Rod Dreher

E-mail Rod

Pope: ‘All Religions Want Peace’

King Jan Sobieski of Poland, who saved Christendom from Ottoman armies at the Gates of Vienna, 1683 (Konstantinks/Shutterstock)
King Jan Sobieski of Poland, who saved Christendom from Ottoman armies at the Gates of Vienna, 1683 (Konstantinks/Shutterstock)

Pope Francis gotta Pope-Francis:

Pope Francis said Wednesday the world was at war but argued that religion was not the cause, as he arrived in Poland a day after jihadists murdered a priest in France.

“We must not be afraid to say the truth, the world is at war because it has lost peace,” the pontiff told journalists aboard a flight from the Rome to Krakow.

“When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion. All religions want peace, it’s the others who want war.”

This is absurd. No, it’s not absurd: this is a lie. It may not be a conscious lie — I presume it isn’t; he’s the Pope, after all — but it is a dangerous untruth. He is misleading the Christian people. One shouldn’t expect the Pope to speak like King Jan Sobieski, the “savior of Christendom” from the Ottoman invaders at Vienna. But I hope that some of the fighting Polish monarchs contemporary descendants have a few words with Francis in Poland this week.

Jean Raspail, a traditionalist French Catholic, has the number of Pope Francis and religious leaders like him, who out of their mindless, see-no-evil “compassion” open the door for horror. The martyr Père Jacques Hymel was slaughtered like an animal at mass yesterday by two Muslims shouting “Allahu akbar,” yet the Bishop of Rome is afraid to speak the truth, even as he pretends otherwise.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 66 comments

Trump Has A Point On Russia Hack

The cat that ate the 30,000 e-mail canary (Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com)
The cat that ate the 30,000 e-mail canary (Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com)

Evergreen headline: ‘Media Freaking Out Over Trump Statement.’ Today, as ever, it’s valid:

Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially sanctioning a foreign power’s cyberspying of a secretary of state’s correspondence.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which researchers have concluded was likely the work of two Russian intelligence agencies.

Shocking? Sure. But Trump’s statement draws a bead on how completely reckless Secretary of State Clinton was with her private e-mail server. I am quite sure that Russia already has those e-mails, and will see to it that any juicy items in them will be released at opportune times in the fall campaign.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much of The Americans, but I am also not particularly outraged by this behavior. I wish Russia hadn’t done it, but come on, we would do the same thing to them if we had the chance. In 2014, the Russians intercepted a phone call between senior US diplomat Victoria Nuland and another American diplomat, in which they discussed American efforts behind the scenes to influence Ukrainian politics in an anti-Moscow direction. Here’s a transcript of that discussion. None of this should surprise us. In fact, I would be surprised to learn that hackers in the employ of the CIA and the NSA are not doing the same thing to the Russians right now.

Should Americans care that Putin is trying to influence the US presidential election? Yeah, I guess. I don’t like the thought of any foreign government meddling in our national politics. But we do it to other countries all the time. This is how the game is played. I think it’s a more important issue that the Democratic candidate was so careless with top-secret communications that she left herself open to hackers working for the Russians, the Chinese, and any other foreign government. It’s sheer, reckless incompetence. And if there’s anything we know about the Clintons, it’s that they’re reckless.

My colleague Noah Millman says in his post pretty much everything I say here about this fiasco, except he thinks it’s outrageous that Trump failed to denounce Russia for interfering in US affairs. All things considered, I greatly wish Trump had done as Noah wishes he had done. Does it really need pointing out that Trump is also reckless as hell? But after Trump talked about his penis size in a GOP presidential candidate’s debate, I ceased to be shocked by anything that comes out of that short-fingered vulgarian’s mouth.

Please don’t “whatabout” me regarding Trump. I believe he is a menace. But the fact that he is a menace does not obviate the fact that HRC is too. Trump’s outrageous statement today only confirms that. There is almost certainly no question but that the Russians have those e-mails already. The only questions are what’s in them, and when are the Russians going to drop that particular propaganda bomb.

UPDATE: This:

And:

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 65 comments

Peter Thiel Was Wrong

Peter Thiel (JD Lasica/Flickr)
Peter Thiel (JD Lasica/Flickr)

Please forgive me for spotty posting and comment-approving this week. We are still in process of moving, and don’t yet have wifi at our new place. I have to leave to go somewhere else to read the Internet, to write for this site, and to approve comments. It’s cumbersome. Internet will be hooked up on Friday. Again, thanks for your patience.

I meant to write about this last week, during the RNC, but forget. Here’s a part of the speech of Silicon Valley gay transhumanist uberrich genius Peter Thiel that I wanted to highlight:

When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.

This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?

Of course, every American has a unique identity.

I am proud to be gay.

