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On Twitter, folks are revealing their true feelings about any number of things with the hashtag #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion.
To take just the examples flowing through my timeline as I write this:
There are even the indefensible and insane opinions:
Great, right? What are your unpopular opinions? Have at it, Ricochetti.
God . . . and Me.January 28, 2014
As my profile discloses, I consider myself an agnostic. As I think people sometimes get confused about that word, I should say that I mean it in the sense Merriam-Webster defines it: “a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not.” That’s not the same as “atheist.” Merriam Webster again: “a person who believes that God does not exist.”
Of course I’ll admit, as the religious among you probably suspect, that my lack of a “definite belief” does carry with it a good dose of doubt. If pressed to bet, I’d bet against God’s existence. But I am genuinely unsure and consider the asserted certainty of the Richard Dawkins of the world to be staggering arrogance. I’ve not read enough of the “new atheists” to claim to really understand their point of view, but I do approach them wondering how on earth any small, feeble, limited, fragile human (and we all are that) could profess such certainty about so unknowable a question.
Physics (another topic I know only cursorily) doesn’t provide proof (I know enough to know that). Geology, biology, archeology, cosmology . . . none of them do either. In truth, proving non-existence is hard. It presents epistemological problems even in the here and now. Proving the non-existence of an omnipotent, omniscient spirit purported to exist in another realm? Puhleeeze. They don’t know. There’s no way they could.
From what I have read of them though, I get the impression that the new atheists bigger beef is not with God so much as with organized religion. I consider them on somewhat firmer ground there.
First of all, I am relatively certain that some of the stories that organized religions tell are just plain false. Take the Genesis story. Didn’t happen. I’m as sure of that as I am of my own name. All those sciences mentioned above that don’t prove the non-existence of God? They do have something real and concrete to say about the contention that the earth and all its inhabitants were miraculously created in six days roughly 6,000 years ago. And they all say “no.”
That doesn’t mean that there is no God. It doesn’t even mean that Jesus Christ wasn’t his only son who came to die for the sins of the world, or that Mohammed wasn’t his prophet, or whatever. But it does mean you can’t believe everything you read in three-millennia-old texts written by pre-scientific nomads.
Since this post is titled “God . . . and Me” though, I’m going to take it a step further and tell you what I genuinely do believe about organized religions: I believe that it is overwhelmingly likely that they all have it wrong. If I believe there’s maybe a 30% chance that God exists, I also believe that the chance that any organized religion really knows much about his plans, desires, and priorities is perhaps .3/100 or .3/1000.
Even if Moses or Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith (or Buddha) did come centuries ago to reveal something of God’s will or plan (a staggeringly big 'if'), the institutions built on those revelations are human constructions subject to all the base motives, miscommunications, and corruptions that all human institutions are subject to. Imagine those compounding over the centuries and tell me how the message we receive from these institutions today could be the same as the one revealed centuries or millennia ago? That just doesn’t stand up to the test of common sense.
To add to that, we have so many different revelations claimed by so many different subsets of the human race. How do I choose? “I was raised with this one” seems like an intellectually bankrupt basis for the choice, and they all profess such certainty. Speaking of certainty, I was pretty hard on the new atheists for their certainty and if that made you feel smug, it’s now your turn. I don’t find the certainty of some believers (emphasis on “some”) any less arrogant than the certainty of some atheists. Perhaps that makes me a “militant” agnostic – at war more than anything with the whole idea of certainty in a realm I consider fundamentally unknowable – at least at our current stage of development.
So how about you? What are you? Genuine atheist? Agnostic (militant or not)? Believer with doubts and uncertainties? Or true believer?
I live in London, UK, with my partner. I am a solicitor (attorney), now retired. She is a specialist clinician, a systemic psychotherapist working as part of a multi-disciplinary team in a service for children and young people with mental health problems, and their families. She is also a painter.
Today is the sixth anniversary of our civil partnership (civil union). If it had been possible, Liz and I would have registered our partnership in 1987, which is when we decided to buy a house and spend the rest of our lives together.
We are not freaks. We are just an ordinary couple who love each other and have been entirely faithful to each other for more than 25 years.
I don't want to undermine religion. I have no problem with religion, although I am not myself a believer. And I certainly don’t want to destroy the fabric of our society. I feel too much part of it to want to harm it.
What I do need, and feel entitled to expect, is the same opportunity as other people to live a normal family life. I should also like people to respect my relationship with Liz, which I am very proud of.
Does this make sense to Ricochet readers?
How did we get on this topic? We were having a conversation about talking to young women (Mollie’s post here), and persuading them to consider conservatism. One argument was that young women dread conservatives because conservatives are accused of wanting to roll back the Sexual Revolution, but that’s what brought women freedom. Then we got into the elements of the Sexual Revolution, and we landed on contraception. The arguments about contraception came up, and then I started talking about the sacred nature of sex, and I argued that contraception mitigates that. Red Feline and others disagreed - - we started talking about the nature of sex - - and rather than sidetrack Mollie’s thread, we now start a new one. This thread is devoted entirely to the nature of sex.
So let’s get started.
I love sex. Really. I look forward to it.
But just because something is enjoyable doesn’t mean it can’t also be sacred. And while I love sex, and think it’s a heck of a lot of fun, I also think it’s sacred.
- Sacred: To me that means something specific. When something is sacred, that means it has its own dignity. In plainer English, it means you can’t “use” it for any purpose but for what it was intended for. You have to respect it. An example is Communion wine. We Catholics consider it sacred, which means that we can’t just drink it because we’re thirsty. It has a special role, and we either use it for that role or not at all.
When you’re dealing with the sacred, you respect it, and you only use it for what it was intended for, and never for anything else.
Human beings, in the same way, should be considered sacred. You don’t “use” people. They have their own lives, their own freedom, and their own dignity. A president can’t just use soldiers, for instance, or throw them into danger because it may help him politically. You just don’t do things like that with people’s lives, because they’re sacred.
Parents consider their children sacred (or we expect them to). You don’t use children. If you want to play with dolls, buy a doll. If you want to have companionship, buy a puppy. But when you have a child, that child is a person in his own right, and as a parent, you respect that child’s life and dignity. You never use children.
Most of the opposition to prostitution is based on that notion that human beings are not to be “used.” You don’t use women, even if they want to be used so they can get money. Human beings have dignity, and you respect that dignity in all cases.
Sometimes the sacred comes in the form of an object, like communion wine. Sometimes, the sacred comes in the form of a person. And sometimes, the sacred comes in an action, or even a ritual.
Sex is an action. I say it’s a sacred action. My church taught me that originally, but as a man who’s been married for over twenty years, I confirm that sacredness by my own experience. Sex is at the core of my life, because my life is lived in union with another person.
Because it’s sacred, I respect it. And once I reflect on sex, I know that sex has different aspects to it.
- Sex communicates love
- Sex produces children
None of this is all that controversial. But here’s an intellectual question: Even if you grant that sex is sacred, and you can’t use it for any other purpose … does that mean that every act of sex has to fulfill every purpose? After all, it’s one thing to list qualities of sex, and demand that you can’t use sex to fulfill some other quality that isn’t on that list. But does that mean that you have to fulfill all of the qualities that are on the list, every time you have sex? If sacred means not using it for something else, does it also mean that you must use it fully?
I say yes.
My church phrases it this way: every act of sex must be open (“must be open;” now’s there’s a phrase!) to its natural purposes … in fact, it must be open to all of them. If sex’s dignity includes both procreation and communicating love, then because it’s sacred, both must be respected during every act of sex.
Now as it is, there’s a battle-worthy distinction between saying that sex [must produce] children and saying that sex [must be open to the possibility of producing] children. My church gets roasted for that distinction, but my goodness, I think that’s a way of letting people off the hook of having to produce children every time. That distinction is the church’s way of addressing the reality that while sex is sacred, people want to have it without getting pregnant.
But as for the dignity of sex:
- I find it impossible to deny that procreation is essential to the nature of sex.
- Nor can I deny that communicating love is essential to the nature of sex.
So, since the dignity of sex includes both, I can’t see a way to wriggle out of the conclusion: I must conclude that every act of sex is open to both, or else I’m having sex without respecting its sacredness. Communicating love is not enough. The possibility of producing children is not enough. It has to be both.
(OK, I’ve talked too much. Time for others to speak if they wish.)
