All posts by Jaskologist

You can't spell "Stupak" without almost spelling "Tupac." Coincidence?

The Day the Religious Left died

Note: I wrote this about a year ago and then never hit publish. It seems just as apropos today.

You may have heard that the Democrats have a religion problem. If that gives you a sense of deja vu, no wonder. There was a whole rash of articles with that same theme in the wake of the 2004 defeat. And the Democratic Party did in fact retool its message and engage in outreach to people of faith. 4 years later, they gained the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Now? Now their speech writers delete the phrase “the least of these” thinking it must be a typo. How did we get from there to here? I’m here to tell you.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted (that’s from Proverbs, for the speech-writers among you), but only if those wounds are from an actual friend. You can withstand a thousand attacks from the enemy, blocking their arrows and parrying their blows. A false friend, on the other hand, can sidle up right next to you, quietly slide a shiv into your lung, and that’s pretty much the end for you.

In the wake of the Obama landslide, there were a lot of questions about how this new political coalition would shake out. Winning so many swing states meant having a lot of moderate Democrats in the coalition, a group that became known as Blue Dog Democrats. A lot of those Blue Dogs were religious. Some even had heterodox views on matters like abortion. How would the party chart a course that kept these people together?

All of this came to a head in the fight to pass Obamacare. The Senate had passed a preliminary version of the bill; the House had passed another one. The Senate version broke with the normal rule of prohibiting federal funds from paying for abortions; the House version followed precedent. Every vote was needed to pass these things, and there were enough pro-life Democrats to prevent passage if they so chose.

So now the Religious Left had a choice. Which was more important to them: “Religious” or “Left”? They had to choose between the two. If they stuck with their faith, and the Party would attack them for disloyalty. But if they stuck with the Party, who had chosen to package abortion in with everything else and put them in this quandary, then in what sense was their faith even relevant?

This was a big deal at the time, as the political world wondered just what this group, led by Representative Bart Stupak. In their hands, they held the fate of Obama’s signature achievement. What would they do? What concessions would they extract in return for their votes? Would they just kill the whole thing?

Well, you already know what happened: they caved. The photograph you see here is of the signing ceremony for Executive Order 13535. This was billed as a compromise addressing pro-life concerns, but was roundly condemned by every pro-life group, both because it was unenforceable and because it didn’t address the actual worrisome provisions even if it had been enforceable. It was a lie and everybody knew it.

And I do mean everybody. This picture shows you the exact moment the Religious Left died. Before this point, the political world was abuzz with talk of the Religious Left. After this point, nobody thought the topic worth discussing. It was clear to everyone that the religious left was a paper tiger, a spent force. It would provide no unique political perspective; just an echo of the party line. No future attempts were made to court their votes, and soon the Democratic coalition forgot they existed (indeed, most of them were voted out of office shortly afterward). Stupak, after 18 years in Congress, didn’t even bother to run in the next cycle.

The bill they signed on for? That was used to sue Hobby Lobby because they didn’t want to buy abortion pills. It was used to sue actual nuns because they thought they didn’t need contraception. Not even the scary nuns you see in Catholic schools, but rather nuns who were dedicated to taking care of old ladies. Such was the contempt that the Religious Left’s allies held them, that by the time of Obama’s second inauguration, they declared that any Christian speaker would be unacceptable.

Even today, look at those few stalwart people in your Facebook feeds you might consider religious left. Did they speak up when the Supreme Court reminded us again that we are not allowed to vote on the sacred issue of abortion? Can you predict with ease what else they won’t speak up on? Do they offer you any perspective that you can’t get from the Areligious Left, or are they just an echo?

I told you that story so I can tell you this one:

We on the right face this same danger. Nothing will kill us so quickly as becoming a mere echo of the Republican party.

I’m not saying we have to denounce Trump at every opportunity as our leftward brothers demand. But don’t jump to baptize everything he does either. God has used nastier tools than Trump. Be wise as serpents.


