Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dangerous Ideas, Continued

My dangerous idea is that the world has actually become a better place over the past 25, 50, and 100 years.

Two of my favorite books are From Dawn to Decadence by Jaques Barzun and Paul Johnson's A History of the American People. Both present history on a grand scale, taking in decades at a time. The great accomplishment is to give the reader a sense of the ebb and flow of history, and how much of what today seems novel and urgent is neither.

At any point in the past 25, 50, or 100 years you could find plenty of reasons to argue that the world was going to Hell in a handbasket. And at any time, you would find people who would say, "well we are better off today than we were 50 years ago, but the past 10-20 years have really stunk." Mind you, if you asked the same person that question every year for 50 years, you would probably get the same answer every time. It's simply human nature.

The natural response to this is to say, "well, yes, we have been in peril many times, and we are better off today only because urgent and decisive action was taken at the time, which is why today we must...." My thesis is different. The way I see it, today's problems are like a small child that has somehow wandered into the elephant pen behind the circus. The government, of course, being the elephants. Needless to say, the best way to save the child does not involve getting the elephants to move.

What is the difference between today's problems, and yesterday's? Time, and detachment. It is much easier for us, nowadays, to look at the Great Depression in its full sweep and conclude rationally that the New Deal prolonged it. At the time, though, it seemed reasonable to scream at the elephants. Oh, and family farms are certainly in peril, not like they were 100 years ago. Assuming, of course, that you ignore the Free Silver movement, which 100 years ago was just beginning its final chapter.

Aside from wars, which have a nasty tendency of being forced upon us, I can scarcely think of a single issue over the past century in which expansive government action has actually left the country better off. At the very least, the sum of all such actions has been a brake on progress rather than an engine.

Dreher is not happy with the way we live today. Neither was Thorsten Veblen, whose Theory of the Leisure Class warned of our descent into a consumerist Hell over 100 years ago, when indoor plumbing and electric lighting were still luxuries. And yet two generations of such voluptuaries later, we produced millions of men ready to storm beaches on Normandy and Iwo Jima. And as spoiled as the 'boomers kids may have been, let's not forget that for every one who went North to Canada, many more went willingly to war. They just didn't get the same press coverage.

Likewise, it is a sure sign of crankery when someone looks upon a thing which looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and tells us that he has discovered a platypus. To wit, Dreher is convinced that we are no longer sufficiently in touch with that good old-time religion (a theme at least as old as the Reformation). Where others see the enormous success of books with implicitly religious themes, or strong growth of new evangelical sects, Dreher sees Cafeteria Christianity and the Gospel of Prosperity.

When we look at the past through the lens of the present what we see is not the world as it was, but the world as we wished it to be. For if we seek to understand the past as it was, we find a time not exactly like the present, but a world riven by multitudes of fears, uncertainties, and terrors that seemed entirely unsolvable. And yet, here we are, living in times our ancestors would envy.

So there's my dangerous idea: Cheer up, everybody, it's not as bad as you think!


Blogger Bubba said...

Brilliant as usual. Absolutely brilliant.

I've invoked the comparison before, but it's worth reiterating: childhood obesity is, by orders of magnitude, a far less serious problem than a famine.

3:18 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Another perspective on this is every generation's insistence that members of the succeeding generation are a bunch of selfish, primitive throwbacks.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

One area where I am critical of Dreher is the linkage of crunchyness to pro-life. I don't see it. If you are going to tackle big M materialism you have to address that issue in some detail.

I have to concede that right now, there are only weak justifications for the sacramental life, and the simplicity that seems to be a byproduct of the lifestyle. The intent of the sacramental life is to move in God's direction. If you are moving in the immaculate direction one is less likely abort or push another into abortion if you live this lifestyle. This follows from reason. How the sacramental life protects the family or the unborn are issues that I have to address. This is why I think it is a normative lifestyle. But the strong justification escapes me. There is a weakness there.

I don't have a sense from the book how CCism was protecting the family and trying to end abortion. The big M materialism topics and their linkage to CCism is just not the impression left with the reader. I have memories of McMansions, organic food, and environmentalism. Not how owning a gentrified bungalow is going to stop abortion.

So my question to you contras is if the world is a better place now, how is it better in the shadow of abortion?

Yes, it is a brilliant well argued post in context. But it fails to address real substance of evil in our times. It is for sure a contracrunchy post, but lacks broader scope just like Rod's book. I'd love to hear your answers.

