It would be so useful if Christians and religious people more generally would seriously and sincerely consider the question of why God is against homosexual activity and against sexual immorality more generally. Why are these subjects important to him?
This is not a rhetorical question. I believe these subjects are important to God, and rightfully so. But when secular people suggest that religious proscriptions against homosexuality and various other sexual activities are arbitrary, most people of faith and even most churches give very inadequate answers.
Saying something is unnatural is, as JF noted, a fairly vacuous response in and of itself.
More on topic to the central point of this article: I find Uganda’s law disturbing. Not because I think it is wrong per se to have laws on issues like sexuality. But some of the provisions of this law go quite beyond what I would support.
We appear to be proving once again, as has been proven throughout history, that when it comes to issues relating to homosexuality and sexuality more generally it is almost impossible for human societies to avoid extremism in one direction or the other. Why is this? Why do societies that become tolerant on this sort of thing tend so strongly to get downright promoting of it all to a ridiculous and disturbing level? And why do societies that stick to opposition to it tend so strongly to get downright oppressive and extreme about it?
These questions are probably quite closely connected to my earlier question and they all deserve (in fact quite urgently demand) being seriously and sincerely considered.
April 28, 2023 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/a-more-sex-sensitive-classical-christian-education/
“On the issue of marriage, however, ACCS graduates look a lot more like America. Though their views are more Christian on sex before marriage, divorce, and same-sex marriage, their marriages resemble those of homeschoolers and students from prep schools. The “Good Soil” study did not ask about the number of children ACCS graduates have, but anecdotal evidence on the timing and number of children of ACCS graduates suggests that our graduates look like America: Few marry before twenty-five and the lion’s share have children after the age of twenty-eight. I would guess that more than half are childless by the age of thirty, based on what I have seen as part of the community.”
Is it necessarily a bad thing or a non-Christian thing for people to be having children later and having fewer? There are many ways in which norms today differ from norms in the past that need to be resisted or fought: abortion and gender madness in the name of progress for example. But is shifting patterns around families and childbirth one of them? Christianity should not be about living like we did in the past per se, even though it obviously needs to reject the blatant immorality of modern day life. Maybe this particular shift is one that is quite compatible with Christianity and good morals, especially given how people are living longer, etc.
Also, when it comes to broad demographic trends and changes, maybe religionists and moralists should kind of back of a bit. A lot of people used to get all worked up about overpopulation, now a lot of people are getting all worked up about declining birth rates. Maybe God is more in charge than we think, and maybe he knows what he’s doing in this regard. The Chinese are starting to think their one child policy wasn’t so good after all, maybe an old-fashioned Christian position that people should have many children early on could also be rethought? When it comes to these sorts of issues, a relatively hands off strategy on the part of both church and state might well be best. Along with trust that God is sufficiently in control of his planet in the broadest sense of the word.
“When religious civilizations become disoriented, they do not become secular, they rather cling to the artifacts of their religions, but now without a holy place for them to reside and cohere. Such is the fate of Europe and the Anglosphere, wherein several artifacts of Christianity—irredeemable stain, the scapegoat, the innocent victim—have taken up residence in a political party, and given rise to identity politics, whose defining feature is attentiveness to the category of the innocent victim.”
That’s an interesting and important point, which I’d never thought of in quite those terms. We’ve not just exchanged Christianity for a humanistic pseudo-religion, but the particular form of humanistic pseudo-religion we’ve adopted actually bears clear and deep marks of being a Christian-derived one, rather than an Islam-derived one, a Hindu-derived one, a pagan-derived one, etc.
Although our clashes with other cultures and our failures to really understand those cultures is to a certain extent one of a clash of humanistic-in-spirit vs islamic-in-spirit etc. it is at the same time one Christian-in-form vs Islamic-in-form, etc. And even our clash with and failure to understand a culture that is now even more godless than our own such as China probably has a fair bit to do with a Christian-in-form humanism clashing with a Confucian/Buddhist-in-form humanism.
Not sure how far this can be taken, but as an idea that helps to factor into explaining global disconnects it is a valuable contribution.
When there is great evil in a society there aren’t really any good solutions per se - only relatively better and worse ones. The leftist/anarchist route is generally the worse in most countries today, while the rightist/heavy handed route is generally the better. But there are real risks that come with both quasi-militaristic law and order regimes in places like El Salvador or the Philippines and with big-government conservatism in places like Republican US states.
I hope we manage to walk a reasonable line at home and abroad, but I have serious concerns about the growing backlash to wokeism and humanistic anarchism. And although my concerns about the radical left are still more powerful than my concerns about the opposition, the differential is decreasing. If you look at the world as a whole, the prospects for wokeism and all that goes along with really don’t look so good at all, which can be difficult to keep in mind when you live in a western country where it’s presently still very powerful. Perhaps it’s most lasting legacy in the long run will be to make us all too numb to authoritarian tendencies of an opposite kind, which is a troubling thought. Nevertheless, we must fight the left.
If a people stop worshiping God, they are very likely to be drawn towards exalting the state as God. We are increasingly moving in that direction in the west, but it’s yet a nascent disposition and one that is meeting a lot of opposition, so it’s largely making things messier and worse. In China, this is engrained and perfected if you will, and there are many outer advantages for society and social cohesion, despite the fact it's rotten and tyrannical at its core.
There are so many serious issues in the world today, yet somehow I find the whole issue surrounding gender madness probably the most obnoxious. Of all the issues, its perhaps the one I most wish would just somehow go away, or that I could just somehow get and keep away from.
