A reader who describes himself as a “pretty left-wing guy, a Bernie-voting vegan” who is also a rabbi has hit the wall with his liberal co-religionists. He sends in this statement by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform Jewish community in the US, saying that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that cross-crapping must be permitted. Excerpt:
The coming days will see somber commemorations, as we remember the six million Jews who died in the Shoah. The pain we feel as we remember all those unfinished lives is still numbing. The Jewish people have learned well that intolerance and bigotry undermine the sacred core of our communities, and so, wherever we see bigotry and hatred in our world, we are commanded to stand for acceptance and love.
Jewish stars contain within them two triangles, which can awaken us to awareness and activism. This year especially, let us remember all the victims of hatred and intolerance by speaking out against the many efforts underway to legally restrict the freedom and dignity of God’s LGBTQ children. Let our remembrance lead us to act courageously and consistently as we partner with the Holy One in shaping a more just, compassionate, and inclusive world for all. Our God demands nothing less.
The rabbi reader who sent this in says:
At a time when Israel is both unsafe and tearing itself apart, Judaism is on the decline in all but the ultra-Orthodox sectors, there’s vast , real problems in America. . . the largest Jewish denomination in the USA passes a Trans inclusion resolution at its Biennial and that’s what makes the news.
The rabbi also sends in this statement from a gay rabbi in North Carolina, who says that opposing LGBT is just like Jim Crow, and the NC legislation is un-Jewish because “we are all created in the image of the divine, lending each of us, in whatever bodies, genders, and expressions we choose, a spark of godliness. ”
Finally, the rabbi sends along this hathotic announcement of an upcoming Jewish human rights awards banquet in NYC, hosted by the actress who plays the rabbi in the TV series Transparent. Says the (real) rabbi:
T’ruah (name of rabbinic human rights group- great folks, do great work, name is the sound of the shofar), which does work on labor rights, Israel-Palestine, anti-torture- good stuff- apparently can’t imagine that not every rabbi who would agree that religious leaders who oppose labor exploitation and torture and solitary confinement think it’s cool that the non-Jewish actress who validates transgender ideology on TV would host the gala.
Please note: in no way am I saying that a non Jewish person shouldn’t host a Jewish fundraising gala. My point is that this actress’s sole claim to representing rabbinic or human rights values is that she plays a rabbi on TV, one who validates the left-wing cause of the day and is explicitly written to be the modern rabbi who critiques all traditional religious values.
I have been a lefty since birth, and yet every year I wonder more and more why it is that these people can’t understand how they come across to anybody outside the bubble.
This brings to mine a 2014 blog entry at Commentary by Jonathan S. Tobin, remarking on the decision by a prominent Reform rabbi to leave the rabbinate to become a social worker. Excerpt:
His decision to leave doesn’t mean that Beth Elohim will collapse. But it does show that when you start treating Judaism as merely a vehicle for liberal social activism, it’s difficult to resist the impulse to eliminate the middleman. Bachmann may not be renouncing his faith or even his calling as a rabbi but, as we learn in the Times account of his decision making process that he has discovered that he’s a lot more interested in spending his life advancing the anti-poverty agenda than in teaching Judaism to a generation of Jews who are desperately in need of leaders able to reach them.
One needs to be careful about going too far with this line of reasoning, but, it’s difficult to criticize the Times for assuming that there is a connection between the rapid decline in affiliation and synagogue attendance and the way many non-Orthodox Jews believe their faith is synonymous with liberal activism rather than a civilization and a people that transcends the particular political fashion of our own time.
Andrew Sullivan is back, with a long reflection on how Plato predicted the rise of a figure like Donald Trump:
As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”
This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.
The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.
And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.
Freedom! Equality! Diversity!
Last week I was on the phone with an academic who studies family policy, and he mentioned that this new phase of the Sexual Revolution is moving much faster than he anticipated. I thought about that last night when I read the note from the NYC reader who said that her teenage daughter and the girls on her swim team were confronted with a middle-aged man walking out of the shower in the public gym the other day.
Andrew T. Walker of the Southern Baptist ERLC has also been thinking about how fast things are moving, especially at the legal and policy level. He has some sobering words for Christian parents with kids in public school. Excerpts:
Parents cannot be caught flat-footed. Action taken by the courts will inexorably work their way down to every local district and school. Given the nature of the government tying federal education funding with compliance to federal law, this “trickle down” effect will be gradual and incremental, but certain. Schools that believe themselves surrounded by a conservative community may think themselves insulated from cases like the one mentioned above, but funding in exchange for compliance will ensure that, barring a change in administration and court rulings, every school will be made to care and comply in the long-term.
