When Coral Springs police officers arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 in the midst of the school shooting crisis, many officers were surprised to find not only that Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but that three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were also outside the school and had not entered, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles, the sources said, and not one of them had gone into the school.
With direction from the Broward deputies who were outside, Coral Springs police soon entered the building where the shooter was. New Broward County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, and two of those deputies and an officer from Sunrise, Florida, joined the Coral Springs police as they went into the building.
So four Broward deputies not only refused to enter the school with a live shooter in it, but they sent in Coral Springs deputies instead?! That is jaw-dropping. If true, the Broward County sheriff ought to resign at once and leave the county. What a catastrophic failure of law enforcement — worse, even, than the FBI’s failure:
A woman who knew the teenager accused of shooting 17 people to death at a Florida high school last week told the F.B.I. last month that Nikolas Cruz possessed an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, and she worried he might be “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.”
“I know he’s going to explode,” the woman said in a call to the F.B.I.’s tip hotline on Jan. 5, according to a transcript of the call obtained by The New York Times. (Read the transcript.)
The acting F.B.I. deputy director, David L. Bowdich, briefed congressional staff members about the call on Friday and acknowledged the F.B.I.’s failure to investigate the tip, according to a federal official. The details of the call were first reported Friday by The Wall Street Journal.
Do read the transcript. In it, the woman who called in that tip told the “intake specialist” at the FBI about how Cruz once chopped up a dazed but living bird on his mother’s kitchen table, in front of her, just to see what was inside of it. A psycho killer, for sure. And … nothing happened. Until he blew away 17 kids. With four Broward County deputies outside the school with guns, waiting for Coral Springs deputies to show up so they could say, “After you, gents.”
President Donald Trump’s plans for a White House-backed military parade are beginning to take shape.
The president has directed the Department of Defense to organize a parade that would take place on Nov. 11 – Veterans Day – according to an unclassified Feb. 20 memo written by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
The memo, which was summarized to POLITICO by a senior administration official, was sent from McMaster to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. It says that Trump wants Mattis to brief him on “concepts of operation for this event.”
The memo also said that the parade route should begin at the White House and end at the Capitol.
Really? We’re really going to do this, because Trump saw them do this in France and liked it? It could cost up to $50 million to stage this thing. I agree with my US Senator:
“I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) last week to reporters in the Capitol. “America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don’t need to show it off.”
But Donald “Five Draft Deferments” Trump is a spectacularly insecure man, so he has to show it off.
A few days ago, I visited some World War I battle sites in the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was a 1916 battle between the Allies (French and British) and the Germans, fought along a 15-mile front at the River Somme, in northern France. It was one of the most brutal battles in human history, with over one million casualties on both sides, including over 300,000 dead. Imagine that every man, woman, and child in St. Louis, or in Pittsburgh, were killed over a five-month period. That was the Somme.
You can visit part of the remains of the little village of Fay, which was on the front lines. There was nothing left after the war (the village was rebuilt nearby after the armistice). In fact, my hosts told me that nearly every building in their area was built after the war, because everything else had been leveled in the Battle of the Somme. They pointed out an empty field where a chateau had once been. A young man who lived there, and who was serving under arms at the front, returned to check on his place, and was surprised that he couldn’t find it. He did not even recognize the rubble.
I’m reading British historian Peter Hart’s history of the battle, which is based in part on oral histories given by soldiers who fought in it. Men like Private Thomas Jennings, who remembers the July 19 attempt to capture Delville Wood.
As we crouched against the bank there came from out of the blue a terrific explosion, the air was thick with black smoke and a thousand bells rang in my head. When everything cleared I saw in front of me a soldier lying on his back in a pool of blood from a gaping wound. He called out, “Mother, take ’em away, take ’em away!” He died a few minutes later. I then realised that another chap in front of me didn’t move. I almost touched him and I could see that his water bottle was dripping water tinged with blood. A further look at him told me he was dead, indeed I heard his last gasp. My feelings were awful; this was just plain murder. To make things even worse a dozen or so soldiers were crying and staggering about with shell shock.
