Arimathea | Philosophy
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Saturday, January 30, A.D. 2010
Judge Lest Ye Be Mugged

Yesterday, commentator M. rebuked my hesitancy (well, refusal) to obey divine and clerical commandments not to judge on “The March, A.D. 2010.” My difficulty with this issue is one of my most significant problems with Christianity, and it has been a recurring theme in my thoughts and in my posts. M. wrote:

“It just seems absurdly mad not to judge everyone and everything. ...What does it really mean to refrain from judgment toward others without being reckless in one’s actions?”

The compulsion to judge is incredibly strong, isn’t it?  That is why it is so important to resist.

What I have been in the process of learning for a long time is that this compulsion distorts and constricts one’s own soul.  We judge in order to exclude.  We exclude because we are afraid.  We are afraid because we lack love.

It’s revealing, I think, that you feel that refraining from judgment toward others will lead to “being reckless in [your own] actions”.  What exactly are you afraid will happen if you stop judging?  That you might be too recklessly compassionate?  Too recklessly understanding?  Too recklessly moved by another’s plight?

Maybe you’ve heard this one: “When Christ returns to judge the world, will he say to you ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant’, or ‘Hey you, get out of my chair’?”

My advice: Try leaving the judgment to a higher authority, who is far better qualified for it than any of us—with our puny intellects, shrunken hearts, and blindness toward what is in other people’s souls.  Rest assured that he is up to the task, and that the universe will unfold as it should.

Or, to put it succinctly: “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

I started to respond in the comments thread, but I decided to make the rejoinder its own post. Such will be convenient for me, as I am about to leave to spend a chilly day in the woods near Frederick, and then I need not post something silly and trivial from YouTube.

Dear M.,

Thank your for your comment. I have heard that one; my mother was always fond of reminding me that there were no vacancies in the Godhead. I never appreciated the humor (well, not much). More so, I see such judgmental non-judgmentalism as excusing bad behavior. Bad actions ought to be called such, and their perpetrators often (though not always) ought to be called out.

I hear comments similar to what you wrote all the time from Christians, and I honestly find them rather unintelligible. I suppose that Christ calls us to be agents of love (as the metropolitan preached), but I refuse to love without limits—meaning, to love without judging. You wrote, “We judge in order to exclude. We exclude because we are afraid. We are afraid because we lack love.” I do not think that we judge in order to exclude, but our judging often has that effect. For example, if I judge that Mr. Smith is a drunken liar with lecherous tendencies, I will likely exclude him from my life, and I’ll encourage any potential victim of his that I know to exclude him, as well. This does follow from fear, as you wrote. For we exclude as a manner of defense (for ourselves and for those whom we love). We wish to shelter ourselves and our loved ones from danger, and it is our judgment that judges people as dangerous or harmless.

Does this fear follow from a lack of love? Possibly. It certainly means that we prioritize certain goods above loving someone that we find dangerous or harmful—goods such as our own well-being and that of our loved ones. Is this a rejection of Christ’s call to love our enemy? It may well be so, and on this point, I have severe reservations about the sanity of the gospel.

I think that we should love from a position of strength—we ought to aim to help others without endangering ourselves. I certainly do see the beauty and the honor of self sacrificial loving, but I only judge such self sacrifice worth it if what is gained is more important than what is lost. As bourgeois as it is, I do a cost-benefit analysis—from my limited and ignorant perspective, of course, but that is all that I have—for the universe as a whole. So, it makes sense to me for a man to die to save his city, but it seems outrageously unjust for a man to give his life to indulge the murderous lust of a depraved soul. Christians might say that God only asks what he himself does—self sacrificial love as imitatio Christi. God in his wisdom obviously knows what is right, but it just seems that, in God’s economy, it must have been worth it to redeem creation by the ultimate sacrifice. For it portends the final triumph over evil, and that is quite a prize. With Christ, however, we believe in such redemption. When Christians open themselves up like fools to dangerous predators, are they certain that such will pay off? What is gained? Is it martyrdom to indulge the wicked? Lacking cosmic redemption and renewal, I would rather see justice be done.

