How Pat Buchanan Lost the Culture War, in 3 Easy Lessons

“In traditional morality, what Weiner did, engage in immoral and squalid behavior, should result in permanent shame and instant removal from any position of honor. . . . The national reaction to Anthony Weiner, the clamor that he get out of the House now, to which the Democratic Party is yielding, testifies to the enduring moral health of the nation.

“The culture war is not yet wholly lost.”

— Pat Buchanan: “Why Weiner’s Going Under the Bus” (June 14, 2011, Townhall.com)

“. . . It is the moral convictions of the candidate that make this an interesting race for all Americans. For [Judge Roy] Moore is a social conservative of a species that is almost extinct in Washington. . . . Early Christians accepted martyrdom rather than obey laws of the Caesars and burn incense to the gods of Rome. . . . Christianity and the moral truths it has taught for 2,000 years have been deposed from the pre-eminent position they held until after World War II, and are now rejected as a source of law. They have been replaced by the tenets of a secular humanism that is the prevailing orthodoxy of our new cultural, social and intellectual elites.

“If elected, Judge Moore, one imagines, will not be rendering respectfully unto the new Caesar.”

— Pat Buchanan: “When Judge Roy Moore Comes to Washington” (September 29, 2017, The American Conservative)

“Why would Christian conservatives in good conscience go to the polls on December 12 and vote for Judge Roy Moore, despite the charges of sexual misconduct with teenagers leveled against him?

“Answer: That Alabama Senate race could determine whether Roe v. Wade is overturned. . . .

“Hence, both Trump, by whom he nominates, and a Republican Senate, with its power to confirm with 51 votes, are indispensable if we are to end judicial dictatorship in America.

“And 2018 is the crucial year.”

—Pat Buchanan, “Why Many Christian Conservatives Support Roy Moore” (November 28, 2017: The American Conservative)

Render unto Caesar, indeed.

Featured image: “Smoke Plume” by Flickr user William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

Reflections on World Pride Madrid 2017

Last summer my hometown, Madrid, was the center of the world in terms of gay pride. Every few years a city is chosen to host the main international LGBT event and it was our turn. What really surprised me this time is that some Spanish newspapers, which have been at the forefront of the gay rights struggle for decades and which do not hesitate to publish lists of dangerous homophobes, openly reported about some Spanish public hospitals having decided to stockpile vast amounts of anti-HIV pills as a precaution; about many shopkeepers and bar tenders in downtown Madrid who simply chose to shut down early, because the whole city had turned into a massive binge drinking party; or criticising our leftist mayor for having announced that there would be no fines for excess of noise, given the occasion. Even more surprisingly, a lengthy article in the liberal El Mundo informed about gay pubs where women and transvestites were not allowed and about the increasing number of “homophobic” homosexuals, who just cannot stand the aesthetics and eccentricities of gay pride parades and even reject the movement against homophobia, altogether. Perhaps it is no longer taboo to discuss certain things. In this emerging spirit of freedom, that is what I would like to do here.

Growing up way too straight

I grew up in a definitely homophobic environment, where the slang and obscene terms used to refer to homosexuals were actually synonyms for “coward” and “cowardice” in a more brutal way than the English word “sissy.” In fact, after a stint in the army, I realized how interchangeable the expressions “being a real man” and “being a real sex machine” were, to many of my peers, in practically every locker room conversation I witnessed. I wonder if any gay people indulge in the same kind of dirty talk, but it seems that some strongly reject just being assimilated to supposedly unmanly “fairies” or “queers”.

To be perfectly honest, if such a thing as gay aesthetics exists, I do not dislike it any more than I dislike Duchamp. Nevertheless, though I do not reject homosexuals nor judge homosexual inclinations, I do reject acts of homosexual sex. But I do not think I deserve to be numbered among the dangerous homophobes, because practices such as anal sex or mutual masturbation are in no way the patrimony of the LGBT community.

