Potpourri, 11/20/18

Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.

… People who have suffered a trauma — whether it’s a sexual assault at work or repeated beatings at home — find that their identity formation has been interrupted and fragmented. Time doesn’t flow from one day to the next but circles backward to the bad event.

As a culture we’re pretty bad at dealing with moral injury. Sometimes I look at the rising suicide and depression rates, the rising fragility and distrust, and I think it all flows from the fact that we’ve made our culture a spiritual void. When you privatize morality and denude the public square of spiritual content, you’ve robbed people of the community resources they need to process moral pain together.

David Brooks


 

Like any other news and information site, Church Militant and LifeSite News are rightly subject to fair criticism when they overstep morally and journalistically responsible bounds. But I’ll tell you this: the reason these outlets have such a readership is that they are doing what the mainstream media has for many years refused to do: report on a key aspect of the abuse scandal that offends liberal prior commitments.

Rod Dreher, commenting on an NBC online hit piece:

Corky Siemaszko approaches the Catholic gay conflict issue as a cause, not a news subject. Do his editors at NBC News even care? Are they even capable of seeing that there is a problem of news judgment here?


An instructive pattern emerges:

When Gospel Coalition people opine on LGBT issues and celibate Evangelicals respond, the latter almost always strike me as more deeply Christian than the former. Here and here, for instance. Ditto when the celibate Evangelicals start it.


“Sovereign Citizens” may be the tin-hattiest of the tin-hatters.


Companies are forever wanting to do “team-building,” but everything about the woke workplace compels those with any common sense to consider everyone around them a potential threat.

Rod Dreher.

Corporatizing the revolution has been rapid and consequential. Dreher is starting a “Woke Workplace” series with reader input.


 Ingenious: Divide States to Democratize the Senate:

Article IV providesthat “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union”—including from the territory of an existing state, if
its legislature consents. Five states were created in this manner: Vermont from New York (1791), Kentucky from Virginia (1792), Tennessee from North Carolina (1796), Maine from Massachusetts (1820) and West Virginia from Virginia (1863).

Drawing on that tradition, a Democracy Restoration Act could grant blanket consent to populous but underrepresented states to go forth and multiply to restore the Senate’s democratic legitimacy.

It responds to a plausible concern about a founding decision that threatens to become unsustainable.

But is the response a plan, or a taunt?

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Why vote for Trump?

Resolved: This is the most plausible explanation to date of Donald Trump’s presidency:

[W]hat genuinely excites Mr. Trump’s crowds and draws them to him is their shared antiliberalism.. By liberalism … I refer to the liberalism now metamorphisized into progressivism ….

The man who attends a Trump rally turns on his television set and that night’s news leads off with a Black Lives Matter protest in his city. If that city is Chicago, he might recall that this year some 2,619 people have been shot, 475 shot and killed, the preponderance of these being black people shot by black youth gangs. If it is another city, there is a distinct possibility, as fairly often in the past, that the protest will lead to looting of nearby shops. Al Sharpton, nattily turned out, is likely to have flown in for the festivities to remind everyone about the world’s injustice.

Our man changes channels and is greeted by a story of a long and happy lesbian marriage. He reads in the papers that people are fired from jobs for remarks that, under the reign of political correctness, are interpreted as racist, sexist, you name it; that students feel unsafe at Yale; that a year’s tuition, room and board at Dartmouth is $74,000. Doubtless before long he will read a story about an 11-year-old who is suing his parents for not allowing him to transgender himself.

Oh God, he thinks, make America great again, make America straight again, make America anything but what it is becoming. What elected Donald Trump, and what sustains him, is not his rather dubious charisma, his ideas, his obvious jolt to the country’s earlier slow economic growth, and no, not even the wretched campaign run by Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump was chosen as a rebuke to the progressivism that has made life in America seem chaotic, if not a touch mad, and that now threatens to take over the Democratic Party.

Joseph Epstein

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We’re after power and we mean it

WordPress, the platform I use for this blog (see footer for my other blog) has stooped to censoring material that should not be censored in any society that values free speech.

I regret this very much.

The story that got GenderTrender suspended was, predictably, about the insatiable desire of some people with gender dysphoria (or just creeps pretending to be gender dysphoric to raise hell) to rope the rest of us in LARPing along with them — specifically, if I understand it correctly, the desire of a man-calling-himself-a-woman to get his scrotum commercially waxed over the objection of female aestheticians to servicing him. (In related news ….)

Such crypto-fascists (perhaps the man with the hairy scrotum himself) apparently persuaded WordPress that the policy against “the malicious publication of private details related to gender identity” should henceforth, without advance notice, include “publishing former names” — a practice known among certain hysterics as “deadnaming.” Moreover, “malice” is presumed and the penalty, WordPress apparently decided, should be summary capital punishment: irrevocable suspension of one’s account.

