Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rod Dreher's Wake Up Call

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option has been out for a few weeks. As a Christian, I’m hoping the book puts down deep roots, that it escapes the fate of most books on the culture, which make a brief stir, then slip off the radar. Dreher’s book doesn’t deserve such a fate.

Dreher has been writing on a “Benedict Option” for years. He coined the term in echo of a passage near the end of Alasdair MacIntyre’s classic After Virtue, where the Scottish philosopher argues that what the West now needs is a figure similar to St. Benedict. Referencing our current state, MacIntyre wrote:

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. . . . This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another--doubtless very different--St. Benedict.

After Virtue is one of the most cunningly constructed philosophical wrecking balls ever to be swung at the edifice of Enlightenment ideology, and MacIntyre's deep critique of modern bureaucratic culture and the “emotivism” that modernity has spawned leads him to put new emphasis on communal practices as the only viable basis for a meaningful ethics. Dreher, seeing the need for a similar return to Christ-guided practices among Christians, and taking the seminal case of St. Benedict as touchstone, slowly began compiling what would become The Benedict Option.

I come to Dreher’s book from a unique place, a personal history that all but forces me to recognize the troubling truth in his main arguments. Dreher insists that American Christians have for a couple decades now been ignoring their real position in American culture. He is right. What’s more, I believe his widely misunderstood ideas about what must come next, if Christianity is to survive, are right as well.

For most of my adult life I counted myself on the left. As a student in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, I was active in the Divest from Apartheid movement and very active in the nuclear weapons freeze movement. My theory-heavy area of study, Comparative Literature, left me with a keen sense of the subtle powers of ideology in discourse, whether political discourse, or literary, or in the everyday. Many lifelong friendships began in Madison, and this web of friends for many years kept me committed to a politically left reading of the world and American culture. That commitment, however, started to crack in 2011.

Already back in university I was something of an odd man out, because I was also Christian. I defined myself as a “left Christian”, of course, stressing the social doctrine side of the Gospel, but always had a strong sense of the divine Presence in the world, of a Mystery that wasn’t to be seized in language but must nonetheless be reverenced. Early on I understood that this reverence for God was connected to anything the West might mean by human rights. My focus on European literatures gave me in addition a deep respect for the Western tradition.

All through those years, and up to the start of the new century, there were things in the American left I didn't support; causes my peers considered progressive but that I stood against. At that time, back in 1989, in 1995, perhaps even in 2003, this was still possible: I could be a faithful Christian but still part of the American left.

All that has changed. The new century has seen our “left” almost completely abandon the goals that kept people like me in solidarity. Worse, it has seen the rise to prominence of all the elements I didn’t support: the shrill identity politics, the speech codes, abortion “rights” as the meaning of womanhood; and most noticeable of all, the now fanatical fetish of sexual self-definition--the more perverse the better--as the very meaning of "progressive".

As Rod Dreher lays it out in The Benedict Option, what we are seeing in all this is the final, decisive victory of the Sexual Revolution that began in the 1960s, the LGBT movement its final avant-garde:

The advance of gay civil rights, along with a reversal of religious liberties for believers who do not accept the LGBT agenda, had been slowly but steadily happening for years. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage was the Waterloo of religious conservatism. It was the moment the Sexual Revolution triumphed decisively, and the culture war, as we have known it since the 1960s, came to an end. In the wake of Obergefell, Christian beliefs about the sexual complementarity of marriage are considered to be abominable prejudice--and in a growing number of cases, punishable. The public square has been lost.

Dreher is especially persuasive in arguing that this victory is not merely a matter of the previous culture “loosening up” its sexual mores or expanding the range of acceptable sexual behavior. He sees it rather as a thoroughgoing shift in cosmology, a culture-wide rejection of the Western understanding of our place in the universe and its replacement with something utterly different. What we are undergoing, according to Dreher, is a far-reaching redefinition of the meaning of sexuality and of the individual’s relation to his or her own being. With the Sexual Revolution’s triumph, sexuality is no longer grounded in any metaphysical truth of human nature, but has become a pure expression of the self’s supposed ability to define itself. One’s sexual being is no longer a given, grounded in one’s sex. Thus, in our new order, “We are married” no longer presupposes a sex-based understanding of what that means; nor, with more recent developments, does the statement “I am a man” even presuppose a male body.

One good reason to read The Benedict Option is to get a sense of what this shift means in relation to the millennia of cultural life that came before. In clear, reader-friendly prose, Dreher lays out some of the intellectual history that prepared the soil for the shift, but he’s especially strong in his depiction of just how different this new version of humanity is. He is right, besides, that Christianity can make no peace with this particular revolution. Biblical anthropology stands on completely different grounds, a vision of the meaning of sex as rooted not in individual desire, but in male and female as embodying a supra-individual cosmic mandate. Sexuality in the Christian rubric was not mostly a matter of what turned individuals on, but of how individuals were to fulfill their relation to that divinely given purpose.

How did this revolutionary victory, once realized, affect the culture? Myself I noticed a very tangible shift in the terrain during Obama’s second term. I now attribute it to awareness among liberals and leftists that, with “marriage equality”, the old regime had finally been routed. This meant a new kind of relationship to those like myself who were, on some matters, still part of that old regime. If previously the left could consider me one of them, a somewhat eccentric religious guy whose “heart was in the right place”, suddenly there was a new coldness. In the past it had always been “Well, Eric, you subscribe to a religious interpretation, I don’t”--but our conversation, whatever the subject, would go on. Now any time the discussion, whether face to face or online, got near any part of my Christianity, their point seemed to be that the conversation would not go on. I’d get the equivalent of a scowl, as if even mentioning the Christian tradition was repugnant: all such thinking needed to be finally and utterly pushed out of sight.

I’d always had gay friends, written on gay writers, supported gays and lesbians in their struggles against the anathema conservatives placed on them. I’d always found the bourgeois Christian stigma on sexual sin over the top; it was often cruel and un-Christian--seeming to imply as it did that sexual sin was in a special category that made it worse, even qualitatively different, than sins like pride or greed. I never thought this way myself. But any nuances in my thought made no difference in the new climate. When it became clear to liberal acquaintances that I didn’t agree to their fickle redefinition of marriage, they jumped straight to ostracism. It was not any more that I “disagreed” with them (as I always had on abortion)--no, I had to be made to disappear. Those who held to the old view of marriage were to have no place in our Brave New World. They could be given no place even to speak.

Why such weight put on this particular issue? I’d disagreed with my fellows on the left before, and my right to such disagreement had been recognized. Why now was it suddenly necessary to censor me?

