Friday, November 17, 2017

Pauli Theorem 3

I'm working on something new called Pauli Theorem 3. Don't worry about what theorems 1 and 2 are. They are not germane to the discussion.

By the way, there are many more than two Pauli Theorems, but as the theorem formerly known as theorem 3 has been disproved I thought it would be good to recycle the number. It's like when you are at the deli and you have to use the bathroom so you give your take-a-number slip to a French guy who is jonesing for cheese.



The topic of the theorem is the seemingly permanent, ever-growing news story of famous men behaving badly. There is absolutely no way for the media to ignore it because FacebookTwitterDrudgeInternetSexyGirlHits and—barring a mass castration of the male population—information is being collected and incubated even now which will be hatched later to derail careers at the proper time, or to attempt to blackmail people, or simply for revenge.

Depressing? Yes; but here's my theory:

Famous men who have publicly attacked the Catholic Church or Christian beliefs are more likely to be caught in sexual scandals.

Obviously this is a theorem and the converse does not have to be true to be a valid theorem. Roy Moore is almost assuredly a serial power-abuser and he seems to at least have the veneer of Christian piety. And of course you have the many televangelists which you can add to the list of bad male actors, along with high profile priest scandals like Thomas Euteneuer and John Corapi, although the main scandal for these priests was the violation of a vow of chastity and seemingly not unwanted advances or rape.

I have several reasons to propose this theorem, and the first of them is theoretical yet fairly obvious. The Catholic Church teaches the highest standards of sexual morality in the world, and most of the traditional Protestant churches agree with 95% of the its teachings. People mad at the church are usually mad because of these teachings—along with the prohibition against abortion, many times related to fornication and infidelity—and not because the church condemns stealing, bearing false witness, or monophysitism.

Back in the late nineties I was working in an office which coincidentally employed a lot of other Catholics. I had a conversation with an atheist colleague that went like this:

Pauli: You say you are an atheist in the tradition of the famous philosopher John Hume, so what do you think of all the Catholics you are working with now?
Friend: I actually like religious people, and I'll even say they are much easier to get along with than other atheists.
Pauli: Well, you're a really honest atheist. But you were raised Catholic; why have you left the Church?
Friend: The reason I left the Church is because I don't want to follow the rules about premarital sex.
Pauli: You are the most honest atheist I ever met.

Moses came down the mountain and said "I have good news and bad news. Good news: I talked Him down to Ten. Bad news: Adultery still stands."

The empirical reason I am proposing this theory is because of my familiarity with William Donohue and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Long time readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Bill Donohue and have rare disagreements with his take on political and cultural matters. I began noticing several weeks ago that many of the names of Hollywood men being accused of sexual misconduct were former subjects of Catholic League press releases. Here is a list for starters:
  1. Louis C. K.
  2. Harvey Weinstein
  3. Bob Weinstein (yes, he's Harvey's brother)
  4. Al Franken (Donohue has also praised Franken when he was deserving of it.)
  5. Leon Wieseltier
  6. Michael Oreskes
  7. Ben Affleck
  8. Oliver Stone
  9. Kevin Hart
  10. Kevin Spacey
  11. John Edwards
Another person I thought had been taken on by the Catholic League but who did not show up in my search on their site is Joss Whedon. Donohue has not taken on Whedon whose ex-wife recently penned an excoriating account of his serial affairs while married. What I might have been remembering was Bishop Robert Barron's criticism. Bishop Barron did take on Whedon's philosophical atheism and noted his penchant for "on many occasions, signal[ing] his particular dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church."

A lot of religious people reading this might roll their eyes and say "Oh, this is so obvious... everyone knows that Hollywood is decadent and doesn't particularly like Christianity or religion in general." Decadence is sleeping around a bunch, cheating on your wife, etc. You know, partying too much. This is something else; it's powerful men taking advantage of the less powerful. It is beyond decadence and in Weinstein's case, it is way beyond decadence. Just like the molesting priests are predators, theses men are preying on those in weaker positions.

