I Went to Church with Judge Scalia

{2016 update: Yesterday, Justice Scalia died. He may in retrospect be seen as the Cicero of our time. I visited his parish in 2006 and wrote about it.}

Since we are in between churches as we prepare to move, I used today to do something I’ve wanted to do since we arrived in Virginia: I visited St. Catherine of Sienna, a Catholic parish in Great Falls. St. Catherine has a Solemn High Latin Mass on Sunday, which I had never experienced. And Justices Thomas and Scalia attend there. Louis Freeh (former FBI head) either goes there now or used to, and the FBI spy for Russia, Robert Hanssen I think used to go there 1)So does Rick Santorum. It is a parish that supposedly is heavily Opus Dei, although I have no way of knowing.

So I shot over on the Dulles Toll Road and into Reston, then over to Great Falls and St. Catherine. The area is heavily wooded with large older homes that reek of money in this inflated area of the nation. St. Catherine (which also houses a school) is the kind of semi-secluded stone parish that I have come to expect here in Virginia. The parking lot was full of Mercedes so I could tell that this was something of an elite crowd, but of course it would be given that it is where it is. I think that elites don’t realize that they ARE elites, they are just living their life like everyone else, just in a much more expensive location.

We got there as Mass was underway. The place was full, but not packed. This was one of 3 or 4 Masses that occur from Saturday night to Sunday morning. The sanctuary was full of incense. My only previous exposure to incense has been at Eastern Orthodox parishes, so this was the first time on a big scale. There were clouds of it floating around which was very otherworldly – as I reflect on it I think of the book of Revelation. Anyway, many of the ladies had their heads covered reflecting the ancient piety of the church. Far more were uncovered however (including Mrs. Scalia). The service itself was very beautiful. St. Catherine’s has a choir and an organ, and there was no modern fluff in this liturgy.

I was scanning the crowd the entire time trying to see Scalia or Thomas. I never did see Thomas, so either he wasn’t there or he goes to another service. I had just about given up on Scalia too when I spotted him 7 rows up to my left. His silhouette was unmistakable. ‘Mission accomplished’ I thought.

The liturgy was majestic, particularly the reading of the Gospel and the procession to do so. I was close to tears during some of the hymns. The majesty of God was transparent. Certainly I believe he is grieved by the un-Biblical stances of the RC on many issues, however, I also believe he is grieved with the pride, division, and lack of love that characterize most Protestant churches. All of these systems are dead limbs on a tree. Calvinism is a dead limb too. The limbs are dead, but the tree still has life.

Anyway, the music was gorgeous. The homily was pretty good, about pride and humility, and the power of sin. I’ve been to Mass about 4 times and most of the homilies I’ve heard have been terrible. This one was actually decent. It still seemed to just use the Scripture as a launching pad for the guy’s thoughts, but oh well. I would think these guys could dig into Patristics more for a really cool sermon, but they don’t.

As we left I was right behind Judge Scalia. The door to the Narthex was not staying open so he fumbled with it to try and keep it open. I slowed down out front to see him. His wife was talking to another lady about a sick relative. Scalia looks bad to me, he is overweight and kind of shuffles. I wouldn’t call it a limp. I was thinking crud, he better stay alive for the sake of the unborn. It was funny because they prayed for the unborn and also mentioned some marriage amendment in the service. There were right wing bumper stickers all over the place. This is ground zero for the Catholic right and the intellectual center of the Conservative movement. A very cool moment for me.

Random observations: Catholics don’t seem to ever have cry rooms or nurseries, all the babies and kids are in the service. The worship wars and youth church junk that infects Prots doesn’t seem to have touched them as much…a lot of their kids are unruly and noisy the whole time, which reflects the total breakdown of parental discipline in our culture, but I guess in Prot churches the noisy kids are in a class, so we don’t see the bad affects as much…the women were almost all dressed modestly, nothing provocative going on which is more than I can say for most Prot churches I’ve been to…the kids in the choir were very well behaved…Scalia has nine kids, one of whom is a hardcore orthodox priest in Arlington.