I now see it as related to something Dreher and others have been onto for years. The logic of Enlightenment, the way this logic has been pushed and combined with the Sexual Revolution, has in fact made sexual self-definition the very center of a new cosmology, even a new religion of sorts. On this Dreher has learned much from the brilliant sociologist and culture critic Philip Rieff:

In Rieff’s theory of culture, a culture is defined by what it forbids. Each culture has its own “order of therapy”--a system that teaches its members what is permitted within its bounds and gives them sanctioned ways to let off the pressure of living by the community’s rules, which are traditionally rooted in religion. Moreover, the asceticism in a culture--that is, the ideal of self-denial--cannot be an end in itself, because that would destroy a culture. Rather, it must be a “positive asceticism” that links the individual negating his own particular desires to the achievement of a higher, positive, life-affirming goal. . . . A culture begins to die . . . “when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling, first of all to the cultural elites themselves.” . . .

What made our condition so revolutionary, he said, was that for the first time in history, the West was attempting to build a culture on the absence of belief in a higher order that commanded our obedience. In other words, we were creating an “anti-culture,” one that made the foundation for a stable culture impossible.

That is, instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a culture built on a cult of desire . . .

“Eros must be raised to the level of a religious cult in modern society, not because we really are that obsessed with it, but because the myth of freedom demands it,” says political philosopher Stephen L. Gardner. “It is in carnal desire that the modern individual believes he affirms his ‘individuality’. The body must be the true ‘subject’ of desire because the individual must be the author of his own desire.”

In declaring myself against “same-sex marriage” in 2011, I was thus offending against the very core of this new Sacred. Soon to follow the redefinition of marriage there came the supposed right of individuals to define their gender, indeed to invent dozens of new “genders” to correspond to whatever their self-mythicization might project:

The Romantic ideal of the self-created man finds its fulfillment in the newest vanguards of the Sexual Revolution, transgendered people. They refuse to be bound by biology and have behind them an elite movement teaching new generations that gender is whatever the choosing individual wants it to be.

Back in 2011, during the marriage debate, what struck me most was the almost apoplectic fury of liberals when faced with any disagreement. It was a visceral hatred, flaring suddenly, accompanied by the most vulgar insults and sometimes even veiled threats of violence. And this from people who knew me as someone more or less in their camp on other issues.

Deep hatred of anyone who doesn’t march lock-step with LGBT dogma is now widespread. I remember once going to a Facebook page in support of Barronelle Stutzman, the soft-spoken 72-year-old Washington state florist now being sued out of house and home because she told a gay customer she couldn’t arrange flowers for his wedding. Here were the two first visitor comments that appeared:

And Barronelle, a woman who’d always treated this particular gay customer well but only demurred on wedding flowers--these people would have you believe that she is the hater.

The insults I was getting from my fellow leftists were not far from what these “progressives” dished out to Ms. Stutzman. Which made me realize: Were they actually my fellow leftists in any meaningful sense? Could I in any way work together with people who obviously wanted me in a prison camp?

To interpret such visceral hatred, I now think it useful to focus on the revolution part of Sexual Revolution. We might look at previous political revolutions to get some idea of where we’re at as orthodox Christians. American historian Crane Brinton, in his The Anatomy of Revolution, was one of the first to analyze the stages a revolution goes through.

Revolutions are typically won by a coalition of political actors working together. Once victory is clear, there is often a brief “honeymoon period” where it seems to the victorious classes that anything is possible. For obvious reasons, this euphoria wears off quickly. Because it’s not long before those who backed the revolution realize that life goes on much as before: Utopia has not been established on earth. A growing malaise combines with the fact that the revolutionary leaders are used to living in battle mode, and thus comes the predictable next step. Moderates among the leadership are accused of not being radical enough in their policies--“We must not give in to these backsliders!”--a purge takes place, and the radicals take over. The ambient ardor left over from the initial revolution is then refocused on two new tasks: 1) ensuring ideological purity; 2) mopping up what remains of the defeated classes, who are depicted as all that stands in the way of Utopia’s final arrival. Thus begins the Terror. During this immediately post-revolutionary period, wholly new planks are often introduced into the ruling committee’s platform, typically of a more extremist nature than what was originally demanded in the revolution.

If we view the Sexual Revolution through this lens of past political revolution, it’s pretty clear where we are at present. The revolution has been won, sexual Utopia still hasn’t arrived (because, duh, it never can arrive) and the only thing that might keep our successful revolutionaries busy for the next decade is mopping up what remains of those who refused to drink the Rainbow Kool-Aid when it was first served--i.e. us orthodox religious people. Religious conservatives must be mopped up because, according to the logic, it is our mere existence that prevents Utopia’s final arrival.

This is in fact just how it is playing out in America, in our media and in our courts. Note especially the new plank that was quickly added to the revolutionary platform: the trans movement. There’s really no surprise in the meteoric rise of this raging trans craze. All the revolutionary zeal left over after the victory on marriage--something had to be done with it, no? To keep momentum going, the woke among the liberal intelligentsia had to quick set about destroying the very idea of sexual difference. “Yes, let’s invent thirty new genders and demand citizens use new pronouns. Those who don’t will face fines. Let’s put biological males in teen girls’ locker rooms. See how the rubes like that!”

It’s all both supremely perverse and, and, given where we’re at, depressingly predictable.

Liberals often accuse Christians of being obsessed with sex, but really there’s nothing like the obsessive focus on sex we see in this new mainstreamed liberalism. The reason for it, again, is the need to make the desiring individual the very center of the Sacred. To balk at a man who demands you refer to him as they or ze rather than he is now a kind of sacrilege. And they want punishment for those who don’t conform. (Cf. the struggles of Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson.)

So who here is really obsessed with sex as the Center of all Personal Meaning--Christians or this SJW rainbow crowd? I think the answer is obvious.

None of which is to say that sex is unimportant in Christianity. But the Christian understanding of sex is radically different. Dreher:

In speaking of how men and women of the early Christian era saw their bodies, historian Peter Brown says the body “was embedded in a cosmic matrix in ways that made its perception of itself profoundly unlike our own. Ultimately, sex was not the expression of inner needs, lodged in the isolated body. Instead, it was seen as the pulsing, through the body, of the same energies as kept the stars alive. . . .”

Early Christianity’s sexual teaching does not come from the words of Christ and the Apostle Paul; more broadly, it emerges from the Bible’s anthropology. The human being bears the image of God, however tarnished by sin, and is the pinnacle of an order created and imbued with meaning by God.

The sexual binary of male and female is an integral fact of this created order. In itself it bears metaphysical meaning: “The significance of sexual difference has never before been contingent upon a creature’s preferences, or upon whether or not God gave it episodically to a particular creature to have certain preferences,” writes Catholic theologian Christopher Roberts. He goes on to say that for Christians, the meaning of sexuality has always depended on its relationship to the created order and to eschatology--the ultimate end of man. “As was particularly clear, perhaps for the first time in Luther, the fact of a sexually differentiated creation is reckoned to human beings as a piece of information from God about who and what it meant to be human,” writes Roberts.