That’s my characterization. Orwellian details here if you are interested.

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

I now shall ritually violate WordPress terms of service be deadnaming “Caitlyn”:

Bruce Jenner, Bruce Jenner, Bruce Jenner, Bruce Jenner, Bruce Jenner.

There. That felt about as good as anything I could imagine doing in response to an effort to purge inconvenient truths and unfashionable arguments from public discourse.

I take comfort at some signs that such insanity may have run its course, and that it is terrified of the rising rebellion (can you say “Jordan Peterson“? Or even “Jonathan Pageau“?).

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Mélange 11/17/18

1

To maintain its large membership base, the ACLU recruited new members by directing mass mailings to mailing lists rented from a broad range of liberal groups. The result of the shift of the ACLU to a mass membership organization was that it gradually transformed itself from a civil libertarian organization into a liberal organization with an interest in civil liberties …

… With the election of Donald Trump, its membership rolls have grown to almost two million, almost all of them liberal politically, few of whom are devoted to civil liberties as such. Meanwhile, the left in general has become less interested in, and in some cases opposed to, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the rights of the accused.

Future historians will have to reconstruct exactly how and why the tipping point has been reached, but the ACLU’s actions over the last couple of months show that the ACLU is no longer a civil libertarian organization in any meaningful sense, but just another left-wing pressure group, albeit one with a civil libertarian history.

First, the ACLU ran an anti-Brett Kavanaugh video ad that relied entirely on something that no committed civil libertarian would countenance, guilt by association …

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Department of Education released a proposed new Title IX regulation that provides for due process rights for accused students that had been prohibited by Obama-era guidance. Shockingly, even to those of us who have followed the ACLU’s long, slow decline, the ACLU tweeted in reponse that the proposed regulation “promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused.” Even longtime ACLU critics are choking on the ACLU, of all organizations, claiming that due proess protections “inappropriately favor the accuse.”

The ACLU had a clear choice between the identitarian politics of the feminist hard left, and retaining some semblance of its traditional commitment to fair process. It chose the former. And that along with the Kavanaugh ad signals the final end of the ACLU as we knew it. RIP.

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy blog

I’m glad he said it since I lack the high status to command respect. And I’m glad he cited specific proof.

ACLU no longer cares about civil liberties and SPLC primarily cares about labeling its adversaries “haters.” We’re in a fine mess.

2

Insider sources have reportedly confirmed to the Washington Post that Assange has been charged. Because those charges are sealed, it’s impossible to know what they are or how they’re being justified. If you ask #Resistance Twitter, it’s because it’s #MuellerTime and Assange is about to be arrested under some mysterious charges involving WikiLeaks’ publication of non-government, non-classified emails in 2016. If you ask QAnon cultists, it’s because Donald Trump is planning to extradite Assange so as to rescue him and deal a fatal blow to the Deep State. If you ask people who actually know what they’re talking about, however, it’s most likely for WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and/or last year’s CIA leak publications, and most likely using the Espionage Act. This would constitute a deadly blow to press freedoms, and arguably a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.

It also proves once again that Julian Assange was completely right.

Caitlin Johnstone

3

In ancient Egypt there lived a wise king named Thamus. One day he was visited by a clever god called Theuth.

Theuth was an inventor of many useful things: arithmetic and geometry; astronomy and dice. But his greatest discovery, so he believed, “was the use of letters.” And it was this invention that Theuth was most eager to share with King Thamus.

The art of writing, Theuth said, “will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.”

But Thamus rebuffed him. “O most ingenious Theuth,” he said, “the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them.”

The king continued: “For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember themselves.”

Written words, Thamus concluded, “give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things but will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Welcome to Facebook ….

Bret Stephens

4

They changed the world to sand, and now find it slipping through their fingers.

Jonathan Pageau, who spoke for a whole half hour as Jordan Peterson sat listening. Those two have made some kind of intuitive connection over cognate insights about “logos.”

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The Very Structure of Reality©

Rod Dreher blogged Friday about a young, mentally ill woman down under who is interrupting her “transition” to “male” (breasts gone, but they didn’t get the uterus soon enough I guess) with a pregnancy. I wouldn’t comment on it except for this:

Why should this matter so much to Christians? Because our religion is incarnational. Traditional Christian teachings says that matter matters. Matter has implicit meaning. The divine logos is embedded in Creation, and finds its most complete expression in the Incarnation of God Himself in the form of a man, Jesus Christ. Because of the Incarnation, we cannot separate the body from God. The human body is part of the meaningful cosmos …

This is why the battle against the body is a cosmological war. Most Christians in the West today, having fully absorbed nominalism, don’t understand that. Once, in a conversation with a group of Christians about LGBT issues, one frustrated participant said, “When can we stop talking about this and get back to talking about the Gospel?!” As if the Gospel were somehow separate from the body, and from creation itself! For her, no doubt, the whole of Christianity was about assenting to a proposition (“accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior”) and rearranging one’s emotions. But that’s a counterfeit Christianity. You sever the connection between the Bible and the body, the metaphysical link between God and Creation ….

