Jesus and the Canaanite woman

Last Sunday’s gospel is not a popular one, but one could argue that it’s the key to the whole Bible.  That key is

God loves the Jews best.

People tend to respond emotionally to this and think it means that if they are not Jews then God doesn’t love them.  No, it means that if you’re not a Jew, God doesn’t love you as much, but He still does love you, just as a man can love his dog, just not as much as his children.  Remember, in Dante’s telling, even the inhabitants of the humblest level of Heaven are satisfied with their place.

This key to the Bible shouldn’t be so surprising.  Most of the Bible is the Old Testament, which is not exactly shy about our God being the tribal God of the Hebrews.  Thus, chunks of the Old Testament seem boring or meaningless to most Christian readers.  Some Christians probably feel guilty about this and are loathe to admit to themselves that they find the Old Testament much less enjoyable than, say, The Odyssey.  For others, it is a scandal that must be overcome by theologians teasing out deep spiritual truths from every grisly episode of Israelite military history.  The Bible being God’s book, such truths are not infrequently to be had, so these theologians have done worthwhile work.  However, perhaps the guilt and the scandal can be eased if we acknowledge that most of the Bible is not written primarily for us.  Imagine sitting at a friend’s house listening to your friend converse with his family as they share family anecdotes.  Perhaps you would find some of them interesting or charming, but you would not expect to be interested in another family’s stories the way that they are.  With the Old Testament, the case is more analogous to reading love letters written to someone else.

Paul in the second reading is also clear that the salvation of his “race” is part of God’s ultimate plan.  It may even be the most important part (like “life from the dead”!), but Paul seems to think the salvation of the Gentiles is valuable in itself, not only as a way of making the Chosen People jealous.

God’s favoritism toward the Jews is manifest, even apart from the Bible, from their spiritual ascendency over Christians.  Christians accept the condemnation of their civilization, their “legacy of shame”, because they recognize from their inmost hearts the superior authority of Jewish prophetic revolutionary moral critique.  Unlike the case of Catholics, no one has to worry about whether there will still be Jews in a hundred years.

The danger of trading tribal deities for monotheism is that, even if it turns out that the one true God’s plan does center on a special people, that special people is unlikely to happen to be yours.  In fact, the universe being a very big place, perhaps we should feel lucky that God chose to concern Himself particularly with any group of homo sapiens.

A question of expertise

Contemporary society is unofficially organized by two principles.

  1. Authority, competence, and trustworthiness is established solely through the possession of credentials testifying to a relevant education and training.
  2. Ultimate authority over the entire social order belongs to the media, which adjudicates social status of both individuals and groups and tells people what their opinions on all matters of the day should be.

These two principles are not obviously in harmony.  What training do opinion journalists have to justify their vast power?  What credentialing process qualifies one to be a philosopher king?

The question will probably strike readers, as it would have struck Plato, as grotesque.  Surely the qualification to be a philosopher king, or more generally to have one’s opinions on all subjects taken seriously, is wisdom, something more likely to come from hard experience than from any university degree.  That’s not the point though.  The point is, if you were on board with the program of the modern world, you would respect only credentialed expertise.  You would also read the New York Times religiously and believe whatever you read there.  However, it is quite doubtful that the writers at the Times can boast any expertise that would justify such credulity.

We could easily look up the degrees and academic publication history of the writers at the major journals.  Some would be impressive, although I expect most wouldn’t be.  However, as soon as one poses the question, one realizes that no list of degrees would justify the obeisance these journals receive.

The Times and other big newspapers could claim expertise as journalists.  It’s what some of their employees were trained in, and they have interviewed their subjects and thus have the “expertise of direct witness” to report what they’ve seen and heard.  If they were humble newsmen just reporting what they’ve seen and heard, this would be enough.  But they also endorse political movements and candidates, propose an authoritative interpretation of American history, declare scientific hypotheses off limits, and in many other ways behaves as if possessed of a universal competence of judgment.

Amusingly, one of the things they do with this universal competence is ridicule people who defy expert opinion.  Only experts are qualified to have opinions according to the most influential people, who have no relevant expertise on most of the subjects they write on.

Suggestion: Deplorable Day

When I was growing up, I thought racists were just a bunch of low-class skinheaded morons, but now, thanks to cancel culture and the woke media, I’ve come to realize that racist sexist homophobes have made enormous contributions to the world we live in today.  So many great inventors, artists, scientists, writers, and composers, not to mention so many among the working class whose daily humble labor makes our lives possible!  According to the media, our civilization was built mostly by racists, so we certainly owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

I think deplorables deserve their own holiday.  Today happens to be the day after the feast of the Assumption, which perhaps better than any other day reminds us that there is no longer any human without sin sensibly resident on Earth.  It is an implicit rebuke to the pretensions of the Pure Ones and so an appropriate day to honor the ones they have sought to erase.

the deplorable Ronald Fisher

Cambridge is posthumously canceling the great statistician.  Nothing notable about that.  Let me draw your attention to a few points in the linked article.

Other academic institutions are engaged in similar discussions. University College London has re-labelled buildings named after two other, perhaps even more prominent eugenicists of the late 19th and early 20th century, Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. The point is not to denigrate their achievements in areas where recognition is due – Pearson established a range of statistical methods that, like Fisher’s, are still in use today.

Weird.  It’s as if none of the founders of the science of statistics believed in racial egalitarianism.

The author continues

The point is, any memorial to racists and eugenicists “creates an unwelcoming environment for many in our community”, as Michael Arthur, provost of UCL, has rightly said. The right way to understand them and their ideas is through a properly contextualised display in a museum, not through an uncommented memorial that conceals more than it reveals.

Memorials in the end are less about the past than about the present and the future. The questions institutions need to ask of themselves are, what contribution do the memorials they display make to building a future that is democratic and inclusive and encourages all their members to respect one another’s identity? And what should they do with those that don’t?

Note the dishonesty.  The goal here, of course, is to make a less inclusive academic community, one where everyone knows that dissent will not be tolerated.

Also, journalists used to write slanted articles without explicitly tipping their hands, as the author does with “rightly”.  Who is going to be convinced by that word of endorsement who wasn’t already?  It’s so much more effective to control who gets the first and last word in, or even to fall back on “some say”.  The earlier part of the article is biased against Fisher, but only in the end does it start dictating to readers what our beliefs should be.  I think the goal now is less to convince readers than to protect writers.  In any opinion or news piece, there must be no question where the writer stands.  Otherwise, he opens himself to attack.  This is presumably why I keep finding articles, some of which are otherwise quite interesting and well-written, with bizarre out-of-place insults of Donald Trump thrown in.  Years ago, I was reading a book review of Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”, and the reviewer made the shocking claim that it was Nagel’s own fault other philosophers had snubbed his book, because at one point he mentioned intelligent design without endorsing it but without attacking it either.  Neutral description is no longer allowed, even in philosophical circles.  Look how they went after Scott Alexander for writing a refutation of neo-reaction because he tried to first provide a fair description of it.