Contrary to modern gender theory, the question is not Are we men or women? but How are we to be male and female together? The legitimacy of our sexual desire is limited by the givenness of nature. The facts of our biology are not incidental to our personhood. Marriage has to be sexually complementary because only the male-female pair mirrors the generatively of the divine order.

Gay marriage, as Dreher indicates, denies this complementarity and thus cannot be actual marriage. “Similarly, transgenderism doesn’t merely bend but breaks the biological and metaphysical reality of male and female.” Dreher again cites Philip Rieff:

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the Sexual Revolution--though he did not use that term--as a leading indicator of Christianity’s demise. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture and redirecting the erotic instinct was intrinsic to Christian culture. Without Christianity, the West was reverting to its former state.

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to comprehend why sext was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among the People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour porto-puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitative Greco-Roman culture of the time--exploitative especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage--and marital sexuality--with love.

What we have now, in the West, are two incompatible anthropologies. Worse, those who support the Sexual Revolution are uninterested in classical liberal pluralism, which would allow for space in the public arena for the two anthropologies to compete. After Obergefell, many Christians expected, as the LGBT activists promised, that the legalization of same-sex marriage would not impinge upon the rights of Christian institutions to live by and teach their own understanding of marriage. It is turning out quite otherwise, with a mounting wave of lawsuits that threaten the very existence of Christian schools, universities and charities. The gay lobby pursues these cases with evident glee. It is they who do not want to live and let live.

What then must be done given 1) the post-revolutionary fury with which the LGBT movement seeks to expel orthodox Christianity from the public arena, and 2) the necessity for Christians to remain faithful to biblical principles for the church to survive and thrive? What is Rod Dreher’s advice for Christians at this juncture?

My writing here so far, especially if read by liberals, likely gives the impression that The Benedict Option is little more than a handwringing conservative lament on American sexual ethics. It is nothing of the sort. Rather, Dreher’s book as a whole presents a multi-faceted strategy for revitalizing Christian life through intentional life choices and a renewed engagement with earlier Christian practices--the faith as it was lived and practiced before the 20th century flood.

Part of Dreher’s assessment of current Christian culture is based on research done by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. What Smith and Denton discovered, through study of the beliefs of actual Americans, was that the de facto “Christianity” now practiced in America, particularly among the young, has very very little in common with the traditional faith. They coined the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) to describe this new American religion. Compared to the historical faith, MTD is doctrinally paper thin, and can be summed up in a few bland credos, among them: 1) God is looking over us but not much involved with happenings on earth; 2) God wants us to be nice to each other and to be happy with ourselves; 3) Good people, when they die, go to heaven.

Dreher believes, and I agree, that this way of living our faith is both widespread and seriously inadequate. He also believes that the churches--too much in the business of flattering the feel-good vanities of the flock and not enough concerned with forming souls--are deeply implicated in the spread of this eroded version of what the Apostles taught. He insists that we as a people, the earthly body of Christ, stand no chance of surviving the corrosive secularism of this new century if we continue muddling along in this milquetoast therapeutic version of our faith.

Many of Dreher’s chapters are dedicated to studying alternatives to our current state, and he begins, aptly, with a long chapter on the Benedictine monks of Norcia, Italy. This portrait of a group of men, our contemporaries, who’ve willingly given up everything and dedicated themselves to prayer, contemplation and the works of mercy, allows Dreher to delve into what a more authentic Christian understanding of work, community and spiritual life might look like. It proves a good starting point, as it gives Dreher the chance to clarify a general thesis: that we, as Christians, though not all called to monastic life, are nonetheless called to bring our everyday life activities as much into harmony with Christ as we can. We are failing in this, especially as regards our attitudes to community and work, which for most of us have been shaped almost entirely by the secular culture we were raised in. According to Dreher, this inability to let Christ into our communal and work life has made us into little more than churchgoing versions of the late-modern Standard Issue Human: egotistical but lost, ethically without rudder, consumerists dragged to and fro by advertising, fashion, zero-sum-game politics, Facebook “likes”.

The Norcian monks are just the first of many intentional Christian communities Dreher touches on. Another of them, also in Italy, a group that charmingly calls itself Tipi Loschi--i.e., in Italian, “the Usual Suspects”--is practicing a radical form of community building and youth education that also might offer no small light to those seeking a Christian way out. Of course Dreher also interviews people in many intentional Christian communities in the US, whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, seeking to answer the question: What does a “Benedict Option” lifestyle really look like? How can one be part of American culture, yet also establish a distance that allows for the cultivation of the soul in a community of like-minded others? Dreher gives multiple examples of the joys and potential challenges.

Not surprisingly, Dreher also addresses one of the starkest challenges serious Christian families now face in America, namely: how to raise children in the faith and keep them from being corrupted by the trashy ethos the dominant culture now models for them 24/7. These chapters on youth and education are some of the most interesting in the book, and they address everything from options for schooling (Dreher advises, if at all possible, that you get your kids out of public schools) to the threat posed by smart phone culture.

But what of Christian politics? How should Christians engage in the political process? This is one of the areas where Dreher’s work has been most widely misunderstood. Far too many have seen in Dreher’s project a call to “run for the hills”, to “retreat” from public life; a call to “let the public arena go to hell on its own” while hiding out in the catacombs, as it were. Many of these critics, to read them, seem not to have read the same book I just finished. Their reaction to Dreher’s project might have been understandable before the book was out, but now that the book is on the shelves, I think they might need to take a more careful look at the actual arguments, the double-directedness of the project. On this, Dreher quotes with approval one of the Norcian Benedictines, who speaks of the need to have "borders" behind which we live to nurture our faith, but also the need to "push outwards, infinitely." This double focus has always been implicit in Dreher's writing on the Benedict Option, so it's odd how often it's missed. Some critics, I suspect, are mainly afraid to face up to what's happening in America.

Given our decisive rout in the culture wars, you’d think we Christians would step back a bit and ask ourselves if we weren’t doing a few things wrong. Dreher identifies the virtual fusion in many minds of Christianity and the Republican Party as one of the biggest mistakes of recent decades. A sizable demographic, he argues, came to think of their Church as “the Republican Party at prayer”. The problem here, in my analysis, was not so much that power corrupts, but that imagined power corrupts. How so?

