September 28, 2020

Review of “Love and Quasars: An Astrophysicist Reconciles Faith and Science” by Paul Wallace, Part 9.

Review of “Love and Quasars: An Astrophysicist Reconciles Faith and Science” by Paul Wallace, Part 9.

Chapter 11 is entitled, How to Manufacture a War: History like the Universe, Is Larger and More Interesting Than You Thought.  In this chapter Wallace recounts the story of Galileo and his battle with the church as the beginning of the “war” analogy between science and faith.  Anyone who is familiar with the story knows it isn’t as simple as has often been portrayed.  The simplistic version casts Galileo as the valiant empiricist fighting the superstitious ignorance of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and contending for the TRVTH of the sun-centered model of the cosmos.

In matter of fact, had Galileo not been such a pompous, self-promoting, ass who presumed to insult the initially friendly and supportive Pope Urban VIII, he could have continued his astronomical inquiries without the humiliating recantation of Copernican theory he was eventually forced to make.  SimplyCatholic has a nice summary here. In 1624, Galileo was assured by the Pope that he could discuss the Copernican system, but only as a mathematical theory and not as a physical reality.  In other words, he was free to treat the sun-centered system as a working hypothesis, but as he lacked the empirical evidence he later derived, he could not teach it as fact. Instead, he created the Dialogue, which presented the arguments for a Copernican system as a three-way conversation in which he caricatured the Pope as “Simplicio”, a dim-witted traditionalist who favored the earth-centered system.  The Pope, the former Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, was a longtime friend and protector of Galileo; who really had no good reason to insult and verbally abuse his friend.

Nevertheless, from the trial transcript:

We pronounce this Our final sentence: We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture…

The church at that time took a stand that attempted to draw a scientific conclusion on the basis of statements from the Bible.  And that conclusion turned out to be wrong.  As Wallace says:

We remember Galileo today because he was right, and on two counts.  First he nailed the narrow question of what goes around what.  But he was also right about science itself.  At stake in the Galileo affair was not just the arrangement of the planets or even what was true and false. It was concerned with how we know what’s true and false, and who gets to say what’s true and false. Therefore, the fight had to do with authority and power, and it grew intensely political.  If the church had not wielded so much political power, the war might not have arisen in the first place.

But arise it did. In 1874, John William Draper published his book, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. In it he surveys Western history and concludes that, at every turn, the church has gone to war against the growth of scientific knowledge, citing the Galileo affair as clear proof of his thesis.  Historian Andrew Dickson White followed in 1896 with, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, again casting history in terms of conflict.  The thing is, as Wallace notes, that no historian takes these books seriously today; their war talk has been discounted, their claims weakened by lack of evidence.  At the same time, following the publishing of Darwin’s Origin of the Species in 1859, Thomas Henry Huxley vigorously defended the work as a scientific popularizer.  Unlike some contemporaries who sought a reconciliation between science and theology, Huxley framed the debate over Creation and evolution in black-and-white, either/or terms and was unforgiving of colleagues who straddled the fence.

And so, their damage was done, in good part because of Draper and White, the “war” came to America. In the early Twentieth century, an influential group of Christians began to push back against liberal movements in biblical studies – in particular, an approach to Scripture know as historical criticism, which questioned belief in the Bible as a literal document. This group responded to historical criticism by publishing a series of pamphlets entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth.  The series purported to establish the nonnegotiable truths of Christianity and shored up belief in the factual truth of Genesis, among other things. They became known as the fundamentalists and they looked to Draper’s and White’s books as confirmation that religion and science were naturally opposed to one another.

