Tuesday, 6/17/14

    1. Conservative Punditry Today
    2. How Could Anything Go Wrong?
    3. Offensive Public Displays
    4. Terry Gross: “Grovel, Hillary”
    5. Marriage? or More “Masculine” Activities?
    6. Rosemary Wood and Lois Lerner

1

Though there are exceptions to the downward intellectual spiral on the right — Ross Douthat at The New York Times, the people involved in this reformist project, the writers associated with The American Conservative and Front Porch Republic, and the “Postmodern Conservatives” at National Review Online — the general trend on the right in recent years has been away from reflection on ideas for their own sake, and toward fashioning an ideology to galvanize the “conservative movement” and electorally empower its chosen political vehicle: the Republican Party.

In most cases, this shift has been generational: an older, more thoughtful group of conservative thinkers and writers has been replaced by a less deeply educated and more baldly partisan cohort of ideological foot soldiers.

(Damon Linker) Linker goes on to lament an exception to the rule: George Will, who Linker thinks has gone from erudite to hack. I quoted the part I think is right. I’m agnostic about Will, who I rarely read.

2

Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.

With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.

(N.T. Wright) Speaking of such, there’s a website I’ve just encountered called “Discussing Marriage.” It looks pretty good (I haven’t dug into it yet), but I fear it will be nothing but an echo chamber for the defenders of traditional marriage, not a real discussion, because the supporters of same-sex marriage want no discussion outside the friendly confines of federal courtrooms. They’re winning, and the holes in their arguments don’t matter any more than did the holes in Tony Blair’s arguments for bombing Iraq eleven years ago (mentioned by N.T. Wright in the linked article), and we’re seeing this week how well all that worked out.

I read Wright’s piece  before Rod Dreher posted about it, but Dreher quoted Wright’s comments about the Iraq War, which I just mention):

If you’re tempted to write a response saying “how DARE you compare love to war,” don’t. I’ve posted several of them, and that’s enough. Wright is not saying that SSM is as bad as war. He’s drawing an analogy to something very many people at the time thought was going to go well, and demonized naysayers for their skepticism, but that turned out in the end to be a disaster.

Really, only an idiot would think “how dare you compare love to war” was an apt response to Wright, but idiotic shouting down of opposition is far commoner than any reasoned case for SSM.

“Never take down a fence until you know why it was put up” is sort of apt here (and the federal courts, having their own synthetic logic and justice can’t seem even to begin to see why the marriage “fence” went up), but Wright’s point goes even deeper than fence imagery.

3

Some there are– many perhaps– who are offended by public displays of religion. … I can understand that attitude: It parallels mine toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

My own aversion cannot be imposed by law because of the First Amendment.

Justice Scalia, dissenting from denial or certiorari to Elmbrook School District v. John Doe 3, a case where the 7th Circuit held that two Wisconsin high schools violated the Establishment Clause when they regularly held their graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of a non-denominational evangelical Christian church. (H/T Religion Clause)

4

[G]ay matters are so important to [NPR Fresh Air’s] Terry Gross that I was genuinely surprised to learn that she isn’t, in fact, a lesbian.

… [I]t’s not enough for our media today to find someone like Hillary to be supportive of gay marriage; they have to repent publicly and accuse themselves of thoughtcrime for not doing so fast enough — this, even though the entire country flip-flopped on this issue virtually overnight.

… The media’s obsession with this issue is remarkable. We have persistent unemployment in this country, the middle-class is losing ground, the working class is losing more ground, we seem to be moving back to the Cold War, even as the Middle East is blowing up … and Terry Gross wants to spend a big chunk of her interview trying to get a presidential candidate to concede what everybody knows is true anyway: that she changed her mind public position on gay marriage for opportunistic reasons.

Liberal media figures like Terry Gross can’t take yes for an answer. They apparently want to see pols like Hillary Clinton grovel ….

(Rod Dreher, reacting to Mollie Hemingway’s reactions to Terry Gross’s reactions to Hillary’s insufficient servility on SSM. Pass it on.)

5

… Marrying was once considered a masculine thing for a man to do.

Getting married expressed discipline, commitment, and self-sacrifice on the part of the man. Such virtues are still considered intrinsic to many other masculine choices, such as going to war or participating in sports …

[I]t is difficult not to imbibe cultural norms which represent marriage—indeed any form of a monogamous, committed relationship—as feminizing, even shameful. This view is problematic for reasons too many to enumerate, but one I find particularly insidious is that such a view automatically puts all women asking for any level of commitment in the functional position of the shrew. That is to say, marriage is redefined as a social force that denies a man his identity and dignity and that further makes the woman the culprit.

A few years ago, I remember absolutely gritting my teeth at a car commercial that depicted a man driving in his fast car, finally divesting himself of the various nagging requests of his wife. (My favorite was her request that he put the toilet seat down.) In his cool, fast car he could finally be free of the feminizing force of marriage and truly be a man!

(Alexandra Carmeny, Sissifying Marriage. She obviously is a shrew.)

6

The dog has eaten Lois Lerner’s homework and nobody cares that the excuse is utterly incredible.

* * * * *

“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.