As Brian notes below, there's a heartbreaking story in the news about a 10-year-old girl waiting for a lung transplant and how HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resisting calls from the girl's family, the public, and several politicians to waive a regulation that lowers her chances of receiving a transplant.
I'm not going to wade into it.
I just need to point out that the perpetual shortage of human organs available for transplant isn't an unfortunate circumstance, that's its not really-sad-but-that's-just-how-things-are, and it doesn't say something about our society that so few people are willing to donate.
We did this to ourselves.
Selling organs is banned. This shortage, and the reason that girl is probably going to die, isn't just happenstance, it's the direct result of the absence of a free market in human organs.
Selling a kidney is legal in Iran and guess what: there's no waiting list for kidneys. Free markets don't create shortages.
There's no rational reason to have a ban. And yes, it seems distasteful, but the ban means people like that 10-year-old girl are going to die when they don't need to.
People shouldn't die because something is icky.
The White House recently told the press there couldn’t be more difference between my position on gay marriage and President Obama’s.
On reflection, I agree.
President Obama’s position on marriage is constantly “evolving,” as he so often says. He’s not sure what marriage is, or what it should become, and no doubt right now he’s consulting highly-paid polling experts to determine how his position – and marriage itself – should morph next. This should come as no surprise given the President’s musings about the other great moral issue of our time, the protection of human life.
In a 2008 campaign forum, Pastor Rick Warren asked, “at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Obama answered, “Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a science perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.” But as an Illinois State Senator, Barack Obama articulated a very clear view of when a baby was granted rights. He was the only senator to vote against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in committee; legislation that protected babies who survived an abortion and were born alive. He was the only senator to speak against it on the senate floor.
At the time, the constitutional law professor boldly asserted, that “whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements of the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a–a child, a 9 month old–child that was delivered to term.” He says children only have rights who are 9-months old and delivered at term. So, does that mean any child born before 9 months is not entitled to rights?
By contrast, millions of Americans, including myself, know what we think about human life and marriage. We know not only what we think but why we believe what we believe. We know that some truths are bigger than the next election and should not shift with political consultants’ advice. And among those great, enduring, and foundational truths, I believe, are life and marriage.
An unborn child is not just a clump of cells. He or she is a human life, as worthy of basic dignity and respect as any one of us. Each precious, irreplaceable human life is too infinitely valuable to permit courts to redefine its meaning away. I fought against Partial Birth Abortion, a horrific procedure supported by President Obama, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the highest court found the law banning the practice unconstitutional, I sent it back to the justices a second time so they could get it right.
Marriage is, and has always been through human history, a union of a man and woman – and for a reason. These unions are special because they are the ones we all depend on to make new life and to connect those new lives to their mom and dad.
A husband is a man who commits to a woman, to her and any children she may give him. He commits to his wife without any reservations, to share with her all his worldly goods and to exclude all others from this intimate communion of life. From this vow of marriage comes a wonderful and unique good: any children their union creates will have a mom and a dad united in love, in one family.
That’s the special work of marriage in law – to connect things that otherwise fray and fragment: love, life, money, moms, and dads.
A man who does not seek to do this – who doesn’t choose to give himself to a woman and any children they may have together in this unique and special way – may well be a very good man and have wonderful other kinds of relationships, but he isn’t seeking to be a husband. We can’t redefine reality to accommodate politically fashionable wishes. Words matter because they capture enduring and timeless truths about human nature and about the common good.
Lawyers cannot create life and did not create marriage. And lawyers (whether on the bench or in politics) have no business redefining either to suit the shifting winds of fashion, or worse, for political expediency.
I know so many single moms who work so hard and do such a great job raising children. We need to applaud every heroic parent working hard to raise good kids regardless of whether or not they are married; just as we need to protect all our children, born and unborn, those lucky enough to have the gift of a married mom and dad and those who do not.
We can do this without cravenly surrendering timeless truths about marriage and human life. We don’t want liberal media-approved lawyers and politicians massaging the meaning of words, or judges implementing vast social changes without the consent of the governed, or, frankly, politicians like President Obama who cannot even tell you what marriage will be next week.
In positions of power, we need men and women of character, willing to stand up and defend what they think is right and to level with the American people. America is hungry for leadership. I have found everywhere I go across this great land that people appreciate it if they know you’re the kind of man they can trust to tell the truth on important issues even if they do not agree with you on every issue.
Marriage is a society’s life blood. Not everybody can or will marry, but all of us (married or not) depend on marriage in a unique way. Marriage is foundational: it creates and sustains not only children but civilization itself. This is an institution which protects our liberty.
A president who, after thousands of years of human history, a Harvard law degree, and four years in the White House, cannot tell us with certainty what he thinks marriage or life is, is not worthy of the trust of the American people or a second term in office. It is time for leadership in America. It is time again to stand for self-evident foundational truths.
This was originally written as a comment on Denise's thread on women and voting. It got too long for a comment, so I posted it here.
Like Denise, I've been interested in women’s voting habits for awhile. I think there’s a lot to what she and others have said about women craving security, being over-sexualized etc. But after years of mulling this over, I’ve finally become convinced that there is another piece to the puzzle: Women are convinced that conservatives are dismissive of their ideas and their ambitions. That’s partly because they’ve been sold a story by liberals, but the story gained traction easily because… it’s a little bit true.
Note that I only say a little bit. The conservative world is not awash in misogyny and oppression, as liberals would have you believe, nor am I one of those silly, paranoid people who thinks that well-bred conservative men are simply putting a good face on the sexist beast within. That is absurd. Having said that, I do think the climate of conservative political culture is a little bit hostile towards women. There are some respected conservative female politicians and writers, but not very many. Actually the imbalance is fairly striking. And I notice that the ones that do exist tend to establish themselves as tough characters (not "sensitive" as women are assumed to be), simultaneously pro-maternity and pro-man, and the sort of gal who can run with the boys.
Even here on Ricochet, I note how our more outspoken female members often declare themselves to have been tomboys as children, to have at one time or another been honorary members of mostly male cliques, to prefer working with men, etc. People mention these things in passing, but it’s something of a trend. (And I, by the way, am no exception. I have three brothers; I have always had many male friends; I specialized in philosophy, which is definitely a male-dominated field. I realized at some point that I like conservative politics in part because it’s male-dominated, and I’ve always liked arguing with men.)
So anyhow, I think conservative politics really is a bit of a man’s world, and women notice. A few of us adapt and even enjoy it, but most bristle, and the left can spin this aversion very effectively into a narrative about how conservatives are waging a war on women.
Thinking about my various women friends and their attitudes towards politics, I notice some interesting things.
I know a lot of women who are very conservative but shun conservative politics. These are mostly mom friends (so, people I meet through play groups or conservative Catholics outlets), and I’m confident they don’t vote for the Democrats. But if I urge them to get involved in something like Ricochet, they tell me that they stay away from politics because they find that political forums have too many men who like to bully female participants. A couple have told me that they hate how, in a conservative political forum, men are always scolding them for their “sensitivity” or "emotionalism" if they get in a disagreement with someone. “It’s all right for you, Rachel,” one told me, “because you're thick-skinned, and also you have fancy degrees you can brag about if necessary. But these whiny men are too much for me. They’re constantly getting huffy when people disagree with them, but if I seem even mildly put out, I am lectured about women and their sensitivities. It’s ridiculous and insulting.”
This woman isn’t feminist or anti-man by a long shot. She’s one of those skirt-wearing, mommy-blog-keeping, large-family moms that Planned Parenthood types smear as “baby factories”. But she still doesn’t like conservative political forums because her feeling is that women just get bullied there. I’d like to pretend I don’t know what she’s talking about, but I do.
Then there’s another sort of woman, typified by many of the smart, ambitious girls I was friends with in high school. Back then we were all fairly conservative; I remember how we used to talk about our big educational plans, but also about the families we hoped to have. Most were at least open to the possibility of leaving work for awhile for their kids. Nowadays, most of those women are educated and accomplished, and have completely gravitated to the liberal end of the spectrum. Part of it is the usual liberal university story, but it's not just that. Even I, with my prominent conservative leanings, can understand it; they just feel more comfortable there. Nobody makes them feel that they must be a disordered woman for wanting something other than mommy life. To be sure, their ideas about conservatives and their baby-making obsessions are exaggerated and trite, but I do understand. Liberals are always happy to celebrate female ambition. Conservatives are a lot more conflicted about it.
