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Ben Domenech Does Not Convince Me

 

I have seen a number of articles lately having to do with religious liberty law — the one that reminded me to write this was two questions in an MTV interview with Ben Domenech, but I think I have also seen David French at NRO and Rod Dreher at American Conservative making similar points, which I may address separately. Domenech argues that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, made a mistake by not adopting a more culturally hands-off policy.

To begin, this is the question and answer from Domenech’s interview:

I think that some people are bothered by a sense of hypocrisy on the part of some conservatives. Like the defense of religious freedom, until someone wants to build a mosque. How would you respond to those concerns?

Domenech: I think the real problem is that a lot of the religiously minded [wanted and still want] to use the power of government to try to create the society that they wished [existed] within the United States…

But you also saw it in [those who were] basically being busybodies about the way people live their lives. The question I would [ask] to social conservatives is: Are you confident that the way you view a life well-lived is a compelling enough model that it will win on its own merits?

… I think that one of the errors that social conservatives made — particularly Christian social conservatives — was a belief that they needed to use the power of government to try to shore up the various things that they believe make up a life well-lived. The whole design of our government policies were sort of engineered toward this 1950s/1960s perspective on what living looks like… As opposed to recognizing that, hey, if that type of lifestyle is something that is ultimately rewarding to people, and something that makes them happy, then they’re going to follow that path more often than not, and that you don’t need to use the engine of government to push them in that direction.

I don’t know if Domenech was trying to sell me, but he failed. The first error is mistaking necessity for desire. By his own admission, using the government to engineer the good life wasn’t the Christians’ idea. It was done in the 1950s and 1960s, right in the middle of the great millennialist withdrawal. Christians as a category didn’t re-enter American political debates until that using of the government to enforce a particular way of life began to infringe on their way of life. Exactly when isn’t clear — we could date it to Roe v. Wade in 1973, or the Silent Majority speech in 1969. There are probably arguments for earlier dates, too — but it is clearly post Eisenhower, and the use of government to enforce a way of life began in the New Deal.

So what I want to do is go home, be allowed to govern my city and state as I like, and be left alone. But it is abundantly clear that this is not possible. The government, from the feds to the locals, in every policy area from schools to immigration, is going to dictate a way of life to me. The government is far too powerful, and all attempts to weaken it have failed.

Against this logic Domenech argues that I should be confident that, if freely chosen, the virtues of my way of life will be so obvious that everyone will adopt them. This is not a well thought out argument. First, simply as a matter of doctrine, Christians literally think that the virtues of Christian life cannot be freely chosen without a literal miracle (which we celebrated yesterday). But even as a matter of secular Western thought, no one has ever thought virtue was freely chosen. Aristotle argued that it had to be cultivated at an early age and maintained by a lifetime of effort. Domenech’s argument is a straight utilitarian argument that ignores that, 1) I am not a utilitarian, and 2) Even JS Mill thought that you could only have a utilitarian society if proper virtue and taste were taught to children and other utilitarians acknowledge that short-term thinking can result in long term failure but short-term benefits. And of course, we are entering into the world that Brave New World critiqued — a utilitarian dystopia.

So, just to clarify, he has no plan for eliminating the One Ring, but if we Hobbits are so cool, obviously the forces of Mordor will be overcome by our superior virtue and join us, rather than slaughtering us all.

And while Domenech doesn’t address it, the accusation of hypocrisy regarding defending only Christian prerogatives annoys me because — while I am quite willing to defend Muslims building their mosques in the US or wearing beards in prison — I am under no delusions that this admirable intellectual consistency is going to buy me any reprieve from the left. Oh, super-intellectual people like to quote that Thomas Moore line about giving the devil the benefit of law — seeming to forget that the movie ends with the king subverting the law and executing Moore anyway.

I remain unconvinced.

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Members have made 41 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Michael Minnott Member

    I suspect some of the blame goes to Republican politicians who talked a good game about “family values” come election time, but weren’t good at promoting defense of religious freedoms when the laws got written. I understand the whole bit about “our reach exceeding our grasp” and “parliamentary sausage making,” but it often appears they just aren’t trying.

