Atheocracy

Denver bishop James D. Conley offers a potentially useful new word:

In our day, those “decrying the Christian religion” have seized the captain’s seat in America—in the academy, the media, the government and courts. The result is a kind of publicly enforced religious indifferentism, or what recent Popes have called “practical atheism.” The Constitution insists that no religious test shall ever be required for public office. But our society, in effect, now imposes an “irreligious test.” To take part in civic life, Americans must first agree to think and act as if they have no religious convictions or motivations.

America today is becoming what I call an atheocracy—a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious believers.

An atheocracy is a dangerous place, both morally and spiritually. Cut off from the religious moorings expressed in the Declaration, we risk becoming a nation without a soul, a people with no common purpose apart from material pursuits. Worse, as Chesterton well understood, without belief in a Creator, our democracy has no compelling reason for defending human rights:

The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal. . . . There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man. . . . Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion … always vain for the vital purpose of constraining the tyrant.

Our atheocracy has rejected what Chesterton called the dogmatic basis of American identity and liberties. An atheocracy has no ultimate truths to guide it and no inviolable ethical principles by which to direct political activity. Hence, it has no foundation upon which to establish justice, secure true freedom or to constrain tyrants.

We see the consequences of this atheocratic mindset everywhere. We see it most clearly in the case of legalized abortion. Denying the divine origins of the human person, our government has withdrawn the law’s protection from unborn children in the womb—the most absolutely innocent and defenseless members of our human family.

The legal extermination of the unborn is only the most egregious offense against God’s law. In fact, there is apparently no area of life over which our atheocratic government does not feel omni-competent—that government knows best.

This is dramatically clear in the movement to establish homosexual unions as an alternative kind of family. Under pressure from powerful special interests who manipulate the language of “rights” and “freedom” in ways that contradict “the laws of Nature’s God,” our atheocratic government now deems itself competent to rewrite the God-given definitions of marriage and the family.

via America’s Atheocracy | First Things.

 

Shakespeare’s grammar: “He words me”

A neuroscientist describes one of the things that is so remarkable about Shakespeare’s language:  The way he–along with the Elizabethan English of his time–can use words for different parts of speech:

E. A. Abbott (1838-1926) was one of the great Victorian schoolmasters, who wrote, at the age of thirty, A Shakespearian Grammar. He described it as an attempt to illustrate some of the differences between Elizabethan and Victorian English so that his students could understand that the difficulty of Shakespeare lay not so much in the individual words, which could always be looked up in a glossary, as in the syntactic shaping of his thought. In Elizabethan grammar, he said, ‘it was common to place words in the order in which they came uppermost in the mind’ – and then fit the syntax around that mental excitement. Elizabethan authors, he continued, never objected to any ellipsis – any grammatical shortcut – ‘provided the deficiency could be easily supplied from the context’.

I told my brain scientists that one small but powerful example of this quick Elizabethan shorthand is what is now called functional shift or word-class conversion – which George Puttenham, writing in 1589, named ‘enallage or the figure of exchange’. It happens when one part of speech is suddenly transformed into another with a different function but hardly any change of form. It sounds dull but in performance is almost electrically exciting in its sudden simple reach for a word. For example: an adjective is made a verb when in The Winter’s Tale heavy thoughts are said to ‘thick my blood’. A pronoun is made into a noun when Olivia in Twelfth Night is called ‘the cruellest she alive’. Prospero turns adverb to noun when he speaks so wonderfully of ‘the dark backward’ of past time; Edgar turns noun to verb when he makes the link with Lear: ‘He childed as I fathered.’ As Abbott says, in Elizabethan English ‘You can “happy” your friend, “malice” or “foot” your enemy, or “fall” axe on his head.’ Richard II is not merely deposed (that’s Latinate paraphrase): he is unkinged.

This mental instrument of fresh linguistic coinage, which Shakespeare used above all, holds in small within itself three great principles. Namely: the creative freedom and fluidity of the language at the time; the economy of energy it offered for suddenly compressed formulations; and the closeness of functional shift to metaphor – that characteristic mental conversion that Shakespeare so loved – in the dynamic shifting of senses.

via Literary Review – Philip Davis on Shakespeare and Neurology.

My favorite example of this is in Antony & Cleopatra (II.ii) when Cleopatra responds says to her handmaidens of  Octavius Caesar’s smooth but deceptive rhetoric:  “He words me, girls, he words me.”

Some of Shakespeare’s language-bending has entered into the language has a whole, to its great enrichment.  For example, he took “lone,” as in “lone wolf,” which simply means “one.”  He added -ly to invent “lonely,” the feeling you get when you are “lone.”

The scientist goes on to do an experiment to try to find out how this works in the brain.  But this is also good literary criticism; that is, noticing what an author is doing.

HT: Joe Carter

Concubines

Alan Wisdom has a brilliant article in Salvo, bringing back a word we need again and showing how different “just living together” and marriage really are:

In ancient times, there was an option for a man who desired a regular sex partner but did not wish to marry her. He could take a low-status woman as a concubine. He could enjoy her company as long as it pleased him, and he could dismiss her at any time. The man made no promises and signed no contract; consequently, the concubine had few legal protections. Any children that she bore would have an inferior legal status.

The early Church fought long and hard against concubinage. It insisted that such a sexual relationship, without the permanent and total commitment expressed in marriage vows, was immoral and unjust. Over the course of a thousand years, concubinage retreated into the shadows of social disapproval.