8:16 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

I think it's safe to assume that abortion has always been with us, just without state sanction. I would also suspect that infanticide played part of the role in "family planning" that abortion does today. So arguably things were *just as bad* in the past -- it's not that now is so much better in that one regard.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

I am not claiming that the past was better. Abortion is an abomination, and in this case to borrow from the spirit of the post, the elephants are literally killing the small child. How are we better today with abortion as a "right" and in some states funded?

I am not sure your answer was in the spirit of the post. Good night, see you tomorrow.

9:21 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Cubeland, how was my answer not "in the spirit of the post"?

4:55 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

This is definitely a dangerous idea. Can you imagine the panic that some folks feel when they realize that doomsday is not immanent? Like those guys that spend their life reading the paper in the barbershop, complaining about 50-year-old conspiracies and how they'll never get anywhere in life because the "man" is keeping them down, the "rich guys" run everything, etc., etc. They're pretty heavily invested in disaster, even their own failure. They might as well have "I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN SOMEDAY" engraved on their tomb-stone, it would serve as an apt summary of their life-time prophetic achievement.

A lot of these guys have invented perpetual motion machines, too, and subsequently had them stolen, confiscated, destroyed or sabotaged in some way by governmental agencies or greedy multi-national corporations -- same diff really. One guy I knew claimed he had a plastic prototype for one which melted on the copyright lawyers desk it was so powerful. Amazing. He "could have been a contender" no doubt. He was serious. I have a great poker face for such occasions. (Maybe someone can shed light on whether this is "standard barbershop fare" or slightly more original? Digression alert....)

In response to Kathleen's observation about generational begrudgings, I kept thinking about Doug Coupland's work as I read Crunchy Cons. I read "Generation X" in the early 1990's immediately after a messy break-up and I'll never forget laughing my tail off about "legislated nostalgia", "conspicuous minimalism", "earthtones" and other poignant descriptions of the pop culture summarized in quippy phrases which proved to me that although laughter might perhaps not be the best medicine for curing societal dysfunction, it certainly is a good pain-killer for headaches and stiff necks caused by the chronic navel-gazing of the naysayers. Later I read "Life After God" which is even darker and more desperate, but even more insightful. I'm getting off track here -- AGAIN....

.... but we can only hope that Rod's next book contains some original insights along with his doomsday predictions; I'm not holding my breath.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Kathleen, I interpret your comment not in the spirit of the post because you seem to be agreeing with me. At least that's what I meant by it.

In some chapters Rod's book leaves the impression that he is interested in trivial things. How is this post any less trivial? I don't think that it is. The bigger question that we should be asking is not whether the past is better than the present, but how do we reconcile our current better lifestyle with contemporary evil?

6:56 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Cubeland, sorry you thought my post was trivial. I'm still not sure what you're getting at. I was merely saying we live in the shadow of sin, just as we always have. legal abortion is not the first time sin has been legally protected in this country, let alone the "world" (your word).

Rod is trivial because he thinks he has figured out how to inoculate or shield himself from sin via lifestyle choices. that is why he doesn't, indeed can't, begin to address things like legalized abortion -- in order for his theory to cohere he has to pretend it's doesn't exist and/or it's not his problem.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Like Kathleen, I'm struggling to understand what it is you're trying to say, Mystic. It seems to me that you're trying to be so mystical (or merely clever) in your writing that you're failing to communicate effectively.

You write:

So my question to you contras is if the world is a better place now, how is it better in the shadow of abortion?

Yes, it is a brilliant well argued post in context. But it fails to address real substance of evil in our times. It is for sure a contracrunchy post, but lacks broader scope just like Rod's book. I'd love to hear your answers.

I'm not sure how focusing on abortion -- to the exclusion of the evils that western civilization has driven back (slavery, fascism, Marxism) and the moral goods that we have provided (such as political equality for both sexes and all races) -- provides us with a "broader scope."

Is abortion evil? Yes, I'd say it is a great evil, both in the fact that it is legal and in the fact that it has been employed to the tune of 47 million human lives in three decades.

But I'm not sure that it dwarfs the moral and material progress we've made to the degree that we can say definitively that life was indeed better 50, 100, or 500 years ago.

At the absolute minimum, I think it's unfair to accuse contra crunchies of not even contemplating the issue simply because we don't think the present is as bad as you do.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Kathleen, Your comment was not trivial. I was referring to this post's topic "Dangerous Ideas, Continued". I reread my comment and I was not clear. I apologize. To further clarify, the work and thought applied to contracrunchy's post is not trivial, same with most the comments, it's this particular topic that is trivial. For example:

"My thesis is different. The way I see it, today's problems are like a small child that has somehow wandered into the elephant pen behind the circus. The government, of course, being the elephants. Needless to say, the best way to save the child does not involve getting the elephants to move."

