Sunday, October 16, 2011

Of Icarus and Other Things

I'm still having trouble getting back into the groove of blogging. Last weekend, I attended a convention in the suburban wastelands north of Dallas. This coming weekend, I will be at a conference in Chicago. That contrast ought to give me something to write about. In the meantime, I have enjoyed the following:

So Beinart has come to admire historical figures who might once have stood as correctives to his own facile brilliance—who have a deep knowledge of specific countries, a healthy respect for other people’s nationalism, a skepticism toward claims of disinterested morality in the conduct of foreign policy, and an aversion to war except as a last resort. Kennan once set out to write a biography of Chekhov; as Beinart dryly observes, “Bush sent a man to run Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, who had never before been posted to the Arab world. To grasp the intellectual chasm between American foreign policy toward the U.S.S.R. in 1946 and American foreign policy toward Iraq in 2003, one need only try to envision Bremer writing a biography of an Iraqi writer, or, for that matter, being able to name one.”

...Beinart outlines a number of the early-warning signs that a spell of myopia is about to deliver a catastrophe: doctrinaire mental habits, belief in preordained success, contempt for the counsel of allies, pervasive fear of threats, refusal to prioritize enemies. Americans have been especially vulnerable to irrational surges in national faith, because of an improbable combination: they’ve acquired the supreme strength of an imperial power without relinquishing their original claim—whether from God or the Declaration of Independence—to speak for freedom-seeking people everywhere. As a consequence, Americans like to imagine that they are acting without self-interest. It’s tough to get them to do anything overseas, including going to war, without telling them that something higher is at stake. This national character has, on balance, brought great benefits to the rest of the world. Beinart’s incontrovertible theme is that it has also brought great tragedies.

Review by George Packer of Roger Beinart's The Icarus Syndrome.

Why is there not a literalist, fundamentalist reading of the Year of Jubilee? an economic moment of the cancellation of debt? a restoration of the old property lines? A built-in systemic revulsion of servitude and slavery?

Or is at economics when right-wing fundamentalists decide to become allegorical all at once? Or when they become conveniently dispensational?

That is, when all difficult moral choices are put off to the millennium?

Why are all difficult moral choices that are put off economical? Socio-economical?

Why did the "reformation" adopt such a secularistic model of sola scriptura? Was the Calvinistic economic model of the rich getting rich off of usury so precious, that it was worth severing Christian consciousness from the Rule of the Saints?

Good questions from Fr. Jonathan Tobias at Second Terrace.

Blond said the modern Left and the modern Right have remarkably much in common. I know it sounds odd, but it’s true.” He said New Left in the 1960s promoted liberalization from traditional moral norms to emancipate individual desires. Then the New Right that followed promoted liberalization from economic strictures. What’s happened has been a social disaster, especially for the poor. The only people who have made out fine have been the wealthy. Blond had a great line about he morality of the sexually libertine left, when applied to economics by the economically libertine right:

“It produced an economy where people thought you could screw each other and everybody would get rich.”

Phillip Blond by way of Rod Dreher (h/t Teetotaler)

The great difficulty is the knowledge of God that is proper to the Christian journey of faith, is that is not sought as knowledge, per se. It comes to us as insight, sometimes suddenly and unexpected, but it comes as the fruit of humility and penance in our lives. The proud do not know God for we are told that “God resists the proud.” Humility is a very difficult struggle, for we learn ourselves to be lower than others rather than greater. This is a great mystery for we are surrounded by those whom we would easily judge to be less than ourselves and greater sinners than ourselves. However, in the truth that is revealed by the light of the Kingdom of God, this is simply not the case. That Holy Light reveals us to be less than others and the least worthy of God’s good favor.

…We hate and fear our own failure when it confronts us and scurry about to find something with which to cover our mistakes. This is the scurrying of Adam and Eve as they sought to cover themselves falsely from the presence of God. Humility would embrace such God-given moments (our failures) not to shame ourselves, but because in such moments our hearts are broken and far more able to see God.

…However, God does not wish to crush us, to break us beyond all recognition. He is, after all, a kind God.

Embrace the failings that come naturally as we are humbled before ourselves and others. Flee from pride and stubbornness. Beware of being “right.” Give thanks for all things, in all circumstances, and always. God will make Himself known.

Fr. Stephen Freeman on Knowing God (again h/t Teetotaler)


Anonymous said...

Hey! We met, we even had breakfast Saturday morning and sat together at the business meeting, and I didn't know this was you until last night. Nice to meet you, and hope to see you again.


John said...

Same here, Richard. I've had your blog linked for years, but had no idea that was you at the meeting. I walked down to Our Savior's on Sunday and was there for Divine Liturgy. Had nice visit afterwards with a mutual friend and fellow blogger. One of the first things he asked me was "Do you know Richard B______? At least in America, Orthodoxy is a small world, indeed. Great to meet you, and I will definitely keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

Ah, who was that -- SeƱor Melxiopp, perhaps? Never actually met him, hoped I'd get to meet him this weekend, but it didn't quite work out.

Anyway, yes, small world indeed. My e-mail address is rrbarret AT indiana DOT edu, so let's stay in touch. Since BSC is at Holy Cross next year, I might think that there'd be a bit more of a visible Orthodox component to the conference, particularly if we plan something early enough.