Category : Ethics / Moral Theology
Back when Massachusetts was the only state in the country to recognize same-sex marriage, Chai Feldblum, who later served as commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Presidents Obama and Trump, observed that religious liberty and LGBT rights were trapped in a “zero-sum game.” In her view, any pretense to mutually beneficial compromise between the two is impossible, and state neutrality between them a charade. As long as religious conservatives hold same-sex sexual behavior to be morally suspect while cultural liberals hold it to be natural and moral, every action and inaction of the state is a choice to recognize one side against the other. While classical liberals may want to wish this conflict away, it cannot be done. Appeals to First Amendment rights to religious liberty run immediately into Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection. And as the great theorist of class struggle Karl Marx himself observed, “between equal rights force decides.”
Culture wars are never strictly cultural. They are always economic and political struggles as well. Elites rule through an interlocking political-economic-cultural system. The mainstream media certifies whose political ideas are respectable and whose are extremist. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, academia, and white-shoe professional firms are all part of the postindustrial “knowledge economy” that allocates economic rewards. As American elites become increasingly integrated and culturally homogenous, they begin to treat their cultural rivals as subordinate classes. The same thing happened nearly a century ago to the rural and small-town Protestants whom H. L. Mencken derided as the “booboisie.” Many would like to see it happen again, this time to anyone who challenges the dogmas of diversity and progressivism that have become suspiciously universal among the richest and most powerful Americans, dominating the elite institutions they control. If cultural traditionalists want to survive, they must not only acknowledge but embrace the class dimensions of the culture war.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not recognising fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. 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. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. 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.”
–Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Terre Haute, Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 3rd. ed., 2007), p. 263 (my emphasis)
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 11, 2017
Update: Peter Leithardt’s comments on this are also worth pondering:
“The turning point, he says, occurred with a renunciation of the “task of shoring up the Roman imperium,” which required “men and women of good will” to begin to distinguish between sustaining moral community and maintaining the empire. Roman civilization was no longer seen as synonymous with civilization itself. Mutatis muntandis, this is the intellectual and practical transformation that has to take place before we can begin to construct “local forms of community” for the flourishing of civility and intellectual life. We need to acknowledge that our task isn’t to shore up America, or the West, or whatever. If we promote local communities of virtue as a tactic for shoring up the imperium, we haven’t really grasped MacIntyre’s point, or the depth of the crisis he described.
That renunciation is as emotionally difficult as the project of forming local communities is practically difficult.”
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
The Church of Nigeria, Diocese of Enugu (Anglican Communion) weekend expressed concerns over the recently signed Executive Order No.6 of 2018 by the Federal Government, saying it should not be used against perceived enemies or opposition.
The executive order empowers the Federal Government to seize suspicious assets connected with corruption and other relevant offences.
The church noted with dismay the hasty nature of the investigations and trial of five Christians over alleged killing of a herdsman by a Yola High Court and their conviction and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the five condemned Christians were not executed….
In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.
Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s most important ideas and arguments — such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants — have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.
Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.
(NYT)“What? I’m pregnant. I’m still a man. You have questions? Come talk to me. You have a problem with it? Don’t be in my life.”
Paetyn, an impish 1-year-old, has two fathers. One of them gave birth to her.
As traditional notions of gender shift and blur, parents and children like these are redefining the concept of family.
Paetyn’s father Tanner, 25, is a trans man: He was born female but began transitioning to male in his teens, and takes the male hormone testosterone.
“I was born a man in a female body,” he said.
His partner and Paetyn’s biological father is David, 35, a gay man.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
After hours of sometimes wrenching testimony and debate, a General Convention committee has approved a revision of Resolution B012 that would ensure same-sex marriage rites are available throughout the Episcopal Church while postponing the emotional issue of adding the rites to the Book of Common Prayer.
The resolution revokes the authority of eight bishops to say whether same-sex marriage will be permitted in their dioceses.
It states: “Resolved, that all congregations and worshipping communities of the Church who desire to incorporate these liturgies into their common life … where permitted by civil law, shall have access to these liturgies, allowing all couples to be married in their home church.”
The resolution extends the trial use period that was mandated by the 2015 General Convention indefinitely, and specifies that the same-sex marriage rites should be considered as part of the comprehensive prayer book review that the same committee has also recommended.
(Anglican Taonga) Talks in Christchurch have begun to try to reach an amicable separation between members of 4 evangelical congregations who do not want to bless a shape of life outside of bounds for Christians and the Diocese
Negotiations are under way which will see most of the members from four Christchurch congregations cut their links to the Diocese of Christchurch.
These negotiations follow from the decision taken by this year’s General Synod on May 9 which paved the way for the blessing of same-sex partnerships.