Perhaps I am misinterpreting Contra's thesis, but I don't see today's problems like a "small child". I see today's problems as larger than the elephants themselves. Is Contra saying that we have better houses, malls and medicine than we did fifty years, and this trumps the death toll from abortion? (If you don't like abortion, pick your evil, I am trying to stay within our borders.)

8:48 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

I don't know what Rod himself thinks, but I know some "crunchy types" (Christian / enviro-cons / Iraq war=bad / globalism=really bad) who are seriously embarrassed by the pro-life movement and accuse it of "propagandizing" via events like the March for Life. They are pro-life, "if you must know", but often belong to the more liberal Protestant denominations (Lutheran, Episcopal, etc.) which often are not. It's just not cool for their egos or reputations to be hanging in Washington on the Mall with a bunch of bead-bangers bearing banners, statues and gaudy signs, you know, Joe-six-pack-in-the-pew-with-4-plus-kids-who-shops at-Walmart-and-who-has-never-heard-of-organic-microbrews. The forest is fine, it's those damn trees they can't stand.

It's really too bad because although abortion itself is terrible, the pro-life movement has brought many Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Jews together and helped interdenominational relationships much better than the attempts to strip out so-called exclusive, offensive language from dusty church documents. At the Annual March for Life, Catholics might stand amused while a minister delivers a prayer which sounds like a temper-tantrum and non-Catholics might shake their heads at all the "idolatry" displayed and the pomp and circumstance of the TFP crowd (everyone should agree, though, the Jewish guys who blow the rams horn are the coolest); point: the whole convivial diversity displayed by the movement has proven it's ability to unite many who once had deep prejudices toward one another, while snobbery about lifestyle choices seems to me to be the sensibility most uniting the crunchies.

The way I see it, CCism picks on a bunch of smaller issues that at the very worst represent "remote material co-operation" with evil and claim them, rather dubiously I suggest, as the reason that we have the greater evils. This can be seen in the tedious, inane "choice itself is a bad thing" assertion. Blessed Mother Theresa was criticized for taking care of the poorest of the poor but not using any of the political capital she was assumued to possess to change the systems in India. She simply said something like "that's not my job, if that's what you want to do, that's between you and God." Not very crunchy of her. Likewise, you can go shop at co-ops if you wish, but if I shop at A&P and give the money I save to an anti-abortion cause, don't get all righteous on me because A&P outsourced some work to an overseas firm or forgot to pay someone overtime.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

I have to go to work, so I have to reply quickly. It is because you engage in substantive issues that I like to come here. It's not unfair, I am giving you an opportunity to strengthen your arguments. I am not accusing you of avoiding tough issues. You guys tackle tough issues, and don't back down. I am pointing out a what I perceive to be a weakness in the argument. I am not saying that I'd love to hear your response from a sense of moral superiority, I really mean that I take great enjoyment from all your responses because they are so good.

Western Civilization achieved great moral victories because it was informed by Christianity. Abortion was allowed to rise because it was not. This is a sign that the outer wall was breached. Hence the dim view, if you wish characterize it as dim. It is positive to point out evil.

The past was better than the present arguments are not well considered. Agreed. How you can make this statement after siting those statistics:

But I'm not sure that it dwarfs the moral and material progress we've made to the degree that we can say definitively that life was indeed better 50, 100, or 500 years ago.

Life was not necessarily better fifty years ago. However, one can make a strong argument that it does dwarf moral and material progress. Abortion is a regression. It is not Christian. You don't have to appeal to the past either to see this as a regression. Sorry guys, I have to go.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Abortion does not arise from Christian morality, granted, but let us not act as if this is the first time that Western civilization has deviated from Christian morality.

From chattel slavery to totalitarianism, from the status of commoners during feudalism to the Inquisition: I'm not sure you can point to any era since the first century that some group or another in western civilization wasn't denied political, economic, or religious freedom.

"Western Civilization achieved great moral victories because it was informed by Christianity. Abortion was allowed to rise because it was not. This is a sign that the outer wall was breached. Hence the dim view, if you wish characterize it as dim. It is positive to point out evil."

Great moral failures stood alongside those great moral victories and are not a new occurence. It's not that the wall has been breached, it's that the wall NEVER WAS fully intact in the first place.

Heck, go back to the New Testament. Very, very soon after the extraordinary events of Pentacost, the church experienced a scandal of embezzlement (Acts 5).

