Tuesday, 3/11/14

    1. The Progressive-Business Alliance
    2. Patriotism? Or Militarism?
    3. The Heresy of Secularism

1

I recommend two articles today as meriting your own reading and reflection – not just skimming.

First, Ramesh Ponnuru’s assessment of where we stand, and where we seem to be headed, on religious liberty. Hat tip to Rod Dreher for this, as it’s excellent and I don’t generally visit National Review any more (finding it generally bereft of excellence).

What struck me most – as someone who thinks a lot about religious liberty (and has some credentials on the subject) – is how Ponnuru not only got the “trees” right (e.g., what the Arizona Bill didn’t and did have to do with gay couples), but elevated himself to show us the forest (e.g., his points 2 through 5 of 6) – a forest I myself had begun missing. I’m indebted to him.

His six “takeaways” in summary:

  1. The media cannot be trusted to report accurately on social issues.
  2. What has changed since 1993 [when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with universal conservative and liberal support] is American liberalism’s view of religious freedom.
  3. The advance of gay rights [I’d say “the sexual revolution” generally] has at best an ambiguous relationship to the older conception of liberty.
  4. The regime of anti-discrimination law has worked a revolution in American liberalism, and American life. [Nice nutshell, that; I’ve thought tons about this without achieving such succinctness]
  5. So Republicans have not been reliable champions of religious liberty. [Yes, you read that correctly]
  6. For all that, the fight for religious liberty is not over.

What could I add?

  1. Anyone who cries out plaintively “That’s not religious freedom! That’s discrimination!” is too stupid to bother engaging in debate. (If they will sit down and take basic instruction, that’s another matter.)
  2. Big biz once again visibly at work undermining conservative cultural values. This is nothing remotely new and is relatedly closely to Ponnuru’s points 4 and 5. It’s also akin to corporate extortion of tax breaks and other perks as the price of major corporate expansions in Your Fair City. Basically, corporations now go where they can get the sweetest financial deal and threaten to avoid any city or state that tries to buttress traditional values; they also favor those who most aggressively abandon traditional values, claiming that this helps them “attract the best talent.”

I’m as sick of of the Progressive-Business Alliance as I am of the Military-Industrial Complex.

2

When the muscular appendage of the United States government becomes the only place where inspiration can be mined, we ought admit our civil body politic diseased … While U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg is a bona fide hero …, the heavily remarked upon [State of the Union] “shout out” he received, and its rapturous, nearly cathartic response is representative not simply of gratitude, but of an extolling of military virtues, and a broad-based, effusive exaltation of soldiers themselves more adequately described as militarism.

In terms of praise showered upon them, and most significantly in the insularity of their existence, the military have become the new rockstars; the new celebrity …

In the absence of sacrifice, Americans willingly supply an overabundance of plastic patriotism — of cheap, utterly convenient, symbolic gestures that have the cumulative effect of bestowing a near demigod status upon the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

In terms of praise showered upon them, and most significantly in the insularity of their existence, the military have become the new rockstars; the new celebrity …

In the absence of sacrifice, Americans willingly supply an overabundance of plastic patriotism — of cheap, utterly convenient, symbolic gestures that have the cumulative effect of bestowing a near demigod status upon the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

We run the risk, in other words, of becoming a society too deferential to the whims and institutional interests of a military class whose interest do not always necessarily align with the well being of the American people.

(Matthew Brian Goldman, A Militarism We Call Patriotism)

I’ve quoted what struck me as the summary of this fine commentary, but you might get something different, like the debatable benefit of an all-volunteer military (which contributes to ascendant militarism and which I supported, by supporting abolition of the military draft, with no idea there would be any such consequences).

So I encourage you to read this, too, carefully for yourself.

3

Secularism—we must again and again stress this—is a “stepchild” of Christianity, as are, in the last analysis, all secular ideologies which today dominate the world—not, as is claimed by the Western apostles of a Christian acceptance of secularism, a legitimate child, but a heresy … To condemn heresy is relatively easy. What is much more difficult is to detect the question it implies, and to give this question an adequate answer. Such, however, was always the Church’s dealing with “heresies”—they always provoked an effort of creativity within the church so that the condemnation became ultimately a widening and deepening of Christian faith itself. To fight Arianism St. Athanasius advocated the term consubstantial, which earlier, and within a different theological context, was condemned as heretical. Because of this he was violently opposed, not only by Arians but by “conservatives,” who saw in him an innovator and a “modernist.” Ultimately, however, it became clear that it was he who saved Orthodoxy, and that the blind “conservatives” consciously or unconsciously helped the Arians. Thus, if secularism is, as I’m convinced, the great heresy of our own time, it requires from the church not mere anathemas, and certainly not compromises, but above an effort of understanding so it may ultimately be overcome by truth.

(Quote from Father Alexander in Huw Richardson’s Doxos blog. Regrettably, Huw neither identifies nor links to “Father Alexander,” except to identify this as from “Worship in a Secular Age,” in For the Life of the World, pages 127-128)

By the way: I think Ramesh Ponnuru may have contributed to the “understanding” of secularism in the essay discussed above.

* * * * *

“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.