Life goes on — and maybe gets better

I have been enjoying Jake Meador and the other young folks who write for Mere Orthodoxy for several years now, as it accelerates its publishing pace and the breadth of its author pool.

I can’t say for sure I’ve encountered Bart Gingerich more than once before, and that one encounter was at Mere Orthodoxy, too. Now I’m recommending another article from him, this time for orthodox Christians who are feeling anxious about their future in a world where the new civic religion, Pride, forces itself on one and all for the full month of June, and where woke capital guard against excessive virtue the remaining 11 months as well.

Young Gingerich’s message is twofold:

  1. We’ve lost on the sexual revolution, humanly speaking, for an indeterminate future. Get over it. We have plenty of rot in our own church environs to occupy us for the duration.
  2. We are not helpless economically against the predations of woke capital. There are things we can and should do.

Excerpts:

Be Holy

In a certain sense, our current “post-Obergefell moment” presents an opportunity to take stock of ourselves as American Christians. With such an important battle for sexual morality lost, now is a time to turn our focus and attention to things matters of holiness afflicting the Church. In being so focused on the homosexuality issue and the political fights that took place in legislatures and court rooms, I fear many Christians have ignored other pressing matters of holiness that are just as deleterious to the Church and to the nation at large.

Having a fulsome Christian sexual ethic that is enforced consistently across the board in our ecclesiastical contexts makes our teaching on LGBT issues credible to up-and-coming generations. But the main motivating factor for us to pursue sexual holiness corporately is because it pleases the Lord. So let us not waste our Obergefell; let us recommit ourselves to holiness.

Be Strong for Others

This is an old maxim from the days of chivalry: might for right. In this case, I have economic might in mind. I beseech those in the Church who are talented and enterprising: consider bulking up to provide shelter to the brethren …

This is not to say that enterprising Christians should not pursue old stand-bys: the trades, contracting, real estate, farming, and more. The goal, as Pastor Chris Wiley says in his excellent little book Man of the House, is to acquire productive property …

This is part of what it means to be strong for others … [W]ith ownership comes liberty. This is why political concerns still matter. Lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and more will have a big effect on other Christian business owners. But many decisions on this front have been encouraging, making self-employment and ownership of productive property a desirable alternative to laboring for a progressive institution.

… [A]cross the board, this is likely going to involve making households productive again. No longer will households be simply centers of recreation, which is where we find ourselves today thanks to the Industrial Revolution and other shifts. The homeplace will once again be the workplace, and that will be a good thing …

Be Anxious for Nothing: Love One Another

At the heart of the previous section and this one is this: no one is going to starve. Plenty of vitriol in Christian reactions to the LGBT+ agenda has been fueled by disgust for homosexual and transsexual promiscuity and its effect on our families, communities, nation, and world. But there is also a desperation apparent in the rhetoric and activism that springs from a fear for survival, both materially in terms of livelihood and spiritually in terms of the Church’s continued existence in the United States. I would like to tackle the former fear first: no one is going to starve.

… If things continue on their current trajectory in the United States (and that is a big “if,” for history if full of surprises), the individualism and isolation that has become so typical of the American Church is going to come to an end due to necessity.

Bart Gingerich, Traditional Christians in America Post-Obergefell: Now What?

This is serious analysis. I’d paraphrase part of his “Be Strong for Others” as “stop thinking about jobs and start thinking about vocations.” And I’d also note that this vision for economic well-being at a more intimate scale than that of the progressive corporations is essentially Distributist.

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I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Reconsidering

Young people are showing a strange attraction to socialism, as are many Christians who might have been expected to sustain [Michael] Novak’s philosophy of virtuous capitalism. The U.S. lacks leaders who combine prudence and moral vision.

(Robert A. Sirico, What I Learned from Michael Novak)

Silicon Valley is a one-party state.

(Peter Thiel at Stanford University)

The same Christians who championed free markets and corporate license are finding the ethics of Christian orthodoxy trampled on by host of large corporations. This is no accident.

[A]n understanding of the political economy under which we live is the note of the liberal order most often missing from Christian writers’ understanding of it. It’s that engine that moves the world. Capitalism drive secularism; capitalism drives the “sexual revolution” and the abortion regime; capitalism drives white supremacy and imperialism; capitalism drives climate change. These things will not wither away spontaneously without capitalism to support them, but they certainly depend on it for life today.

