Ecclesia Is Downstream From Culture

Without getting too specific, let me summarize my Christian life by saying I have  observed and participated in numerous iterations of Christian worship, theological doctrine, and church governance over my lifetime. Over the decades, I have observed a single constant, as unchanging and timeless (though not, theologically, as significant) as the Our Father taught by our Lord Jesus Christ himself:

Ecclesia is downstream from culture which is downstream from ancestry.

Prove me wrong. You can’t.

Christians–humans–prefer the faith of their fathers. If you don’t believe me, change the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and see what happens. Or, transplant any ethnic group to another country and see where they go on holy days. We gravitate to the familiar, and public worship of our God (the Ahtman, the Tao, Allah, who or what ever) is about as fundamental an expression of Who We Are as it gets. Over years of inter-generational succession, the ecclesia (the body of the faithful, the liturgics, the aesthetics, etc.) reflects the ancestral culture which temporally generated it. If it’s not, then it’s just an individual affectation.

Now granted, at a given time Christianity will be Year Zero for somebody somewhere, but that’s temporary. The Russians followed the Byzantine forms to which they were introduced, and then 400 years later they had their own. This tale repeats over and over, with moralistic Germans and pig-headed Anglos deciding to leave Rome and develop their own liturgics. Celtic hillbillies in the Appalachians forged their own way, as did African slaves after them, and on and on.

This is not a new thing. The Egyptians left for their own Coptic Church to get out from under Byzantine imperialism very early in Church history.

In Guatemala, Greek Orthodox missionaries have started Mayan Orthodoxy.

mayan orthodoxy2

Not Guatemalan Orthodoxy, and not Roman Catholicism which has been there for 400 years, but Mayan Orthodoxy. Exarch parishes are being established in the United States as well. It’s a good cultural fit for these people, and they are on fire with the True Faith. And they are going to carry it as part of their national heritage respective of the State where they may reside. This is not for a lack of extant Orthodoxy anywhere. The United States is already home to three well-established jurisdictions: the Greek, the Russian (OCA, or ROCOR, and that’s a whole other topic) and the Antiochian (Middle Eastern).

Incidentally, the Antiochians have a monastery in Guatemala. There are a number of Middle Eastern diaspora in Antiochian parishes in Central and South America. I am told they are culturally Latino at this point and do not bother with the Arabic language. Here, for example, is the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires’ Facebook page.

The Antiochians in the United States probably have two more generations before they become largely indistinguishable from the “mainstream” American Christian sects. Middle Eastern Christians tend to outmarry easily into the dominant Anglo-American population. The more insular ones tend to drift to the Catholic Maronite and Melkite exarchates.

The extant American Orthodox jurisdictions could easily set up Spanish-language missions but the mestizo/indigenous Central Americans already have the bit in their teeth. They are not Spaniards, they are not Anglo-Americans, and they want their own Church. After all, ecclesia is downstream from culture which is downstream from ancestry.

If the traditional Orthodox dictum of unity in diversity and diversity in unity is appropriately expressed in a Nation for every People and a Church for every Nation, this debate disappears. Instead, we are told that the Church model is ecumenical and an ethnic exarchate in the US would be phyletism and hence heretical. But we already have multiple overlapping Orthodox jurisdictions in the US because people cling to the faith of their fathers. Of course, it would be an excommunicable offense to call for an Anglican Orthodox jurisdiction to reflect the ethnic heritage of Anglos.

Or would it? Maybe that’s what the Western Rite is for.

I expect the Western Rite and, eventually, the larger jurisdictional debate to become less of an issue in the New World over time. For example, nobody would mistake the below wedding ceremony (with the groom in a Colonial America suit and the bride in High Medieval-inspired design) for an Orthodox service in Russia. Antiochian choral directors are already experimenting with Gregorian and even American folk arrangements so the Western Rite vicariate will probably be absorbed into its parent at some point. Ecclesia is downstream from culture which is downstream from ancestry.


In which I wade into the immigration debate


I found this post in the hopper but apparently forgot to finalize and publish it. It was inspired by a surprisingly candid story from local news in Harlingen, Texas in April 2019, so I decided to dust it off.

Illegal crossing spike shows men traveling with children

… “The whole world knows, it’s all over the news, everyone knows that if we come to the United States they’ll help us,” said Mayra Aguilar, an immigrant from Honduras.

