Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tyler Cowen's feelings are hurt

Catalonia wants to secede
He taught me Ph.d Micro I at Harvard, so it’s too bad he wants to wreck both Spain and Europe, and for so little in return. Didn’t one of his theorems suggest this was a bad idea? It’s not as if Catalonia is treated like Tibet. (Haven’t I spent a few nice days walking around Barcelona in my time? Didn’t Air Genius Gary Leff get a decent meal at El Bulli? Didn’t they once make a young people’s movie about the place in which no one has to do any work?) Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about? How easily does he think negotiations for separation can go, especially with entire eurozone deals at stake and a Spanish history of sending in troops? He mentions that the territory is subjected to «humillación constante» de España. Maybe he’s been misquoted, but from what I see I take this as a paradigm example of how a really smart person can be taken in by rather primitive tribal arguments.

The discussion in the comments is surprisingly rational, with no shortage of people pointing out that maybe culture and language matter more to people than the mathematical models of rootless cosmopolitan economists. Nobody's even used the "R" word yet; contrast that with what you hear when secession is raised in the US.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Church and Nationality

From Energetic Procession.

The problem:
The present situation in the UK and the US, as well as other places outside the established regions of Orthodox Churches, is rather complicated. The long established local religious communities in these places are heterodox and as such are not in unity with the Catholic Church, that is the Orthodox Churches in communion the Patriarch of Constantinople. Thus, the Orthodox emigrants to the UK or to the US did not have preexisting places of worship nor local hierarchy to establish such places. These had to be provided from their home regions. Sadly, due to lack of coordination between Orthodox Patriarchs, we have the situation of a number of hierarchs establishing churches for immigrants in the UK and the US. This situation has led to a neglect of the territorial definition of churches and to definition along national/ethnic categories, which is contrary to the teaching of Christ. We need to repent of this. It is suggested that the only way forward is to appoint and recognise a local territorially defined hierarchal structure for the UK or US with its own synod, although overseen by one of the present Patriarchs. Also, this hierarchy must attempt to convert the heterodox back to Orthodoxy and allow the local peoples to take ownership of the church within their own territory.

The solution:
The use of vestments could be helpful to distinguish the hierarchy of the UK or the US from the hierarchies elsewhere. This is not in order to separate them but to highlight that the churches in the UK and the US are not part of other national churches, although most members within the churches in the UK and the US may be descended from these other nations. The churches in the UK and US should be seen as local churches in their own right. A distinction of vestments helps to provide visual recognition of this local hierarchy and to break it from being considered part of a nationally defined group. Yet, in terms of being orthodox, the vestments need to be consistent with the traditional form of vestments used through the history of the Church.

To enable the choice of vestments, even though most religious groups in the UK and the US are heterodox, some of their heritage comes from an orthodox background and maintains orthodox standards manifested in the cultural context of the UK and the US. It would be wise for the orthodox hierarchy not to impose an exterior manner of dress upon the UK and the US but rather to take what is already within that region consistent with Orthodox Tradition and establish it for use of orthodox Christians in that region. This would allow the local peoples to have greater identity and ownership of the church in their territory, rather than the church arriving as a foreign institution imposing its own national cultures as well as bringing orthodox Tradition. While it is important that each region or nation is established in the international community and participates in customs that are required for relationships across this international community, otherwise the local community becomes isolated and estranged, at the same time each region or nation should participate without losing the diversity of its own customs, where these do not go contrary to the international community. In orthodox terms the common customs of the international community are given in Holy Tradition, which is the common way of life in Christ as Christ that unites us with Christ, yet the regional customs are maintained that of self-rule in synergy with Christ as maintaining God’s image as man with the ability to govern. This governance is expressed in the diversity of customs within Tradition. For one national church to impose in entirety of its customs on another nation is to undermine and deny the self-rule of that nation thus denying the image of God in its people and the synergy of the relationship of God and man in deification.