I am proud to be a Republican.

But most of all I am proud to be an American.

I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.

Well, look, for all I know, Thiel meant this as a shot to both liberal and conservative culture warriors. But I think it more likely that he meant it at conservatives. Whatever the case, he’s wrong. I will answer his point assuming that he meant it as a criticism of conservatives.

You hear this kind of thing a lot from social liberals who genuinely believe that nothing serious is at stake in the culture war. If conservatives would just roll over and accept that the liberal view is naturally, obviously correct, we could get back to our “real” problems. Thiel is the sort of person who looks at pro-Brexit voters and cannot imagine why they didn’t understand that their material interests were with the Remain side. What people like Thiel — really intelligent people, let us stipulate! — don’t understand is that not everybody values the things they do. Real, important things are being struggled over.

Let me try to explain the sense of siege cultural conservatives are undergoing by referring you to a terrific London Review of Books piece by John Lanchester, explaining the Brexit vote. It’s the best thing I’ve read about it hands-down, and for the discerning American reader, there are things in it to learn about our own situation. Take a look at these excerpts:

To be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat – a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy. The people who grow up in these places come from a cultural background which equipped them for reasonably well-paid manual labour, un- and semi- and skilled. Children left school as soon as they could and went to work in the same industries that had employed their parents. The academically able kids used to go to grammar school and be educated into the middle class. All that has now gone, the jobs and the grammar schools, and the vista instead is a landscape where there is often work – there are pockets of unemployment, but in general there’s no shortage of jobs and the labour force participation rate is the highest it has ever been, a full 15 points higher than in the US – but it’s unsatisfying, insecure and low-paid. This new work doesn’t do what the old work did: it doesn’t offer a sense of identity or community or self-worth. The word ‘precarious’ has as its underlying sense ‘depending on the favour of another person’. Somebody can take away the things you have whenever they feel like it. The precariat, as the new class is called, might not know the etymology, but it doesn’t need to: the reality is all too familiar.

More:

One of the most important ideas to emerge from micro-economics – or at least, the one with the most consequences for democratic politics – is ‘loss aversion’. People hate to have things taken away from them. But whole swathes of the UK have spent the last decades feeling that things are being taken away from them: their jobs, their sense that they are heard, their understanding of how the world works and their place in it. The gaps in our society have just grown too big.

Now, Lanchester is talking about economics. But let’s take the same point and use it to think about the US culture war. Culturally speaking, to be born in many places in the US is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat. If you come from a culturally conservative region, or family, you understand that the people who make the decisions in this culture are on the other side. At best they regard you as irrelevant. At worst, they hate you, and want to grind your nose in the dirt. Whatever the case, the things you value, that are important to your identity, and your sense of how the world is supposed to work, are either fading away or being taken from you — and you can’t do anything about it.

Consider the bathroom debate that Thiel finds so irrelevant. Thiel lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Perhaps he genuinely cannot understand the sense of violation that many of his fellow Americans feel when they are told that men dressed like women must be allowed to use the women’s bathroom in public places. But it’s real. And maybe he doesn’t get the utter hypocrisy of corporate elites on this issue, captured by one North Carolina Congressman:

Cn_fPxfWgAAXAAA

Believe me, a lot of us notice. Ordinary people who have never had a thought about theory in their lives see the world they took as normal, as stable, as comprehensible, disappearing in front of their eyes, driven by forces they cannot understand, much less control. Some of the more thoughtful conservatives see the deeper problems at issue. Here’s theologian Carl Trueman on the new mandated LGBT history standards in California schools:

Yuval Levin has written recently that the ethic of modern America is that of expressive individualism. Herein lies the problem: Taken absolutely, expressive individualism has no specific content and thus is subject to those identities which society considers authentic and to which it has thus granted legitimacy. But who decides which identities are authentic? Have you ever wondered why some minorities make it and others do not? Why, say, LGBTQers have pride of place on the California curriculum but foot fetishists, redheads, and people with allergies to latex do not? It is because the latter currently lack the cultural cachet that comes with the imprimatur of the entertainment industry, with the public sympathy arising from publicized marginalization and victimhood, and with the influence of organized lobby groups.

Thus, the California curriculum is a symptomatic codification of the aesthetic preferences of the current political culture. As such, it raises question far beyond whether schools rather than parents should teach children sexual morality. For years, the in-house question for historians has been whether history can survive as a discipline despite the proliferation of micro-narratives and the collapse of the possibility of grand theory. But now that academic question has more immediate real-world consequences: Can the nation state, or maybe society in general in the democratic form with which we are familiar, survive in anything like its current shape, when history—which is vital to the nation-state’s legitimation—is fracturing into the myriad identities to which expressive individualism is ultimately vulnerable? When you add to this the other forces militating against social unity—immigration, globalization, etc.—the institutions and processes built on a deep sense of social unity and cohesion look profoundly vulnerable.