Clarence Darrow (left) and William Jennings Bryan (right) at the Scopes Trial in 1925

This culminated, due to the wall-to-wall media coverage, in the Scopes trial of 1925, which brought the war between religion and science to a national audience. The aftermath of the Scopes trial saw the rise of “creationism” especially in regards to its anti-evolution aspect. The age of the earth and the universality of the Noachian Flood weren’t as much in evidence in early 20th century creationism.   The primary promoter of “flood geology” during the early twentieth century was George McCready Price, but he had comparatively little influence among evangelicals because he was a Seventh-day Adventist, a church treated warily by many conservative Protestants. According to the Wikipedia page:

By the 1950s, most evangelical scientists scorned flood geology, and those who accepted the theory were increasingly marginalized within the American Scientific Affiliation (founded 1941), an evangelical organization that gradually shifted from strict creationism to progressive creationism and theistic evolution.  In 1954, Bernard Ramm, an evangelical apologist and theologian closely associated with the ASA, published The Christian View of Science and Scripture, which attacked the notion that “biblical inspiration implied that the Bible was a reliable source of scientific data.” Ramm ridiculed both flood geology and the gap theory, and one ASA member credited Ramm with providing a way for a majority of Christian biologists to accept evolution.

But the publication of The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications in 1961, a book by young Earth creationists John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris succeeded in elevating young Earth creationism and its “creation science” to a position of fundamentalist orthodoxy.  And with the publication of their book came the rise of the “creation ministries” such as The Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International and Answers in Genesis; all dedicated to arguing for the scientific credibility of a literalistic but modernistic interpretation of Genesis 1-11.

Fundamentalists somewhat withdrew from the public stage after the Scope’s Trial, preferring instead to nurture their own institutions such as Bob Jones University.  But in the late 1970’s, under the leadership of men like the late Jerry Falwell, and his Moral Majority, re-entered the public arena with their support for the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the “culture wars”.  Part of the culture war mentality was to advocate for the teaching of creationism in public schools.  After losing a number of court cases, men such as Phillip Johnson, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, and David Berlinski and the Discovery Institute tried to claim that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.  These advocates of intelligent design from a Christian standpoint sought to keep God and the Bible out of the discussion, and present intelligent design in the language of science as though it were a scientific hypothesis.   The  high-water mark for the Intelligent Design movement was when the Dover Area School District of York County, Pennsylvania changed its biology teaching curriculum to require that intelligent design be presented as an alternative to evolution theory.  This was challenged in Federal Court in 2005 in the case known as Kitzmiller and Dover.  The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Which brings us, more or less, down to today.  Wallace ends his chapter with the rise of the New Atheists, but to me they are already old hat and irrelevant.  I’m going to indulge in a “David Brooks- A Ridiculously Optimistic History of the Next Decade” (see the Imonk sidebar for link) type of fantasy.

Trump is re-elected in 2020, but by 2024, as boomers continue to do the world a favor by dying off, and younger people take over, Americans are fed up and Trumpism withers away in ignominy.  The Evangelical leaders who supported Trump have so disgraced themselves that Mega-Churchianity declines precipitously. The younger generation that has been more inclined to accept mainstream science and evolution and less inclined to believe in creationism becomes the new Christian majority.  The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter close for lack of customers, Bob Jones and Liberty University wither to the size of community colleges, and America’s long decline in STEM education begins to reverse itself.  I retire to a beach on Aruba to drink mai tai’s and write occasional essays for Internet Monk, which is now run by Michael Spencer’s grandchildren and the daughter of this guy.

Comments

  1. Nice retirement plans, but bear in mind Aruba’s beaches are likely to be wrecked due to sea level rise. 😛

    • senecagriggs says

      Predicated upon Mr. Obama’s decision to buy a very pricey home not that far off the beach, I’ll take my chances.

      • He can afford to lose a home. I’ll bet you can’t.

        • Eeyore President Obama has done well for someone born in Kenya and is only half white , can you imagine who well he would have done and how well he will be treated if he had complete white privilege? What a sweet heart deal he go with the island home even better than the Chicago deal with the criminal.

          To some on this board , this is a joke and like most jokes based on some truth. To get the concept look at the Golden Globes opening.

