Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bigots, bigots everywhere

I composed this poem in May, in reaction to a heated debate I had with a friend. He called me a bigot and we no longer talk.

Bigots, bigots everywhere,
Who you are, we do not care.
All we know is you’re unfair.
Moral categories we forswear.

Bigots, bigots all around me,
What nerve you have to disagree.
“Truth” is relative, don't you see.
Your views are square with tyranny.

Bigots, bigots in the wrong,
Far in the past do you belong.
Human progress you can’t prolong.
To the future we rush headlong.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Odds and ends 9/28/2012

Eric Hoffer in that great seminal work, The True Believer, peels off an immortal gem:

For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intently discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future.

Michael Barone writes:

Obama’s policies, from Obamacare to high-speed rail, treat people as identical cogs in a very large machine, part of a mindless mass that would not be able to get along without government guidance.

Barone refers to a piece by Walter Russell Mead, a thoughtful writer, which presents the challenge of inbetweeners to American society:

Helping young people to make the transition from dependency into responsible adulthood is a critical task. When young people are so crushed by debt that they are delaying decisions like starting a family or buying a house, then the system isn’t working at a basic level. When growing numbers of young people are crushed by debts they did not understand, cannot pay and cannot discharge, then society is sitting on a time bomb.

Ronald Brownstein strikes on a related theme over at National Journal:

Pollsters and sociologists have found less antagonism toward the affluent in the U.S. than in most other industrialized nations, precisely because Americans are more likely to believe that anyone with enough skill and determination can reach the top. In that way, faith in the opportunity for upward mobility has defused discontent about income inequality, even as inequality has grown. “Because differences in income in the U.S. are believed to be related to skill and effort, and because social mobility is assumed to be high,” Isabel Sawhill, codirector of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, wrote recently, “inequality seems to be more acceptable than in Europe.”

Presumably as upward mobility from lower income quintiles to higher income quintiles is impeded by the Great Recession, class resentment will rise. Interesting theory. We’ll see if it plays out that way.

Christopher Orlet writes in the American Spectator about a confrontation with his drug-abusing neighbors:

They simply couldn’t grasp the concept that you couldn’t do illegal things on your own property. (Apparently St. Louis Public Schools do not offer much in the way of logic courses.) My wife told them that by openly smoking weed they were sending a message to the dealers that drugs were tolerated on our block. (And, until we came along, they were.) She didn’t bother to explain the Broken Windows Theory to them, but that was what we were thinking. You tolerate a little bit of crime, and it sends a message to the criminals that they can get away with more serious crimes.

See if any of this sounds familiar. Kelly O’Connell writes in “The Miracles of Chairman Obama: Studies in Secular Religious Phenomena”:

The legend of the “world’s greatest leader” is actually an established trope within Marxist movements. In fact, it’s necessary such propaganda be presented by such movements to establish credibility.

Why? First, because leftist countries are typically in dire straights [sic], needing great men to work superb feats of statecraft. Second, since these movements defy religion and all traditional political theory, they therefore present an ominous level of novelty. Here, an incredible captain is needed to steer such a new machine. Third, humanism is the essence of such movements, the leader must be the best of all people. And to have a superman-as-president makes not just perfect sense, but also maximizes the potential of such ideology. Finally, such movements have all the trappings of religion, offering a role for a new anti-religious pope.

Paul Sperry writes in Investor’s Business Daily:

Our Judeo-Christian values aren’t winning over Muslims in the Middle East. It’s their totalitarian values that are influencing us. With the help of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in America, they’re imposing their blasphemy and other Shariah laws on us. We’re compromising our freedoms to accommodate them.

Is there a better slogan for idolatrous humanists than the Fabian window’s motto, “REMOULD IT NEARER TO THE HEART’S DESIRE”? It betrays the deluded belief that, as advanced we are in the sciences, we can master and overcome the natural forces of the universe.

As the guest pastor at my new church said Sunday, idolatry will fail. It is inevitable because idolatry attempts to refute the truth. False narratives can be erected to justify idolatry, but eventually nature takes its course.

At National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru lights up Obama for his radical abortion views:

Illinois law has rules — loophole-ridden rules, but rules — requiring treatment of babies who have “sustainable survivability.” If an attempted abortion of a pre-viable fetus results in a live birth, the law did not protect the infant. Nurse Jill Stanek said that at her hospital “abortions” were repeatedly performed by inducing the live birth of a pre-viable fetus and then leaving it to die. When she made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken. That’s why legislators proposed a bill to fill the gap.

Obama did not want the gap filled. He did not want pre-viable fetuses/infants to have any legal protection. In the Illinois legislature, he argued that providing them with legal protection would both be unconstitutional in itself — a violation of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence — and undermine the right to abortion.

Eliot Spitzer praises wealth redistribution at Slate:

What is the intellectual framework for Romney? It is the world of Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand, a world of such diminished government that only the efforts of the individual are to be valued, a world in which the collective effort represented by government is derided.

I exposed the Ayn Rand association as false in “Welfare state vs. civil society.”

In opposition to Romney’s world view is that of John Rawls and John Maynard Keynes. They provide the intellectual guideposts for post-World War II America and its prosperity. They do believe in redistribution: Those who are affluent can and should help those who are not. They believe it is in fact government’s responsibility to manage this effort in a way that promotes growth and overall prosperity. This has been—and should be—a core of our national identity. Those who receive the hand up are not to be denigrated: They are every bit as much a part of our community as anybody else, and will one day return the favor to others who are in a moment of need.

We should articulate this world view loudly and clearly. We should not be shy about declaring it. It is right morally and philosophically, and it has worked to build a bigger, stronger nation.

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic sees wealth redistribution as a net good that comes with a price:

The entitlement state has grown shouldn’t, by itself, alarm us. It’s actually a sign of progress, because it’s a reminder that the government has stepped in to do what the market would not. We saw, in the years before Social Security, what the world looks like when seniors don’t have adequate pensions. And we saw, in the years before Medicare and Medicaid and (now) the Affordable Care Act, what the world looks like when people can’t afford to pay their medical bills. It was not pretty.

It still isn’t pretty, for the problems those programs purported to solve haven’t gone away. They will never go away. There will always be people at some point in their lives who don’t have the money to pay for necessities.

Meanwhile Cohn’s colleague at TNR, Timothy Noah, notes inequality, which motivates liberals, has actually risen every year since 2006, coincidentally the same year the Democrats took over Congress.

Leslie Carbone writes in the “The Moral Case Against Spreading the Wealth”:

There are two principal reasons why the federal government should not be in the business of wealth redistribution.

First, government imposed wealth redistribution doesn’t work: It doesn’t create, or even spread prosperity, it dampens it. Second, redistribution is not the legitimate purpose of government. Governments are not instituted to spread the wealth around, to make life “fair” or easy or comfortable, to synthesize equality of opportunity, or even to create jobs or growth or prosperity.


But progressive taxation, and redistributionary spending, actually violate our rights. When government engages in wealth redistribution—when it seizes from some citizens, simply because they have acquired more than others—it becomes a thing quite monstrous, perverting its own function and abusing the power that it has been granted to maintain. It also ends up suppressing prosperity, diverting resources from where they do the most good, adding unnecessary transaction costs, and diminishing capital, business, job, and wage growth.

Government imposed redistribution does moral harm as well. First, wealth redistribution discourages the virtuous behavior that creates wealth: hard work, saving, investment, personal responsibility. In the natural order, virtue and vice carry their own consequences. Virtue yields largely positive results. Hard work, patience, and orderliness, for example, tend to generate prosperity. Vice, on the other hand, brings negative consequences. Sloth, impatience, and recklessness lead to suffering. By taxing the fruits of the virtuous behavior that creates wealth, government redistribution discourages that behavior.

Doug Masson blogs:

Notice those property rights you have? Like them? Me too. But, here is the thing. There are no property rights without government. Instead of property rights, without government, you have property only so long as you can hold it by force. I’ve used this one often in the past, but only because it gets overlooked: without government, you have a Hobbesian state of nature, the war of all-against-all leading to lives that are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Masson seems ignorant of the origins of the civil society, which predates government. Oh well.

