Monday, April 30, 2007

Back At Scratch

Well, I drew a lot more attention with my little outburst the other day than I normally do ... Always the way with the stuff you put the least amount of thought into, I guess.

Jay Currie thought it worthy of note--and I get the impression there was a lot of avuncular chuckling at my expense from him as he did so--and so did Michael at Hogtown Front. Kevin Grace thought my tantrum surpassed only by Frank Middlemass in his exquisitely spluttering performance as Sir Charles Lyndon in that redoubtable cinematic tome, Barry Lyndon. Which pleased me very much as comparisons go, though I think he was being too generous.

In any case, I stand by my words. Well, by their gist anyway; the words themselves aren't worth quite so much. And while it's all very depressing, it's only made me the more driven to find something like a strain of real conservatism (so neither neocon nor pseudocon) that might still exist in the Western consciousness, that I might cling onto it until such time as my various other consolations have poisoned me into release.

Here's a beginning. Taken from the aforementioned Kevin Grace's archive: an admirable review (by KMG, if that isn't clear) of Roger Scruton's even more admirable book The West and the Rest, which I've just finished reading myself. (I include Kevin's preamble to the piece--originally printed in The Report--as I think it particularly fine and succinct.)
... Yes, I believe there exists a "clash of civilizations," that the Muslim world constitutes a grave threat to the West in general and to Canada in particular—and that strong, perhaps even Draconian, measures are necessary to protect us from this threat. But I also believe that informed self-interest, in preference to mere jingoism and chauvinism, is necessary if we are to prevail. Knowledge, not mere prejudice, is essential to the restoration of civilization and to ensure the West remains something worth fighting to preserve.

The preceding is an introduction to my review of Roger Scruton’s book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terror Threat, which appeared originally in the September 23, 2002, issue of The Report.

When George W. Bush was asked to name the philosopher "who has most influenced his life," he responded, "Christ, because he changed my heart." This puzzling remark is even more so after reading Roger Scruton. For it is exactly the type of remark a Muslim would make—without any possible cynical calculations.

Scruton is twice rare. First, because he is one of the few philosophers anyone outside the academy is likely to have heard of. Second, because he argues as if truth exists. (He quotes Nietzsche, "There are no truths, only interpretations," and comments, "Now, either what Nietzsche said is true—in which case it is not true, since there are no truths—or it is false.")

The West and the Rest is a short book (just over 40,000 words) but an invaluable one. Scruton is surely correct that a sane response to the events of September 11, 2001, is possible only if the West understands Islam and how Islam understands the West. Indeed, possible only if the West understands itself, not as it would like to be seen but as it really is.

As Scruton demonstrates, the worldview of Muslims is radically different from our own. If a Muslim were asked which political philosophy most influenced him, he would reply, "The Koran." Why? "Because there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet," he would explain. (When Bush was asked why, he responded, "Well, if they don't know, it's going to be hard to explain.") To Muslims, there are no independent politics outside religion. Everything one needs to know about governance (and everything else) is contained within the Koran and its commentaries. To Muslims, religion is the world—all of it.

The West separates Church and State, a decision Scruton traces to the pronouncement of Jesus Christ, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Later,

This Christian approach was developed by St. Augustine in The City of God and endorsed by the fifth-century Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory, which imposed the duty of civil obedience on the clergy. The fifth-century Pope Gelasius I made the separation of church and state into doctrinal orthodoxy, arguing that God granted "two swords" for earthly government: that of the Church for the government of men's souls, and that of the imperial power for the regulation of temporal affairs.

Politics, and its modern concomitant, the nation-state, are almost wholly illegitimate in the Muslim world. The only Muslim polity that has managed to create a nation-state (the polity Scruton views as the best guarantor of order, liberty and toleration, both domestic and foreign) is Turkey, and Turkey's secularism is purchased at the cost of continual, ruthless suppression and "sever[ance] from its past and its classical culture by social and linguistic reforms that have made the traditional literature of the country unreadable to all except the specialist scholar."

Perhaps worse still,

In the ensuing search for a modern identity, [Turkey's] young people are repeatedly attracted to radical and destabilizing ideologies, both Islamist and utopian.

