23 thoughts on “News/Politics 5-13-17

  1. Good morning everyone!

    Last night we watched a documentary series on youtube called The Ascent of Money, by Niall Ferguson. I don’t know how, but my husband Cyrus, always seems to find interesting and offbeat things on youtube. We’ll probably have another documentary playing in the background while we work today. :–)

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  2. And now I will make the confession that I have re-purchased the Benedict Option. Since I carelessly lost the book on my cross-country trip, I’ve been reading just about everything I can find online by Rod Dreher and others who have written similarly. There does seem to be an awakening of interest in what I’m thinking of as an updated or perhaps just a more desperate consideration of the question Francis Shaffer posed: How then shall we live?

    In my reading, I came across an interesting article that looks at marriage in a different light: marriage as martyrdom.. At first I thought the title suggested a ball and chain stereotypical look at the institution. But I quickly realized that was not correct.

    ….These are clear reasons for understanding that “defense of marriage” is simply too late. The Tradition has become passé. But none of this says that the Tradition is wrong or in any way incorrect.

    Of course, there are many “remnants” of traditional Christian marriage. Most people still imagine that marriage will be for a life-time, though they worry that somehow they may not be so lucky themselves. Pre-nuptial agreements are primarily tools of the rich. Even same-sex relationships are professing a desire for life-long commitments.

    But all of the sentiments surrounding life-long commitments are just that – sentiments. They are not grounded in the most obvious reasons for life-long relationships. Rather, they belong to the genre of fairy tales: “living happily ever after.”

    The classical Christian marriage belongs to the genre of martyrdom. It is a commitment to death. As Hauerwas notes: faithfulness over the course of a life-time defines what it means to “love” someone. At the end of a faithful life, we may say of someone, “He loved his wife.”

    Some have begun to write about the so-called “Benedict Option,” a notion first introduced by Alasdair MacIntyre in his book, After Virtue. It compares the contemporary situation to that of the collapse of the Roman Christian Imperium in the West (i.e., the Dark Ages). Christian civilization, MacIntyre notes, was not rebuilt through a major conquering or legislating force, but through the patient endurance of small monastic communities and surrounding Christian villages. That pattern marked the spread of Christian civilization for many centuries in many places, both East and West.

    It would seem clear that a legislative option has long been a moot point. When 95 percent of the population is engaging in sex outside of marriage (to say the least) no legislation of a traditional sort is likely to make a difference. The greater question is whether such a cultural tidal wave will inundate the Church’s teaching or render it inert – a canonical witness to a by-gone time, acknowledged perhaps in confession but irrelevant to daily choices (this is already true in many places).

    The “Benedict Option” can only be judged over the course of centuries, doubtless to the dismay of our impatient age. But, as noted, those things required are already largely in place. The marriage rite (in those Churches who refuse the present errors) remains committed to the life-long union of a man and a woman with clearly stated goals of fidelity. The canon laws supporting such marriages remain intact. Lacking is sufficient teaching and formation in the virtues required to live the martyrdom of marriage.

    Modern culture has emphasized suffering as undesirable and an object to be remedied. Our resources are devoted to the ending of suffering and not to its endurance. Of course, the abiding myth of Modernity is that suffering can be eliminated. This is neither true nor desirable.

    Virtues of patience, endurance, sacrifice, selflessness, generosity, kindness, steadfastness, loyalty, and other such qualities are impossible without the presence of suffering. The Christian faith does not disparage the relief of suffering, but neither does it make it definitive for the acquisition of virtue. Christ is quite clear that all will suffer. It is pretty much the case that no good thing comes about in human society except through the voluntary suffering of some person or persons. The goodness in our lives is rooted in the grace of heroic actions.