She brought her family of eight with her and turned themselves into Border Patrol agents near Granjeno, Texas.

“We came with nothing, we came by God’s grace and God is so good, look how far he’s brought us,” Aguilar said.

She says the family migrated because they were being extorted by criminal organizations after refusing to cut gang members a portion of their taxi family business profit.

She decided to head to the United States after seeing advertisements on her local news outlets about free opportunities.

“We saw it on the news, television,” Aguilar said.

Our cameras found dozens of immigrants who said the same, they crossed because of Free American services and assistance being advertised in their home countries.

“We were told by the newspaper, that if a father brings his child they would help us here in the United States,” said a Guatemalan man who says he’s a pastor.

He was traveling with his 17-year-old son who said they left because his son received death threats after having a extramarital affair.

… One woman from Honduras said she needed to pay the smuggler in order to find a job in the United States to send money back to her family.

“For my family, to go further in life, we just want a better life.”

The Rio Grande Valley Sector continues to lead the nation in illegal crossings and narcotics seizures.

“A better life.” I hear that so much I wonder if it’s coached. Is it buried in some immigration regulation or precedential opinion written by an administrative law judge somewhere? And why does that justify anything? Me, you, convicted felons, all want “a better life.” Is there a single actual political dissident or persecuted minority among this bunch? I think it’s safe to assume 100% of them are net tax eaters fleeing the fact that they and their countrymen are incapable of self-governance.

Why is that our problem?

And if it is our problem, why isn’t the solution deposing their incompetent governments and ruling in their stead?

But there’s a more fundamental principle at stake which the menopausal women and their whipped husbands in the above photo don’t understand.

The modern world operates at least nominally under the Westphalian state order. Formally recognized States enjoy absolute sovereignty over their territory. This benefits the State’s owners, their taxpaying citizens. It means there are international norms against Spain invading Holland to prosecute archaic, unworkable claims, Germany can’t invade Poland for lebensraum, etc.

When the Obamas or the Mark Zuckerbergs or any other wealthy people want more lebensraum, they just buy it. The Obamas are buying 29 acres for their family of four on Martha’s Vineyard. Mark Zuckerberg has a thousand acres in Hawaii. Just last post, I referenced David Letterman’s two thousand acres for his three-person family in rural Montana.

Revealed preferences: people want elbow room. If you’re not a millionaire, then all you’ve got are borders and the bit of house you can afford within them. That’s frankly the only reason on which we can all agree to pay taxes:  so the government can maintain a redoubt for its citizens where they can realize their particular vision of a good life. That’s what the Peace of Westphalia was all about. The Dutch should get their own place to be Dutch, rather than being subject to arcane claims of inheritance by Spanish aristocrats. That’s what allows us to have prosperous, stable self-rule instead of bloody, chaotic wars by competing sovereigns that drag on for decades.

Open Borders are the end of nation-state sovereignty. Now, there is no place to hide. When another Nation wants to move into your State, there’s no sovereign to whom you can appeal. There’s only a State-less international elite which has decided, within the walls of its well-guarded, palatial, and uncrowded residences that the citizens don’t deserve borders.

The Peace of Westphalia has been revoked. Prepare yourselves.

Good as Gold

The ECB rumor mill over the past two weeks hyped the possibility of a shock-and-awe stimulus package, on top of the shock-and-awe stimulus packages the ECB has already implemented, namely negative interest rates, liquidity facilities, and QE.

The entire German government bond market, even 30-year bonds have negative yields. And the German economy shrank in the last quarter. That gives Germany two out of the last four quarters where its economy shrank – despite negative interest rates from the ECB and despite the negative yields on its government bonds, and despite the negative yields among many corporate bonds.

In other words, the German economy, the fourth largest in the world, is hitting the skids despite or because of negative yields. And now the ECB wants to flex its muscles to get yields to become even more negative.

And there are folks who want to prescribe the same kind of killer application to help out the US economy – which is growing just fine.

The yield on US Treasuries is between 1.5 and 2.5%, which is a near-to-minus-zero yield in real dollars. The yield curve is actually inverting, with longer term Treasuries selling for more than shorter term Treasuries, presumably because investors are betting on a recession in the short term.