Two weeks ago I linked to former atheist Leah Libresco’s critique of a piece in the Atlantic by Hannah Rosin. Here is another critique of the same article, written by Father Robert Barron:

Notice how every virtue that Rosin cites – freedom, confidence, self-reliance – is a subjective disposition. No one in his right mind would contend that those attitudes are anything but good, but they are good precisely in the measure that they order a person to some objective value that lie outside of his subjectivity. We savor freedom because it is the condition for the possibility of pursuing the good in a responsible way; we think that confidence and self-reliance are worthwhile, because they enable one to achieve the good easily and joyfully. But if the question of the objectively valuable is bracketed, then those subjective dispositions lose their orientation and devolve, in point of fact, into something quite destructive.

What struck me throughout Rosin’s article was the complete absence of a reference to the objectively valuable in regard to sexual behavior. The purpose of sex? The meaning of the sexual act? The proper ethical, or dare I say religious, setting for sexuality? Never mentioned – and apparently irrelevant.

All that seems to matter is that young people – especially young women – have the opportunity to define themselves sexually however they want, to “manage” their sexual activity “like savvy headhunters.” Can I suggest that that last phrase is telling indeed? When the realm of the objectively valuable is marginalized, the subject will inevitably fall back on herself, stewing in her own juices. And let’s be honest, left to our own devices, the vast majority of us will do what is most convenient and most selfish. (The Church, by the way, refers to this natural tendency toward self-absorption as the principle effect of “original sin.”)

Stanley Kurtz over at National Review writes a review of sorts of William Raspberry’s Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today:

In repudiating the bogus claim of sexual “equality” implicit in the culture of no-strings sex, Raspberry offers a remarkable statement: “I don’t doubt for a minute that women’s control of sex helped to tame men, to focus their attention and make them suitable for, and amenable to, marriage.”

Now nothing in that statement would have been remarkable a generation ago. And it’s certainly arresting that Raspberry is publicly willing to affirm today what ought to be obvious: that men and women approach sex differently, and that women, by waiting, help men to yoke together love and sex in a way that leads to and strengthens marriage. But what’s truly interesting about Raspberry’s column is that he wrote it after penning a piece only last year expressing puzzlement that anyone could find gay marriage a threat to marriage itself.

Raspberry wasn’t being dense — just honest. Marriage is one of those institutions we take for granted. The rationale for marriage isn’t so much written down somewhere as buried in the thing itself. That’s why neither Raspberry, nor other right-thinking liberals, can see the connection between the rise of the movement for gay marriage and the decline of heterosexual courtship and marriage. But the link is there.

In one way or another, the rules of courtship and marriage are all a way of insisting that, in matters of sex, men and women are different. And since courtship and marriage depend for their successful operation upon an ethos of sexual complementarity, people who imbibe the ethos of courtship can’t help but feel that there’s something not quite right about the idea of a homosexual marriage.

Pete Spiliakos at First Things writes on the Romney “47 percent” flap, echoing yours truly:

Writers like George Gilder, Charles Murray, and Lawrence Mead did not write off welfare recipients or argue that those on welfare did not want to take responsibility for their own lives. These conservative and libertarian writers put themselves on the side of the welfare recipients and against a dysfunctional system that was hurting those it was supposed to help. Conservatives did best on welfare when they stopped writing off the non-working poor.

As a member of the 18- to 29-yearold demographic, I’m sensitive to its plight, even though I luckily escaped the worst of it. John McCormack writes in the September issue of The American Spectator:

The consequences of unemployment, underemployment, and wage erosion are battering the lives of young Americans. According to a survey conducted in 2011 by the Polling Company, 77 percent of 18- to 29-yearolds “either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors.” That includes 44 percent who will delay buying a home and 28 percent who say they’ll delay saving for retirement. Nearly a quarter of young Americans say they will delay starting a family, and 18 percent will delay getting married because of the economy. The Obama economy has given rise to ever more “boomerang kids” who must return home to live with Mom and Dad after graduating from college without a job.

So this line from Paul Ryan’s speech to the RNC struck a chord with me:

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.

Catherine of Siena was quoted in an article on obedience over at Dominicana:

The disobedient walk proudly, carrying the head of self-will high. And if they are sometimes forced to obey they do not bow down in humility but pass through the door proudly.

When I read this I imagined the humanists of our time, uprooting humanity, buoyed by the suffering created by their ideas, as if the failure were not an indictment but a mandate for stricter implementation.

Chick-fil-A clarified its donations policy, and it is evident the restaurant chain is sticking to its biblical guns. Had Chick-fil-A really rethought its activism, it would have been disappointing, but not surprising. Keep that in mind as you read John Hayward’s (now defunct) piece over at Human Events:

A private company has signaled its willingness to embrace the political stances dictated by Chicago’s ruling Party, in order to “earn” the privilege of building stores in the area. The letter from Chick-fil-A real estate director John E. Featherston Jr. to Chicago alderman Joe Moreno should chill every American to the bone: “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

And my (now defunct) reaction: “Didn’t you hear the news? Everything is political, now.”

I want our troops out of Afghanistan, because we’re not waging the right kind of war there. It’s a gun-toting public relations campaign. I want to reform our decadent culture, not because Islam sees it that way, but because it’s self-destructive.

Unfortunately, the former attitudes are represented in Pat Buchanan’s piece, “The Irreconcilable Conflict.” There is this redeeming section, though:

We proclaim that we cherish the First Amendment. Do we?

If so, whose version of that amendment? How many Americans would willingly die for the constitutional right to produce pornographic films? Or for some nutball’s right to insult the Prophet? Or the right of “artists” to befoul and denigrate Christian images of our own Lord and Savior?

Our Founding Fathers who created this republic did not believe in democracy. When did we come to worship this idol? Wrote T.S. Eliot:

“The term ‘democracy,’ as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike - it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.”

Daniel Greenfield writes in “The Graveyard of Neo-Conservatism”:

Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq’s ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.

I hear echoes of John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” He meant God-fearing Christians, not unhinged Islamists.

David Harsanyi blows off some steam after the Democratic National Convention. He concludes his rant:

Democrats say that things are a lot better than they used to be. And if you believe all the things we’re hearing, you might wonder: How did we survive in this Godforsaken place before 2008? Were children really left to die on the slab? Were college kids forced to pay for their own journalism degrees? Were people expected to head over to the CVS and buy their own condoms? Did we really suffer through year after year of 5 percent unemployment?

Were we really so immoral before He showed up? Apparently.

Vox Day paints the crisis for Anglo men in modern America in harsh light:

Since the 1965 Immigration Act, the American political elite has been electing a new people by encouraging immigration from a wide variety of societies that are vastly different in ethnic and cultural terms than American society. In combination with this vast invasion of the, shall we say, unconventionally civilized, the traditional male-female dynamic that had proven successful for centuries was altered through a transformation of the legal and judicial systems. This confluence of factors has created a tremendous challenge for the white male population, as young white American men now have every material incentive to opt out of activities which tend to foster societal survival and very little incentive to opt in.

The spiritual incentive, written into male nature, I believe will never perish.

James Altucher writes a terrific blog. I love his self-revelations and insight into the real world. Every blog post is like an espresso shot. He writes in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People”:

Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think more about what you are doing. When you procrastinate as an entrepreneur it could mean that you need a bit more time to think about what you are pitching a client. It could also mean you are doing work that is not your forte and that you are better off delegating. I find that many entrepreneurs are trying to do everything when it would be cheaper and more time-efficient to delegate, even if there are monetary costs associated with that. In my first business, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head the first time I delegated a programming job to someone other than me. At that time, I went out on a date. Which was infinitely better than me sweating all night on some stupid programming bug (thank you, Chet, for solving that issue).

Try to figure out why you are procrastinating. Maybe you need to brainstorm more to improve an idea. Maybe the idea is no good as is. Maybe you need to delegate. Maybe you need to learn more. Maybe you don’t enjoy what you are doing. Maybe you don’t like the client whose project you were just working on. Maybe you need to take a break. There’s only so many seconds in a row you can think about something before you need to take time off and rejuvenate the creative muscles. This is not for everyone. Great people can storm right through. Steve Jobs never needed to take a break. But I do.