I appreciate your using the appropriate pronouns as opposed to the preferred ones. Even many quite conservative and/or Christian organizations, individuals and media outlets fail to do so, unfortunately.
On a somewhat tangential note, I do find the doctrine held by many Christians that an individual can burn in hell forever shockingly callous. It’s not something I can belief, nor do I see how a merciful God could allow that sort of thing, let alone on the basis of decisions an individual makes in a lifetime of a few decades.
Reply to a reply:
What I believe on the matter very briefly:
Children of God live numerous lifetimes. Ultimately, however, they either eventually earn their way to heaven or not. If they do not, they will neither suffer for eternity nor linger throughout eternity (which, if you really think about it comes down to about the same thing). Rather, their individual identity will eventually be cancelled out. As Ezekiel says, “the soul that sinneth, it will die.”
Whithout bickering too much about terminology, such what exactly is soul, as opposed to mind, or spirit, or whatnot: that part of a child of God which is eternal because it is of God’s essence returns to God one way or another. In one way, it does so with an individual identity attached, in the sense that as the drop slips into the ocean, it retains a self-identity as the drop at the same time as losing any sense of separation from the whole (a soul goes to heaven). In the other way, it does so with an individual identity cancelled out, in the sense that as the drop slips into the ocean it becomes ontologically indistinguishable from the ocean as a whole (a soul dies).
In neither case is God diminished, but in the latter case he merely recoups his original investment, whereas in the former case something is gained. This ties into the mystery and purpose of creation.
January 3, 2032 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/expressive-individuals/
Paul puts it best: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
People by and large do not know that their body is a temple of the holy spirit. And the twin ideas that “you are not your own” and that you ought to “glorify God in your body,” are not so much rejected as they are dismissed or simply beyond people’s ability to really comprehend. And so, a large part of the answer to the problems of burgeoning immorality and unprincipled standards of behavior comes down, as it always has, to “getting wisdom, and with all your getting getting understanding.”
The idea that “persons are merely atomized individual wills” does not jive with materialism, and yet many who accept that idea reject alternatives to materialism. Exploring the contradictions that arise from this is perhaps a pretty good place to begin. What does it mean to “be” an individual will that is merely attached to a body, as opposed to “being” a body with a will? And how can one make sense of the idea that a “self” can only “flourish by self-expression” in a non-circular manner?
There’s something wrong about “conceiving of your mission as drawing out evil, in allowing Hell to do its very best, so it can ultimately be defeated.” Conceiving that this might well be a consequence of your mission is one thing, but conceiving this in itself to be your mission (or a key part of your mission) is another. It is perhaps good to want to combat evil in the open with all that this potentially entails, but to want to let evil run amok for the sake of evil subsequently being in a position where it is more vulnerable is something different, and wrong.
I realize it’s only speculation, but still.
January 2, 2023 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/of-kafka-and-karens/
This is quite a brilliant essay, which succeeds remarkably effectively at capturing a key but inherently difficult to pinpoint part of what is so wrong about today’s society.
I think the key theme here has a lot to do with “the world” in the negative Biblical sense of the word, especially as used in in the Gospel of John. “Because you are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” etc. What is “the world” in the negative Biblical sense of the word? It is this overbearing, collectivist, mechanized, impersonal and self-perpetuating force, that is at once a product of mankind’s human-centeredness as opposed to God-centeredness and a principal cause behind any particular individual’s human-centeredness as opposed to God-centeredness. It alludes to the way in which a large-scale human community—in the relative absence of a dynamic spiritual impetus that finds expression in a principled individualism—all but invariably turns into a force that draws people into conformity with standards, norms and patterns of behavior that become increasing divorced from genuine and established values, principles and ideals.
Insofar as “the world” has dominion over the hearts, souls and minds of men, you get a situation where men become increasingly mechanized or robotized in virtue of finding themselves part of a system that is much greater than any individual, despite being sustained by each individual’s failure to assert his independence from it. Not only do people then tend to instinctively gravitate towards downward-trending norms, ways and standards (while getting stuck in the rut of ridiculous and desensitized rules and formulas), their very efforts to zealously solve problems or ameliorate conditions then also come to be deeply conditioned by an underlying preparedness to be conformed to the world in lieu of being conditioned by an underlying preparedness to assert independence from it. “The good that I would I do not, but the evil that I would not that I do” becomes the tragic keynote of a society in which men, for want of each individually opting to function quite explicitly as spiritual beings and pulling up the community in the process, find themselves collectively pulled down towards functioning as little more than intelligent social animals. So much of today’s ethics can be characterized as something akin to “monkey ethics,” because man’s propensity towards immorality is so intricately tied up with his propensity to reject his spiritual nature, hand-in-hand with his propensity to revert to instinctively functioning in a herd-like manner.
Adopting a genuinely different course then becomes an increasingly daunting and heroic endeavor, but it can then also potentially become a rather tragic and hollow one. In this connection, it is important to remember that asserting independence from the world does not at all imply raging against your society or giving way to fanaticism of any kind. You are intended to assert independence from the world (and to be prepared to deal with the world’s condemnation and hatred), not to go to war with the world per se (nor to turn its condemnation and hatred against it). Discovering what exactly adopting such a course will imply and entail (and putting that into action) forms a significant part of what meeting the challenge of living as a spiritual being embodied in the flesh on a dark and unenlightened planet comes down to.
