Sunday, 9/21/14

  1. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, 1955 version
  2. A Kronstadt moment, I hope
  3. Just “Gay People of Irish Ancestry” – nothing more
  4. An excuse to exclude?
  5. Common Core Automatons
  6. Elect disabled self-taught hod-carriers!
  7. Cal State bans discernment


Plunkett is really real modern when you come down to it — “pray and your food will taste better” is just another version of “Grace before meals is an aid to digestion” which is what religion is coming to in some parts.

(Letter from Flannery O’Connor to Elizabeth McKee, 29 June 1955, from The Habit of Being.


One takeaway from the controversy, which continues to reverberate around the conservative blogosphere, is how many socially conservative/Christian/Republican-leaning thinkers have sensed, perhaps for the first time in their relatively young careers, how morally flawed is the entire Christian Zionist/McCainist/Commentary/Washington Free Beacon/Likudnik group, whose views have long driven “mainstream” conservative foreign-policy opinion in Congress and the GOP presidential primaries. I think this may grow into an important schism on the right, one that weakens neoconservatism, to the Republican Party’s long-term benefit. I don’t want to ascribe views to people who don’t necessarily have them, but when I see young conservatives reacting viscerally against the tweets from the Breitbart site and other movement conservatives, tweets putting scare quotes around the word “Christian” in order to denigrate the Mideast patriarchs and bishops and other figures who attended the gathering, attacking them because they failed some sort of “stand with Israel” litmus test, it feels like a kind of Kronstadt moment. This sentiment also comes when I see the disgust felt when Weekly Standard editor Lee Smith implies that Mideast Christians are simply a kind of ISIS lite. I witnessed personally a comparable repulsion a year or so ago, when an old friend, long a prudently neocon-friendly author and Wall Street Journal writer, reacted to the smearing of Chuck Hagel by the same group. It’s as if the Israel lobby has grown so accustomed to the deference accorded it by everyone else in the American political system, it has lost any sense of its own limits.

(Scott McConnell, Why Christians are Criticizing Cruz – and Israel) I hope McConnell’s right about the being a Kronstadt moment, when the scare quotes around the word “Christian” migrate – from a back-handed calumny of genuine Christians to crackpots like Cruz, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and the whole Prophetic-Hysterical Complex (which today garners its own category).


[T]he most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals? If it does, then the Committee has compromised the integrity of the Parade, and I must object and refuse to participate or support it.

From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.

So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.

To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture. I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as “Gay people of Irish ancestry.”

(Cardinal Dolan, explaining his decision to be Grand Marshall of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade despite “the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.” Emphasis added.)

If I have opposed the Cardinal’s decision (I don’t think I have, though I wondered about it), I retract the opposition, but the bolded sentence and the Cardinal’s characterization of the Parade Committee’s decision strikes me as a triumph of hope over experience.


I didn’t go seeking stuff on sexual orientation, but here is another, perhaps more thought-provoking than Cardinal Dolan’s fairly boilerplate apologia (which illuminates some facts his critics weren’t mentioning).

Jeremy Erickson at First Things proves that a traditional sexual ethic is not necessarily or concomitantly an excuse to exclude gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from full participation in the group:

If that were true in an uncomplicated sense, I should have lost my position in 2011 as a leader of the graduate chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill. During a meeting that year, I brought up my experience being sexually attracted to people of both sexes.

However, this had no impact on my status as a leader. You see, I was convicted at the time, and have remained convicted, that sexual behavior between members of the same sex is forbidden within Scripture. I was also (and still am) committed to living within the bounds of that teaching.

My experience with the InterVarsity chapter did show that it is indeed possible to uphold a traditional doctrine of sexuality without discriminating simply on the basis of sexual orientation. Those of us who hold to traditional doctrine despite being gay, lesbian, or bisexual are not merely a theoretical construct. We are real people who study at real universities. This point is important for university administrators to consider as they weigh the possibilities for non-discrimination policies.

He then turns to challenge segments of the Christian community that fail to make the crucial distinction that he and the Cardinal share:

Unfortunately, however, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation does exist within the Christian world. I have several friends who have lost positions of leadership or employment within Christian organizations because they were open about being attracted to the same sex. My friends were in full agreement with the doctrinal positions of the respective organizations. They were also in compliance with the codes of conduct of those organizations. In several of these cases, the relevant decision makers only found out about my friends’ sexualities as a result of their public defenses of the traditional understanding of sexual ethics.

I used to keep count of how many times I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening. I lost count around eight or ten. This type of discrimination is a common problem in both Catholic and Protestant circles.

I can imagine circumstances in which “open[ness] about being attracted to the same sex” might become an obsessive topic of conversation, disrupting the work despite “full agreement with … doctrinal positions” and “compliance with … codes of conduct,” but I don’t think all the incidents he recounts were of that sort.


In the past the man has been first, in the future the system must be first.” Frederick Winslow Taylor

That, my friends, is a great epigraph:

Common Core justifies its imagination-killing agenda by saying that “the standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers…” The “real world” has little time for dragons, fairies and one-eyed monsters, except in so far as reading these stories help with the acquisition of language skills – skills that can be obtained just as easily from reading texts of equal “complexity” which do not stimulate the imagination.