And there are all kinds of understandable reasons to be conflicted! Part of it is a reactionary response to the abuses of feminism. There are plenty of men out there who see conservatism as their “safe male space” in an over-feminized world, and that’s perfectly understandable. Also, there is an eagerness to champion motherhood and maternity. Again, that’s very understandable in a world that often dismisses the domestic life as a fallback for women who weren’t smart or resourceful enough to do anything else. But one result is that the conservative women we do have in the GOP are often resolutely on one side of the mommy wars, and they can sometimes be a little hostile towards those they see as representative of opposing camps. It's easy to see how my accomplished female friends would have come to feel like they just didn't belong over here.
Among the “major political players” of conservatism (and here I mean both politicians and pundits), I doubt either of the above factors is hugely significant, but there is still a feeling that “women’s issues” are the sort of nonsense the other side goes in for, and not something we need over here. It seem possible (though I am mostly speculating) that that broader attitude may make it easy for conservative men to do something that comes fairly naturally to men (again, for perfectly good reasons, of which misogyny is not one): to allow a kind of boys’ club atmosphere to develop. Men are comfortable being surrounded by men in a professional environment. I think it’s probably easy just to let that happen, and not to ask questions about why it happens because, well, we wouldn’t want to be affirmative action bean-counters like those silly liberals. Anyway, if people are unconsciously falling into that dynamic, it might help explain why there aren’t more high-profile conservative women.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not accusing anyone of real bigotry, nor do I think there are serious injustices taking place against women that we need to bemoan. It’s more just a question of soft cultural attitudes that make many women feel that the conservative world isn’t terribly friendly to them and their interests. As global problems go, this is way, way down the list, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to lose sleep over it except it’s killing us at the polls. Women’s issues are like the minor blemish on the conservative face to which the left has managed to hold a 10X mirror.
We lose the needier, more vulnerable women because they want bigger government. We lose the more independent and ambitious women because they feel more welcome and more respected among liberals. That leaves us with happily married women, the only group that does lean slightly Republican. But as Denise observes, that's not enough. We need to win more women if we want to win more elections. That may mean acknowledging that the GOP's woman problem goes a little deeper than just "women are needy and emotional and easily manipulated by the big government party."
I realize of course that many people will be irritated by the suggestion that there is even a whisper of reality behind the “war on women” narrative, but if I’m right, it’s really kind of a good thing. If there are some possibly-objectionable attitudes among conservatives that liberals are successfully exploiting, that’s something conservatives can fix without compromising their integrity or their conservative values. That would be much nicer than getting into an ugly, vacuous propaganda war with the left, as people on Denise's thread were suggesting we should do. And, if we could work out our own woman issues, we might be able to skewer liberals for the ridiculous and offensive things that they say about women, which would be very satisfying. But as long as “woman’s issue” is an evil phrase among conservatives, the left will continue to kick us all over the field with it.
From today's "Apostolic Exhortation," posted, for now, without comment:
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting....
204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
Anthony Esolen cleans up misconceptions about the Middle Ages in 5 minutes and 47 seconds. Well played, Dr. Esolen.
Jonah Goldberg in The Goldberg File Friday referenced a blog post that opined, “Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”
Goldberg said that what he found interesting about the post is “how it largely buys into not only a traditionally male understanding of self-worth but into a capitalist one. Want to be a real woman? Get a job! Start a business! Escape from the dungeon of domesticity!”
Capitalism, Goldberg explained, “creates wealth, but is utterly silent about what should be done with that wealth. It provides avenues for accomplishment in certain spheres, but engenders a culture—on the left and the right—that often looks with skepticism or hostility at people who want to measure their accomplishments in terms not easily monetized.”
However, the problem with capitalism really isn’t capitalism at all, Goldberg added: “It’s with the institutions outside of capitalism.”
Capitalism, like water, is what it is and does what it does. You don’t create a dam with water.... You create a dam out of some other substance. Over time water will wear down almost any obstacle; the Grand Canyon teaches us that. But you can maintain dams. That’s what a healthy society does: It maintains the infrastructure of a healthy society. When a dam bursts, no one blames the water for doing what it does; they blame the dam (or the dam-keepers) for failing to do what it’s supposed to do.
Goldberg’s commentary made me think of the ineffectualness of fixing other parts of society without the proper “dam-keepers” in place—things like the Constitution and limited government as well as capitalism. Protestant theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer said in How Should We Then Live that “Culture and the freedoms of man are fragile. If there is not a sufficient base, it only takes time and often not a great deal of time, before there is a collapse.”
A weak base for a society can only remain standing as long as the pressures bearing down on that society are not very great. But when the pressure increases, when you have social strife, economic instability, political and legal corruption, terrorism, or war, society falls apart because the foundation is fragile.
This is important to remember especially in our current times as pressures within society are growing in every sphere of life. Conservatives look to capitalism and free markets and adherence to the Constitution as solutions (and rightly so). But as Goldberg said, these are not the “dam-keepers.” He points to social institutions as being the real safeguards of society, but I think there’s something even more essential, more basic: A God-centered, objective worldview which recognizes that our values, rights, and liberties come not from finite human beings but from an eternal, infinite, and personal Creator.
That foundation is the ultimate dam-keeper, and it is rooted in our Judeo-Christian heritage, a theistic worldview that believes human dignity, justice, truth, and freedom come from Nature’s God. At the founding of our nation, the powerful forces of capitalism and the Constitution were unleashed in that context, and they were built on that foundation. Without it, they will falter and eventually fail.
Today, that foundation has been largely replaced with one that is man-centered and humanistic. Absolute truth has given way to relativism, submission to God has been rejected for human autonomy, and objective morality has been driven from the public square and substituted with subjectivism. This is a foundation that will not stand under the many pressures that are bearing down on our society.
Schaeffer said, “If there is no absolute by which to judge society, society is absolute.” If you do not put God at the center of your society, you will put something else there. And what will it be? One possibility is hedonism—the concept that everyone should just do what he or she wants—but that simply doesn’t work. We don’t live on an island unto ourselves. We live with other people, and that means we have to take others into consideration when we act.
For there to be peace and order, something has to bring about that order. If it doesn’t come from our Creator and if it can’t come from people just doing what they want, then it will come from another source—a human one, and one cloaked in power that does not have the individual or the family’s best interest at heart.
The most likely possibility, therefore, is authoritarian elitism: Scientific, intellectual, political. Schaeffer said that when you consider how this authoritarian elitism will fill the vacuum left by the rejection of a theistic, absolute worldview, don’t think in terms of the Hitler or Stalin model of authoritarianism. Think of the “manipulative authoritarian elite”—these are the intellectuals (and some say technocrats) who will bring imposed order to the masses who are wrangling over one another’s preferred “freedoms” like wild dogs fighting over scraps in the street.
Gone is a shared view of objective rights and freedoms cherished by all equally. Instead, there are only “my” freedoms, “my” wants, “my” special interests; and each person, each group, is willing to sacrifice the liberty of another to secure his or her own. And the authoritarian elitists on the left and the right are salivating like Grima Wormtongue to sort out the chaos, manipulating the masses as they exercise control in promotion of their own agendas.
If there isn’t a conscious decision made to determine values and rights within an objective context and according to a God-centered worldview, all that remains—whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat—is a man-centered solution to the chaos of a lost culture—and that means loss of freedom.
We will only save our society from decay and certain collapse if we—each of us as individuals and then as a broader community—return to a God-centered foundation. This doesn’t mean we will have a theocratic society. It doesn’t mean everyone has to be a Christian, or a believer, or even religious. That certainly wasn’t the case at our Founding (consider Jefferson’s deism). But it does mean that we have a common worldview grounded, not in relativism that is exploited by the manipulations of authoritarian elitists on both sides of the aisle, but in absolute truth, which is the only foundation that secures our freedom and our happiness.
In the current issue of the always-excellent Claremont Review of Books, Christopher Caldwell publishes "Gay Rites," incomparably the most insightful and compelling analysis of the gay marriage movement that yours truly has come across--and, like a lot of us, I've been reading about this subject a lot.
From Caldwell's brilliant essay, a few particularly trenchant--and disheartening--excerpts:
Civil rights movements arise to defend the downtrodden. But never since the Progressive Era has there been a social movement as elite-driven as the one for gay marriage. No issue divides the country more squarely by class. Opponents of California's anti-marriage Proposition 8 have come to include virtually all of Hollywood, Apple, Google, Amazon, and the White House....
