Fear and loathing at Fox News

Keith Ablow is in many ways an easy target. The psychiatrist and Fox News contributor published a column a little over a month ago demanding an “American jihad” that would “spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government.” It’s not the first time Ablow, who gained notoriety for suggesting that the president mismanaged the debt ceiling crisis because of daddy issues, has sounded vaguely unhinged. Nor is he the only regular Fox correspondent to voice absurd views on foreign policy.

Conservative critics of Fox tend to argue that it gives the right a bad name. There’s something to that, as anyone who has ever had to talk about Ablow, Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly with a liberal friend knows all too well. I think, however, that these figures and their cheerleaders represent a much deeper problem with Fox: its brand of conservatism is not in the least conservative. Continue reading Fear and loathing at Fox News

Are we proving Marx right?

This commonplace is dedicated to our comrades at Jacobin.

Karl Marx supposed that industrialized capitalism would eventually result in the elimination of labor, Brian Domitrovic explains. “Thanks to capitalism, machines could soon do all useful work.” Without the need to labor, the working class would overthrow the corrupt capitalist class and establish an economy where everyone’s modest needs would be met by technology.

Peter Lawler suggests that Marx’s vision is coming all too true—in a way. Technology—the robots—are taking over more and more of our jobs. The value of labor is in steep decline. More and more, the industrious working class is left with nothing to do. It is not even controversial now to observe that industrial capitalism is overripe and getting rotten. This is the point at which the proletariat was supposed to seize control of the means of production.

Unfortunately for Marx, they show no likelihood of doing so. Continue reading Are we proving Marx right?

Not a Cold Eye

The works of Flannery O’Connor are not for everyone. A fair number of fellow readers that I’ve encountered have been repulsed by her violent style, her grotesque images, and her gothic setting. This is fair enough, I suppose. Some of these readers, though, are discerning enough to recognize her virtues even while not preferring them for themselves. This latter group tend to be religious and literary.

Marilynne Robinson (AP)
Marilynne Robinson (AP)

It was especially disappointing to me, though, to read Marilynne Robinson’s rather cutting remarks towards St. Flannery in her New York Times interview. Frankly, I was shocked that a writer like her—who very much occupies the categories of “religious” and “literary”—should so flatly misunderstand O’Connor. Continue reading Not a Cold Eye

“The church is unhealthily obsessed with sex.”

Part 2 of Will Barrett’s series on the intra-evangelical culture war. Part 1 is here.

To have a decent argument that ends with a bow and a handshake, or maybe even a beer after the crowds have cleared, the parties involved must assume that both sides have come to the debate earnestly and with the best of intentions, even if they haven’t. In other words, both sides need to refrain from blaming the others’ motives for having the discussion in order to focus on the terms of the discussion itself. This limitation is even more important when one or both sides has reason to suspect that the other’s motives are rascally or base. To keep  the conversation from devolving  into tiresome defenses of honor, the arguers must agree to bracket out questions of motives.

New Atheist debaters like Lawrence Krauss and Sam Harris regularly betray either their blissful ignorance of this guideline, or else an amusingly wilful disregard for it, when they regularly open debates over cosmology and first causes with charges that their theistic interlocutors just want to convert the audience to their chosen religion instead of helping them think for themselves. They probably do, but that is beside the point.

In the intra-evangelical culture wars, the liberal camp has lately displayed a wanton disregard for this first principle of debate whenever sex is the topic of discussion. Continue reading “The church is unhealthily obsessed with sex.”

Souls made to order

Pattaramon Chanbua, a Thai surrogate mother, was in the news when the couple who hired her to carry what turned out to be twin children refused to take one of the children, who has Down syndrome, or remit the payment they had agreed upon. Continue reading Souls made to order

Hipster liturgists: or, Why I am an Episcopalian

There is a phenomenon which you have probably heard about if you are an evangelical Christian, which is that Young People These Days Are Really Into Liturgy.

Found on Steve Woodworth's page (click for link)
The Liturgical Hipster (found at Steve Woodworth’s blog)

Christianity Today may be responsible for this perception, since there has been a trend among its younger writers to promote liturgical forms of worship.  Now, the backlash has begun. In an online Christianity Today piece which basic anti-liturgical protestants are no doubt posting all over Facebook, writer Kirsten Guidero paints a picture of a liturgical service full of people who take Holy Communion and then hours later are back on the streets murdering people:

The service was undeniably beautiful. Dedicated pastors and volunteers had planned it for weeks. There were banners, incense, and altar decorations. The sanctuary was packed: more than 1,000 folks overflowed the seats, latecomers standing along the sides and back. The congregation participated with gusto. But after receiving Communion, they marched out of the sanctuary. By the closing hymn, only a few folks dotted the pews that just five minutes before had been filled to bursting.

Some left to cram in work, but many in this particular group were on their way to that night’s parties. In another five hours, many would be passed out on the couches of friends or strangers, a few would be rushed by ambulance for alcohol poisoning treatment, and, most horrific, some would be sexually assaulting their peers or suffering such violence. It was the weekend, and the community in question was a Christian university.

Now if any fool had actually been going around claiming that “liturgy” was going to replace discipleship, I can see why we would be having this conversation. Except precisely nobody is that stupid. Continue reading Hipster liturgists: or, Why I am an Episcopalian

The unpatriotic, double-plus ungood cowardice of Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden is a wicked person, our elite masters and thoughtcrime enforcers agree:  a hypocrite who, having pledged himself to the preservation of America’s national security apparatus, has betrayed his trust by exposing its corruption. Continue reading The unpatriotic, double-plus ungood cowardice of Edward Snowden

Would Jesus turn water into wine at a same-sex wedding?