  2. Burro (Mule) says

    I wish my daughter would come around here more often. Alas, she shows no real interest in either religion or science. It was enough of a struggle getting her to speak Spanish with her mother’s family. 😛

    The best outcome for 2024 for me would be that four more years of Mr Trump in the White House would force the American commentariat to admit something that has been painfully evident for a long time – they don’t really think much of the average white guy and don’t believe that he has any business governing his own affairs. If anything, the current resident of the White House is Homer Simpson born into a bit of money, and with a lot of entitlement and more Moxie. As far as racism goes he’s within 0.5 SDs of any random white guy you pull off the streets in any major American city.

    I can see why David Brooks wants 2024 made over into his own image. It would put guys like me back to sleep until I lost my job for using the wrong pronoun and found my church closed for not performing polyamorous marriage ceremonies.

    • senecagriggs says

      Awesome Burro

    • “It would put guys like me back to sleep until I lost my job for using the wrong pronoun and found my church closed for not performing polyamorous marriage ceremonies.”

      The white conservative persecution complex rises again. To people who really are suffering, this sounds extremely unflattering.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        I do not want either of those outcomes to occur. I will fight them. At the present, neither is extremely likely. One is admittedly more probable than the other, but neither is outside the pale of possibility.

        Since I cannot foresee myself embracing either of those outcomes voluntarily, I assume they will have to be forced upon me. As you put it so elegantly recently, by suing me until I stop being a bigot.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The best outcome for 2024 for me would be that four more years of Mr Trump in the White House would force the American commentariat to admit something that has been painfully evident for a long time – they don’t really think much of the average white guy and don’t believe that he has any business governing his own affairs.

      And as long as Our Chattering-class Betters keep broadcasting that, “STICK IT TO ‘EM! STICK IT TO ‘EM! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” will just get refueled with higher-octane fuel.

      The state I live in is currently a Woke-ocracy, constantly Virtue Signalling to each other while the rest of us take all the collateral damage. Very much like a Puritan religious dictatorship, just with a non-God-talk ideology behind all the Righteous scolding and shaming and punishing. I’m going to have to move to MAGA-land when I retire just to get away from the prices, taxes, and craziness.

  3. Mike, I wonder if you could comment on the term “intelligent design” and what went wrong. You said that some scientists “tried to claim that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    I was at first hopeful about intelligent design, thinking that it might become a bridge, allowing a belief in evolution that was divinely inspired. But it seems the term has been hijacked and now means “creationism,” which is driven by a literal, 6-day, young-earth creation. Failure to believe this can get one branded an unbeliever.

    So what went wrong? Is there any hope for a reasonable belief in intelligent design? Or will the shouting matches and the beatings continue until morale improves?

    • “Intelligent Design” wasn’t hijacked. It was a pseudo-scientific screen for Creationism from the beginning.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      It seems like its getting harder and harder to maintain your bonafides all the time.

      • Christiane says

        well,

        if you have to ‘agree’ with the fundamentalists in order to ‘belong’, I’m thinking the ‘tests’ they lay out for ‘admission’ to their tribe seem a little bit crazy . . . defying not only our powers of scientific observation and our reason, but also our moral consciences at times . . ..

        a bunch of fundamentalist-evangelicals on SBCvoices once were speaking up for spanking babies and toddlers as advocated by the Pearls . . . a practice that my pediatrician brother tells me can be very dangerous to a small infant or child.
        And yet, people ‘lined up’ and testified about the ‘benefits’ of ‘disciplining’ a little one with hitting . . . as though supporting this hitting of little bodies was a test they had to pass in order to be ‘a Christian’ in that strange world that is looking less and less ‘of Christ’ to me as trumpism unfolds . . .

