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Issue No. 7

Jerry Falwell Jr. was never a hypocrite, you can't be "taken down" on Twitter, the similarities between chronic illness and decadence and the dynamic of being a lawyer or judge in politics.

Robert Rackley
Robert Rackley
4 min read

The big news in the world of American Christianity this week seems to be the Vanity Fair profile of Jerry Falwell Jr. in which he admits to not being religious. What I found most interesting about this revelation is that it's not really one at all. I remember an interview with him on NPR in 2016 where he talked about then head of the ERLC for the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore. Falwell accused Moore of being a "closeted liberal" and said that those who were scolding Donald Trump for his behavior should remember the woman at the well and not throw stones (conflating two different biblical accounts from the gospels). He picked up some religious references along his life's journey, but that seems to be about it. So the biggest surprise itself was that people were surprised by his admission.

Russell Moore's response was that the junior Falwell never really disguised who he was.

Falwell Jr. frequently spoke not in terms of the gospel or the way of Christ, even parenthetically, but in terms of decidedly Machiavellian political aims and objectives. When individuals questioned the cost to Christian witness of merging evangelicalism with populist demagoguery, he often dismissed them as though they were morally preening puritans, out of touch with the real world.

What are those people who believed in Falwell going to do when they find out Donald Trump is not actually religious?

Freddie deBoer wrote some thoughts after being told a book was "taken down" on Twitter. In this sense, "taken down" seems to colloquially mean something like "entirely refuted." deBoer takes a stance that is not expressed often enough: Something like a book refutation is not possible within a limited medium like Twitter.

There is no such thing as a damning review of a book in tweet form. Such a thing is beyond the affordances of the medium. A longform book review can do more, but has limits of its own. A book review can be cutting, if it’s rigorous enough - and yes, a certain length is a prerequisite for rigor. A book review can be informative and humorous and generative and entertainingly mean. I write some myself and hope to achieve such goals. But no review alone can rebut an argument expressed over hundreds of words. It might be better, or at least easier, if it were so. But we live in a world of irreducible complexity, and our efforts to wrestle it into digestible chunks to match diminishing attention spans - well, that last part is exactly the contentious issue at hand - don’t magically make life simple enough to understand through maxims or fortune cookies or tweets. It doesn’t work that way.

I wish more people understood the constraints of a platform like Twitter.

There is No Such Thing as a Takedown | Freddie deBoer

From Ross Douthat, an attempt to fuse together the themes of his two books, The Deep Places and The Decadent Society.

Both decadence and chronic ailments cut against the human tendency to imagine a crisis as something that either leads to some kind of fatal endgame quickly or else resolves itself and goes away. Being sick for a long period of time has a baffling effect on friends and family and acquaintances, not because they’re unsympathetic or unwilling to help, but because our primary image of sickness is something that comes and quickly leaves, or comes and threatens your life and needs to be treated intensely with the highest stakes — and it’s harder to know how to respond to having something that apparently isn’t life-threatening but also doesn’t go away.

I can sympathize with Douthat's attempt to draw parallels here. I certainly understand where he is coming from with regards to how people respond to chronic illness. Most people have difficulty understanding how to deal with illness that doesn't go away with some modern treatment option or, on the flip side, doesn't leave you dead. Many times, if people don't hear from you, they assume you are better. Similarly, I suppose, unless people are raising an alarm, a decadent society is thought of as getting better, as well.

Decadence is a Chronic Illness | Ross Douthat

🔗Via Alan Jacobs

The Political Lawyer

From David French, an analogy for partisanship in this country. He came to this after leaving the Republican party in 2016:

Since my political divorce, however, I’ve been able to see more clearly the nature of partisanship itself, including the way in which it distorts our view of the world. To use a legal analogy, at a fundamental level, partisanship converts a person from a judge (one who decides among competing arguments, hopefully without bias) to a lawyer (one who steadfastly and relentlessly defends their client, almost regardless of the facts).

The partisan is prone to act like a lawyer, and the party is their client. He or she picks a side, and then—convinced that the common good or social justice is ultimately served by their triumph—behaves exactly how lawyers behave. Are there facts that make your “client” (Democrats or Republicans) look good? Emphasize those facts. Do negative developments harm your case? Find a way to change the focus.

I love this so much. I've never thought about the subject using this framework, but it has long bothered me that people pick a side and then defend that side, no matter what. The paradigm that French, a former attorney, lays out is so appropriate, and so spot on. When you think about political issues, are you being a judge or a lawyer?

From the Blog

Some thoughts on the new Disney+ Star Wars episodic television show.

Tatooine Under New Management
The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ has been met with mixed reactions but beyond being a credible addition to the Star Wars universe, it comes with a story worth telling.

Robert Rackley

Orthodox Christian, aspiring minimalist, inveterate notetaker, software dev manager and paper airplane mechanic.

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