That brought back to mind two perennial errors or heresies that seem to me to be related: gnosticism and nominalism.

Gnostic because the body doesn’t really matter. Nominalist because the body-that-doesn’t matter is sexed arbitrarily. I regret that my auto-didacticism hasn’t carried me far enough to permit elaboration on the connection.

Rod continues to have some of the smartest comments on the internet, partly because this tireless man moderates them carefully. Comments to this particular blog ranged fairly far afield, but I found these particularly perceptive or informative:

Really, do what you like to yourself; and if you want to chop your breasts off then somehow still “chest feed” your kid… good luck to you. And especially the kid. And all the therapy both will require down the line.

But don’t include me in this. Don’t require me to support your personal beliefs or delusions. I’m not religious, but if I was, this would be like me saying, “You not only have to respect my belief in God, you must also believe in God as I define him because you need to affirm my reality.”

I am not interested in affirming anyone’s reality. Affirm your own damned reality. And if that sends the LGBQWERTY crowd to the fainting couch or worse, it isn’t my problem. I do not exist to validate anyone’s view of him, her or “them”self.

(kgasmart) That one got a lot of endorsements.


The “Experts” (and boy do I use that term loosely) merely do what “Experts” have done through the ages, and that’s make sure the evidence fits the desires of those who get invited to all the best palace parties.

(Dave Griffey) Much truth, distilled. See these experts, for instance.


McCormick47 says:

November 16, 2018 at 11:17 am

Just a question, when you say “our radically individualist society…is allowing her to bring a baby into the world” how do propose stopping her? Mandatory abortion, forced sterilization for the mentally ill?

As civilized people, we don’t take children away from their parents without some substantial evidence that the children are being abused (unless they’re brown children who can’t prove their citizenship). Is the state supposed to assume the child is being abused because of her illness, or because she’s transgender?

How then does society disallow her?

Others commented later that society should forbid surgeons to mutilate bodies in the way they’re mutilated in surgical “transitions.”


Hmmm says:

November 16, 2018 at 11:59 am

We (traditionalist Christians included) need to find a way of opposing the celebration of these things in ways that are not explicitly religious. Otherwise the entire opposition will simply be branded as retrograde Bible-thumpers. I understand the need to bear witness and be honest and open about one’s faith. But outside of intra-Christian discussions, I think calling upon St. Paul and Biblical anthropology and so on as the basis for “gender” sanity will only be counter-productive.

Fair enough, but a starting point, surely, is getting Christian heads on straighter. Rod does preface the comment I found important with “Why should this matter so much to Christians?” as he throws down the gauntlet about counterfeit Christianity.


Rusty Shackleford says:

November 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I used to be a seventh grade teacher. I’ve observed what your Baltimore interviewee has experienced.

We’ve built a society that is pushing all of those kids mentioned (I’ll bet it’s at least 80% girls) to classify themselves as bi.

Children have been told that they are sexual beings – that sexual exploration is a wonderful thing and that it is how they find their true selves. Their music and Netflix shows and snapchat celebs celebrate it. But what these kids see in the media about how freeing sex is doesn’t conform to their daily life. What do 13 year old girls see when they look around? 13 year old boys.

We know know that girls mature faster than boys physically, mentally, and emotionally. A 13 year old girl (let’s call her Anna) sees her male peers and is repulsed – they stink, they’re hooked on video games and cartoons (and probably porn), and show no interest in anything of meaning. However, Anna has been told that she is a sexual being (at 13) and should be exploring her sexuality. The problem must not be with the boys (she thinks) – it must be with her. She must be either bi or a lesbian. (In the past 3 years, transgender has also become an option for her if she isn’t a stereotypical “girly-girl”.) All of this because she finds 13 year old boys repulsive – which she should!

Meanwhile, we’ve pathologized same sex friendships to the extent that if Anna has a deep connection with another girl, the only vocabulary she has to express it is either romantic or sexual.

Middle Schools in deep, deep red areas have Gay-Straight Alliance groups (though they’re only publicly referred to as GSA when parents peruse the school website). Parents complain about normalizing homosexuality when the biggest issue is that we’ve sexualized middle school. Anna ought to be learning the clarinet and reading about the Battle of Shiloh and playing volleyball. Instead, she’s on Snapchat all day, receiving harassing messages from her male classmates to “send nudes”, and is preoccupied with who she is or isn’t attracted to.

(Emphasis added) What would we do without perceptive teachers?