Unfortunately, we are well beyond the point where distinctive vestments will make much difference. The Orthodox Western Rite is one attempt at a way forward, but has been problematic so far. We are a long, long way down the road from the pre-schism Church in the West. It is probably futile to try and fumble our way back at this point.

The root of the problem is that the UK and US no longer really have a national ethnic identity or traditional customs to offer a missionary Church. To the extent any vestigial expressions of ethnic identity and culture remain, they are condemned and actively deconstructed as racist relics. This is hardly just the fault of the immigrants. They are what they are, and there is much not to like of modern, heterodox Anglo culture. It can also be said that this is the Anglo's universalist, protestant creed coming back to bite them. Having abandoned local, organic culture for globalism and universal democracy, the Anglo's cannot now be heard to complain when the rest of the world takes them up on their offers. A dysfunctional people who can't reproduce themselves will be replaced.

Thus, the UK and US now find themselves as headquarters of global trade and finance even as their founding stock are increasingly strangers in their own lands. The adaptive strategy of their intelligentsia has been to embrace this highly mobile, progressivist worldview and they are doing extremely well by it; their less-talented countrymen, not so much.

Historically, the autocephalous Churches evolved from their missionary status to national institutions wedded to their cultures through an inter-generational procession of grandparents, parents, children and extended family with no conception of the Church as anything but Orthodox faith and praxis. A country of present-centered nuclear families (and single moms) where "church" is just a matter of denominational preference is awfully thin soil. (Matthew 13:5-6).

There is no Divine mandate by which the Church will be established at any particular place. If the Anglosphere (or the Middle East) ultimately rejects the Church, she will shake the dust off her feet and depart, and God will judge. (Matthew 10:13-15).

P.S. The linked thread includes a very interesting comment about immigration from an Athonite monk, Patrick. National identity is weighing on a lot of people's minds in a lot of different spheres these days.

Monk Patrick's biography:
A hierodeacon of the Orthodox Church in New Zealand (Ecumenical Patriarchate) presently living on Mt Athos gaining some experience living the theology of Sts. Maximus the Confessor and St Gregory Palamas before returning to serve in New Zealand. Also, presently completing a Master’s degree in Theology (Orthodox Studies) at the University of Wales (Lampeter) with Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, who previously studied with Fr Andrew Louth. A member of the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, England and spiritual child of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Previous academic qualifications are degrees in Mathematics and Law from New Zealand. A convert in 1996 from an evangelical protestant background with earlier experience in charismatic/pentecostal churches.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Episcopal transformation

Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of South Carolina, from Titus OneNine, via Ad Orientem.

The US Episcopal church has apparently deposed the bishop of South Carolina in its crusade to scour all conservative Christian theology from its aging, ex-hippy ranks and complete its transformation into a unitarian book club. I no longer have a dog in the fight, other than academic curiosity about what might have been had +Rowan decided to act like an actual Archbishop and tell the US church it was no longer welcome at Lambeth.

In the Orthodox Church there would of course be no question: the locks would be changed and the dissenters would be out the door, never to be heard from again. But the US Episcopalians never had a 'national' church. The diocesan bishops were the ultimate hierarchs, and elected one of their membership to preside. There is no equivalent "metropolitan" or "archbishop" in the US denomination. Following the trajectory of most human organizations, the national representative bodies sloppily passed a sloppily drafted canon purporting to acquire title to all Episcopal parishes. Several state courts, with their constitutional wariness about getting involved in church fights, have upheld the canon against their own property laws. Sad, but inevitable from the moment Henry VIII left Rome. Apostasy begets apostasy.

The reaction of many conservatives has been to restyle themselves as "Anglicans." ("Episcopal" was the term the US church came up with after after the American Revolution.) Historically, the "Anglican" Church simply meant the church of the English nation. As modern Americans (and the English themselves) now recoil in horror from the idea of an ethnic church, they have detached the term from its organic roots, and are crafting a new doctrine for the purpose of binding their communion and calling it "Anglicanism."

