Wednesday, 9/9/15

  1. Four Anti-Party Men
  2. A new moralistic agenda
  3. Conservative flippancy
  4. Overwhelming volume of religions news
  5. Recanting (more or less) on Kim Davis
  6. Editing error or errant assumption?
  7. Humanism phobia


These four anti-party men [Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn] have little experience in the profession of governing. They have no plausible path toward winning 50.1 percent of the vote in any national election. They have no prospect of forming a majority coalition that can enact their policies.

These sudden stars are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression. They allow supporters to make a statement, demand respect or express anger or resentment. Sarah Palin was a pioneer in seeing politics not as a path to governance but as an expression of her followers’ id.

Why has this type risen so suddenly?

David Brooks offers his own answers to his question, but it’s a good question even if you can’t climb the New York Times’ paywall.


Why did I overlook this book for 12 years? David Bernstein gets to the nub of my concern about the insidious effects of anti-discrimination mania:

[E]xpansion of antidiscrimination laws, in turn, reflects a shift in the primary justification for such laws from the practical, relatively limited goal of redressing harms visited upon previously oppressed groups, especially African Americans, to a moralistic agenda aimed at eliminating all forms of invidious discrimination. Such an extraordinarily ambitious goal cannot possibly be achieved—or even vigorously pursued—without grave consequences for civil liberties.

David E. Berstein, You Can’t Say That!: The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws.

I guess there’s actually an explicit theory in the legal academy that the 14th amendment introduced into our fundamental law an “equality value” that competes with and sometimes trumps the express civil liberties of the Bill of Rights.

Some civil libertarians have attempted to finesse the issue by redefining civil liberties to include protection from the discriminatory behavior of private parties. Under this view, conflicts between freedom of expression and antidiscrimination laws could be construed as clashes between competing civil liberties.

Which idiocy leads me to ask “Is this (the veriest symbol of synthetic equality) the Mark of the Beast?”



Someone (I’m tempted to say “C.S. Lewis,” but I have no confidence of that) said that the essence of flippancy is to assume the joke has already been made.

It appears to me that “Rosie O’Donnell” is a form of conservative flippancy in some quarters. Upon invocation of the name, one is supposed to laugh derisively or froth at the mouth.

I have now told you everything I know about Rosie O’Donnell yet, strangely, I think of myself as conservative. Go figure.


Tons of religious news Tuesday, including the Pope’s decision about annulment of marriages and the release of Kim Davis. Since the former doesn’t affect me or the polity in which I live, I’m going to skip over it.

The Kim Davis story, though, keeps getting curiouser and curiouser in a good way. I’m finding more reasons to think she was done dirty and that she may be entitled to accommodations of her convictions. “Marriage” licenses will go out to same-sex couples in Rowan County, to be sure, but that’s about where my certainty ends at the moment I write this before trying to digest today’s news.

Sotto voce: “Must get a grip. Can’t let Ted Cruz (blechhhhh!) wreck my analysis.”

Yes, now that you mention it, I suppose that could be called flippant of me, but isn’t Ted Cruz a joke that’s already been made?


I think it’s time to say that apprehending some additional facts and precedents has made me change my mind about Kim Davis. Joe Carter puts well and pretty succinctly the counter-argument to my prior “perform or resign” position.

Or to riff off of Thomas More, this land’s planted thick with even more laws than I realized, some entitling conscientious objectors to relief and making dubious a hair-trigger public judicial drubbing by a judge unwilling (or lacking jurisdiction to – Davis appeared to be asking a Federal Court to issue an injunction based on a state statute) afford relief.


Back to the story. Here comes the highly symbolic correction:

… On a day when one of Ms. Davis’s lawyers said she would not retreat from or modify her stand despite a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Judge David L. Bunning of United States District Court secured commitments from five of Ms. Davis’s deputies to begin providing the licenses. At least two couples planned to seek marriage licenses Friday. …

The judge’s decision to jail Ms. Davis, a 49-year-old Democrat who was elected last year, immediately intensified the attention focused on her, a longtime government worker who is one of three of Kentucky’s 120 county clerks who contend that their religious beliefs keep them from recognizing same-sex nuptials. Within hours of Ms. Davis’s imprisonment, some Republican presidential candidates declared their support for her, a sign that her case was becoming an increasingly charged cause for Christian conservatives.

Now, did you hear about the correction linked to that last paragraph?

Correction: September 3, 2015

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated Kim Davis’s political affiliation. She is a Democrat, not a Republican.

Because of an editing error? Was this an error or an assumption?

Raise your hand if you think it’s likely that the copy desk of the world’s most powerful newspaper contained more than a few people who simply assumed that Davis is – that she just has to be – a Republican?

Now I know that the age of morally conservative Southern Democrats is almost gone, but a few survive in the wilds of county and state government.

(Terry Mattingly, Democrat)

Another frustrating press failure has been the repeated labeling of Davis as an “Apostolic Christian.” I live in a region where there is an anabaptist denomination called Apostolic Christian, with members of which I have been closely affiliated. I believe it’s more accurate to identity Davis as an “Apostolic Pentecostal.”

Of course, neither is “apostolic” properly speaking, having been founded in 1830 and 1935, respectively. They don’t even claim to be in succession with the apostles other than in some mystical sense.


Brad Birzer finds that conservative folks generally are scandalized at his profession of humanism:

[W]hen I mention the term “humanism” among conservatives, I almost always am greeted with silence, head shaking, or visible disgust. Almost all conservatives, it seems, associate humanism with secularism, atheism, and radicalism. They see it, very incorrectly, as a deification of, and attempt at, the apotheosis of the human being.

I get that. I subscribe to Image journal, and recycle it to my office when I’m done reading an issue. A fundamentalist-leaning client (a very nice man, by the way) was scandalized to see that is is a production of the Center For Religious Humanism. I’m not sure he believed my disclaimer of apotheosizing human beings. Can you say “idée fixe”?

Birzer goes on to discuss what his (any my) humanism stands for.

* * * * *

“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.