Lori [expanding on Randy Shackleford] says:

November 16, 2018 at 12:57 pm

“We know know that girls mature faster than boys physically, mentally, and emotionally. A 13 year old girl (let’s call her Anna) sees her male peers and is repulsed – they stink, they’re hooked on video games and cartoons (and probably porn), and show no interest in anything of meaning. However, Anna has been told that she is a sexual being (at 13) and should be exploring her sexuality. The problem must not be with the boys (she thinks) – it must be with her. She must be either bi or a lesbian.”

I think it’s worse than that. I have seen numerous accounts by young women who “realized” they were either lesbian/bi or asexual when they watched porn or received an unsolicited picture of male genitalia and felt repulsed. They truly believe their revulsion at what not only does but should cause revulsion in most women means they are not heterosexual, because they think that women should be turned on by porn or by looking at some guy’s junk. We have made porn the norm and what used to be the norm (women being repulsed by porn, women refusing sex outside of a committed relationship) into something weird and other.

Along with the crazy-high numbers of teens identifying as bi (especially, as you note, among girls–not being bi is in and of itself evidence of being a bigot in some circles of girls at this point), we also have huge and growing numbers of teens identifying as asexual. Because we are telling them that normal sexuality means that you desire sex with any hot person you see. We are telling them that if you actually only want sex within a committed, loving relationship, you are a “demisexual” (it’s an actual word and they actually believe this, that only desiring sex within a relationship makes you only kinda sexual). “Demisexual” bothers me more than maybe any other label, because it’s taking what is for many if not most women the norm–only wanting sex with somebody you care about who cares about you–and making it some sort of minority sexuality.

It’s all madness. What we are doing to this generation of young people is cruel and exploitative and disgusting. We are feeding them lies not just about the world but about who they are fundamentally.

(Emphasis added) Sigh.Kids watching porn and sharing crotch shots.

Demisexual” is a term I’d not heard before, and its meaning, sadly, is congruent with  Lori’s description.


Anne B says: November 16, 2018 at 1:07 pm

My 13 year old daughter tells me that, while it used to be that coming out as bi was a sign of being progressive and open minded, as of this month, bis are getting the stink eye. You see the prefix “bi” means two, implying that there are only two genders, which the kids have now noticed is transphobic. So now there is pressure on the bis to relabel themselves as pansexual. Or to admit to being bigots who only like cisfemales and cismales and not the other genders.

You probably think I’m joking, but no. Apparently it’s all over YouTube.


Kent says:

November 16, 2018 at 2:00 pm

“Three months after our conversation, that woman’s daughter came home from high school with the news that she is really a boy, and demanding that her family treat her as such.”

In my household, I’d immediately send little Susie out to mow the yard. Then she’d be helping my rotate my tires, followed by dirt bike racing.

By the next morning, she’d be little Susie again.


Lori says:

November 16, 2018 at 2:27 pm

This woman is 22 years old.

I guarantee you that if she were a young Christian woman still in school (as this woman is) married to a young Christian man who was expecting her first baby with excitement, many of the same outlets and people cheering this as amazing would be talking about how the Christian woman was ruining her life and wasting her potential and stupid for not waiting another 10 years or so. That is how crazy things have become. What would have been commonplace 40 or 50 years ago (a married 22 year old having a baby) is seen as something shameful while something unthinkable even 10 years ago is celebrated.

Sad, but I fear it’s true.


Turmarion says:

November 16, 2018 at 4:21 pm

A lot of socons want to use the Very Structure of Reality© argument against various LGBT issues, which is fine, if they want to go there. However, I assert that the underlying logic of those arguments doesn’t stop with LGBT issues, but also has logical implications for straight gender relations–e.g. discouraging women from higher education or working outside the house, restricting the areas of society in which women’s participation is considered appropriate, etc. I contend that these socans are reluctant–or outright refuse–to follow the logic of their own professed arguments. Matt says that gay male sexuality is a mess, and it ought to be cleaned up; and he’s honest enough to say that the only way to do so might logically imply things that would mess up his own life; and that therefore he’s not willing actually to do that. Which I can respect–my favorite Whitman quote is, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then; I contradict myself.”

Some commenters here in the past actually have argued for the logic of women staying out of the workforce, prioritizing children over careers, etc., and while I wouldn’t agree with them on much, I can respect the integrity of the argument, and if they and their wives follow such a plan, I can respect that they walk the walk, even if it’s not something I’d like to walk.

So it would be nice if every once in awhile Rod or some of the others would say, “You know, the model of gender roles I support would, if I were totally consistent, imply things for my wife and daughter that I actually wouldn’t want for them; and that’s inconsistent; and thus I either need to change what I want for them, or I have to admit that I’m inconsistent, own that, and live with it.”

….


Turmarion says:

November 16, 2018 at 4:30 pm

At the risk of running my mouth too much, this is another problem, which I haven’t discussed before, of the cosmic, Very Structure of Reality© arguments that socons make. In the past, I’ve argued that such arguments are way over-intellectual, unlikely to be understood by almost anyone, and not obviously true even to those who do understand them, but who think they are in error. I still maintain this.

