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Antipolitical Politics: A Non-Religious Example

What do pomegranates have to do with politics? Read on (Igor Normann/Shutterstock)
What do pomegranates have to do with politics? Read on (Igor Normann/Shutterstock)

David Brooks writes today about the Resnicks, a wealthy couple in California who produce things like Fiji water and Pom pomegranate juice. They are working to build a community among the workers who live around and work in their factories. Excerpts:

Fortunately, we’re beginning to see the rise of intentional community instigators. If social capital isn’t going to form spontaneously, people and groups will try to jump-start it into existence.

He explains how the Resnicks are doing that. More:

Finally, there are more cross-class connections. Dr. Maureen Mavrinac moved here from the UCLA Family Medicine Department. Dr. Rishi Manchanda was the lead physician for homeless primary care at the Los Angeles V.A. These are among the dozens who have come to Lost Hills not to save the place from outside, but to befriend it. Their way of being ripples. I met several local women who said they were shy and quiet, but now they are joining community boards and running meetings.

What’s the right level to pursue social repair? The nation may be too large. The individual is too small. The community is the right level, picking a piece of land and giving people a context in which they can do neighborly things — like the dads here who came to the pre-K center and spent six hours building a shed, and with it, invisibly, a wider circle of care for their children.

Read the whole thing. This is a nice approximation of what I envision the Benedict Option being, except for Christians, and with the telea  goals of serving God by deepening one’s knowledge of and commitment to the Christian faith, and helping others.

The Benedict Option is not simply a strategy for how to live and to thrive under conditions of oppression. Even if there were no oppression, we would still need the Benedict Option, because modernity, by its very nature, is leaching the faith out of our souls, churches, families, and communities.

Justice Clarence Thomas said in his Hillsdale commencement address the other day that one need not pick a grand cause and work for its realization in order to be a good citizen. One can do that by just being decent and loyal and of service to one’s neighbors. I was reminded yesterday of how my late sister, Ruthie Leming, did that with the kids she taught in public school. Here’s a short passage from The Little Way of Ruthie Leming:

Kendrick Mitchell, another of Ruthie’s early students, came from a strong home and made good grades. His problem was bullying. A self-described nerd, Kendrick loved Greek mythology and Sherlock Holmes mysteries – unusual tastes for West Feliciana sixth-grade boys, especially so for African-American kids. Kendrick took loads of taunting from classmates for his love of reading.

Ruthie reached out to Kendrick, befriended him, and encouraged him, telling him that it was going to get better, to hang on. More:

Today, working in human resources for a Fortune 500 company in Houston, Kendrick says that the patience and encouragement Ruthie gave him – “She always, always had time for you, no matter what,” he says — was even more important than the knowledge she imparted.

“Mrs. Leming taught me that it was okay that I didn’t want to be on the football field or in the streets doing bad things,” he says. “She would even go as far as recommending books to me. She watched the type of books that I liked to read, and when we would go on library trips, she would hand-pick books from the shelf and say, ‘I think you might like this one.’ That’s how she was. We weren’t just names and faces to her. She saw us.”

I wrote that four years ago, having interviewed Kendrick Mitchell on the phone. Yesterday, at a school event, I actually got to meet him. He’s in law school in Houston now, and doing very well. Ruthie was part of his journey to success. Her great mission in life, though she didn’t think of it that way, was to be of service to her community.

Not all politics happen in state and national legislatures and governmental executive offices, you know.

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Her School’s Got A Thousand Problems

Our school may be so poor we can barely put a roof over our heads, but we're trans-positive! (beeboys/Shutterstock)
Our school may be so poor we can barely put a roof over our heads, but we're trans-positive! (beeboys/Shutterstock)

Over the weekend, I ran into an old friend who used to live here, and who happened to be in town visiting. Hadn’t seen her in 20 years or more. I asked her if she was still teaching. Yes, she said; she’s now in a poor, rural public school district in another Southern state. She said that she spends a lot of her own money just buying books and supplies for her students.

“There’s no money?” I asked, stunned.

“There’s no money,” she said.

I asked her how prepared her school is to implement the Education Department civil-rights edict opening school bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams to transgenders. She had been traveling, and hadn’t heard of it.

“As if they didn’t put enough on us,” she said.

She started talking about all the different state and federal mandates that her school (and all public schools in her state) have to meet, and how incredibly, jaw-droppingly unprepared for school the great majority of the students in her school are. The teacher explained that most of the kids in her part of the world come from impoverished, broken families, both white and black, and that school is the only ordered part of their day.

“Society expects teachers to be miracle-workers,” she said. “We’re supposed to raise these kids” — and then she told some stories about parents she has to deal with who are shockingly neglectful of their kids.