“Screwtape on courage,” by C.S. Lewis:

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world-a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

Another C.S. Lewis quote:

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”

I feel like, from my vantage point, I see and understand almost everything. That's why I consistently push heady articles like the ones this week. It's important to me that this blog be about more than just day-to-day stories that lose relevance the next week. You can drive yourself mad following that stuff.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Slaves to nature

Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God vows repeatedly to punish those who break the Covenant. But, in truth, how many of us have seen God directly intervene in the lives of sinners? I don’t know anyone who has. However, I have seen people who try to live by their own rules thwarted one way or another.

Following enlightened reason, we observe the immutable laws of nature. Wisdom is knowing these laws and living by them. I know if I let go of something, it will drop and probably break. This and millions of other assumptions, varying from the simple to the complex, guide our daily lives and choices.

That God directly intervenes rarely if ever in the workings of the universe makes sense. Imagine if at some point I dropped something, God stopped it from falling. Imagine if at some point I bought something I couldn’t afford, God gave me the money. Imagine if at some point I murdered my boss, God brought him back to life. While beneficial to me personally, God’s interventions would disincentivize what was self-evidently good behavior. There would be no recognizable order or reason for me to act one way or another. There would be only the whim of a micromanaging God.

The Word of God written into our hearts does not capture the extent to which we are, in a manner of speaking, slaves to God. As flawed human beings tainted with sin, we are constantly tempted to serve other priorities, usually selfish.

“There is nothing we could not do. Invisibility, levitation—anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wished to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of nature. We make the laws of nature.” –O’Brien, 1984

Hard as we try to rewrite the laws of nature, we will fail. God has set us up to fail. Witness, for example, the misery of people on welfare. We thought we could make inequality and envy an artifact of the past. But it’s in our nature to resent income we do not earn, and yet cling to the security and comfort it provides. Witness also the divorce of sex from procreation. Our obsession with sex, reduced to a fleeting pleasure, has sapped energy and joy from the long-term duties of family. As a result a decadent, childless society is our current path.

In summary, wisdom is the prescription for living under a detached God. “The discerning person looks to wisdom, but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big Mother

In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world.

George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World present two models of tyranny. While they have much in common, there are key differences. Both models of tyranny are omniscient. They both supplant God and represent the state as the sanctified body politic. They both prohibit subversive contact with others, because exclusive, binary relationships are “undemocratic.” But the means by which they control the people are dramatically different.

1984’s Big Brother implies a fraternal order to the regime. The state is constantly at war with foreign enemies, requiring absolute allegiance from the people. Children are told to inform on their parents. People’s activities are closely monitored. They do what they are told but inwardly they question and scoff. They’ll say two and two is whatever the state says it is, but they know it’s four. Their bodies and their tongues belong to Big Brother, but their minds remain their own.

Brave New World’s Big Mother, on the other hand, infantilizes its subjects. Rather than making the people’s obedience a punishable requirement, it molds people into believe that obedience is the only rational choice. Defying natural and moral instincts is easy and liberating. Since reproduction and childrearing are out of the hands of moms and dads, children are raised collectively in daycare centers and boarding schools by professional nannies. Equality is pushed in all areas of life, lest inequality give rise to envy and anger, thus stifling cooperation. Religions are abolished, their differences ironed out by worship of individual man in all his “perfection.” Sexual hedonism and polymorphism is celebrated.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.

The superiority of Huxley’s model is self-evident. Rather than exhaust resources on the police state, Big Mother uses beefed-up instruments of cultural assimilation to nudge the people into line. The worst part of it is people submit freely, like a nursing infant whose mother refuses to wean her child. Many who have never tasted freedom fear its burdens and responsibilities. Enslavement is not so difficult a choice for them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

War on men

For all the nonsense spewed in our sick, post-feminist society about women’s “reproductive rights,” you never hear a peep about the trappings of men’s limited sexuality; how men’s attractiveness is correlated to achievement, competitiveness, earnings potential, etc.; how we’ve abandoned the project of accommodating and channeling male sexual nature towards the good and civilization; how our newfangled institutions of “equal pay,” abortion on demand, and the welfare state have usurped the roles of men.

We exhort boys to “be a man,” and “act like a man,” having little idea ourselves what that really means, beyond a general call to action. George Gilder writes in the seminal work Men and Marriage: “A man’s body is full only of undefined energies—and all these energies need the guidance of culture. He is therefore deeply dependent on the structure of the society to define his role. In all its specific expressions, manhood is made, not born.”

“Be a woman” does not carry with it the same urgency because women naturally embody their femininity. No one ever says a boy blossoms into a man. But people do say a girl blossoms into a woman. It takes no conscious act on her part for this to happen. It just happens.

The failure to make men from boys threatens America’s social fabric. Observe the ongoing failures in certain enclaves, such as the lower class generally (see Charles Murray’s Coming Apart), and the black population in particular, in which three-quarters of children are born out of wedlock, a cultural disaster.

To understand the collapse of masculinity in America, you have to understand feminism. Feminism, as an extension of Marxism, proposes to “liberate” women from an imagined patriarchy that in fact recognizes the immutable truth of male and female natures. Intuitively, then, the two simplest methods to create “equality” between the sexes is to encourage masculinity in women and squelch it in men.

Teach girls they don’t need a man to be happy. Teach them they will get just as much, if not more, satisfaction from their careers as from being a wife and mother. “Beginning in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, young women’s expectations of their future labor force participation changed radically. Rather than follow in their mothers’ footsteps, they aimed to have careers, not just jobs,” David R. Francis surmises.

Further “adding to the possibility of a greater investment in professional careers was the availability of the contraceptive ‘pill.’ Women could better plan their futures.” In other words, they wouldn’t necessarily be “punished with a baby” if they got pregnant.

“They had greater guarantees by the government that job discrimination by employers against women would not be tolerated. They anticipated a more even playing field with respect to men in terms of access to high-paying careers for college graduates and to professional and graduate college programs.” So-called job discrimination by employers was actually the correct assumption that, no matter their credentials, women, especially women in their peak years of fertility, are less devoted to their careers because they can “fall back” on their natural roles of mother and wife. (Note how the vaunted “wage gap” has shrunk as women have fewer and fewer children.)

Men have no such fall-back option. In contrast to women, men’s social and sexual value relies entirely on what Susan Faludi calls their “utility in a society” (i.e., their economic productivity). That value plummets as increasing numbers of men can offer nothing to women that they don’t have already or can’t get on their own. There is a measure of truth to vindictive feminists’ declaration that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. Turns out falling male earnings track closely to declining marriage rates: “At the bottom 25th percentile of earnings...half of men are married, compared with 86 percent in 1970,” Greenstone and Looney write.

On the other hand, teach boys they are too competitive, too aggressive, too individualistic, too noisy, too disruptive. Stifle those male tendencies. Turn the public school into a nursery. Subject the boys to a feminine regimen. Sit still. Be quiet. Play nice. Raise your hand. Wash your hands. Keep your hands to yourself. Show your work. Work as a team. No wonder women outnumber men in college.

If all goes according to plan, what you get in the end is the “new American man.” It’s model is woman. Of course, if employers want women, they will employ women, which they do, in alarming preference over men.

Supplementing the feminist agenda is the tyranny of the divorce/welfare state, the great enabler of single motherhood in America. And if that wasn’t enough, add the destruction of male-oriented manufacturing careers by labor and environmental regulations.

UPDATE (11/29):

An improved version of this article appears at the Red Pill Report.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hearts and minds

I’d support the war in Afghanistan if it were a real war (i.e., killing the bad guys), but it’s not a real war. It’s an outreach and public works program. Running water won’t spread Western values to the jirga-ruled villages of rural Afghanistan. As Diane Ravitch writes, “No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable.”