How do you confront the gatekeeper or the prison warden? The particulars of the answer to this question cannot really be spelled out for you, but one thing you can be sure of is that approaching the problem in the manner in which it needs to be approached is going to have to look a fair bit like how Alexander approached the problem of the Gordian knot. It will also have to pivot on remembering to “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Be of good cheer, you can overcome the world. Be of good cheer, the world is inherently overcomeable.
December 31, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/benedict-xvi-has-died/
He was from all that I can tell a very good and strong man and a very good and strong pope. Am interested in reading some of the works cited.
“What comes through so clearly is how much Joseph Ratzinger loved Jesus Christ.” - would that the same could be said for Catholic Church hierarchy as a whole, and that of other churches more generally. The world would be such a different place.
“I have this sense that Joseph Ratzinger was a kind of katechon among us, in some mystical sense holding back the worst.” A new word for my vocabulary, and an interesting concept. Not at all wanting to detract from the idea that a particular individual can hold a key position in this sort of way, I would however like to stress that we probably all ought to see ourselves as intended to hold back some measure of evil “in some mystical sense.” A Christianity devoid of a mystical dimension is hardly a Christianity at all. And a large part of the battle between good and evil is fought in such a manner as this.
This is an informative essay. It’s unfortunate to witness how weak Taiwan has become morally, spiritually and socially, along very similar lines as the west. Military and economic might can ultimately never really compensate for such weakness, although even Taiwan’s military might and the might of its alliances are perhaps shakier than they’re made out to be.
It is good to reiterate that the primary goal when it comes to East Asia is to free the Chinese people from communism, rather than to keep Taiwan separate from the mainland per se. Is mainland China so much of a lost cause in the foreseeable future that ensuring Taiwan’s fierce independence from the mainland is the best way to promote this goal to the extent that we can? Or is the collapse of communism in the mainland in the foreseeable future an open enough option that something along the lines of a movement of pan-Chinese nationalism emanating from Taiwan could play a constructive role in the broader picture?
The CCP draws a lot of its popular support and fabricated domestic legitimacy by having arrogated Chinese nationalist narratives at home. Perhaps Taiwan and the west are pursuing the wrong course by playing into this, as opposed to trying to turn it around. The observation that it is the more fiercely independent of the two parties in Taiwan that appears to be falling the most strongly for the kinds of moral, social and cultural decay that are so integral to communism is significant in this regard.
My reply to a reply to above:
With morally, spiritually and socially weak I’m referring to more than just homosexuality laws, but rather much of the whole package that we are dealing with in the west: homosexuality (celebrated rather than just permitted), attitudes to gender dysphoria, abortion, decline in religion, welfare state policies and mentalities, etc., Plus the way it’s all wrapped together in marxist-style narratives about victimization, a redefinition of what it means to be a democracy, an increasing vulnerability to being swept up in ideological waves, etc., etc.
Your point that most Chinese are not so much communists at heart as nationalists who desire national greatness and order is pretty much the point I was making. The CCP is remarkably effective at presenting attacks against itself as attacks against order and national greatness, and the west is largely playing into this rather than trying to counteract that narrative.
December 30, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/a-rift-in-the-earth/
“A victim’s memorial, not a hero’s monument.” That’s quite typical and representative of the sad state of Western culture and society. Same with our newest “holiday” of Juneteenth (or Canada’s “Truth and Reconciliation Day”) - instead of a celebration of African American / Native culture and contributions, we opt for a day of national mourning and collective atonement.
The dark sides of our history need to be acknowledged, taught and learned from, to be sure. But when mourning and atonement take the place of celebrating and memorializing, we have a problem. War dead should be remembered and honored, but a war memorial should be more than a war mausoleum, and the focus should be on honoring bravery and sacrifice, rather than lament death per se.
That being said, when I visited “The Wall” my impression was pretty good for what it was. Architectural-wise, I didn’t really find the minimism and modernism off-putting, though I generally don’t much lean to minimalist and modernist styles.
I never would have been able to come up with the idea that the focus of the monument on victimization combined with its minimalist architecture and form, and even its topography as a rift in the ground, all worked together to reflect and facilitate “the therapeutic culture that has tended to undermine the idea of virtue as the indispensable pillar supporting civilized life.” But when this idea is spelled out as it is here, it makes a fair bit of sense. Perhaps goes to show why it’s important for societies that would cultivate rather than undermine the idea of virtue as the indispensable pillar supporting civilized life do well to cultivate and foster specializations such as art history, architectural criticism and new urbanist philosophy.
Although, I have to admit that I became considerably less sure of this when I tried and failed repeatedly to wrap my mind around a passage such as that “Through their idealization of structure, the many classical buildings that make a powerful impression on visitors to our nation’s capital embody a communitarian ethos, by analogy with the nation’s own aspiration to forge a more perfect union, that transforms the “is” of mere construction into the “ought” of architecture. In other words, classical architecture addresses the public as a community.”
December 28, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/baby-bones/
One of the serious negative repercussions of abortion is that individuals who are intended to be around at a particular time to fulfill a particular service in their lifetime aren’t around. By cutting short an individual’s life through abortion we throw a wrench into God’s plans for their life, and for how their life is intended to impact other people and the community as a whole. Could cancer have been cured by now in the absence of this practice, for example? Perhaps. But even on a smaller-scale level: the absence in the life of a child of the brother he should have had, for example, what are the full range of the repercussions on him. Etc., etc., etc.
We, perhaps understandably, underemphasize this aspect of the harms caused by abortion, because the primary harm and cruelty caused to the baby itself looms so large, as well as secondary effects such as on the mother, on a culture that lacks respect for life, etc. But it is a significant negative consequence of abortion in itself.
