Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

One Good Lesson from the Gibson Drama

Michael Medved has a very clear and very short (so read it all) article in USA Today on the Mel Gibson meltdown in Malibu. I agree with everything he says in it but I think the most important point he makes is this:

The "Mad Mel" Moment might change how we perceive Gibson’s character, but it alters nothing about the images and messages he put on screen in The Passion of the Christ. It’s still the same movie, frame for frame, line for Aramaic-and-Latin line. The millions of people who felt inspired and uplifted by a remarkable piece of cinema need not feel guilty because its creator insults a cop with ancient hatreds. In the same sense, moviegoers who are moved by the upcoming World Trade Center, with its stirring (and apolitical) story of heroes of 9/11, shouldn’t question their reaction because of past outrageous, America-bashing off-screen statements (and drug busts) involving its director, Oliver Stone.

I would only add that this all points to an irritating and counterproductive intellectual development in our culture. Why is it that we’re always looking for deep-seated psychological explanations for people’s behavior? Worse, why do we assume that once we have pegged down a person’s psychological profile (nevermind the question of whether we’re qualified or justified in doing that), we can view everything that person does through the prism of the profile? Gibson behaved very, very badly. He will be judged accordingly and he so he should. He did some very stupid things and said some hateful and outrageous things. Clearly, the dude has issues.

But don’t we all have issues?

If everything that everyone does must be viewed through the prism of their "issues" is rational conversation or dialogue even possible? Must every author be deconstructed and every artist given an enema before we can look at his work?

Is it possible that a person’s deep-seated hatreds or nuttiness could have some impact on his work? Sure. If it does, by all means we should point that out. But it is also (thank God!) possible to overcome one’s passions and prejudices and reach for truth in one’s work and art.

And that’s why I prefer "hypocrisy" to being "true to oneself." At least the hypocrite reaches for a higher standard.

Discussions - 55 Comments

I have not seen Gibson’s Passion. Perhaps I should therefore say nothing. But I will add to Julie Ponzi’s post the fact that some serious (knowledgeable, historically well-informed) critics of the movie found more than a little antisemitism in it. Their observations of course predated the latest from Gibson.

Obviously, it is also the case that not everybody who saw the movie saw the antisemitism. Again, I did not see the movie. But I have read the Gospels, where one finds a good deal of antisemitism, in varying degrees.

Steve: See the movie. But if you think the Gospels themselves are anti-semetic, I don’t suppose there’s much that will persuade you that the movie isn’t. You must admit, however, that your view is on the extreme fringe. What serious person/scholar makes the case that the Gospels are anti-semetic? I’m sure there are a few kooks who say this--but couldn’t the case be made that those who say this are just "anti-Christian"? Jesus himself was, after all, a Jew. A true Christian who is truly anti-semetic is an oxymoron.

Doesn’t the whole accusaion of "anti-semitism" in the movie, Passion of the Christ, base itself on the idea that only the Jews crucified Christ and that no one else is responsible for Christ’s death? It is easy to say that the Jews who hammered the nails were alone responsible, when anyone who actually believes in Christ knows otherwise...

Julie - Yes, I should see the movie. Of course I am aware that Jesus was a Jew.

I admit my remark about the Gospels was based on an historical reading of them as distinct texts, and this is, I know, not the only way to read them. One might consult Elaine Pagels’ book on Satan. I don’t think she would be considered a kook.

Well, rah rah for hypocracy...after all we are the GOP

Elaine Pagel’s may not be a kook, but a number of serious theologians and scholars consider her work
slipshod at best.

"..your view is on the extreme fringe."

Julie Ponzi(who thinks Dick Cheney is a "hottie") dispenses some more of her wisdom about the "extreme fringe" from Ponzi land.

Ms. Ponzi: If you’re going to use a word three times in a comment, you might want to be sure you’re spelling it properly, particularly after others have used the same word and spelled it differently - and correctly - from your spelling.

anti-semitic (or, anti-Semitic)

Perhaps Gibson was reaching for some truth in his gorefest "Passion," but he failed to shed any light on anything whatsoever. The man doesn’t just have a few issues, he has a lifetime subscription.

Steven,
You mention unfavorable criticism only of the Pagles’ essays on gnosticism. Anything on the satan book?

