Saturday, November 3, 2012

Odds and ends 11/3/2012

Kelly O’Connell pulls out the stops and writes a masterpiece at Canada Free Press: “The Struggle for Obama is Really a Religious Battle Over the Soul of the Republic.” Each line reads like a Nietzschean aphorism.

We are caught in a titanic struggle over the soul of America—regarding our collective DNA—what we believe and who we are. Progressive forces are trying to birth into being a neo-pagan kingdom, with all that implies, symbolized by the Democrat National Convention dropping Israel and God from the party platform. Those on the right are struggling to balance the original outline of US colonial theory with ever present demands for modernization—which will be our demise if carried too far.

The ultimate war revolves around freedom and liberty—and whether our rights will be finally handed over to the godlike state. Or, if a revival of republicanism, patriotism, constitutional principles and faith can be fostered to create a new American century. The core of this war is located in religious convictions—biblical versus political pseudo-religion. What is at stake is absolutely colossal for our nation’s future and survival. The very nature of America’s religious model has come under sustained fire from humanism’s steely gaze...as blank and pitiless as the sun. The culprit is a reborn paganism, a bloodless foe which cannot brook opposition or dissent. Therefore, as with all fundamentalism—it demands the conversion or death of its enemies—that is, non-believers, non-liberals.

What some call the natural decay of culture is, in our case, actually the sustained efforts of Marxists to dissolve the foundation of America’s strength—our religious convictions and institutions. The intent is to suck out religion and leave humanism in its place...The outcome will decide whether America retains belief in One, true God—or falls into rank apostasy. Further, Eric Voegelin would assert the underlying war is over modern mankind’s attempt to kill God—deicide—in order to obscure the monstrous nature of his own sin.

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Dropping from America’s popular conscience are once-familiar religious notions of God, revelation, sin, repentance, works and grace, salvation, etc. In their place now rest an ever-changing sea of psychological theories laid upon a Procrustean bed of pseudo-science. The Big Bang as a creation event followed by evolution bring no larger morality except the law of the jungle and lex talionis: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Clearly, such an ethos is not one to build a modern, compassionate state upon.

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Liberals dream of creating a nation as community. Here, all needs shall be met by enlightened government, where capitalism loses its allure, property is pooled and men stop striving against one another for status, wealth, or power. This is essentially a Marxist view of life. Yet, this vision has created untold amounts of suffering and a surreal number of deaths—perhaps 150 million. This is because when one trades in their individual worth for membership in the group, all belief in human nature and individual worth evaporates.

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The most trenchant aspect of modern liberalism is its utter incompetence and inevitably destructive effect. The conclusion that socialism perpetually fails can be reached by any average thinker who merely observes history. Yet, liberalism continually returns each year like a noxious perennial, a weed of horrific strength blindly attacking society like a malignant tumor. So we must ask—Why does socialism continue to attract support? The answer is because of its religious nature. It scratches some inherent itches of human nature without meeting any of the deepest needs of mankind.

Liberalism brings an insulting sense of indifference to our Republic’s great network of institutions, and a deplorable opposition to the methods of traditional democracy. Liberalism’s fatalism has at root a religious misunderstanding which is fortunately easily uncovered merely by observing its harvest of bitter fruit. A theological autopsy on this failed belief system finds the core problem to be a flight from reason in the face of the horrors of personal sin. Sin is said to separate mankind from God and necessitate judgment and potential condemnation, causing revulsion and great disquietude. According to Eric Voegelin, it is the blind rebel spirit which flees from not only sin and judgment, but more ominously from grace, forgiveness and rationality. So liberalism must be tied into a cosmic death wish, according to this view.


Father Robert Barron writes in “Saying No to Nietzsche”:

For Biblical people, sexuality must be placed in the wider context of love, which is to say willing the good of the other. It is fundamental to Catholic spirituality and morality that everything in life must be drawn magnetically toward love, must be conditioned and transfigured by love. Thus, one’s business concerns must be marked by love, lest they devolve into crass materialism; and one’s relationships must be leavened by love, lest they devolve into occasions for self-interested manipulation; even one’s play must be directed toward love, lest it devolve into mere self-indulgence.

Sex is no exception to this rule. The goodness of sexual desire is designed, by its very nature, to become ingredient in a program of self-forgetting love and hence to become something rare and life enhancing. If you want to see what happens when this principle is ignored, take a long hard look at the hookup culture prevalent among many young—and not so young—people today. Sex as mere recreation, as contact sport, as a source only of superficial pleasure has produced armies of the desperately sad and anxious, many who have no idea that it is precisely their errant sexuality that has produced such deleterious effects in them. When sexual pleasure is drawn out of itself by the magnetic attraction of love, it is rescued from self-preoccupation.