And this connects quite closely to what Herod or Pharoah intended to accomplish in their heinous decrees. They were motivated by a desire to prevent an individual whose mission they feared from being there to fulfill their mission.
Would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that there are individuals in positions of power and influence today who reason along somewhat similar lines? Who advocate for abortion (among other reasons) because they hope to throw a wrench in God’s plans and so prevent or postpone at least some of what they fear would come about if those plans were not interfered with.
My reply to a reply to the above:
To be sure, if an individual is called upon by God to marry and have children and intuits as much, but he decides not to do so because he wants to do something else with his life, that could be said to be unfortunate and could have negative repercussions that touch upon himself and others. I think the hand of providence plays a guiding role in the life of each individual, and the more someone counters this through free will choices as opposed to conforming to it through those choices, the more things diverge from how they ideally would go - with potentially far-reaching consequences for himself and others. (It might be worth stressing that God is not in the business of micromanaging anyone’s life, we are talking here about large-scale life-direction sort of choices).
That being said, God has instituted individual free will and human agency as legitimate parameters for how things function on Earth. When an individual decides not to marry (or not to pursue a particular career, or not to move to a particular place, or not to make some other major life choice) he might make an unfortunate decision, but he has not sinned in the eyes of God per se.
When a woman decides to kill her baby, however, that is more than an unfortunate choice, it is a serious sin or crime in the eyes of God. And although God is doubtlessly aware that individuals do or could make such choices, such choices do not fit into the legitimate parameters for free will and human agency that he has instituted. Is it then difficult to countenance that the latter sort of actions could interfere with his plans in a different and more serious sort of way than the former? That the whole broad mysterious and dynamic mechanism of divine providence that is designed in such a way as to respect and work with free will and human agency could be interfered with more seriously than in the former sort of case?
This also connects to questions about the trajectory of individual souls. If some particular child of God is intended to play a key role (whether in curing cancer or in setting free the Hebrew slaves) and his intended parents don’t get together and do their thing, perhaps he’ll be born to other parents in similar circumstances around the same time. If he is conceived and killed (either before or shortly after birth) though, then what? I think according to classical Christian doctrine he would go straight to heaven. Even if you believe in reincarnation, however, there are complications that come up.
In any case, abortion (and infanticide, euthanasia, etc.) at the very least provides a major additional factor that can seriously interfere with God’s plans.
Jesus could very well have been killed by Herod’s edict and subsequent efforts, otherwise the angel would not have counseled Joseph to take him to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s death. And Herod was motivated by exactly that possibility to do what he did. It was not really some sort of power play over the weak and innocent that motivated him, nor depravity for its own sake, it was an attempt to prevent an individual he feared from being around to fulfill his mission (Herod was a jew and believed in the prophecies about a messiah).
I suspect there are modern day Herod’s that are at least somewhat similarly motivated, even if they have no particular individual in mind. Anything that can help to throw a (further) wrench into God’s plans and potentially murder the next great saint or prophet - or even the next great meek child of God who might play some key role in some particular capacity, presents an attractive proposition.
All of this being said, this is hardly the only thing that makes abortion problematic, nor the biggest one. But it is a side of the issue that deserves to be considered.
My reply to someone else's post:
Part of the problem is that people have too narrow a sense of progress. If we had used material, technological and socio-economic progress as a springboard to real cultural refinement, spiritual advancement, integration of science and religion, etc. to the extent we should have, people wouldn’t be as easily drawn into all this fake progressivism.
To suggest that the conditions we had in the past were preferable to the conditions we have today because it was easier then than now to be focused on what really matters is more to advocate for easiness than for what really matters.
December 28, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/rising-sum/
Globalism, coercive international organizations and a pax americana were always going to be a flimsy framework for lasting peace in the world. Strong and self-confident countries or nation-states, endeavoring to work together with each other, but each coming from a position of self-interest and self-determination held (and still holds) considerably better prospects.
To condemn historical figures from America’s early history as racist for not having been more adamantly against slavery is closely analogous to condemning their modern-day counterparts as child haters for not being adamantly against abortion. Both slavery and abortion are terrible things, but they also are (or were) each in their respective time very deeply entrenched evils. If you can find someone who condones slavery in America today, you could very justifiably and convincingly present them in a terrible light. Similarly, someone who condoned killing babies in the womb in eighteenth century America would have been seen by their contemporaries in a very similar guise. To condone something that is wrong when its practice is not to any significant degree entrenched, established, customary, routine or broadly accepted is much more powerfully indicative of a serious flaw of character than to do so when that is not the case. This is not to say that there are not objective and timeless standards of right and wrong. There most certainly are, and we ought each to do our best to discern those standards through all of the societal norms of our day, and to live up to and champion them. But we are all bound to approach this task in the particular context of the times in which we live.
When you lose the sense of perspective that comes with acknowledging this (along with the charitable disposition that goes hand-in-hand with that sense of perspective), you will very quickly find your propensity to condemn others to be a rapidly inflationary one. Your condemnation of some will swiftly become condemnation of many, and then of well-nigh everyone—yourself not excluded. Condemnation will become a way of life, if you do not allow elements of what has (or had at the time) become a way of life to factor into your assessment of individuals and their legacies. When you appreciate this, you are also likely to appreciate the great import of Christ’s teaching that you really ought to judge and condemn no one. Furthermore, you will be likely to appreciate that this teaching does not at all advocate relinquishing a keen and informed capacity for discernment, evaluation and appraisal, but rather implies honing that capacity by conditioning yourself to the precepts of charity.
