Saturday, July 4, 2015

Odds and ends 7/4/2015

Happy Independence Day! If we are not free in body we are least free in spirit in the body of Christ.

I anticipated the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. I even predicted correctly who would write the majority opinion. What I got wrong was the rationalization for the ruling. Although the equal protection clause is key to the Anthony Kennedy’s logic, such as it is, he spent much more time justifying himself in the due process clause, claiming same-sex marriage is a fundamental right rooted in America’s traditions.

Whatever. All I care about now is how to proceed with the truth amidst great celebration of a heinous lie. How to dissent without endangering my livelihood while challenging others to consider an alternative to the cult of self. How to provide what man really yearns, the touch and the grace of God.

From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

Robert George, coauthor of What Is Marriage?:

Professor George noted that only very recently advocates of marriage redefinition were maintaining it would leave persons and institutions which adhered to the traditional definition of marriage unaffected. No one’s marriage would be affected by redefinition, it would have no impact on the public understanding of marriage, and would in fact strengthen the institution by broadening the base of people included in it. Religious and other traditionalist organizations would not be compelled by law to accept the new definition in their functioning, they would not have to pay spousal benefits to marriages they thought improper, no one would be fired or otherwise penalized for their opposition to homosexual marriage. There would be no extension of the logic of accepting non-traditional relationships into social and legal acceptance of polyamorous relationships (involving more than two people). All of these possibilities were rejected as “scare tactics” and fallacious “slippery slope” reasoning.

However, George said, the logic of marriage redefinition to include same-sex couples is that traditional marriage exclusively between a man and a woman lacks a rational basis. Only prejudice and hate can explain the exclusion of same-sex couples, and so no reasonable person of good will can insist on it. This puts traditional morality on the same level as racism, in which an unreasonable criterion is used to disadvantage and harass people. The conclusion that marriage is irrational began to be drawn in the 1960s, George said, when advocates of the early sexual revolution declared that people were better off without traditional morality; unhappy spouses should not be bound to their mates, children were better off if they were not in unhappy marriages, etc. (Emphasis added)


Mark Tooley isn’t the first to call it Gnosticism:

The Supreme Court’s creation of a right to same-sex marriage seems mostly Gnostic, not rooted in concrete law but an ethereal empowering of the supreme self. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion reads like a spiritual journey towards self-revelation, or Gnosis. His mindset is maybe best encapsulated in his infamous 1992 abortion rights ruling, in which he mystically opined: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Deep, and profoundly Gnostic. The Gnostic of early Christianity rejected Jesus Christ as a physical person, preferring Him as a spirit who transcended this world. Gnostics rejected the plain meaning of Scripture as the orthodox Church taught but developed their own parallel, secret doctrines discerned through superior wisdom and spirituality. Gnosticism was for self-elevated special people, not the common people to whom Early Christianity typically most appealed.

Gnosticism broadly defined is pervasive in modern American culture, although its devotees usually don’t fully realize the antecedents of their lofty spirituality. There is a formal Universal Gnostic Fellowship, which explains, “To be Gnostic is to believe we can know the Divine, we can learn the Divine’s purpose for us, we can approach the Divine in consciousness, we can move closer to the Divine... whomever and whatever the Divine may be.” Its doctrines are “optional,” and it proudly “has no dogma.”

But its dogma is really about rejecting external authority and fixed reality in favor of self-empowerment, self-actualization, and some level of self-deification. There are no rules, or sins, in Gnosticism, just the self’s endless quest for fulfillment through greater freedom and knowledge. Justice Kennedy is formally Catholic, but his journey to create his “own concept of existence” likely more than qualifies him for the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. Perhaps there’s a special chapter for jurists.

Gnosticism has always been around and certainly long a partner in much of American hyper-individualism. But its special moment may be now arriving in American culture. Same-sex marriage and transgenderism, joined now by post-genderism, insist individual thoughts, yearnings, and self-identities trump physical realities and universal truths. Instead, there is primarily the naked will.

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As administered by Justice Kennedy, the state is now a powerful partner in search of Gnosis, divorcing individuals from tradition, law, and organic communities outside government. Each person now has a virtual right towards self-divination. The question now becomes, how can society function with several hundred million unique, self-willed deities, each seeking its own lordship?


At First Things, Patrick Deneen recalls Indiana, a watershed event in my opinion:

The decision by Apple, Walmart, Eli Lilly, Angie’s List, and so on was a business decision—even more, a marketing decision. Coming out in opposition to the Indiana RFRA law was one of the shrewdest marketing coups since E.T. followed a trail of Reese’s Pieces. The decision to #BoycottIndiana was not made because it was the politically courageous thing to do; it was made because it was the profitable thing to do. The establishment could express support for a fashionable social norm while exerting very little effort, incurring no actual cost, and making no sacrifice to secure the goal. It had the further advantage of distracting most people from the fact that corporations like Apple have no compunction doing business in places with outright oppression of gays, women, and Christians. Those real forms of repression and discrimination didn’t matter; Indiana’s purported oppression of gays did.

The public statements, often hyperbolic propaganda about the dire consequences of the Indiana law, were cost-free because gay rights activists have successfully argued that opposition to gay marriage is tantamount to racism. Through a powerful and concerted effort, gay activists have succeeded in convincing the establishment that gays are the equivalent of blacks in Selma, and that their opponents—particularly their Christian opponents—are Bull Connors. There can simply be no brooking bigotry! Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton conveniently forget their previous support for conjugal marriage, and none of their supporters seek to hold them to account. All that matters is that one now deny that there can be reasonable opposition to gay marriage, and affirm that those who maintain that view are rank bigots. Companies like Apple and Walmart eagerly joined the bandwagon once it was clear that the tactic had worked.

There is a deeper reason for corporate support, however. Today’s corporate ideology has a strong affinity with the lifestyles of those who are defined by mobility, ethical flexibility, liberalism (whether economic or social), a consumerist mentality in which choice is paramount, and a “progressive” outlook in which rapid change and “creative destruction” are the only certainties. The response to Indiana’s RFRA law shows very clearly that corporations have joined forces with Republicans on economic matters and Democrats on social ones. Corporate America is aligned with the ascendant libertarian portion of each party, ensuring a win for the political, economic, and social preferences of libertarianism. In effect, there is only one functional party in America today, seemingly parceled between the two notional parties but in reality unifying them in its backing by financial and cultural elites.