I think the Claremont escapee should speak only for him/herself regarding The Passion. I know several Christians, and clearly there are many thousands more, who were deeply affected by the portrayal of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s one thing to read it in the Gospels (and it is profoundly moving to do so as a Christian), and it was another to witness a visual representation of it showing the unimaginable suffering that one man took on for everyone.

So, while your spelling is correct, and you are correct that Gibson’s got some serious problems and has had many problems in his life, I think you’re wrong in saying he has a "lifetime subscription" or has done nothing correctly or of merit.

Tony

Don’t worry about escapee (is it possible to say you’ve escaped when you were never there?), grammar nazis get their pleasure from visiting site after site to undermine an argument by pointing out spelling errors. It’s obvious he is by far our intellectual superior, so we need not question his authority. Let us only bask in awe at his masterful ability to spell correctly.

It’s true enough that American popular theological opinion is increasingly divided between those who are moved by THE PASSION and those who are moved by the alleged Gnostic breakthroughs of Pagels and THE DAVINCI CODE. Abstracting from the personal quirks of both Gibson the man and Gibson the artist, here’s one view of the difference: It’s between those who believe in a personal God who loves us all and is the foundation of the moral and spiritual equality of all human persons or creatures under that God and those who proudly affirm an elitist, esoteric doctrine that denies the real existence of a common morality. (Or maybe my view is the manly delusion of an Irish Catholic suspicious of the latent oppression in any upper-crust Episcopalian theological innovation.)

Peter-
". . .the manly delusion of an Irish Catholic suspicious of the latent oppression in any upper-crust Episcopalian theological innovation." That’s inspired!

I do not know to what extent Pagels thinks she is offering theology: I think of her as an historian of religious ideas. (I haven’t read DaVinci Code, but I don’t have the impression this should be classed with Pagels.) I thought her interest in gnosticism pointed in the direction of seeing the synoptic Gospels in historical context: that is, they weren’t the only ones, and they were chosen perhaps for reasons scholarship can figure out. Her analysis of Satan in the Gospels and elsewhere identifies three possible enemies of the early Jesus movement (again, this is an historical reading): "the Jews" (those who handed Jesus over and insisted on his crucifiction, or even including "their children" Mat 27:25), the Romans, and other alleged but satanic followers of Jesus.

I thought it was a commonplace that several passages in the Gospels were a major SOURCE -- that’s what I should have said -- of antisemitism. Am I wrong that both Vatican II and Pope John Paul II said as much? For what it’s worth, I long for the personal God about whom you, Peter, write so ably.

But the thread started with Mel Gibson, about whom I have said nothing because I haven’t seen his movie.

Steve,
I haven’t read Pagels’ Satan book. I did read her Gnostic gospel one, and she spoke at Berry (with practically every rich Episcopalian wi 50 miles present). Her intention is to focus all Christian attenion on the short, boring, and pretty contentless Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. There Jesus is a vague and almost pro-New Agey teacher of something akin to philosophic wisdom. There not only does the personal, loving God of the canonical Gospels disappear, but also the God of Abraham (Who is the same Guy). So it’s true enough that Christianity is a leading source of anti-semetism, and I can even see why a Jew might see anti-semetism in the Gospels (although not much, Jesus is a Jew and all that...). But today’s neo-Gnosticism is opposed to the actual religion of the Jews! For one view of the true view of Christianity with respect to the Jews, see the writings of the Catholic Walker Percy: The persistent and singular existence of the Jewish people and the Jew is key evidence that we’re all particular beings created by a personal God. Reflection on the Jews is indispensable for saving Christians from defining God’s love in terms of an insipid universalism that abstracts from the particular characteristics that distinguish each of us. (See Benedict XVI’s rejection of the distinction between eros and agape in his great encyclical on God’s love.) So the true Christian teaching on the Jews: You gotta love and admire them, which means not losing them in an abstract universalism or Gnostic pantheism.

Peter-
I don’t doubt what you say about neo-gnosticism (why is it sometimes in caps?). I suppose abstract or insipid universalism can also be the product of appeals to the "Judeo-Christian tradition" - which expression emerged, I think, in the 1940s. And I gather such a universalism is associated with theological liberalism, for which "rich Episcopalians within 50 miles" will stand. Such disputes are beyond my acquaintance. Even so, please explain what you mean here: "today’s neo-Gnosticism is opposed to the actual religion of the Jews."

