Rod Dreher

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Alas For The Azusa Pacific School For Tots

Azusa Pacific University, an Evangelical Christian college in California, was supposed to host Charles Murray, but backed out at the last minute, allegedly because “faculty and students of color” are believed by the administration to be too sensitive to hear what Murray has to say. Murray subsequently posted this “open letter” to the students at the college:

I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard. In fact, you can do it without moving from your chair if you’re in front of your computer.

You don’t have to buy my books. Instead, go to my web page at AEI. There you will find the full texts of dozens of articles I’ve written for the last quarter-century. Browse through them. Will you find anything that is controversial? That people disagree with? Yes, because (hang on to your hats) scholarship usually means writing about things on which people disagree.

The task of the scholar is to present a case for his or her position based on evidence and logic. Another task of the scholar is to do so in a way that invites everybody into the discussion rather than demonize those who disagree. Try to find anything under my name that is not written in that spirit. Try to find even a paragraph that is written in anger, takes a cheap shot, or attacks women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else.

But there’s another way to decide whether you would have been safe in my hands if I had spoken at Azusa Pacific. Go to YouTube and search “Charles Murray.” You will get links to dozens of lectures, panel discussions, and television interviews. You can watch Q&A sessions in which I field questions from students like you, including extremely hostile ones. Watch even for a few minutes. Ask yourself if I insult them or lash out. If I do anything except take their questions seriously and answer them accordingly. Ask yourself if I’m anything more dangerous than an earnest and nerdy old guy.

Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.

Sincerely,

Charles Murray

I would think that students (and parents) paying the $40,000 per year for tuition, room, and board at Azusa Pacific would want to know what kind of education and preparation for life they are getting for that money. College is not supposed to be babysitting, or protection from ideas that challenge our prejudices.

UPDATE: And while we’re at it, what Glenn Harlan Reynolds said.

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Qualified Support For The Fired Lesbian Police Chief

I need to point out to some of you that despite what it may seem like, I am not omniscient. I have only heard about the South Carolina police chief fired allegedly because she is a lesbian because a few of you have just e-mailed me about it. If the facts are as she alleges, and she was dismissed after 20 years of service to the department because an anti-gay mayor took over, then I agree with you that it’s outrageous. If there is something substantive to the official explanation for the firing, then that’s different.

I’ll wait for a more thorough report about what happened before I decide what I think about it, but it looks very, very bad for the town’s case. My only qualification here is the possibility that there may be more to the story than what we’ve heard. To repeat: if this veteran officer was held to a higher standard because the mayor doesn’t like gay people, then firing her was unjust, and she should be reinstated with apologies. I can’t imagine what her lesbianism has to do with whether or not she executed the duties of her office faithfully and competently.

Then again, Brendan Eich’s $1,000 contribution to Prop 8 had nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to administer Mozilla competently, but many liberals judged him guilty of felony-level thoughtcrime. It’s ugly when culture-war politics renders people like Brendan Eich and Crystal Moore jobless.

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Nobody Watches The Sunday Shows Anymore

Well, almost nobody, says Dylan Byers:

The Sunday morning shows once occupied a sacred space in American politics.

Today, many influential Washington players can’t even remember the last time they watched.

The public affairs shows — “Meet The Press,” “Face The Nation,” and “This Week” — used to set the agenda for the nation’s capital with their news-making interviews and immensely influential audience. Now the buzz around the shows is more likely to center on gossipy criticism about the hosts, notably Meet The Press’s David Gregory, whose fate has become an incessant subject of conversation, most recently in a Washington Post story on Monday. Meanwhile, fans complain about the recurrence of familiar guests — Sen. John McCain again? — who simply relay party talking points that often go unchallenged.

I haven’t watched a Sunday show in years, because I’m in church on Sunday morning. So this is news to me. Byers goes on to say that the fragmentation of mass media and the constant news cycle have rendered these shows somewhat irrelevant. I don’t know if it’s possible ever to bring them back, but you know what would be worth trying? Bring on some non-traditional types to talk about issues of politics, culture, and public life. Why not ask a philosopher, a theologian, even a novelist to address issues? I couldn’t possibly care less what John McCain says about anything, but I would love to know what, say Marilynne Robinson thinks about health care policy, or what Tom Wolfe has to say about immigration policy. Bring outside voices into the insular conversation. What could it hurt?

