So I’m a day late and a few dollars short on my holiday wishes, for which I can only plead the excuse of driving all over my home state to various family gatherings over the last couple of days. The driving is a chore, of course, but the company is worth the trouble, and I must consider myself fortunate to have the family that I do. Nonetheless, I hope my readers have had an excellent Christmas and will enjoy a fruitful and prosperous new year. Typically, I am not the best at holiday well-wishes – to the point that I deliberately invoke The Grinch on a regular basis during the holiday season. Not, I should note, because I dislike Christmas, but because I believe a lot of folks have lost their way.
I won’t lecture you too deeply about the meaning of Christmas and the deeper mysteries of Christian faith – that is for other, and better souls. What I will say is that every year I am disappointed by the Black Friday rushes, the obsession with Apple products, the advertisements for new cars (always with a bow on them – as if that $30,000 automobile doesn’t come with a hefty payment that lasts far after Christmas is past). In Jim Carrey’s version of The Grinch, the titular character laments on how all the cheesy unwanted gifts wind up on his mountain, and you get the impression that the character is the way he is because he loathes the envy and greed behind the season.
Somebody once said that money is the root of all evil. But I’ve never believed that. Envy is the root. It is simply that, in a society that runs on money instead of barter, money is the means by which envy expresses itself. Like how a pen and paper are not evil in themselves, but an evil man may use them to write evil things. The envious man works likewise with regards to money. There is so much envy in the holidays each year, it is profoundly disappointing to me.
So yes, it’s so common it’s surely a cliche. But try and remember what is important. Christ was born, and for this we celebrate. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb often says, let us not mix the profane and the Holy. That is, in this blogger’s opinion, the real mistake we often make. The consumer goods, the toys, new cars, iPads, and cheesy gifts soon to find their way to the dump… on their own, these are the profane. But if there is love for family and friends behind the gifts, if envy and jealousy aren’t a part of it, if there is celebration of our faith underneath it, then it is something different.
I know my readers understand. And I am grateful for all of you.
Merry Christmas, have a happy New Year.
God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us.
Some time ago, Tom Kratman explained to me that pacifism is, at its core, a form of moral cowardice. The reasons for this are many and varied, but we can summarize it by considering that, were the pacifist to see a gang banger beating the crap out of an innocent old lady, the pacifist would consider intervening to be an injustice. After all, the pacifist would say, being violent in turn only brings us down to the gang banger’s level. In the mind of a pacifist, both the gang banger and the defender of old ladies are equally evil, for both resort to violence.
Leftism is full of moral paradoxes like this. I have, of late, taken to calling the phenomenon a form of brain lock. Leftism resembles, in part, a form of philosophy sometimes called moralistic therapeutic deism. It fits in neatly with this “I’m spiritual, not religious” nonsense espoused by a number of indecisive morons. I’ve seen this phenomenon called “post-Christian”, or a number of other similar terms. It is assuredly post-modern, for it has no obvious antecedents in our recent history. Whatever we call it, it is the dominant belief system in the Western world, even with many who consider themselves to be Christians.
In essence, it is a dumbing down of Christian morality combined with a form of pseudo-scientific Marxist absolutism. The pacifist will say that all violence is bad, but in his absolute devotion to this overly-simplistic principle, actually prevents himself from doing anything to stop the very violence he theoretically decries.
Good, the MTD adherent will say, is being nice. It is the Golden Rule, or something very much like it. So the adherent will countenance importing many not-nice individuals, in the name of being nice. Consider how Angela Merkel and her enablers like to guilt Germans about the atrocities of their anti-Semitic Nazi past, and use this guilt to import hordes of anti-Semites.
This is the kind of contradiction that infects adherents of this overly-simplistic worldview. Equality is their god, because equality is nice. If you have more, you should give it up until you don’t. Elon Musk shouldn’t shoot cars into space until Flint’s water supply is fixed. It is an inversion of Game Theory. The more your opponent punches up betray, the more you keep the faith. If Muslims blow your buildings up, write sympathetic pieces about the religion of peace, give them tons of money, and yell at folks who are skeptical of the religion.