The full-spectrum dominance of the pro-gay marriage position among the crème de la crème is perhaps best shown by the leading role in overturning Prop 8 of David Boies and Ted Olson, who argued on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore in 2000. Klarman [Michael J. Klarman, author of From the Closet to the Altar] has a clear-eyed idea of how class interest and déformation professionnelle interact to give gay-marriage supporters a home-field advantage in any courtroom. "Judges," he writes, "are part not only of the cultural elite but of a distinctive subculture—the legal elite—which tends to be even more liberal than the general public on issues such as gender equality and gay equality...."
The most troubling aspect of the gay-marriage movement is that, more than any social movement in living memory, more than feminism at its bra-burning peak in the 1970s, it aims not to engage in lively debate but to shut it down....Shutting down debate can be more effectively done now that the internet has solved the organizing problem of mobs. Anyone who expresses the slightest misgivings about gay marriage can become the object of boycotts, blacklists, and attempts to get him fired. Restaurant chain Chick fil-A was boycotted when its chief operating officer speculated that gay marriage might be "inviting God's wrath." A theater director in Sacramento resigned his post after having been shown to be a donor to Proposition 8. The law firm King & Spalding refused to allow Paul Clement permission to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the House of Representatives....
In a decade, gay marriage has gone from joke to dogma. It is certainly worth asking why, if this is a liberation movement, it should be happening now, in an age not otherwise gaining a reputation as freedom's heyday. Since 2009, if Klarman's estimates are correct, support for gay marriage has been increasing by 4 points a year. Public opinion does not change this fast in free societies. Either opinion is not changing as fast as it appears to be, or society is not as free.
"Either opinion is not changing as fast as it appears to be, or society is not as free." I thought about that final line a good long time, resisting it. I finally concluded that Caldwell is right. The courts, the media, and elite opinion are attempting to impose gay marriage on the nation by a kind of political force majeure. If public opinion appears to support the effort, it does so for the same reason that public opinion in Russia appears to support the regime of Vladimir Putin: intimidation.
Every day we hear about something that is harmful to us, something the government needs to regulate or outlaw, something for which an avalanche of PSAs must be unleashed on the American people as they drive home from work, watch television, or scan their favorite websites.
Don’t eat sugar. You’ll get diabetes and die. Don’t smoke. You’ll get lung cancer and die. Don’t stop at McDonalds. You’ll get fat and die.
Meanwhile there’s not a peep about one of the most dangerous activities people engage in all the time—premarital sex. Or extramarital sex. Or, dare I say the word—fornication? Or does that make me sound too judgmental? Probably, but the word fits because sex is loaded with moral implications: The possibility of dysfunctional relationships, of sexually transmitted diseases, of an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. The possibility of guilt, shame, depression, and suicide.
Does this sound dramatic? Over the top? Maybe, but it’s true. Sex can be dangerous. Yet, we either promote it for political purposes, exploit it in the name of entertainment—even for our children—or brush it off in the name of personal liberty.
This last point is significant because I want to make it clear that I’m not saying the government should regulate people’s sexual behavior, and I’m not even suggesting that conservatives start their own barrage of PSAs speaking out against the dangers of sex. What I am asking for is some perspective, some tolerance of those who speak about the costs of this highly sexualized age without being driven from the halls of public debate as if they’re witch hunters brandishing torches of judgment and blame.
When I hear people talk about sex as if it’s no big deal, as if it’s no different than eating a steak or going for a drive on the freeway, when I see political ads comparing voting to losing your virginity, or when I hear social conservatives slapped down when they voice their grievances over a licentious culture, my heart grieves.
That’s because I’m picturing the girl walking home alone after having sex on the beer-drenched floor of a fraternity house with a guy too drunk to remember her name. The tears on her cheeks. The tightness in her chest, the sick feeling deep inside, and the already-hardening effect of knowing she will do it again.
I’m remembering a young girl when I worked in ministry who came to me with scars on her wrists and tremors in her soft voice as she told me about the day she aborted her baby. She wept uncontrollably in my arms for an innocence, a life, she would never have again, her dark eyes filled with a sorrow that only the greatest amount of love and grace could ever wash away.
I’m thinking of the boy who sits in a bathroom, alone, staring at a lab report that says he is HIV Positive. A sense of hopeless desperation wells up within him like a flood of dark water as he tries to breathe, to fight back the overwhelming fear that threatens to drown him. His life is forever changed. A precious gem exchanged for a handful of dust. I hear his sobs as he leans on the side of the tub begging for comfort no human can fully give.
An estimated 8,300 young people between 13 and 24 reported to the CDC in 2009 that they had been diagnosed with the HIV infection. Nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people 15 to 24 years. More than 400,000 teen girls aged 15 to 19 years old gave birth in 2009. Chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are highest in Americans between 15 and 24.
While both men and women are severely affected by STDs, women face the most serious long-term health consequences. If they’re left untreated, STDs can silently steal a woman’s chance to have children later in life. It’s estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause approximately 24,000 women to become infertile each year. Syphilis rates are on the rise; they have been the highest every year among women 20 to 24 years old.
Abortion statistics are even more bleak. There have been approximately 50 million abortions performed in the U.S. from 1973 to 2011. A total of 35 percent of pregnant teens have an abortion.
Women who abort are four times more likely to die within a year than women who don’t get an abortion. Women who aborted in the year before their death were 60 percent more likely to die of natural causes, seven times more likely to die of suicide, and 14 times more likely to die from homicide. Abortion is linked to smoking, drug abuse, suicide, violent behavior, and eating disorders.
Yes, a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body. Yes, men and women can engage in all kinds of sexual behavior if they want to. But does that mean we should ignore the consequences? Remain silent to the costs? Refuse to issue warnings because we’re afraid we’ll be called judgmental or worse?
What kind of society are we when we celebrate, perpetuate, and capitalize on a behavior that hurts so deeply, that robs people of their innocence, their happiness, and even their lives? Is that compassion?
Who are the truly compassionate ones? Those who celebrate actions that lead to depression, dysfunction, and brokenness? Or those who lovingly warn that there is a better way—a way that celebrates the best of who we can be, not the worst of what we’re free to do.
Painting (acrylic and sand): Innocence Lost by D.C. McAllister
It may happen. From the Daily Caller:
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president, responded to a Fox News Channel viewer’s Twitter question Saturday about the possibility of her and conservative talker Mark Levin abandoning the Republican Party and creating something called the “Freedom Party.”
Palin suggested she is open to the idea and said that if the GOP continues to abandon its conservative principles, others would follow suit.
You may count me as one of those others. I formally left the GOP in December 2012, declining to renew my Republican National Committee membership. In light of the recent cowardice, skullduggery, and outright backstabbing on the part of Republicans on such issues as fiscal policy and immigration, my decision looks better and better every day.
What say you?
In her post below, D. C. McAllister quotes me accurately and in some detail, and then she grossly misrepresents what I said and what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Here is the passage she quotes:
And what of childless marriages? Only rarely is childlessness part of the deal—and when it is part of the deal, the marriage is arguably not a marriage at all, and whatever it is, it is not apt to last long. As for childless marriages where children were part of the aim, they certainly count morally as marriages. No one is at fault. But they are as marriages in one sense defective and incomplete—and the sign of this is that a measure of sadness nearly always accompanies such a marriage as a consequence. For the unity that we seek in marriage is exemplified by children. Those of us blessed with children see ourselves as a unity reflected in our children every day. Grandchildren are, of course, icing on this cake.
Here is what she says:
Unlike many in this situation, I did conceive and went on to experience the joys of childbirth that Professor Rahe praises. But many couples don’t. Their grief is deep, as they want to have a child together and express their love in the creation of a son or a daughter. This is natural and it is good—no one denies this—but for them, it is not meant to be.
It certainly wasn’t for my best friend. She and her husband tried everything, feverishly researching all the fertility treatments and all the latest medical advancements. They wanted a child. I guess, according to the Catholic Church, they were counted as “morally” married because they were trying. But they never conceived.
Does this fact lessen the beauty and realness of their marriage? Does this make their relationship—a joining bound by a holy covenant—less complete? Can two people be a family? Should my friend feel shame—the kind of shame cast on infertile women in the parochial past because they had failed to live up to the raison d’etre of marriage?
