Tuesday, 5/10/16

  1. Straw man revisited
  2. The Onion: Your Source for Prophetic Insight
  3. Don’t try to shut folks out
  4. SBC and the Genetic Fallacy
  5. Trump as Franco, not Mussolini?
  6. Ironies abound


In my last blog, I suggested that Garrett Epps had set up a straw man. Now, another writer has identified “the real issue” along the same lines as did I:

This boycott [of Target] is about the safety of our children. There is no concern, here, with any kind of virtue-signaling on the part of those boycotting Target. One can be a strong supporter of the rights of homosexuals and of transgender persons (not the same thing, it should be noted) while being appalled at Target’s policy and, more importantly, not wanting to go to Target so long as that policy is in place.

Customers are concerned that their daughters might be followed into the Target bathroom by an opportunistic predator using the store policy as an excuse to gain access to children. Statistically this is not likely. But then it never has been likely—yet still happens—that a particular sexual predator will abuse a particular child. No parent wants to play the numbers game with his or her child. And when a store [or a local Ordinance – Tipsy] says, in essence “we do not believe (or care) that a policy specifically telling people to use whatever bathroom they like will increase the possibility of tragedy,” that parent is right, and even duty-bound, to respond.

Because this is an issue of safety, going to the core of parents’ understanding of their duty to their children, the Target boycott has secured a level, intensity, and duration of support seldom seen for causes that might be labelled conservative.

(Bruce Frohnen)

John Horvat II suggests that the goal (no, nobody wants little girls molested by opportunists; the little girls are just collateral damage in a war — for what?) is totally open bathrooms and the consequent destruction of modesty. I’d be more receptive if he had some fly-on-the-wall report from the inner councils of the revolution. For now, I’m not persuaded by what seems like echoes the Communist Conspiracy Theories the Right invoked to discredit all Left policies when I was younger.


The New York Times is on one of its periodic foundation-undermining crusades, asking (a few days ago, it was the digital equivalent of “Page A1, above the fold”) if we should reconsider outlawing prostitution sex work. Good Housekeeping (!) has its own version. But The Onion beat them all by 13 years. (H/T Rod Dreher)


Zora Neale Hurston, once said — this is a good quote here: “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.” Think about that. That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.

So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them. Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice. But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas. And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks. (Laughter.) I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life. That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair. Nobody promised you a crystal stair. And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.

(Barack Obama; H/T Washington Post)

Admit it. You were nodding vigorously in agreement before you saw the attribution, weren’t you?


Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a prominent Evangelical thinker, has reluctantly embraced Natural Law arguments (because scriptural arguments have lost almost all their cultural traction in America):

While traditionally used by Roman Catholic philosophers, theologians, and ethicists, natural law theory has also recently attracted the attention of some evangelicals. Of course, all Christians should affirm the reality of the natural law because Scripture itself affirms both the natural law and the reality of natural revelation. Also called general revelation, natural revelation refers to the fact that God embedded the knowledge of himself and of his law in the universe. In other words, the Creator displayed his own moral character and the appropriate moral structure of the universe in creation.

When! O When! will Evangelicals completely repudiate the genetic fallacy as applied to all truths wearing a clerical collar?

Side note: I will not be buying Mohler’s book. I bought a widely-praised book by Southern Baptist Russell Moore and quickly decided that in a life of only 4,292,400 hours or so, the hour or two to finish reading it could definitely better be spent elsewhere.

On the other hand, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.


I’ve given up on not writing about Trump, because too many smart people keep surprising me with insights.

A vote for a third party is not really a vote for Clinton. A vote for Trump remains, first and foremost, a vote for Trump, with all that that entails. On the other hand, if many conservatives refuse to vote for Trump, a Clinton presidency is that much more likely. This is genuinely a hard situation, and there is no easy escape.

The best argument for Trump is that he may appoint better Supreme Court justices than Clinton (and it’s unlikely he could do worse). This is a significant consideration that, regrettably, makes voters easy to manipulate. With multiple justices aging, the next president may well have the opportunity to radically shift the profile of the nation’s highest court. Given that judicial activism is now regularly used as a means of advancing progressive social agendas, this is a serious threat.

Trump has suggested that he would appoint judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. As an established liar, we clearly can’t trust him to follow through on these promises, but he might. Catholics who vote for Trump for that reason should make clear that their endorsement is heavily qualified, offered in extremis in light of the few and terrible options. We might think of this position as akin to, for instance, Catholics who supported Francisco Franco in fascist Spain for the sake of protecting the Church from murderous Bolsheviks. As a dictator and an ally of Hitler and Mussolini, Franco was extremely bad. No doubt some of his Catholic supporters were morally compromised through the association. Nevertheless, some who fought for the fascists in defense of the Church are remembered as heroes and martyrs. In extreme circumstances, it is sometimes necessary to support even very bad leaders. It could be argued that this is such a moment.

On the other hand, it may not be. Whatever our motivations, we cannot get past the reality that a vote for Trump really is a vote for Trump, not merely a vote for not-Hillary.

(Rachel Lu)


As I undertook to apply categories to item 4, it occurred to me not only that “genetic fallacy” was a less incendiary fit than “Romophobia,” but that there’s a correlation between Evangelical Biblicism (In effect, “It’s so because God says it in His Holy Word. If the Bible said otherwise, it would be otherwise.”) and philosophical nominalism — and, ironically, between that and what we Evangelical Biblicists scornfully dismissed as being no better than a “nominal Christian.”

Ideas have consequences. Ironies abound.

* * * * *

“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.