Taking a Chance

Spring Fundraiser 2013, Day 7

Today is Day Seven of this Fundraiser. We have rounded the last turn and are heading for the finish…

See those fellows with the gas masks? Some of y’all may need them to get through this post, because some of y’all may find my views offensive. This time my opinions could even start one of those comment thread wars. I hope not. I hope instead that if the issue of religious faith is not your bag, you’ll be a grown-up, send a Gallic shrug in my general direction, and scroll on down the page. Maybe read the news or look at a few comments.

It’s Saturday evening now. The Baron is tired after a long day’s labor at the computer. I’m finishing up the emails that have come into our webmail server and the B is in the kitchen, cleaning up from supper. We had ham and roasted fennel, the latter being one of my favorite vegetables.

Tip jarHe wanted to do the dishes in hopes that the routine would allow his mind to come to rest on some part of this Fundraiser’s theme — “putting our heads over the parapet”, i.e., raising our heads up to look around and risking getting shot at. Actually, it’s not just a ‘risk’ anymore; the potshots have long been an ugly fact of life here at Schloss Bodissey.

Just for openers, the OIC has complained more than once in its annual report about us. Think of that curiosity: obscure little ol’ Gates of Vienna regularly gets the OIC’s shorts in a twist. Given the paranoid aromas arising from their reports and the picayune nature of their complaints, I intuit that it’s our name which causes anxiety.

The West has long since forgotten Islam’s ignominious defeat at those city gates in 1683, but you can bet your Koran that those folks who run the OIC continue to burn with shame at the searing memory of their defeat. It was a sure sign of Allah’s displeasure that the infidels prevailed against the awe-inspiring numbers of Allah’s warriors arrayed against them. The Christian victors thought it was a miracle. They were so overjoyed that — being Viennese after all — they created a wonderful pastry: a Viennese crescent. Sly humor on the part of the city’s famed bakers, eh?

So, while the Baron is out there rattling them pots and pans, I opened an email to read before it gets taken in tonight. I try to get to them all but don’t always make it. This one is a response from a donor in Minnesota. The Baron had thanked him, and as people often do, he said something in return.

For those of our readers who believe in God the email will have meaning. For those of you who are atheists, the email may be a turn-off, though I know at least one of our atheist readers who is so secure in his beliefs about these matters that he is quite enthusiastic about the subject. Would that his reaction were the more common one…

Ah, well, c’est la guerre, guys. We believers are thick on the ground in this God-ridden country. Can’t take a step without falling over one of us. I was going to say, especially out here in the country, but really, we’re everywhere. It was a cause of wonder to de Tocqueville when he visited us, and it’s been a continuing cause for ummm…concern for other European visitors. The godless Russians? Not so much.

In order to give the Baron a badly needed break, this Fundraising post will be a thank you note from one of our faithful donors, who sets out to explain what he gets back in return for his donation. His epistle from Minnesota:

You are more welcome than I think you can know, Baron & Dymphna.

I marked my gift as support rather than a donation in response to the intended attack from Norway you wrote about. I do not think what you do is begging, though I do not presume to tell you what to call it. I think you are asking us to do our part, to not be freeloaders at your table day in and day out. You serve us wonderful, nutritious food; we need to contribute our fair share. Leaving it to us to decide how much to contribute is a courageous, generous, and in some sense profoundly Christian thing to do.

Baron, your eye condition has made me feel like crying in grief for what you are dealing with. I’m very glad for your good prognosis with this treatment. I am praying for you.

In case this information can ever be of use to you, please know that I have personally experienced rather dramatic, medically inexplicable healing through prayer, and have first-hand witness of more such healings from family members and others whose testimony I have good reason to trust. I know from first-hand experience that healing prayer does not often bring such results.

This will be voodoo for our more sensitive non-believers. For some reason this kind of talk sends them fleeing from the room. But for those who’ve had similar experiences, this fellow is simply repeating what they’ve learned firsthand.

He goes on to say:

But the fact that it does at times bring such results, and that there are people for whom such results happen much more than for most others, is overlooked or denied so often, and I have had such life-changing benefits from it, that I would have a hard time living with my conscience if I did not bear witness to you about it.

I am very impressed by you two, and very appreciative of you. I’m a normal person with long-term illness and deep wounds from childhood, but my healing has so far been far beyond normal, but only in response to long-term seeking in stubborn faith.

There seem to be some people who are more gifted in this prayer, or perhaps have more development of their gifts, than others. I hope I am or can become one of them, but aside from that I can give you contact information for some if you ever want it.

You two are making a wonderful contribution to the world, as far as I can tell. You certainly have touched my life and continue to do so in a wonderful way. May God continue to bless you, heal you, protect you, and guide you.

