Puritan church drummer
Sohrab Ahmari’s The New Philistines, which I reviewed last night, sparked a few thoughts under my follicles.
I noticed some years back that my interest in movies, once keen, was waning. Taking the trouble to make the trip to a theater just didn’t seem a good exchange. Whatever the old rewards had been, they were diminishing. And today, although I have Netflix and Amazon Plus, I don’t use their streaming services a whole lot, either. If I decide I want to view a movie, as often as not I can’t find anything I care to click on.
I used to watch television all evening, every evening. I liked some shows better than others, but I could always find something to amuse me. Then gaps started opening up, where there was nothing I wanted to watch. And now I’ve reached the point where there’s zero network programming that I watch regularly.
Ahmari’s book illustrated why those changes happened. I grew more and more aware – unconsciously at first, but consciously more and more – that everything coming out of Hollywood, big screen or small, was propaganda. In the legend of the Holy Grail, one of the questions asked of the seeker of the Grail was, “Whom does it serve?” With modern entertainment, even the most trivial, that question always applies. Each offering is in service of something. And that something is always some social or political cause.
In the days of the Puritans, it was often complained that people got religion shoved down their throats, that everything turned into a sermon.
Ahmari’s The New Philistines might have been called The New Puritans. Because in the 21st Century, the sermons never end.
Today a musician who visits the school from time to time dropped into my office, and we talked for a couple hours. At no point did we mention the election, or politics.
It was bliss.
I hope more bliss is to come. One of principles of conservatism is that we should be able to live our lives as much as possible without reference to politics. One of the monstrosities of Progressivism is that each citizen is expected to think politically at all times, down to a painstaking ideological analysis of pronoun choice every time we frame a sentence.
I haven’t made any secret of my lack of faith in Donald Trump. I supported him, as I’ve explained on this blog, simply on utilitarian grounds. If he appoints Supreme Court justices in the manner he’s promised, we ought to retain speech and conscience liberties for the foreseeable future.
I should be more elated than I feel. The cavalry, after all, came over the hill in the nick of time. At this hour yesterday I was steeling myself for a Democrat victory, and all that would entail – especially in the curtailment of constitutional liberties. I was trying to figure out the best ways for a middle-aged, sedentary man to prepare for the purges. (I couldn’t really come up with anything. If the secret police come, I expect I’ll just go quietly. Can’t think of an effective countermeasure.)
But now – it appears – things should be OK. At least for the remainder of my expected lifespan. Like Hezekiah in one of his less admirable moments, I can say, “At least there will be peace in my time.”
Of course there is something to do about all this. I need to work at my ministry, sowing the seed of the Word. Running a library for a seminary and a Bible school. Writing novels.
Prayerfully. With thanks for an extended day of grace.
The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing
Isn’t this the one thing you know from Edmund Burke, an Irishman and political thinker? You didn’t even know he was Irish. All you knew about Burke was that he said the above quotation. Except he didn’t.
What he said that closely resembles this comes from his 1770 book, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents.
No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united Cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
Now this is curious. Burke is arguing in favor of unity, of banding together to oppose “ambitious citizens” who have already united their efforts. We could call them The Establishment or a number of other things. Burke’s point appears to be that virtuous people should not believe their individual virtues, their personal choices, to be effective against those who are working together to oppose us.
Here’s more of what Burke wrote in Present Discontents: Continue reading How Would Edmund Burke Advise You to Vote?
“It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects — military, political, economic, and what not,” Lewis wrote. “But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life.”
Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center shares some good thoughts from C. S. Lewis about Christians in the political world, but I think I may have strong disagreements.
Certainly, to create a specifically Christian political party could cause problems, because while the Bible has many applications to civil society, it does not give us a platform for twenty-first century governing. Wehner says Lewis “believed that theocracy was the worst form of government and detested the idea of a ‘Christian party,’ which risked blaspheming the name of Christ.”
I can see that danger, but who among us is even capable of establishing a theocracy? If God were to descend on Washington D.C. and declare his regulations from the Lincoln Memorial, if he were to charge his followers with discipling those who refuse to obey him and blessing them with divine gifts for carrying out his will, then we would have a theocracy. What are the Lord’s trade and immigration policies? How does the Lord want us to handle our crime-ridden cities? Let’s ask him directly.
No. We can’t get there from here. We could set up a “Christian” party. I’m pretty sure we have. And we have several Christian candidates for various offices, but none of them can reconstruct our government to submit to the direct decrees of God. What Wehner and Lewis, I suppose, are criticizing is a government ruled by priests who claim to speak for the Almighty–the Holy American Empire, in other words. Continue reading No One Can Set Up a Theocracy
The following may be the result of depression, and therefore irrational. I’ll check back when I’m feeling more cheerful, to see how it holds up. But I’ve come to a kind of peace with the 2016 election cycle. It’s the kind of peace described by Tacitus, who said of the Romans in Britain, “they make a desert, and call it peace.”