The action of the State of California may well be driven by the trendy politics of the day, but it represents a phenomenon of comprehensive social and political importance, not just the ascendancy of a particular political stance. The new curriculum represents the confusion that lies at the very heart of modern Western identity; it is far more significant than merely putting the name of Harvey Milk into the minds of the young. It is part of an ongoing and perhaps largely unwitting challenge to what it means to be human, and thus to the way the world is currently organized. But, as George Orwell once commented, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” Indeed it is. And we may all be about to be burned.

It’s about identity. And it goes even deeper than that, as Trueman explains in a subsequent post:

The Civil Rights movement was built on the egalitarian assumption that African Americans shared with those of European ancestry a common humanity which transcended and ultimately undermined racial categories; by contrast, LGBTQ politics assumes that self-determined individual sexual identity trumps everything. It is thus built not on the foundation of a common humanity but on the priority of the individual’s will.

This is not a stance unique to LGBTQ activists. In fact, it is one of the major assumptions in the contemporary political climate. Much of modern politics—right and left—operates with an impoverished, solipsistic definition of selfhood. The result is that we have lost the classic liberal balance between the constraints rooted in the concept of a shared humanity and the rights of the individual. The late modern self would seem to be understood primarily as a self-determining agent whose desires are curbed only by the principle of consent when brought into relationship with the desires of another self-determining agent.

The idea here is that there is no such thing as a shared human nature, that human beings are defined not by nature, but by their own wills. More:

This demolition of the concept of human nature started centuries ago and is now firmly ensconced in art, in literature, in social and material relations, and in legal and political institutions and the standard news and entertainment media narratives. It thus has tremendous momentum. Anyone wishing to defend the unborn or traditional marriage has a much greater task on their hands than that faced by those who oppose them on these issues.

Assuming that he is a conservative, the man sitting across from me in the coffee shop where I’m writing this post probably wouldn’t be able to discuss the culture war as a fight over human nature itself. But it is, and however inarticulate he may be, even in explaining this to himself, he dimly senses that this is what is happening.

Of course, Peter Thiel is a transhumanist, and by definition he believes that human nature is determined by our own wills. Of course the culture wars are “fake” to him. He believes culture warriors are contending over something that doesn’t exist.

There is a widespread sense that the way the socially liberal globalist perceives the world is the end of history, as opposed to something constructed and particular to this time and place. In a typically prolix and brilliant post on Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander defends what he calls “universal culture.” I can’t possibly do justice to the scope of his post with a few excerpts, but I’ll try:

I am pretty sure there was, at one point, such a thing as western civilization. I think it involved things like dancing around maypoles and copying Latin manuscripts. At some point Thor might have been involved. That civilization is dead. It summoned an alien entity from beyond the void which devoured its summoner and is proceeding to eat the rest of the world.

An analogy: naturopaths like to use the term “western medicine” to refer to the evidence-based medicine of drugs and surgeries you would get at your local hospital. They contrast this with traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, which it has somewhat replaced, apparently a symptom of the “westernization” of Chinese and Indian societies.

But “western medicine” is just medicine that works. It happens to be western because the West had a technological head start, and so discovered most of the medicine that works first. But there’s nothing culturally western about it; there’s nothing Christian or Greco-Roman about using penicillin to deal with a bacterial infection. Indeed, “western medicine” replaced the traditional medicine of Europe – Hippocrates’ four humors – before it started threatening the traditional medicines of China or India. So-called “western medicine” is an inhuman perfect construct from beyond the void, summoned by Westerners, which ate traditional Western medicine first and is now proceeding to eat the rest of the world.

“Western culture” is no more related to the geographical west than western medicine. People who complain about western culture taking over their country always manage to bring up Coca-Cola. But in what sense is Coca-Cola culturally western? It’s an Ethiopian bean mixed with a Colombian leaf mixed with carbonated water and lots and lots of sugar. An American was the first person to discover that this combination tasted really good – our technological/economic head start ensured that. But in a world where America never existed, eventually some Japanese or Arabian chemist would have found that sugar-filled fizzy drinks were really tasty. It was a discovery waiting to be plucked out of the void, like penicillin. America summoned it but did not create it. If western medicine is just medicine that works, soda pop is just refreshment that works.

The same is true of more intellectual “products”. Caplan notes that foreigners consume western gender norms, but these certainly aren’t gender norms that would have been recognizable to Cicero, St. Augustine, Henry VIII, or even Voltaire. They’re gender norms that sprung up in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and its turbulent intermixing of the domestic and public economies. They arose because they worked. The West was the first region to industrialize and realize those were the gender norms that worked for industrial societies, and as China and Arabia industrialize they’re going to find the same thing.