Heather Wilhelm wrote:

It has become increasingly clear that the Indiana blow-up has nothing to do with the details of any law. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may not realize it, but he pretty much wrote the “Stairway to Heaven” of opinion columns: The true message is there, but only if you read it backwards. The New Sharia isn’t coming from powerful and intolerant Christians. It’s coming from the activist left, closely allied with big business and government. It’s a coalition that, increasingly, will not tolerate dissent of any kind.

Conservative Christians, it appears, can’t just live and let live when it comes to gay marriage. They have to actively support and participate in it, lest the “You Must Approve” coalition swoop in and try to ruin their business, their reputation, and their life. This is sad. It is strange. It certainly reflects a stunning insecurity. It’s also happening across the country: For refusing to participate in same-sex weddings, an Oregon bakery was shuttered, a Washington florist may lose her business, and photography studios, wedding venues and t-shirt shops have been targeted with closure, fines, and crippling legal bills.

Speaking of that Oregon bakery...

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” [Brad] Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”

In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

“This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”

Outrageous. In a sane country, Avakian would be hounded from public life and forced into exile in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But instead, we’re pleading for the right to not be forced to participate in the lie of the century.

The bigger the lie, the more aggressively they root out dissent. That’s what happens when you have people in power who believe, as Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith says, there is only one side to the Left’s critical issues—and that’s the Left.

Here’s the brilliant Patrick Deneen again:

The insistence that all must conform to the new, official definition of marriage that no civilization has ever endorsed until yesterday seems to be more aptly compared to life under Communism. The likening of “denial” of same-sex marriage to racial bigotry has proven to be a wildly successful tactic—but it is premised on a lie, the lie that the conjugal view of marriage has as little basis in reason or nature as denial of basic rights to people based upon the color of their skin. The analogy’s success has relied upon the loud and insistent demand that we not notice, nor regard as relevant or germane, the fact that men and women are different, and most importantly, that their sexual union is oriented toward reproduction.

The “monopoly of violence” possessed by the State is now a main weapon in perpetuating this lie, and will be used mercilessly and without cessation against those who persist on pointing out that it seeks to perpetuate a lie. But violence will serve as a last resort, merely backstopping the education system, the economic players, and even family members who will work to correct wayward thinkers (the divisions in families will make what is to come like a Cold Civil War). Like communism’s comprehensive efforts to root out dissent and “re-educate” people to regard all property as common and our care for all people of the world equal and without distinction, the very depth and extent of the lie requires that the lie be insistently repeated and dissent be comprehensively squelched.

“Lies can only persist by violence,” wrote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The bolder and falser the lie, the more insistent the calls to conformity, and the elimination of dissent. As during the years when the Gulag was the alternative (though the “Gulag” today is financial bankruptcy and professional suicide), the easy path was to go along, accept the order in spite of its absurdity, get ahead according to the rules established by those who ruled. But Solzhenitsyn said no—even to the point of arrest and exile. “Therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies!” (Emphasis added)

And finally John Whitehead:

In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used. In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.

Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.

It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.

As a society, we’ve become fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful, closed-minded or any of the other toxic labels that carry a badge of shame today. The result is a nation where no one says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views. Intolerance is the new scarlet letter of our day, a badge to be worn in shame and humiliation, deserving of society’s fear, loathing and utter banishment from society.

For those “haters” who dare to voice a different opinion, retribution is swift: they will be shamed, shouted down, silenced, censored, fired, cast out and generally relegated to the dust heap of ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who are guilty of various “word crimes.”

We have entered a new age where, as commentator Mark Steyn notes, “we have to tiptoe around on ever thinner eggshells” and “the forces of ‘tolerance’ are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.”

In such a climate of intolerance, there can be no freedom speech, expression or thought.

Mark Steyn, you say? Hear him on the defenestration of “misogynist” Nobel laureate Tim Hunt:

On the word of Professor St Louis and her lynch mob, the Royal Society bounced Tim Hunt from its Biological Sciences Awards Committee and is apparently under pressure to revoke his fellowship entirely. They did this without any proof—which seems odd coming from the oldest scientific society on earth.

So we lose a superb Nobel scientist but keep a third-rate lying mediocrity. My problem with all this is that, increasingly, key levers of society are being ceded to the irredeemably stupid and mendacious, who seem to be the only ones capable of navigating the rocks and rapids of political correctness. One has the uneasy feeling that similar scenarios are playing out every day around the western world. How long before the planes start dropping out of the sky?

Welcome to totalitarian omni-politicization, where no amount of talent can make up for heinous thoughtcrime, and braindead apparatchiks are rewarded for their rehearsed repetitions of the party line. This is how the Soviet Union fell.


Jason Morgan writes what liberals don’t get about sex at Public Discourse:

We must understand that the liberalism that undergirds consent- and rights-based discourse on sex is utterly incapable of understanding human sexuality. Because it reduces the human person to a mere vehicle of abstract rights, liberalism has no language to express the transcendence and sacrifice of human sexuality. As long as we are talking about sex in terms of mere liberty and consent, we will continue to face the specter of rape hanging over every sexual encounter. This is because the “Yes” given in consent-based epistemologies—i.e., a yes to a physical interaction premised on radical individual autonomy—is fundamentally different from the “Yes” in which human sexuality is designed to operate: a “Yes” to the other in his or her spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical entirety.

Sex functions precisely to break down autonomy and overcome the overweening sovereignty of the self upon which consent is ultimately based. In a liberal framework, our freedom to engage in activities assumes that all activities are equal, as long as we have obtained consent when those activities involve others. But sex is not like other activities. Sex, unlike anything else we might do with another person, transcends the self while radically reorienting it within a new, shared context with our sexual partner. Consent assumes that sex will not do this, that sex will leave two people as fully autonomous after sex as they were before. But this is precisely the one thing that sex was designed not to do. Sex, even if entered into based on a free agreement between two autonomous people, by its very nature dismantles the autonomy upon which the consensual understanding of sex had been based.