The above is something I wrote elsewhere a while ago, but so important a point and a rather relevant one here.
It may also bear pointing out that while there are tons of flawed good people in the world and the world is tragic largely as a result, there are / have been a few people in the world who altogether stand out for their depravity, and that the world would be considerably less tragic if it weren’t for their presence throughout history. The same Jesus who preached universal salvation also condemned the “generations of vipers” who were “from beneath,” “the children of their father the devil,” and “wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Although it is not our place to judge anybody, and although it is good to relate to flawed individuals throughout history, we probably shouldn’t lose sight of this or fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to fallen angels incarnate or the like.
My reply to someone else's post:
“As a Christian, history includes, for me, both the fall from grace of our original parents and the redemption of mankind through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The story of the original fall from grace is so important, because it emphasizes that according to God’s plans we started in a condition that was good and noble. According to the common view, we started in a condition of brutish animal nature, and (despite a lot of ups and downs) the trajectory since then has been one of progress to where we are now. If you accept this view altogether, it becomes very difficult to divorce yourself from progressivism.
That being said, anything approaching a simplistic fundamentalist interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve that would place it a few thousand years before Christ with no human history preceeding it is obviously fictional to the point of being ridiculous.
Ultimately, I think it is possible to develop a genuinely Christian (and more generally genuinely religious) history of the world at least in broad outline that is not only more than fictional, but also more true than the alternatives we have now. This is going to be a major undertaking, require a willingness to let go of a lot of preconceptions and conceptual limitations, result in something considerably more complex than expected, require openness to and collaboration with other religious traditions, and so forth.
Unfortunately, few Christian churches have made much in the way of serious efforts. Hinduism has been somewhat better at this, but not a whole lot.
My reply to their reply to the above:
Totally agree about big bang cosmology being compatible with Christian theology without major issues. Human evolution is a more complex topic, though not necessarily incompatible. Few Christians seem to have really tried to work out the details, though. Like, for example, was there some particular point where the baby of a homo erectus or whatever had a new chromosome or dna split which coincided with God breathing a living soul into his now evolutionarily ready creation? All that came before and all babies who lacked the new chromosome or whatever remained big-brained monkeys, whereas the new baby (and a few others?) became something much more, spiritually speaking?
Can’t have been that simple. But if not that, then what??
Then you have something like the great flood. And even the events of the Egyptian bondage and exodus are generally denied by most historians to have taken place when they supposedly did.
As I said, I believe a genuinely Christian history can be written. All I’m saying is it’s a complex topic.
Also, mightn’t seeing the original fall from grace as a defining event of history naturally be taken to support rather than contradict the idea of history as tragedy?
December 27, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/a-darkness-revealed/
This was a very insightful post to read. Thank-you for sharing it. Rather than responding to anything too particular or personal you bring up, I’d like to respond by bringing up something pertaining to the larger issue of how churches teach about races, ethnic groups or nationalities.
It appears to me that the dominant line (largely implicit rather than explicit) in most churches is that the differences between races, ethnic groups or nationalities are purely outer, human or cultural ones, but that there are little or no substantive differences between them of a spiritual nature. This seems wrong to me. The fact that we are all children of God does not imply that we are all the same on the inner in every sense of the word. To be sure, at the core of what really matters, we are all very much similarly constituted on the inner, and we are all made in the same mold. And yet, there are differences between people that go beyond differences of upbringing, culture, genetics, human traits, etc.
This is quite obviously true at an individual level, as our personalities are quite obviously more than a mere function of our genes, our culture, our upbringing, quantum randomness, or whatever. One soul differs from another soul, to put it simply. To believe in something along these lines appears to me to be quite a core belief of Christianity (and of most religions more generally speaking). It is also quite obviously true in the case of sex. The differences between men and women are not reducible to chromosomes, genitalia, or anything of an outer nature. There is more to the difference, and it gets to differences at a spiritual level. A male soul, to put it simply, differs from a female soul. (“male and female created He them.”) Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but not equivalent.
Now, souls are born on planet Earth. But does this occur randomly? I think quite obviously not. A soul is born where it is born for a reason. That some particular individual is born to some particular parents or in some particular community is not haphazard. But neither is it haphazard per se that some particular soul is born in some particular country or among some particular ethnic group. And more generally, souls that share certain characteristics may well predominantly be born in certain areas or in certain nationalities due to the guiding hand of divine providence for a whole host of reasons.
This definitely needs to be understood in an individualistic light. No soul is defined by its nationality or ethnicity, nor is intended to be limited by them, any more than any soul is defined by its parents, or genes, or culture, or anything else, nor intended to be limited by them. And any particular soul can be born in any particular place for a whole host of reasons. The differences between individuals are considerably starker and more significant than the differences between ethnic groups, nationalities, or any large-scale demographic groups. And the later, such as they are are very fluid. But there are nevertheless broad patterns, broad generalizations, or broad distinctions that can exist. There can be (and by all accounts appear to in fact be), in other words, broad differences between races, ethnic groups or nationalities that are not reducible to outer, cultural or human differences, but rather also point to spiritual differences.
If a particular soul who was born in America had been born instead in Syria, he would have acquired very different beliefs, picked up a very different culture, and done very different things in life. And vice versa. But if millions of souls who were born in America had been born instead in Syria and vice versa over the course of a few generations, Syria today would almost certainly now exhibit many traits that America does, and vice versa (although obviously not all). Individuals are to a significant extent a product of their culture, but cultures are also to a significant extent a product of the individuals (souls) that comprise them.
