Friday, 11/27/15

  1. Adhering to the rules
  2. Un-Willing
  3. You want the early Church?
  4. Bold, contrarian conformity
  5. Children’s contingent rights
  6. What would Lincoln do?


Bob woke up one morning and felt terrible. [Was it the day after Thanksgiving? Tipsy] He had no energy and his head hurt. After a while, he decided to go to see his doctor. When he got there the doctor had a number of questions for him:

“Are you eating good meals? A balanced diet?”

Bob replied, “Yes.”

“Are you getting enough exercise?” the doctor continued.

“Yes,” Bob said.

“Do you smoke?”


“Then, I think you’re well,” the doctor said.

“But, doctor. My head is hurting and I have no energy,” Bob complained.

“You should cheer up,” said the doctor. “According to your answers, I think you’re doing what you should do. Keep it up.”

Bob is disappointed. He knew the doctor was right. He had done all the things he was supposed to do, but still he felt lousy. Maybe he just didn’t appreciate how well he was actually doing. He needed to learn to trust his doctor more.


Of course this is fiction – but it is fiction based on how many Christians think of their spiritual lives. Christ is the physician of our souls. The Church, the Fathers say, is a hospital for sinners. So why do we think like Bob and his doctor? Why do we think that who we are and how we are doing can be described by how well we adhere to rules?

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, introducing, well, something other than antinomianism).


For a geezer, I can be surprisingly geeky. I went for a walk Thanksgiving morning (pre-assured by Mrs. Tipsy that I was utterly superfluous to her preparations) listening to a Partially Examined Life conversation on Eva Brann’s (see my endnote to every blog) book Unwilling (unanimous 5-star review by one reviewer).

Philosophy is more fun when there’s not going to be a test. Fun thoughts:

  • If “this is what’s coming” no matter what, why do I need to welcome it proactively? Does the inevitable depend on my cooperation. (Or in my terms, “If I’m on ‘the wrong side of history,’ so what? Is history going to punish or kill me for not aiding it’s inevitable emergence? What if, when history gets here, it sucks?”)
  •  “Slow down. Do a little less. Think a little more.”
  • “Just earlier today, I heard this phrase: ‘Successful people make decisions quickly and change their minds slowly, and unsuccessful people make decisions slowly and change their minds quickly.’ That is a diagnosis of the age if I’ve ever heard one.”


Rod Dreher’s little Orthodox mission in rural Louisiana is at risk of closing for financial reasons.

Last week, we had a painful meeting of the parish council, to discuss the budget. The sad fact is, there aren’t enough of us to carry on for much longer. We’ve had a few converts, but have lost a couple of them too. Everybody is tithing as much as we can, but it’s still not enough to support the priest and his family, not with our small numbers. Father Matthew and his wife are doing without health insurance now. It is outrageous that we can’t give that to our priest and his family, but we cannot make money appear out of nowhere …

My guess is that the weirdness factor of Orthodoxy is the major obstacle. It really is an alien form of Christianity to our place. I get that. Earlier this year, though, I read the church historian Robert Louis Wilken’s stunning book The Spirit of Early Christian Thought which, I’ll confess, was my first serious, sustained exposure to the Church Fathers. I was astonished to discover that the Christianity of the first centuries of the Church was very, very close to what we experience every Sunday in our tiny parish in rural south Louisiana! What a miracle! You want the early church — boom, we have it.

Maybe, though, folks don’t want it. I have to face that fact. People locally have been very kind to us, but it might simply be the case that they feel no need or desire for Orthodox Christianity.

(Rod Dreher)  My parish here in Greater County Seat, Indiana, is at no such discernible risk. We’re even growing — but for 18 years, it has seemed to me that the growth should be faster. If only people would come spend a little time in our church, they would see!

But they don’t come. Not many.

“You want the early church — boom, we have it.” You don’t want it, you can go just about anywhere else.



Even states that redefined marriage several years ago have left in place the legal incidents of marriage that secure children to both mother and father, preserving distinct inequalities between marriage, man-man “marriage,” and woman-woman “marriage.” As Alabama Governor Robert Bentley observed inan amicus curiae brief filed in Obergefell v. Hodges (a brief to which I contributed),

Marriage equality does not exist in the United States. It cannot be made to exist in law without destroying the rights of children to be connected to their biological parents. No State can afford to do that. Even those States that have extended legal recognition to same-sex couples continue to distinguish between marriage and same-sex “marriage.”

Marriage exists to connect fathers to mothers and children, Governor Bentley reasoned. And given the terrible costs of fatherlessness, states cannot afford to sever the bonds of matrimony from the rights of children.

