Tuesday, 9/22/15

  1. The value of dissent
  2. Hard Afghanistan Questions
  3. Planned Parenthood & RICO
  4. New coinage: “Pretexting”
  5. Flash! Judicial review ≠ judicial supremacy!
  6. Fiorina the Formidable
  7. Lying Religion then and now
  8. One of these things is not like the others

1

[I]n the face of the latest same-sex marriage ruling, the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage has frustrated activists who want religious organizations to either bring their teachings into accord with the newest cause or to be limited from full civic participation, and thus punish long-serving institutions that will not submit to their demands.

After the Obergefell decision, Time magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer was quick to declare that the state should “abolish, or greatly diminish” property tax exemptions for churches that “dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”

Punishing “dissent” seems a strange new role for the American government. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic church was a leading advocate against anti-miscegenation laws. The church was able to take a stand contrary to the state on marriage and not be penalized for it, a position now almost unquestionably supported by Americans. And despite the confidence of those like Oppenheimer, the dissenters aren’t even a minority in the more recent marriage controversy. Most Americans favor religious liberty, and a plurality oppose Obergefell.

Allowing conscientious objection is an acknowledgment that the state does not have all the answers. The state has an obligation to make laws, but the state has no obligation to be correct. The independent voices that critique the state make the state better, and should not be silenced. Lose churches, lose the independent voices that prevent the state from having an absolute say in complicated moral matters.

(Dominic Bouck)

2

[T]he outrage is easy — I certainly feel it — but the questions are hard.

I wonder how many Americans realize that one of the reasons the Taliban was welcomed by Afghan peasants is that it fought bacha bazi.

(Rod Dreher) If you have no idea what Rod’s talking about and wonder why I would include such a cryptic quote, then consider this trigger warning: Caution: the linked items discusses violent homosexual child abuse by American allies and the difficult decisions that poses.

It’s a longish blog, but worth reading if you have a strong stomach. It reminds me that not all Western cultural imperialism is bad, which I tend to forget since so many of our coercive cultural exports of late have been so toxic — and thus good cases for denying the state an absolute say in moral matters.

3

A racket is essentially any organization that claims to solve a problem which does not exist or would not exist without the offending organization. It is an indirect version of extortion. While the term is usually associated with groups like crime syndicates, public and “legitimate” businesses can be prosecuted under RICO. Just because a company has a pleasant façade and a mission statement does not mean it is not a racket.

Planned Parenthood offers to solve a problem which it greatly assists in creating, thus exhibiting the classic characteristics of a racket—and it’s all legal.

(Eric Banecker) I could nitpick, but I agree with the general point, which is bookended by some interesting analogies.

4

Over at Facebook, someone, er, close to me posted this:

Call for assistance: Does anyone know of an existent term for the activity of unbelievers (typically, unbelieving of some version of Christianity) who cherry pick some Bible verse, Rabbinical or Patristic teaching, etc., and try to turn it on believers?
If it doesn’t have a name, it should, because it’s everywhere.
It’s sort of like “clobber verses,” except those who use clobber verses tend actually to profess the Christian faith.

Someone said it was “prooftexting,” but I reject that because I think prooftexting is an activity of competing sub-traditions of religions with a holy book. Then another friend, presumably picking up the rhythm and alliteration, suggested “pretext.”

So be it. I shall henceforth use “pretexting” to describe instances of this phenomenon, hoping to add a second meaning (maybe it can even move into first) to one that already existed, unknown to me. My definition of the new usage: Infidel text-picking solely to belabor believers.

5

I had similar reactions to Ruth Marcus’ Sunday Washington Post snarkiness, but didn’t try to formulate my thoughts. NRO gives her both barrels, and aims well.

Judicial review ≠ judicial supremacy.

Officials swear to uphold the Constitution. It would violate that oath for an official not even to consider defying the court simply because it’s the court — because Anthony Kennedy has spoken while four of his colleagues smirked, thinking “I’m glad he’s the one who’s trying to explain away our takeover of marriage law.” There wasn’t even a concurrence because, presumably, none of The Five Impeachables had a better story than his.

6

Fiorina argues persuasively that it is Democrats, not Republicans, who are “extreme” when it comes to abortion. Speaking at the Susan B. Anthony List dinner this year, Fiorina described how “women come up to me and say, ‘I agree with Republicans on so many things, but I just can’t support this extreme pro-life platform of the Republican Party.’ And the way I answer that always is to say, ‘Well, I can respect that. Have you ever read the Democratic Party platform? Well, here’s what it says: Any abortion, at any time, at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, for any reason, to be paid for by taxpayers. . . . Do you agree with that?’ Nobody agrees with that! Even people who think they are pro-choice don’t agree with that.”

(Marc A. Thiessen)

7

Remedying another deficit in my education, I’ve begun reading John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua, having been inspired by Protestant scholar Carl R. Trueman. Resisting Kindle’s default setting to start the reader at Chapter 1, I went back to the preface, which in this case was especially rewarding since it explained how such a book came about.

Decades after Newman’s conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, he came under a particular attack as having been some sort of perfidious secret agent of Rome during his last years in the Anglican pulpit:

It is not my present accuser alone who entertains, and has entertained, so dishonourable an opinion of me and of my writings. It is the impression of large classes of men; the impression twenty years ago and the impression now. There has been a general feeling that I was for years where I had no right to be; that I was a “Romanist” in Protestant livery and service; that I was doing the work of a hostile Church in the bosom of the English Establishment, and knew it, or ought to have known it.

But the “present accuser” added a twist: that Newman thought it was okay to lie to serve the Catholic faith — so much so that the poor, guileless accuser can’t believe a word Newman might write in defense. Newman responded:

[W]hat I insist upon here is this unmanly attempt of his, in his concluding pages, to cut the ground from under my feet;—to poison by anticipation the public mind against me, John Henry Newman, and to infuse into the imaginations of my readers, suspicion and mistrust of everything that I may say in reply to him. This I call poisoning the wells.

Well, I can only say, that, if his taunt is to take effect, I am but wasting my time in saying a word in answer to his calumnies; and this is precisely what he knows and intends to be its fruit. I can hardly get myself to protest against a method of controversy so base and cruel, lest in doing so, I should be violating my self-respect and self-possession; but most base and most cruel it is.

I hadn’t planned to write about the book quite yet, but accusations of religious justification of lying seems like an unfortunately timely topic:

[A] Republican candidate said a thing that nobody should defend about a candidate who does not exist … Dead Christians are less interesting than the foolish statements of American politicians.

(John Mark N. Reynolds)

8

A false note at the end of a call for an “infrastructure of care”:

I grew up in a society where my mother set out little vases of cigarettes on the table at dinner parties, where blacks and whites had to use different bathrooms, and in which almost everyone claimed to be heterosexual.

Ignoring the first two examples, which might be true if the author is as old as me and grew up rich in the south, “almost everyone claimed to be heterosexual” sounds bogus on two levels. First, sex was not a constant topic of discussion, so I doubt that almost everyone “claimed to be” anything. Second, 95%-98% of them probably were heterosexual, then as now, and that sounds like “almost everyone” to 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.