Consider even Peter, the Apostle who served as an instrument of God's wrath during that scandal, and a man who (I need not tell a Roman Catholic) is revered by all of Christendom. After Pentacost -- even after the vision that made clear God's plan of salvation for Gentiles -- Paul still had to rebuke Peter in public on at least one occasion for backsliding into hypocritical prejudice (Galatians 2).

It's not your outrage at abortion that's misplaced, it's your apparent belief that we've strayed from the narrow Christian way when we have never fully followed that way in the first place. Let us be outraged at abortion, but let us not be surprised by it. Let us condemn its evil, but let us not pretend or suggest that such evil is novel.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

As if I needed a prime example for my snobbery accusation, this came along. I'm glad there is something "absent" from my "suburban house" which leads people to feel "there is nothing to explore." Otherwise I might have to hire a guard. Go explore the zoo or the museum of natural history, people!!

The poor dears. "When we walk among our buildings, we give our attention to signs and symbols, comfort and utility. The average street, the daily landscape, becomes more and more bleak or foolish or menacing." What planet are these people from? The "average street" I live on doesn't get more and more bleak, it gets more and more familiar and interesting and full of memories. But if they feel menaced by it, good -- they can go back to their fantasy-land.

The point I have to take away from this snippet is that the normal people of this world simply do not live up to the standards of the architectural elites.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Another thing about the legalization of abortion is that it was not a result of popular demand for legislative action. Instead it was foisted on the American people by an activist court, i.e., an elite minority. So it might not be the best example to use of the departure of American society from Christian principles.

12:13 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

As for the contras versus the crunchies, I think it speaks to both our realism and our respect for the depth of the problem that we don't try to reconcile our lifestyle with God's designs by shopping at the right store or living in the right house. I have far more respect for the argument that everyone who pays for hot showers and electric lights instead of feeding the hungry is going to hell than crunchy arguments like Rod's going to Heaven if he shops at Whole Foods and really really appreciates God's chickens.

1:30 PM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

I don't consider abortion to herald the arrival of a unique and unprecedented sort of evil. And in any case, the trendlines on things like abortion, teen pregnancy, and premarital sex have been trending positively for a number of years now, MySpace horror stories notwithstanding.

In 1900, in most major cities a newborn infant had a 30% chance of dying before its first birthday. Today, to lose a child to something other than crime or an auto accident before they reach the age of 21 is almost unspeakably tragic.

Glenn Loury famously wrote, "human nature has no history." That the bloodlettings of Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot were so exceptional is more a matter of technology than anything else. Genghis Khan could have killed a lot more people with Kalashnikovs and tanks than horses and archers.

As for secular materialism, let's just say that I think a good argument could be made that it is a pretty good thing when one looks at the record. Personally, I think we will have accomplished a great thing for humanity if fifty years from now the Iranians are known primarily for their export of cartoon characters (and no, Ahmadinutjob does not count). The role of faith in America is, like everything else about us, rather exceptional. In America, being Catholic rather than atheist brings you closer to your Protestant neighbor, and in many cases your Muslim one as well. Needless to say, that's not quite how it works pretty much everywhere else, even today.

All of which isn't to say that secular materialism is ideal. But on the whole I feel better living in a world in which Japan and Germany are annoyingly pacifist.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Things are much better in the comfort space . . . agreed. Technology is such that our lives are light years better than they were 100 years ago. No argument here. Evil was not, is not, nor will ever be novel. I'm on board.

Genghis Khan could have killed more with Kalashnikovs, but Dr. Khan has the technology and he can kill the unborn with impunity. We've rolled up some hefty numbers ourselves over the past 30 years, which casts a shadow over our unprecedented standard of living.

Like Pauli stated it was a minority of activist judges that foisted this evil on us. In light of that, your post conveys a little too much contentment and not enough concern. One can hurl microwaves at this assertion from your nicely appointed gentrified urban cottage, but it still ignores the shadow. If the elite rulers can cheapen life as they did with abortion, what is to stop them from taking your nicely appointed gentrified urban cottage too? (Oh wait, they started that ball rolling. Kelo v. City of New London.) It's not being cranky to point this out, you did with your comment about government being the problem. You can be content with all our accomplishments but you are whistling past the graveyard.

Modern problems are not like a small child that wandered into the elephant pen. They are large. Our current standard of living might not be sustainable, but that is a question for the future not the past. (Sorry Crunchies) Like our society, your post was technically flawless but lacked moral dimension. At best one could say that your dangerous idea is a brilliantly articulated statement of the obvious.