The conditions for democracy simply do not exist in the Muslim world.. Scruton would doubtless agree with Henry Kissinger that President Bush and his neoconservative allies had better think long and hard about the long-term consequences of "regime change" in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. And while Scruton has great sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, he is honest enough to admit that a Palestinian state would be a contradiction in terms and that Yasser Arafat, even as president (dictator, of course) of such a state, could not be expected to stop terrorist attacks on Israel, even if he wanted to.

Brutal politics are just one of the aspects of the Muslim world that we in the West find repellent, but Scruton points out that there are many aspects to be commended. Many aspects of the same stone, one might say. Lex orandi, lex credendi—how we pray is what we believe—and the world of Islam is a world of believers bound by frequent prayer. This submission to the will of God imparts to Muslims a confidence and a sense of community that have almost disappeared in the West.

Western society, Scruton contends, has become bleakly contractual. The ideals of the Enlightenment have been perverted, resulting in a destruction of community and a "culture of negation." Westerners pray not to God but worship instead the Moloch of consumerism. The West's loyalty to the nation-state is attenuated by immigration, multiculturalism and by globalism, which, in turn, breed vipers in its own bosom and foists on Islam what it so scathingly derides as the "Great Satan."

In this month of September 2002, one year after the conflagrations that announced The Return of History, we in the West will drown in a sea of pious pronouncements about "what we are fighting for" in this "war against terrorism."

"Politicians," Scruton reminds us, "will always say freedom." He issues a stern warning.

Taken by itself, freedom means the emancipation from constraints, including those constraints that might be needed if a civilization is to endure. If all that Western civilization offers is freedom, then it is a civilization bent on its own destruction. Moreover, freedom flaunted in the face of religious prohibitions is an act of aggression, inviting retribution from those whose piety it offends.

The West and the Rest is an essential book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's Official: They're Liberals! Paul Martin Liberals!

"I'm not sure the government understood what it just voted," said New Democrat MP Paul Dewar.
Oh yes it bloody did!

I'd just like to make it clear now why I won't be voting Conservative next election. It will not, I repeat not, be because they've gone green--in spite of how utterly ridiculous, for just about every conceivable reason, that move was. It will be, rather, because John Baird had the gonads to say this:
I mean, we can debate language till the cows come home. I think what Canadians want to see is they want to see a plan that sees greenhouse gases go down, not up. And that's what our plan will speak to.
That is, I will not be voting Conservative in the next election because John Baird and Stephen Harper think I'm either so goddamn stupid, or so goddamned unprincipled, that I will allow myself to be persuaded that a transparently cynical and manipulative lie is something other than
a transparently cynical and manipulative lie ... I mean, what? Am I supposed to be impressed by their willingness to fight fire with fire? By their adeptness with the tools of realpolitik? For God's sake, you assholes, this is precisely the kind of contumely that saw the last government into its current, richly deserved, state!

A pox on you weasels! You've cuckolded me and everyone else who ever hoped you might be even a shade bit better than your predecessors.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Patricia Hewitt: Long Life and Munchies, Dudes!

British Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has let it be known that she experimented with cannabis when she was a student.

That's the same Patricia Hewitt who, a couple of weeks ago, deplored (her word) Leading Seaman Faye Turney's smoking a cigarette on the front pages of so many of the world's newspapers.

Did I hear you mumble fucking ridiculous under your breath just now? Yes? Well, tut! There's no call for that kind of language here. Anyway, the fault is assuredly yours if you were under the impression that Ms. Hewitt's recriminations re. Seaman Turney sprang from a desire to improve the physical health of Britons. She herself explained at the time that it was the sight of someone smoking a licit substance in full view of the public that "sends completely the wrong message to our young people." ... That is (if you're still not getting it): it wasn't the abuse of health that raised her ire so much as it was the spectacle of someone daring to indulge in behaviour that is protected by law--doing so, moreover, in front of impressionable young citizens at very serious risk of coming to believe that they too are so entitled.

Which explains this most recent PR counteroffensive. How, after all, can a government as committed to the suppression of freedom as New Labour is, ever succeed in its enterprise (of suppressing freedom, I mean) if it maintains that it is good to do lawful things, and bad to do unlawful things? Imagine the chaos of sheer bureaucratic idleness that would follow if it did!