        I guess in order to ‘belong’ to the crazy, you don’t really have to believe the idiot stuff, you just have to say that you do. So maybe the whole thing is ‘until you are willing to give up your integrity, you cannot be a part of our tribe because WE control what you think if you want to be INCLUDED’

        so, sure ‘our bona fides’ among this new divided country we live in does seem to be under attack . . . ‘you’re with us or agin us’ . . . and no room for individuality that even questions one’s loyalty to the trump . . . lockstep or else

        I’m rambling, but it’s been one of those daze. 🙂 End of rant.

    • Mike the Geologist says

      Ted: Here is my take. The notion of intelligent design (no caps) is basically the recognition of God’s providence in how the universe works and how it started. It’s the anthropic principle or fine tuning writ across all the sciences, not just physics. But it is philosophical or religious, it’s not scientific evidence. Intelligent Design (with caps) is the proposition that you could demonstrate God’s hand in nature through “irreducibly complexity” or “complex specified information”. That some processes in nature were too complex to come about through “undirected processes” or chance. But it is a god-of-the-gaps argument and really makes God into the divine tinkerer. He lets natural processes operate but sometimes has to interfere to make sure those processes fulfill his divine plan. It is not a scientific viewpoint and never will be.

      • But isn’t there a statistical breaking point where for all intents and purposes a “chance event” is practically impossible without some outside force?

      • Thanks, Mike. I agree that God cannot be reduced to scientific understanding, and that to “hijack” God into science means that it ain’t real science.

        But for believers, offering an option that a god may be the cause of the universe and all its unfolding, however long it took, seemed like the idea behind intelligent design, small caps at least.

        I’m in that camp, old-earth, evolutionary process, all by the hand of God somehow. But that brands me a heretic to some. I do think there has been some hijacking of terms along with all the shouting. I’ll continue to ignore my noisy brothers in Christ and insist that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

        How did he do it? Dunno. But in my non-scientific understanding, I think it took a long time, and clearly isn’t over yet.

        • Conversely, there’s a quote from Anglican theologian/missionary Lesslie Newbigin that I can’t put my finger on—but in effect he said that if we rely on science to “prove” God’s existence (and a friend of mine keeps resorting to that) then we have admitted that science is greater than God. So there’s that.

          • Not sure about that. Is the mathematics that prove black holes exist “greater” than an actual black hole?

            • No. But that analogy breaks down when we realize that the black hole—a created thing—did not create or make provision for the math that describes it, unlike God and science.

    • I thought the same.

  4. Ah the culture wars! It’s funny how so many people think that all started in the 1960s.

    Trump’s reelection depends largely on voter turnout. The Republicans are a minority party and Trump won the first time largely because of low vote turnout. The Republicans, not entirely clueless, realize this which is why their efforts at voter suppression are so frantic. Of course after Trump loses the narrative of “betrayal” will begin and the whole shebang will start over again. Never fear, the addled white right we have with us always.

    But the handwriting is on the wall and the demographics portend much.

    MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSHIN

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But the handwriting is on the wall and the demographics portend much.

      An animal is the most dangerous when it’s cornered (and time is running out).

      And this is of COSMIC Importance —
      GOD Or SATAN, WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?????

      • I only use one guideline when deciding what side I am on, What would Hal Lindsley do? I would then have to find out who Hal Lindsley is and why anybody cares.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Never fear, the addled white right we have with us always.

      Wait until José Portacomidas replaces Joe Lunchbucket. The Latin American Right don’t play. All y’all’s hash dreams of endless Rainbow Parades once the grumpy ol’ white man shuffles off to Sun City are due for some rocky reality checks.

      Buen provecho, cabrones

      • You really have very low opinions of everyone except white people, don’t you?

        • It’s bizarre, & smacks of white men feeling affronted because they are treated like other men have been forever & a day, often by them. Us white people are precisely as valuable as everyone else.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Problem is, when “We’re the Winning Color/Religion/Orientation” kicks in, Diversity becomes just another Master Race that has to be on top. “Us white people” — or any other race/group — become subhumans of no value whatsoever. Even more so if the new Masters used to be Subhumans under Whitey — then “PAYBACK TIME!” revenge gets added to the mix.

