Saturday, 7/11/15

  1. NYT gets in front of the pitch-forked crowd
  2. America’s secession of the heart
  3. Equivocal “dignity”
  4. Benedict and his critics
  5. Theology’s so formulaic, even an atheist could do it
  6. Giving Kennedy his due
  7. While America burns
  8. Bad spiritual biolgraphies


The Supreme Court could not have been clearer when it ruled late last month that states may not refuse to marry same-sex couples.

“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court in Obergefell v. Hodges. “Under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

(Opening of New York Times Editorial)

Well, yes, that’s clear in a sense. The rationale behind it was incredibly stupid (the Supreme Court equivalent of “because I’m the Mom, dammit!”), but in defense of the officials who aren’t all on board and cool with complicity, Justice Kennedy did mutter some faux reassurance about religious liberty. We’re working on teasing out the meaning of that.

The editorial closes lumping with racists the clerks and judges who want no personal involvement in the new regime. Expect to hear lots of that, despite the incoherence of the Obergefell rationale and the uncharacteristic failure of Justice Kennedy himself to resort to that lie, which he has used so often before.


A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural, and political views and values, is taking place.

America is disuniting, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote 25 years ago. And for those who, when young, rejected the views, values and laws of Eisenhower’s America, what makes them think that dissenting Americans in this post-Christian and anti-Christian era will accept their laws, beliefs, values?

Why should they?

(Pat Buchanan)


Wesley J. Smith looks at Obergefell‘s majority opinion as adding confusion to the already equivocal term “dignity.” It already has an objective sense – intrinsic moral worth – and can be a synonym for pleasing aesthetics as well:

And now, in Obergefell v. Hodges—which established a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry—Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has sowed further confusion by inventing a “right to dignity” that covers the subjective crafting of self-identity.

Writing for the five-member majority, Kennedy wrote:

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.

What does that mean? We won’t know its full implications for a long time. The language of “choices” and “dignity” are too fuzzy to pin down with precision. But the statement now has the power of law, and it will serve as a launching pad in years to come for novel legal arguments seeking to imbed all manner of personal behaviors and self-declared identities into this newly invented constitutional right. As law professor Jonathan Turley wondered in the Washington Post:

Which relationships are sufficiently dignified to warrant protection? What about couples who do not wish to marry but cohabitate? What about polyamorous families, who are less accepted by public opinion but are perhaps no less exemplary when it comes to, in Kennedy’s words on marriage, “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family”? The justice does not specify. It certainly appears as if Obergefell extends this protection because same-sex unions are now deemed acceptable by the majority. . . . But popularity hardly seems like a proper legal guide to whether a relationship is dignified.

Smith also defends Clarence Thomas’s use of “dignity” against his willful misinterpreters.


Rod Dreher engages a critic of the Benedict Option. Toward the end:


Let’s not forget: Social conservatives in the U.S. lost a court case. Some Christians are losing their lives.

In the Middle East, ISIS is raping and beheading Christians. Pope Francis says these truly persecuted Christians are united in an “ecumenism of blood.” For many in that conflict zone, blood is not a metaphor.

This is one of the most tiresome progressive lines of attack: Until and unless they start cutting your heads off, you American Christians have nothing to worry or to complain about.

Well, guess what? ISIS is throwing gays off the tops of buildings. By that standard, no American homosexual has a right to complain about anything, ever. It’s a ridiculous standard.


That’s not to say that American Christians should draw crazy analogies or cease thanking God for the remnant of freedom we retain.


What happens when religious institutions treat theology as an academic discipline in which an atheist or libertine can be competent?


It occurs to me that Justice Kennedy did at least try to give a sorta-definition of marriage in Obergefell by listing “the basic reasons why the right to marry has been long protected.” That’s important because it is the most blatant question-begging to insist on “marriage equality” until you’ve demonstrated that sexual complementarity isn’t implicit in marriage.

Here’s Kennedy, word-for-word, but with much elaboration eliminated:

  1. A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.

  2. A second principle in this Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals.

  3. A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.

  4. Fourth and finally, this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order.

They’re pretty vapid (try to diagram the third, and then figure out the inverted absurdity), but he at least laid it out – to the delight of those who welcome a map for further deconstruction of any social institution that gets in their way and to produce cringes in those whose inner crap-detectors and screeching.


The first two items remind me of 12 Reasons America Doesn’t Win Its Wars:

3. Starting wars is the historic way for kings (and presidents) to gain popularity and avoid doing tough domestic reforms for problems that cry out for solutions. War lets them be postponed. Think of George W. Bush winning election on promises to balance the budget, have health care reform, reform our bankrupt social security commitments, tackle the EPA, take on the teachers’ unions, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and such. Instead, with war, all those issues were swept aside. He won his re-election by having even bigger deficit warfare/welfare spending and increasing the national debt by trillions.

We’ve got huge problems with Buchanan’s secession of the heart – or maybe we should call it “schism.” I’ve been asking for decades, to myself and aloud, “what’s the glue that holds us together?” I used to say “network TV and the watercooler at the office.” Then cable and bottled water foiled that. Mel Simon’s malls and public school? Who goes to the mall any more? And how fast are folks fleeding the schools?

My short answer now is “obviously nothing sufficient.” But the one brach of government that still needs only five-ninths to rule has stepped into the breach, and is keeping the bread and circuses coming.


Atheist becomes Evangelical. Writes a spiritual biography with some false notes, treacle. Becomes Roman Catholic and gets a chance to revise spiritual biography. Introspection ensues.

My Evangelical-to-Calvinist-to-Orthodox journey seems theoretically bio-worthy, but I just haven’t got the chops to do anything so sustained without foundering on the shoals that Holly Ordway had to navigate. There are too many bad spiritual bios out there already.

* * * * *

“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.