9:46 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"In light of that, your post conveys a little too much contentment and not enough concern"

if you are talking about contra's blog post, then nonsense. using your argument everytime someone opened his mouth/wrote a blog post he would have to begin a sentence with "oh no, abortion is legal,what are we going to about it? what? whaaaaaat?!"

10:11 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Pauli: Re your "snobbery accusation": LOL! You ain't kiddin'.

So now a neighborhood has to have a certain kind of building to satisfy the Crunchy sensibility?

Are there any poor or even lower-middle-class people in Rod's World? I live out in the country, where trailers and double-wides and small brick ranch houses ('70s vintage) abound. Not very aesthetically pleasing by Crunchy standards, but it's what some people can afford. What a concept, eh?

Friends of ours bought 50 acres near the NC/Virginia border for $600 per acre, then put a double-wide on it. The Crunchies would have a heart attack, I'm sure, but our friends are happy as clams. This is what they can afford. They've realized their dream of home ownership and country living without putting themselves in the poor house.

IOW: People do what they've gotta do, and that affects how aesthetically pleasing they can make their homes for the benefit of any fastidious Crunchies who may be passing by. :)

Heck, if my DH had his way, we'd have one of those ugly raised-ranch houses. He doesn't know from "aesthetically pleasing," believe me, but he's very attuned to efficiency. He says raised ranches are good because they allow you to have a HUGE basement area, which you can fix up into extra bedrooms or a library or a rec room or whatever. For my husband, the bigger the basement, the better the house. The house part of the house pales in comparison to the big basement with fix-up potential. I think it's a Guy Thing. :) It's the same kind of thing that leads guys to favor those huge, fat recliners resembling the Michelin Man over exquisitely uncomfortable Queen Anne chairs.

Thankfully, I talked DH into a simple Cape Cod with front porch. (We did fix up part of the basement; the rest is walk-in garage.) But next time around--if there is a next time--he insists he wants a ranch house with bigger basement.

I've certainly no brief against pretty neighborhoods. But like you, Pauli, I value other things in my neighborhood besides the artsy-fartsyness of the buildings. Ours is a rural subdivision; we were the first to build there, and others followed. It is interesting to see how the neighborhood has changed over the years. It is interesting to get to know neighbors better. It is interesting to see how different people display their very personal tastes and idiosyncrasies through the ways they gussy up their gardens and porches.

Anyhoo...sorry for rambling here. The long and short of it is: I agree with you re Crunchy snobbery. How out of touch can these people be? "Bleak and menacing"? Puhleeeze.

And as Kathleen noted,

10:23 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Thanks for the kind words, Di.

Happy as clams pretty much describes the kids riding their bikes and running through the yards of our neighborhood. But.....


Good grief.... I'm sure the kids would enjoy living in a neighborhood with aesthetically pleasing buildings where their bikes would often get stolen.

Regarding trailers and crazy husbands: I remember watching the "Rockford Files" when I was 8 years old. Jim Rockford (James Garner) was a PI, man, unmarried -- lived in a trailer on the beach AND he had an answering machine which meant you were important and you didn't have to answer the phone. Even aside from the fact that he had a prison record and he hung out with a real hooker (Rita Moreno) he was cool for a grown-up. I wanted to be like him, no, BE HIM when I grew up. (He also had a blind girlfriend which meant he never had to comb his hair -- remember that?!)

So.... wha' happened?

Well, someone opined to me once that trailers really weren't the best things to live in, regardless of whether they are constructed from materials purchased locally or not. Turns out there's a thing called a foundation that people think is pretty important, even non-crunchies. And I guess I bought it.

This is all a bunch of poppycock, of course. Even in Ohio you can insure the crap inside your trailer -- including your 1970's cassette-based answering machine -- if you merely promise some kick-backs to the insurance guy after the tornado hits. But it's too late, I'm married and my wife won't downsize to a trailer. "Not all your TV heroes live in squalor. Look -- Jack Bauer has a house.... and no, you can't take your gun to church! Grow up!!" It's hard to argue with her logic. Maybe as a vacation home someday.......

1:11 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

after a day of "participating" (if you can call it that) on the crunchy con blog "sacramentality and bubba" thread, can i indulge in some "primal scream" therapy here? would anyone mind terribly? ok here goes

and now if you'll excuse me i'm going to tear apart a particleboard bookcase with my bare hands.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

LOL, Pauli. I hafta agree that trailers lack a certain...gravitas. Fortunately we don't get many hurricanes here in NW North Carolina, so my country acquaintances who live in trailers and double-wides haven't had too much to worry about so far.