... The pièce de résistance?
I tried cannabis once when I was a student. It didn't do anything for me and I never tried it again.
The suggestion being, you realize, that if it did do something for her, than matters might stand differently . Oh! how the dedicated pot-head must be cursing his ill-fortune that the British government cannot attribute to its prodigious, super-human authority Mary Jane's keening influence!

But still: it's a conspiracy, so don't be fooled. There is only one explanation for New Labour's being able to recognize as Truth what all the rest of us poor plodders see only as tyrannical lunacy. Weed. Lots of it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Proper Hitchens On the First Fruits of the Progressive Harvest

I try not to laugh at the pathetic story of our captured seapersons, who take iPods on active service and seem to think that having your neck flicked is torture.

I do not want to join the mocking chorus because millions of the people who now sneer at them are just like them.

Where did these round-eyed, helpless victims come from? They came from the schools everybody says are fine, they passed the exams that authority insists have not been diluted.

They watched our TV and learned that the highest and only virtue was celebrity, while a big-money prize was the only reward worth seeking. They knew nothing of the world and nothing of the past.

Theirs is the Britain that heaped up mountains of flowers for Diana Spencer. Theirs is the world that believes children should be neglected for most of the time by their parents, then sentimentally indulged.

Theirs is the world where discipline is condemned as abuse, tradition mocked as outdated, courage and stoicism impossible to understand and therefore impossible to perform.

Theirs is the world that says there is no difference between men and women, and tries to prove it by making men become like women.

And now we see these poor betrayed creatures stumbling up against real life, with no idea what to do when it bursts in upon them. They are us.

If we jeer at them, we jeer at ourselves, at the New Britain we have made, either deliberately or because we did not – and do not – care enough to do anything to stop it.

Not so funny, I think.

Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday, April 15th 2007)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Clearcut the Infidel!

I don't deny it ... It's a pretty unimaginative bit of graphic.

But Kevin Potvin--perhaps the most absurd figure in a long long time to appear even on the fringes of mainstream politics--has made it as near as dammit to impossible not to use it.

To wit (via Small Dead Animals):
When we fight to remove Coke machines from our elementary schools, to filter pornographic web sites from our public library computers, to restrict admittance to excessively violent films in our theatres, and to ban cigarette and alcohol advertising from cultural and public events, we are totally of like mind and purpose with the core of Islamist terrorist cells. We fight a common enemy: the cultural products of irresponsible corporations.
... I mean!

(As with the brilliant--but terribly under-appreciated--Co2diak "Reduced Carbon Footprint" Boots ad, this needs to be clicked on for the proper effect. Notice that the swastika appears in autumnal relief, apparently naturally, against the other trees. Imagine that!)

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

Okay. So the federal Liberals take the line that the federal Conservatives are climate change deniers who are only paying a lip-service to "the science" in a cynical bid to get votes. I get that. But now, apparently, the provincial Liberals have teamed up with Buzz Hargrove and his Merry Proletarians to harangue the federal government for "the insanity of this environmental movement"; they have vowed to employ "strategic voting" to avoid the catastrophe of a green-compliant Conservative majority.


(I hope, Buzz, that's the "strategic voting" of staying home on election day, recognizing that there isn't a single political organization in this country that doesn't have a vested political interest in promising to put you and all your buddies on the dole queue ASAP.)

Oh! And Howard Hampton somehow manages to balance outrage at the province's unwillingness to meet Kyoto standards with outrage at the laying off of 240 brake parts workers in Sudbury because the jobs were outsourced to, yeah you guessed it, Kyoto-immune China. (H/T The London Fog)

God damn! Has deception's web ever gotten itself so tangled so quickly? And so conspicuously? I mean, can it be possible that citizens still think that their public servants are offering them something other than Hareng Rouge sautéed in a thin treacle sauce?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From: The Correspondence of Snook (The Elder)

To Cough O'Hoone, Esq.