    In the absence of stable, life-long, self-sacrificing marriages, all discussion of sex and sexuality is reduced to abstractions. An eloquent case for traditional families is currently being made by the chaos and dysfunction set in motion by their absence. No amount of legislation or social programs will succeed in replacing the most natural of human traditions. The social corrosion represented by our over-populated prisons, births outside of marriage (over 40 percent in the general population and over 70 percent among non-Hispanic African Americans), and similar phenomenon continue to predict a breakdown of civility on the most fundamental level. We passed into the “Dark Ages” some time ago. The “Benedict Option” is already in place. It is in your parish and in your marriage. Every day you endure and succeed in a faithful union to your spouse and children is a heroic act of grace-filled living.

    We are not promised that the Option will be successful as a civilizational cure. Such things are in the hands of God. But we should have no doubt about the Modern Project going on around us. It is not building a Brave New World. It is merely destroying the old one and letting its children roam amid the ruins.


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  3. In other words: Let us not weary about doing good; give yourself as a living sacrifice etc. Our faithfulness is to Him, no matter what the outcome seems.

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  4. Deb, monogamous Christian marriage was formed in the middle of a pagan society which surpassed the present Western culture in chaotic sexual expression. It isn’t going to disappear now. The article was written by an Orthodox priest, and like the Catholic church, the Orthodox tend to think in terms of a religious state, so that they panic when the state no longer upholds Christian values. Also, I’m uneasy about describing marriage as martyrdom. Such a description could be used as a stick to beat the woman, or man, who lives in an abusive marriage. Far too often, those who are married to an abusers are told by the church to remain with their abuser because they reason marriage isn’t about one’s happiness. Yet, there are grounds in the Bible for divorce from such a person. I do not think the priest has correctly diagnosed the problem. In saying that marriage isn’t primarily about love, he ignores the Scriptures which say that love is the foundation of marriage. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” The love of God is the reason Christ came to die for our sins, and Christian marriage is to reflect that foundation of love. The Song of Solomon is all about romantic love, and yet it is included in the canon of Scripture. Certainly, there will be difficulties even in a healthy marriage, but the I Corinthians 13 passage makes it clear that it is only love that will endure such difficulties. It isn’t love which is undermining marriage, it is a lack of love.

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  5. Roscuro, that’s a good point. And it’s certainly not a romantic view. In fact, if marriage were always equated with martyrdom there would be few takers. In our society, we are very accustomed to hearing all about love, but see very little of what it actually looks like. I think the article makes a radical assertion [certainly radical for our time] that love often looks like suffering. Love, without a picture attached, can be very squishy.

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  6. Roscuro, Well, if Christians are going to form their own communities within the broader community, I guess we had better be ready to deal with the seamier side of ‘government’.

    From your link, the author quotes the story of one youth pastor’s wife:

    “….We visit a theme park with roller coasters, and I’m looking forward to a fun day. Suddenly, he sees two little girls in bathing suits (around two years old), and he tells me he has to watch himself, because, as he puts it, “any man” can “stumble” over a child. This terrifies me. He also tells me that every man fantasizes about rape. He tells me that when he was younger, he fantasized about raping and killing young girls, and said he even knew where he would bury their bodies. He told me that way, he could have them whenever he wanted.

    He puts down my physical appearance. My legs are too big from all my running that I do. I need a tan. My hair needs to be blonde. The list goes on. He even goes as far as to admit to me he is attracted to some of the teenage girls in the youth group and that he has to ask their parents to make them change their clothes so he won’t stumble….

    ….He is now remarried with a baby. He is in ministry. God, please, don’t let him hurt her too.”

    The author then says,

    “Don’t miss that last line. HE IS IN MINISTRY! Christian ministry! Ordained. This scenario is in no way uncommon. In fact it is very, very common. I have not kept count of the abuse victims over the years whose abuser was a missionary, a pastor, an elder, or some “holy” pillar of a local church. This cannot be chalked up to naivete on the part of churches, seminaries, missions agencies, and so on. This is a willful blindness for which a great accounting will be given on that Day.”

