The Church of England has appointed as Bishop of Sherborne a leading advocate of Christian nudism. On 26 Nov 2015 the Prime Minister’s Office announced the The Queen had approved the nomination of the Ven Karen Gorham, the Archdeacon of Buckingham, to the Suffragan See of Sherborne in the diocese of Salisbury in succession to the Rt Rev. Graham Kings.
The new Bishop of Sherborne, who will be consecrated in February at Westminster Abbey, has urged churches to educate their members on naturism, or nudism. “There is need for much education and openness to talk about issues of sexuality, to remove false taboos which we tend to have about our own bodies, and to define the differences between what is impure and what is godly and properly natural to us,” she wrote in “Naturism and Christianity: Are they compatible?”.
As the bishop-designate explains:
“Naturists believe that the ‘hang up’ about the body being shameful in itself, in whatever way, is both morally wrong and mentally harmful. This points to the fundamental difference of attitude between naturists, who are not frightened or ashamed of their bodies, and that of much of the world, which would seem to be so. In naturism one realizes that there are no truly private parts; all parts of the body serve their proper and honourable purpose, and in this respect we are all alike.”
I have nothing to say about this. I just wanted to say that somebody should invent a cocktail called “Naked Came The Lady Bishop.”
A reader sends this speech transcript published as an op-ed in the French daily Le Figaro, written by the Catholic philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj before the recent Paris attacks. The link will take you to the French version of the piece, first published this past February, but recently reprinted by Le Figaro for obvious reasons. I’ve translated below parts of it, using my bad French and Google Translate. If you are willing and able to add to a more precise translation here, please do.
Hadjadj begins by citing an “open letter” a famous French polemicist wrote to jihadists in the wake of 9/11, sarcastically warning Al Qaeda to “fear the wrath of the consumer” who will fight to maintain his softness. Hadjadj says that is pretty much “the state of the French State” today, and that the “ideological blindness” of the French to the role of religion in political life is “preparing soon, if not civil war, at least the suicide of Europe.”
His point, if I understand, is that the progressive model that holds all political and social life eventually moves to secularism is a dead letter, but the secularists don’t grasp this. The philosopher points out that the Charlie Hebdo attackers were French-born and French-raised, and that French people who knew these men were shocked that anybody who had the relative material advantages of modern French life could turn to jihad. Hadjadj recalls the mayor of a small French city who expressed surprised that ten young people from his city had gone to wage jihad in Syria, despite the fact that the city had built a beautiful skate park in the middle of their neighborhood.
Hadjadj says, with bitter sarcasm:
What ingratitude! How do these young people have not had the feeling of having accomplished their deepest aspirations by working for Coca-Cola, skateboarding, playing in the local football club? How is it that their desire for heroism, contemplation and freedom he did not feel overwhelmed by the generous offer to choose between two frozen meals, watching an American TV series or abstaining in elections?
How have they thought their hopes and thoughts of love were not accomplished seeing all the progress on the economic crisis, gay marriage, and legalization of euthanasia? For it was precisely the debate that interested the French government just before the [Charlie Hebdo] attacks: the Republic was all stretched out to make this great human conquest, probably the last frontier, namely the right to be assisted in one’s suicide by executioners whose delicacy is attested by their medical degree …
Understand me: the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly [the Charlie Hebdo attackers] were “fully integrated”, but integrated into nothing, to the denial of any historical and spiritual movement, which is why they eventually submitted to Islam, which was not only in response to this void but also in continuity with the void, with its global deracination, loss of the transmission of the family, the transformation of bodies into soulless super-instruments.
A young person is not only seeking reasons to live, but also, especially — because we can’t live forever — a reason to give his life. Yet is there still in Europe reasons to give one’s life? Free speech? So be it! But what to we have to say that’s so important? What good news do we have to tell the world?
This question of whether Europe is still capable of carrying a transcendence that gives meaning to our action -this question, I say, because it is the most spiritual of all, is also the most carnal. It is not only to give one’s life; it is also to give life.
Curiously, or providentially, on 7 January, the first day of the attacks, the pope quoted an Oscar Romero homily showing the link between martyrdom and motherhood, between being willing to give one’s life and being ready to give life. It is an inescapable fact: our spiritual weakness affects demographics; like it or not, biological fertility is always a sign of hope lived (even if this hope is disordered, as in the nationalist and imperialist natalism).
Hadjadj goes on to say that Europe’s problem is that its natives are not having babies, and that this is inextricably related to religious belief. He says that France suffers from “religious and sexual asthenia,” and that the future cannot help but belong to the fertile.