Yields of 1.5 – 2.0% over 10 and 20 years seem like an awfully strange bet on prices over the next couple of decades, but I don’t think UST purchases are made with that in mind. In a hard-currency economy, precious metals will also have near-zero to negative rates of return due to storage costs. And that’s what I think is mainly driving interest rates at this point: government bonds are good as gold. They’re a comparatively safe place to park oodles of cash.

One assumption is that central banks will never let the government default, and another is that continued productivity gains will grow the economy. In that sense, EU and US bonds are a long term bet on the persistence of the post-World War Two order, the most prosperous time in human history. So far that bet looks pretty good. But if, say, Trump wins in 2020 and New York and California tell the rest of us they’re out of here, then those bonds will be instant toilet paper. Of course, everybody knows that, which is why New York and California will probably stay put. Or will they? Like I said last post, people seem to be spoiling for a very big fight.

The alternative is Biden or Warren wins, thus placating the urban centers but doing nothing to ease the underlying existential stresses. Because with the Democratic capture of the Executive and Congress, it will be Payback Time, big time.

So with nothing else out there and the country on the verge of blowing up, the rich buy government bonds and large, remote tracts of real estate.

letterman ranch
David Letterman’s house, in the middle of 2,300 acres of Nowhere, Montana.

It was fun while it lasted

In 2016, with Donald Trump conducting energetic political rallies and an un-charismatic Hillary Clinton lecturing everybody about misogyny and racism, a group of high-level Executive branch officials colluded with the Hillary campaign and Fusion GPS to gather dirt on candidate Trump. Fusion GPS hired former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to see what he could find. Steele put together a laughably implausible dossier which the FBI used to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on the Trump campaign. This probably broke several laws, and was the most blatant interference by high-level Executive branch officials in an election campaign since Watergate.

comey brennan clapper
Be very thankful, gentlemen, that we’re not a serious country.

None of this panned out for the Swamp, and Trump was elected thanks to a few hundred thousand white people in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

The Swamp then hired Robert Mueller and his staff to prove that the Russians stole the U.S. Presidential election. For two years this investigation dragged on, warping the national discourse and political energy and eliminating consensus. Russiagate was duly reported by the entire media establishment as foregone proof of Trump’s perfidy and eventual impeachment. Everyone waited anxiously for St. Robert of Mueller’s report and … nothing!


How could this be? The Swamp raged and fulminated, demanding that the special counsel show up and explain himself. After repeatedly telling everyone that his report was his testimony, Mueller finally relented, and for one day on national TV, reality was allowed to intrude: the $30 million-team of partisan hacks hadn’t turned up a thing, Jerrold Nadler is an evil gnome, and Robert Mueller is old and ready to get back to retirement.

Reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for this floury concoction. Winning journalism’s highest award to itself explains why these people are smiling on a stage instead of blast e-mailing their resumes from their studio apartments.

pulitzer 2018

Duly chastened by having its national news desk report on nothing for two years, the New York Times is re-tooling for the important work of demonstrating how racistly racist America is. Seriously. They are going to walk us through every year of the country’s history since 1619 explaining to Americans how racist they are.

I can’t wait! Can you?

And now we come to … Jeffrey Epstein. Ranting on the Internet is hard work, so I’ll just hit the high points.

  1. “Financier” with inexplicable and staggering levels of income operates a teen-aged prostitution ring.
  2. In 2008, said financier is allowed a generous plea deal on state court charges of procuring a 14-year old girl for prostitution. U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, later explaining that he believed Epstein “belonged to intelligence,” agreed to federal immunity for Epstein and any co-conspirators.
  3. [Something happens] and in 2019 the federal government decides to prosecute Epstein after all.
  4. Epstein sustains injuries to his neck while in jail. He tells staff he doesn’t know what happened. His cellmate, a police officer accused of four murders, says he doesn’t know what happened. Nobody don’ know nuffin!
  5. Epstein finally succumbs to the most anticipated suicide in human history under the watchful eye of Warden Moesha Chantavious Jones and two guards, Kingfish and Hambone. (Okay, I made those names up. The warden’s real name is Lamine N’Diyae and the government hasn’t released the names of the two guards who didn’t conduct the required 30-minute checks for several hours and falsified their duty logs.)
  6. The FBI finally got around to raiding Epstein’s private island, but evidence may be lost. Whoopsies!