I was struck by Mark Steyn’s reaction to mass murderer Dylann Roof, particularly the Nietzsche reference. The italicized part is an excerpt from his appearance on a radio show. Afterwards, he expands on his thoughts in writing:

I think there’s something particularly depraved about gunning people down during a church service, during worship. And it’s something we hear about and expect to hear about from other places. A few weeks ago, it happened in Lahore, at Sunday morning service—a couple of the jihad guys decide to go in and bomb and kill people while they are worshiping. And whether it happens in Pakistan or whether it happens in the United States I think it’s a depraved act on a scale beyond opening fire in other circumstances—because it suggests a murderer who sees himself as beyond God, and that is a terrifying thought. And it’s particularly terrifying when you then hear that his roommate knew that he planned to start a civil war and wanted to die after killing a big bunch of people, but apparently thought that’s just part of the chit chat of the day... Other than that, I regret the President attempting to politicize it. I think these are times for not playing to your tropes... When it is a different scale of depravity, when you choose a house of God as a symbol for your act of murder, then the atrocity and the horror is diminished by the President just playing to his lame tropes about gun control.

By “a different scale of depravity,” I mean that there’s something Nietzschean about being willing to open fire in a church—Nietzschean in the sense not that “God is dead” but in what he expected to follow that conclusion: a world where every man is his own god—even some pudding-bowled dweeb loser with all the usual pathetic addictions.


Pat Buchanan is on top of his game.

We are told that America has “evolved” on issues like abortion and homosexuality. But while thinking may change, beliefs may change, laws may change, and the polls have surely changed, does moral truth change? Are the Ten Commandments and Christian tradition and Natural Law as defined by Aquinas just fine for their time, but not for ours?

If what Justice Kennedy wrote Friday represents moral truth, what can be said in defense of a Christianity that has taught for 2,000 years that homosexual acts are socially destructive and morally decadent behavior?

Three decades ago, this columnist was denounced for writing that homosexuals “have declared war on human nature. And nature is exacting an awful retribution.” Hateful speech, it was said. Yet, when I wrote that line, AIDS victims in America numbered in the hundreds. Worldwide today they number in the millions. And there is a pandemic of STDs among America’s young who have joined the sexual revolution preached in the 1960s.

Can true “social progress” produce results like that?

And if it is an enlightened thing for a society to welcome homosexual unions and elevate them to the status of marriage, why have no previous successful societies thought of so brilliant a reform? The late Roman Empire and Weimar Germany are the two examples of indulgent attitudes toward homosexual conduct that come to mind.

“No-fault” divorce was an early social reform championed by our elites, followed by a celebration of the sexual revolution, the distribution of condoms to the poor and the young, and abortions subsidized by Planned Parenthood when things went wrong.

How has that worked out for America?

Anyone see a connection between these milestones of social progress and the 40 percent illegitimacy rate nationwide, or the 50 percent rate among Hispanic-Americans, or the 72 percent rate among African-Americans? Any connection between those fatherless boys and the soaring drug use and dropout rates and the near quadrupling of those in jails and prisons over the last third of a century?

And, re: the Confederate flag witch hunt:

“Take Down a Symbol of Hatred,” rails the New York Times.

But the battle flag is not so much a symbol of hatred as it is an object of hatred, a target of hatred. It evokes a hatred of the visceral sort that we see manifest in Jenkins’ equating of the South of Washington, Jefferson, John Calhoun, Andrew Jackson and Lee with Hitler’s Third Reich.

What the flag symbolizes for the millions who revere, cherish or love it, however, is the heroism of those who fought and died under it. That flag flew over battlefields, not over slave quarters.

Hence, who are the real haters here?

Can the Times really believe that all those coffee cups and baseball caps and T-shirts and sweaters and flag decals on car and truck bumpers are declarations that the owners hate black people? Does the Times believe Southern folks fly the battle flag in their yards because they want slavery back?

The Times’ editorialists cannot be such fools.

Maybe not, but they feel empowered imagining they’re carrying on the existential fights of yesteryear as if they weren’t decided already. They feel guilt that they don’t live in a period of great suffering and sacrificing for the cause. So they manufacture this nonsense in order to compare themselves favorably to cross-bearers of the past.

I get it. I have wondered if my faith—the equivalence of faith and blind liberalism is fair—would withstand the kind of persecution that the churches in the pagan Roman world faced. I almost wished I was challenged similarly in order to affirm my faith—if to no one else, then to myself. Almost. Here’s me 3 years ago:

Progressive forces will be unleashed with such vicious fervor that we will genuinely fear for our lives and livelihoods. The law, with no basis in the constitution or morality, will tighten like a noose on parts of our lives we thought were our own. To the progressives, nothing is your own. Everything is political. That is the essence of totalitarianism, the giving in to the temptation to create a divine human society. The lives totalitarianism claimed in the last century alone number over 100 million. It was a living hell for the rest.

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Regardless of what happens to the country, we will become better people. I have friends and family who have grown leaps and bounds in the past four years. We have had to drill down to the bottom of ourselves to try to explain what it is we believe, who it is we are. Hardship builds character. Four years’ more suffering will make many men out of us boys.

Anyway, more Buchanan:

Vilification of that battle flag and the Confederacy is part of the cultural revolution in America that flowered half a century ago. Among its goals was the demoralization of the American people by demonizing their past and poisoning their belief in their own history.

So much for the squishes’ assurances that, after the whitewashing, the Confederate flag would still be permitted in museums. Breitbart reports:

On June 26 the Gettysburg National Military Park bookstore announced they have removed items from shelves “featuring the Confederate flag” and will no longer sell such products.

CBS Philly reports the Gettysburg bookstore will continue to sell items that feature both the American and the Confederate flag, as long as the depiction is in proper “historical context,” but “will no longer sell items that use the battle flag as a stand-alone feature.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

“Not my problem”

Matt Walsh discusses at length libertarians’ strategic weakness on the marriage issue, but he could be talking about any topic they relegate to the “social” issues heap. Here’s Walsh:

I wasn’t especially troubled by the progressive lynch mob and their vulgar, wretched, hateful “love.” I’m used to it. I’ve been more concerned by the large number of self-proclaimed Christians and conservatives who’ve repeatedly informed me that the whole gay marriage issue isn’t important. “It won’t affect us,” they tell me over and over again. It’s not relevant to our lives. We aren’t hurt by it. Who cares? It’s all good. Whatevs, man. There are matters more urgent than truth and morality and the future of the human race. Like, what about the economy and stuff?