You wrote, “It’s revealing, I think, that you feel that refraining from judgment toward others will lead to “being reckless in [your own] actions”.  What exactly are you afraid will happen if you stop judging?  That you might be too recklessly compassionate?  Too recklessly understanding?  Too recklessly moved by another’s plight?”

Indeed! When people refuse to judge, when they turn off their powers of discrimination, they cease to be as wise as serpents. They endanger themselves and those around them. That is what I meant by reckless. It is our responsibility to be cautious and to trust and to mistrust based on good judgment. This is even more so when we have positions of authority by which we must concern ourselves with the welfare of our charges. For foolish judgment (or the refusal to employ judgment at all) might allow the barbarians through the city’s gates. While the savages commit atrocities and spill blood through the streets, are we to sit in self righteous moral satisfaction, consoling ourselves with the sweet, luxurious thought that at least we did not judge? “Woe to the city, but my soul remaineth pure!” Such is irresponsible, such is nonsense, and such is abomination to civilized man, who must recognize that evil is ever waiting beyond the city walls.

As Solzhenitsyn wrote, the line between good and evil passes through every man’s heart, but one’s petty egoism and sinful inordinances are not my chief concern. I am more interested in evil that ends in major social disturbances—rapists, vandals, murderers, thieves, and the like. I begrudge no ascetic his purity of heart. I just demand that such practitioners of holiness do not endanger their society by the reckless preaching of not judging others. To judge is necessary for human life when one is not willing to give up everything to brutes in return for a promised beatific vision . . . and I think that even the saints would reckon that the heights of holiness must be sought and accepted voluntarily rather than forced on everyone by one’s fanatical striving toward moral purity.

You are certainly correct that the tendency and faculty of judging may be used to exclude inconvenient people, as well—or even morally innocent “dangerous people” (like lepers). I take this to be your point in “Too recklessly moved by another’s plight?” I am more sympathetic to the Christian idea here, and in these situations, sacrifice seems nobler and often worth it. It does not involve indulgence toward bad men but rather the willing co-suffering with the unfortunate. Christian charity shines its iconic splendor when a Christian dedicates his life and treasure in love and in solidarity with others. However, it seems that even such a vocation involves judgment. We just have to judge wisely, rather than perversely. That is what I want everyone to do.

To help a leper and to help a sociopath both require putting oneself in danger, but I see the former as understandable and permissible while the latter as moronic and scandalous. Of course, the Christian would reply that both such men have diseases (one of the body and the other of the soul), and we are called by Christ to minister unto the sick. I cannot or will not see them as equivalent.

Moreover, I wonder if one may be irresponsible with either form of ministry. If your family depends on you and if you endanger yourself to help someone in need, is such responsible? It seems that society works better when people are willing to answer the call to help others in need without question or calculation. Indeed, we honor those who do so for their virtue and for their readiness to sacrifice themselves. By inculcating a sense of mutual responsibility, we maximize a safety net that is very useful in challenging times (such as disasters). A nation of men that see themselves as their brothers’ keepers is a stronger nation, as long as such mutual assistance does not enable dysfunctional social parasites. Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno is an effective motto among good men.

For example, let’s say that a man, Mr. Farbe, has a large family that depends on him. One day, Mr. Farbe happens to be near a crisis in which he could be of assistance. Helping in such a situation would endanger him, but it would also help others. Even though Mr. Farbe has many life commitments, it seems right that he would attempt to help if he could. For it just happened, by chance or providence, that it fell to him to be an instrument of salvation at that moment. Given the vicissitudes of life, any one of us might have to play that part in such a scene, and society works better—meaning that more people survive and flourish—if everyone is willing to answer the call of duty when such conditions arise. One’s other commitments ought not to figure in one’s calculation of whether or not to get involved, as a healthy society would look after those needs if someone gave his life nobly in the pursuit of the common good.