Can ideas be likened to material products? Alexander again:

Universal culture is the collection of the most competitive ideas and products. Coca-Cola spreads because it tastes better than whatever people were drinking before. Egalitarian gender norms spread because they’re more popular and likeable than their predecessors. If there was something that outcompeted Coca-Cola, then that would be the official soda of universal culture and Coca-Cola would be consigned to the scrapheap of history.

The only reason universal culture doesn’t outcompete everything else instantly and achieve fixation around the globe is barriers to communication. Some of those barriers are natural – Tibet survived universalization for a long time because nobody could get to it. Sometimes the barrier is time – universal culture can’t assimilate every little valley hill and valley instantly. Other times there are no natural barriers, and then your choice is to either accept assimilation into universal culture, or put up some form of censorship.

Imagine that Tibet wants to protect its traditional drink of yak’s milk. The Dalai Lama requests that everyone continue to drink yak’s milk. But Coca-Cola tastes much better than yak’s milk, and everyone knows this. So it becomes a coordination problem: even if individual Tibetans would prefer that their neighbors all drink yak’s milk to preserve the culture, they want to drink Coca-Cola. The only way yak’s milk stays popular is if the Dalai Lama bans Coca-Cola from the country.

But westerners aren’t banning yak’s milk to “protect” their cultures. They don’t have to. Universal culture is high-entropy; it’s already in its ground state and will survive and spread without help. All other cultures are low-entropy; they survive only if someone keeps pushing energy into the system to protect them.

Hold on. This is circular. “Universal culture” is whatever is dominant in a given moment? That’s hardly a culture, is it? A useful digression: Amelia Sims discusses the relationship of cult to culture:

Culture comes from the cult: people joining together for worship. From this primary association, the body of worshipers can cultivate community.

According the the great historian of Western Civilization, Christopher Dawson, “A social culture is an organized way of life which is based on a common tradition and conditioned by a common environment. . . . It is clear that a common way of life involves a common view of life, common standards of behavior and common standards of value, and consequently a culture is a spiritual community…Therefore from the beginning the social way of life which is culture has been deliberately ordered and directed in accordance with the higher laws of life which are religion.”

Taking the cult out of culture leaves a residual set of customs and ideas that no longer tie people together because they lack the unifying center. A culture that has lost the cult becomes a culture with many cults. Today the fragmentation of culture has lead to a narrow mass culture only united on the surface, but really fragmented.

Without this religious center, every aspect of culture has its own version of a cult, usually of personality. There is no longer unification between worship, art, sport, and beauty, but a great divide- celebrity vs. celebrity, cult vs. cult.

We’re getting close to an answer here. Back to Alexander one more time:

I think universal culture has done a really good job adapting to this through a strategy of social atomization; everybody does their own thing in their own home, and the community exists to protect them and perform some lowest common denominator functions that everyone can agree on. This is a really good way to run a multicultural society without causing any conflict, but it requires a very specific set of cultural norms and social technologies to work properly, and only universal culture has developed these enough to pull it off.

So: the ‘cult’ of universal culture is the sovereign individual. It is the worship of the Self. Alexander, who is a physician (Alexander is not his real name) identifies as a liberal. I assume he is an atheist, though I could be wrong about that. If you are an atheist, you are a materialist; you believe there is no such thing as transcendent meaning, that things only “mean” what we decide they mean. To someone like that, so-called “universal culture” seems rational. But to someone who believes in God — the God of the Jews, or the God of the Christians, or the God of the Muslims, and on and on — “universal culture” is … untrue. Why should anybody believe that “universal culture” is true? Alexander answers: because it works. Well, what is “works”? Alexander calls universal culture an engine of “progress.” To assert that, you have to have an idea of what constitutes progress. Alexander is smuggling teleology into his argument. What he considers to be progress sometimes looks to people like me as regress. By what standard does he call it progress?

What he probably considers to be progress is the liberation of the choosing individual from constraints on his choice. OK, fine. In this conception, there is no good and no evil, only choices that “work” and choices that don’t. But you can only decide which choices (and the values that inform them) “work” if you have an idea of what it means to “work.” You see what I’m getting at here? What looks like cosmopolitan universalism to the Alexanders and Thiels of the world is really a form of advanced parochialism, one that conceals its own cultic preferences from itself.

Alexander admits in his essay that he has more in common with readers of his blog in Finland than he does with his neighbor, who he has never met. That kind of ethic “works” as long as we remain a rich, stable, technologically advanced society. But if the power goes out for any length of time (literally and metaphorically), the real differences between Alexander’s house and Finland will assert themselves fiercely.