Rejecting homophobia and homosexual sex

Someone may reply that not rejecting inclinations should inevitably lead to accepting the acts which logically proceed from those inclinations. I do not buy that. Having an inclination does not say anything about the inclination itself, nor about what it is to which you are inclined. Persons and inclinations are not to be judged. Actions are. Inclinations are not morally right or wrong in themselves, and when we refer to a certain inclination as a negativity, we actually mean that whoever has that inclination experiences more difficulties behaving in a certain way than someone without it. Just that. There are selfish people and selfless people, but the existence of more or less selfish individuals is hardly to be taken into account in a discussion of the appealing character of generosity. Rather, it makes the virtue that much more sublime when you encounter it. The fact that you have an inclination to have sex with a man — or with a woman — or to have sex in an “unconventional” way, does not make these inclinations good or bad, nor does it say anything about the corresponding sexual acts. I am fed up with these movies where somebody says “that is not who I am” or “we have forgotten who we really are.” As if being a third generation member of the Gambino Family meant that being a mobster is good — or bad. Being Sicilian does not make you a “made man,” being Arab does not make you a Muslim, and being homosexual does not imply that you practice sodomy. If anything it is our actions which define who we are, not the other way around. “Stupid is as stupid does,” Forrest Gump’s mum used to say.

Furthermore, there have always been homosexuals who have not practiced anal sex because they thought it was wrong, and there have always been heterosexual individuals who have practiced anal sex with other men, for whatever reason: because there were not any women available in their prison cell or because they were so bored that they wanted to try something new, exciting and forbidden. You are not supposed to have anal sex just for being homosexual anymore than you are supposed to have “vaginal” sex, just because you are heterosexual. Celibacy has been a perfectly honorable option in various cultures, throughout history.

Homosexuality is not about love … necessarily

But — you cannot foresee who you are going to fall in love with! Being homosexual is about love! No, being homosexual is not about love. Being human is about love. Looking back, I have truly loved many more men than women in my life. That does not make me a homosexual, nor does it provide any information about my sex life. A lustful character in a García Márquez novel, who had never had sex outside a brothel, cannot be said to have loved a single day in his life.

Being human is about love, and love can manifest itself in manifold ways. As someone once said: no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Love can be evidenced by listening, by smiling, by working, by risking one’s life dragging a wounded comrade out of a trench, and by the agonizing pangs of giving birth even without anesthesia. In all these actions we make use of our body to show love, to “make love.” It could not be otherwise because humans, being material beings, cannot do anything — physically or spiritually — without their bodies. It just happens that, for whatever reason, the act of genital penetration and sexual unity is so plastic, so evident, that “making love” has become a synonym for having sex. Still, anybody who is fond of Hollywood’s classics remembers that, not so long ago, “making love” to someone did not necessarily mean “banging” them.

Cameron Díaz was right when, right before crashing her car in Vanilla Sky, she confessed to Tom Cruise: “When you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise, whether you do or not.” Genital intercourse is a human act which has, in itself, several purposes and meanings. If it is deprived of any of them, it loses all or part of its humanity. Sexual intercourse calls for freedom, love, pleasure and openness to life, in order to be entirely human, perfect in its humanity. The sexual acts of no other creature on earth comply with these four conditions. Sexual intercourse can be the product of a rational choice or of a simple animal instinct, as in an involuntary erection. Sexual intercourse can be a way to demonstrate love or sheer selfishness, as in a drunken Friday night random encounter. It can be a way to achieve consensual pleasure or to inflict pain, as in an act of rape. It can be a way to establish a family or to prevent one, as in contraception.

I can understand that homosexual practices can be the means to obtain pleasure and manifest sincere love, but they are by nature closed to the creation of new life, and that makes them less than human, no matter how harsh this sounds. It came as no surprise that Rowan Williams, before becoming the most prominent figure in the Anglican Communion, wrote that a Church which had embraced contraception — as his Church had — could not reject homosexuality nor homosexual relations. In my view, the best reason — not the only one — why fornication is wrong is that it is optimal for a child to be born into a full-fledged family. Any orphan knows that. But if sex can be artificially closed to life, I would like someone to explain to me why criticizing fornication (or homosexuality) is something other than a prudish and empty kind of criticism.

