Archive for June, 2006

This is a few days old now, but better late than never: the Reactionary Radicals blog signs off, at least for a while, with this engaging message. I’m not convinced that the change Mr. Kaufmann says he detects is actually there, but I’d like to think so. Meanwhile, I do, despite various misgivings expressed in the thread below, plan to read the book.

Maclin Horton

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One Cheer for Roy Moore

This relates to the discussion we had here the other day (week?) about the central defect in liberal society.

Maclin Horton

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New Horton Blog

After a lot of thought and experimentation, I’ve decided to add a blog to my personal web site, Light On Dark Water. The blog can be found here. I did this for two main reasons: one, as part of an effort to make my site easier to maintain and expand, and two, as a place to blog about things that don’t really fit here. For instance, the new blog has a weekly column on music, which will usually have no direct bearing on Catholic faith, much less the particular slant on that faith manifested in Caelum et Terra.

I’m using Blogger for the new blog, instead of TypePad, on which this one is hosted, mainly because Blogger allows me to have the blog reside physically on the same server as my other stuff, which in turn will allow me to integrate the blog more closely with the rest of the site. At the moment I’m using one of the standard Blogger templates but I plan to harmonize the blog and the main site visually over time.

My Sunday Night Journal will be found there in the future, although I’ll continue to post a link to it here, at least when the subject matter is relevant.

Maclin Horton

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Fr. Neuhaus on the First Things blog quotes Cardinal Schonborn:

The Church can never identify herself with any one nation.
She is not a national Church. And yet the unmistakable features of the
Church can be discerned within the different nations. This is never
more luminously expressed than in the saints. Who could be more French
than Therese, more English than Thomas More, more Spanish than
Ignatius, more Italian than Catherine and Francis? And yet none of them
is just a national saint, and any attempt to misuse the saints in the
cause of nationalism (as has happened, for example, in the case of
Saint Joan of Arc) totally misses the point of their lives.

and then follows with this question of his own, which he leaves unanswered:

"Which prompts the question: Who could be more American than . . . ?"

I’m going to post a comment in which I give the name that sprang instantly to my mind upon reading that question. What happens in your mind when the concepts of "saint" and "quintessentially American" meet?

Maclin Horton

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Looking Homeward

I suppose one could find something to quibble about in Bill Kauffman’s new book Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front Porch Anarchists. First, there is his self description: "…I am an anarchist", on the first page of the Introduction. But when he adds "Not a sallow garrett-rat translating Proudhan by pirated kilowatt, nor a militiaman catechized by the Classic Comics version of The Turner Diaries; rather, I am the love child of Henry Thoreau and Dorothy Day, conceived amidst the asters and goldenrods of an Upstate New York autumn",  well, you know this is, an anarchist with his (big) heart in the right place. Especially when his next line is "…I am also a reactionary radical, which is to say I believe in peace and justice but I do not believe in smart bombs, daycare centers, Wal-Mart, television, or Melissa Etheridge’s test-tube baby."

I am not an anarchist, but anyone who can sum up his beliefs like that is all right in my book.
Besides, anarchist or not, Mr. Kauffman is no ideologue. His book contains paeans to anarchists, certainly (Mother Jones, Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Paul Goodman), but also to Catholic liberals (Eugene McCarthy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan), socialists (Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas), regionalist artists (Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry), antiwar farmer-poets (Wendell Berry), disaffected Republican operatives (Karl Hess) and many even more unclassifiable thinkers, dreamers, and hell-raisers. Kauffman finds his affinities in humanity, not ideology, in those who love land, home, locality and real souls with real faces more than abstractions.

Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America will no doubt be categorized with Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons, as both books tweak conventional conservatism.

Or rather, Dreher tweaks.

Kauffman flails.

Then eviscerates.


Actually, the two books are as dissimilar as can be. Though, as I have said, there is more good than bad in Crunchy Cons, and the book is quite possibly a landmark on the road to an emerging new populism, my annoyance and frustration with the thing began with the title and subtitle and continued throughout. It is the work of someone who has taken the first steps on a journey to he knows not where, and whose recent past was spent working for The National Review (a journal for which Mr. Kauffman shows only witty contempt).

This voyage-of-adventure narrative could perhaps have been a delightful tale of discovery were Mr. Dreher a gifted writer, but his prose is pedestrian at best. Or to switch metaphors, Dreher’s book is a thin gruel, while Kauffman’s is a thick, spicy Upstate gumbo. (I know, wrong cuisine, but I cannot resist the image).

Bill Kauffman, in contrast to Mr. Dreher, knows his place and his destination: Batavia, New York, where his roots are deep. The eclectic outlook he expresses so well is one well honed over the decades. This is the New Populism fully evolved.

And did I mention he is one fine writer?

There is scarcely a page without a startling phrase, an "aha!" moment, or a good laugh (or, I am embarrassed to report, an unfamiliar word. While I could not bring myself to put the book down to look them up, I am going to reread it with the Oxford Universal Dictionary at my side).

But a warning: as Mr. Dreher noted (with disapproval) in his review in The American Conservative, Mr. Kauffman does not exactly write in syllogisms: he pursues every tangent and meanders lingeringly around his subject. Like a mountain road, his writing is not the most direct line between point A and point B, but like the mountain road the scenery along the way is magnificent.

And he is a world-class smart ass.

Just one example, as precise a skewering of the Catholic neocons as I have seen: "The soft young men in three piece suits who write their little pamphlets proving that whatever slaughter our government is currently engaged in is a ‘just war’ should be laughed back to the seminaries they quit. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ means us, too".


As Chesterton said, an ounce of sarcasm is worth a pound of argument.

But far beyond the stinging zingers, this is a book of uncommon wisdom, delighting in what is best in the sometimes eccentric American tradition. I can honestly say that this book has inspired me more than any in recent memory, breathing new life and fire from these ashen Caelum et Terra-type coals, long dormant within me, grown still from disuse and distraction.

I don’t know what will come of Bill Kauffman’s book; probalby not much. If noticed by the bigshots it will be with a sneer. But for all us littleshots, the meandering creeks and dancing rivulets far from the Main Stream, all the hick philosophers, holy fools, hippie monks and American outsiders, this book is to be received with gratitude, a gift if not from On High, at least from Batavia, New York, which if I am not mistaken is not far from Bedford Falls.

Daniel Nichols

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The Hand of Rand

Maclin Horton

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Interesting comments from Amy Welborn on Phillip Jenkins’ book by the above name. C et T readers and writers are entitled to say "yeah, this is what we’ve been saying all along." The crucial point:

The question we’re asked to consider is, "Why do Christians of the
Global South tend to read the Bible differently?" The answer some might
give is that they’re not advanced enough, they don’t have the same kind
of theological education that the North has. The scholarship hasn’t
reached them yet.

Jenkins’ answer is essentially this: They read the Bible differently
because they live it. Ordinary Christians of the Global South are not
at a distance from the Scriptures – the world in which they live is
echoed in the Scriptures in vivid, direct ways and in turn, the themes
from the Scriptures they tend to emphasize deepen those connections.

Maclin Horton

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