References   [ + ]

1. So does Rick Santorum

The Fourth Political Theory


I finished reading Alexander Dugin’s book The Fourth Political Theory. I have written about Dugin a bit before, but I thought I would dump some extended quotes from the book into this post.

Dugin is a Russian political theorist/philosopher/troublemaker and this book sketches his hazy theory. He names Liberalism, Fascism and Communism as the (failed) theories one, two and three. The Fourth Political Theory generally resists definition in a positive direction, and can only be approached via negativa, by what it is not. He writes:

The Fourth Political Theory is the amalgamation of a common project and arises from a common impulse to everything that was discarded, toppled, and humiliated during the course of constructing ‘the society of the spectacle’ (constructing postmodernity). ‘The stone that the builders -rejected has become the cornerstone’. The philosopher Alexander Sekatsky rightly pointed out the significance of ‘marginalia’ in the formation of a new philosophical age, suggesting the term ‘metaphysics of debris’ as a metaphor.

Dugin’s writing seems to have much in common with many postmodern texts, and yet he is keen to reject postmodernity and the liberal order entirely. Dugin wants to draw what is good from all previous political theories and reject elements that were bad. He praises pre-modern traditions, but does not seek the dominance of one or the other system of thought, but rather wants to see all these various cultures flourish at the expense of Western liberalism and the postmodern evacuation of meaning. He wants to reach back past the rationalism of late modernity and into the symbolic, ritualistic core of the monotheistic religions. He writes:

Not only the highest supra-mental symbols of faith can be taken on board once again as a new shield, but so can those irrational aspects of cults, rites, and legends that have perplexed theologians in earlier ages. If we reject the idea of progress that is inherent in modernity (which as we have seen, has ended), then all that is ancient gains value and credibility for us simply by virtue of the fact that it is ancient. ‘Ancient’ means good, and the more ancient — the better.

He does sound many postmodern notes however, such as:

Societies can be compared, but we cannot state that any one of them is objectively better than the others. Such an assessment is always subjective, and any attempt to raise a subjective assessment to the status of a theory is racism. This type of an attempt is unscientific and inhumane. The differences between societies in any sense can, in no shape or form, imply the superiority of one over the other.

Many call Dugin (and Vladimir Putin) fascists, but this is a bit facile. Dugin explicitly rejects the race-based dogma of fascism:

The appalling consequences of this ideology (fascism) are too well known to dwell upon them. However, it was this original definition of a historical subject that was at the heart of the Nazis’ criminal practices.
The definition of a historical subject is the fundamental basis for political ideology in general, and defines its structure. Therefore, in this matter, the Fourth Political Theory may act in the most radical way by rejecting all of these constructions as candidates for a historical subject. The historical subject is neither an individual, nor class, nor the state, nor race. This is the anthropological and the historical axiom of the Fourth Political Theory.

And again:

If we begin with fascism and National Socialism, then here we must definitively reject all forms of racism. Racism is what caused the collapse of National Socialism in the historical, geopolitical, and theoretical sense. This was not only a historical, but also a philosophical collapse. Racism is based on the belief in the innate objective superiority of one human race over another. It was racism, and not some other aspect of National Socialism, that brought about such consequences, leading to immeasurable suffering on both sides, as well as the collapse of Germany and the Axis powers, not to mention the destruction of the entire ideological project of the Third Way. The criminal practice of wiping out entire ethnic groups (Jews, gypsies, and Slavs) based on race was precisely rooted in their racial theory — this is what angers and shocks us about Nazism to this day.

Dugin believes that the narrative of progress and enlightenment in the West is a myth, one that needs to be deconstructed. He writes:

Émile Durkheim, Pitirim Sorokin, and Georges Gurvitch, the greatest sociologists of the Twentieth century, in essence the classicists of sociological thought, argued that social progress does not exist, in contrast to the Nineteenth-century sociologists, such as Auguste Comte or Herbert Spencer. Progress is not an objective social phenomenon, but rather, an artificial concept, a kind of scientifically formulated myth.

