Be ye followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk so as you have our model. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.
– Philippians 3:17-19
Surely you’ve heard the news of a few legislative attempts to prevent entrepreneurs from being legally harrased into material complicity with evil by servicing gay “weddings” — gay “weddings” which, mind you, are not even legally recognized in many of those states (yet).
That’s not especially alarming, or new, anyway; the free and equal new man cannot tolerate any restrictions on his liberty, even those imposed by the mere existence of the reactionary untermenschen who periodically crawl out of the sewer to contradict him. What alarms me is the extent to which Christians have thrown in with this particular anti-Crusade. In the last three days I have personally dealt with the libels of no less than three Christians, at least one of them an ostensibly “good” Catholic, daring to claim that a Christian baker refusing on principle to bake a cake for a gay “wedding” is morally deficient and contrary to Christian love; and my girlfriend (at least as fierce as me, but nowhere near as accustomed to leftist vitriol) has had to deal with several more, to her great distress. (Get it? You can’t “judge” — i.e., not be 100% on board with — sodomites for what they publicly and repeatedly say and do, but you can surely read and know the hearts of far-away small-business bakery owners on the basis of third-hand reports of their conversations.)
Let us be clear; if your position is that the “love” which we mean when we say “God is love” or “God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son” obliges you to sell needles to heroin addicts or to let children eat sugary cereal for every meal, then you are setting yourself against the plain letter of Scripture, the unanimous witness of Christian history, and the dictates of basic human reason. If your position requires you to view faithful Christians as crucifying Pharisees and aggressive, unrepentant sodomites as the hapless sinners who dined with Christ, then you have got absolutely everything backwards. If your position is that the Constitutional-rendering-of-the-moment has higher Magisterial status than the unbroken opinion of all saintly Christians for all of time everywhere, then maybe you should replace that little metal cross hanging around your neck with a stylized hammer and nails.
Here’s the headline version of the relevant story: a Catholic high school hires a vice-principal who is (whether known or not to the school) a practicing homosexual. As part of the terms of his employment, he signs a contract obligating him to publicly abide by the teachings of the Church. At some point later on, he “marries” his boyfriend, a public repudiation of those teachings that earn him the termination of his employment — whereupon the Catholic students at the school rebel.
Suppose you were the pastor, or even the bishop. What would this tell you about the state of affairs in the local church, or in the Church in America more broadly, or the Church in general?
The modern instinct is to treat sex as a private matter that is of no real consequence to the body politic, and thus no legitimate concern of the sovereign, or of the public. Against this conservatives argue that sex has all sorts of important consequences for the health and welfare of the body politic, whether demographic, epidemiological, economic, pedagogical, or cultural, so that sexual morality matters to the polis a very great deal, and is therefore a fit concern both of the sovereign and the people.
These sorts of pragmatic objections to liberal social and sexual mores do tell, of course, and heavily. But they don’t begin to get at the immense importance of sex in the long run – the really, really long run, under which the whole history of the universe is like an evening gone.
“Yes,” say many non-Christian traditionalists, and they seem to have a point. The western church promotes liberalism almost as much as the secularists, and it’s easy for a cynic to see current Christendom as just another part of the Left’s evil empire—with exceptions being sufficiently rare not to alter the overall judgment. And it’s easy for the selfsame cynic to see the liberalism that is dragging us down as a bastardized version—or perhaps even the natural fulfillment—of Christianity.
And if Christianity is responsible for the decline of our homeland and our people, it would seem that we ought to stay away from it.
But the validity of this judgment depends on the referent for the word “Christianity.” Does the word simply refer to the totality of persons, institutions, words and deeds that are conventionally called “Christian?” Or, while conceding the validity of this first meaning, can we see an additional and more fundamental meaning? Continue reading
I am humbled and pleased that the editors of The New York Review of Science Fiction have given the feature position to my article on William Olaf Stapledon, “Contact, Communion, and the Marriage of Minds,” in the latest number of their publication. “Contact” is the much-edited version of the talk that I gave last July at “Doxacon,” a colloquium on the crossroads of science fiction and religion. I believe that the essay will be of interest to readers of The Orthosphere. Stapledon was a greatly conflicted thinker, tempted by atheism, but unable to shake his profound intuition that the universe is not reducible to matter and the void; that existence has a divine ground. His fiction and non-fiction alike address the issue. I try to put Stapledon, as the subtitle of the essay puts it, “in context.” The context is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which I interpret as, partly, a religious displacement.
I offer an extract below –
Once the investigator grasps Flammarion and Lowell, along with the whole of late-Romantic plurality discourse, in this way [as a vestige of Medieval cosmology,] much of the peculiarity in their exposition begins to make sense. When Flammarion seems to adhere to a Darwinian vocabulary, making free use of the term evolution, he never means what Darwin or Darwin’s materialist followers meant by the term. On the contrary, the evolution that concerns Flammarion is that of mind, which he regards as the self-articulation at the microcosmic level of the macrocosmic consciousness – Dieu dans la Nature. In a Times story for 10 November 1910, Flammarion told the reporter, “I believe there are denizens on Mars, and that they are superior to us.” Flammarion opines that the Martians “ought to resemble [what humanity] will be several million years hence, inasmuch as Mars is a much older planet than the earth.” Flammarion believes that the Martians have made several attempts to communicate with humanity, the first one “hundreds of thousands of years ago” and the last one “a few thousand years ago.”
