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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Sobran’

What Would Joe Sobran Say?

Posted by M. C. on February 24, 2022

And yet, despite the crepuscular themes, Sobran’s tone was often exuberant. It is impossible to feel forlorn while reading him. Perhaps this is because he shared Chesterton’s conviction that this world makes for a miserable truce but a good war.

by Peter Maurice

Today is the anniversary of Joe Sobran’s 76th birthday. The following article by Peter Maruice was published in the January-February 2022 edition of The New Oxford Review

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Joe Sobran

New Oxford Review, January-February 2022 — Comedians find it easy to imitate the distinctive voice of an actor. Not all actors have a trademark voice, but those who do make easy work for the impersonator.

Sobran’s was one of those distinct voices, hard to define but easy to recognize. You might describe it – inadequately — as an erudite blend of moral earnestness and playful humor.

Joe Sobran (1946-2010) was a writer by trade, not a mimic, but he amused his friends on the police force by barking out from his car window, à la James Cagney, “You’ll never take me alive, Copper!”

A passable takeoff is not so easy with a writer who has an identifiable voice. Try simulating a page in the tone of Charles Dickens or Samuel Johnson: satisfaction is not guaranteed. Sobran’s was one of those distinct voices, hard to define but easy to recognize. You might describe it — inadequately — as an erudite blend of moral earnestness and playful humor. This essayist who defined prejudice against homeless people as “hobophobia” obviously didn’t share Dr. Johnson’s disdain of the pun as the lowest form of wit. Sobran’s almost Shakespearean coupling of wordplay with high sentence was more in the style of another of his avatars, G.K. Chesterton.

Sobran’s almost Shakespearean coupling of wordplay with high sentence was more in the style of another of his avatars, G.K. Chesterton.

A critic once clucked that Chesterton’s jokes and paradoxes comported ill with momentous themes like “Truth and Progress.” Chesterton rejected the dichotomy. The critic, a Mr. McCabe, Chesterton wrote, “thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else.” Sobran, too, was both serious and funny.

To be fortified and entertained by his moral depth and his sometimes caustic but usually lighthearted wit, NOR readers who’ve never read Sobran (if there are such) could do no better than to sample the essays in Subtracting Christianity, the 2015 anthology compiled by his friends and admirers, Fran Griffin and the late Tom Bethell, a contributing editor of the NOR. The reader will find therein over a hundred essays on government, faith, papal politics, the new atheism, abortion, saints, and writers and artists, along with 18 autopsies of postmodern culture, which Sobran dubs “The New Dark Age.”

Readers who’ve never read Sobran (if there are such) could do no better than to sample the essays in Subtracting Christianity, the 2015 anthology compiled by his friends and admirers, Fran Griffin and the late Tom Bethell, a contributing editor of the NOR.

The reader will find therein over a hundred essays on government, faith, papal politics, the new atheism, abortion, saints, and writers and artists, along with 18 autopsies of postmodern culture, which Sobran dubs “The New Dark Age.”

Help FGF Books to reprint the collection of Sobran essays titled Subtracting Christianity by making a donation here.

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I would suggest starting with the title essay. In “Subtracting Christianity,” Sobran addresses a story from the headlines of 1999: the Columbine school shooting. Reams of commentary had already poured from the press, psychoanalyzing the two alienated trench-coat goths who’d shot 13 of their schoolmates before turning their guns on themselves. Government commissions and panels of experts were convened to make sure, as they have repeatedly since, that nothing like this will ever happen again. Innovative solutions were called for: spotting early warning signals, hiring more counselors, implementing anti-bullying programs, and, of course, stricter gun control. All dredged up, thought Sobran, from the dry well of bureaucratic futility.

See the rest here

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Resisting Jesus

Posted by M. C. on December 25, 2020

http://fgfbooks.com/Sobran-Joe/2020/Sobran201223.html

A classic by Joe Sobran
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

The Western world, including many of those who consider themselves Christians, has turned Christmas into a bland holiday of mere niceness.

Many Christians find this annoying and churlish. Some even feel that Christianity is being persecuted.

