Tuesday, 8/9/16

  1. The Anti-Discrimination Religion
  2. Dialogue
  3. Essential, contingent and normal generic statements
  4. Religious humanism’s bad odor
  5. Sausages and laws
  6. Sewage and Wine


I bumped another article down to put this at the top. It’s important:

[A]nti-discrimination laws … started as part of an effort to redress the exclusion of African-Americans and others from mainstream American life …

Over time, however, Americans gravitated to the notion that discrimination, per se, is immoral and harmful and must be forcibly suppressed, even if the economic consequences are minimal or nonexistent. We have reached a point where, if even one out of hundreds of local wedding photographers declines for religious reasons to photograph a same-sex wedding, that lone photographer is seen by many to have committed a grave offense deserving of punishment.

… Many secularists see adherence to longstanding moral teachings as compelling evidence of irrational animus. Secular liberals seem unable to discern why—unless out of a prejudiced hostility to women’s rights—a Catholic university should decline to provide its employees with insurance coverage for birth control. This failure of moral imagination is quite staggering, especially given that progressives consider themselves to be exceptionally open-minded and tolerant of diversity.

[RFRA]… was passed almost unanimously by Congress … Scalia had taken the firm position, traditionally associated with conservatives, that free-exercise rights do not include the right to disobey general laws that do not themselves target religion. Among those persuading Congress to pass RFRA was the ACLU, along with most major civil-liberties and religious groups. (Ironically, some conservative groups had reservations about the act.) Once it became clear, however, that the primary beneficiaries of RFRA were not going to be the aforementioned peyote-smokers and Sabbatarians but religious Christians seeking to repel the advance of secular, progressive values into their lives, the ACLU and many other left-leaning groups and individuals became strong opponents of religious-freedom laws at both the federal and, later, the state level.

Indeed, in a remarkable spectacle, governors of states that in the 1990s had passed still-extant religious-freedom laws are now boycotting states that have passed similar or almost identical laws in the 2010s. Thus, in 2015, the Connecticut governor Dan Malloy signed an executive order banning state travel to Indiana on account of that state’s newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which actually afforded narrower protection to religious liberty than does Connecticut’s RFRA.

(David Bernstein, How Anti-Discrimination Became a Religion, and What It Means for Judaism)

Lest I be accused of misrepresenting the thrust of Bernstein’s article, I acknowledge that, as the title suggests, it concludes with suggestions that the Left will become more opposed to religious freedom, and even anti-Semitic, as American Jewry becomes predominately “ultra-Orthodox”:

As for those who remain active members of the Jewish community, they will be divided among a large but shrinking cohort of mostly Reform and other religiously liberal Jews; a smaller but vigorous group of modern and centrist Orthodox Jews joined by remnants of the rapidly declining Conservative movement; and a large and rapidly growing group of ḥaredi or “ultra-Orthodox” Jews.

At some point, indeed, this last-named group, whose current rate of per-year population growth stands at an astonishing 5.5-percent, will form a significant element of the public “face” of American Jewry.

The ultra-Orthodox will be just as much in the bulls-eye of the Anti-Discrimination Religion as are Evangelicals, Orthodox Christians and observant Roman Catholics. Bernstein linked to the Mosaic article from the Volokh Conspiracy blog under the evocative title Will liberals defend American Jews’ religious freedom when most practicing Jews are Orthodox? Do read it all.

May it please G*d that they all band together for vigorous defense of religious freedom. But as Mr. Dooley noted,”No matther whether th’ constitution follows h’ flag or not, th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns. And the new religion has some very vocal converts waging Jihad against infidels, countless more reciting the new creed by rote.


In late adolescence, I speculated on what religion I would practice if not Christianity. Answer: Bahai. So I thought, for whatever that’s worth.

Counterfactuals are always fraught with problems. So take this with a grain of salt.

Were I Roman Catholic, I think I would be very unhappy with the Papacy of Francis. I think I’d probably have wandered into Wanderer land if not into le monde LefebvreI would seek out Latin masses ad orientum and eschew post-Vatican II masses.

As a result, most Sundays I wouldn’t attend Mass since the nearest Latin mass is, I think, 60 miles away.

And thus would I continue the slide into ideology.

I would be particularly alarmed that the post-Vatican II Church seems too Protestant, and I would see stuff like a commission to study the female diaconate as a familiar mainstream Protestant path:

[W]hen a question has been asked on a matter of faith and morals, and a clear answer emerges from Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, the proper dialogue to have is “Explain this further, let’s go deeper,” not to call the conclusion into question. This is not dialogue. It is refusal. It is a tool misused to attempt to chip away at the patience of authorities and the steadfastness of the faithful: “this issue keeps coming up; perhaps we should give it further consideration.”

