May First Things potpourri

  1. Against the snare of “dialog”
  2. Leviathan: Protector of the Atomistic Individual
  3. Squeaks & Squawks
  4. Sinkin’ Low Joe
  5. Preferential Option for the Powerful
  6. Can NYT disregard a law it dislikes?
  7. Preferential Option for the Powerful II
  8. Preferential Option for the Powerful III

1

In my years as a theology professor, as a rare conservative in higher education, I became accustomed to calls for dialogue on this or that issue. In almost every instance, it was a set-up for mandatory public capitulation. If someone regards abortion as a moral evil and same-sex marriage as an oxymoron, as I do, he cannot say so in a public forum, for it amounts to a sin against dialogue. It “shuts down conversation,” I was told on many occasions. As I learned over the years, there’s dialogue—until there isn’t.

(R.R. Reno)

2

As has been the case from the French Revolution to the present, state power intervenes to guarantee our individual freedom. The redefinition of marriage in Obergefell is just one example. As encompassing and often constraining social forms recede, we feel freer. But without controlling norms, we are also more vulnerable. We turn to the state as the source of security. Government the liberator becomes government the protector, insuring us against the risks that a greater freedom brings. This dynamic holds true in economics as well. It is naive to imagine that liberalizing the postwar economic system will not both provide the greater choice and dynamism most Americans want and inspire calls for government to backstop us should our choices go sour.

(R.R. Reno)

3

The shriveling of the majestic Anglicanism of my childhood into the unending quarrel about sex which it has become is a symbol of its decay. That Was the Church That Was (I think I can reveal without causing any grave difficulties to anyone) is dominated by factional differences between evangelical ­conservatives and liberal Catholics, by office politics, by money troubles, and by struggles over homosexuality and over the ordination of women. It is hardly at all about trying to maintain the Christian faith in an age of secularism. Nowhere does it discuss the mysterious but willful destruction of the mighty poetic force of the Bible and Prayer Book, which has turned the thunder and trumpets of Anglican worship into a series of squeaks and squawks, accompanied by tambourines and guitars. This rejection of solemnity and mystery helped to make possible the shrinking of a great Church into a series of squabbles. Both events are consequences of the general inability of a once important people to take themselves ­seriously anymore.

(Peter Hitchens)

4

Biden hasn’t just endorsed gay marriage. Like so many others, he demonizes opposition. Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign last year, he denounced those who attempt to prevent the revision of marriage laws as engaging in “appeals to prejudice, fear, and homophobia.” The rhetoric is­ ­sadly typical. Progressives in the culture wars get a free pass. They’re allowed to use strong, divisive language, while conservatives are singled out as uncivil, intolerant, and judgmental.

(R.R. Reno)

5

Jordan Schnitzer is very rich. He lives in Portland, Oregon—when he’s not at his house in San Francisco, or the one in Palm Springs, or the one on the Oregon coast. He’s had children, two daughters. But at age sixty-four, divorced for more than a decade, he wanted a son. Very rich people are used to getting what they want, so Schnitzer got his then-girlfriend to donate eggs, lawyers to write up contracts, another woman to serve as the surrogate to gestate the embryo, and doctors willing to sex-select the male embryo for implantation (for the record, the doctors work at OHSU Fertility Consultants in Portland). The desired son was conceived, implanted, and born. Complication: the former girlfriend is litigating for her parental rights. Schnitzer is counter-litigating to deny them. Welcome to the world of children as luxury goods.

Oregon law allows for surrogacy contracts that pay surrogate mothers. Why are the states that compliment themselves as progressive the most likely to provide legal frameworks for the strong to prey upon the weak? It is because twenty-first-century progressivism is the social and political movement that best serves the interests of the strong at the expense of the weak.

(R.R. Reno)

6

Here’s how the editorial page of the New York Times sums up the legal issue at stake [in Zubik v. Burwell]. “The question in the Zubik case is a simple one: Do religious objectors get to disobey the laws they dislike, even when that places burdens on others?” Dislike? Would the New York Times editors “dislike” laws that limit the freedom of the press or free speech?

(R.R. Reno) For a newspaper that considers itself smart and sophisticated, that was a transparently stupid and tendentious summary of the issue.

7

Adjunct professors at Duke University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Minnesota have unionized. I’d have voted to unionize if I were in their positions. The disparities in academic pay are extreme, and getting worse. The national average pay for adjunct work is $2,700 per class. At four classes each semester, the typical full-time adjunct load, that’s nearly $22,000 for the year. Full professors at public institutions earn an average salary of $116,000, and at private schools the average salary is $148,000. Very few of these professors teach four classes per semester. At Duke, Chicago, and Minnesota, most teach two classes per semester, or even fewer. The hypocrisies of higher education never cease to astound me. The self-congratulating progressive culture in academia has developed a system of instructional peonage over the last two decades.

(R.R. Reno) This may be a bum rap on the progressive culture in academia. It may be coming from administrators — which is maybe a little different.

8

I’m increasingly frustrated by the lazy way in which commentators speak about the racism of Trump supporters, as if there’s no other reason to resent lax enforcement of immigration laws. Moreover, the facts suggest the opposite. White Americans with only a high school degree are among the demographics most likely to vote for Trump. They’re also the demographic most likely to cohabit with or marry non-whites. The rate of black-white intermarriage is inversely proportional to socioeconomic status.

The same is true in other areas of life. I dare say the only white children who attend majority-black public schools are poor white kids: the children of the people most likely to vote for Trump. Rich white families—the kinds of people who are quick to denounce Trump supporters as racists—are overwhelmingly likely to live in neighborhoods with no, or very few, black families. Forty-­nine percent of community college students are white; 22 percent are Hispanic; 14 percent are black. Elite universities? Black enrollment has actually declined over the last two decades and now stands at less than 6 percent.

I could go on. By every measure, it’s the supposedly racist white working class that actually shares institutions, communities, and marriages with African Americans and Hispanics. Their morally superior betters? Not so much.

(R.R. Reno)

* * * * *

“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.