Day Bidet #10

Seven days, seven links (one day late this time—apologies!):

  1. “Was there a guard at Jesus’ tomb?”
  2. “Marx writes of his triumph after he shall have destroyed God’s created world…. An insatiable spender of other people’s money, Marx continually complained about a shortage of financial means. … Marx affected a hatred and contempt for the very material resource he was so anxious to cadge and use so recklessly.”
  3. “Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would have never come, had I known the danger of light and joy.”
  4. Fake news. Fake news. Fake news. Fake news. Fake news.
  5. Peter Goeman argues that Nero is not the man whose number is 666.
  6. Carnivore success story. (Related. Related. Related. Related.)
  7. “Your being increases in the measure that you give it away. Your being decreases in the measure that you cling to it.”

More:

“Conservatism” hasn’t conserved anything.

“The healing in John 4 that Jesus performed in Capernaum while he himself was in Cana could well be what Jesus refers in Luke 4.”

Clown World. Clown World. Clown World. Demon World. Demon World. Demon World.

“King Uzziah’s life has been affirmed and illuminated through archaeological findings over the course of more than 100 years.”

You can’t trust the experts: “[T]he economic cost of social distancing and lockdowns will likely be more than $1 trillion. And that’s an understatement of the costs when you consider increased suicides and other social losses not captured in gross domestic product. For example, parents of young children have widely noted their kids’ gloomy outlook when not allowed to be with friends.”

“Bible Briefly Consulted to See if It Supports Already Formed Opinion”

Selective Skepticism

Lilly Wachowski Slams Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump on Twitter | WIRED

“I’m skeptical about low-status conspiracy theories but not about the unquestionable dogmas of my time” = “I’m not a skeptic.”

A certain amount of skepticism is healthy. But if you are much more skeptical about aliens, ghosts, HCQ, capitalism, and organized religion than you are about lockdowns, hate hoaxes, democracy, “social justice,” and the like, then you are not a skeptic at all but a conformist acolyte of the Blue Establishment. Selective skepticism is not real skepticism.

(And yes, Boomer conservatives peddling conspiracy theories should also be more skeptical. But the most dangerous “conspiracy theories” are the ones that are Establishment-approved.)

the preacher

the preacher

qoheleth
son of david
king in jerusalem
sought to find out
through much study of
the words of the wise
and the reading of books
the conclusion of the whole matter
concerning love
its nature privy properties
and essential elements
but did not understand until
the broken pitcher brimmed
with still water
then he going forth
from the sparrow gate said
love is not the tearlit moon
vaulting the blind sea the
lipless night at the door
starved by dizzy wind and
love is not the fire but
love is a quiet death that sows
new life into spring
love is a resurrection

You Can’t Trust the Experts: The Food Pyramid

Rizzo and Whitman on the food pyramid (via Bryan Caplan):

Light describes some of the notable differences between the unpublished food pyramid and the final version. The number of recommended servings of fresh fruits and vegetables fell from 5–9 to 2–3, while the recommended servings of whole-grain breads and cereals rose from 3–4 to 6–11. … Light further notes that white-flour baked goods, which the experts had placed at the pyramid’s peak for items to be eaten sparingly, had been moved to the pyramid’s base…. In recent years, many have begun to reevaluate the conventional wisdom that emphasizes caloric restriction and reduced fat intake, instead arguing for restriction of carbohydrates and greater consumption of protein and fat.

More on the food pyramid. As that article notes, we’ve known low-carb can treat diabetes for a long time—in fact, since the 1700s. Science doesn’t always make progress, especially when it’s politicized, and nutrition has been deeply politicized.

Day Bidet #9

Seven days, seven links:

  1. Jesus is the new Isaac.
  2. “In a crofting community the people work in unison in the field during the day, and discuss together in the house at night. … [S]tories and tales, poems and ballads, are rehearsed and recited, and songs are sung … and many other literary matters are related and discussed.”
  3. “[W]isdom fades when ‘lore wanes’ among a people.”
  4. “What is conservatism in America today? … It’s getting trampled all over by History, but while yelling Stop!”
  5. “[O]ne of the reasons Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again was to reveal to us that all human suffering, like the suffering of God Incarnate, is both ‘not okay’ and also not meaningless—not merely ‘not okay.'”
  6. “A 99-year-old woman was also assaulted in her home by a man who broke in and wrapped her head in a blanket.” (Related. Related. Related. Related.)
  7. “[F]aith is fealtyexpressed in love.

More:

“The lockdowns are causing tremendous economic harm … but … producing only marginal benefit at best.” (Related.)

“[John’s] dialogues … have the somewhat random characteristics of realistic conversation.”

Carnivore success story. (Related. Related. Related. Related. Related.)

Nijay Gupta argues that Philippians 2.5-11 is not a pre-Pauline hymn.