(Jose Mena, Toward a Politics of the Common Good, in Fare Forward #8)

I will give Michael Novak “A” for sincerity and “A” for diligence. But if he were living, and could set aside pride of authorship — no, make that “consider the possibility that the public virtue that was to arise from private vice was ever a foolish hope” — I wonder if he would still agree with himself.

I would not welcome abandoning capitalism for socialism, but I reject the myopia that posits such a binary choice.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Sabbatical

I’m not a misogynist. I don’t judge women on their looks. You can trust me that I didn’t sexually assault any of these women because they’re all ugly. (Donald Trump)

Thanks for clearing that up, man.

Of course, I made up that exact quote. You can tell because it strings together three complete sentences, even though they’re internally inconsistent. There’s no “word salad.” There’s so self-aggrandizing asides.

Trump couldn’t read it if it was put in front of him on a teleprompter.

Hillary’s not as easy to mock because she does not manifest (n.) manifest (adj.) concurrent severe personality disorders.

The best diagnosis of Hillary I’ve heard is that sometime between the mid-70s and now, someone flipped off the idealism switch and flipped on the corruption and self-enrichment switch.

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Face it, Republican Trump supporters (i.e., excluding newcomers supporting Trump’s independent campaign under the Republican umbrella) and rueful Hillary supporters: if 2016 isn’t enough to get you looking at third parties, you never will. You’re a slave. You’ll continue, in saecula saeculorum, eating whichever party’s Shit Sandwich looks less shitty, and it’s relatively easy because you’ve limited the choice to two.

A Facebook friend couldn’t believe I won’t support Trump, because (when you stripped away all my friend’s bombast) unlike Hillary, Trump truly does not care about people like us beyond securing our votes (and therefore won’t persecute us).

I agree with that. I will be a direct target for Clinton, collateral damage for Trump.

However, Trump is so unstable and so eerily demagogic that for the sake of the world, I’ll risk a direct Hillary hit over a Trump holocaust by voting #NeverTrump, #NeverClinton.

I’m moving beyond 2016 toward a more realistic, human-scaled vision of America’s future than either party is pushing or willing to push.

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The debasing tone and meager substance of this campaign, aside, I’m rejecting both parties because on a very important issue, they’re both (or all) out of touch with reality.

  • The Democrats and establishment Republicans are selling substantially the same economic Ponzi Scheme.
  • Trump and his followers, insofar as they have a coherent economic message instead of a bundle of understandable grievances, are dealing in nostalgia for post-war America (the beginning of the Ponzi scheme).

None of that is going to work any more. The fuel of the ever-growing economy is literally fuel: petroleum. We’ve used up the economically viable petroleum sources. Only a zero-interest, hyper-financialized economy, funding unprofitable shale-oil shell games, has let us ignore that reality thus far. The alternate energy sources are not yet in place and when they come along (if they do), they will not allow our present physical configurations, dependent on carefree automobile trips, to survive.

Contrary to the American religion of endless progress, the techno-industrial age is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and we are closer to the end of that chapter in human history than to the middle of it. By the 1970s, the USA began to feel the bite of competition from other parts of the world that had rebuilt their industrial capacity following the debacle of World War II. Our factories, which had not been bombed during the war, were old and worn out. Environmental consciousness produced stringent new regulation of dirty industries. Third World nations with rising populations offered ultra-cheap labor and lax regulation. So, we “off-shored” US industry, which for a century had been the major source of our economic wealth.

Industrial production was replaced mainly by two activities. First, after being constrained by the oil crises of 1973 and 1979, the suburban sprawl build-out resumed with vengeance in the 1980s. Secondly, and connected with sprawl via the mortgage racket, was the expansion of the financial sector of the economy from five percent to over 40 percent. The suburban sprawl part was easy to understand. It was the preferred template for property development, an emergent process over the decades. The local zoning and building codes had evolved to mandate that outcome by law. The separation of uses became more extreme: housing tracts here, office parks there, shopping somewhere else, connected solely by cars. You couldn’t build a popsicle stand anywhere in the USA without supplying fifteen parking spaces. The new laws for handicapped access had the unintended consequence of heavily discouraging buildings over one story. The tragic part was that suburban sprawl was a living arrangement with no future. The oil crises of the 70s had portended that, but both the zoning codes and the cultural conditioning over-rode that warning. Anyway, Americans simply couldn’t conceive of living any other way.