In less urgent situations, I think that self sacrifice is a matter for careful discernment—and judgment. Only the virtuous and wise may assess such circumstances correctly.

Well, I have rambled from judging to good judgment. To return to the need to judge others, let me simply state that we are social creatures. We live among many other free agents, some of whom will us good and some of whom will us ill. To navigate life well, we must be able to discern one group from the other. Moreover, in our relations with each other, we must be able to assess people in order to accomplish anything larger than ourselves and our own actions. Whether I judge someone fit to be in my life or to keep company with my loved ones or whether I judge someone capable or incapable of various tasks will determine how I relate to that person. The command not to judge, taken in an absolute way, would be a form of self imposed blindness and deafness. Indeed, it is akin to a spiritual lobotomy. I fail to see how God could expect such willful impairment from his rational creatures.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 30, Anno Domini 2010
Thursday, January 28, A.D. 2010
Kristor on Modern Rebellion

On View from the Right, Kristor has an interesting piece on the origins of adolescent rebellion in a post-Christian (post-religious) society, where the normal adolescent realization that all is not well in the world encounters a society that offers no credible answers. In traditional, healthy societies, such adolescents grow into maturity by acquiring their society’s traditional wisdom, which is the accumulated insight of generations with regard to man’s basic problems. In fractured, revolutionary societies, however, these young seekers after truth and wholeness find nothing but answers that their elders no longer believe. Thus, they turn to fads and gurus—or worse. Read the thread in “The Genesis of Gnosticism.”

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, January 28, Anno Domini 2010
Wednesday, January 27, A.D. 2010
New World Byzantine

On Leitourgeia, I read a quote from architect Andrew Gould about church architecture that I found quite on target:

We don’t want to have a stage set, we don’t want to have a building that superficially looks like an Orthodox church, because that’s a stage set, that’s sort of what Baroque architecture is. That’s sort of trying to use plaster and ornament to give a theatrical impression of the Beatific Vision. But Orthodoxy’s not about that, Orthodoxy’s about building something absolutely solid, and permanent and honest that conveys the real ethos of the eternal Kingdom of God.

I then visited Gould’s architectural site, New World Byzantine, and it brought me great joy. We are, even in this age of ugliness, still capable of constructing fitting monuments for the faith. The soul stifling spirit of the present age makes one lose hope and think that we are only in a state of decay. Yet, here in the States and throughout the world, there is a resurgence of artists who value beauty, order, and the aesthetic tradition before the age of shocking originalism. The Intercollegiate Review had an interesting piece a few years ago by Noah Waldman, “On the Meaning of the Classical Movement in Architecture.” It gives me a reason to hope that the return to beauty is not simply a preoccupation of Christian artists but that the West in general is waking from its nightmare. Last year, I wrote about the architecture of Thomas Aquinas College in California in “Overcoming the Cult of the Ugly,” where even Novus Ordo folks have returned to the tradition of sacred and beautiful space. More recently, I attended liturgy in the newest church in Rome, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was a traditional and well situated temple. I believe that Christian architects are more comfortable now returning to the models of the past for inspiration instead of feeling like they need to ape rootless contemporary styles. Mencken remarked that Americans have a libido for the ugly, but perhaps enough people have been thoroughly satiated by the modern trough to know that they hunger for purer, wholesome food. I am not holding my breath, but I do wait for a modern renaissance. It must come, right?

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, January 27, Anno Domini 2010
Sunday, January 24, A.D. 2010
The March and the Media

I have been attending the March for Life for over two decades, ever since my mother took me as a kid. Each year, an enormous crowd of folks descends upon Washington, and, each year, the media routinely ignore or distort the event. I have now spent the last decade in D.C., and I have a pretty good idea of what marches and protests look like in the city and how the media portray them. Without a doubt, the March for Life is the largest annual event. I’ll grant that the abortion rights march from A.D. 2004 was huge. It likely was larger than the annual March for Life. However, the abortion rights march occurred at the end of April, when it is loveliest to visit D.C., and it happened once. I did an internet search to discover that the previous abortion rights marches of significance were in A.D. 1989 and 1992. So, after twelve years, abortion rights supporters visited D.C. just as the Kwanzan cherry trees in East Potomac Park were in full bloom. For this, the American media establishment from every network and paper devoted much attention to the vitality of the abortion rights cause, as manifested by their march. Yet, the media ignore the March for Life year after year. Is this fair or honest coverage?