Back to Thiel’s assertion that the culture wars are not real. They are certainly real, in that they define what it means to be human, what it means to be a member of society, how we are to live together, and so on. I doubt a gay man in 1980s rural Alabama would say the culture wars aren’t real. Similarly, a traditionalist Catholic living in San Francisco in 2016 wouldn’t say the culture wars aren’t real. “Universal culture” only seems so to people who live in its artificial bubble.

One last point: social and religious conservatives should understand clearly that the culture wars are over in the Republican Party. It has nominated a man who doesn’t care about the culture wars. The only culture war that counts is the one orthodox religious communities and their members are going to wage privately against the “universal culture.” This is what my Benedict Option project is about. But I’ve gone on too long here.

Posted in . Tagged , , , , . 85 comments

Decline & Fall Of Poor Country People

Terry Teachout has been reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and reflecting on his own Depression-era ancestors, who came from the same kind of material poverty Vance documents, but who were morally courageous and solid. Excerpt:

What happened to the full-fledged hillbillies my grandparents left behind in Appalachia? Why did their great-grandchildren exchange their unselfconscious faith for self-ravaging hopelessness? I leave it to others to plumb the moral disintegration of America’s rural working class, for I know nothing of it at first hand. The small Missouri town in which I grew up, though far from wealthy, was nothing like Breathitt County, Kentucky. All I know is that Gracie and Albert lived at a time when the behavior chronicled in Hillbilly Elegy was, quite literally, unthinkable. I weep to imagine what they would have thought of it.

Yes, that’s right. My own late grandparents were more or less the same generation as Terry’s Gracie and Albert, and equally humbled by circumstance. But they had dignity and self-discipline and character. The only thing they lacked was money, and opportunity.

How is it that when America had far less in the way of material wealth, and families of the poor — black and white both — had far more pressures on them, they did not succumb to self-degradation as so many of the poor do today? There was never a Golden Age, but when I think about how so few people today, whatever their material lack, knew the poverty that my grandparents’ generation of country people did, yet they still held it together — well, to think about their history is to realize that the idea that social breakdown and dysfunction is entirely a matter of material causation is radically insufficient. It is absolutely part of the picture, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Not even close.
Here’s an earlier Teachout reflection on the character of his grandparents, and of the small Missouri town from which he comes.

By the way, the reason you’ve had trouble accessing this site in the past few days is because the response to my interview with J.D. Vance has been absolutely overwhelming. We’ve been struggling to keep the site up. Vance struck a deep nerve. In the wake of the interview going viral, Hillbilly Elegy has rocketed up the Amazon.com chart, such that Amazon is having trouble now fulfilling orders. If you want the book so badly, go to your local bookseller to buy a copy. They would appreciate your business. Otherwise, Barnes & Noble’s online store has it ready to ship today.

Posted in . Tagged , , . 61 comments

Father Jacques Hamel, Martyr

Charles Martel halting the Moorish conquest at the Battle of Tours (Everett Historical/Shutterstock)
Charles Martel halting the Moorish conquest at the Battle of Tours (Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

Oh my God:

Two knife-wielding attackers who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest (one report says he was beheaded) and critically wounded at least one other person during a Tuesday morning terror attack on a Catholic church near the Normandy city of Rouen, officials said.

The terrorists were later shot and killed by police. ISIS’ Amaq news agency said the France attack was carried out by two Islamic State “soldiers,” Reuters reported.

“[ISIS] has declared war on us,” French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday. “We must fight this war by all means, while respecting the rule of law — what makes us a democracy.”
The priest, identified by Sky News as Jacques Hamel, was dead at the scene, and another person, possibly a nun, was clinging to life, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

The church is in the French region of Normandy.
“Everyone knew him very well,” Claude-Albert Seguin, 68, said of Hamel. “He was very loved in the community and a kind man.”

The killing Tuesday inside the church, in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, “is obviously a drama for the Catholic community, for the Christian community,” Brandet told reporters.

The church was reportedly on a “hit list” discovered at the residence of a would-be ISIS attacker in April 2015, The Sun reported. Sid Ghlam was believed to be planning “imminent attacks” in France when investigators arrested him. Officials allegedly uncovered an arsenal of weapons and found that Ghlam was talking with someone in Syria who had ordered him to strike specific churches — including the one in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

He was martyred by these Islamists while saying mass. More:

The priest’s throat was slit by two men armed with knives who took five people – Hamel, two nuns and two worshippers – hostage in the church. The two men were later shot by police. Three hostages were freed unharmed but one is in a critical condition.

It is believed, but not yet confirmed, that the critically injured person is an elderly nun.

And get this:

One of the Normandy church murderers was a convicted terrorist who was meant to be living with his parents with an electronic tag on his ankle, according to security sources.

The astonishing revelation – made to the French TV news channel I-Tele – well cause further outrage in a country devastated by constant security failings.