I’m not proud to say it, but I feel an immense disgust for these Apathetic, Weak, Oblivious, Scared, Distracted, Impotent, Frivolous, Christians And Conservatives (AWOSDIFCACs for short). I’m not saying disgust is the correct emotional response, but I admit I experience it. I can deal with liberals. They’re just wrong about everything. Fine. That’s simple. But AWOSDIFCACs know and understand the truth, yet yawn or shrink away in fear.

The “it doesn’t affect us” mantra has become one of the more common, and absolutely the most damaging, idea circulating through the ranks of the defeatists. It’s a gross and ridiculous lie, one which accomplishes the impressive feat of being wrong in two different ways. It’s wrong when it says we should only care about things that have an impact on our lives, and it’s wrong when it says gay marriage will have no impact on our lives.

First, since when are we only supposed to care about things that will physically or financially affect us? Don’t we normally condemn a person who fails to act or think or speak simply because he, himself, individually, isn’t yet feeling the effect of it? Don’t we criticize a person who doesn’t care until he’s getting punched in the nose by the problem?

When we’re dealing with moral quandaries — questions of right and wrong, truth and lies — it is not a legitimate argument to say “it doesn’t affect me.” It’s effect on you is irrelevant to the issue. What kind of moral idiot measures the impact of a certain evil on his own life and calibrates his concern accordingly? We might all do this sometimes, but it’s a weakness. It’s shameful. It’s cowardice and self-interest. It’s not good. You shouldn’t be proud of it.

Second, as a member of society, State-imposed falsehoods do affect you. Marriage is a certain thing with a certain nature and definition. When the State mandates that the thing is something other than what it is, and has a purpose other than its actual purpose, you are now living under a tyranny of confusion. The severity of that confusion depends on the degree of the falsehood. So if the government announced tomorrow that we must all pretend penguins are elephants and cats are squirrels, I expect I wouldn’t be seriously harmed. I might be helped because I could finally get rid of my wife’s annoying cat on the grounds that I don’t want squirrels in my house.

But I would still oppose this redefinition because it’s not true, and I prefer Truth. How does it negatively affect my life that people are all confused about penguins and cats and elephants? I guess it doesn’t, except that it would make my trips to the zoo pretty disorienting, and more importantly, I want our culture to have a proper understanding of reality. Moreover, I don’t want our government to impose an improper understanding.

Part of the problem with Ayn Rand is all she’s good for is to provide contrast with fascists, socialists, and Communists. If you read her on her own merits, you realize what a one-sided depiction of man she provides, cold, isolated, empty. Try living like that.

Marriage liberalism has no direct effect on me. Neither does the drug-addicted single mom living next door, with a caravan of suitors going in and out of her home, with a resentful teenage son who drops out of school and joins a gang and throws a brick through my window. Is that when I start to care, when I have been personally violated? We’re flesh and blood beings living in flesh and blood communities. The legal walls we put up around ourselves are imaginary.

Liberalism destroys people’s lives, and that is enough reason to care. Forty percent of newborns’ fathers haven’t committed to their mothers, 70 percent for black newborns. Twenty-five percent of single mothers live in poverty. Are we supposed to pretend a second evolution in state-redefined marriage isn’t going to unravel marriage’s protection of husbands, wives, and children further?

If restoring people’s dignity is the goal, granting a false reality is not a help, it’s a hinderance. Teary-eyed, atheist libertarian Sarah Elizabeth Cupp doesn’t get it:

“My party really has to reconcile with the fact that we are going to become relics if we don’t get to where these people are,” she added. “They are patriots, they are not asking for a lot. And it’s really time for the party politics to shift on this.”

Cupp also said she believes gay marriage is good for families.

“This is something we should be applauding. These aren’t people who are trying to get rid of the institution of marriage, these are people who want to be a part of it,” she said. “And that’s a good thing for American family values, that’s a good thing for children, that’s a good thing for adoption, that’s a good thing for economic stability.”

How? How does the state’s sanctioning of perverted sex effect intact, stable families? How is the natural model of the family yielding to the technocratic model good for children, who are bartered under the new system? Cupp’s emoting doesn’t consider actual consequences.

“Was I wrong to support gay marriage?” another atheist libertarian, David Harsanyi, asks. He spends little time pondering that question, and more time identifying the totalitarians whose position he shared (e.g., Ben Smith: “We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”). That should have been the first clue he was wrong. The belated acknowledgement is a pathetic attempt to cover his backside when conservatives being persecuted for their “bigoted” belief in defining marriage by the natural and divine purpose it serves begin to draw the line between themselves and the forces of destruction more distinctly.

I confronted Harsanyi about this on Twitter, and one of his minions, a self-identifying Episcopal, called me a judgy pants because of my view of homosexuality, because, to her, part of being saved by Jesus’ blood is an inability to discern from the Scriptures.



I’ve heard the “Is it illegal to eat shellfish, too?” rebuttal countless times from atheists. This is the first time I heard it from someone who supposedly honors Scriptural authority. A comment on a message board I saw once is apt here: “So funny how the truth in love confuses those who refuse to see truth.”

That Twitter conversation happened yesterday. On cue, today I read this: “Episcopal Church Changes Definition of Marriage to Include Same-Sex Couples, Axing ‘Man and a Woman’ from Canon.” Are they capitulating to false teaching or intimidation? Either way, not exactly a testimony to win people over with. Not exactly ministering the truth people need to be saved.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The lie

A lie about the nature of man has spread that threatens our ability to be the people God made us to be. The lie substitutes man’s self-image for the image of God and rejects the dignity of “all men created equal.” It finds unique expression in Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. It was evident in Kennedy’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changing how government defines marriage.

He wrote:

Were their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners’ claims would be of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners’ contentions. This, they say, is their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment. (Emphasis added)

The “immutable nature” phrase is a legal nod to the suspect classes test that judges use when determining whether discrimination is unjustifiable. A man’s maleness is his immutable nature. A black man’s blackness is his immutable nature. An Irishman’s Irishness is his immutable nature. All these accidental facts describe man’s literal genetic makeup and his origins, which are unchangeable. They are historical fact. The idea behind outlawing this type of discrimination is that no man should be limited in his pursuit of happiness because of circumstances of his birth that he had no control over.