On the other hand, a lot of non-religious people might say "Nice try, but correlation doesn't prove causation. Some of the people on these lists match up. So what?" True, this evidence is anecdotal yet still curious. Many people were criticizing the Catholic Church's response to priestly abuse and even making strong condemnations of bishops' mishandling and they did not show up on the Catholic League's radar. The line these actors and comedians crossed was stating in many ways, comedic and non-comedic, that these people were bad because they were Catholic priests and bishops not in spite of that fact. To them, the Catholic Church is just an institution perpetuated to give creepy guys access to sexual abuse victims. When these showbiz people are not focusing on the creepiness of the crimes of pedophile priests, they are going on about "hypocrisy". How can the Catholic Church teach its members to be pure and chaste when these priests and bishops are screwing little boys? And then arrange hush money payoffs?

This can be seen as effort to shut the Catholic Church up. Quit preaching these standards if you are not able to live up to them. Well, does Hollywood ever preach? on topics like feminism, to name one? Uh, yeah, and with much greater ferocity, consistency and volume than the average parish priest addresses homosexuality or adultery. So behold these scandals, and realize that the "hypocrisy" is just as foul at the highest levels of power in Hollywood as it is within any religious denomination. And my prediction is that we are going to hear even more sermonizing after these revelations since these people are in the wordsmith business and know little else about how to deal with issues. Don't expect any real repentance or self-examination, however. Possibly uncomfortable joking about serious matters, but little more.


This all illustrates a spiritual principle which is that those who exhibit the same faults as our own become our biggest irritants. I forget what spiritual writer or saint pointed this out, but it was after hearing many confessions at a convent or monastery. Imagine how this irritation translates into the world of nonspiritual persons without the self-control or self-examination of nuns or monks, yet possessing commanding media pulpits. It becomes uncontrolled rage.

I do not wish to suggest that there has not been any self-examination or introspection in some circles over this rash of scandals. Matthew Yglesias has gone on record regretting the cultural left's dismissiveness of President Clinton's* sexual predation. David Brooks broke the topic of Clinton/Lewinsky as a starting point for all this last weekend and, of course, we conservatives have been quoting Brooks more than usual as a result.

But we have been talking about this for so long it really makes these people look late to the game, and I mean fourth-quarter, two-minute warning late. Here's Donohue again from 14 years ago. Excerpt:

There’s something else going on here as well. The New York-Hollywood axis of smut, and those who support it, want the Catholic Church to fail. What it comes down to is that these people do not want to be told that their promiscuous lifestyle is sinful.

Sadly, this represents the Clintonization of our culture. In other words, shamelessness has been mainstreamed. Because it is nothing if not shameless that the same men and women who rush to put a medal around the neck of celebrities for sexually abusing children rush just as fast to put a millstone around the neck of priests who do so.


* - I love the fact that I can write President Clinton and everyone knows I mean Bill Clinton.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Mother Cabrini's Feast Day; now let us work

The Mass today was for the first American Saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. The priest mentioned in his homily that Mother Cabrini only lived 67 years, but she founded 67 charitable institutions in her lifetime. I was born in 1967, 50 years after St. Frances died in 1917, so I have a fondness for the number 67. In fact, I picked the number 67 in a sideboard raffle recently. I didn't win—typical.

I used to have a prayer card somewhere with her famous quote on it, which I like and try to use as a motto. It is "We shall have Eternity to rest. Now, let us work." I have tried finding that quote online, and I finally found one result which I found in a Google Books reference to the book Discovering Jesus in the Least by Chris Ramsey. Here's the entire thing.

Mother Cabrini was known for her tireless, pioneering work establishing a variety of charitable organizations. An amazing woman of God, the Chicago Sun-Times (2003) credited her with "founding some sixty-seven orphanages, schools, hospitals and convents in Italy, France, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and the United States."

How did this amazing nun and her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart accomplish all this?.

Perhaps we can gain and inkling of how she and her sisters achieved such feats when she told her sisters: "We shall have eternity to rest. Now, let us work.".

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Benedict Option: For Christians with Expanding Brains

I just keep coming up blank for anything to say about the Benedict Option. Everything there is to say has been said by others. Recently there's been great stuff from Keith and Sam Rocha. Going back a little further there's me in 2016 and me in 2015, etc. Oh, also Keith in 2015. And of course Bruce Frohnen's in 2015.

Oh wait, here's another good one I did in 2015.

Right now, all I have left to say about the Benedict Option can be summed up by use of the expanding brain meme.



PS - Here's a prophetic post from Keith from 2014. But... I mean, here's the whole list, have at it, man.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

If and when the Benedict Option is ever understood...