I have not read Pagels’ book on the gnostic Thomas.

Steve, a good question, of course: Here’s what I meant, according to Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), ’IN THE BEGINNING’, p. 96: "I see the common core of Gnosticism, in all its different forms and versions, as the repudiation of creation...The mystery of suffering, of love...is rejected in favor of a control of the world and of life through knowledge. Love appears too insecure a foundation for life and world...It makes me permanently dependent. It seems like a permanent risk factor, a source of insecurity over which I have no control. This risk factor must be eliminated...Gnosticism can never be netural in matters concerning God, but rather aggressively antitheistic...."

THAT SUGGESTS of course--following Jonas, Voegelin etc.--that all modern thought is Gnostic, even that all philosophy that claims to be a sort of self-help program aiming at rational independence from the alleged blindness of love of other persons is Gnostic. And so it also suggests that Pagels and the Da Vinci Code etc. are at war (at a popularizing level) against the basic experience of being created that connects, of course, the real Christians and the real Jews.

Peter, Thank you. You probe the depths. As it happens, I recently reread Augustine’s Confessions, which seems to me to explore just the tension you sketch. His idea of "love" is the key.

The idea that "all modern thought is Gnostic" is a broad-brush metaphor that refers to an interpretation of modern science/philosophy, and to its harboring its own characteristic esoteric thinking. Do you agree? This stance toward what is modern, then, drives us back to "Athens or Jerusalem" -- both of which seem capable of esotericism (provoking both anti-Straussians and, historically, many Protestants). This is why I was moved by your earlier statement of faith in " a personal God who loves us all and is the foundation of the moral and spiritual equality of all human persons or creatures under that God" No Gnosticism there.

Steve, I agree, which is why the old I get the necessity of choosing (radically) between Athens or Jerusalem doesn’t seem to correspond to real human experience. As Ernest Fortin put it, the choice is between what accounts for or satisfies the human mind and what accounts for or satisfies the whole human person. But of course none of us are pure minds; all of us (even Strauss and Heidegger) are persons who can’t be reduced to either mind or body or even some mixture of the two. But the person, of course, has a mind, and so the truth about the person has to include his or her singular openness to the truth about all things, including the truth that the person can’t be integrated into the intellectual necessity or the material necessity that philosophers and scientists sometimes say accounts for all of reality.

Peter: That was really well put. Thanks.

Julie, Thanks. Let me add one more thing, just because I’m try to figure out what’s wrong with the contemporary Straussian desire (of some) to pick revelation up, dust it off, make it stronger than it can make itself (give it Viagra and Steroids), just to knock it down harder than ever before. Strauss seems to say that the only serious challenge to "the philosopher" is revelation, and he can and must handle it. But it might be a mistake to identify "the philosopher" with a whole human being, even in Strauss’s eyes. Consider this: THE REPUBLIC seems to locate the cave and the philosopher as utterly liberated from the den of lies for the truth--even for knowing what gives Being its beingness. But isn’t that IMAGE a deliberate exaggeration: Philosophers have to be transformed into WISE MEN in order to make their right to rule seem unambiguously just, and the mirror image of their exaggerated liberation is the exaggerated picture of the intellectual and emotional slavery of everyone else. The cave may stand for the city in the REPUBLIC, but Strauss doesn’t say, I think, that the cave images gives anywhere near a completely realistic picture of actual cities. The character Socrates in the dialogue THE REPUBLIC locates himself in the cave ("They’re like us," he says) and so distinguishes himself from the philosopher-kings. And in the cave the prisoners quite unrealistically seem unable to turn to and talk with each other etc. It seems to me that the questions of what gives being its beingness, why is their being rather than nothing at all, who or what is God necessarily elude us to some extent. We can say God is the author of being or the whole world as we experience it. But then we have to ask why God, why would an omnipotent and self-sufficient, unerotic being create etc.: The questions are just thrown back one step. So, as Leon Kass says, God knows what came before the Big Bang, but we certainly can’t figure it out. And we also don’t know how life emerged from lifeless matter or how human life (with all the qualities we have that can’t be reduced to mind or body) emerged from unconscious life. It may be morally incoherent or monstrous to believe in an utterly unfathomable, omnipotent God, but even that thought abstracts from God’s love and what we can know about Him as creatures through the gift of (never quite complete) self-consciousness and communion with others like ourselves.