How ironic that at a time when I was going through a divorce and fighting for child custody (a true attack on the institution of marriage, to my shame), my infertile friend sat at a kitchen table with her husband, a glass of red wine in front of her, her eyes red with tears, their hands entwined, telling me of their inability to conceive. He looked at her with such love as he told her he would be committed to her always, no matter what. They had a unity without children—based on a covenant that expressed itself in love. The grace that passed between them, born of their struggle, refined by fire, equaled—if not surpassed—the love shared by a husband and wife cooing over the perfect face of a newborn child.
I understand intellectually the tradition that compels a statement like that made by Professor Rahe in his post. It’s logical. If marriage is defined by procreation, and if there is not procreation, then it is not a marriage. That point of view is logically consistent. It seems, however, that for them to be completely consistent regarding civil marriages, the government—along with the Catholic Church—should refuse to marry anyone who does not want to have children. And so the definition of marriage becomes even more narrow—from the union of a man and woman to the union of a man and a woman with children (or with the intent to have children). Is this what we want in America?
Are their premises correct? Is marriage defined by procreation? Is there any sense in which a man and woman who cannot conceive or who admittedly do not wish to conceive for whatever reason (some quite reasonable, as they consider genetic, financial, or even psychological circumstances that would make it unwise to bring a child into the world) are ever truly “one”?
Under this standard, can the infertile woman ever hope to enjoy the intimate companionship of a loving spouse or is she condemned to a life of solitude because she’s defective, passing from one stage to the next alone until she dies, never knowing the love of a man? Is the older man required to marry a much younger, fertile woman instead of enjoying the love and equal companionship of woman his own age? These are the logical conclusions of a doctrine that says marriage is defined by children or the intent to have children.
Or is it possible that there is something that defines marriage other than the birthing of children? Can a man and a woman be “one flesh,” find intimate companionship, completion, and a covenantal love that is more than friendship without having produced a child? Are they “married”?
It seems to me they are, but the Catholic tradition, according to Professor Rahe, says they aren’t. What do you think, Ricochetti? What of childless marriages? Are they marriages, or are they something else, whatever that might be?
Note the difference. Did I say that "marriage is defined by procreation, and if there is not procreation, then it is not a marriage"? No. I said nothing of the kind, and I said nothing that could honestly be interpreted as implying anything of the kind. Is that the Catholic teaching? It is not. What I did say and what the Catholic Church teaches is that a marriage that is not open to procreation is no marriage. As I pointed out in the comments yesterday (in response to a comment by D. C.), in cases of divorce, when one of the two spouses has proved to be closed to procreation, an annulment is automatic. Moreover, no Catholic priest will marry a couple capable of having children who announce that they are unwilling to do so.
In pagan antiquity, I should perhaps add, no father would marry his young daughter to a man unwilling to have children with her. As Aristotle reports in his Constitution of the Athenians, when the tyrant Peisistratus had sexual relations with the daughter of the Alcmeonid Megacles "in a manner not according with custom," his bride told her mother, and Megacles joined with the other Athenian magnates to oust the malefactor from power and drive him into exile.
I should also perhaps mention that what is today the Catholic position was until the early 1930s the position of every Christian Church. The first church to break ranks was the Church of England, which embraced contraception at its Lambeth Conference in 1930. Note, however, the deep discomfort reflected in the language the conference employed:
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.
It was not until 1958 that the Anglican Church completely caved in. What I was asserting was not just the Catholic position. It was, until very, very recently, the teaching of every Christian sect.
More needs to be said. In what I wrote, I did not claim or imply that infertility "lessen[s] the . . . realness of [anyone's] marriage." Nor did I suggest that anyone should "feel shame—the kind of shame cast on infertile women in the parochial past because they had failed to live up to the raison d’etre of marriage." Indeed, I expressly said, as you can see above, that no one is morally at fault.
What I did say is that childless marriages are "in one sense defective and incomplete." In what sense? I pointed to sadness as a sign that fruitlessness is a source of regret. D. C. does not deny this fact. She makes much of it. She, in fact, agrees with me. Indeed, she makes my point in a manner far more eloquent than I did.
D. C.'s argument depends on her eliding two quite distinct sets of circumstances — not being willing to have children and not being able to have children. What I expressly kept asunder, she brought together. Rhetorically, this bit of legerdemain was elegantly done. Logically, however, it makes no sense at all.
Why attribute to me a position I expressly rejected? Why attribute to the Roman Catholic Church a teaching it expressly rejects? When D. C. writes, "I understand intellectually the tradition that compels a statement like that made by Professor Rahe in his post," she is quite wrong. She does not understand that tradition at all.
Why Abortion Should Be Illegal in Every CircumstanceFebruary 11, 2014
Dear readers of Ricochet, I submit to you that these exceptions —which seem compassionate on the surface— have been used to make abortion legal in all circumstances. They are always a sleazy way to keep the abortion industry going and are never about compassion for women. Exceptions—usually summarized by saying, “rape, incest, and the health of the mother”—are not compatible with the pro-life position. Here’s why.
Most of us know about the landmark case Roe vs. Wade, but fewer are familiar with its companion case, Doe vs. Bolton. Doe was decided on the same day as Roe and expanded on the health exception in Roe. Roe says that the state may not outlaw abortion where it is necessary for the health of the mother, but Doe expanded the notion of health to include mental, emotional, financial, and familial health. Effectively, Doe made abortion legal for any and every reason.
Rape. When conceptions in rape happen, a woman is sometimes pressured to kill her child. Women who have submitted to an abortion after rape often regret the decision, and feel they were violated twice. Some women have chosen to raise their babies conceived in rape. Where this is not possible, adoption is a loving option.
Many pro-life arguments can be understood if one substitutes the word “fetus” for five-year-old child (h/t Mark Crutcher). Suppose we have a five-year-old child, and her father commits a crime. Do we kill the child? Even in our flawed justice system we don’t punish children for the sins of their fathers. And even the most staunch libertarian among us will agree that laws should protect the innocent. This is where abortion laws fail us.
Pictured here is Ryan Bomberger, who was conceived in rape and raised by an adoptive multi-racial family. He is shown here with his children, some of whom are adopted. Read his story here.
Incest. The arguments against abortion in cases of rape apply here as well. The truth is, abortions for reasons of rape or incest account for less than one percent of all abortions. Ninety-nine percent of abortions—and that’s over 3,000 per day— are on healthy babies with healthy moms. Rape and incest exceptions are just the means by which dishonest abortion shills aim to keep the process legal.
Health of the Mother. As I stated above, this concept has been expanded so far as to include inconvenience as a good reason. But some of us may imagine a case where it’s only possible to save one person, the mother or the baby. If this circumstance occurs, the principles of the Hippocratic Oath would prevent a doctor from intentionally killing the child. The doctor might take measures to save the life of the mother, and as an unintended consequence, the baby might die, but that is different from killing the child on purpose. It would not even be considered an abortion. I ask those with a medical background to weigh in, but even the layperson can understand the difference between killing a child and having a child die while the doctor is trying to save the mother.
Thanks for reading. I write this to show how exceptions cripple the pro-life cause, and in response to some of the gentlemen of Ricochet who have encouraged me to speak out. If you or someone you know is hurting after an abortion, please find help here.
My Facebook friends kept linking it, so I finally broke down and read the story. The short of it is: they’re trying to develop a sex pill for women, enabling them to restart the love train simply by popping a pill.
In a “train wreck, can’t look away” sort of way, I found the story quite absorbing. Basically the problem is that a lot of married women are finding themselves bored with their husbands, and hoping that medication can help them to rekindle their sex drive. I was morbidly fascinated by the extent to which these women seemed to obsess over sex. To them, diminished libido obviously counts as a fairly serious marital crisis. They don’t seem to feel that bringing teams of researchers (not to mention half the women in the neighborhood) into the conversation is unpleasantly invasive of their privacy. I can’t imagine voluntarily submitting to something so intrusive, but then, I also don’t spend that much time evaluating the quality of my sex life. And it would never occur to me to suppose that a period of diminished libido meant that my marriage was on the rocks.
Thinking about it, I realized that this probably is a fairly natural consequence of the companionate model of marriage. If feelings justify sex, and sex justifies relationships, then I guess a lively sex life really might be of vital importance. Which is worrisome, since sexual desire is famously elusive. I have nothing against romantic retreats, candlelight dinners, or other measures designed to help long-committed couples recapture the magic. It’s good to keep a little romance in your marriage. Still, realistically, these things come and go. You can’t have the stability of your family life harnessed to such an unruly beast as eros. When the women in this piece talk nostalgically about the red-hot passion of their early relationships, one can’t help but wonder whether that’s really part of their problem. Having placed too much emphasis on sex in the first place, they find themselves up a creek when (shockingly!) the burning passion can’t be sustained without interruption over the course of decades.
