What the Republican Party is good for

As I’ve said before

abortion will never be restricted in the United States in any serious way.  Never.  Not in a million years.  Americans would legalize cannibalism before they would restrict abortion.  They would elect Darth Vader president before they would restrict abortion…

Just because a movement is hopeless doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve a useful purpose, though.  The constant agitation of the pro-life movement has succeeded in getting the issue of abortion labeled as “controversial” in the public mind.  This is no small feat.  Compare what’s happened to other reactionary causes when they ceased to be thought controversial…Most of America, and all of the elite, would like to “settle” on abortion, too.  In this case, though, there’s a minority that’s large and vocal enough that they can’t convincingly do it.  Everybody knows that abortion is controversial.  If I want it outlawed, most people disagree with me, but they don’t regard me as a lone nut.

If the reason for the pro-life movement is to bear witness against an evil we can’t stop, and the best we can aim for is not to get pushed completely out of the Overton window (like all my other beliefs), this affects how we consider the movement’s association with the Republican Party.  It’s usual for pro-lifers to grumble about Republicans giving lip service to fetal rights to get our votes but then doing nothing for the cause once elected.  What we should remember is that our stated goal is something the citizenry would never tolerate–if the Republican Party were to seriously pursue it, it would just mean its destruction as a viable national party and unimaginable rage directed at us.  On the other hand, for the achievable goal of keeping opposition to abortion an opinion that doesn’t get one fired, ostracized, or committed, lip service is the best thing Republicans can do.

In fact, I’d say that this is the main service the Republican Party provides to its voters.  Of course, it doesn’t provide it very well, and it doesn’t provide this cover of respectability to many groups that deserve it, but it may be the best that can be done in this age of liberal ideological hegemony and SJW aggressiveness.

Here’s a claim I used to laugh at:  if gay marriage opponents play our cards right, we might end up being as successful as the pro-life movement.  The pro-life movement always seemed to me a picture of failure.  Then gay marriage came, and I realized that a belief can have it a lot worse than abortion opposition.  “Racists” have known this for a long time.

Each year, politics seems to be less focused on policy and more on policing thought and opinion.  I found it refreshing to hear that President Obama is pushing some policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; from what I’ve seen, the environmental movement as a whole seems more focused on stamping out “denial” and even “doubt”.  I myself don’t deny in particular anything climatologists say, but even I was scandalized when a speaker at a regional APS meeting explicitly said that we need to be working to push the “climate change” buzzword because it’s less falsifiable than “global warming”.

I don’t care much what happens to the Republican Party, but while it exists, my only interest is that its most visible face, its presidential candidate, never be pro-choice.  Once it seems that the Republican Party has dropped abortion opposition, abortion will cease to be a controversial subject.  It will be part of the national consensus, just as the Supreme Court intended.  And once pro-lifers are out of the Overton window, we needn’t hope that future Republicans will ever reach out to try to bring us back in.

Catholic defensiveness vs. pious humbug

My post on the Orthosphere prompted this insightful comment from “Rob”:

I am wondering whether or not this is a tall order though, to seek a tribalistic character to Catholicism in se. Tribalism to me, suggests a defensiveness, defending one’s own. Catholicism has certainly served as an attribute of in or out of tribe. E.g., to be English is to be Protestant; to be French is to be Catholic. But how sincerely does one feel that this attribute is really of the essence of the “in”?
Catholicism in itself seems to me to be purely an “offensive,” rather than a “defensive” spirit?

I replied

A very good point. “Tribal” categories only come to the fore when the group is imperiled. To me, the destruction of the Catholic Church in one generation is a live possibility, while a successful offensive against the world is fantasy. Of course, the truths Catholicism teaches can’t be destroyed, but it can become the case that no one will believe them, and no one will positively identify with the people whom history calls “Catholic”.

That’s the defensive tribal attitude.  We’re under attack, and if we don’t respond effectively now, we’re going to be eliminated.

Now the opposite attitude, quite widespread on the Catholic blogosphere, which I call “pious humbug”, abbreviated “pious BS”.   Pious BS is how we rationalize taking the war against the Church in a way less seriously than secular pursuits.  Before anybody gets offended, remember that as a pseudonymous, self-described bad Catholic, I’m not claiming to be better than anyone.  I do almost nothing for the Church, while many people devote their lives to the service of the Church without ever thinking about the war in a serious way.  Thinking seriously is not about effort; it’s about strategy.

“Victory is in God’s hands, and all He asks is that we try.”  If you believe that, you won’t really try.  “Making an effort” means expending resources like time and money, but since there’s no connection between cause and effect in this way of thinking, there’s no need to strategize, no need to think about how to make most effective use of limited resources, no need to anticipate the enemy’s moves, no need to analyze the effectiveness of our current tactics.  “It’s in God’s hands”, thus we become occasionalists on this one matter–the war in Heaven on Earth.  What the pious BSer ignores is that his intelligence is itself something he has a duty to offer to God’s cause.