To view things in this sort of light is emphatically not racist. In fact, I think it is a major key to overcoming racism. You cannot overcome racism by pretending that differences don’t exist, or that all differences are much more superficial than they have been made out to be, and then celebrating the superficiality of those differences. The left is trying and failing. I think it is important for churches to have honest discussions along these sorts of lines, and to try to flesh out a bit what exactly they believe about the interface between spirituality and outer demographics.
My reply to someone's reply to the above:
Thanks for the substantive reply. I agree that it is wrong to say that souls are born on Earth. Personally, I certainly believe every soul has a spiritual conception preceding physical incarnation. When I originally wrote my reply I said “a soul embodies where it does for a reason” and then changed it to “a soul is born where it is born for a reason,” because I wasn’t sure if the latter would be accepted terminology for Catholics/Orthodox. I am not Catholic or Orthodox, and don’t know what exactly Catholic or Orthodox doctrine says on the matter. But some Christians seem to believe that the spiritual conception of a soul coincides with physical embodiment. And insofar as they don’t, few of them seem to give much attention to what the trajectory of a soul looks like prior to embodiment (i.e. what it means to have a pre-life, either in time or in timelessness).
I don’t see how it would be difficult to understand how Jesus could bring salvation to all souls if souls are gendered per se, and would be interested in your explanation of why it would be. But perhaps such discussions are inappropriately tangential, involved and doctrinal for this forum.
I do not believe there are “inborn racial differences” as you put it. I do not believe that people are different on the inner because of their race. What I believe is that God made each of his children to be unique in ways that go beyond outer differences. Whether you want to ascribe this to “soul” or to “mind”—as long as you conceive of mind as more than just “brain”—doesn’t really matter I think. And I believe that where each unique child of God embodies is not haphazard or random, but rather subject to divine providence. And that in consequence of this, broad differences can arise among nationalities, ethnic groups, etc. And that churches would contribute more constructively to the racial/ethnic/national tensions in the world if they acknowledged this.
December 26, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-heroes-we-need/
Today’s heroism can be summed up by independence from the world. “World” in the negative Biblical sense of the word. Being able to maintain and assert such independence is becoming an increasingly challenging, selfless and courageous thing to do.
The fact that God dwelling outside of time, creation and form “was perfectly complete and content” does not imply that the subsequent creation was “an act of sheer gratuitous generosity.” As both you in the article and Saint John of the cross in the poem point out, God created man and the world in order to deepen the exchange of love between Father and Son. He totally intended to get something out of the act: in the sharing of His love with His creation, God gains something beyond what he would have had if he remained in a primordial formless eternal state of oneness (or one-in-threeness), even though he was perfectly complete and content even in that state.
Furthermore, the “investment” God made in the act of creation was in a very real sense of the word an open-ended one. God has a real vested interest in his children living up to their spiritual potential and growing in maturity of soul so as to fully consummate the intended relationship. And when they pursue an opposite course, it affects Him deeply, even if this is not to say that he in his pure essence can ultimately be diminished.
The mystery of creation is very much the mystery of an expansive divinity and a self-transcending deity. It is not really about creating something out of nothing, which even God cannot do for the simple reason that he IS and that all that subsequently exists in Him lives, and moves and has its being. But it is about more coming from less. There is a purpose for the creation, the only purpose which an act of creation on the part of an all-encompassing deity could in fact have: the expansion of His essence, the deepening of His love, the enriching of his self-expression.
To grasp the true meaning of Christmas indeed has a lot to do with grasping the real purpose and the real mystery behind creation.
It is also interesting to note in connection with your observation that “all our politics, policy proposals, and desires must be subordinated to the fact that God chose to create us in order to share in His goodness and love” that embedded in the word “Government” is “God OVER MEN”. And even in the context of learning to better “govern” oneself, what one should conceive of oneself as doing is asserting “God OVER” self.
December 23, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/return-to-the-new-way/
This is an important topic to address and an important perspective to air. I find some of what you say overly simplistic and some of your conclusions questionable, but the general point that democracy is far from the panacea and unmitigated blessing it has been made out to be is certainly true. People these days like to all but equate democracy with progress, liberalism, freedom, limited government, equality, human rights, and just about everything good under the sun. This is not only far from appropriate, it has also been getting increasingly obvious over the years that you can quite easily end up with a situation where the opposite is closer to the truth. It is also worth noting that the tyranny of the majority can be among the worst forms of tyranny.
My reply to someone else’s post:
It could perhaps similarly be said that democracy is the best form of government for a moral, godly and rational people, but the worst form of government for an immoral, ungodly and irrational people.
This should in any case underscore how powerful even silent prayer can be. The goal or ideal for Christians, as it is for members of most major religions, is to pray without ceasing. What does this mean? How do you accomplish it or come as close as you can? These are important questions to endeavor to answer for yourself, and they are also important questions for religious leaders to discuss. There as some great tracts by saintly individuals in both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions on this, as there are in other religions. They deserve more attention than they get.
It also gets right to the core of the lesson of the great commandment: loving God is not some abstract, on the side, or on and off again thing. It is something you DO. Consciously. All the time. Mentally. Emotionally. Even physically in a certain manner of speaking. Or at least you try to. And you keep trying. You organize your life around trying it and doing it. The discipline that goes into this is the discipline that makes the disciple. The focus and dedication that goes into it is what sets apart the saints from the multitudes. And it is such a core component to turning things around on the planet.