Kennedy maintains that same-sex attraction is on the same level as gender, skin pigment, and national origin. He says that if you’re attracted to a person of the same sex, that attraction is part of your innate nature, set at birth and constant through your lifetime. That is false. Who and what we are attracted to changes throughout our lives. “Nurture,” as opposed to “nature,” has a huge impact on sexual development. Why are sexually molested children more likely to become molesters themselves? Why are children raised by same-sex couples, who cannot conceive naturally, more likely to be gay than children of heterosexual parents? Why does watching pornography limit what one finds erotic to those filmed scenarios? Whether we are born sexual blank slates or not, the images we see and the positive and negative reinforcements we receive from our surroundings play a large part in what we find attractive. The fact of the matter is claiming same-sex attraction is fixed, obvious, and immutable is a statement of faith with far less reasoning in support of it than the opposite conclusion, that sexuality is malleable and subject to an infinitude of post-natal factors. (I haven’t mentioned the complex issues of self-identification, behavior, or will.)

Aside from the constitutional harm, the travesty of Kennedy’s decree that there is anything about “immutable” about the petitioners in Obergefell is it forecloses to them the possibility that they can change. To be sure, they will change. It is impossible that they will not change. But the ruling deceives them by spreading the lie that they have no agency in their condition, that their “orientation,” whatever it is now or a year from now or 10 years from now, is hard-coded into them. They are confirmed in the belief that they have no choice in whom-what-where-how they are sexually gratified, and therefore they are entitled to pursuing that gratification, just as the Irishman is entitled to be from Ireland—because he has no choice in where he is from.

Think what effect this has on someone—I should say everyone—who struggles with sin, who treats his spiritual isolation with vain pursuits and empty pleasures, who yearns for God and doesn’t know it. Is he more or less likely to discover his way into God’s glory if he believes he was born like this and there’s nothing he can do to change it? What hope does this person have when he hears the fulfillment through the flesh that eludes him, that tortures him, that mocks him, is his highest aspiration? None.

This consigns man’s body and his time on earth to illegitimate ends. We are not made to find meaning in self-gratification. It leaves no room for the Spirit that changes or individual will. “Futile! Futile! Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!” Solomon concluded (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The truth is better: God provides sanctuary from our diminutive form in His Son’s crucified and risen body. Paul writes:

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Secondly, Kennedy assumes license to redefine marriage in order to give the petitioners the personal fulfillment, which he conflates with dignity, that they seek in marriage’s privileges and responsibilities. He says same-sex marriage is the “only” path to such ends—not only assuring the outcome of the case, but making the petitioners’ dignity dependent on the Court’s action. Combine this with gays’ “immutable nature,” and the Court’s rationalization is complete:

  1. Gays can’t change.
  2. Gays’ only path to dignity is via same-sex marriage.
  3. Therefore, gays must be able to marry.

As Clarence Thomas says in his dissent, government does not sit in the divine judgment seat. Government does not bestow dignity on people by issuing a marriage license. Government does not make one man inherently equal to another by giving official sanction to his desires, innate or otherwise. God has already made him equal. Man’s dignity derives from the Creator.

Government does not make one man less valuable than another because the same law applied equally to them circumscribes his will more than the other. The law is about what is just. It does not change because some find it more difficult to obey than others.

Had the Court denied the petitioners, their dignity would still be intact. The law’s demands of them still would be no different than of anyone else. They would be as they were created: equals before the law. Contrary to Kennedy’s claim, they could deal with the law’s conflict with their nature in a number of ways. They could grudgingly respect it and struggle with it. Or they could ask God to free them from the yoke of sin, to pull them off the path that their own feet have led them down. That would require an admitting fault and a willingness to change.

That’s what the lie expressly forbids, which makes it so insidious. Man substitutes his own truth for God’s, prying him away from the one true remedy to his spiritual condition.

Related: “Thanks for Everything, Justice Kennedy.”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Real faith, circumcised heart

When faith is real, the heart is circumcised. But man cannot see the heart. He sees the body, which is why we cannot judge the heart. “People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” God told Samuel (1 Samuel 16:7).

The legalism of the Pharisees judged the body because the letter of the law concerned the body. Circumcision was of the body. Worship of God that the Pharisees accepted was irrespective of the heart, meaning you could get away with rote, insincere worship. “Watch out! The time is soon coming when I will punish all those who are circumcised only in the flesh,” God told Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:25).

That’s not to say the body is allowed free rein. “Present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service,” Paul wrote (Romans 12:1). A circumcised heart produces fruit in the body. “Be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves,” James wrote (James 1:22). The fruit in the body is good works for God’s glory. They are not a religious test, however. They are not the causes of salvation, but the effects.

Hence, these teachings are not opposite, as they appear on the surface, but coexistent:

  • Jesus taught we should “hate” life and renounce worldly possessions for service to God (Luke 14:25-33).
  • Paul cautioned against “works” in the sense of man earning his way into heaven, justified by his righteousness (e.g., Galatians 2:16). Jesus is man’s justifier (Romans 3:26), not man himself.

Think of a stream, overflowing because the river it feeds is backed up. God is the river, you are the stream. What you who are saved give is overflow from the abundance of grace God gives him through Christ’s body.

Christianity is “lawless” in one sense. The law, which circumcises the flesh, has been fulfilled by the faith of Jesus, which circumcises the heart. Losing the testament of the law is no great loss. The “law is not intended for a righteous person” (1 Timothy 1:9). Those who don’t need the law do well without it. Those who need the law to govern their bodies need a change of heart even more.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Slippery slope

It’s not a fallacy. It’s consistently the result of accepting the logical basis of an argument with no limiting principle.

I save no kindness for the Confederate flag, but give power-mad liberals an inch, and they’ll take a mile. That’s why it’s important to never side with them on anything, even if it seems ethically sound. For then you become party to a vicious iconoclastic movement that knows no bounds. You don’t temporarily switch sides in a war when you find out the other side has a better Social Security plan.

If I trusted the stone throwers would stop at the Confederate flag at the Confederate war memorial in Columbia, South Carolina, I might have agreed with them. But I know their motives and that they would not stop. Rod Dreher, whom I am fond of, fell into their trap at the start of it last week, calling for the Confederate flag to be removed, and now he buries his head in the sand at what has followed.

“If the monuments are strong statements of past values, defacing them is the easiest and loudest way to rebuke those statements.” –Michael Allen

This is lunacy. War memorials; statues of historic figures; stained glass; names of buildings, streets, and towns; even Civil War-themed video games have come under attack. For what, exactly? For being racist throwbacks?