Those of us inclined to let our minds drift towards sinister conspiracy theories have ample space to do so when considering the objectives of Common Core. In order for a future society to exercise the type of control over its citizens that B.F. Skinner advocated, the first thing that must be killed is the imagination. To cultivate learning without cultivating the imagination is to create automatons. That is why the capacity to imagine has been the enemy of all great totalitarian regimes in history, for it is through the imagination that we are able to make connections, to form associations, to conceptualize long-term consequences and to see the infrastructures of meaning that hover beneath the surface of things. The poetry of life, and the sense of wonder that keeps the imagination vivid, fresh and restless, remains the constant enemy in the prosaic utopias that aim to convince citizens that there is nothing beyond this life to live for. Accordingly, for collectivist and totalitarian regimes to truly work, the first books to go must be those that have no obvious functional value in a work-based economy but which feed the imagination, and enable us to see the world in a fresh and wonder-filled light.

What is the point of reading about the adventures of Rat and Mole in The Wind in the Willows when you could be reading President Obama’s Executive Order 13423 instead? After all, talking Rats and Moles don’t exist in the real world, so how is this preparation for the 21st century global economy? Or again, why have to memorize Lewis Carroll’s classic nonsense poem Jabberwocky when you could be spending the same amount of time reading something “useful” like FedViews?

(Robin Phillips, Unpragmatic Thoughts)

I’m trying to purge myself of the myth that a responsible citizen must have opinions on every public issue, and I don’t expect to turn this blog into a crusade against common core. After all, what concern is it whether our fellow citizens, God’s image-bearers one and all, are being progressively conformed to Christ’s likeness as well? It neither bloodies my nose nor picks my pocket if the schools turn them into automatons. So long as they can competent cook and serve my Big Mac, what care I about their souls or their humanity?

Look! Kim Kardashian! Chaz Bono! American Idol! Shiny! (HT Mark Shea)


I have not counted myself among either the admirers or the opponents of State Representative Eric Turner, who reportedly is going to resign after November’s elections (I guess it’s too late to withdraw).

His 2014 proposed Marriage Amendment to the Indiana Constitution was controversial for good reason, as the application of the second part was really murky. The ethics charges were all-too-plausible – though in the way that charges against any Senator or Representative in our part-time citizen legislature would be plausible if their “main job” is in a regulated industry. Turner’s main job has been land development in the heavily-regulated nursing home industry – highly regulated and hugely profitable to the winners. I’ll leave it to the legislative ethics people to rule on whether an industry insider is bound to recuse himself from debate, even in caucus and even if he thinks perniciously wrong and harmful arguments are leading his colleagues astray. Is the perfect citizen legislator a disabled auto-didact hod carrier (who recuses on disability issues)?

I spent maybe 30 minutes some years back behind closed doors with Representative Turner and a small group of ostensibly like-minded people. If you’re expecting kiss-and-tell, I shall now disappoint you.

Whether or not anyone else in the room was aware of it, my Orthodoxy was miles away from their Evangelicalism (all or at least the most vocal of them). That meant we were not exactly allies even if we were co-belligerents at that juncture. Across the gulf between the Apostles and the Second Great Awakening, I simply could not reliably read Rep. Turner (or most of the other people in the room) who, it’s hardly a secret, is looks like nobody’s stereotype of a Christian.

Photo: Michael Conroy, AP
Photo: Michael Conroy, AP

Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, said in a press release that he is leaving the General Assembly to pursue an opportunity with the Atlanta-based Christian organization, EQUIP.

“It has been the honor of my life to represent constituents of my district in the Indiana House of Representatives,” Turner said. “The potential to serve with EQUIP is exactly where we are being led in our service to the Lord.”

EQUIP is a nonprofit organization founded by John C. Maxwell that specializes in training Christian leaders. Turner and his wife, Cyndy, traveled to Cyprus with the group in May. That’s when he began debating whether to run for office again, he said.

Like the ethics charges,”where we are being leg in our service to the Lord” sounds to me (remember, I’ve lost a lot of fluency in this language now) like plausible Evangelical-speak. But sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

I do hope, though, that he’s not planning on going to Cyprus to make “Christians” out of the Christians there.


The California State University system has decided that its universities shall not recognize any student group that isn’t open, at all levels including leadership, to any and all – and that includes religious and ideological groups that must, as the price of recognition, allow unbelievers and ideological opponents to become group leaders:

This quote from Cal State’s lawyer exemplifies the idiocy of the thinking behind this policy:

“It doesn’t make sense to allow any group to discriminate on any grounds,” Westover said. “These are not private organizations existing out there. These are student groups that are based in our education setting. Our entire purpose is education. This is when our students are supposed to be exposed to new ideas, especially those that are in conflict.”

All student groups are debating societies, then? Really? The point of most religious organizations is not to debate whether or not the religion is true; the point, broadly speaking, is to come together for fellowship and worship, and perhaps evangelization, around a common set of beliefs. But then, the secular liberals who run the university system wouldn’t understand that, would they? And they can think of themselves as enlightened and tolerant by refusing to understand it.

(Rod Dreher) “Idiocy” is an apt word here. “Orwellian” would also fit. I would not let the evil functionary who uttered it under my roof.

Our government has lost or is rapidly losing the ability to distinguish (i.e., discern or discriminate between) discernment and invidious discrimination.

So how do we back out of this dead end? I’m not sure, but I have two suggestions:

  1. Go to candidate forums. Set up the question by citing this Cal State policy. Then ask both candidates to react, to describe their line between discernment and invidious discrimination, and to unequivocally support discernment that is not invidiously discriminatory.
  2. Pray that the Supreme Court will repudiate the idea that government has any legitimate interest in promoting “diversity” where the purported lack thereof is not the result of direct, invidious discrimination.

My second point doubtless could use refinement. I can flash back 35 years and imagine a law prof picking that formulation apart. But I wanted to get something “out there,” and I don’t have time for making it a masterpiece.

* * * * *

“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.