The columnist Michelle Malkin writes, “We are under attack by Secularist Grinches Gone Wild.” Pat Buchanan goes so far as to speak of “hate crimes” against Christians.Subtracting Christianity

I disagree. In some parts of the world, from Sudan to China, Christians really are being persecuted, even murdered. But what is going on in America’s symbolic opposition to Christianity is something different.

Sometimes I think the anti-Christian forces take Christ more seriously than most nominal Christians do. The Western world, including many of those who consider themselves Christians, has turned Christmas into a bland holiday of mere niceness. If you don’t get into the spirit, you’re likely to be called a Scrooge.

The natural reaction to Christ is to reject him. He said so. In fact, when he was taken to the Temple as an infant, St. Simeon prophesied that he would be a center of contention. Later he predicted his own death and told his followers they must expect persecution too.

His bitterest enemies weren’t atheists; they were the most religious men of his age, the Pharisees, who considered his claims blasphemous — as, by their lights, they were.

Nice? That’s hardly the word for Jesus. He performed miracles of love and mercy, but he also warned of eternal damnation, attacked and insulted the Pharisees, and could rebuke even people who adored him in words that can only make us cringe.

The natural reaction to Christ is to reject him.

To many, he was a threat. He still is. We honor him more by acknowledging his explosive presence than by making him a mere symbol of nice manners. At every step of his ministry, he made enemies and brought his crucifixion closer. People weren’t crucified for being nice.Subtracting Christianity

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The negative witnesses

Some people think you can take Christ’s “teachings” and ignore his miracles as if they were fables. But this is to confuse the Sermon on the Mount with the Democratic Party platform. Chief among his teachings was his claim to be God’s son: “I and the Father are one.” “Nobody comes to the Father except through me.”

His teachings are inseparable from his miracles; in fact, his teachings themselves are miraculous. Nobody had ever made such claims before, enraging pious Pharisees and baffling his pious disciples at the same time. After feeding thousands with the miraculous loaves and fishes, he announced that he himself was “the bread of life.” Unless you ate his flesh and drank his blood, he warned, you have no life in you.

This amazing teaching was too much. It cost him many of his disciples on the spot. He didn’t try to coax them back by explaining that he was only speaking figuratively, because he wasn’t. He was foretelling the Last Supper.

At virtually every step of his ministry, Christ accompanied his words with miracles. And the remarkable thing is that his enemies disputed the words rather than the miracles. Of the wonders he performed, there was no doubt; they attracted, and were witnessed by, large crowds. It was their meaning that was controversial.

To many, He was a threat. He still is. We honor him more by acknowledging his explosive presence than by making him a mere symbol of nice manners.

The blind saw, the deaf heard, cripples walked, lepers were healed. Where did he get the power to do these things? From God or the devil? He used them to certify his power to forgive sins, the claim his critics — enemies, rather — first found outrageous.

Chief among his teachings was his claim to be God’s son: “I and the Father are one.” “Nobody comes to the Father except through me.”

His claims still reverberate. The Gospels attest the total coherence of his mission, the perfect harmony between his words and his deeds, even the careful order of his progressive self-disclosure. His modern enemies, many of them professed Christians, don’t try to disprove the miracles; they simply assume he never performed them. And now some of them assume he never spoke many of the words the Gospels record him as saying.

The poet Tennyson remarked that Christ’s greatest miracle was his personality. Could anyone else — the four simple authors of the Gospels, for example — have made him up, and put such resonant words in his mouth?

This skeptical attack floors me. The poet Tennyson remarked that Christ’s greatest miracle was his personality. Could anyone else — the four simple authors of the Gospels, for example — have made him up, and put such resonant words in his mouth? “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” That’s another claim that seems to be holding up pretty well.

Such a strong, indeed unique, personality could only meet strong — and unique — resistance. This is why Christians shouldn’t resent the natural resistance of those who refuse to celebrate his birth. In their way, those people are his witnesses too.

