Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Good Germans?

Some people might consider it onanistic but I like to re-read my old posts as I find I often discover new insights in doing so. Well, I just noticed a lacuna a camel could walk through in that Bruce Frohnen quote I posted below. Bruce says,

Lest we forget, corporations are granted by the state huge advantages that often harm innocent investors

Now, far be it from me to judge (that's Caleb's job) but is there really any such thing as an "innocent investor?" After all, are we not to be mindful of where we lay up our treasure? To the extent that the "small, old, and local" are preferred, investing, which is usually done in the "large, new, and high rate of growth," clearly works against the goals of a sacramental life. Frankly, if you have enough money left over to invest after buying groceries for your family of 6 at Whole Foods your local farmer's market, then you're probably working too many hours, or living in a low cost "exurb." The crunchy thing to do would be to sell your cheap cardboard tract house and move to an expensive brownstone on the edge of a housing development in a large city. Be careful though! Gays love neighborhoods like that too and you wouldn't want your kids to be exposed to that lifestyle and its "galleries" and "antique stores" and, worst of all, "brunch."


Blogger Casey said...

I promised to lay off the crunchies...and I'm breaking my promise.

Anyway, Rod keeps trying to hurry things along. Suburb-bashing didn't work out so well, so he tried to move on to progress-bashing. But that brought out a lot of noisy, cogent and persuasive objectors. So now Rod is scurrying along to religion.

And that subject is finally producing some really really long and very very dull posts. Which has to be what Rod would like now. Only he's hoping that Stegall doesn't threaten to burn insufficiently traditional believers at the stake.

But wouldn't you know, Stegall has already got "bad" religion targeted as the villain because of its...anti-smoking campaigns! I guess it's okay to be anti-suburb but not anti-smoking. Who knew that lung cancer and heart disease were so crunchy? Stegall really is a hoot, but he's got to be a royal pain for Dreher.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Frohnen just weighed in with his long and dull pronoucement on religion. He did wander off the subject to a predictable trashing of Wal-Mart as "purveyors of watered down garbage for television, news, education, and just about everything else."

I wonder why the crunchies never dump on similar mega-capitalist outlets like Borders or Amazon. Oh, silly me, Rod sells his book at those "Big Box marts," to use Frohnen's hate-phrase.

But come to think of it, Rod...gasp...sells his book at...omigod...Wal-Mart:

The book is even at an "always low price." Heavens to Betsy! Rod's book has become just one more item of "watered down garbage"!

Anyway, the one mildly interesting thing in Frohnen's endlessly dull post was a huffy declaration that "I am no Protestant." Hm, maybe we'll see a 16th-century-ish battle between Catholic and Protestant crunchies! At least it would be livelier than long disinquisitions on Original Sin.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

And yes, I'm a hypocrite, too, for saying I'd lay off the crunchies and then returning to the fun. All I can plead is the sheer joy of the crunchy-fest. If Stegall can defend smoking from "Puritan kill-joys," I can contribute to the Contra-Crunchy Conservative.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Casey, you might be interested to know that I wrote the staff at the blog, politely expressing my concern that Caleb Stegall idolizes tradition.

If the email isn't posted there, I might repost it here. Either way, I think we're seeing a rehash of the argument between Catholics and Protestants on the authority of tradition.

The irony that Stegall is a Protestant -- that his presence in the chapter on religion is (I believe) under the heading of Protestantism -- is not lost on me.

In an earlier entry, he wrote, "the great paradox of the Reformation was that the largely successful attack on the medieval locus of transcendence did not obviate the need within society to have some point of contact with the holy and divine; or with what Voegelin called the 'ground of being.'" (emphasis his)

The thing is, we have that point of contact, and Protestants affirm that point of contact with the little principle called SOLA SCRIPTURA.

That I have to remind Stegall of this... it's enough to make me lose my patience.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Well, I'll have to declare an interest, as the British say. I'm a Catholic married to a Protestant.