BTW, Kathleen: I saw your tomato posts at the CrunchyCon blog. Excellente! The noive of some people, implying that they're the only ones who can truly appreciate a garden tomato. Sheesh, anyone who grew up with a veggie garden (and that includes a heck of a lot of non-crunchy people) has savored garden tomatoes. Heck, all you have to do is put one of those tub things (available at Lowe's Home Improvement for a pittance) on your porch, fill it with soil, stick in a tomato plant, water and fetrtilize and voila. It's probably the most ubiquitous garden veggie grown--even more so than zucchini.

Why do the Crunchies always act as if they *discovered* these things? Garden tomatoes have been staples of that suburban life Rod disdains for eons. I bet they even had 'em in Levittown.

It's like the Crunchy Slow Cooking Shtitck. Maybe Rod grew up with Dinner Out of a Can, but he shouldn't project that onto everybody else. My Irish mom learned how to cook from my Italian grandmother; as a result, when I was growing up, mom made spaghetti sauce that was to die for, and her meatballs were so scrumptious (juicy beyond belief) that we would gobble them right out of the frying pan, before she even had a chance to dunk 'em in the sauce. In short, we rarely had Dinner Out of a can. Maybe that's why Slow Food isn't a mania for me. I'm used to it, so I don't rank it as some sort of spiritual, sacramental epiphany. It's just...food.

Bubba, BTW--your arguments in that thread are fabulous. And you're so irenic and diplomatic, too...unlike bannable moi. ;)


4:54 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Oh, BTW, Bubba--I saw where someone condescendingly remarked that you wouldn't understand "sacramental" because it's not part of your religious tradition. What a crock. I have never received the impression from your posts that you lack understanding of or sympathy for Catholic concepts like "sacramental." I think it's silly for the Cathodox to jump to such inane conclusions just because the other guy is an evangelical. "You're Protestant; therefore, you can't possibly get it." Yeah, right--we know all evangelicals think exactly alike and march in lockstep, right? There couldn't possibly be Protestants out there who (gasp!) fraternize with Catholics and even understand key aspects of Catholic theology.

Not that garden tomatoes and aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods have much to do with either Catholic theology or "the sacramental life"...but you get what I mean, I trust. :)

5:00 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

LOL, Kathleen--who wouldn't primal-scream after a thread like that?

5:03 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...


I'm going to have to start collecting these puppies -- problem is after that "Dinner Out of a Can" remark from Diana, I can't remember but I'm pretty sure there's a great scene with Rockford cooking dinner in it...... proof I'm part of the TV generation I guess.

On Kathleen's Tomaydo/Tomahdo nightmare: I have the veggie tales theme running through my head now, you know, "If you like to talk to tomatoes......"

LOL..... time for a drink, my stomach hurts.....

5:35 PM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

Not to be too on topic here, but to respond to Cubeland:

First, I think my metaphor about the child amidst the elephants is subject to misinterpretation. I did not mean to say that our present problems are insignificant, only that we should never underestimate the government's ability to make them worse.

Second, I think it quite daring of you to dismiss the progress of the past century with a wave of your hand as mere "comfort." The fact that my father did not die of cancer 4 years ago is not "comfort." It means my 4-year-old nephew knows the love of his grandfather. The only reason he does is because a giant corporation spent decades and billions of dollars building medical imaging devices of almost unimaginable complexity that could detect that cancer before it ate him alive the way it did his father 45 years ago.

You see, I don't think you get to pick and choose. I think the society that gives us Penicillin and magnetic resonance imaging is also the society that gives us Girls Gone Wild and high-fructose corn syrup and McMansions, because they're all manifestations of the same restless energy.

Some people are eager to yank on the levers of power because they think they know better how the whole machine operates. They think they can turn a dial a little bit here, flip a switch there, and then people will behave in the proper way. I think that the machine is more complex than we know. I think that the elephant pen is full of children, and many of them are invisible until an elephant steps on them.

So I am willing to tolerate some compromises, here in the City of Man, because I see "comforts" that have contributed great positives to peoples' lives, and a people who are, on the whole, groping upwards, erring often, but ultimately trying to figure out the right direction. It's not a perfect system but I've yet to see one better.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

"First, I think my metaphor about the child amidst the elephants is subject to misinterpretation. I did not mean to say that our present problems are insignificant, only that we should never underestimate the government's ability to make them worse."

I was interpreting the analogy incorrectly then. I was interpreting it as falsely optimistic. If we yank on the levers or flip the right switches, or use the database_fast = true parameter all will be well. What confused me is this line "the best way to save the child does not involve getting the elephants to move." I might have said let's get rid of most of the elephants, and replace the remaining with pygmy elephants.

