Thursday, 3/19/15

  1. An eerie phase of history
  2. PCUSA: where orthodoxy is, for now, optional
  3. In a laboratory of democracy
  4. “The law of the land”? Really?
  5. Supping with the Devil
  6. Pro Tip for Lefties
  7. Deja vu
  8. Celebrity opinion


We are passing through an eerie phase of history in which the things that everyone really knows are treated as unheard-of doctrines, a time in which the elements of common decency are themselves attacked as indecent.

(J Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know)

I think this may have something to do with over-education. If your PhD thesis must make an original contribution to the field, and if all the truths are all used up, you’re left with cunningly advancing lies.

That’s how it works in theology anyway.


Speaking of which, the mainline Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has “redefined” marriage so as to allow same-sex marriage, but with an opt-out:

So far, 41 [of 171] presbyteries have rejected the redefinition, which includes a provision that no clergy would be compelled to preside at a gay marriage or host such a ceremony on church property.

As sure as the sun rising tomorrow, this opt-out won’t last. “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” (Neuhaus’ Law)

Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.

The new liberal orthodoxy of recent decades is hard and nasty; compared to it, the old orthodoxy was merely quaint. The old orthodoxy was like a dotty old uncle in the front parlor; the new orthodoxy is a rampaging harridan in the family room. The old orthodoxy claimed to speak for the past, which seemed harmless enough. The new orthodoxy claims to speak for the future and is therefore the bearer of imperatives that brook no opposition.

With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps.

(The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy)

Of course, many local churches will entertain leaving the PCUSA over this issue.

Between 2011, when the Presbyterian church authorized gay ordination, and 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, 428 of the denomination’s churches left for more conservative denominations or dissolved, though some theological conservatives have remained as they decide how to move forward.

Some will be bullied into staying by the very real likelihood that the denomination will seize their property.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the new definition was “an express repudiation of the Bible” and approved “what God does not bless.” Her group has urged Presbyterians to protest by redirecting donations away from the national church until the original marriage definition is restored.

Paul Detterman, national director of the Fellowship Community, a network of theologically conservative Presbyterian churches that have stayed with the denomination, said his organization will “remain faithfully engaged in conversation” with those of different views in the church. He said the Fellowship’s opposition to the amendment is “in no way intended to be antigay,” but aims “with humility” to uphold the traditional Bible view of marriage.

Others will leave, vainly hoping that the civil courts will see this as a breach of faith and forbid such seizure.

Those that leave will scatter, because they have little in common beyond “this is the last straw!” And the press will continue representing the PCUSA as mainstream, the dissidents as varying degrees of hate-hate-hateful.

The PCUSA was warned in 2010 (by an Orthodox priest who didn’t know he was supposed to be anodyne – or didn’t care) not to be conformed to the world, but the handwriting was already on the wall.


Meanwhile, in that laboratory of democracy known as “Utah,”

the state legislature adopted a pair of bills that banned discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals in employment and housing while carving out accommodations for individuals and institutions with conscience-based objections to these measures. Individual local officials who object to same-sex marriage are not required to preside over such ceremonies, for example, but each local office is responsible for doing so.

I’m not sure Indiana press and business would allow the same conscience-based exceptions. Opposition to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” bill from Gannett and big biz has been fierce.

But religious freedom hasn’t yet been paired with adding sexual orientation as a protected class statewide (there’s just a patchwork of local ordinances with sexual orientation as a protected class currently, but that includes my whole county under one or another ordinance).

I’m not sure I’d support the Utah compromise because I don’t trust the other guys to honor any truce, and I have 45 years or so of track records to support my distrust. But maybe we’ll get a chance to see.


Our nation’s elites have convinced themselves that a judicial order by a single federal court trial judge, no matter how wrong or contrary to existing precedent, is the “law of the land” and must be followed unquestioningly. Some even compared Chief Justice Moore’s actions to those of the late Governor George Wallace standing defiantly in a schoolhouse door to block implementation of the US Supreme Court’s desegregation decision. The ghost of the late Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who infamously said that “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is,” is undoubtedly smiling.

We have come to expect such claims of unfettered judicial supremacy from the left, but Chief Justice Moore and his fellow justices on the Alabama Supreme Court have by far the better argument.

(John Eastman)


For some reason, I never asked myself why Richard John Neuhaus, 60s progressive, pastor to a black inner city Lutheran parish, went Right later:

With all this in mind, here’s (a simplified version of) my reading of Neuhaus’s political transformation: Over time he came to believe that the American left had effectively abandoned its commitment to “the least of these,” had decided that, in Boyagoda’s clear formulation, “private rights — made possible by and indeed protecting implicit race and class privileges — trumped responsibilities for others.” The moral language that he had learned from his Christian upbringing and pastoral training and experience simply had no purchase in a party dominated by a commitment solely to the “private rights” of self-expression, especially sexual self-expression. He turned to those who showed a willingness to hear commitments expressed in that moral language, who appeared to be open to being convinced. In return he gave them his loyalty, his public support, for the rest of his life.

It may well be that this was a devil’s bargain, one that Neuhaus should never have made. Indeed, I am (most days, anyhow) inclined to think that it was. He who would sup with the Devil must bring a long spoon, and Father Neuhaus’s spoon wasn’t nearly long enough. He did enjoy rather too much the perks and privileges of influence; he did, all too often, turn a blind eye to the immense faults of the institutions to which he had pledged his loyalty.

But I think we have strong documentary evidence that Father Neuhaus made his bargain out of a genuine and deeply compassionate love — a love that pulled him all his life — for those whom the world deems worthless. In trying to realize this love in the medium of politics, that cesspool of vainglory and vanity, he sometimes befouled himself. But we all befoul ourselves; few of us do it in such a noble cause.

(Alan Jacobs via Rod Dreher)


Pro Tip for Lefties: The Koch Brothers don’t really exist. They’re inventions of Grover Norquist to divert attention from where the real problem is. Pass it on.


The letter’s purpose was the same as Bibi’s purpose—to scuttle, sabotage, and sink any U.S. nuclear deal with Iran. But if there is no deal and Iran returns to enriching uranium to 20 percent, we are on the road to war.

Is this what America has to look forward to if it votes GOP?

Another Middle Eastern war, with a country twice the size of Iraq, to strip the country of weapons of mass destruction it does not have? Didn’t we just do that at a cost of 4,500 dead, 35,000 wounded warriors, and $1.7 trillion?

(Patrick J. Buchanan, in fine fighting form on St. Patrick’s Day. Emphasis added.)


I care about Ted Nugent’s opinions on guns about as much as I care about Susan Sarandon’s opinion that Catholicism disgraces a Catholic high school. But Sarandon’s ilk is more dangerous.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.