Dearest Cough,

I was very glad to have your letter and to hear of young Fat's progress. He'll make a fine doctor, to be sure, and you and Mrs. O'Hoone should be very proud. Indeed, I think that once and for all we've seen that theory of yours disproved--the one about names determining character, I mean. Not only is Fat reasonably thin, he is also literate, fetching in tweeds, and neither sweats nor blushes unduly. He is, it turns out, the very soul of what twits call a well-adjusted young man. So I say: good on him, and you owe me twenty bucks.

Regarding your concern of the lack of Canadian poets lo these last forty years, I think I might be able to shed some light on this.

I know three men all professing to be poets; all under a strong impression that, if they haven't already, they will very soon fill the poet-sized hole in the Canadian cultural landscape. Being fairly evenly distributed across the vast wastes of this country, none of them knows each other (nor, indeed, has any of them even heard of one another), so it is a curious and telling coincidence that they all have this in common: a dog named Carlo.

No, I am not joking. They each own a dog, and they each, quite independently of one another, decided to name it after E.J. Pratt's one-time canine muse.

None of the beasts are Newfoundlanders, of course, as was their namesake. And they are all of differing temperaments (none bearing the least resemblance to the original either). But the outstanding fact remains that their masters were in equal parts so deficient of imagination that they couldn't even outdo one another for derivativeness ... And these are the men that curse you and me and the rest of the Canadian public for our tin ears and our lack of culture! ( ... That an equal share of the same thin slice of mediocrity has become the due of all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should perhaps give us pause here. Mightn't three mongrel lapdogs named Carlo be the quintessence of poetic expression in contemporary Canada? ... Food for thought, anyway. Or squeaky synthetic squeeze toys for thought.)

What is even more telling is that none of these would-be poets even likes E.J. Pratt. He is apparently (and to use their common phrase) "too colonial." Their collective nod to the man, you see, is then supposed to be a type of very clever joke ... One assumes that they like to kick their Carlos, too, and lock them in the toilet (with the delicious guest soaps and the potpourri) for hours on end whenever the poor creatures happen to give voice.

Now, I don't suppose that every single aspiring poet in the country suffers in exactly the same way as this--trying to disguise a complete lack of ability with this petulant, sitcom-variety irony--but, I think, there is something instructive to be gleaned from the examples of my poet friends. For while it is tempting to blame the apparent non-existence of true poetic temperaments in this country on the stultifying effects, say, of bits of bureaucratic banality like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms--to which, I've noticed, self-styled "poets" are particularly susceptible--it seems to me that, in the end, this is more of an academic problem than an existential one.

What Canadian poets want to realize is that their inspiration should be drawn from archetypes. Rather, that is, from simulacra. Which is to say: if I were poetically minded, and the tyrannical Mrs. Snook allowed me to have a dog--rather than that Nero in cat's clothing, Thomas, that currently fills the role of pet chez Snook--I should name it Argus. After Odysseus's unerringly devoted lookout, who died contentedly upon his dungpile having finally caught sight of his master after twenty long years of waiting. Or, indeed--if the beast bore no resemblance of temperament to that Dog of Dogs--I should simply name him Pete, or Phil, and look to a Rocky Mountain sunset for my inspiration. Leave off dogs altogether.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Melanie Phillips On the Democratic Impulse to Undo Democracy

The Human Rights Convention was originally conceived in another era ... Drafted in the wake of World War II, it was an attempt to lay down a set of principles to ensure that totalitarianism would never deface Europe again. It has now mutated into something very different. Far from protecting European civilization, it has turned into its potential nemesis.

In the shadow of fascism and Stalinism, its original aim was to protect the individual from the state. But in the half-century that has since elapsed, the relationship between the individual and the state has fundamentally changed. The emergence of a culture of hyper-individualism gave rise to a radical egalitarianism of lifestyles and values. Morality was privatized, and all constraints of religion, tradition or cultural taboos came to be seen as an attack on personal autonomy.

Where previously ties of obligation had bound individuals to each other and to the state, the new culture of entitlement imposed instead an obligation on the state to deliver individual demands that were presented as rights. Since radical egalitarianism meant that all lifestyles were of equal value, the very notion of a majority culture or normative rules of behaviour became suspect as innately exclusive, prejudiced or oppressive. Moral judgements between different lifestyles or behaviour became discrimination; and prejudice, the term for discrimination between lifestyles, became the sin that obviated the moral codes at the heart of Judaism and Christianity, which had formed the bedrock of Western civilization.