Ripped from the comments:

My objection to neoliberalism is, primarily, that capitalist globalism has bred either its own demise or will turn into tyranny of some form or another. I know people who are basically aspiring to be part of the international ruling class: future politicians, future political hacks, business types, think tankers, etc. I went to college with them, and I’m friends with some of them. They are leading us all to ruin.

Their cluelessness, lack of self-awareness, and lack of empathy for people they consider below them is absolutely breathtaking. “Let them eat cake” level stuff. They can’t understand that their high IQs are not earned, and that intellect is not a moral quality (as an aside, I think this is part of the appeal of blank-slatism to intelligent people: if they ignore that IQ is probably about 50% inherited, and most environmental factors are out of their control, they can pretend that their university degrees and so on simply show their high quality as individuals, instead of showing that they rolled well for INT at character creation). They can’t understand why all those factory workers who want to keep their jobs, or want the jobs to come back to town, instead of learning to code and moving to the Bay, or getting a business degree and moving to London or NYC, or getting a law degree and… etc. Their mastery of skills that allow them to pick up and move pretty much anywhere and earn well doing it mean that they have little consideration, respect, or loyalty for their countrymen who cannot. The people from all over the world working in finance in London feel loyalty to each other – after all, they are the best, are they not? – far more than they do to the peons from wherever they come from.

Their response to stuff like Brexit and Trump’s election is eye-opening. Absolute contempt for the great unwashed. I’m exempting visible minorities, Muslims, LGBT people, etc from this – because they actually stand to suffer from right-wing populism, real suffering, not in the pocketbook – but the fact is that the most spite I have seen has tended to come from straight white cis people. Their hatred and contempt for Brexiters and Trump voters is palpable, especially when it’s hilariously hypocritical – I have heard condemnation of Trump voters as racists … at parties that are overhwhelmingly white; I have heard more than one white guy use “white guy” as a term of abuse … and they throw parties that are 100% white. They don’t even recognize their hate and contempt as hate and contempt, they just project it onto those they despise. They do not recognize their own racial biases (I remember a wealthy young man explaining to me, to paraphrase, “it’s not racist to be afraid of black people, because they’re poor, and poor people are more likely to be criminals”) but instead project them onto those they despise (he now posts Facebook statuses excoriating straight white cis men, a group from which he apparently exempts himself, despite being 4/4 for those qualities).

Either this will lead to the demise of neoliberal globalism – because even if the Brexiters and the Trump voters are dumb, they’re not so dumb as to not notice the contempt, and will vote to put a thumb in the eye of the elites who despise them. Or, it will lead to tyranny of one kind or another, as the elites decide that, really, those rednecks in coal country and those losers in North England shouldn’t be allowed to vote.


Elevated from the comments elsewhere:

Eich was basically punished for being on the losing side of a partisan dispute, and having confidential records leaked.

We have an ordered system for resolving partisan disputes. Maybe it’s not a good system, but eich was playing by the rules of the game. A game which led to his loss. At this stage he accepted the ruling of the agreed on mediating process, and did not seek extrajudicial means to promote his cause or punish his opponents. He now lives in a land with that many more laws he disagreed with.

The people who went after him won, but they weren’t happy with that. They went after him for daring to oppose them. (This is literally terrorism).

That’s a hell of a bullet.


It’s also a betrayal of the good faith people who were sceptical about gay marriage or worried about a slippery slope, but held their noses or extended some trust and voted in favour for the sake of equality under the law. 100% guaranteed, there are people who voted in favour, who would not have, if they thought they were handing out a license for people on the tide of history to purge their political opponents.

Good luck getting them to vote in your favour next time. (Maybe they’ll even vote against you to spite you, seemingly irrationally. Welcome to trump.)

It’s also a betrayal of those good faith liberals who assured people that there was no slippery slope on the books. The kind of eminently good and decent people who can change sceptical minds, and get things done politically. Well done making them into liars, and good luck mobilising them with the same enthusiasm next time. Welcome to trump.

In contrast, thiel took targeted revenge against a supposedly progressive organisation for outing him as a homosexual as, you guessed it, a punishment for sitting on the opposite side of a political divide.

That’s not part of the formal provisions for resolving differences, like donating is. There’s no symmetry there. Liberals were donating against eich. Thiel was not outing liberals.