    • #1
    • April 17, 2017 at 7:28 pm
    • Like5 likes
  2. Profile photo of The Reticulator Member

    Thanks for this post. I never heard of this Domenech person before, but the idea that we’re just some sort of consumer society where we pick the best religio-cultural system from a shelf of competing alternatives is disingenuous when you consider that government is usurping a lot of the cultural roles and functions. It’s like he’s saying we should put our brand of ice cream on the shelf to compete with the others in the market, and by the way, we are not allowed to use boxes or containers to package the ice cream because only the government gets to use restricted materials like that, and we’re not allowed to use refrigeration because the government rations that and we don’t qualify, and milk products are not allowed, but within those restrictions we can compete with the others to sell our brand of ice cream.

    But your analogy is more to the point:

    So, just to clarify, he has no plan for eliminating the One Ring, but if we Hobbits are so cool, obviously the forces of Mordor will be overcome by our superior virtue and join us, rather than slaughtering us all.

    • #2
    • April 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm
    • Like8 likes
  3. Profile photo of KC Mulville Inactive

    Plainly, Domenech pandered to the audience. Domenech found himself on MTV and tried to ingratiate himself with their audience by indulging them in their prejudices about social conservative hypocrisy. Sell the Federalist, fine, but don’t suck up to progressives by insulting conservatives.

    Social conservatives didn’t start new government action. Look at what the social conservatives actually supported. It wasn’t laws to bend society our way – it was to stop others from bending it their way. The Defense of Marriage Act wasn’t intended to force a new definition of marriage – it was to preserve the understanding of marriage that had been universally accepted until then. Griswold and Roe v. Wade were the decisions that imposed new ideas. We weren’t the ones using government to impose our worldview, and it’s psychological projection to accuse others of what you’re doing yourself.

    Domenech argues that socons hold ” a belief that they needed to use the power of government to try to shore up the various things that they believe make up a life well-lived.” What, abortion is just an individual lifestyle choice?

    The worst pandering is here: ” if that type of lifestyle is something that is ultimately rewarding to people, and something that makes them happy, ” — Stop. Go no further. This premise is shockingly adolescent. It’s a strawman, but I guess he thinks it appeals to the MTV audience.

    • #3
    • April 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm
    • Like16 likes
  4. Profile photo of Jamie Lockett Reagan

    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    • #4
    • April 17, 2017 at 8:25 pm
    • Like4 likes
  5. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance Post author

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    That’s the problem -there is nothing to make us think that the power of government will be curtailed, regardless of what we do. He argues that we made a mistake by not doing that which was and is plainly impossible to accomplish -because it was done over our objections in the first place.

    • #5
    • April 17, 2017 at 9:26 pm
    • Like5 likes
  6. Profile photo of Jamie Lockett Reagan

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    That’s the problem -there is nothing to make us think that the power of government will be curtailed, regardless of what we do. He argues that we made a mistake by not doing that which was and is plainly impossible to accomplish -because it was done over our objections in the first place.

    So you have essentially given up on the concept of limited government?

    • #6
    • April 17, 2017 at 9:53 pm
    • Like3 likes
  7. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance Post author

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    That’s the problem -there is nothing to make us think that the power of government will be curtailed, regardless of what we do. He argues that we made a mistake by not doing that which was and is plainly impossible to accomplish -because it was done over our objections in the first place.

    So you have essentially given up on the concept of limited government?

    You demonstrate to me that it can be done and done permanently -which will require defanging not only the Congress and the states, but also the courts -and I’ll sign on the line. Until then: yes.

    • #7
    • April 17, 2017 at 9:58 pm
    • Like4 likes
  8. Profile photo of Jamie Lockett Reagan

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    That’s the problem -there is nothing to make us think that the power of government will be curtailed, regardless of what we do. He argues that we made a mistake by not doing that which was and is plainly impossible to accomplish -because it was done over our objections in the first place.

    So you have essentially given up on the concept of limited government?

    You demonstrate to me that it can be done and done permanently -which will require defanging not only the Congress and the states, but also the courts -and I’ll sign on the line. Until then: yes.

    If it’s permanence you seek then I suggest you look beyond earthly realms.

    • #8
    • April 17, 2017 at 10:02 pm
    • Like5 likes
  9. Profile photo of Quake Voter Thatcher

    Two things are always operating with Domenech.

    Second, he is a complicated conservative with pop cultural ambitions and some very socon views of his own (he often argues for a single issue anti-abortion party).