The scaly harridans of N.O.W. claim that the death march numbered more than one million people. However, based on my observations, the abortion march in A.D. 2004 could not have been more than twice as large as the annual March for Life. I would say that it was a third to a half larger. Thus, if the national coven really did number more than a million, then the annual March for Life would have to number at least 500,000, which is higher than anyone estimates (as the figure varies between 50,000 and 400,000, depending on the year and source). Moreover, I have noticed that the March for Life has significantly grown over the last five years, and I think that this year’s march was the largest showing that I have seen. It certainly took longer than ever for everyone to march, ending about an hour later than usual. Nevertheless, such a showing of concerned citizens about one of the most controversial social issues of our age elicits every little interest from the media.

Furthermore, the coverage that does occur is wildly, absurdly inaccurate. Every year, the media portray the march as a clash of abortion rights supporters with prolife marchers, and their photographs often focus on the few abortion rights supporters in a sea of baby defenders—“Yes, fellow citizens, we see here another picture of American democracy in action.” Yet, such a treatment is willfully deceiving. I remember that my first march had a number of abortion rights counter protesters. They were an insignificant minority, but there were enough of them for them to be visible—probably a few hundred people. By contrast, in the last ten years, I have rarely encountered any counter protesters. I believe that it was two years ago when I found one old woman sitting on the curb outside the West Building of the National Gallery of Art with an abortion rights sign—and no one else from the evil side. Last year, I wrote about the four “Keep Abortion Legal” counter protesters in front of the Supreme Court. This year, I saw no one until I was returning to Capitol Hill after having accompanied my brother to Arlington Cemetery for his school’s bus pick up. As I was ascending the escalator at the Capitol South station, I noticed about five girls with N.O.W. signs going down into the station on the opposite escalator. So, they did exist, but they were practically invisible. Nonetheless, the media likely covered them as much as the hundreds of thousands of prolife marchers. That, I suppose, is what the Left considers “fair and balanced.”

By the way, during the march, I did notice a disheveled man holding a sign that read, “End Theocracy.” Perhaps, he was a counter protester, or perhaps he was just a lunatic. Political activity attracts the crazies like a flame draws moths.

Given my abundance of experience with this consistently wacky and unfair media treatment, I was not surprised to read Steven Greydanus’ coverage of the coverage in the National Catholic Register. Greydanus is shocked. Hey, Steven, the shock wears off after several years of seeing the same brazen misinformation and bias.

Greydanus also links to Jill Stanek’s listing of media follies concerning the march. Among which, we find that C.N.N.‘s Rick Sanchez channeled Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (“Baghdad Bob”) in a hilarious journalistic disconnect from reality: “It’s the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade case . . . both sides being represented today, but it does appear to me, as I look at these signs that—which side is represented the most . . . Do we know?” I am not sure if laughter or a despairing sigh would be more appropriate.

Another egregious example was Krista Gesaman’s post on Newsweek that the prolife marchers were getting older and that young women were absent from the march. I suppose that these things may not appear as Baghdad Bobtastic unless you are familiar with the march. Gesamen seems to have based her fortune telling (as her post was published before the march began) on a change in the march route, thinking that such a shortening of the march by three blocks was to accommodate an aging marcher demographic. I have complained about this shortening, myself, but it has nothing to do with the average age of the marchers, as a considerable number of them are teenagers and college students from Roman Catholic schools. Rather, I suspect that police officials have pushed for the march route to be shorter to accommodate the growing number of people at the march. Even so, this year’s march was three blocks longer than last year, which was a return to the march route from A.D. 2008. So, Gesaman wrongly guesses at the demographic make up of the march based on a change in facts that she misinterprets—and the change in facts is actually the opposite of what she wrote! This is what passes for acceptable journalism at Newsweek?