Welcome to.. people thinking twice before they out someone.



So Thiel took 1. carefully targeted revenge, against someone for 2. unilaterally attacking him, and 3. going out of bounds to do so. 4. in a normal, precedented manner. 5. not in contravention of any interpartisan Geneva convention. 6. in a direction for the better rather than the worse: We don’t want people attacking their political opponents just because they are their political opponents. We do want people to think twice before exposing people’s personal lives to hurt them.

The people who ousted eich took 1. indiscriminate revenge (this is huge, the main ) against someone for 2. participating in the normal political process, symmetrically, just like their allies. 3. They had not been attacked or harmed by eich, -in fact they had won. With 4. an innovative new way to strike at enemies outside accepted bounds 5. in contravention of the necessary civility and acceptance of the other side’s right to peacefully campaign that is the cornerstone of a peaceful democratic process, and if it comes to it, basic order and stability.

Batman in all things

No enemies to the right

If you keep an eye on the deeper, darker reaches of the political blogosphere, you will have noticed a certain phrase making the rounds: No enemies to the right. Indeed, I would put the single unifying belief of the many groups called “alt-right” as the following: self-policing and following the old political norms will only lead to defeat; the left will never follow the same rules, so it’s time to treat them the same way they treat us.

Looking over recent election results, it’s hard to argue. Trump did a thousand things that all the conventional wisdom thought disqualifying. He still won. And those deep, dark reaches I just mentioned are the only ones who saw it coming.

But consider the other side of all this: the complete collapse of the Democratic party. If Hillary had not thought herself so above the law that she completely ignored basic security rules, if her inner circle had not also included a man who feels compelled to send weiner pictures to anything over the age of 15, if Hillary’s staff had at least been self-disciplined enough to keep aforementioned classified information off of aforementioned Weiner’s computer such that both investigations didn’t intersect and bring themselves back up right before the election, if the Democratic party itself had been willing to let their voters pick the nominee instead of conspiring to sink Sanders, if the press had not conspired with them, if, failing all that, Podesta had the wherewithal not to fall for the same phishing emails all of us get regularly and subsequently expose the entire charade, if Hillary did not have a history of covering for her husband’s harassment of women (a history that includes credible accusations of rape!) which hamstrung her when attacking Trump’s boorishness, if the policies pushed by Democrats when they held all branches had actually worked as promised, if any Democratic politician with a snowball’s chance (sorry, that was never Bernie) had the courage (or even just ambition!) to throw their hat into the ring instead of meekly standing aside for Hillary, if any of those pieces had not fallen into place, we might well be talking about how it is impossible for Republicans to ever again win at the national level.

Those are the fruits of “no enemies to the left”: a party so riddled with corruption and incompetence that, when presented with a task of “don’t do the wrong thing at every single turn,” they failed.

They’re still digging, too. After losing in just about every race, the remaining Democratic Representative chose to reelect exactly the same leadership which had overseen their reduction from a historic majority to a historic minority. The average age of the House Democratic leadership is 76 (for comparison House Republican leadership ranges from 41-51). Reform will come not from within, but simply once the current leadership dies of old age. Virtue, once lost, is difficult to regain.

If we follow the same path of having no standards we will hold ourselves to, we will end up in the same place. Tread carefully.

How could this happen?

Been kicking around several possible narratives for the Trump win. Not sure which is most likely, and it’s not like I correctly predicted it, so I’m interested in feedback, and maybe fleshing them out later.

1. You meddle and you haven’t the right.

Democrats have been pushing a lot of unpopular policies. Pushing a massive, and massively unpopular, thing like Obamacare through on a strict party-line vote (and using shady procedures at that) broke the system, and mobilized the opposition like nothing else could have. Without that, you don’t get the Tea Party, and you don’t get the subsequent Republican sweeps. When Obamacare didn’t work, the stimulus didn’t work, and the promised hope and change and transparency didn’t materialize, Democrats turned to SJ to prove to themselves that they were the good guys. This meant pushing gay marriage on everybody, picking fights with people over their bathrooms, generally lecturing everyone to their right, and showing absolute disdain for the working class. This was unpopular. Voters vote against unpopular things.

