Vigilance or flippancy?

William McGurn, one of the Wall Street Journal writers whose basic worldview seems to be in line with mine, did not cover himself with glory today. Though he had some valid points, …

Let us stipulate that Donald Trump is unique … Mr. Trump tramples on the expected norms for a president.

Some detect in Mr. Trump’s brand of vituperation an assault on the values and virtues that democracy requires to thrive. In this line of thinking, Mr. Trump is morally unfit for the Oval Office. Some speak even more darkly …

There is, however, a flip side to Mr. Trump’s speech and behavior. It has to do with the willingness of those who know better (or ought to know better) to look the other way so long as Mr. Trump is the target …

… he also sounded this false note:

Meanwhile, week after week, the same people who accuse Mr. Trump of lacking depth and nuance toss off allusions to Hilter, Stalin and a parade of murderous dictators ….

It is no doubt possible to “toss off allusions” flippantly or as mere tribal talking points. But don’t be hasty with that accusation. As Father Patrick Henry Reardon said in a recent homily,

I must tell you that the Shoah — I regard the Shoah as the major human experience of my lifetime.

I understand all the Russians and Germans and Poles killed in war. I understand that. This was not “killed in war.” This was something very different.

In my opinion, we have hardly even begun to understand the significance of the Shoah. Maybe in a hundred years. But I fear we’re largely forgetting it already. One must not forget it … The Holocaust should haunt the modern mind ….

Insofar as tossed off allusions trivialize or just wear out the listeners, they are deplorable. But insofar as McGurn is calling genuine concern, informed concern, “toss[ed] off allusions,” or assuming that “it can’t happen here,” shame on him.

If we want to avoid an American Hitler, we must be vigilant, even hyper-vigilant. It can happen here. And anyone who doesn’t see Donald Trump (whatever the legitimate grievances that brought him to office) as the likeliest North American perpetrator is operating on an entirely difference frequency band than I am.

Michael Gerson provides immediate illustration, even a foreshadowing, essentially casting ICE as Trump’s jackbooted thugs:

The attitude of President Trump toward federal law enforcement is, to put it mildly, mixed. The FBI refused to bend to his will. So the special counsel team is composed of “hardened Democrats” engaged in a “WITCH HUNT.” …

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has passed the loyalty test. ICE’s enforcement surge “is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” the president tweeted. Referring to ICE acting director Thomas Homan, Trump said, “Somebody said the other day, they saw him on television. . . . ‘He looks very nasty, he looks very mean.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking for!’”

This is territory more familiar in political systems of personal rule. The agency that defies the ruler must be discredited. The agency that does his bidding is viewed as a kind of Praetorian Guard.

Most of the professionals working in ICE would surely deny this characterization, pointing to an important legal role independent from any individual president. But they need to understand that their work is now being conflated with Trump’s nativism.

ICE is not an agency famous for its care and discernment. In releasing an immigration activist detained by ICE early this year, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest said, “It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust. . . . We are not that country.”

Accusations of abuse in ICE custody are numerous and serious, and they preexisted the Trump era. An investigation by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported cases of racial profiling, fabricated evidence and warrantless searches — all given little scrutiny by overwhelmed immigration courts. During the past few years, there have been hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse, racial slurs, abusive strip searches and verbal harassment in ICE jails, prisons and detention centers. For an institution that claims “zero tolerance” for such practices, it seems to get a lot of serious complaints. One asylum seeker, Gretta Soto Moreno, has called the facilities worse than normal prisons because ICE “feels like it can treat immigrants any kind of way.”

This is the bitter fruit of dehumanization — in a facility, in a system, in a country. It is unclear whether Trump would even regard such a reputation as undesirable. He has effectively given permission for bullying.

(Emphasis added)

Fr. Reardon has some recommendations of Holocaust literature for those who don’t want to forget. Start where the podcast countdown timer reads about -14:16 if you don’t have time for the whole thing, most of which has nothing directly to say about the Shoah. I’m buying three (skipping Primo Levi because Fr. Reardon didn’t call out just one or two or Levi’s large corpus).

