My fondest wishes for the Orthosphere

From a point where Dr. Charlton could understandably assert its death, The Orthosphere has bounced back and is now at its highest quality yet.  Professor Bertonneau has begun posting much more regularly.  Professor Smith (who contributes a lot of the best material at Throne and Altar, if you read the comments) and Professor Cocks are onboard and contributing.  Kristor is still plugging away.  I plan to keep my writings here for the foreseeable future.  My colleagues are doing a much better job expounding on metaphysics and theology than I could do.  It frees me up to keep amusing myself writing about sex and Disney princesses.  (Actually, the princess theme is exhausted now.  I just had to work that out of my system.)  The state of the Church is so discouraging, I’m surprised more bloggers aren’t retreating into other subjects.

One wish I had for the Orthosphere has come true.  It’s now pretty much dominated by humanities and social sciences university faculty.  I’m an unashamed snob about these things, and it seems to me that those are the people who should be overseeing a theological-political movement.  The amateur phase is to be gotten over as quickly as possible.

The biggest wish I had for the Orthosphere has not come true.  I was hoping to see us being attacked in First Things.  You see, a frustrating thing about the Right is insufficient connectivity between its various degrees.  For whatever reason, each person seems to have an inclination to occupy his own particular spot in the ideological spectrum.  He will drift only until he finds it.  Many of us had the experience of spending years on the rightmost edge of liberalism, even though we found it unsatisfactory, because we weren’t aware of any genuinely illiberal alternative.  There are stops in the ideological spectrum where right-going personalities tend to clog up.  A stop is a point on the spectrum that refuses to acknowledge alternatives to its right.  Stop points dialog only with positions to their left and thus present themselves to their followers as the rightmost end of the viable ideological spectrum.  By refusing to seriously engage perspectives to their right, they impede the flow of readers to their natural ideological destinations.

Acknowledgement of other positions usually can’t mean agreement–they are other positions after all.  It can mean attack, so long as the position being attacked is accurately described.  George Weigel throwing insults at the SSPX is not acknowledgement.  I suspect that if First Things–the highest quality magazine that represents the rightmost end of religious conservatism that nevertheless insists on bending the knee to Americanist liberalism–were to properly attack us, meaning explain Jim Kalb’s case against liberalism and then give their reasons for disagreeing with it, they’d lose half their readers to us.  Many of us were stuck at the Neuhaus halfway house for too long and would have happily defected once we heard even a negative description of a viable rightward alternative.

My biggest misgiving with religious conservatism, Orthosphere and otherwise, is the emerging consensus in favor of Girardism.  Everybody but me seems to be sold on this idea that culture and organized religion are giant scams for people to redirect their homicidal envy at innocent victims, and the point of Christianity is that these victims society is always teaming up on are innocent.  That’s certainly not what I thought our beliefs were, but then again what do I know?

24 Responses

  1. Im going to have to get a taller head.

  2. I don’t know more than the first thing about Girardism, but I also get that uneasy sense that it sees authority as just some monster of nature which inevitably sacrifices innocent scapegoats. Hopefully it is obvious to anyone who reads my stuff that I would reject that view unequivocally. But other than the occasional allusion here and there I don’t know enough to have any idea if my impression is accurate. And the problem with doing due diligence on particular figures is that it takes significant investment of time and effort, which is often only rewarded by confirming, in successive and tedious layers, my disagreement, after wading through all sorts of esoteric prose.

    It is probably a personal deficiency. I’m lazy, and value my time, so get to the point already. Give me a succinct reason why I should spend the time it takes to figure him out, other than that he is becoming fashionable with certain bloggers. Where is the bloody executive summary, the elevator pitch?

    Why do people in the humanities tend to be totally lacking in the simple human charity of getting right to the gist? When did it become a virtue to take as long as possible to say something?

  3. Thanks for a year of one of my favorite blogs Bonald. Do you have any wishes or new year’s resolutions for this blog?

  4. @Bonald

    My assertion that the Orthosphere was nearly dead was of course intended to provoke more activity. But it isn’t rare that several days go by with no posts – which is pretty pathetic for a group blog. The posts are usually good, sometimes very good, the comments section – not really: too much snark, a lot of phariseeism, a lot of time and space wasted by a handful of trolls or monomaniacs.

    Is the blog in any way building a cross-denominational alliance among Mere Christians (which, I suppose, it was meant to do)? If so, I don’t see it.