2. SJW’s did it.

They changed the rule of politics so that it was not safe to be on the losing side. Heck, Proposition 8 and Eich showed that it wasn’t even safe to be on the winning side, because the left would simply declare the vote null and void and then fire you. Evangelicals felt very uneasy about Trump for a number of reasons, and could have been split from him or convinced to stay home if it hadn’t been made very clear to them that if they didn’t hang together they would surely hang apart.

3. Put your points into Charisma instead of Corruption next time.

Hillary was basically the worst possible candidate that could have been chosen, corrupt in just about every way you could come up with. For every Trump scandal, she had something equivalent or worse; she couldn’t even hit him on treatment of women without looking like a hypocrite. She is unlikable. She has never managed to win a contested race. Anybody else would have won this.

4. Trump was actually a really good candidate

Celebrities are masters of all the skills involved in winning an election. We’re just lucky that it’s much better to be a celebrity than a politician, so most of them don’t make the jump. This idea was mooted at Marginal Revolution about a year ago. See all Scott Adams’ (yes, the Dilbert guy) Master Persuader theory.

5. Nobody cares about all that. It’s the economy, stupid.

That economy has been crappy, and Hillary was promising more of the same. Plus (and I suspect this is extra important) Obamacare hit a whole lot of people with huge rate increases (up to 80%!) a week or two before the election. Everybody had to know exactly who was responsible for that, and it had to be fresh in their minds when they entered the voting booth.

See also this speech by Michael Moore of all people. This election cycle is so weird I am linking positively to Michael Moore.

No, I'm not actually linking this to the prophecy

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone

When Bush won in 2000, Rove was hailed as a political genius. He had figured out how to build an “Emerging Republican Majority.” The country had realigned against the Democrats. This view was bolstered when Republicans gained seats in the midterms (normally sitting presidents lose some), and then Bush won reelection in the face of much leftists fury. Not only that, but Republicans gained seats in Congress, and control of the Senate. Rove was right. Demographics had doomed Democrats.

But the Iraq War wore on, and the economy went down. Two years later, mid-terms delivered a “thumping” to Congressional Republicans. Democrats gained control of both houses of congress, as well as 6 governorships. Maybe Rove wasn’t right after all.

And then Obama happened, coming from nowhere to win the Presidency, more Representatives, another governorship, and filibuster-proof control of the Senate. Democrats had total power. Rove was wrong. Now people were talking about the Emerging Democratic Majority. Demographics were going to doom the Republican party, which would spend at least a generation in the wilderness.

And then 2 years later Republicans took back the House (63 seats!), 6 governorships (in a redistricting year, letting them set up some nice gerrymandering ), and cut the Democratic margin in the Senate down to nearly nothing.

But then Obama won reelection, so that must have just a been a blip. A week ago, pundits were very seriously discussing how the Republicans had probably painted themselves into a corner on the national scale, and were doomed to become a regional rump party.

What a difference a week makes. Republicans now control all houses of Congress. They hold the presidency, and he will appoint at least 1 judge to the Supreme Court with a friendly Congress to confirm his pick. They hold 34 governorships (which is in many ways more important the Congressional numbers). Republican-controlled state legislatures outnumber Democratic ones by more than 2:1. Days after the conventional wisdom was that the Republican Party was dying, it is now the strongest it has been in 2 generations.

I haven’t seen any talk about Permanent Majorities yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s coming. Don’t believe it. All of this can be wiped away by the next decade. This is both a note of warning to my right-wing friends and comfort to my left-wing friends. If Republicans pursue a lot of unpopular policies (or go all in on corruption) like the left did, they will be tossed out.

Of course, dear leftist friends, if you double down on lecturing people about how terrible they are and how superior you are (like I warned you against a year ago), prepare for that Senate margin to become filibuster-proof. In two years, Republican are defending 8 Senate seats. Democrats are defending 25. Nine of those are in states Trump won.

You have that long to get your house in order and figure out all the issues you ignored while crowing about how the Republicans were in disarray. The rot set in long before the structure collapsed.

