Welcome To Via Meadia
Published on: July 22, 2010
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  • vanderleun

    I’m just thanking a kind and compassionate God it wasn’t “In Media Res.”

  • Lea Luke

    “I’m often the most liberal person in a conservative room — and the most conservative person in a liberal one. ”

    I wonder how many of your readers feel the same way? Take a poll.

  • John Barker

    Lea Luke

    Count me as one of those is often asked to leave each of the rooms. When you think for yourself, you are often alone.

  • WigWag

    Via Meadia; a perfect name for a great blog and you didn’t even mention the word play on the word “media” as in “new media.”

    I do have on question though. After reading this post I actually tried to sing the stanza of the “Anglican Fight Song” you provided to us to the tune of “God Bless America.” No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t figure out a way to do it. Finally, it occurred to me that perhaps you meant to say that the song should be sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful.” When I tried that, it worked perfectly.

    I’m not saying that my rendition was as good as the rendition of your teen aged camp friends but at least I could make the song work.

    Is it “God Bless American” you meant or “America the Beautiful?”

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Hmm. It works when I sing it — but that may be a sign of just how bad my singing voice is.

  • Don’t you mean “eponymous”?

    You’re aware of the fallacy of the golden mean, right? The middle is better than the extremes just because it’s the middle. Of course, the middle is sometimes the best, especially in your examples of moderation of action such as child-rearing. But it is a clear fallacy in intellectual debates. The middle position must be justified by argument, not assumption.

    If you want to adopt pragmatism as your guiding philosophy, fine. But don’t assume that all extreme positions necessarily have vices. For instance, the ACLU’s position on the 4th Amendment is at the extreme of American political discourse. What is the vice of their view?

    “here I dither, I can do no other” That is an admission of intellectual abdication. Thank you for being so clear about your views.

  • Richard

    “God Bless America” works for me; couldn’t begin to make sense of it with “America the Beautiful.”

    Lots of comments have come into my head as I’ve read this blog over the past few months, but I never posted one. And this is what leads me to post? I’m really not that shallow, and neither is this blog, which I value much more than I agree with it.

  • K2K

    Lea Luke and John Barker: count me in as well. So, we are not so alone 🙂

    Mr. Mead: “We are fighting an anonymous war with unspecified goals against Those Who Cannot Be Named” ah yes, the dilemma of violent extremism.
    In the meantime, serious writers persist in naming those the White House cannot name:
    “Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism. By John Calvert. Hurst & Co; 256 pages; £25. To be published in America by Columbia University Press in August. The first review was in The Economist July 15.

    Looking forward to Mr. Mead posting on self-determination and the not-officially recognized nation-states in Somaliland and Kurdistan.

    Best national anthem award goes to Uruguay!

  • Jules Mopper

    Well, there’s a certain fictiveness going on here, makes me wish I’d actually looked into that lit crit stuff.

    Basically, it goes back to the self-referential decision-making that people (unconsciously?) do when choosing (forming?) opinions. Moderate-ism is one of the most popular forms of this – “nonconformity” by teenagers beats it out by some margin. Hopefully that makes it clear what I mean.

    What I like about Mead is that he actually has rhyme and reason behind his views, so whatever moderate-ism he suffers from isn’t (can’t be) as distorting it is for normal people, who commit the fallacies Norwegian Shooter talks about.

    But there’s the rub. Prof. Mead isn’t a normal person, he’s a high-profile academic, and he doesn’t just state his opinions, he subjects himself to grand self-censorship, considering not only how his statements play for foreign readers, but also how they fit within rancid milky way of domestic blather, and whose feathers they ruffle.