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The Catholic Position

Posted by M. C. on September 30, 2020

If cannibalism ever becomes popular, and the rest of the world, led by its progressive-minded intellectuals, decides that anthropophagy is a basic Constitutional right, opposing cannibalism will become a “Catholic position” too. Catholics will once more be accused of wanting to “impose” their “views” on everyone else (even when they are far too weak to do so), and the reformers will cry, “Let’s keep government out of the kitchen!”

http://fgfbooks.com/Sobran-Joe/2020/Sobran200930.html

A classic by Joe Sobran
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

[Publisher’s Note: Joe Sobran’s depiction of the perpetual rage of anti-Catholicism is as apt today as it was when he penned this column in 2002. Today marks the 10th anniversary of his passing. May he rest in peace.]

Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society — A few weeks ago I tried, in my feeble way, to express why I fell in love with the Catholic Church. I received many gracious and grateful responses from others who felt the same way, some of them converts like me.

What is startling is the perpetual passion of anti-Catholicism. You’d think that by now people who reject Catholicism would calmly ignore its teachings as old and irrelevant superstitions.

Inevitably, there were also a few jeers, directed not so much against me as against the Church. Some dredged up old scandals of wicked popes, or supposedly shocking utterances of Catholic saints, or mere clichés of traditional anti-Catholic polemics. Most of these were meant to embarrass, not to persuade; the usual ahistorical nuggets.

Subtracting Christianity

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What is startling is the perpetual passion of anti-Catholicism. You’d think that by now people who reject Catholicism would calmly ignore its teachings as old and irrelevant superstitions. After all, the Church has none of her old political power, adherence is now totally voluntary, and she has enough trouble getting her own children to listen to her.

But Catholicism still has a strange moral authority, and many people are unable to achieve a calm and assured disbelief. They are still driven to discredit the Church — perhaps for the same reason so many of us believe in her.

Catholicism offers a complete and comprehensive morality, one which most of us still recognize as the faith of our fathers. Bit by bit, the world, including other churches, has abandoned much of this morality; the Church continues to teach it, even when some of her own priests scandalously violate it.

A few generations ago, nearly all Christians shared the same sexual morality. They abhorred artificial birth control, for example. Many state laws banning the sale of contraceptive devices in this country were passed by Protestant majorities while Catholics were politically weak.

Gradually, however, Protestants ceased to oppose contraception, and Catholicism almost alone continued to condemn it. What had long been a consensus became censured as a “Catholic position.” We now see the same process well under way with abortion and homosexuality.

Catholicism offers a complete and comprehensive morality, one which most of us still recognize as the faith of our fathers.

If cannibalism ever becomes popular, and the rest of the world, led by its progressive-minded intellectuals, decides that anthropophagy is a basic Constitutional right, opposing cannibalism will become a “Catholic position” too. Catholics will once more be accused of wanting to “impose” their “views” on everyone else (even when they are far too weak to do so), and the reformers will cry, “Let’s keep government out of the kitchen!”

If cannibalism ever becomes popular, and the rest of the world, led by its progressive-minded intellectuals, decides that anthropophagy is a basic Constitutional right, opposing cannibalism will become a “Catholic position” too.

I don’t defend the Church’s morality because I am a Catholic. I became and remain a Catholic because the Church maintains a consistent morality — while the rest of the world keeps veering off into moral fads. My conviction that she is right is only strengthened by the world’s strident demand that she change along with it, as if it were a sort of moral duty to change one’s principles, like underwear, with reasonable frequency.

I don’t defend the Church’s morality because I am a Catholic. I became and remain a Catholic because the Church maintains a consistent morality — while the rest of the world keeps veering off into moral fads.

“The world” includes many nominal Catholics who side with the secular world against their own Church. These are the Catholics you are most likely to see in the major media. They deny the Church’s authority to keep teaching what she has always taught, yet they can’t rest until she approves their pet vices — contraception, sodomy, same-sex marriage, and all the rest.

My conviction that [the Catholic Church] is right is only strengthened by the world’s strident demand that she change along with it, as if it were a sort of moral duty to change one’s principles, like underwear, with reasonable frequency.