He who has eyes, let him see.

Do not disturb my circles!

A Lever Long Enough

You may recall that a little while back, there was some hoopla over refugees. That story was about how much you suck. This story is about network effects and social capital.

It all started simply enough, with an article in the local newspaper saying the Syrians were coming here. There was a lot of interest in our church community in seeing how we could help out, and my wife and I had worked with that refugee agency in the past. It was a pretty clear case of God plunking something in my lap and saying, “do this thing.” So I did.

Anyway, I got back in touch with my contacts at the old agency to tell them help was on the way. And then I posted something on the church’s Facebook page asking for volunteers. And then the flood began. From this point forward, my role was one of trying to direct a current far more powerful than me down the right pathways.

We ended up assigned not to Syrians, but a Somali family of ten. Ten people with nothing but the clothes on their backs need a lot of stuff. Left to my own devices, I could have procured a few pieces of furniture and some food with a significant investment of time and money. But because I was connected to a church, I was able to put the word out to a few hundred people (already preselected to be inclined towards philanthropy), and sit back as the donations poured in. Spread out over so many people, no great sacrifice was required of anybody. One person had some chairs they didn’t need, another an old couch, another a lampstand, and every item was checked off the list in no time (which was good, because we had no time). Because the church had a building, I didn’t need to worry about finding a place to warehouse all of these items; people were able to drop them off at a central location at a time convenient to them.

As this was going on, our group of volunteers grew. The (real-life) social networks of everybody in the church became a recruitment tool. What before would have just been idle talk about how “somebody else should do something” was easily translated into action instead. Anybody in the church or who knew anybody in the church was now only a degree removed from the action. Signing up didn’t require any more than a quick chat with me on Sunday.

So we had a large group. Now what? Here the existence of the building again proved critical. The church had plenty of available classrooms where we could gather, meet with the agency coordinator, and plan our next steps.

When it came time to furnish the house, I found myself with the entire youth group at my disposal. Some 40-50 people and half a dozen vehicles descended on the house, cleaning and filling it in a few hours. It would have taken me days to do half as thorough a job on my own.

Our church network began linking into other networks. A local woman who, as near as I can determine, is the effective matriarch of our local Somali community, heard about our church’s involvement, and so drove up to talk to us and see where we might be interested in helping out. A few meetings took place, introductions were made, and soon our networks were enmeshed.

My involvement faded out at this point, but the work carried on without me. Churches regularly get random items donated; many of them are now getting funneled onward. One older couple who moved out of their house even donated its contents to the local refugees, who cleaned it out in short order. When the (largely Muslim) Somalians wanted French Bibles, they knew to turn to us, and we in turn used a connection to the Gideons to help with that. (He was able to provide 3 on short notice. They proceeded to fight over who would get them, so we promised to acquire more.) Last I heard, the aforementioned Matriarch was speaking to our women’s group, which I’m sure will result in even more connections.

I played no part and exerted no energy in any of that. But none of it would have happened if not for me. Because I acted as a group instead of alone, my small effort has been magnified many times beyond my own capabilities.

Reverse Verse

Bible study idea: take a single chapter, and for the next month or two, study it from the perspective of one of the great Christians of the past.

But what chapter would work well for this? I took up a little side project to find out.

To do this, I took a whole bunch (81) of writings off of CCEL, and wrote some code to parse through them for scripture references. Happily, the CCEL staff has a very standardized format, which made this fairly simple.

I’m now working on a good web interface to display and search the resulting information, which I’ll eventually put online. In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in some preliminary results.

Popular books

The most popular chapter, by far, is John 1, with 1,727 references. Next in line are Matt 5 (1,409), Romans 8 (1,369), and 1 Cor 15 (1,223).

Matthew is the most popular Gospel (14,229 references), Mark is the least (2,047) (but then, it’s also the shortest).

The most referenced book is Psalms (14,415). The least referenced is Song of Solomon, with a whopping zero references, the only book outside of the dueterocanon which can claim that.

The most popular Psalms, in descending order are 119 (467), 19 (392), 45 (364), and 2 (323).

