August 27, 2020

Disuniting

Interesting to hear this on Federalist Radio Hour pod of Spencer Klavan and Emily Jashinsky:

SK: “We conservatives think if we can argue ‘this doesn’t make any sense’ it will be effective...[But] nonsense is the point. Saying ‘2 + 2 = 5’ is a tactic to put [conservatives] on the back foot...I think there’s a point at which you say, ‘I’m not going to be able to argue you out of this crazy nonsense..the better thing to do is to offer people something truer and better and to offer it in a way that will play in the media landscape. That’s a really hard thing, to feed truth into Twitter, into social media.” 

EJ: “It is true that logic is not the way to win this battle, which is part of a larger culture war, about something so much deeper and bigger than one election...If we can’t rely on saying, ‘There are obviously two distinct biological sexes’, what is the pathway forward?” 

They speak my language. There’s certainly no reason to reason with political opponents anymore. It’s a hopeless cause wrapped in a despairing void. 

And from latest National Review, a review of Arthur Schlesinger’s 1991 book “Disuniting”: 

Schlesinger opens by observing that the Cold War is over and new wars have begun: not over ideology but over those old standbys: race, ethnicity, and tribe. As he proceeds, he quotes Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist who lived from 1930 to 2013. (It was he who wrote Things Fall Apart, whose title is borrowed from Yeats.) The greatest weakness of the Nigerians, Achebe said, is “their inability to face grave threats as one people instead of as competing religious and ethnic interests.”

For his part, and discussing America, Schlesinger warns that “the contemporary sanctification of the group threatens the old idea of a coherent society” — a society never based on race, ethnicity, or religion, but on “a common adherence to ideals of democracy and human rights.”

What Schlesinger wants to know is, “Will the center hold? Or will the melting pot give way to the Tower of Babel?” 

I had to smile — or did I more like grimace? — when reading Schlesinger on higher education: “The situation in our universities, I am confident, will soon right itself once the great silent majority of professors cry ‘enough’ and challenge what they know to be voguish blather.” I think Professor Schlesinger, 30 years later, would find himself still waiting...   
He also gives us this killer — and ungainsayable — sentence: “It is ironic that what the multiculturalists began as a joyous celebration of diversity ends as a grim crusade for conformity.”

August 24, 2020

Miami of Yore


This time of year always makes me think of Oxford, and on the campus of Miami there is a granite tablet with words dancing like Scripture on it: 
Trees of Miami, beautiful trees! 
What do you brood in your reveries?... 
Truth - remembrance - youth: of these 
You brood in your ancient reveries. 
I’ve always had a soft spot for unconventionals, like Thoreau, golfer Mac O’Grady, and the author of those words, Percy MacKaye. 

The latter held forth as “poet in residence” at Miami University exactly a century ago. How romantic  a notion to have a poet in residence? The university built him a cabin and there’s a picture of it amid the woods and snow looking very 19th century, like Walden cabin in Bishop woods. It was razed by the late ‘30s but his words live on, on that granite slab. 

The poet was hardly a magnet to students but I would expect nothing less. No poet is honored in his own country: 

“His first studio open house brought on a headache, his wife pressing cold cloths to his brow while a dozen students sat stiff and still in the firelight....They found the poet distantly friendly, with a basket of red apples on the table. While they munched apples and watched the fire, he read some stanzas from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.” 

Sounds like a happenin’ time to me. 

Not unreasonably the poet was drawn to the further removed, the remote folkways and hollows of Appalachia. “I can see Appalachia from here” he might’ve quipped, being just a score and twenty miles away.

_____


Speaking of days of yore, interesting to read of Charles Dickens’s 1842 trip through Ohio.  He went from Cincy to Columbus to Sandusky, staying at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, still extant. I want to stay there sometime. 

Found online: 

“From Columbus to Tiffin, Ohio, the road was not macadamized...[tree stumps served as the roadway]. 

'He didn't like the sort of assertive nature of the American character, which I think is still with us,' said Jerome, who has studied Dickens' travels. 'And, of course, in Ohio, he was in the wilderness.'

The author of Oliver Twist (1837) and A Christmas Carol (1843) approved of Cincinnati but put down small towns such as Sandusky. He was grudging in his comments about Columbus.

'It is the seat of the state legislature of Ohio, and lays claim, in consequence, to some consideration and importance,’ Dickens wrote in American Notes (1842)."

August 20, 2020

Put More Jewish in Catholic High Schools

The great Amy Welborn recommended an article on the state of Catholic high school education and, as is so often the case, I read one article (or part of it!) and then have to track down some parallel line of thinking. I thought I’d do some research on what I could find about a couple of elite Catholic schools in Cincinnati that my nieces attended. (It's surprisingly hard to find a website that gives the culture of a given Catholic high school; for colleges it seems much easier.) 

Perhaps it is to be expected and always was so, but if you want a grim view of how unimportant Catholicism seems to be to Catholic school students, one could scarcely find a better example than reading the student reviews of their schools on Niche website. 

My “research”, flawed and anecdotal though it may be, found that the selling point of the 200+ reviews of the schools are: sports and academics, rinse and repeat. And absolutely career-focused. Yes the Niche commenters are self-selected and don’t represent those more religiously motivated. For comparison’s sake, I found this comment almost immediately regarding a random Jewish high school (TVT Community School):
“TVT was my first real in depth exposure to Judaism. I learned hebrew and judaica from teachers that genuinely cared about making sure students got the most out of every lesson possible.”
Another a bit farther down:
“I have learned many morals at TVT and have been given the opportunity to learn from some of the best teachers in their fields... The Jewish values stressed everyday makes this school welcoming, and gives us a desire to continue our Jewish practices beyond high school. one flaw, however, is the Hebrew department. The work in this class is often tedious and does not truly help teach the important words needed to go to have a conversation.”
Meanwhile, a typical and telling review of priorities: “Ask anyone familiar with Saint U. Academy, and they'll tell you that we take 2 things very seriously: academics and the sisterhood.” 

