Saturday, July 4, 2015

Odds and ends 7/4/2015

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

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

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

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

Robert George, coauthor of What Is Marriage?:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Heather Wilhelm wrote:

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

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

Speaking of that Oregon bakery...

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the brilliant Patrick Deneen again:

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

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

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

And finally John Whitehead:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Pat Buchanan is on top of his game.

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

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

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

Can true “social progress” produce results like that?

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

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

How has that worked out for America?

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

And, re: the Confederate flag witch hunt:

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

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

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

Hence, who are the real haters here?

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

The Times’ editorialists cannot be such fools.

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

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

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

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

Anyway, more Buchanan:

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

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

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

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

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