Some examples of pious BS:

  • expending all our missionary effort on people who are the least likely to convert

  • dismissing the “ghetto option” because it means we won’t be evangelizing the world, even when it’s clear that in conditions of openness the world is gaining more converts from us than we are from them

  • claiming to have exclusively “pastoral” interests and then showing little interest in how people are to know or whether they are likely to believe the basic doctrines of the faith
  • worrying more about extinct heresies (e.g. “Jansenism”) than live ones
  • responding to ecclesial crises with meaningless commemorative events (e.g. responding to widespread loss of faith by declaring a “Year of Faith” or suchlike)
  • reckless lack of concern on the part of prelates for how their statements, often made while seeking favor from small groups already hostile to the faith, can be exploited by the Church’s enemies

Most sentences with the phrases “promise” and “gates of Hell” are pious BS.  That the Church will endure perpetually is guaranteed by the present existence of souls in heaven and purgatory.  Our Lord Himself treated the question of whether He would find faith on the Earth on His return as an open one.

Most pastoral uses of the parable of the shepherd who left his 99 sheep to find the one lost one are pious BS, an excuse to ignore the needs of the average parishioner (who is also lost, or in danger of being lost, in his own less glamorous way) to pursue favor with the ones with high secular status.

Devout Protestants rightly criticize the importation of business models into their churches, but it often feels like Catholic leaders take their job less seriously than someone would a business enterprise.

Political correctness is not just good manners

Proph has reposted one of my favorite of his Collapse:  The Blog articles:  Is Political Correctness Merely Niceness?  It’s a very good illustration of Orthosphere reasoning.

Commenter David mentioned the following in a recent post, in response to which I promised a later follow-up:

Left-wing political correctness embraces very simple values that were once conservative values as much as liberal ones: talk to people using respectful language whether you agree with their actions and attitudes or not. Do not stereotype the actions of a whole group by those of an individual.

PC is similar to niceness in that it exists to limit respectable discourse and thus to protect the existing social order from excessively severe attacks. That is where the resemblance, I’m afraid, really ends.

For where niceness is concerned with protecting a social order concerned with community, PC is concerned with protecting a social order that is explicitly anti-community (indeed, one that parcels up community into competing and hostile groups, some of which are entitled to PC protection and others subject to explicitly PC nastiness). Both require conformity to socially-established norms but order these norms toward different ends. The order which niceness seeks is fundamentally cooperative, communitarian, and traditional; it is pious and humble. Political correctness seeks an order that is noncooperative, individualistic, and revolutionarily novel as a matter of principle. It regards desecration and shock as a means to that end.

PC is therefore a direct competitor to mere niceness; both seek the protection of a social order, but the social orders they envision are irreconcilable. Niceness has no interest in protecting the manifold absurdities of modern liberal society. Political correctness has no interest in what it sees as the stultifying, arbitrary, and suffocating rules of traditional society.

PC also reacts in comparatively more severe ways to violations of its sanctions than do the merely kind. Because kindness is simply a disposition whereas PC is an institutionalized ideology, violations of the former are treated with, at worst, coldness and avoidance where violations of the latter are subject to often quite devastating and disproportionate retaliation. PC is therefore far more overtly coercive than mere niceness.

It goes without saying that, while both niceness and PC proscribe certain behaviors and manners of speech, PC’s scope is comparatively limited; it protects with greater intensity many fewer people (and does not because they are people but because they belong to the groups they do), where niceness protects everyone.  Niceness prohibits meanness; PC prohibits insensitivity.

A sharing miracle

Liberal Catholics have this weird fetish for saying that the miracle of the loaves and fishes/feeding of the multitude was actually a “sharing miracle”.  That is, Jesus didn’t actually make food multiply/appear out of nowhere; he just inspired people in the crowd to share what they already had, and it was enough for everybody.  (There are variations.  I went to college at the University of Illinois, which has a pretty orthodox Newman center, and their line was that there were two miracles:  sharing and multiplication of loaves and fishes.  Such a convoluted position can only be explained as a compromise between factions.  Liberals want their sharing story, and orthodox want what the evangelists actually wrote.)

This is such a bizarre claim to make, it must be a clue into the liberal Catholic mindset.  I mean, I understand that if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not going to believe the gospel story as written.  But in that case, shouldn’t you just dismiss the whole thing as legend?  Why imagine that the feeding of the crowd happened in any way at all?  After all, the thousands gathering to listen to Jesus and get hungry is just a setup for the miracle.  And why make up something (the sharing) that’s not in the written narrative at all?  There’s a weird residue of inerrancy inside liberal Christians, that they dismiss most biblical narratives as legends fabricated centuries after the supposed events, and yet they insist on believing little details in these same narratives.  For example, every priest I’ve ever heard preach on this topic has belabored the point that Jesus had the leftovers collected–so don’t forget to reduce, reuse, recycle kids!

The whole sharing thing doesn’t make sense anyway.  We must believe either that most people brought enough for themselves to eat, which would mean very little sharing took place, or that a minority of people brought ridiculously more than they could possibly eat, so that there were leftovers even after sharing with everyone else, which makes no sense at all.