I never did get an answer from her on the Title IX thing. But the very strong impression I did receive was of a teacher and a school trying to serve a distressed rural population, doing heroic work, and who are coming to see the state not as their ally, but their enemy, or at least very much not their friend. In many cases, from this teacher’s description of life in their school, the primary job of the teacher is social worker. Most of the kids in the school have been failed and are being failed by the adults in their lives. The teachers — who aren’t paid much — are all they have.

Again, for all I know, this particular teacher might support the new ruling, so I don’t want to attribute to her a position she doesn’t hold. But I very much got the impression that the task of educating kids in her poor, rural district is so monumental, given the social breakdown there, that she resents the government (federal or state) piling one more difficult-to-implement thing onto their shoulders. Knowing the part of the world in which she’s teaching, any attempt to obey the new Obama directive would cause an uproar.

Tough. Such are the priorities of the urbanized cosmopolitans who run the Democratic Party.

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Frenemies Of The Benedict Option

Photo by Rod Dreher
Photo by Rod Dreher

At Aleteia, John Burger wrote a really good piece about the Benedict Option and why it appeals to many Christians these days. He has examples: a Catholic one, an Evangelical one, and an individual one. The piece begins like this:

For the most part, Christians have had a happy — some would even say “privileged” — time of it in America, where Christianity and Christian churches were essentially left alone as they freely exercised their religion within society both privately and, up until recently, in partnership with the government.

Well, that was then, and this is now. The very effective cooperative partnership that existed between the U. S. government and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve victims of human trafficking was ended due to the Obama administration’s insistence that contraception and abortion be included in any assistance provided to victims. Some cities have seen Catholic adoption services come to an end because they cannot conform to anti-discrimination laws that, in legal suit after suit, are adjudicated against religious freedom.

In general, Christians are firmly being told that if they wish to remain in the public square and involved in social services, parades, or business enterprises of any kind, they will have to sacrifice their values and teachings to the shifting morals of the times and resultant regulations, or be ready to give up their business and abandon their missions.

The time of “privilege” appears to be over. Christians face challenges unimaginable even a decade ago, and must discern new ways of being in a nation that has become hostile to expressions of faith lived outside the sanctuaries and beyond the pews.

Read the whole thing, and pay special attention to the real-life examples.

I received in today’s e-mail an extraordinary analysis by a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. In it, he attempts to explain why so many Christians are bound and determined to hate the Benedict Option. I publish it below with the reader’s permission:

I think the story goes something like this: In the first centuries of the Church, Christians were the minority and the outcasts, at times even enemies of the state. Over centuries, and through much toil and blood, we attained toleration. Eventually, that developed into acceptance. Finally, we were ascendant. Christianity became the faith of the Empire. Along with this came positions of power and influence for Christians, who no longer had to fear a conflict between their faith and carrying out the duties of state.

That arrangement more or less persisted for centuries. Obviously, for Orthodox Christians in the East it ended with the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of Islam. In the West, however, the Church remained integrally involved with the state and persisted as a preeminent influence on culture.

Much good has come of this, most especially the influence of Christian anthropology on the arts, philosophy, and political theory. The Church, too, benefited from the need to articulate uniquely Christian understandings of aesthetics, ethics, and political philosophy. The greatest achievements of Western civilization all rest on this foundation laid by Christianity.

However, as has been much discussed, especially by you in connection with the Benedict Option, this longstanding position of power and cultural priority for Christianity has also enabled an, at times, unhealthy laxity within the Church. I’m talking about the propensity of Christians, after they have baptized the culture, to kick up their feet and relax, thinking they have constructed some sort of perpetual motion machine. Once Christianity has formed the culture, this unspoken thinking goes, the culture will perpetuate Christianity. The Church need only see to its rituals, acting as a sort of all-encompassing master of ceremonies for the culture as a whole.

The error in this, or least one prominent one, should be obvious: it ignores the Fall and the reality of sin. No culture will persist in virtue without the constant guidance, admonition, and even judgment of the Church. In the absence of these, the seeds of original sin will again sprout into tares that slowly spread and choke out the wheat of the culture.

This is essentially what has been happening to the West since around the time of the Reformation. And yet it has not been until recently that things have come to a head.

What is different now? Well, the Church has neglected the culture for so long that [the culture] now advocates for beliefs and practices that directly contradict the Christian faith.

This is where the difficulty begins, because Christians have gotten soft. We’ve gotten used to our positions of power and influence. When faced with the choice of keeping their faith or their cultural relevance, an increasing number of Christians have been choosing the latter.