Why in God’s name are convicted terrorists allowed outside of prison?!
What is wrong with the French government?!

There are no words to describe the brutality of men who could do such a thing. If they can strike in a suburban town in Normandy, no place is safe.

I mentioned here the other day that a French friend had bought a gun, and is expecting some sort of civil war. This is why. People will not live with this kind of savagery forever. Father Jacques Hamel, martyr, pray for us, and for France.

Vive la France!

UPDATE:
These tweets from a leading English progressive Catholic and biographer of Pope Francis make evident the moral bankruptcy of (at least some of) the European Catholic left:

They beheaded this elderly priest as he said mass, and shouted, “Allahu akbar!” What the hell do Muslim terrorists have to do to make progressives like Austen Ivereigh and Pope Francis see what’s right in front of their noses?

Here is one prominent Christian — Cardinal Robert Sarah — who doesn’t need to be told:

Translation: “How many dead will it take before European governments understand the situation in which the West finds itself? How many decapitated heads? +RS”

Look, you don’t have to advocate vengeance to recognize that this was Muslim fanatics killing Catholic Christians in the name of Islam. Honest, I do not get why this is so hard for progressive Christians to see and to say out loud. These lies, whether conscious or a matter of self-deception, are positively harmful.

This murder was not “absurd,” as Pope Francis said. This murder happened for a reason. Père Hamel, the martyr, died because he was a Christian priest, and that offended two radical Muslims, who butchered him before the altar of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

If the meaning of this event in suburban Rouen is not clear to Pope Francis and his biographer, their blindness is incurable. From The Guardian:

A witness to the attack has described how the two men forced the 86-year-old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, to his knees, slit his throat and filmed themselves appearing to preach in Arabic at the altar.

The nun, named as Sister Danielle, was among five hostages who were taken when the men armed with knives reportedly entered the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, at 9.43am local time on Tuesday during morning prayers.

“Everyone was shouting ‘stop, stop you don’t know what you’re doing’. They forced him to his knees and obviously he wanted to defend himself and that’s when the drama began,” Sister Danielle said, adding that she had fled the church while the terrorists cut Hamel’s throat.

Hey, it could have been Swedish Lutherans? Who are we to judge?

 

Posted in , , . Tagged , , , . 119 comments

‘Crooked Hillary’

David Brooks has a good column today advising Hillary Clinton regarding what she needs to do to defeat Trump. This part jumped out at me:

Third, you’re going to have to answer hatred with love. Your tendency so far in your career has been to answer hostility with distrust, and secretiveness.

You’ve ended up projecting coldness but also weakness and hurt. People who build emotional walls amid conflict do so out of fear, not strength.

Along the way you’ve made yourself phenomenally unpopular. The polls show that you are now just as distrusted by the American people as Donald Trump is.

Yesterday I caught an unaired (till last night) part of Scott Pelley’s “60 Minutes” interview with Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. He put to her a question about the DNC e-mail hack, and what it revealed about the way the supposedly neutral party insiders conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign on her behalf.

Clinton looked cold and resentful that she should have to answer the question, then accused Pelley of sandbagging her. And I thought: Classic Clinton behavior.
They don’t feel that the normal rules apply to them, and they’re resentful that anyone would question their behavior.

She, and the DNC, are living up to Trump’s slur. We all know what kind of burden the GOP is going to have going into this fall election. But the Democrats’ burden is just as heavy.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 85 comments

And So, Baton Rouge

Two years ago yesterday, my family moved into our new house in Starhill. Julie and I thought we would be there forever. Yesterday, we moved to an apartment in Baton Rouge. I’m writing this from the new bedroom, on our first night there. It doesn’t quite feel real.

To catch up those who missed it: we moved suddenly, and primarily because our beloved Orthodox mission, St. John the Theologian, is losing its priest. About six weeks ago, I suppose it was, our congregation was shocked to hear that one of our founding families was leaving us. Not only were we sad for them, but we were sad for ourselves. We knew that our mission operated on a bare-bones budget. If we lost a single tither, that would be the end for us. And so it was. Our beautiful country part of the world is not interested in Orthodoxy. We knew it would be a hard sell, and it has proven to be so. We tried. The Spirit blows where it will.

That’s not strictly true. Our friends at the mission are going to keep it open for Sunday prayer, and for a priest to come once or twice a month to say the liturgy. But Julie and I made the call fairly quickly to move to Baton Rouge. There were several reasons, the main one of which is that neither one of us are willing to live again without close involvement with an Orthodox parish. The past four years in the mission have been agonizing in some ways, but rewarding in ways that are hard for me to describe. I suppose the best testimony to how the mission changed Julie and me is that we have uprooted ourselves and moved 35 miles south to the city so we would be close to an active mission. There is no substitute for being present. We have tried before to be part of a church with a 45 minute drive between us and it. Doesn’t work, not for us anyway.