The article makes clear that, unlike Viagra, the female sex pill is meant to move beyond the mechanical so as to focus on the brain. Viagra makes men capable of sex; this pill attempts to give women the desire for it. Love Potion #9, anyone? I've read enough fairy tales to know that these kinds of shenanigans never end well.
Moving away from sex for a moment, this piece raises issues that have always been worrisome to me about the morals of mood-modifying medication. This is a very difficult subject, because I know that medication can make worlds of difference for people with serious psychiatric disorders, enabling people who would once have been consigned to mental asylums to live fairly normal, happy lives. I know as well that diagnosing mental disorder is a less-than-straightforward business. When does a person cross the line from ordinary sadness or anxiety or sensitivity into the realm of mental disorder? As difficult as these diagnostic questions are, I don’t think it’s appropriate just to throw in the towel. There are people in the world who legitimately need psychiatric help to rectify some genuine aberration in the workings of their brain. At the same time, pills are not a fitting solution to ordinary life problems.
Putting it in a nutshell, I think the problem with pills is this: they offer material solutions to non-material problems. Pills can change the chemical balance of our brains, but they can’t change our moral character, and it is unfitting for a rational being to medicalize moral problems. Pills may enable us to feel good even when it would be more reasonable to feel bad, but that is not something a rational person should desire. Even if pills only help us to combat an excess of some unproductive emotion (such as worry or sadness) I have to think that it would be better (and more in line with our ultimate thriving) if we could find more natural solutions to these life problems.
Why, though, are pills “unnatural”? Don’t we use food, drink, or particular activities as “mood-manipulators” on a regular basis? We do, and I think it is good for rational beings to know how to manage their (and others’) emotional states through food, books, music, exercise or what have you. A brisk walk clears the mind. Coffee focuses concentration and instills a desire to work and accomplish. Warm cookies and cold milk are comfort food. Understanding these emotional triggers can be key to living a healthy, well-balanced life. So, what’s the difference between the plate of cookies and the anti-anxiety pill?
I think the difference is in the “embeddedness” of these other triggers in life and culture. Coffee does have a chemical effect on the brain, but coffee-drinking isn’t just a quick route to stimulating chemicals. We also enjoy the taste, the smell, the delightful sight of the steam rising from a thick, homey mug and the warmth of the cup on our hands and tongue. Cookies are delicious and gooey and decadent, and ironically, the fact that we know we can’t eat them all the time makes them that much pleasanter when we do decide to splurge. Books and music and nature quite obviously engage us on a rational level; this is integral to their emotionally transformative effect.
Popping a pill, by contrast, attempts to bypass these rational mechanisms in favor of a purely animal, material “fix”. It may be justified on those occasions when the root problem really is physical (and again, I acknowledge that this is rarely a simple thing to determine). But it isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. And it isn’t any way to fix your marriage.
Does porn actually damage the brain? Might sound far-fetched, but there is some very interesting research on this topic that might convince you that it does. This week, I plan to post each day on a different topic related to my new book, Sex & God at Yale. Chapter 2, entitled "The Great Porn Debate," details a rip-roaring Oxford-style porn debate starring porn performer Ron Jeremy, which was held in New Haven during my junior year.
Just this morning, a current Yale student sent me this fascinating TEDx video, featuring a talk by physiologist Gary Wilson, host of www.yourbrainonporn.com. According to the video description, Wilson's research "arose in response to a growing demand for solid scientific information by heavy Internet erotica users experiencing perplexing, unexpected effects: escalation to more extreme material, concentration difficulties, sexual performance problems, radical changes in sexual tastes, social anxiety, irritability, inability to stop, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms."
The video lasts about 15 min, but you can catch the main drift by watching only the first 5. Do so and I promise you'll learn something:
Fascinating stuff, huh? Especially considering how extreme and how universal porn has become among youth in the internet age. It has shaped an entire generation already.
So what do you think? Is porn harmless, or is it poison for the brain?
As you can see, I'm slowly dipping my toes back into Ricochet, but as you can probably also see, my mind is troubled. The Middle East is still roiling, but I feel far apart from the ordinary world, still--it all seems to be taking place in a galaxy far, far away. My mind is still back in an apartment in Washington where nothing seemed real but one elderly woman's final days. And those final days were slow indeed, a time out of time. It was one of those weeks--or maybe two weeks, I lost track--that drew back the curtain of denial we all place over reality in our efforts to stay sane. The plain fact is just staring at me now, impossible to forget: We age--we really age--then we die--we really die--and then somehow we disappear. We're just gone.
Somehow in our culture the iron wall between religion and state has been transmogrified into a wall between religion and society. We never discuss religion in much depth in mixed company. Someone who comes up to you at cocktail party and discusses his relationship with God--or his lack thereof--is considered maladroit, a violator of an unspoken taboo. The conversation feels awkward and one instinctively changes the subject. (This is not so in Turkey, where it is not uncommon, within minutes of meeting someone, to be asked what you believe about God and challenged to a debate about your beliefs.)
Well, enough of that. It's on my mind, and this is an interesting group of people.
What do you believe about God? What is God? How did you arrive at your beliefs? How do you defend them against competing claims, and why? What standards of evidence do you use? How strong is your faith? When has it been challenged? What restored it?
Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, what is its nature? Why is it so hard to communicate with the dead?
A friend and I went out for dinner the other night, and she asked what I was working on these days, so I told her about a story I was thinking about writing. I explained the complexity of the characters and the philosophical themes that wove their way through the plot. She listened dutifully, sipping on her wine and occasionally glancing around the restaurant. After several minutes, she started shaking her head. I stopped talking and braced for a critique. What I got was advice.
“No, no, don’t write that. I mean, it’s fine, but what you need to write about is sex. Erotica is hot now.”
She then tossed back her blonde locks, asked for another glass of wine, and began to enthusiastically describe various scenes I should put in my book, complete with a tall Swede who looks just like Eric Northman of True Blood -- but maybe with a scar.
When I told her I didn’t want to write an erotica novel, that I don’t even like erotica, and that, to be honest, it infuriates me, she just laughed and said, “It’s just sex, Denise. Women empowering themselves, having fun. It’s what women have always wanted and now we’ve got it.”
I left dinner that night disappointed and a little discouraged because I knew that with the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey she was right. That point hit home the next day when I read that Canada now has its own E. L. James. The book is called S.E.C.R.E.T. and the author writes under the pseudonym L. Marie Adeline. She hadn’t even written five chapters before her book was scooped up by publishers in 30 countries.
“I’ve been looking to sell out since I’ve started writing, if selling out means I actually make a living as a writer,” she said. “This is a good time to write erotica.”
That comment and news that sales of Fifty Shades of Grey had topped my beloved Harry Potter in the UK pushed me further into a depressed state.
I took a deep breath and asked myself, “Am I missing something? I don’t want to turn back the clock to a time when women’s sexuality was treated with shame and derision, when sex was merely for procreation and not to be enjoyed. But whips and chains? What's happened to this generation of women?”
It reeks of the sex-positive feminism of the 1980s that declared sexual freedom to be the essence of women’s liberation, of the radical feminism of Naomi Wolf when she said, “Orgasm is the body’s natural call to feminist politics.” It stinks of sexualization, which brings women only harm, low self-esteem, distorted body image, depression, and anxiety. It makes me feel as if I’m living in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where monogamy is a dirty word, families are extinct, and people are expected to have lots of sex—all the time and with a lot of partners.
But maybe I’m over-thinking all this. Maybe it really is just about freedom; just about women having fun and empowering themselves. Maybe I shouldn’t judge. Christian women are reading erotica and don’t seem to care, so who am I to criticize? I certainly don’t hear men complaining about it. I get the feeling some of them are secretly enjoying it. Maybe I should just lighten up. Let girls be girls.
After all, where would I draw the line on sex in the media anyway? It’s been on television and in the movies for years now. Romance novels abound. Cable is like watching soft porn. What difference does it make that a red room of pain is now involved and that bondage and fear have replaced gentle caresses and shy kisses? Is there a breaking point in society? When is sex too much sex?