Far too many conservative Christians came to believe that, as long as their governors were in office, or as long as a Republican was in the White House, the Gospel was doing well. This was a grave error. It was an example of bad faith, shirking off responsibility to others, in this case to a political party that was more interested in serving its corporate interests than in smoothing the way for the Kingdom. Meanwhile, as American Christians told themselves that all was right with the world because the GOP held enough seats, the GOP was simultaneously self-justifying its relative inactivity on abortion or economic justice or religious liberty by saying that, after all, they were just politicians, and if the churches could not gather enough public support for what they wanted, if the churches couldn’t manage to sway corporate opinion as to their demographic clout, who were they, mere politicians, to do anything risky? After all, they needed to ensure they’d get elected next time around.

The degree to which this kind of mutual bad faith weakened Christian witness in America over the recent couple decades would be hard to exaggerate. Dreher, always an astute political observer (his blog is must reading) saw just what would follow once the corporate world realized that money was to be made in cozying up to the LGBT movement. And so in Indiana, when modest religious liberty protections were proposed in 2014, and the corporate boards decided to virtue signal by threatening the state with boycotts should they actually enact such “bigoted” legislation, GOP governor Mike Pence didn’t stand his ground. Under pressure from the business lobby, the Indiana law was swiftly rewritten to the point of making it toothless. This, Dreher has said repeatedly, is what you will get if you put your hopes in the Republican Party.

Which is why Dreher now insists that putting too many of our eggs as Christians in any political party’s basket is a serious mistake. When push comes to shove, the Republican Party will sell us out. What is necessary for us to work on at present is building up solid Christian communities. Because, if our eyes are open, there is little hope in anything else.

In one fascinating chapter, Dreher offers portraits of two famous Czech dissidents under communism, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda. These men, he argues, offer examples of the kind of “antipolitical politics” we should begin to practice as Christians. Both Havel and Benda realized the importance of resistance at the individual, everyday level. And they understood the necessity of building alternative communities under or parallel to the overarching, oppressive national political order. One gains hope from these examples of anti-communist resistance because, as surprised even them, their steady underground resistance finally bore fruit. Similar dynamics in Poland also saw the Church prove decisive in bringing down totalitarianism.

But we in America are not (at least not yet) under such intense political pressure. Which is all the more reason, according to Dreher, for us to be both strategic and steady in our political efforts. Being joined at the hip to any political party is not strategic given where we’re at. The only cause Dreher insists we should be intensely involved with (as in paying attention and organizing and pressuring our representatives) is the constitutional cause of religious liberty. Because if that is lost, so much else of what we can accomplish, through schools or charities, will be lost too.

Dreher is emphatic about this fight because it is by no means certain that we will win it. It is all too obvious that the new Sexual Identity Commissars are busy 24/7 trying to take away the rights of Christian schools and universities to teach the faith and run their institutions on Christian principles. We must remember that vast swaths of the liberal intelligentsia no longer even believe religious liberty exists as anything other than “an excuse for hate”.

And so I come full circle, back to the question of the threat posed by LGBT activists and their ever-supportive SJW ranks. These people have already gained far too much sway over our courts, schools, and media, not to mention the sway they’ve gained in many denominations. Aside from fighting for religious liberty, how should orthodox Christians meet this threat in the public arena?

One thing I wish Dreher had included in this book are his thoughts on what might be called the rules of engagement between orthodox religious people and the sexual revolutionaries. How are Christians, in the public arena, to communicate with a public that largely supports the “reforms” demanded by Team Rainbow?

My intellectual background convinces me of one thing: Language is the crowbar of ideology. It is language, the manipulation and coining of terms, that ideology uses to pry its way into social consciousness. It is via new concepts, embodied in language, that new ideologies set up shop.

In many circles in America people no longer bat an eye when someone refers to Rob’s “husband”. And it’s growing ever more common for people to refer to some biological female as he or ze or even they. It’s now considered correct to accept and make an effort to use whatever pronouns an individual demands--otherwise one is a bigot. Courts have already come down on the side of people insisting on these new pronouns; fines have already been levied. In Canada, which now has it worse than we do, refusal to use these newly minted pronouns is literally illegal.

The man next to one says: “I’m Rob. This is my husband Dave.” The woman next to one says: “I’m nonbinary. My pronoun is they.” My question: Should Christians agree to use any of this language?

This question is not a trivial one, nor is it easy to answer. On the one hand, Christians must show concern and love for others, regardless of ideological differences, a truth Dreher underlines repeatedly. In this vein, how would it show care and concern if one refused even to acknowledge an individual’s married status? To insist on using partner rather than husband for a married gay couple would now widely be seen as openly disrespectful, besides being, in many instances, legally actionable. Perhaps this will soon be true also with the many new gender pronouns. Shouldn’t Christians just agree to use the terms society is using, as a gesture of peace and goodwill? Can’t Christians just maintain their disagreement in their hearts and in the more closed confines of their communities?

It may be best to do so. But the cost is huge. Because, as I’ve suggested, to use another’s descriptive terms is already to agree to the reality they are promoting. To refer to a woman’s partner as her “wife”, even to do it out of politeness, is to agree that their relationship is actually a marriage. To use ze (rather than he or she) to refer to an individual is to admit that there is such a gender that corresponds to that term. And so: When a Christian agrees to use this terminology, isn’t that Christian more or less burning a pinch of incense to Caesar?

I’d be very curious to see how Dreher might answer these questions on linguistic rules of engagement. I was somewhat surprised he didn’t address such issues in his book. I won’t quote the Havel passage in full, but I wonder: Every time we utter one of these demanded terms, aren’t we forfeiting the bravery shown by the greengrocer who refused to hang the “Workers of the World” slogan in his shop window?

I admit that I’m not sure of the right way forward on this. Is it better, on terminology, to err on the side of peace-making? Or should we ensure that our speech always testifies to what we believe is the truth?

Dreher’s Benedict Option is a brilliant call for Christians to return to the basics of the faith, to recognize how far we’ve been led astray in our hyper-consumerist secular culture. He has brilliantly made the case for a return to an earlier Christian understanding, the authentic one, and for changing our daily lives through a more thoughtful, principled Christian practice. The book doesn’t answer every question (no book can) but it makes for a brilliant “starter manual” of sorts for those who recognize the need for serious change. I’m hoping the book puts down deep roots.

Check out Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

Check out Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

And for something completely different, check out my Idiocy, Ltd.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Feminists Publicly Abort Jesus in Bloody Performance Art

A few days back I posted on Facebook about the recent obscene provocation to come from our demented feminist avant garde. My post garnered a few comments from friends sympathetic to my disgust, but also resistance from a British atheist friend which allowed me to explain some of my thinking on the key role the Christian tradition plays in our culture. I reproduce the comment thread here, having changed the names of the participants.

Go to this LifeSiteNews piece for an an account of what went down.

My caption on the Facebook post: “Horrendous, but not surprising. These people don't know the divide they're creating.”

Comment thread:

JOHN GREIST: This is just sick.

