Sunday, 9/28/14

  1. The weird anti-vaccine fad
  2. An odd, off-putting contraception analogy
  3. Happy and stupid if not fat
  4. What’s wrong with manly Christianity?
  5. Religious progressives now as sex-fixated as Democrats


Noted in passing: I had thought that the anti-vaccine movement (is that the right word) was right-wing. I’m seeing signs that it transcends ideology.

Who is choosing not to vaccinate? The answer is surprising. The area with the most cases of whooping cough in California is Los Angeles County, and no group within that county has lower immunization rates than residents living between Malibu and Marina Del Rey, home to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive suburbs in the country. At the Kabbalah Children’s Academy in Beverly Hills, 57% of children are unvaccinated. At the Waldorf Early Childhood Center in Santa Monica, it’s 68%, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s analysis of public-health data.

These are the kind of immunization rates that can be found in Chad or South Sudan. But parents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica see vaccines as unnatural—something that conflicts with their healthy lifestyle. And they have no problem finding fringe pediatricians willing to cater to their irrational beliefs.

(Paul A. Offit in the Wall Street Journal) Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy notes who’s fueling it:

Boosted by celebrity “experts” Jenny McCarthy, RFK Jr., and Dr. Oz, the campaign to discredit vaccination has encouraged many parents to refrain from vaccinating their children, and now we are beginning to see the results.

We’ve just been lied to too many times for government seals of approval or establishment reassurances to command instant compliance. We’re almost to the point of reacting reflexively against them instead.


Returning to my thoughts on contraception from a few weeks back (1st, 2nd), but very briefly, I encountered this article, drawing analogies between the “nature” of speech and the nature of sex, which did nothing to endear the strict Roman Catholic case to me. Here’s the biggest bone of contention:

St. Thomas teaches that one even the so-called “friendly lie” (lying out of politeness: “you look great”), or the jocose lie (April fool’s jokes), is sinful. The whole class of actions called lies is intrinsically bad and can never be good.

I’m aware that “sin” (Greek amartia, missing the mark) is pretty broad. Perhaps given more space, the author would concede that friendly and jocose “lies” are pretty venial sins. Surely, too, there’s way too much “friendly lying” functioning as the K-Y Jelly of commerce.

But still, that just strikes me as an awfully earnest view of things, in the worst sense of “earnest.”

The ensuing analogy to contraception likens contraception to lies, while likening Natural Family Planning to deliberately misleading “equivocation,” which apparently the scholastics figured out was just hunky-dory. The old slur of “hypocrisy” comes to mind (“well, my birth control is natural and wholesome while yours is unnatural”).

But neither the article nor my drive-by reactions are tip-top scholarship, so use them to jump-start your own reflection, not a anyone’s final and most cogent answer.


It seems that young folks don’t much care for Gone With The Wind these days, including a Georgetown University 20-year-old named Mike Minahan:

Well, look, I don’t like Gone With The Wind, in part because I can’t bear much of that moonlight-and-magnolias foofarah, but mostly because I find it dull. Still, I know it is a film that many knowledgeable people admire, and my sense is that my inability to like it is a fault. I find it incredibly wearying, and even aggravating, that people like Mike Minahan assume that because works of art from the past present a point of view that is disagreeable to modern sensibilities, they can be safely ignored. What a philistine point of view.

I wonder how Mike Minahan would confront the Divine Comedy? After all, Dante has a level of Hell devoted to punishing gay people. If Mike Minahan bothered to examine the Divine Comedy, he would find that beneath the conventional 14th-century Catholic condemnation of sodomy, there is in the poem a sophisticated point about art and creativity. But I doubt Mike Minahan would be able to rise off his fainting couch to examine what the artist is saying.

One of the things I truly cannot stand about this era is the way people feel morally entitled not to have to be confronted with any idea that challenges their settled convictions. It goes beyond the way we view art. Ted Cruz felt that if the Christians of the Middle East didn’t share his views on Israel, he could safely write them off. There are plenty of liberals who look at the white working class and see right-wing rednecks, and think that they can therefore disdain them in good conscience. There are plenty of conservatives who look at inner-city black people and the chaos of their lives, and decide that their concerns and struggles aren’t worth paying attention to.

It’s something we all confront, or ought to confront ….

(Rod Dreher)


Of a hyper-“masculine” Churchoid, “Ignite,” in Joplin:

Ignite’s approach to mission is nothing new; it’s just the latest example in the Muscular Christianity movement which dates back to the nineteenth century. And the danger now, as then, is that some Christians are allowing cultural concepts of masculinity to dictate our theology, rather than letting our theology dictate our understanding of gender roles.

(I think the author is some sissy named “Matthew Block,” but my Chrome browser has been struggling displaying First Things blogs lately, so I’m not positive.)


Faithful America is a 501(c)(3) organization that describes itself as “the largest and fastest growing online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice.” Its main strategy is to mount a number of “campaigns” involving petitions people can sign online. It’s striking that theoverwhelming majority of campaigns concern gay rights or some aspect of today’s quest for sexual freedom. Sadly, the noble legacy of Christian progressivism and the Social Gospel movement has devolved to a narrow set of priorities that has everything to do with upper-middle-class preoccupations and very little to do with the needs of the poor.

(While We’re At It, First Things, August/September 2014) Much the same has become true of the Democrat Party since 1972, just in case I haven’t noted that lately. That’s why “no longer Republican” doesn’t mean “Democrat” for me.

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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.