    First, though, Ben Domenech is always positioning and marketing Ben Domenech. Not a bad thing. Conservatism needs more entrepreneurs and promoters. When he is operating in a liberal environment he plays up the anti-state aspect of conservatism and distinguishes himself from parts of the conservative coalition which don’t appeal to his audience.

    I can’t throw the first stone here.

    • #9
    • April 17, 2017 at 10:49 pm
    • Like7 likes
  10. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    So if we take Domenech at his word here wouldn’t curbing the power of government to affect our lives be enough? I think what Domenech argues against is the turnabout. What turns the negative rights argument (stay out of my life) into a positive rights argument (do this because it’s right)?

    I think what the OP alludes to is that before the Leftist upheaval–again pick a date, 1933, 1968, 1972–Christians and Leftists were free to do their own social tinkering within their respective states. After the upheaval, Christian communities were no longer free to have their public schools begin the day with prayer, let’s say, because SCOTUS said no and it is applied universally. And that is but one example. The problem that the OP does not nail down is a creeping desire for every problem to be addressed from the center, Washington DC, when many of these issues would be better addressed at the state level. You cannot have blanket social policy coming from the center in a country of 320 million people without upsetting the sensibilities of half of them. On second thought, maybe the OP does nail that down.

    • #10
    • April 18, 2017 at 2:39 am
    • Like5 likes
  11. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Two things are always operating with Domenech.

    Second, he is a complicated conservative with pop cultural ambitions and some very socon views of his own (he often argues for a single issue anti-abortion party).

    First, though, Ben Domenech is always positioning and marketing Ben Domenech. Not a bad thing. Conservatism needs more entrepreneurs and promoters. When he is operating in a liberal environment he plays up the anti-state aspect of conservatism and distinguishes himself from parts of the conservative coalition which don’t appeal to his audience.

    I can’t throw the first stone here.

    If that is the case, then why can’t he make the argument from a more principled position? By that I mean, yes, at least to me, the anti-state aspects of Conservatism are important, but it is also important to explain, as this OP has done, the Conservative perspective on the ideological war waged during the 20th century. Outside of abolition and temperance, when has a predominantly Christian political activist organization sought to apply a standard to the whole of the country? I’m not sure I can think of one. And further, the difference between how those two policies were enacted vs. how the Left has completely destroyed our culture (legislative/amendment process vs. SCOTUS) also deserves mentioning here. Christians acted within the bounds of the rule book, while the Left utilized the rewriting of the rules in 1803 to completely destroy the rule book today.

    • #11
    • April 18, 2017 at 2:46 am
    • Like3 likes
  12. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    This is an important topic within the Conservative sphere. It is the one subject that divides Libertarians from Conservatives, as one side sees the other as using the state to achieve its ends, at least that is how I have always seen the argument made. I have always thought that, if SoCons are going to make any headway in this century in rolling back some of the cultural rot that the Left has bestowed upon us, then they are going to have to figure out to do it without getting DC involved and maybe even practice some of that good old fashioned civil disobedience. Otherwise, to use the general government to achieve your cultural ends makes you no different than the Left.

    • #12
    • April 18, 2017 at 2:50 am
    • Like6 likes
  13. Profile photo of Quake Voter Thatcher

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    If that is the case, then why can’t he make the argument from a more principled position?

    Robert, I think you are mistaking Domenech’s ambitions. He’s not a consistent libertarian aiming to host the Cato Daily Podcast. Domenech is a Christian conservatarian aiming to be very influential in conservative politics and culture (including pop culture). A large part of his success as an editor — and I feel he is uniquely talented here — flows from his not being doctrinaire or overly rigid. There is a liveliness and engaged dialog at The Federalist which is absent at older Trump fractured publications.

    Domenech’s other aim is obviously to monopolize all the attractive female conservative commentators in the country. Without doubt, the Christmas party you want to be invited to.

    • #13
    • April 18, 2017 at 4:30 am
    • Like7 likes
  14. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Robert, I think you are mistaking Domenech’s ambitions. He’s not a consistent libertarian aiming to host the Cato Daily Podcast. Domenech is a Christian conservatarian aiming to be very influential in conservative politics and culture (including pop culture). A large part of his success as an editor — and I feel he is uniquely talented here — flows from his not being doctrinaire or overly rigid. There is a liveliness and engaged dialog at The Federalist which is absent at older Trump fractured publications.