With gratitude and affection, and an ongoing mild irritation that I seem to be still the only person from Minnesota contributing to this great web site,

Thank you.


So there you have one person’s validation for our work. And it’s a meaningful one for me. Our religious faith is not something we talk about much, though we presume our readers are aware that we’re Christians. And many readers besides DL have taken the time to send similar expressions of hope and prayer our way. They have done much to buoy both of us. In fact, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be writing this now were it not for the many similar letters from other readers.

As I’ve said to many of you personally, gifts come in many guises: money, time, talents, resources. And as I’ve also said, in the Boomerang Theory of Giving, whatever you send out is returned to you many times over. This is an inviolable law but a subtle one. The Cosmos gives back to you what you need. It often bears no resemblance to what you gave, but it is deftly balanced to fit you. Sometimes those gifts require a sense of discernment — and a sense of humor.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

It was a quiet giving day. The following places are inhabited by some of our donors:

Stateside: California, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York.

Near Abroad: No one!

Far Abroad: Australia, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.

May you all be blessed for your generosity, in whatever form is most appropriate.

The tip jar in the text above is just for decoration. To donate, click the tin cup on our sidebar, or the donate button, on the main page. If you prefer a monthly subscription, click the “subscribe” button.

7 thoughts on “Taking a Chance

  1. I am an atheist, and I think if all believers were like Dymphna & Baron, we’d all get along with each other nicely and would hardly ever find a reason to take issue with each other. There is value in the teachings of Jesus for how we treat one another quite independently from that part of the faith which describes the unknowable, and absolutely nothing in the Bible (totally unlike the Koran) mandates that one human uses force on another human to follow the book entirely or punishes them for choosing not to. There are still too many Christians also, who can’t leave that judgement to God as is written, but can’t help themselves taking His matters into their own hands. You are not of this kind, and for that I have the highest respect.

    I wish Dymphna & Baron all the best, health, luck, and happiness. And thank you so much for all that you’re doing.

    • I agree: the bumptious believers are off-putting, no matter what belief system it is they want to push on you. Not just religious dogma, but also their political philosophies or their social securities. We are persuaded by our own experiences; hectoring by others teaches us nothing other than to avoid the occasions of these preachers.

      I’m (in)famous for my poor memory but I heard this from one of my theology professors years ago, and it immediately took root. He said, “for me, the experience of Christ means that ‘love is possible, evil is reversible and you *can* live freed from your past’…”

      Much damage has been done by the dogmatists. Pity they couldn’t leave it at those three principles instead of turning the field of spirituality into something akin to the battlefield images of World War I…or the blast area at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

      On the other hand, the experience of faith remains ineffable for those on whom it falls. The more deeply it is felt, the less one can say about it. Since we are social beings, we are impelled to ‘congregate’ in like-minded groups. Thus, there will always be ‘flocks’ of people and there will always be splintering of those flocks.

      I like Jesus’ advice: pray in the closet and keep it simple: offer praise, ask for bread and if you’re tempted to dwell in righteous anger on the folly of your neighbor, it would be a good idea to remember your own sins first.

  2. So … thats a fine reason to change the “Name” back to Archangel.

    Sure: Thoughts are healing ….. true love heals.