Mr. Lawler,

I am confused by your comments about Plato’s cave image. You preface these comments with the statement, "But it might be a mistake to identify ’the philosopher’ with a whole human being, even in Strauss’s eyes." But then you do not make clear how your following comments illuminate why this "identification" is a mistake. It would take too long for me to interpret all of your comments in order, so I will just look at one. Before doing so, however, I would like to remind readers of your earlier curious comment (#15): "Yeah, I spelled semitism wrong a bunch of times. No esoteric teaching intended, I just can’t proof on screen." I understand that this was a somewhat sarcastic jibe at previous talk about misspelling but it deserves some careful thought. If we are trying to convey our thoughts here, how we understand things, we are tied to the medium of words. But if we don’t or can’t proof what we say so that it is totally clear and does not simply assume that readers will know what we mean, how can we expect understanding from our readers? This may seem pedantic, but I think it is important, and I don’t think pedantic should always have the negative connotation it does. After all, in essence it means "intended to teach." Why say anything at all, with the intention of making a clear argument for one side or the other, if you are not going to take the time to make sure what you said is what you intended?

To continue, you say, "The cave may stand for the city in the REPUBLIC, but Strauss doesn’t say, I think, that the cave images gives anywhere near a completely realistic picture of actual cities."(italics mine) I don’t wish to speak of what Strauss may or may not have said, just what you do say here. What do you mean here? What is a "realistic picture"? I assume, perhaps rightly, that a realistic picture is one that corresponds well with "reality". And I assume further that when you say "actual" you mean this as a synonym of "real" as you use this root in "realistic" and "reality". Also, is a "picture" the same as an "image"? And are "reality" and "actual" the same as "being," which is the term used by Plato when contrasting what is seen within the cave to what is seen without? If these corrections correspond with your intended meaning, and "true" may be used as a qualification for something that shows itself as it is, your sentence could be read in this way:

The cave may stand for the city in the REPUBLIC, but Strauss doesn’t say, I think, that the cave images give anywhere near a completely true image of how cities are.

This, I think, is at least clearer, aside from whether it is true. But this is not what you said. What then do we say about words like "realistic," and "actual"? Are any words synonyms in the sense that they fully intend the same thing as some other word, or do they intend something like the thing another word intends? If the second is true, as I think it is, there is a word for each thing and we should not mix them without careful consideration about the possible changes this may entail.

As it stands, I cannot even attempt to agree or disagree with your comments because of problems like the ones I address. I do not think you are ignorant in your assessment of what Strauss thought or of what Plato intended. Rather, I cannot be clear as to what you do think without some editing on your part.

Sincerely,
Eliot Smith

Eliot,
I certainly appreciate your comments and I’m sort of blathering here in the hopes of getting responses. But picture and image aren’t the same thing in my mind, although I can easily see your confusion because image can mean picture. In the context of the REPUBLIC an image is the description of something as like something else. The city is like a cave, the idea of the good is like the sun. A realistic picture is a pretty completely accurate representation--a photograph or realistic painting. Real and actual I think are pretty obviously virtual synonyms, but not quite. Actual has a colloquial ring in terms of mocking idealistic pretensions--but maybe only to me. I’m all in favor of your amended version as more clear, all things considered. (Still, ompletely realistic does not mean the same thing as completely true,because true does not convey the de-idealized or utterly undeluded connotation of realistic--it’s connected with just the facts, m’am realism of the detective. Realistic in the colloquial [vs. international relations theory] sense is a matter of fact without mockery or irony or pointy-headed metaphysical baggage word.) There is, of course, not one and only one word for each thing in any language, and especially not in an old and mongrel language like English. And it’s obvious that the different words for the same thing allow us to highlight nuances about the thing--which is good, because there’s no perfect correspondence between words and things. So this was fun, and of course I apologize for torturing you with a rough draft that I wrote in eight minutes and just thew out there. But in the end I’m not really convinced that you and other smart readers didn’t really know what I meant. And I apologize for not proofing this, although I did give an extra couple minutes. Like Socrates, I don’t claim to be a teacher here. If I were a sophist or paid blogger I’d surely be more statesmanlike.