Some parents may think to themselves “We live in a conservative area. The majority of teachers at our schools are Christians.” These facts will not matter. [Emphasis mine — RD] Because the federal government plays a heavy hand in public education in America, the federal government will work to make sure that its values and laws are followed. The nature of government is to ensure uniformity. And uniformity is achieved through coercion, a power that only governments possess. While the government believes its policies are merely a reflection of society’s changing views on sexuality and gender, the adoption of this secular orthodoxy will put Christians in public schools in a precarious position.
We have to see the action taken by the government for what it is: secular orthodoxy that puts Christians in a minority. Not only is the integrity of the Christian worldview at stake, but also the integrity of what it means to be made in the image of God. The idea that human nature is plastic, pliable, and subject to re-definition-at-will is a direct assault on the common good and the norms that make human flourishing possible. Christians must declare, with both compassion and respect, that re-making ourselves in our own image is the very undoing of humanity, for the disavowal of creational limits results in its own form of judgment and human misery (Rom. 1:18-25).
I find that this is something that’s nearly impossible for many Christians to grasp. They literally cannot imagine such a thing coming to their school. If this is what you think, take it from Andrew Walker, who studies this stuff for a living: you are wrong.
What’s more, this is not simply about accommodating minors who think they are transgendered. It is about radically changing the meaning of what it means to be a man, a woman, and a human being. We have gay marriage today because the meaning of sex and marriage has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Considered one way, gay marriage is only an attempt to bring marriage laws into line with the way society’s thinking about sex and marriage has changed in the ongoing Sexual Revolution. Transgenders and their advocates are getting out ahead of society now, and trying to alter the way we think about the meaning of gender, of human nature, indeed of reality itself. Transgenderism is far more radical than homosexuality. But it’s already passing into the culture very quickly, driven by federal courts, the Obama administration, and popular media.
Trans activist Riki Wilchins, writing in the gay magazine The Advocate, says that the real goal that fellow gay and trans activists should be pushing for is “blowing up the binary.” Excerpt:
What really needs to be contested here is not just our right to use bathrooms with dignity (which would personally be very welcome), but the entire underlying hetero-binary structuring of the world queers must inhabit.
This is the real struggle, and queer activists have been talking about it at least since the 1970s of Gay Liberation, even as the movement it spawned has continued to nudge it aside.
All of which is to say, transgender advocates and their allies are doing incredible work. But they have finally and perhaps unwittingly opened the gender Pandora’s Box, and over the next few years all sorts of unexpected non-binary things, like Maria, are about to come popping out. This is going to be interesting.
That is to say, they want to destroy the concepts of male and female entirely. This is what they’re after, and they’re not going to stop until it is accomplished. If you think the federal courts or Democratic administrations are going to stop it, you have a lot more faith than I do in the moral sanity of American elites.
In his piece, Walker gives some things that Christian parents (and other moral traditionalists) with kids in public school should be thinking about. For example:
1. Christians should take stock of the cultural moment, which sounds harder than one would imagine. With parents busy being employees, spouses, and parents, it is easy to overlook the thousand and one ways that children are being morally instructed and habituated in local schools. Parents should take active roles in discovering what their children are learning and combatting errors where necessary. Christian parents will also need to pay closer attention to ways in which government works to enforce moral norms.
2. Christian parents need to establish a tipping point. This may be the most important response to consider. What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? Will you allow them to be in schools where bathroom policies are based on gender identity rather than biological sex? Not establishing a tipping point could leave your child over-exposed to environments they shouldn’t be in. Not thinking about a tipping point is irresponsible and will communicate carelessness about a child’s education and Christian formation. This is not a call to exit the public schools; it is a call to vigilance. It is advisable that spouses have a candid conversation and establish a line in the sand.
Read the whole thing. I think it’s simply going to be a matter of time before people who want to hold on to their faith, and want their kids to be able to get an education in a morally sane environment, are going to have to take the Benedict Option. But you knew that.
Everything Walker says is important and necessary, but I would like to add something to it. I was reading this weekend a 1978 essay by theologian Stanley Hauerwas, called “Sex In Public,” a copy of which I found online here (please don’t mind the lousy formatting). In it, Hauerwas talks about how impoverished and unimaginative contemporary Christian teaching about sexuality is. He’s not defending the secular status quo, but his remarks in this nearly 40-year-old essay give us Christians today some things to think about, particularly this: Hauerwas’s contention that making Christian sexual ethics plausible to contemporary people “requires a recovery of the political function of marriage in the Christian community.”
What does he mean by this? Excerpt:
The recovery of a political vision of marriage and appreciation for the public character of sexuality are conceptually and institutionally interdependent. By calling attention to the public context for sexual behavior and ethics I am not simply reasserting the traditional concern that sex should only take place in a publicly recognizable institution, though I certainly think that is important, but 1 am making the stronger claim that any sex ethic is a political ethic. This is particularly true of Christian marriage. The vision of marriage for Christians requires and calls forth an extraordinary polity for the very reason that Christian marriage is such an extraordinary thing.
William Everett has recently argued that, in spite of what appear to be immense differences between “biologists” and “personalists” concerning sexual ethics, they share more in common than is usually noticed. For both theories are individualistic, since they focus primarily on how persons should deal with their bodies and private actions and thus fail to give adequate attention to the institutional context of sex. In contrast, Everett argues that we must see that sexuality is shaped by humanly created institutions and that this formation works for good as well as for evil. But the question is not whether “the social formation of our sexuality is good or bad, but whether the institutions in which we live are rightly ordered. An ethics of sex must, therefore, be coordinated with an ethic governing the relations among institutions familial, economic, ecclesial and political.”
What Hauerwas is saying here is that we cannot think of sex as somehow separate from the society in which we live. The problem (or, a problem) we Christians today have is ecclesiological. That is, many of us think of the church as a voluntary association of individuals who come together for their own spiritual benefit. That ecclesiology cannot possibly hope to compete with the Sexual Revolution, and with the economic forces that capitalize on it. Hauerwas:
How we order and form our lives sexually cannot be separated from the necessity of the church to chart an alternative to our culture’s dominant assumptions.
Hauerwas cites a book advocating “open marriage,” written by Nena and George O’Neill. He does not think much of the book; emphases below are mine:
Yet, ironically, the O’Neills’ account of “open marriage” requires a transformation of the self that makes intimate relationships impossible in or outside of marriage. Many conservative critics of proposals like “open marriage” tend to overlook this element, because all their attention is directed to the sexual implication – namely, that premarital and extramarital sex is not condemned. But that element has long been written into the very structure and nature of romanticism. What the “conservative” must recognize is that prior to the issue of whether premarital or extramarital sexual intercourse is wrong is the question of character: What kind of people do you want to encourage? Hidden in the question of “What ought we to do?” is always the prior question “What ought we to be?” The most disturbing thing about such proposals as the O’Neills’ is the kind of persons they wish us to be. On analysis, the person capable of open marriage turns out to be the self-interested individual presupposed and encouraged by our liberal political structure and our capitalist consumer economy.
I am content at this point simply to suggest that the “romantic” assumption that sexual expression is a “private” matter in fact masks a profound commitment to the understanding of society and self sponsored by political liberalism. Thus, more and more, human relations are understood in contractual terms and the ideal self becomes the person capable of understanding everything and capable of being hurt by nothing.
Read the whole essay. What I take from it is Hauerwas’s connecting sexual individualism with both capitalism and political liberalism. Under conditions of sexual individualism, sustaining marriage becomes very difficult — and a country that cannot sustain the fidelity that makes marriage possible is a country that will throw away its capacity for social solidarity.
This is something important for Christians to think about as we prepare for the post-Christian era now upon us. We are not accustomed to pondering the connection between sexual mores and political values, as well as economic practices. But Hauerwas shows how they are related. The Church (= followers of Christ) is called to be a different society than the one in which we find ourselves embedded. If we are going to teach our children how to live by Christian sexual morality, we are going to have to teach them more comprehensively how different the City of God is from the City of Man, so to speak. It will be very difficult to teach our children to live by Christian sexual morality if we do not teach them how being a Christian requires them (us) to live by a different political and economic code within our society. We can’t catechize them one way about sex, and allow the broader culture to inculcate within them its values about how to regard ourselves as political and economic actors. Sexual individualism is the eroticization of political and economic liberalism. The post-Christian world understands this better than we Christians do.
This reflection by Joel Hirst on Venezuela’s agony under socialism has been making the rounds. Excerpt:
I never expected to witness the slow suicide of a country, a civilization. I suppose nobody does.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing epic about it. We who have the privilege of travel often look down in satisfaction at the ruins of ancient Greece; the Parthenon lit up in blues and greens. The acropolis. The Colosseum in Rome. We walk through the dusty streets of Timbuktu and gaze in wonder at the old mud mosques as we reflect on when these places had energy and purpose. They are not sad musings, for those of us who are tourists. Time has polished over the disaster. Now all that is left are great old buildings that tell a story of when things were remarkable – not of how they quietly fell away. “There was no reason, not really,” we tell each other as we disembark our air-conditioned buses. “These things just happen. Nothing is forever; and nobody is at fault. It’s just the way of the world,” our plastic wine glass in hand. Time ebbs and flows, slowly wearing away the foundations of a civilization until it collapses in upon itself – at least that’s what we say to comfort ourselves. There’s nothing to do about it. These things can’t be stopped. They just are.
This is what people will say in a hundred years, a thousand years about Caracas, Venezuela. Or Maracay, or Valencia, or Maracaibo. Those great sweltering South American cities with their malls and super-highways and skyscrapers and colossal stadiums. When the archeologists of the future dredge the waters of the Caribbean and find the remains of sunken boats; putting them on display in futuristic museums to tell of the time when this place had hosted a civilization. Ruins of great malls filled with water and crocodiles – maybe the ancient anaconda will have retaken their valleys; maybe the giant rats that wander the plains will have made their abodes in the once-opulent homes of the oligarchs – covering the tiles and marble with their excrement. “There was nothing that could have been done,” the futuristic tourists will also say. “The country declined – and vanished – it’s the way things go.”
We tourists are wrong.
Read the whole thing. This was not an accident of fate or of nature. This was because of Hugo Chavez’s socialist dictatorship. More on that here. It has also been reported that Chavez’s daughter has $4 billion stashed away in foreign bank accounts, and other Chavez intimates have even more.
This is a reminder that no matter how badly screwed up our capitalist system is, it could always be worse. Much worse. I mean, it takes real skill to destroy the country with the world’s biggest oil reserves. But Chavismo has done it.
Around our house this morning, we are still trying to recombobulate ourselves after Orthodox Holy Week. Not every Orthodox parish offers the full range of Holy Week services — ours doesn’t, because we are so small — but if you went to all the services our parish did offer (11 services in seven days, if you count Palm Sunday), you would have been in church for over 20 hours. And if you were in the choir, as my wife and the priest’s wife are, you would have had to have been there at each and every service, standing, singing virtually the entire service. And, of course, if you were the priest, you would have been there too, censing, chanting, consecrating, and so forth.
The Orthodox tradition requires an all-night vigil at the symbolic Tomb of Christ from the last service of Good Friday until the first service of Pascha, stopping only during the Holy Saturday liturgy. During the vigil, at least one person is present reciting the Psalter at all times. Because we are so tiny, our parish, and because the Drehers live closer to the church than anybody else, I take the greater part of the overnight shift. I sat in the darkness of the church reading the Psalms aloud from 1 am till 6 am. I can tell you that it takes five hours precisely to recite all 150 Psalms.
And then there’s the Paschal liturgy, which begins in our parish at 11:30, and doesn’t end until around two in the morning, after which we all retire to the parish hall (= a room attached to the narthex) to break the Lenten fast together. And then it’s back in church at 3pm the next day for a short service called Agape vespers, followed by a parish barbecue at the home of a parish family.
Last night at the barbecue, my friend Chris and I were talking about how exhausting it all is, but how we wouldn’t trade it for anything. “It’s like Navy SEAL training,” said Chris. I smiled, because I had made that same comparison in an e-mail to a friend the day before. This is Church as training for spiritual athletes. Mind you, monks, both Orthodox and traditional Catholic, have a far more rigorous schedule, but for lay Christians, there is simply nothing as demanding as ordinary Orthodox liturgical life during Lent and Holy Week.
Believe me, I don’t say that as a boast. It is hard to keep yourself engaged when these services go on and on. When I was first Orthodox, I didn’t go but to a handful of them, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. I confess that I didn’t really catch on until we established our mission parish here in St. Francisville, and suddenly had to be at everything, absent a good excuse, because when you are as small as we are (four or five families), it’s All Hands On Deck. The word “liturgy” derives from the Greek compound word leitourgos, which means one who does a public duty. In the past three years of participating in a full Orthodox liturgical life in a parish, I have come to appreciate the work of the liturgy, in terms of what it tears down inside of me, and what it builds up.
It’s not that you are earning grace by participating in the liturgy. That is theologically impossible; grace isn’t earned, it’s given by God. What fasting, prayer, and liturgical worship does for those who engage in it with full hearts is to remove barriers to the experience of God’s transforming grace. For the Orthodox Christian, Lent, and especially Holy Week (the days after Lent, preceding Pascha), are a spiritually and physically intense time of repentance and preparation. It involves all your soul and body. Again, nobody’s holding a gun to your head and making you come, but if you do come, and give yourself over to the services, they will wear you out, but also build you up in ways you might never have thought possible.
Standing in the long Paschal liturgy the other night, I was listening to the choir narrate in chant the events that took place after the Resurrection. This is not something they do freelance; this is the same story they tell in the same way every year. It occurred to me that this is exactly what the social anthropologist Paul Connerton says that societies who hold on to their stories successfully do: re-present them ritually, as sacred events, involving the body. Connerton:
What, then, is being remembered in commemorative ceremonies? Part of the answer is that a community is reminded of its identity as represented by and told in a master narrative. This is a collective variant of what I earlier called personal memory; that is to say a making sense of the past as a kind of collective autobiography, with some explicitly cognitive components. But rituals are not just further instances of humanity’s now much touted propensity to explain the world to itself by telling stories. A ritual is not a journal or a memoir. Its master narrative is more than a story told and reflected on; it is a cult enacted. An image of the past, even in the form of a master narrative, is conveyed and sustained by ritual performances. And this means that what is remembered in commemorative ceremonies is something in addition to a collectively organised variant of personal and cognitive memory. For if the ceremonies are to work for their participants, if they are to be persuasive to them, then those participants must be not simply cognitively competent to execute the performance: they must be habituated to those performances. This habituation is to be found … in the bodily substrate of the performance.
The prostration, the endless crossing of one’s breast, the kissing of icons, the lengthy reading of Scripture and chanting of Psalms, and so forth — it’s all part of it. It sediments itself into your bones.
Last night at the picnic, my friend and I, bought of us exhausted but happy, reflected on how we simply could not imagine being anything but Orthodox now. Once you’ve tasted wine this heady, it’s hard to be satisfied with anything else. And you know, it’s strange how that works. I don’t know of any form of Christianity in America that is more demanding on its adherents than Orthodoxy … and that is why it succeeds! If by “success” one means forming Christians. That probably also has a lot to do why it is not terribly successful (yet) at attracting large numbers of American converts: because this is not a faith for casual Christians. It is a Christianity that demands your whole self. But from my experience, and the experience of my parishioners (because they have said this in my presence), those who are willing to lose their own ordinary American lives to the demands of Orthodox Christianity will gain far more than they can imagine from the outside.
(And the moment you feel tempted to be proud of yourself for all that fasting and churchgoing is the moment your Orthodox conscience will say: “Stop it; this is about to become a matter of sin.”)
If I had known how difficult it was going to be, I don’t know that I would have become Orthodox. Well, yes, I probably would have, but it would have been with a lot more fear and trembling. Then again, no priest or congregation ever made me do more than I could handle. If you’re in an American convert parish, chances are the priest knows how different this is from the Christianity in which you were raised, and he will advise you to take it easy until you habituate yourself. The fasts and the churchgoing that you will be doing years from now, after you’ve been in training (so to speak), will be more intense than what you, as a beginner, will likely be able to manage. That’s okay. We are all on a journey. The practices of the Church don’t exist for themselves, but for the sake of our ongoing conversion. The thing is, the Orthodox life, if it is working like it’s supposed to work, will not let you be satisfied with doing “enough.” It is not a swimming pool; it is an ocean, and it calls you farther into the deep with each passing year.
Orthodoxy is many things, but this year, it occurs to me that it is a form of Christianity for Christians who want to lay the groundwork within themselves and within their families and communities for endurance.
What’s the matter with California? I was shocked last week to see the Latino mob riot outside a Donald Trump rally in Orange County, destroying a police car. Excerpt from the LA Times:
“I’m protesting because I want equal rights for everybody, and I want peaceful protest,” said 19-year-old Daniel Lujan, one of hundreds in a crowd that appeared to be mostly Latinos in their late teens and 20s.
“I knew this was going to happen,” Lujan added. “It was going to be a riot. He deserves what he gets.”
And another anti-Trump mob attacked the hotel where the state GOP convention was located, hurling eggs, shouting filth, and holding up signs with messages so disgusting the CNN reporter covering it live had to apologize to viewers. From the San Francisco Examiner account:
“We’re here today because we feel like Donald Trump has misused his media and political platform to spread hate and violence and we won’t stand for that here in the Bay,” said Deidre Smith of the Blackout Collective. “Communities of color need our vote to be respected and we need our basic humanity to be honored.”
Cat Brooks with the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project said that while she deplored Trump’s views, she appreciated that he had helped demonstrate that the United States is not, in fact, a post-racial society, as was sometimes claimed after President Barack Obama’s election.
“He has exposed what we have always known is alive and here in America, and that is a deeply anti-black sentiment,” Brooks said.
Wait … what? I can understand why Muslims and Latinos have a big problem with Trump, but what has he said to antagonize blacks? Anyway, peaceful protest is all-American, but this coalition of Social Justice Warriors from the Bay Area set out to deny Trump the right to speak at the GOP event.
Left-wing, anti-speech activism is apparently a thing in the Bay Area. Last month, when the mayor of Jerusalem arrived at San Francisco State University to give a planned speech, a mob of pro-Palestinian activists shut him down (video here).
Today I witnessed something I’m still shaking from. The Mayor of Jerusalem came to San Francisco, and I attended his planned speech at San Francisco State University, where he was prevented from speaking in a high profile public humiliation of Israel and the Jewish community. The media are reporting he was shouted down by protestors, which makes for a nice headline, but it isn’t the real story. The real story is the university’s decision to let it happen.
Mayor Barkat’s visit was planned. University administrators expected both him and the disruptors, who reliably attend all Israeli speaking events here. The university police were sent in. But, in a decision that should deeply disturb all who value a civil society, and one that I as a Jew find profoundly demoralizing, the police were instructed not to remove the disruptors and instead to stand by and watch the event be completely shut down.
Please let that sink in. Public university administrators and police stood and watched as the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Jewish student organization that sponsored him, and all of us in attendance, were permanently bullied off the stage. Officers with guns, and the power that comes from the barrels of those guns, were instructed to stand, watch, and do nothing, as freedom of speech was replaced with a policy of whoever shouts the loudest wins, at least when it comes to shouting down a visiting Israeli dignitary. Those whom we thought were there to protect us and restore order, stood, watched, and did nothing.
Last month, California’s Loyola Marymount University suspended a 15-year employee over accusations that she advocated Catholic doctrine to SJW students. According to the College Fix:
It’s uncommon at Jesuit universities these days for someone to openly share a traditional Catholic viewpoint.
When it happened at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the school was so spooked it called the Los Angeles Police Department.
Both the police and the university’s Bias Incident Response Team are investigating the stated belief that only two genders exist, male and female, as a hate crime.
A Loyola alumni office employee discussed her views on sexual orientation, which align with the Roman Catholic Church, with three students who were hanging up posters on the subject on April 14.
Cosette Carleo, one of the students involved, told The College Fix in a phone interview that the hate crime under investigation is “denying transgenderism.”
Carleo’s account agrees in part with an email by the husband of the employee with whom she tangled.
The employee told Carleo, who identifies as gender-neutral, that only two genders exist, male and female, according to the student. Carleo told The Fix that statement was the hate crime.
Carleo responded that “you can have your opinion” as long as it doesn’t “deny my existence.”
Yesterday (Thursday) my wife came home from work very excited and happy about a conversation she had with a couple of students at work. She has worked at Loyola Marymount for the last 15 years in the Alumni department. The students were placing signs along the walkway of the University promoting among other things, “PanSexuality”, meaning any and all sexual preferences. These girls were member of the LGBTQ group at LMU. LMU still calls itself a Jesuit Catholic University.
At the time my wife was talking to alum, who thankfully heard the entire exchange. After determining they had permission to post the signs, the group engaged in a what my wife thought was a very good dialogue of ideas and opinions. The girls were posting signs promoting the various sexual activities and orientations of the LGBTQ. My wife is Catholic and a strong supporter of the Church, marriage and family, and Catholic morality. Of particular focus was the girls promotion of what they label “PanSexual” i.e. someone who participates (or prefers) every kind of sexual encounter. One of the girls identified herself as lesbian and accused my wife of not loving women. My wife pointed out she was called to love everyone, including the girls. She said she found the whole sexual labeling thing was causing confusion especially in the youth whose sexuality is still malleable. The girls agreed with my wife that they too disagreed with the ideas behind Pan-sexuality, claiming they wanted monogamy, but wanted to give it a label so people could identify themselves. My wife pointed out that this was promotion of these lifestyles not just labeling and this was offensive to her heart. It was lovingly expression of disagreement, and a legitimate exchange of ideas and reasons, with my wife defending the Truths of the Church, and listening with love to these girls ideas.
The next day, the campus newspaper published a story about a “hate crime” committed on campus: this conversation. Excerpts:
The Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) met and released a statement on April 15, notifying the LMU community that BIRT, along with Public Safety and the Los Angeles Police Department, is looking into the events of April 14 as reported by the three students. BIRT also clarified that the investigation will continue as two separate incidents, the first being the removal of the LGBT signs and the second being the employee and students’ confrontation.
“The University stands behind its statement of non-discrimination, which prohibits unwelcome, harassing conduct on the basis of several classifications, including gender identity and sexual orientation.” said John Kiralla, the executive director of marketing and communications and BIRT member, on April 14, before BIRT had met.
The campus newspaper editorialized against the employee, even though it has not yet been determined what was actually said in the exchange. Excerpt:
According to senior management major Cosette Carleo, the students engaged the employee in a conversation and said employee replied hatefully. Carleo added that the employee denied the existence of transgender and gender neutral people, and insisted that heterosexuality is the only truth. “She did not respect the equal dignity that all humans should receive, especially those who are already marginalized,” Carleo explained in an email to the Loyolan.
This is not the first hate crime directed at the LGBTQ+ community at LMU. In February, a professor in the theology department was described to have made derogatory comments about transsexuals, causing a trans student to feel unsafe. This professor is still employed at LMU, while the student was placed in independent study.
In a press release, the LGBTQ+ students of LMU explained that they feel isolated, afraid to come out and unsafe. No student should have to feel unsafe on their own campus because of their gender or sexuality.
This is pathetic. For one thing, the editorialist accepts what the students claim without question, even though the students are activists. Second, even if the conversation was exactly as the activists say, the editorialists accepts that this difference of opinion is a “hate crime.” And third, what counts as “derogatory” comments? The fact that a trans student feels “unsafe” — that’s enough to call something “derogatory”? I searched the newspaper’s website for a report of this incident, but found nothing. We are not told what the comment is. It’s simply assumed that because a student felt “unsafe,” that the bias allegation is valid.
What an insane place that Jesuit university must be for actual Catholics, or actual non-leftists.
The insanity is not confined to California, obviously. A professor at a Catholic college in another state tells me that he would not feel safe presenting official Catholic teaching about human sexuality, including homosexuality, in his classroom because he would almost certainly be accused of making derogatory and bigoted remarks about LGBT students — this, even if he gave a neutral description of what the Church teaches. All it takes is for a gay student to say that he or she “feels unsafe,” and the faculty member is considered a thought criminal until proven innocent.
Still, seeing what happened last week at the two Trump events in California makes me wonder if there’s something particularly extreme about the state’s political culture. I am far from a fan of Donald Trump, and I fully support the right to protest him. But riots and violent protests? Imagine if white Trump supporters rioted in an attempt to shut down a Hillary Clinton rally, and tore down police barricades in an attempt to get into a hotel where she was speaking, to shut down her speech? The news media would be in crisis mode, and I wouldn’t blame them, actually: a country in which a candidate running for president has to fear for his and his supporters’ safety at a political rally is a country that is in trouble.
But hey, no big deal as far as our media are concerned. Just like the radically illiberal culture on many American campuses, where SJWs no-platform speakers they don’t like all the time, has not bothered the media overmuch. They don’t seem to mind mobs and thugs running roughshod over basic civil liberties, as long as those mobs and thugs are on the political and cultural left.
Andy Park, a gay Florida man, walked into a Target store to test its new bathroom policies. He said he was dressed like a male (you can’t see him in the clip), and had two days of beard stubble. He asks the store’s manager if he can use the women’s room. The manager says sure, and if any women have a problem with that, the store will speak to them about it. Read a news story about it here — with dialogue from the clip — and Target’s response, standing by its policy.
Park says in the video (which I saw) that he’s not targeting (ahem) transgenders, but rather “macho heterosexuals who will use this policy to walk in to women’s rooms and commit crimes.” The video went viral the other day, but Park took it down from his YouTube account after a lawyer told him that it might have been illegal to have recorded it with a hidden camera. Still, Target did not deny that it was real.
So Target, for the sake of virtue signaling and political correctness, has turned the door open for heterosexual perverts to harass women trying to use the bathroom. What contempt Target has for the safety and comfort of its female customers. I hope they return the favor.
Meanwhile, I received this letter over the weekend from a reader in New York City. I publish it with her permission:
I’ve been reading your thoughts on the whole transgender debacle this year and notice that in your threads and the comments it’s all been theoretical for you and your readers, including me. Until today.
My 14 year-old daughter is on a swim team with the NYC parks department where she practices at one of the public indoor pools. She is one of the older kids, with the youngest teammate a 7 year old. Today she informed us that just as she finished getting dressed after practice, a middle-aged man came out of the showers. He had a towel on so she couldn’t confirm if any surgery had been done (now there’s a conversation I never thought I’d be having with my kid) but besides his very large, breast-less male body type, bald head and mens’ shoes he was putting on, there was no question in her mind that he was a man. And she observed that the younger girls (remember, one’s a 7 year old girl) were staring with concerned expressions.
Everyone keeps going on about school bathrooms where kids are all the same age and how it should be no big deal. Have any of the politicians considered this particular scenario? Are the De Blasios and Clintons of the world going to be able to assure parents that their children will be safe in public locker rooms now? Is Mitchell Silver, the commissioner of the Parks Department, confident that a 7 year-old girl will not be adversely affected by the sight of a naked male stranger while she, too, stands naked and at her most vulnerable?
If this hadn’t hit so close to home I’d be enjoying the delicious irony of the situation. For several fraught moments, one sweaty locker room held the perfect storm of our nation’s treasured oppressed: transgenders, females, children, and even ethnic minorities, as most of the kids are non-white. (Only oppressed college students were missing.)
I anticipate that with the national climate these days, the kids will get thrown under the bus on this and have to do the accommodating. But because of the intolerance regarding any conversation on this topic, I’m completely at a loss as to how to address it.
It sucks to be a parent these days.
This country is losing its mind. When are parents going to stand up to this madness? I spoke to someone on Friday who told me that in his suburban school district in the Northeast, a couple of parents tried to organize other parents to fight this new trans locker room policy the school board imposed on their schools, but they couldn’t get anybody interested.
Same country, different worlds. Last night I was at a barbecue, and talked to a guy there about this stuff. We agreed that this kind of thing stands to destroy public schools in the South. If the federal government, via the executive or judicial branch, tries to force this on public schools down South, you will see an exodus. Either that, or open defiance.
That’s our Father Matthew, proclaiming the good news a few hours ago. Here’s a look at the darkened interior of the church before the news arrived:
This means Lent is over, and meat and dairy return. A friend at church, having heard me complain about beans during Lent, gave me a special Pascha present:
It’s going to be a LONG time before I eat beans again. After the Paschal liturgy, at the parish celebration, I had bacon, meatballs, ham sandwiches, cheese from Norcia … and prosecco. Just now I have taken a Pepcid, and am headed to bed.
Pascha is so joyous! Christ est réssuscité! Il est vraiment réssuscité! A special greeting to all my Orthodox readers around the world. Answer in your own language, please.
A reader writes:
Just thought this was worth bringing up.
Vox had a piece today about how both proponents and opponents of abortion are misinformed about the facts of abortion. Opponents think it is very dangerous whereas it is actually safer than real births. The statistics that are helpfully provided are – 9 deaths per 1000 live births vs. 0.6 deaths per 1000 abortions.
On the other hand, the article says that proponents of abortion mistakenly think the procedure is rarer than it is i.e. it happens more frequently than we believe. But funnily enough, no stats are provided to put this in perspective. I mean its possible proponents may think the rate of abortion is something like 15 per 1000 births when it is actually 25 per 1000 births or something like that. Impossible to know without the data though.
So I checked. According to the CDC in 2012 (last year with reported data), 699,202 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2012 was 13.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 210 abortions per 1,000 live births. To repeat…for every five births there is one abortion. 91% of these abortions are done within the first trimester and 99% within the first five months. In the period 2002 – 2011, there were a total of 8.1M abortions reported to the CDC. I don’t know about you but I am stunned.
Try and spin that through your mind a few times…in the years of the Great War on Terror, 8.1M abortions happened within the walls of the country waging the GWOT. When we talk about this issue…we really should have all the facts on the table. I have no grand ideas or insights here, but for everybody out there interested in empirical, evidence-based policy, some starting facts might be useful.
8.1M !!!!!! May God have mercy on us and guide us all….
But … but … they are supposed to be the barbarians! This reader is messing with the Official Story. Good. It needs to be messed with.
I’m guessing by the name of the reader who sent this letter in that he’s a Muslim — which, if true, adds some context to his valid complaint about this country’s regard for human life. We say we want immigrants to assimilate, but it’s important to keep in mind that we are asking them to assimilate to the norms of a nation whose people exterminate about a million of its unborn children each year.
[Note to readers: I’m away from the blog and not approving comments today. I wrote this and all posts appearing on Friday last night. Leave your remarks and I’ll approve them tomorrow. — RD]