Following that decision, four conservative evangelical Christchurch parishes held votes to decide whether their members would disaffiliate from the diocese – and, in each case, large majorities chose to do so.
On Wednesday last week, Archbishop Philip Richardson along with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons met with vicars and wardens of the four parishes in question to discuss how their members could disaffiliate “in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.”
(WSJ) Adam O’Neal–Taking an honest look Inside the Christian group to which Amy Coney Barrett’s belongs
Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court—a prospect that thrills many conservatives. A former Antonin Scalia clerk and Notre Dame professor, Judge Barrett, 46, seems an ideal choice. Yet her religious beliefs could lead to a contentious confirmation process. Would it be a risk to pick her?
Last year President Trump nominated Ms. Barrett for a seat on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Several Democratic senators pondered whether an “orthodox Catholic” would have dual loyalties. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said during Ms. Barrett’s hearing. “That’s of concern.”
Video of Mrs. Feinstein’s religious test quickly spread, provoking outrage from thousands of Americans. Yet a New York Times news story suggested she and her colleagues hadn’t gone far enough: The nominee’s “membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.”
Richard Painter, a law professor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota, loved the article. He recently tweeted the link, adding his own comment on People of Praise: “A religious group in which members take an oath of loyalty to each other and are supervised by a male ‘head’ or female ‘handmaiden.’ That looks like a cult.” As nonbigots do, Mr. Painter then added, “don’t even try playing the ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ card.”
It’s easy to make People of Praise sound terrifying. Isn’t there a TV show and novel about these “handmaid” people? Do Americans really want a cultist on the Supreme Court? Despite such insinuations from “resistance” conspiracy theorists, understanding the group requires more than a couple of tweets….
When you apply this to other crucial First Amendment doctrines then you would find yourself defending the rights of a single baker (a traditional Christian) to decline a request to create a one-of-a-kind artistic cake celebrating a same-sex wedding rite (after offering the couple any of the standard cakes or desserts in his shop). The baker’s very narrow, faith-based refusal of this task was offensive and caused pain, yet the gay couple had many other options in the local marketplace. The baker is “the powerful” force in this legal fight?
It would also be possible to defend Catholic nuns who refused government commandments that they cooperate with efforts to provide contraceptive options to their own staff, in violations of important Catholic doctrines linked to their mission. The elderly nuns represent the “the powerful” classes in this legal fight?
This Times piece, if the goal was balance, really needed to document cases of conservative forces rising up, during the past decade or two, to DENY First Amendment freedoms to liberal people and liberal organizations. Shouldn’t we be seeing a wave of those? Are liberal voices being silence in public life (as opposed to inside private associations)?
For example, are there examples of liberal, perhaps mainline Protestant, churches and ministries being pressed to violate their doctrines, perhaps being compelled to deliver messages that violate elements of their evolving doctrines? Perhaps there are cases linked to the sanctuary movement?
I am left, once again, wondering what label to assign to contemporary people and groups that are weak in their defense of free speech, weak in their defense of freedom of association and weak in their defense of the free exercise of religion. What should fair-minded journalists call them? What should the Times team have called the powers that be on the “progressive” side of the debate (including the newspaper’s editorial-page team)?
The one label that cannot be assigned to these groups is “liberal.” That just won’t fly, in the wider context of American political thought.
Read it all (my emphasis).
A compromise that would avoid making changes to the Prayer Book’s references to marriage has been proposed by bishops in the Episcopal Church of the United States, in an effort to avoid the departure of members who hold a traditional view, including immigrant and non-US Episcopalians.
The resolution, prepared for discussion at the 79th General Convention, due to begin in Austin, Texas, yesterday, seeks to widen access to marriage in the eight dioceses where gender-neutral rites approved for trial use in 2015 have not been authorised by the bishop. It proposes that these bishops provide “delegated episcopal pastoral oversight” to their congregations, on request.
Unlike the resolution put forward by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, however, it does not propose any changes to the Prayer Book (News, 25 August 2017).
“While the great majority of Episcopalians celebrate the gains that have been made in our Church for LGBTQ+ persons, many of us also regret the schism, division, and departure of members who have faithfully served our Church for many years,” the proposing Bishops, of Long Island, Pittsburgh and Rhode Island (all of whom have authorised use of the rites), wrote.
In the year 2000, two-thirds, 67 per cent, of religious marriages were Anglican (Church of England or Church in Wales), 12 per cent Roman Catholic, 18 per cent Other Christian, and 3 per cent other religions.
