Richard Rohr: Walking toward Heaven

Terry Pratchett has a character define sin thusly: “Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.” [1] . . .

.. I don’t believe hell or heaven to be post-life destinations. I believe they are states of consciousness largely visible here and now. A world of objects is a kind of hell. A world of subjects—divine beings honoring the divinity in the other—is surely heaven.

Bill Clinton’s Me Too Reckoning

But time after time, Clinton has spun the Lewinsky thing into a story about how he was treated unfairly during this thing that simply occurred while he was president.

This is how he put it in his “do-over” interview with Stephen Colbert: “But the important thing is, that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago, and I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, and to the American people.”

He uses a version of this locution all of the time. The scandal was a thing that “happened” as if he was not the author of it. It reminds of that scene in Diner where Steve Guttenberg (“What an actor!” — The Stonecutters) makes his fiancée take a football-trivia test to prove she’s worthy of marriage. If she fails, Gutenberg explains, “it’s out of my hands.”

..For Clinton — both of them — all of his or her misdeeds were scandals because other people, nefarious forces, Comstocks and prudes, vast right-wing conspiracies, talk-radio critics, et al., unfairly turned them into scandals. For Clinton, the real story of the impeachment drama was that he did nothing wrong. “I did the right thing,” he said. “I defended the Constitution.”

..  I particularly enjoyed when Bill snapped, “You think President Kennedy should have resigned? Do you believe President Johnson should have resigned?”

This is precisely the argument Clinton used on Donna Shalala and the rest of his cabinet the day after he publicly admitted he’d been lying — and had forced his cabinet to lie

.. When Bill Clinton had to “apologize” to his cabinet for playing baron-and-the-milkmaid with an intern and lying about it, he asked if anybody had a problem with it. Donna Shalala foolishly assumed he was being sincere. She chimed in and said she had a problem. He berated her for her effrontery, explaining that her prudish standards would have prevented JFK from being president. And while those of us not ensorcelled by the cult of that charismatic mediocrity might respond, “Yeah, so?” this was a debate-settling argument for many liberals.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that the whole premise — right or wrong (I think right) — of the Me Too movement is that being powerful or even doing good things professionally is no excuse for piggish, exploitative, or abusive behavior. Clinton’s rhetorical question about Kennedy and Johnson proves that he doesn’t actually agree with the Me Too movement. Or, to be more accurate, he agrees with it — so long as it doesn’t apply to him. Which is just about the purest distillation of Clintonism — in both its Bill and its Hillary strains — you could come up with.

.. If we are to take Me Too seriously, then surely, say, Juanita Broaddrick deserves a hearing, no?

.. focusing entirely on the Lewinsky stuff was a great favor to Clinton, because it allowed him to cite polls and offer his bovine-turd-taco claim that he was “defending the Constitution.”

.. I think Bill Clinton is partly correct when he says the press is “frustrated because they’ve got all these serious accusations against the current occupant of the Oval Office, and his voters don’t seem to care.” It’s not just the current occupant of the Oval Office — but it seems obvious to me that the liberal punditocracy would not be turning on Clinton so much if he weren’t inconvenient to the anti-Trump narrative.

.. Turning the Miss America Pageant into a contest to find the most confident, woke, and earnest young woman regardless of her looks strikes me as a silly idea, along the lines of Burrito Brothers getting into the heating and insulation business.

.. More to the point, the charge that Miss America “objectified” women never bothered me much. The point of beauty pageants is to judge beauty. That’s how they started. Judging people on their earnest wokeness is why we have Oberlin.

.. it seems that a lot of the people who like to mock and belittle “science deniers” and “creationists” are the very same people who insist (hetero)sexual desire, beauty, etc. are entirely socially constructed.

.. If there is a single industry in all of Christendom that does more to treat women as sexual objects without meaningful agency or dignity, it’s the porn industry and, relatedly, strip clubs. Yeah, yeah, I get that Stormy Daniels is an assertive, independent businesswoman. And, as I am not a close student of Stormy Daniels’s particular contributions to this oeuvre, it may be the case that Dripping Wet Sex IV is full of empowering messages for women, but I’ll remain skeptical until I review the evidence.

The Housewives of White Supremacy

“You might not like that women have the right to vote, you might not like that anyone has the right to vote,” Mr. Follin conceded, “but it’s about winning a long-term political victory.”

.. Over the past few years, dozens of YouTube and social media accounts have sprung up showcasing soft-spoken young white women who extol the virtues of staying at home, submitting to male leadership and bearing lots of children — being “traditional wives.” These accounts pepper their messages with scrapbook-style collections of 1950s advertising images showing glamorous mothers in lipstick and heels with happy families and beautiful, opulent homes

.. But running alongside what could be mistaken for a peculiar style of mommy-vlogging is a virulent strain of white nationalism. One such advocate who calls herself “Wife With a Purpose” made international headlines last year when she issued something she titled “the white baby challenge.” Citing falling white birthrates in the West, she urged her followers to procreate. “I’ve made six!” she wrote. “Match or beat me!”

.. These accounts veer dizzyingly from Cosmo-style tips on pleasing your husband to racist musings about “ghetto music” to, on some occasions, calls to reassert their vision of the white race. The seemingly anachronistic way they dress is no accident. The deliberately hyperfeminine aesthetics are constructed precisely to mask the authoritarianism of their ideology.

.. But it is, like any other mass movement, also driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with modern life. Tradwives help us understand the sources of that dissatisfaction by revealing points of overlap between red-lipsticked mothers of six and the men who complain of being “kissless virgins.”

.. A frustrated yearning for a mythic past of material abundance, at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to build careers and achieve financial security, is not gender-specific.

.. Young people face ever more obstacles, higher demands and continually dwindling returns in the form of work benefits, job security and pay. We shouldn’t underestimate how some young white women, when faced with this bleak economic landscape and then presented with a rosy image of 1950s domestic bliss, may look back to 1960s Friedan-era feminism as having cheated them out of a family and a luxurious lifestyle, all supported by a single income.

.. The men on the alt-right might point to diversity initiatives and mass immigration as having dismantled their career prospects; the women are furious that they have to consider career prospects at all.

..  Female fears of objectification and sexual violence remain as potent as ever; the tradwife subculture exploits them by blaming modernity for such phenomena, and then offers chastity, marriage and motherhood as an escape. As one such YouTube commentator, a teenager, told her audience, traditionalism does “what feminism is supposed to do” in preventing women from being made into “sexual objects” and treated “like a whore.”

.. At present, these shared dissatisfactions haven’t helped the alt-right recruit significant numbers of women because, quite simply, the men cannot keep their seething misogyny in check.

 

Richard Rohr Meditation: Loving Fully

The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.

.. Jesus told us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). He called us to a presence that is a broader and deeper kind of knowing than just cognitive thinking. Thinking knows things by objectifying them, capturing them as an object of knowledge. But presence knows things by refusing to objectify them; instead it shares in their very subjectivity. Presence allows full give and take, what Martin Buber (1878-1965) called the “I/Thou” relationship with things as opposed to the mere “I/it” relationship. Buber summed it up in his often-quoted phrase: “All real living is meeting.”