This is not a controversial thing to say about those who have flip-flopped on same-sex marriage in order to avoid being cast a bigot. But I think it also applies to a certain caste of those still fighting in defense of Christian orthodoxy, but who also vehemently oppose the Benedict Option.

Why do they hate the BenOp? Well, if I may be cynical for a moment, it goes like this. These small-o orthodox Christians may not have power under the status quo, but there is at least a theoretical path to attaining it and, in the mean time, a simulacra thereof through participation in the think tanks and organizations aimed at charting that path. I think many peoples’ opposition to the Benedict Option derives from a deep-seated attachment to this framework, to the potential to have power.

Some people are weak enough to actually abandon their principles in order to retain power; these are better, insofar as they won’t abandon their principles. But, even when it has become clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christianity no longer has a hold on our culture, that Christians and mainstream society are not even speaking the same moral and metaphysical language, they are unable to take the step back that is necessary to save the culture and themselves.

Why? Because our current arrangement is the only framework they know for attaining power, influence, and relevance. This is what I think drives the more vitriolic and strawmen-laden objections to the Benedict Option. Because the BenOp does require no longer putting your hope in politics, and that likely means no more Georgetown cocktail parties (to use the cliched boogeyman) or invitations to the White House or meetings with Senators or–*gasp*–donations to your non-profit. It may even mean fewer clicks and ‘Likes’.

To put it another way, I think some anti-BenOppers would rather be the kid who doesn’t get invited to the party than live in a world where there’s no party to get invited to. Better to be out of power, but scheming to reclaim it, than to renounce worldly power altogether.

And, really, is this not what got us into this mess in the first place? This is nothing other than worldliness, a focus on reforming our faith to fit the mold of the world rather than the other way around.

Nearly the entirety of Christian spirituality is premised on the belief that, because of the Fall, we are more easily inclined to become attached to the things of this world, to power and material things. Consequently, Christian spiritual discipline is centered on mitigating and restraining such attachment. When that discipline get lax (after, say, a theo-political revolution divides the church by objecting to the bulk of narrative-forming practices that created its identity), guess which direction we inevitably head? And when that process results in a culture that abandons Christian teaching and eventually turns on it, guess which side so-called Christians are going take when forced to choose between prominence and principle?

Thanks for this. When I tell people to “abandon political hope,” I’m not saying “quit voting, agitating, and running for office.” Sure, it’s fine to do those things. But just understand that at best it’s a delaying action. The real work of politics will be at the local level, engaged in antipolitical politics. Just the other day, Justice Clarence Thomas motioned in a Ben Op way in his Hillsdale commencement speech:

At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty and our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens discharging their daily duties and daily obligations.

He goes on to say that he’s not going to do the usual commencement address thing, and identify some broad problem and then urge students to rise up and conquer it. You may do more for your country by simply living your own life with integrity.

In The Fractured Republic, his terrific book on US politics to be published next week, Yuval Levin, the leading reform conservative public intellectual of his generation, writes favorably about the Benedict Option as one form of hope for the future:

At their best, these thinkers offer something much more appealing than a refuge for miserable exiles. The point toward a more positive vision of a community-centered social conservatism, one which not only does not reject the larger society, but that ultimately works to repair, unify, and redeem it.

This more aspirational form of the quest for moral community seeks to turn inward from the national state not because some inevitable cataclysm is upon us, but because of precisely the trends we have been tracing. The center has not held in American life, so we must instead find our centers for ourselves as communities of like-minded citizens, and then built out the American ethic from there. A resurgence of orthodoxy in our time will not involve a recovery of the old mainline churches or a reclaiming of the mainstream, but an evolution of the paraphernalia of persuasion and conversion of our traditional religious and moral communities. those seeking to reach Americans with an unfamiliar moral message must find them where they are, and increasingly, that means traditionalists must make their case not by planting themselves at the center of society, as large institutions, but by dispersing themselves to the peripheries as small outposts.

In this sense, focusing on your own near-at-hand community does not involve a withdrawal from contemporary America, but an increased attentiveness to it.

I will leave you with this 2012 speech that Prof. Patrick Deneen gave at a Front Porch Republic conference, about his having left Washington DC, and Georgetown University, for South Bend, Indiana, and a posting at Notre Dame. This part, especially:

As our attention focuses with greater exclusivity upon the concerns of Washington DC, the scale of our vista actually shrinks. Indeed, with our gaze fixed on the bright lights of Washington D.C., we invite its light pollution to dim out the light from the City that ought to matter more – the Eternal City to which we ought rather to aspire. We are more apt to see the lights of that better city from locations less bright, less distracting, less self-important.