Notice that the proposed reforms usually have to do with sex. When the Church refuses to change, she is accused of being “obsessed” with sex, when it’s really her critics who are obsessed with it. Catholic morality recognizes seven deadly sins, of which lust is only one; but this happens to be the one the modern world can’t stop thinking about. Nobody demands that the Church “change its outdated teachings against sloth.”

Catholic morality recognizes seven deadly sins, of which lust is only one; but this happens to be the one the modern world can’t stop thinking about. Nobody demands that the Church “change its outdated teachings against sloth.”

At any rate, the Church can’t change. She can no more change her teaching about lust than her equally emphatic teachings about pride, gluttony, and sloth, because God has made the world as it is and no human will can repeal its moral order. These aren’t the Pope’s personal opinions; they are objective truths.

All [the Church] really threatens is the false comfort of the dormant conscience; but this is enough to make bitter enemies.

Powerless, hardly able to keep her own flock in line, and betrayed by many of her shepherds, the Church is still treated as a threat. All she really threatens is the false comfort of the dormant conscience; but this is enough to make bitter enemies.

After all, her Founder warned her not to expect gratitude from men for trying to save their souls. She is the mother of Western civilization, and to this day, all too often, she is blamed for everything and thanked for nothing.

 

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Copyright @ 2020 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. “The Catholic Position” was published originally by Griffin Internet Syndicate on April 4, 2002. It is one of the 117 columns in the anthology of Mr. Sobran’s writings: Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society (FGF Books, 2015). You may link to this article at websites and social media.

 

Subtracting Christianity

Joe Sobran (1946-2010), a syndicated columnist for 35 years, was a CBS Spectrum commentator, an author, and sought-after lecturer. Considered to be one of the greatest essayists of the 20th century, Sobran is often compared to G.K. Chesterton and H.L. Mencken.

Help promote the legacy of Joe Sobran’s great body of work. Donate now

Or mail your tax-deductible donation to: Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
344 Maple Avenue West, #281
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Donors of $50 or more will receive a complimentary copy of Subtracting Christianity.

Thank you for your support of Joe Sobran’s legacy!

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Can God Speak to Us?

Posted by M. C. on December 24, 2019

http://fgfbooks.com/Sobran-Joe/2019/Sobran191223.html

A classic by Joe Sobran
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

Not to be outdone, Time assures us this week that “constantly evolving scholarship” casts doubt on the Gospel narratives. So what else is new? Scholarly attempts to diminish Christ through the “higher criticism” go way back. Thomas Jefferson simply edited all the miracles out of the New Testament and thought he’d produced Gospels that were fully factual.

Some more recent scholars, if that’s what they are, aren’t satisfied with getting rid of Jesus’ deeds; they also want to eliminate many of his words — the ones that don’t fit in with the Latest Thinking. It seems he wasn’t the Son of God, but a progressive-minded Unitarian.

Countless early Christians set off a huge chain reaction of martyrdom, converting even many of their torturers, who were immensely moved and impressed by this superhuman courage.

For some reason, Christ’s first disciples, the ones on the scene at the time, got it all wrong. He didn’t do all the things they thought they saw him doing, or say all the things they thought they heard him say. The truth isn’t to be found in the Scriptures, but in the inferences of modern experts, otherwise known as Constantly Evolving Scholarship.

But so certain were those disciples that countless early Christians bore witness to the truth of the Gospels by suffering the most excruciating martyrdoms imaginable. They set off a huge chain reaction of martyrdom, converting even many of their torturers, who were immensely moved and impressed by this superhuman courage.

Long before the printing press, the radio, movies, and television, the martyrs spread the good news of the risen Christ.

Even before the Gospels were written, the martyrs were God’s media, so to speak, for bringing men to Christ. Long before the printing press, the radio, movies, and television, the martyrs spread the good news of the risen Christ.

Some still reject that news, and one strategy of rejection is to water it down, mixing it with enough skepticism to make the Gospels seem archaic and alien. Once we reject the miracles because belief in the miraculous now seems “outdated,” it becomes easy to reject the message as outdated too. But G.K. Chesterton had the best answer to this: “Whatever else is true, it is emphatically not true that the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth were suitable to his time, but are no longer suitable to our time. Exactly how suitable they were to his time is perhaps suggested in the end of his story.”