No. This is a test of de facto speech controls. The target is speech activity that offends a race-based political class that can’t forgive the sins of the past no matter how many times forgiveness is asked for, as well as speech activity that uncomfortably does not prove another political class’s non-racism. As is the case with tyranny’s more terrifying, insidious form, the people willingly convert to it, rather than resentfully being imposed on by the state.

And shame on these people for overshadowing what was a great story of redeeming grace into a cynical political play. A literal connection between the Confederate flag and Dylann Roof is nonexistent. But liberals at war can’t let a crisis go to waste, and they are skilled at manufacturing ammo from unlikely sources.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In man’s image

“Government doesn’t define marriage, government recognizes marriage,” is not some facile trope to fall back on when challenged by a libertarian demanding government get out of the “marriage business.” It explains the truth of marriage’s pre-political, or apolitical, foundation in the natural order. Government didn’t define marriage in the first place, so how can it redefine marriage? All government should do is facilitate social reality by formally recognizing it.

It can redefine marriage, of course, if it completely slips its constitutional moorings and asserts creative—nay, divine—authority over nature. C. C. Pecknold writes at National Review:

When the state recognizes the nature of marriage as something prior to itself, it secures its own limits. When we acknowledge and recognize that by nature we are both social and political, we suddenly change the nature of politics. Our government no longer is tempted to define the whole of reality.

Why would a constitutional republic want to legislate everything? Conversely, why wouldn’t a totalitarian state want to legislate everything? Under Leviathan, everything is political, especially the personal. There is no part of human life it dares not touch. It’s motivation is in Adam and Eve’s original sin, that man knows better than God who created him who man is and what man is. Marriage, along with everything else, is remade to suit a whim, whatever artifice those in power fancy themselves living under instead of the created order.

As I’ve written before, a state that thinks it commands nature is destined for a hard fall. Reality is not up for debate, and only a delicate infrastructure of interconnected lies can keep the pretense up. Even then, the truth beats on it like a hurricane on a beach house: relentlessly, eroding the foundation, until the structure collapses. Because the lie cannot win on an even playing field, totalitarians must suppress the truth (for example, calling it “bigotry”).

More Pecknold:

The redefinition of marriage has been underway for some time, as many have noted. But we often miss the political significance of redefining marriage. What has happened is that the conjugal union is no longer posited as being prior to the political union, as it was for Aristotle, and even more strongly in the later development of the Western tradition. We have been witnessing the steady erasure of pre-political limits.

Marriage has been severed from nature as such, and it has certainly been severed from any notion that marriage is for the propagation of the next generation of a society. We may think of the cultural transformation happening organically, but everything from contraception to no-fault divorce to abortion has been enforced by the government—most often at the highest level of the judiciary. But we should ask ourselves: Who stands to benefit from these erosions of marriage? One reason why a state might enforce a legal redefinition of marriage is that the conjugal definition reminds us that there’s something natural on which the state depends.

All the branches of our government stand to win a temporary increase in power from the erosion of marriage. The state will not resist any cultural attacks on conjugal marriage because such attacks further erase any notion of a social nature prior to the state.

To put it bluntly, the reason why we have seen so much power behind redefining marriage is not because it serves 1.8 percent of the population. It is because it serves Leviathan—the Hobbesian vision of an absolutely sovereign state with ever-expansive control over every aspect of our lives.

No matter what hubristic nonsense erupts out of the Roberts court by month’s end, this will be as true then as now, as true as it has ever been.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Odds and ends 6/24/2015

The Red Pill Report is basically defunct. For a time I was the only one posting there. But the site’s inactivity relative to the hustle and bustle of 2012 has resulted in a huge drop in web traffic, especially this year. My requests of the site owners to transfer administrator rights to me, the only active contributor of late, have gone unanswered. So I’m finished with the Red Pill Report.


How do, and don’t, we judge? Richard Mansel answers:

Matthew 7:1 does not mean we cannot judge. It means we must not judge based on faulty information or by standards we do not wish to be judged by. We judge lovingly by the word of God, alone (1 John 4:1; Ephesians 4:15).

If someone’s life clearly violates God’s will, we are not sinfully judging by recognizing the obvious fact. Instead, they have judged God and they are arguing with him, not the Christian (Luke 13:3-5).

Charles Pope writes more completely:

Any time the Church or an individual Christian points to a certain behavior as wrong or sinful, inevitably wagging fingers are raised and an indignant tone ensues which says something to the effect, “Ah, ah, ah ... you’re being judgmental! The Bible says, judge not. Who are you to judge your neighbor!?” etc. This is clearly an attempt to shut down discussion quickly and to shame the Christian, or the Church into silence. To a large degree this tactic has worked and modern culture has succeeded in shaming many Christians from this essential work of correcting the sinner. Too many are terrified and simply shamed when they are said to be “judging” someone because they call attention to sin or wrongdoing. In a culture where tolerance is one of the only virtues left, to “judge” is a capital offense. “How dare we do such a thing!” The world protests, “Who are you to judge someone else?!”

But pay careful attention to what this Gospel text is actually saying. The judgment in question is not as to the question of right and wrong. Rather, the judgment in question regards punishment or condemnation. The next sentence makes this clear when it speaks of the measure we use. The measure in question is the level of condemnation, harshness or punishment that is used. A parallel passage in Luke makes this clear: Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. ... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38). Hence the word “judge” here is understood to mean an unnecessarily harsh and punitive condemnation. To paraphrase the opening verses here would be to say, “Be careful not to be condemning for If you lower the boom on others, you will have the boom lowered on you. If you throw the book at others, it will also be thrown at you.”

Further, the parable that follows in the passage above about the plank in one’s eye does NOT say not to correct sinners. It says in effect, get right with God yourself and understand your own sin so that you will see clearly enough to properly correct your brother. Hence, far from forbidding the correction of the sinner the passage actually emphasizes the importance of correction by underscoring the importance of doing it well and with humility and integrity.