[H/T: Prufrock]

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Donor Lists As Enemies Lists

I agree with Charles Krauthammer:

Open the floodgates, and let the monies, big and small, check and balance each other. And let transparency be the safeguard against corruption. As long as you know who is giving what to whom, you can look for, find and, if necessary, prosecute corrupt connections between donor and receiver.

This used to be my position. No longer. I had not foreseen how donor lists would be used not to ferret out corruption but to pursue and persecute citizens with contrary views. Which corrupts the very idea of full disclosure.

It is now an invitation to the creation of enemies lists. Containing, for example, Brendan Eich, forced to resign as Mozilla CEO when it was disclosed that six years earlier he’d given $1,000 to support a referendum banning gay marriage. He was hardly the first. Activists compiled blacklists of donors to Proposition 8 and went after them. Indeed, shortly after the referendum passed, both the artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento and the president of the Los Angeles Film Festival were hounded out of office.

Referendums produce the purest example of transparency misused because corrupt favoritism is not an issue. There’s no one to corrupt. Supporting a referendum is a pure expression of one’s beliefs. Full disclosure in that context becomes a cudgel, an invitation to harassment.

Richard Kim of The Nation, questioned by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, said:

KIM: Here’s a disturbing thing. I did ask some of my gay activist friends, I was like, “Look, here’s a list; 6,500 people gave the same amount that he did or more in California. Should we go down the list and sort of start targeting all these people?” And I asked this facetiously, and people were like, “Let’s do it. Let’s find out where those people live. It’s all-” To me, that’s a disturbing level-

HAYES: Yes.

KIM: – of targeting people.

Donor lists as enemies lists: we’re there.

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Is Hell Locked From The Inside?

Joshua Gibbs, on Dante’s Inferno:

Is Hell locked from the inside? Dante seems to think so. Few residents of the Inferno object. From time to time they pitch a sob story, but none of them has a sense of the infinite, and so they don’t know how to long for something better. For the last several weeks, my Medieval history class has bantered back and forth various arguments in favor of Hell being locked from the inside or from the out. It is easy to take simple comfort in the notion that Hell is locked from the inside; in such a scenario, the only persons who go to Hell are those who truly prefer Hell to Heaven. Obviously, Hell is awful. Should we not expect that very few persons will ultimately brave the broad way which leads to destruction?

At the same time, the notion that Hell is locked from the inside is counterbalanced with the notion that the only persons who go to Heaven are those who truly want to go to Heaven. It might be a bit too easy to say that everyone wants to go to Heaven. In the closing chapter of The Problem of Pain, CS Lewis suggests that “the joys of Heaven are for most of us, in our present condition, [would indeed be] “an acquired taste” – and certain ways of life may render the taste impossible of acquisition.”

One of the most psychologically acute aspects of the Divine Comedy is Dante’s depiction of the damned as being souls incapable of change. It’s not that they’re satisfied in Hell; actually, they are in torment. And as a metaphysical matter, they cannot change. Hell is their final destination. The time for deciding was in this mortal life. We see in Purgatorio that everyone there is headed for Heaven. Many of them led quite sinful lives. What got them into Purgatorio was repentance. They may have asked for God’s mercy in their dying breath, but that was all it took. The damned are those who never asked for mercy, because they didn’t think they needed it.

In thinking about Dante’s damned, one sees a quality familiar to all of us: the kind of person who would rather be miserable than change. We’ve all known people like that, people who derive a sense of identity from dwelling on their own victimhood, or their own suffering. I had a dialogue a long time ago with a friend who was going through some hard times. It went something like this:

Me: “Do you want to get better?”

Friend: “Of course I do.”

Me: “Then why don’t you do what your doctor tells you?”

Friend: “Well, I would except [excuses, excuses, excuses].”

Me: “But what the doctor says makes sense. It’s obvious. Why would you not listen to him?”

Friend: “You just don’t understand. [Long series of excuses].”

Me: “I think I do understand. You would rather be sick than try something different that might make you well.”

Friend [indignantly]: “I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”

I don’t know what happened to that person, but I guarantee they probably are still sick, and still wearing out the ears of anyone around them about how helpless they are, and how nobody understands.

People like this already live in a kind of Hell. I think we have all been there ourselves, or at least been tempted to be. Change is hard. In the Inferno, God gives people what they chose in life. If you prefer your sin to virtue, if you come to define yourself by your sin, if you think you are justified, and everybody else is wrong, well, God will let you have what you want, for eternity.

Why are we so afraid to acquire a taste for Heaven? Why do so many of us prefer to eat dog droppings instead of the bread of life?