I wonder if the media folks have simply lost their minds. Evidence for this theory? Consider the following, which you really have to see to believe:

May I rest my case?

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, January 24, Anno Domini 2010
Friday, January 22, A.D. 2010
The March, A.D. 2010

As I type, many tens of thousands of Americans committed to the sanctity of human life are traveling toward Washington, D.C. for the March for Life today, including my brother, Aaron. On this anniversary of Roe versus Wade, I hope that they all arrive safely in town, and I wish them well in their attempt to raise awareness about our national scandal. However, I doubt that they will arrive warmly—it is supposed to be a cold, sleety day. Thirty degrees is not bad when one is dry, but it is miserable to have cold, wet feet. Still, I imagine that the mirth of the crowd will make it bearable, perhaps even pleasant.

Last night, I attended the vespers service at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where the O.C.A.‘s Metropolitan Jonah addressed the crowd and spoke at length about the importance of the family and of a loving spirit of inclusion. He warned about the isolating power of judgment and condemnation. Instead of condemning, we should love and embrace—for many keep from repentance and salvation due to the fear of being condemned by Christians in the Church.

As usual, I have a hard time understanding this aspect of Christianity. I understand the old cliché of hating the sin but not the sinner, but how does one not judge a man? It just seems absurdly mad not to judge everyone and everything. For we have to use our practical wisdom in every decision that we make, and most of those decisions involve other people and our assessments of other people. When Christians begin saying warm, fuzzy, theological pop, I become quite agitated. For I do not know what they mean, as it is so ambiguous.

My friend Andrew tends to assuage my fears by interpreting such advice in an intelligent and rational way, but it is clear that many or most people fail to understand things intelligently or rationally. I know that there is sometimes rhetorical power in using vague language, but when such ambiguity is so open to misunderstanding, it seems to me that a better course would be to articulate more clearly what one means. What does it really mean to refrain from judgment toward others without being reckless in one’s actions?

I have to credit traditionalist papist intellectuals for their distinctions and clarity. Perhaps, the West’s experience with scholasticism has trained its traditionally educated intellectuals to delineate their arguments with precision. I wish that Orthodox hierarchs used such careful language more. Metropolitan Jonah seems like a good and sincere man, but his sermons frustrate me. Somewhere in the words, his love of God and man shine through. He invites us to follow the higher road, and, as Christians, we have a pretty good idea of where that road begins and whither it travels. However, the messiness and apparent nonsense of much of what he says leaves a lot of potential for misunderstanding by the masses and for exploitation by ideologues. I suppose that I want a mixture of John Chrysostom and Thomas Aquinas. Does that count as avarice?

There was a flock of O.C.A. bishops at the vespers service—far more than in previous years. I am not sure if flock is the appropriate collective noun. For bishops are shepherds, not sheep. Perhaps, a brace, bevy, or brood of bishops? I do not think that any other jurisdiction’s episcopate was represented, though I recognized priests from various jurisdictions. Such is a shame. For it seems that the march would be a great opportunity for inter-Orthodox ecumenical cooperation and fellowship. That is certainly the case with the clergy and laity—there are Greeks, Antiochians, Russians, Serbs, and all the rest there marching with the O.C.A. hierarchs, along with the hundred thousand or so other Christians who come faithfully every year in the worst of winter to remind the nation that our laws should be just, that the innocent should be protected, and that God will not be mocked.

Of course, God is mocked—but for how long?

Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

I might just see you at the march. If so, thank you for marching. Stay warm. Valete!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 22, Anno Domini 2010
Politics • (2) CommentsPermalink
Wednesday, January 20, A.D. 2010
Bay State Bonissima

Scott Brown, a.k.a. the Mass. Man in a truck, the “Scott heard ‘round the world,” and “Hottie McAwesome” according to HillBuzz, won the special senate seat election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy’s place in the upper chamber. Congratulations to Brown, the Brown team, and all the fine people of the Bay State.