In these times one of the most forgotten virtues and obligations we have is the duty to correct the sinner. It is listed among the Spiritual Works of Mercy. St. Thomas Aquinas lists it in the Summa as a work of Charity: [F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well. (II, IIae, 33.1)

Now to be sure, there are some judgments that are forbidden us. For example we cannot assess that we are better or worse than someone else before God. Neither can we always understand the ultimate culpability or inner intentions of another person as though we were God. Scripture says regarding judgments such as these: Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Further we are instructed that we cannot make the judgment of condemnation. That is to say, we do not have the power or knowledge to condemn someone to Hell. God alone is judge in this sense. The same scriptures also caution us against being unnecessarily harsh or punitive. As we already read from Luke, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. .... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38). So in this text “to judge” means to condemn or to be unmerciful, to be unreasonably harsh.


Andrew Lynn considers the Benedict Option at Ethika Politika:

MacIntyre’s wider work envisions thick moral communities that are as revolutionary as they are retreatist, and that encompass both inward-facing and outward-facing virtues and practices. In Dependent Rational Animals MacIntyre develops from Aquinas the virtue of just generosity, a form of solidarity that extends to those with needs outside one’s immediate community. This openness to and concern for the outsider reflects the practices of Benedictine monasteries themselves.

So is this retreatist? Or could this vision entail bonds of solidarity that actually surpass the “contract of mutual indifference” found in liberalism? Turning away from “imperium maintenance” to the local politics of “grassroot organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, small businesses that serve neighborhood needs, schools, clinics, and transport systems” is hardly political quietism or indifference. Such activities work within the niches and cracks of existing structures to build alternative practices and social relations that resist dominant cultural norms—what Erik Olin Wright labels “interstitial” strategies of transformation.

Or, think small.

I admit, I’m ready to abandon macro-political discourse as a means of reaching others. Given my new focus in bringing people into communion with God, most of what I’ve been writing about since 2012 seems futile and pointless.


“Not every decision is an economic decision.” –Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on his corporate backing of same-sex marriage

That’s right. Beyond a minimum level of income, people, right or wrong, care about more important things than getting paid.

That’s why the “the color of money is green” rationalization the Dodgers owner uses in the beginning of 42: The Jackie Robinson Story sounds so trite and disingenuous. He integrated his team not for profit, but because he believed it was right.


Daniel Payne at the Federalist comments on the upside-down-ness of it all:

As my colleague Robert Tracinski recently pointed out, the growing normalization of insanity has resulted in the concurrent stigmatization of normalcy itself. Perhaps more than any other political and philosophical debate in recent memory, transgenderism has revealed this dismaying tendency in much of politics: if someone does not agree with the tenets of Progressive gender politics, then he will be painted as a deranged, antediluvian, backwards-looking hatemonger who can’t get past his own outmoded psychological neuroses. Conservatives are increasingly on the receiving end of a full-blown gaslighting, while progressives and libertarians congratulate themselves on how open-minded and tolerant they are.

Rod Dreher comments:

I can’t tell if Dolezal really believes this fairy tale, or if she’s putting up a brave front. What makes this so delicious is that she doesn’t say, “OK, you got me, I’m white, but was passing as black.” No, she insists that she really is black, solely because she says she is. And she calls her “biological identity” something that was pressed upon her—that is, not a fact rooted in observable reality, but a narrative, a story that she did not choose. So, by identifying as black, she overthrows her oppressive parents, and oppressive biology.

To be clear: what’s interesting about Dolezal’s case is not that she claims to be a white woman who has chosen to masquerade as black; she claims to be black.

If Dolezal is wrong, then why is Bruce Jenner right to claim that he is really a woman, and not a man who chooses to present himself as a woman? After all, the biological fact is that Jenner is male; he is even retaining his penis. He is only a woman because he says he is, and enough people agree with him to make this biological fiction true.

Praxis has a good read on the hypocrisy of accepting Jenner but not Dolezal for what they say they are:

What’s important—that is, what’s revealing about contemporary consciousness—is the asymmetry between the mass media’s embrace of Bruce/Caitlyn and their mocking condemnation of White/Black Rachel (or, at the very least, their assumption that something is very wrong with this woman and her choice of careers).

The media punished anyone who voiced what was, no doubt, all of our gut reactions when we saw Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair cover: “That’s gross/ridiculous/sad.” But behind this enforcement of dogma lay a tacit sense that little was really at stake, that Caitlyn’s act was ultimately personal and harmless to others. In the words of Kris Jenner, Caitlyn’s supportive ex-wife, “[I]t’s about you, and I just want you to be happy.”

Rachel’s transformation is something altogether different. Putting aside legal questions of fraud, Rachel engaged, not in self-actualization, but in identity theft. She stole and demeaned African-Americans’ being and history. The media’s punishment of Rachel—greater than that inflicted on those who ridiculed Caitlyn—reveals the degree to which race really matters, especially to those who identify as liberal and leftist.

In understanding this, it is important not to take leftist dogma at face value. According to “social justice” logic, Rachel was, in fact, Black. For some eight years, she forewent “White skin privilege” and lived her life as a Black woman, recognized as such by White and Black alike. But ultimately, she can’t be Black. And in a month or so, at the end of her running the media’s freak-show gauntlet, she will be remember as a disturbed ... hilariously bizarre ... maybe tragic White woman. That’s a fate Rachel will never escape.

Nor will Jenner, in the end. Honeymoons don’t last forever.


Father Lawrence Farley writes eloquently about how the zeitgeist tries to redefine Jesus to assimilate Christianity:

It is not simply a moral issue; it is a Christological one. If we continue ecumenical dialogue with groups that bless homosexuality, at best we are wasting our breath. At worst we are adding credibility to what Paul called “another gospel.”

The problem, of course, is a perennial one. In every age, there are Christians who compromise with the standards of their age, and accept the world’s values as their own. These people always call themselves “Christians” and denounce those who disagree with them as rigid and wrong. But the Christ whom they preach is not the real Christ. They in fact misrepresent Him, and preach a Christ made up by themselves, one who conforms more closely to their own secular age. St. Paul, St. John, and St. Athanasius pulled the mask off them in their day, and denied them the label of “Christian.” It is time that we Orthodox follow in their footsteps now and do the same to those who offer a counterfeit faith and another Jesus.


Controlling 300 million people is hard. Controlling the handful of companies that provide their healthcare is easy. Here’s the Wall Street Journal:

The economics of ObamaCare reward scale over competition. Benefits are standardized and premiums are de facto price-controlled. With margins compressed to commodity levels, buying more consumers via mergers is simpler than appealing to them with better products, to the extent the latter is still legal.