The jihadists, he says, commit a grave strategic error” by their attacks. The “soft Islamization” of Europe is underway, and will only be halted by jolts like terrorist attacks awakening Europeans to the crisis upon them. If Europeans continue to deny the religious dimension of this crisis of civilization — and to deny that terrorist attacks by Muslim fanatics are driven by religion — then the soft Islamization will continue. More:
In any case, we must discard the vanity of believing that Islamist movements are pre-Enlightenment movements driven by barbarians who will moderate as soon as they discover the splendors of consumerism. In truth, they are post-Enlightenment movements. They know the humanist utopias that had substituted for religious faith have collapsed. One has reason to wonder if Islam is not in a dialectical relationship with a techno-liberal Europe that rejects its Greco-Latin roots and its Jewish and Christian wings, and that cannot live too long without God or mothers. Like a spoiled child, this Europe cannot return to its Mother Church, so she may finally agree to indulge in easy monotheism, where the relation to wealth is played down, where sexual morality is looser, where hi-tech postmodernity builds radiant cities like Qatar. God + capitalism + the companions of the harem + computer mouse — why would this not be the final compromise, the real end of the story?
One thing seems certain: what is good about the Enlightenment cannot subsist without the Light of the ages. But do we recognize that this is the Light of the Word made flesh, the God made man, that is to say, a deity who does not crush the human but rather assumes it in its freedom and in its weakness?
Hadjadj concludes his speech to his audience in Rome like this:
That is the question I put to you at last. You are Romans, but do you have strong reasons that Saint Peter’s will not suffer the same fate as the Hagia Sophia? You are Italian, but are you able to fight for the Divine Comedy, or are you ashamed that in Inferno, Canto 28, Dante dares to put Mohammed in hell? Finally, we are Europeans, but are we proud of our flag with its twelve stars? Do we remember even the meaning of these twelve stars, which refer to the Apocalypse of St. John and the faith of Schuman and De Gasperi?
The time is for comfort is over. We must respond, or we are dead. For what Europe are we willing to give our lives?
Here are two completely opposite takes on Uber, the ride-sharing service that is upending the taxicab business.
Even so, as I looked down my nose at these intruders [Uber drivers], and their over-reliance on GPS to find their way through the maze of my city, I found myself feeling conflicted. While they were already doing essentially the same job as me, I knew these rideshare drivers would never have considered actually becoming taxi drivers, nor did they think of themselves in this way. Things just weren’t that simple. There was something else, something other than the money, that kept them coming back out here day after day, and night after night.
So when my fellow cab drivers complained that “Uber and Lyft are stealing my passengers!” I’d reply, “They aren’t stealing anything — we’re giving them away.”
I would argue that every time they refused to accept a credit card, and every time they refused to take passengers to their homes in the Sunset, or the Richmond Districts, they were only creating more Uber customers.
But they just looked at me like there was something growing out of my head.
The writer goes on to talk about the economics of taxicabs in San Francisco, and about the culture of taxicab driving. He paints a picture of a dysfunctional monopoly in which insiders hold more tightly to a shrinking pie, even as there is a real need for more taxis. Moreover, he hated being stuck working with the miserable misfits who drove taxis, and hated having to risk his life and his livelihood with the kind of people he had to pick up. After being stiffed for a big fare one night, the writer snapped, and went rideshare:
After my very first night, I knew I would never drive a taxi again. Something shifted in my mind. The switch flipped, and I suddenly got it. Looking through a cab driver’s eyes, I didn’t understand that it’s not about us, the taxi drivers, it’s about you. Now, when I stopped seeing the world through a cab driver’s eyes, I immediately recognized that this was a better system; not just for the passengers, but for me too.
For one, there would be no more mind-numbing waiting around to go to work. In fact, I often got my first ride as I pulled out of my driveway. No longer did I have to apologize for, or worry about, a dirty, smelly, mechanically unsound vehicle. This was my car; it was clean, everything worked as it should, and people were far more likely to treat it that way. If they didn’t, they knew they’d be charged for the cleaning, or for the repairs. There was accountability now, which kept everyone on their best behavior, even me. My passengers were inquisitive, not standoffish, nor suspicious of every turn that I made, and they usually felt more like friends than customers. Best of all, it was fun.
With the rideshare model, each night stopped being a gamble; it ended the prospect that I might actually owe money at the end of my shift. Instead, my compensation — for every fare — was now assured. There were no dispatchers, nor anyone else, to tip out at the end of the night, and the first $40 I made each shift would no longer be going to some faceless old cab driver who had been lucky enough to have had a free taxi medallion handed to him by the city years ago. The days of nervously waiting for some sketchy looking character to emerge from the shadows and climb into my backseat, of wondering if this would be the guy who finally robbed me, or who ended up murdering me, and leaving my lifeless body slumped over the wheel of a still running taxicab, were now all behind me.
Read the whole thing. It’s a compelling argument.
On the other hand, there’s this Ed West piece in which the writer expresses no sympathy for Londoners who complain about “sharia” Uber drivers. It turns out that a British actress hired an Uber driven by a Muslim, who berated her for the way she was dressed, and told her that women should not be out at night.