PAUL WILKS: If ever a group of assholes deserved a smiting . . .

GRACE LEE: Stupidity redefined.

KAREN DORN: This is appalling. I cannot fathom why so many women are choosing to speak out in such offensive, sacrilegious ways. This seems similar to the type of "speech" that is burning the American flag; there is something inherently violent about it. This will backfire. I am deeply offended and saddened that these demonstrations will only erode the diminishing options women will have, especially women of lesser means and resources.

DALE CHATWIN: Why not? Virgin birth? The concept does invite, even require, mockery. If a woman was given this blessing, then the question is why are women 2nd class citizens in most societies around the world? I am a feminist. Any woman who is not, has some pretty serious issues imo.

ERIC MADER: @Dale Chatwin: Don't be such a dull positivist vulgarian.

Two points:

1) If there exists a God anything like God as understood in Western monotheism, then the virgin birth as a literal event is of course eminently possible, as are any other miracles, including the universe suddenly folding up into nothing or being rearranged on entirely new laws. As an orthodox Christian, I view miracles in this lens.

2) There are however many Christians who do not believe in the virgin birth as a literal event, who understand it as a myth, but show respect to the story itself as an ancient part of their tradition, that Christian tradition that grounds some of the most crucial elements in their present-day culture: its legal norms, its concepts of history, its notions of justice, its critique of vulgar wealth and power.

On at least this second basis you might at least recognize that in mocking Christianity you are a little like the man high up in a tree sawing away at the branch he's sitting on.

In any case you should have enough of a sense of history to understand the following: All great civilizations have risen up on myths and died when these myths fell into disrepute. You as a person wouldn't be what you are today, and your country, England, wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for Christianity. Many of the things you take for granted--the Western concept of human rights for one--arose from and because of the Judeo-Christian inheritance.

Which is to say: Westerners who think there's any virtue in mocking their own culture's religious tradition are like spoiled teenagers who scoff at their parents, the people who fed and raised and taught them. How do such kids look to you? This is where you're putting yourself with these kinds of statements.


DALE CHATWIN: Did you mean The Vulgate? St. Jerome? I wager he would have been a laugh. Kind of bloke you'd be itching to share a pint of Guinness with.

Are you suggesting that The Life of Brian should be banned for mocking Christianity?

The Catholic Church: "Christian tradition...its critique of vulgar wealth and power." The Catholic Church is the epitome of vulgarity and obscene shows of wealth. The Vatican Bank. A church with a bank holding a minimum $8 billion. Very Christian. Jesus (or whatever his name was) would have been proud.

ERIC MADER: @Dale Chatwin. Typically, you haven't addressed a single one of my points.

DALE CHATWIN: Oh, dear. I thought I had addressed a few.

I find it difficult to take most of human history seriously, especially religious dogmas. I prefer a pinch of salt over everything.

Doesn't everyone scoff at their parents? Of course in religion, this is often terms for ostracism. Religious indoctrination begins in the home. The clothes worn, the food eaten.

I think you put too much emphasis on how tradition, both religious and secular, has formed my own personal belief system.

Anyone could write thousands of pages on what we, as a species, have learnt from history. The opposite is equally true.

The culture of monotheisms will also, given time, fall into myth.

Which points, specifically, am I missing?

DALE CHATWIN: Why shouldn't Christianity, or any other set of unsubstantiated, unproven, fanciful beliefs, be open to mockery like anything else? Are religious types that sensitive?

Poor dears.

ERIC MADER: Well, in fact if you go back and read my comments starting "Don't be such a . . ." I can't see how you imagine you've even addressed one of my points. Read those comments again, and then realize that your answer amounts to:

1) St. Jerome was a prude and would have been a bore to drink with (or, in another possible interpretation, would have been fun to tease over beers).

2) The Vatican Bank is corrupt.

One key thing that is preventing you from even seeing my points is that you don't understand myth in anything like a more anthropological sense. Your understanding of it is the common one (I dare say the vulgar one) as in: "People once believed the seasons were a result of Hades' rape of Persephone. Now we know that's a myth." In short, in your understanding, myths are essentially things that humanity overcomes via scientific advancements. In my understanding, this is not so, myth is still with us, and always will be. An enormous range of cultural phenomena is guided by thinking that is mythical; even the social thinking of secular, educated people is largely based on mythical constructs that can't be grounded in empirical research and in fact AREN'T grounded--but still prove decisive in culture. What is key, and in my view most dangerous, is that Enlightenment notions of reality have somehow convinced our contemporaries that their secular societies' norms are NOT grounded on myth, that they're based rather on reason and research, that their societies have largely left myth behind, and that progress means leaving more of myth behind. I say No. We have not left myth behind. We have just changed the names of the agents in our myths. Our very notions of the arc of history, of justice, of the power of reason as it relates to social reality and the universe, of progress, of human rights, etc.--all these are based on myths no less flimsy than the story of Hades and Persephone. And it will ALWAYS be so. Why? Because story and the stories we tell ourselves will always guide our group behavior. It is a fact that applies to Dawkins and Sam Harris as much as the Pope. The reason the former are shallow and the latter is not is that the former don't recognize this fact. They don't see the degree to which they're raising things discovered by empirical research to the level of guiding mythical principle. What science discovers about how the universe is structured (and it has discovered a lot) can tell us virtually nothing about existential or ethical questions. Those secularists who try to make science into a cultural guide are not practicing science any more--what they're doing is called scientism. Which is why serious philosophers, and many scientists besides, think the New Atheists are a joke and, in terms of the field of discourse the New Atheists are trying to enter, are in fact way out of their league.

So, to sum up: You still believe myth is something that is to be overcome. That's very 19th century of you. I however know that myth is something humans never overcome. You believe myth is inherently, to the extent it is believed, a negative thing. I believe we can't escape myth, that it is neither negative nor positive, but simply HUMAN, and the key is recognizing which myths show the deepest grasp of the human reality.

You write: "I think you put too much emphasis on how tradition, both religious and secular, has formed my own personal belief system." Sorry, but I think this is extremely naive. All of us, even the most skeptical, have been formed by tradition in ways we can't even fathom. That is what philosophy is for: to help us glimpse our own blind spots. In your case, even the nature and structure of your skepticism, how you see your skepticism as it relates to the relative naivety of others--even this is part of a tradition that you've internalized and modified in some ways. You say that you don't take history too seriously, that you take it with a grain of salt. Sure, but that doesn't mean you have escaped your inscription in history. To begin thinking is to think in language. To enter the realm of language is to be drawn into a lexicon of inherited concepts. End of story.

As usual, I didn't intend to type so much. I'll say one more thing. Given that you're a reader of John Gray, I'm amazed you seem so obtuse on this question of myth and how it is constitutive of culture, how it is inescapable on the social level. My point: On most of these issues, at least in terms of argument re: what myth is or how individual thinking can relate to traditions, Gray would agree with me.