Why is it wrong? I’m not hurting anyone

For someone like me, not raised in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, it is still relatively shocking to hear the Benthamite mantra “I am not hurting anyone” as a justification for any kind of consensual sex or for any of those acts or conducts which are always falsely believed to start and end in the agent who performs such behavior, allegedly without consequences for the rest of the world. Individual actions always have consequences for the community. The community is now simply the entire world. Furthermore, pleasure and pain, as synonyms for good and bad are just not acceptable, because the history of mankind is the history of those men and women who have sacrificed their well-being and undergone privation and pain for the well-being of others — as well as the history of those who have not, and whose names are remembered with disgust, if at all.

The fact that a gay couple may truly love each other does not force me to approve of gay sex in the name of love. Actually, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual acts has greatly devalued friendship as a man-to-man form of love. So much so that, nowadays, the only way to explain why Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson live together in a new soap opera, without being college roommates, is by hinting at the possibility that they are actually a gay couple, or by making jokes about that possibility. Yet when Robert De Niro says “I love you, Nick” to Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter, as as Walken’s character puts a gun to his own head, we know we are watching a great story about friendship, not Brokeback Mountain.

There is to my mind no love more passionate than the love of a mother for her child, and the best way in cinema to show an audience how twisted and mean a woman on screen is, is by implying that she is sexually attracted to her son, as with Meryl Streep’s character in The Manchurian Candidate. Would it be all right for a mother to have sex with her child if they use protection, so as to avoid a genetically harmed baby? Sexual attraction is not bad in itself, but it does not justify anything.

Discrimination is about discrimination, not about sex

Accepting homosexual acts as a way to stop discrimination and violence against homosexuals is not acceptable, either. It would be like doing away with the principle of separation between Church and State, in order to stop Islamophobic attacks. Manifesting your opposition to homosexual acts does not make you remotely responsible for homophobic violence, in the same way that opposing Marxists or Marxism does not make you a Nazi. The fact that I resist fornication does not mean that I hate heterosexual couples and the fact that I resist masturbation does not mean that I hate myself.

Homosexuality is about identity, some people say, and identity is today’s magic word, like class, party, king and country were magic words in the past, too. Law and society as a whole should revolve around our innate or chosen identity, they say. By the way, it seems that the gay rights movement has not yet decided on a libertarian strategy (i.e. gays ‘choose’ to be what they are), or on a “natural law” strategy (i.e. gays are always ‘born that way’).

Well, I do not buy the identity story, either. There are plenty of key elements in our identity which we do not choose. We do not choose to exist, although some intone the sophism that if we have the right-to-live we also have the right-not-to-live. We do not choose our parents, nor our ethnic group, not even our linguistic group, nor the place where we are born, which will determine much of our life. Our identity has many legal repercussions, and the law is aware of that. We do not choose our name but the law regulates the use of that name, as well as the very scarce possibilities to change it, which usually hinge around the name by which those around us know us, not around the name by which we would like others to know us.

Our identity, our full identity, including our gender, has an impact on society and the law responds to that impact. Law does not regulate our name to give us the pleasure of “being who we really are.” We can have that pleasure without the law. There are laws on names because it is tremendously useful for the community to be able to identify its members with a word, or with a couple of words and the corresponding legal obligations ensue. To pretend that law and society should adapt themselves to a hedonistic view of identity and not the other way around is to ignore what law and society are.

A family is a family and a koala is a koala

Families existed millions of years before states and state law were born. States did not suddenly decide to legislate on marriage because they somehow realized how good it was for two people to mate. Consensual mating is devoid of any significance, in the eyes of the law. Legislation on marriage arouse out of the relevance of marriage for society, not for the individual, and a large part of that relevance is the fact that marriages naturally led to families and families — not couples — are the basic social and economic unit. If procreation was not involved in marriage, the law would have never paid any attention to marriage, as it has never paid any attention to friendship. If two friends establish a business partnership, the law may decide to regulate partnerships, never friendship. If marriage, as an institution, did not lead to children, family law would not exist, only contract law. Regulating gay couples is just one more step in the recent tendency of legislative bodies to make laws that are simply pointless gestures, fodder for potential voters, but which do not serve any social need, whatsoever.