In fact, the crunchblog could liven up with some honest discussion between Catholic and Protestant crunchies. Frohnen just droned on about the supremacy of Roman Catholicism's magisterium.

Is Stegall just going to let this pass, out of some spirit of crunchy solidarity? More down to earth, how about disagreements on birth control, abortion, etc.?

If they just keep droning about St. Augustine and original sin, they'll put everybody to sleep in a hurry. Which may be exactly what poor Rod wants right now. At least he won't have Nick Schulz interrupting the blog with unwelcome reminders that most of the world desperately needs more technological progress, not less.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

I actually find this particular line of discussion interesting, and I wish that, whatever the chapter order, Rod had allowed the discussion of religion at a much earlier date.

There's actually a good Protestant response to what I believe is a tendency in modern American churches to cling to the "next big thing," be it megachurches or emergent churches, powerpoint or drum kits.

The response is Sola scriptura. If we truly uphold the Bible as our sole authority, we're probably spending too much time reading Rick Warren and not nearly enough time reading the writings of Peter, James, John, and Paul. (And I myself am, shamefully, quite guilty of not reading the Bible enough.)

At the same time, we should recognize that the Reformation would have been impossible (or at least highly unlikely) without the technological change that came with the movable-type printing press. We should thus reject the more extreme Luddite tendencies of the crunchies, but we should keep in mind that the printing press of the 1450's led to the 16th-century Reformation not just because more people read, but because more people read the Bible.

The medium is not the message, and the message of the Gospel is so extraordinary that it should be broadcast on every medium readily available.

It seems to me that Dreher, (I believe) a recent convert to Catholicism, found in Stegall a Protestant who might as well be a Catholic at least in terms of his approach to tradition, who apparently hasn't changed denominations because the pull of Catholic tradition is overcome by the pull of the faith of his fathers.

It would have been nice if a more obviously Protestant Christian represented Protestantism in Dreher's book, but it's at least possible that this overemphasis on tradition precludes any Protestant who knows, understands, accepts, and defends Sola scriptura.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Aplogizing in advance for a long and dull comment, it seems to me that the Crunchy Cons are failing to address, if not completely overlooking, a point Maggie Gallagher made last week, that as things stand American traditionalists have no real choice but to make up their own traditions.

Bruce Frohnen alludes to that, but ironically sees it as a problem only "We" (meaning non-Crunchy Cons) face: "...people begin with Big Box Mart, be it TV, Wal-Mart, the political parties, or what have you, then choose one or two areas in which to become specialist consumers...."

He doesn't seem to recognize that choosing one or two areas in which to become specialist consumers is precisely what CCism sounds like to a lot of people who think they themselves might know a little about the Permanent Things.

And I suspect, though I may be overreading him, that he might think there is some sort of objective Tradition for us to adopt, apart from the subjective, eclectic selection of past traditions that we, more or less successfully, try to make into a coherent whole for our own lives.

"Deracinated" is a common lament on the CC blog; I don't think they quite take into account the degree to which deracination is part of tradition.

9:26 AM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

Tom- You're dead-on there. Stegall set himself up the bomb on exactly that point in this post:

He titled the post "Tradition is not a choice," asked "how can one avoid becoming a consumer of tradition," and ended the post with, "it is possible to begin new traditions." Yes, like a Catholic convert whose priest includes a "Bosnian Catholic custom" at a wedding in a Maronite church--in the USA!

Gallagher absolutely drilled this in her j'accuse column on the book.

I live in Boston which is in many cultural senses a deeply "crunchy" city. Part of what I love about the city is that tradition here isn't spelled with a capital t, it's an honest and uncompelled aspect of daily life. The Warren Tavern, where revolutionary war heros ate and drank, is still a popular place with locals because it's still a damn good bar. Locke Ober is as sparkling a restaraunt as it was a century ago, but I don't think they served sashimi tuna tartare back then. In college I worked in a cigar shop that had been in business since 1868 and felt like it. On Saturdays regular customers would bring their sons in, and say, "when I was your age you grandfather brought me here, and when you are my age, you will bring your grandson here." Sadly, that store is gone, victim partly of the anti-smoking zealots and partly mismanagement when the store passed from the father to the son.