Imagine a nomadic shepherding village deep in the hinterland. They’re visited by an al-Qaeda lieutenant, who is a cousin of one of the jirga elders. While establishing trust and credibility among the elders, the lieutenant educates the teenage boys of the village in the Quranic justification of jihadism, how to exploit their knowledge of the local geography to evade the infidels, how to use civilians for operational cover, and how to pack bombs with nails and ball bearings to maim their victims.

This scenario is playing out all across Afghanistan. The enemy is not al-Qaeda or Taliban per se. The enemy is the Afghanis themselves. Americans, being from the outside, ipso facto cannot penetrate their local, backward ways.

Returning to the example of the secluded village: If American soldiers were to kill the al-Qaeda lieutenant, the entire village would become radicalized. But the soldiers can’t just stand by and let Afghani boys be recruited by the bad guys.

So what do we do? I submit two strategies, neither of them easy or even preferable. What Afghanistan needs is a dumbed-down, nationalist version of a counterinsurgency (i.e., home-grown agents who propagandize against jihadism). We can start with the brightest of the Afghan National Army recruits, while washing out the rest—here’s why. Cultivating these agents will take years. It will take years more for the operation to yield positive results.

The second strategy is to exterminate them. Rain bullets on their turbaned heads and bombs on their ramshackle rooftops. To those who object to this on moral grounds: We cannot wait for jihadi recruits to maim Americans and Afghanis before taking them out of play. Jihadism is a choice. Those who make it deserve death. To those who object on strategic grounds: If this makes new enemies of “fence-sitting” Muslims, they were never sitting on the fence to begin with. They were biding their time, waiting for an excuse to join their coreligionists.

This, of course, is unthinkable.

The assumption that the troop surge would work in Afghanistan because it worked in Iraq was flawed from the start. Iraq has abundant natural resources, a pro-Western upper class, and a relatively effective central government. Afghanistan is a primitive backwater and has none of those factors that contributed to the surge's success in Iraq.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Criticizing Islam

In the Sept. 18 editorial, the Lariat editors argued that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula abused his right to free speech because his obscure film, “Innocence of Muslims,” angered the Muslim world, which then rioted violently in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere.

After paying mere lip service to Nakoula’s right to free speech, the editors accused him of “[letting] loose much of the force that pulled the trigger” to the gun that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens. By contrast, the condemnation of the actual murderers/rioters was lukewarm: “Obviously, setting things on fire and killing innocent people whenever a religion is insulted is not the smartest or the most effective decision.” Understatement of the year!

The editors should have supported Nakoula’s exercise of free speech, and condemned the Muslim riots, no excuses, no equivocations. By absolving the rioters of sole responsibility for their crimes, they made it more difficult to talk critically about Islam.

Nakoula’s claims in “Innocence of Muslims” are not for the sake of provocation alone. While I can’t speak to Muhammad’s alleged homosexual activity, the charge of pedophilia has merit. Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, was 6 years old when they were married and 9 when they consummated. Concordantly, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the legal age for girls to marry is 9 years old. The Lariat editors said Islam “undoubtedly disapprove of” this, despite the facts.

A big reason Islam is still in dire need of a reformation is that internal criticism is treated as blasphemy, punishable by death. If we treat external criticism of Islam with scorn as well, we excuse the Muslim world from countering criticism with arguments and honest soul-searching.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Odds and ends 9/20/2012

Thomas Haine writes in “Tim Tebow’s Vocation”:

Only moments after his dramatic come-from-behind win against the New York Jets in November, Tebow sat down with NFL commentators. The interviewer asked, “what comes over you with five minutes to go?” Tebow responded, “Well, first and foremost, I gotta thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thank my team mates...” Should Tebow tone this kind of answer down?

Perhaps Tebow should not talk and act as if every win and success is almost miraculous, as if God’s intervention is the primary cause of it. Such talk might obscure the fullness of the truth by hiding other contributing factors. God is the cause of all things and our natural order. He intervenes in his natural order as he sees fit; we call these “super” natural interventions miracles. Throwing a football is probably not, then, supernatural or miraculous at all, and neither is winning a football game. If we were to thank God exclusively after either, we may be obscuring the fact that God enabled his creation-the natural rather than supernatural order-to accomplish his will for itself.

It’s an implicit distinction that Tebow confirmed in an interview with Skip Bayless, but some people just don’t understand. The vile Charles Pierce writes:

Earlier this week, some kids were suspended at a high school on Long Island for “Tebowing” - dropping to one knee in prayerful contemplation - in the hallways. Asked for his reaction, Tebow replied, “You have to respect the position of authority and people that God has put in authority over you, so that’s part of it. But I think it does show courage from the kids, standing out and doing that, and some boldness.”

First of all, God is involving Himself in how they select principals to run the high schools on Long Island? That’s a bear of an interview process right there. And you will note the obvious passive-aggressiveness in the second part of the answer. Obey your principal because God got him the job, but, damn, these kids are brave in their faith to defy the principal’s authority and, by extension of the first point, God’s.

Noemie Emery writes an excellent piece over the Washington Examiner:

It was in the failure of this man [Obama] of the world to embrace his role as the leader of one part of the world against the more dangerous other that the seeds of his failure were planted. Instead of raising the West, he has tried to merge the two sides and make them seem equal, stressing the flaws of the West and its allies, not taking democracy’s side.

Bret Stephens over at the Wall Street Journal writes in “Muslims, Mormons and Liberals”:

The “Book of Mormon”-a performance of which Hillary Clinton attended last year, without registering a complaint-comes to mind as the administration falls over itself denouncing “Innocence of Muslims.” This is a film that may or may not exist; whose makers are likely not who they say they are; whose actors claim to have known neither the plot nor purpose of the film; and which has never been seen by any member of the public except as a video clip on the Internet.

No matter. The film, the administration says, is “hateful and offensive” (Susan Rice), “reprehensible and disgusting” (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, “disgusting and reprehensible” (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya.

So let’s get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it’s because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons.

Meanwhile James Taranto, also of the WSJ, writes his own piece on the subject:

The photo of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula being led from his Cerritos, Calif., home has become an Internet sensation, giving rise, among other things, to a popular QuickMeme and a call from Glenn Reynolds for President Obama’s resignation: “By sending—literally—brownshirted enforcers to engage in—literally—a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath [to the Constitution]. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.”

I, too, was very upset at the filmmaker’s “perp walk” in front of the press. Taranto continues:

The “optics,” as the politicos say, were terrible. It certainly doesn’t look voluntary in the photos. But that could have been the fault of the “news media encampment” that, according to the Times, had “kept 24-hour watch outside his front door.” The large police presence—we count at least five officers in the QuickMeme photo—might well have been for protective rather than coercive purposes.

Nakoula’s face is covered in what the Times describes as a shawl. It seems a metaphor for the suppression of individual freedom by the American state. In truth, it was probably a sensible precaution. If you were in Nakoula’s position, you wouldn’t want murderous Islamist thugs to know what you look like either.

Yet even if law enforcement’s treatment of Nakoula was entirely above board, critics of the administration have good reason for suspicion that it is hostile to civil liberties. On Friday, Politico reports, the White House asked Google, which owns YouTube, “to review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use,” in press secretary Jay Carney’s words. Having already done so and finding it compliant, Google rejected the implicit censorship request.

Christopher Chantrill writes an interesting blog post on the Chicago Teachers Union strike. Echoing Wendell Berry, Chantrill draws a parallel between the teachers and factory workers.

The factory workers had a perfectly good reason to be angry. The factory system turned them into mechanical robots. They hated that and so they formed labor unions to fight the system that had humiliated them.

Centralized public education has become the same way, with teachers fitting into the huge bureaucratic machine like cogs, graduating students who will fit like cogs into other huge bureaucratic machines, all bound together in and endless, pointless spinning.

They ended up destroying those good jobs and those good wages. Because they hated those jobs and everything associated with them: the bosses, the assembly line, the foremen, Frederick Taylor, and the infernal speed-up.

The union workers ended up like the woman scorned. Nothing would satisfy them but to destroy the people that had humiliated them, even if they destroyed themselves in the process.