Progress. Progress. Progress. Progress. (What happened in 1971, by the way, is this. Thank God for Bitcoin.)

“Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?”

There Is No Paradox

Nasty Women' Exhibits Raise $50,000 for Planned Parenthood | Fortune

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well‐being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well‐being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well‐being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries.

Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness”

But of course there is no paradox. Women (like men) are much happier married, and yet marriage rates are at their lowest in over a century. Women with 2-4 children (unlike childless woman) grow happier over time, and yet women are having fewer and fewer children.

(And the decline in women’s happiness is even worse than Stevenson and Wolfers realize. “23% of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressants.” Modern women are unhappier even though their happiness is artificially propped up with drugs. Presumably, they would be even more unhappy otherwise.)

Careers and hookups don’t make most women happy—families do. Until a few decades ago, almost all women understood this. But then second-wave feminism was foisted upon us by the Blue Establishment (did you know Gloria Steinem was bankrolled by the CIA?), and now—”paradoxically”—women are unhappier.

The future is nasty indeed.

Lewis on the Realism of the Gospel of John

Antonio Ciseri, Ecce Homo

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like [the Gospel of John]. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage … pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.

Letter to My Grandfather

Corato, Puglia, Italy | Puglia, Southern italy, Basilicata

Here is a letter I wrote to my grandfather many years ago (with some slight modifications) when he was very ill. He was baptized two days after reading it:

Grandpa,

As you know perhaps better than anyone, most people never get a dinner. Moses, who as he was leaving Mount Sinai said, “The food in that hospital is terrible”—never got a dinner. Amelia Earhart, who said, “Stop looking for me; see if you can find my luggage!”—never got a dinner. Steven Spielberg’s mother, who said to E.T., “I don’t care where you’re from, you’re here and you’re getting bar mitzvahed!”—never got a dinner. Queen Elizabeth, who said, “Not now, I’m on the throne”—never got a dinner.

And yet here you are, the recipient in all likelihood of far too many dinners, a man who is loved by his friends and family. You have been loved by your parents, your friends, your wife, your children, and now, however imperfectly, by me your grandson. This letter is born of that love for you, in full recognition that a grandson (like a son) lives always under a debt to his grandparents which he cannot repay. You have provided for me and my family financially; you have instilled in me a love for cats, languages, Italy, one-liners, and the Mets; and you have loved me both as a grandfather and as a friend. It will forever be impossible for me to make all of that up to you; but I write this letter to you as a grandson and as a friend out of my appreciation for you, respect for you, and sincere desire for the best for you.

This letter is a plea: a plea for you to repent, to fall upon your knees and turn yourself in to God. “Fallen man,” Lewis says, “is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.” This letter is a plea from one recovering rebel to another to lay down his arms. I beg you to open your mind and your heart to these words, to “lend me your ears” so that you may perhaps lend God your soul. I do not write as one superior to you or to anyone else—only as a blind man whose eyes have been opened attempting to lead his fellow to the light.

I believe in God; I cannot help it. I believe in God because I believe in the Tuscan countryside, “Clair de lune,” and a thousand other terribly lovely things whose loveliness I cannot believe is merely accidental. It is perhaps conceivable that the universe just so happens to exist on its own; that it just so happens to be such that life exists within it; that life just so happens to have evolved such that minds emerged from matter; and that minds just so happen to have evolved not only a sense of the good, the beautiful, and the awesome but also the ability to create good, beautiful, and awesome things. But I find each link in that chain to be quite weak and rather silly, and thus I believe instead that “in the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.”

I believe in Jesus; I cannot help it. I believe that the story of Jesus is the greatest and most iconoclastic story ever told—that it is quite literally too good to be false. It is perhaps conceivable that a small band of Jews (sons of the most fiercely monotheistic nation in the history of the world) just so happened to invent a man who claimed to be God, and that this new brand of utterly blasphemous Judaism just so happened to sweep through and overtake the whole Roman Empire. It is perhaps conceivable that the man whom they invented just so happened to become the most present and overpowering figure in literature, art, philosophy, and history for two thousand years, and that his alleged resurrection just so happens to be the only supernatural event seriously discussed by historians today. But I find these propositions incredible. Either there lies at the heart of the Christian faith a lie—some grubby-handed and vile scheme for wealth, power, or fame—or the Truth, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and the whole Good and nothing but the Good. I have my doubts, and I have my questions, but I can no more believe that the root of the Christian faith is wicked than I can believe that the root of my mother’s love for me is wicked. I conclude, therefore, that the root of the Christian faith is the unending creativity and love of our Father in Heaven.