In the pursuit of absolute justice, they propagate injustice. If a man cures cancer, should he be allowed to keep the millions that would surely flow to him? Or should he have to give it all away because of equality? Surely the unemployed crack addict should have the same standard of living, right?
This form of morality is both absolute and simple, and it does not work at its stated goals. Want more terrorism? Do this. Want more crime? Want more people to be on welfare? Do this. Want more violence, war, and hatred? This, this, and more this. Pacifism leads to more violence, not peace. Welfare leads to more layabouts, not more productive people. If you genuinely dislike violence, you must be prepared to do violence to those who violate the peace. If you value productivity, you must allow poverty to be uncomfortable.
The world does not conform to the MTD view. Being nice doesn’t make people be nice to you in turn. The Golden Rule contains an implicit condition: at some point, the rule should be reciprocated. You don’t apply the rule to a known genocidal maniac. In Game Theory terms, the Golden Rule means that, in the first round of the game, you select keep faith hoping that the other player will see the value in selecting likewise. If he fails to do so, and betrays instead, betray him in the second round since he cannot be trusted. Perhaps the betrayal will convince him that you are not a sucker, and he will learn to keep faith. Or maybe he’ll just keep hitting betray, and you will at least have avoided being a complete gullible moron.
Leftists can’t do this. They recoil from the necessary duty of being not-nice, of employing violence on the violent, of quid pro quo economics. They can’t see past this and encounter a form of brain lock in which they cannot comprehend how being not-nice in this moment could lead to a nicer society down the road. They cannot understand how violence can make the peace.
Or, if they do understand, they are merely too cowardly to carry out their duties as such. Perhaps for some, this is all post-event rationalization for why they did not intervene to save the old lady from the gang banger. “I am too good, too moral to fight,” says the pacifist, “someone else should do it for me.” Whether that someone else is a Rightist they loathe – but secretly need to keep from being turned into a bloody pulp – or a god they don’t really believe in (but hey, they are spiritual, not religious) doesn’t matter.
In fact, the distant not-really-extant god that they crawl to only in dire need is a great example of this. Fuck you, you don’t exist, says the adherent to God. He’ll drop a cross in a jar of piss, call Christians retarded and make fun of their stupid sky wizard. The next day when he loses his job and gets dumped by his gender-confused housemate he’ll expect the universe – or his god-like spirit – to intervene on his behalf and fix all his shit. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll crawl to the government, hat in hand, and expect the money cribbed from the rest of us to put humpty-dumpty back together again.
And if you don’t, you’re not nice, you big meanie. Now obey or I will apply social peer pressure to you!
The insidious side of this belief system is that it only works if the non-believers cave in to it, in sufficient numbers. That is the problem we have here. Go talk to a liberal on social media and try this experiment. Say something morally complex, like the first boat of refugees invaders to Europe should have been sunk, and that doing so would have actually prevented the loss of life the ensuing mass migration incurred. Or, if that is too spicy for your taste, merely state that illegal immigrants should be deported back to their birth countries.
Immediate brain lock will occur. You are a big meanie. You are evil. You are immoral and inferior to the Leftist, who is, of course, nicer than you! You can extol the virtues of self-defense, and a fair number of them will dispute the morality of even that much. You should run away, you should not stand your ground, for how could you be so mean to the violent criminal?
There is no breaking through the brain lock. The notion that good does not mean nice is foreign to them. They are sheep thinking sheepdogs and wolves are the same, because both have sharp teeth.
Once a Leftist has brain locked, the only possible expression is fury. How dare you question orthodoxy, infidel! This is why moralistic therapeutic deism may be a good description for the phenomenon, because despite often atheistic pretensions and its Marxist genealogy, it acts like a religion. It is merely that the religion is not well developed and is extremely over-simplistic.
Christianity spent many centuries arguing about its tenets. The nature of Christ, the Trinity, things like just war theory and just what was meant by the commandments… these were all theological debates (some of which went much further than that) that occurred in Christianity’s long history. Christianity largely solved the moral dilemmas and contradictions throughout the ages. And it did so through rigorous debate and practical application. It wasn’t always pretty, either, as Leftists often harp on.
