“It is now common for the simplest autonomous act – feeding the homeless – to be banned. Instead, the nascent virtue-consumer hurries home to slot some coins into the moral Laundromat of the charity sector. Their moral impulse is safely pooled, its messy implementation genteelly hidden. Yet this is a placebo that cannot take the place of human contact.” — Oxfam and the Fall of the Moral Monopoly, by Toby Guise
“Have you ever noticed,” said Dimble, “that the universe, and every bit of the universe is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?”
His wife waited as those wait who know by long experience the mental processes of the person who is talking to them.
“I mean this,” said Dimble in answer to the question she had not asked. “If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family – anything you like – at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.” — C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, quoted at Goodreads
Economics isn’t the whole story, but What’s Red, Blue, and Broke All Over? America, by Joel Kotkin, is worth reading.
“America’s diverse regions are critical to its ability to out-compete virtually all advanced economies. Great presidents, and effective political parties, recognize this reality. Franklin Roosevelt did not conduct the New Deal just to help New York; he brought jobs, money, and electricity to vast parts of the heartland, the South, and Appalachia. Ronald Reagan’s policies may have shocked New York glitterati, but won over its voters, and helped spark a financial boom that transformed Gotham into one of the great comeback stories of our era. Bill Clinton may have wowed the coastal crowd, but he never forgot where he was from, and created policies that sustained economic growth across much of the country.”
The author thinks we need better political leadership to unite us. I think the bigger problem is that half the nation (or whatever it is that exists between Canada and Mexico) hates the other half. Crazy leftists have come to dominate the Democratic Party, entertainment, big business, and academia. These are committed to the destruction of everything I care about. It’s hard to see what greater good is going to unite them and me.
You can’t just make up a foundational narrative
What’s lacking is a foundational narrative that all of us share. People like David Brooks seem to think that we can discover and articulate a new foundational narrative for America that will resonate. Implicit is the idea that there are lots of foundational narratives; there are not; there is only one: God made us, the world we live in, and everything that exists, from nothing. We screwed it up. He sacrificed enormously to fix it. His son, before we killed him, established the church. There isn’t another foundational narrative, just various more-or-less-obviously-goofy fables, and trivial re-arrangements of deck chairs.
UPDATE 2 January 2018: Another take here, disputing Kotkin’s thesis. Extra points for mentioning the Byzantine Empire. Back then it was Blues against Greens.
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for Thanksgiving Day, Book of Common Prayer
“During Christ’s crucifixion, for example, the same chief priests, scribes, and elders who conspired to put Jesus to death mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.'” — When The Saints Of First Baptist Church Were Murdered, God Was Answering Their Prayers, by Hans Fiene
What My Latest Research on Christianophobia Means, by George Yancey
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect. — Wisdom 3:1-9
This is short and edifying, about visiting a Melkite Greek Catholic Church for Divine Liturgy.
I read this and wonder, what about usury?
UPDATE 20 July 2017: But, reasoning in the comments persuades me that the situations aren’t parallel in important ways.
It’s surprising that Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex and Father Dwight Longenecker reach related conclusions: The Catholic Priest in When the Benedict Option Is the Only Option; The practicing psychiatrist Neutral vs. Conservative: The Eternal Struggle.
Or maybe their conclusions aren’t all that similar. Anyway, it’s interesting to read one after the other and consider both.
I think there is a big divide in society between people who use reason and argument to find out what is true, and people who use the trappings of reason to win arguments. These two men are on the same side of that divide.