The fight for gay marriage is, nevertheless, not just about identity. Gay marriage is not about two men or two women who have made a life love commitment and want law and society to acknowledge their ‘identity’ as a loving couple. Gay marriage is not about satisfying a need to be together because, when gay marriage became the spearhead of the gay rights movement, most gay couples already lived their lives unmolested — at least in the West — and millions of young heterosexual couples had simply refused to believe that marriage was something needed, let alone desirable, in order to have legitimate sexual pleasure or in order to be able to move in with your boyfriend without making a scandal or just in order to be happy. In fact, many people had already realized that it was much harder to terminate a tenancy agreement than a marriage covenant. Is that really the kind of relationship that the gay community was willing to fight for?

The “free love movement” allegedly started as a battle to remove silly conventionalisms which prevented people from truly loving each other. It has ended by simply declaring that consent between those who engage in sexual intercourse is the only needed or tolerable ethical rule. That is why, if you have sex with an eighteen year old, you may be called a hero. If you have sex with a seventeen year old, you may be called a monster. Love is absolutely absent from the equation. Free love has become free sex and selfishness is not a vice nor a virtue, anymore. It is a cult.

The gay marriage struggle is actually about giving visibility to the gay movement and taking advantage of the little prestige that marriage still has, maybe because of insipid romantic comedies which end with a corny wedding cake and make millions in the box office. Gay marriage is about the idea that the only way to stop homophobic aggression and discrimination is by making everybody accept — at least, in public — that homosexuality and homosexual acts are perfectly OK, as if the decriminalization of adultery would have taken place any sooner, had lawmakers been forced to declare that adultery or polygamy were basic human rights. Nevertheless, the truth is that the decriminalization of adultery (where it was a criminal offense) had nothing to do with preventing discrimination or violence against adulterous men, or against farmers in Utah.

The age of feelings

Some of the abovementioned opinions (yes, they are only opinions) may be hard to swallow but this is because we live in “the age of feelings” as Robert P. George brilliantly puts it. Something is true if I feel it is true and, it is only true with respect to myself. As Machado, the great poet of Castile, wrote: “Your truth? No, the truth. And come with me to search for it. You can keep yours.”

Sex as a human right has been given a proper, decent sounding name: reproductive rights; but it must be taken into account that the contemporary notion of individual rights is just that of a sphere of power, whose only limit is the power of others. Rights are no longer the legally protected capacity to pursue a goal which is deemed to be good and socially relevant, in accordance with a given set of values. Sadly, sex is just one such sphere of power, nowadays.

Pleasure may now be the only objective of our lives and sex seems to be one of the most attractive kinds of pleasure. Nevertheless, let us be honest. Lust is like addiction to heroin. The first shot is just amazing but, although the pleasurable vertigo of that primordial burst, which only lasts for a few seconds, does not cease to decrease, the memories of that original “trip” stay stuck in the back of our minds, while our body consumes itself and our capacity to love withers, choked by desire first and by boredom, later. We know that something is wrong but we actually get annoyed at those good friends who eventually tell us that it is just not worth it, man, just not worth it.

 

Featured image: “Carousel reflection” by Börkur Sigurbjörnsson (CC-BY-2.0)

How to Sneer

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to win an argument without actually having to make an argument? Arguments, after all, require a lot of work. They demand facts and logic. And to really argue well—in the style of Socrates or Aquinas, for instance—requires treating one’s interlocutor with charity.

Sneering, by comparison, is easy. There’s no need for carefully constructed syllogisms or verifiable facts. And a properly-wielded sneer can be more powerful than a sound argument. Rather than just silencing an opponent, it sends them whimpering for the nearest exit.

