Throne and Altar resurrected

I take Lydia’s warning about the danger of the Orthosphere being derailed by internet kooks very seriously.  She is certainly right that the urge to shock is something that should not be gratified for its own sake.  That is self-indulgent, and self-indulgence that sabotages spreading the Gospel is a serious matter.  She is also to be applauded for criticizing reactionaries for our arrogance in looking down on mainstream conservatives who are fighting the good fight on abortion and marriage.

This puts me in a bind, though.  I’m clearly the kookiest, most unnecessarily extreme writer for the Orthosphere.  I have worried before that my unrestrained radicalism might be turning some people off who might otherwise have profited from Kristor’s and Alan’s theological writings.  I also realize that my grammar and writing style aren’t up to the standards of the other writers.  Maybe I should just shut up?  No, that won’t work.  I’ve got the blogging itch, and I routinely feel the urge to mouth off on forbidden topics.

So I’ve decided to revive this site and split my output.  This site has about a tenth the readership of the Orthosphere, and no one else’s reputation will be blackened by anything I write here.  Therefore, I will send posts here instead of the Orthosphere if

  1. I am taking a position that I think would not be shared by most of the other Orthosphere contributors
  2. I feel the need to say uncomplimentary things about Democratic client groups
  3. I want to write about something that has nothing to do with Christianity or Reaction
  4. (subset of 3) I want to make a personal announcement
  5. I write something short and sloppy, and I don’t want to take the time to polish it.

29 Responses

  1. I also realize that my grammar and writing style aren’t up to the standards of the other writers.

    Um, well, you aren’t Cardinal Newman, or Jim Kalb, but I actually think you’re a better writer than anyone else on the site. You have a real knack for putting things profound things plainly, and are, in that respect, comparable to Ed Feser.

  2. Thank you–I always appreciate compliments. On the other hand, I still remember that the first big recognition the Orthosphere got was Larry Auster criticizing my grammar mistakes. I was sorry to have put Svein’s new project off on the wrong foot. Fortunately, several of Auster’s friends also contribute, and I’m confident that the site eventually got into his good graces.

  3. I think renewed solo blogging this is a good idea.

    But you should censor the comments!

    (Comments should ‘always’ be censored – and in advance not belatedly/ retrospectively.)

    Make this YOUR blog, not a commenters platform.


    (BTW IMHO Lydia McGrew was wrong, insufficiently controlled and also unreasonable in her discourse with JM Smith. She could and should have learned something important and perhaps vital about her/the mainstream understanding of slavery; but I fear she did not.)

  4. The free discussions were one of the most attractive things here. And fostered a sense of community, especially since many people had valuable things to say. Don’t try to be a prophet in the wilderness.

  5. I thought Lydia’s two articles were generally well taken.

    Smith handled the slavery issue in an exceptionally clumsy way, so it’s not exactly surprising that Lydia failed to learn much. Even if slavery is more complicated than most people think, mainstream objections to it do bring up legitimate issues.

  6. Well, while I have stopped blogging these last months (lack of time), I am really glad that I will be able to comment on this blog – because I first discovered it more or less at the same time that it retired. Every time I read an article on an interesting issue, I thought it was a shame I wasn’t there to add my two cents to the discussion.

  7. I’ve now read Lydia’s two posts and agree that she has a point. We need all the friends we can get and shouldn’t link ourselves to angry jerks who get a kick out of offending people with rude remarks. Saying shocking things simply for thrills is juvenile and politically counterproductive. With that said, a scruple against shocking speech spoken for the sake of shocking can easily become a scruple against shocking speech for the sake of communicating a minority opinion or broaching an impolite question. As I learned a couple of weeks ago, nothing shuts down a conversation like a shocked woman crying out for smelling salts.

    Having read many thousands of words that you have written, I do not think that you come across as remotely kooky, or that there is any reason that you should be humble about your prose style. Your opinions have every appearance of sincerity, you support them with rational arguments, and you express them in lucid and engaging prose. Some of your opinions are decidedly minority opinions, but that doesn’t make them kooky.