But, as the Frankfurt School lefties pointed out, the problem is not just the mechanical factory system, the bosses, and the unjust domination of the workers. Every system of “instrumental reason” is a system of domination, a means to dominate nature and other men. That goes for bureaucratic government just as much as the evil robber barons of the factory system. The system dominates government workers just as much as factory workers.

Contrast this with Richard Burton’s telling of his coal miner father, who loved his job.

Robert Royal writes on “social justice” at The Catholic Thing:

Old school Catholics learned that justice comes in three forms: commutative, the just exchange between two parties, on which all other forms depend; distributive, which requires that goods and services be reasonably distributed in the community (This is different from redistribution; redistributionist schemes in the twentieth century led to quite unjust, even tyrannical regimes); and the general justice enshrined in law.

Social justice crept in under the same assumptions as socialism, Marxism, and other kinds of social engineering: the belief that there is some “scientific” analysis of society that allows us to establish “programs” and “systems” (two words that always demand close scrutiny) that will produce social justice. In this perspective, all that is missing is will - and advocates usually suggest that dark forces, namely business people, are the only obstacles.

Francis J. Beckwith writes in a superb article titled “If Not ‘Under God,’ then What?”:

The whole point of inserting “under God” in the Pledge was neither “religious” nor an appeal to “tradition.” It was to address the philosophical claim that our natural rights, grounded in the natural law, are imparted to us by an Eternal Lawgiver, and how that claim differs from the understanding of rights embraced by a government, the Soviet Union, committed to atheistic materialism.

As evidence of this, Beckwith excerpts the 1954 Congressional Record:

At this moment of our history the principles underlying our American Government and the American way of life are under attack by a system whose philosophy is at direct odds with our own. Our American Government is founded on the concept of the individuality and the dignity of the human being. Underlying this concept is the belief that the human person is important because he was created by God and endowed by Him with certain inalienable rights which no civil authority may usurp. The inclusion of God in our pledge therefore would further acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral directions of the Creator. At the same time it would serve to deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism with its attendant subservience of the individual.

Finally, don’t miss this gem from the editor’s preface:

We’re now living in a time in which God is no longer thought of by many as the source of our freedom, but as a delusion and a limitation on it.

I address that in depth in “Perfectibility of man.”

Beckwith hit a home run in an earlier article about Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. There is a hint of “Herem” here.

It is one thing to allow and celebrate moral and religious diversity when there is a broadly shared understanding on what sorts of institutions are vital to the common good and civil society. It is quite another when that shared understanding breaks down - when the very question of what is essential to civil society is itself in dispute.

R.R. Reno rebuts Dinesh D’Souza’s thesis that President Obama’s ideology is anti-colonialism. His analysis jives with my own doubts. While D’Souza’s argument made sense to me, it didn’t seem necessary. Reno claims D’Souza’s argument is misleading because he ascribes Obama’s ideology to a foreign entity, when in fact its source would more usefully be described as domestic.

Obama is very much a man formed by American culture. He is, in fact, our first therapeutic president. He doesn’t so much have beliefs as critical perspectives, not convictions but instead expertise. He doesn’t confront our enemies, but rather tries to understand them, empathize, and gain their trust-perhaps in order to help overcome their fears and learn how not to hate.


Obama strikes me as an intelligent, ambitious, and fully committed representative of the therapeutic American liberalism of our day.

At its worst it’s a smug liberalism that refuses to see itself as an ideology but instead postures as our national (and global!) guidance counselor, which explains why Obama can push for liberal policies while insisting that he is nonpartisan. The therapist, after all, has no “interests,” only “understanding.”

Carrying on the theme of Paul Ryan vis-à-vis Ayn Rand, R.R. Reno writes:

In his attack on Ryan, [Leon] Wieseltier takes pains to show that Ryan isn’t all that sophisticated when it comes to moral, social, and political philosophy. If that’s the case-and Wieseltier is probably right-then why assume that Ryan was a careful, exacting reader of Rand as a teenager? Why suppose that he zeroed in on Rand’s metaphysical individualism and her most strident assertions of selfish egoism?

Why not assume something a good deal less theoretical? Ryan, whose father had just died, was no doubt feeling an acutely vulnerable and fearful of an uncertain future. Then he read Rand and saw in her the rather commonplace wisdom that a healthy, intelligent young man ought to try to make his own future, even against bad odds? That’s the broad “can do” Americanism that most young readers take from Atlas Shrugged, not Rand’s hyper-individualism and anti-Christian ideology of unrestrained self-assertion.

National Review‘s Mario Loyola also critiques Wieseltier’s piece:

In fairness to Wieseltier, the piece is not really about Paul Ryan at all. It’s more about the radically individualistic character of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, whom Wieseltier uses to fill in the blanks about Ryan. But, as in so many Maureen Dowd columns, subject and metaphor become transubstantiated, and the author ends up writing a piece of pure fiction.

“The ideal of self-reliance in America,” he writes, “has always been attended by a corollary of indifference to others, of nastiness.” That may well be the view among American liberals, but I once met a French graduate student who was researching why rich people give so much more to charity in America than in Europe. Go figure.

David Sessions reviews Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton. He sums up accurately what Thoreau called the “quiet desperation” people suffer through their whole lives, an integral part of being that, unmitigated by the transformative power of Grace, expresses itself as panicked unfulfillment in the post-Christian West.

At its best, Religion for Atheists is a chronicle of the smoldering heap that liberal capitalism has made of the social rhythms that used to serve as a buffer between humans and the random cruelty of the universe. Christian and Jewish traditions, Botton argues, reinforced the ideas that people are morally deficient, that disappointment and suffering are normative, and that death is inevitable. The abandonment of those realities for the delusions of the self-made individual, the fantasy superman who can bend reality to his will if he works hard enough and is positive enough, leaves little mystery to why we are perpetually stressed out, overworked, and unsatisfied.

What is dismaying about Religion for Atheists is how deeply it embodies the ideology of the present-how it can describe so well the anxiety, isolation, and disappointment of secular life and yet still fail to identify their source. Botton’s central obsession is the insane ways bourgeois postmoderns try to live, namely in a perpetual upward swing of ambition and achievement, where failure indicates character deficiency despite an almost total lack of social infrastructure to help us navigate careers, relationships, parenting, and death. But he seems uninterested in how those structures were destroyed or what it might take to rebuild them, other than a few novelties like a restaurant where patrons are guided into intimate confessions with strangers, or temples without gods. Botton wants to keep bourgeois secularism and add a few new quasi-religious social routines. Quasi-religious social routines may indeed be a part of the solution, as we shall see, but they cannot be simply flung atop a regime as indifferent to human values as liberal capitalism.

I’ve been told twice to my face that I’m going to hell. Being told you’re going to hell is a kind of rite of passage for seculars at Baylor University, a Baptist college. I never believed it, and as I gain faith in Christ I still don’t believe it.

Robert A. Ratcliffe writes over at Ministry Matters:

Why aren’t we telling the world that for centuries mainstream Christian theologians have held to the inclusivist view, which states that the world is saved by the grace of Christ, even when it doesn’t know that’s who’s saving it? Why aren’t we letting folks know about the pluralist approach, which believes that Christianity is one among many paths to the transcendent? Why aren’t we talking about Karl Barth’s conviction that all religions-Christianity included-fall short of the gospel, leading God to apply the grace of Christ to all? Why aren’t we talking about so many other theological approaches that seek to insist both on the uniqueness and centrality of Christ and on God’s determination to be reconciled to all God’s children, not just the members of the Christian club?

Herman Cain could have been President of the United States. I liked his simple economic policy proposals. I liked how he accused the Left of enslaving Americans in welfare state dependency, and stuck to his guns when pressed on it by enraged liberals.

I was apoplectic about the ginned up “scandal” surrounding his supposed sexual harassment of female colleagues, notably a pass he made at a naïve Sharon Bialek. In order to torpedo the Cain candidacy, the media put on thicker than usual blinders to the truth about men and women in the workplace. It was refreshing to read Bob Weir’s piece over at the American Thinker:

What exactly constitutes sexual harassment? Cain mentioned in an interview that he may have occasionally complimented a woman on the way her hair looked, or some other innocuous observations. Isn’t that what men have been doing since the dawn of time? When did it become obnoxious to recognize and comment on a woman’s looks?