For practical lessons on sneering, look no further than a recent Baffler article by Jessa Crispin, entitled “Maiden America.” The target of Crispin’s sneering is evangelical “purity culture” in general, and “purity balls” in particular—those father/daughter events intended to celebrate and encourage sexual abstinence before marriage.

Crispin clearly disapproves of purity balls, and she wants you to disapprove of them too. Take a moment to see how she does it. You’ll learn the fine art of sneering in 4 easy lessons.

Lesson #1: Lean in to your disgust

To excel at this first lesson, you may find it helpful to emulate a schoolyard bully. Mock anything that seems strange. For example, note how Crispin describes a typical purity ball. “It’s hard to say which is stranger, that grown men have primped themselves up for a middle-school dance or that each couple is father and daughter, here to make ardent sexual declarations to one another.”

The abuse use of language is key here. These grown men didn’t just get dressed for the event. They “primped” themselves. And while it isn’t strange for children to be in the company of their parents, Crispin finds a way to make it sound disgusting. They are couples, making ardent sexual declarations to one another. Eww.

Lesson #2: Pathologize disagreement

The targets of your sneering aren’t just wrong. They are suffering from a disorder. For example: “Purity balls are the ritual high feasts . . . in which a whole nation of dads, including our presidents, obsess over the ins and outs of their daughters’ sexual organs.”

Did you catch that? They aren’t just concerned. They’re “obsessed.” There’s something deeply wrong with them. The phrase, “daughters’ sexual organs” is a nice touch. Sure, it’s baseless, but it further insinuates that these dads’ interest in their daughters is incestuous. And Crispin surely deserves bonus points for the lewdly suggestive “ins and outs.”

Get the hang of lesson #2 by practicing on unsuspecting townspeople:

  • Farmers are obsessed with the sex lives of barnyard animals.
  • Teachers are weirdly fixated on other people’s children.
  • Hospice nurses have some sort of fetish for the frail bodies of the dying.

Lesson #3: Confidence!

Now that you’ve decimated your targets with mockery and accusations of psychological disorder, it’s time to throw some facts at them. Unlike in traditional debate, these facts needn’t be true—but they just need to be delivered with a heavy dose of confidence. Otherwise, onlookers might suspect that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Again, Crispin provides a perfect example: “The idea of sexual purity was a relatively late addition to Christian doctrine.”

Just take a moment to admire that sentence. Imagine what confidence it must take, not just to say such a thing, but to print it in a national magazine! Crispin is on a roll!

Keep in mind that the people she’s writing about are Christians, whose religion is concerned with sexual purity. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll know that 1 Corinthians says to “flee from sexual immorality,” and that the “body is not meant for sexual immorality.” Or that Hebrews says to “let the marriage bed be undefiled.” Or that Jesus warned against even looking at a woman lustfully. Or that Galatians condemns sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality. Or that Colossians says to put sexual immorality to death. Or that 1 Thessalonians says to “abstain from sexual immorality.” Or that Proverbs says that “he who commits adultery lacks sense.” Or that Ephesians says that “sexual immorality and all impurity” shouldn’t even be named among Christians. Or that committing adultery violates one of the ten commandments. Or that maybe (just maybe) they’ve skimmed the book of Hosea.

Lesson #4: Logical sequences are for dopes

Sneering can help free you from outmoded forms of discourse. (Tip: the word “outmoded” is a valuable tool. It implies that being out of fashion is the same thing as being discredited.)

Crispin give us a solid example of what it looks like to embrace the non-sequitur. After making the outrageous claim that, “sexual purity was a relatively late addition to Christian doctrine,” she substantiates it by saying, “not even priests needed to be celibate until the twelfth century.”

See how that works? Sexual purity didn’t exist until the 12th century because until then priests were allowed to marry. True, the first thing is only tangentially related to the second thing. And if she had checked Wikipedia, she would have learned that clerical celibacy was firmly in place several centuries earlier. But since her targets are still reeling from being called incestuous child molesters, they are unlikely to notice.