    As such, we shouldn’t consider this “middle way” a level road: it’s sloping, and Mead’s uphill, talking down.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    In 1978 sociologist John Murray Cuddihy wrote a prescient book titled “No Offense: A Critique of American Civil Religion,” which propounded a thesis that Catholic elites gave up their claim to being the one true church and Jewish elites likewise relented being the one chosen people of God so as not to offend the Protestant majority. Thus, American Civil Religion became a religion of “civility” and Protestants took on the demeanor of what Berger calls “the Protestant smile.” Civil religion became a religion of conformity to upper Middle Class values and the cultural norm became inconspicuousness. Civil religion became “civility” itself instead of piety. Peter Berger described this tame sort of religion in his book “The Noise of Solemn Assemblies” published in 1961.

    If we had to re-write the culture of civil religion today at least for liberal Protestant elites Cuddihy’s book would have to be re-titled: “All is Offensive.” As depicted in Katharine Jefforts Schori, her aim is not only to offend theologically in sermons by propagating a gospel of offensiveness, but also to offend on the interactional level. Using Berger’s terms, the Protestant smile has been replaced with the conspicuous Protestant scowl. In his article “Reflections of an Ecclesiastical Expatriate” Berger described this new face of Protestantism as: “The face now has a set and a sour mien, an expression of permanent outrage.”

    The tolerance of the old Protestant “civility” has been replaced by intolerance in the name of “diversity” and hostile rejection of modern, American global commercial culture. If the social function of the older “civil religion” was to legitimate the “OK world” of modernity, the function of the new religion of “incivility” is to delegitimate modernity and deem nearly everything – including the weather and climate – as “not OK.”

    It is the scowl of an elite religious counterculture that rejects modernization and Capitalism as further described in Berger’s book “The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness.” What liberal Protestants want others to be conscious of is how everyone else’s cultural values offend them as cultural elites. This takes the form of religious and cultural “one-upmanship.”

    Berger points out that there are several forms of countermodernizing ideology and theology: nativism, traditionalism, nationalism, and socialism. The two fundamentalisms described by Berger in the Episcopal Church could be described as Episcopal traditionalism versus anti-nationalist socialism.

    To the traditionalist modernization and traditional symbols must be protected, including the “Biblical family” that is not very Biblical at all and as Berger points out has only been around since the invention of the steam engine. Like socialist, traditionalists are not content with relegation of religion to the private social sphere. The public sphere must reflect back their traditional values. That is why countercultural religious elites work so hard to offend. Gay marriage should be legalized not so much to institutionalize gay relationships but to deny religious traditionalists cultural hegemony over the public square and offend them. And liberal religious elites themselves must offend in every way including inverting gender roles.

    It is no wonder then that these two fundamentalisms should clash in the Episcopal Church, which was formed as a sort of hybrid of Catholicism and Protestantism. Underneath this clash of fundamentalisms as Berger reminds us is a clash of the old business class and the New Class of knowledge workers in education, social work, the media, environmental protection, and “Obamacare.”

    For those caught in the middle of this clash, there is not a spiritual home because financial resources for churches seem to coalesce around one pole or the other. It is more important to religious Traditionalists to oppose gay marriage and in so doing they give armamentarium to religious Counter-culturalists that they are bigoted. Most traditional Episcopal churches have lost their church buildings and racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in fighting the liberal Episcopal hierarchy over who owns the buildings.

    Oddly, there isn’t hardly any reconciliation between the two social classes that clash in these church battles. But who would underwrite a middle ground theology or church?

  • Jim__L

    If the spiritual act calling on the power of God (like an exorcism) were against the will of God, wouldn’t it have failed? (This once again raises the question, Whose side is Schori on?)

    As for being on the Right Side of History, no one I’ve ever heard that uses that argument actually seems to have consulted History as to its ruling on any given issue.

    I’d also recommend Berger go back to the Bible, and the writings of Luther, Melanchthon, et al, for a bit of refreshment (or perhaps even renaissance) of his religious outlook. There are also some early American theologians whose work on “the sternness of the Law and the sweetness of the Gospel” can illuminate the core tensions of Christianity, tensions that it seems too many Protestants dismiss with a “smile” now.

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