Tuesday, 5/12/15

  1. Equality trumps liberty
  2. Gotcha failure
  3. High-protein coffee
  4. HuffPo Gay Voices lie
  5. PUCPA
  6. How many legs?
  7. Monastic or fundamentalist
  8. Transvaluation of values again


I know that Republican candidates get extremely squeamish when talking about anything to do with homosexuality, but it is impossible to talk meaningfully about the politics of religious liberty without discussing the pink elephant in the room.

Republicans are going to have to quit being so defensive about this stuff, and take the argument to Hillary Clinton. Does she favor religious institutions losing their tax-exempt status if they don’t accept homosexuality? Does she want them to be Bob Jones’d, or would she support laws to protect these institutions? For that matter, what do Republican candidates plan to do to protect religious liberty in this new legal environment for gay rights? It’s not enough to mouth pro-religious platitudes. Conservatives must expect more.

(Rod Dreher on Jeb Bush‘s Liberty University speech)

Later in the day, Rod returned to the topic from another angle:

Lots of pushback against my saying that the advance of gay rights is at the present moment the greatest threat to religious liberty. People don’t want to believe it. For the record, I believe in granting employment and housing protections to gays; I’m not opposed across the board to gay rights. It’s only that the overall gay rights project is triumphing at the clear and substantive expense of religious liberty. It cannot be any other way, not when the religions in question — Christianity, mostly, but also Orthodox Judaism and Islam — have clear teachings on homosexuality, ones that cannot be reconciled with the moral legitimation of homosexuality.

This is a valid point, but the term “gay rights” is so equivocal that if you say you’re opposed, you’ll be accused of favoring discrimination in employment and housing; if you say you support, you’ll become a trophy supporter of the whole project, including same-sex marriage. The comment boxes at Dreher’s blog are full of evidence that “gay rights” doesn’t have a fixed meaning.

Sometimes I think my first question on most of these hot-button issues should be “What do you mean by _______?”, because something is so often equivocal. But I guess that would disrupt the exciting shouting match of mutual incomprehension.

Rod goes on to quote a 2006 Maggie Gallagher story with some choice new (to me) quotes from Chai Feldblum, a candid adversary who I’ve quoted repeatedly on the reality of the conflict of gay rights (there I go again, equivocating) and religious freedom. I’ll not quote them here, but they are more of the same, with greater elaboration. Then an Update to the blog as Maggie Gallgher herself has weighed in:

Thanks Rod. I’m not a prophet, I just respected my opponents enough to listen to what they said and to believe they meant it. A gift for seeing the world through others’ eyes is helpful, even if you disagree.

One quibble. “gay rights and religious liberty” do not need to be zero sum game. But when gay rights becomes “gay equality” that is when it becomes zero sum.

Conflicting liberty interests lead in theory to pluralism. But equality trumps liberty in liberal thought.

(Emphasis added) That seems relatively unequivocal.


Dreher goes on to critique an answer Jeb (not that we’re on a first-name basis, but there are other Bushes) gave to a Megyn Kelly question about the launch of the Iraq War. I’m not convinced that Jeb is okay on foreign policy, but I think Dreher makes too much of it.

“Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?,” Kelly asked. How was Jeb to answer? Literally, I hope his answer would be “no, of course not, knowing what we know now.” But that would be both meaningless (nobody at the time confidently knew what we know now) and misrepresented (Jeb disagrees with Dubya!). So he answered what he would have done not knowing what we know now.

I guess “what would you have done with 20/20 hindsight?” questions may serve some purpose, but I’m not sure what that purpose is in political grillings.

Daniel Larison finds something useful in Jeb’s fuller answer: “’So just for the news flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those,’ he said.” So Jeb knew Kelly was looking for the (distorted) scoop that Jeb and Dubya disagree and declined to give it.

As best as I can recall, my position back then, knowing what we knew then, was:

  • Intelligence says Sadaam has WMDs
  • Sadaam won’t allow inspections
  • So Sadaam probably has WMDs
  • But they’re not meant for us
  • Sadaam’s strong-arm tactics maintain relative peace in an artificial nation-state that seems unlikely to enjoy peace without some strongarm sonofabitch in control
  • We can’t be the world’s policeman
  • I was a conscientious objector, and it’s unseemly to become hawkish now
  • Let’s stay out

I don’t know if I left a paper trail on that, but I’m among the 6 or so people not running for President, so it doesn’t much matter.