We have kids who are getting older. They need an active church life as much as their parents do. The work I’ve been doing on the Benedict Option book has convinced me even more deeply of this truth. As I wrote in How Dante Can Save Your Life, the greatest lesson of my coming home after being away for so long was discovering that I had made idols of Family and Place, and that I needed to repent of that. My change of heart did not mean that I disdained Family and Place. It only meant that I subordinated them to God, as they ought to have been in the first place. As I thought they had been, but I was wrong. Such a hard, hard lesson to learn, but glory to God that I learned it.

Still … we uprooted ourselves again. We are not happy about it. We leave behind dear friends and a place we love, though “leave behind” must be qualified by the fact that it’s only an easy 45-minute drive away. We didn’t sell our house, so you never know what’s going to happen. Mam is in good physical health, so we feel at liberty to do this now. In fact, we felt like we had to. The Church is the rock of our lives, which is to say, God.

We had already put the moving plans in motion when the shooting of Alton Sterling happened, and then the revenge murder of the two police officers and the sheriff’s deputy. I thought, oh man, do we really want to move to Baton Rouge right now? But it was too late. We hoped for the best.

Since the killings of the law enforcement officers, Baton Rouge has shown itself at its best. You’ve seen on the national news, probably, how the city has come together to honor the lives of these men — two white men and a black man — without regard to race. People here, black and white, are praying. This afternoon I was sitting in a cafe doing some writing, and heard on the radio an announcer reading Ofc. Montrell Jackson’s now-famous Facebook post after Sterling’s killing and amid the protests it sparked. The announcer read this aloud:

Then he nearly broke into tears, recalling that Ofc. Jackson was buried today. “Thank you, brother,” he said. I nearly burst into tears myself. On a nearby muted TV screen, I could see interviews from a local newscast, in which the reporter talked to folks who had come out to line the road to bid farewell to Ofc. Jackson as his hearse rolled past. Black people and white people both. One thin older white woman with a battered face, who might not have had all her teeth, was interviewed standing on the roadside, paying her respects.

I thought: there is Baton Rouge. And then I thought: it’s good to be back.

Posted in , . Tagged . 16 comments

J.D. Vance’s Straight Talk About Poverty

The J.D. Vance interview really hit a nerve. Over the weekend, so many people tried to read it that the site crashed for a while. It has become by far the most-read piece ever on TAC. If you liked the interview, then by all means buy Hillbilly Elegy, Vance’s book.

The most fascinating correspondence I’m getting from the piece is from liberals who loved it. Here’s an excerpt from a letter I received from an academic whose roots are in Appalachia, and whose professional work is on Appalachian topics. I’ve edited it slightly to protect her privacy:

I do think the way I grew up is why I feel the way I do. My grandparents, who stayed in [Appalachia], worked incredibly hard every day of their lives, but they were poor until the day they died. This is why I get so angry when I hear some conservatives (not all!) suggest that the poor are lazy or, as Trump would say, “losers.” They worked harder than anybody I’ve ever known, but there’s not a lot of money to be made in [their business] — and that’s all that was available for work in that part of [Appalachia] at that time. That’s why I just can’t deal with Trump and the Republicans who endorse a secular version of the prosperity gospel. Hard work is no guarantee of success; sometimes the deck is stacked against you. That is one of the things I really appreciated about Vance’s argument–he acknowledged that while also still recognizing the importance of hard work and the possibilities of individual agency.

The left drives me nuts in some ways, too. Some of the people I work with would look down their noses at my grandparents because they only had eighth grade educations–they’d write them off as “stupid hillbillies.” There is nothing that makes me angrier. They may not have had the opportunities to be highly educated, but they were intelligent. That is true of so many people all over the world. The refusal to talk about individual agency also bothers me greatly, and then of course there’s the bigotry. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Must have been a short dissertation!” when I first got my job here and told people that my dissertation focused on [a topic having to do with intelligence in Appalachia]. Now I hear “I guess it’s a short book!” about [my recent book on the same topic]. My colleagues who also do this research feel the same way I do–we all want to punch these people.

I spend most of my time feeling out of place culturally. I’m so sick of being told by some on the Right that I’m a man-hater, that I’m responsible for the destruction of our country, that I indoctrinate our youth, that I’m godless and immoral, etc. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for over 20 years. I love my daughter and son more than anything in the world. I go to church regularly. I’ve never smoked, done drugs, or been drunk in my life. But I’m also sick of some on the Left who act like I’m an idiot because I believe in God and that evil exists. I get tired of those who pretend that people’s bad lives are always a result of victimization. Yes. maybe they were victimized by “the system,” but their own bad choices played a role, too. No woman should ever be raped, but good lord, I want to shake some of these girls (and guys) and say, “Quit drinking until you’re unconscious!” Sure, in an ideal world you should be able to do whatever you want without having to worry about your safety, but would you rather be “right” or would you rather not be more vulnerable to rape? It’s insanity to me that we (feminists) are silent on the really unhealthy drinking that leaves so many young women easy prey for these sexual predators.

