Stereotypes come true

A remarkable thing about religious liberalism is that it’s made all the worse stereotypes that Catholics and Protestants have about each other become largely true.

Consider the Protestant’s worst image of the Catholic Church.  It would be that 1) the Church is basically a racket whereby the clergy financially defrauds the laity and gives nothing in return; 2) it ignores the plain meaning of Scripture to foist absurd dogmas on the laity; 3) it ignores supernatural faith and preaches salvation through works, and “works” always involves just shelling out more money.   Now, these stereotypes were absolutely not true for the Church of Dante, Vincent de Paul, and Father Damien.  They do describe uncomfortably well the post-Vatican II Church.

Consider #1.  Now, it used to be thought that the clergy exist to serve the laity:  to teach them the apostolic faith and dispense the sacraments.  The laity are paying the priest’s salaries, and they’re entitled to those services.  If a priest doesn’t want to preach the Catholic faith, he can find someone else to pay his salary.  That attitude, dear friends, is now known as “integralism”, and anybody who’s anybody in the Church derides it.  The idea of accountability for clergy belongs to those oppressive preconciliar days when priests and nuns were expected to serve the laity and teach the faith rather than heretical fads, and nobody much cared about their “self-actualization” or “academic freedom”.  Nowadays, there’s only one article of faith that all our priests believe:  that the world, or rather the laity, owe them a living and a platform for them to dispense their pet heresies.

Then there’s #2, which is pretty much standard fare in today’s liberal Catholic homilies and bible study guides.  I remember one of the latter expressing scorn for the idea that God is angered by sin and punishes sinners.  I challenge anyone to read the bible and come away with any other impression.  Then there are the homilies.  I remember one where the priest explained that the true meaning of the story of Mary and Martha is that women shouldn’t have to do housework.  I remember one priest taking the side of the Prodigal Son, saying that his was a justifiable revolt against the injustice of primogeniture.  Even the most orthodox I’ve encountered always claim that Saint Paul didn’t really mean that wives should obey their husbands.  I must admit that a very “Protestant” sentiment has been building up inside me, the kind that makes me want to say “Show me where that’s in the Bible, or shut the hell up.”

Finally, there’s #3, about which little needs to be said.  We’ve all been told to stop being otherworldly, forget our dogmatic hang-ups, and get to work for “social justice”.  Justification comes not from buying indulgences, but by supporting higher taxes.

Then there’s Protestantism.  A Catholic’s worst idea of Protestants would be this:  1) they disparage works to the point that they don’t mind if one is an unrepentent sinner so long as one has the correct beliefs; 2) they think that the most outlandish reading of scripture invented five minutes ago by an illiterate carries the same weight as the two-millenium tradition of the Fathers and saints; 3) the whole thing is a scam to provide cover for monks who don’t want to obey their vows of obedience and chastity, kings who don’t want to stick with their first wives, and princes who want to steal church property.  Certainly, this does not describe the faiths of Calvin, Cranmer, and Wesley.  It does bear more than a passing resemblance to post-Schleiermacher Protestantism, though.

As for #1, it’s certainly true that liberal Protestants don’t give a rat’s ass about godly living, just so long as one can mouth the appropriate PC shibboleths.  Want to abandon your wife and children and take up with your sodomite lover?  No problem!  In fact, we’ll make you a bishop!  Or look at the case of Karl Barth, who combined an affirmation of the Calvinist creed with a lifelong support for atheist communist tyranny.  I would call this a large disconnect between faith and practice, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of “works righteousness”.  Or, let’s take the case of divorce, which Jesus condemned in pretty strong terms.  Is there any case when a Protestant congregation won’t approve of a divorce anymore?  Just wanting one is supposed to create an unquestionable right.  Freedom of the Christian indeed.

As for #2, it’s certainly a prime enabler of #1.  “Don’t judge” means that we must not only refrain from guessing peoples’ spiritual states, we must also endorse every act that anyone engages in.  “neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female” means we must dissolve the family and separate countries.  The fact that nobody in the history of Christianity, including the Apostles themselves who were taught by Christ himself or Saint Paul who actually wrote some of those lines, understood it this way is no deterrant.  Neither is the fact that they flatly contradict other lines in scripture.  The liberal has his favorite text, and it’s all he needs.