During a saner time in our history, women stood up for themselves with a sharp slap to the face of a masher, or else they deftly handled a rude comment with an acerbic comeback. The one in charge was always the woman because she could pick and choose which amorous male to encourage. Additionally, when women are the pursuers, as is often the case now, they don’t get their faces slapped or end up in court defending a charge of harassment. How many men would be willing to get on the stand and say, “Your honor, that woman pinched my bottom”?

Although it’s true that men have become somewhat feminized over the past few decades, I believe that most women have little respect for a guy who has surrendered his manhood to the whims of a politically motivated emasculation. In other words, guys are still going to flirt.

The problem men have today is that they have a difficult time figuring out what the rules are. If they pay a sincere compliment to a woman, will they be liable for some punishment, be it now or in the future?

Peter J. Leithart writes in “The Nude in a Pornographic Age”:

Bodies, [John Paul II] argues, are expressions of spirit, and human bodies are made for personal communication and communion. Artists cannot avoid objectifying bodies to some degree, since all art uproots the human form from its real-life personal subjectivity: Painted bodies don’t look back at the viewer. For this reason, the depiction of the human body in art is never “merely aesthetic, nor morally indifferent.” Depicting the body, clothed or not, is inevitably an ethical problem.

Modern art commonly fails this ethical test because it operates on the “naturalistic” premise that “everything that is human” has a right to be depicted in art, no matter how shameful or disgusting. John Paul doesn’t object to naturalism by taking refuge in “idealistic” art. Rather, naturalism fails because it doesn’t tell the whole truth about man. In its pornographic guise, naturalism reduces the body to an object “intended for the satisfaction of mere concupiscence.” In its aesthetic guise, it often makes the body an object of terror and shame. It is not that naturalism is too truthful; it is not truthful enough, since it denies the central truth that human bodies are created for communion and mutual gift, to express the human spirit, to unveil God’s image on earth.

In a rambling article, First Things editorial board member Michael Novak writes:

Those who insist that the best way to achieve the common good, and to attain social justice, is to give more resources (and control) to the federal state, had better go looking for some evidence somewhere that undergirds their self-righteousness. They insist that others of us, who do not support the expenditure of more state money, are immoral. Yet the first moral obligation, Blaise Pascal wrote, is “To think clearly.”

Another handy quote from Pascal: “[Man] conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.”

Joe Carter writes in “The Mutual Help Model of Marriage”:

Adam didn’t need a “soulmate,” for he already had the most perfect lover of his soul already in his Creator. What he needed was a “helper,” someone like himself who could share his burdens, his joys, his humanity. God’s immanent nature was a presence that provided all the love that Adam needed. But God’s transcendent nature prevented him from being the type of companion that the first man would need to fulfill his role in the Garden. Adam needed someone both enough like himself to share a mutual understanding and different enough to provide a degree of uniqueness and mystery.

S. Adam Seagrave writes in the Public Discourse:

Left unregulated by the government, most consequences of relationships—such as warm, fuzzy feelings, mutual goodwill, and trust—will not become socially destructive; procreation, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Procreation, from a political perspective, is a double-edged sword: while it is essential for the continued existence of any society (and thus of primary importance), it can also represent a significantly damaging and even destructive social burden. The problematic aspect of procreation, from a political perspective, consists in the enormous expenditure of time, expense, and care needed to ensure the survival and development of helpless children.

In our state of nature, characterized as it is by a total absence of marriage’s mundane legal aspects, procreation would be highly problematic. While some children would still be born to and raised by the couples from which they originated, many more would be at least partially raised outside of such relationships. More men would tend to father more children with multiple women, and many of these children would lack the care and support necessary to their development as human beings and, frequently, to their very survival. For all of the well-documented social problems that arise from irresponsible procreation in today’s political societies, and to which admirable efforts such as President Obama’s Responsible Fatherhood Initiative are directed, the situation in our state of nature would be far worse.

Carson Holloway writes in “Inequality and Elite Failure”:

[Liberals] are dogmatic egalitarians, harboring an almost religious reverence for equality. For them, equality must be understood as simply good in itself and as a cause of only good consequences. Anything that is wrong with our society can be traced to some kind of inequality and can be solved by moving in the direction of greater equality. They fail to notice that the social problems they seek to solve often only appear as problems on the supposition that human beings must be equal in the status and benefits they enjoy. Despite their claims to skeptical rationality, they are incapable of skepticism about equality as an ideal.

These tendencies can be seen in two of the major policy preoccupations of contemporary American liberals: same-sex marriage and health care reform. The establishment of same-sex marriage could not be of any interest to the nation as a whole on purely pragmatic grounds. The question directly affects the interests of only a small minority of Americans. For that minority, it affects their material interests only slightly, and those interests could be secured by relatively limited modifications in the law (regarding, say, inheritance, power of attorney, and hospital visitation), without redefining marriage. None of this would be satisfactory for liberal advocates of same-sex marriage, however, because what really rankles them, what they regard as the real “problem” that must be solved, is the simple inequality that society has established between marriage and other kinds of relationships that it chooses, so far, not to recognize or endorse.

Similarly, liberals have tried presenting the recent health care reforms as a kind of practical approach to a practical problem: the problem of increasing health care costs. It is evident to anyone, however, that the problem of rising costs could be solved very readily by reforms of a very different kind, namely by market-oriented reforms. Such reforms would tend to control costs by requiring citizens to pay individually for their own health care. Such a solution is unacceptable to liberals because of the inequalities that would necessarily accompany it: those with more money would be able to purchase more and better health care than those with less money.

Robert P. George’s response to the first question posed by National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez reads like a salvo of wisdom. I swear I didn’t read this before writing “Ballot Question 6.”

The vote in New York to redefine marriage advances the cause of loosening norms of sexual ethics, and promoting as innocent — and even “liberating” — forms of sexual conduct that were traditionally regarded in the West and many other places as beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures. Early advocates of this cause, such as Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, and Hugh Hefner, proposed to “liberate” people from “repressive” moral standards that pointlessly deprived individuals of what they insisted were harmless pleasures, and impeded the free development of their personalities. They attacked and ridiculed traditional norms of sexual conduct as mere “hangups” that it was long past time for sophisticated people to get over. By the early 1970s, their basic outlook had become the mainstream view among cultural elites in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Although Sanger was a racist and a eugenicist, though Kinsey was a liar and a fraud, though Hefner was a buffoon, the liberationist view they had championed eventually hardened into something very close to a matter of orthodoxy in elite circles, and liberalism as a political movement went for it hook, line, and sinker. Devotion to “sexual freedom” had been no part of the liberalism of FDR, George Meaney, Cesar Chavez, Hubert Humphrey, or the leaders and rank-and-file members of the civil-rights movement. Today, however, allegiance to the cause of sexual freedom is the nonnegotiable price of admission to the liberal (or “progressive”) club. It is worth noting that more than a few conservatives have bought into a (more limited) version of it as well, as we see in the debate over redefining marriage.

As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries. The idea that sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation loses its force and even its sense. The moral belief that sex belongs in (and only in) marriage, where it is of unitive as well as procreative significance, and where the unitive and procreative dimensions are intrinsically connected (though not in a mere relationship of means to end), begins to seem baseless — the sort of thing that can be believed, if at all, only on the authority of revealed religion. As a result, to the extent that one is in the grip of sexual-liberationist ideology, one will find no reason of moral principle why people oughtn’t to engage in sexual relations prior to marriage, cohabit in non-marital sexual partnerships, form same-sex sexual partnerships, or confine their sexual partnerships to two persons, rather than three or more in polyamorous sexual ensembles.