However, let’s say, arguendo, that such arguments are actually right. They still fail, because they don’t give consistent results. In short, the exponents of such arguments disagree as to the actual concrete actions that should follow from such arguments.

For example, let’s agree, for the sake of argument, that it is correct that, on the basis of cosmic metaphysical principles, that gay sex is morally wrong by its very nature. Fine. The problem comes when you ask several people that agree on that what comes next. A says, “This is why we need to revive anti-sodomy law, chase gays out of the public square, and bring back the closet”. B says, “No, that’s cruel. What we need to do is emphasize gay conversion therapy.” C says, “No, no, that doesn’t work. What we need to do is convince gays to lead chase lives.” None of them, of course, ever says anything about the corollaries of the Very Structure of Reality© arguments for straight people.

So if metaphysical arguments can’t give us any idea as to what we should actually, you know, do, then what the heck good are they, anyway?

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Social collapse (and more)

1

This reminded me of something a professor, himself a conservative Christian, I spoke with at Notre Dame said to me about The Benedict Option. He asked how it had sold, and I said pretty well, but probably not as well as he thinks, given the hype. He said that he believes the book has only gotten started. How come? I asked.

“Most conservative Christians don’t understand what’s going on in the culture,” he said. “It’s going to take Trump losing, and the Democrats taking over in Washington, for them to feel the full force of the post-Christian culture on their necks. Right now, they don’t grasp how precarious things are for us — but they will.”

It’s odd to have one’s professional success tied to the decline of one’s culture. I would rather sell no more books and be wrong about the future! But I don’t think I am wrong about the future.

… Some years ago, I interviewed Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins about his book The Fall Of Rome. Ward-Perkins draws on archaeological data to understand late antiquity, and the period after the collapse of Rome in the West. In his book (and in our interview), he emphasized how massive the collapse of technical knowledge and skill was in the West. For example, he said that it took something like six centuries for Europeans to learn how to build roofs as well as the Romans could. It wasn’t only architecture. People forgot how to do a lot of things — the kind of things you assume are unforgettable.

I found this hard to wrap my mind around. How could such basic knowledge be just … lost? Not having books and mass literacy certainly creates an environment conducive to mass forgetting. But you’d think that basic life skills like how to cultivate crops, rudimentary metallurgy, and so forth, would not be so easily forgotten. It happened. Could that happen to us? Hard to see how, given that we do have mass literacy, and books.

Think about it, though: we have forgotten as a culture and civilization what marriage is for, and are well on the way to forgetting what men are, and are for, and women too. This is not a matter of knowledge being denied to us. This is a matter of will.

Rod Dreher.

2

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

David Brooks. Call that “point.” Call this (“What Republican ‘Excellence’?”) from Rod Dreher “counterpoint”:

It is hard to imagine a Republican A-team more stellar than President George W. Bush’s national security inner circle. These are the best and brightest who led the nation into the disastrous Iraq War. President Bush’s economic team presided over the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, a crash brought about in part because of the president’s own policies. …

3

The main Republican argument against Trump is this: He is a person of horrible character who corrupts everyone around him, undermines essential social standards and is branding his party with an image of bigotry that will last a generation.

Michael Gerson, Will a Republican candidate stand up against Trump in 2020?

4

I finally finished Leon Podles’ book “Sacrilege”, and I challenge anyone to read that book and then assert that the ruling powers ought to somehow be under or subservient to the Church.

Rod Dreher’s Reader Elijah

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Potpourri, 11/15/18

1

I never really kissed dating goodbye as a teenager in the mid-2000s — to be honest, I was pretty late in kissing it hello. But like many who were brought up in contact with evangelical culture, I absorbed its tenets almost by osmosis even though I never even read the whole book. Falling in love means sharing a piece of your heart that you’ll never get back. Sex is a slippery slope, generally with disaster at the bottom. Hard decisions could be boiled down to one rule: Keep it chaste. Do things right, though, and you’ll get the reward you deserve. Follow the instructions: results guaranteed.

Christine Emba.

It’s the promise of a fairy tale ending that offends me. Evangelicals lack any tragic sense of life. (Just “pray away the gay,” for instance.)

Or maybe that absence of tragic sense is a besetting American sin. More Emba:

In essence, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and its (inevitable, if you think about it) fall represent a mind-set prominent in evangelical culture, but also in American society more broadly.

We insist that meritocracy works and combine it with a valorization of hard work (which itself stems from our country’s majority-Protestant roots). To maintain the story that success is accessible to all, we’ve developed a tendency to seek out and elevate simplistic formulas that we hope come with guarantees. Stay pure until marriage, and your marriage will flourish. Follow the “success sequence,” and you’ll never be poor. Go to the right school, and all career doors will open. Elect the right candidate, and America will be great once more.

