Friday 1/10/14

    1. Christie alternatives
    2. Unauthorized Diversity
    3. Made for Community
    4. Let’s ban one discursive inanity
    5. On “liberty”
    6. Dehistoricizing/Decontextualizing the Bible


It may be obligatory to comment on Chris Christie. Random obligatory link in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I wrote this before the Thursday marathon news conference – “twice as long as Lawrence of Arabia,” one commenter called it – but I don’t think more relevant facts are known now then then.

If the e-mails or other evidence show Christie was in on it, he should be toast politically.  If the e-mails or other evidence show that he consciously hired political thugs to exact retribution for him while he maintained plausible deniability, he should be toast politically.

If the e-mails or other evidence show that he stumbled into surrounding himself with political thugs who exacted retribution for him entirely unbidden and unwanted by him:

  1. He’s tainted as incompetent or
  2. Our system has reached its nadir, where only sociopaths gravitate to politics.


The Washington Examiner’s Byron York, during the news conference, tweeted his cool-eyed read. There are only two possibilities—”he’s innocent or he’s a Clinton-level liar.”

Here’s a problem. Policy people are policy people—sometimes creative, almost always sober, grounded, mature. But political operatives get high on winning. They start to think nothing can touch them when they’re with a winner. They get full of themselves. And they think only winning counts, because winning is their job.

(Peggy Noonan)


I could quibble about a few of the characterizations – and Spiliakos might be right, I wrong, if I did – but I don’t disagree with the broad sweep, encapsulated (I hope) in these snippets from Little Sisters in the Political Madhouse at Postmodern Conservative:

The Little Sisters of the Poor provide nursing home care to the elderly poor. They are giving the old, indigent, and isolated not only a place to live, but the care rooted in a kind of personal love that neither the government nor business (as such) are well positioned to provide. No society can have enough of what the sisters are giving. In a sane world, the Obama administration would simply have given the sisters a thank you and left it at that …

But, since the sisters’ beliefs are an example of unauthorized diversity, the Obama administration did not grant them a waiver … As Yuval Levin wrote, the demands of the Obama administration constitute a warning that those voluntary institutions that help the poor will be allowed to exist only by meeting whatever conditions are imposed by the political left.

… For the mainstream media, Obama is the right kind of powerful, and the sisters are the wrong kind of weak.

This controversy also demonstrates several weaknesses in President Obama’s opponents. President Obama and his allies have been able to win the rhetoric of compassion even as they try to drive out or suborn those civil society organizations that the left finds disagreeable—even if the poor have to suffer as a result … An occasional news viewer might only know the controversy as a confusing conflict freedom of religion and freedom of contraception. The viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the Obama administration was trying to prevent employers from banning use of contraception by their employees.

… Social welfare policy is not an afterthought to discussion of the economic growth that will come from greater economic freedom. Social welfare policy is a key component to how a free society operates. The failure to articulate a policy that dealt with people’s reasonable concerns about health insurance coverage left health care policy in the hands of the statists. It seemed to leave the Obama administration as the only game in town for the vulnerable. Absent a visible and comprehensible set of alternative policies, President Obama’s chaotic, expensive, and coercive statism will ultimately triumph.

I particularly like “unauthorized diversity” and “try to drive out or suborn those civil society organizations that the left finds disagreeable—even if the poor have to suffer as a result.” That’s not hyperbole. Catholic Charities had to abandon adoption work in Massachusetts because they would not be suborned to feign neutrality between truly married and faux-married adoptive couples after the Massachusetts Supreme Court tried to erase the distinction.


I’ve sometimes wondered why Unitarian-Universalists bother making a “Church,” since the U-U Churches don’t seem to be tax scams but their beliefs seem to me – admittedly viewing matters from far outside – to be so so very unpromising as the stuff of liturgy, hymnody, and the things that tend to mark religious gatherings.