Point is, though, it was done. And in so doing, answers to moral problems were arrived at, and a history was forged with guidelines for how to handle certain moral issues. MTD has none of this long history or debate. Its principles are simple and absolute. They lack even the forgiveness mechanism Christianity provides for those (all of us at some point or another) who fail to live up to its tenets. For them, guilt is eternal. Guilt lasts even past death – this is how white Americans can be held responsible for slavery long after all slavers and all slaves are dead. The guilt is never excised. Forgiveness is never granted.
Lacking such mechanisms for exploring the answers to complex moral problems, and lacking even the ability to forgive those who fail, MTD is, in fact, the opposite of nice.
It is an evil belief system in the same way pacifism is a cowardly belief system. And the reason for this is that the system allows and even encourages evil to flourish in the same way pacifism encourages violence. The fact that its adherents are unable or unwilling to see this is tragic. It doesn’t change the outcome one whit.
It is also prone to ever-greater heights of extremism. Vegans are often telling us that eating animals is violence against animals, and in turn, since niceness is the only virtue, we are evil for being omnivores. PETA once went so far as to cheer when a shark bit the leg of a little boy (IIRC, he lost the leg), because the boy and his father had been fishing, so the boy clearly deserved it for practicing violence against the fish.
They saw cheering as virtuous in the same manner as a Leftist celebrating that his country’s culture and history will be flushed down the toilet by waves of migration – much of it illegal and little of it assimilated – that dwarfs most migrations in human history. There is no higher cause, no greater positive sacrifice in the mind of the Leftist than cultural self-destruction.
And yet, having determined that all that is Western, or white, or male, or Christian – whatever – is evil and must be destroyed, they do not make the final rational leap: they are (usually) white themselves. Brought up in the West. At least vaguely post-Christian. Some are even kinda-sorta male. Shouldn’t they kill themselves, too? You know, set an example and all that.
No, of course not, says the coward. That’s for someone else to do. They are the anointed elites, you see.
They ain’t got time to save the old grannies. They are better than all that. It is a much better use of their time to rant about how an old Christmas song is sexist, or something.
I’ve long enjoyed various forms of Christian chant. Gregorian chant is excellent, of course, but Byzantine chant is also fascinating. One of the things I feel Protestant denominations have largely lost is a sense of the mysteries of the faith, of the gravitas of ancient history. There is almost a mournful component – and I use this word for lack of any other I can use to describe this phenomenon. It is a difficult thing to explain. Listen to these two chant videos and see if you can pick up on what I mean:
At times, my Protestant upbringing protests that such things are frippery; meaningless ceremony. But I do not feel they are meaningless when I witness them, even in the local Catholic church my wife and I visit. There is something in both the Catholic and Orthodox branches of the faith, something that at least I feel is lacking in the church of my birth (Seventh Day Adventist).
If only the Pope wasn’t a near-Communist, I suppose. Otherwise my wife and I would probably find a Catholic church of the Byzantine rite and heal the Great Schism in our own household.
This is a thing that has been on my mind for years. We’ve witnessed the Leftist convergence and subversion within God’s own house, the perversion of the church as a vehicle for personal political aggrandizement. To me, this is as bad as the moneychangers peddling their wares in the Temple. Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls this mixing of the profane and the sacred. Whatever you may call it, our faith is the poorer for it.
Protestant churches likewise suffer this, though often in different and less direct ways. My father attended a church that conducted a campaign to modernize the hymns, to add a pop and/or rock element to them to make them popular for millennials. More mixing of the profane and the sacred. That, and the whole thing just came off as cheesy, in my opinion. But it is excessively common in many Protestant churches around the country. The temptation to change things out of a perceived desire to cater to social popularity is ancient and will always be with us. Compare such ‘modernized’ hymns to this chant:
The sacred is mystical, somewhat incomprehensible to us mere mortals, and possessed of gravitas, the very presence of the divine. It is both sorrowful, for the fall of man, and hopeful, for the promise of salvation. It transcends the profane, the political and social fascinations of the moment. To me, it is to touch, however briefly, a much greater universe that is otherwise quite beyond our understanding.
