1. The National Review published a take on the Roy Moore scandal that focuses less on the man’s misdeeds and more on the guiding theology that Moore’s Christianity espouses. David French’s article suggests there are two competing temptations within the Church today, one of which is total cultural assimilation (“the Church becomes the world, and the logic for its distinct existence disappears”) and the other being its opposite: the sectoring off of Christendom into a virtue haven for the righteous. This, French argues, is the Christianity of Roy Moore, “a form of hyper-legalism as a firewall to protect your family from the sins of the world. Mothers and fathers are desperate for a way to guarantee that their children will grow up to love the Lord. They want to build high walls against sin, so they seek to create distinct communities that are free of the world’s filth and moral compromise.”

This temptation to draw lines between the many and the few, the just and ungodly, the right and the wrong, fundamentally denies what Christianity says about judging, about answers, and about human culpability. And French doesn’t make this point, but it goes without saying: that the simple psychological implications of such a system of certainty/righteousness is bound to seek “release valves” in some form or other. When everything has a formula, and following the formula means being right with God, there’s a lot of suppression going on. And what gets pushed down eventually comes up. French says that this impulse to siphon ourselves out of the sinful human nature equation is at odds with what Jesus understood about community.

When scandalous accusations come, we don’t want “our side” to look bad. We want Hollywood to be the home of the predators, and ours the home of the righteous. But there is no “our side.” There is only Christ’s side, and He taught us clearly that there will be good and evil within the Church. The ancient enemy attacks God’s people from without and from within. The good seed and the bad seed grow up together. There is no perfect community.

… More importantly, this is where faith has to trump fear and uncertainty. We have to understand that there is no way around dependence on God. There is no formula for child-rearing. There is no foolproof guide to a happy marriage. No man can tell you how to secure your health or lead you to wealth. There is no community anyone can build that can protect its members from sin or temptation, and the utopian impulse itself can crack open the door to hell.

For further reading on all these scandals (if that’s what you’re into), here’s a few others that are worth your time. Bryan Cranston offers the implausible scenario where we forgive. Sarah Silverman asks the question, in regards to her friend Louis C.K., “Can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them?” Our friend Jason Micheli asks a similar question (from God’s point of view) in his latest sermon. And, finally, for a longer read, Andrew Sullivan talks about the insidious evil in all people and parties, creeds and kinds. Definitely couldn’t help but post this small snippet:

No party, no cause, no struggle, however worthy, is ever free from evil. No earthly cause is entirely good. And to believe with absolute certainty that you are on “the right side of history,” or on the right side of a battle between “good and evil,” is a dangerous and seductive form of idolatry. It flatters yourself. And it will lead you inevitably to lose your moral bearings because soon, you will find yourself doing and justifying things that are evil solely because they advance the cause of the “good.”

2. Search Party returns this Sunday for Season 2!

3. In the “thou shalt” department, The New Yorker delves into “Thou Shalt Not Age,” in a piece by Tad Friend about the existential need to outcast the old. He puts it simply:

Ageism is so hard to root out because it allows us to ward off a paralyzing fact with a pleasing fiction. It lets us fool ourselves, for a time, into believing that we’ll never die. It’s not a paradox that ageists are dissing their future selves—it’s the whole point of the exercise. The cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker codified this insight as “terror management theory.”

And then, over at The Federalist, there’s the Law of Athletica. While western religion goes the way of the hamburger steak, Heather Smith reminds us that one American faith (not ever called one) will always reign supreme over all the land:

Like every religion, Athletica does offer its devotees a form of hope. In comparison to more traditional religions that typically offer extravagant rewards (e.g., life after death, forgiveness of terrible sins) to virtually any willing convert, Athletica is a more stringent and elitist sect. Its promise is of financial gain and personal glory, but only for the most elect.

Of the tens of thousands who hope for financial reward through Athletica, only 2 percent will be granted their desire. Of those who work to earn a spot in the highest ranks of the Athletica hierarchy, hardly more than one out of a thousand will find their hope fulfilled. Interestingly, though, Athletica adherents commonly convince themselves that they (or more often, their children) will be among the favored few, despite statistical data to the contrary, and many who hope for the financial gain accompanying such advancement fail to recognize the more significant financial outlays they have unquestioningly offered up on its proverbial altars.

4. Fear of the Other is obviously a running theme these days (and of this weekender, I’m realizing), so it makes sense why we would have an Atlantic piece on the old, old story that is all about encounters with the world’s “Others.” Yes, I am talking about The Odyssey.

Andra—“man”—is The Odyssey’s first word. Instead of referring to the epic’s hero by name, it evokes a stark nakedness, the state to which he will so often be reduced in the tale that unfolds. Odysseus’s legendary craftiness—he devised the Trojan horse, delivering victory to the invading Greeks—is now devoted to the effort of fathoming what lurks within all those he meets: men and women, gods and goddesses, sorcerers and monsters. Is there a core of shared humanity he might arouse if he says exactly the right words—as he manages to do with the xenophobic Phaeacians, quelling their suspicions so that they invite him to tell his story and then offer him aid? Or are there Others with whom stories cannot be shared—whose sympathies cannot be engaged, whose very being poses an existential threat?

And who needs epic poesy to tell you what love for the Other looks like when you’ve got this gem, from one of our new favorite satire websites (thehardtimes.net): I May Disagree with Your Bawitdaba Da Bang Da Bang Diggy Diggy Diggy, but I Will Defend with My Life Your Right to Shake the Boogie Said up Jump the Boogie

5. Over at Aeon, a long read entitled “I Still Love Kierkegaard,” by Julian Baggini. If you’re a fan yourself, it’s worth the read, as Baggini discusses Kierkegaard’s personal life and journal entries, but it also serves as a great introduction to what makes Kierkegaard so brilliant, yet also so relatable (and relatable to #1 above, too).

What Kierkegaard showed was that the only serious alternative to atheism or agnosticism was not what generally passes for religion but a much deeper commitment that left ordinary standards of proof and evidence completely behind. Perhaps that’s why so many of Kierkegaard’s present-day admirers are atheists. He was a Christian who nonetheless despised ‘Christendom’. To be a Christian was to stake one’s life on the absurdity of the risen Christ, to commit to an ethical standard no human can reach. This is a constant and in some ways hopeless effort at perpetually becoming what you can never fully be. Nothing could be more different from the conventional view of what being a Christian means: being born and baptised into a religion, dutifully going to Church and partaking in the sacraments. Institutionalised Christianity is an oxymoron, given that the Jesus of the Gospels spent so much time criticising the clerics of his day and never established any alternative structures. Kierkegaard showed that taking religion seriously is compatible with being against religion in almost all its actual forms, something that present-day atheists and believers should note.

6. Finally, most importantly, dear readers, we are a year away from the next Harry Potter film: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and Jude Law is a young Dumbledore. Other new stars include Call the Midwife’s Victoria Yeates and we will meet Nicolas Flamel! Here’s the rundown on Grindelwald if you don’t know much. And here’s a look back at the Easter eggs from the last film.

Strays