I have a dark confession to make. Since I was sixteen years old, I have harbored ill thoughts of Massachusetts. That year, I went to Provence to spend the summer with a French family. For a week before I was to meet my host family at a “MacDo” outside Marseilles, I traveled with a group of North American students from Paris to Provence. The majority of the kids were New Englanders, with a few Canadians, Mexicans, and Californians thrown in. I never had any prejudice against Yankees before, but I developed a dislike that week. Luckily, I made friends with a corn fed all American fellow from Indianapolis, an Italian boy from Buffalo, a pretty blonde from Kentucky, and a sweet Mormon girl from Oklahoma. We were the kids who appreciated the trip, delighted at the sights, and gave thanks to God for such an awesome experience. The New Englanders were all wealthy brats who had been there and done that. They were insufferably pompous and bored in the arrogant, ill mannered way of new moneyed punks. I became a regionalist.

My years since have reinforced the stereotype, at least with folks from Massachusetts. I have come to know rather well a hundred New Englanders since then, and the term “Mass. Hole” has empirical evidence for it. While I now appreciate New Hampshirites, Mainers, Rhode Islanders, Connecticuters, and especially Vermonters, there have been precious few Bay Staters who broke my ugly stereotype. A fine chap who was a Latinist and traditionalist papist from Worcester almost redeemed the commonwealth’s reputation in my mind, but he became an expat in Edinburgh, having had the good sense to emigrate.

So it was until my father and I traveled to New England this past summer, about which I wrote on this site. I loved the land of the Yankees—its history, culture, and, yes, denizens. I expected to hate Boston, but both my father and I fell in love with the city, and we found most people to be quite genial. I continued to believe that Massachusetts drivers were rude on the road, and, for whatever reason, the crop that I have tended to meet throughout my life has been largely unpleasant, but I found the Bay Staters on their home turf, even in Boston, quite amicable. I still blamed them for their political idiocy (the Kennedy clan, the Tsongas tribe, O’Neill, Dukakis, Frank, Studds, Patrick), but humans are not perfect. How the land of the Bradfords and Adams has fallen since Calvin Coolidge (P.B.U.H.) was governor . . .

Then, the Senate race happened. It is just amazing! I have written before that I do not think that the United States have had a more destructive political figure than Edward Kennedy. On a personal level, I liked the man, and I admire what he did for his family in his later years. However, he was a harmful political force, and he may have, more than anyone else, doomed the republic’s fate. I do not even say that about Wilson or F.D.R., who changed the country in so many ways for the worse. Still, they had many redeeming qualities. Ted was a cancer on the body politic. Yet, to think that Chappaquiddick Teddy has been replaced by a Republican who is as conservative as one can expect in contemporary Massachusetts, and that he did so by running against socialized medicine and against the Leftist messianism represented by the Obama presidency—it is joyous! What a wonderful, glorious moment in American history! Even in politics, the Bay State has surprised me.

Thus, after so many years of insulting Massachusetts, I wish to say how proud I am of those Red Sox fans. They are wicked good.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, January 20, Anno Domini 2010
Monday, January 18, A.D. 2010
Glendon Covers Cicero

Some months ago, I praised Mary Ann Glendon for her courage and wisdom regarding Notre Dame’s ill advised honoring of the president in “A Profile in Glendon.” This past week, I read an article by Glendon in First Things where she examines Cicero’s life, from which, she suggests, the young and ambitious (her law students at Harvard, for example) may draw lessons for today. As I said before, her students are incredibly blessed to have such a soul guiding them, especially in this day and age. She is our very own contemporary American Hypatia.

I encourage you to read “Cicero Superstar,” and I am thrilled that professors at Harvard outside classical studies have the sense to promote the great men of antiquity as role models and advisors for their students. There is hope, yet, for Western civilization.

