Common thread: Statism

  1. Tipsy repents of his crypto-statism
  2. Rube Moore hands Chris Cuomo his head
  3. Losing the Christian language
  4. Who’s rational?
  5. Protecting the cake police
  6. The Law’s new religion
  7. Answering Professor Kingsfield


I often rail against “statist” attitudes, but then I get smacked up side ‘da head and realize how much I’ve accepted statist practices:

From the beginning, [Dorothy] Day and [Peter] Maurin were adamant that Catholic Worker communities not be tax exempt, officially nonprofit organizations. They believed those who gave to the Worker should do so at personal cost, motivated by others’ poverty, not their own surplus, and that tax write-offs therefore undermined the true practice of charity. They were convinced that one of the Catholic Worker’s most important works of mercy was to offer the rich the chance to participate in the Kingdom of God through giving directly to those in need, solely because they were in need …

Some of the messy scenarios involving the Worker and city bureaucrats have been more serious. Besides sending the health inspectors, the city has regularly demanded that St. Joe’s apply for a soup kitchen permit. The community, however, decided that they would not apply for a permit to feed the hungry, since to ask the city for permission implies that the city also has the power to withhold permission. The New York City Catholic Worker does not acknowledge that the city, or any human institution, has the right to regulate the works of mercy ….

(Nora Calhoun, Licensing the Kingdom, First Things – likely pay wall)

I think the day is soon coming where such mau-mauing of bureaucrats is going to need to become more widespread, and we need to get radical like the Catholic Worker communities, not just superficial. To some extent, it may be forced on us by leftist efforts to “Bob Jones” our churches and charities because we believe what Obama pretended to believe until a blink or two ago.


Chris Cuomo is much more comfortable with his statism:

Recently, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered local authorities to disregard a federal judge’s ruling that Alabama authorities must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. During a CNN interview, host Chris Cuomo challenged him with a version of the living Constitution argument. Moore responded, “Our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution. They come from God.” Cuomo shot back, “Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.” A minute later, Cuomo insisted with a tone of outrage at Moore’s refusal to conform to dogma, “Our rights do not come from God.”

The confrontation brought to the fore where we stand, it seems to me. We will live in a society that serves a moral truth greater than man’s inventions. Or we will live in one defined by whatever “man” deems right and just at any particular time. Cuomo’s angry rebuttal of Moore’s view—the view held by those who signed the Declaration of Independence and one often repeated by Abraham ­Lincoln—indicates how determined we now are. Our society will not be limited by any higher power. God is a theocratic demon to be exorcised or a delusion to be dispelled.

(R.R. Reno, First Things, While We’re At It) This appears to be the interview Reno was referring to (16:50). Cuomo’s position led him to say that he’d enforce Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson if he was Chief Justice of Alabama (13:15 ff)!


It has only been a few days since he wrote it and I blogged it, but this continues to haunt me:

We now find ourselves, though, in a post-Christian world, one in which the pressure to assimilate is causing tens of millions of people to lose the language — often without knowing that they’re losing it. You might say that “Christian” is [whatever] language that people who identify as Christians speak. But if that were true, wouldn’t it be the case that Chinese-Americans who speak not a single word of Mandarin Chinese, but rather English, could be said to be speaking “Chinese”? Clearly that’s absurd, but that is what it means to identify Christianity with whatever people say it is. If it is not firmly rooted in long-established standards, it will be a different language — or a different religion.

(Rod Dreher)

I’m surrounded much of the time by folks saying they’re Christian but who speak moralistic therapeutic deism.


Catholic thinkers like Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and their peers work out in detail the nature of marriage, its relation to the physical sexes and to the begetting and raising of children, and the state’s role in recognizing and regulating it. They have a doctrinal commitment to marriage as the permanent union of a man and a woman, of course, but they still work out the question philosophically and present an argument the secular person can engage.

Those on the other side, with a few exceptions, present a simple dogmatic claim that acts as a solvent upon any developed philosophical argument. They declare marriage simply a matter of love or commitment, deny that physical sex matters at all, and insist that allowing people to marry someone of the same sex is an imperative of equality and justice. Generally absent is any consideration of the fundamental matters George and his peers explore.

(David Mills, The Church as the Last Defender of the Power of Human Reason)


Here we will take the unusual step of praising the New York Times editorial board for forthrightness. In a single sentence, if a lengthy one, the paper sums up what changed: “Religious-freedom laws, which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups as gay rights in general—and marriage equality in particular—found greater acceptance nationally.”

Narrowly speaking, that is, the left’s hatred of RFRA is about preserving the authority of the cake police—government agencies determined to coerce bakeries, photo studios, florists and other small businesses to participate in same-sex weddings even if the owners have eccentric conscientious objections.

Whether Indiana’s RFRA would protect such objectors is an open question: The law only sets forth the standard by which state judges would adjudicate their claims. Further, as the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, notes, the Hoosier State has no state laws prohibiting private entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. (It does have same-sex marriage, pursuant to a federal court ruling.) There are also no such antidiscrimination laws at the federal level. Thus under current law, only certain cities and counties in Indiana even have a cake police.

What makes that Times editorial surprising is the frank admission that the editors are unwilling to apply their principles to the religious group they disfavor, namely “conservative Christian groups.” That’s not to say their candor is untarnished by bad faith. They set up a dichotomy between “religious minorities” and “conservative Christian groups.” But unless the old Moral Majority was—and still is—worthy of the latter half of its name, the dichotomy is self-evidently a false one.

It is also an invidious one, since it singles out one religious minority (or, to be precise, one category thereof, since there are many kinds of conservative Christians) and deems it unworthy of the first freedom. And that supposed unworthiness is not limited to the matter of same-sex marriage, or gay rights more generally. The Times once again rebukes the Supreme Court for having “helped the cause of Christian conservatives with its 2014 Hobby Lobby decision,” which held that RFRA limited the government’s coercive authority vis-à-vis the provision of contraceptives through employee medical benefits.

You might sum up the Times’s position as follows: Legal rights are all well and good, but they shouldn’t be extended to an enemy in wartime—at least not if it’s a culture war.

(James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, making more potently the point I made in my last blog before I read Taranto)


The florist can be Christian as an individual, but his store can’t be, because institutions, unlike individuals, are creatures of the law and our law already has a religion: progressive liberalism.

We who are appalled by the perverse reaction to the Indiana law are not exactly defending the free exercise right; we are in a sense opposing a violation of the prohibition on religious establishment. The point is not that running a flower shop is a way of practicing one’s religion. The point is that, if reasonably possible, people should not be compelled as the price of entry to the public square to honor as true what their understanding of their religious obligations compels them to judge false.

Whether you share in the particular substantive views of progressivism or not, surely you ought to agree that it should not become our state religion.

(Yuval Levin)


Rod Dreher’s pseudonymous Professor Kingsfield asks:

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield, Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us.

Let me offer an answer: they don’t really believe it – not enough to think it through rationally.

My theory, influenced by C.S. Lewis, is that if you cannot articulate something (with the exception of some religious truths or mysteries that are ineffable because God is God and we’re not), you haven’t thought it through thoroughly. If you haven’t thought it through it thoroughly, it’s because you haven’t given the subject high enough priority. If you haven’t given it high enough priority, it’s because you don’t think it’s “that important” (or you think it’s self-evident, failing to notice that it either isn’t or that a large group has arisen to dishonestly deny it is). And thus you cannot argue persuasively that, yes, it really isthat important.”

Anyone want to defend Mike Pence or Asa Huthinson against that theory? (If you don’t like my theory, would you like “stupidity” better?)

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“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.