            This isn’t a White thing, this isn’t a Brown thing, this isn’t a Black thing — it’s a HUMAN thing, part of the Dark Side. My Tribe on top, with My Boots on the face of the Other.

            A lot of various civil Rights activist types and groups have degenerated into such raw Tribalism, and There Can Be Only One on top.

            • “This isn’t a White thing, this isn’t a Brown thing, this isn’t a Black thing — it’s a HUMAN thing, part of the Dark Side. My Tribe on top, with My Boots on the face of the Other.”

              Correct. Which is why I get really torqued when self-professed Christians not only don’t take the side of the ones getting stepped on, they actively root for the boots.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                And if the boots are brown instead of white?

                You want to hear some real horror stories about racism, ask a Central American about Mexicans.

                • I thought color wasn’t supposed to matter.

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                    Central Americans and Mexicans are similar color and speak the same language. Like the tribal markers are visible only from the inside.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          One of the Dogmas of Diversity is that only Whites are Racist and once they’re gone, it’ll be Unicorns Farting Rainbows and Free Ice Cream for Everyone.
          You find Racists and Supremacists in all colors and ethnic sub-groups — White Supremacists, Black Supremacists, Brown Supremacists, Christian Supremacists, Muslim Supremacists, Hindu Supremacists. “We’re the Winning Color Now!”
          Raza Boys are every bit as nasty-racist as Ku Kluxers; “Turner Diaries”-equivalent wish-fulfillment novels and all.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Just over here being White and Supreme, y’all.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              What I call “Self-Defense White Supremacy”, i.e. not out of any Master Race ideology but the fear that “They’ll Do It To Us unless We Do It To Them”? i.e. Tribalism 101?\

              In which case, we need to be Bridge Builders instead of WallBuilders(TM).

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Actually, I have very high opinions of Latin American reactionaries. They aren’t apologetic like their white American counterparts. They were able to dismantle an alternative-sexuality initiative by referring to it as “all that Satanic buggery [Toda esa mariconeria satánica]” and bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets.

          • I don’t see a lot of apologia on the part of white American reactionaries, personally.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              Good

              • Fear not Burro. After the revolution we’ll turn the state of Mississippi into a reeducation camp. After a few months of eating hummus and watching Beyoncé videos you’ll come around.

  5. I could see the next decade going very different ways depending on a couple of things.

    One is the timing of the next recession. We’re going to hit one sooner or later, and it will probably involve a combination of trade war fallout and a second “dot com” bubble where investors give up on certain big tech companies that have never been able to turn a profit. It the crash happens before the election, Trump will probably lose, which is why he’s so interested in pressuring the Fed to prop up the economy. Of course, the longer we go before the next crash the bigger the fall will be when we get there.

    A second major question will be how politicians deal with gerrymandering in the next few years: whether we stay with business as usual or arrive at some sort of bipartisan agreement to limit gerrymandering. If it’s the former, then the moment demographics shift enough to put Democrats in control of redistricting, Republicans will be not just the minority, but hopelessly marginalized for decades to come.

    A third big question is whether we end up in another war. Trump has gone on the record (years before he was president) saying that starting a war to get people to “rally around the flag” is a sure way for a president to boost his popularity and re-election chances. That’s clearly what he’s trying to do with Iran right now.

    But the far more important question is what God is doing in the midst of all of that. I suspect God is using Trump to discredit and ruin a form of Christianity that had become hopelessly entangled with secular post-Christian conservatism. But if so, I also suspect God is in the process of raising up some new expression of Christianity in the same way that Protestant Christianity took center stage when the hegemony of the Catholic church failed. So it could be a turbulent and chaotic but also exciting and reinvigorating time to be a follower of Christ, for those who are able to join in the new thing God is doing instead of clinging to the old.