My reply to someone else’s post on the same article:
It was the same during Covid, at least where I live. It is the same sort of thing in Ukraine.
You plug in these basic parameters: something is a great threat (covid, trump, putin, backwards bigotted opinions, climate change); something provides the solution (vaccines and social distancing, democrats and their agenda, ukrainian resistance and isolating russia, DEI training and cultural marxist narratives, globalist and socialist big government ). And a large part of the population will all but mechanically go along with a morally-charged crusade that loses almost all appreciation for nuances, norms, moderation, erstwhile values, humanity, etc. in a quest to “do enough” or to “do all that it takes.”
If only there were more that could be done to compel you to abandon “bigotted and hateful” opinions… If only there were some other venue we could lock the unvaccinated out of (in my jurisdiction they got to the point of measuring the size of stores and letting people without passports only into the smallest ones, I kid you not)… If only there were some other international norm we could break to punish Putin’s Russia… etc. etc. People snap into this crusader attitude that has almost no space for anything that diverges from simplistic moral binaries that align with preferred, dominant narratives.
It’s very scary to see, but it is very much the norm to keep seeing it throughout history. Not only in classic cases where deranged regimes took hold (1930s Germany, 1910s Russia, 1970s Cambodia, etc, etc.) You also had no small number of brutal religious wars in Europe about fairly obscure doctrinal matters, for example.
Truth is, human beings are remarkably (even shockingly) ideologically-driven, all-or-nothing calibrated, herd-like instincted creatures. However successfully a population can substantially snap out of this for a considerable period of time in the right sort of circumstances, they can remarkably quickly snap back into it as well.
The only real or lasting solution lies in a deep-seated spirituality, in which the soul is sufficiently caught up in the pursuit of God with all that it encompasses (which it is so obviously designed by its creator to be deeply caught up in) as to leave no space for snapping into any sort of moral auto-pilot wherein its spiritual constitution can all too easily end up working against it.
December 22, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/zelensky-takes-washington/
It seems somewhat iconic to hear Zelensky talk in his speech to congress about brightening up a dark Christmas with the “light of our faith in ourselves.” I can’t help but draw a connection between the very real resilience, sacrifices and bravery of the Ukranian people with such an obvious lack of appreciation about what Christmas is really about and the real promises it holds on the one hand and the very real resilience, sacrifices and bravery of the Ukrainian people with a very widespread lack of appreciation about what the war is really about, and what its causes and potential consequences really amount to on the other.
The more civilization / prosperity / relative peace and stability teeters on the brink, the more I appreciate the blessings and opportunities they provide.
Have we gotten to a point where it makes more sense to get as much out of them as we can for as long as we can make them last, than to do what it takes to try to make them last indefinitely with all of the immediate turmoil, sacrifices and risks that would imply?
I sincerely hope the answer to that question is no. But I find that hope to be a fragile and vulnerable thing at times.
It helps to remember for the sake of shoring up such hope that hope is a theological virtue. For anybody who can only relate to hope as a human sentiment, it would be difficult to countenance how it could hold out anywhere near long enough.
December 20, 2022 https://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-miraculous-charlene-richard/
Those lines from the song remind me of the question “what happens when you truly love someone?” and the answer “it makes them want to be who they really are.” Divine love—whether it comes directly from God, from Christ, or from an individual with whom you come into contact—always has this effect. Whatever else it may be, divine love is a wave-like force or energy that buoys up anyone who comes in contact with it who is receptive thereto, by fostering a sense of self-worth and amplifying the soul’s innate desire to be more like the God in whose image it is made.
The more of a conscious effort an individual makes to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength, the more open he makes himself to consciously and continuously experiencing the return current of God’s love and to be a greater and more conscientious instrument in the mutual sharing of that love among the community of the faithful here on Earth. Let us all, therefore, be sure to do all that it takes to “let all within us praise his holy name.”
This all of the saint’s undoubtedly understood (even if not perhaps exactly in these sorts of terms), and understood well. It is also such a core part of the message of Christmas, as “truly he taught us to love one another.”
How long is the world going to keep pining in sin and error? How long is it going to languish and waste away on a path of cultural, moral, spiritual and material decline? Well, how much is the weariness attendant upon all of the fakeness, pretense, emptiness, shallowness and moral posturing making people more attentive to a thrill of hope that can appear oh so suddenly and oh so miraculously, versus making them all the more enchained to false or vacuous hopes of a purely human or material nature? And insofar as said thrill of hope does break through, how prepared are they to follow through on the path delineated by that hope on the strength of “a faith serenely beaming?”
The answer to these questions may be far from clear. But what should be a abundantly clear is how absolutely central and critical it is for all those who are prepared to “stand by his cradle with glowing hearts” to do their part not only on the outer but also on the inner to help God and Christ break the relevant chains.
IMO the best argument against suicide or euthanasia is that it doesn’t work. If you take your life out of an unwillingness to put up with pain or suffering you’ll just be reborn and end up facing very similar circumstances, more likely than not in less favorable conditions.
Christians generally do not believe in such things, but maybe that’s part of the problem. Perhaps part of the reason for why we’ve become a post-Christian society is because Christianity is providing explanations or justifications for issues like why some people suffer so much more than others that are too weak, unconvincing or uncompelling.
This is almost certainly an unpopular point of view here on these forums, but ultimately—as is becoming abundantly clear in Canada and elsewhere—whether or not a religion offers sufficiently strong, convincing or compelling explanations or justifications for the apparent great injustices and tragedies of life is an issue of great import—an issue of life and death.