National Review exposes Obama’s “economic nationalism”:

The theory that we can somehow make ourselves better off by propping up uncompetitive corporations and industries is sometimes known as “economic nationalism,” and is very much in vogue on the left at the moment. Economic nationalism includes a spectrum of policies with the bailouts on the mild end, Hugo Chávez’s regime in the middle, and North Korea as its logically consistent final expression. All of them involve putting politicians in charge of private economic decisions, elevating political expediency over economic reality.

Economic nationalism is a deeply anti-humanistic tendency. The division of labor is what makes human life possible at a level of civilization higher than that enjoyed by Robinson Crusoe, and trade is how labor is divided across communities and across countries. Mitt Romney is too busy engaging in China-hawkery to say so, but trade makes us better off even when the trading partner on the other side of the exchange maintains restrictive economic practices such as manipulating its currency or maintaining an oppressive police state, both of which are true of China. (And trade makes poor Chinese people better off, too, something decent people would be celebrating rather than despairing over.) Comparative advantage and gains from trade are facts of economic life; those who would deny them are the economic equivalent of flat-earthers.


Rich Lowry, also of National Review, skewers Obama’s “war on women”:

Obama was implicitly the husband of Julia, the cartoon character created to demonstrate the cradle-to-grave assistance rendered by his programs; Obama is implicitly Lena Dunham’s lover.

The tsar in Russia styled himself the Great Father of the serfs. Obama is the Great Provider for the women in his coalition. He gives them material and emotional support. He helps them not have children, protects them from the depredations of their male employers and scorns any suggestion that anyone ever has to fall back on self-reliance.


Mona Charen writes about Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s supposed rape gaffe:

Mr. Mourdock chose his words poorly while attempting something dangerous — to grapple with a serious moral question in a political debate. People wonder why politicians are so guarded and rehearsed. Well, this is why. One stray word and you become fodder for the demogoguery machine.

The very fact that a couple of ill-chosen words by pro-life candidates have become lightning rods this election season betrays the overwhelming bias of the press on this issue.

She notes later in the piece that just 1 percent of all abortions are the result of rape.


I’m in a “social” issues state of mind, so let’s keep the ball rolling, shall we? Rev. Michael Bresciani writes:

When the President announced that his view of same sex marriage had ‘evolved’ and when he made it clear that he was not going to come against abortion we were forced like the Apostle Peter to make a choice.

Peter was told to stop proclaiming the gospel in public and to keep his faith in God silent. His reply is clear, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5: 29)


I owe much of my conversion to conservativism to Dennis Prager, who writes an excellent piece on same-sex marriage.

Proponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is keeping the definition of marriage as man-woman fair to gays? Opponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is same-sex marriage good for society?

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All [proponents] need to do is to focus the public’s attention on individual gay people, show wonderful gay individuals who love each other, and ask the American public: Is it fair to continue to deprive these people of the right to marry one another?

When added to Americans’ aversion to discrimination, to the elevation of compassion to perhaps the highest national value, and to the equating of opposition to same-sex marriage with opposition to interracial marriage, it is no wonder that many Americans have been persuaded that opposition to same-sex marriage is hateful, backwards and the moral equivalent of racism.


Lefty Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post captures the essence of “Mom and dad and the regime” in one line:

Barack Obama’s America is the America that will be; Mitt Romney’s is the America that was.

He writes of the deep disparity in values among the young and the wise:

Age polarization is not specific to the presidential election. On a host of issues, as diverse as gay and lesbian rights and skepticism about the merits of capitalism, polls have shown that younger voters are consistently more tolerant and well to the left of their elders.


George Neumayr writes in the American Spectator on the true nature of “separation of church and state”:

According to Biden, religion doesn’t belong in politics, but it is okay to insert politics into religion. Equating the platform of the Democratic Party with “Catholic social doctrine” and then imposing that phony equation on Americans is fine by him. This arrogant attitude comports perfectly with the Obama administration’s view of the subordinate relationship between religion and the state: the religious exist to serve the interests of the state, but the moment they stop serving those interests the state can eliminate them from public life.

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The German sociologist Max Weber used the term “caesaropapism” to describe the “complete subordination of priests to secular power.” Liberalism advances a kind of Obamaopapism, a system in which religious organizations can only enter public life if they first agree to serve as conduits for state fiats. Under Obamaopapism, Biden can simultaneously reject Church teaching on abortion and gay marriage while identifying Obamacare, food stamps, and amnesty as the perfect expression of “Catholic social doctrine.”


Jim O’Neill reviews Evan Sayet’s book, The Kindergarden of Eden:

Sayet says that what drives the liberal True Believer is a Godless utopian vision, summed up nicely in John Lennon’s song/anthem “Imagine”—no heaven, no hell, no religion, no countries, no possessions, “nothing to kill or die for”(no right, no wrong), no past, no future (“all the people living for today”).