Which could be said of 99.9% of good non-Catholic high schools in the country. 

Another comment: “The girls who go there only care about materialism.” 

Which could be said of 99.9%....

The only review that seems to mentions religious does so concerning increased knowledge of others rather than her own: “I have been exposed to many different culture and religions in my time at Saint U. I have visited with various religious leaders of different practices and become familiar with foreign cultures.” 

 Niece K’s school doesn't rate any better:
“[The school's] beliefs tend to be more liberal than other traditional Catholic high schools in the area.” 
“I have loved the clubs here so much. Especially the gay straight alliance.”
“They are also very open to new clubs and offer things such as LGBT awareness club, multicultural club, interfaith club, etc.” 
“I’ve never heard of a Catholic/private school quite like mine. We even have a LGBTQ+ and Support club.”
Which again, you can find at any high school. Great, just great.

August 15, 2020

Thoughts on the Origin of the Assumption

So today’s the Assumption and I always hunger for more knowledge on why it’s August 15th. Seems random but also in a way very appropriate: this is the harvest season extraordinare.  Peaches, tomatoes, you name it.  And so there’s the image of Mary being “harvested” by God, a picture of the good wheat going to Heaven. No tares in her. 

The origins are murky, except that by the 7th century it was celebrated. Wikipedia mentions that it seems to have been a Christianization of an earlier harvest festival, but also points to the possibility of the goddess Isis having a birthdate nearby (Aug 12) and Christianizing that pagan day. Which is appropriate given today is Mary’s birthday in Heaven. 


I certainly don’t see anything wrong with that given that no one but Protestant apologists think Catholics worship Mary. (It’s akin to how only “woke” radicals think that black lives don’t matter to whites. Both of the following are “the sky is blue” statements for the vast majority of people: “black lives matter” and “Mary is not God” so in both cases there’s no need for whites or Catholics to feel defensive.)


Interestingly, in Ancient Rome, “the religious meaning of all Roman festivals was being forgotten or ignored even as the customs continued.”  The belief in the pagan gods was strong in Rome in, say, 1000BC but by 200AD the meaning had drained if the customs continued.  I think we’ve seen a similar thing with Christian feasts like St Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day, which are very light on religious meaning even if the customs continued. They could stand be re-Christianized. 


Wikipedia goes on to say: “In some cases, these customs became part of the combined classical and Christian culture of the Early Middle Ages.” Also:


This holiday, which has been celebrated since the fourth century CE, is a Christianization of an earlier harvest festival and, in many parts of Europe, is known as the Feast of Our Lady of the Harvest. For centuries celebrations were held in the honor of the goddess Isis of the Sea, who was born on this day according to mythology. With the coming of Christianity church leaders decided that the easiest way to handle this pagan ritual was to simply change it into a Christian holiday, hence the introduction of Assumption Day came forth...It is around the Roman Lychnapsia, or lamp-lit festival, that celebrated Isis's own birth on August 12.


Festivals of Isis and other polytheistic deities were celebrated throughout the fourth century CE, despite the growth of Christianity in that era and the persecution of pagans that intensified toward the end of the century. The Isia was celebrated at least as late as 417 CE, and the Navigium Isidis lasted well into the sixth century.


___ 


I’m no fan of Taylor Marshall, but he makes an interesting point that you had to protect Mary by not saying too much about her in NT writings lest she experience persecution:


Cases have been made that Galatians and 1 Peter are basically tracts on baptism...I believe that the New Testament speaks of the mysteries of the faith in clouded language on account of the fierce persecution that Christians received from both the Jews and the Romans.  Mary would have been revered, but to speak of her openly would have placed her danger.


___


Elsewhere, Amy Welborn often says things that uncomfortably hit too close to home.  She talks about how the emphasis on works of charity didn’t originate since Vatican II:


“No, Catholics did not get the message about faith-charity-justice since Vatican II. In fact, it was the opposite: charity was at the core of faith. People took Jesus in Matthew 25 at his word.


My evolving theory on how that changed during the course of the 20th century involves socio-economic factors: as in, with greater general prosperity and mobility, human beings were more able to segregate themselves and therefore shut themselves off from those in need and create little worlds where they could pretend they didn’t exist and the growth of ‘Real Faith = Me Following My Heart and I’m going to Heaven Anyway‘ instead of ‘Real Faith=Me Following Jesus’ Commands Or Else.‘

August 13, 2020

Eureka Moment

I was checking the evil empire (Facebook, although Google is far more evil) and saw the quote below by a local priest and experienced a moment of enlightenment.  He said, in part: 

“I was musing on the mentality of our country at the moment that, ‘You are not valuable unless people around you say you are valuable.’ Abortion is the lived expression of this idea. It is the ‘you have no value until I say’ put into action... HUMANS cannot convey existential worth. That only comes from God. We either recognize it or fail. [U.S. society is failing]."

Wow, that’s a key that unlocks a few locks in a post-Christian society. 

It helps explain the “sky is blue” slogan “Black Lives Matter”, which I'd considered either a thought-terminating cliche or a vacuous truth in service of the political - but could it also mean what it says and be a plea by blacks to be seen as valuable by other humans? (Although in the spirit of both/and, it’s also brilliant slogan because it can politically imply a huge swath from police reform to reparations to Marxism.) 

Fr.’s post also explains weird frequencies in pop culture like how on the TV series “Hannah” the despair the grown characters feel at not be wanted by their mothers, or given up by them, is a decent expression of human idolatry in a world without consciousness of God.