West says that a problem with unregulated services like Uber is that it reduces the level of trust:
As Rory Sutherland explained in this magazine a couple of years ago, trust is extremely important to capitalism and that’s why having hurdles such as the Knowledge is necessary:
‘Reciprocation, reputation and pre-commitment are the three big mechanisms which add to trust. You can use a small local firm which needs your loyalty. You can use someone larger with a brand reputation. Or you can trust someone who has made a big investment in getting a badge, and stands to lose everything if caught cheating.’
But, and I know I’m a hopeless reactionary who’s on the wrong side of history, and it’s 2015 and everything, but if people want a fully-trained driver who knows what he’s doing, has invested both his time and money in his career, and is licensed, then get a black cab. Uber is not a taxi service; it’s merely a mechanism to hire some random guy to drive you around for a pittance – don’t be surprised if he’s not quite possessed of a Morgan Freeman level of repartee and diligence.
There is also the ethical question. Janice Turner recently pointed out in the Times that her friends ‘wouldn’t grind an unfairly traded coffee beam, they champion the living wage and want to tax global evaders like Starbucks and yet Uber leaves such principles squished in the road’.
Like all Silicon Valley companies, Uber promotes fashionable social justice causes while in practice doing the most un-left-wing thing possible: doing skilled working-class people out of jobs.
I think part of this can be explained by the fact that the experience of taking a cab in London is very different from taking a cab in any US city. To be fair, I’ve never taken a taxi in San Francisco, but I have taken taxis in many American cities, and I’ve taken taxis in London. The London taxi drivers being far more consistently professional. It is possible that both writers above can be right on their own particulars, but that’s just an evasion: the moral and economic principles at issue here are the same.
Who has the better argument, would you say? Like many people, I have stood on the streetcorner in NYC in the freezing cold, desperate to get a cab, but having taxi after taxi pass me by because they were full. It is very hard to feel sorry for the taxi industry when there is such a need for services that they cannot fulfill. On the other hand, I am sympathetic to Ed West’s argument. What do you think?
I want to give thanks for three warriors for civilization. A clerical reader in Chicago sends this table blessing by the late Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon:
“O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”
Amen and amen!
As my Thanksgiving gift to you, I pass along not only that prayer, but this wonderful story about Wardie Sanders, a teacher in small-town South Carolina who instructs her high school students on proper table manners. It came to me through a generous reader in the Pacific Northwest, who says she is thankful today for Ms. Sanders. Excerpts:
“It’s about respect,” said Brian Youngblood, 17. “This is how we got here as a civilization, so if we don’t learn this, we’re not going to evolve.”
At a time when cultural disruption seems to be winning an epic battle with tradition and there is no shortage of people willing to argue that table etiquette is as anachronistic as a rotary phone, some experts say the art of the table must be modernized to appeal to a generation that cares more about how people feel than how things look. Even the role of the cellphone is being reconsidered.
Mrs. Sanders would not disagree with those experts, because that would not be polite. Besides, they can all agree that graciousness and hospitality build the framework for good manners. But upholding the traditions of the Southern table is something she takes very seriously. It is a quest driven by details.
“Every year we have some children who have never seen a table set properly and they call silver ‘aluminum,’” she said.
Another student of Ms. Sanders’s inadvertently reveals what a blessing knowing proper etiquette can be:
Manners, it turns out, really matter to the young. “When I know what I’m doing,” said Kiisha Hilliard, a 17-year-old on her way to the University of South Carolina, “I can just relax.”
I regret to inform you, though, that the story quotes some modernists as saying that we need to adjust our manners to allow for the use of — sorry, give me a minute to gather myself — to allow for the use of mobile phones at the table!
To them, I give you as my final Thanksgiving gift the following very fine etiquette lesson given by Friday Night Lights Coach Eric Taylor, in a clip he (the actor Kyle Chandler) did for the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas. Coach speaks for me on the subject of mobile phones at the table. (Warning: there’s a profanity at the end):
Today is the first Thanksgiving without my dad. Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend from our town who lives overseas. She said she was thinking about me and our family, and felt so bad for us here at Thanksgiving, grieving my father. I told her we were fine, because we really and truly are. My mom has tough days sometimes, but we are doing much better than I ever would have imagined. And for that, on this day, I am thankful for the grace of God, which made that possible.
As longtime readers of this blog know, I lived with my dad the last eight days of his life, and cared for him to the utmost of my ability. It was all grace. I’m thankful to have had that opportunity to serve him, because it was so healing for me and, I hope, for him. We had a complicated relationship, but it ended so harmoniously, with nothing but love between us. For most of my life I dreaded the day of my father’s death, anticipating it as a personal apocalypse. But when the day came, it was hard, but it was also golden in a way I could not have foreseen. Daddy died at home, with his son holding one hand, his wife the other, ringed by all his grandchildren, and by some of his dearest friends. When he breathed his last, we prayed the Our Father, then sang “I’ll Fly Away.” If there is a better way to leave this world, I don’t know what it is.