What the crunchies have is Tradition, polished to a mirror finish, sealed in lucite, and placed on a pedestal in a museum. To me there is something very non-American about this. We have always been a nation of individuals, mavericks, idealists, and reckless dream-chasers. I think it is precisely these tendencies that made us so different from Great Britain, despite all that we inherited from her. Stegall talks about the allegiance to "abstractions" as being somehow lesser than fealty to "the land," when it is precisely the fact that we are a nation founded on ideas rather than blood and soil that makes us special.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

"We have always been a nation of individuals, mavericks, idealists, and reckless dream-chasers."

Very well said, and I wonder how the Pilgrims fit into the crunchy worldview: were they good because they lived off the land? Or were they bad because they left their homes and families (selfish bastards that they were) to cross an ocean in order to break from mainstream religious tradition in England?

And, BTW, things are getting a little more interesting over there, as Rod posted an email which is (in my opinion) casting a lot more heat than light; the amusing thing is that the emailer mistakenly "thinks our Calvinist friend Caleb is Catholic".

I'm shocked.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Yep, gotta admit that e-mail did stir things up. I wish the e-mailer had shown a little more humor, maybe drop a link to Rod's book on...horrors!...Wal-Mart's site.

But basically I agree with the e-mailer. Crunchiness looks real self-indulgent to most people on this planet, not to mention in the suburbs. The crunchies airily dismiss technological progress while living a life of incredible privilege by the standards of most human beings. And this privileged life results from centuries of, you guessed it, big bad progress - which the crunchies don't mind using when it suits their purposes.

As for the strictly religious topics, that term "Calvinist" should be but probably won't be investigated further. Rod, if you glance inside Calvin's Institutes, you will find a ferocious attack on a Catholicism far more traditional than what you practice.

But the crunchies will probably just stick to St. Augustine. He's a safely far-before-the-Reformation figure that Catholic and Protestant crunchies can agree on.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

An email I sent Rod has been excerpted on the blog, here. It mentions my given first name (Lawrence) though I do tend to go by "Bubba," which I made my legal middle name so it would appear on my undergraduate diploma.

(Yep; gone by "Bubba" all my life, and I take the name kinda seriously.)

The excerpt unmistakably echoes a good bit of what I've written here, and I'm very glad to see that the content of my concern might actually be addressed.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And I'm not the only one quoted.

Caleb writes, "When you see the incarnate places and traditions being destroyed in the name of the idea, you know something has gone really awry. You know battle lines are being drawn; and you ought to know that one side is fighting under false colors. And conservatives, at least, ought to know on which side they stand."

Again I can't help but think of the Pilgrims: was the fact that they left the entire continent of Europe and crossed an ocean to build their own community of faith an indication that they were on the wrong side, fighting under false colors?

11:25 AM  
Blogger Catholic Guy said...

I'm really not stooping so low as to make fun of anyone's name -- my own middle name is Earl, for goodness sake -- but I just can't trust lifestyle advice from someone named Caleb. Think about it: mid-20th century America, a boy is born, the parents name him Caleb. That has to suggest at least a genetic predisposition to romanticize hand-churned butter.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Capitalist Tool said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

I don't know about the hand-churned butter. Stegall's wife probably has no interest in that arm-wearying labor. My guess is that they still my heart...margarine from a supermarket.

I noticed that Rod expressed no interest in refighting the Reformation. In fact, I think it would be a very interesting topic for the crunchblog, which seems to want to paper over real religious differences in some very generalized embrace of some completely unspecified "tradition."