#3 is sort of a restatement of #1, and it’s hard to deny that liberal Protestantism’s main selling points are that it offers the most sexual goodies to the faithful and the most unchecked power to the state.

So, the stereotypes are now true.  I guess that means that liberal Christianity has succeeded in its aim of fostering interdenominational understanding.

Logical fallacies that aren’t

“slippery slope fallacy”


The act of pointing out what the Liberals’ next move is going to be before they have chosen to officially unveil it.

The “slippery slope” is an error because it violates the first cardinal rule of public discourse:  It is illigitimate to discuss any issue other than those chosen for discussion by Liberals or to discuss an issue in any terms other than those chosen by Liberals.  Public debates properly have two phases.  In the first phase, liberal intellectuals and social activists agitate for some new law or social experiment, softening up the public to the idea.  During this time, the new measure is not yet popular, and Liberal politicians officially do not favor it.  Therefore, conservatives are not allowed to counter the agitators, and they most certainly are not allowed to point out that the unpopular measure is a logically inescapable consequence of Liberalism.  That would be “scare tactics” and “divisiveness”.  In the second phase, the upper classes are won over to the new idea, and Liberal politicians officially embrace it.  At this point, opposition to the measure is “extremism”, “hate”, “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “fascism”, etc, and conservatives most certainly must not be allowed to voice such opposition.  Needless to say, after the new law is passed, it is never permitted for one to question it–that would be “extremism” and “turning back the clock”.  Instead, the previous absence of the Liberal law is cited as proof of society’s past guilt, for which it must atone by embracing yet more Liberal legislation.  Thus it is that, following the laws of proper public discourse, conservatives are never allowed to make their case.  The populace itself is never allowed to consider whether it wants to be reconstructed in a radically Liberal way, because they are only allowed to discuss the next step of the process, and that step they are only allowed to approve.

Note:  in preliberal times, this fallacy was known as the “reducio ad absurdum” and was actually regarded as a valid way to argue.  Those were benighted times.

Why Catholics are rightfully disbarred from the English crown

The King is the head of the Church of England.  It is not credible that a non-Anglican could fill that role.  If a non-Anglican did ascend to the throne, it would quickly lead to disestablishment.  Erastianism isn’t a good thing, but it does mean a real recognition of Christianity as the official religion of England.  Disestablishment would mean that England would officially become an atheist country like France.

P.S.  Heathen and Muhammadans should also be excluded.

P.P.S. Coleridge’s arguments for the English establishment are really stupid.  He argues that any religion would make an excellent establishment so long as 1) its clergy isn’t celibate and 2) its clergy have no foreign ties.  So a bunch of illiterate Druid cannibals would be just fine with him, presumably.  No, the reason to defend the Church of England isn’t that it’s the best possible arrangement, but that every other likely alternative would be much worse.

Islam falters

Will Islam bend the knee to feminism?  Michael Paterson-Seymour relates some disturbing news from France:

I have noticed, particularly in France, where I spend a fair amount of time, the extent to which Muslim women, at least in t he West are adopting a feminist agenda.

The president of the Muslim women’s movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises [Neither Sluts nor Door-mats] Sihen Habchi, in a forceful attack on “multiculturalism” has demanded

“No more justifications of our oppression in the name of the right to be different and of respect toward those who force us to bow our heads”

and Rachida Dati, herself a Muslim and former French Minister of Justice told the National Assembly that

“The Republic is alone capable of uniting men and women of different origins, colours and religions around the principles of tolerance, liberty, solidarity and laïcité, making the Republic truly one and indivisible.”

Likewise, Fadela Amara, another Muslim and Secretary of State for Urban Policies has declared that

“For this generation, the crucial issues are laïcité, gender equality and gender desegregation, based upon living together in harmony throughout the world, and not only in France.”