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Primaries

I’ve got my absentee GOP ballot to complete before travel, but the choices this season seem harder than usual.

For Prosecutor, maybe I’m rationalizing, but the challenger appears to have made one promise of substance: to file charges anytime the police have worked up a plausible case.

Sounds great until you reckon with how the system actually works. Resources are limited. Exercise of discretion not to charge preserves resources.

But I have a bigger personal issue related to resources. Neither the prosecutor’s office nor the courts can take all those extra cases to trial. Most of them are going to be plea bargained. And therein lies a personal bugaboo.

Some of those defendants are going to be innocent. “Innocent” as in “didn’t do it,” not “could wiggle out of it.” For instance, setting aside police corruption and laziness (which do occur — visit the Innocence Project for a while if you doubt me), some cases are built of circumstantial evidence which can make an innocent-but-unlucky person look pretty guilty.

So imagine when (not whether; it will happen) an innocent person is charge with something that, if they’re convicted, is likely to land them in prison for 25 years. The prosecutor offers to let them plead to a lesser offense — perhaps negligent homicide instead of murder — with only a five-year sentence, only one year to be served according to the plea offer. Defendant has a family, and children. So why not take the deal? If he’s guilty, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

But for the innocent defendant, pleading guilty means committing perjury because, at least in my fair state, the defendant will be required to testify under oath that he committed each and every element of the lesser offense, which, in the case of an innocent defendant, will be be perjurious.

No, he won’t get charged with perjury, but he’ll be guilty in God’s eyes, won’t he? (I finally gave up the ambiguity about the sex of the defendant; it likely will be a guy.)

I’d much rather not have a Prosecutor who got elected by promising to file plausible circumstantial cases against even innocent defendants.

So my vote in the Prosecutor’s race goes to the incumbent, the considerable opposition to whom I don’t understand (although I know he can be a hard-ass and can forsake justice to please vindictive police at times).

Now for the harder case.

All three primary candidates for U.S. Senate promise to be loyal foot-soldiers in the Trump army, which is a turnoff since the only Trump agenda I know for sure is racial and religious demonization and demagoguery.

Do I vote for the Congressman who most seems equivocal, perhaps even insincere, in his promise, who the others accuse of being a liberal (and who seemed to have some troubles with John Barleycorn in his twenties)? Or do I vote for the one who’s an outsider, a successful businessman, with some state legislative experience but several lawsuits against his company alleging underpayment of workers in several state business outposts? (I definitely will not vote for my current Congressman, who lied like an S.O.B. In his first Congressional race, hasn’t stopped since, and even sports a smirk suggesting that he considers the voters rubes.)

I can tell you this much: whoever I vote for in the Senate primary cannot bank on my vote in the general election. This is one of the extremely rare times where there’s a Democrat I could vote for in good conscience, who has bucked his feticidal party on abortion extremism.

Speaking of which, I’m aware of my state’s shortcomings, but it warms my heart to hear the shared GOP mantra “pro-life conservative.”

Yeah, fool me ((2016-1973)/2) times, shame on you. Fool me ((2018-1973)/2) times, shame on me. I’ve figured out that the GOP is mostly talk on abortion, but if hypocrisy is the tribute paid to virtue by vice, it’s nice to know we’ve got a bit of cockeyed, arguably naïve virtue in our electorate.

That’s all I have to say, and don’t bet that I won’t change my mind. I’m not mailing my ballot until May 1, just in case more merde hits the air-mover.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Neither Nor

Neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, I nevertheless pay a lot of attention to both, because they are where the culturally significant religious action is in my homeland.

Likewise, I pay attention to doings in the Republican and Democrat parties. The sicknesses of those parties is also part of the sickness of my homeland. Politically, I’m not as settled in my American Solidarity Party affiliation as I am in Orthodoxy religiously.

I never was a partisan activist for either party, though I considered myself a Republican until January 20, 2005. GOP insanities bother me more than Democrat insanities because I never hoped for much from the Democrats (though it earlier seemed an inversion of the characteristic party tendencies when Democrats became the party of war on the defenseless unborn while Republicans nominally rose to their defense; I now recognize that the Democrat “party of the ordinary man” is dead).

