Monday, 12/29/14

  1. The Great Hype begins
  2. Caution: Hoosier “fine tuner” at work
  3. The thing that used to be (Christian) Conservatism
  4. The newspaper’s shrinking again
  5. Earth defined

1

Who will be our next President? A Great White Hope? A Great Black Hope? A Great Latino Hope? Or some other great hype, maybe a faux Native American?

We already elected a great black hope on whom we projected all our hopes and dreams. (How’s that workin’ out for ya’, Bunky?) This kind of brain-dead symbolism, this rolling of the dice, this “how could he (or she) be worse than …?” is supposed to be that kind of thing that foolish Democrats do, but they‘re floating Hillary as the establishment candidate, and whatever you think of Hillary, she’s at least experienced at politics.

Elevating charming novices to the status of front-runner strikes me as a very bad omen. I’m no fan of The Establishment, but in my better moments, I try to avoid being a bomb-thrower, too, and Ben Carson and Marco Rubio scare me – the latter because he’s barely past green and rashly hawkish, the former because a great personal story plus legendary and pioneering surgical skills absolutely is not qualification for POTUS.

2

An Indiana legislator with whom I’m unfamiliar is “fine tuning” the “specific language” of an Indiana Bill modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Oh, my! Say it ain’t so!

My experience, unfortunately, is that such “fine-tuning” often ends up turns a carefully-written model law that ought to be a “no brainer” (RFRA passed unanimously in the House, had just three opponents in the Senate) into a target-rich zone for potshots.

And the spin has already begun. Marriage Equality (lately “The Love that Dare Not Speak It’s Name”) is shrieking “discrimination!” (i.e., small business will be allowed to exercise discernment) and Rep. Ed Delaney says the Bill creates a problem rather than solving one since “We are not being prevented from exercising our faith, nor are we being forced to do something we don’t want to do,” as if his cafeteria Catholicism were the measure of all things. [This paragraph has been updated to correct a sloppy misattribution and distortion in the original.]

The preamble to RFRA elegantly explains why it should be a no-brainer. Indiana’s legislative style eschews preambles, but the federal preamble should be proponents’ “talking points.”

(1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
(2) laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;
(4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and
(5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.

But the proponents will yammer like magpies, subverting their own efforts – unless, of course, their only real effort is pandering to people like me (only less cynical than me).

I’m filled with foreboding. I think this story doesn’t end well.

3

Even in the conservative Christian circles on the edges of which we lived for many years, people — almost always slightly older women — would ask “But what do you do?” when my wife or her peers said they were at home with their children. The slightly more generous question was “What will do when they’re in school?” i.e., old enough to leave alone for hours at a stretch. These people, many of whom were very conservative in their theology, assumed that no one would really want to be a full-time mother and wife for years on end, that the real good life was found outside the home, with the home a kind of bonus.

It is easy, especially when you don’t have to make the choice, to romanticize stay at home motherhood. But it’s also easy to reduce it to deprivation and that’s the dominant way people, including as I say some very conservative people, think of it.

(David Mills) Mills goes on to a classic Chestertonian quote about “stay-at-home moms” that concludes “I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

4

Bad new: the local newspaper is getting smaller again.

Good news: it’s only USA Today Weekend that’s being dropped, the fluffiest bit of fluff they publish the whole week long.

5

“The Earth is a solar-powered jukebox.” Gordon Hempton.

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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.