But the dark side of all this is that when the formulas fail — as they so often do — it’s you who must have done something wrong. And then it’s up to you to fix it on your own. Bad marriage? You must have screwed around as a teen. Still in public housing? Should have gotten a better job. The if/then mind-set doesn’t take into account how much is actually out of our personal control, or the systemic forces — race, class, family history — that might hold someone back.

It is difficult to counter such an ingrained — and easy — habit of thought. But give him credit: In reevaluating “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” Harris is modeling one way of doing so — he’s admitting to complexity and engaging directly with others, rather than sending down recommendations from above. Alas, even this admirable attempt won’t undo the harms that his formula caused in the first place.

But let the implosion of a cultural touchstone like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” serve as a lesson, or at least a warning. The next time we’re tempted toward too-formulaic thinking, we’ll know to take it with a grain of salt. After all, life is rarely so pure.

2

Once upon a time, Protestant congregations had pulpits. This was a form of church furniture, a glorified lectern as it where, behind which pastors read the text for their sermon and preached it to boot. Today, contemporary design of church buildings makes little of fixed places for anyone participating in worship, except for the drummer who may be quarantined in a drum shield.

… as ministers of God’s word, pastors’ actions, including their feet, while communicating a message of such great moment should encourage the idea of permanence. That is one reason for having a pulpit with serious heft. It symbolizes that what goes on in this space is of great significance and enduring value (though some look so permanent that even the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth will not unsettle them).

The permanence of the word preached is also a reason for ministers to stay in the pocket behind the pulpit and not move around. At best, happy feet is a distraction that calls more attention to the man than his message. At worst, they invite liturgical dance. So if the argument from permanence does not help, maybe the thought of overweight men and women in leotards will assist pastors (some on the rotund side themselves) keep both feet firmly planted behind their congregation’s ample pulpit.

D.G. Hart

3

[S]cientists are … making declarations ex cathedra — as a direct result of intellectual movements that began in humanities scholarship twenty-five years ago.

So for those of you who think that the humanities are marginal and irrelevant, put that in your mental pipe and contemplatively smoke it for a while.

Many years ago the great American poet Richard Wilbur wrote a poem called “Shame,” in which he imagined “a cramped little state with no foreign policy, / Save to be thought inoffensive.”

Sheep are the national product. The faint inscription
Over the city gates may perhaps be rendered,
“I’m afraid you won’t find much of interest here.”

The people of this nation could not be more overt in their humility, their irrelevance, their powerlessness. But …

Their complete negligence is reserved, however,
For the hoped-for invasion, at which time the happy people
(Sniggering, ruddily naked, and shamelessly drunk)
Will stun the foe by their overwhelming submission,
Corrupt the generals, infiltrate the staff,
Usurp the throne, proclaim themselves to be sun-gods,
And bring about the collapse of the whole empire.

Alan Jacobs, the imminent collapse of an empire

4

[W]hen you are told endlessly that there is no meaning to existence, then guess what? You actually start to think that way. And then everything loses its flavor. Everything starts to taste like rice cakes.

… [Y]ou cannot have it both ways. You cannot bleach divinity and Transcendence out of the cosmos and tell everyone that the whole affair is just an aimless and pointless accident, and then turn around and talk to us about the “moral necessity” of this or that urgent social cause.

Larry Chapp via Rod Dreher.

5

From before the election, but when I was otherwise occupied:

Trumpism … is the new normal. It is not going away. And there is no going back. The challenge for the center-right and center-left across the West is to accommodate this new normal in ways that do not empower authoritarianism, provoke constitutional unraveling, or incite civil unrest. And it seems to me that the lesson of the last two years is that the Republican Party is unable and unwilling to perform that function. It has turned itself into a cult behind a figure hostile to liberal democratic norms, responsible government, and any notion of moderation. It is less a political party than a mass movement sustained by shame-free, mendacious propaganda around a man whose articulated values place him more in the company of Putin and Duterte than Merkel and Macron.

The GOP cannot be talked out of their surrender to this strongman. With each rhetorical or policy atrocity, they have attached themselves more firmly to him. The dissenters are leaving; the new members of Congress will be even Trumpier than the old. They have abandoned any serious oversight role. Their singular achievement has been supplying judicial ranks who will not stand in the way of executive power. That was the real issue in the Kavanaugh nomination, as Newt Gingrich blurted out last week. A subpoena for the president from the special counsel would be fought, he promised, all the way to the Supreme Court, which is when we would see “whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it.” This is a party bent on enabling authoritarianism, not restraining it.

That’s why I will vote Democrat next Tuesday. I have many issues with the Democrats, as regular readers well know. None of that matters compared with this emergency. I don’t care, in this instance, what their policies are. I am going to vote for them. I can’t stand most of their leaders and fear their radical fringe. I am going to vote for them anyway. Because it is the only responsible thing there is to do.