Jesus remains the most hated as well as the best-loved man in human history. And as he predicted, his followers have been hated and persecuted too.

The resistance to his ideas, which got him crucified, has continued ever since. Jesus remains the most hated as well as the best-loved man in human history. And as he predicted, his followers have been hated and persecuted too.

Secularists use the mantra of “separation of church and state” as an excuse for keeping God’s word out of our public life. We are allowed to worship privately, but we mustn’t act collectively as if God has spoken to us. We are to act as agnostics, which means as virtual atheists.

Secularists use the mantra of “separation of church and state” as an excuse for keeping God’s word out of our public life. We are allowed to worship privately, but we mustn’t act collectively as if God has spoken to us.

There are two kinds of agnostics. One says modestly, “I don’t know.” The other says belligerently, “Nobody can know.” The first is understandable; nearly everyone has doubts at times. But the second is asserting a strange dogma.

To say that nobody can know whether God exists is to say something self-contradictory. God is by definition the omnipotent creator and ruler of the universe, the source of our being. It’s nonsense to say that this omnipotent being could exist without being able to communicate with his own creatures!

He does speak to us, and just as wonderfully, He listens to us — maybe a bit more keenly than we listen to Him, judging by the state of the world.

He can, he did, and he does. Plain atheism makes more sense than the arrogant agnostic’s “maybe, but we can never know,” which reduces God to a divine deaf-mute. He does speak to us, and just as wonderfully, he listens to us — maybe a bit more keenly than we listen to him, judging by the state of the world.

Are our souls open to Him, or are we tuning Him out?

The more modest sort of agnostic should ask not whether someone called “God” exists at all, but whether he has revealed himself to us, and whether we’ve been paying enough attention to hear him. Are our souls open to him, or are we tuning him out?

The deepest questions must be answered by each of us personally, not by scholars or even journalists. Our minds can save us from errors, but in the end only our hearts can recognize the Truth.

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You Can’t Mean It!

Posted by M. C. on February 23, 2018

If you want to know how wise and honest a man is, observe how much he is willing to credit to his opponents

http://fgfbooks.com/Sobran-Joe/2018/Sobran180223.html

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Not Your Average Joe (Sobran)

Posted by M. C. on September 30, 2017

— On big government: “Freedom has ceased to be a birthright; it has come to mean whatever we are still permitted to do.”

I am currently reading a collection of his columns “Subtracting Christianity”. I recommend it.

http://fgfbooks.com/AnnCoulter/2017/AnnCoulter170930.html

The G.K. Chesterton of our time, Joe could deliver a knockout punch with a single line. Many of his aphorisms were so catchy that everyone repeats them now without realizing their provenance.

My friend Joe Sobran died last Thursday, and the world lost its greatest writer.

It was Joe who came up with the apocryphal New York Timesheadline: “New York Destroyed by Earthquake; Women and Minorities Hit Hardest.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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The Nazis Were Leftists – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on August 27, 2017

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/08/lew-rockwell/the-nazis-were-leftists/

But when we compare even the worst enormities of the more distant past with the leftist totalitarian revolutions and total wars of the twentieth centuries, they are in general a mere blip. The entire history of the Inquisition, said Joe Sobran, barely rises to the level of what the communists accomplished on a good afternoon.

The French Revolution, and particularly its radical phase, was the classic manifestation of modern leftism and served as the model for still more radical revolutions around the world more than a century later. Read the rest of this entry »

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Patriotism or Nationalism?

Posted by M. C. on June 10, 2017

http://fgfbooks.com/Sobran-Joe/2017/Sobran170608.htm

When it comes to war, the patriot realizes that the rest of the world can’t be turned into America, because his America is something specific and particular — the memories and traditions that can no more be transplanted than the mountains and the prairies. He seeks only contentment at home, and he is quick to compromise with an enemy. He wants his country to be just strong enough to defend itself.
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