Pico Ultraorientalis

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Archive for June, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Curse of Mamon

Posted by nouspraktikon on June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009 was killed by a disease which few of us will have to ever worry about, and yet everyone must give a thought to for  political reasons.  Its called too much money.  Most of us don’t have enough of the stuff, but in excess, like everything else its a killer.  Fortunately it can’t kill his music….although it may have prevented more of it (after the ’80s) from being born.  Like most non-readers of the tabloid press, I could take the music and leave the man.

Fundamentally, Michael Jackson was no better or worse than any of the rest of us…well, he could sing a lot better.  Furthermore he was exposed to the rudiments of Judeo-Christian morality at an early age via a sect which many have theological objections to, but is known for its rigor.  But when too much money syndrome strikes all of that is likely to be swept away.  The problem becomes acute when you have enough money to isolate yourself from the rest of the human race, when you can live in a palace surrounded by walls and guards, and when your only contact with fellow bipeds takes the form of  those who are an extention of your personality.  It doesn’t matter who these people are, they could be agents, menials, prostitutes, children, or best of all those non-human friends we call pets.  The common denominator is that they offer no opposition to ones will.

Anyone, left to their own devices, could be seduced into such a lifestyle.  But whereas Presley and Jackson had the resources to indulge their whims, the rest of us have been saved by being providentially strapped for cash.  At this point you will see that I have handed the left yet another compelling argument for confiscatory taxation.  If money is bad for your health, like cigaretts, then the most compassionate way of dealing with the rich is to take the toxin away from them.  It would really be for their own good.

But faithful readers of this blog will be relieved to know that Pico Ultraorientalis still counts himself among those “low-tax liberals” who are proud to call themselves libertarians.  Still, I would like to see a less flipant view of wealth in libertarian circles.   Fortunately people arn’t going around wearing $ pendants the way they did back in the heyday of Ayn Rand and the Nathaniel Branden Institutes.  Being rich, like being selfish was once hailed as a virtue to tweek the Marxist pretention that “the wretched of the earth” had earned their proletarian dictatorship simply by virtue of suffering.  But the shelf life of this ironic rhetoric has long expired.

Yes, money kills, but that in itself doesn’t justify its probibition.  Like sex, it is a test of character, and a test that most of us are apt to fail.  We are saved by scarcity…and not just saved but made to use our wits to preserve ourselves.  If too much money provides a dangerous dose of  moral anesthesia…the reason isn’t in the earning, but in the use of it.  Libertarians can fortify themselves in the knowlege that confiscatory taxation is a two edged sword.  Yes, it might save the rich from self-distruction…but it shifts the toxin to society in general.

As sad as Michael Jackson’s end might be, the salient tragedy of our time is a political class with virtually unlimited access to money.  Society has been poisoned by the ability of government to tax, print, and borrow funds without limit.  Just as in the case of a super-rich individual, the effect of endless government expenditure is to destroy any principle of resistance to the whim of the moment.

Personally, if it comes down to sacrificing the rich or society in general to the curse of Mamon, I will choose the rich.  Let them keep their money, if only to prevent it from entering the bloodstream of the body politic.  I know this sounds like some sort of bizzare joke.  Indeed, it takes the death of a once-beloved celebrety like Michael Jackson to make people realize, if only momentarily, that it is no joke.

But is the curse always fatal?  Is that needle’s eye so small that the proverbial camel is doomed to stay outside its gate?  I don’t claim to know the answer to such a mystery…but my preference is for free will.  Knowing that money can distroy you is no excuse for abandoning your ambitions.  Perhaps the wisest money philosophy was enunciated three hundred years ago by John Westley (or was it Charles…I’m not a Methodist) who enunciated three principles 1) earn as much as you can, 2) save as much as you can, and 3) give away as much as you can.

And on that concluding note I’d like to mention that, in addition to his wonderful music, Michael Jackson endowed the world with many generous charitable contributions.  Whatever his faults, let’s pray that his camel squeezes through those pearly gates.

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Baader vs. Prejean: The Struggle for the Right Kind of Christian Eroticism

Posted by nouspraktikon on June 14, 2009

Neo-Evangelical Nonsense Reaches a New Nadir

Let me first say that I never watch beauty contests.  Not that I have anything against young women of a pulchritudinous appearance.  But I am surprised that the latest theological battle between the beast of secularism and Christianity has taken the strange twist that it has.  A nice young lady by the name of Carrie Prejean made a perfectly sensible comment about marriage being a hetrosexual institution and was pilloried for it.  In my book that makes her a heroine  in the battle against political correctness.  End of story!