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Be Careful Which Therapist You Pick

The Catholic writer and apologist Dawn Eden, who endured sexual abuse as a child, has a warning about picking the right therapist. Excerpt:

This was not the first time I have heard from another person who had a negative experience with [New York psychotherapist Philip] Mango. It was the fifth. But it was the first time that a My Peace I Give You reader reported such an experience. Since I feel a responsibility to my readers, I would like, for the record, to now say publicly that I do not recommend Mango.

After my negative experience with Mango, in 2007, I complained to the New York State Office of the Professions. Two and a half years later, they disciplined him. Although I do not know for certain whether the discipline was provoked by my complaint, the charges to which Mango admitted are consistent with what I reported.

There’s more. This is important to know because Mango is, or at least once was, the go-to therapist in New York City for a certain kind of conservative Catholic — the kind I once was. In the summer of 2002, I was debilitated by anger from the 9/11 terror attacks, and then from the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which broke big out of Boston earlier that year. My wife, worried to death about me, begged me to go to Mango for counsel on handling my anger. So I did. We had a couple of meetings that went well. Then, before the third meeting, he read a piece I had written for the Wall Street Journal calling out Pope John Paul II for not doing enough about the abuse scandal. He exploded.

He yelled at me — literally screamed — for being “a new Luther,” saying I was helping the devil, saying I would lose my family if I didn’t stop attacking the pope. On and on like this, for an hour. I was so disoriented I didn’t know what to do. At the end of it, I paid him and went home. Later that night, I realized how crazy this was, and wrote to demand my money back, or I would report him to the state. He sent me a refund for that session, and I never heard from him again. I wish now I had let him keep the money and called the State of New York anyway.

So, no, I do not recommend Mango either. Here’s a 2009 clip of Mango talking about how much he’s reached out to help the suffering. Yeah, well. He calls himself “Doctor Mango,” but his Ph.D. is from Clayton University, an online college and alleged diploma mill, now defunct in the US but up and running again in Hong Kong; the place is unaccredited, which is why Mango can’t practice with that degree in, for example, Texas). His “St. Michael Institute for the Psychological Sciences” sounds like a fancy place, but it’s in a dumpy warren — and at the time I saw him, he was the only mental-health “professional” on the premises. Buyer beware, is what I’m telling you. Like a lot of people, I believed that having a therapist who shared my religious faith was important. I didn’t check credentials or anything, and fell into a trap — one that caught Dawn Eden, and at least one other person I personally know.

That was a hard, hard lesson for me to learn. I suspect this happens a lot to naive religious people who are in an emotionally vulnerable position, and who think that the fact that a psychotherapist professes faith makes them particularly competent and especially trustworthy. Not so.

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Why Do Liberal Theologians Submit To Colbert’s Lash?

 

Stephen Colbert, a real-life Catholic who has a fake right-wing talk show persona, turns liberal Protestant atheist/agnostic demythologizing theologian Bart Ehrman to a bowl of jelly. It’s total boo-yah. A religion journalist friend wrote to ask, rhetorically, why people like Ehrman go onto Colbert’s show.

When Colbert takes over the Letterman slot at CBS, he won’t be doing his fake persona anymore, but I bet he will have interesting guests like Ehrman on the program, and put them through their paces. I hope so.

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Church That’s Hard

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The deacon who’s been staying with us for Holy Week posted that to his blog. If you’re Orthodox, and have been through the rigors of a Lenten fast (no meat, no dairy), and you’re celebrating the Resurrection at 2:30 a.m. after three or four hours of liturgy … this is what you’re having for breakfast. Also meat, meat, meat, and meat, washed down perhaps with a couple of vodka shots.

We got back a short time ago from the home of some church friends, who hosted the parish for the Pascha feast. I was doing okay after eating two platefuls of pulled pork, and having two vodka drinks, but when I ate the blueberry cheesecake and cherry pie, it was time to go find a place to nap. They must be dosing blueberry cheesecake with something. Yes, that’s it: beware blueberry cheesecake.

Before I slept the sleep of the full-bellied, I was lolling with a friend in a porch swing, talking about the blessing of feasting after such a long and arduous fast. We got to talking about how much Orthodoxy means to us. I will have been Orthodox for eight years this summer. He’s only been Orthodox for just over one year. And we agreed that the Orthodox life kicks our butts hard — and that we need it to, like we need food and water and fresh air. We also agreed that as hard as Orthodoxy can be to live out at times, there’s no way we could be anything else now. It’s so intense, and so demanding, but even more rewarding — no doubt precisely because it demands so much of its faithful. It’s like, ask not what your God can do for you, but ask what you can do for your God. That’s how Orthodoxy is when you do it right. It asks more of you than you think you have to give, and it gives you in return more than you can imagine.