Where I am unclear is my use of the word comfort. I meant it in the sense that you are describing. I had in mind everything from patio misters to medicine to B2 bombers. I did not want to qualify it further. Not mere comfort, but amazingly wonderful comfort. I wanted to focus on the criticism in my comment.

You are a good writer. Actually you are all good writers, Rod's a damn lucky man to have such good people dogging him.

9:03 AM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

I agree. The metaphor has been kicked to death, and now we can send it to the French to make sandwiches out of.

Now, here is a question for you: what do you make of a financier who makes millions doing (legal) brass-knuckles deals, lives a life of significant material wealth, but sees fit to donate a sizable portion of his millions to support right-to-life groups, etc.? I'm just curius.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"You see, I don't think you get to pick and choose. I think the society that gives us Penicillin and magnetic resonance imaging is also the society that gives us Girls Gone Wild and high-fructose corn syrup and McMansions, because they're all manifestations of the same restless energy."

This statement gets to the heart of the matter. Radical agrarians and distributists (with whom I sometimes disagree) essentially believe the same thing.

IF it is true that we can't pick and choose, THEN the Society that gave us Penicillin and MRIs (just had one myself) can go straight to hell. The price is too high: all the medical and scientific and technological benefits in the world do not offset the negatives of an institutionally depraved "Girls Gone Wild" culture that is bent on spiritual suicide.

But I differ with some of my radical agrarian friends - and their fellow travellers on the Left - in that I don't think we must either accept or reject the entire package. Man has free will, after all, and with the help of God we can "pick and choose" that which is good about modernity while rejecting the abominations that cling to it.

5:22 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

anyone know who "Curious" is on the "Sacramentality and Bubba" thread? I"M curious.

Curious, out yourself!

6:26 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Brass Knuckles? Oh that would be a mean and selfish endeavor, and hurtful to those who lost out on the deal. But it wouldn't be as mean and selfish as sticking a pair of stainless scissors into the head of an unborn baby!

Nope just joking, the cubeland mystic is all about the jack. I hope it's Pauli and I hope he uses titanium knuckles. I hope he makes so much money that he can buy Ohio and calls it Paulyvania. That's why we started the Immaculate Direction, to figure out how to get off the corporate smack. The original subtitle was A journey toward self sufficiency, meaning material self sufficiency. Bubba and another guy convinced me otherwise due to the Christian nature of the site.

Prosperity and freedom are great things. I wish it for all who read this. My beliefs about simplicity and crunchiness are religious in nature. They are not really political. I wrote earlier that I bagged on Rod's article in Godspy because of the title of the book. I want to start my own business, it's tough since both my wife and I are "IT Professionals", know too much about the industry. It might be software or consulting, I'd prefer the later but realistically it probably will be consulting.

I also like writing fiction, and I call the style mystical fiction. So I would have maybe four readers. Perhaps I could make more money if I called it mystical conservative fiction? Imagine the book cover, it could be me levitating in ecstacy, wearing a red, white, and blue cowl with a Glock in one hand and a Rosary in the other. I'm a mystical-con.

If I were marginally successful I would try to donate sizable portions of that money in pro life causes. Also, I would invest heavily into R&D for sustainable energy research. I would try to promote a simple lifestyle. I don't see money and crunchyism as mutually exclusive. A person like Thomas Monaghan is heroic in my book. So are you guys who are starting your own businesses, and we must never forget the heroic moms out there either. Got to go family is calling.

7:31 PM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...


This is precisely my point. Individuals are free to choose. What I am concerned with here is society's role in encouraging and discouraging individuals from making certain choices. Obviously, there is a role here--coincidentally why I am not a libertarian--but I am less sanguine about our ability to make these calls with a sufficient degree of precision.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Kathleen, I agree...I'd like to know the identity of Curiouas myself. He/she rocks.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

> what do you make of a
> financier who makes millions
> doing (legal) brass-knuckles
> deals, lives a life of significant material
> wealth, but sees fit to donate a sizable
> portion of his millions to support right-to-
> life groups, etc.?

Ahhhh, what indeed do we make of this person? This person has chosen to use his wealth and power for a good purpose. Biblical examples abound of this type (Abraham, Job, Joseph of Arimathea, Joseph Barnabas, Zaccheus, Matthew, St. Paul). Spiritualities exist in both Catholic and Protestant(*) circles which stress this vision of putting your gifts to good use the goodness of riches used properly over the hand-wringing over whether Jesus would sell insurance or broker commercial real estate deals.