Unfortunately, the conservatives will find this a slender reed. Is there a checklist of beliefs? Is it dogmatic? What is their ecclesiology? In a few years, I expect they will see the schismatic process play out again, with differences over female clerics, Eucharist with non-Anglicans, marriage and divorce, Anglo-Catholic beliefs and other issues.

What's really happening in Syria

The second Mohammedan conquest, from the LRC blog.

The New York Times has finally reported what many watching the Syria insurgency have noticed all along: US-facilitated weapons shipments are ending up in the hands of radical jihadists. Of course while getting those facts right, the NYT, blinded as it is by ideology, gets the conclusion wrong. The Times has for some time been pushing the line that the US must act fast militarily in Syria lest the mythical "people's uprising" be hikacked by radicals. In short, they have been — surprise — distorting facts to propagandize for war. The NYT line is that US "inaction" on Syria is leading to the radicalization of the rebels. Earlier this month the Times reported/opined that:

"Many Saudi and Qatari officials now fear that the fighting in Syria is awakening deep sectarian animosities and, barring such intervention, could turn into an uncontrollable popular jihad with consequences far more threatening to Arab governments than the Afghan war of the 1980s."

Now we get the news from the Times that:

"'The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,' said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry."

Then the Times pushes its propagandistic conclusion to color the facts according to its own ideology:

"That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments...casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States." (emphasis added)

Ah yes, the fault is all with the "minimal and indirect" intervention of the US in the conflict. Surely a Libya-type operation would already be reaping US foreign policy the same kinds of rewards we are getting in Libya!

So what is the truth? The truth is hard to swallow for the propagandizing media and the propagandized public: Assad was telling the truth when he told Barbara Walters in an interview earlier this year:

“Not everybody in the street was fighting for freedom. You have different components, you have extremists, religious people of Al Qaeda... [F]rom the very first few weeks we had those terrorists they are getting more and more aggressive, they have been killing. We have 1,000– over 1,100 soldiers and policeman killed, who killed them? peaceful demonstrators? This is not logical.”

Of course no one wanted to listen to him because he, like Saddam, Milosevic, Gaddafi, etc before him, had been branded a "madman" in the media. Who could listen to a madman? Who could possibly negotiate with a madman? They only understand one thing, force. We have all heard this interventionist neo-con garbage for decades but for some reason it still seems to work.

Likewise, Mother Agnes Miriam of the Cross, a Melkite Greek Catholic nun, was telling the truth earlier this summer when she told the Irish Times that the rebels were targeting Christians in Syria. She continued:
“The West and Gulf states must not give finance to armed insurrectionists who are sectarian terrorists, most of whom are from al-Qaeda, according to a report presented to the German parliament. ... They bring terror, destruction, fear and nobody protects the civilians. [There were] very few Syrians among the rebels. ...Mercenaries should go home.”
The reason that the weapons being funneled to the Syrian rebels are ending up in the hands of radical Islamists is because the rebels are radical Islamists. The founder of Doctors Without Borders noticed it after working with the wounded in Syria. German intelligence noticed it after an investigation suggested that up to 95 percent of the Syrian rebels are not Syrian.

It is a myth that the initial peaceful protests only turned violent reluctantly after they were met with force by the regime. In fact we see plans early on to turn events in Syria toward regime change. We saw it early in the 1996 US neo-conservative "Clean Break" study for then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, which urged him to "contain, destabilize, and roll-back" Syria and other countries in the region. We saw it more recently in numerous influential think tank studies like that of Brookings' Saban Center's oft-cited report early this year tellingly titled, "Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change." Like the authors of the "Clean Break" paper, the Saban Center is heavily neo-conservative and pro-Likud.