In 2015 these percentages were, respectively, 73 per cent, 11 per cent, 11 per cent and 5 per cent.The declining number of “Other Christian” marriages (in numerical terms, down three-fifths, 61 per cent), reflects the ageing factor in some of these denominations, especially Methodists and the URC, as fewer older people get married.
However, the fact that these percentages have not varied substantially means that the smaller number of religious marriages now taking place simply mirrors the smaller number of marriages generally: the number of marriages in England and Wales have been declining since 1970 (439,000 in 1970, 215,000 in 2015). The proportion cohabiting instead has increased.
Do religious couples cohabit before marriage?Yes, cohabiting prior to marriage is now extremely common for both civil and religious couples.American research found 65 per cent agreed it was a good idea to live with one another before getting married (88 per cent non-Christian, 41 per cent practising Christian, but only 6 per cent evangelicals).
Seven-eighths, 88 per cent, had previously cohabited when they married in 2015, according to ONS figures (90 per cent civil marriages, 81 per cent religious marriages).Cohabitation preceded marriage for 80 per cent of civil marriages in 1995.v
Read it all (subscription needed).
(NA) Adam White–Amid growing calls to break up Google, are we missing a quiet alignment between “smart” government and the universal information engine?
Google exists to answer our small questions. But how will we answer larger questions about Google itself? Is it a monopoly? Does it exert too much power over our lives? Should the government regulate it as a public utility — or even break it up?
In recent months, public concerns about Google have become more pronounced. This February, the New York Times Magazine published “The Case Against Google,” a blistering account of how “the search giant is squelching competition before it begins.” The Wall Street Journal published a similar article in January on the “antitrust case” against Google, along with Facebook and Amazon, whose market shares it compared to Standard Oil and AT&T at their peaks. Here and elsewhere, a wide array of reporters and commentators have reflected on Google’s immense power — not only over its competitors, but over each of us and the information we access — and suggested that the traditional antitrust remedies of regulation or breakup may be necessary to rein Google in.
Dreams of war between Google and government, however, obscure a much different relationship that may emerge between them — particularly between Google and progressive government. For eight years, Google and the Obama administration forged a uniquely close relationship. Their special bond is best ascribed not to the revolving door, although hundreds of meetings were held between the two; nor to crony capitalism, although hundreds of people have switched jobs from Google to the Obama administration or vice versa; nor to lobbying prowess, although Google is one of the top corporate lobbyists.
Rather, the ultimate source of the special bond between Google and the Obama White House — and modern progressive government more broadly — has been their common ethos. Both view society’s challenges today as social-engineering problems, whose resolutions depend mainly on facts and objective reasoning. Both view information as being at once ruthlessly value-free and yet, when properly grasped, a powerful force for ideological and social reform. And so both aspire to reshape Americans’ informational context, ensuring that we make choices based only upon what they consider the right kinds of facts — while denying that there would be any values or politics embedded in the effort.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
AS Haley on the Ongoing South Carolina Episcopal Church litigation mess–“O, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .”
Thus two of the Justices viewed this case as one in which the civil courts should “defer” to the “ecclesiastical authorities” — even though South Carolina is a “neutral principles” State, in which “deference” has no role! — while the third reaches his result based “strictly applying neutral principles of law.” Two of them simply “reverse” the decision below (and one only in part), while only Justice Hearn declares the whole kit and caboodle to belong to her own denomination.
The first two Justices would thus have overruled the leading South Carolina neutral principles case, All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, but two votes do not suffice for that. They would have required a third vote to overrule that decision, and they never obtained that third vote. So the neutral principles doctrine of All Saints Waccamaw stands unchanged.
Nor did Justice Hearn get any other Justice to buy into her “constructive trust” rationale (unless Justice Pleicones may be said to have done so by “joining” in her opinion). But that was not a ground urged on appeal by ECUSA or its rump diocese — so Justice Hearn gratuitously inserted her views on an issue that was not properly before the Court.
Finally, only two of the Justices (Hearn and Beatty) mentioned Camp Christopher — the retreat property that belongs not to any one parish, but to the Diocese itself. The Dennis Canon does not apply to the property of a diocese, and so it cannot be used to transfer ownership. For Justice Hearn, “deference” requires that result, while for Chief Justice Beatty, the result follows from the fact that he cannot see how Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese is the “successor” to the diocese that owned the property before the lawsuit began. (But the Diocese did not go anywhere — it is still the same South Carolina religious corporation it always was. So how can there be any question of whether a Diocese can “succeed” itself? The Chief Justice went out on a limb, and no one joined him.)
An even bigger problem for Judge Goodstein on remand, however, is how she should regard the opinion of Justice Hearn, who belatedly recused herself due to a (presumed) perception of a conflict of interest. (You think?) Which is to say, she never should have participated in the case to begin with.