Benedict Option


...what then?

The inchoate and incoherent marketing phrase "Benedict Option", test-marketed at the end of Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, was just that: a phrase, nothing more.

Years of blogging since based on that marketing phrase are just that: years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

A book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase is just that: a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

Examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc are just that: examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

Spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc is just that: spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

What, if anything, does any of this derivative, discretely and completely independent, free-floating cloud of abstract talkety-talk reality have to do with actual Christianity as practiced for the last 2,000 years? Need it? No, not at all, really, no more than the loquacious quadriplegic football fan need suit up and actually hit the field. All such abstracted fans, ordained and not, can remain blissfully happy their entire lives, perpetually circulating in their respectively flavored cloud realities.

Why has the derivative, Benedict Option cloud reality never before been proposed until Rod Dreher arrived to propose it to us? Is Rod Dreher the singularly visionary Christian prophet of our time?

Or is the problem ultimately simply the perennial one of trying to live as an actual earthly Christian, in the actual human world in which we find ourselves, in the actual historical years into which we have been born - rather than in an abstract cloud map?

Will the new, improved, aftermarket Christian additive - the abstract, derivative talkety-talk cloud reality of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option, hovering like a disembodied spirit over the human corpus Christi - really make Christianity and us as Christians perform better than the original?

How could it?

None of this of course means that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option phrase and its book may not sell some copies on Amazon, make Rod the talk of Christian blogging for a time, get him invited onto some high visibility  TV shows, or anything else coveted by the professional writer.

It simply means that, at the end of the day, even the most celebrated abstract aftermarket map remains just that, nothing more.

The territory - and Christianity's role within it - remains the same problematic, grubby, gritty human reality it has always been since that day on Calvary, the wonderful modern development of the Internet combox salon/book marketing portal notwithstanding.

TL;DR version: the "Benedict Option" is a faith unto itself.

On Miswriting The Benedict Option

Benedict Option
The Benedict Option is not like this at all, except to get you to buy it.

You can't judge a book by its cover.

Or its contents.

Or reviews of its contents, by people who have bought the book, read what's in it, and told you what's in it. They might have misread it. So who can you trust?

When it comes to this book, the only person you can trust is you and Rod. And, frankly, you probably put too much trust in yourself as well.

You see, Rod Dreher's a professional writer, but are you a professional reader? Of course not; there's no such thing. So you probably misread it, too, whether or not you think you "get" the Benedict Option.

As George Weigel says,

There has been a lot of talk about a “Benedict Option” recently, and while no one seems to know precisely what that might mean, the Ben-Op, at least as advertised, does suggest a certain withdrawal from public life for the sake of forming intentional communities of character.

But there's a 50/50 chance that George Weigel misread the book as well, and since reading Ben-Op-type books is his business, what chance do you have of getting it right?

That's right, flatfoot - none at all.

So why even take the chance of embarrassing yourself by becoming confused over details you will almost certainly misread and misunderstand? Just leave the book out of it entirely.

Instead, send an Interac e-transfer for $14.98 (the Amazon hardcover price) with the subject line "I get the Benedict Option!" to

rod@amconmag.com

There!

Now, you, too, can be officially on record as someone who "gets" the Benedict Option, but, even better, you have now perfectly insulated yourself from the all too likely charge of having misread it.

UPDATE: A law professor at one of the country’s elite law schools - I'm going to call him "Professor Kingsfield" to preserve his privacy - just emailed me to ask,

But, Keith, this misreading plague...is no one immune from it? What about Rod Dreher himself? When we read his blog, which amounts to little more than links to his readings of others stitched together with his commentary - is it possible he could be guilty of misreading, too?

The professor was clearly rattled. After all, like Wile E. Coyote and his precipitous dash off the cliff, the good scholar knew he had just opened a void of nihilism beneath his feet, one where no one ever read things correctly, and the world was nothing but a compound horror of misreading piled upon misreading.