We forget that Augustine went to Rome – his biographer Peter Brown tells us, because in Rome he could find the stage where he might pursue his ambitions as a political actor, a teacher of rhetoric. Unlike our current leaders, however, Augustine was quickly disillusioned by what he found there – an assortment of people drawn by common vices in the pursuit of earthly power. He left Rome, and eventually settled in the provinces of his homeland in Africa, in Thagaste, where he was drawn by life in a monastery where, Brown relates, “monks seemed to him to have succeeded in living in permanent communities, where all the relationships were moulded by the dictates of Christian Charity.” It would be from this setting that he would write his great work, The City of God, in which he sought to remind Christians – after the sack of Rome – that even the most important and majestic human societies must die, are destined to die, and will die all the more quickly when they think themselves to be the sole end and purpose of human life.

I have left Washington, but I am still learning to leave Washington. I am trying to learn that what takes place in my city, in my neighborhood, my region, deserves more attention and concern, deserves my energy and devotion and passion, far more than whatever the debate I’m told to care about by my betters who seek to focus my attention on the national and international stage, to distract me from the “slender allurements” of mere “domestic” life. Rather than “win” Washington, I am trying to learn to ignore Washington, to live in and care about where I am. And to remind myself to have a proper vista, not to share in the self-delusion in the eternity of our earthly city – that self-delusion that led our best-and-brightest into the belief that our economy would always grow as long as there was more to borrow, or today that our power will always increase. I am learning to leave Washington in part in preparation for the day when it will no longer be, or be what it is – a day that I think is not as distant as those now living there, a time when we will live in local culture because it will be the only place to live, the only place we should live.

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That’s Provincial!

Noted early '80s TV philosopher John Davidson still has great hair and teeth (John Davidson At The Follies/Flickr)

Noted philosopher John Davidson still has great hair and teeth (John Davidson At The Follies/Flickr)

John Davidson, erstwhile host of TV’s That’s Incredible!, has declared rhetorical war on Christianity and the stupid people who believe in it. Excerpt:

I simply can no longer remain silent when our leaders are so credulous as to believe that a virgin can give birth, that a man can walk on water, that a man can be dead for three days and then come back to life, that a man really did put two of every species on Earth into a boat, floated around for 40 days feeding them their individual diets, and then landed somewhere with any of them still alive. I don’t want those who believe that mankind began with Adam and Eve, who met a talking snake in the Garden Of Eden, teaching my grandchildren anything!

It is clear to me that the world would be more sane if all religions, all primitive superstitions, were abandoned. We are not capable of knowing all the mysteries of life. But science and the empirical method of discovery are the “candle in the dark.” Blind faith cannot be allowed to win out over rational thought.

Well, golly. The man who brought us the Yogi Coudoux folding himself up into a box on TV simply can no longer hold his peace. He’s taking a stand that’s bound to cost him a great deal in the entertainment industry, which is known for its severe piety. That’s … something.

Davidson’s essay is unbelievably trite. For example:

On a lighter note, when a football player points a finger to the sky after a touchdown, but fails to point another finger to the sky after a fumble, it’s laughable. Why is the believer’s credo to give divine thanks when things go right but not to lay blame when the opposite occurs? It makes no sense, and I guess that’s the point.

Hey, has Davidson not recruited his TI! co-host Fran Tarkenton to the cause?

Truly, Christianity will not long survive this kind of assault. When the Kraken that is the army of forgotten TV celebrities of the 1970s and 1980s is awakened, there’s no hope for the Bible-thumpers and God-botherers.

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Feminism, Fertility, And Civilization

The future of the West: a country for old men (ldphotoro / Shutterstock.com)
The future of the West: a country for old men (ldphotoro / Shutterstock.com)

Erin Manning made a powerful comment about transgenderism and feminism being anti-woman and anti-motherhood. In response, Jones said:

The real question is, why are these once fringe beliefs now the orthodoxy of the ruling class? You have to go to the heart of feminism, in the ways in which feminism is now part of the unassailable Way We Live Now. I think few conservatives even really think of challenging feminism on these fronts, but I believe the entire spectrum of these practices are intimately linked.

The underlying fact, which you tease out so nicely, is the profound contempt of the ruling class for actual motherhood itself. Actually bearing children is seen as strange, disgusting. I’ve heard this theme over and over and over again in stand-up comedy (where women comics are now a big trend).

But my first encounter with it goes far back, to a time when I actually considered myself a feminist. I was having a conversation with a few friends, a couple of them women, and the subject of family came up. Me and the other guy were like, oh yeah, it will be great to have children. I look forward to raising a family. The women were like, no I don’t plan to have children–no intention, no plans at all. I found this surprising, since I had never gotten the impression that they were “radical” or unorthodox in any way–these were the squarest women you could find. And they simply did not plan to have children, ever.

