Winter Solstice, Conventionally Reckoned

  1. They hate us because we’re wonderful
  2. Ruthless Liberals
  3. The Liberating Creed
  4. For the Time Being


In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, the final passage of the 2014 law against homosexuality — which made same-sex relationships punishable by 14 years in prison and made it a crime to organize or participate in any type of gay meeting — is widely regarded by both supporters and opponents of gay rights as a reaction to American pressure on Nigeria and other African nations to embrace gay rights.

“The Nigerian law was blowback,” said Chidi Odinkalu, chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and the senior legal officer for the Africa Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which supports gay rights on the continent. “You now have situations of gay men being molested on the streets or taunted. That was all avoidable.”

“I’ve said to U.S. diplomats privately as well — the risk is causing more harm than good,” Mr. Odinkalu added. “You don’t want an infusion of good will to actually do harm to the community that you think you’re protecting.”

(New York Times, U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good) There’s a lot more in this article about the consequences of our meddling. The article even acknowledges how overt our support has been and how we’ve used foreign aid as a bludgeon:

Fierce opposition has come from African governments and private organizations, which accuse the United States of cultural imperialism.Pressing gay rights on an unwilling continent, they say, is the latest attempt by Western nations to impose their values on Africa.

Well, do tell! In other news, some say the Pope is Catholic.

But they only hate us ‘cuz we’re wonderful. It has nothing to do with our being arrogant bastards whose concern for diversity and human rights is suspiciously selective.

This particular arrogance, forcing the sexual revolution on developing nations, is not (for a change) bipartisan. This is a particularly Democratic outrage. And from a party that regularly taunts the other major party for being out of touch with reality, it’s ironic. For instance:

What does work? Green’s answer was straightforward: “Strategies that break up these multiple and concurrent sexual networks—or, in plain language, faithful mutual monogamy.” Green, a respected medical anthropologist, had labored extensively in researching this field. His 2003 book, Rethinking AIDS Prevention, showed how abstinence and faithfulness, for the most part in its religiously ordered form, had contributed more to Uganda’s striking reduction of its HIV infection rate in the late 1980s and early ’90s than “safe sex” could hope to. (A comparison with Botswana’s failed condom-oriented approach is heartrending.) The evidence supports [Pope Benedict’s widely-derided] negative conclusion: Increased condom distribution was actually correlated to increased infection (an empirical observation the reasons for which remain debated). Green’s volume didn’t earn him embraces from many official agencies, but subsequent research by others has backed his conclusions.

(Ephraim Radner, Ministries of Life, First Things January 2016 – possible paywall)


But who cares if it works? It’s efficient. It signals liberal virtue. Case closed. Can we meritocrats get back to making megabucks now?

[C]apitalism will not be threatened anytime soon. Remember, Yale Law students are overwhelmingly liberal. The law school faculty is also very liberal. The university as a whole is liberal. And yet its denizens have their eyes on efficiency, not equality.

Which is not surprising. In all likelihood, the rising generation of liberals think themselves smart and well trained. They believe their successes will benefit everyone. Trickle-down economics may be widely mocked by liberals today, but they believe in it nonetheless, even if their conviction that their personal success improves things for everyone is sometimes reframed as a gushing enthusiasm for start-ups that will “change the world.” This belief in efficiency reminds us that our conflicts over economic policy are not deeply ideological. What distinguishes the American left from the right are assumptions about long-term efficiency. The left worries about the negative externalities of things such as global warming, while the right worries about the disincentives of high taxation and regulation.

The remarkable preference for efficiency we see in the overwhelmingly Democratic student body at Yale Law School also sheds light on today’s progressive priorities, which focus on identity politics, especially sexual identity. Gay rights are favored by rich liberals in large part because they’re seen as a cost-free way toward greater equality. There are lots of well-educated gays and les­bians who look, act, and think just like other elites. Sexual ­orientation “diversity” requires no bending of meritocratic rules, no set-asides, and no expensive, large-scale government programs.

Americans in general are much more likely to choose equality over efficiency. This explains the significant demand for equality rhetoric in today’s political environment. Conservatives seem determined to ignore that demand. The left is happy to satisfy it in the form of a still greater emphasis on LGBT rights. It’s a low-cost way to be egalitarian.

The New York Times editorial page has made transgender rights a priority. I now see why. Political activism in areas of sex and gender does not threaten the priorities of liberal elites, which are a combination of a selfish sense that meritocrats merit their rewards and a technocratic concern about efficiency.

The Obama administration is now requiring school districts to allow troubled boys who see themselves as girls to play sports and shower with females. It’s drastic, to be sure. But from the perspective of a liberal who wants to win elections, it makes sense as an extension of a long-running equality trade that includes talking about the “war on women.” Sexual orientation and gender equality seem to cost very little. That agenda does not disrupt the smart-people-like-us-should-run-things mentality of liberal leaders.

(R.R. Reno, Liberalism’s Future)


I do hope there’s no paywall on this article (I’m a subscriber so it’s hard for me to know), because it’s an excellent visit to the topic of how creeds are liberating:

According to the Creed, however, Jesus is both the one who is born of a human mother and the one “through whom all things were made.” Jesus is a man who is mortal just like all his fellows, and, at the same time, he now sits on the right hand—the place of ultimate power and glory—of God the Father. Approaching Jesus in this way turns language back on itself, exposing our poverty. Confessing what is beyond language, the creeds use the words least likely to diminish the mystery while at the same time gesturing at its depths. To say otherwise, to reject the Creed as so much ­rationalist mystery-refusal, is to get things exactly backward. It is the Creed, not the heresies it proscribes, that dares to confess God in Christ uncontainable, unclassifiable, and incomprehensible.

(Wesley Hill, God’s Strangeness) I agree completely, although I’d put it in terms of creeds being fences built at the edges of cliffs to keep us safe as we explore.


This magical time of the year hasn’t felt very magical. It has felt, well, harried. Surprise, surprise.

Time to return to W.H. Auden’s For The Time Being. Here’s my part 1 and part 2 comments from last year.

* * * * *

“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.