I was able to rejoice in the gift of his holy death because over the previous three years, against my will, I had worked out a lot of painful stuff within myself having to do with our relationship. I tell that story in How Dante Can Save Your Life, noting how God used the Commedia to lead me out of my own dark wood, but also used a therapist, Mike Holmes, to help me, and my Orthodox pastor, Father Matthew Harrington. The role of Father Matthew and our parish in my life has very much been on my mind lately, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.
We began the St. John the Theologian Orthodox mission three years ago. In fact, the Harrington family moved here from Walla Walla, Washington, at Thanksgiving 2012. We had only a small group of us Orthodox believers, but just enough money to launch the mission. The Harringtons moved into a long-vacant rental house, with a large workshop attached. We all worked so hard to prepare the house and the temple (we transformed the workshop), and had our first liturgy in January, 2013.
Mission life has been difficult, but hard in a way that I have found deeply transformative. I’ve always been the kind of Christian who stands back and observes, and quietly analyzes. This is my way, but it’s a disordered way. In a mission with a tiny congregation, nobody can afford to hang back and just watch. Julie became the choir director, and has spent the past years learning how to chant like a Slav. Orthodox liturgical music is highly complicated, but she has worked very hard to master it. I had nothing remotely complex to deal with, but just getting out of my head and its tangle of abstractions was a daunting challenge.
In my Dante book, I talk at some length about how the ordinary life of the mission changed me. The Orthodox liturgy is inexhaustibly rich and beautiful. Though I had been worshiping in it for six years prior to the opening of our mission, I had not been as open to receiving its graces as I was in St. John’s. This is a severe mercy God gave me by allowing me to be broken by my own failings. It turns out that Father Matthew, despite ours being his first parish assignment since ordination, is an excellent confessor. He spoke hard truths to me in love, and would not let me rest in my own self-pity.
He led. I followed. It worked. It works.
Our life in the mission has been difficult. Last autumn, one of the founders of our church dropped dead at age 42. This year, Matushka Anna, Father Matthew’s wife, endured a life-threatening pregnancy, and is now caring full-time for her beautiful Irene, a special-needs baby with severe scoliosis and hemifacial microsomia. Many of you readers gave generously to support Baby Irene. Doctors said it was a miracle that Mat. Anna (who bled out three times in delivery) survived, and for that, we definitely give thanks today. Yet she had to quit working. The Harringtons are surviving on Father’s salary alone.
And that is not enough for a family of five. Last week, we had a painful meeting of the parish council, to discuss the budget. The sad fact is, there aren’t enough of us to carry on for much longer. We’ve had a few converts, but have lost a couple of them too. Everybody is tithing as much as we can, but it’s still not enough to support the priest and his family, not with our small numbers. Father Matthew and his wife are doing without health insurance now. It is outrageous that we can’t give that to our priest and his family, but we cannot make money appear out of nowhere.
In the parish council meeting, we had to all face the fact that if we don’t have more converts in the next year, we will have to close the mission. None of us could have been surprised by this, but seeing the numbers on paper was still a shiv in the ribs. If I thought I had to raise my family on such a low salary, I would resign at once, but that’s not how Father Matthew is. He’s going to keep fighting for the parish until there’s no fight left in him.
So we’re praying for a miracle, and working out new strategies to attract worshipers to the mission. I sat in church on Sunday, listening to Father Matthew preach, and once again, as I do most every Sunday, reflect on how he is the most gifted homilist I have ever heard. His teaching is the opposite of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. He preaches repentance and asceticism, but he also preaches love and joy. It’s a hard thing to pull off, but he does it, week after week. Julie and I have said to each other on more than a few occasions after church that we felt as if he were talking directly to us. This past Sunday, with the possibility of the mission’s imminent closure on my mind, I thought about how much St. John the Theologian mission is at the heart of my own personal Benedict Option. I have grown more spiritually in the past three years in our poor rural mission than I had in decades before. Father Matthew, through his preaching and spiritual leadership, and by offering us the Sacraments, is preparing our little platoon for the battles ahead.
If only people would come hear him preach, come spend a little time in our church, they would see! I thought. But they don’t come. My guess is that the weirdness factor of Orthodoxy is the major obstacle. It really is an alien form of Christianity to our place. I get that. Earlier this year, though, I read the church historian Robert Louis Wilken’s stunning book The Spirit of Early Christian Thought , which, I’ll confess, was my first serious, sustained exposure to the Church Fathers. I was astonished to discover that the Christianity of the first centuries of the Church was very, very close to what we experience every Sunday in our tiny parish in rural south Louisiana! What a miracle! You want the early church — boom, we have it.
Maybe, though, folks don’t want it. I have to face that fact. People locally have been very kind to us, but it might simply be the case that they feel no need or desire for Orthodox Christianity. I keep thinking that if we had more time, people would find their way to us, but I could be wrong. We tried. We are trying. But trying sometimes isn’t enough, and that’s just how life goes.