Lowell, who knew Flammarion, writes in the same vein. In his three-part Atlantic article from the summer of 1895 (June, July, August), he argues that the phenomenon of the canals “points to a highly intelligent mind behind it.” Martian sentience must take the form of “a mind… of considerably more comprehensiveness” than the human. Such things as “party politics,” Lowell insists, “have had no part” in the elaboration of the system of planetary irrigation – the canals whose courses Lowell had so painstakingly mapped.
According to Lowell, the very study of Mars exerts a spiritually transforming effect on him who undertakes it. He learns to “look at things from a standpoint raised above our local point of view,” to “free our minds at least from the shackles that of necessity tether our bodies,” and to “recognize the possibility of others in the same light that we do the certainty of ourselves.” As Lowell writes in Mars as the Abode of Life, “Turning to Mars with quickened sense, we witness an astounding thing,” a globe “where life at the present moment would likely be of a high order.”In the plurality discourse of the fin-de-siècle, then, the reader will detect the stubborn persistence of a cosmological view that actual modern science tells us is an outmoded and distinctly unscientific way of comprehending the celestial universe. This late-Medieval way of thinking cosmologically sees the universe as creation; it sees the heavens as instinct with symbolic significance, pervaded by mind in the form of the plural, extraterrestrial humanities, and as responsive – at least potentially – to the effort, not only to establish contact with those humanities, but to come into communion with the sum and total of their shared consciousness.
Kristor’s recent announcement that he’s moving to Rome leaves Yours Truly as the only Protestant regular contributor to this website. More generally, there appears to this writer to be a pronounced bias among Christian traditionalists toward Catholicism or (capital-O) Orthodoxy. Presumably this is because Rome and Constantinople emphasize the authority and tradition that are perhaps the defining elements of traditionalism, whereas contemporary Protestantism, as opposed to the faith of the Reformers, not only lacks this emphasis but often tends (unfortunately) toward antinomianism.
But let it be known that this author is not moving to Rome and, more generally, that traditionalism and Protestants need one another. Continue reading
On a friend’s recommendation, I rented Warm Bodies this weekend, expecting nothing more than a little mindless entertainment to provide an occasional distraction from homework. What I got, instead, was a break from the usual genre exercise with a symbolic structure that’s almost too overtly Christian to be unintentional. (Spoilers below the break).
The sacrificial victim consecrated to the god of any cult must always be pure, clean, unblemished, the first, best fruits of the harvest. Nothing less will do; anything less would be unworthy, an insult. This is why the firstborn was sacrificed, or the king, or children, or virgins, or captured enemy soldiers who, like an innocent animal, were not sullied by any of the sins of their captors.
In ancient Judah, two goats were needed for the most important sacrifice of the year, on the Day of Atonement, because one of them had to take all the sins of the people to itself and be driven out of the City – this was the scapegoat – to cleanse the City and her people in preparation for the rite, so as to prevent any pollution of the sacrifice of the other pure and unblemished goat. As the goat sacrificed to YHWH had to be ritually clean, so did all the ministers of the sacrifice: the people themselves, the priests, and the High Priest. So before the sacrifice of the goat to YHWH, the sins of the people had to be laid upon the scapegoat, and he driven beyond the firmament of the City’s pale to the desert waste where demons had sway over chaos and desolation. In practice, the scapegoat was driven over a cliff of Mount Azazel, the high place in the Judean desert that was the house and temple of the demon Azazel and his coterie (as Olympos was the mountain house of Zeus, and Zion the mountain house of Melchizedek, the Mighty Righteous – YHWH).
The scapegoat was a sacrifice “for Azazel.” If the scapegoat had not assumed the sins of the people, then they themselves would have been “for Azazel” – for, no man can serve two masters. The ritually impure are doomed to be given to Azazel at the Last Judgement. These are they who have not by then been washed of their sins in the blood of the Lamb.
For the most part, my posts here at the Orthosphere fall into two categories: current affairs on the one hand – politics, economics, public policy, the culture wars, etc. – and on the other philosophical theology. It is not surprising that our site statistics show the latter sort of posts are generally far less popular and interesting to visitors than the former. Only one of my philosophical posts makes it into the top thirty that I have published since the Orthosphere began. It is The Holy Trinity: A Simple Explanation for Children. Though it is fairly recent, it is the fourth most visited post I have published; every day it gets at least a few hits from Google searches, so it is likely to keep rising in the rankings.
Why is that? Why does the Trinity matter to people?
I mean, sure, it’s hard to explain the Trinity, especially to kids, and kids have questions, so there must be lots of Christian parents searching for a good explanation on any given day. But this raises a set of deeper questions. If the Trinity is so hard to explain, why did the Fathers make it so central to the Faith? Why do the creeds take their structures from the Persons of the Trinity? And, what is so important about creeds in the first place? Why can’t we dispense with these troublesome, incomprehensible formulae, and just love God and each other? And, for Heaven’s sake, why should a profession of adherence to the Nicene Creed – it began and remains the baptismal vow – be the threshold and test of Christian faith?
I was alarmed when Cardinal Tauran, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s, announced the name Georgium Marium … Bergoglio. I’d heard the name before somewhat in connection with liberals, specifically the detestable careerist Cardinal Sodano, who had supposedly advanced Bergoglio as the anti-Ratzingerian candidate in the 2005 conclave and who appeared on the balcony next to Francis with a smile that I thought bordered too much on triumphal smirking for my liking. My stomach sank. I worried and prayed for some time. Continue reading