But I was happy to reassure him: only other people misread things. As with the research behind his Benedict Option, and going back to the very first note he copied from a kindergarten mate to stick on Mam and Paw's refrigerator, Rod Dreher always gets it right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Benedict Option as Triumph of the Therapeutic

Benedict Option

In which the blogger, c'est moi, overcome by a tragic attack of laziness, in the style pioneered by Rod Dreher recycles a commenter's comment as his own post filler. In this case it's the 61st comment from the Rod Dreher on Sam Rocha post below by our own Anonymous

April 11, 2017 at 2:00 AM

Rebecca Bratten Weiss (linked to by Rocha):

"And there are other problems: when you try to come Out (or In?), whatever you feared in the World comes in with you, into your microcosm. It’s ironic that my father’s first community was called “New Eden.” Into every Eden, a serpent will come. We tend to bring it in with us. Want to escape from overweening tyrannical power? Too bad, you probably brought it with you, and you will find the community dominated by whichever leader (usually male) has the loudest voice and the least empathy. Want to escape from sexual perversion? Ha. Have I got some stories! It’s amazing just how perverse people can be, on the land, when no one is looking. Want to escape from a welfare system in which those who don’t work won’t eat? I can assure you, you will be shelling beans or building a cabin while nearby some hanger-on rambles on forever about how misunderstood he is. Tired of nitpicking bureaucracy? Your community will be filled with nitpickers, happy to call you out if your daughters’ skirts are too short, or if your sons have been listening to evil music like (gasp) Simon and Garfunkel.

"Communities like this tend to attract those who are unable to get along in the ordinary world, and whatever it was that made them unable to get along, they will bring in with them."

The last point seems to be the most salient re Rod and his BO. Rod can never fit in, and can never follow the rules. He would bring that with him into any intentional community. He basically had to found his own church, because no existing one is good enough for him! He doesn't fit in in East Podunk, or the big city, or his own family. He would bring that same problem with him. As would the other Optionists. They are, like Rod, all would-be chiefs, and no Indians.

More from Weiss:

"But the main thing I want to touch on, here, is why the idea of radical separation into intentional community is delusional from the start. And that has to do with money. Money creates systemic dependence. That’s why agrarianism is a needed component in any marginally successful effort..."

Of course. Without a material basis, the whole thing is play acting. You can't work for Dow Chemical all day, and then pretend you are a monk or a Pilgrim at night. Or, rather, you can, but it is stupid.

As for the agrarianism, good luck with that! Being a subsistence farmer is a lousy lot in life. Real subsistence farmers dump that lifestyle as soon as they are able. Being cold, hungry and sick, and not having access to warmth, food and medical care is not a good thing. And nobody in their right mind wants it. But those conditions, and worse, are very real possibilities for truly agrarian intentional communities.

Otherwise, again, it is playacting. Thoreau at Walden going in to Concord to have dinner at his Mom's or over at Ralph Waldo's when he got tired of his beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner diet!

How is Rod Dreher's personal, idiosyncratic Benedict Option therapeutic in the manner of his beloved Philip Rieff?

Because, upon critical analysis it proves to be not historical, nor theological, nor even geometrical enough to pass muster with Ignatius Jacques Reilly.

It is, instead, in the foundational formulation of our own pikkumatti, the confusion and conflation of Rod's personal taste with truth, also arrived at independently at by Sam Rocha himself:

Here is an insecure man selling his internal condition wholesale to other insecure Christians.

The Benedict Option is what, solely to therapeutically satisfy the psuchological distempers of Rod Dreher and others like him, what religion should be.

Not just Catholicism, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Catholic, nor limited to Catholicism.

Not just Orthodoxy, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Orthodox, nor limited to Orthodoxy.

Not just Evangelical, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Protestant, nor limited to Evangelical Protestantism.

No, the Benedict Option is what the entire human enterprise of religion itself should be, if rewritten from scratch to therapeutically satisfy the psychological-aesthetic needs of Rod Dreher and those enamored of his cult of personality.

To be sure, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ isn't MTD - Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

It's really more like MDF - Medium-Density Fiberboard, a recomposition of sawdusted chunks of many religions, all hastily pasted together with psychological Rod-Glue.

I wouldn't count on it standing up to a hard rain. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In pursuit of pyrrhic victory: Rod Dreher on Sam Rocha

Benedict Option
You tell him, Rod!

Let's begin by remembering that Rod Dreher, via his Benedict Option marketing gambit and the book that resulted from it, proposes to instruct the rest of the world how to be better Christians.

Sam Rocha's review of Rod's Book

Rod's review of Sam's review: Sam Rocha: The Critic as Failed Oyster

Useful associated links:

#BenedictOption = boot camp for the Church Militant


“Christian America” and the Benedict Option

Guilt by association...