Later that night I talked to one of them at greater length, and she gave some honest insight into her feelings about it. She said she was afraid of the idea of being a mother. It made her frightened and kind of sick. She wanted to be rational, she said, and she was afraid that being a mother would make her irrational. There would all of a sudden be this “thing”–that’s how she referred to it–and it would derail her well-laid, fully rational plans for life. It would demand her attention and take her away from herself. And this would be irrational and against self-interest.

I thought it was an admirably complete and honest insight into what’s going on in educated young women’s minds. The Randian ideal of the rational autonomous chooser is incompatible with motherhood. It’s a crock of sh*t, besides, but that’s another story.

In any case, we are raising women to engage in 10 years or more of pointless fornication, during the prime of their fertility, during the formation of their identities and personalities and the most advanced years of their education. This means that fertility itself is now considered déclassé, contemptible, by the entire ruling class. And all of this follows naturally from that.

I spent some time over the weekend reacquainting myself with Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman’s 1947 book Family And Civilization.  It’s a sociological history of the family, and what family formation has to do with the rise and fall of civilizations. He says there are three kinds of families:

1) the trustee family, which is tribal and clannish; it maintains very strong ties among its members, and it’s hard for the individual to emerge from it;

2) the domestic family, which is pretty much our traditional conception of family: father, mother, and children; it maintains significant ties among its members, but also allows for a lot of individuality;

3) the atomistic family, which is where many, perhaps most, American families are today: a collection of people who happen to be blood relatives, but who are for the most part free agents.

Obviously the domestic family is a midway point between the trustee and the atomistic.

Citing historians and documents from the period. Zimmerman points out the that decadence of the Greco-Roman family systems, which had become highly atomistic, played a significant part in leaving both societies vulnerable to barbarian attack, given that the barbarians had a strong trustee family system. Why vulnerable? Because they weren’t producing enough children to run and to defend their societies.

Zimmerman said these characteristics accompany the rise of atomistic families, which even in 1947, Zimmerman said had achieved “complete domination” of the West:

The decay of the mores of the upper-class families; the rise of sexual abnormalities; the increasing refusal of women to be sedate in an unsedate world; the emergence of purely romantic conceptions of love, which finally became dominant; the decline in the seriousness with which adultery is considered; the purely formal adhesion to the moral code; the increased popularity and frequency of absolute divorce and separation; the rise of celibacy and aggravated birth control; the displacement of the older populations, at first near the cities, later in the further hinterlands; the replacement of the native populations by immigrants, slaves, and non-natives; the development of an antagonism to which the whole system of values upon which the society formerly operated; the enlargement of the class struggle; and finally, positive social antagonism to the old domestic family system and the family among the whole masses of people.

Interestingly, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, it fell to the Church to tame the barbarians by weaning them away from trustee familism, and to raise up the depleted Romans by calling them towards stronger conceptions of family. It took hundreds of years, but the Church forged the domestic family system, which lasted a long time, but went into decline after the Reformation.

Zimmerman said we are heading for a catastrophe. He was not a religious man; his expressed hope at the end of the book — that science can somehow pull us out of this downward spiral — is shockingly naive. But here we are.

A reader writes:

I’m sure that you are in contact with lots of people who want to protect their family and their future generations from our degrading culture.  I want to ask that question from a different tack– and even if you don’t know the answer, I suspect you know someone who might:

I’m almost finished with Carle Zimmerman’s Family and Civilization which I picked up from clicking to a column of yours. From the book, it appears that after an atomistic culture/state destroys the domestic family, it is the trustee (clan) families which birth the new civilization. Even if it’s not 100% destruction/rebirth, many families get lost and the strongest ones survive.

I am a Jew and you can see what’s happening in Judaism: the ultra-orthodox whom–are a law unto themselves–are having 8 kids, the modern orthodox are having 3-4, the conservatives < 2, the reform/secular around 1.  Carle Zimmerman would have learned a lot from the Satmer or Chabad.

I doubt I will be able to convince my wife and teenage daughters to embrace Orthodoxy at this point. But I am wondering what are the common *secular* characteristics of large, close families that are strong enough to protect themselves.  Is there, for example, a large fund of money that is ‘family money’?  Regular family reunions? Family councils?  Close geographical proximity? Are there family members whom everyone knows to reach out to in case they are in trouble?

I’m wondering if there is or can be a practical guide to strengthening families from the trustee/domestic/atomistic point of view.

What do you think, readers? Me, I doubt there is a binding force strong enough to accomplish this outside of shared religious belief. I could be wrong.

In any case, this is yet another reason why bathroom battles are only incidentally about bathrooms, but about redefining what it means to be male and female. If it takes wide hold in this culture, as I imagine it will, it will not bode well for family formation.

