of hand reflects poorly on Galli’s intellectual and moral honesty.

Galli and every other Christian and conservative opponent of the president believe their concerns are moral, and that the president’s Christian and other conservative supporters are political.

This is simply wrong.

I and every other supporter of the president I know support him for moral reasons, not to win a “political poker game.” Galli’s view is purely self-serving; he’s saying, “We Christian and other conservative opponents of the president think in moral terms, while Christian and other conservative supporters of the president think in political terms.”

So, permit me to inform Galli and all the other people who consider themselves conservative and/or Christian that our support for the president is entirely moral.

To us, putting pressure on the Iranian regime—one of the most evil and dangerous regimes on Earth—by getting out of the Iran nuclear deal made by former President Barack Obama is a moral issue. Even New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who loathes Trump, has written how important the president’s rejection of the Obama-Iran agreement has been.

To us, enabling millions of black Americans to find work—resulting in the lowest black unemployment rate ever recorded—is a moral issue.

To us, more Americans than ever being employed and almost 4 million Americans freed from reliance on food stamps is a moral issue.

To us, appointing more conservative judges than any president in history—over the same period of time—is a moral issue. That whether the courts, including the Supreme Court, are dominated by the Left or by conservatives is dismissed by Galli as “political poker” makes one question not only Galli’s moral thinking but also his moral theology.

To us, moving the American embassy to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem—something promised by almost every presidential candidate—is a moral issue, not to mention profoundly courageous. And courage is a moral virtue.

To us, increasing the U.S. military budget—after the severe cuts of the previous eight years—is a moral issue. As conservatives see it, the American military is the world’s greatest guarantor of world peace.

Yet, none of these things matter to Galli and other misguided Christians and conservatives. What matters more to them is Trump’s occasional crude language and intemperate tweets, what he said about women in a private conversation and his having committed adultery.

Regarding adultery, that sin is for spouses and God to judge. There is no connection between marital sexual fidelity and moral leadership. I wish there were. And as regards the “Access Hollywood” tape, every religious person, indeed every thinking person, should understand that there is no connection between what people say privately and their ability to be a moral leader. That’s why I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal 20 years ago defending Hillary Clinton when she was charged with having privately expressed anti-Semitic sentiments.

That the editor of Christianity Today thinks the president’s personal flaws, whatever they might be, are more important than all the good he has done for conservatives, for Christians, for Jews, for blacks, and for America tells us a lot . . . about Galli and the decline of Christian moral thought.

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Victor Davis Hanson on Spygate, Impeachment, and Undoing the Progressive Agenda

Here’s a useful, wide ranging, hour long interview with Victor Davis Hanson

 

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Dying and the Virtues

In the useful book “Dying and the Virtues”,  Matthew Levering writes:

Underscoring the significance of dying, the Orthodox philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev comments that “a system of ethics which does not make death its central problem has no value and is lacking in depth and earnestness.”  Similarly, Socrates observed that “true philosophers make dying their profession, and … to them of all men death is least alarming.”  Even if this is an exaggeration, as Samuel Johnson insists it is in his novel Rasselas, it remains the case that virtue ethics takes shape around the human journey which culminates in dying.  In a book on the art of dying, the virtue ethicist Christopher Vogt focuses “on three virtues that are essential for a contemporary development of the Christian art of dying well: patience, compassion, and hope.”  Among the many virtues of dying, I will explore the following nine:  love, hope, faith, penitence, gratitude, solidarity, humility, surrender, and courage.

. . .

In the present book, I examine nine virtues of dying, but I explore these virtues by taking up numerous other topics.  These topics are carefully chosen to display some of the most importand sources for Christian understanding of death: the book of Job, Ezekiel 20, the dying of Jesus Christ, the dying of the first martyr (Stephen), Hebrews 11, Gregory of Nyssa’s account of the dying of his sistem Macrina, the tradition of ars moriendi (Robert Bellarmine, Francis de Sales, Jean-Pierre de Caussade), the consolations of philosophy (Josef Pieper), the divine mercy (Faustina Kowalska), the sacrament of anointing of the sick, liberation theology’s emphasis on solidarity with those who are suffering, biblical eschatology, and contemporary medical perspectives — in addition to the fear of annihilation expressed so frequently in elite culture today, and to the New Age spirituality that is popular in less intellectual circles.  My book is therefore a work on the border of virtue ethics and other theological, exegetical, and cultural domains, as required by the effort to retrieve and engage Christian resources on dying.  Balthasar notes that those “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev 14:4) are botyh those who follow him from life into death and those who follow him from death into life….under the law of living and dying for others (for all).  We need to be among those who follow Jesus in this way, because the life of the Lamb — of possessing in order to give away — is the only true and meaningful mode of living, just as it is the only true and meaningful mode of dying.

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The Hundredfold

In the introduction to his poem The Hundredfold, Anthony Esolen writes:

I am a battered old soldier on bad knees, who knows that the hill must be charged and who knows of one or two ways it might be done. He takes up the torn standard of the cross and hobbles up the first reaches of that height, crying out instructions that he himself has not the strength to fulfill, teaching more by audacity and exposure than by success, willing to look like a fool, to be shot down in the first volleys, but knowing that unless he or someone like him does this, the hill will remain always in the fist of the enemy.

Here’s a review of Dr. Esolen’s poem, by Beth Impson.

I’ve been waiting for this poem/book for a while. Whenever I read Tony’s essays I wonder “He’s advocating for something, but when will he write it rather than write about it?”. Now I don’t have to wait.

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God in a Godless Time

From Leszek Kolakowski’s  essay  God in a Godless Time

….

The world in which we live, however, is not a world of people who are fixed in satisfied and contented lives of belief or unbelief. It is much more an era of refugees and exiles, the “eternal Jew” searching for a lost—spiritual or physical—homeland. In this nomadic life nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is finally set in stone, nothing—apart from wandering—is unquestionably given.

A God who once confirmed the well-established order of values, social relations, rules of thought, and the physical cosmos and who was meant to be the dome over this order is no longer there because the order itself is no longer visible. So long as people could trust the durability of this order, the godless also had their place in it (I only have the Christian-European civilization in view). Whether they counted as mistaken, as crazy, or as messengers from hell, their place within the recognized world order was accounted for. Whether they were also persecuted, punished, or sentenced to death, they were in a sense fortunate, because not only was their cause secure, it was also spiritually worry-free.

But along with the self-confidence of belief, the self-confidence of unbelief has also been broken. In contrast to the cozy world of old, protected by the well-intentioned, friendly Nature of the atheistic Enlightenment, the godless world of today is perceived as an afflicted, eternal chaos. It is robbed of all meaning, all direction, all road signs, and all structure. Thus spoke Zarathustra. For over a hundred years, since Nietzsche announced the death of God, one has rarely seen cheerful atheists. A world in which a person is left to his own powers, in which he has declared himself a free lawgiver for any order of good and evil, in which he—freed from the condition of a slave of God—had hoped to recapture his lost worth, this world has transformed itself into a place of endless worry. The absence of God became the ever more open wound of the European spirit, even as it slipped off into oblivion, brought on by an artificial anesthetic. Let us simply compare the godless world of Diderot, Helvétius, and Feuerbach with that of Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. The collapse of Christianity that was so joyfully awaited by the Enlightenment took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Enlightenment itself. The new, shining order of anthropocentrism that was built up in place of the fallen God never came. What happened? Why was the fate of atheism in such a strange way tied to that of Christianity, so that the two enemies accompanied one another in their misfortune and in their insecurity?

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