Hart’s book is full of stories like that. That’s how war is, even wars that are just and necessary.
We have had military parades in the US to celebrate victories in battle. That’s the right thing to do. But to have a military parade just to beat our chests? This is what Soviets and North Koreans do. The French started including soldiers and military apparatus in their Bastille Day celebrations back in the 19th century. It has never been part of America’s tradition — not even when victorious generals (Washington, Grant, Eisenhower) were president. Washington beat the British: no military parade to celebrate American martial strength. Grant beat the Confederacy: no military parade to celebrate American martial strength. Eisenhower beat Nazi Germany: no military parade to celebrate American martial strength.
Trump beat Hillary Clinton: he’s going to have a parade, to swell himself up.
This parade is not for the military. It’s for Trump. No good will come from this militarism. I know that come November, anybody who opposes this gesture will be denounced as unpatriotic — especially given that the parade will be scheduled for five days after the November election. Still, it’s a bad idea.
UPDATE: Sorry, I wasn’t clear. Of course we had parades to celebrate particular military victories (e.g., the victory of the North over the South in the Civil War). That’s fine — indeed, it’s the right thing to do. I mean that Grant didn’t suddenly order a parade to celebrate military strength itself (as distinct from a particular victory). Nor did Washington, nor did Eisenhower. It’s the chest-thumping for no particular reason that rankles, and strikes me as a bad thing for us to do. We’re the strongest nation in the world. Why brag? Because Trump wants a parade, is why.
Pope Francis signaled last year, I believe it was, that something like this might be possible. Now the German bishops, the vanguard of the progressives, have gone and done it:
German bishops have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of producing a “guide” for Protestant spouses on reception of Holy Communion under certain conditions.
At their spring conference in Ingolstadt, the German bishops’ conference agreed that a Protestant partner of a Catholic can receive the Eucharist after having made a “serious examination” of conscience with a priest or another person with pastoral responsibilities, “affirms the faith of the Catholic Church,” wishes to end “serious spiritual distress,” and has a “longing to satisfy a hunger for the Eucharist.”
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, said Thursday that such a guide was a “positive step.” He said there had been an “intense debate” during which “serious concerns” had been raised, according to Katholisch.de, the website of the German bishops’ conference.
He added the bishops were not giving general approval but that the guide pertained to individual decisions. He said the bishops wanted to continue with this issue “in a high profile way,” but that the guide would merely be a “pastoral handout” and that “we don’t want to change any doctrine.”
“We don’t want to change any doctrine.” Weasel words. This would amount to a de facto change of doctrine. If you do not have to be in formal communion with the Roman Catholic Church to receive the Eucharist, much less in a state of grace, then doctrine will have been changed. Who on earth is fooled by this verbal formulation? Cardinal Marx is the same weasel-wordsmith who recently announced his openness to blessing gay couples, but of course without changing church doctrine. Anything but that. Don’t worry. Trust them.
Last week, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former doctrine chief of the Catholic Church (until dismissed by Pope Francis), fired a big shell across the bow of Cardinal Cupich and Francis’s “new paradigm” brigade. Here’s the core:
The criteria that Newman unfolds are useful, then, to disclose how we should read Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The first two criteria are “preservation of type” and “continuity of principles.” They are meant precisely to ensure the stability of the faith’s foundational structure. These principles and types prevent us from speaking of a “paradigm shift” regarding the form of the Church’s being and of her presence in the world. Now chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia has been the object of contradictory interpretations. When in this context some speak of a paradigm shift, this seems to be a relapse into a modernist and subjectivist way of interpreting the Catholic faith. It was in 1962 that Thomas Kuhn introduced his controversial and at the same time influential idea of “paradigm shifts” into the debate internal to the philosophy of science, where the expression received a precise, technical meaning. Apart from this context, however, this term also has an everyday use, referring to any form of fundamental change in theoretical forms of thought and social behavior. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8)—this is, in contrast, our paradigm, which we will not exchange for any other. “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11).