David Gayvert reviews Kirsten Powers’s book, The Silencing. Excerpt from the review:

No doubt Powers is genuinely offended by what she labels the “illiberal” impulses and practices of progressives who attack rather than argue against opinions that do not comport with their own enlightened views. She cites example after example of attempts by these leftists to shame, defame, destroy, and otherwise shut down debate and politicize virtually every issue, public and private. Throughout the book, Powers proudly professes her liberalism, and posits, but doesn’t really argue—i.e., provide evidence other than her own sensibilities—that “true” liberalism requires free and respectful debate and consideration of the opinions of others. In this she convinces the reader of her fair-mindedness, if not her clear thinking. She cites a litany of dots, but can’t bring herself to connect them. The reader is left thinking: how can she catalog and condemn all this leftist behavior and not see its connection to its underlying philosophy?

For what is hugely missing in Powers’s book—and powerfully present in say, David Mamet’s tale of conversion from a “brain dead” liberal in good standing to a thinking conservative—is the recognition that the attitudes and practices that she abhors are not a distortion or aberrational trend of her professed political proclivities, but an inescapable consequence. Notwithstanding the lofty rhetoric about helping the downtrodden and the “little guy,” the left has ever been about seizing and holding power to enforce equality of condition upon all but the elite who exercise that power. That goal can ultimately brook no dissent. Powers constantly emphasizes her personal preference for respectful debate, but fails to recognize that with very few exceptions, modern liberals have no interest in engaging in free and fact-based debate to persuade others; they see themselves as possessors of the “Secret Knowledge,” and want to impose it upon the benighted masses who are incapable of leading useful lives without it.

As I like to put it, liberalism suppresses the truth in order to elevate equality. They are motivated by envy of the natural order of cause and effect.


Peggy Noonan gushes praise for Charleston:

I have never seen anything like what I saw on television this afternoon. Did you hear the statements made at the bond hearing of the alleged Charleston, S.C., shooter?

Nine beautiful people slaughtered Wednesday night during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their relatives were invited to make a statement today in court. Did you hear what they said?

They spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”

...

As I watched I felt I was witnessing something miraculous. I think I did. It was people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way.

What a country that makes such people. Do you ever despair about America? If they are America we are going to be just fine.


Matthew Schmitz of First Things guest-writes an analysis of Pope Francis’s encyclical for the Washington Post. It’s a generous analysis, ignoring much of the social justice pablum that taints Francis’s socio-economic statements.

It turns out Francis is channelling Berdyaev and Dooley. Excerpt from Schmitz:

Francis’s notion of “human ecology”—one of the document’s guiding terms—is hardly your standard-issue environmentalism. Part of respecting nature is “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity.” He also states that “concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”

In the nineteenth century, Pope Gregory XVI banned railroads from the papal states, calling them chemins d’enfer, or ways of hell, a play on their French name, chemins de fer, or ways of iron. His fear was that they would spread bourgeois and republican ideas subversive to papal authority and right faith. Gregory’s belief that technology profoundly shapes belief and so must be carefully weighed and, at times, resisted is the central conviction of Francis’s new encyclical. Whatever one thinks of any particular condemnation from Gregory or Francis—be it of planes, trains, or automobiles—this is not a foolish view of technology.

One of the books Francis cites most frequently is Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. The dystopian novel imagines a future in which religion has nearly disappeared but the Pope now reigns in Rome, having exchanged all the church’s other properties in Italy for sovereignty of the city. One of his first acts is to ban technology, reasoning that “on the whole the latter-day discoveries of man tended to distract immortal souls from a contemplation of eternal verities.”

He admits that the banned technologies are “good in themselves, since after all they gave insight into the wonderful laws of God.” Nonetheless, he judges “that at present they were too exciting to the imagination.” His conclusion, one very close to Francis’ in Laudato Si, leads him to remove “the trams . . . the laboratories, the manufactories.” And so, Benson writes, “the trains ceased to run.”

Francis’ encyclical synthesizes the great cultural critiques of his two most recent predecessors—Benedict XVI’s “dictatorship of relativism” John Paul II’s “culture of death”—in terms of opposition to the locomotive of technological rationality. Francis writes that “We should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm, the rise of a relativism,” which leads to sexual exploitation, abandonment of the elderly, and the taking of innocent life. Francis identifies a “throwaway culture” and what John Paul II called the culture of death. In Laudato Si, Francis reframes the philosophical points of his predecessors in more technological and ecological terms. He is opposing modernism—that old antagonist of the Church—not just as a philosophical proposition but also as a material reality.

Of course, neither a one-world authority nor a thriftier use of electricity nor a ban on trains can solve the spiritual crisis Francis foresees. In one of the best moments of the fascinating, sprawling encyclical, he rejects solutionism—that false belief that life is a series of problems that we must solve rather than live—as yet another aspect of technological rationality. This does not mean that his many suggestions are in vain, for they all aim to goad the reader—believer or unbeliever—toward a life of self-sacrifice. Whether or not this kind of ecological conversion can be sustained without a Christian conversion, one can be grateful that Francis has offered not so much a set of solutions as a great challenge.

Make a place your home and preserve it for your flourishing.

Lest you think the Pope had turned a corner...

He calls for a “true world political authority.” Fossil fuels “need to be replaced without delay.” We should also consider taking public transit, car-pooling, planting trees, turning off the lights and recycling. Alongside these practical suggestions appear a few spiritual ones: saying prayers before and after meals, resting on the Sabbath, reconsidering Jubilee.

This is the takeaway for enviro-statists. The rest they won’t pay attention to.

Will a “true world political authority” circumcise the heart or the body? So much for subsidiarity.


Gordan Runyan writes at Freedom Outpost:

No humanistic theory is able to sort out the philosophical puzzle called the problem of the one and the many. That is, while rejecting the revelation of God, no government is going to be able to provide the proper balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the larger community. Communism goes all the way over to the community side (and thus the name of it) while secular libertarianism occupies the opposite end of the spectrum. But the God of the Christian is Himself both a unity and a community, as per the historic doctrine of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell together as separate Persons, and yet in perfect oneness. The Christian God, in His own nature, is the ultimate solution to the problem of the one and the many. As we implement His word to us, in every area of our lives, we will strike that balance that humanists will never know.