Peter,

I am glad that you appreciated my comments, even if they were more focused or nit-picky than they needed to be in this context.

Thus, on to the meat of it. You say, "The character Socrates in the dialogue THE REPUBLIC locates himself in the cave ("They’re like us," he says) and so distinguishes himself from the philosopher-kings." I wonder about the "us" used here. Does Socrates really identify himself with those he is speaking with? After all, the philosopher in the cave image does start out in the cave. Perhaps this is why there is an "us" at all. We are all fundamentally on the same page, i.e., we all live in the same "world" and we all begin by seeing things as they are presented to us by others and, at first, only the shadows of those things. We begin in the world of convention and may not ever break beyond that world. But the cave image suggests that we can. The philosopher who does, however, might return to the cave, and since it is the world of the cave that allowed his being in the first place, I don’t think there is any reason to suppose that he won’t.

In light of these thoughts, I wouldn’t be hasty to place Socrates in the cave in the same way as all the others. He is like them in that he has his roots in the cave but, if he is a philosopher, he has seen the light outside of the cave. If humans are capable of such an ascent, even if they must remain rooted in the cave, then I would argue that the one who has seen both sides is more fully human. In other words, he has more fully "realized" his potential as a human.

Sincerely,
Eliot

Eliot: That might or might not be right, but probably not. You’re identifying the philosopher fit to be king with Socrates himself. But it’s never been clear to me why that should be done. Does Socrates really do that? Isn’t that philosopher an idealization of or an abstraction from the character Socrates in the dialogue, who in turn is an idealization of the man Socrates who walked this earth at one time? The philosopher-king constructed in speech for Glaucon’s benefit doesn’t correspond to any living, breathing human being, just as the city in speech doesn’t correspond to any real or true or actual human city. So there’s really or truly or actually more going on here than you say.

Elliot (if that’s your real name), you seem to be the type of person who has a seminar every time he has a conversation. Is that true?

Let’s get back to the real point of this thread: Mel Gibson! I learned from the authoritative PEOPLE magazine that his drinking problem returned in recent months because he tried to give up smoking. If smoking is required to keep your deep personal obsessions under wraps, then any manly code of self-discipline would demand it. Mel, light up and lighten up! I was also reminded that his Catholicism remained schismatically traditionalist or not genuinely orthodox. Apparently he thinks that his saintly Episcopalian wife isn’t going to be saved because she’s outside the true church. Well, the true or real or actual Catholic teaching isn’t anything like that. (And finally I learned that ol’ Mel is a very faithful husband and an exemplary dad of seven kids. How many residents of Malibu can say that!?)

While I thoroughly detest the psychoanalysis-at-a-distance (frequently with partisan agendas attached) of Mel Gibson, I think that an autobiography from him would be genuinely interesting and informative. In part because he is deeply (if theologically and ecclesiastically flawed) religious and, I assume, spiritual, while also obviously being quite ambitious and having known first-hand the pleasures and promises of "the world." He’s deeply countercultural (witness his fidelity to his lovely wife, Robin, and his paternity X7) while participating in, and being intimately familiar with, popular culture and its producers. It wouldn’t be Augustine’s Confessions, but it would be illuminating, I’d think.

I’d heard from my impeccable sources (Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight!) that what prompted his relapse into drinking was the stress of making his new movie down in Mexico.Enter text to make italicEnter text to make bold

From a fellow speculator:

Is it the case that Gibson’s brand of Catholicism, which is hostile to Vatican II, is also hostile to Judaism; that they are connected? If so, might the booze turn the theological or communal antipathy into something really nasty?

Part - a small part - of what might make a Gibson autobiography interesting would be its self-conscious discussion (and unself-conscious or unwitting revelation) of some of the tensions at work in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, which in its own way Vatican II tried to address (with rather mixed results).