It is possible, of course, to be nominally Orthodox, or simply a cultural Orthodox, and many are. But if you seek a Christian faith that’s not just a pleasant add-on to your way of life, but that is a way of life, well, that’s Orthodox Christianity.

A Catholic reader e-mailed to wish me a happy Easter, and to say:

A lot of times we think that it’s the big stuff that keeps people from religion. People want to have all the sex. None of the consequences. All of the money and none of the responsibilities. Who has time for it, especially in this culture?

But I am just wondering. Is that it? Or is it the small stuff? And by that I mean the day-in, day-out responsibilities of a life of faith. Orthodoxy obviously requires a lot. Vespers and all that. But even regular old diocesan Catholicism and its weekly mass. I hear it all the time from people. EVERY WEEK? Who goes every week? Nobody can go every week. On vacation? What if my kid is on a travel team?

I was wondering why I didn’t get a seat at mass today. Who are all these people all of a sudden?


I am telling you that most of the lapsed Catholics I know are perfectly OK with monogamy in their married lives. And they would much rather sacrifice a good portion of their sex lives before they let their kids play even five seconds in last season’s cleats. I played baseball for 10 years and never had cleats even once.

To give up a Saturday AND a Sunday for vespers? Never happen.

But maybe that’s wrong. And maybe it can happen.

Well, to be perfectly honest about this, we only started going to Saturday vespers when we started our little mission church. When we lived in Philly, our Orthodox parish was 45 minutes away, and doing anything but Sunday liturgy seemed to us impossible. And when we lived in Dallas, though we were only about 10 minutes away from the cathedral, the idea of Saturday vespers seemed like too much for us to deal with. Hey, we’re already in Sunday liturgy for a couple of hours, right? That’s a lot! Nobody ever, ever made us feel bad about missing vespers — to have done so would have been un-Orthodox — but Julie and I now regret that we did not go. It would have helped us along the spiritual path. That’s the thing we didn’t really understand at first, but that every athlete in training knows: that it’s hard at first to get yourself into condition, but once you give yourself over to it, and stick with it, you don’t feel right without it. Orthodoxy trains us to be spiritual athletes.

The sociologist of religion Peter Berger has a somewhat rambling, but still thought-provoking blog post (hey, I specialize in rambling-but-thought-provoking blog posts!) about how pluralism forces members of all religions to think critically about what is critical to their own religion and religious identity, and what is not. This is not quite the same thing as whether or not one’s religion is right to require a lot of one in terms of practice, but it is related, I think. It calls to mind the work of the contemporary Reformed theologian James K.A. Smith, which I’m just starting to read. So much of it resonates with my experience in various churches. Here is a link to a 2013 interview with him. The gist is in this excerpt:

[M]y argument is that the form of worship matters. And it’s true that I think one of the best things the church can do in our postmodern context is remember past forms, not try to invent the “next best thing” that is going to be “relevant” to our culture. But like you, I don’t think this affirmation of the historic form of worship is antithetical to contextualization or even innovation. What we need, however, are some criteria for discerning what counts as a “faithful” innovation or contextualization of Christian worship.

I argue that the form of worship matters, not because it is “traditional,” but rather because the form of worship carries the gospel story in the very form of the practices. It’s true that Christian worship practices do not fall from heaven as pristine a-cultural rituals. The practices of Christian worship have a heritage: there is a Jewish inheritance of the church; there are those practices instituted by Christ himself (which grow out of our inheritance from Israel); there are practices cultivated by the apostles in the book of Acts; and then there are practices that the body of Christ, led by the Spirit, continued to cultivate and develop over time—and, in some cases, these were “recontextualizations” of other cultural practices.

Think of the rich repertoire of spiritual disciplines that we inherit from the historic church. All of these practices constitute the accrued wisdom of the body of Christ, led by the Spirit, who discerned that these practices were formative precisely because they had a God-ward, kingdom-oriented telos.

And that’s the point of discernment: we have to “read” practices in order to discern the telos or goal that is implicit in the practices. Practices are not neutral “containers” into which you can pour just any old “content” that you want. Practices are already loaded. For example, I think a lot of the cultural practices of our consumer culture are pretty much essentially defined by an egoism that puts “me” at the center. So even if you “Jesus-fy” these practices—take them up and insert Christian “content” as it were—the very form of the practice “says” almost the exact opposite (and it “says” this, I argue, to your body, to your imagination, at a gut-level). How ironic to package the God-centric vision of Jonathan Edwards in the entirely me-centric practices of the mall!