Dugin pushes back against this myth of progress, again stressing a search for alternatives in more ancient traditions:

The Fourth Political Theory must take a step toward the formulation of a coherent critique of the monotonic process. It must develop an alternative model of a conservative future, a conservative tomorrow, based on the principles of vitality, roots, constants, and eternity.

While most of us assume that there is no going “backwards” towards feudalism or any other outmoded organization of society, Dugin says this is not the case:

Societies can be variously built and transformed. The experience of the 1990s is quite demonstrative of this: people in the Soviet Union were sure that socialism would proceed from capitalism, not vice versa. But in the 1990s they saw the opposite: capitalism following socialism. It is quite possible that Russia could yet see feudalism, or even a slave-owning society, or perhaps a Communist or primordial society emerge after that. Those who laugh at this are the captives of the modern and its hypnosis. Having acknowledged the reversibility of political and historical time, we have arrived at a new pluralist point-of-view for political science, and we have reached the advanced perspective necessary for ideological construction.

He says that the United States sees itself as the pinnacle of civilization, the logical end-point and culmination of the liberal tradition. The USA seeks to impose this order on the rest of the world:

History is considered to be a univocal and monotone process of technological and social progress, the path of the growing liberation of individuals from all kinds of collective identities. Tradition and conservatism are thus regarded as obstacles to freedom and should be rejected. The USA is in the vanguard of this historical progress, and has the right, obligation, and historical mission to move history further and further along this path. The historical existence of the US coincides with the course of human history. So, ‘American’ means ‘universal’. The other cultures either have an American future or no future at all.

What is this liberalism to which Dugin and the Fourth Political Theory are so opposed to? He defines liberalism as follows:

• The understanding of the individual as the measure of all things;
• Belief in the sacred character of private property;
• The assertion of the equality of opportunity as the moral law of society;
• Belief in the ‘contractual’ basis of all sociopolitical institutions, including governmental;
• The abolition of any governmental, religious and social authorities who lay claim to ‘the common truth’;
• The separation of powers and the making of social systems of control over any government institution whatsoever;
• The creation of a civil society without races, peoples and religions in place of traditional governments;
• The dominance of market relations over other forms of politics (the thesis: ‘economics is fate’);
• Certainty that the historical path of Western peoples and countries is a universal model of development and progress for the entire world, which must, in an imperative order, be taken as the standard and pattern.

The United States has propagated this liberalism to the world because it sees it as the only valid philosophical program for all nations. And in the course of time, this philosophy has morphed into a post-modern formula, which Dugin defines as:

• The measure of things becomes not the individual, but the post-individual, ‘the dividual’, accidentally playing an ironic combination of parts of people (his organs, his clones, his simulacra — all the way up to cyborgs and mutants);
• Private property is idolised, ‘transcendentalised’, and transforms from that which a man owns to that which owns the man;
• Equality of opportunity turns into equality of the contemplation of opportunities (the society of the spectacle — Guy Debord);
• Belief in the contractual character of all political and social institutions grows into an equalisation of the real and the virtual, and the world becomes a technical model;
• All forms of non-individual authorities disappear altogether, and any individual is free to think about the world howsoever he sees fit (the crisis of common rationality);
• The principle of the separation of powers transforms into the idea of a constant electronic referendum (a sort of electronic parliament), where each Internet user continually ‘votes’ on any decision by giving his opinion in any number of forums, which in turn cedes power to each individual citizen (each becoming, in effect, his own branch of government);
• ‘Civil society’ completely displaces government and converts into a global, cosmopolitan melting pot;
• From the thesis ‘economy is destiny’ it takes up the thesis ‘the numerical code — that is destiny’, so far as work, money, the market, production, consumption — everything becomes virtual.