I think Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter, still considers herself Republican, and she, too, focuses more on GOP shortcomings. If you can get through the paywall, her April 13 Wall Street Journal column will reward you:

Mr. Trump came from the chaos, he didn’t cause it. He just makes it worse each day by adding his own special incoherence … He happened after 20 years of carelessness and the rise of the enraged intersectional left. He … can’t capitalize on this moment—he can’t help what is formless to find form—because he’s not a serious man.

Republicans will have to figure it out on their own. After they lose the House, they will have time!

Here’s what they should do: They should start to think not like economists but like artists.

The thing about artists is that they try to see the real shape of things. They don’t get lost in factoids and facets of problems, they try to see the thing whole. They try to capture reality. They’re creative, intuitive; they make leaps, study human nature …

If an artist of Reagan’s era were looking around America in 2018, what would she or he see? Marvels, miracles and wonders. A church the other day noted on Twitter that all of us now download data from a cloud onto tablets, like Moses.

But think what would startle the artist unhappily. She or he would see broad swaths of the American middle and working class addicted and lethargic …

A Reagan-era artist would be shocked by our culture, by its knuckle dragging nihilism … The artist would be shocked that “the American dream” has been transmuted from something aspirational and lighted by an egalitarian spirit to something weirdly flat—a house, a car, possessions—and weirdly abstract.

And think twice about your saviors. Those NeverTrump folks trying to take back authority within the party—having apparently decided recently not to start a third one—are the very people who made the current mess. They bought into open-borders ideology. They cooked up Iraq. They allied with big donors. They invented Sarah Palin, who as much as anyone ushered in the age of Trump. They detached the Republican Party from the people.

I also listened to a fascinating podcast last night on a late drive back from a meeting in Indianapolis.

Historian Michael Doran from the Hudson Institute traces The Theological Roots of Foreign Policy, American foreign policy in particular. He starts with Andrew Jackson and traces the “Jacksonian tendency” through the manufacture of dispensational premillenialism with its Zionist obsessions, William Jennings Bryan, Harry Truman and to Donald Trump (in a party jump that’s part of our ongoing realignment — my comment, not his).

Then he traces the competing “progressivist tendency” from mainline missionaries (who substituted imperialist-tinged foreign aid for the mandate to preach, baptize, and teach the Christian faith) through its descendants — John D. Rockefeller, Harry Emerson Fosdick, William Sloan Coffin and others less familiar and memorable to me because they’s not my religious kin as are the Jacksonians.

If you’re looking for a satisfactory wrap-up, it’s not here. Once again, I’m neither-nor.

UPDATE: Doran’s article appears in print, close to verbatim from his speech so far as I can tell. By June 1, it should be free.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

The misgovernance we deserve

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that I reversed the roles of House and Senate in impeachment. I won’t try to parse how that changes my analysis of the odds of removal of Trump by impeachment except that it would seem to increase the heat on Senate Republicans.

My belief in major realignment remains unshaken though this was a singularly bad illustration.

Related question: How do you spell “seppuku”?

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s incessant attacks on Robert S. Mueller are shameful, but he cannot fire Mueller. That’s why he salts his attacks on Mueller with attacks on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation because of Jeff Sessions’ recusal, and who can fire Mueller.

Trump’s corruption of our system calls for impeachment, but there’s no serious chance of that.

Though the House of Representatives will probably fall to the Democrats in the Fall, I don’t think the GOP will lose the Senate. A Democrat House would gladly convict if only the Senate would impeach as it should. But Trump’s hold on Republican voters has the Senate too scared to act.

With one voice, Republicans in Congress have made it clear that if the president takes this extreme step, they will not be afraid to defy him by appearing on a cable news channel and saying something noncommittal. As they are doing right now. For instance, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “If he tried to do that [fire Mueller], that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.” Beware, President Trump! If you continue down your present course, there is every reason to believe that Graham may even go so far as to write a memoir where he calls this “a dark, dark moment for this country, when people should have spoken up.”