I believe in God; I believe in Jesus; I believe in the Holy Spirit; and I believe in Joy. There is no religion so joyful as Christianity, no religion so brimming with laughter and hope in the face even of death. “Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,” writes Donne—not with the affected indifference of the Epicureans who say, Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo (“I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care”), but with the triumphant joy of a man who cares deeply about his fate and simply has nothing to fear. A husband and wife can perhaps learn to be content with childlessness; but they would be fools to compare their acquiescence with the exulting joy of the couple whose first child has just been born. And that newborn joy is very much like the joy which runs over from the cup God bids us drink. It is a joy which we can only taste in this life, sinners that we remain; but it can indeed be tasted, and I intend one day to swim in it and be engulfed by it. For it is a laughing, dancing, and perpetual joy, like a smooth and clear and ever-flowing stream—not at all the addicting but dissipative delight that comes from being praised, respected, feared, or desired, but the translucent joy that comes from praising, respecting, fearing, and desiring God.

Therein, in the pure love of God, lies the great secret and beauty and joy of Christianity, but also the great stumbling block: for a man can love God only insomuch as he foregoes the love of himself, his self-love. A man who derives some pleasure from chasing skirts and even more pleasure from loving his wife cannot thence conclude that he can combine the two pleasures by combining the two pursuits; the combination will ultimately give him less joy than either pursuit on its own. In the same way, a man may derive some pleasure from loving himself, from setting himself up as his own god; but this pleasure will never be anything more than a ghastly shadow of the pleasure he would derive from God—from Joy Himself. And the two pleasures cannot be combined; they are oil and water to each other.

Therefore Christ teaches that a man must lose his life to save it; that the path to joy is self-sacrifice; and that (as I have said before) the path to victory lies in laying down one’s arms. The point of Christian morality is not to be a decent person, for the very good reason that decency is entirely compatible with self-worship. The point of Christian morality, rather, is to crucify one’s love for self in order that one’s overbrimmingly joyful love for God may be resurrected.

There are a great many decent men in this world who do mostly good things but are motivated chiefly by self-love. They are hard workers, exemplary citizens, and family men; and they care very much that their hard work, citizenship, and family life be acknowledged and praised. They tend to believe that they are self-made men; as a result, they tend to look down on others whose standing does not compare so favorably with theirs. If their lips are not condescending, their hearts certainly are. They think constantly about what they have achieved and what they are owed and not nearly enough about their absolute dependence upon God and infinite debt to Him. They are, in a way, just as tempted by good as other men are by evil; for they worship at the altar of Self-reliance (that most American of idols) or Self-worth or Respectability or Principles or Country or Family Honor rather than of Sex or Drugs or Theft. Society regards the decent men’s idols as benign; they are, after all, the idols which our society has enshrined. But God regards them all as malignant and spiritually deadly—for they all lead men, especially “self-made” or “decent” men, to seek joy in something apart from Him. Your temptations and mine are the temptations of the decent men; but they are no less temptations. My idol will never be Drugs, but it may very well be Intellectual Pursuits, or Academic Accolades, or the Right Politics, or what-have-you. Without God’s help, I shall worship Intellectual Pursuits and pay my taxes and give charitably and yet look down upon other men and ignore God altogether—a decent man outwardly and yet inwardly a son of Hell. Such is my idolatry; and yours is very much the same. If it is respectable idolatry, it does not therefore cease to be idolatry. It remains idolatry; it remains a cancer; and if it is not dealt with, it will kill you.

Cancer must be obliterated before the body can heal. And our spiritual cancer is not Democrats, Republicans, the poor, the rich, blacks, whites, men, women, the Man, or society, but ourselves. Solzhenitsyn, survivor of the Soviet gulags, writes, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” There are not yet any truly good or truly evil people; good and evil exist within each of us, and all any of us can ever do is choose to biopsy the evil within himself. We are the problem. The story goes that The Times of London asked several British luminaries to send in responses to the question “What’s wrong with the world?”; Chesterton’s reply was “I am.” This recognition that the problem lies within is the beginning of repentance, the beginning of Christian discipleship, and consequently the beginning of all new life.

Grandpa, I am the problem. My love for myself—my desire to be praised and admired for my intelligence and wit, or even for my humility and kindness; my desire to be better than others: smarter, more talented, handsomer, more important, even (strange as it may sound) godlier; my desire to live comfortably even as others undergo horrible suffering—all these desires conspire to overthrow me and to turn me away from the living water, Him Whom I was made to desire, God Himself. I am hardly the model of Christian virtue, but I acknowledge before God that my life’s work is and will and ought to be to destroy the darkness of self-love within me so that the pure light of God may shine throughout my whole being. For only two options present themselves to me: to destroy the darkness within or to be destroyed by it.