Dugin advocates a global crusade against this philosophy, essentially against the United States:

Only tearing it out by its roots can defeat this evil, and I do not exclude that such a victory will necessitate erasing from the face of the Earth those spiritual and physical halos from which arose the global heresy, which insists that ‘man is the measure of all things’. Only a global crusade against the US, the West, globalisation, and their political-ideological expression, liberalism, is capable of becoming an adequate response.
The elaboration of the ideology of this Crusader campaign, undoubtedly, is a matter for Russia not to pursue alone, but together with all the world powers, who, in one way or another, oppose ‘the American century’. Nevertheless, in any case this ideology must begin with the recognition of the fatal role of liberalism, which has characterised the path of the West from the moment when it rejected the values of God and Tradition.

He calls for Muslims, Christians and anyone else who values tradition against liberalism to join in this Crusade:

Spiritually, globalisation is the creation of a grand parody, the kingdom of the Antichrist. And the United States is the centre of its expansion. American values pretend to be ‘universal’ ones. In reality, it is a new form of ideological aggression against the multiplicity of cultures and traditions still existing in the rest of the world. I am resolutely against Western values which are essentially modernist and postmodernist, and which are promulgated by the United States by force of arms or by obtrusion (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and perhaps soon, Syria and Iran) .
Therefore, all traditionalists should be against the West and globalisation, as well as against the imperialist politics of the United States. It is the only logical and consequent position. So traditionalists and partisans of traditional principles and values should oppose the West and defend the Rest, if the Rest show signs of the conservation of Tradition, whether in part or in its entirety.
There can be and there really exist people, in the West and even in the United States of America itself, who do not agree with the present state of affairs and do not approve of modernity and postmodernity. They are the defenders of the spiritual traditions of the pre-modern West. They should be with us in our common struggle. They should take part in our revolt against the modern and postmodern worlds. We would fight together against the common enemy.

Does any of this matter? Well,Dugin appears to be influential with the new government of Greece, he has wielded influence in the Russian government and its invasion of the Ukraine, and he seeks allies in Europe and the United States, so it does behoove citizens of the West to pay attention to what he says. Some of his diagnosis of the ills of our nation and time are correct, but I fear that his solution to the problem will only be bloodshed and misery. It would be wise to approach his thought and his connections more systematically, and I hope that is occurring elsewhere.

Alexander Dugin on Racism

In Dugin’s book The Fourth Political Theory he discusses the racism that was integral to fascism and then looks at how racism is a controlling category today. He make some surprising applications:

The newest types of racism are glamour, fashion, and the latest trends in information technology. Its norms are set by models, designers, the socialites of political parties, and those who insist on owning only the latest models of mobile phones or laptop computers. Conformity or nonconformity with the glamour code is located at the very base of the mass strategies for social segregation and cultural apartheid. Today, this is not associated directly with the economic factor, but is gradually gaining independent sociological features: this is the ghost of the glamour dictatorship — the new generation of racism.

The very ideology of progress is racist in its structure. The assertion that the present is better and more fulfilling than the past, and continual assurances that the future will be even better than the present, are discriminations against the post and the present, as well as the humiliation of all those who lived in the past, an insult to the honor and dignity of our ancestors and those of others, and a violation of the rights of the dead.

His thoughts are provocative if not always accurate.

Lincoln and the Constitution

Garry Wills says of Lincoln:

[Lincoln] altered the document from within, by appeal from its letter to the spirit, subtly changing the recalcitrant stuff of that legal compromise, bringing it to its own indictment. By implicitly doing this, he performed one of the most daring acts of open-air sleight-of-hand ever witnessed by the unsuspecting. Everyone in that vast throng of thousands was having his or her intellectual pocket picked. The crowd departed with a new thing in its ideological luggage, the new constitution Lincoln had substituted for the one they brought there with them…Lincoln had revolutionized the Revolution, giving people a new past to live with that would change their future indefinitely.