The Italian leftist, Antonio Gramsci, famously wrote, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” We live in such a time, and we have in front of us one of those morbid symptoms: the current Republican Party. You know what to do.

Andrew Sullivan.

Or as William Blake put it:

what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I’m not at all certain that “judicial ranks … will not stand in the way of executive power” or that such was the aim of confirming them, but Sullivan otherwise is right about the abasement of the GOP, and the House has indeed flipped to the Democrats.

I wrote last week that the midterms would finally tell us what this country now is. And with a remarkable turnout — a 50-year high for a non- presidential election, no less — we did indeed learn something solid and eye-opening. We learned that the American public as a whole has reacted to the first two years of an unfit, delusional, mendacious, malevolent, incompetent authoritarian as president … with relative equanimity. The net backlash is milder than it was against Clinton or Obama (and both of them went on to win reelection).

What I take from this is that Trump really does have a cultlike grip on a whole new population of voters, as well as the reliable Republican voters of the past. That’s not just 42 percent of the country (to use Trump’s approval rating); it’s a motivated 42 percent. And what Trump has successfully done, by corralling right-wing media, tweeting incessantly, dominating the discourse, tending so diligently to his base, and holding rally after rally, is keep that engagement going. Most presidents are interested in governing and sometimes take their eye off the ball politically. Trump is all politics and all salesmanship all the time. And it works. If he can demonstrate this in the midterms, imagine what his reelection campaign will be like.

I’ve been razzed a little for using the term “existential threat” to describe Trump two and a half years ago. But I used it in a specific context: He was and remains such a threat to liberal democracy. Not democracy as a whole. Strongmen can win election after election with big majorities without rigging the vote. A single political party can co-opt the judiciary, or capture the Senate, by democratic means, for illiberal ends. I mean by liberal democracy one in which pluralism is celebrated, power is widely distributed, justice is dispensed without regard to politics, the press is free and respected, minorities protected, and where an opposition has a chance to win real, governing power. The space for this in America has significantly shrunk these past two years and this election has only consolidated that new status quo.

Andrew Sullivan

I’ve detested the Republican party long enough now that my reflex to cringe at Democrat victories passes very quickly, replaced by a resigned feeling of “we are soooooo screwed!” — no matter which major party wins.

6

When you obsess about a problem, you have less energy and passion to pursue solutions. When you fret over every outrage, you elevate those outrages. Stories trend because consumers engage with them, clicking and sharing them, not because the news media dictates that they trend.

I think it would be a solid and beneficial step for us all to simply come to the realizations: Trump is going to Trump. He’s going to lie. He’s going to wink at the racists and Nazis. He’s going to demean women. He’s going to embarrass this country. It’s all going to happen.

Nevertheless, we can take this stand unequivocally: It is all unacceptable and we stand in opposition to it. It is not normal and must never be met as such.

But we must also focus on the future.

Charles Blow

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Trading Lenin for Bezos

Of Amazon’s decision to expand in New York and suburban D.C.:

I used to be suspicious of the phrase “costal elites,” but it seems more apt every day. And as those elites congregate with one another, and concentrate their wealth in ever-smaller enclaves, and increasingly see the 95% of the American landmass between the coasts as material (human and natural) to be exploited for their economic purposes, they also complain ever more vociferously that the American political system — with its “undemocratic” institutions like the Senate — prevent them from exercising even more complete domination over places they will never see and people they will never know.

Alan Jacobs

Remembers this when you hear our Lords and Masters blathering about them “winning the popular vote” or saying we deplorables have too much political power.

Don’t ever let them take away the Senate as currently constituted to reflect a federalist polity.


 

[I]n our last election, “Drain the swamp!” was the mantra of the Trump supporters. But did anyone really expect that the man we elected, a swamp creature if ever there were one, would be able to do this? And what, exactly, does one do with a drained swamp anyway? Probably sell it to developers who would build overpriced, poorly made, beige and boring condos, nicely accessorized with a strip mall complete with a Dunkin Donuts and a Vape shop. In other words, just a different kind of swamp. The Democrats prefer the fevered swamp of coercive governmental power, whereas the Republicans prefer the fetid swamp of corporate greed. So all we have really done is trade Lenin for Bezos.

Larry Chapp via Rod Dreher.

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Potpourri 11/10/18

I indulged my urge to travel from October 29 through election day, with a long transcontinental flight back on Wednesday. Time didn’t permit keeping up with news, let alone commenting.

I’ve spent too much time trying to “catch up.” Aware, though, that much of what passes for news is noise and commercial solicitation, I deleted many items I initially had clipped for later reading.

Here are a few thing that survived.

1 Philosophy and Religion

In the name of mercy, some recent theologians have suggested that there are elements of good in some objectively wrong acts and relationships. For example, friendship is good, and there certainly is an element of friendship in an illicit sexual relationship.