So, next time you want to criticize something without the effort of making an argument, try sneering at it. It may prove difficult at first, but take heart. Over time your conscience will atrophy, and these once-outrageous methods will become settled habit.

Featured image: “Father Daughter Dance” by Elizabeth Pfaff (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Virtue Contra Virtù: Reflections on a Claremonster’s Idiocy

by Anti-Hystericus

For several decades, good, earthy conservative thinkers have noted with some disgust the Straussianus Claremonstrius, a peacocking species of intellectual native to the West Coast whose esoteric armchair philosophy, peculiar contortions of Plato and Leo Strauss, and atrocious SoCal fashion choices inspire his Eastern brethren to contest any claims to common ancestry. For when a pseudonymous author at Claremont goes so far as to “read into” a fellow scholar’s “esoteric endorsement of Trump,” it’s safe to say that the moniker of “Straussian” has become wholly detached from its namesake and the pretender is best escorted with mirth from the party.

Pity the joke is on us, however, for the Claremonster is in dead earnest and has used several intelligent words and rhetorical flourishes to make his point. And the viral masses are biting.

Our story begins in medias res aboard the doomed Flight 93, a mere six days before the 15th anniversary of 9/11—an allusion as tasteless as the cheeto-stain of a man whom the piece apparently endorses. We are standing with a semiautomatic to our head, handed a partly-loaded revolver, and told to take a spin or meet our maker. Obviously, a man of virtù, who stands in solidarity with Chicken Little and unflinchingly declares to the world that THE SKY IS FALLING, knows the only option is to put the barrel to his head and pull the trigger, however much those Pollyannaish dorm-room Marxists urge him to guard his moral agency.

The flurry of allusions is as dazzling as it is banal, and amid the hysterics and histrionics one almost fails to note the egregious elision of the received ethical tradition of the West, an ethical tradition which reaches beyond the Machiavellian virtù that delimits the author’s morals, and ties genuine virtue to the moral agency of the person as given by God and made in his image. Brutal, pragmatic, and Machiavellian things tend to have adverse effects on the soul, that tradition holds, and it is one’s soul that one must ultimately give an account for.

It is unclear that the author shares this sensibility (one is tempted to doubt his Christianity, given his appeal to pagan generals and pagan virtù, his worship of the martial above the meek, and the interests of the mass above the dignity of the image of God cast upon our shores). But Christians we are, and Christians we remain, and our vision must ultimately be cast beyond the success of this year’s (or any year’s) political bouts. We have survived a hostile culture before and are capable of doing so again. Our fathers have been fed to lions or coated in pitch and set ablaze without calling on Trump to save them, and the Church has managed to spring back from the setbacks. So forgive us if we’re not ready to declare 2016 the year it all finally unravels. We’ll take their virtue over virtù for now.

Editor’s note: With that Flight 93 analogy, is Claremont’s most subtle brain saying we have to fly America into the ground ourselves so Terrorist Hillary can’t do it? Aside from it being a ridiculous and offensive metaphor to begin with, the result seems undesirable. Since when has anarchy been a conservative value?