But my main desire is to stay away from necessarily uninformed speculation about the truth quotient found in alcohol or alcohol-induced misbehavior, either as a general proposition or in connection with a single individual whom I’ve never met. Gibson’s two (or is it 3?) apologies seemed to me to be models of contrition. Maybe we want to talk a bit about the necessity and desirability of confession for the soul?

I too think we should take Gibon’s confession seriously, although I caution against using this forum to starting confessing. And I think Paul’s point is that there’s a lot to this guy; he’s much more admirable, more thoughtful, and more of an artist than, say, George Clooney or Wes Anderson or perhaps even Woody Allen (certainly more personally admirable than WA, but who isn’t?). To say the least, being anti-Jewish is not the story of his life, and there’s no evidence at all that his artistic intention is to foment anti-semitism or anything like that. It’s also not true that official Catholic theology was anti-semitic until Vatican II. It is true that Gibson’s does have some strange theological opinions, as do most outstanding artistic and literary types. Whether movie-stress or smoking-stress threw him off the wagon is a matter that we can’t resolve here, although I’d trust People over ET. It’s not so normal for tortured souls with really big bucks and huge popularity to keep their private lives intact, and we should praise those those tough and responsible souls who can do it. All in all, Mel probably needs forgiveness a lot less than most...and he knows enough to ask for it.

The dialogue in Gibson’s new movie is all in Mayan. There’s an artist!

I did not say or imply that "OFFICIAL Catholic theology was anti-semitic until Vatican II." [caps mine] I was asking about Gibson’s Catholicism, in case someone who knows about the illiberal side of Catholicism -- Peter speaks charitably of "strange theological opinions" -- wishes to speak about it. Leave aside the boozy "meltdown" which is not or should not be the main point.

One sad note or consequences of Gibson’s rant: I’d heard around the time of the release of The Passion that he was interested in doing the story of the Maccabees. That would have been a great film! (Straussians would have loved it: The four books of Maccabees start out anti-Hellenic - the Greeks bring in nautoria and gymnasia (in which only bad things happen), desecrate the Temple, and generaly seduce the elites and populace; Judas et al. lead a religio-civic revolt; at the end, the great high priest Judas is presented (by Scripture itself) in terms of possessing the cardinal virtue, ie., in Greek philosophical terms! Oh the complexities of the battle between Jerusalem and Athens! Oh the esotericism possibilities!)

Steve, There have been currents of Catholic thought with anti-Semitic dimensions, of course, and I didn’t mean to imply that you were making an accusation against the official Catholic teaching. The only real evidence that we have that Gibson buys into those currents is the boozy meltdown, which is no evidence at all. He certainly has some "traditionalist" or "illiberal" opinions about theology, but none of them are necessarily hostile to the Jews, although there are doubtless some (a very, very few nowadays) who hold them who think so. And according to Tocqueville the best religious foundation for liberal politics is orthodox or dogmatic, and he meant to teach both the Catholics and their political enemies that they could accept liberal politics without surrending theological truth. Gibson, of course, is clearly an American patriot, and the most extreme (again a very, very small number) of the schismatic traditionalists are anti-American. The Maccabees would be a fine film if Gibson did it, and let’s hope he has the guts and wherewithall to self-finance. Maybe Paul can write the script and encourage Mel to have the characters to speak in English.

Peter, I’m already thinking about casting the movie: would you like to be 1) a ruthless Roman; 2) an effeminate Hellene; or 3) a pious and brave Jew?

BTW: it seems to me the real BIG issue raised by Gibson’s rant is what do/should orthodox Jews think about orthodox Christians and vice versa, today? Honestly, it would be really complex - with real positive and negative - on both sides, wouldn’t it?

I vote for Peter as a ruthless Roman, so he can wear one of those plumed hats and growl.