Whatever it means to you, and whatever branch of faith you subscribe to, the separation is important. Leftists often like to criticize Christianity on the basis of the Crusades, and bleat on about the separation of church and state, while attempting to suborn churches from within and make them arms of the state. Consider the contradiction for a moment. And consider where a Crusade, if any is to come, is likely to originate, or what its political ideology would be.
Whipping the modern day moneychangers and driving them from the Temple is an imperative.
In the meantime, I hope good Christian chant appeals to you as much as it appeals to me.
Merry Christmas from my house to yours. It’s a little warm here in Florida, a nice, toasty 65 degrees. I sometimes wonder if this is what my Australian friends feel, having Christmas in the middle of summer. It certainly makes all the usual Christmas songs a little amusing.
Anyway, I have to get back to the family and my son is impatient to open his gifts. Y’all have a great holiday, and never forget what it is we are celebrating. Christ has come!
I was musing this morning over what being Christian means to me, and why I would choose this system of belief over all the others available to me.
There is a certain intellectual consistency that underlies Christianity, the notion that mankind is a flawed creature, a product of his own choices, many of them bad. I’m not speaking specifically of the concept of original sin so much as the idea that every man is a sinner.
Every man will be wrong. Every man will make mistakes. Every man will commit immoral acts, will do wrongs to their fellows.
It is consistent with the world I see around me every day. It is consistent with my own life, where I have made grievous errors, and committed sins I can’t possibly atone for, were it not for the grace of God. I can admit these wrongs, I can ask forgiveness for them, and know that at some level in this universe, I am forgiven of them.
Do you understand the power of this? The intellectual freedom it provides? Christ carried the weight of the world so that we didn’t have to. The misconception has often been that a faith in Christ restrains you, places your mind in chains. No. For me, it is freedom to let go of crosses I am not equipped to bear.
SJWs prattle on about the sins of those that came before us. There was slavery, and genocide, and conquest, and rapine. The world is full of sin. Full of wrongs committed by one people against another, brother on brother, since the dawn of creation.
You and I, dear reader, are not equipped to bear these crosses. The weight of them is too great. The scales of balance could never be righted. SJWs would try to make us bear them even so (note that they absolve themselves of the responsibility), but we cannot. I am incapable of righting all the wrongs I have committed personally. What makes these people believe that all the wrongs of history could be shouldered upon us?
No, it is difficult enough to bear the weight of my own sins. Christ provides relief for us, a way to lay down those burdens. He did not ask us to bear the weight of the world. He took that upon himself.
I want to shake some sense into these SJWs and tell them that things they propose to make right will never be made right. The scales will never be balanced. History cannot be rewritten. And their attempts to make us all carry these burdens will only break us, and leave the world a darker place for us having been broken.
This is why Social Justice is so wearisome. Why even trying to understand them enough to enable us to communicate with them grants only the worst of headaches. Since they have no God to turn to, no solace even in the chaotic nature of the universe that I’ve seen some of the better atheists turn to, they must believe that mankind is perfectable. That it can be made to carry the weight of its own sin.
It will never be. It cannot happen. No man is big enough to do it, and it is the height of arrogant pseudo-intellectualism to presume otherwise. So I refuse to atone for those sins I did not commit, and I ask Christ for forgiveness for those I do commit.
And it will never be otherwise.
If you bark up my tree and say that I must make up for slavery, or Jim Crow, or the conquest of North America, or the Crusades, or the Roman Empire… I will just laugh. It is a farcical category error. It cannot be.
