Thursday, 2/5/15

  1. Dear Civilities: …
  2. Scott Walker’s vices and virtues
  3. Coming Out Christian
  4. Fakery as an achievement
  5. Scare quotes


Dear Civilities: I was wondering whether you could help me resolve a dilemma. I am a conservative Hoosier in my 60s with a wonderful circle of friends, both gay and straight. But I don’t support the oxymoron known as “same-sex marriage” and I’m increasingly alarmed at the patent threat to religious liberty posed by the jackboots of the SSM Left. The issue is that I just don’t like Chick-Fil-A. I barely know how to spell it. Is there some way I could surreptitiously jazz up Chick-Fil-A to taste more like KFC (ideally without adding salt)? Or should I just donate an amount equal to what I spend at KFC to the The Manhattan Declaration ? Would that be an appropriate offset?— Anonymous

(With no apology whatever to Steven Petrow and his interlocutors) That there is a “Civilities” column bespeaks that in our secular order “Civility becomes a sort of naturalized, secularized sanctification.


Conor Friedersdorf identifies one of the same problems with Walker’s weak answer regarding the war on ISIS that I found:

His answer is discrediting because it betrays how little thought he has given these questions.

That is true, but Walker’s answer is troubling for another reason. If a governor understandably knows little about foreign policy because it is not relevant to his current job, and if he has given little thought to the issues at hand, it is even more irresponsible for him to support aggressive action. Ignorance would be bad enough, but in Walker’s remarks we have the marriage of ignorance with the willingness to escalate a foreign war. Walker won’t rule anything out because he hasn’t thought through his position, but the default position for someone who has given so little thought to the matter should be one of much greater caution.

(Daniel Larison) From under the same American Conservative umbrella, an appreciation of Walker virtues:

Unlike Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rand Paul or the various also-rans, Scott Walker picked a high-profile battle over a core issue that both the establishment and more insurgent types care about – the status and position of public sector unions. His opponents rose to the challenge, and threw everything they had into the battle to defeat him – to the point of trying to get him recalled before the next scheduled election. The showdown went down in a purple-to-blue state. And Walker won, unequivocally.

Jindal and Perry can point to very conservative things they did as governors – but Louisiana and Texas are very conservative states. Could they do the same in Washington? Ted Cruz can tout his purism – but he’s accomplished literally less than nothing, with his antics having demonstrably backfired in multiple instances. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush can tout their own records – but their opponents can turn around and point to things in those same records that offend the faithful, including not merely compromises but issues that they ran on and advocated forcefully. Rand Paul . . . well, Rand Paul is Rand Paul.

Scott Walker can say to anyone touting their conservative bonafides: “you talk the talk, but I walked the walk.” But he can also credibly say, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em,” without sounding like a moderate squish – because in one very high profile situation, he held ‘em, and he won.

(Noah Millman) Yes, but then Walker was apparently on the wrong side of a culturally important issue. It sounds as if he favored a reductionist Mission Statement for the State’s Universities: “meet the state’s workforce needs.” Mercifully, he lost that one.


This news may stun some:

Few have made a careful study of how different families actually respond to their children when such news is delivered. Probably the best scholar who has done so is Cornell’s Ritch Savin-Williams, an indefatigable advocate for gay and lesbian teens and the author of Mom, Dad, I’m Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out and The New Gay Teenager. He argues that it doesn’t help gay and lesbian youth to contribute to the rejection and suicide narrative. Savin-Williams is not a fan of Dan Savage’s celebrated “It Gets Better” campaign, because he finds there is no gay-youth suicide epidemic. He reports that generally, most teens who identify as gay or lesbian develop about as well as other teens do, experiencing the normal ups and downs of adolescence.

Savin-Williams also explains that teens who come out to their Christian parents are generally treated just as well, if not better, than kids who come out to other types of parents. In fact, he finds that it is often parents’ Christian theology that contributes to a caring—though often difficult and awkward—interaction and navigation through this news. More often than not, families with children who struggle with same-sex attraction do not respond with judgment, condemnation, or rejection. Rather, there is typically a promise of unconditional love and comfort for the child, even while the parents themselves wobble through coming to terms with this startling news.

I cannot say I would have predicted this, because there are some pretty sick strains of “Christianity” around. But I’m heartened just the same, and I wish this would get as much play as the iconic story of Josh “Leelah” Alcorn and his suicide note.

Given that the authors are from Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention, I can’t unequivocally affirm them, but they did pretty well this time.

More shocking news about Christians: They’re not especially likely to be anti-vaxxers nor is Hobby Lobby reasoning going to turn them into an epidemiological menace:

Public health officials seem confident the [measles] outbreak is explained, in large part, by the fact that significant numbers of parents no longer have their children vaccinated. These parents rely on exemptions that state laws, like California’s, provide for parents who object to mandatory vaccination programs. Perhaps surprisingly, the resistance is disproportionately high in wealthier, better educated, bluer neighborhoods, the sort of communities that pride themselves on their enlightened, progressive outlook.

Hobby Lobby would not allow parents with religious objections to refuse to have their kids vaccinated at all. This is because there is no less-restrictive alternative to a mandatory vaccination protocol. For vaccination to work in preventing the spread of serious disease—surely a compelling government interest—more than 90 percent of a population must be vaccinated. (Scientists refer to this as the percentage necessary to create “herd immunity”.) If the government allowed exemptions for people with religious objections, the percentage of vaccinated children could quickly fall below this number, endangering the whole population. In one California location, for example, the Times reports that exemptions have allowed 40 percent of schoolchildren to skip their measles vaccination.

(Mark Movesian)


Anyone can lie. One need only have the requisite intention — in other words, to say something with the intention to deceive. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included. In an important sense, therefore, faking is not something that can be intended, even though it comes about through intentional actions. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but his pretence is merely a continuation of his lying strategy. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a member.

(Roger Scruton, A Culture of Fake Originality)


Scare quotes have become a real annoyance to me. Our local rag seems incapable of printing the words religious liberty without them, as if the first freedom was a neologism. Yet I cannot recall ever seeing in a mainstream news article the locution same-sex “marriage.”

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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.