Cheers. Since I took time to write all this, I hope you give it some thought.

DALE CHATWIN: That's a ten-course meal to get through . . . very French. Thanks.

A propos, I do not consider myself a New Atheist. I have no desire to proselytize one way or the other. I became an atheist long before the New Atheists took to the stage . . . long before I knew the meaning of the word atheist.

I searched for religious meaning on and off for years, but came to the conclusion that it really is all random, essentially meaningless, and misery for most of humankind. And who directs this misery? Well, humankind of course.

I believe humanity is a plague.

ERIC MADER: Bon app├ętit.

* * *

UPDATE: Rod Dreher at The American Conservative, writing on the same Argentine provocation, featured some of my remarks. In the comment thread that followed, various writers argued that I was mistaken in tracing so much of the political culture of the West back to the Christian influence. The real roots of our current institutions, so the argument goes, are classical Greece and Rome. You can check the thread there, but my basic response was the following:

ERIC MADER: Some here suggest that I’m mistaken in identifying Christian tradition as a key ground of our political and legal norms. And so Forbe, above, argues that the cloth of our political culture as Westerners is woven entirely of Greek and Roman materials.

Of course I’m well aware of the classical heritage. But I would say that this pagan heritage, while decisive in providing us most of our political terminology and many of our structural norms, does not finally account for certain huge differences between us and our ancient pagan models. Especially our concept of inalienable human rights, that political doctrine that all people, regardless of class or nation, are created equal and thus embody a fundamental dignity (before the law, before the divine, etc.) that is prior to accidents of class, race or gender. It is this doctrine that allowed the Christian West finally to defeat slavery, and this that explains things like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The classical thinkers of Greece and Rome recognized no such thing. We have it because of the Christian soil from which we’ve sprung.

The earliest statement of such a fundamental equality is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. And really, there’s nothing else like it in in the ancient world: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28)

Race, class and gender are to take second place to a new fundamental equality? Gee, that stuffy old Apostle was quite radical, wasn’t he? Stop the presses, Slate and Salon! Your grounding social doctrine, the very litmus test by which you judge something progressive or not, is 2,000 years old. And, sorry to inform you, it came from one of those hateful Christians.

The Enlightenment, and the American Founders in particular, merely abstracted this “one in Christ” to “one in being created by the same Creator”. And so we have our modern concept of human rights.

When Rod suggests that these Argentinian feminists are unwittingly undermining the very conceptual ground on which they stand, this is what he means. Not just the radical feminists, but the whole sick SJW crew is bent on savaging the hand that feeds them. I agree with Rod on the stupidity of it. They certainly will not like what their hardball identity politics becomes once the other side begins to practice it. Which is already happening.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Notes from a Slow Learner

With Prof. Afaa M. Weaver, 2006.

I’m white, male, heterosexual, Catholic. For most of my life I’ve been politically on the left. The virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness have always been crucial to me. I’ve had close Muslim and Buddhist friends, atheist friends, feminist friends, gay and lesbian friends, black and Asian friends. I’ve learned things from all of them.

But that was then, back in the early days. I’d like to say--back in the last century, because this new century is becoming something quite different.

The atmosphere shifted around 2010, a dark spark of some sort shot through the ether wind, and I’m somewhat ashamed I didn’t notice it when it happened. But now I get it. Because myself, now in 2017--white, male, heterosexual, Catholic--you’ve finally made it clear:

I’m the Enemy.

Sorry I didn’t realize it sooner, in 2012 say. It would have saved everybody a lot of trouble. I’m a slow learner.

For the feminists around me, our 21st-century feminists, maleness itself is the root of all evil. So although I’ve long believed women and men are equal (that quaint old 20th-century notion!) it makes no difference now. I’m guilty as charged. And always will be.

For our SJWs (“social justice warriors”, if you don’t know the term) Europe and Western cultural traditions are to be denigrated and fought at every turn. I study and cherish European culture, and the American culture that stems from it. But the important thing about Europe now is no longer its humanistic learning, its concept of rights and law, its philosophy and literature--no, it’s the abstract evil of this thing called “whiteness”. Again: I’m guilty as charged.

For the “new atheists” and the many secularist keeners who get their soundbites from them, progress means openly and loudly mocking people of faith because, well, religions are silly, backward, and outdated, especially, of course, Western religions. This crowd has been setting the tone for more and more of our young people. Well, here you find me again: Guilty as charged.

I used to value dialogue: especially dialogue with people who disagree with me. Such a thing hardly exists now. If I’m in a group with American women present, and I attempt to clarify or discuss some point, I’m “mansplaining”. Online, if I point out how Barack Obama’s pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate policies undermined his legacy, I’m “supporting white supremacists” (as I just learned today, from a friend of many years, a poet and professor actually, who informed me of this, then summarily unfriended and blocked me). Never mind that I voted for Obama twice, as my friend himself knows, never mind that I blogged for years in his favor--no, being white, I’m “racist” for daring to criticize our former president’s actual policies.

This professor friend, or ex-friend, would he unfriend black Obama critic Cornel West? I don’t know. Maybe he already has. You know: Cornel West--self-hating black man.

Then there’s the LGBT crowd, which has really changed in recent years. I was an ally of theirs in the late 1980s and 90s, even heading into this new century. I treat gays and lesbians with respect, have gay friends I openly admire, gay and lesbian writers I recognize as geniuses, but it matters nothing. If I disagree with one point on their ever-growing list of rainbow dogmas, I’m a “bigot” who must be run out of polite society, a hater who deserves to lose his career.

I know what I’m talking about here. If I were still living and teaching in the States rather than overseas (I’m an American teacher working expat) they likely could destroy my career. Which is a sad commentary on what has become of our civil liberties.

What all these so-called progressives now praise as “diversity”--sorry to break it to you, but it’s not diversity at all. It’s a dogmatic new groupthink. It’s rank authoritarianism. What they mean when they say this word, in this new climate, is something like: “Agree with us on everything, sing our praises 24/7, or you’re out. We will ruin you.

Well, here I am. Officially Out. Guilty as charged. Bring it on.

After years of these hard-edged double standards, my old belief in tolerance and pluralism is starting to wear thin. Can you blame me? Civil discourse with these people has grown impossible. All they want to do is play identity politics, and play it as a zero sum game. Bizarrely, this has become their whole idea of the left. They haven’t learned a thing from Donald Trump’s election: why it happened; how they are implicated in it; how they are in no small part responsible for the counter-reaction their behavior has provoked.

Who’s going to tell them what they’re bringing about?

