He’s No Saint: It’s Time to Talk About the Real Nicholas of Myra

Note: We are issuing this statement anonymously because in the current political climate it is important to protect the safety of dissenters and those whose views may be challenging to the powerful Santa Claus Lobby.

Earlier this week we celebrated the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra. In the popular imagination, Saint Nick is a warm, cheerful, and giving man. Yet the real Nicholas could not have been more dissimilar and his canonization as a saint is deeply problematic. The so-called “saint” Nicholas was a violent, judgmental, and divisive man unworthy of the title Christian.

We, the writers at Mere Orthodoxy, are calling upon all Christian leaders to denounce Nicholas and for the Vatican to strip him of his status as a saint. Upon the briefest examination of Nicholas’ legacy, one finds a seemingly endless pit of aggression, hate speech, dogwhistling, and exploitative tendencies. For brevity’s sake, we will limit ourselves to six theses on why Nicholas is unfit to be held up as a saint in the church. Continue reading

How to Deal With Erratic Corpulent Ginger Authoritarian Much-Married Rulers: Options for Christians in Public Life

Note: Some of these Options are better than others.

The Wolsey Option

Through an excess of personal ambition, tie your whole career to the favor of an unpredictable and potentially vicious master. Lose his favor anyway.

The Cromwell Option

Facilitate your master’s bizarre, persistent and destructive attraction to a sexy fascinating Pepe-meme generating femme fatale whose appeal has to do with the pleasure of transgression, leading to huge rents in the social fabric and the overturning of established norms of behavior.

The Edward Option

DOUBLE DOWN

The Mary Option

ROLLBACK

The More Option

If, in the context of your work, it is conceivable that you might receive a 3 a.m. order to… oh, hit this button, say; deploy that weapons system… and that refusing such an order could potentially trigger a court martial, rehearse saying the following phrase: “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

The Elizabeth Option

Keep your own counsel. Don’t deliberately alienate anyone.  Bind together a fractured nation full of mutually antagonistic, mistrustful and confused people. Carve out a space for the preaching of the Gospel. Reform, with moderation and prudence. Seek the common good. Trust God. And survive.

Susannah Black received her BA from Amherst College and her MA from Boston University. She is associate editor of Providence Magazine and of the Davenant Trust’s journal Ad Fontes, is a founding editor of Solidarity Hall (which now appears as The Dorothy Option on Patheos), and is on the Board of the Distributist Review. Her writing has appeared in First Things, The Distributist Review, Solidarity Hall, Providence, Amherst Magazine, Front Porch Republic, Ethika Politika, The Human Life Review, The American Conservative, and elsewhere. She blogs at Radio Free Thulcandra and tweets at @suzania. A native Manhattanite, she is now living in Queens.

Categorizing the Benedict Options: A Reformation Day Reflection

Today marks the 499th anniversary of the day that would come to be seen as the spark that ignited a movement that purified the church in northern and western Europe and gave new energy to an already strong movement to return to the classical sources of Christian wisdom. I am referring, of course, to Reformation Day and to October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed (we think) his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

It’s a notable day in the church calendar and yet it is also one that arouses no small bit of controversy. The late medieval church had been marked by corruption, scandal, and abuse for several hundred years by the time Luther rose to prominence, but what Christians still to this day cannot agree on is what should have been done to deal with the decadence of the European church and particularly the hierarchy of the dominant ecclesial institution in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholics, The Radicals, and the Magisterial Reformers

What is interesting is not simply that we are still having these debates today, but that the three sides involved in the debates have not even changed all that much. In this post I want to draw out the enduring relevance of the Reformation and the debates that marked the first 50 years after Luther’s emergence by identifying three separate movements within the western church. All three are variations on Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option as all three are, much like their 16th century variants, trying to wrestle with difficult, complex questions in the aftermath of widespread failure on the part of the church.

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Betraying Politics: The Mystique of Public Life

This is a fun week—for the second time in as many days, we’re debuting a new writer here at Mere O. It’s a delight to be able to publish this guest piece from John Shelton.