Nor are these lonely or isolated voices. Every politician, of the Left or of the Right, berates the perceived racism of “Anglo-Saxon” multiculturalism – Try Goggling “l’affaire du voile or l’affaire du foulard [The headscarf business] However much people might have differed over the particular policy, they vied with each other in declaring their commitment to the Jules Ferry Laws, the Law of 9 December 1905, the ideal of laïcité[ and their unbounded faith in the capacity of the educational system to eliminate “communautarism” (that fertile source of all social ills) and to mould future citizens of the Republic, one and indivisible.

Muslims, it seems, make as good mindless little Jacobins as everybody else.

Also, check out this (sympathetic) report at Contending Modernities on the spread of Islamic feminism in Spain.

The rest of the world has largely surrendered to feminism and the satanic Liberal principle of autonomy.  If Islam too should fall, what would be left?  In my mind, I imagine feminist atheism completely triumphant over the world, age after age of autonomy rather than virtue, “persons” rather than men and women, calculation rather than faith–a spiritual night without end.

The feminist corruption of Christendom

The Elusive Wapiti is posting an important series on the corruption of Christianity by feminism.  In the first part, he looks at how many putative non-feminists have unthinkingly accepted feminist lies about the past.  In the second part, he defends patriarchy’s emphasis on female chastity and male responsibility.

Also not to be missed is Alcuin’s review of a book defending the Islamic view of sexual complementarity against the assault of Western feminism.  The book is The Heart of Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and it sounds better than anything a Christian has written about the family in ages.

As I’ve argued in the past, Christianity properly understood is a solidly patriarchal religion.  Historically, it has been patriarchy’s best friend.

Cultural Jews: reflections on the centralization of culture

Let’s face it.  If it wasn’t for Jews, fags, and gypsies, there would be no theater.

                    —Mel Brooks, in To Be or Not To Be

Who is the cultural Jew?  To my surprise, I find he is…me.

Allow me to explain.  A little while ago I was rereading parts of Paul Johnson’s celebratory History of the Jews.  The basic message I got from the section on American Jewry is this:  Jews have all the creativity and brains; Christians are just dumb, passive sacks of shit.  This is certainly not true for European culture, but thinking about it, it does roughly describe the American culture that has shaped me.  My favorite music comes from largely-Jewish Broadway:  Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Gershwin, and Bernstein.  Even when I turn to Rock and Roll, my tastes often tend toward Jewish artists like Billy Joel.  Most of the movies I’ve seen are products of largely-Jewish Hollywood.  I quote Star Trek episodes and Mel Brooks movies.  My youth was shaped by Jewish superhero comics, especially Superman.  Surprisingly, I find that I would feel much more at home in America if I were to convert to Judaism.

Christian America has no culture.  Long ago, Tocqueville noted America’s lack in this regard.  We were a new nation at the time, and probably we needed a few centuries to mature enough to develop a world-class culture of our own.  Instead, we let Jewish immigrants create one for us.  Not that we have any cause to complain.  What they gave us was better than anything we would have been able to come up with ourselves.  For the most part, the Jews of this era were an exemplary minority, with a real affection and gratitude for their adopted homeland.  They meant to give something back, and they did.

It sounds like a win-win situation.  What’s the problem, then?  There’s no problem with the existence of Jewish-American culture.  It’s a gift to the world.  There is a problem with the fact that it’s our only culture.  The Jewish-American experience isn’t the total American experience.  It’s the experience of a self-conscious minority concentrated in a few large cities.  The rest of the American experience has gone unsung, or sung only at a distance, after the manner of Oklahoma!  So, for example, watching television one would never see reflected the realities of rural life or religion.  This is never so embarrassingly clear as when, on rare occassions, a TV show tries to portray these sympathetically.  They can’t capture the idiom; the fictional priests and pastors, for example, just sound “off” to anyone who’s actually participated in a Christian community.

