- The Culture of Hospitality.
- The Constitution and SSM.
- Democrat Seppuku.
- A whole persona built on “wedge issues.”
- Two Godless Parties?
- The religion of luck.
To rethink the possibilities [for religious cultural engagement], we might find help in a most unlikely place: a late second century letter from an otherwise unknown author named Mathetes to an equally obscure recipient named Diognetus. The letter is an apologetic of sorts, a kind of primer on what set the new Christian sect apart from the pagan religions of the time as well as from Judaism. In a section dedicated to describing the manners of the Christians, Mathetes remarks that “they marry, as do all [others]; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.” If we unpack these lines, I think we can find a plausible alternative to the culture war, an alternative that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other men and women of good will can employ as a means of engaging the culture creatively and winsomely.
The emphasis here is the practice of hospitality (with obvious limits), and I want to suggest that hospitality is a radical alternative to both the language and practice of culture wars.
A pro-SSM law professor claimed that the constitutional debate on the issue among scholars was over. According to him, there was no remaining doubt among specialists that recognition of same-sex marriage is required by the Constitution. So Dale Carpenter at the Volokh conspiracy, suspecting the claim was too strong, did a study to test it.
Eighty-seven percent of constitutional law professors back marriage for same-sex couples, and 7 out of 10 believe the federal Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] is unconstitutional, but only a slight majority of 54% think the federal Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. That’s the result of a survey of 485 constitutional law professors that I conducted this summer … In this post, I want to highlight some of the main results from the survey.
Of course, in terms of stark legal realism, there are only 9 opinions that matter, some of them belonging to former constitutional law professors. And it’s likely that we’ll know whether 5 of them agree with the overconfident (or was it “utterly insular”?) prof.
One cannot, by the way, disregard the possibility suggested in Carpenter’s comboxes that a lot of those who think DOMA is unconstitutional are those who believe in radical theories, rejected by SCOTUS so far, that say large bodies of precedent should be discarded.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto had a dazzling take-down of Sandra Fluke, whose prime-time appearance at the Democrat Convention (some in attendance wearing “Sluts Vote” buttons) was puzzling in advance and, if Taranto’s points are well-taken (as they seem to me), really harmful to Obama’s re-election chances:
The first speaker in the prime, network-broadcast 10:00 hour, was Sandra Fluke. Seriously, the party of Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman chose to showcase someone whose claim to fame is that she demands that somebody else pay for her birth control.
Wait, it gets even weirder. She warned about the dire consequences if Mitt Romney is elected two months from today: “Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won’t stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party.”
When one considers the specific context of Fluke’s above-quoted comment … it turns out to be as patriarchal a conception of government as one can imagine. By criticizing Romney for failing to “stand up” against Limbaugh, she faults him for a lack of chivalry. The duty of the president in a Flukist regime is to act as a white knight when a fair maiden’s honor has been besmirched.
And Fluke isn’t even the first feminist to make this sort of claim on Fluke’s behalf. Recall that back in the spring, Gloria Allred urged that Limbaugh be prosecuted under a dormant Florida statute making a misdemeanant of “whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity.” That law–almost certainly unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it treats the sexes in a grossly disparate way–has been on the books for 129 years. The Flukist Democrats will take America forward to 1883.
If I were a Romney supporter, I’d be looking for a bump in my polling numbers now bigger than the ones from my own convention.
Peggy Noonan, less systematic than Taranto but with two of the best ears in politics (she was a Reagan speechwriter) was negative about Obama’s speech and the overall tone of the convention:
Barack Obama is deeply overexposed and often boring. He never seems to be saying what he’s thinking …
Was it a good convention?
Beneath the funny hats, the sweet-faced delegates, the handsome speakers and the babies waving flags there was something disquieting. All three days were marked by a kind of soft, distracted extremism. It was unshowy and unobnoxious but also unsettling.
There was the relentless emphasis on Government as Community, as the thing that gives us spirit and makes us whole. But government isn’t what you love if you’re American, America is what you love … [T]he Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed … accepting of the idea of government as the center of national life ….
The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.
What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool ….
I’ve never been a hotshot campaign manager. I’ve never even played one on TV. But surely it is a serious misstep to thrust a ninny, narcissist and fool onto the stage as your party’s voice in prime time, no?
Democrat Senate Candidate Joe Donnelly didn’t even go to Charlotte. Neither did the Dem’s Gubernatorial Candidate, John Gregg, except discreetly for one day. Smart men.
The Right blogosphere has been gleefully gloating over the difficulty the Democrats supposedly had “putting God in their platform.” Each time they’ve talked about Democrats booing God, I have faithfully reminded them that Republicans booed the Golden Rule at the Candidate Forum in Charleston last January.
The formulaic exchange, frankly, is becoming tedious, so I want to flesh out my thoughts a little.
First, I did not watch the Democratic convention (nor did I watch the Republican convention). I did watch the evening news, however, and I understand that a single motion covered Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and inserting into the platform the “overlooked” concept of “God-given rights.” I am told that the “No” votes clearly were in the majority on the first voice vote, so the Chairman kept taking votes until he thought he could call it in favor of the “Yes” votes.
The booing may have resulted, for all I know, from this high-handed “cramming the motion down the delegates’ throats.” [After this was published, I came across a 2 minute ABC web video that confirmed this.]
Second, I have no doubt that the Democratic Party is significantly more consciously secular than the Republican Party, and I have even heard it referred to, by people who are neither entirely frivolous nor party hacks, as “The Godless Party.”
But I do not trust the religiosity of the Republican Party.
I don’t trust its sincerity. A lot of GOP god-talk is just cynical pandering to a base that’s so tone deaf they eat it up. That base believes in God like America believed in the Dallas Cowboys back in the day: God is “America’s Team.” That’s why they booed the Golden Rule (which I heard with my own ears): it implied that God is not 100% on our side and we practice Empire. I have no use for such civil religion, nor do I think God has any use for it.
I don’t trust it because the Republican party segment that is genuinely religious tends to be sectarian and theocratic. Given them power, and they’d turn too soon on historically-rooted Christians. I dropped out of the culture wars (perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I became a guerilla Army of One, answering to no chain of command) partly for that reason.
For the time being, though, the Republicans are a dramatically lower threat to my religious liberty, and that of my co-religionists, than would be the re-election of Barack Obama. That issue is why I’m approximately 99.9% certain not to vote for Obama.
Still, the only way I can imagine voting for Mitt Romney is if (a) he convinces me that he’s as insincere about his militarist chest-thumping as he is about his other positions (“it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re insincere”) and (b) Indiana appears at risk of going to Obama. I don’t even put that much stock in the reliable sanity of GOP SCOTUS nominees any more.
“Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” Psalm 146:3. Not even when they’re sincere.
I have long thought that one of the deepest “religious” impulses in human beings is a belief in luck. Christians, Jews, people of every creed and no creed, want to “win.” And, of course, luck does not require a god. A great deal of what passes for devotion is, in fact, an effort to influence the outcome of the game. Much of this thinking falls in the “magical” category. “If I am a good man, I will be luckier.”
The Christian account of the universe leaves nothing to chance. This is not to say that Christians profess a world of no freedom nor a world in which events are predetermined. The “mechanics” of the world remain a mystery. Every theological attempt to speak too specifically about such mechanics yields heresy. The world is free, we are free and God is free. But in the paradox of faith we confess that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
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