It’s a big word with a special history, namely, the 19th century dispute in England between the establishmentarians, their disestablishmentarian opponents, and, finally, the antidisestablishmentarian supporters of the establishmentarians, the opponents of the disestablishmentarians!
Back then the issue was whether the Church of England should be the constitutionally “established” church of England. The conservative establishmentarians had answered yes; the more liberal disestablishmentarians argued against the establishment of religion; the antidisestablishmentarians whiplashed the disestablishmentarians back into line. There was no separation of church and state.
In the United States it is different. Because the founders were disestablishmentarians, there is no established religion. They enacted what was later described as “a wall of separation” between the state and religious institutions. Yet in 2017 the American version of the English establishmentarians speaks and acts as if there.
The American alt-right is a curious mixture of religious antidisestablishmentarianism and governmental disestablishmentarianism, i.e., the strategic elimination of governmental institutions overseen by alt-right White House Strategic Advisor Steve Bannon.
The White House has announced the “re-organization” of the executive branch of the U.S. Government, one of the three branches of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a curious cocktail of religious establishmentarianism without government – but you can’t have an established religion with a disestablished government. Or can you?
Already it feels like years.
It was just 13 months ago – Feb. 16, 2016 – that Pope Francis made news in Mexico after then candidate Donald Trump spoke of building a wall and making the Mexican government pay for it.
After saying Mass at the Mexican-U.S. border in February, the kindly Pope who named himself after Francis of Assisi, the advocate for the poor who prefers the Vatican guest house to the Pontiff’s palatial quarters, offered his view of the Christian life:
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”
Francis’s statement has firm roots in Christian Scripture and the tradition. Ambrose (c. 340 – 397), Bishop of Milan, one of the four early Doctors of the Church, for instance, declared that “giving to the poor was repayment of resources bestowed on everyone equally by the Creator but which have been usurped by the rich.”
It’s not just a matter of charity. It’s a matter of economic justice.
In a June 28, 2016 CNN interview candidate Mr. Trump said that, compared to the fortune the Mexicans are making off the the U.S., paying for a wall “is a tiny little peanut compared to that. I would do something very severe unless they contributed or gave us the money to build the wall.”
Today the billionaire candidate who promised “something very severe” if Mexico didn’t “give us the money to build the wall” is President of the United States and the Pope is still the Pope. Mexico has refused to pay for the wall. The President’s proposed budget includes money for the wall while cutting funding for programs on which low and middle-income Americans depend and funding for the State Department, the builder of diplomatic bridges among nations like Mexico and the United States.
As the President spends his weekend at Mara-Larg-O with the bill sent to the tax-payers, I recall Francis’s response to Mr. Trump’s criticism. “At least I am a human person,” he said, adding that, as for being a pawn of the Mexican government, he’d leave that “up to your judgment and that of the people.”
The judgment was made on November 8, 2017. Four months later it feels like years.
The post-soul alt-right budget proposal of Presidency of Donald Trump and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, forgets – or never knew – what most people know:
Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart. – Sue Monk Kidd
The White House budget proposal fails the soul test. But it does makes us ponder something else about the human soul’s potential for darkness:
Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will. – Thomas Carlisle
Say “good-bye,” America, to Meals-on-Wheels. Say “good-bye” to empathy. Say “hello” to the post-soul alt-right world that forgets or never knew.
It’s enough to make an old soul cry.
The lyrics of G. K. Chesterton are set to the Welsh tune Llangloffan in this YouTube from Lincoln, Nebraska. God help us all in the first year of A.T. 1 (Anno Trump) when we are face with the threat that “the walls of gold [will] entomb us”.
This NYT Op Ed piece by Middlebury College Professor Allison Sanger (L) – now in a neck brace resulting from this attempted civil conversation with Charles Murray – is a must read for our time.
I wake up with a tune in my head. It’s lovely. It’s simple. It’s familiar. But I can’t remember the words except for something about going through deep waters. Grinding the coffee beans, more of the line comes to consciousness.
“When through the deep waters I cause thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
The subconscious knows better than the conscious mind. It deals with deep waters. It knows better our deep sorrows threatening to overflow the banks. It knows about troubles and deepest distress. It also knows something else: a kind of unreasonable assurance, a hope against every reason to hope that something deeper than our fears and anxiety will shape the notes, will shift the shape of things to come.
Shape notes, sometimes called ‘character notes’ and ‘patent notes’, reflect our deeper character, but none of us holds the patent-right.
In this American time of turmoil and strife, Pete Seeger singing “How Can I Keep from Singing?” restores my faith that “no storm can shake my inmost calm” (Robert Lowry, 1869). RIP, Pete. We’re listening.
In this moment of “the strife of truth and falsehood,” the Notre Dame organ voices the assurance of hope spoken by James Russell Lowell in the hymn “Once to Every Man and Nation.” “Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet truth alone is strong. ”