The Jewish/gentile split has contributed to that unique feature of American culture:  the sharp division between a small number of creators of culture and the vast mass of passive consumers of culture.  Most of us are just consumers of culture.  We buy books, movies, and music; we don’t invent stories or songs.  Not every people is like this.  I remember when I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois.  I had a friend there who was a postdoc from Taiwan.  One day when we were passing time chatting together, he asked me to tell him one of the ghost stories from my hometown.  He just assumed that my home town of 6000 would have a stock of stories, but of course it doesn’t.  Its stories came to it prepackaged from Hollywood.  Are Hollywood’s stories better than what we could have produced on our own?  Perhaps, but the loss is great.  I imagine what it would be like if my town had a real local culture.  What if the park or the high school or the shoe store were the setting for some story known by all the locals?  The experience of living there would be enriched by the context.  This is how culture draws a place–a park or a forest, say–into the social world, by populating it with fictional heroes and villians.  It’s the sort of culture that can’t be imported; like a nymph, its magic is limited to a particular place.

Let me say this clearly:  it’s not the Jews’ fault that the people in my hometown don’t tell each other ghost stories.  It’s our own fault.  Storytelling is a humble art—even we dumb Christians could do it.  In fact, rudimentary storytelling still does go on in Christian America.  We do it to entertain our children, nieces, and nephews.  But there’s no organization where the town gets together to retell its stories and make up new ones.  In contrast, there is an organization to disseminate the Hollywood culture–the movie theatre.  And there’s the local Wal Mart to distribute the wider culture’s movies and music.

If Christian America is going to make a culture, localism will be the key.  We shouldn’t fantasize about capturing the national movie or music industries.  Even if we succeeded, we’d just embarrass ourselves by putting out crap (like country music) to a national audience.  We’re not ready for the big time yet.  Right now, oral short stories and nursery rhymes might be the best gentile Americans can do.  We need to build from there.

Howard Dean on the Progressive creed

R. S. McCain copies an email from Howard Dean to the Democracy for America mailing list.  As McCain notes, the much-vaunted civility of the Left isn’t much in display.  Here’s what jumped out at me, though:

We know what we believe.  We believe in community. We care about our neighbors and we help each other. We can provide a bright future to our children with a quality education and we can provide a secure retirement free from poverty and dependence for our grandparents….We believe in liberty. We respect every American’s right to practice their own religion and to live a life free from bigotry, abuse, and harassment. We will fight discrimination and deliver on the promise of equality for all Americans.

So, we believe in “community”, but this community can’t have any moral or spiritual consensus, or it can only have one so vacuous that it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s “liberty”.  The community’s sense of identity must be so weak that no preference is given to its members; that would be “discrimination” and would violate the “promise of equality”.  “Community” can have neither its horizontal nor its vertical completion.  I must say that I have no idea what Mr. Dean means by “community”, and I wonder if he knows.  Does he mean local communities, or some abstract national community?  it must be the second, because his program seems quite incompatible with decentralization.  Nor do I know what he could mean by “dependency”, since the dependence of the elderly on the young is surely a fixed part of the human condition.  I’m sure he has know plan to eliminate it.  What I think he means is that the elderly should be dependent on the government and the market rather than on their children–impersonal rather than personal dependency.

The really baffling thing here is that Dean and his readers should be so confident in their contradictory passions.  Its as if it never occured to them that there might be a conflict between community and individualism or between freedom and equality.  Hence, they can’t realize that the Republicans are just as liberal as they are; it’s just that they weight liberalism’s incompatible goods differently.  What a strange mental world they live in.

On being lectured to by communists

Jerry Salyer has had enough of it.

Inflammatory rhetoric must be purged, some say.  Not necessarily a bad idea, provided would-be arbiters of civil discourse begin by questioning the enshrinement of writer Susan Sontag in college rhetoric textbooks.  It would, after all, take a most peculiar notion of civility to endorse Sontag’s 1967 declaration that “[t]he white race is the cancer of human history”.  Somehow, nevertheless, those who object to being labeled “cancer” find that their objections are ignored while they themselves are expected to take seriously speeches by pundits professing hatred of hate speech.

From there, Salyer recounts a century of enthusiasm for mass-murdering tyrants by Leftist intellectuals.  Especially not to be missed are Neruda’s ode to Stalin and Sarte’s lament that the Jacobins didn’t kill enough people.

