Current events, 9/28/17

    1. Roy Moore, fighting with both arms
    2. Roy Moore as antidote to empty rhetoric
    3. Two cheers, at most, for whatever enabled Hef

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: Blogging about current events is no longer totally unpalatable, though I’m trying to set my sights higher than gossip: for current events that illustrate or portend something bigger (or those bigger things themselves).

1

In “A short history of Roy Moore’s controversial interpretations of the Bible,” a recent article in TheWashington Post, we learn a great deal about Moore. Among other things, the judge would like “to see virtue and morality returned to our country.” He claims that his loyalty to Almighty God is a higher calling than his allegiance to the United States of America and that “removing the sovereignty of a Christian God from the functions of government is an act of apostasy.” You can call this disgusting, out of touch, antithetical to The Way We Live Now. But as a reading of scripture it is only “controversial” in the sense that “controversial” is a dog-whistling word that means “something the writer thinks is bad.” Liberal Christians may not agree with Moore, but their reasons won’t have much to do with the words of the Bible.

The genius of Moore is that he is unwilling to join in the usual proceduralist games that social conservatives in this country have been playing and losing for decades. It doesn’t matter to him in the slightest whether erecting a monument to the Decalogue on the grounds of the Alabama Supreme Court is a violation of the Establishment Clause or whether there is any constitutional warrant for proscribing sodomy, though as it happens he believes that in both cases he is legally in the clear. Roe v. Wade is not for him an unfortunate decision handed down by the Supreme Court without any identifiable basis in the plain words of the Constitution; it is wrong because the slaughter of infants is wrong. It does not occur to him to couch his support for these positions in legalistic terms. He holds them because he believes they are true.

This is the only way forward for social conservatives in this country. No progressive cares a fig whether Justice Anthony Kennedy’s psychedelic prose poem of a decision in Obergefell is “constitutional.” Obviously it isn’t. So why should opponents of same-sex marriage fight with one hand behind their backs? Straight shooting? Decorum? Being the bigger man? This isn’t a polo match.

… [T]here is something awkward and cursory, almost willfully negligent, about Moore’s recital of conservative economic orthodoxy. It is obvious that he is concerned with morals, not money. As it happens, I think there is a very straightforward logical connection between the classical liberal economics preached by the Republican Party for decades now and the moral chaos by which Moore, almost uniquely in today’s GOP, seems genuinely disquieted. To claim that our moral life must be oriented toward the good but that our economic life can be oriented toward anything that turns a profit — cheap appliances, trash television, payday loans — is oxymoronic.

Moore is light years away from considering this tension, but it is heartening to think that there soon might be at least one person in the United States Senate for whom Christ is more important than Milton Friedman.

(Matthew Walther, The Genius of Roy Moore)

I think Walther may be wrong about things such as “It doesn’t matter to him in the slightest whether erecting a monument to the Decalogue on the grounds of the Alabama Supreme Court is a violation of the Establishment Clause.” I suspect he believes that the Establishment Clause doesn’t apply to the states, which it clearly did not originally (Seriously. You can look that up. Massachusetts, fer cryin’ out loud, had an established Church into the 1830s!) and it’s supposed incorporation into the 14th Amendment (which clearly does apply to the states) is dubious.

But maybe I’m projecting my take onto him, and for him it suffices that Alabama must not apostatize from the Christian faith.

2

More on Roy Moore, from Damon Linker:

it was at Strange’s campaign rally last Friday night that the president lashed out at NFL players like Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against African Americans. It was precisely the kind of culturally populist demagoguery that propelled Trump to victory last year, only now he was deploying it in a futile effort to advance the preferences of the Republican establishment.

The GOP has been trying variations on this tactic for decades now — using populist rhetoric (on the stump no less than on right-wing cable news and talk radio) to win elections, after which the party enacts an agenda favored by its establishment and wealthiest donors. Beginning in 2008, this approach began to misfire, not because the rhetoric became ineffective but because the rhetoric became the reality. Once Republican voters got a taste of a purer cultural populism in the form of Sarah Palin’s salty and insulting speeches on the stump, they would settle for nothing less.

Moore is the choice of those who are fed up with empty promises, who take the GOP’s decades-long attack on the federal government with utmost seriousness and yearn for it to be more than empty talk, who long to confront and vanquish liberalism from American public life, once and for all. At least they know that Moore means what he says and is willing to accept the consequences of standing his ground — as he did in 2003 … and again in 2016 …. On both occasions, he lost his position as chief justice, which is a greater display of political valor than Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican establishment has ever shown.

Trump is a huge problem, but he’s not biggest problem, or the root of the problem — which is the rabid faction of the Republican electorate. It wants nothing short of a revolution in the GOP and a political sea change in the country. Thanks to Trump, it believes both are in reach.

And it may well be right.

3

Well, I’m bearish on the Current Order, but I’d call Hef the beneficiary of liberal democracy (which rejects substantive conceptions of the good) more than of capitalism per se.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

2 thoughts on “Current events, 9/28/17

  1. You have confirmed something that I suspected but had never remembered to look up — that there was at least one State that had an “Established Church” at the time of the ratification of the First Amendment. And I have often wondered how the prohibition of *Congress* from making laws concerning “an establishment of religion” prevented States (or Counties, or Cities, I guess, for that matter) from setting up an “Established Religion” (which I assume you understand does not mean “religious organization,” the term “Established Religion” being a technical term whose meaning would have been known at the time).

    The Church of England is still “established” in England. I understand that the Lutheran Church in Norway was recently “disestablished” at the request of the church, so that bishops no longer have to have the permission of a government official before they can expel a heretical minister.

    Even though the Church of England is the “established church,” government money nevertheless goes to at least some Roman Catholic and other private schools. Providing government money to a religious body does not result in “an establishment of religion.”

    • I don’t know the count, but many of the colonies had established Churches when the First Amendment was ratified. I can’t put my finger on the exact humber, but I’d wager a modest amount that it was 2/3 or more.

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