Over the past week, I’ve thought hard about how much our little mission church means to me, and how thankful I am for it. The prospect of its disappearance has shaken me up, and made me even more grateful for what God has done for us in that community than I was before. To everything there is a season, and it might be, in the mysterious will of God, that St. John the Theologian mission has accomplished what it was founded to do. I told my wife after the parish council meeting, “I can’t imagine what the rest of my life would be like if it had not been for St. John’s.” And it’s true: the spiritual healing that came to me through that church was a fundamental turning point in my own life. I believe that most of us who worship there can say the same thing.
Today I offer God the Father thanks for the life of my father, Ray Dreher Sr. I also offer the Father thanks also for what He has done for me and the people I love through St. John’s mission, and the sacrificial ministry of Father Matthew Harrington. Here, from How Dante Can Save Your Life, is an excerpt to tell you where he came from:
St. John the Theologian is Father Matthew’s first parish. When Father Seraphim Bell, a Walla Walla, Washington, priest who is Father Matthew’s own spiritual father, dispatched the newly ordained Matthew to us, he told me that the former police officer was a naturally gifted pastor “because he has suffered.”
After we had known each other a while, I asked Father Matthew what Father Seraphim had meant by that. I knew that Father Matthew had been raised by his grandparents and had never known his father. And I knew that he had been a police officer. One afternoon, sitting alone with him in the fellowship hall, I asked him to tell me his story.
“I was a very capable police officer, but I always felt like I was being punished for doing my job,” he said, squaring his shoulders under his black cassock. “I would arrest some city bigwig for drunk driving, and my boss would fuss at me. Why? It really aggravated a sense in me of deep mistrust of authority.
“And there were other things that are normal in police work but that started to get to me. I would think, ‘Why did that guy try to kill me? Why couldn’t I have saved that person?’ As I progressed in police work, I felt more and more of a sense of being orphaned. It all came out of self-pity, but those are real, hard emotions that being a cop coughed up.”
“Tell me about the breaking point,” I said.
“It was the second-to-last call I ever took,” he told me. “It was a little girl. She lived right by a big aqueduct, and fell in and drowned. I never saw her body, but by then I was so emotionally fragile that the pictures by themselves shook up me up pretty bad. She had on these pink sandals with flowers on them.
“That was a Saturday. The next morning, I went to liturgy, and in front of me was a little girl wearing the exact same shoes,” he continued. “I came undone. That was the end of my career. It really was. My wife knew. I knew. It was just how I navigated the exit.”
Father Matthew’s last deed as an active police officer was to chase two suspected thieves who were escaping on bicycles. They dropped their bikes and slipped away. Enraged by this, he took out his knife and cut their tires.
“Just like that,” Father Matthew said, shaking his head. “Then I realized that I had become what I was fighting. I couldn’t be a cop anymore. I talked to my chief and told him I couldn’t go on. I wasn’t a bad cop, and I wasn’t a malicious cop, but I was a suffering cop, and I needed out.”
Father Matthew and his wife, Anna, had discovered the Orthodox Church through the parish pastored by Father Seraphim. As the young police officer’s emotional life disintegrated under job pressure, the congregation held him up.
“What I thought was a strong wall cracked, and I fell apart,” the priest told me. “They didn’t judge me when they saw me bawling through vespers and liturgy, just bawling.”
“Wait,” I said. “You? You cried in front of all those people?”
Tall and stern, with a piercing gaze, Father Matthew is not the kind of man you imagine crying in public, if at all. Though he wears a cassock now (“my dress,” he snarks), this priest does not look like the sort of cleric fat-mouthing heretics would want to mess with.
“Yeah, I cried,” he said. “I was broken. I still am broken. I can’t watch war movies or anything like that. It’s a humbling experience to know that you’re in the prime of your life and you’re broken.”
Meeting Father Seraphim had made all the difference in his life. “He tells it like it is,” said Father Matthew. “He made me face myself, and all my pride and anger. Man, was I ever angry. Orthodoxy allowed me to come out of that.”
“Dante would call it a dark wood,” I said. “So is that why you became a priest?”
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It was a response to the love I received from Christ through the Church. If anything, my time in the civil service showed me that the only way I could help people was to heal my own heart. I had to seek the fullness of life in Christ, to be able to see the divine light in anyone. Otherwise, all they’re getting is the blind leading the blind.”
My father loved Father Matthew, and respected him greatly. I remember my dad saying to me on more than one occasion, about Father Matthew, “That there is a man” — which was about the best compliment you could hope to get from my country-boy daddy. Father Matthew came to Daddy’s bedside bless him in the final days of his life. It is hard to face Thanksgiving without my dad this year. And believe me, readers, it is hard to think that our band of brothers and sisters at St. John’s may be without the blessing of Father Matthew and our church community this time next year. But all things must pass, and recognizing the mortality of all things human makes us more grateful to have them while we do.
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving. Please pray for St. John’s. I just lost one father, and am not ready to lose another.