However (and here’s why I appreciate your question): this need not be a scorched-earth approach to culture. Instead, it calls for ad hoc discernment. We need to consider cultural practices and “read” the telos that is implicit in them. We might find cultural practices that are ripe for “kingdom co‑option,” you might say. For example, I think we might be surprised how certain practices of community we associate with “bohemian” culture actually resonate with the concerns of the kingdom. Folks who are much more creative and insightful than I could no doubt think of other examples.

My problem is that I’m just not convinced that innovation is our most pressing issue right now. I don’t think it’s precluded, I just think we might be surprised how much the “strangeness” of historic, ancient practices might capture the imagination of our secular age. So I tend to spend my energy convincing people to recover ancient practices, but obviously that is happening in a contemporary context and can’t fail to change how we inherit them and put them into practice.

On Holy Saturday afternoon, as we drove out to yet another service (the last one before the Paschal liturgy), I thought about how much time we had spent as a family in church during Holy Week, how unusual the services are compared to most American Christianity, and how my kids don’t know anything else. To them, this is Christianity. There is no way to guarantee that one’s children will practice the faith in adulthood, but if I find it hard to imagine being another kind of Christian now, simply because all the Orthodox liturgies and practices have seeped into my bones, how much more will that be the case for my children, who will have known nothing else?

This is not about pride, understand. It is entirely possible to keep all the fasts, show up for all the services, and so forth, and to still bust Hell wide open. And hey, for all I know, one or more of them will grow into adulthood and be glad to be done with all that church, and those fasts, and the crossing and genuflecting. But I think that it will be a lot more difficult for them to arrive at this conclusion, not only because they will have seen their parents living it out, but because Orthodoxy is such a total experience, it’s hard to shake. To give yourself over to this ancient church, with its ancient practices, and to allow them to shape your way of life — well, it changes you. When Jamie Smith says, “I just think we might be surprised how much the ‘strangeness’ of historic, ancient practices might capture the imagination of our secular age,” I know exactly what he means, because I’m living it. On Good Friday evening, we ritually processed around the outside of our church with the epitaphios  the cloth representing the burial shroud of Jesus, with all the faithful entering back into the nave by walking under the epitaphios, which another parishioner and I held high. Today, a new church member, who was baptized on the Saturday before Pascha, told me that the thrill of that moment — of coming into the church under the (symbolic) shroud of Christ, covered with rose petals — was staggering to her.

Yes, it’s strange, and yes, it’s wonderful, and yes, it is a sign of contradiction to our modern age. That makes it more dear, at least to me, and pushes me farther than I want to go. Which is how it should be. I know, I know: rituals like this do not save one’s soul. You can walk under the epitaphios and have a heart of stone if you are determined to resist grace, and you will be judged on that. The point is, though, that if you do these things faithfully, with an open heart and a sense of humility, you will be changed. It’s like when the pilgrim Dante entered onto each new terrace on the mountain of Purgatory. He encountered artistic expressions of the virtue he was to learn on that terrace. They entered into his heart through his senses, and plowed the hard ground of his understanding, making it ready to receive seeds of contemplation. This is what Orthodoxy does: plows the ground. This is not always easy, but if you persist, it will bear good fruit, over time.

It will not bear fruit, though, if you routinely put anything else first. Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

(Incidentally, for those who would like a fuller explanation of James K.A. Smith’s ideas, here’s a video of a lecture in which he speaks of culture-as-liturgy; it runs just shy of an hour):

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The Trouble With Nominalism

I meant to post this on Good Friday. It came that day from Ken Myers, the creator and host of the indispensable Mars Hill Audio Journal. I post it with his permission:

Your post (prepared yesterday) about nominalism being the worst cultural “decision” ever has a resonant timeliness with the darkness of the Triduum. The sorrow of the apostles and of Mary after the death of Jesus must surely have invited a nihilistic despair. The inevitability of cosmic chaos — with its attendant violence — must have seemed much more plausible than a loving divine order.

In his book, Resurrection and Moral Order, Oliver O’Donovan observed: “It might have been possible, we could say, before Christ rose from the dead, for someone to wonder whether creation was a lost cause. If the creature consistently acted to uncreate itself, and with itself to uncreate the rest of creation, did this not mean that God’s handiwork was flawed beyond hope of repair? It might have been possible before Christ rose from the dead to answer in good faith, Yes. Before God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that we call ‘gnostic’, the hope for redemption from creation rather than for the redemption of creation, might have appeared to be the only possible hope.”