My comment from the post below where I first posted these links: "Dreher's pyrrhic victory is so close - so close!"

UPDATE 1 - Poink!:

A Noise Annoys An Oyster: A Critical Review of Rod Dreher’s Review of Sam Rocha’s Review of The Benedict Option

Friday, March 17, 2017

The logical impossibility of the Benedict Option

Benedict Option

The logical lacuna at the heart of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is the same one faced by the architect who would construct a universe on the back of a turtle: what does the turtle stand on? Another turtle? Then what about that turtle?

For our purposes, what Benedict Option protects the Benedict Option?

If secular society has become so intrusive that Benedict Option cult members feel they must withdraw from it, even partially, what Benedict Option technique can possibly insure that that separation will be respected by a force that the Benedict Option inventor defines as demandingly intrusive?

If the Benedict Optioneers can unilaterally disengage from a demandingly intrusive secular culture, it was never really demandingly intrusive; they simply disapprove of it and have converted that disapproval into hysterical pearl-clutching. If, on the other hand, that culture really is so overweeningly and demandingly intrusive, there can be no escape from it. In the badlands, the rapist gets what he wants when he wants it.

Which brings us back to the turtle's footing. So perhaps there is some as-yet unnamed force which will interpose itself between the demandingly intrusive culture and the Benedict Option cultists, a Benedict Option Hell's Angels, if you will.

Whether this Benedict Option Hell's Angels is separate or integral to the Benedict Option cult itself is moot: if it exists, we're no longer talking Benedict Option, we're talking Remote Idaho Christian Militia Option or Ruby Ridge, an alternative which, while nominally Christian, is simply no longer what the Benedict Option author is trying to peddle. It's something else entirely.

But perhaps the interposing force protecting the disengaged Benedict Option cult is not an internal or external Benedict Option Hell's Angels but rather the State of whatever nation in which the option is being implemented, in which, diametrically in contradiction to the foundational claim of the Benedict Option creator, it is precisely politics which will save the Benedict Option cultists: only if their politics are actively and primarily successful will the government protect. If their politics fail, it won't.

Despite the powerful marketing resonance inherent in the word "benedict" itself, literally "good words" or "good speech" in Latin, which, fortuitously for Dreher, flexibly and open-endedly psychologically invokes any Benedict of value from Benedict of Nursia to Pope Benedict XVI, the fantasy upon which the Benedict Option floats is derived not so much from the original Benedict of Nursia as it is from Walter Miller's classic post-apocalyptic science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fiction you may very well enjoy immensely more than Rod Dreher's.

In the Benedict Option author's scenario as in Miller's, the surrounding world collapses into a Dark Age while somehow miraculously not taking down the Benedict Option cultists with it, a prospect now that much more miraculous, indeed, in a world so interconnected that the very inventor of the Benedict Option himself can only make a living by telecommuting as an Internet blogger who seeks out and hypes the most deliciously freakish elements of the culture he disparages such as trannies or cannibals at CNN.

Nonetheless, once you buy, read, and join the Benedict Option cult you will be able to, in ways you are unable to now, disengage from the demandingly intrusive culture while still using the Internet, social media, and mobile telephony in order not to sink into terminal balkanized isolation.

Moreover, that culture you have now tamed by reading Dreher's book will respect your choice, cross its heart.

Then, when everyone else has fallen into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - but not you, with your own alternate universe grocery and other support infrastructure - then you will be able to conserve not only your family and loved ones but also the correct traditional version of Christianity, not one which, because of the Apocalyptic Troubles, has now unfortunately mutated through a game of religious-cultural "Telephone" into something idiosyncratically monstrous involving child sacrifice, which you will then be able to reintroduce to those non-Benedict Option cultists who survived the Apocalyptic Troubles by virtue of the Darwinian natural selection such Troubles imposed on their wills to survive and prevail over anyone, at any cost.

And they won't even kill and eat your children for their feast of St. Horrible, even though, dang, do you know how long it's been since fresh pork has been available?

Really, read Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. And if one slap in the face isn't enough to wake you up, follow it up by streaming Bone Tomahawk.

Either way, Dreher's Benedict Option future is doomed to be turtles, or maybe alternating Benedict Options and turtles, all the way down.