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According to Sayet, in order to bring about this “utopian” vision the True Believer feels that it is necessary to (1) elevate evil, and (2) denigrate that which is good. Only in this way can true equality be achieved. In other words the liberal True Believer is actively opposed to that which Western civilization has historically held in high esteem—truth, honor, God, integrity, courage, responsibility, peace, patriotism, freedom, etc.—and believes in actively promoting their opposites. They see this as the only way to level the playing field; ensuring equality for all.


Anthony Esolen writing in the Public Discourse summarizes Communism:

It was the party’s policy, as Chambers makes clear, to discourage charity. The sting of poverty must move the poor to action. The individuality of the persons involved in a private gift—the love that might bind them—was to be dissolved in the progressive march towards the ideal State. The poor of Providence must not be allowed an alternative; they must feel the sting of the bad schools, so that those same schools may claim greater exactions from the people who might give privately to charities like San Miguel, and so that the State will grow.

It is a mistake to believe that a totalitarian State regulates all the actions of its individual members. The Communist Party, says Chambers, encouraged promiscuity; and certainly the public schools of Providence do not discourage it with any effectiveness. Individuals may well be granted great leeway in habits that destroy the competitors to the State: the family, the community, and the churches. We drive “government” out of the bedroom, by which we mean that common people will have no say in the most determinative matter of their common life, in order the more firmly to entrench the State in the living room, the classroom, the town hall, and the sanctuary. For the State does not want to keep separate from the churches. It wants to absorb them.


Esolen strikes back at the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling:

No one could have foreseen how big and ugly the tumor would grow, but Samuel Bryan already intuited that “the policy of the new government will lead it to institute numerous and lucrative civil offices, to extend its influence and provide for the swarms of expectants.” Thus becoming too large to be paid for by import taxes, the government would have to raise money by other means: “There must be excises and other indirect duties imposed, and as land taxes will operate too equally to be agreeable to the wealthy aristocracy in the senate who will be possessed of the government, poll taxes will be substituted as provided for in the new plan; for the doctrine then will be, that slaves ought to pay for wearing their heads.”


Jenet Erickson writes an invaluable piece on the differences between mothers and fathers in Public Discourse, a fact-based refutation of radical feminism’s “genderless” ideal that wisdom foretold:

Are fathers and mothers really the same? Do mothers “father” and do fathers “mother” in the same way the other would do?

Canadian scholar, Andrea Doucet, has explored this question in her book Do Men Mother? Her extensive research with 118 male primary caregivers, including stay-at-home dads, led her to conclude that fathers do not “mother.” And that’s a good thing. Although mothering and fathering have much in common, there were persistent, critical differences that were important for children’s development.

To begin, fathers more often used fun and playfulness to connect with their children. No doubt, many a mother has wondered why her husband can’t seem to help himself from “tickling and tossing” their infant—while she stands beside him holding her breath in fear. And he can’t understand why all she wants to do is “coo and cuddle.” Yet as Doucet found, playfulness and fun are often critical modes of connection with children—even from infancy.

Fathers also more consistently made it a point to get their children outdoors to do physical activities with them. Almost intuitively they seemed to know that responding to the physical and developmental needs of their children was an important aspect of nurturing.

When fathers responded to children’s emotional hurts, they differed from mothers in their focus on fixing the problem rather than addressing the hurt feeling. While this did not appear to be particularly “nurturing” at first, the seeming “indifference” was useful— particularly as children grew older. They would seek out and share things with their dads precisely because of their measured, problem-solving responses. The “indifference” actually became a strategic form of nurturing in emotionally-charged situations.

Fathers were also more likely to encourage children’s risk taking—whether on the playground, in school work, or in trying new things. While mothers typically discouraged risk-taking, fathers guided their children in deciding how much risk to take and encouraged them in it. At the same time, fathers were more attuned to developing a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual independence—in everything from children making their own lunches and tying their own shoes to doing household chores and making academic decisions.

As she evaluated these differences, Doucet wondered if fathers just weren’t as “nurturing” as mothers. Their behaviors didn’t always fit the traditional definition of “holding close and sensitively responding.” But a key part of nurturing also includes the capacity to “let go.” It was this careful “letting-go” that fathers were particularly good at—in ways that mothers were often not.


Public Discourse editor Ryan T. Anderson has emerged in my mind as the preeminent defender of traditional marriage. Over at Doublethink, he rebuts Kathryn Shelton’s argument for same-sex marriage:

Civil law and church law are clearly two different things. But that only reinforces the point: to decide what to recognize as a marriage, the state must be clear on its own view of what marriage is, and why recognizing (and therefore regulating) such a relationship serves the public good at all. Yet Shelton never addresses these points. She simply assumes that civil marriage should take no notice of sexual embodiment, complementarity, the way sexual powers are ordered to procreation, and the ideal family structure for providing children with both mother and father. Might these be the truths grounding civil marriage?