    Domenech’s other aim is obviously to monopolize all the attractive female conservative commentators in the country. Without doubt, the Christmas party you want to be invited to.

    Again, I say, this is what hampers the Conservative Movement as a force in politics. This notion that in order to advance, we must show that we are not a threat. Characterizations of “doctrinaire” and “overly rigid” speak to this timidity that leads the GOP to thinking that the best way to show we are not mean is to grow the size of the general government, if only slightly slower than the other side. Conservative politics is a farce and a paper tiger. It has done such a great job of impeaching itself that such luminaries of government growth as JFK, Scoop Jackson, and G. Herbert Walker Bush are counted as members of the club. Cutting taxes and bombing non-threatening countries is not an ideology.

    • #14
    • April 18, 2017 at 7:35 am
    • Like2 likes
  15. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Doubting Scoop Jackson? Try these:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-real-scoop-jackson/article/784912

    http://www.nationalreview.com/node/397903/print

    And my personal favorite:

    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/scoop-jackson-at-one-hundred/

    • #15
    • April 18, 2017 at 7:48 am
    • LikeLike
  16. Profile photo of Quake Voter Thatcher

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Robert, I think you are mistaking Domenech’s ambitions. He’s not a consistent libertarian aiming to host the Cato Daily Podcast. Domenech is a Christian conservatarian aiming to be very influential in conservative politics and culture (including pop culture). A large part of his success as an editor — and I feel he is uniquely talented here — flows from his not being doctrinaire or overly rigid. There is a liveliness and engaged dialog at The Federalist which is absent at older Trump fractured publications.

    Domenech’s other aim is obviously to monopolize all the attractive female conservative commentators in the country. Without doubt, the Christmas party you want to be invited to.

    Again, I say, this is what hampers the Conservative Movement as a force in politics. This notion that in order to advance, we must show that we are not a threat. Characterizations of “doctrinaire” and “overly rigid” speak to this timidity that leads the GOP to thinking that the best way to show we are not mean is to grow the size of the general government, if only slightly slower than the other side. Conservative politics is a farce and a paper tiger. It has done such a great job of impeaching itself that such luminaries of government growth as JFK, Scoop Jackson, and G. Herbert Walker Bush are counted as members of the club. Cutting taxes and bombing non-threatening countries is not an ideology.

    This OP had a focus. Domenech is neither a Cold War liberal nor a neoconservative. Commentary often refers to Moynihan as a conservative. I get your beef. But it’s not with Domenech.

    • #16
    • April 18, 2017 at 8:06 am
    • LikeLike
  17. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Sabrdance:The government is far too powerful, and all attempts to weaken it have failed.

    So… now what?…

    Against this logic Domenech argues that I should be confident that, if freely chosen, the virtues of my way of life will be so obvious that everyone will adopt them. This is not a well thought out argument. First, simply as a matter of doctrine, Christians literally think that the virtues of Christian life cannot be freely chosen without a literal miracle (which we celebrated yesterday).

    On the upside, though, the Eternal Father Strong to Save is under no compulsion to stint on this miracle. And something something “doors of hell are locked on the inside”. Different denominations differ on this, I suppose, but God does not rape souls – take them wholly against their will.

    But even as a matter of secular Western thought, no one has ever thought virtue was freely chosen.

    Eh, there was Montaigne

    Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim,
    even in virtue is pleasure. It amuses me to rattle in ears this word,
    which they so nauseate to and if it signify some supreme pleasure and
    contentment, it is more due to the assistance of virtue than to any other
    assistance whatever. This pleasure, for being more gay, more sinewy,
    more robust and more manly… The other and meaner pleasure, if it could deserve this fair name, it ought to be by way of competition, and not of privilege. I find it less exempt from traverses and inconveniences than virtue itself; and, besides that
    the enjoyment is more momentary, fluid, and frail, it has its watchings,
    fasts, and labours, its sweat and its blood; and, moreover, has
    particular to itself so many several sorts of sharp and wounding
    passions, and so dull a satiety attending it, as equal it to the severest
    penance…. Those who preach to us that the quest of [Virtue] is craggy, difficult,
    and painful, but its fruition pleasant, what do they mean by that but to
    tell us that it is always unpleasing? For what human means will ever
    attain its enjoyment? The most perfect have been fain to content
    themselves to aspire unto it, and to approach it only, without ever
    possessing it. But they are deceived, seeing that of all the pleasures
    we know, the very pursuit is pleasant. The attempt ever relishes of the
    quality of the thing to which it is directed, for it is a good part of,
    and consubstantial with, the effect. The felicity and beatitude that
    glitters in Virtue, shines throughout all her appurtenances and avenues,
    even to the first entry and utmost limits.