All minorities thus became a victim class to be championed. The nation itself became suspect, since it was the embodiment of a majority identity that by definition treated minorities as lower in the cultural hierarchy. So the idea of a nation that represents and protects individual citizens on the basis that they all subscribe equally to an overarching identity and set of values came to be replaced as the key political driver by interest groups defined by race, religion, ethnicity, gender or other existential categories.

The values of the dominant culture thus had to be replaced by the perspectives of the self-designated victim groups. Democracy became effectively redefined from majority rule among equal citizens to power-sharing among ethnic and other interest groups. Multiculturalism became the orthodoxy of the day, along with nonjudgementalism and lifestyle choice. The only taboo now was the expression of normative majority values such as monogamy, heterosexuality, Christianity or Britishness. Because these were rooted in the particular, they were by definition discriminatory. The only legitimate values were now universal, detached from particulars such as religion, tradition or nation.

Melanie Phillips Londonistan

Monday, April 09, 2007

Breaking Faith

The Toronto Star is up to its old tricks, I see.

Michael D. Wallace, professor of political science at UBC, has got his state-laundered diaper in a bunch because Canadians are under the impression that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was a definitive national accomplishment. He says:
Canadians did not fight in "the Great War" for anyone's "freedom." We fought because we were part of the British Empire, wherein only the white, English-speaking minority was free.
Oh dear, oh dear. Is this what modern scholarship has been reduced to? An unambiguous assertion that the institution of slavery existed in the British empire well into the twentieth century?

Ignore how utterly stupid and ahistorical this is; can anybody explain to me how it comes to bear even in the slightest on the fact that Canada made a large-scale contribution to a large-scale military conflict at the beginning of the last century, and that that had an effect on how Canadians perceived themselves?

Wallace concludes his obtuse moralizing this way:

But battles are merely historical markers. A nation's true place in history is not achieved on the field of battle. History is not a catalogue of wars but a catalogue of human progress.

I could make the case for any nation, but ask yourself this: Is Canada not better defined by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms than by any clash of arms? We have ancient tanks but the most up-to-date liberties. Who would choose the opposite?

Well, I would, for one; given how often the spectre of that useless document has been invoked to justify this sort of quasi-reasoning and fact abuse. And, anyway, history most assuredly is a catalogue of wars. It would be the height of idiocy to forget so obvious a fact ... But one wonders (and I'll admit that, in the age of the sort of entitlement we see with Mr. Wallace, it is extremely fanciful to do so) whether there should've been any repatriation of the Constitution--and thus a Charter--in the first place, if Canada hadn't managed to prove to its racist and tyrannical British overlords that it had actually earned the right to do so.

Ah, the folly of those who conflate a linear movement forward in time with that elusive and three dimensional abstraction "progress". It's not surprising, I guess. We've had so little real progress (indeed, rather a lot of regress) since the passing of the generation that fought in that war that it really is awfully hard to remember what it means or what it looks like.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Nits of Apostasy

For any of you who might be under the impression that Jay Currie's bizarre take on the Christian vocation is far-fetched, even by liberal Anglican standards, think again:

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, who had to withdraw before taking up an appointment as bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a long-term homosexual relationship, is set to ignite a row over one of the most fundamental tenets of Christian belief.

Clergy who preach this Easter that Christ was sent to earth to die in atonement for the sins of mankind are "making God sound like a psychopath", he will say.

In a BBC Radio 4 show, Mr John, who is now Dean of St Albans, urges a revision of the traditional explanation, known as "penal substitution".

Christian theology has taught that because humans have sinned, God sent Christ as a substitute to suffer and die in our place.

"In other words, Jesus took the rap and we got forgiven as long as we said we believed in him," says Mr John. "This is repulsive as well as nonsensical. It makes God sound like a psychopath. If a human behaved like this we'd say that they were a monster."

Mr John argues that too many Christians go through their lives failing to realise that God is about "love and truth", not "wrath and punishment". He offers an alternative interpretation, suggesting that Christ was crucified so he could "share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us".