UPDATE: More information about the Harrington family’s insurance situation. The kids are covered, but mom and dad are not. They do not make enough money to qualify for Obamacare, and make too much to qualify for Medicaid, given that the State of Louisiana, in its infinite wisdom and mercy, decided not to expand the program. Under the current program, Father Matthew would have to make $2300 a month to qualify for a health care tax credit — or less than $650 a month to qualify for Medicaid. Thus do working people fall through the cracks here.
Many of us have wondered when a university president was going to stand up and push back against the student bullies, instead of grovel and coddle them. The president of Yale has not, nor has the president of Princeton. All across the country, presidents of universities have mewled and kowtowed.
Until now. May I draw your attention to the words of Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, an Evangelical school:
This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love! In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic! Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims! Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”
I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience! An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad! It is supposed to make you feel guilty! The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization!
So here’s my advice:
If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.
If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.
At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.
Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up!
This is not a day care. This is a university!
That, folks, is a man. Not the presidents of far richer, far more prestigious universities, who ought to catch the next plane to Oklahoma, drive out to Bartlesville, knock on Dr. Piper’s door, and beg him to borrow his backbone.
A black reader leaves this comment on the Occidental witch hunt thread:
Good grief, video footage of a Chicago police officer shoots a kid 16 times is released, Donald Trump supporters beat up a BLM protester, a couple of white guys shoot up a peaceful BLM protest in MN, we approach the one year anniversary of a cop killing a TWELVE year old kid in a park with a toy, and you really think the most important race relations issue today is some kids complaining about the college environment. You really don’t get the anger, despair, & frustration of the black community do you???
Well, I might say in response, “You really don’t get the anger, despair, and frustration of the white community, do you?” And I would be half-serious, at least, though of course there is no “white community” per se on whose behalf I could claim to speak. But hear me out, because I think the question the reader asks is serious, and worth taking seriously.
I had planned to say something later today about the Chicago murder indictment of the white cop who shot that black teenager to death. From what information we have now, the indictment seems completely justified, and certainly necessary. No civilized society can have police officers doing these things. I want to see a fair trial and, if the cop is convicted, I want to see him justly punished.
Here’s the thing though: Chicago’s black neighborhoods are among the most deadly in the world. Black men killing black people, including earlier this month nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee, lured into an alley and executed in gang violence involving his father. In 2015, 80 percent of the murdered in Chicago were black, as were 70 percent of the assailants (of those homicides where the assailant is known).
Know how many of the assailants in 2015 gun deaths in Chicago were cops? Six percent. (N.B., we don’t know how many of those shootings were justified.)
Any unjustified shooting by a cop is wrong, and should be investigated, and if necessary, prosecuted. But to many white people, it looks like Black Lives Matter — only if the black life taken was done so by a cop, especially a white cop.
Chicago’s black neighborhoods are more dangerous than the rest of the world — yet the most important race-and-crime, life-and-death issue there is cop violence? Really?
In New Orleans on Sunday evening, a gun battle broke out on a playground (!) between two rival black gangs while a crowd of 500, including many children, who had gathered for an unauthorized filming of a music video. More:
“At the end of the day it’s really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle their disputes with 300 people between them,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu told reporters from the scene.
“What we need more than anything else is for witnesses to come forward and tell us what they saw,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison added. “There were hundreds of people in this park looking at this incident and we know they saw what happened.”
Police were on their way to the park to disperse the crowd — which had gathered without a permit — when the shootout began. So far, none of the gunmen have been apprehended.
All 16 victims were in stable condition early Monday morning. Their injuries included bullet wounds and graze wounds.
Police spokesman Tyler Gamble told the New York Times “there were two groups that were firing shots back and forth at each other, and then ran off after each other on foot.”
- Ten of the 17 victims were under 21. The youngest is 10 years old.
- Three victims were in critical condition Monday afternoon. One might be paralyzed. Eight were treated and released.
The victims of this mass shooting? Black. The perpetrators? Black. Do their lives matter?
Another recent crime that has shocked the city: police are searching for a young black male suspect who shot a Tulane medical student in the stomach as the student tried to break up the alleged assailant kidnapping a woman on the street. Excerpt:
Euric Cain is wanted for attempted first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and armed robbery, the New Orleans Police Department said Sunday afternoon.
NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison gave an update on the shooting alongside Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans.
Peter Gold was shot in the stomach around 4 a.m. Friday near the intersection of St. Mary and Magazine streets, the NOPD said.
The NOPD said Gold was in the area when he witnessed a man identified as Cain dragging a woman to a nearby parked SUV.
Gold was shot after he attempted to stop Cain, who then pointed a gun at Gold and demanded money before shooting him, officials said. Cain attempted to shot him a second time, but the gun jammed and he fled the area in the SUV.
Gold is in his fourth year of his residency at Tulane. He was taken to a hospital to undergo surgery. He was listed in guarded condition during the most recent update.
Here is the security camera video of the black assailant shooting the Good Samaritan in the stomach. The only reason he didn’t execute him, as he clearly attempted to, was that his gun jammed:
The cold-bloodedness of that crime has jolted the city. Gold, however, was unusual in that he was a white victim of attempted homicide. In New Orleans, if you are a victim of homicide or attempted homicide, you are overwhelmingly likely to be black, as is your killer.