    “Pleasurable enough to be freely chosen” is not identical to “freely chosen”, but Domenech seems to be emphasizing the former, as Quake Voter noted,

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Domenech is a Christian conservatarian aiming to be very influential in conservative politics and culture (including pop culture)…

    Domenech’s other aim is obviously to monopolize all the attractive female conservative commentators in the country.

    They are the same aim, probably.

    • #17
    • April 18, 2017 at 8:30 am
    • Like4 likes
  18. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Again, I say, this is what hampers the Conservative Movement as a force in politics. This notion that in order to advance, we must show that we are not a threat. Characterizations of “doctrinaire” and “overly rigid” speak to this timidity that leads the GOP to thinking that the best way to show we are not mean is to grow the size of the general government, if only slightly slower than the other side. Conservative politics is a farce and a paper tiger. It has done such a great job of impeaching itself that such luminaries of government growth as JFK, Scoop Jackson, and G. Herbert Walker Bush are counted as members of the club. Cutting taxes and bombing non-threatening countries is not an ideology.

    This OP had a focus. Domenech is neither a Cold War liberal nor a neoconservative. Commentary often refers to Moynihan as a conservative. I get your beef. But it’s not with Domenech.

    I understand where you are coming from too. And if I were to keep my criticism strictly to Domench within the focus of this OP, I would simply say, one cannot win over to the side of SoCons by telling the decadent that they are absolutely correct about SoCons. At some point, SoCons have to tell the decadent that they are truly repugnant even when doing so from the platform of the decadent, MTV.

    • #18
    • April 18, 2017 at 8:32 am
    • Like2 likes
  19. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    I would simply say, one cannot win over to the side of SoCons by telling the decadent that they are absolutely correct about SoCons. At some point, SoCons have to tell the decadent that they are truly repugnant even when doing so from the platform of the decadent, MTV.

    But there’s space between telling folks they’re absolutely correct and telling them that they’re absolutely repugnant.

    Why do Christians find the Babylon Bee funny? Because, while the decadent are wrong about SoCons overall, the decadent do occasionally have a point. It’s no surprise that the Bee spends more time mocking Christian culture than mocking the decadent, although it mocks both. (And to be clear, the Bee mocks both the puritanical and “seeker friendly” streaks within modern Christian culture – because both can be rather absurd.)

    • #19
    • April 18, 2017 at 8:56 am
    • Like5 likes
  20. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance Post author

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Sabrdance:The government is far too powerful, and all attempts to weaken it have failed.

    So… now what?…

    On the upside, though, the Eternal Father Strong to Save is under no compulsion to stint on this miracle. And something something “doors of hell are locked on the inside”. Different denominations differ on this, I suppose, but God does not rape souls – take them wholly against their will.

    I am happy the conversation is going in many directions, but this is something I chose not to address in the OP because it wasn’t the main point. Yes, God is free to conduct that miracle however He chooses -but I don’t know that I want political strategy to be based on “and then a miracle happens.” It might well happen, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

    But even as a matter of secular Western thought, no one has ever thought virtue was freely chosen.

    Eh, there was Montaigne

    “Pleasurable enough to be freely chosen” is not identical to “freely chosen”, but Domenech seems to be emphasizing the former, as Quake Voter noted,

    Even Montaigne acknowledges in the passage that people have to have the pleasures of pursuing virtue pointed out to them. Neither does one person making a statement dominate the thinking of history. As noted originally, Mill thought utilitarianism would obviously be freely chosen until people started criticizing it, and he backed into the “well children are an exception” corner.

    • #20
    • April 18, 2017 at 9:27 am
    • LikeLike
  21. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    But there’s space between telling folks they’re absolutely correct and telling them that they’re absolutely repugnant.