    While I do not believe that this scenario is common among ministers, no one is immune and I don’t doubt that it could exist in any church. Studies have shown that pornography has been a real problem within the church, as well. It probably helps for church congregations to have clearly articulated ways of administering policy and procedure for when such abuses (or accusations) occur in the ministry and in the congregation at large. But, come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a single sermon or teaching that explicitly covered the topic of spousal abuse.

    Perhaps the most hidden and neglected mission field of the Church, is the people sitting in the pews. Now that’s a challenge worthy of a Benedict Option. :–)


  7. Deb, from my personal knowledge, the scenario is far too common among ministers. The number of cases of abusive/predatorial pastors I know of (several of whom I heard preach or met personally at some point) about equals the number of good/decent pastors I know. Paul warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would even come out of their own number, and Peter and Jude both spent a long time warning about false prophets. Many of the writings of the early church were written in opposition to false teachers. As long as the church has existed, it has had to deal with pastors who were wolves. For that reason alone, the Benedict Option is not feasible, as the cloistered Christian community would be an easy target, as it was the last time cloisters were used. One cannot talk about Benedict’s monastic community without talking about how decadent that community had become by the late Middle Ages.


  8. Roscuro, I think if my stats for the ratio of shepherds : wolves were as dire as yours, I’d stick to the house church model—-mainly my own house. I’d certainly never suggest anyone take their children or grandchildren to a church. Too dangerous. Smaller, more accountable ‘churches’ would not be a bad idea. And by the way, the Benedict Option is not about cloisters or monasteries at all. But I’m still reading. :–)


  9. But Ricky, “nothing matters” is why so few people vote. Anything that matters to so many people personally seems to be a non-issue in DC. The rule of law is heavy-fisted for some people, but if you’re part of the power structure of the fist, nothing matters. Serious consequences are for the little people, not the DC crowd. Hillary is the latest and most high profile politician to demonstrate this. So the little people put their own guy in there (or so we like to tell ourselves; the jury is still out). Yep, nothing matters. :–)


  10. Debra, Right now, the people who have turned off their brains and are oblivious to facts are members of The Trump Cult. They are the ones for whom “Nothing matters.” Trump said he could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and it wouldn’t matter. He was right. We see regularly that his cult and cowed Republicans will defend or ignore his every idiotic act or statement.

    If you are correct @ 8:53, then “The Little People” picked the wrong person. They didn’t pick someone who really cares about their problems. He cares only about himself. Instead of trying to understand the reasons for their problems, he is too busy making his own VP and staff look like idiots and/or liars.

    So here is my question for you to consider: Since we now know that Trump has been dishonest on everything from crowd size to voter fraud to “tapps” to why he fired Comey, is it not possible that he was also completely dishonest in the promises he made and the way he framed issues when appealing for the votes of desperate working class people?

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  11. Ricky, Of course it’s possible. That’s why the jury is still out.

    For one thing, many people, including myself, are on pins and needles as we watch the US edge closer to wars. Why? Because for many years we have been spending our national treasure (and credit) on wars rather than infrastructure and other things that build up internal wealth and confidence. If we become embroiled in wars again, there will certainly be no money to repair physical or healthcare infrastructure. Both of which are in decay.

    And another issue of concern is that not much is being done to tether our financial markets to reality. I’m not a finance person, but for the life of me I can’t see the real increase in value that should have pushed our DOW to triple it’s price since the Great Recession. I would be glad to know the rational for that. The best I can figure is that there is so much money in so few hands that they just don’t know what else to do with it. But the lack of tethering makes me nervous of another crash….followed by another bailout to those people and institutions that already hold the bulk of the world’s monetary power. Resulting in even more money in even fewer hands.

    And in all these things, nothing much will have changed for working people except they are working harder with fewer employment choices, and with retirement options shrinking even further. Just as the government was complicit in the de-industrialization of the country, so re-industrialization does not happen without government participation as well.

    As for shooting someone on 5th Avenue, it depends on who he shot, and why. But I would be inclined to think Wall St. would offer more acceptable targets. ;–)


  12. Debra,

    1.So how did Wall Street get so rich?