Besides, I once again recall for you the story some professors at a fairly conservative Christian university told me about how they worried that most of their students would never be able to form stable families, because they had never seen one. This is a problem affecting the Church as well as nearly everybody else.

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Moby ‘Obsessed’ With Walker Percy

Image copyright Christopher R. Harris, used by permission

Image copyright Christopher R. Harris, used by permission

In an interview with the Boston Globe, the techno musician Moby says that he has “started an obsessive rediscovery of Walker Percy.” More:

BOOKS: What started that?

MOBY: In the ’80s someone gave me “The Moviegoer.” I just loved it. Since then I had forgotten about him. There was a time when he was firmly established in the literary canon and maybe something about his weird, existential Catholicism just confused a lot of literary people. I hope there will be a Walker Percy renaissance.

Me too! And I hope Moby buys a ticket for Walker Percy Weekend, which is coming up in a couple of weeks (June 3-5). Here’s a list of the panels and the panelists. Among other things, they will be talking about Percy’s “weird, existential Catholicism,” as well as Dostoevsky and Percy, The Moviegoer, and Walker Percy and Politics. Here’s the eating and drinking schedule, including the much-loved Front Porch Bourbon Tour.

Tickets available here. Come on down. You know you wanna.

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Two Churches In One Church

Some news and views from the world of US Catholicism:

1. Students at Seattle’s Matteo Ricci College are occupying the dean’s office, demanding, among other things, her resignation.:

Fiza Mohammad, a 22-year-old senior majoring in humanities, said the tensions have been mounting for months for a couple of reasons.

First, racism and sexism are especially acute at Matteo Ricci because the humanities curriculum is based heavily on Western canon and European classic literature, i.e. stuff that old racist and sexist white guys wrote down, Mohammad said.

“I can count on one hand how many people of color I’ve read in the four years that I’ve been here,” she said.

Here is the list of “demands” these kids are making of the College. Among them:

Dissatisfaction, traumatization, and boredom are realities within our collective MRC experiences, as well as being ridiculed, traumatized, othered, tokenized, and pathologized. These experiences have been profoundly damaging and erasing, with lasting effects on our mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, the curriculum in MRC is unsatisfactory as a Humanities program. For students to have their personal and ancestral voices erased in curriculum and conversation, only to be told that their experiences of pain are insignificant, is psychologically abusive.

Oh lord, make it stop.

It doesn’t stop.

We are diverse, with many different life experiences, also shaped by colonization, U.S. and Western imperialism, neo-liberal politics, and oppression under racist, sexist, classist, heteronormative and homophobic, trans*phobic, queerphobic, ableist, nationalistic, xenophobic systems, which perpetuate conquest, genocide of indigenous peoples, and pervasive systemic inequities. The world in which we live, and the realities of students at Seattle University are vastly complex and worthy of critical study. Our concerns regarding racism, sexism, homophobia, and other manifestations of oppression are not individualized–they are systematically upheld by the college.

Matteo Ricci College is an institution within Seattle University, which is itself a university in the — ahem — “Jesuit tradition.” Let’s see here … a Catholic university, however nominally so, should probably prioritize recruiting Catholic students. Right? Wrong, say these SJWs:

Furthermore, the college has grown out of a tradition of partnering with elite Catholic private schools, greatly shrinking their recruitment pool to the detriment of students of color, low income students, and students with other marginalized identities. Because of the lack of diversity, student experiences of gaslighting and isolation are made more dramatic. In light of these issues, we demand:

  1. That the college actively recruit and support a diverse student population, divesting from its historic relationship with only Catholic private schools. Students welcomed into the college through the Running Start program must be provided with the additional support necessary to engage in University-level classrooms.

  2. The college must stop using the bodies of students of color to advertise diversity. The objectification of these students is an egregious expression of the racism endemic in our college.

    So these kids are demanding that MRC de-Catholicize itself, and calls the actual presence of black people on campus an example of racism (“using the bodies of students of color” — the “black bodies” thing again).

    The self-identified “liberal” reader who sent me this item says:

    As a sixty-something lefty throwback, I do not understand attacking the stated purpose of Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci college. If you don’t want to study immersed in the European classic books, why would you go to that college anyway?

    When I discuss politics with my daughter’s friends, twenty-something women whom I have known all their lives, the mental mismatch becomes apparent between their privilege liberalism and the old school liberalism that I found in Andrew’s old blog.

    2. Nuns who run a San Francisco High School have allowed a trans man to keep his teaching job:

    “This is significant for us; we did not take this lightly,” said Sister Laura Reicks, president of the 16-state region of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community. “We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that didn’t mean it was easy.”