I have tremendous respect for many of the Catholics on Ricochet, so don't mistake this for mean-spirited provocation, but this is disturbing and seems not at all helpful:
"Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he is convinced that peace will prevail in 2013, despite the inequality, terrorism and "unregulated financial capitalism" that afflict the world today."
I hadn't connected the oddness of our debate here in Minnesota over same-sex marriage with the fact that it's Mother's Day on Sunday, as Mollie reminds us. That said, today's vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives to legalize same-sex marriage should not pass without notice. Some interesting things happened.
I was a member in 2011 and sat through seven very emotional hours of argument when we voted to put the marriage question on the ballot. Supporters of SSM jeered, booed and, in one case, spit on a legislator who voted to place the issue on the ballot. As a result, there was beefed up security today. There were also raucous but good-natured supporters and somber opponents who appeared resigned to the outcome. In both 2011 and 2013 the outcome was known; this time the debate and vote took less than three hours. (Here are some photos if you are interested.)
Republicans offered two amendments. First was one by Rep. David FitzSimmons, who inserted the word 'civil' before 'marriage' throughout the Minnesota statute for marriage. He included language that he believes protects religious freedoms, thus:
(a) Except for secular business activities engaged in by a religious association, religious corporation, or religious society, the conduct of which is unrelated to the religious and educational purposes for which it is organized, no religious association, religious corporation, or religious society shall be required to provide goods or services at the solemnization or celebration of any civil marriage or be subject to civil liability or any action by the state that penalizes, fines, or withholds any benefit to the religious association, religious corporation, or religious society under the laws of this state, including, but not limited to, laws regarding tax exempt status, for failing or refusing to provide goods or services at the solemnization or celebration of any civil marriage, if providing such goods or services would cause the religious association, religious corporation, or religious society to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(b) The exception in paragraph (a) applies to employees, agents, and volunteers acting within the capacity of their employment or responsibilities with a religious association, religious corporation, or religious society."
This passed on a voice vote, meaning we do not know who was against it. The bill's chief author, Rep. Karen Clark, and House DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Labor) leadership supported it as a possible way to attract GOP votes for the bill. They eventually got four out of 61 GOP representatives, including FitzSimmons. More on this in a moment.
Some weeks ago, Rep. Tim Kelly had put forth a civil union bill as an alternative, and he introduced it as an amendment after the 'civil marriage' amendment had been adopted. There was mild debate and then the amendment failed on a roll call, 22-111. Four DFL members joined 18 GOP representatives in voting for civil unions. The 4 DFL and 4 GOP members then proceeded to vote for the bill itself with its civil marriage amendment. The final tally was 75-59.
Two exit thoughts, questions infra.
1. I have no idea if the religious freedom protection in the civil marriage amendment will stand up in court to protect those churches who will refuse to provide, say, their function hall for a reception for a civil marriage of a same-sex couple. You legal types can hash that one out for me. I get the idea that the supporters had -- if you want a religious marriage, get to a church and have one, don't go to City Hall. I just hope that is airtight. The explanation has not sat well with opponents of SSM; there are catcalls for the four who voted for it. I sympathize for them; the pressure is incredible when thousands stand outside a room waiting to see if you press a green (yes) or red (no) button.
2. We have wondered whether it has been about the word 'marriage'. Well the answer today was yes ... and no. Yes, as only 22 would vote to legalize and call all marriages 'civil unions' (not a separate, second class of contracts for same-sex couples, as I read the civil union bill.) 111 members said no to that. Each side wanted to claim the word 'marriage'. I note that, with only 4 DFL votes, civil unions could not have passed even if every GOP member voted for it. But on the other hand, if you qualify the noun 'marriage' with the adjective 'civil', that was OK with SSM supporters. I am sure there will be Ricocheti who support or oppose the adjective. Have at it in the comments.
The Senate votes on the bill Monday, the day after Mother's Day, where passage is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Governor Mark Dayton is planning on signing the bill on Tuesday.
Isn't that sweet?
(Reuters) - Oregon voters will likely face two questions about gay marriage when they go to the ballot this year: whether to become the 18th state to let same-sex couples wed, and whether the state should be the first to allow florists, cake makers and others to refuse to participate in these weddings on religious grounds.
The ballot initiatives set up what some activists have said is the next frontier in the marriage debate - as more states move to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, those who object on religious grounds want a legal right to opt out.
"This is not a sideshow issue," said James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to the Oregon ballot initiative and the coming debate over religious exemption. "This is going to be the issue that we fight about for the next ten years, at least, in the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement."
And there you have it: The libertarian solution to the SoCon objection to redefining "marriage" to mean something it isn't. We get to fight for freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association all over again. For at least ten years.
Is there any way to avoid it? I don't think so.
There is a general concern about the future of marriage in the conservative universe.
In my experience, the rhetoric doesn't always follow the actions. One of my staunchest conservative friends is single and almost 50, and has never been married. Many of my very conservative girl friends have either never married or are divorced. Some are even single mothers.
So, despite all the glory of marriage and the doom and gloom talk, is it just gays and polygamists killing marriages? Who is preventing my 50-year-old conservative friend from getting married? Why are so many of my churchgoing, Republican-voting girl friends not married?
Almost everyone in India gets and stays married. Why aren't they all registered Republicans?
So, I'd like to know a few things of the Ricochetti:
- Are you married?
For those who are married:
- How old were you when you got married?
- Is it your first marriage?
- How long have you been married?
For those not:
- Why not? (didn't you hear our civilization is at risk for the lack of marriage?)
- What are you looking for?
Social Conservatives Should Come Out of the BunkerFebruary 27, 2014
Here's the lesson I think we should draw from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's refusal to sign SB 1062. It's a terrible mistake for social conservatives to consent to live in a bunker.
It's such a popular argument, here and elsewhere on the web: We've lost on same-sex marriage! There's nothing to be gained by fighting that battle any longer! Now the thing to do is just shore up protections for religious freedoms, find someplace where you can stand to live, and hope that the ship rights itself for your grandkids or great-grandkids in 50 or 100 more years.
I understand why people are inclined to say this, but it's wrong and dangerous. You know what happens to people who agree to live in bunkers? They get annihilated. The end of the trail of tears is always much uglier than originally promised. We're already seeing that now, with even conservatives refusing to sign eminently reasonable legislation to protect religious freedom.
Enough with the "let's just protect religious freedom" argument. If we try to "settle" for that we'll end up wearing arm bands and being herded into camps. Social conservatives need to fight their own political battles. I'm happy to ally with libertarians where they're willing; where they're not willing, they should be left to twist in the wind because they're even more impotent without us than we are without them. (This is the problem with essays like this one, which makes it sound as though social conservatives are already totally supine and just selecting the best protector for their interests.)
If you see this as a call for a Promethean against-all-odds battle-to-the-death, you're misunderstanding me. This isn't just about same-sex marriage, but there's a reason why that's such a flashpoint. When it comes to fiscal matters, entitlement reform is the enormous elephant in the room that progressives don't want to deal with. On social matters, family structure is the equivalent challenge. Same-sex marriage is like their Obamacare: an obviously destructive endeavor that flies directly in the face of what actually needs to be done to save our society from collapsing. Which is precisely why they want to do it. Like the alcoholic who races out of the meeting to go drink a whole bottle of Wild Turkey.
What we need to do is continue to be a voice of sanity, not just on same-sex marriage per se, but on a whole range of family and social issues. Continue the conversation about what sorts of steps (at all levels of government and outside of it) might actually help with the family structure problem. We should make our suggestions sensible and be open to talking about them. Of course, we understand that virtue can't be legislated; on the other hand, it's just not true that sensible public policy can't ever have a good effect.
Most importantly, we need to come out of the bunkers. If we don't, we're going to die in there. I'd rather go down (if necessary) making a real effort to save the country for my kids and grandkids.
America needs more stable, intact families. This much is obvious to anyone who is even slightly familiar with the social and demographic trends of the past few decades. Stable, intact families are overwhelmingly the most reliable source of productive, responsible citizens, which are always in short supply.
Both men and women are falling down on the job when it comes to family formation, but their failings are not precisely the same. The men tend to opt out of family life entirely, either by not fathering children or by abandoning them. Women fall into one of two brackets. Some (mostly of little education) get pregnant out of wedlock and find themselves facing an overwhelming task for which they are not remotely prepared. Others (mostly educated) marry late, forego childbearing for even longer, and then plunge themselves into an agonized world of “work-life balance” in which they try to divide their time between career and children. Both have their disadvantages; the latter model works better for such offspring as it produces -- but it doesn’t produce many.