So I would say this person is trying to be a saint in the midst of the world as he/she finds it. I don't think the crunchies would like this person or approve of the method; it doesn't focus on the "return to roots" that they so highly prize. OTOH, this person, and I know examples of this type -- i.e., seriously rich dudes -- would respect those living out their agrarianist spiritualities(**), but not the exclusivity in which many of them seem to believe. This is because of the respect they have -- and that everyone should have -- for human freedom.
* - I'm pretty sure this is what the "Prayer of Jabez" books & tapes were all about.

** - Minus any blatant "tomato-worship" requiring the spilling of ketchup in an arena.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

OK, here's my dangerous idea:

Just once--just **once**--when Rod makes a comparison between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, he can do something rash and actually be fair, balanced, and objective, rather than setting the bar ridiculously low for EOxy and absurdly high for Catholicism.

See his recent post re the Orthodox Church in America's handling of its gigundo financial scandal.

He insists it's being handled just as it should, everything's clean and aboveboard, bishops are speaking out freely, blah blah--unlike the way that nasty, evil Catholic Church handled its recent sex-abuse scandal, yahdayahda.

What kind of kool-aid is the man drinking? The OCA is a mess, the hierarchs are actually **silencing** dissenters (who live in fear of retribution), and it appears entirely likely that the jurisdiction itself will collapse as a result of the corruption and scandal. Far from being responsive, the OCA mucky-mucks are resisting all oversight. And the whole sordid mess is about to explode in a federal investigation.

But Rod has his rosey-tinted EO spectacles on, and apparently he sees no evil while he's wearing 'em.

Lord have mercy. What a doofus.


10:52 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Pauli, your comment in the OCA-Good/RCC-Bad thread at Rod's blog was spot-on.

Unfortunately, Joe d'Hippolito is using it as a springboard for his insane ravings.

Sheesh. Wonder if Rod ever wonders what it says about *him* that he has defenders like Joe...?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...


I'm just now catching up with the blog since the weekend, but thanks for your kind words earlier. I guess one reason I'm making an effort to be civil -- and Lord knows there are times where it's truly an effort -- is that I want to give CC-ism the best chance it can to prove itself. If it does, I'll genuinely reconsider my own worldview, but if it doesn't (which is what I suspect to be the case), then it can't be said that I didn't give it a fair shake.

You write:

Oh, BTW, Bubba--I saw where someone condescendingly remarked that you wouldn't understand "sacramental" because it's not part of your religious tradition.

I've glanced through the comments, and I can't seem to find the remark; but I wouldn't be surprised by it.

I don't think I misunderstand sacramentalism (then again, I wouldn't), but it does little good to tell me I don't understand it: if I don't, explain it. And it does less good to tell me I can't understand it: unless sacramentalism is a mystery like the Incarnation, such a claim dabbles in the arrogance of gnosticism.

(And if one does want to suggest that sacramentalism means that God inhabits the material universe, just as the Incarnation means that God became a man, then -- ta-da -- we've just stepped over into pantheism.)

2:30 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

I'm actually thrilled that Joe the Hippo is shooting off his mouth over there. The guy is a pull-string doll with a repetoire of moonbat responses and he's precisely the type of defender which Rod deserves. Oh, and did he mention he doesn't like the late Pope John Paul II or his "foreign policy"?

2:48 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Bubba, I think what Rod means by sacramentalism does border on pantheism. E.g., I believe as a Catholic that the Lord makes himself available to us under the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist, but doesn't make himself manifest under the appearance of tomatoes, chickens, slabs of organic meat or Russell Kirk.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Truth be told, Pauli, I'm quite open to the idea of finding out in Paradise that my belief about transubstantiation is wrong. I believe that Christ was using metaphor, just as He did when He said that we His followers are to be salt and light, but I certainly stand to be corrected.

As for Rod's sense of sacramentalism, I've cited a poem by C.S. Lewis, and it deserves to be cited again.

We must remember that nature can become an idol, and we must sometimes turn our back on all distractions -- including nature -- to focus on where God is most clearly seen: the Incarnate Word.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

but doesn't make himself manifest under the appearance of tomatoes, chickens, slabs of organic meat or Russell Kirk.


3:56 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Catholics take the passages in John 6:47-59 to be literal. I am sure you are aware of this. Dr. Scott Hahn is a good source for Catholic exegesis. There are others he just comes to mind. I could probably dig up a real audio link for you or a paper.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Mystic, I believe I understand the Catholics' belief of transubstantiation, the passages they believe supports it, the interpretation of those passages that would require it, etc.

But thanks anyway.

8:45 AM  

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