Here’s what I’d tell them, if I had any hopes they’d listen:

If it’s identity politics you want, then identity politics you’ll get.

Do you hear that? Do you understand?

I know you, and even those of you capable of getting my point, you won’t heed the warning; you won't desist from the systematic demonization of your other. And so the new century, perversely, will very likely deliver just what you're conjuring forth. Funny how that works, isn't? I think Hegel would have something to say on it.

Myself I'm saddened to the core to see dialogue die, over and over, and to be forced to write off so many friends because they can't accept actual diversity when they encounter it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hans and Gunther’s Party

Students in E3-5A. Aaron front and center.

Some good vampire stories from the kids in my ZEI class E3-5A. I’ll type out Aaron’s, the best written and organized of them. I made a few small corrections as usual.

The assignment was as follows:


Hans and Gunther are now eleven years old. They are twins. They’re also vampires. They grew up in a castle in Germany, but moved to Taiwan.

Hans and Gunther’s mother wanted them to come to Taiwan because she read in Vampire News that drinking Taiwanese blood is very healthy for vampires. Now they live in a big house on Yangming Mountain and bite as many students as they can.

Hans and Gunther invited some students from ZEI to a party at their house last night. They also invited the teacher, Eric. The two vampire stayed home all day yesterday and prepared for the party.

. . . .

We gave you eight sentences. Write twenty more sentences to finish your composition. Your composition should tell

1) how the vampires prepared for the party;
2) who came to the party and what they talked about;
3) who the vampires bit and who escaped!


Click to read!

In the morning, Hans and Gunther prepared for the party. First, Hans hung lights on the walls. Then he cut the grass. Gunther was busy planting flowers in the garden, like lilies, tulips, roses and tree peonies. Then he set the table.

After they completed their preparation, the stood by the gate to welcome their guests. When the guests arrived, they led them to the dining room.

The party started when all the guests had arrived. They ate every kind of delicious food and talked with each other. They were talking about many kinds of topics, some people talked about their children, some people talked about the weather, and some people talked about the decorations in the vampires’ house.

After dinner, the vampires and their guests watched National Geographic Channel and brought everybody to look around the big house. When the guests were looking around the house, Nick was bitten by alligators when he was in the bathroom. (Hans and Gunther keep alligators there.) The vampire, Hans, sucked Jovia’s blood. And then Gunther cut Alan’s face with a sickle and bit Lucia with his fangs and made her become a vampire.

After the party, everybody was hurt and went back to ZEI. Some of them had become vampires and could not go home safely.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Defending Milo

So CPAC has cancelled Milo’s speaking invitation. Which was predictable enough. Organizers of conservative conferences have their role, Milo has his.

More troubling in my mind is that Simon & Schuster has cancelled his book deal. It’s obvious they’re afraid of backlash, but I think they will regret it. If he doesn’t burn out, Milo almost surely has a brilliant future ahead of him.

In any case, the haters are jumping around in glee. And who has haters like Milo?

I’ve been a fan since I started following him not long ago, around the time Twitter banned him. Yes, I find problems with some of his shtick, but in general I’ve been sympathetic. Such deeply paradoxical characters usually grab my attention, but this one was also managing to play a few important roles at once.

Now in fact I’m even more sympathetic. Because one brilliant blogger, Rachel Fulton Brown, has made clearer what I was responding to--namely the infectious combination in Milo of dangerous truth-telling and being utterly himself, painful contradictions and all. (I came upon this piece via Rod Dreher's blog, where a pitched battle is going on over Milo as conservative.)

Brown begins as follows:

Everybody hates a bully, or so we say. Yesterday, the national media bullied into silence a young man who had risen to fame speaking to audiences of young women and men about the lies that the grown-ups had told them for decades.

Lies about the relationship between women and men. That women don't need men. That all men are potential rapists. That women should aspire to something other than motherhood or they are wasting their lives. That women should like casual sex with strangers, hooking up just for the sake of the orgasm. That the children will be fine if their parents divorce. That abortion is morally good.

Everyone knows these are lies. The young woman who wakes up in the morning having lost her virginity to a man who isn't there and will not marry her. The young man who is tempted into exciting and transgressive sex with an older man and finds himself trapped by his desire in a lifestyle he cannot leave. The young woman who spends her most fertile years working in a career that leaves her childless at forty because she can no longer conceive and has no husband. The young man who has no ambition to work because he has no wife to care for or children to feed.

But the grown-ups tell them to shut up, not to complain. Don't they know how awful it is that women don't earn as much over the course of their lifetime as men? Don't they know that men are still the ones with all the power, even though the number of men completing higher education has continued to drop? Don't they know that nobody should be able to force a woman to bear a child she does not want, even if she did enjoy the sex by which the child was conceived?

And then a young man comes along and tells them, they were right all along. The young women wanted to be pretty, not grotesquely overweight. The young men wanted to be strong and vigorous and manly. The young women wanted babies as well as careers, and were willing to make adjustments to their ambition in order to stay home with their children. The young men wanted to be challenged to be gentlemanly and chivalrous.

"Gender roles work," the young man told them. "Feminism is cancer. Abortion is murder." And the young women and men cheered for him, because they loved him for telling the truth.

But one really must read the whole thing. Her piece only gets better. Bravissimo, Rachel!

Milo has himself explained his taped remarks that led to the book and speaking cancellations, and I think he’s being honest. His words on that taped segment moved into dangerous territory, as he has acknowledged, but I don’t think the interpretation put on them by many who only hear the clips stands up to the context Milo’s other work provides.

I trust Milo’s honesty. It’s in some ways his main salient characteristic, the very reason he is such a paradox, and surely the reason he drives our fake-ass left out of their minds.

We need Milo, more Milos, if only to help fight the authoritarian poison being pushed by SJWs and their millions of brainwashed cheerleaders. Nobody is fighting this fight as well as he has. This is his key role.

But he has another important role, though it’s hardly noticed. If it weren’t for the somewhat novel fact that this time it is a gay man taking up this persona, he’d be more easily recognized as a 21st-century version of a central Western type: the court jester, the Rabelaisian carnivalesque joker, a character like Robert Browning’s “Fra Lippo Lippi”. These characters, in their willingness to boldly embody the most troubling paradoxes--central among which the paradox that we are spiritual beings trapped in flesh--are a necessary part of any vibrant Western culture. As Catholic "with issues", Milo is playing this role, though, as I say, the fact has so far gone unnoticed.

Milo’s “dangers” are a sign of life, and compared to the dangers represented in the SJW crowd, they’re small beer.

Or in other words: Fascist my ass.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Barronelle Stutzman Case: Shame on the Washington Supreme Court

I’m deeply disturbed by the logical ineptitude of our courts whenever the case concerns religious liberty vs. LGBT rights.