    Why do Christians find the Babylon Bee funny? Because, while the decadent are wrong about SoCons overall, the decadent do occasionally have a point. It’s no surprise that the Bee spends more time mocking Christian culture than mocking the decadent, although it mocks both. (And to be clear, the Bee mocks both the puritanical and “seeker friendly” streaks within modern Christian culture – because both can be rather absurd.)

    Self deprecating humor is all well and good. I happen to enjoy it when it is sincere. But I don’t think that is what we are facing now a days, as Christians. The Left is not simply poking fun at us, they are outright demanding that we shut up, convert, or get out of their way as they continue their Cultural Marxist devastation. Think about that pizzaria in Indiana or the photographer in New Mexico. Look I will be the first one to tell you that Christianity can be victim of too much camp and hokiness, but I would never tell you that at the heart of Christianity is the foundation of discrimination or hatred as the Left now does. They are absolutely repugnant and possess nothing with which I would want to associate myself.

    • #21
    • April 18, 2017 at 9:31 am
    • Like3 likes
  22. Profile photo of bridget Member

    Are you confident that the way you view a life well-lived is a compelling enough model that it will win on its own merits?

    I firmly believe that any potential policy should be able to defended on secular grounds, but I don’t think Domenech is advocating for better Christian apologetics or for us to better connect Biblical teachings with the undisputed and concrete results of decades of social science research. It seems as if he is attacking either a straw man or pretending that the few people who say “The government should do X because the Bible mandates that we do X” are the majority of political Christians.

    Name a policy that Christian conservatives would like to see instituted, and I can find you people who will put forth compelling, brilliant arguments for it without once mentioning God – arguments that secular libertarians can at appreciate as valid, even if they ultimately disagree.

    But at this point in American society, I think our larger problem is that many anti-religious liberals will reject sound science and policy because that science lines up with explicitly Christian thinking. I mean, we have actual debates about whether or not a human embryo is a human being, the undisputed science aside, because Christians oppose abortion and therfore, the Left assumes that “science” necessarily contradicts Christianity.

    So why is this our problem?

    • #22
    • April 18, 2017 at 10:35 am
    • Like4 likes
  23. Profile photo of bridget Member

    The government, from the feds to the locals, in every policy area from schools to immigration, is going to dictate a way of life to me. The government is far too powerful, and all attempts to weaken it have failed.

    Exactly. Our choices are not between a Randian libertarian paradise and a theocracy. Government regulates marriage, teaches sex ed in schools, spends a billion dollars a year on family planning, tries to force nuns to buy birth control, regulates the speech of crisis pregnancy centres and people in front of abortion clinics, requires people to participate in same-sex marriages, pays for abortions (Massachusetts), fines me if I complain about dude stripping down in the women’s locker room, and has tried to mandate that abortions be provided in Catholic hospitals.

    If this is the way things are going to be, I would at least prefer a government that advances a belief system that has worked reasonably well for two thousand years. Not my preferred game to play, but if it is to be played, I want to win.

    • #23
    • April 18, 2017 at 10:47 am
    • Like7 likes
  24. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Eh, there was Montaigne

    “Pleasurable enough to be freely chosen” is not identical to “freely chosen”, but Domenech seems to be emphasizing the former, as Quake Voter noted,

    Even Montaigne acknowledges in the passage that people have to have the pleasures of pursuing virtue pointed out to them.

    Which might be what Domenech thinks he’s doing.

    It’s not like he’s remaining silent on what he considers the pleasures of virtue, or encouraging other conservatives to remain silent. Rather, he’s outspoken about those pleasures, albeit in a way that the despairing and misanthropic among us (and I count myself as one of them) will never really be convinced by, as long as they remain despairing and misanthropic.

    Fine. Domenech can’t sell conservatism to us. But he doesn’t need to (we’re already conservative, despite its failure to magically make us happy or hopeful), and not everyone else is us.

    • #24
    • April 18, 2017 at 10:49 am
    • Like3 likes
  25. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    I am happy the conversation is going in many directions, but this is something I chose not to address in the OP because it wasn’t the main point.

    Well, perhaps it has does have bearing on your failure to be convinced. Some Christians find that Christian hope makes them genuinely optimistic. Some other Christians, well, for us Christian hope possibly has the practical effect of “marginal decrease in profound despair”. That may be relevant when considering whether we perceive Domenech’s attempts at “conservative evangelism” futile or not.