Marie Antoinette must be ghostwriting editorials and judicial opinions now, because all we hear from the bench or on the internet these days is let them eat cake. Yes, today’s pundits and jurists can think of no more dangerous threat to democracy than a few confectioners who don’t want to provide same-sex couples with the flavorless monument to conspicuous consumption that is every American couple’s dream. Continue reading Would Jesus turn water into wine at a same-sex wedding?

Why we can’t outgrow church: an ecclesiology of suffering

Donald Miller responded to his critics today, suggesting that he is one of many Christian leaders he knows who, according to him, do not attend church. What a fascinating morsel of gossip, casually tossed to the salivating watchdogs. Tell us more, Don!

Besides being a petty example of the “but all my friends are doing it, Mom” excuse, this reasoning does little except to suggest one more reason evangelicalism is in trouble. Continue reading Why we can’t outgrow church: an ecclesiology of suffering

The Eternal Adolescence of the Libertarian Mind

There is a time in a young man’s life when Reason, the pure, demanding goddess, awakens, shining in her dawn with all the certainty of early faith.

As he matures, other voices arise to balance Reason’s demands, lest she drive him to inhuman lengths of rationalization. Reason should not be a master; she is a servant who does her best work in the cause of Truth and Love.

Not long ago, when I was a young teenager, I became a Calvinist through participating in online forums, which I think is also where most young libertarians are minted. The guiding principle of Calvinism is God’s total sovereignty over all that is and everything that happens. Libertarianism’s hardly less absolute doctrine is the utter sovereignty of the individual over himself, and the injustice of all forms of compulsion.

Looking back, I have been able to moderate my Calvinism, even to the point of admitting the reality of human free agency. In the same way, most young libertarians mature as they gain experience with other people and the world they live in. Opinions mellow rather than changing entirely.

But some never grow up.

This week, Catholic libertarian journalist Tim Carney wrote an endorsement of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, pointing out the Attorney General’s consistent stance on personal and economic freedom issues, even to the point of opposing big business interests who collude with the government, opposing busybody laws like smoking bans, suing the Feds over the unaffordable healthcare bill, and being guardedly open to legalizing marijuana.

Predictably, Internet libertarians tried to hack Carney to pieces. They claim the candidate is dangerous on “social issues.”

Image: outline of a cannabis leaf
The Libertarian Sacrament

These libertarians have all the depth of teenage potheads, and are almost as feeble-minded. They are remarkably gullible. They are always credulously repeating left-wing slanders against conservatives who supposedly want to “ban” contraception, as if that were even a remote political possibility. They are unserious and dishonest.

As Carney points out, libertarians seem content to throw away tangible political goods for imaginary hypothetical gains. Robert Sarvis will never get enough votes to give Virginia libertarians a strong third-party influence; meanwhile, in effectively voting for Terry McAuliffe, libertarians will serve themselves a nice big dose of the cronyism, taxes, and corruption they hate.

Lying, cheating, and slandering are the well-known tools of today’s Left, which has no principles besides a desire to consolidate all powers in a war against good. Libertarianism, though, is based on principles, and one of these is the principle of prudence. The fractious, self-destructive libertarian attitude is especially unbecoming.

If Libertarians wish to gain more political influence and respect, they are doing it wrong. Libertarian hero Ron Paul had the right idea. By staying in the Republican Party, he slowly developed a libertarian grassroots GOP base in Virginia, as we saw in the 2011 Republican presidential primary, where he gathered a significant minority of the vote. I voted for him myself.

This is the reason the Tea Party or the Christian Right is so scary to the Left: They have strategically decided to work within the Republican establishment to nudge the party in a certain direction. They pick fights and make a stink about the issues, but they also usually play ball and deliver the votes. With patience and realism, libertarians too could be winners in this game.

But the libertarian imagination is in a state of arrested development, occupying a merely imaginary world, unable to embrace the personal realities of society and politics.

It is true that the two-party system is flawed and corrupt. But to separate from a party does nothing but nullify any influence you might have had within it. I admire, in theory, the multi-party parliamentary systems of Europe, with their coalition governments formed through alliances of larger parties with smaller, issue-based voting blocs. Greens, Socialists, and far-right groups are not entirely shut out of the political process, as they more or less are in the U.S. But our situation is different. Until we rewrite our constitution, wishing we could be a European republic is a waste of time.

Another difference with American splinter groups is that they tend to be in the thrall of sexual ideology to a degree that their Continental counterparts are not. A French socialist can be strongly pro-family, oppose abortion and marriage revisionism without being ostracized. In America, it is practically impossible to have any kind of respect as a Green, a socialist, or even a Libertarian, without speaking the required shibboleths of abortion “rights” and “gay marriage.” This extremism drives away people of strong morals who would otherwise be sympathetic to the party’s central concerns.

Let us be honest. “Social issues” is the evasive Libertarian code for Cuccinelli’s sincerely-held traditional Christian beliefs about sexuality, and the Libertarian opposition to those beliefs. They appear to think that opposing Cuccinelli’s religious beliefs is even more important than making progress toward the positive libertarian value of personal freedom.

The essence of this kind of libertarianism is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

These libertarians are Russell Kirk’s chirping sectaries. They are the cracked reeds of the political swamp, distinguished only by the noise of their continual chatter.

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The writer does not hereby endorse any political candidate or party.