To improve family life, we may need a better “game plan” for women, but we definitely need more marriageable males. Unless men are willing to be responsible husbands and fathers, we will inevitably face a litany of social ills.
What would it take to persuade men that family life is worth it? The female side of the question is altogether more puzzling. Women are generally needed as caretakers for at least some significant portion of their lives, but their financial contributions are often needed as well. As the blue state model continues to crumble, I suspect that financial instability is increasingly going to be the norm for single-income families. That puts women in a quandary, but for men the tensions seem less severe.
To be sure, family will still create obstacles to their career development, and negotiating the current labor market is difficult under any circumstances. Unemployment can, I believe, be particularly devastating to men. But, at least in outline, the ideal for men hasn’t changed so terribly much. Most can expect to be working full-time through their adult lives, while hopefully devoting their evenings and weekends to family. Is that such a bad life? Almost none of us nowadays get the clarity and stability of a 1950s household, but it seems to me we have at least a reasonably clear idea of what men need to do within the family, and, to my mind at least, it doesn't seem so unattractive.
Why, then, do so many reject the model? Some of the problems with today's young men are surely developmental, stemming from fatherlessness, and our failure to steep boys in properly masculine models of virtue. Some of the problems may also relate to the messages put forward by popular culture about family men, who are too often portrayed as boobs and saps. Workplaces have also become less satisfying to men, insofar as it has become less acceptable for them to display their natural competitive instincts. In principle, workplace issues aren’t “fixed” by the flight from family life, but I sometimes wonder whether the refusal to assume responsible masculine roles is in large part just a passive-aggressive male response to a culture that fails to value masculinity properly.
If these are the problems at the root of unmarriageable men, they seem solvable. Stop waging war on masculinity and we may find that more men are willing to step up to the plate and embrace their manly responsibilities.
But is there more to it than that? Are there actual reasons why family life has become less satisfying to men? Unmarried women agonize endlessly over these questions; I'm happily married but I still don't quite know what to tell them. If it were just a question of expressing appreciation more often, and not forcing men to sit on flower-patterned cushions, I think that's a compromise most women would happily accept. But would that be enough? I think a lot comes down to the title question: what makes family life satisfying for men?
One suggestion that has sometimes been made to me is that men need to be needed, and with women working, they feel superfluous within the family. The first part seems definitely true, but the second just seems preposterous. Fathers are desperately needed. Not just for their paychecks (although those are important), but also for their presence within the household. How could any sensible person think otherwise? As the mother of little boys, I can already see how important paternal attention is for my sons. Moms are great when you’re sleepy or sick or have a skinned knee, but if you want to throw a football or play soldier or build a model airplane, Dad is definitely the preferred parent. Happily, my sons get lots of time with their dad, and he loves to do "boy" things with them. But it just makes me sad to think of all the little boys in the world who don't have that. Do men really need primary earning power before they can feel confident in their masculinity? Can they truly believe, just because they aren’t the sole breadwinner, that they aren’t important to their wives (or girlfriends) and, more importantly, to their children?
I’d be happy for any insight that our Ricochet men (or women, for that matter) can offer on these questions.
So, I find at the Corner just now this item. Atheists are freaking out because embattled Democratic Senator Mark Pryor issued an ad saying that the Bible is his "North Star." OMG! Theocracy!
Annie Laurie Gaylor, a spokesperson for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, tells National Review Online that the spot is theocratic and disturbing, and that Pryor’s comments should raise questions about his policy views.
“For him to say that he’s going to make decisions based on the Bible for the people of the state of Arkansas is pretty scary,” she says, citing the plethora of sins for which Old Testament prescribes stoning, including homosexuality.
Because, if you look around at the millions of your fellow Americans whose consciences are formed by the Bible, the thing that mainly stands out about them is their desire to stone people to death for a host of crimes, including homosexuality, right?
Other parts of the Bible, like the part that says "do unto others as you would have others do to you," and "love your neighbor as yourself" and "forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times" and "whatever you do to the least of these, you do me" and "if you love me, feed my sheep", or that part that has Jesus being crucified for our sins and having among his last words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", or that part that says, "my kingdom is not of this world," and "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"—all of that means nothing.
Also of no account is the fact that nearly all of America's founders and great leaders through her history have been open about their reliance on the Bible for moral guidance, including in their insistence on, say, religious liberty.
To be a Christian, according to these overwrought atheists—or even just to announce that you are guided by Christian principles—is to be a dangerous theocrat.
Are they really dumb or are they deliberately fomenting anti-Christian bigotry? That's what I'm wondering.
There are two reactions to this: 1) bravo for him for knowing his rights, and 2) this was easily avoided. They're not mutually exclusive. What would you have done? If this was your son, what would you have cautioned him not to do again - if anything?
I waded in late to Katievs's abortion thread on the member feed -- rather than risk running it off the rails -- I thought I'd start my own.
Despite caring deeply about abortion, I have a hard time articulating a position on it. My reason is simple: I find both of the logically consistent positions on it to be morally troubling and downright terrifying in their implications.
The sanctity-of-life variety of the pro-life position argues that all individual humans are fully-ensouled persons from the moment of conception. They are, therefore, of equal moral value to the rest of us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.
As beautiful as I find that idea, it means that when my girlfriend and I get married and start trying to have kids, nearly a half-dozen fully-ensouled persons are likely to die as a result of our efforts (22% of all conceived zygotes fail to implant). Not to put too fine a point on it, but I would find that -- and the fact that our government sanctions mass-murder of children -- utterly horrifying.
The alternative can best be called the "personhood" argument argument, which holds that we have moral value only by virtue of the level of our moral and intellectual cognition. Or, as professor Peter Singer puts it:
[The argument that a fetus is not alive] is a resort to a convenient fiction that turns an evidently living being into one that legally is not alive. Instead of accepting such fictions, we should recognise that the fact that a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being's life.
Therefore, babies and young children are of no moral consequence and can be killed with no more concern than we might grant a cow. That, too, I find horrifying (more so than the other position, for the record).
As much as I dislike it, this is why I'm morally most comfortable with what I concede is an intellectually squishy position: that our emotional intuition about the increasing value of human life -- rising sharply during pregnancy and then leveling out over time -- is correct. This why we send flowers to a friend who has had an early miscarriage, but stop everything when the same friend's toddler dies.
As such, I'm comfortable with keeping abortions legal during the first trimester, and am equally uncomfortable with allowing mid- to late-term abortions (the usual caveat of danger to the mother's life aside). I don't particularly like this position, but it's the only one that lets me sleep at night.
In the latest Uncommon Knowledge, Dennis Prager (at around the 17 minute mark) begins telling a story to emphasize a point he was making about how Islam does not value liberty. He mentioned the Somali cab drivers at the airport in Minnesota refuse to allow passengers who carry alcohol or have dogs into their cabs.
By contrast, Mr. Prager got a call from a mailman in Colorado who is a fundamentalist Christian who said he, as a mailman, has to deliver pornography, and he is at least opposed, as a Christian, to pornography as Muslim is to alcohol or dogs. But, he delivers the pornography because he believes in freedom.
Forgive me, but am I the only one who noticed problems with this?
First of all, that man delivers pornography because he is paid to do so. It is his job. He is paid a generous salary, very generous benefits and will collect a very generous pension on my dime. So, while he may believe in freedom, he delivers it because he is paid.
Second, as far as I am able to tell (with limited research), those Minnesota Somali cab drivers, unlike the sanctimonious mailman, are not federal employees suckling on the public teat. More likely they are independent operators or they work for a cab company. If they are independent operators, who own or lease their cabs, its their business if they refuse, because of their belief system, to serve some customers.
This is a measure of values. Those cab drivers believe enough in Islam to stand on their principles, refuse money and risk the economic consequences. This mailman may claim to have an objection to pornography, but obviously not enough to stand on principle and refuse that government pay check, those generous government benefits, or that pension.
That is what freedom is. The freedom to associate or not associate with whom you choose based on your own personal values system. Those taxi drivers value Islam, the mailman values his government pension. To each his own, but it doesn't prove Islam is anti-freedom.
Addendum: If I've misunderstood, Dennis is invited to clarify things.