(Alexandra Petri, If Trump fires Mueller, Republicans will be, like, really disappointed)

This is part of a massive realignment, typified in Illinois this very day, where Hillary’s minions are trying to purge Daniel Lipinski, a vanishingly-rare pro-life Democrat, while Jeanne Ives mounts a suprisingly strong, if underfunded, attack on Governor Bruce Rauner for his disappointing laxity on abortion.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to experience the misgovernance we deserve.

* * * * *

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Cold comfort

I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to find this reassuring:

The American electorate may not tolerate draconian (by U.S. standards) restrictions on guns, but it will tolerate a fair amount of surveillance. License-plate readers track our travels. Cellphone towers can triangulate our location. Face recognition is increasingly deployed in conjunction with security and traffic cameras; in China, police officers have it built into their spectacles. Not to mention the stupendous amounts of personal data we willingly hand over to businesses.

Now take all the red flags raised by Nikolas Cruz : He posted on social media pictures of himself with weapons and small animals he had apparently tortured. His fascination and exhibitionism with guns was broadcast to one and all. Teachers were warned to take action if he was seen approaching the school with a backpack; he later was expelled.

He was widely regarded as a menace. His mother, neighbors and school officials had repeatedly sought police intervention. He posted a YouTube comment under his own name in which he declared a desire to become a “professional school shooter,” one of two warnings passed on to the FBI.

Big data may not be better than psychologists at predicting who will commit a mass shooting a year or two from now, but it can help us know who might be planning one next week: Who got kicked out of school, failed to show up for a court-assigned counseling session, made a big purchase at a gun store, posted a deranged or threatening message on social media, prompted an uptick in alarmed social-media chatter by friends and acquaintances.

Especially since the young already conduct their social existence mostly online. Information technology is taking over our lives. It will not be uninvented. In another few years, unless you cut yourself off from the network (which will arouse its own suspicions), you will be findable in seconds. A police drone overhead will be able to focus its cameras on you or the vehicle or building in which you are to be found. Indeed, London cops caused a furor by innocently posting on Twitter the visage of a TV comedian snapped by an overhead camera looking down on the masses in Leicester Square. If it can’t already, soon this technology will be able to sound an alarm if a specific person on a list approaches a school or other sensitive site.

(Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. – paywall)

In fairness, though, this is likely to be more efficacious than the nostrums of the gun control lobby or the anodyne “thoughts and prayers” promised by Congressmen.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Shelby Steele on NFL & BLM

Stanford Historian and Hoover Institute Fellow Shelby Steele has a powerful essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, behind a pay wall, about the feckless NFL “take the knee” protests. He also touches on Black Lives Matter. You probably can get a copy of the Journal at Barnes & Noble or another news stand if you move quickly. Or there’s always your local library.

I’m going to quote his core claim and, what I find a most powerful illustration, and his reasoning on why protests continue:

The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.

Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.

Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?

To hear … that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.

That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present ….

I tried to comment on this, but that only made it weaker.

* * * * *

“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Blessing or Curse?

I almost didn’t click the New York Times Opinion headline “Is Trump a Blessing or Curse for Religious Conservatives?” But since it was by “OpEd Contributors” rather than the Editorial Board (from which I would have expected disingenuous concern trolling had they adopted such a headline), I clicked, and found Ross Douthat, a Never-Trumper, interviewing Never-Trumper David French (Evangelical/Calvinist) and Trump Supporter John Zmirak (a Crisis Magazine type Catholic). It is outstanding and well worth using one of your free looks at New York Times pieces should you not be a subscriber.

The views of French and Zmirak are starkly opposed to one another, but the disagreement remains polite. Zmirak (whose articles at Crisis were sometimes off-putting when I followed Crisis) skillfully and unexpectedly pushes some of my buttons:

Were Christians scandalized by the spectacle of George W. Bush leaving Iraqi Christians to face jihadi violence? They should have been. It was far worse than anything Trump has done. I must confess that I am deeply embittered by the callousness that George W. Bush displayed toward the lives and liberties of religious minorities in Iraq — when as U.S. commander in chief, he had essentially absolute power over that occupied country. Of about one million Christians, some 900,000 were ethnically cleansed, most of them while our troops still occupied the country. I can put up with Donald Trump’s old Howard Stern tapes all day long, compared with that.