    Me, I suspect, “Could be futile, but perhaps the least futile among the futile, so good on him for fighting the good fight in a way that at least tries to be charming and friendly to outsiders.”

    • #25
    • April 18, 2017 at 10:57 am
    • Like1 like
  26. Profile photo of Matt White Member

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    I understand where you are coming from too. And if I were to keep my criticism strictly to Domench within the focus of this OP, I would simply say, one cannot win over to the side of SoCons by telling the decadent that they are absolutely correct about SoCons. At some point, SoCons have to tell the decadent that they are truly repugnant even when doing so from the platform of the decadent, MTV.

    This is an important point. He reminds me of something we often see when a slightly conservative Christian wants to be popular with the media. When the “seeking popularity” Christian is among other christians he affirms biblical doctrine, but put him in front of the camera and ask him about some progressive sexual issue and the response is something like “well, uh, I don’t think it’s best, but, uh, I’m not like those other bigots who are so mean to the designated victim group..” (paraphrase)

    Ben’s example is much smaller, but it’s open to a lot. What does he think we should back away from? Where have social conservatives been on the offense in the last 50 years. His remark suggests some totalitarian streak among socons. Does he think we should abandon our opposition to abortion?

    His method is building himself up at the expense of others. Throw any socons under the bus so he can be momentarily popular.

    • #26
    • April 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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  27. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance Post author

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Which might be what Domenech thinks he’s doing.

    It’s not like he’s remaining silent on what he considers the pleasures of virtue, or encouraging other conservatives to remain silent. Rather, he’s outspoken about those pleasures, albeit in a way that the despairing and misanthropic among us (and I count myself as one of them) will never really be convinced by, as long as they remain despairing and misanthropic.

    Yes, this should not be read as a denouncement of Domenech. I like him. It is just a critique of this argument -and it may well be that he is arguing this way because of his audience, and he has stronger arguments to give me that are based in my lack of utilitarianism.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Me, I suspect, “Could be futile, but perhaps the least futile among the futile, so good on him for fighting the good fight in a way that at least tries to be charming and friendly to outsiders.”

    And on this point, I firmly believe that God can, nay, will intervene in the course of nations. That may be restoring us to glory, or it may mean handing us over to the Medes and Persians. Fervently do we pray that this scourge may speedily pass away, so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are righteous and just altogether.

    • #27
    • April 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm
    • Like1 like
  28. Profile photo of Polyphemus Member

    I don’t know. I think that Social Conservatives have been waging an almost exclusively defensive war for the past several decades. Most of the religious do-gooderism via laws and politics in this country’s history has been mixed with Progressivism, hasn’t it? Temperance laws, etc. Weren’t those activists of a previous century generally both Progressive and Christian?

    The culture has changed and the religious character of the American people is such that it doesn’t have the cachet that it once had. Since Progressivism and Christianity have parted ways, which camp is still trying to use government to make the culture reflect their values and which camp is playing defense?

    That’s my impression at least.

    • #28
    • April 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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  29. Profile photo of Old Bathos Member

    Using government to block a mosque is problematic but private citizens exerting social pressure of Muslims to expressly renounce each and every element in their ideology that makes coexistence impossible is right and necessary. Islam is entirely unlike any other religion in its intolerance. I find it odd that the issue is miscast as the extent to which “social conservatives” are hypocrites.

    See this.

    • #29
    • April 18, 2017 at 12:34 pm
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  30. Profile photo of KC Mulville Inactive

    Domenech’s argument strikes me as radically individualistic, which is something a socon like me doesn’t buy.

    For instance, if Bruce Jenner wants to dress up as a girl and “identify” as a girl, well, go right ahead. But if he asks me if I agree that he’s a girl, I’ll say no. At that point, it’s just a difference of opinion. But Domenech’s argument goes on to assume that such differences of opinion can always be left at that – let each individual do whatever he wants.

    In the real world, that isn’t so. You may think abortion is OK, but I think it’s unjustified homicide. We can’t split that difference. You can’t just chalk it up to individual opinions and expect the rest of us to accept your individual self-definition. In the wedding cake situation, you’re not just asking the baker to stay neutral – you’re using government law to force him to put aside his own beliefs.

    Sometimes, differences in beliefs have social consequences, and that must be dealt with honestly and fairly – not by simply acceding to whatever individuals want to do.

    • #30
    • April 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm
    • Like3 likes
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