Woe to the vanquished


I’ve predicted that the media will try to redirect anger over Muslim sexual violence into a backlash against conservative religious groups more generally, which could then be directed at Christians in particular.  Now that the refugees’ penchant for assaulting European women is getting hard to deny, I’ve been reading more and more about how this is all caused by those darn “conservative cultures” that don’t believe in women’s equality.  On the other hand, given the way the impeccably progressive Soviet conquering army treated German women, should we really be surprised by the behavior of the Syrian conquering army?

You know how you stop this sort of thing?  Don’t get conquered.

Leftist shamelessness and Christian hypocrisy

Our side sometimes speculates that Leftists are secretly energized by their own unacknowledged guilt or shame for their personal sins.  Conspicuous displays of righteous attitudes are a way to reassure themselves of their own goodness, scapegoat-hunting is driven by projected guilt, and so forth.  The idea is that synderesis in humans is strong enough to override ideological obfuscation, at least enough to cause an uneasy conscience.  I find such psychological explanations implausible because they ignore the basic sociological fact of Leftism being an established ideology.  Like any established ideology, it enjoys greater support from “the best”, those most able and motivated to achieve their society’s ideal.  The status quo usually has the best human material.  Thus I take things more at face value–people who appear utterly sure of their own righteousness really are utterly sure of their own righteousness.  And this is the most terrifying thing about Leftists:  their absolute and vindictive moral certainty, a product of their Manichean worldview that casts themselves as pure good and their opponents as pure evil.  They claim to be tolerant, but to those they really do disapprove they are pitiless.  It occurs to me that Leftists may have a very different personal experience with morality than Christians.  While Christians all to some extent fail to follow our own moral code, and are thus confronted with our own personal weakness and viciousness, Leftist morality, being a matter of attitudes, can be quite easy.  It’s not hard to avoid having negative thoughts about blacks, especially if your only exposure to them is The Cosby Show. Nor am I impressed with so-called “liberal guilt” which always seems to mean condemnation of one’s ancestors for failing to meet one’s own standards.  The fact that this is what passes for guilt with them just illustrates how different are their moral experiences.  For us, morality usually means confronting ourselves; for them, it mostly means confronting evil others.  What if many on the social justice warrior Left have never, or almost never, felt personal guilt or shame?  Wouldn’t their personalities be very different from those of ordinary mortals?

Most Christians are not hypocrites in the sense of pretending to a level of virtue we don’t enjoy.  On the other hand, when Leftists call us hypocrites they mean that we don’t privately live up to the moral code we publicly espouse, and that is certainly true.  I think hypocrisy gets a bum rap.  Of course, pure virtue is better, but there’s something admirable in not letting one’s vices dictate one’s beliefs.  Don’t we admire it when a man allows himself to be convinced of a truth that it is against his interest to acknowledge?  Don’t we usually trust testimony more when it is against the speaker’s own interest?  (Perhaps we shouldn’t.  It penalizes impartiality.)  Suppose a public figure takes a public stand against homosexuality.  Then suppose it turns out that he is a practicing homosexual.  Most people would call this a score for the gay side and mean that the man’s arguments against sodomy should be weighted less; clearly he himself isn’t convinced by them.  People think this way because with their easy morality they’ve never faced their own weakness, their own inability to persevere in sincerely held principles.  Perhaps we should weigh the actively gay man’s anti-homosexuality testimony more highly, because it is testimony against interest.

These generalizations are probably even more true today, when most culture war battles have to do with Leftist morality on race or Christian morality on sex.  More and more thorough purges of America’s white past don’t really cost Leftists anything.  On the other hand, I don’t know if it’s our higher testosterone or what, but I suspect conservatives really do have stronger sex drives than liberals.  “You conservatives are obsessed with sex!” is probably often true.  It is for me!  (For their own consistency, though, I think that liberals should be careful to avoid shaming language.  Who are they to judge conservatives for being sex-obsessed?)  This should count for us rather than against us in sex arguments.  Few things would do more to make my Earthly life pleasant than to be proved wrong about nonprocreative sexual release.  Being convinced by Catholic arguments has meant living with either sexual frustration or guilt most of my adult life.  I’m obviously not using Catholic doctrine to promote my (worldly) interests.  One of the advantages of focusing attention on nearly ubiquitous and generally approved sexual sins is this:  we establish that we are not just laying burdens on small groups like sodomites and divorcees; we’re recognizing burdens on ourselves.  We deserve the moral authority of being good hypocrites.

Liberalism and Islam, Christianity and paganism

Edward Feser has a long post on the relationship between liberalism and Islam.  They seem so opposed, but liberals consistently defend and admire Islam.  Are they deluded, or are they seeing something the rest of us don’t.  Feser’s conclusion is that liberals are diluted, that liberalism and Islam are as near to being opposites as they seem.  However, his argument could just as well support the opposite conclusion.