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I was scandalized. And embittered. That is closely related to why I declared my break with the GOP, and why Ted Cruz turned my stomach and earned my hostility with his calculated provocation of folks at an In Defense of Christians conference.

Zmirak almost had me with the seductive “skeptical prudence” until French weighed back in:

Douthat: So when we see polls showing a wild swing between the 1990s and the present in the share of evangelicals who think character matters in a politician, John, you think evangelicals are actually coming around to a more sensible view than they held in the Clinton era?

Zmirak: Yes. Just as evangelicals are coming around to using Natural Law (philosophical) arguments — rather than biblical proof-texts for their political positions, I think they are moving closer to the skeptical prudence that always marked Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican political thinking. Read what the Family Research Council, or National Organization for Marriage, publish on social issues. They’re not thumping the Bible. They’re citing Cicero and Aristotle.

French: I’m sorry, but the transformation of the evangelical public from the American segment most willing to hold leaders to a high moral standard to the segment now least likely smacks of pure, primitive partisanship, not high theological principle. Evangelicals aren’t coming around to using Natural Law at all. It’s pure instrumentalism. They’ve made an alliance of convenience. They haven’t made some sort of thoughtful intellectual shift.

The interview goes beyond political ramifications and also discusses such things as how Trump relates to the surge of “nones.” There, too, there’s a point-counterpoint that is skillful and make some sorting out and critical analysis necessary to decide.

Here’s my sorting: Zmirak is riding an a wave of kept promises by Trump. I consider that wave welcome, but entirely unexpected.

Before November 8, 2016, I had no reason to expect Trump, a man of extraordinarily base character and a world-class bullshitter, to keep a single promise to Christian supporters. All I felt fairly confident of was that on religious freedom, his fickleness would be preferable to Hillary’s hostility to orthodox Christians who want to live openly as such. But that one issue was not sufficient to outweigh what has proven to be epic narcissism (I knew it was severe narcissism, possibly sociopathy, but events have proven it worse than I feared) that drives him to irrational and counter-productive behavior.

Zmirak has at least one more notable comment:

I have this from pastors who met with Trump for many hours: He genuinely listens to them. They’re the kind of people most playboys from Queens never encounter. He connected with some of them personally. He saw their concern for his soul. And he took and takes their concerns seriously.

Trump sees that the church is a big part of what made America great, and he sees that the state persecution that President Obama began hurts the country. I hope that he sees more, sees Christ as his savior. But in his role as Caesar, protecting our rights is quite enough.

If I had known this from credible sources before the election, it would have impressed me somewhat that narcissist Trump is actually capable of listening for longer than it takes to compose a Tweet. But such was the sycophancy on display from Trump-friendly pastors that it would have been hard to persuade me that such a report was credible.

So in the end, though I’m closer kin to Zmirak religiously than to French, I’m with the latter, for reasons this can serve to summarize:

I belong to the camp of Christians who are grateful when Trump makes good decisions but also quite mindful that our political witness is inseparable from our Christian witness. Thus, we have no option but to condemn his worst impulses and work to counteract his toxic influence on our larger culture. While policy positions are important (though Trump’s real impact is often vastly overblown), a nation is ultimately shaped far more by its culture than its policies, and we can never forsake the greater power for the lesser win.

Where Christians once demanded honesty, they rationalized lies. Where Christians once sought evidence of ideological consistency, they accepted incoherence.

Many of us, however, looked at these accommodations and asked a simple question. Where is your faith? Christians were acting as if not just the nation — but the church itself — was in peril based on the outcome of a single election. Yet is God not sovereign over all the nations, including our own? Doesn’t scripture repeatedly condemn the exact kinds of moral compromises that so many Christians made? Don’t we believe those scriptures?

There is nothing more dangerous to the church than a lack of faith. I don’t at all mind it when Christians cheer the good things that Donald Trump has done. I join them. I do mind when they rationalize and excuse bad acts out of a completely misguided and faithless sense of cultural and political necessity.

