Monday, 9/30/13

    1. Downsizing perspective
    2. Orienting what?
    3. A voice crying in the vaguely Jesuit wilderness
    4. Adjudication by name-calling
    5. When is the Lord coming?
    6. Forget NSA; PPACA is the enemy


A member of my family is retiring, “downsizing,” and preparing to move from the East Coast to the West. After making one pass and donating perhaps half of his books to the local library, he took another look and started thinking of the remaining books in a new perspective: do I really want to pay $1.80 to move this one-pound book across the country?

If I was a better man, I probably could find some cunning spiritual analogy in that.


Some things are hard to define, but it’s worth the effort. Ron Belgau tries to define “sexual orientation” (that’s my reading of his endeavor, anyway) by asking what it orients.

For instance, he had a crush on another boy before he had felt frankly sexual attraction to anyone. “I thought of the warmth I felt in his presence as a kind of intense friendship. Mostly, we talked about shared interests in science.”

But he daydreamed, too, about being married to a woman (again, before he experienced frankly sexual desire toward female or male)  and having children.

Freud thought that the libido, or desire for pleasure, and particularly sexual pleasure, was the very most basic human motivation. Following the sexual revolution, something like this idea became more and more part of the unquestioned background of our cultural understanding of relationships.

My own experience has taught me that that desire is much more complex than the Freudian account. That kind of immediately sexual desire certainly plays a role, and often a very significant role. But I don’t think the kind of desire for shared life which I just described was really just a dressed up way of trying to have sex as often as I possibly could.

But in my teens, I often heard homosexuality condemned as if it was just a kind of life entirely dominated by an unchained Freudian id. But that bore little resemblance to my experience. For several years after I realized I was attracted to other men, most of my emotional energy remained directed toward the friend I mentioned earlier (entirely uncommunicated and unrequited, I might add).

He says he’ll “explore these complexities in upcoming posts,” and I’ll likely be there.


Ryan Anderson recently spoke in opposition to same-sex marriage at Boston College, a college, like so many, historically and now vaguely related to a Christian tradition, this time Jesuit Roman Catholicism:

“Another one of the sloppy slogans that I think some used here was talking about legalizing same-sex marriage, or saying that a state voted to ban same-sex marriage, that they voted to criminalize same-sex marriage,” Anderson said. “Nowhere in the 50 states is it illegal for two people of the same sex to live with each other or love each other … One of the primary arguments you’ll hear is that we’re supposed to legalize same-sex marriage. Not having the government recognize your relationship is not the same thing as the government making your relationship illegal, and sloppy language normally reveals sloppy thinking, which normally reveals an error.”

Nine students asked questions, with many challenging Anderson on various aspects of his argument, to applause from much of the audience. Most questions focused on his central point—that children who were raised by a heterosexual, married couple were better off than those raised by same-sex couples.

“If further studies came out that show these children are fine—they’re healthy, they grow up to be responsible adults and members of society—would you change your mind?” asked one student

Anderson replied that if the studies showed that there was no difference based on family arrangement, then he would not think that government should be in the marriage business. “I don’t think the government should be recognizing consenting adult love if ultimately it doesn’t make a difference one way or another to the common good,” he said. “If the science came back saying, actually, it’s a wash … then yeah, I wouldn’t care what the law or public policy would be about marriage. I would be surprised—and let me say that it wouldn’t change my opinion about what marriage is, that would just be a study of parenting arrangements.”

(Emphasis added because that’s quite congenial to the small government thread of my opposition to SSM.)

It sounds as if Anderson got a respectful hearing even by those who organized against him. Maybe the vaguely Jesuit B.C. has some Christian virtues left.


Meanwhile, at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, Guest-Blogger Neomi Rao (George Mason) talks about the problem of the past summer’s Windsor SSM case:

In The Trouble with Dignity and Rights of Recognition, recently published in the Virginia Law Review Online, I argue that one of the problematic aspects of the decision is that its use of dignity creates an unprecedented right of recognition. Because the decision ultimately turns neither on federalism nor on individual rights, it exists outside of our constitutional tradition.

That’s from her first blog part. There’s a second as well.

There’s also a stark irony in Justice Kennedy’s solicitude for the “dignity” and “right of recognition” of same-sex marriages solemnized in states where they’re lawful. Eschewing conventional legal analysis in pursuit of his goal, he vilifies and tells lurid lies about the motives of those who supported (and support) DOMA. I’m not feeling very “recognized,” and the good Justice has trampled the dickens out of my dignity:

In place of orthodox legal analysis, the Court attacked the motives of the legislators who enacted DOMA, asserting that they acted out of the “bare . . . desire to harm” homosexual persons. This claim of hateful motive was not a casual slip of Kennedy’s pen. It is his sole argument against the statute, and he reiterated it in multiple ways. DOMA had the purpose “to disparage and to injure” same-sex couples, to “demean” them, to “impose . . . a stigma” on them, to deny them “equal dignity,” to brand them as “unworthy,” and to “humiliat[e]” their children. These were, the Court declared, the actual purposes of enacting DOMA—not just unintended consequences of a law passed for other reasons.
There are three things wrong with this approach. First, it is not factually true. The Congress that passed DOMA in 1996 by a vote of 85–14 in the Senate and of 342–67 in the House of Representatives was not infested with hate-mongers. Whether one agrees with DOMA or not, the law served the entirely rational purpose of ensuring that there would be uniform treatment of same-sex ­marriage for federal purposes, an outcome based on what was then the unanimous consensus of all fifty states. Congress was merely preserving the status quo, and not “injuring” anyone. President Obama himself claimed to oppose same-sex marriage until recent months. He was not hateful then and benevolent now. He simply changed his mind on a difficult social question.
Second, the Court has repeatedly held that the constitutionality of statutes depends on their objective purpose and not on the subjective motivations of the legislators who vote for them. Yet the Court did not trouble to engage with the rationales offered by the supporters of DOMA either in the legislative history, the national debate, or the briefs. It simply dismissed contrary views as hateful. This is not constitutional analysis; it is adjudication by name-calling.
Third, judicial rhetoric of this sort does grave injury to the body politic. Fundamental to the equal respect necessary for a democratic republic is the ability to treat those with whom we disagree as acting in good faith. Disagreement is not the same thing as malice. Ordinarily we can count on the judiciary to model this respectful disagreement. In Windsor, however, the Court labeled at least half the population, including some of our most revered leaders and institutions, as motivated by a desire to injure and degrade some of their fellow citizens. This kind of talk will not help the nation come to peaceful resolution of this deep moral conflict

 (Michael W. McConnell) I think that the bare desire to disparage me and that half the population that’s still more or less like me, to the “grave injury of the body politic,” ought to be impeachable. What say ye?


Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Mat 24:42-44).

Those who apply this verse simply to the moment of the Second Coming, fail to heed its warning. They look to world politics and attempt to match Bible and the news cycle. But the Son of Man comes repeatedly to them unobserved and unheeded. They fall asleep under the heavy weight and dullness of false teaching. I saw an interview on Youtube recently with one of the contemporary great Elders of Orthodoxy. In the conversation the Elder repeatedly directed his attention to the state of the heart. The young man conducting the interview kept asking questions about world events. He wanted a sensational prophecy.

(Wake Up! Watch Out!, emphasis added)


Rod Dreher highlights the latest revelations about NSA intrusion into our private lives and asks why, since it’s so spooky and totalitarian-sounding, Evangelicals in particular are still acting like Obamacare is the number 1 threat to our freedom. Most of the comments strike me as religiously uninformed and maybe a bit snarky toward Evangelicals (not that I’d ever write such a thing, of course).

But one stands out to me as particularly lucid and sane. I’ll reproduce it with emphasis added and the paragraph omitted where I think the author’s Roman Catholicism led her off into a locution (true freedom is “slavery to Christ”) that made me, Orthodox, wince a little:

Dear Mr. Dreher,
I probably qualify, in some ways, as a member of the “Christian Right.” However, I am Catholic, not Evangelical Protestant, and I am an advocate of unity between the Roman Church and the Eastern Christian churches, since I believe it is the same Church, the one established by Christ. The Eastern Church has a different emphasis that really sets it apart from and above all of this in many ways.
So,anyway, people who obsess about the “end times” are disobeying Christ’s command to avoid such a preoccupation. Besides, we have been in the end times since Christ’s Passion, death and resurrection. I do not know when the world will end, but I am sixty-one years old, so it will most likely end for me within twenty or thirty years.
I am not obsessed with the NSA, either. I read about events around me; I vote; I write letters and make phone calls. The NSA is able to do what it does, not because of people who are concerned with the end of the world, but because many more people are afraid of terrorism, and have been convinced that the only way to avoid it is to relinquish their freedom and to turn their heads while their government becomes like the terrorists in many ways. Then there is the even larger contingent, who are even more disturbing, who do not have a clue what is happening in their cities, in their country, or in the world, and who do not care, as long as they can move from one personal urge to another, gratifying themselves in any way they can, allowing others to do the heavy lifting of self-governance.

Still, those of us without individual power and influence do what we can. When Mr. Obama thought it would be a good idea to assist Al Qaeda by attacking Syria, I e-mailed Representative McIntyre and Senator Burr every day, and I called several times. I was really worked up. I believe many people made their voices heard, and I believe it helped.
Whom do we e-mail about the NSA? I e-mailed the State Department about Syria, and I received a form follow-up saying they hoped my issue had been resolved satisfactorily, as if I had been having passport problems or something similar.
I agree with you that this is serious, but you are in a better position than I to bring it into the light.
Thank you for addressing the issue.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.