    Reading Lydia’s advice to right-wingers, I couldn’t help but to think that she was describing the policy that reduced First Things to a bland and impotent magazine. They wanted to be a magazine that one could openly read at Starbucks, while retaining the respect of everyone else who would the reading The Nation. This seems to be more or less your point in your latest post at the Orthosphere, and it has made conservatives into laggardly liberals. They are the caboose on they train to Liberalville, differing from the other cars only in the fact that they will arrive there somewhat later.

  8. There is the danger of saying shocking things just for the sake of saying shocking things, but sometimes certain things just need to be said. While I’m sympathetic to what Lydia has to say, I think that it’s more important to err on the side of speaking the truth rather than worrying too much about offending your audience. If your movement depends on everybody getting everything pitch perfect all the time, then it’s not going anywhere anytime soon anyway.

    Examine your motives, try not to needlessly offend, but don’t get too prissy.

  9. Mr. Smith:

    While I do think you rhetorically mishandled the slavery issue, I don’t think it was a major fault on your part.

  10. I think you are right. I had no prior experience of Lydia and so waited too long before responding, in the hope that she would disclose something more than outrage and give me something to work with. I was also, admittedly, flummoxed because I wasn’t going to offer a robust defense of slavery or kiss Lydia’s ring. Hopefully I learned a thing or two.

  11. Hi JMSmith,

    I think your reading of Lydia’s posts are an accurate reflection of what she’s trying to get at, but I actually took something else away from them. It can be taken as an argument against pushing offensive opinions–even if done politely, reasonably, and with only the interest of truth at heart–if they aren’t necessary to the conservative Christian message. For example, there is no reason why someone has to be won over to my position that not all historical forms of slavery have been immoral. They can be perfectly orthodox in faith and sensible on all live political issues without sharing my opinion on that. Therefore, I shouldn’t push the issue. I’m sure Lydia would agree that where Christian morality is at issue, we should throw concerns about respectability to the wind. She certainly does.

    When I say that I’m the “kookiest” Orthosphere writer, I mean that I have the most unnecessary-for-orthodoxy offensive-to-current-sensibility opinions, or at least I’m the most obnoxious about putting them forth. I think I’ve resolved the issue now by pushing all of my **really** offensive opinions to this now-obscure site.

  12. She is also to be applauded for criticizing reactionaries for our arrogance in looking down on mainstream conservatives

    Yes, scolding must always, always, always be done from left to right:

    You see, one of the most dominant motives in any socially stigmatized group. . . is self-purification. One tries to wash away the taint that your opponents have attached to you by finding someone within your own movement who is more distasteful, more extreme, more socially maladroit, then denouncing him. Best of all if you can lead the chorus of ostracism. That renders you yourself ritually pure, at least for a while — and joins you securely to the community that has now been purged.

  13. […] and Altar and has burst out of the gate with a series of characteristically excellent posts. See this one for his rationale about restoring the blog. Go check it out, and if you haven’t visited […]

  14. Huh. I always thought I was the nutty-bananas kook of the bunch. Well, I’m glad to see Throne and Altar back up and running, and may God bless it and you abundantly.

  15. Welcome back bonald, if that is the appropriate way of wording congratulations on your decision to re-open your blog. Please allow me to also express my heart-felt appreciation for the “obnoxious” way in which you express your “unnecessary-for-orthodoxy offensive-to-current-sensibility opinions.”

  16. Saying shocking things simply for thrills is juvenile and politically counterproductive

    I don’t think any of us do this. I think Lydia just doesn’t get it that we’re actually serious. *shrug* Okay.

  17. The only reason Orthosphere gets more traffic than Throne & Altar is that bonald has been posting over at the former. Whenever he does post something at Orthosphere, our traffic doubles.