(Emphasis added)

It is possible that in 20 years, I’ll say “God in his providence used this most improbable Caesar to good end,” but I don’t think I’ll ever regret my write-in vote, which was based on what I knew then. That God can use evil men, or turn evil to good, never justifies voting for evil men or evil policies.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Wednesday, 12/13/17

    1. Angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house
    2. Evangelical domestic violence?
    3. What’s Wrong with Radicalism
    4. 90 Theses Short of a Full Deck
    5. Self-help Guru limitations

 

1

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise. For we are sick at heart. Our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children and for thinking of that other Child of whom the poet Luke speaks. The infant was taken up in the arms of an old man whose tongue grew resonant and vatic at the touch of that beauty.

Fr. Daniel Berrigan, writing of the destruction of draft records as part of the Catonsville Nine. Quoted by Jim Forest, a friend and now biographer and memoirist of the late Priest. Be it remembered that Fr. Berrigan was a published poet.

More:

Is our morality in any sense superior to that of those ancient peoples who commonly exposed the newborn to death, as unwelcome aspirants to the sweet air of life? Can we help everyone walk into the full spectrum and rainbow of life, from womb to old age, so that no one is expendable? Especially in the religious pacifist community, we who believe no political idolatry can excuse the taking of life, can we help remind and symbolize the splendid range of nonviolence, from before birth to the aged? What is a human vocation anyway? Was not our first political act just getting born?

2

The good news, from Brad Wilcox‘s perspective, is that “churchgoing evangelical Protestant husbands were the least likely to be engaged in abusive behavior.”

His bad news, congruent with a surmise I published Sunday:

Although the empirical story of religion and domestic violence looks good for practicing believers, it’s much less rosy for others. My research suggests that the most violent husbands in America are nominal evangelical Protestants who attend church infrequently or not at all. The reasons are not entirely clear. It’s possible they believe Christian teaching about male headship gives them a hitting license. Or perhaps their class or culture—many of these men hail from parts of the South and Appalachia populated by working-class Scots-Irish descendants with a greater propensity for violent behavior —explains these results. Religiously mixed couples may also have a greater risk for domestic violence, especially theologically conservative men married to women who do not share their religious views. In these cases, religion is not protective against abuse.

3

David Brooks reflects on What’s Wrong with Radicalism of both left and right.

Most of our actual social and economic problems are the bad byproducts of fundamentally good trends.

Technological innovation has created wonders but displaced millions of workers. The meritocracy has unleashed talent but widened inequality. Immigration has made America more dynamic but weakened national cohesion. Globalization has lifted billions out of poverty but pummeled the working classes in advanced nations.

What’s needed is reform of our core institutions to address the bad byproducts, not fundamental dismantling.

That sort of renewal means doing the opposite of everything the left/right radicals do. It means believing that life can be more like a conversation than a war if you open by starting a conversation. It means collectively focusing on problems and not divisively destroying people. It means believing that love is a genuine force in human affairs and that you can be effective by appealing to the better angels of human nature.

4

Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy published Five Theses on Voting and the Alabama Senate Election early on Tuesday, but it’s really intended for political thought in days and years to come, not to influence the Alabama vote.

Meador admits that he’s relatively unfriendly to the American Right—a bias he offsets by publishing friends who don’t share it. That said, here’s some of his indictments of the American Right as instantiated in the GOP:

2. The GOP as a party is not actually interested in governing.

There are any number of examples you could furnish here to make the point . We might begin by the years of cynical obstruction the party engaged in under President Obama, to the point of torpedoing a healthcare agenda whose signature element was an idea taken from the Heritage Foundation! … Since the late 80s or early 90s, the GOP has been hardening and hardening, such that today the party’s agenda is divorced almost entirely from coherent governing policy.

The most recent example is the tax reform bill. First, they took steps with the tax reform bill that will, according to almost all third party organizations, increase the deficit …

That said, almost immediately after they passed this bill, … Paul Ryan turned around and said that the House agenda in 2018 is going to be cutting Medicaid and Medicare, specifically citing fear about the deficit as a reason for that agenda. … You either care about the deficit… or you don’t.

