Sunday, February 09, 2020

And so it goes

I've got a few links you might be interested in, but honestly, there seems to be precious little good news these days. I can understand the despair of many, with glacial ice disappearing at a faster rate than thought (sorry, can't find the link right now), Bees being systematically attacked, Neo-nics on the loose, the Humanities in the tank, Amazon tracking us (you knew AZ would show up, didn't you?), the climate change deniers secret industry backers, the absolute lack of pro-lifers in the Democratic run, the ChurchToo and patriarchy link, and that's just the links I kept! Some were so depressing I couldn't finish reading them.

And yet, there were bright moments, too, in the darkness. For example, book collectors who since 1762 have been saving precious manuscripts, a computer science professor, who has come to realize the value of the humanities. And, of course, the much attacked and argued about vote by Mitt Romney. That bears a bit of virtual ink here. Take a look at this analysis:

In a world saturated with words—often, it seems, an overabundance of words—it’s easy to overlook silence. We tend to think about silence in terms of absence rather than as something meaningful and substantive in itself. Moreover, in a digital era of hashtags, tweets, and memes, silence isn’t easily quotable, and it resists the rapid circulation that has so much cultural currency today.

Yet silence is important, and sometimes silence says much more than words. I know this from my own experience as an oral historian. I’m trained to listen to both words and silence, and I know that understanding people’s stories requires paying attention to when the people I interview speak, but also when they stop. When they take a deep breath. When they bite their lip. When they fight back tears. When their emotions are so heavy that it finds expression in only the small sound of a hard swallow.
. . .
More importantly, Romney’s silence reveals the deep religious commitment that guided his decision. This interpretation might seem strange because we typically associate intense religiosity with noise—an exuberant “Hallelujah!”, an emphatic “Amen,” a plaintive hymn, a passionate prayer. We think of praise bands and street preachers and politicians quoting from the Bible.

Romney offered none of this noisy religious piety. As he detailed the reasoning behind his decision, he delivered his carefully prepared remarks in a measured, deliberate manner, absent the bluster and bombast we so often hear in Congress.

Most of all, there were meaningful silences, which did more to express the significance of his religious commitments than any of the words he uttered. At first, the silences were subtle. For example, when Romney stated that he “swore an oath before God,” he set apart the words “before God” with short pauses that emphasized the sanctity of his promise.

Do read the whole thing before you attack the man. Here's another look:
I know that I’m predisposed to think too highly of someone with a Yale PhD in history and a background in Christian higher education, but Sasse’s mum-ness is the silence of someone who ought to know better: someone who has the words, but won’t speak them. Romney’s conscience found voice in a speech that will echo in history — whether as a tragic eulogy for what was lost in these years or the first note of a swelling chorus sung by a country that rediscovered the better angels of its nature. The consciences of the Sasses in the GOP can do no more than whisper, admitting in private what they dare not say in public.

Then there are my own silences.

Read it all! And, lest you think that is overdoing it, the unchained nature of this president is already making an appearance in revenge firings, among other things. There will be more; just watch for them. I suspect we are only beginning to understand just how fast a republic can collapse. The moorings have been gnawed at from the bottom since at least 1980, they are just now becoming more obvious.

And lest you think Trump is the last hope in standing against paganism, read this. Perhaps we're looking in the wrong direction?

The resemblances between the modern paganism feared by [T.S.] Eliot in 1938 and conservative politics in 2020 are uncanny. The “paganism” that future Christians will need to identify and resist, he warned, will appear as unrestrained capitalist greed; as authoritarianism seeking to weaken democratic norms; as callous environmental degradation; as a superficial Christian moralism seeking to fuse church and state; and as a petty “sanctimonious nationalism.”

In the poignant final paragraph of his essay, Eliot confesses that the churning political surprises of the 1930s had left him shaken, not only because of the events themselves, but in the revelation of his own country’s moral poverty. In the face of Britain’s failure to mount an adequate response to modern pagan violence, Eliot felt a justified “humiliation” that demanded of him “personal contrition” along with “repentance, and amendment.” He felt “deeply implicated and responsible” and began to question his country’s frequent claims to moral authority. When Eliot enjoins his readers to fight against modern paganism, it is specifically because its brew of authoritarianism and capitalism were already beginning to charm Christian intellectuals who should know better. . . .

But modern paganism can also assume subtler forms, whenever the common good is reduced to ruthless economic competition, confirming Eliot’s fears that we have no values more essential than our “belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends.” The paganism we should fear is not secularism, sacred immanence, or pantheist naturalism. It is power celebrating its violence, perceiving the world empty of everything save the contest of wills, a nihilism ruled by the libido dominandi.

This paganism views moral responsibility as a fool’s errand for the weak, since all that matters is to dominate or be dominated. It sacralizes the emperor as an agent of God, scorns truth, despises the weak, and tortures the vulnerable. And it cloaks its nihilism, to cite Eliot once again, in “a disguised and peculiarly sanctimonious nationalism, accelerating our progress toward the paganism which we say we abhor.”

Two final links: Why Common Sense doesn't always work in school reform. Good thoughts; not simplistic, which is why it doesn't happen. And, in keeping with Black History Month, NPR looks at the rise and decline of franchises as a model for advancement in the Black community.

<idle musing>
And a final thought from me, before I sign off for the day: I don't read Revelation in a dispensationalist framework. I did, many years ago when I was a teenager. I devoured Late Great Planet Earth and other such books. I never got into identifying the "Anti-Christ," but saw the book titles. Well, what would happen if those same people, many now enamored by the current administration, would take their dispensationalist logic and apply it to the current situation? In their dispensationalist outlook, the Anti-Christ was a great friend of Israel, among other things. You take it from there.

Food for thought? or just an
</idle musing>

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