Juvenal on gay marriage

Gracchus has given a dowry of four thousand gold pieces
For a horn-player, or one perhaps who plays the straight pipe;
The contract’s witnessed, ‘felicitations!’, a whole crowd
Asked to the feast, the ‘bride’ reclines in the husband’s lap.
O, you princes, is it a censor we need, or a prophet of doom?
Would you find it more terrible, think it more monstrous
Truly, if a woman gave birth to a calf, or a cow to a lamb?
He’s wearing brocade, the long full dress, and the veil,
He who bore the sacred objects tied to the mystic thong,
Sweating under the weight of shields. O, Romulus, Father
Of Rome, why has this evil touched the shepherds of Latium?
Where is it from, this sting that hurts your descendants, Mars?
Can you see a man noted for birth, wealth, wed to another man,
And your spear not beat the ground, your helmet stay firm,
And no complaint to the Father? Away then, forsake the stern
Campus’s acres, you neglect now. ‘I’ve a ceremony to attend
At dawn, tomorrow, down in the vale of Quirinus.’ ‘Why’s that?’
‘Why? Oh, a friend of mine’s marrying a male lover of his:
He’s asked a few guests.’ Live a while, and we’ll see it happen,
They’ll do it openly, want it reported as news in the daily gazette.
Meanwhile there’s one huge fact that torments these brides,
That they can’t give birth, and by that hang on to their husbands.
But it’s better that Nature grants their minds little power over
Their bodies: barren, they die; with her secret medicine chest,
Swollen Lyde’s no use, nor a blow from the agile Luperci.
Yet Gracchus beats even this outrage, in tunic, with trident,
A gladiator, circling the sand, as he flits about the arena:
He’s nobler in birth than the Marcelli, or the Capitolini,
Than the scions of Catulus and Paulus, or the Fabii,
Than all the front-row spectators, including Himself,
The one who staged that show with the nets and tridents.

—Juvenal, Satires, II. 117–148, A.S. Kline trans.

The nauseating evil of criminalized addiction

The state where giving birth can be criminal.” The stories in this investigative report by The Nation should fill us with rage. Sponsored by four idle and felonious state senators—Reginald Tate (D), Janice Bowling (R), Todd Gardenhire (R), and Charlotte Burks (D)—a new law imposed criminal penalties on mothers who give birth to babies considered to be “drug-addicted” due to the mother’s illegal narcotic use during pregnancy. All of the Democratic state senators voted for the legislation, and only seven Republican senators voted against it.

This is the very definition of immoral legislation. First, in an attempt to criminalize the harm to an infant resulting from drug use, it actually criminalizes giving birth. Tennessee is a state in which abortion is legal before fetal viability. This law encourages drug-addicted mothers, especially those for whom pregnancy may be an unexpected hardship, to abort their unborn children rather than seek the compassionate care they need. Continue reading The nauseating evil of criminalized addiction

Brief thoughts on negative criticism

Today’s essay by Sordello brought back a couple of thoughts I had regarding the kerfuffle over Marilynne Robinson’s dismissive comments about Flannery O’Connor and the ensuing negative reviews of Robinson’s own recent novel, Lila. I have not yet read Lila so I can’t comment on that. But Robinson is one of my treasured influences, along with O’Connor, Roger Scruton, and others. (I reviewed Scruton’s Beauty a couple of years back. Along with Robinson’s The Death of Adam, it’s in my personal “top 10.”)

Every reader shares, to some degree, the tendency to look for what we want in a book, and to be disappointed if we find something else. I had a disappointing experience recently when I read Michael Chabon’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. The first half of the novel was thrilling and evocative, I thought a real triumph in postmodern literature. I didn’t like the ending. Set in the prosperous postwar 1950s, the latter half of the book expressed a kind of spiritual malaise and depression which was quite a contrast to the hope and magic of the beginning. Continue reading Brief thoughts on negative criticism

“The church ought to be doing [x] instead of obsessing over sex.”

Part 3 of Will Barrett’s series on “The Intra-Evangelical Culture War.”

The X could be any number of good and important things the church ought to be doing. Most likely, it means feeding the poor, healing the sick, promoting racial reconciliation, or agitating against economic injustice. It it is possible that some churches neglect their part in these activities, but to point this out in a dialogue about sexual morality serves no purpose but to divert attention away from the question at hand with an irrelevant attack on the credibility of the opponent.

Imagine a formal debate in which one speaker declares that both sides would be better served by calling off the debate in favor of doing something more constructive. Then, after his opponent leaves the room, he proceeds to stump for his own point of view on the issue. This is precisely the tactic some progressive Christians use when faced with conservative arguments about the morality and theology of sex. Although they may complain that conservatives are taking too much time away from works of justice and mercy to preach about sex, I have yet to hear of any sexually progressive Christian commentator hold his own advocacy to the same standard. Continue reading “The church ought to be doing [x] instead of obsessing over sex.”

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?