    Supporting the dignity of each person — regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification — aligned with the order’s values, Reicks said Wednesday.

    The decision reflects policy within the West Midwest Community, which sponsors or co-sponsors six high schools.

    3. The small diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 97,000) has been punching far, far above its weight in terms of producing new priests for a long time. What’s it like there?:

    According to the Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Lincoln, NE is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012.

    Despite having a Catholic population of only 97,000, the Lincoln diocese ordained 22 men from 2010-2012. Only seven diocese in the entire country ordained more. One of those, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (with a Catholic population over 4.2 million) ordained 34 men during those same three years. In other words, L.A. only ordained four more men per year on average despite having a population 44X greater than Lincoln.

    Bishop James Conley recently noted that, with this year’s class, the diocese will have ordained 17 men to the priesthood in a 24 month span of time; unheard of in this day and age.

    As of 2012 the diocese had a total of 150 priests serving 134 parishes.

    There is no permanent diaconate program in Lincoln. There are, however, installed acolytes and lectors constituted of lay men.

    There are also 33 Catholic schools, including 6 high schools. One of those high schools, St. Pius X, produced 18 of the 48 men enrolled at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in 2014.

    It’s also interesting to note that 96 percent of students attending diocesan schools are Catholic.

    Many of the schools are staffed by female religious, of which the Diocese of Lincoln boasts 141 sisters from 14 different orders. Many have priests teaching high school theology and often serving as principals as well.

    The article goes on to say that Lincoln has been served by a series of bishops who have been orthodox and open to Catholic tradition. Plus they have worked hard to make Catholic education orthodox and affordable for all Catholics. And it’s working.

    So why don’t more dioceses look to Lincoln for answers? The article goes on:

    No doubt many bishops, priests, and lay faithful would rather forgo a boom in vocations if it means having to reestablish clear divisions between the nave and the sanctuary, or ending such post-conciliar innovations as altar girls or Extraordinary Ministers. The secular push for egalitarianism has been enthusiastically embraced by most bishops these past few decades. It would seem that either pride, or fear, or an agenda that is not exclusively focused on saving souls, is keeping many from reversing course. Or maybe some dioceses simply don’t want orthodox Catholicism.

    We can only hope and pray that more of those within the Church hierarchy humbly and attentively look to Lincoln for some answers. There is a blueprint for rebuilding a vibrant Church, an authentic and thriving Catholicism.

    Look to Lincoln.

    4. Back in 2014, I joined the chorus of conservative Catholics decrying the removal of iconographic images from the parish of Our Saviour, on Park Avenue in Manhattan. These images had been commissioned by its previous pastor, Fr. George Rutler, and removed by its current pastor, Fr. Robert Robbins. I am a fan of Fr. Rutler’s, and reacted strongly to Fr. Robbins’ action.

    Last week, a very conservative Catholic friend who had been involved in the protests met personally with Father Robbins, and tells me that we who had objected to his taking down the images had been wrong. I can’t give details of what was a private conversation, but I know this friend to be quite conservative in his views. If he has changed his mind on this issue, I will accept that, and hereby apologize to Father Robbins.

    OK, aside from No. 4, a point, and a question. It has long been known that since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, many Catholic dioceses have what are informally known among the faithful as liberal parishes, as well as conservative parishes, where the orthodox Catholics tend to congregate. It’s not supposed to be that way, but that’s how it is. I’m wondering at what point — if ever — this coexistence can last. Is schism a realistic possibility? I don’t see it at this point, but when presented with examples like this one from Villanova, and this one, about the pro-transhumanism nun hired by Villanova to teach, I wonder at what point these tensions become too much for the institution to bear.

    Thoughts, Catholic readers?

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Happy Birthday Ruthie Leming

(L to R) Tori Percy, Mel Percy, Abby Temple Cochran, Rae Lynne Thomas

(L to R) Tori Percy, Mel Percy, Abby Temple Cochran, Rae Lynne Thomas

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From The Little Way of Ruthie Leming:

If you had driven past the Starhill Cemetery late one hot night in May, you might have seen strange shadows lingering around a grave in the bottom under the hill. After a year-end meeting at school, Abby Temple Cochran, Ashley Harvey, Karen Barron, Jennifer Bickham, Tori Percy, and Rae Lynne Thomas came to be with Ruthie on her birthday. They called Mike, who met them there. They opened a bottle of wine, poured six glasses, and drank to the memory of their brown-eyed girl. There, where all the dead of Starhill are gathered round, they laughed and told stories, and remembered the good times. Had you been there on that night under the live oaks and the crape myrtles, you would have seen that even from the grave, Ruthie Leming bestows life on those who are willing to receive it.