Do those black lives matter? Do they matter to black college students and their non-black allies? Or is it just a hell of a lot easier to shake down guilt-ridden liberal college administrators for benefits that will do absolutely nothing to stop the killing within the black community, and the social destruction (especially family breakdown) that leads to it?
One reason I care so much about what’s happening at campuses is that it compromises the future of an institution — academia — that is vital to the health of American society. Plus, if this SJW culture spreads, it will make it harder for my own kids to get a college education. One nightmare scenario: one of my sons being accused of being racially (or otherwise) insensitive simply for asking a difficult or challenging question in class, and having his future ruined by a false and malicious accusation. This is not an abstract threat, as we are seeing.
I believe that African-Americans are right to be upset about police brutality, and to draw the attention of the rest of us Americans to its reality. And beyond police brutality, I’ve written how my work in the past two years has awakened me to aspects of race in America, and the legacy of white supremacy, that I didn’t see before, and which give me more understanding into why things are the way they are. So very many whites are blind to this truth, or too dismissive of it.
Yet what frustrates me to no end about all this is that it is considered impermissible to face the fact that blacks are not only victims, but also, in other contexts, victimizers — and the greatest victims are themselves. It’s as if the discussion of our complex, difficult racial past and present had to be a zero-sum game, in which there is only Good vs Evil — literally, black vs white.
That is simply not an accurate reflection of reality. What if both things are true: that police brutality is a continuing problem, as is the legacy of white supremacy, but the problems of black America today are also largely self-inflicted? Why can both not be true?
It seems to me that the search for truth and justice is for the most part not genuine, but rather an exercise in emotional and political manipulation, of white and black lying to ourselves and to each other. So yeah, there’s plenty of anger, frustration, and despair about race in America to go around. But some anger, frustration, and despair is recognized, indeed valorized, while its opposite is delegitimized, even demonized. “Truth” and “justice” become defined by what is useful to achieving political goals. You cannot expect people to do the right thing while at the same time denying their capacity for doing the right thing, and exempt yourself from doing your part to reach a solution. To many white people, it feels like a no-win situation, a set of conditions in which there is only one acceptable answer to any conceivable question: “Yes, I, as a white person, am wrong, and bad.” The campus activists only reinforce this dishonesty, this manipulation, this denial, and this inability to speak openly and honestly about a hideous problem that involves all of us in America.
This is hard. All of it.
You think it can’t get any crazier, and then you are proven wrong. From Reason magazine, an outcome of radical student protests at a Los Angeles liberal arts college:
In recognition of their complicity in “structural racism and oppression” at Occidental College, the faculty will vote on a resolution that mandates diversity training, requires all academic departments to make racial sensitivity a component of in-class instruction, and allows students to “report microaggressions” between students and professors.
The text of the entire draft proposal opens like this:
We recognize and are inspired by the leadership of Oxy United for Black Liberation and their call for widespread institutional change in the culture of the College. We affirm that Black lives matter and also affirm the broader ideals of social justice to which their call speaks. We recognize that the structural racism and other forms of oppression of the College violate our commitment to ensuring equity and excellence in our educational programs for all of our students. We also acknowledge that our collective inaction as a faculty body makes us complicit in the failures of the College to make our Mission a lived reality. For this, we apologize for failing you, our students.
The resolution goes on to demand, among other things:
- a “meaningful, fully funded, and staffed Black Studies department with an academic major
- hiring more minority faculty, including doubling the number of “faculty of color” at the college
- mandatory affirmative action and diversity training for faculty
- diversity training for all freshmen
Here’s where it gets truly insane:
- “all departments must incorporate issues of cultural and racial identity and diversity in their curricula”
How do you have “diverse” math? “Diverse” physics? “Diverse” Ancient Near Eastern history? And so forth. This is the faculty demanding the ideologization of scholarship. More:
- “In recognition of the power imbalance between faculty and students, we will work in consultation with students and the [Chief Diversity Officer] to develop an effective mechanism for students to address and report microaggressions or other conflicts between students and faculty…”
The faculty wants to empower students to denounce them, with consequence, to the government of the college, as well as to denounce other students to authority, for what are by definition unserious offenses. But that’s not all, oh no:
- “Department chairs, the Dean of the College, and AC will take responsibility for ensuring that faculty reviews address Faculty Handbook criteria for tenure and promotion with respect to promoting success of a diverse group of students, and in particular, historically underrepresented students of color. The Dean’s Office will provide data to facilitate these reviews.”
Translation: the professional success of a teacher within this college depends on giving good grades to favored minorities.
If this proposal passes, you would have to be a lunatic to attend Occidental College.
Unlike previous witch-hunts, the event that motivates the exercise remains unspoken. But that is easy to identify: black American college students, especially men, are failing at a catastrophic rate.