    • senecagriggs says

      “But the far more important question is what God is doing in the midst of all of that. I suspect God is using Trump to discredit and ruin a form of Christianity that had become hopelessly entangled with secular post-Christian conservatism. ”
      ________

      You have inside information? Burning bush in your yard perhaps? New revelation?

      Actually, this sound like the many-times-warmed-over Mainline dream about Evangelical Orthodoxy.

      What I recall of recent presidential history; the mainline HATED George W. Bush – one of the finer men ever to be President. So you hate the current barbarian, but you hated a true gentleman also.

      Lesson: conservative Evangelicals will always be hated for their politics to say nothing of their theology.

      Pfft I say.

      • There are so many argumentative fallacies in this one comment that I can’t even figure out where to start unraveling it.

      • Seneca, Christianity is something higher than any culture, tribe, or political movement. I’m not much more at home in liberal circles than in conservative ones, and I’m not cheering for the liberal “side” to defeat the conservative “side.”

        Picture a Venn diagram with three circles. Label one “Liberal,” one “Conservative,” and one “Christian.” That’s my basic view of the “culture wars” – Christianity has some overlap with both liberalism and conservatism, but there are also aspects of both liberalism and conservatism that are completely unChristian. So, someone who gives their ultimate allegiance to *either* side in the culture wars will ultimately be drawn away from Christ.

        My hope is not to see liberal Christianity defeat conservative Christianity, but to see more and more Christians remembering that their allegiance is due first and only to Christ. Christianity becomes ugly and distorted when we place allegiance to our cultural identity above allegiance to Christ. What Trump has accomplished is to reflect and embody that ugliness so we can no longer ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. But that also leaves people without excuse – it is time to either repent or harden your heart, and depending on your response you will either be restored to joyful relationship with Christ or sink deeper and deeper into alienation, bitterness, and despair.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      But if so, I also suspect God is in the process of raising up some new expression of Christianity in the same way that Protestant Christianity took center stage when the hegemony of the Catholic church failed. So it could be a turbulent and chaotic but also exciting and reinvigorating time to be a follower of Christ, for those who are able to join in the new thing God is doing instead of clinging to the old.

      All y’all just as giddy as middle-school girls on prom night about all those ‘new things’ God is doing, aren’tcha? When all the dust settles and you find out that the new lot in charge are just as hierarchical and power-hungry as the old lot, you’ll find out that what doesn’t change in Christianity – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. – is far more important that who is on the bridge and who is in steerage.

      • “When all the dust settles and you find out that the new lot in charge are just as hierarchical and power-hungry as the old lot, you’ll find out that what doesn’t change in Christianity – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. – is far more important that who is on the bridge and who is in steerage.”

        I dunno – breaking white evangelicalism of it’s power addiction just might make it worth it.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Which will be hard to do without wielding the Ring yourself, will it?

          • Didn’t say I would be wielding it. I’m a white suburban male too. But the arc of history is against us, and your triumphalism about avoiding the wheel of karma is just a TAD premature.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              I dunno where I come off saying the white man will avoid his comeuppance. We will pay. One of the reasons I favor reparations is because it just makes sense as a tortious action, besides being the right thing to do. But I suffer no illusions that it will be justly administered or that it will greatly improve the position of black Americans. That would require dismantling the sorts of systemic disadvantaging that Finn often talks about here, and which are outside my bailiwick.

              If I were smart, I should start getting receipts for all my charitable giving to African-American charities and see if can I get them classified as proactive reparations. Trump’s increasing the Standard Deduction has made me somewhat careless about that.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            But when the other color Gets the Ring, you expect them to do any different?

            If it comes down to “Me and Mine all have to lie down and die so you can have your Perfect World”…

            • Christiane says

              I don’t know, Headless

              our city has a school wide contest at Thanksgiving to provide baskets to those in need . . . consistently, our inner-city schools have given MORE in these contests than the suburban schools;
              so maybe there is some evidence in that to show that having a living breathing awareness of survival at the margins of life does make folks respond to the call to help when they have a chance.