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Assimilation of French Muslims impeded by zombies

When liberalism isn’t working, liberals look for a scapegoat.  It doesn’t have to be plausible.

Students of the Bonald-Le PlayZimmerman school of the importance of family structure will be interested in this review of Emmanuel Todd’s Who is Charlie?  Xenophobia and the New Middle Class.

Todd identifies two tranches of post-Christian France: one that moved away from religion – a move made by entire parishes, not individuals – in the 18th century, and another that only began to desert the faith in the 1960s. The first is located in an area he calls ‘the Paris Basin’, the geological term for a large part of north and central France, running from the Ardennes down to the northern edge of the Massif Central. It’s clear from the maps in the book that these early defectors were also plentiful in the Aquitaine Basin. Together they show up on the maps as a continuous north-south swathe of unbelievers running down the middle of the country with a southwesterly bulge towards the Atlantic coast. In addition a corridor from the Paris Basin connects this central body of non-churchgoers to a large annexe of like-minded people in the south-east – a stretch of Mediterranean coast and its hinterland corresponding roughly to the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In terms of size, the centre and the annexe account for about half the country. Everywhere else people remain devout for very much longer. Todd refers to the first group – the precocious unbelievers in the Paris Basin and the southeastern annexe – as ‘the centre’ and the dawdling faithful as ‘the periphery’.

Another of the maps assigns ‘equality in family structures’ by area (‘equality’ here refers to old rules of inheritance). It shows that property was likely to be evenly distributed in the centre, where families ‘were obsessed with the division of inheritances into equal parts’, while in the religious periphery it was likely to pass by primogeniture to the first male child. These two different traditions, like their irreligious and religious equivalents, persisted side by side without much difficulty, and Todd believes that ‘without the counterweight of peripheral France’, the egalitarianism at the centre ‘would have produced disorder rather than a doctrine of liberty and equality’…

Apparently whatever changed between 2005 and 2015 – a change for the very worst in Todd’s view – was driven neither by the founding generations of unbeliever-egalitarians, nor by North African migrants, but by the generations of French on the periphery who forsook religion late in the day, from the 1960s onwards. In an earlier book Todd and Hervé Le Bras, an INED colleague, came up with the name ‘zombie Catholics’ for this large segment of the French population that still carries the moral and sociological baggage of devout Christianity even though it is no longer practising. Zombie Catholics prefer authoritarian values to egalitarian ones, and they are in search of a universalising, transcendent faith to replace the one they have abandoned. They are the new reactionary force shaping the cultural politics of France in the 21st century.

But how is this force on the periphery – its territory more or less the same as it always was – redefining the temperament of the nation without eating into the home turf (also more or less the same) of the old egalitarian centre? Todd’s answer is that there are two crises of faith in France: one in the recently godless periphery, the other in the old heartland of godlessness, where militant unbelief no longer makes sense now the clerical monster that gave meaning to atheism has ceased to exist. (In the centre, the egalitarian temperament began to founder in the mid-1970s: we see this in the collapse of Communist Party membership, which came not with the fall of the Soviet Union, but almost a decade earlier when the decline of peripheral Catholicism had already begun.) And so, as the periphery casts about for certainties, the centre is also looking this way and that for a new vitality. Both are confronted with ‘the boundless void of a godless and atheist world’ and both have found a born-again affirmation of secular values in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. ‘The demonisation of Islam’ anchors this new ecstatic consciousness in the real world and fulfils ‘the intrinsic need of a completely dechristianised society’.

Catholics are evil even after they apostasize.  When they embrace Republicanism, they just get their cooties on it.  Fortunately, Islam offers the religious partner Leftism has always dreamed of.

Islam – or rather Muslims – can bring about a new infusion of egalitarianism: the Arab cultures from which Muslims are descended have egalitarian family traditions, with property distributed evenly among brothers: sooner or later, Todd argues, the sisters are sure to be included. There is no cultural chasm, therefore, between French Arabs and the scions of that early, central swathe of egalitarian French. All will be well once ‘Islam has dissolved the anti-feminist component of Arab culture.’ Quranic stipulations on inheritance, Todd tells us, are hardly ever taken at their word: the most devout Muslim ethnic groups in Indonesia are matrilineal cultures with inheritance rules that tend to favour women…

But where zombie Catholics are driven by inegalitarian attitudes, post-religious Muslims of North African descent will reproduce the egalitarian values nurtured in the Arab family – the very values France needs in order to re-supply the demoralised forces of the ‘centre’ and restore égalité to its rightful place. In this sense the two big crises pointed up in Who is Charlie? – racism and inequality – would be solved mechanically by a slow, inexorable sociological change; but this, too, is a long way off, and attitudes will have to change now. Islam, Todd writes, must be ‘legitimated as a component of the nation, just as the Church was … We need to grant to Islam what was granted to Catholicism, in the era of triumphant secularism.’