The question should not be whether there are elements of value in sins, but whether there is anything valuable about sinning.

Consider: No one can love evil for its own sake. The only thing it is possible to will for its own sake is good. Thus, the only way it is even possible to will an evil is that something about it seems good to us.

But something seems good to us in every evil, because evil cannot exist in itself. The only way to get an evil at all is to take something good and distort it.

The upshot is that the fact that evil contains disordered elements of good doesn’t mean it isn’t evil. What this fact shows is why evil can be attractive.

J Budziszewski, The Underground Thomist (emphasis added).

Having been in the “elements of good” camp, I stand corrected.


The shallowness and poverty of Evangelical thought on sexuality will not be cured by repudiating I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Where’s the positive vision?

Abigaile Rine Favale elaborates.

I’m tempted to elaborate on my own. Nominalism. Realism. Natural Law. Chastity > Virginity. That kind of thing.

But I won’t.


The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Little Sisters, notes that there are many ways for the government to provide contraceptives without forcing nuns to violate their beliefs.

An Unnecessary Culture War: The Little Sisters of the Poor finally get their religious exemption (WSJ, 11/10/18)

I love, and financially support, Becket Fund.

 

2 Politics

Pace Jonathan Haidt, liberals likely are not more “open” to “experience” in general than conservatives.


News from the birthplace of the free speech movement.

In a real sense, the most fascist people in America are young progressives.


Of all the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency has made America worse, nothing epitomizes it quite so fully as the elevation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States. Intellectually honest conservatives — the six or seven who remain, at any rate — need to say this, loudly. His appointment represents an unprecedented assault on the integrity and reputation of the Justice Department, the advice and consent function of the Senate, and the rule of law in the United States.

Bret Stephens


The mystery of Donald Trump is what impels him to overturn the usual rules. Is it a dark sort of cunning or simple defects of character? Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter. He’s a bigot. He’s a con artist. His followers are dumb. They got lucky last time. They won’t be so lucky again.

Maybe this is even right. But as Trump’s presidency moves forward, it’s no longer smart to think it’s right. There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.

Bret Stephens.

Having been recently in the offices of the Jerusalem Post, I was surprised to note that he was once its Editor-in-Chief, and Wikipedia confirms that he took that post when he was all of 29 years old.


Democratic leaders in the House … have the president at a disadvantage. He is a businessman who’s never had to answer to a board. His whole professional life it was him and his whims and his hunger and a series of organizations of which he was sole or principal owner. Democratic leaders should see themselves as his board. They’ve got a CEO they don’t like, but they’ve got some power and they’re using it to save the company. A united board can scare a CEO. Donald Trump up against a board will not be so sure-footed. He will agree to a lot of what you want.

Peggy Noonan.

I love this idea.


With his every utterance, Trump removes the moral guardrails that keep bigotry down.

… How does a conservative movement that is supposed to believe that every healthy society needs powerful moral guardrails give itself over to a president whose every other utterance cheerfully knocks those guardrails down?

The Trumpian defense is that no political leader can fairly be held accountable for the acts of followers like Sayoc, much less of avowed opponents like Bowers. Also, what about James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot Republican Representative Steve Scalise last year? But Sanders wasn’t instigating anyone to violence. He wasn’t calling on supporters at his rallies to “knock the crap out of” hecklers, or praising fellow members of Congress for body slamming a reporter.

… fanning one set of hatreds against immigrants has a way of fanning others, as it did for Bowers when he attacked the synagogue because he was enraged by its support for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Bret Stephens, Yes, the President Bears Blame for the Terror From the Right.

Inclined to agree though a bit unsure, I nevertheless thought this merited consideration. No, on second thought, I agree. Period. Full stop.


“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
― Theodore Dalrymple

Via Rod Dreher

Communism is dead, but pray for the humiliated souls of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and all the other Trumpish sycophants who abase themselves with transparent lies for their boss.


 

It just occurred to me as I tagged and categorized this blog that “conservative” and “liberal” seemed to me to suffice for casual political talk. Then I decided that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” were maybe more precise, as both fit classic liberalism. Now, with illiberals in the alt-right and progressive left, I’m more convinced than ever that “right liberalism” and “left liberalism” are useful and important categories (though I’ll probably continue to use conservative and liberal from habit).

A coalition of classical liberals might be a really good idea, but I’m not sure that Trump, who looks alt-right in comparison to right-liberals, will allow it.

 

3 Europe

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr. Macron said on French radio.

Europe is the “main victim,” Mr. Macron said, of Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That accord prohibits the use of intermediate- and shorter-range rockets, as well as testing, producing or fielding new ground-based missiles.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Mr. Macron said.

Wall Street Journal.

This, of course, set Trump into foaming at the mouth.

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