              I do remember having to tell my class not to take food out of their pantries without getting permission from their mothers/grandmothers/ guardians. Because the kids understood. They were simply wanting to be able to ‘give’. . . . .

              a mystery to me that this could be, but so it was that our children with less gave more and reveled in the giving, too

              • Those with less routinely give a greater proportion of what they have than those with more. The studies show it. Those who have a lot usually seem to think they earned most of it on their own, and are less willing to share it with those they believe have less because they haven’t worked for hard enough. The poor are more generous than the affluent.

  6. George W. Bush is responsible for the deaths of at least 200,000 innocent Iraqis. He also captured and blew frogs up as a child, which is an early and sinister symptom of you-know-what. He may indeed have been a true gentleman in his manners, since he was brought up in a mannerly family, but I’m not signing on to your definition of “true gentleman.” (His dad was closer to that definition, and I actually liked Barbara, though how she managed to close her eyes to that frog thing eludes me.)

    Are we all sure that God cares deeply about the Culture Wars? I think God is where he’s always been, with the person who does justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with him. That is, with the vast majority of good people, whether here or in Iran or Russia or anyplace else. People like this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/01/09/boy-asked-his-dad-help-homeless-now-father-son-take-them-out-lunch-each-week/

    helping people like this:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/opinion/sunday/deaths-despair-poverty.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

  7. Susan, are things any better, meaning less horrible, in Australia? I read that there’s rain there now, as many people have been praying for. Also, I’ve been heartened by the world-wide outpouring of sympathy and donations to that beautiful continent, and I hope they get to the right places quickly.

    How are you and your family?

  8. Why a fine series on a good book had to end with throwing the lightening rod of President Trump into the closing thoughts? When I see the name Mike Murphy cited in the article by the neo con David Brooks , the token supposedly conservative voice on the mainstream media I am wary. Mike Murphy spent 118 million dollars of PAC money for Jeb Bush and he got 4 votes in the Republican convention . M. Murphy got over 15 million dollars plus for this poor job as no one wanted his product (JEB). This loser ran several high profile Republican campaigns and they all lost. So of course he is the guy David Brooks ids with.
    Want a fore taste of what America is going to be like when all the terrible old white guys die off as many wish, look at California and New York City. Legal and illegal immigration coupled with the greed of the wealthy is changed the demographics and society/culture/politics of this nation. If you like where that took California and New York City then you are fine. At my age I am an observer now and will not see in the end of our culture but like Churchill , I am seeing not the end but the beginning of the end of western civilization influence on our society.
    Just for the record , as noted above, I have a fear that the powers that be will pull the trigger to damage the US economy before the election to hurry up the inevitable business cycle of correction and hail it as a recession. The super , super wealthy will take a short term hit but they will do it to get Trump. Can they do it before the election is my concern. Of course I am just a parasitic, old racist, anti woman, crazy Christian, anti immigrant , uniformed , deplorable, selfish and brainwashed old white guy who everyone is wishing death to ‘, so the new wave of globalist , true believers can take over and we have the feudal system they have in San Fran. Hang on progressives or whatever , you have won the war just a few more years Florida or Texas turn blue you will control all. Good luck So much for intelligent design as it related to current events.

    • “I am an observer now and will not see in the end of our culture but like Churchill , I am seeing not the end but the beginning of the end of western civilization influence on our society.”

      And that has ever been the fate of civilizations throughout history. The problem is, the Western Church has wedded herself to Western Civilization so much that the death of the latter feels like the death of the former. And many Christians seem far more concerned to preserve Western Civilization (or more like their privileges within it) than to help build what might replace it.