    Former duke ……

  3. In his book White Collar, which includes a scathing chapter titled “Brains, Inc.,” Mills argued that “men of brilliance, energy, and imagination” were no longer valued within universities. Colleges did not “facilitate, much less create, independence of mind.” The professor had become part of “a petty hierarchy, almost completely closed in by its middle-class environment and its segregation of intellectual from social life . . . mediocrity makes its own rules and sets its own image of success.” But the intellectuals outside the academy in the commercial sphere were no better. They had abandoned politics for administration and personal success. “The loss of will and even of ideas among intellectuals,” he wrote, is due not simply to “political defeat and internal decay of radical parties.” The liberal class who accepted its appointed
    slots in educational, state, institutional, and media bureaucracies had, Mills noted, sold their souls.
    The New Left of the 1960s turned out to be a mirage. The rupture within American politics was so severe that when the New Left arose, it had no roots. It existed in a historical vacuum. The counterculture of the 1960s, although it attracted a wide following at the height of the Vietnam War, never replicated the power of the Popular Front of 1930s, which had included the working class and mixed social, labor, and political movements. The New Left that rose in the 1960s, was, as the historian Ellen Schrecker writes, “a fractured, deracinated movement that could never reconstruct the ideological and cultural unity of its predecessors or overcome its own divisions. Even today, what passes for the left, the identity politics that all too often segregates rather than unifies its adherents, lacks the sense of interconnectedness that disappeared with the lost world of American Communism.” Protests, rather than disrupt manufacturing or the systems run by the power elite, usually became, as happened in the protests during the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, a media spectacle. The left and the right played their roles before the cameras. Politics had become theater.
    The militancy of previous generations had been erased from collective consciousness. The counterculture, like the Beats before them, busied itself with disengagement rather than transformation. The appearance of decent and honorable political figures such as George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy may have offered a moment of hope, but the traditional Democratic establishment not only colluded with Richard Nixon to crush McGovern in the 1972 presidential election, but also swiftly rewrote party nominating rules so a McCarthy or a McGovern
    would never again be able to get the nomination. By now the domesticated liberal class, represented in the political arena by the Democratic Party, needed no prompting to defend the interests of the power elite. It was a full member of the club.
    By the 1980s, the political sterility of the New Left found its academic expression in the embrace of French poststructuralist literary and cultural theory. The charade of protest was matched in the university by the charade of radical analysis. French theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes were adopted by American academics, who jettisoned the political projects that had influenced the work of the French academics, retreating instead into what they termed the science of language and meaning. They deciphered texts. They shifted Marxist analysis away from economic departments, most of which had been taken over by free-market ideologues anyway, to disciplines within the humanities, where Marxist critique would not threaten systems of power.
    Marxists now became culture and literary critics. These theorists invested their energy in multiculturalism, with branches such as feminist studies, queer studies, and African American studies. The inclusion of voices often left out of the traditional academic canon certainly enriched the university. But multiculturalism, rather than leading to a critique of structures and systems that consciously excluded and impoverished the poor and the marginal, became an end in itself.
    “Stripped of a radical idiom, robbed of a Utopian hope, liberals and leftists retreat in the name of progress to celebrate diversity,” Russell Jacoby writes. “With few ideas on how a future should be shaped, they embrace all ideas. Pluralism becomes a catchall, the alpha and omega of political thinking. Dressed up as multiculturalism, it has become the opium of disillusioned intellectuals, the ideology of an era without an ideology.”
    Political debate was replaced by multicultural discourse. Public values were subordinated to torturous textual analysis. There was nothing worth investigating, these poststructuralists insisted, outside of the text. This new group of “radical” theorists, including Gayatri Spivak, a postcolonial theorist; Paul Bove, the editor of the journal boundary 2 and an English professor at The University of Pittsburgh; J. Hillis Miller, then of Yale; Gregory Ulmer of the University of Florida; and Marxist cultural historian Frederic Jameson, typified the trend. They wrap ideas in a language so obscure, so abstract, so preoccupied with arcane theory that the uninitiated cannot understand what they write. They make no attempt to reach a wider audience or enrich public life. Compared to the last generation of genuine, independent public intellectuals- Jane Jacobs, Paul and Percival Goodman, William H. Whyte, Lewis Mumford, C. Wright Mills, and Dwight Macdonald— they have produced nothing of substance or worth. Their work has no vision, other than perhaps calling for more diverse voices in the academy. It is technical, convoluted, self-referential, and filled with so much academic jargon that it is unreadable. This is a sample of what poststructuralists, in this case Jameson, believe passes for lucid thought:
    In periodizing a phenomenon of this kind, we have to complicate the model with all kinds of supplementary epicycles. It is necessary to distinguish between the gradual setting in place of the various (often unrelated) preconditions for the new structure and the “moment” (not exactly chronological) when they all jell and combine into a functional system. This moment is itself less a matter of chronology than it is of a well-nigh Freudian Nachträglichkeit, or retroactivity: people become aware of the dynamics of some new system, in which they are themselves seized, only later on and gradually.2
    While it seems on the surface to be a movement for social change, the campaign for cultural diversity, does little to perturb the power elite. It does not challenge economic or political structures that are rapidly disempowering the working class. Making sure people of diverse races or sexual orientations appear on television shows or in advertisements merely widens the circle of new consumers. Multiculturalism is an appeal that pleads with the corporate power structure for inclusion. The appeal was achieved politically with the election of Barack Obama. It has seen the establishment of multicultural departments in many universities. But it is a call, as Jacoby points out, for “patronage, not revolution”.

    – From “The Death of the Liberal Class” – Chris Hedges.

  4. I am not a Christian, but tend to like Christians and to feel protective of Christianity. I know (through accidental yogic means) that Consciousness is above and beyond physical death, and the only faith I need is that such survival is worthwhile. I am a scientist by education, and an enemy of ‘scientific materialism’ (a contradiction in terms). I am a deist rather than a theist. I shall make a donation.

    • As a deist, then, no doubt you’re aware of the deists who came before you, particularly America’s founding genius. We never saw its like again, but oh my, while it lasted…

      We’re living on the stale morsels they left us – though they did leave what they could, knowing that we would have to re-invent our own political philosophy, and that it had to be firmly founded on current-day cosmology. As physics goes, philosophical thought must follow. When it doesn’t we end up with aggressive hubris tricked out as serious thought.

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