Leap Day 2016

  1. Ready to smash things
  2. The red herring flavored cupcake
  3. Pure Tipsy bait
  4. A new pseudo-Church in Phoenix

1

Why are so many Evangelicals voting for The Donald despite his lack of support among Evangelical leaders? (So much for the old “easily led” canard.) R.R. Reno takes to the pages of the Washington Post to try explaining:

During the past two presidential election cycles, there’s been open discussion about the future of social conservatism in the Republican coalition. The consensus among big-money people on the right is that this once-important group has reached its use-by date. The pillars of the party have tired of disasters such as failed U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri. In the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee issued a postmortem that recommended, among other things, a change of tone, “especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.” That evangelical dentist in South Carolina has become a political liability — unless, of course, he’s willing to keep his mouth shut in public.

The plan was straightforward: turn socially conservative Christians into the African Americans of the Republican Party, a bloc of voters with no place else to go but who can be managed and kept at a distance from the party’s new brand.

They’ve voted and voted and voted for candidates put forward by the Republican establishment. Where has it gotten them? Like so many people in Middle America, religiously and socially conservative voters are ready to smash things.

They may come to regret their support for Trump. But I don’t blame them.

(Emphasis added) I was told substantially the same thing about GOP cynicism, by a California lawyer who supported the Constitution Party, in 2002. I didn’t believe him — that’s putting it mildly: he pissed me off so bad I remember his dismissal of the GOP 14 year later — but I’ll give him credit now for the right diagnosis even as I reject his prescription.

I’m likely to vote for a third party candidate, partly because I have no remaining confidence that either major party is the lesser evil (see this, for example). I foreswore loyalty to the Republican Party 11 years ago, and I think it’s time to escape the plantation.

2

There has been some pretty harsh criticism of John Kasich’s Thursday-night answer on religious freedom, notably here and here. I have great respect for both authors, but both paraphrases or inferences were unduly incendiary.

Religious freedom is a big issue for me, and I hope it is for my readers. So I’m embedding the series of religious freedom questions at issue.

In fairness to Governor Kasich, “same-sex couple approaches a cupcake maker, sell them a cupcake” is a mainstream and morally correct opinion (setting aside the question of legal compulsion to sell.) If I have a cupcake in the case at my bakery, it’s for sale to anyone who comes in with a sufficient amount of money. I’d venture an opinion that it’s creepy and unchristian to refuse.

But it troubles me if Kasich thinks that’s a fair characterization of the cases — bakers, florists and photographers — that have actually created controversy. It is not. It’s a red herring. The actual cases have been:

  1. Photographer, come shoot our gay wedding.
  2. Florist, make custom floral arrangements for our gay wedding.
  3. Baker, make a custom cake for our gay wedding.

Morally and legally, that’s a world away from:

  1. Photographer, sell us that $79 frame for one of our pictures from our gay wedding.
  2. Florist, we’d like that arrangement in your refrigerator for for our gay wedding this afternoon.
  3. Baker, we’d like to buy that layer cake for our gay wedding this afternoon (we’ve got our own two-bride figurines for the top).

In each of these cases, it strikes me as unnecessarily provocative for the customer to add “for our gay wedding,” but I still think the correct response is “it exists; it’s for sale; it’s not my responsibility what you do with it.”

Thus, Robin Trevino and Jason Delgatto, who drove down from Chicago to Memories Pizza in northwest Indiana and bought a pizza which they proceeded to use in a wedding reception, just made total asses of themselves, and the claim that they tricked the Pizzaria into catering (providing food service for) their gay wedding was a narcissistic delusion.

I’ve plowed this ground before and won’t completely repeat myself. That Kasich’s answer to that question doesn’t offend me, but merely evokes some concern that Kasich perhaps doesn’t “get it,” is evidence that it’s a pretty useless question for flushing out a candidate’s relevant position.

Let’s compare the current controversies to a Supreme Court case from 21 years ago, where the Boston’s Veterans’ Council was required by the Massachusetts courts to let a gay Irish group join its St. Patrick’s Day parade. At times, the court opinions were downright nasty in their condescension to the Council and its attorney, Chester Darling, whose perseverance in the face of derision made him one of my heroes.