The problem is when people want to go further than that and make Miss Prejean into a heroine of Christianity.  Now I don’t doubt that she is a Christian, that she knows the rudiments of scripture,  has had a heartwarming conversion experience and is a popular figure in her local church.  I think she is totally sincere in the way that only  a young person of moderate intelligence can be.  I don’t want to go too far on the “moderate intelligence” bit…but perhaps A.A. Milne’s expression “a bear of very little fluff” would be most apt.  After all, there’s nothing wrong with not being Einstein, and we can be happy that Carrie Prejean will not be inventing weapons of mass distruction…apart from the mass implosion of the neo-evangelical mindset of chamelion like adaptation to every possible sub-culture in modern American society.  I suspect that the process was well underway before Miss Prejean hit the national scene…but hopefully she can speed it up a bit.


Christianity is the most sexy religion on the planet.  No that’s not a joke, I really mean it.  The trick is understanding what constitutes genuine eroticism.  Needless to say I don’t think I have this figured out myself yet…but my Pascalian wager would be that it is very far from the kind of activities which Miss Prejean allows herself to be party to.  Again, this is not a personal attack on Miss Prejean…and she has evidently embedded herself so succesfully in the modeling and fashion world that it would constitute what economists call a considerable substitution cost for her to do a career makeover at this point.  So she’ll simply have to live with it.  I don’t think it will deprive her of being a saint with a small ‘s’ if you get my meaning.

But for anyone to puff up this vulnerable young woman into a standard bearer for Christianity is truely vile.  True, what she said took courage, but was it courage on the level of what Bonhoffer called “The Costs of Dicipleship”?  A rhetorical question which anyone can answer.  The real message to neo-evangelicals is that now the cultural bar has been set even lower…and that you can involve yourself with the soft-porn of commercial fashion and still be a role model.

But what is wrong with being “cute”…one of Miss Prejean’s favorite words.  Nothing at all, except it is a kind of out-of-focus version of the carnal mind, the carnal image with various figleafs (mostly literal fig leafs in this case!) superimposed for moral cover.  In other words its admitting that the erotic=carnal.  It is another captitulation to paganism.

But even the better sort of pagans, at least Socrates and Plato as expressed in the Symposium, realized that eroticism was a propedeutic to sprituality…or rather that the best kind of spirituality is a kind of supra-eroticism which trancends the flesh.  Contemporary Christians generally baulk at this idea, in spite of the fact that it is well grounded in both scripture and tradition.  Even Roman Catholics, with their admirable respect for the Mother of God, are inclined to suborn the divine feminine to a kind of mommy image.  Protestants, with a few rare exceptions like the Moravain Bretheren, shunned the entire subject.  By the time we get down to contemporary Evangelical Christianity the soul is considered so compartmentalized that the notion of looking at religion from the standpoint of eros would be considered nothing short of demonic…in spite of the fact that Christ is universally acnowleged to have redeemed the whole of human nature.  It is as if the mention of sexuality in connectin with religion would cause  Shiva and all the gods of Indian tantrism to break into the cosmos and wreak their worst.

If the result were aceticism, as in the fourth century of Jerome or the eleventh century of Peter Damian, there might be something plausible in this pretended anti-eroticism.  But in fact the mainstream Protestants and the Evangelicals have in their own ways become fellow travellers in the sexual revolution, the former offering elaborate arguments based on situation ethics, and the latter under the simple expedient of doing everything, no matter how questionable, “…for Jesus.”  As society has become increasingly sexualized it has lost the capacity for that erotic intensity which was a propedutic for spiritual ecstasy.  Sex has become commericalized and trivialized.  In the words of Miss Prejean, it has settled for “cute.”

It was not always thus, the best advocate for Erotic Christianity lived in the 18th-19th centuries and his name was F.X.Baader.  Not a household word to be sure.  In Protestantism a tepid rationalism won out, and Catholicism went back to a highly imitative scholasticism.  What would Christianity look like today if Baader’s ideas had had more appeal.  Would we have “Tantric Christianity.”  Of course not!  Baader was a soundly orthodox mind who was alway vigilant against carnal and demonic subversion of Christian theological concepts…but some of his influence was retained by Berdayev’s existential Christianity and the Sophilogical movement in the Eastern Churches.

I hope to blog more on Baader’s philosophy of Christian Eros in the future.  In the meantime if your interested in pagent winners…seek elsewhere.

Posted in Christianity, Culture & Politics, Paleoconservativism, Theology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »