Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Slate’s Rising Intolerance on Gay Rights


In my recent Defining Ideas column, “Hard Questions on Same-Sex Marriage,” I sought to explore some of the intellectual cross-currents and difficulties in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges. There were two basic points in the article. First, I sought to explain the difficulties in finding a constitutional right to gay marriage, even though most of the standard arguments against same-sex-marriage tend to fall flat as a matter of social and political theory. The article was in no sense an effort to rally religious conservatives to stop the powerful political juggernaut that has resulted in a surge in public approval for same-sex-marriage.

The second point was my deep uneasiness that the same-sex-marriage movement is moving sharply from its defense of gay unions towards a massive intolerance of those individuals who, for religious reasons, oppose the practice and wish to conduct their own personal lives and business activities in accordance with their own beliefs — beliefs that I hasten to add are not my own. The recent hysterical screed against my column by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, laden as it is with abusive epithets, shows just how rapidly that form of intolerance is taking over the gay rights movement more generally.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Random Sampling of Progressive Opinion on Religious Liberty


SCOTUSLest you think that I was overly alarmist in my earlier post on Obergefell’s threat to religious liberty, consider this. I wrote a slightly longer version of the piece for City Journal, which was then posted to RealClearPolitics — so it attracted a fair number of eyeballs outside of the conservative bubble. Here are some of the comments I got:

  • Religion is the problem, not gay marriage. Religion is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that threatens the civil liberties of everyone. Religion is as pervasive as pornography in this country, but much more harmful to our culture.
  • If the institution of marriage is removed from its unnatural cloud of accompanying religious magic . . . it is a right, like any other. As such it should by law available to ALL citizens. In THIS country at very least.
  • I think it’s always dangerous to defend anything based on religious belief.
  • It’s a “threat to religious liberty” only if you think that people should be free to use their religion as an excuse to screw others.
  • There are so many parallels with the 1960’s civil rights movement it is hard for any rational person to fathom how those on the “pro-religious” freedom side expect history to view their backward cause.

Progressives feel momentum on their side and nothing will get in their way. If new rights can be invented by the judiciary, then old rights — like the free exercise of religion — can be just as easily interpreted into oblivion.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Should Clergy Continue to Register Marriages for the State?


shutterstock_262863614As you may know, nearly all clergy act as marriage agents for their local or state governments. In Connecticut, for example, ordained or licensed clergy may perform marriages as long as they continue in the work of the ministry. The marriage license must be completed by the minister and returned to the city or town clerk. Right next door, Massachusetts clergy themselves must obtain a license to marry before they can fill out valid licenses.

With Obergefell, I know of confessional pastors who are looking hard at whether they should continue this practice. Fr. Jonathan Morris — best known for his appearances on Fox News Channel — had two tweets that sum up the case for this approach.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Perfectly Cowardly Answer: Publishing Religious Images That May Offend


BN-GK083_Charli_JV_20150112182529Sometimes I wake up thinking, “I could write something serious and original about the state of the world, or I could have a look at The New York Times and spend my morning shooting trout in a barrel.”

In my defense, the weather is quite hot and The Times made it too easy. Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The Times, yesterday tried to explain why the paper chose not to print Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons depicting Muhammad in the wake of the massacre of Charlie Hebdo staffers in Paris.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. To Forgive, Divine


Many complain about the post-Christian slough of contemporary America. We point to the coarsening of pop culture, the dissolution of the family, and the battles over religious liberty in the courts. Those issues are important, but more troublesome is the decline of the deeper virtues.

Forgiveness. Mercy. Beauty.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Laudato Si’: Now What Does a Catholic Do?


shutterstock_195361532For Catholics who advocate for free markets, Pope Francis has just made life extremely complicated. The Holy Father’s encyclical, Laudato Si’ — which I have only begun to read — contains statements that clearly indicate that the Pope has fallen in with the progressives. Although the encyclical still prohibits birth control, abortion, and euthanasia, Francis seems tone deaf to the constant demands of the left, particularly the environmental left, that the Church abandon her teachings and encourage the use of these prohibited techniques. The Pope also seems to have largely adopted the platform of the American Democratic Party. As a Republican, my stomach is queasy.

So what to do? As a Catholic, I must submit my personal convictions to the authority of the Magisterium– which means to the Pope insofar as he speaks within Church tradition on theological matters. That gives me some weasel room on Francis’s economic views. But not much room. A Catholic’s first duty is obedience, or as my daughter wrote in her new article for Catholic Exchange:


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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Playing the Long Game in the Culture Wars


shutterstock_262016981In the end, strongly religious people will win the culture war because they have babies and those babies do not grow up to be atheists. Between 70% and 75% percent of the children of Evangelicals do not leave the faith when they grow up. With an average birthrate of 2.5 kids per woman, that means that Evangelicals will be a growing segment of the white vote over the coming decades and will gain modestly over all, even assuming the kind of immigration foreseen in the comprehensive immigration reform bills of the last decade or so. Moreover, evangelicals are effective in evangelism, getting nearly 11% of their members from adult conversions, and the retention rate for conversions is very high. So, going into the future, Evangelicals grow and do not shrink. Right now, American’s elementary schools are filled with far more religious people than they had with the Millennial generation. If demography is destiny, as the Democrats say, liberals are in a for a rude surprise starting around 2030.

Who else is benefiting? Mormons gain very little from evangelism but they have lots of children and have incredibly high retention rates. In the early 20th century, Mormons were just 40% of the population in Utah. Now, it is 58%. Over the next decade or so, Mormons will make the purple states of Colorado and Nevada a bit more red. This is all form Mormons having a lot of children who stay Mormon.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Trend or a Cycle?


51yX6x1E1JLWhenever I hear of the death of Christianity in Europe, I think “this ain’t the first time.” I base my reaction on Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, which belongs in that category of histories I am afraid to believe because they so perfectly confirm my prejudices.

If Cahill accurately depicts what happened at the onset of the Dark Ages — i.e., Christianity died on the Continent, but revived through the hard work of Irish missionaries — it offers encouragement to one side of the most interesting debate in sociology today: is the present decline of Christianity in Europe part of a trend or a cycle?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why I Avoid Same-Sex Marriage Debates


Today at The Federalist, Dan McLaughlin has a very fine essay on the future of Christianity in America in light of the LGBT agenda. It’s the first of a five-part series, and I’m looking forward to the other installments. He prefaces it all by presenting in very clear terms the situation that confronts Christians in the United States today. Without a vigorous defense, McLaughlin says:

[B]elieving Christians in this country face a genuine existential threat: that our culture and legal systems will declare the adherence to core Christian doctrines—unchanged for millennia, directly derived from the words of Jesus and the letters of St. Paul, and in the heartland of the legitimacy of Christ’s teachings—to be outside the bounds of civilized society in the way that the Ku Klux Klan is today.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Standing On Ceremony


shutterstock_168595868As a happy break from writing about crime (gloomy) and marriage (even more gloomy) I’ve lately been writing a paper on liturgical theology, which is intended as a chapter for a forthcoming book designed to foster ecumenical dialogue between Roman Catholics and Latter-Day-Saints. It’s proving to be an enjoyable project, which has turned my thoughts to the role of formal ceremony in American life more generally.

Many of you know that I was raised Mormon and am now Catholic, and as a Catholic I developed a deep love of traditional liturgy. Since I developed that taste primarily in my Catholic life, my initial impulse was to think that Mormons are fairly lacking in any kind of formal liturgy. On further reflection though, that’s not as true as it might seem. Of course, the obvious place to find formal Mormon liturgy is in their temple ceremonies. But even in more ordinary settings, Mormons do have a high appreciation of formality and ceremony, along with a very definite sense of decorum. We both (that is, Catholics and Mormons) run against the grain of so much of our mainstream culture, where people are largely ashamed of anything that seems too formal, too ceremonial, or too “scripted”.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Learning the Basics and Things that Matter


shutterstock_209972047To the sadness of all, John Walker has decided to end his amazing Saturday Night Science series (though he’s still writing for Ricochet on similar topics). Out of a sense of both depression and a desire to turn that feeling into something constructive I have decided to write a primer on something which I have found to be important in my life. I want to start out with describing a small toolbox of ideas that is taught to engineers and scientists as a means of looking at the world.

Of course, there is a lot of confusion about what it is that engineers do. The truth of the matter is that there isn’t just one thing that engineers do; our professional lives are so varied and specialized that the term “Engineer” even with modifiers such as “Chemical,” “Civil,” “Mechanical,” or “Electrical” cannot capture the breadth of depth of what people do in the various disciplines. However, there are typically a few core courses which bind all of the branches of engineering together at the root of their undergraduate training. One of the most important courses which all well-trained engineers take is Thermodynamics.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Source of Obama’s “Casual Slander” of Christianity


shutterstock_30039856I was reading a piece by the great Mark Hemingway this morning about Obama’s “casual slander” of American Christians. As Mark points out:

We’re at the point where the man well-intentioned liberal Christians like [E. J.] Dionne said could end the culture wars [i.e., President Obama] makes a flatly wrong and objectionable assertion that fighting poverty is an afterthought for Christians too often obsessed with abortion, and nobody bats an eye.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. One Immortal Monkey, Sonnet 130


Ladies and gents, I apologize in advance for the intolerably long notes below, but I recommend them if you have some leisure–they seem to me to include some insights about what Shakespeare offers as an education for love.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red & white,
but no such roses I see in her cheeks.
& in some perfumes there is more delight
than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
that music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
& yet, by heav’n, I think my love as rare
as any she belied with false compare.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Philosopher: Loving Families Perpetuate Injustice


shutterstock_91954007Down in Australia, social justice thinking exists on a far more advanced plane than up here in the benighted, backwoods, bitter-clinging USA. Just to take one example, here are a couple of Aussie philosophers on Australian radio, bemoaning the fact that children raised in loving families receive unfair advantages in life – advantages that perpetuate social and economic inequality. Says one of the philosophers:

“The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Nature of Our Nature


In recent threads, there’s been some back and forth regarding Mankind’s nature and some… speculation as to how attitudes about it correlate with political ideology. I’ve my own theories on the matter, but I think more might be gained at this point from asking than guessing (differences tend to get exagerated in debates, so it’s sometimes best to take a step back and explore each other’s first principles). So, Ricochetti, here’s this morning’s assignment:

  1. Do you believe Mankind to be inherently good, wicked, or neither? Explain briefly.
  2. Which philosophers and/or theologians do you identify with on this subject (bonus points for providing a representative quote).
  3. How do your answers above inform your political philosophy?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. What Makes a SoCon?


A few days ago, several Ricochetti on the member side were kicking around an idea for a podcast featuring social conservatives. (Want to read those in-house conversations? You need to be a member.) It was a good discussion and one that’s been mirrored behind the scenes at the site (we take your suggestions seriously).

It brought an interesting question to mind, however. What makes someone a SoCon? I’ve never used the label in reference to myself because I’m generally fine with gay marriage as a policy matter (though I’m totally opposed to the means by which it’s been gaining ground) and I know that’s usually a litmus test. That said, I’m also pro-life, firmly in favor of the various Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, anti-assisted suicide, totally opposed to the contraception mandate, deeply troubled by the pervasive breakdown of the family, and generally convinced that both the law and the culture are developing an ominously antagonistic posture towards people of faith. So wouldn’t it be sort of weird to say I’m not a social conservative?


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Can a Christian Be a Pessimist?


Silver ChairI have been thinking about this a lot lately as the news gets darker and darker. We hear politicians talk about the need for “joyful warriors” and conservatives of all stripes indulge in black humor. I must admit I’ve chuckled a time or two at seeing the “Sweet Meteor of Death” in the polls.

When it gets right down to it though, I ultimately hold the conviction that living in a cloud of thunderous worry is not profitable or Christian. Plus, it is wearisome. How on earth do people sustain it?


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On Finishing The Gulag Archipelago


solzhenitsyn 1I’ve been threatening to write a longish post on Alexander Solzhenitsyn (I’ve been reading books by him and about him for a year). And I still plan to do so.

But I could not help but share a couple of brief thoughts now. Last night, I finished Volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago. It has been, at the same time, one of the most horrifying and edifying experiences of my life.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Not a Parody


As far as I can tell, this is not a delayed April Fools’ Day prank, a parody, or a joke but a straight news story. (If I’m wrong, correct me–please.)

TAUNTON, UK, April 2, 2015 – A judge has convicted and fined a street evangelist for quoting one verse of the Bible that condemns homosexuality on the streets of Taunton, Somerset — instead of quoting another verse.