Little more than a third of black male college students obtain a bachelor’s degree (ideally a four-year program) after six years of university attendance. The college entrance rate is identical for white and black high school graduates at about 70%, but graduate rates diverge. Sixty percent of white male students graduate within six years, almost double the proportion of black males.
A 2006 study in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education cited a number of possible explanations. The first amog several, JBHE wrote, is how welcome black students feel at a particular college:
Clearly, the racial climate at some colleges and universities is more favorable toward African Americans than at other campuses. A nurturing environment for black students is almost certain to have a positive impact on black student retention and graduation rates. Brown University, for example, although often troubled by racial incidents, is famous for its efforts to make its campus a happy place for African Americans. In contrast, the University of California at Berkeley has had its share of racial turmoil in recent years. The small number of black students on campus as a result of the abolishment of race-sensitive admissions has made many African Americans on campus feel unwelcome. This probably contributes to the low black student graduation rate at Berkeley.
Nonetheless, the journal added, “High dropout rates appear to be primarily caused by inferior K-12 preparation and an absence of a family college tradition, conditions that apply to a very large percentage of today’s college-bound African Americans.” That seems like a reasonable assessment. But at most American universities, merely to repeat this statement–printed originally in a respected journal of black university educators–would be considered prima facie proof of witchcraft.
When JBHE surveyed the damage in 2006, the cohort of black students failing to graduate after six years were born in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when the proportion of children born to unmarried non-Hispanic black mothers was a bit under 50%. By 2013 the proportion had risen to 72%. Without stigmatizing unwed mothers, children born in one-parent households are more likely to face the “inferior K-12 preparation and an absence of a family college tradition” cited by JBHE. Things have gotten worse, in fact much worse, for black children.
The failure of universities to graduate more black men has wide implications. Black illegitimacy rates are high in part because so many black men of marrying age are incarcerated, as the New York Times noted in a widely-quoted study early this year. “Remarkably, black women who are 25 to 54 and not in jail outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million. For every 100 black women in this age group living outside of jail, there are only 83 black men. Among whites, the equivalent number is 99, nearly parity.” Black university students are the ones who escaped the cycle of violence and incarceration, and the low graduate rate is tragic. It implies that the well-intended efforts of universities to reach out to minority students too often have failed, and that the educational system will not interrupt the continued decline of conditions of life of the black American minority. In that case one might as well hunt witches. It will do as much good as anything else.
Occidental College’s faculty is considering whether or not to destroy the university as a place of serious learning — this, to absolve itself of the burden of its perceived guilt. This is a remarkable thing. Really remarkable. What kind of student would choose to attend such a place? What kind of teacher would want to join the faculty of a college that gave students the right to report them to the administration for making them feel uncomfortable?
If you are an alumnus of Occidental College, now is the time to make your voice heard.
The Muslim reader who blogs under the name “Jones” had a good question at the end of the Decadence-and-Duck-Confit post discussion:
I do think the question some Westerners should ask–not because it will help us fight terrorism, but because it is a good question anyway–when you ask Muslim immigrants to integrate, what do you mean? Integrate into what?
That is not only a good question, it’s an excellent one. I’m not sure how I would answer it. I’ve never thought about it before, and am embarrassed to realize that.
I wrote several paragraphs here trying to explore how I would answer the question, and wasn’t happy with them, so I deleted them. I think when Europe asks them to integrate, it’s asking them pretty much to quit being Muslim. When America does, I think it’s more or less asking them, “Will you please not act in ways that make us feel afraid?” Big difference.
Still thinking about this, especially given that Jones and I probably look with equally jaundiced eyes at the broader society. What’s your answer?
By popular demand, this great recipe from Christopher Kimball’s The Cook’s Bible. It is a staple on our Thanksgiving table:
Toasted Cornbread-Pecan Dressing (or, Stuffing, for Yankees)
6 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
3/4 cup pecans
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1. Heat over to 350F. Spread crumbled cornbread onto a baking sheet. Coarsely chop pecans and add to cornbread. Toast in oven for 25-30 minutes or until cornbread is golden, tossing the crumbs once or twice during toasting. Cool and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a saute pan of skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to bowl with cornbread and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of drippings. Add butter and olive oil to skillet and when butter has melted add onion and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add celery and saute another three minutes. Stir in thyme and sage and salt and pepper to taste. Add to cornbread.
3. Turn up heat under saute pan and add bourbon. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add chicken stock, cook for 1 minute, and add mixture to bowl. Add parsley to bowl and adjust seasonings.
Makes about 10 cups, and it tastes even better if you make it the day before Thanksgiving and let it sit overnight.
UPDATE: I left out the sage from the list of ingredients by mistake; I’ve added it in, and boldfaced it. Sorry! Also, I have nodded to the fact that not everyone in America uses the proper name for this dish, “dressing”; some people sadly call it “stuffing.” In a spirit of diversity, I acknowledge their existence in this update. Also x 2, my wife says to increase the chicken stock, because it’s too dry as is.