In the past 40 years, it seems, concubinage has come to light again under a different name. Like ancient concubinage, contemporary cohabitation is a deliberately ambiguous relationship. The partners make no promises and have no legal obligations to one another. The arrangement has no specified duration and can be terminated at a moment’s notice. Those who cohabit tend to be of lower social status. Their children, on average, do not fare as well as children born to married couples.

Defenders of cohabitation portray it as just a more flexible form of marriage. The love is the same as in marriage, they say; all that is missing is “a piece of paper,” the marriage certificate. Some see cohabitation as a “trial marriage.” They assume that living together will confirm a couple’s compatibility and reduce the odds that a subsequent marriage might end in divorce.

Social science does not support any of these assertions. By every measure, cohabitation is a very different relationship from marriage. Marriages are formed by a series of decisive, publicly announced events: A proposal is made, it is accepted, an engagement is announced, friends and family gather for a wedding, vows and rings are exchanged, and two formerly single persons are declared to be married. By contrast, many couples quietly drift into cohabitation. They gradually spend more time together, one moves his or her possessions piece by piece into the other’s residence, one allows his or her lease to expire, and eventually they realize that they are living together full-time.

The two relationships differ dramatically in durability. The average marriage lasts several decades; the average cohabitation, only 15 months. Because their time horizons are longer, married people are much more likely to invest in one another. Husbands and wives almost always pool their assets. They have a single household budget that does not separate “his” and “her” money. They take responsibility for each other’s debts and inherit each other’s estates.

via Salvo Magazine: Cohabitation: Marriage Lite or the New Concubinage? – Salvo 15.

Read the rest of it, the differences between concubinage and marriage go on and on.  Pity the poor concubine.  Once again we see ourselves progressing at breakneck speed back to primitivism.

UPDATE:  Of course there are differences between the ancient practice of concubinage and today’s “living together,” but the point of similarity is that both are a type of “marriage lite.”  Having or being a concubine bears some similarity to marriage and  exists parallel to that institution but is easily dissolvable.

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“Fairness” and “Common sense”

Two articles take apart the language of political rhetoric:

Arthur Brooks examines the way the Democrats invoke the concept of “fairness” and shows that there is more to justice than just taking from the rich: Obama says it’s only ‘fair’ to raise taxes on the rich. He’s wrong. – The Washington Post.

Then, from the other side, Sophia Rosenfeld critiques the way  Republicans are invoking the concept of “common sense”: Beware of Republicans bearing ‘common sense’

In a day when reason is widely rejected and political discourse has become reduced to manipulative rhetoric, is political debate just a matter of who gets control of the language?  Can you think of other examples of this sort of thing?

Protestant as one who confesses

Fred Sanders sheds some light on what “Protestant” means on the anniversary of the Protestation of Speyer, which was yesterday:

Today (April 19) is the anniversary of the 1529 Protestation of Speyer, which is generally regarded as the first time that the word “Protestant” was used to refer to a religious position distinct from Roman Catholicism. A coalition of German princes and leaders refused to abide by the imperial ban on Luther’s teachings, and called instead for the free spread of gospel teaching in their territories.

These days, in English at least, we sometimes hear that “Protestants” are by definition people who “protest,” that is, people defined by their disagreement with something, their dissent, their rejection of something. It is, in other words, considered a term that stands for nothing positive, but draws its meaning only by negation. . . .

The word seems to come from pro + testari, to testify forth, or to hold forth a position on something. Its primary historical meaning has been to assert, to maintain, to proclaim solemnly or state formally. . . .

So I protest against this bogus etymology, and I maintain that “Protestant” means something a lot closer to a word like “declare,” as in “having a message and sticking with it.” If you know Protestants who are mainly negative, blame them; not the word.

via Protestants, not Protesters | The Scriptorium Daily: Middlebrow.

Liberal theologians, such as Paul Tillich, use the term to argue that the essence of Protestantism is to protest all “static dogmas” and the like, in favor of  free form negation and openness to change.  Thus they justify their lack of beliefs and make themselves a tradition for it.  In reality, though, “protestant,” in the sense of the protestants at Speyer means pretty much the same as “confessional”!

HT: Joe Carter

Spillionaires

A new word for people who got rich from British Petroleum from the oil spill in the Gulf:

The oil spill that was once expected to bring economic ruin to the Gulf Coast appears to have delivered something entirely different: a gusher of money.

So many people cashed in that they earned nicknames: “spillionaires” or “BP rich.” Others hurt by the spill wound up getting comparatively little. Many people who got money deserved it. But in the end, BP’s attempt to make things right — spending more than $16 billion so far, mostly on damage claims and cleanup — created new divisions and even new wrongs.

Some of the inequities arose from the chaos that followed the April 20 spill. But in at least one corner of Louisiana, the dramatic differences can be traced in part to local powerbrokers.

To show how the money flowed, ProPublica interviewed people who worked on the spill and examined records for St. Bernard Parish, a coastal community about five miles southeast of downtown New Orleans.

Those documents show that companies with ties to parish insiders got lucrative contracts and then charged BP for every possible expense. The prime cleanup company submitted bills with little or no documentation. A subcontractor billed BP $15,400 per month to rent a generator that usually cost $1,500 a month. Another company charged BP more than a $1 million a month for land it had been renting for less than $1,700 a month. Assignments for individual fishermen also fell under the control of political leaders.

“This parish raped BP,” said Wayne Landry, chairman of the St. Bernard Parish Council, referring to the conduct of its political leadership. “At the end of the day, it really just frustrates me. I’m an elected official. I have guilt by association.”

via ‘Spillionaires’ are the new rich after BP oil spill payouts – The Washington Post.

Would it be fair to say that the environmental damage from the oil spill was much less than it was hyped up to be, and that BP was the victim of extortion?