Hewitt’s question was the equivalent of asking “do gay people have a right to walk on the streets in Boston?” Well, duh, of course. But let’s ask the real question in the important Hurley case :

Did a Massachusetts State Court’s mandate to Boston’s Veterans’ Council, requiring it to include GLIB members in its parade, violate the Council’s free speech rights as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

The answer to that, 9-0, was “Yes!” The summary at Oyez!

A unanimous court held that the State Court’s ruling to require private citizens who organize a parade to include a group expressing a message that the organizers do not wish to convey violates the First Amendment by making private speech [subject] to the public accommodation requirement. Such an action “violate[s] the fundamental First Amendment rule that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message and, conversely, to decide what not to say.”

Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens were all on board.

I just hope somebody does better than Hugh Hewitt’s inapposite cupcake question, and asks the governor “Did Rob Ingersoll have a right to commandeer Barronelle Stutzman’s creative efforts so that he could have a custom floral arrangement from her for his novel ‘wedding,’ which she couldn’t countenance because of her Christian understanding of marriage?” The same question, with different names, has arisen with bakers and photographers.

If Kasich answers that one “Yes,” he’ll not get my vote.

UPDATE: ADF gives its own articulate answer, although with an erroneous introduction of the question:

When asked about the religious freedom of creative professionals, one of the candidates seemed to confuse the subject with denying service to an entire class of persons based on a protected characteristic: “Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow, maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced. I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave.”

Kasich was not asked about the religious freedom of creative professionals. Watch the video starting at 6:17. I don’t give him the bonus points I would have had he corrected or rephrased Hewitt’s question, but in our current toxic environment I can’t blame him for saying “Whew! Softball phrasing of a potentially explosive question!”

Still, ADF’s answer is probably more succinct and persuasive than mine, and differs from mine not one whit.

3

Sunday’s New York Times had an article that was pure Tipsy bait: Who are the gay Evangelicals?

The main “disappointment” was that it wasn’t really about evangelicals, but focused a lot on Catholic Eve Tushnet and even made passing reference to Eastern Orthodox Sarah and Lindsey.

On the other hand, it would have been a pretty boring saltine without leaven of non-Evangelicals. Even the Evangelicals get their best resources for dealing with their sexuality from non-Evangelical sources (historic Churches, not novelties).

They insist that the church should welcome gay people, yet still condemn homosexual acts. They have provoked a dispute that gets to the heart of the culture wars: a debate over the meaning of vocation that reveals the tension between modern assumptions about living a full life and older ideas about the sacrifices God’s calling requires.

This is one of the reasons I have no interest in some kind of tacit or explicit quota that says, for instance, “we’ve got to put an Evangelical on the Supreme Court.” For all their grousing at the “stagnant” Orthodox Church (or whatever invidious characterization is au courant in Evangelicalism for Roman Catholicism), these more ancient traditions are the place from which Evangelicals borrow when they have a serious issue to deal with.

4

I listened attentively and made every effort to sympathize with what the Pastor of Rebel and Divine cherch is doing with transgender youth in Phoenix,

She was raised a strict Southern Baptist and a boy in a conservative, religious town in rural Kentucky. At the age of 9, she realized she was trans. Although she never officially told her late mother, she says her mom always knew. But Alexandros felt it was religion that kept her mother from fully embracing who Alexandros was. Now, as a 23-year-old Wiccan, Rebel and Divine is the only church she can imagine herself attending.

“There’s no other place like it. It is a place that you can be yourself and get help and help others,” she says.

But then a very bright yellow flag:

There may not be readings from the Bible or the mention of the name Jesus …

Then the last lines were absolutely too much:

“We broke the bread, we shared the cup tonight. We had community that came together with a family of choice, and we talked about hope and love and joy,” Dirrim says. “Many who came in here wounded still walked out of here today with smiles on their faces. And that is church to me. ”

It’s an ancient pattern of Christian worship. People gathered, shared a word of grace, and a meal — and then Dirrim sent them back out into the world, with a blessing.

With no Bible and no mention of Jesus, and with at least one Wiccan joining in, just what the hell bread did they break and what solipsistic cup did they share?

This is another budding ersatz religionoid, trying to co-opt the language and symbols of Christianity, as Joseph Smith aped the cadences of the King James when he wrote his bogus Book of Mormon 200 years ago, but going even further by leaving Jesus out it it.

A therapeutic “word of grace” followed by a blessing in the name of nobody-in-particular is not an “ancient pattern of Christian worship.” NPR got punked.

* * * * *

“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.