Cast as a Roman, I kindofsee Peter as the Zero Mostel character - Pseudolus - in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Steve, Well, I actually am from Rome (GA), although not the ruthless one. Paul, Let me have one of my imprecise speculations on orthodox Catholics vs. orthodox Jews. Tom Pangle’s book on Genesis is all about discrediting the omnipotent, unfathomable God who is not bound by natural necessity--creation ex nihilo and all it implies. His target is the resurrection, "eternal life," and particular providence--a God who loves, secures, and cares for each of us in particular. Leon Kass’s book on Genesis says that the Bible waffles on the relationship between God’s creative will and natural necessity (on whether or not creation was ex nihilo) and that the waffling is appropriate. Neither creation ex nihilo or the eternity of the world really makes complete sense to us. Kass takes it for granted that we’re really mortal all the way down, so to speak, and that the resurrection is obviously impossible. Now Pangle doesn’t seem so Christian to me, but his not so muted polemic seems directed mainly against orthodox Christianity. And Kass is not an observant, orthodox Jew, but he seems to think he takes the orthodox Jewish point of view on the Bible for granted. Creation is a powerful point of agreement, the resurrection an equally powerful point of disagreement for our orthodox.

Paul, If we can really talk Gibson into taking modernizing liberties with the text, the Romans should be dressed as Soprano characters, and the Jews should come from Mel Brooks.

You’re right, Peter, Pangle is more consistent and therefore less interesting in his interpretation-and-critique of Genesis, while Kass remains attached to his humanity and his (residual, from the parents who gave him "moral passion") Judaism, which allows his interpretation to be less dogmatic or "doctrinal". (We can learn from both, but we can be satisfied with neither (nor both).)Oddly enough, on the resurrection, I remember that Maimonides put belief in the resurrection among the 13 (?) tenets that Jews have to believe, so maybe it’s less of a scandal (or anathema) to Jews than one might think from their mostly resounding silence on the matter. There is the passage in Maccabees (!) where the dead martyrs are prayed for - implying they need it and it is worthwhile. I do have to say that I find neither interpreter, Pangle or Kass, credible when it comes to Catholic Christianity. In the Hungry Soul the great Kass laughably likens the Christian notion of soul-body to (bad) Cartesian two-substances doctrine. Both of them mistake Catholicism’s paradoxical combination of mysterious and dogmatically-defined faith and really-embraced (but also chastened) reason.

On the "orthodox" dispute-front, I was thinking more along the traditional (?) lines of disputes over the nature and ultimacy of the Law; the Messiah; who’s betrayed God; and Judaism’s "national" character versus Christianity’s apolitical character (although the Church is the new ecclesia - those called forth). My main (implied) point was that both sets of real believers have to have some negative judgments about the others’ beliefs as such, which runs counter to the imperatives of contemporary ideological tolerance.

My impression is that Leon has been corrected big time on that two substances things by the different versions of integral personhood of Gil Meilaender and Robby George--it’s the whole embodied person who is resurrected etc. Of course orthodox Christians and orthodox Jews have negative judgments about each other’s beliefs, and "true tolerance" is only possible when you’re convinced the people you tolerate are actually or truly or really wrong on life’s fundamental issues. Tolerance ain’t yawning indifference to error and sin. It’s obvious that orthodox practice is not focused on the resurrection, although it’s a good point that it’s not a Kassian profound meditation on the goodness of our mortality either. But all in all, orthodox Christians and orthodox Jews have more in common with each other than orthodox Christians have with liberal (theologically) Christians and maybe than orthodox Jews have with reform Jews (although there’s a case to be made both ways there).

Very good news on the Kass front; I’m sure he appreciated the correction.

I deliberately was narrowing the focus to real orthodox (Orthodox?) Jews and orthodox Christians and their mutual judgments, and leaving out the progressives on both sides and the contemporary political/cultural context. (As well as two millenia of misunderstandings and mistreatments and the G-d-aweful Holocaust.) It seems to me that Jews as such can’t get as worked up by Christians and Christian belief: it’s just a stupid mistaken belief about the Messiah, which doesn’t affect the substance of Judaism at all. But the ’unbelief’ of Jews in Jesus as the Messiah is more of a scandal to Christian belief and self-understanding. On the other hand, when Christians start saying things about the inadequacy of the Law (Torah) and the fulfillment of it - and Israel - in Jesus and the Church: that’s aggravating! On yet another hand, Christians have to claim Jews as brothers (and sisters) of some deep sort - hence Christian anti-semiticism is anti-Christian - while I don’t see Jews calling Christians errant brothers (and sisters).

Good statement on true tolerance. (Philippe Beneton had a good piece on True and False Toleration, which appeared years ago in Crisis - translated by you-know-who.)
Gotta go.