Back when finance was a mere five percent of the economy, banking was boring and didn’t even pay so well. It was based on the 3-6-3 formula: borrow money at 3 percent, lend it out at 6 percent, and be on the golf course at 3 o’clock. In the 1960s, bank presidents and stock brokers might have a color TV instead of a black-and-white, and they might drive a Cadillac instead of a Chevrolet, but they didn’t live on another planet of ultra-wealth. The role of banking in the economy was straightforward: to manage society’s accumulated wealth (capital), and re-deploy it for productive purposes that would produce yet more wealth.

The computer revolution of the 1990s helped take finance to a whole other level of hyper-complexity with astonishing speed and, because the diminishing returns of technology always bite, this venture produced some ferocious blowback — namely, that many of the new “innovative” financial instruments created by computer magic enabled swindling and fraud on a scale never seen before. This was especially true in the securitization of mortgage debt into fantastically complex mutant bonds, many of which were notoriously designed to blow up and reward their issuers with bond “insurance” payouts. That bit of mischief led to the crash of 2008. The systemic damage of that event was never resolved but simply papered over by taxpayer bailouts and massive Federal Reserve “interventions” that continue to the present.

(James Howard Kunstler, The Future of the City) Even Mark Levinson’s Weekend Essay in the Wall Street Journal admits that “the economy doesn’t roar any more.”

The U.S. presidential candidates have made the usual pile of promises, none more predictable than their pledge to make the U.S. economy grow faster. With the economy struggling to expand at 2% a year, they would have us believe that 3%, 4% or even 5% growth is within reach.

But of all the promises uttered by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the course of this disheartening campaign, none will be tougher to keep. Whoever sits in the Oval Office next year will swiftly find that faster productivity growth—the key to faster economic growth—isn’t something a president can decree. It might be wiser to accept the truth: The U.S. economy isn’t behaving badly. It is just being ordinary.

Historically, boom times are the exception, not the norm ….

It’s no fun to think about that. The era of happy motoring, our half-acre mini-estates (on formerly-tilled land), and the dream of endless progress are much funner.

We Boomers were much closer to the truth when we were all reading E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful — but then our switches flipped like Hillary’s did. She was just better at ferreting out the possibilities of personal enrichment by racketeering.

It’s no accident that the Clintonistas were trash-talking thus according to last week’s Wikileak:

They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.”

Subsidiarity is soooo “Small is Beautiful.”

The day is coming when we’ll have a choice between (a) the war of all against all over the bits of real wealth that remain or (b) cooperation on far more localized and pedestrian (literally and metaphorically) scale. Kunstler’s declinist essay and most of his corpus for several decades now go into greater detail.

It’s heartening, though I too rarely pay heed to it, to note that people are starting to vote with their feet, motivated by market forces if not conscious conviction. It’s too little, too slowly, I fear, but I could be wrong about how long the combined efforts of our plutocrats can keep the bubble from bursting.

I’ve aligned with a party  that believes in things the Democrats despise, as do the Republicans, though their emails haven’t been leaked, and though they’ll despise some parts the Democrats like (and vice-versa). But I’m aware that we’ll lose this year, that our candidate has the thinnest of political credentials and that there are limits to politics fixing all ills.

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With that, I begin a brief (at least) blogging sabbatical. I’m going after dinner to a place where I fully expect to be off-grid for a while.

Prayer and worship and maybe some (offline) reading will be my likely routine, though I’ll be happy if I meet someone in a black robe who credibly says “I think I know how to cure what ails you” and takes me some different direction.

Yes, I’ve been ailing (dare I suggest we all are?), even if the ailment is only frenzy over how few people sense the truly perilous position we’re in. In fact, it’s probably much worse than that, and if I’m going only to “pray away the gay frenzy,”  I’m unlikely to accomplish even that. They don’t really know how to do partial soul-cures, after all.

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“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.