When I was a young man I idolized Jack Kennedy, mainly for all the wrong reasons. Now I see him as emblematic of what the world loves: a good looking fraud.
I used to read every possible book and article about JFK and RFK that I could get my hands on, including the speculation about his killer(s). I generally though there was more than one shooter back in the day, but now I think it was just Oswald. Humans have a hard time grasping that the world is random and freak things just happen (controlled by Providence). There is not always some overarching menace, often, chance simply brings about odd events.

The only thing I don’t really get to this day is why Ruby killed Oswald. His explanation is probably accurate, because again, we all do random things that we barely understand ourselves. He said that if he had taken a different turn that day he would never have killed Oswald, and I tend to believe him. Still, Oswald’s death is far more puzzling to me than Kennedy’s. However, I have seen footage of Sirhan Sirhan being led from the Ambassador after killing RFK and the people around him look like they were ready to lynch him there and then. With that in mind, someone killing Oswald when given the opportunity makes more sense.

Embrace Division

Peter Leithart offers timely advice for Republican Christians:

My advice to Bad Republicans is: Let it come. If the price of regaining power is to abandon any semblance of Christian sexual morality, the price is too high. If the Republican party can’t bring itself to endorse a traditional understanding of marriage, let it split. If the Republican party can’t be bothered about the slaughter of the unborn, let it shatter into a million little pieces. Good Republicans will blame Bad Republicans for tearing the GOP to pieces. So be it.
One might hope for better. One might hope that shrewd and principled leadership from a courageous few would re-galvanize the Republican party on social issues. That might not provide a path to power, but it would turn the GOP into a genuine alternative to social liberalism. One hopes; anything can happen. I think it more likely that Obama will get his way and leave the Republican party in greater disarray than ever.
There is a time for peace, but in my judgment we’re not in such times. For the next four years, perhaps longer, social-issue Christians must recognize that smoothing differences is a temptation, and must learn to resist the temptation. Christians have to be willing to follow the example of Jesus, who came not to unify but to divide father from son, mother from daughter, brother from brother. Division was essential to the social renewal he came to accomplish, because those who followed him, torn from comfortable networks of kin and religion, formed the nucleus of a new kind of community. For Jesus, division was the means for achieving a new unity. Christians have to be willing to imitate the Prince of Peace who declared, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

I tend to think that this future is inevitable. Sellouts on the important policies will continue apace and the GOP will break into an economic party and a social party. It may take one or two more elections for this to happen, but I don’t see how it can be avoided under the current circumstances.
Along with this, sections of Protestant Christianity are hurtling into apostasy on moral issues just as the Mainlines did in the last century. Another winnowing is taking place.

Rebooting Christendom

Another blog references an essay by Fr. Arnaud Rostand and his suggestions for what Catholics can do in the present circumstances:

Two suggestions offered by Fr. Rostand include having a political presence in one’s local community and forming trade associations/guild with other Catholics. On the matter of politics, Fr. Rostand is clear that he doesn’t envision a “Catholic Party” emerging out of thin air, but that does not eliminate the possibility of traditional Catholics seeking (and winning) local elections; making their voices heard collectively at community meetings; and even using forums like newspaper op-ed pages to promote Catholic social ideals. As for trade associations, Fr. Rostand stressed the importance of likeminded Catholics who share a particular profession coming together to support one another and, where possible, promote a distinctly Catholic outlook within that larger profession. This will not be easy work, but it is feasible even at a time when there appears to be no place for Christianity in the public sphere. But if these modest steps are not taken, there will be no hope that greater gains for Christ and His Church can be made.

I think these are excellent suggestions that Protestants can embrace in the same way. Creative thinking like this needs to flourish in order to maintain and nurture the seeds for a Second Christendom in the wake of the Dark Age we are now in.