    I don’t think I have seen any posts arguing in favour of Mere Christianity – and the comments are often aggressively sectarian proselytising. Scratch a little, and the trad Catholics and conservative Protestants seem to regard each other (and everyone else not in their specific church) as dangerous heretics – or, at least, there is more of this heresy-hunting than the opposite.

    Speaking personally, I have found the community gathered by the Orthosphere to be more depressing than encouraging. I think it began better, when Proph used to write about ‘Collapse’ – which gave a focus to resistance – but now the (rather weak) initial cohesion has gone, probably because the contributers seem to have nothing positive and powerful they can agree to cohere around.

  5. My biggest misgiving with religious conservatism, Orthosphere and otherwise, is the emerging consensus in favor of Girardism.

    I don’t think that is the case. Certainly the Reformed are sticking with penal substitution.

  6. Anyone interested in an alternative to Girardism might be well advised to take up Moshe Halbertal’s little book On Sacrifice.

  7. The problem with Bruce Charlton’s whole approach is that it is either wrong in the way that happy-clappy post-VII ecumenism is wrong, or it’s too subtle to be understood by simple obedience-oriented shleps like I, so what good is it for us anyway when it can’t be trusted?

  8. Zippy: One of John Lukacs’ books (maybe “A New Republic”) had a thread in it about the inflation of words, which is all I can remember about it. More words, less meaning.

  9. Bruce C.

    My reservation is more that a thick consensus does seem to be growing there, and I’m outside of it.

    Zippy,

    I haven’t read any of Girard’s books either, and I’m sure I wouldn’t get anything out of them if I approach them in the mood of someone just trying to reject them. From my point of view this doesn’t matter much, because it’s the stuff people inspired by Girard are saying on the internet that bothers me, whether or not it’s a complete and accurate picture of the anthropologist’s work. I do have reason to think they’re getting it basically right, though. Some time ago, Kristor linked to this essay by Girard himself in First Things:
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/04/002-are-the-gospels-mythical
    It doesn’t take too long to read and looks to serve as a summary of his main thoughts. It seems quite consistent with how he is presented at the Orthosphere.

  10. Thanks Roepke. Right now, this blog is in search of a purpose for 2016.

  11. @Bonald

    Girard’s position seems to be just another regurgitation of the tired old “Jesus was a revolutionary” claim. Have there really been people in the Orthoptera pushing it?

    @Bruce C

    That you accuse the Orthosphere of being plagued by Phariseeism is a testament to its veracity and orthodoxy.

  12. @AK

    That you accuse the Orthosphere of being plagued by Phariseeism is a testament to its veracity and orthodoxy.

    The Pharisees were absolutely convinced that they were orthodox.

    Yet they weren’t.

  13. Bonald:

    Thanks for linking to the FT article. Based on where the scroll bar is I got about a fourth of the way through before I started pulling my hair out:

    Had Jesus imitated Peter’s ambition, the two thereby would have begun competing for the leadership of some politicized “Jesus movement.” Sensing the danger, Jesus vehemently interrupts Peter: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a skandalon to me.”

    It is bad enough when people try to mind-read other people who they don’t know, but who are at least somewhat similar to themselves. It is worse when they try to mind-read people who are far removed by centuries, geography, and culture. But trying to psychoanalyze the mind of God incarnate is just insane.

    Here is Wikipedia:

    Girard’s fundamental ideas, which he had developed throughout his career and provided the foundation for his thinking, was that desire is mimetic (all of our desires are borrowed from other people), that all conflict originates in mimetic desire (mimetic rivalry), that the scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry, and that the Bible reveals these ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism.

    If that is right, it looks to me like just another batshit crazy attempt to make man the measure of all things, not to mention reduce essences to evolutionary narrative. Nobody every has real conflicts over real stuff like land, resources, clan, and women. Our desire for land, community, resources, and women are not part of the objective nature of things but are just imitation ‘borrowed from other people’; all conflict is illusory mimetic rivalry, postmodern power struggle, never a genuine clash between good and evil.

    No thanks.

  14. Peter Blood:

    One of John Lukacs’ books (maybe “A New Republic”) had a thread in it about the inflation of words, which is all I can remember about it. More words, less meaning.

    At some point the self-centered incharity involved in failing to get to the f***ing point while speaking probably becomes grave matter.

    Bonald:

    Right now, this blog is in search of a purpose for 2016.

    Nothing wrong with the purpose of saying whatever ought to be said that nobody else is saying, and that you have the personal bandwidth to say.

  15. Nobody every has real conflicts over real stuff like land, resources, clan, and women. Our desire for land, community, resources, and women are not part of the objective nature of things but are just imitation ‘borrowed from other people’; all conflict is illusory mimetic rivalry, postmodern power struggle, never a genuine clash between good and evil.