(Adam McLeod, Birth Certificates, Fatherhood, and Same-Sex Marriage: Sotomayor v. Sotomayor)

Nevertheless, in Obergefell Sotomayor voted with four of her colleagues to require every state to redefine marriage, joining an opinion that pointedly framed the issue as whether same-sex couples’ unions would be “deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.” As we all know, same-sex couples do not have children in the same way as naturally married couples. Thus, making the terms and conditions of man-man or woman-woman “marriage” the same as the terms and conditions of natural marriage would require eliminating the incidents of marriage that connect children to their natural parents.

So, which Justice Sotomayor will show up in the next landmark family-law case: the Sotomayor who affirms the “precious” rights and duties of biological parents or the Sotomayor who insists on full equality?

So on “the answer to the Great Unanswered Question: are we to have full marriage equality or not?,” a great deal rides for children. According to Lambda Legal, a sexual-identity advocacy group,“It’s not marriage equality until same-sex parents both appear on birth certificates.” Adam McCleod  demurs:

Once the rhetoric and shell games are cooked off, Taylor’s and Palazzolo’s argument boils down to a shameless plea to make the fundamental rights of children contingent upon the sexual choices of adults.

I’m on McLeod’s side, but I think we are, as they say, on the wrong side of history at least in the short term. And you know that I really don’t care that my vindication must await the abysmal failure of the “right side of history.”


Is there a “rightful role of the political branches in containing and countering the decisions of the Supreme Court“? I’ve almost certainly touched on this before, but the estimable Hadley Arkes gives me cause to touch on it again.

Lincoln could not have raised his hand on March 4, 1861, and taken the oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution,” if it were understood that the constitutional rights articulated in the Dred Scott case were now part of that Constitution, as though they were woven into the text itself. That decision recognized a new right not to be deprived of one’s property in a slave when one entered a Territory of the United States. Lincoln had led a national movement to counter and overturn that decision. He could not treat that judgment, false in its premises, revolutionary in its import, as settling the “law of the land.”

Lincoln and his Congress set to work almost at once to take the steps to narrow and undo that decision. In June 1862, the Congress passed and Lincoln signed an act that barred slavery from the Territories of the United States, any then existing, and any that may be created. With that move, the Republicans acted to counter—in effect, to negate—the decision in Dred Scottthrough an act of ordinary legislation, not a constitutional amendment.

Just why that was a move wholly consistent with the Constitution was explained luminously in Lincoln’s speeches. … [S]ince his famous Lyceum speech in 1838, Lincoln sought to make respect for the law part of the “political religion” of the country. And he made it quite clear in rejecting the notion that “when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by the court, we, as a mob, will decide him to be free.” He would respect the judgment of the Court by respecting the outcome of the case in regard to the litigants involved in the case. But that was a different matter, he insisted, from accepting the principle articulated in the case “as a political rule which shall be binding on the voter, to vote for nobody who thinks it wrong, which shall be binding on the members of Congress or the President to favor no measure that does not actually concur with the principles of that decision.”

Just what might be put on the table [post Obergefell] is an open question. Personally, I lean toward Carrie Severino’s proposal for DOMMA: a Defense of Monogamous Marriage Act.

The majority in Obergefell never sought to answer the argument made by Chief Justice Roberts: that it was hard to see how the principles stated by the Court would confine marriage to a coupling and deny marriage then to people in polygamous and polyamorous households, for they too may earnestly wish to marry “the ones they love.” The Congress could actually do the Court a favor by limiting a decision the majority would probably wish to see limited, but whose principle of limitation it cannot quite explain itself.

I’d prefer raw, open defiance and contempt toward the court, but I suppose “doing it a favor” while loudly and pointedly complaining that “this (the specter of polygamy because the court has no tools with which to say “no” to polygamy after saying yes to SSM) is the sort of mess legislatures are left with when SCOTUS oversteps its bounds” is the best I can hope 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.


About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
This entry was posted in "Spiritual" (maybe Religious), Consumerism, Ecclesiology, Family, Health care, History, Marriage (real), Political Matters, Sexualia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Friday, 11/27/15

  1. Michael Bauman says:

    History is not a fixed thing or a force. History is a flow of discreet events imbedded in a matrix of ideas and passions.

    People don’t want the early Church because most have been lobatimized into the false eschatology of the myth of progress. Simply put that the present is better than the past and the future will be even better yet: despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Thus everything “bad” is from the past so anything from the past is “bad” or at least a non-useful anachronism.

    There are no sides to history and the flow can be diverted if the fundamental ideas are changed. That is what the early Church did that we are not doing.

Comments are closed.