In conclusion, here is the really bad news: As the US Syria policy falls apart, there is increasing danger that the built up tension in the region — particularly the disastrous decision of the Turkish government to support the rebels in Syria — is leading to a wider conflict that threatens to spin out of control. Turkey and Armenia are at each others throats, Armenia and Azerbaijan are preparing for war, Iraq warily watches chaos on its borders, Russia is installing its next-generation S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in its southern military region near Turkey, and so on. Backed into a corner by a failed policy, the US as usual is doubling down on a bad bet, feeding Turkey bogus intelligence about chimeral arms shipments aboard Syrian passenger planes carrying Russian passengers, etc. Rebel mortars lobbed into Turkey give a desperate Erdogan government the pretext it needs to establish a buffer zone in Syria and hope for NATO reinforcements, which are not coming. French observer Thierry Meyssan writes that "Turkey [is] on the verge of a nervous breakdown" after NATO "packs it in" on Syria.
[Links at original post.]

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Reap the whirlwind

Feminism is a cudgel wielded with great success by women in the upper percentiles of intelligence and/or attractiveness. It gets them access to upper percentile men or creates sinecures which would otherwise not exist in a viable society. Less intelligent and/or less attractive women--don't try this at home.

Exhibit A: Monica Lewinsky

Let's go down the punch list: somewhat attractive, check; somewhat intelligent, check; tony-sounding degree, check; liberal politics, check; public sinecure, check; access to powerful men, check; high standards (The President! Peer-group males? Don't TOUCH me, you misogynist creep!), check; unbridled sexuality, check.

Today, she's a fat, broke 40-year old living with mom. There's hopeful talk of $12M (Obama-level bucks--she needs to scale back her expectations) for a book from an obese middle-aged woman about what it was like to have sex with Bill Clinton. (Among other shortcomings, aging feminists don't understand human psychology). Net out taxes, debts and a Manhattan-lifestyle from a more realistic $3 million (do publishers pay even that kind of money anymore?) and don't plan on retiring just yet.

Steve Sailer posts about the fruits of female empowerment in other settings here. There's also the morbid account of the elderly, bipolar feminist Shulamith Firestone here.

The Prime Directive of feminism is, of course, reproductive choice, about which I've commented before. In practice, reproductive choice empowers women to have unbridled sex with dangerous, attractive strangers who make terrible husbands and fathers. Read the 2008 account of Katie Piper, one of the Daily Mail's recipients of their Inspirational Women Award here. You can read more about Katie Piper's hook-up with an exotic lover here. Again, feminism is not a good tactic when wielded by the less intelligent.

Scale back from these outliers to millions of less dramatic personal tragedies. We are going to reap the whirlwind from feminism.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Meanwhile, back in Antioch

(Actually, the See resides in Damascus, and the Synod usually meets in Beirut, which is what my mother Church did this week.)

From Notes On Arab Orthodoxy:

The Holy Synod of Antioch began the work of its 49th regular session at the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, October 2-4, 2012. His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius addressed a word to the metropolitans present in which he stressed the importance of the Christian witness in our countries and the world and the effort to strengthen the Christian presence in them in the face of the challenges facing the children of the Church in their countries.


The Christians of the Middle East are children of this region, which is the cradle of Christianity. They have given the Catholic Church some of her most important Fathers and teachers. Their history is a testimony to their openness and engagement in public life and they have enriched Arab civilization through their scientific, intellectual, and literary efforts. Middle-Eastern Christians, the children of various Christian churches, are called to commit themselves to the issues of humanity and of their countries, with faith in the teachings of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church. The Antiochian Orthodox Church, which is rooted in the Arab East, must play a leading role in revealing the authentic face of Christianity, which serves humanity without regard to ethnicity or religion.

The fathers see the increase in emigration, especially among the youth, to the countries of the diaspora as a danger that threatens the active Christian presence in our societies. For this reason they see it necessesary to invest in endowments and to support Church institutions for growing service to the faithful in order to solidify their existence in their homelands and to ensure the bases for their remaining in the countries in which God called us to bear witness.