Grandpa: You are the problem. You, no more and no less than any of us, are the problem. I do not speak flippantly or disrespectfully; I have chosen my words carefully, and I mean what I say. I believe wholeheartedly that my problem is me; and I believe wholeheartedly that your problem is you. A joke here and there lightens the mood; a joke after almost every sermon or prayer makes a mockery of God. Will you consider a sermon not as a religious formality nor even as an act of public speaking to be scrutinized but as a feeble attempt to draw your attention to the evil in your heart? An autobiography is a fine thing and a blessing to your grandchildren; but it is a damning sin to care more about one’s autobiography than about one’s Biographer. Will you abandon your stories and love instead His neverending story, whose beauty far exceeds any creation of yours or mine? (For all of our accomplishments and accolades are dust in the wind and will invariably be forgotten; the comfort we take in them is nothing next to the eternal comfort of Heaven.) You are respected and honored by your fellow men; will you ignore their attention and seek instead the face of God, before Whom you and I are mere unruly children? For there are many poor and ignorant and seemingly insignificant men who are closer to the Kingdom of God than you. Yes, I know your good deeds, and so does God. Will you leave them aside and call to mind instead your stubborn rejection of Him over so many years? For there is only one ethics committee that matters; and God is its chairman. Will you fight to set your heart on things above and not on your Mets, your food, your writing, your career, or even your health? Or even your family? I fight everyday to set my heart on God and not on my respectability, my wealth, my social prospects, my romantic desires, or anything else. Will you join me in this struggle against the whims of the flesh and toward infinite Joy?

God has brought your body to its knees, as He will to us all. Will you bring your soul to its knees before Him? We must learn to crawl to God if we are ever to walk in the garden with Him. Confess your sins; soften your heart; acknowledge your depravity and indebtedness to God; believe; repent; be baptized; seek first His Kingdom. The road is at first unbearably difficult, but it becomes unbearably delightful. Lusts must at some point be set aside if love is to be awakened. Do not merely tame, crucify your self-love and come into the light!

Your time, like all of ours, is short. I do not pretend to know much of anything about the age to come—only that true joy apart from God is in the end impossible. There is no true joy apart from God; God simply is True Joy. Anything else placed ahead of him—education, politics, status, family, one’s own charitable deeds and generosity—is an idol and a tool of the devil. That is no cause for mourning, but for rejoicing; for the idols do not hold a candle to the Real Thing. I plead with you to join me on the path to reality, the path to joy, the path to God. The first step along the path is the most daunting; every step after that becomes more natural, until at last you could not have imagined journeying any other way. Leave behind any thought of your own goodness or rights or superiority; they are only an encumbrance, an obstacle between you and the God of joy. Think only of God and of His Son, and everything else will fall into place.

I cannot know how these words will affect you. If they sting, remember that so does alcohol applied to fresh wounds. I implore you to disregard whatever literary merit you may see in my words and consider only the message they convey: God has created you for infinite bliss, and you have rebelled against him. He has sent His Son to save us from our sins; all He asks is that we give up ourselves—lay down our arms. You have heard the good news. Believe; confess; repent; be baptized. I beg you, lay down your arms. You will get, not just a dinner, but an eternal feast.

Amish Health Care

Community Health Clinic

Scott Alexander (who just recently un-cancelled his blog) offers his thoughts on the Amish health care system.

My takeaways, in no particular order:

  • Small, tight-knit, high-trust communities of faith can be extremely powerful and life-giving—not just relationally but economically.
  • The standard American lifestyle (especially the standard American diet) isn’t healthy at all: “[M]aybe [the Amish’s] system relies on a very low rate of mental illness and chronic disease. … [T]heir autoimmune disease rates are amazing, and when you take out the stresses of modern life maybe a lot of the ailments the American system was set up to deal with just stop being problems.”
  • At a certain point, expensive end-of-life care isn’t worth it.
  • Honesty and non-litigiousness go a long way. (Maybe Jesus was onto something after all!)
  • We need to think in terms of improving health outcomes rather than expanding access to health care, which may or may not be an effective way of actually improving health.
  • “[T]here’s something to be said for a faceless but impartial bureaucracy, compared to having all your neighbors judging your lifestyle all the time.” Good thing we non-Amish slaves to bureaucracies don’t have to worry about being judged by each other!
  • “I asked my literal grandmother, a 95 year old former nurse, how health care worked in her day. She said it just wasn’t a problem. Hospitals were supported by wealthy philanthropists and religious organizations. Poor people got treated for free. Middle class people paid as much as they could afford, which was often the whole bill, because bills were cheap. Rich people paid extra for fancy hospital suites and helped subsidize everyone else.”
  • Government-provided health insurance is suboptimal, to say the least.

I’d love to see more churches and other similar groups experiment with models like that of the Amish. Of course, they’d only be able to do so if they had similarly tight-knit communities. And that’s an uphill battle since Americans (including American Christians) have been so thoroughly atomized.