 

Would you believe that two other liberal correspondents who wrote to praise Vance are black and gay — one of them is an immigrant — and both identified Vance’s discussion about moral agency among the poor as critically important? They both grew up poor, and said this is a factor that does not get discussed.

I love the way J.D. Vance has opened up a space for more honest dialogue about poverty and dysfunction in America. If you think his book is all about blaming the poor people from which he came for all their own problems, you’re simply wrong. But he doesn’t sugarcoat or sentimentalize their lives either. He’s quite explicit in the book that if it hadn’t been for his tough old hillbilly grandmother, who finally took custody of teenage J.D. from his drug-addict mother, and the US Marine Corps, he almost certainly would have been another casualty of his culture. To be specific, he almost certainly would have been a casualty of the behavior of the adults in his culture.

(Readers, please be patient today. Commenting and comments-approval will be slow today. We are moving to a new house.)

Posted in , , . Tagged , , , , . 54 comments

On Bended Knee

Sid Gautreaux, the sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, says goodbye to Deputy Brad Garafola (from Facebook)

That is East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, praying at the hearse carrying the body of Deputy Brad Garafola, one of three law enforcement officers murdered last Sunday by Gavin Long. Here is that image from a different angle:

13775615_10206909670399770_2686809705709770985_n

I don’t know who took either image. They are going around my Facebook friends. I found them both on the feed of Sheriff Gautreaux’s daughter.

They are stunning images. His daughter said she’s never seen her father, a veteran lawman, so broken up as he’s been this week. Baton Rouge buried police Officer Matthew Gerald on Friday, Deputy Garofala on Saturday, and will bury police Officer Montrell Jackson today.

My dad used to go hunting with Sid Gautreaux when I was a kid. I hadn’t seen the sheriff in decades. But when he heard last summer that my father was on his deathbed, he drove up to Starhill to tell him goodbye, just days before Daddy passed. It meant the world to my dad. That’s a good man, that Sid Gautreaux. The honor in that image.

Posted in , , . Tagged , , , . 8 comments

White House, Hot Mess

Trump’s presser the day after the GOP Convention is the reason why I fear somebody this unstable in the White House. Understand that this is a man who has just been named the Republican nominee to become President of the United States. He stands to become the most powerful man in the world. And yet, on the first day of the general election campaign for him, he goes on and on and on about how Ted Cruz hurt his feelings. Excerpt:

His father. I don’t know his father, I met him once. I think he’s a lovely guy. I think he’s a lovely guy. All I did was point out that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father. Instead he said, “Donald Trump!” — I had nothing to do with it!

This was a magazine that frankly, in many respects, should be very respected. They got OJ, they got Edwards. If that was the New York Times, they would’ve gotten Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting. I’ve always said, “Why didn’t the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards, and OJ Simpson, and all of these things?”

But anyway, so they have a picture, an old picture, having breakfast with Lee Harvey Oswald. Now, I’m not saying anything. Here’s how the press takes that story. This had nothing to do with me. Except I might have pointed it out, but it had nothing to do with me, I have no control over anything. I might have pointed it out. But nobody ever denied — did anyone ever deny that it was his father? It’s a little hard to do, because it looks like him.

So here’s the story, they say, “Donald Trump and his conspiracy theories, he went out and said his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald, and he assassinated the president.” What’d I do?

So two things. Those were the two points.

So on those two points, he said about the endorsement — And I just cleared up, I think I’m doing the right thing in doing it but I have to do it. Number one: The Heidi thing you understand now. Number two: I know nothing about his father, I know nothing about Lee Harvey Oswald. But there was a picture on the front page of the National Enquirer which does have credibility, and they’re not going to do pictures like that because they get sued for a lot of money if things are wrong. Okay? A lot of money. And there was a picture, and that’s the only thing I know. So now they use the two things as the reason he won’t support me.

The indiscipline, and therefore the instability that comes with a Trump presidency is scary as hell. Here’s a guy who can’t stop himself from going off on a Lee Harvey Oswald/Ted Cruz rant the day after he has vanquished all this enemies and taken control of the GOP. This is the guy you want in the Situation Room when China forced down a US intelligence plane and holds its crew prisoner, as it did early in George W. Bush’s presidency? Jay Cost speaks for me.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 128 comments
← Older posts