The nominalistic turn in Western thought made every day Holy Saturday. The universe lost the intelligibility that Christians had long attributed to it. The voluntarist thinking that accompanied nominalist assumptions reimagined God as irrational Will, not loving Logos. As Michael Gillespie puts it (in The Theological Origins of Modernity), “The God that Aquinas and Dante described was infinite, but the glory of his works and the certainty of his goodness were manifest everywhere. The nominalist God, by contrast, was frighteningly omnipotent, utterly beyond human ken, and a continual threat to human well-being. Moreover, this God could never be captured in words and consequently could be experienced only as a titanic question that evoked awe and dread.”

“Nominalism sought to tear the rationalistic veil from the face of God in order to found a true Christianity, but in doing so it revealed a capricious God, fearsome in his power, unknowable, unpredictable, unconstrained by nature and reason, and indifferent to good and evil. This vision of God turned the order of nature into a chaos of individual beings.”

Likewise, Louis Dupré has written that: “The nominalist theologies which came to dominate the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries destroyed the intelligible continuity between Creator and creature. The idea of an absolute divine power unrelated to any known laws or principles definitively severed the order of nature from that of grace. A nature created by an unpredictable God loses its intrinsic intelligibility in favor of the mere observation of actual fact. Nor does creation itself teach us anything of God beyond what this divine omnipotence has revealed in Scripture. Grace itself became a matter of divine decree unmeasurable by human standards and randomly dispensed. Detached from its transcendent moorings, nature was left to chart its own course.”

And culture thus becomes a human project pursued with no order in Creation to guide it. One of the saddest threads in this story is that so many Christians have continued to embrace this theological error, despite the obvious evidence that it leads to nihilism and cultural chaos. Observing how Christians have acted in the wake of the nominalist revolution, Dupré writes: “As their world has grown more and more ‘secular,’ their faith has come to depend with increasing exclusivity on revelation separated from, if not opposed to, ‘nature.’” Hence the desperate proof-texting of American evangelicals, who believe in truths but not Truth, and hence can never connect Truth with Goodness and Beauty.

Sorry to foist my meditations on you, but the timing of your post really struck me. Driving home from our Maundy Thursday service last night, I was reflecting on my own vocation, which — since I read Ideas Have Consequences in 1984 — has pretty much been about trying to understand the systemic confusion of modernity in light of Weaver’s claim about the fatal error of nominalism. After 30 years of obsessing about this, I’m more and more sure that he was more right than he knew; the witness of theologians, philosophers, and cultural historians who have come to the same conclusion is remarkable. And the recovery of pre-modern theology — East and West — that confidently affirmed the unity of Love and Truth at the heart of the world is also remarkable.

Contrary to the nominalist folly, Holy Saturday ended. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. . . .” As Oliver O’Donovan insists, the resurrection proclaims that “Man’s life on earth is important to God; he has given it its order; it matters that it should conform to the order he has given it. . . . The sign that God has stood by his created order implies that this order, with mankind in its proper place in it, is to be totally restored at the last.”

If this is the kind of thing you like to think about, then I cannot urge you strongly enough to subscribe to Mars Hill Audio Journal.

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Pascha 2014

Paschal sermon, 2014

Paschal sermon, 2014

The sermon read in every Paschal service in every Orthodox church in the world on this day, including ours. That’s our priest above, preaching these words, written by St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), the archbishop of Constantinople:

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

The liturgy began at 11:30 pm; communion began at 1:30 am. A shot of the communion line at our parish:

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Julie and me after liturgy; notice the photobombing monk:

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I have to tell you, though, that my son Lucas brought Pascha to me. In the darkness of the church, in the pre-liturgy prayers, I was standing before an icon bereft. Harsh events last evening robbed my joy, and put me in a bad place. It was as if all the progress of the past year was about to wash away. There I stood, before an icon of the Crucifixion, praying for help. And then, out of nowhere, I felt a little arm slide around my waist from the side, and a head nestle into my side. It was Lucas. Somehow, he sensed that his dad needed him, and he came. I hugged him tight and told him how grateful I was for him. I don’t mind telling you that I wept, and I realized that this boy, and my wife and children, and my church, and my church family — all of them are my life. And what a great life it is! Glory to God for all things, especially for Lucas and his tender heart:

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