Christians are leaving the lands which birthed the Faith, ahead of the second Mohammedan conquest. These issues have been building for decades and the Antiochian hierarchy now take their heads out of the sand long enough to call for what should have been done years ago. The Church did nothing to prepare her communities for what inevitably had to come, and the communities themselves remained in denial and decided to stop having children. Turkey wants Assad gone as do the peninsular Arabs, who want the Christians dispersed and the Shia in cemeteries. And oil-hungry US/NATO will lead the cheering section. The isolation of the Middle Eastern Christians is terribly apparent. Spengler at Asia Times suggests they move to Israel.

Syrian and Lebanese Christians seem to have assumed they could just bob along in the current of pan-Arab nationalism during the salad days of secular rule. (One of the founders of the Ba'athist movement, Michel Aflaq, was an Orthodox Christian.) Now that it turns out pan-Arab nationalism really means Peninsular Arab (i.e., Sunni) nationalism, we hear the pleas for organization, political engagement, staying put, don't-offend-anybody, etc.

A tragic situation--God protect His faithful in the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bubble theology

Commenter Ingemar shared some thoughts via e-mail on Church growth. The historic cycle of artificial expansion of national economies and their subsequent busts strikes him as similar to historic booms and busts in Church growth. All Christians enjoy the peak times of State imprimatur and social peace, but the troughs of persecution and civil unrest are the crucibles for our Saints and sharpen our focus on our spiritual center. State sponsorship and economic prosperity, it strikes Ingemar, operate in the Church the same way as the central bank's artificial savings, displacing the organic 'savings' of Christ-centered spirituality and faithful praxis.

The US Protestant church presents the clearest example of this, with its mega-churches, evangelists in Lear jets, and rock-concert 'worship' services. Protestantism, like a bubble economy, seemingly thrives on an artificial and ultimately negative energy. Its entire history is of groups splintering off to practice their 'pure' Christianity, the accretion into a rival institution that enjoys great success, which then spawns a generation of dissenters who splinter off in their turn. This is the negative energy of decomposition, as each successive group follows the same pattern. Protestantism, as others have put it, is schismism. And now we have the absurd and logical conclusion of this process with the home church movement and messianic judaism. Words fail me.

'Growth' has a lot of appeal to US Orthodox, an understandable reaction to strained parish budgets, financially struggling clergy, and remote bishops unable to tend their flocks.

Orthodoxy in America enjoys the luxury of religious tolerance and economic good times but we are soft, like all other nominal Christians in the US. I don't know the numbers, but I doubt a majority of the children of converts (the only new growth at this point) are staying. To the larger American population, Orthodoxy remains one particularly idiosyncratic option among many. God forbid, we disappear in the next few generations.

A big part of the problem is that Orthodoxy is so alien to the entire American outlook. A highly mobile, progressivist and propositional people are frankly repulsed by the idea of a geographically-based Church with an ecclesiology which deliberately retards change.

Discussion of growth in Orthodoxy must begin from an understanding of how the Church grew historically. Missionary Churches slowly built through first, then second, then third generations of families who, past a certain point, knew no other 'church.' To a Greek or Russian of that era, the question would simply never have entered their minds. No matter what scandals or power struggles or the congregants' own sporadic attendance, when you "went to church," you went to The Church. The institution was inextricably intertwined with your locale, family history and your larger ethnicity and culture. At that point, you declared autocephaly and joined the universal family of the Church Militant. How does such a process even get started in a society like the US? And did I mention the jurisdictional issues? Best not.

The Church in America is only just now moving from her diaspora phase to her missionary phase, notwithstanding the OCA's press releases and Antiochian declarations of 'self-rule.' It will take a critical mass of successive grandparents, parents and children, baptized, married and buried, who do not think of the Church as anything other than their local Orthodox diocese before we can honestly regard ourselves as a viable, non-missionary Church.

Then we can talk about growth.