    By taking advantage of stupid government programs that were supposed to provide home ownership to the poor and middle class.

    2. How did docs and hospital execs and big pharma get so rich?

    By taking advantage of wasteful government programs that provide healthcare to the poor and middle class.

    Cut government spending and you will eliminate that artificially created wealth.

    You are right about unnecessary wars, and Campaign Trump was right about that too. President Trump? Not so much since he discovered that military strikes can distract from his latest idiocy.

    Concerning “accountable churches”, in last night’s sermon Matt Chandler called for Christians to be more involved and committed so that all churches (even big ones) and individual Christians become more accountable. It was quite a convicting message.

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  13. Conservative columnists have written several great columns over the last few days. This one by Bret Stephens was the best:


  14. Re: the size of churches. A while back, on the WMB, someone argued for why house churches are better, & someone else at another time argued for why the “institutional” church is better.

    Tellingly, they both had the same reasons. The one that I most remember mentioned – as a warning against both house churches & “institutional” churches – was that it was too easy for a pastor to gain too much control over the people. I forget the other warnings, but they applied to both kinds of churches.


  15. Deb @8:13, I remain a Christian because I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know many trustworthy followers of Christ, but the larger the mustard tree is, the more birds rest in its branches (See also the parable of the tares and the wheat, Matthew 13:24-32). The con artists and sociopaths of the world look for easy prey, and they often find it among the church. The church tends to be trusting of those who say the right words, and are very reluctant to look at the fruit such teachers produce (Matthew 7:15-20). One thing that the Church is weak in understanding, and that is that its leaders should not be eager to leaders, because being a leader is a heavy and terrible responsibility (I Corinthians 9:16-17, James 3:1). When the leaders of the church enjoy their leadership role, it is time to suspect them. Christ condemned the Pharisees for their love of leadership, telling his disciples that the greatest among the Church were the ones who served (Matthew 23:1-12).
    That the problem exists should place each of us on our guard, if only to ensure that we ourselves are not wolves, but neither should it make us want to run for the hills. Christ and his apostles warned against false teachers strongly and frequently, but Christ also said that he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Despairing of the Church because of the wolves who have attacked it is failing to trust in the strength of Christ.

    As to the Benedict Option, the cloisters of the Dark Ages encompassed more than those who had taken monastic vows. The abbeys and convents sheltered entire communities. While the monks and nuns themselves may not have married, their organizations employed and gave refuge to entire families. My mother’s family name comes from the people who were born, lived, and died on the land that was under the domain of the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is the historical system that St. Benedict of Nursia was a part of, for whom the Benedict Option is named.

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  16. Kizzie, which is why the Presbyterian form of government is (I believe) the most effective at guarding against overbearing pastors who hold “all” the power. A good number of elders — willing to challenge and double check a pastor — helps keep a lid on some of that danger.

    It can happen in any church, but the more checks and balances one has, the more assurance there is that the church stays on track. I would say house churches are more vulnerable though sometimes circumstances make such gatherings the norm (my friends on the farm were part of something like that with other homeschooling families for a while, but it ended badly; unfortunately, the husband/father’s solution was to make things even smaller and just worship only as a single family every Sunday).

    House churches would be wise to still place themselves under a wider authority. I really don’t trust human nature all that much. 🙂

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  17. DJ – That is a concern with non-denominational churches.

    I’m pretty sure my former pastor was “asked” to resign. He is no longer in ministry, which is a good thing. He hurt a lot of people, myself included.

    His last sermon was self-justifying. Among other things, he referred to the people who had left the church under him (many of whom came back when he left), & said it wasn’t his fault, it was “all on them”.

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  18. Ricky: Pop needs to quit worrying about Trump and start lobbying to get Zaza Pachulia permanently suspended from the NBA for purposely injuring players… Ty

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Don’t worry, Tychicus. Westbrook promised to “get Zaza’s #%&” after a similar incident. Russell usually makes good on his promises.


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