All the poets were dying of a silence disease

All the poets were dying of a silence disease December 31, 2018

• It’s New Year’s Eve, so I hereby give you permission to give yourself permission to empty your inbox. As in “Select All” followed by “Delete.”

Think of it as email Jubilee:

And ye shall hallow the fifty-second week, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every one unto their possession, and ye shall return every person unto their family. A jubilee shall that fifty-second week be unto you: ye shall not trouble thyself with that email to which thou didst mean to reply, nor shalt thou read the multitude of unopened emails in thy inbox. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.

Your debts are forgiven. Forgive others in kind.

If enough of us do this, then it will just become a Thing People Do and we will all be forgiven, or at least accommodated.

(Oh, and if you sent me an email in November, or in maybe March, it’s gone now. So you might need to resend that.)

• I expected, eventually, to see further confirmation that Michael Cohen has been to Prague. I did not expect that Little Steven would play a role in any of that.

• Morgan Guyton pegs something here talking about “The Evangelical Zeal for Zeal,” which he says is “the best and worst aspect of evangelical culture”:

There’s no way to distinguish fairly between people who are genuinely fired up about Jesus and people who are performatively On Fire For Jesus, but a culture that promotes zeal as a value in and of itself creates a lot of pressure to put your piety on display for others.

Yes. And the script for this presentation of appropriate/expected/required zeal is all too easy to learn, to perform, to fake.

This is what makes me suspicious of this kind of pious zeal/zealous piety. I don’t mean only that, because it can be easily faked, it can be difficult to distinguish mere performance from the genuine article. I also mean that faking it does not seem to be a path to the genuine article.

And that suggests it is not a virtue — at least not in the sense of what we usually think of as virtues.

“Fake it ’til you make it” Aristotle said (I’m paraphrasing). That applies to the virtues. Courage or patience or justice or love can be developed as habits. We can nurture and develop them by pretending we already possess them. (“I hated everyone,” Leonard Cohen wrote, “but I acted generously / and no one found me out.”) If you act like a patient person, you will act like a patient person. The action itself — the behavior — is what matters, not any accompanying emotion or feeling, not any degree of passionate sincerity or sincere passion.

But sometimes faking it doesn’t lead to making it. Sometimes it’s simply hypocrisy and duplicity. This kind of fakery is, as Guyton notes, “performative” — it requires an audience of others. The emphasis shifts from the thing itself to the perception of the thing. What gets practiced and rehearsed and learned is not the virtue itself, but the trick of tricking others into thinking we possess it.

I worry that the expectation of being “performatively On Fire For Jesus” can lead evangelicals to practice, and thereby acquire, the odd skill of being sincerely duplicitous. I don’t think that’s healthy.

• In America, every “Christian nationalism” is or has been white nationalism. While there have always been white nationalists who were not also Christian nationalists, there is not now and never has been an American Christian nationalism that was not also white nationalism. Show me a Christian nationalist and I will show you a white nationalist.

That’s why it’s appropriate that this poll was conducted by Winthrop University.

Related: “Trump’s White Evangelicals are Nostalgic for an American Past that Never Existed for Blacks and Others.”

• This news item is a good companion piece to Morgan Guyton’s post above. Jeremy Morris of Hayden, Idaho, believes that his calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ involves putting 200,000 Christmas lights up on his house as part of a wowza holiday spectacle that includes Santa Claus, Roman centurions, and a live camel (“See the Temple tumble and the Red Sea part …”):

Morris said he always struggled with what he was supposed to do for his Christian faith. Seeing families turn out in droves for his Christmas display helped him understand: this Christmas show was his calling. He could use it as a way to witness to people, he said.

I might gently want to help Mr. Morris explore, perhaps, the possibility that God might have additional opportunities or callings available that are maybe a bit less Griswold, but I do admire the man’s dedication. Once he decided he was called to this form of ministry, he jumped in with both feet. And I suppose you could make a Babette’s Feast-type argument that this is his way of anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume. Or something.

But while I may be of two minds about Morris’ chosen form of “ministry,” and we seem to disagree quite a bit in our understanding of evangelism, I am unambiguously on his side when it comes to his inevitable legal dispute with the West Hayden Estates Homeowners’ Association. When HOA’s lose, we all win.

Hurray for the Riff Raff.

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