Wikipedia has a good article on this brazen pederast who operated arrogantly for years. And here’s Vox, to explain why some marginal kooks might believe there’s a conspiracy involved. Ka-ray-zeee!

What to make of all this? Our public and private elites are not only evil but stupid and incompetent. They do awful, secret things. They hire child-men and child-women to report falsehoods and propaganda at hilariously low salaries–voters in a democratic republic are flying blind. The bureaucrats lie and don’t believe voting should be allowed to change the government. Congress is a bunch of venal rubes with a few exceptions like Rand Paul, who had his ribs broken by his liberal neighbor. Tulsi Gabbard also seems like a genuinely decent person. People hate her.

The Left and Right wings of American politics are at a complete impasse. Any proposal from the Right is racist, sexist, homo-, trans- and otherwise intersectional-phobic because, as the New York Times’ internal town-hall demonstrates, that is all the Left can think about at this point. The Right is befuddled by loyalty to Israel and blinkered ideology keeping it from actual governance. The media is wading into this stew to justify redistributive justice from white people, a terribly irresponsible bit of rabble-rousing.

The American experiment is over, and the elites are doing what they always do at this point in the decline: looting whatever isn’t nailed down. Prepare yourselves, because this will all be over soon.


The Wider Image: Homeless in America's tent cities

From a comment on iSteve, a useful mnemonic for what appears to be the increasing and increasingly dire problem of the homeless:  CATO 4321

C – Crazies. 40% of the homeless

A – Addicts. 30% of the homeless

T – Tramps. 20% of the homeless

O – Out of Luck. 10% of the homeless

The Crazies’ brains are broken. This is the lion’s share of homelessness. They cannot be cured. They cannot maintain housing, or income, or anything of value. All we can do for them is give them barbiturates and stick them in institutions. We can no more fix their broken brains than we can fix Mike Utley’s damaged neural tissue, much less diagnose and repair the consciousness interface.

I’m becoming convinced very few psycho-pathological conditions can be cured. People either age out of them or they don’t. (Or age into them, e.g., Caitlyn Jenner). I would love to be proved wrong.

The Addicts don’t require much elaboration. My family has had its problems with functional alcoholics but nothing like drug addicts. Addicts are socially toxic and families end up having to kick them out. I personally know only one “cured” addict. The rest just disappeared. Many Addicts graduate to Crazies.

The Tramps are the happy homeless. In the US, they were more commonly called “hobos” or pejoratively, “vagrants.” “Free spirits” is the euphemistic term. There are no public policy implications for the happy homeless, ceteris paribus. It would probably be a good idea to provide them with antiseptic facilities for their temporary encampments, away from net tax-producing areas. I don’t know if this is workable or not because as I conclude below, nobody is interested in actually solving the problem of homelessness, to the extent it can be solved.

The Out of Luck are what Rollo Tomassi calls the Zeroed Out:  people, usually men, who’ve had a series of setbacks that consume their psychic or physical health and financial well-being. This fairly well-known academic is at risk for zeroing-out:

zero out

He posted this on a public forum but may have some regrets so I’ve blanked the name. He is (or perhaps was) a devout Protestant Christian. He and his ex-wife adopted four Guatemalan infants, so he was carrying around five eaters on a nominally upper middle class salary of around $100,000. God bless him and those in his charge, because he’s probably just about ready to walk out the door.

The Out of Luck are the only group with any potential for returning to a normative lifestyle.

Obviously, there is significant overlap and transition among these groups.

This all seems like common sense to me and I’d bet the statistics, if anybody measured them, would support CATO 4321. From there, we could proceed to some workable solutions, diagnosis being the first part of healing after all. But since we govern by ideology and not by reality, nobody compiles these metrics because it would upset the proposition that homelessness is caused by lack of affordable housing. “Affordable housing” is a related but different problem, exacerbated by immigration and the diseconomy of scale of large, democratic cities. Building more and more-dense housing won’t really solve homelessness, just like building more roads doesn’t really solve traffic congestion.

Immigration and urban locuses of power and wealth are part of the regnant American ideology, so nobody is going to touch the real issues of homelessness with a ten-foot pole, no more than we’ll examine the real issues of terrorism, or economic recessions, or numerous other things.