But dialogue is not itself the goal, for history shows us, in faith and in politics, that those of A Certain Mindset use dialogue as a diversion. It generally happens this way: they want some new action to be taken or position to be adopted, so they repeatedly call for dialogue, openness, “continuing the conversation.” Then they push for a power play—a Supreme Court decision or papal decree—which decides the question apart from and outside of the “dialogue” that had been granted. When objections are raised, those of A Certain Mindset declare the matter closed and decided, forever and in perpetuity: settled law, stare decisis, Roma locuta est, and so on. Suddenly, the relativist hardens into the dogmatist.

Those of A Certain Mindset do not truly want dialogue; they want a distraction while they work to achieve their ends. It’s not about seeking the truth, but grasping power and effecting their will. That’s why an article in the National Catholic Reporter recently called for Pope Francis to issue decrees solidifying his reforms (not sure which, exactly—how many has he truly made, rather than those people think he wants?) lest a future pope attempt to roll them back. They want the matter closed.

(Nicholas Senz, When Dialogue is a Distraction)

Obviously, I would have a point. And that’s why I think that ideological path would be so seductive.

I was friends with a guy like that until an epiphany — an epiphany that makes it painful to think that (in my counterfactual world) I would follow that path and might not find an exit.

The end thereof is madness — even if the eventuality of Pope Francis is martyrs’ blood shed in already-dead Churches.

After I penned the foregoing, I read this, but there must be an ending to a short item, and I’m not going to go there with you.


John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the current Chair of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in London, was a participant in a public debate recently held in Sydney on the question of whether “society must recognize transgender people’s identities”.

(Mercatornet) I found the linked summary of (part of?) his talk helpful. Introduction:

Haldane re-asserted the traditional idea that human beings are sexually differentiated into male and female, but insisted on the importance of how that idea is understood. It is a generic statement, that is, a statement about the genus, or kind, of creature a human being is. But there are at least three different kinds of generic statements: “essential”, “contingent” and “normal” ….


Richard Mouw, in Every Day An Armageddon, has some kind words for the late Tim LaHaye. But some context is needed to see why this is a surprise:

During the mid-1970s I spent an academic year as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in the Sociology Department at Princeton University. The memos that I received from my sociology hosts always began with this greeting: “Dear Visiting Humanist.”

When I showed one of those memos to an evangelical friend, he said: “I sure hope this doesn’t get circulated in the evangelical world!” The term “humanist” was a bad word at that time among evangelicals, and the antagonism would soon intensify with the appearance, in 1980, of Tim LaHaye’s bestseller, The Battle for the Mind, which called for an all-out evangelical campaign against “secular humanism.”

What LaHaye and others failed to make clear, of course, was that “humanism” could sometimes be used in manner that was not unfriendly to the Christian faith. The memos that I received at Princeton were simply acknowledging my role as a scholar trained in the humanities. And Catholic thinkers—the writings of Jacques Maritain are a prominent case in point—have long promoted a “Christian Humanism,” a perspective that celebrates the created dignity of the human person in God’s design for the world. What makes secular humanism bad is its insistence that human consciousness is the highest standard of truth, goodness, and beauty in the universe.

LaHaye’s failure to make these distinctions troubled me. And there were other things that bothered me in the way he made his case ….

The blanket Evangelical distrust of the term “humanism” persists, as attested by my Evangelical client who was most sorely alarmed that my office waiting room has copies of Image, from the “Center For Religious Humanism” as he learned from suspiciously sniffing at reading the masthead. I don’t think my reassurances helped, and I’ve not seen him in several years now.


If you enjoy sausages or laws, you should never watch either being made. We haven’t had much experience watching laws getting made lately, and there’s a reason.

Jonathan Rauch, one of the most honorable (and thus perversely effective) people on the wrong side of the LGBT revolution, tutors us (including me) on the importance of things we (including me) have grown to despise: Features of our “unwritten constitution.”


It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.

As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes.

I could continue, but you get the gist. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now ….

I have a nagging feeling that I shared this earlier, here or on social media. Still, it’s good.


Put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine and it’s sewage. Put a spoonful of wine in a barrel of sewage and it’s still sewage.

That stands on its own, but I was reminded of it by a political column (a rather good one, but far be it from me to fall off the political wagon and resume political rants).

* * * * *

“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.