One way or another Christianity will have to do a better job at it. To tell someone who’s been suffering terribly all their life from an untreatable condition they have had since birth that their being that way is just “part of God’s design” as you quote Saint Augustine as putting it doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore, and perhaps with good reason.
My response to a reply to above post:
Yes, there’s much in the way of silly beliefs on the subject, such as humans reincarnating as animals. There’s also much in the way of more reasonable beliefs on the subject, including not only in Eastern religions, but also among individuals who ascribe to much of Christianity.
Jesus’ own disciples (even after having been with him for quite a while) found it perfectly normal to consider whether a man who was born blind was in such a state “because of his own sins.” And Jesus’ response, despite pointing to a different cause at work in the case of that particular individual, did not at all indicate that he found such reasoning problematic.
My point, however, is not to try to convince all Christians that reincarnation and related ideas are true. I rather mean to point out that fleshing out a theology that is capable of providing strong, convincing and compelling explanations and justifications for apparent injustices and tragedies is very important. Whether Christians want to admit it or not, they’re broadly falling short in this regard, and this is probably part of the reason for why we are in a largely post-Christian civilization.
My response to someone else’s post on the same article:
A large part of what’s saving the world as a whole is that the world is divided into such a plethora of different countries with different cultures, histories and experiences.
Even Russia with all of it’s faults and all the negative influences its having in many contexts is having a powerful positive influence as a counterweight to woke madness. Same with much of Islamic world, even though their going too far in the opposite direction on issues like sexuality could rightfully be seen as a significant problem. The truth is that we are much better off having a variety of countries each diverging from ideal standards in different directions and each struggling with fanaticism of different kinds, than we would be with a single country (or a single dominant culture such as “the West”), even if that particular country or dominant culture were better all things considered than the other ones. This was pretty obvious even when the West was much more morally grounded and much more of a force for good in the world than it is today. Now that this is much less the case, it is doubly as obvious. It also underscores both how integrally issues relating to globalism interconnect with all other issues and why globalism is such a major threat.
The innate innocence of soul of the sheep of the good shepherd grazing upon the hillsides of the world is not only the most precious thing on this planet, but also the most powerful.
People tend to be rather more surprised and upset when individuals in positions of leadership in churches prove themselves to be corrupt, immoral and self-centered than when individuals in positions of leadership in government do so, but is that really justified? Yes, a church is explicitly conceived to be an organization that is dedicated to morality, selflessness and service, but really, isn’t the government explicitly conceived to be so as well?
I think the fact that people find the former so much more shocking than the latter is that nowadays churches are seen as a kind of on-the-side thing that should only really attract people uniquely interested in (a particular) religion, while government is seen as a universal thing that everybody can naturally-enough be drawn to. For most of history, however, this distinction did not really exist, and certainly not in medieval through renaissance Europe. When you pick up an impression from reading about this period that people in those days found corrupt, immoral and selfish priests about as normal as they found corrupt, immoral and selfish politicians, this should probably not come across as all that surprising.
How much has democracy helped to improve the quality of political leadership as compared to monarchy or other forms of government? What would it really take to bring us to a situation where the majority of political leaders were worthy of their positions? The answer to the latter question would probably shed a lot of light on how to deal with what’s wrong in many churches as well.
Although you make good points about Christian attitudes towards sex having to do with “respecting and defending the dignity of each individual who is made in the image of God,” you don’t really get at just how integral sexual morality is to devotion and to obeying the great commandment. To practice the requisite self-discipline that leads to chastity (in the strict sense of the word if single, or in a less strict but nevertheless meaningful sense of the word if married) is part and parcel of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. How we exercise eros does not “have everything to do with how we regard the human person, and even cosmic reality,” it also has a lot to do with building and sustaining an ongoing intimate relationship with the Father. This is important to stress this for a number of reasons:
(1) Considerations regarding how we deal with other people are obviously of great relevance to Christian morality, but Christian morality is not reducible to such considerations. Its primordial principles actually deal with the relationship between the individual and God, and then on that foundation it expands to the relationship between the individual and other people. Likewise with Christian attitudes to sexuality. This is in sharp contrast to humanistic ethics and humanistic attitudes to sexuality, and in order to have a chance of combating these it is necessary to meet them on our own ground, rather than on theirs.
(2) It is integral to emphasizing that there is a real method (or science if you will) to gaining the requisite mastery over self. Yes, eros is a powerful drive, but dealing with it is not a never ending struggle of trying to suppress something for the sake of something higher, but more about being sufficiently deeply devoted to something higher as to find all else to come into line. In pursuing the discipline of devotion in all of its manifold aspects (including as it relates to sexuality) you discover just how natural and self-reinforcing it ultimately is to function at a more spiritual level. If every one of us is to “know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” as Paul urges, this sort of perspective will have to become widespread.
(3) It is integral to emphasizing just how empowering gaining the requisite mastery and discipline actually is. It is all too common to think of eschewing sexual immorality or striving for an ideal of chastity as giving up something for the sake of some sort of abstract ideal or for the sake of rewards in the afterlife, but is in reality very much about giving up something minor for something greater, even in the here and now. Chastity as part and parcel of a devotional disposition and lifestyle can work wonders on health, for example, as well as to make your prayers more powerfully efficacious. Modern day Christianity seriously under emphasizes these sorts of things, even as much that pertains to saintliness, mysticism, and all that follows upon them is given little attention these days compared to in the past. If we want to be in a position to combat the new religion of wokeism and the radical left we will have to adjust course.