At National Review, Anderson combines forces with Sherif Girgis to rebut the New York Times:

What’s at issue is whether the government will recognize [same-sex] unions as marriages — and then force every citizen and business to do so as well. This isn’t the legalization of something, but the coercion of others to affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.

None of us has a civil right to recognition of just any close bond. What we have a right to is legal recognition of true marriages. The question is not whether anyone should be barred from a civil institution, but whether same-sex relationships meet its proper criteria — whether they are true marriages. The question, in other words, is this: Does marriage — the human good in this debate so crucial to the public good — involve more than emotional union?

The answer to that question is nowhere in the Constitution, and judges need not enforce one. That is why “we the people” should decide it for ourselves.

My only reticence is that “we the people” increasingly don’t know what is good for us.

Let’s go back in time to Jennifer Roback Morse’s article in Public Discourse, “Privatizing Marriage Will Expand the Role of the State.” She addresses the libertarian argument to get the government out of the marriage business altogether.

The concepts of “mother” and “father” are natural, pre-political concepts, immediately intelligible to the human race. Up until now, the state has seen its role as simply recording this natural reality. But now parenthood is becoming the creation of the state. This is what “contract parenting” will come to mean: the state taking over parenthood and recreating it for its own purposes. Do you seriously think this can possibly be a “libertarian” or minimum-government move? I do not think that it can.

The call to “privatize marriage” is an attempt to transfer an important structure of the market—contract law—into the family, where it does not properly belong.

The belief that we can solve the conflict over the definition of marriage by “letting the market decide” is a confusion between the private and the public, a confusion between how marriage functions for an individual family and how marriage functions as a public institution.


In a brilliant, ironic piece, Judd Magilnick explains the Leftist/Islamist love affair at the American Spectator:

Readers of a certain age will remember Get Smart, a ‘60s sitcom send-up of the cold war spy thrillers. Maxwell Smart was the American agent who assessed all threats to the country by unerringly telling his chief, “I think that KAOS is behind this.” And, unerringly, he was right. Only a higher theory such as KAOS explains why two systems – mortal enemies by conventional metrics – can be working in covert tandem, often intuitively, with no strategic plan.

KAOS is neither an ideology nor a religion. It is a pagan – or at best pan-phenomenalistic liberation movement that seeks to release themselves and everyone else from the bonds of time, physics, and biology. As two congruent, malignant light beams refracting off reality at different angles, they measure success by their intellectual and physical deconstruction of Western Civilization.

Stripping away the flamboyant dross of “Allahu Akbar” and “power to the people,” it becomes clear that all KAOS shares the same vital principals.


Shawn Macomber of the American Spectator has some great zingers in a piece about the Left’s hysteria at the prospect of losing the presidency:

In the era of Leviathan-as-mandatory-life-coach state, none of us can afford to completely ignore the madness.

Virtually all calls for “civility” are barely veiled plays for opposition-silencing domination.

When an individual, party or nation is convinced everything they love is on the verge of obliteration all the usual rules go out the window and self-justification sometimes snowballs into a dirty, craggy mass too large to be directed by anyone.


Also at the American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein uses the imagery of Obama’s Lena Dunham ad against him:

As a result of that Tuesday night four Novembers ago, Obama sired the largest increase in the national deficit in this country’s history. Given Obama’s insatiable appetite for spending, no amount of federal coverage of contraception could have prevented the deficit from gestating. And it’s not like America could turn to Planned Parenthood to fix the problem. Where spending our money is concerned, Obama is no-choice, not pro-choice.


Renée Loth writes in the Boston Globe:

Ryan would be a formidable policy voice in a Romney administration. Unfortunately, the policies he espouses are retrograde. He voted to ban gay adoptions in Washington, D.C. He voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. He co-sponsored a bill giving “personhood” protection under the 14th Amendment to the unborn, beginning at fertilization.

What’s retrograde: the devolution of marriage and family, or economic freedom?


Finally, via First Things, Wesley J. Smith laments “Our Dangerous Obsession with ‘Health’”:

Early in Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy, Levin writes, “Any society’s understanding of the foundational good necessarily gives shape to its politics, its social institutions and its sense of moral purpose and direction.” And what is our “primary good” in the West today? Not justice. Not even equality. It’s “relief and preservation—from disease and pain, from misery and necessity.”

Bingo! When eliminating suffering becomes the overriding purpose of a society, people can easily come to perceive that it is proper to accomplish the goal by eliminating the sufferer.

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Health becomes understood as a prophylactic, if you will, against suffering. In such a milieu, ethics become transitory because we justify our behavior by feelings rather than robust principles of morality—which after all, sometimes require us to eschew what we want and what feels good in order to do what is right.

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