I have been a fan of Cicero since I read “Somnium Scipionis” from De re publica. Some of the Verrine Orations were awesome, too. Just a few months ago, I had the pleasure to walk through the Forum and behold the Rostra. I paused for a moment in memory of Marcus Tullius Cicero, as the wicked Antony had him killed and then barbarously displayed his head and hands on the Rostra. The history of the world is full of such injustice.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 18, Anno Domini 2010
Saturday, January 16, A.D. 2010
The Splendor of Being

There is a wonderful thread currently on View from the Right, “Can an atheist believe in the good?” I addressed the question somewhat two Decembers ago in “Being Good for Goodness’ Sake,” but Auster approaches the question a bit differently:

So what I’m suggesting is that a truly atheist position is not possible. Because the atheist is a human being, he cannot help but experience the good and be attracted to the good, even if the good he believes in is a limited form of the good, such as “life is good.” But the fact that he believes in this good already takes him outside pure materiality, to the transcendent, the transcendent being defined as that which cannot be reduced to an immediate object of experience, yet is nevertheless real. And this non-material, transcendent good is part of a hierarchy of non-material, transcendent goods, the culmination of which is God.

The atheist may deny the existence of God. But he cannot deny his own nature as a being who loves the good, even if it’s a limited form of the good, such as simply loving his own life. And that love places him on a continuum of ever greater and larger goods which are ultimately inseparable from God, even if he personally denies that God exists.

So, to boil my argument down to the briefest, most radical form, the fact that the atheist experiences life as good proves that God exists. Even the limited good that he experiences could not exist unless it were on a continuum with, and thus a part of, a larger good, and ultimately that larger good is God.

I have long argued that self identifying atheists were not truly atheists but rather pantheists or some species of closeted pagans who deified nature or some aspect of it. To acknowledge order—to recognize truth—is to admit the transcendent. I have always thought about this in terms of our knowing the world. Auster shows that our desire for the good reveals the same point. Our intellect and our desire indicate the ordered hierarchy of being, and by knowing and by desiring (and valuing), we necessarily reject nihilism. The inconsistent may cling to a bastard theory in mere words disconnected from intelligible meaning, but they are breathing contradictions.

Auster’s frequent commentator Kristor weighs in with characteristic insight and beauty about the precious gift of being:

Every part of the world, every rock and mote of dust, is, just is, an instance of joy, and of pulseless longing. And this enjoyment, this pleasure in mere existence, is so incredibly vast, that the super-added pleasures of beer or wealth or success are like a thin veneer upon its glorious weighty depth. We experience more joy than do rocks, more complex and interesting pleasures; but only by a little. For to be at all is to have been created by God, and is also in some degree to worship and adore him, and to enjoy him (even if one is unconscious that one is doing so).

I may have noted this before, but I wish that Kristor had his own blog; it is such a joy to read his comments. It gladdens me to know that he exists. He has to be a Platonist. I do not know if he would call himself such, but his writing betrays the synoptic vision and the erotic soul of one of the disciples.

I recommend the thread; it even includes a bit of poetry. Again, I think of the best of the Greeks who used both logos and mythos in the pursuit of the truth.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 16, Anno Domini 2010
Thursday, January 14, A.D. 2010
Why Africa Has Gone To Hell

James Jackson has a provocative article at Taki’s site, “Why Africa Has Gone To Hell.” Jackson only points out the impermissible obvious, but in our dark and blind age, one cannot speak too much of true things too often unsayable. Such as . . .

The white man’s burden is guilt over Africa (the black man’s is sentimentality), and we are blind for it. We have tipped hundreds of billions of aid-dollars into Africa without first ensuring proper governance. We encourage NGOs and food-parcels and have built a culture of dependency. We shy away from making criticism, tiptoe around the crassness of the African Union and flinch at every anti-western jibe. The result is a free-for-all for every syphilitic black despot and his coterie of family functionaries.