Moreover, one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “bigoted” people — those hicks and rubes — who refuse to get “on the right side of history.” One will perceive people who wish to engage in conduct rejected by traditional morality (especially where such conduct is sought in satisfaction of desires that can be redescribed or labeled as an “orientation,” such as “gay” or “bisexual,” or “polyamorist”) as belonging to the category of “sexual minorities” whose “civil rights” are violated by laws embodying the historic understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. One will begin congratulating oneself for one’s “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” in holding that marriage should be redefined to accommodate the interests of these minorities, and one will likely lose any real regard for the rights of, say, parents who do not wish to have their children indoctrinated into the ideology of sexual liberalism in public schools. “Why,” one will ask, “should fundamentalist parents be free to rear their children as little bigots?” Heather’s two mommies or Billy’s two mommies and three daddies are the keys to freeing children from parental “homophobia” and “polyphobia.”

Now, New York is obviously one of the most socially liberal states in the Union. There are, to be sure, many New Yorkers who reject sexual-liberationist ideology and believe in true marriage, which is why pro-marriage forces in the state were able to put up quite a fight, but they are not well-represented in the elite sector of society and at the moment they lack the powerful political leadership one finds on the other side. There is no Chris Christie at the helm in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the state’s two most powerful and influential politicians, plainly buy much, if not all, of the ideology of sexual liberalism and publicly lead their lives in accordance with it. Although they claim to be supporters of marriage who merely want to “expand” the institution (or expand “access” to the institution) out of respect for what they regard as the civil rights of people to have their romantic partnerships (whatever their shape) recognized and legitimated by the state, both are reported by New York media to openly cohabit with women with whom they are not married. They do this not in defiance of their stated beliefs about sexual morality and marriage, but in line with those beliefs. Neither supposes that he and his mistress are setting a bad example for children or undermining the public’s faith in important marital norms. As orthodox sexual liberals, neither the governor nor the mayor believes in a conception of marriage in which marriage is normative for sexual partnering; indeed, neither believes in norms of sexual morality as traditionally conceived, even apart from any question about same-sex partnerships. Both regard “civil marriage” as nothing more than the legal blessing of romantic partnerships, and neither gives any indication of ever having remotely considered an alternative view. Both have so thoroughly absorbed the premises of sexual liberal ideology that the possibility of an alternative doesn’t cross their minds. For them, it is all a matter of “us urbane, sophisticated, tolerant, open-minded, defenders of civil rights, against those ignorant, intolerant, hateful homophobes.

Adam Nicolson over at the Wall Street Journal writes on the decline of biblical literacy:

Up until, say, 100 years ago, biblical literacy would have been practically mandatory. If you didn’t know what “the powers that be” originally referred to, or where “the writing on the wall” was first seen, or what was meant by “the patience of Job,” “Jacob’s ladder” or “the salt of the earth” – if you didn’t know what an exodus was or a genesis, a fatted or a golden calf – you would have been excluded from the culture.

It might be said that a civilization consists, at its core, of these easily transmitted packages of implication. They are one of the mechanisms by which cultures can be both efficient and rich. You don’t have to return to first principles every time you wish to communicate. You can play your present tune on a received instrument, knowing that your listener hears not only your own music but the subtle melodies of those who played it before you. There is a common wisdom in common knowledge.

But does this Bible-informed world still exist? I would guess that on the whole, and outside committed Christian groups, biblical literacy is a thing of the past.

And the momentum of the past is giving out.

Matthew Hennessey writes in “Nancy Pelosi, Devout Catholic”:

I happened to watch a YouTube video recently of Rick Santorum’s much discussed August appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. In it, the twice-married British tabloid editor and America’s Got Talent judge hectored the Catholic former Pennsylvania senator to admit that his (and by extension, his church’s) positions on same-sex marriage “are bordering on bigotry.” Santorum wouldn’t take the bait, countering that Morgan’s characterization of the Church’s position was itself bigoted. To which the host somewhat predictably replied, “Well, I’m a Catholic too, and I just think that unfortunately we’re in a different era now, we’re in a modern world.”

Santorum’s rejoinder-that truth isn’t truth if it changes from era to era-was a consistent and entirely reasonable response to Morgan’s relentless attempts to provoke and embarrass him. As a viewer (and, dare I say it, as a Catholic), what I would have preferred Santorum had said was, “You say you are a Catholic. Can you prove it?”

These pseudo-Catholics are having a laugh at the expense of all those who attend Mass, are committed to their faith, and respect the magisterium. For Nancy Pelosi to call herself a Catholic, while accusing actual Catholics of opposing abortion out of some desire merely to hurt women simply beggars belief. The onus should be on Nancy Pelosi and those like her to substantiate their claims of faith. To paraphrase the Marx brothers: Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

Bruce Walker writes in “Why They Hate Us”:

There is a vast divide of faith which separates conservative Americans and Israelis on one side and the rest of mankind, which hates them, on the other. Americans are profoundly religious, and despite a full court press by secular progressives over sixty years, “Red State” America is much more religious than “Blue State” America – and America, taken as a whole, is dramatically more religious than European nations, with the percentage of Americans who consider religion “very important” 50%, compared to 22% in Spain, 21% in Germany, 17% in Britain, and 13% in France.

The Bolsheviks long ago recognized that chic European (or American) agnosticism was politically very close to militant Islam, which is why virtually every Muslim “leader” of the last sixty years has also wholeheartedly embraced some incarnation of socialism and rejected our foundational documents’ famous language about all men being endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

This is also why Keller, in his 1936 book Church and State on the European Continent, wrote: “Fritz Lieb compares Bolshevism with Islam, the strongest enemy of the Christian faith[.] ... Leninism is a camouflaged secular religion[.]” This is why, during the 1950s, Moscow was writing of the “progressive role” played by mullahs and why in a November 1951 article in the Telegraph-Herald, William Ryan noted: “Communists have infiltrated in the Muslim brotherhood, now in the forefront of the chaos in Egypt after having been suppressed by some time.”

It also explains why the Soviet Union so passionately and wickedly supported Arab Muslims in their war against Jews in Palestine before the Second World War began. The Jewish people and religiously serious Christians are the common enemies of all those unsavory groups which seem, only superficially, to have nothing in common.

Henrik R. Clausen reviews Modern Day Trojan Horse: The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration:

As has been pointed out by Robert R. Reilly (The Closing of the Muslim Mind) and others, Islam as a theological system has, step by step, lost the connection to Hellenic thought and ideals, respect for reason, the notion of causality (that laws of nature govern the physical world), the notion of individual responsibility, and has devolved into a Rule of Will, commonly known as ‘despotism’. Instrumental in this rule is the Shariah, as established and interpreted by the Islamic clergy.

Islam today consists mainly of its legal code, the Shariah. Islamic law is derived from the life and actions of Muhammad. Codifying his life into law has been a major undertaking by Islamic scholars through the centuries, resulting in detailed manuals of conduct like Reliance of the Traveller, which describe in detail how a pious Muslim is supposed to behave.

All Western attempts at establishing a totalitarian state have failed miserably. In the Islamic Middle East, however, the religious authority of Muhammad, combined with extensive enforcement on every level of society, regulating every aspect of human behaviour is largely successful, largely due to the religious prestige associated with interpreting Islamic law accurately.

The grand ambition of Islamists is to implement this system everywhere in the world.

The always wise Thomas Sowell writes in“Depending on Dependency”:

Milton Friedman pointed out that the heyday of free market capitalism in the 19th century was a period of an unprecedented rise in philanthropic activity. Going even further back in time, in the 18th century Adam Smith, the patron saint of free market economics, was discovered from records examined after his death to have privately made large charitable donations, far beyond what might have been expected from someone of his income level.

Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.

Although the big word on the left is “compassion,” the big agenda on the left is dependency. The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state.

Optimistic Republicans who say that widespread unemployment and record numbers of people on food stamps hurt President Obama’s reelection chances are overlooking the fact that people who are dependent on government are more likely to vote for politicians who are giving them handouts.