The claimed correlation between primogeniture and religiousness and authoritarianism deserves further study.  We don’t know what causes what, but if primogeniture really does promote “inegalitarian attitudes” this would be a good reason for us to favor it.

All sex all the time

It’s just a rumor now, but would anyone be surprised if Pope “I care too much about world poverty to get hung up on sexual rules” decides the next topic the world’s bishops must discuss is priestly celibacy?

In what feels like a long time ago, I would have been able to muster the energy to fight over this, but Pope Francis has already attacked something much closer to my heart, so all I I can do is shrug my shoulders and say “Who cares anymore?”

Just a few points:

  1. People complain about a priest shortage.  At least they did.  Lately things have gotten so bad that we look back longingly on the day when we liked our priests enough to actually wish we had more.  The truth is that what we have is not a priest shortage but a laity surplus.  If the Church is to survive, it must somehow eject that 90% or so who are actually on the other side.  There are more than enough priests to minister to the rest.
  2. Clerical celibacy and marital indissolubility spring from the same source in the Catholic imagination–the romance of life-disposing sacred vows.  One can consistently affirm one without the other, but it’s no coincidence that the two have the same enemies and that the only Christian body to maintain the doctrine of marital indissolubility without compromise is the one that has a celibate clergy.
  3. In contemporary Catholicism, there are only two subjects:  sex and not-sex.  And talking about not-sex is just a sly way of talking about sex.  Remember when the Pope addressed Congress and talked about not-sex for the whole speech?  And the take-away message is that conservatives should stop obsessing with sex and realize that abortion and homosexuality are awesome?  (That was the message taken by both liberal and conservative media.  And since it was entirely predictable to everyone, including the Pontiff, that this is the message that would be received from such an address, it follows that it was also the intended message, the real message.)  Not that I would claim to be any better than the media.  After all, I could have written a post about drinking water access in the third world, but I didn’t, because that would be boring.  This is a post about sex.  But I’ve got this on His Humbleness:  at least I don’t pretend that I’m not obsessed with sex.

My fondest wishes for the Orthosphere

From a point where Dr. Charlton could understandably assert its death, The Orthosphere has bounced back and is now at its highest quality yet.  Professor Bertonneau has begun posting much more regularly.  Professor Smith (who contributes a lot of the best material at Throne and Altar, if you read the comments) and Professor Cocks are onboard and contributing.  Kristor is still plugging away.  I plan to keep my writings here for the foreseeable future.  My colleagues are doing a much better job expounding on metaphysics and theology than I could do.  It frees me up to keep amusing myself writing about sex and Disney princesses.  (Actually, the princess theme is exhausted now.  I just had to work that out of my system.)  The state of the Church is so discouraging, I’m surprised more bloggers aren’t retreating into other subjects.

One wish I had for the Orthosphere has come true.  It’s now pretty much dominated by humanities and social sciences university faculty.  I’m an unashamed snob about these things, and it seems to me that those are the people who should be overseeing a theological-political movement.  The amateur phase is to be gotten over as quickly as possible.

The biggest wish I had for the Orthosphere has not come true.  I was hoping to see us being attacked in First Things.  You see, a frustrating thing about the Right is insufficient connectivity between its various degrees.  For whatever reason, each person seems to have an inclination to occupy his own particular spot in the ideological spectrum.  He will drift only until he finds it.  Many of us had the experience of spending years on the rightmost edge of liberalism, even though we found it unsatisfactory, because we weren’t aware of any genuinely illiberal alternative.  There are stops in the ideological spectrum where right-going personalities tend to clog up.  A stop is a point on the spectrum that refuses to acknowledge alternatives to its right.  Stop points dialog only with positions to their left and thus present themselves to their followers as the rightmost end of the viable ideological spectrum.  By refusing to seriously engage perspectives to their right, they impede the flow of readers to their natural ideological destinations.

Acknowledgement of other positions usually can’t mean agreement–they are other positions after all.  It can mean attack, so long as the position being attacked is accurately described.  George Weigel throwing insults at the SSPX is not acknowledgement.  I suspect that if First Things–the highest quality magazine that represents the rightmost end of religious conservatism that nevertheless insists on bending the knee to Americanist liberalism–were to properly attack us, meaning explain Jim Kalb’s case against liberalism and then give their reasons for disagreeing with it, they’d lose half their readers to us.  Many of us were stuck at the Neuhaus halfway house for too long and would have happily defected once we heard even a negative description of a viable rightward alternative.

My biggest misgiving with religious conservatism, Orthosphere and otherwise, is the emerging consensus in favor of Girardism.  Everybody but me seems to be sold on this idea that culture and organized religion are giant scams for people to redirect their homicidal envy at innocent victims, and the point of Christianity is that these victims society is always teaming up on are innocent.  That’s certainly not what I thought our beliefs were, but then again what do I know?