Patristic preferences

Athanasius’ favorite book is John (John 1 being his favorite chapter). Psalms is second, but he does reference nearly every book. The same is true of Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa. Basil references Psalms slightly more than John, and his favorite chapter is Genesis 1. Eusebius likes Acts twice as much as any other book.

James Arminius mines Romans extensively (586 references; next up is John with 305).

Jonathan Edwards mostly preached from the Gospels.

Blaise Pascal liked Isaiah most of all.


For the curious, here are the works I searched:
NPNF1-01. The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine, with a
NPNF1-02. St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrine
NPNF1-03. On the Holy Trinity; Doctrinal Treatises; Moral
NPNF1-04. Augustine: The Writings Against the Manichaeans and
NPNF1-05. St. Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings
NPNF1-06. St. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the
NPNF1-07. St. Augustine: Homilies on the Gospel of John; Augustine, St.
NPNF1-08. St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms Augustine, St.
NPNF1-09. St. Chrysostom: On the Priesthood; Ascetic Treatises;
NPNF1-10. St. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Chrysostom, Saint
NPNF1-11. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles
NPNF1-12. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to
NPNF1-13. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Chrysostom, St.
NPNF1-14. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John Chrysostom, St.
NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Eusebius Pamphilius
NPNF2-02. Socrates and Sozomenus Ecclesiastical Histories Socrates Scholasticus
NPNF2-03. Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, & Rufinus: Historical
NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters Athanasius
NPNF2-05. Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. Gregory of Nyssa
NPNF2-06. Jerome: The Principal Works of St. Jerome Jerome, St.
NPNF2-07. Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen
NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
NPNF2-09. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus
NPNF2-10. Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters
NPNF-211. Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian
NPNF-212. Leo the Great, Gregory the Great
NPNF-213. Gregory the Great (II), Ephraim Syrus, Aphrahat
NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
Moody’s Anecdotes and Illustrations: Related in his Revival Work Moody, Dwight Lyman (1837-1899)
ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus Justin Martyr, St. (c.100-165)
ANF02. Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian,
ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian Tertullian (c. 160-c. 230)
ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth;
ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius,
ANF06. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus,
ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius,
ANF08. The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, The
ANF09. The Gospel of Peter, The Diatessaron of Tatian, The
The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 Arminius, James (1560-1609)
The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2 Arminius, James (1560-1609)
The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 3 Arminius, James (1560-1609)
Ascent of Mount Carmel John of the Cross, St. (1542-1591)
Proslogium; Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Anselm, Saint, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109)
De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
Calvin: Commentaries Calvin, Jean
Harmony of the Law – Volume 1 Calvin, John (1509 – 1564)
Harmony of the Law – Volume 2 Calvin, John (1509-1564)
Harmony of the Law – Volume 3 Calvin, John (1509-1564)
Harmony of the Law – Volume 4 Calvin, John (1509-1564)
On the Christian Life Calvin, John
Dark Night of the Soul John of the Cross, St. (1542-1591)
The Devotions of Saint Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm, Saint, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Select Sermons Edwards, Jonathan (1703-1758)
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola Ignatius of Loyola, St (1491-1556)
First Principles of the Reformation or the Ninety-five Theses Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
The Imitation of Christ Thomas, à Kempis, 1380-1471
Revelations of Divine Love Julian, of Norwich, b. 1343
Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard Kierkegaard, Soren (1813-1855)
The Large Catechism Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux Bernard, of Clairvaux, Saint (1090 or 91-1153)
On Loving God Bernard, of Clairvaux, Saint (1090 or 91-1153)
St. Anselm’s Book of Meditations and Prayers. Anselm, Saint, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109)
The Complete Works of Menno Simon Volume 1 Simons, Menno (1496-1561)
The Complete Works of Menno Simon Volume 2 Simons, Menno (1496-1561)
Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Underhill, Evelyn
Pensées Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan, John (1628-1688)
Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life Law, William (1686-1761)
Assorted Sermons By Martin Luther Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 01: 1855 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 02: 1856 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 03: 1857 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 04: 1858 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 05: 1859 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 06: 1860 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 07: 1861 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 08: 1863 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1834-1892)
Table Talk Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One Edwards, Jonathan (1703-1758)
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two Edwards, Jonathan (1703-1758)

The reason for the drinking season

Just a little after 400AD, a group of Irish pirates successfully attacked some British towns, leaving with a group of slaves. Among them was a 16 year old named Patrick. Though the son of a deacon and grandson of a pastor, he was not particularly devout himself. This changed after he was enslaved, and under the Irish whip his faith grew. By his own accounting, young Patrick would say up to 100 prayers a day, and as many again in the night.