Why do I bother writing about that depressing stuff? Let’s talk about the health benefits of coffee instead:

Of course, everything I’m saying here concerns coffee — black coffee. I am not talking about the mostly milk and sugar coffee-based beverages that lots of people consume. These could include, but aren’t limited to, things like a McDonald’s large mocha (500 calories, 17 grams of fat, 72 grams ofcarbohydrates), a Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (580 calories, 22 grams of fat, 79 grams of carbs), and a Large Dunkin’ Donuts frozen caramel coffee Coolatta (670 calories, 8 grams of fat, 144 grams of carbs).

I won’t even mention the Cold Stone Creamery Gotta-Have-It-Sized Lotta Caramel Latte (1,790 calories, 90 grams of fat, 223 grams of carbs).

Oh, shoot! That’s depressing again! I had no idea they were that high! Thank goodness for my preference: “Regular brewed coffee has 5 or fewer calories and no fat or carbohydrates.” (So where do the 5 calories come from? Protein?!)


Andrew Cuff gave an interview during the March for Marriage in DC a few weeks ago:

I discovered that my interviewer was Lila Shapiro, a two-time award-winning journalist for the “Gay Voices” section of Huffington Post. I prepared myself to read her “spin” on what I said. I was surprised, though, when I saw that she disliked the interview so much that she just made up another one to replace it.

According to her, I said the following: “I’m a married human being, so what does this mean for me? It’s against the way I see marriage. It’s against the way I see myself.” Shapiro scoffed, “Same-sex marriage is wrong because, well. . .because it’s wrong.”

An imaginative fabrication. Apparently I’m married? (I’m not). It was frustrating that after a twenty-minute interview in which I listed numerous reasons why government redefinition of marriage is bad for everyone, Shapiro published a (completely fictional) quote that boiled down to “it’s my personal opinion.” What do you win the “LGBT Journalist of the Year” award for? Yarn-spinning? Creative hijinks?

Yet this broach of journalistic ethics is more interesting than irritating to me. Shapiro said it herself numerous times: this issue is already decided. Public opinion has ruled: there are no good arguments for traditional marriage.

So why should Lila lie? If my arguments were stupid, why not publish them?

His actual arguments, told briefly and allusively, are here.


You may, if you wish, consider this a sequel to the “somewhat less superficial political application” here. If I’m supposed to admire those elected national legislators who support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (PUCPA), my admiration must be leavened with the little matter of it being unconstitutional on federalism grounds for Congress to regulate abortion based on gestational age.

Yeah, I know the other side doesn’t give a rip about federalism. I do. So sue me.


It’s a homely old illustration, but I hadn’t heard it in a while: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?”

The correct answer is “four,” because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Just sayin’.


One of our visiting friends said to me last night that I’m missing something important when I talk about the Benedict Option, and this accounts for the persistent misunderstanding of many people.

“You didn’t grow up in fundamentalism, so when you talk about withdrawal, you’re thinking about monasticism,” she said. “People who are recovering from fundamentalism, though, they hear you talk this way and they immediately think of people who get panicked about movies and music, and want to shield themselves and their children from everything. I know that’s not what you mean, but you’re not getting that a lot of people can’t get past the language you use. It reminds them of fundamentalism.”

I thanked her genuinely for this insight. My friend is correct: I have no real experience of fundamentalism …

I do very much appreciate what my friend said to me, because it had not occurred to me that the only experience the great majority of Americans have with this kind of discussion is through fundamentalism. Aside from the distortions of fundamentalism, we don’t have many monasteries in the United States. Monasticism is alien. People simply don’t grasp the monastic spirit, or think in monastic categories. It seems weird and suspicious to them.

(Rod Dreher)


[I]n the early 1980s, when you couldn’t walk down the row of faculty offices without stepping over the outstretched legs of English majors lining up for consultations. First-year classes could be as large as 400, but by junior year you settled into a field and got to know a few professors well enough to chat with them regularly, and at length. We knew, and they knew, that these moments were the heart of liberal education.

In our hunger for guidance, we were ordinary. The American Freshman Survey, which has followed students since 1966, proves the point. One prompt in the questionnaire asks entering freshmen about “objectives considered to be essential or very important.” In 1967, 86 percent of respondents checked “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” more than double the number who said “being very well off financially.”

Naturally, students looked to professors for moral and worldly understanding. Since then, though, finding meaning and making money have traded places. The first has plummeted to 45 percent; the second has soared to 82 percent.

(Mark Bauerlein in the New York Times) The Op-Ed is about more than that, but this struck me.

* * * * *

“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.