But you, SJWs… when you say that you desire to take what I’ve earned. When you burn down businesses, block ambulances, and overturn society in your temper tantrums… when you look down upon the teeming masses of middle America, when you say that all men are rapists, or that straight white men are inherently racist… when you demand our wages for your own, when you say that we ought to be made extinct, when you call Conservative folks Nazis, when you call Christians haters…
You are sinning. Not the world beyond your control, not the myriad of sins buried in human history. You, as an individual, are sinning right now. And it would be better for you, perhaps, if you stopped and asked Christ to forgive you. Or, if you did not want to ask him, perhaps you ought to stop and realize that the universe is too big for you. Either way, stop telling me to shoulder the burdens of the world. I can’t do it. And you are in no position to demand it of me.
This is the enduring fallacy of our age. Christianity has a myriad of problems (not the ones the media commonly tars it with, however), and the hostility between certain branches of it and modern anti-theist scientists is well documented today. But historically it was very different.
When the Roman Empire began to fall apart with the Germanic invasions of the 5th century, the Roman economy took a hit. Cities were damaged, farms were looted or destroyed, and economic collapse happened in the West. In the 7th century, the arrival of the Arabs did even greater damage to the economy of both the Eastern and Western halves of the old Roman world. Trade stopped, because the Mediterranean Sea, long a secure trade route for Rome, became rife with pirates, first the Vandals, and then the Arabs.
Literacy dropped like a rock. Look at old Roman cities. Graffiti was everywhere, a sign that even the lower classes had some level of education. Whereas after the Germanic and Arabic invasions, even Charlemagne could barely read and write well enough to sign his own name. Even Kings were often illiterate (they had more important things to do — like killing people to preserve what was left of their countries). The lower classes were lucky if they could grow enough food to survive.
The Dark Ages were so called because of the economic collapse, not because of religious doctrine. In fact, the Church was one of the sole surviving remnants of literate Western culture in those days. Classical works were preserved and copied faithfully by Christian Byzantine scholars (it’s worth noting that the Muslim Arabs looted their copies of the classics from the Byzantines, so much for the supposed Islamic golden age). Natural sciences were held in high esteem in Western monasteries, where such luminaries as Thomas Aquinas practiced their philosophical and scientific inquiries.
There was little economic capital to spare, and so science advanced far more slowly in those days, but it DID advance, specifically in areas such as metallurgy and farming implements. Rome’s more primitive metallurigal knowledge is probably one of the reasons the industrial revolution did not happen in that period, despite overall Roman engineering prowess.
Now, the Renaissance came, with old Byzantine knowledge flooding Western Europe. The combination of the rediscovery of those works, and the nascent university and library system evolving out of the monasteries, caused scientific advancement to pick up the pace again. The Church funded much of this activity directly — it didn’t burn scientists at the stake or anything, it paid them!
This proceeded all the way into Galileo’s time where he received most of his funding from the Pope’s office. Indeed, Galileo fell afoul of the Church because he deliberately insulted his patron in one of his publications, not because he believed Copernicus and heliocentric theory (remember, it was a theory at the time — the prevailing scientific view was not heliocentric, and only later would Galileo effectively prove it to his fellow scientists). Even with all that, Galileo was not burned at the stake or anything, but he was put under house arrest and deprived of his former patron’s money. I often ask anti-theists to give me the name of one scientist burned at the stake by the church. I’ve yet be provided with even one example. Yet the myth endures, nonetheless.
However, this is when you start seeing the first glimmerings of the Church and the Scientific Community parting ways. Contrary to common belief today, it was not so much a matter of religious doctrine as it was of politics. Christianity was splintering into various factions, and it wouldn’t do to be a paid agent of the Catholics in, say, a country full of Protestants. And so the primacy of doctrine over more practical matters became established. It was a way to differentiate the Catholics from the Anglicans and the Lutherans, and so on and so forth. The notion of a centralized Catholic Church funding everything died in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
Even still, most scientists were Christians even after all that, but funding from the Church began to dry up, and was replaced by private secular concerns and universities, which often still had some theological connections, even then.
The split has grown wider in recent years, and now there is hostility between many scientists and many Christians, but it wasn’t like this until recently, and wiping Christianity from history wouldn’t mean we’d be any further along today than we already are. Indeed, it may have the opposite effect, for during the so-called Dark Ages, if the Church hadn’t preserved what it could of the past… who would have done it? We might have had to start over from much less.