But if Rod brings up Calvinism, he's being, let's say, less than rigorously honest if he doesn't acknowledge that Calvin was quite possibly the most anti-Catholic person who ever lived. Does Rod just not mind that, as long as his mass is in Latin? Hey, the mass was in Latin when Calvin was condemning Rome and all its works to perdition and hellfire.

I don't know, it sounds like Rod may want to get off religion pretty fast, too. What's the next chapter?

12:06 PM  
Blogger TJIC said...

corporations are granted by the state huge advantages that often harm innocent investors

There's a huge framing problem here.


In fact, what the State grants is the privelege to INDIVIDUALS to - together - act as if they were a single body - a corporation.

A corporation can not harm individual investors - there is no corporation aside from the co-owners (which is to say, co-members) of the corporation.

The original phrasing makes as little sense as saying "marriages are granted by the State huge advantages that often harm innocent spouses".

There's a way to avoid being harmed by a marriage - do not actively lobby the State to form one.

Similarly, there's a way to avoid being harmed by a corporation - do not choose to be a portion of that corporation.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Just noticed that Frohnen brought up Calvinism again. It's amazing that the crunchies mention the guy so much without breathing a word about his fanatical anti-Catholicism.

When Pope John Paul II died, Billy Graham went on the Larry King Show and said that he felt like he had just lost a brother. I have no doubt that this was a completely heartfelt expression of genuine sorrow.

But If we could have raised John Calvin from the dead, his take on the pope's death would have been...different. He would have gone on Larry King to announce that the Antichrist pope had just been cast down into everlasting hellfire for fornicating with the Whore of Babylon (a.k.a. the evil popish "church").

I'm not exaggerating in the least. This is exactly what Calvin would have said. We - or most of us, anyway - are nowdays embarassed by this kind of religious intolerance, of course. We've "moved on." The crunchies have moved on. This is part of tradition they can't even mention, much less live by.

But at this point, what do the crunchies believe? Do they just pick and choose traditions as they like? Calvin's pathological hatred of the Catholic Church is far more authentically traditional and time-honored than Birkenstocks.

Rod seems aware of this problem in a post he made about rejecting what some consider tradition in favor of what others consider tradition. At this point Jonah's point about the meaninglessness of "crunchy conservatism" kicks in with a vengeance. I can just declare whatever I like to be "traditional" and have done with it.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Caleb responded to my email with an assertion I don't quite grasp:

"Yes, I affirm the Reformational principle of sola scriptura, but only as it was articulated and practiced by the Reformers who never understood or sought to understand Scripture appart from an authoritative reading community. It is in fact the modern evangelical tendency to think of Scripture wholly apart from any authoritative community that is at odds with most of historical and confessional Protestantism. A fault that leads to increasingly liberal readings from one generation to the next."

As an aside, I don't think it's the case that increasingly liberal readings are a necessary consequence of (for lack of a better phrase) "Sola scriptura sans tradition." I can point to a site (run by a church very near to where I grew up) whose views, while (ahem) hardly representative of conservative Christians, are not exactly liberal.

And as a less extreme example, my pastor while I was attending grad school was quite conservative in his theological beliefs, but those beliefs came just from an honest attempt to ascertain what the Bible itself said; no appeal to tradition or reading groups was necessary.

More to the point, I don't understand this idea of affirming Sola scriptura with "an authoritative reading community." If the reading community or its leaders are authoritative, doesn't that inherently undermine the very nature of the principle of Sola scriptura?

It's the authority of "Sola scriptura" (scripture alone), but only if Scripture is filtered and understood through the authority either of tradition or some reading community?

Even if the earliest Reformers thought that, does that mean that we've strayed from Sola scriptura, or only that the earliest Reformers misnamed what it was they said they believed?

12:51 PM  
Blogger Capitalist Tool said...