Dear Steve, apropos to your #34, last night I reread a chapter on "Traditionalist Catholics" in a 1995 book I happened to have, Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America, edited by Mary Jo Weaver & R. Scott Appleby (both self-professed liberal Catholics). The chapter is entitled "’We Are What You Were’: Roman Catholic Traditionalism in America," by a long-time student thereof, William Dinges.

Neither Mel Gibson’s nor his father’s name was mentioned. I’m not sure what the relationship between his father’s views and M. Gibson’s are. So I’ll just report some generic views of the so-called sedevacantists (the Chair’s empty-ists), which Mr. Gibson pere is supposed to adhere to.

Sedevacantists join with many Traditionalists in believing that Vatican II taught doctrinal error (e.g., on religious liberty, on ecumenism, of the nature of the Church), so was a major mistake, and is a great detour and roadblock to genuine Catholic faith and practice. They believe that the Novus Ordo Missae (which sortofcame from it, and from Paul VI) is a betrayal of Catholic faith and Eucharistic theology, so is invalid; it smuggled in "Protestant" theology about the Real Presence, the charism of the ordained priest versus the priesthood of the faithful.. (Not all Traditionalists believe this. Many believe the Novus Ordo, while it is is aesthetically as ugly as sin, is still valid.)

What the sedevacantists add to the mix is that they say that if the Council was invalid and the newly promulgated Mass-rite is also an abomination, those in authority, including the Pope, who authorized such error are themselves illicit or illegitimate occupants of episcopal sees and, especially, of the Chair of Peter (since Christ vouchsafed for Peter’s rock-solidarity).

There was one mention of "Holocaust denial" by some in their ranks, but no names were mentioned and the footnote to the assertion only referred to an article in a Traditonalist periodical, the Angelus.

One final fact: in 1995 there were approximately between 15,000 and 20,000 "Traditionalists" of various stripes in the US, with estimates of 1 million world-wide. To repeat, the sedevacantists are very much a minority within that minority.

It’s very sad that their deep faith was intellectually and psychologically ill-prepared to absorb the shock of Vatican II, and especially the widespread terrible things said and done "in the name of Vatican II."

Paul,
Very informative and judicious. Most Catholics don’t even know these guys are out there, and they pose no danger to the church or to the republic.

Thanks, Paul. I’ll look into it.

More generally, one finds that reading you and Peter going back and forth to each other produces a sizeable bibliography. Thanks for that too.

Steve, thanks. The big difference between Peter and me is that I cite a lot of books and articles, he writes ’em.

Where will he ever find time to play that ruthless Roman you have in mind for him?

As this blog indicates, Peter can multitask and we’ll schedule shooting around his writing and lecturing. Given how much he writes and how much he’s in demand as a speaker, it may take a while to shoot the movie, though. Maybe I’ll just write him a little part, much less than Enobarbus in Anthony and Cleopatra (by Shakespeare), without the (not-particularly Roman) suicide.

Paul, The first thing to go, I’m finding out, when you get old is names and titles. Your recall is great, but you’re not quite THE Biblio Man.

I know what identity-theft feels like now.

But "Paul," you’re right, Dan Mahoney’s the nonpareil.

Well, we need to end this or Steve will get SO confused. I don’t how to prove I am who I say I am when I’m no longer sure myself. (Right there I’ve pretty much composed half of one of those "thoughtful" country songs.) But I do know I’m typing on a lousy hotel computer at the Hotel Boulderado (get it? Boulder, Colorado).

"Hotel Boulderado" is beyond parody. (Although didn’t the Eagles write a song about it, or its California doppelganger?)
Your C & W (half?)lyric has "legs," though. I feel "honest truth" shining through. Connect it with a floosy and a pick-up truck and you’ll have a hit.

True, I confuse easy. Did you say Peter has found a floosy and a pickup truck? In Colorado where he went to meet with Central Casting?

Steve, you’re obviously a very bright bulb, since you’ve "cracked the code" and can translate with perfect accuracy Peter’s, Paul’s, and paul’s private language.

Sometimes I hang out with Straussians. Ya gotta read carefully, watching for what is not said. But the key was the scare quotes around honest truth.

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