    That’s a very nice summary of what is wrong with Girard.

    And yet . . . our desires are to some degree shaped by what others desire. Women particularly are influenced by the social environment, but even that has limits. So, mimetic desire theory isn’t wrong . . . it’s just ridiculous when shoved into service as a theory of everything.

  16. s the emerging consensus in favor of Girardism

    A much bigger issue is that you guys take theological advice from a “theoretical Mormon.”

    I was hoping to see us being attacked in First Things

    Why would you expect that? You guys are just a lower quality knock-off of the same milquetoast “mere (Protestant) Christianity” that permeates so much of the American right.

  17. Oh I detect a lure, bait and all from itascript. I will bite due to boredom, not belief.

    Who or where then is the great source of purer information than Dr. Charlton or your other targets?

  18. With respect to Bruce (and CS Lewis), there’s no such thing as Mere Christianity. Christianity is the religion held by Christians, whose beliefs and practices may be measured only by their holding to the doctrines handed down by the Apostles and their spiritual heirs.

    Therefore Christianity is properly Christian to the extent it conforms to the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. The adjective “mere” attempts to hold that view, and all other parochial visions like it, at bay. But that cannot be done without destroying the thing you are trying to hold in a “mere” fashion. There are Christians, who by definition accept the authority structure created by Christ, and there are heretics. Period. There is no point of error on the continuum between truth and error that may rightly be described as “mere”. Only “merely” in error.

    I’ve been involved with the Orthosphere from the very beginning. It is multi-denominational and ecumenical. It holds certain (many) theological disputes in tension, so that mutual edification and encouragement may be gained in other areas. But it does not I think propose any formulation of “Mere Christianity”. And I’m glad for that.

  19. > Nobody every has real conflicts over real stuff like land, resources, clan, and women…

    > And yet . . . our desires are to some degree shaped by what others desire.

    This reminds me of an afterward of one volume of Father Copleston’s history of philosophy, regarding Marx’s and Nietzsche’s theories of everything. If you say that economic relations or the will to power determine everything, that’s clearly wrong. But if you weaken the claim to say just that these things are important forces, that sometimes they motivate actions, then you have a statement that is true but obvious and uninteresting. So the theories of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud (the latter being a very similar case) are either interesting but false or true but uninteresting.

    I’d say the same thing about Girard. If the Orthosphere writers pressed me on it, I would admit that perhaps sometimes social cohesion has been maintained by targeting scapegoats, but I think it’s rare and anomalous for this to be a core part of society’s glue. But if all one admits is that this occasionally happens, then Girardism loses all its force. Just because we see society teaming up on some minority group, we can’t assume that it’s the Girardian scapegoat mechanism at work. Sometimes targeted minorities have it coming. Society has good reason to lock up thieves and child molesters, even without assuming that we’re all bubbling over with envy. Or sometimes the targeted minority doesn’t have it coming, but society is genuinely guided by an incorrect belief. Presumably the Romans really thought Christianity was antisocial, and the communists really thought that Marxism must work so the fact it isn’t means there must be wreckers.

  20. […] has fondest wishes for the Orthosphere for the new year. And a good report of it’s not death. Also this was funny, and mostly true: […]

  21. You’re very much right about ‘clogging points’ (such an apt description of these people) and to have this radicalism attacked by First Things would most definitely put wind in our sails, however hasn’t Rod Dreher attacked us in passing? I seem to remember when there was criticism of his ‘Benedict Option’, he quickly denounced ‘dangerous elements’.

  22. Keep purpose for your life, not for your blog. This place needs no more impact than the words of a good man in bad times. Whenever you seem moved to write, really motivated, the product is excellent. It does not matter if it is intermittent.

    I thought the Orthosphere was a bad idea from the get go for purely personality reasons. Creatures such as yourselves cannot bring themselves to write and expound like a journalist, they must be inspired. The burden of continuous activity is fatal to such inspiration. The Orthosphere was a chore to read (when I used to read it) and I am certain its a chore to write.

    I am glad you moved away from it and I wish Proph had as well. The success of material like this has become slowly evident over the last few years to me; its strength lies in touching thinking, feeling individuals. A slow but inevitable dissemination.

  23. […] recently wrote on a different […]

  24. […] itself for decades, and this is the reason we are so vulnerable to this sort of attack.  As I’ve written before, the Right blogosphere is not properly interconnected.  Everyone should link to people both more […]

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