Tuesday, 1/13/15

  1. Dignity 1.0 versus 2.0
  2. Protestant fecklessness
  3. Defending our culture of death against theirs
  4. Fox versus DISH

1

Mark Regerus at Public Discourcse has a great little reflection on human dignity, contrasting Dignity 1.0 and Dignity 2.0 in terms of dignity’s “mission creep.” (I wonder if anyone will catch the 1.0 and 2.0 allusion in a hundred years?):

Social theorist Margaret Archer… holds that dignity is of the utmost importance. She goes so far as to argue that the “single most important question to ask and to answer, in any social epoch, is that of the basis upon which the dignity of every person rests.” If we don’t ask this question and answer it satisfactorily, she holds, practices can emerge that are advantageous only to the (culturally) powerful, hurting the disenfranchised. Over time, they can “become entrenched as local custom and practice,” and resistant to question or challenge by all but a major social upheaval.

Witness, as an example, what is happening to marriage in the West, where the power elite has aligned behind Dignity 2.0 and its novel conclusions about the nature and structure of a timeless institution. The basis for Dignity 2.0 in the West does not rest on external standards, on traditional restraints such as kinship, neighborhood, religion, or nation, which are all stable sources of the self. Rather, it is based upon the dis-integrated, shifting “me,” subject to renegotiation, reinvention, and reconstruction, reinforced by expansive conditions and regulations. It’s exhausting—though profitable to attorneys. And Facebook. But it also explains my confusion: there are rival forms of dignity, and the version you employ matters a great deal.

Social justice, however, should not cry out for marriage “equality,” because the Dignity (1.0) of persons is not at stake. Resistance to others’ wish to marry someone of the same sex may harm their sense of dignity, but that’s quite distinct from damaging or compromising their real dignity. We can recognize the dignity of persons by acknowledging and respecting their freedom to form relationships, or their rights as parents. Indeed, we do. It is neither animus nor an indignity, however, to identify one relationship as a marriage, and another as not.

 I thought of some boldface, but repented of it.

2

When I was going through my Calvinist phase (roughly 20 years from late 70s to late 90s), I read a lot of books by Loraine Boettner, a very Calvinistic fellow whose Reformed Doctrine of Predestination was probably the second biggest single influence in that journey and whose Roman Catholicism was similarly persuasive (though I hadn’t really been tempted to “go Pope”).

The one false note I noted in the latter book at the time was the odd non-theological charge that Roman Catholicism was “a poor defense against Communism.” (I’ve since realized that it’s a serious error to believe even “scholarly” secondary source hostile to a religious tradition to tell you what it believes and what the implications of those beliefs are.)

Well, Communism’s gone, and guess what’s a “poor defense” against our age’s new biggest threat?

Interviewee: I’m 47. I came of age politically under Reagan, when the Right saw the state as the greatest threat to liberty. That was then. Now, I find that the market is the threat. By “the market” I mean, broadly speaking, the idea that truth is whatever people choose. That is a market-based approach to truth. That is the greatest threat to ordered liberty, as I see it. Republicans, the people who tend to call themselves “conservatives” in this country, have left themselves absolutely defenseless because all the libertarian language that we used against the state can be turned against us from the cultural Left and is being used in that way. But we don’t know what to say to it.

[Later in the interview]

Interviewer: I’m deeply sympathetic with what you’re suggesting. What’s frightening to me about it is it assumes a robust health of both the church and family, as the platform in which we would be habituated into a mode ofcommon life that doesn’t just assume the individual is the centre of the universe. The problem is so much of, for example, North American Protestantism-I say this as a North American Protestant-has conceded so much to the priority of the individual and choice that being present in that body of Christ is no counter-formation. The church reinforces the broader culture rather than challenging it.

Philosopher James A.K. Smith interviewing Rod Dreher in the Winter 2014 Comment magazine, theme “Redeeming Conservatism.” I’m enjoying this issue, and Comment generally, very well.

3

I’ve thought about why a young American woman might convert to Islam, but hadn’t thought about why a young man might want to do so. Rod Dreher and others have been:

I saw a photo of a blasphemously anti-Christian cover that Charlie Hebdo once published (it depicts the Holy Trinity having three-way anal sex). It would not occur to me that anyone should lay a hand on the Charlie Hebdo artists or editors who produced that filth. I do not want to live in a political order in which cretins like that have to fear for their safety, much less jail. I really do believe that if the Islamists start by shooting blasphemous cartoonists, they will end by shooting Christians, as they have done in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and other places.

But the decadence represented by Charlie Hebdo is probably a greater threat to Western civilization than anything the Islamists can dream up, and it’s important to keep that straight even as we defend the right to free expression and a free press. It destroys everything for the sake of … what, exactly? Charlie Hebdo was straightforward about its far-left agenda of driving all religion out of society …

This is what the party of Charlie Hebdo has done to France since 1789: murdered its Christian soul, and called it progress. To be fair, European countries that did not go through such a vicious and sustained campaign against the church are doing no better in keeping their faith. Still, France’s spiritual malaise has not been imposed by anybody; it is an act of civilizational suicide.

Again, I would a thousand times prefer to live under the regime of Charlie Hebdo-ism than Islam. But except in the cases of Islamic fundamentalists, I would much rather have observant Muslims as my neighbors and my children’s playmates than someone with Charlie Hebdo‘s worldview.

The corrosiveness of the broader culture on faith is profound. We can (and should) get all Benedict Option-y about it — I really think there’s no other rational way to respond — but we should not be under any illusions that there is a foolproof way to avoid Weimar America and its suicidal tendencies. The best we can do is to improve the odds for our children.

I don’t know what’s coming. Nobody wants to live under hard Islamism. The Islamists have nowhere built a society capable of thriving. But at the same time, the society the West has built and is building without God or any kind of sacred values other than the Self cannot be said to be thriving either. Could it be that a soft Islamism, along the lines of the AK Party in Turkey, might one day appeal to the French, who cannot or will not return to Christianity? I think it must be unlikely. But not impossible. Which is Linker’s — and Houellebecq’s — point.

We are morally compelled to defend artists and journalists against those who would kill them for what they draw or say. But we should be clear that we are defending one culture of death from another one.

(Hyperlink deleted, unfollowed. If you want to slime yourself, you’ll have to work for it.)

4

By uncharacteristically watching NFL Football Sunday, I got to see a slice of life and ads I rarely see. I didn’t know, for instance, that Dish Network has deleted Fox News – or is it vice-versa (here, here & here)? Not unexpectedly, they’re quibbling over a new contract, and I’m guessing that Fox is refusing to pay what Dish is demanding or vice-versa.

My ears may have fooled me, but I think the Fox ad asking devotes devotees devoteés devotées fans to lobby Dish dropped the “censorship” bomb. If I’m right, that was deeply dishonest and may mark a shifting of the relative desperation of the two combatants.

Oh, yeah. One of the teams I kinda sorta wanted to win for old times’ sake didn’t but the other did.

* * * * *

“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.