Predictably, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, the beleaguered 72-year-old florist who thought her religious liberty counted for something in America. I’ve been following this case since the beginning, and it has sickened me since the beginning. (Cf. Gay Marriage and the Bigotry of American Liberals).

Consider this element of the state’s argument against Stutzman, as reported in the CBS News piece on Stutzman’s court loss:

But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

“As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism,” the opinion said.

As even a smidgin of thinking would reveal, the state is making a false parallel here. Stutzman's religious beliefs would never in any case include the tenet that Muslims or atheists cannot marry. So of course making flowers for such weddings wouldn't offend against her faith regardless of what she thought of Islam or atheism. But her faith does include a basic tenet that she has bravely refused to offend against. Namely: Marriage is by definition between man and woman.

Amazingly, the Washington Supreme Court is lacking in basic ability to distinguish between categories necessary for even understanding the case. Such inability to think in such a body can only have two explanations: it’s either a result of rank stupidity or ideological animus. It’s pretty clear which we’re dealing with here.

And consider this:

Gov. Jay Inslee lauded Thursday’s ruling, saying it was “in favor of equality for all Washingtonians.”

“By ruling that intolerance based on sexual orientation is unlawful, the Court affirmed that Washington state will remain a place where no one can be discriminated against because of who they love,” Inslee said in a written statement.

Uh-huh. What in the hell is he talking about? Stutzman has never discriminated against anyone “because of who they love”. What she has done is simply refuse to make the flowers for a wedding she considers impermissible. Which is something completely different. For years she had been arranging flowers for Rob Ingersoll, the gay man suing her, all the while knowing he loved other men. In short, she never rejected the person because of what he was, but simply refused to take part in a wedding that her religion considered an offense against the meaning of marriage.

The right of the customer to be served regardless of who he is or how he lives should in the Stutzman case be recognized as secondary to the right of religious liberty: the right of the person of faith not to be compelled into actions that offend against that faith.

Shame on our courts. That our secular government, out of the blue, decided to redefine marriage does not entail that all citizens must agree on the redefinition. American laws are capable of balancing the rights of LGBT people and the rights of religious conservatives. So far, our courts have failed dismally in finding this balance.

Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out my Idiocy, Ltd.. Dryest humor in the west.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ENDGAME: Why I’m finished with our liberal left

Maybe you’ve noticed this too.

I'm fifty now, and have been on the left my whole life. I remember clearly in the '90s and early 2000s how the single most infuriating thing about debating with Republicans was that they never allowed the conversation to stay on the point under discussion. Whenever you'd get them anywhere near giving a clear answer on something, or recognizing the simple facts you'd raised, they'd quick shift to some tangential issue: "But what about . . . ?" The constant derailment was maddening.

Just this week I've realized how many hours during the past year I've fallen into discussions just like this with Democrats. I've been voting Democrat my whole life, and used to have substantive policy discussions with other Democrats around me. But for a long time now, I keep running into fellow Democrats who are almost zombielike in the mechanical way they deflect. Jittery bullshit machines. It's the same runaround I used to face with hardcore Republicans. The same nervous refusal to get anywhere near certain facts. And worst of all: it feels the same.

Which has finally convinced me of something I began to suspect around 2012. Democrats are the new Republicans. Standard issue GOP Republicans are still the old Republicans, I’d say. But Democrats are the new dumb kids on the block.

Of course now the Democratic topic du jour is the horror of Trump, of his every step and move and utterance. I agree with them on many of these things, but not all. But the key thing they still refuse to recognize: It was our own party’s choice to run Clinton that got Trump elected. It was our own party’s systematic snubbing of Bernie Sanders that led to Clinton’s win in the primaries.

As for Trump himself, putting aside the very serious flaws in his character, which may well prove fatal to his administration, the fact is he has already done three things that should immensely please the left: he summarily killed TPP, he granted union leaders a more cordial and substantive meeting than any Democratic president has given them in decades, and he signed an executive order banning his administration staff from lobbying for five years after their tenure is up.

Would Hillary have dared do any of these things? I highly doubt it. Yet each of them, looked at in itself, is a step in the right direction for American workers and government. Amazingly, on these three fronts Trump is actually to the left of Obama or Clinton.

I say I’ve voted Democrat my whole life, but I did not vote for Clinton this time. I just couldn't. The gulf has grown too vast. In fact I can hardly even talk to lifelong Dem friends about politics these days. They are unhinged. I don't see it as a symptom of fear in the face of Trump either. I see it as a new, uncanny, almost essentialist self-righteousness beyond argument. They assume they were "right", are "right" and will always be "right". Just because they are themselves.

And no, in case you were wondering, I did not vote for Trump either. But note: I do not regret not voting for Hillary. Not a bit.

What has happened to the party I long supported? I’m disgusted at the shallowness of political discussions among most Dems. Everything is identity politics and SJW cant. As for any substantive vision of America as a nation of particular people with a tradition and history, forget it. The only history they see is the history of grievances of this or that identity group. Some of those groups have real grievances, yes; others however are clearly just riding the grievance cart for all its worth. While growing shriller and more arrogant with each passing year.

And regarding the serious issues, namely the hollowing out of the working class and the corporatization of everything, it’s clearly all peripheral to them. They’re almost uniquely interested in ensuring people don’t say mean things, or offend people through “microaggressions”, or question this or that sub-doctrine of this or that SJW orthodoxy on immigration, LGBT rights, trans bathrooms, whatever. If you don’t agree with the whole list of their established doctrines, they look at you askance and immediately start calling you names.

The supposed left party in my country is no longer even on the left. It has become little more than a virtue-signaling gaggle of corporate puppets. And its full-throated adoption of neocon foreign policy makes it harder than ever to distinguish it from the original neocons around George W. Bush.

Last year much of the talk before the election centered on choosing the “lesser of two evils”. My thinking on this question hasn’t changed. Where Trump represents a kind of flailing, all-too-human evil, Clinton represents an incremental, methodical evil: the evil of a steady corporate takeover of what was once a democratic nation and is hardly so any longer.

But the corporate corruption of the Democratic Party is obvious and has been widely discussed. What hasn't been so discussed is the intellectual corruption of so many Democratic voters and media talking heads. I just don't see any hope for many of these folks. They have become machine-like in their knee-jerk reactions. This tangible shift, starting around 2012, has pushed me steadily away from this American “left”. I don’t share their social vision, I don’t share their corporate globalizing plans (as in TPP, now thankfully obsolete) and I don’t share their newfound hatred of open debate and free speech. It is this gang that poses the real authoritarian threat to our republic, more so even than Donald Trump. Which is saying something.

I am no longer with them. I am actually glad they got their asses kicked in 2016. I will not be helping them in word or vote from here on out.

Check out my book Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.