I don't know where to begin with this, so I won't even try. Suffice it to say that even if we are to accept the contention that Christ came to liberate us from the tyranny of the Old Testament law--that, furthermore, St. Paul sought only to undo that most holy work--the problem with this horrifying belief that Christ was just a big ol' bleeding heart, come from on high to empathize with us to the death, is that it stands in direct contradiction to just about every single thing that Christ himself actually said upon the matter.

So I come back to C.S. Lewis:
It is your [i.e. the clergy's] duty to fix the lines [of doctrine] clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.
The irony of that last analogy, given the current sad state of western conservatism, likely won't escape JC--who, apart from his various heretical beliefs, is no fool. So why doesn't he recognize the absurdity of calling the explicit rejection of Jesus Christ a Christian labour?

I only ask.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


A maniac holds a knife to the throat of one of our own.

Our response:

"It was deplorable," pronounced [Patricia Hewitt, British Health Secretary], "that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people."

Because, you know, it's always possible that the lung cancer will get her before the beheading does.

... But honestly, who has a death wish again?

[Via The London Fog, via various other people.]

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week Hoedown

Jay Currie has responded in kind (that is to say, in the first of what is to be two parts) to my loosely contra-Pelagian manifesto of last week.

I should say that it turns out that JC is one of the most infuriating people I've ever had an argument with. Not because he's so unrelenting in his beliefs, or because he's an uncommonly sound thinker. He is, of course, both of these, but that isn't enough to completely faze me. Rather, what is making him more and more of an impossible opponent is that he is that very rare type of person that is able to balance strong opinions with genuine courtesy and, even, kindness (indeed, I'm inclined to call it charity). That is, (as our mutual friend, Kevin Grace, put it so well to me last week) he is able to distinguish between a quarrel and an argument ... Which is, I suspect you've noticed too, almost totally unheard of in this day and age, and so hardly what I was prepared for.

As a consequence, I find myself in the very annoying position of having now to juggle my, in some instances, extreme opposition to JC's views with this niggling suspicion that I'd be hard-pressed to find a better person to be godfather to my first born ... But that's the secular humanist in me talking. And while I'm fond of the guy (the secular humanist in me, I mean), his thinking is a little too limited and circular for my tastes. (I'm waiting for JC to recognize the same thing about the secular humanist in him, and to not let him do so much of the talking then.)

Anyway ... I'm honour-bound to leave off replying to JC at any length until the second of his two parts is posted, so I will only, quickly, point out this:

Drawing on his estimable, if very literal, understanding of the Old Testament, JC cannot let go of his conception of Original Sin as a curse. Thus, says he, given the Christian qualification to the Old Testament that God is truly and purely love, this Original Sin business might better be described as the Original Error; as the Original Heresy, even.

Fair enough.

The problem with this is that Original Sin is no more a curse (in the imposed, conniving sense we tend to attribute to that term) than is our having ten fingers rather than twenty, or one head rather than two. Original Sin is, I think, much better understood as a shortcoming; an obstacle to our immediate or instantaneous union with God. Now, you can talk about the injustice of this, of the cruelty of the kind of God who wants us to learn to comprehend him rather than simply serving it up to us straight off--but you definitely can't say that the obstacle doesn't exist. It must, or presumably we'd have all been hanging out in the Celestial Rose from the beginning, high-fiving the uncrucified Christ, and exchanging transcendental platitudes with that charming soul Adolf Hitler.

Platonism goes far in explaining this idea, and hence its (Platonism's) appeal to Christian thought: evil is best understood by Man (who is flawed, yes, but for whom there remains the greatest of Hopes) as the absence of light. Rather, that is, than as darkness in and of itself.

I defer to C.S. Lewis for the final word here:
God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.


Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off--waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he's not in a cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound close at hand--a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound. I'm not mad enough to take such an experience as evidence of anything. It is simply the leaping into imaginative activity of an idea which I would always have theoretically admitted--the idea that I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.

Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them--never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?


So exhausted was I last week, having finished my assault on JC, that I forgot to post the link to his initial impressions thereof. For the sake of continuity and, I guess, because he makes an admissible point or two (whatever), they should be read ... The business about the "happy clappers going over to Atlanta or Albuquerque or wherever the Holy See of American Protestantism is these days" is, at the very least, worth the price of admission.