After six years of captivity, God answered. In his sleep, a voice came to him and said, “You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.” Shortly afterward, it returned and told him, “Behold, your ship is ready.” Patrick obeyed and fled his master. He traveled through 200 miles of unfamiliar territory with God as his guide, arriving at the same day that the ship he was destined for was setting out. At first, the sailors angrily told him to leave them alone, but after a brief prayer their attitude changed and they welcomed him on board their ship.

During this time, he faced hunger and deprivation, but each time he was delivered semi-miraculously. He was even captured once more, but God assured him the captivity would last for only two months, which is exactly how it played out. After a time, Patrick found his way back to his family. Nice story, huh?

Then God threw him a curve ball. One night, Patrick was given a vision:

I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’

Go back, God commanded him. Return to the barbarians to who would have enslaved you for the rest of your life. Like Jonah, he resisted at first, and so another trial was sent his way to clarify the situation. A scandal erupted around some sin he had confessed to from his teenage years (Patrick is so ashamed, he does not tell us what it was). Being brought low, Patrick gave in, and went to preach the gospel to the pagans of Ireland. It was a task his slavery had made him uniquely suited for. As a slave of the Irish, he had become fluent in the Irish language. As the slave of a druidic high priest, he had also become knowledgeable in the Irish religion. As a slave of Christ, he embodied the spirit of love and forgiveness that is so central to Christianity when he put all that aside and set out to help the Irish.

In the end, St. Patrick was responsible for the eventual conversion of the whole island. In a complete reversal of his childhood, he defended his former slavers against those who would enslave them, going so far as to excommunicate a Welsh chieftain. He was beaten, robbed, and even put into chains, but still he persisted, and today he is a central figure in Irish culture and myth. Even the shamrock owes its status as Ireland’s official symbol to a legend that Patrick used it to illustrate the Trinity.

He died 1,550 years ago today. Like St. Valentine, his holiday still carries on his name, but lacks his spirit. So take a moment to honor St. Patrick. He was a far better man than any of us.

Read his life in his own words.

“Let It Go” is a villain song

If you have a daughter, you’ve seen Frozen by now. Pop quiz: what is the message of the song “Let It Go”? It is treated like a positive development in Elsa’s life, and millions of little girls sing along to it with joy. And yet, what is actually happening on-screen is that Elsa is cursing her entire kingdom with eternal winter. This seems inconsistent.

It all makes a lot more sense once you learn how the script developed. Elsa was originally intended to be a villain. “Let It Go” was written as her villain song, but when the writers listened to it, all they heard was “self-empowerment.” Surely that couldn’t be a bad thing, so they rewrote the whole movie, and left the song as-is.

I think the song-writers knew exactly what they were doing. Good guys don’t say things like “no right, no wrong, no rules for me,” that’s straight up Nietzschean uber-mensch talk, the kind engaged in shortly before embarking on a genocide. And indeed, Elsa did launch an attack on all the muggles while she sang this song. A little while later, she shoots her sister in the heart, and instead of trying to help her, she dumps her out in the snow and creates a monster who attempts to finish the job.

But she’s empowered, so it’s all good.

Anyway, that’s why Frozen is not a good movie; it is narratively incoherent. There’s no clear moral, the central song contradicts what is shown on-screen, and even the love song is undermined by the fact that the male half is secretly plotting to kill the female half. Also the whole “the secret was love all along” ending was trite, and absurd; Elsa had love from the movie’s start, and it didn’t help her then.

Just nobody tell my daughter.