Karl Marx by Isaiah Berlin

I just finished reading Karl Marx by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to being about a titanic man in Marx, this is the first work of another titan, Isaiah Berlin. It is more of an intellectual biography than a close look at the chronological details of Marx’s life. Marx comes across as a horrendous man, totally obsessed with his cause to the detriment of all else. He was driven by a single minded desire to see what he thought was inevitable come to pass, namely, the overthrow of capitalism. He believed this to be inevitable due to the inexorable laws of history, as outlined by Hegel. Although this did not come to fruition in his lifetime, he laid the foundation for the bloody and tyrannical revolutions of the past century which imposed dictatorships across the world in the name of the worker.
Marx operated with an intense hatred of all who disagreed with him, usually in even the smallest matters. He viewed many who agreed with him with contempt due to their dullness of perception, histrionic mannerisms, or love of popularity. All paled before the cause and failure on the part of others to grasp what he saw unleashed his vehemence.
His devotion to reading and study was voracious and commendable. For example:

His leisure, since his schooldays, had been mainly spent in reading, but the extent of his appetite in Paris surpassed all limits. As in the days of his conversion to Hegelianism, he read night and day in a kind of frenzy, filling his notebooks with extracts and abstracts and lengthy comments on which he largely drew in his later writings” (72).

Describing him late in life, Berlin says:

“His mode of life had scarcely changed at all. He rose at seven, drank several cups of black coffe, and then retired to his study where he read and wrote until two in the afternoon. After hurrying through his meal he worked again till supper, which he ate with his family. After that he took an evening walk on Hampstead Heath, or returned to his study, where he worked until two or three in the morning” (228-29).

To show that great evil can coexist with a love for the good, witness his fondness for Shakespeare:

“He was fond of poetry and knew long passages of Dante, Aeschylus and Shakespeare by heart. His admiration for Shakespeare was limiteless, and the whole household was brought up on him: he was read aloud, acted, discussed constantly” (230).

Marx showed absolutely no concern for his religion:

“He was baptized a Lutheran, and was married to a Gentile: he had once been of assistance to the Jewish community in Cologne: during the greater part of his life he held himself aloof from anything remotely connected with his race, showing open hostility to all its institutions” (83).

A couple of his quotes that jumped out at me:

“Ignorance has never yet helped anyone.”

“To leave error unrefuted is to encourage intellectual immorality.”

He died in peace, which is more than can be said of millions who fell victim to his idealogical heirs.


Who will run next time? Here’s my rough draft of a guess, which I will have to revisit in late 2015 (God willing).

Jeb Bush
Marco Rubio
Paul Ryan
Sarah Palin – possibly third party
Rand Paul
Chris Christie
Kelly Ayotte
Rick Santorum

Joe Biden
Andrew Cuomo
Martin O’Malley
Duval Patrick

Mark Warner

Wilson: Repent

From Doug Wilson:

2. Given the wickedness of key elements in Obama’s agenda (abortion, sodomy, thievery through taxation, etc.) we know that whatever the Lord is doing, it is for judgment and not for blessing. And in Scripture, whenever judgment is pending, or has begun, the appropriate response is repentance — not mobilization or organizing our remaining tatters.

Postmillennial optimism does not mean the world gets better without repentance. It means that the gospel is powerful to save, and when the gospel is preached rightly it comes in the form of “repent and believe.” Repent of what? Repent of our sins. Believe what? Believe in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Over the next four years our energies should be focused on getting all Christian kids out of the government schools. If your kids are educated by people who are soft in the head, why would you expect them to grow up and not vote for people who are soft in the head? Students become like their teachers (Luke 6:40). Don’t lament the fact that Obama won if over 90% of your children’s teachers voted for him.

We also need Christians with a thorough-going biblical worldview writing good books, making good movies, and recording good music. As I have argued before, you can’t have a naval war without ships, you can’t have tank warfare without tanks, and you can’t fight a culture war without a culture. And by Christian culture, incidentally, I do not mean pious schlock and I do not mean hipster poses with extra mousse in your hair to make it stick up.