I’ve decided that (barring changes in the strategic situation which are entirely possible) I’m going to vote for Trump this year. Not out of principle, not out of patriotism, but out of despair.
Signs of the Times
I read three articles online this morning, which all together helped me to clear my mind. They were these: Continue reading Taking counsel of my fears
For months, the news on Twitter has been that they don’t know how to monetize their platform of 232 million users. We’ve seen some advertising and promoted messages, but apparently they don’t make enough money. Ian Schafer suggests Twitter and its many critics don’t know what kind of company it actually is.
Maybe Twitter is deciding that it’s identify is to censor in the name of social justice.
For years, social media companies have been besieged by a new wave of progressive advocacy groups who demand restrictions on political speech under the guise of preventing “online abuse.” These are the groups who now make up Twitter’s dystopianly-named “Trust and Safety Council.”
That council has acted within the last few hours to suspend popular conservative tweeter Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain). Before this, they were slowing down the use or discovery of certain hashtags, as described below.
Breitbart.com argues for organization for all of us.
Conservatives and cultural libertarians are the most likely constituency to rise up, as they are the ones being predominantly targeted, but this is really a battle that should be taken up by all social media users. The Twitters and Facebooks of the world are not like the media empires of old; they are entirely reliant on users. Properly organised, users could hold them to account, in a way that would make investors sit up and listen — but they are not yet properly organised.
Ted Cruz has been rallying for religious liberty for months, and his efforts to draw conservative Christians to his camp have pulled out all stops. Last month, the presidential candidate said, “If we awaken and energize the body of Christ–if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values–we will win and we will turn the country around.”
That reference to “the body of Christ” has drawn more attention this week when a commentator on CNN said she didn’t know anyone who takes their religion seriously who think Christ Jesus should rise from the grave to serve the Cruz campaign. Apparently, she interpreted Cruz’ reference to the church at large as a specific reference to Jesus himself, who was still in the grave.
Joel Miller points to this and mistakes made in the New York Times, even by columnist David Brooks, as evidence that the pundit class is biblically illiterate.
Imagine, says [Michael] Peppard, if they let slip “Columbus’s voyage on the Mayflower” or “Malcolm X’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” Such an error would say that the facts of basic American history are unknown. To let Jesus’ supposed resurrection into heaven or his imaginary address to the Corinthians skate by betrays a sad reality: the basic facts of the Bible, the font from which so much of our culture flows, are increasingly unknown.
“The idea of writing a book about a presidential campaign that never happened had not occurred to Don Cogman,” write Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. “He had spent two years trying to get Mitch Daniels, then governor of Indiana, to run for president in 2012. His effort—and it was no small effort—had failed. Daniels had moved on, right out of politics. He’d become president of Purdue University.”
But someone in what would have been the Mitch for President campaign encouraged Cogman to write a book about it. It’s history, no matter what happened. Or didn’t.
Order is not any kind of moral ultimatum. The only reason to desire order is to make something else possible. Order is a means to an end. If what order gives us is not good, then we should not continue to uphold that order. For example, a dictator may give us order, but his order may not be worth preserving as we perceive ourselves to lose more by it than we gain. This takes us in the direction John Locke went with his work. Order is there only to secure something else, and something more than mere protection from violent death. What is that something more? Is it freedom? Is it justice?
Mark Twain once wrote a story called “Political Economy,” which is what they called Political Science in his time (in that more humble age political thinkers didn’t pretend to be scientists). I memorized it at one point and used to recite it to my friends when we got together, in a bargain-basement Hal Holbrook style. It told how the author sat down to write an essay on the subject (“the dearest to my heart of all this world’s philosophy”) but kept getting interrupted by a lightning rod salesman, who eventually prevailed to the extent that Twain bought his entire stock of rods and had them mounted on his roof, so that all the lightning in that region of the heavens was attracted to his house, setting off the greatest pyrotechnic spectacle ever seen.
Our friend Hunter Baker has written a short book called Political Thought: A Student’s Guide. Though not as funny as Twain’s story, it’s one of the more lively books you’ll find on the subject. Instead of doing a historic overview, telling how philosophical ideas developed through the work of various thinkers, he starts with things that most readers have experience with – families. He describes his own and his wife’s families, and how their different habits of interaction and discipline worked in different ways. Then he imagines two very different kinds of families – a tyrannical family and a loving one – and relates them to the ideas of the great political thinkers of history, especially Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke.
If you’re looking for an effective Christian primer on politics for young people, you could hardly do better than this. In fact, even I learned a few things, and it’s well known that I know pretty much everything. The only fault I can find with this book that I’m not quoted in it, a failing common to a surprising number of books on Political Science (or Economy).