The GOP, as others have noted, has become a drunken caricatured version of Zombie Reaganism. And whatever else we might say about it, it does not have a coherent approach to governing.

3. We should not glide easily over the substantive problems with the GOP’s policies.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the Democratic support for abortion has been that many evangelicals essentially give the GOP a pass on policy issues. For many evangelicals in the past 30 years, voting Republican is a kind of natural default that is often done without taking the time to soberly reckon with the consequences of Republican policy. But because the GOP is, increasingly, unconcerned with character and unconcerned with actually governing, it is more important than ever that we learn again to understand and care about policy and factor it into our political choices.

I cannot find anything to disagree with in that because I excised what I didn’t necessarily believe.

The widely expected passage of the tax reform bill will almost undoubtedly cause significant harm to Medicare. And provocative statements by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan declaring that “entitlement reform” will be next threatens Medicaid. Put these two together and, I think, one thing is clear: big Medicare and Medicaid cuts are coming.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit, Ryan said in a radio interview last week. And, he said, “I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare.” Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said: “We have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.”

(Bob Blancato, Why Big Medicare and Medicaid Cuts Are Likely)

But for an orthodox Evangelical like Meador, that’s not the whole story:

4. We should not pass over the abortion question as “a policy issue.”

That said, the larger moral emergency amongst the Democrats is their increasingly strident support for abortion. The Jones candidacy is, in fact, the perfect symbol of that emergency: According to Pew, 58% of Alabamians think that abortion should be illegal in all or most situations. Mississippi and Arkansas are the only states that top them on that metric. If there is any state where the Democrats would be incentivized to tolerate a pro-life candidate, it’d be Alabama. Yet even there, the Democrats have nominated an unapologetically pro-choice candidate of the sort that you simply did not see regularly in the mainstream Democratic party until Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy in 2008. Now this view is normal in the party, even in a state as staunchly pro-life as Alabama.

Abortion in America is a national plague and one that, alone, would be sufficient to merit severe divine judgment. Indeed, for Christians it should not seem intuitively crazy to suggest that the decline we are experiencing now may well be a product of God’s judgment on our country for the death of nearly 60 million people since 1973. To support abortion as dogmatically as the contemporary Democratic party has is not simply taking a stand on “a policy issue.”

Again, no dissent from me.

I’ve said that I think a epochal political shakeup is in the works. Beyond the possibility of the GOP becoming dominated by populist bomb-throwers and Democrats becoming a bit tent for everyone who benefits somewhat from the status quo, the I cannot imagine its contours. But my car now sports a bumper sticker for the American Solidarity Party, with some of whose policies I’m not thrilled but which avoids the abortion extremism of the Democrats and the Zombie Reaganism of the Republicans.

5

If you are one of those people in a big city who is feeling lonely or disconnected, I’ve got a nearly sure-fire way to change things. Go look for someone who is even lonelier and more hurting than you, and go be that person’s friend.

I’m always astonished that there could be so many lonely people in the city. This would seem to be an easy problem to solve; just go be each other’s friends. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. I think in part that’s because we’re always looking for relationships that are going to deliver value to us, instead of us looking for how we’re going to deliver value to others. We always want to network up. We seldom want to network down. (Though we often stay in our lanes on social media, as I noted above).

This is an area where I part ways with a lot of the secular self-help gurus. Most of those guys tend to recommend pruning the deadweight relationships out of your life, and purging the losers, energy drainers, etc. There’s a place for that if you’re in unhealthy relationships. But Christians simply can’t apply that as a rule for life. We are called to be there for those who have nothing to offer us (or at least that we think don’t have anything to offer).

(Aaron Renn in The Masculinist #16) I greatly admire Renn’s work as the Urbanophile and now on urban issues with the Manhattan Institute. I’m taking his The Masculinist newsletter with several grains of salt, but that third paragraph is right on (first two are there mostly for context).

* * * * *

As I schedule this for publication, the Alabama vote outcome is unknown, but there’s a margin that I, sitting many states to the north, have trouble imagining Jones closing. Let the festivities begin as the Senate GOP says “the 2016 vote is the verdict on Trump but the Alabama vote is not the verdict on Moore.”

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.