In defense of echo chambers

Everybody agrees that there’s a certain pleasure in getting together with people of like opinion to reinforce each others’ beliefs.  It’s generally thought to be a spiritually unhealthy pleasure, like the pleasure of looking at pictures of pretty girls naked.  I’ve heard the internet criticized for making it easier for people to seek out the like-minded.  It does annoy me a bit that liberals in academia would criticize us for this.  They get to spend their whole lives in a cocoon of unanimity.  Without the internet, I would never have met anybody who agrees with me.  Who are they to begrudge me a small piece of the pleasure they enjoy all the time?

I admit the self-selection effects on the internet are surprisingly strong.  When I started this blog, I had expected most of the comments I’d get to be of the “How can you say such a thing, you horrible Nazi!” type.  That’s certainly what would happen if I went to a bar, restaurant, or faculty lounge and opened up with any of the opinions I’ve shared here.  Actually, I’ve gotten none of that.  We sometimes have disagreements, but one must admit that Throne and Altar has more helped to put me in touch with people of like sympathies.

Is this bad?  I don’t think so.  I agree that it would not be good to only hear one point of view, and never another.  Still, there are some conversations that can only profitably be had by people already sharing a common commitment.  Let me give an example.  I remember once reading a post on American Catholic throwing out the idea that pro-lifers should support the health care bill, because a larger government presence in health insurance would give us opportunities to restrict coverage for abortions.  There followed a lively discussion in the comments about whether or not this was a good idea.  Then a pro-choice commenter posted, making some critical remark on the level of “you Nazis all hate women!”  Then followed a battle between the pro-choice commenter and various pro-life commenters on the morality of abortion.  Those who have been living in a cave for the last fifty years and have never heard the main arguments on both sides of this issue might have found the ensuing debate interesting.  For the rest of us, the exchange was very tedious, and I stopped reading a half-dozen comments in.  The interesting discussion had been buried.

It’s not that the question of whether or not restricting abortion is a desirable thing isn’t an argument worth having.  (Of course, I wish moral imbecility wasn’t so common that we need to have it.)  But there are other questions that arise once that one is settled, such as how to go about introducing abortion restrictions.  That’s a question that pro-lifers need to debate on their own.  Similarly, a question like “how are grace and free will compatible?” can only be profitably debated by a group of Christians, that is, those who already accept the premises that make the question a live issue.

This site is a work of conservative dogmatics, to repeat my favorite Roger Scruton quote.  The goal is to systematize and apply the conservative worldview, mostly for those already committed to it.  A liberal reader would probably not find this worthwhile, or even interesting.  He would certainly find my blog boring; I hope he would at least not find it too abusive.  My  goal is  to think, not vent.  I admit that I often fall short of this ideal.

What subsidiarity doesn’t mean

I assume everyone in the world regularly reads my blog, so I should only have to say this once.  My particular targets today are Deal Hudson and George Weigel.   Here goes:  the principle of subsidiarity has nothing to do with personal freedom, private property, or the free enterprise system.  It only means favoring small over big; it is utterly indifferent to public vs. private.  On the subsidiarist scale, city governments rank higher than Wal Mart, Microsoft, Verizon, or other massive corporations.  In a true subsidiarist order, the market would be much more regulated than it is now–because it would be hemmed in by kinship, guild, and ecclesiastic authorities as well as government ones.

By the way, this argument between Hudson and a Msgr. Pope is a good illustration of why “solidarity” and “subsidiarity” are worthless as bases of a political philosophy.  As these term are (mis)understood by both sides, they flatly contradict each other, and so any position at all can be justified by the appropriate mix of the two principles.  “Subsidiarity” is taken to mean “smash the state”, while “solidarity” is taken to mean “the central government shall wipe every tear from our eyes”.  Even if one understood the terms correctly, they wouldn’t be of much use, because both a extremely vague “all other things being equal, try to lean this way” sort of principles.

In fact, as I have argued earlier, the true basis of Catholic social teaching is precise, unitary, and coherent:  it is the principle of patriarchy.