  9. Western civilization is built upon the ideas of the Greeks and Christianity. As Al Bundy would sing , you can’t have one without the other. Christians feel vested in western civilization because they are. Privileges are earned more than birth righted in our western civilization even though that is changing due to our neglect of history and events. I would say that western civilization wedded it self to Christianity in the beginning start with the Romans. When Rome fell we had the dark ages. Of course empires, civilizations nations all fail but it has a pronounced effect on history. Will China be a better single super power than the USA? I do not think so. Wish I could come back In about 70 years to see how it turns out. Events are moving faster than any other time in history. I feel fortunate to live on the crest of a wave of good fortune I do not deserve, but of course I am white and a male so it was super easy for me, I just had to show up

    • “Western civilization is built upon the ideas of the Greeks and Christianity.”

      And the Christian ideas have more often been honored in the breach than the observance. And every move in the direction of Christian and liberal influences has been fought tooth and nail by conservatives, and often Christians.

      “I would say that western civilization wedded it self to Christianity in the beginning start with the Romans.”

      And there have been plenty of Christian thinkers and traditions, then and since, that have considered that a tragedy and a devil’s bargain. I suspect they were correct.

    • “Progressive” versus “conservative” or “Western civilization” versus some other culture are nothing but false us-vs-them wars that people who do not know Christ and therefore have no higher purpose in their lives turn to as a way to find a counterfeit sense of belonging, purpose, and identity. If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, you should find your identity in God, not in the things that the secular culture around you worships.

  10. I’m old enough to remember the pre-political church when the business of Evangelical Christianity was to save souls not elect Republicans. These folks have made the ultimate mistake. They went for the short cut and sold their souls for access.

    But looking back there never really was a pre-political church. My parents voted for Nixon in 1960 precisely because Kennedy was a Catholic. But they wept with genuine grief when he was assassinated.

    Behind the seduction of the evangelical church by Trump is a real sense of nihilism and despair. Imagine how desperate you have to be for Trump to be your answer. Even when he’s gone and whatever comes after a whole portion of the people of this country will feel alienated and isolated. Nothing good can come of this.

  11. The voters now described by some as deplorables, in the states of N.C. S.C Ga La and Texas voted on issues over their religion it seems, they all voted for Kennedy unlike your parents and many who voted on religion. Is it possible that the Trump evangelicals are voting on issues like the above states did in 1960 and not religion? Also in 1960 election the former KKK leader and Democrat leader got 15 electoral votes from Mississippi and Alabama as they voted race over issues. Seems like the evangelical voters in 2012 voted for the Mormon so religion was not a factor then but it is now. Just an observation. I was desperate I voted for McCain and Romney and am now glad President Obama won.

  12. “as boomers continue to do the world a favor by dying off”

    I guess that’s meant as humor? My parents are boomers so it’s hard for me to get the joke, I guess.

    • Christiane says

      I AM a very young ‘boomer’ married to a real boomer . . . realistically, we are ‘organizing’ our stuff and giving away the no-longer-needed possessions, or donating them to the children’s hospital thrift shop. We are organizing our files so our son can make heads or tails out of things when we both kick the bucket . . . AND we are also planning to see an accountant/lawyer to be sure our son gets every tax consideration we can arrange legally and that our deeds and wills are in good order also . . . it’s a lot of work, this, but it’s good work

      if people think ‘boomers’ are the problem with trump, nope . . . not us . . . we protested the war in Viet Nam, we got shot at on college campuses, we pioneered weed use when it wasn’t legal and got in trouble for that (not all of us, of course . . . I myself never inhaled ) 🙂

      most of us are ‘dinosaurs’ who can’t keep up with technology very well, so that’s a problem, sure
      and our carbon footprints are too big to imagine, we admit
      but if we can make it to November 2020, and vote, THEN we still have some good work left to do in this world 🙂

      Let’s hear it for the notorious RBG . . . may she live forever !

  13. Wow, some serious mean-spirited snark today from a bunch of folks!

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