    Rightly so. His stuff is just interesting, that’s all. I myself think that whatever offends current sensibilities is almost certainly important to consider. Current sensibilities are deeply whacked, and as bonald himself has pointed out, part of being a reactionary is realizing that almost everything you were taught in school is wrong. Getting all that stuff right is bound to hurt a bit. So let it; let the scab come off. If there’s a little bloodletting in the process, well, so be it.

  18. This is a good point. An outsider might easily mistake the accidental association of ideas and behaviors in an individual Christian for a necessary association of ideas and behaviors in Christianity. If all the Christians I know talk constantly about golf, I might begin to think that every Christian must be a golfer.

  19. Yes, accusing a man of expressing an opinion for its “shock value” is an effective way of neutralizing the opinion. If you say “he is just trying to shock you,” you effectively say “don’t take him seriously. Take him as a simpleton, a child, or a clown.” Of course, if they ever decide that you are not just a clown, they will denounce you as a very bad man,

  20. Hi Proph,

    You’ve also got a good claim to it. You had some great scandalizing moments at Collapse. I remember really admiring you for a post arguing something to the effect that AIDS in America gets disproportionate attention–undoubtedly true, but nobody wants to fight the gay mafia more than they already have to.

    I hope you’ll be able to release your old blog posts again sometime. I’d like to go back and try to understand the economics posts. I skimmed them the first time around, because I don’t know anything about macroeconomics, but I’d like to change that someday. It’d be nice to have opinions, like everybody else seems to.

  21. It’d be nice to have opinions, like everybody else seems to.

    I don’t know about that. I also don’t know anything about economics, and I think I’d just like to keep it that way, thank you very much, since it seems clear that most people are obviously wrong on the topic, whatever their particular school of thought.

  22. I wouldn’t worry about the future of the Orthosphere. It will not be around in five years, one expects. Maybe as few as three. It will be nice if you keep this blog up though, you have ever been an interesting read.

    I will make a different estimate when Proph feels he can open his blog regardless of cost or when he feels there will be no cost.

    Anyway if you don’t blog about that skittishness of reactionaries, I know that I will get round to it, because I think it interferes greatly with effective action.

  23. Oh yeah, I forgot about that post. It seems like a perfect example of unnecessary and gratuitously offensive. And as it got exactly one (angry) comment it didn’t even have an impact, but if it were attributed to me it could have plenty of nasty repercussions. So I guess I see your point, after all!

    My economics posts were largely hokum I think now. I’ll have to review them but I think they were the writings of a man who was hubristically dabbling in a field too technical for his limited competence.

  24. Welcome back!

  25. Sorry, Thursday, but he got “pwned.”

    Whilst Lydia was guilty of hysterics, Smithy was defending the indefensible. I know you’re not Catholic, but Veritatis Splendor clearly lists slavery as an intrinsic evil. Tradition was wrong on the slavery issue from a Catholic perspective.

    And I disagree with Bruce Charlton’s views about censoring comments. By all means censor the rude and outright ignorant but be very liberal in your comments section, lest the blog become an echo chamber. Good criticism is to be welcomed even if it is sometimes uncomfortable.

  26. Agree. Niceness is sometimes the enemy of the Good.

  27. This is very good news!

  28. Lydia’s warnings are very true, and the temptations she mentions are definitely very real. I’ve been subject to them myself. I won’t name names, but there have definitely been times when I’ve associated myself with nutty and frivolous parts of the non-mainstream Right. That said, I think her reading of JMSmith’s post is uncharitable. His point, it seems to me, was that abolitionism was typical of Leftists of the late 19th century, so that the anti-abolitionism of many orthodox Christians of the same period, regardless of whether they were right in that view, is evidence that they were not of the Left.

    I also agree completely with the commenter who said that you’re selling your own writing skills short. As I’ve said before, I probably wouldn’t have become a reactionary if not for your clearly written and fair-minded posts and essays.

  29. Thanks for stating the point of my first Orthosphere post so clearly. That was precisely my point.

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