Africa casts a long and toxic shadow across our consciousness. It is patronised and allowed to underperform, so too its distant black diaspora. A black London pupil is excluded from his school, not because he is lazy, stupid or disruptive, but because that school is apparently racist; a black youth is pulled over by the police, not because black males commit over eighty percent of street crime, but because the authorities are somehow corrupted by prejudice. Thus the tale continues. Excuse is everywhere and a sense of responsibility nowhere. You will rarely find either a black national leader in Africa or a black community leader in the west prepared to put up his hands and say It is our problem, our fault. Those who look to Africa for their roots, role-models and inspiration are worshipping false gods. And like all false gods, the feet are of clay, the snouts long and designed for the trough, and the torture-cells generally well-equipped.

Of course, the idea of attributing responsibility to human agents rather than nebulous systems is toxic to the Left. Likewise, the West must be the source of all disorder, while the dark, noble savages live in primitive grace. Oh, I forgot to add that Christian missionaries brought sexual anxiety and the concept of guilt to the previously innocent pagans. The human soul is not broken; only colonialism introduced evil into Eden.

One wonders how the Leftist mind so easily distorts facts. Is it on purpose, or do Leftists really believe the nonsense that they argue?

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, January 14, Anno Domini 2010
Monday, January 11, A.D. 2010
Richert on Race, Nationalism, and Patriotism

On View from the Right, Auster links to an article wherein Scott Richert defends large families—“Multiplication Tables.” After reading Richert’s lovely praise for large families, I looked at his other articles, and I found a three part discussion of race, nationalism, and patriotism from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective: part I, part II, and part III. I highly recommend these short posts, as Richert writes sensibly about issues that rarely are discussed with good sense. In his discussion of race, for example, he states:

Let’s start with the obvious point: Race matters. I know that some people are scrolling down to the comment box already to explain why I’m wrong; why no good Catholic can believe such a thing; to cite St. Paul and Pius XI and Paul VI. In doing so, though, they’re proving my point: If race didn’t matter, what difference would it make that I’ve said that it does? Moreover, the Church, far from rejecting racial differences, assumes that they exist. Don’t believe it?  Then, instead of trotting out St. Paul and Mit Brennender Sorge and Populorum Progresso, actually read them. The references to racial differences in these documents are not rejections of such differences, but acknowledgments of them.

The question is how we proceed once we acknowledge such differences. It is possible to accept racial differences as a fact of life while avoiding the obsessions of both the racialists and the anti-racialists. In fact, most of the anti-racialists hold, at root, the same assumption as the racialists. For both, race matters more than anything else: That’s why the anti-racialists feel compelled, against empirical evidence, to deny the very reality of race, because once they admit it, they believe (as the racialists do) that that reality has to trump everything else. The only way to get past racial obsessions, therefore, is to deny race.

We might as well deny that the sky is blue or that the sun rises in the east.  Race is real; it matters; and, once again, we’re back to the fundamental question: As Christians, what do we do once we acknowledge this reality?

I often find it curious why people are so intent to blind themselves to facts. Do they think that once we acknowledge differences in various populations, then we must adopt the social policies of National Socialism? Is such an illogical jump due to propaganda or to shared assumptions, as Richert suggests? It reminds me of Ann Coulter’s words about the Left’s reaction to The Bell Curve:

Liberals were afraid of a book that told the truth about IQ (“The Bell Curve”) because they are godless secularists who do not believe humans are in God’s image. Christians have no fear of hearing facts about genetic differences in IQ because we don’t think humans are special because they are smart. There may be some advantages to being intelligent, but a lot of liberals appear to have high IQs, so, really, what’s the point? After Hitler carried the secularists’ philosophy to its grisly conclusion, liberals are terrified of making any comment that seems to acknowledge that there are any differences among groups of people — especially racial groups. It’s difficult to have a simple conversation — much less engage in free-ranging, open scientific inquiry — when liberals are constantly rushing in with their rule book about what can and cannot be said.

I suppose that so many Leftists’ commitment to consequentialist morality might also have something to do with their willful ignorance. When one lives in shadow for so much time, eventually, one will not be able to abide in the sun. Error contaminates and spreads in the soul of man.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 11, Anno Domini 2010
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