The idea of "corporations" harming "innocent investors" is definitely a strange one. The essential purpose of the corporation as a legal construct is to protect investors -- i.e., shareholders -- by limiting their personal liability to the extent of their investment in the corporation's stock. That contrasts with a partnership, where an "innocent investor's" entire net worth could be at risk.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

> Frohnen just weighed in with his
> long and dull pronoucement on
> religion. He did wander off the
> subject to a predictable
> trashing of Wal-Mart
> as "purveyors of watered down
> garbage..."

I just realize I commited an unforgiveable crunchy sin at Christmas time. I bought a one-piece creche scene for about $5.00 at Wal-Mart. We have a nicer one at home of course. Anyway, another confession - I finally took it down just the other day because I procrastinate so much about cleaning my office up. I noticed that although it looks OK from about 8 feet away all the figures have red hair and their lips look like Mr. Bill from Sat. nite live. Also there's no black king guy. Some poor Chinese people on an assembly line probably put it together. That was horribly un-crunchy of me, n'est-ce pas?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Rayne said...

You're going to Crunchy Hell, you know. It's a room with a bunch o' other crunchies from which there is no escape. EVER. "Hell is other crunchies." - JPSartre (loosely translated)

4:51 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

The CC Blog just apparently came back to life, but I'd like to take one more moment to address in public something Caleb wrote in response to the email of mine that Rod excerpted.

"It is in fact the modern evangelical tendency to think of Scripture wholly apart from any authoritative community that is at odds with most of historical and confessional Protestantism. A fault that leads to increasingly liberal readings from one generation to the next."

I wonder who would better fit Caleb's idea of modern evangelicals who have abandoned the "authoritative community," Baptists or Episcopalians. I bet it's Baptists, and yet which group is ordaining openly gay men into the ministry?

From my experience, those Christians who have been the most theologically liberal have been the ones who reject (or at least qualify) the authority of scripture; the leftward drift has had nothing to do with the rejection of the authority of tradition.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Real quiet on the crunchblog. Only one entry so far today, an inside-baseball interview on American Catholicism that will be of limited interest to non-Catholics.

Rod slips in his usual routine on how hedonistic America has gotten, and how one of the villains is "amoral capitalism." (Unlike Frohnen, Rod doesn't mention Wal-Mart. They're still selling his book, after all.) Man, I wish I could get in on this all-pleasure-all-the-time life Rod seems to think most Americans lead. He also - surprise! - praises the Latin mass.

There is one unintentionaly funny line. Rod sees "nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to ease suffering." That's a relief. I can take my aspirin in peace.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Oh, Rod just posted another entry where he says "the kind of neotraditionalism I espouse in the book only really makes sense to religious conservatives."

Looks like he's given up trying to convert the heathen. He doesn't define exactly what "religious conservatism" means, though. I doubt that he has a real clear view himself. He certainly doesn't want to get hung up on details of dogma, as he ran away from any serious discussion of Catholic-Protestant or Christian-Jewish differences...much less differences with non-Judaeo-Christian religions.

My guess is he just means opposition to homosexuality, abortion, maybe even birth control. It would be nice if he would clarify, though. He's also invited Stegall, among others, to discuss whether conservative Christianity is compatible with American nationalism.

Rod, you're leaving the door wide open to another bout of suburb-bashing.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

In response to Rod's appeal, Frohnen just tossed in the 1,437th denunciation of "consumerism." This time he didn't mention Wal-Mart.

Frohnen does concede the obvious: "Real religious faith historically has been more consistent with the American way of life than most any other." But he now says that religion is losing its force because, basically, we're making too much money and moving around too much.

An interesting argument that raises speculations Frohnen may not want to pursue. As people become wealthier and more cosmopolitan, must their religious beliefs weaken? Can religion only prosper in a poor society where most people are rooted to the soil? If so, what does that say about the reality, force and meaning of religious belief in the first place?

Intriguing questions, but I doubt they'll get discussed very thoroughly on the crunchblog. We can talk about them here, though.

11:26 AM  

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