That night was the evening of May 15, 2012, what would have been Ruthie’s 43rd birthday. Abby texted me just now the image above, of four friends sitting on Ruthie’s grave this evening (hence the poor resolution), drinking wine and remembering their friend. Such good people. Such a good place.

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Peak SJW?

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‘Justice-Involved Individuals’

Run, children! Flee the justice-involved individuals who just beat up your teacher (Wisista C/Shutterstock)
Run, children! Flee the justice-involved individuals who just beat up your teacher (Wisista C/Shutterstock)

If I said to you “What is a ‘justice-involved individual,” you might think, “a cop” or “a lawyer,” but you would probably think, “Uh oh, that sounds like a term meant to conceal something.”

And you would be right. “Justice-involved individuals” is the term that a new guide from the Department of Education uses to refer to “criminals.” Here’s the introduction:

Beyond the Box
Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice Involved
Individuals
Purpose of This Guide

Today, an estimated 70 million Americans have been involved with the
criminal justice system. Data show plainly that people of color are more likely to come in contact with the justice system due, in part, to punitive school disciplinary policies that disproportionately impact certain student groups and racial profiling.

There is also growing recognition that successful reintegration back into our society for justice-involved individuals benefits those individuals, their families, and our communities. Research also shows that education can be a powerful pathway for justice-involved individuals to transition out of prison back into the classroom or the workforce, and cuts the likelihood of returning to prison within three years by over 40 percent.

With this context, it is critical to ensure that gateways to higher education, such as admissions practices, do not disproportionately disadvantage justice-involved individuals who have already served their time. Criminal justice information (CJI), for instance, has been shown to deter potentially well qualified applicants from applying for, and enrolling in, the postsecondary education and training that economists predict is critical to meaningful reentry and labor market success.

In related news, did you know that transgenders are massively more likely to be justice-involved individuals?:

16%  of transgender and gender non‐conforming people had been sent to jail or prison “for any reason”  (for the general U.S. public, this figure is 2.7%)

Clearly, this is shocking bigotry. In no case can transgenders and gender non-conforming people be committing crimes at a higher rate than the general public. That would violate liberal ideology. There ought to be a federal program.

Along those lines, how are the new federal guidelines from the Department of Education ordering schools to institute racial quotas on suspensions going? The feds did this because black and Latino students are suspended at disproportionate rates. Here’s how the policy is working out in St. Paul, MN:

Under pressure from Obama educrats, public school districts are no longer suspending even violent students; but now, under pressure from Black Lives Matter, they are suspending teachers who complain about not suspending bad kids.

In St. Paul, Minn., a high school teacher was put on administrative leave last month after Black Lives Matter threatened to shut down the school because the teacher complained about lenient discipline policies that have led to a string of assaults on fellow teachers.

Last month, two students at Como Park Senior High School punched and body slammed a business teacher unconscious, opening a head wound that required staples. And earlier in the year, another student choked a science teacher into a partial coma that left him hospitalized for several days.

In both cases, the teachers were white and the students black.

Theo Olson, a teacher at the school complained on Facebook about new district policies that fail to punish kids for fighting and drug-dealing. Like dozens of cities across the country — including New York — St. Paul adopted the policies in compliance with new discipline guidelines issued by the Obama administration. The Education Department has threatened school districts with lawsuits and funding cuts wherever if finds racial “disparities” in suspensions and expulsions, arguing such disparities have created a “school-to-prison pipeline” for African-Americans children. The agency claims such disparities are the product of racism in schools.

St. Paul teacher Theo Olson is labeled a racist by Black Lives Matter for saying that a lack of discipline hurts education.
“Anyone care to explain to me the school-to-prison pipeline my colleagues and I have somehow created, or perpetuated, or not done enough to interrupt?” Olson wrote. “Because if you can’t prove it, the campaigns you’ve waged to deconstruct adult authority in my building by enabling student misconduct, you seriously owe us real teachers an apology.”

Complained Olson: “Since we now have no backup, no functional location to send kids who won’t quit gaming, setting up fights, selling drugs, whoring trains, or cyber bullying, we’re screwed, just designing our own classroom rules.”

For these mild opinions, Black Lives Matter called Olson “a white supremacist” even though he had once marched with the group. Two days after Black Lives Matter met with the St. Paul school superintendent — and agreed to call off its protest — the 10-year veteran teacher was put on leave.

The world has gone mad.

Read the whole thing.

Our federal government is micromanaging school policies to make schools safer for transgenders who want to pee where they like and play on the sports team of their choice, but through its other ideology-based micromanagement, the feds are also making it more likely that everybody is less safe.

Get used to it. We’re probably going to have four more years of federal rule by liberal government-involved individuals.

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