A fortiori, Atheist Churches strike me as bizarre. But maybe there’s a reason common to both U-Us and atheists so congregating:

We are, I believe, made for community, and we’ll find it inside or outside the church. It seems interesting to me that atheists can’t find a “new and improved” model for community, but feel the need to imitate the churches that they find so problematical in other ways. Churches must be doing something right, even if, like all other human communities, they’re full of strife because they’re full of sinners.

(Joseph Knippenberg, Charity for Unbelievers, commenting on the rise of “Atheist Churches.”) There’s also a little fun-poking at the paltry levels of giving mustered up thus far by organized non-religion. I don’t know how the U-Us fare on that.


I’m not sure why, other than “it felt so good,” I bothered calling out U.S. News’ anti-Catholic bigotry since others, concurrently as I could easily have predicted, were doing it so well.

Elizabeth Scalia was masterful, but then updates:

Fiskings are time-consuming, which is why I don’t do many (Ed Morrissey basically fisks Stiehm, here) and half of this one had to be re-written due to computer issues. Took me so much time that I hadn’t realized that several bloggers here at Patheos had already written.Frank Weathers, and the always quick Deacon Greg led the chase, followed shortly thereafter by Rebecca Hamilton. I’m sure once I get to take a look around the internet, I’ll find more reactions, so check back, as I’ll link to them.

Starting with Joanne McPortland’s brilliant correction re Jefferson.

Instapundit links, too. Thanks, Glenn!

Heh. Nationally Syndicated Columnist: “Those @#$% Catholics Even Worse Than The @#$% Jews!”

Leticia Adams notes that Sotomayor doesn’t roll predictable:

I don’t know if Justice Sotomayor is or isn’t a “good Catholic girl”, but I do know that she is not waging a war on women. In fact she wrote the opinion that denied Hobby Lobby their injunction against the HHS Mandate; the same Justice, the same claim, and the same mandate.

And then there’s Eugene Volokh’s Your Side Tries to Impose Its Beliefs — My Side Seeks Justice, remarkable if only because Volokh is not, to my knowledge, and indignant Catholic or (like me) fellow traveler with much of Catholic Social Teaching:

I want to focus on the one claim that is actually pretty common in such arguments:

More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions.

If you set aside the (unsupported) claim that it’s Catholics who are especially likely to do this, and substitute an ideological group for a religious one, this is a routine claim about people on the other side of many political debates.

The trouble, though, is that most significant laws involve “impos[ing one’s] beliefs” on others …

Of course, most laws that we like don’t look like imposing “our” beliefs. They look like doing what’s right: protecting people’s rights, funding the proper functions of government, and such. But that’s just a way of saying that we think our beliefs about what the government should coerce are the right beliefs.

Claiming that your side has the right views about the proper subjects of government coercion, but the other side has the wrong views, may well be honest and even correct. Claiming that your opponents are more likely to “impose their beliefs” than your side is, when both sides are busy trying to impose their beliefs (just different beliefs), is not accurate.

Yet of course saying,

More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose beliefs I don’t like on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Other religious groups are more likely to impose beliefs that I do like.

wouldn’t have been quite as effective.

That ellipsis (“…”) elides a lot of examples of how most significant laws impose beliefs. Public discourse would be greatly improved if everyone would put a cork in that tired inanity, which is as wrong today as it was when opponents of civil rights laws argued “you can’t legislate morality.”


The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in need of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty.

(Abraham Lincoln via Eugene Volokh)


it begins to look increasingly obvious that the standard debates between Calvinists and non-Calvinists on topics like predestination and total depravity were just nowhere on the radar screen in Paul’s day.

When we stop reading Paul in light of later debates between Augustine and the Pelagians or between Calvinists and Arminians—but instead read Paul in light of what historians now know about Second Temple Judaism—it becomes clear that in most of the passages taken to be the standard Calvinist proof-texts, Paul was actually addressing Jew/Gentile relations, and other related issues.

(Robin Phillips explains Why I Stopped Being a Calvinist (Part 1): Calvinism presents a dehistoricized Bible, though he, like I, maintains respect for Calvinism.)

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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.