Or actually it does, if you’re a liberal Catholic.  These guys are all socialists.  They think that sharing makes stuff appear out of nowhere.

Ecumenism and Vatican II for the tribal Catholic

I’m going to keep going with my tribal Christianity theme for a while.  If only I could get it to catch on, it might do some good.  After fleshing things out here, I’ll put up an article at the Orthosphere, which has somewhat higher traffic than this blog.

I’ve just added a review of Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political to my book reviews.  It relates to this discussion, because tribal Christianity is about the legitimacy of the friend-enemy distinction as applied to the Church.  Christian intellectuals seem to pride themselves on not thinking in these terms.  External faiths and internal heresies are treated according to truth/orthodoxy categories as errors containing more or less impressive admixtures of truth.  Protestants, communists, and Kasperites are presumed to be well-meaning but slightly mistaken.  (Indeed, orthodox Catholics make so much of their supposed good intentions that those who don’t fall into their errors are morally suspect.  Thus, if people become Marxists because they care so much for the poor, then a burden of proof always falls onto non-Marxists to show that we don’t hate poor people.)  Alternatively, rival denominations may be treated under sacerdotal categories–the validity or invalidity of their rites, lack or presence of a valid apostolic succession, and the like.  Or errors may be treated according to moral categories, according to which sodomites are no greater concern than fornicators or masturbators, because each of these are sexual sins of comparable magnitude.  However, as this example shows, the apolitical categories leave out the most important thing.  The sodomite activist is not objectionable primarily because of his private errors, sins, or sacramental irregularities; he is a concern because he is the ENEMY.  He is a threat.  He means to persecute the Church, corrupt our children, to destroy us utterly.  In debating with him, we are not co-participants in a search for truth and virtue; it is warfare by other means.  The goal is not to convert an earnest seeker, but to neutralize a threat.

The accursed council, Vatican II, was not a dogmatic council or a pastoral council (it’s documents are pedagogically useless, i.e. far less easy to understand than the Baltimore Catechism) but a political council.  Its purpose was to designate friends and enemies.  Before the council, Protestantism and liberalism were regarded as enemies.  Vatican II decided that they were to be regarded as friends.  Because Vatican II could not change dogma, it could do nothing to reduce our disagreements with the world, but it could declare these to be friendly disagreements.  No dogma is involved in such decisions, but no infallibility attaches to it either.  Any Catholic may disagree, and tribal Catholics do strongly disagree with the decision to psychologically disarm before liberalism–a one-sided disarmament, because liberals continue to treat us as an enemy.  We condemn the council fathers according to our own particular category.  We don’t question their morals or their orthodoxy (although the influential periti were certainly heretics).  WE QUESTION THEIR LOYALTY.

Tribal Catholics don’t like ecumenism, because it’s usually just an excuse for Catholic-bashing from those who are supposed to be our leaders.  From liberal Catholic theologians, we hear about how much more enlightened the mainline Protestants are (although even they pale before the glory of atheists, Jews, and Muslims).  From conservative Catholic theologians, we hear about how much more enlightened the Eastern Orthodox are (although they again are not nearly as wonderful as the Jews).  I’m sick of it.  If the heretics and schismatics are so wonderful, go join them.

Ecumenism is pointless.  The traitors of Vatican II gutted the liturgy, gutted the churches, gutted catechesis, did everything they could to downplay the distinctively Catholic, all to no avail.  We’re no closer to unity with the Lutherans or anyone else than we were in 1959.  After all, Lutherans aren’t stupid.  Given that we teach that the Mass is a sacrifice, it doesn’t matter to them whether we say it often or seldom.  Their objection is that we believe it at all, since they think it false.  The only resolution is for them to change their minds, or for us to change ours.  But this would not be any kind of Catholic-Lutheran reunion; it would be mass conversion one way or the other.  Eastern Orthodox claim the filioque is heretical.  Either they’re wrong or we are.  There can be no reunion, ever.  Trying to force the issue just breeds resentment.

But there can be an alliance.

Tribal Catholics will have a generally positive attitude toward conservative Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Mormons.  We can afford to be much warmer toward them than non-tribalists, who must judge them according to their orthodoxy or sacramental status.  We, however, can recognize them as allies, but only because we see that liberalism is the sole great enemy of the Catholic Church in this age.  The Evangelicals and Mormons stood by us in the contraceptive mandate debate (far better than our own laity, I might add), even though they weren’t themselves involved.  That means a lot to a tribalist.  It seems to me a matter of honor that our bishops stick up for them when the liberals go after their bakers and florists.  Have our bishops done this?  Not that I’ve heard.  The Church’s “religious liberty” witness is in practice devoted to herself (and not even to Catholics as private individuals), and our bishops’ “bravo” rhetoric clearly signals that they want nothing to do with persecuted Christians.  A tribal Catholic recognizes this as a stain on the American Church’s honor.  Being a faithful ally matters a great deal to a Catholic tribalist.