Outspoken atheist Penn Gillette writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Atheists are growing way fast, from under 2% to about 8% just in this century. If you throw in self-labeled agnostics and those who identify as not religious, you’re getting up to around 20%. Evangelicals are about 26%, Catholics about 23%, Jews, 1.7%, Mormons also 1.7% — if you start breaking Christians up into their smaller groups, nonbelievers come close to being the dominant religion, if you can call no religion a religion, like calling not collecting stamps a hobby.

Let’s just hope our politicians keep expanding the group of people they want to serve. Rather than embracing Christian as the magic word of politics, we can move on to the truly magical word: American. And maybe we can even go a step further and make the magic word “humanity.”

Spoken like a true humanist. I admit I have no idea what that stamp collecting reference is about.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

47 percent

During the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney told CNN:

I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.

Call it reverse class warfare: Gin up resentment towards government dependents. Imply they don’t share in the struggles of the middle class.

After the primaries, that meager 5 percent of Americans exploded to 47 percent. Romney said at a fundraiser in May:

Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll [Obama] be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that is what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

This is worse than defeatist. It is condescending. By writing off the 47 percent’s votes, Romney gives more credit to the welfare state than it is due. Government payouts cannot sate the American spirit. The tea party uprising proved that.

While many Americans find contentment in getting by on the government dole, most of them harbor a latent love for freedom. They don’t want to be dismissed as infantile wards of the state. They want a President who will get the government out of their way, give them back the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and put so-called entitlements on a sustainable course.

Romney needn’t narrow his argument for a broader, flatter tax base to 53 percent of Americans. It’s morally intuitive for all Americans. Wealth redistribution is inherently wrong. The only argument for it is the ill-gotten gains of the super-rich with their teams of lawyers and accountants, and that’s after you’ve dismissed the obvious solution of simplifying the tax code.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


On August 4, 2010, 9th Circuit Court Justice Vaughn Walker, in his imminent wisdom, ruled that the traditional definition of marriage “enshrines ... a gender restriction that the evidence shows to be nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.”

So the biological fact, true since the beginning of time, that mothers and fathers play distinct roles in the lives of their children is an “artifact of a foregone notion.”

Insofar as the law draws lines between men and women, it does so because of the lines the prevailing culture draws between men and women. Those cultural lines are the evolution of an immutable biological fact: men and women are different, and they will always be different.

To feminists, however, “gender,” like religion, is a bourgeois tool to keep the poor and underprivileged in their place. “Gender” specifically is a male fabrication designed to repress and dominate women. Thus feminists fool themselves into thinking “liberation” from gender norms is a just cause, and those who oppose them are backward and discriminatory (as if discriminating truth from falsehood is a bad thing).

If men and women really are the same, and the complementary nature of heterosexual marriage is an illusion, why should two genderless legal guardians be preferable to three? Or four? Or five? Would not the eradication of dual parentage in favor of the maximum number of legal guardians be the genderless ideal? I think so.

Even if it were possible to take from men what makes them men, and take from women what makes them women, what you’d be left with is a nullity, where beforehand there was verve and zest, in both.

Further reading: Albert Mohler’s “The Myth of the Genderless Baby” and “Rhode Island school says dad-daughter dances violate law.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Perfectibility of man

“We have witnessed the development of a new doctrine which is to deliver the final blow to the already tottering structure of prejudice. It is the idea of the limitless perfectibility of the human species.” –Marquis de Condorcet

The tyranny of nature is the one unavoidable tyranny. By tyranny of nature I mean two things: 1) the laws of the observable universe, and 2) the flawed human condition. In our lives there will be no respite from these. Together they comprise a tyranny as fixed in ourselves and around us as the God that authored it.

Some people accept this tyranny. They see it as more than an inescapable fabric constricting mind and body. It fuses their lives into a long, rich tradition, from which they can draw wisdom in times of inevitable want and despair. Wisdom offers perspective and simplifies the seemingly random, infinite universe for the finite human mind.

Others are not so blessed. They reject the tyranny of nature and impose their own ideals on top of it. Whether or not they explicitly reject God is secondary. One can be an atheist and still recognize the eternal truths.

The great irony is the rebellion against nature is itself written into nature—human nature, that is. Deep in all our hearts is a noble yearning for freedom. To no one is the world as it should be.

When God made us in His image, He gave us free will so we might freely obey Him (or not). Some disobey with a religious fervor. For them, the logic of their vanity leads to humanist ethics. The secular world’s anger at “conservative” religious denominations stems from the view that conservatives, by stodgily touting an antiquated, tyrannical belief system, impede progress, impede the perfectibility of man.

That’s why Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses” and Lenin wrote “[socialist] propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” Their humanist philosophy not only rebelled against the laws of nature. It waged all-out war against religion, that supposed repository of “old prejudices.”

Whether the war against religion is won or not, all humanist ethics fail because they cannot overcome the tyranny of nature. Eventually humanist societies tire out from swimming against the current and flounder.

What separates those who begrudgingly accept the tyranny of nature, despite their anger at God, and those who reject it? I believe it is pride. Pride forbids us to admit that we are not the answer to ourselves. The answer to ourselves, to our original sin, is God.

“We savor freedom because it is the condition for the possibility of pursuing the good in a responsible way.” –Father Robert Barron

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ballot Question 6

The wording of Ballot Question 6, on redefining marriage in Maryland, demonstrates secularism’s deceit and our cultural misapprehension of human sexual nature.

Seventy-one of the ballot question’s 96 words address so-called “religious exemptions,” which many Maryland voters will find comfort in while they vote in favor of something they know instinctively to be false. What the religious exemptions insist is that the state will tolerate “bigotry” as long as it is confined to religious orders.

Is a wedding caterer a religious organization? Not explicitly. But wedding caterers do hold religiously informed views on marriage. Because they live and work outside religious orders, the state will not protect them if they disagree with the new definition of marriage. Their bigotry will not be tolerated and the state will force them to cater at same-sex weddings by threatening them with fines if they do not comport their views.

Furthermore, public denouncements of same-sex marriage made outside of religious orders will be prosecuted as hate speech. Trials have already started in Canada, which redefined marriage in 2005.

One is tempted to ask: If defending marriage is hate speech, why carve out exemptions? The answer is simple: Radical change cannot be sold to the public wholesale. Liberty is more readily surrendered piecemeal.

How plastic are we, to view the state’s current definition of marriage, constituted before Moses’ time, as bigotry! Marriage is a procreative union between husband and wife. Without marriage, women bear and rear children alone (or abdicate the responsibility to the nanny state), and “liberated” men prowl a sexual wilderness with no long-term connection to their surroundings. Marriage is the logical answer to satisfy both men’s and women’s needs in the sexual economy. Every stable, productive society has been predicated on marriage.

This wisdom used to be widespread, but over time it has been marginalized, giving rise to new prevailing theories of sexuality.

The current fad is “sexual orientation.” No marriage statute to date says a word about sexual orientation. What “gay and lesbian couples” in Ballot Question 6 means is same-sex couples. No proof of their sexual orientation will be required to obtain a marriage license. I could go with any one of my male friends down to the county clerk’s office and get a marriage license, even though we both fall under the category of “straight.”

What causes this dissonance?

Sexual orientation, despite its popularity in our culture, is impossible to specify practically, let alone legally. After all, what is sexual orientation? Is it one’s feelings towards specific persons of the same or opposite sex? In that case, there are 7 billion orientations to account for. Is it one’s sexual behavior? If so, actress Meredith Baxter and former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, both of whom have children with former spouses, are in fact straight, despite their public statements to the contrary.

It is in this state of confusion that close to a majority of Marylanders will vote to redefine marriage this November.

Compared to gender, sexual attraction and behavior are far less attributable to biological determinism. Pederasty was widespread in ancient Greece and ancient China. It's more likely those cultures inculcated looser sexual mores than they had high prevalence of a homosexual gene, of which scant evidence exists. Culture and circumstances play a major role in sexuality. It is not the monolith the “born this way” crowd claims it is.

Ironically, proponents of same-sex marriage, such as President Obama, take the opposite view of morality, which “evolves” in response to gut feelings and pagan justifications. Who knows what marriage will be in 2050, or 2150? The agitators for redefinition today may very well be the bigots and prudes of tomorrow.