“Everything begins as a mystique and ends as a politique,” observes French essayist Charles Péguy. In other words, that which begins as a pure idea—mystic, even transcendent—devolves into profane politics, the slow grind of policy divorced from any sort of sanguine idealism. The politique politician is an automaton, swayed by the slightest breeze of public opinion and party leadership. Such a man considers himself to be “eminently practical.” If he is always choosing an evil, at least it is the lesser of two. He takes what he can get; he desires the possible and worries not over the good, the beautiful, the true. He scoffs at Plato, even Aristotle. His man is Hobbes—Machiavelli, if he is forthright. He esteems them not for their realism but their cynicism. Such humdrum pessimism is fit cover for this man without a chest. Continue reading

Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism

In his recent essay on Christian intellectualism, Alan Jacobs dates the high point of the public Christian intellectual in America as being in the late 1940s. Citing the influence of thinkers like CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacobs argues that the movement began to fade in the 1950s and, by the 1960s, was largely a spent force. By that time Lewis, Auden, and Niebuhr were no longer as relevant in contemporary debates and the next generation had not yet emerged. By the time that generation of leaders did, Jacobs argues, the culture had moved past them and they had become more conversant in the intramural discussions happening in conservative religious circles rather than the broader cultural conversation. Continue reading

Global Economies, Immigration, and Precarious Places

I’m pleased to publish this essay by Matthew Petersen.

In response to somewhat shrill claims by some Christian intellectuals that Christians ought to support mass migration, and oppose Brexit, Stephen Wolfe recently published an article at Mere Orthodoxy arguing that Christians can (and perhaps should) oppose immigration. Stephen draws from an impressive array of natural law sources to argue that the differentiation between foreigner and citizen is good, and a natural part of human life. This differentiation is integral in protecting the particularities in and through which communities are formed and given their deep particular character.

This position regarding the deep particularity of places is also argued, persuasively, in a piece by Alastair Roberts published by Mere Orthodoxy on Brexit, and the necessity of making peace between the cosmopolitans who tended to oppose Brexit and the locals who favored it. Alastair lays out the competing anthropologies on which hopes for mass immigration, and opposition to it, are based. According to a liberal anthropology, we are all interchangeable individuals, whose connection to our land, our parents, and our people, is merely accidental; on the other hand, according to a more Biblical anthropology, our person is always deeply embedded in the particularities of a people and a land. Continue reading

Are Religious Liberty Restrictions God’s Judgment on Racism?

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

– Amos 4:6

I did a number of medical school rotations in a Catholic hospital, which meant morning and evening prayers were offered over the hospital intercom every day. While “morning” prayer often came after I had already been at work for a few hours, it was still often a relief to have God’s mercy invoked on behalf of my patients and my colleagues. Continue reading

Reviewing Nancy Isenberg’s “White Trash”

This guest review is by Dr. Miles Smith.

In 2014 The King’s College professor Anthony Bradley wrote an article on the plight of poor whites for World Magazine. That Bradley, an African American, first raised the issue seems strange, but Bradley did not downplay or ignore the racial differences between poor whites and African Americans. His argument instead transcended race, pointing out the shared socioeconomic hardships experienced by poor rural whites and blacks in modern American society. More importantly, Bradley noticed, suburban and urban Evangelicals typically joined the broader culture in shaming working class rural whites for their poverty and their culture. Bradley noted that “urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people.”

Culturally pejorative terms for working class rural whites, “‘Rednecks,’ ‘crackers,’ “hoosiers,’ and ‘white trash’ are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians.” That these terms remain acceptable in respectable society speaks to the wholesale marginalization of rural working class whites. Continue reading

Misreading Tolkien and Misreading Scripture: Responding to O’Keefe and Reno

I am reading John J. O’Keefe and R. R. Reno’s Sanctified Vision for the independent study on hermeneutics and theological method I am doing this summer. I have found the book fairly helpful overall, and think the authors are right to commend the church Fathers as models for Biblical interpretation in many ways. The authors do good (albeit somewhat tendentious) work arguing for whole-Bible/“intensive reading” strategies and the validity of typology as part of theological method. When they come to allegory, though, their argument almost immediately goes off the rails with a deeply misguided interpretation of The Lord of the Rings. I offer a critique in two (brief) parts:

 

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Soma and the Silencing of Evangelicalism After Trump

In his novel Silence Japanese writer Shusaku Endo tells the story of two Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan. After initial pioneering work by Francis Xavier in the 16th century, a small native Japanese church had begun to flourish in the mid-to-late 16th century, possibly growing as large as 100,000 people. Then the government took a hard anti-Christian turn, closed the island to foreigners, and began a harsh regime of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

At the center of this persecution were small icons called fumi-e, pictured above. During the torture, the government officials told the Christians that all they needed to do to end it is agree to trample on the fumi-e, which was understood to be a way of renouncing the faith. To make sure it took, it was common practice in much of Japan to require former Christians to step on a fumi-e once a year. (Silence spoilers below the jump.) Continue reading