Countering the Gnostics, who tried to make themselves seem important by contriving ever new revelations and insights, Saint Irenaeus of Lyon wrote: “Know that He brought all novelty, by bringing Himself who had been announced.” In the second half of the second century, Irenaeus worked out the formal principles of the Catholic faith as he responded to the gnostic challenge. First of all, revelation needs to be accepted as a historical fact. This revelation is contained in the deposit of faith—that is, in the apostolic teaching—which in its truth and in its entirety has been entrusted to the Church to be faithfully preserved and interpreted. The proper method for interpreting revelation requires the joint workings of three principles, which are: Holy Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the Apostolic Succession of Catholic bishops. The Roman Church in general and her bishops in particular should be the last to follow the Gnostic’s suit by introducing a novel principle of interpretation by which to give a completely different direction to all of Church teaching. Irenaeus, in fact, compared Christian doctrine to a mosaic whose stones were arranged to reproduce the image of the King. In his view, the Gnostics had taken the same stones, but had changed their order. Now, instead of the likeness of the King, they have formed the image of a fox, the deceiver. One can in fact sin against the Catholic faith not only by denying some of its contents, but also by reformulating its formal principles of knowledge.
One may think here of the Protestant Reformation. Its new formal principle was Scripture alone. This new principle subjected the Catholic doctrine of the faith, as it had developed up to the sixteenth century, to a radical change. The fundamental understanding of Christianity turned into something completely different. Salvation was to be obtained by faith alone, so that the individual believer no longer required the help of ecclesial mediation. In consequence, the Reformers radically rejected the dogmas concerning the seven sacraments and the episcopal and papal constitution of the Church. If understood in this sense, there can be no paradigm shifts in the Catholic faith. Whoever speaks of a Copernican turn in moral theology, which turns a direct violation of God’s commandments into a praiseworthy decision of conscience, quite evidently speaks against the Catholic faith. Situation ethics remains a false ethical theory, even if some were to claim to find it in Amoris Laetitia.
Cardinal Müller’s language in the piece makes it hard to understand what, precisely, he’s saying. If you read closely, he’s stepping very close to the point of saying that the “new paradigm” rhetoric of Cupich and Francis’s top supporters is heretical and even schismatic.
It seems clear to this outsider that the German bishops, as the leading edge of Francis’s reforms, are dragging the Catholic Church ever closer to a fundamental crisis — even schism. And for what? So Lutherans can receive communion? The German bishops preside over a church that is very rich, but in collapse. Read:
“The faith has evaporated,” a wistful Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told me in 2014. Wetter, a deeply spiritual, prayerful cleric, was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1982 to 2007. He followed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in this role, and was the predecessor of Cardinal Reinhard Marx. We had spent the last hour mostly talking about Edith Stein, a saint he greatly admires. When I asked him why he thought this “evaporation” had taken place, he shrugged, biting his lip. It was the kind of shrug you make when asked about deterministic forces, things you cannot change.
When the Church’s current reality – spiritually impoverished and in decline, yet rich in material means – is actually discussed, two suggestions are brought forward. Some propose that the Church tax should be abolished. They seem to assume that if money will not solve the problem, then the absence of it will. (Though there is some merit to the idea, it is rarely thought through). The other response is an appeal for more heterodoxy.
Bishop Voderholzer, of the diocese of Regensburg, recently noted how “remarkable” these suggestions were. In a sermon that received widespread attention, the Bavarian bishop said: “Again and again, we’re sold the idea that there is a universal solution for reverting these trends and maintaining social relevance. We’re told that we must – I quote – ‘further open up and dismiss conservative dogmas’. We are then also told this means: abolition of priestly celibacy; abnegation of different responsibilities and vocations of women and men in the Church as well as the admission of women to the apostolic ministry.”
Instead of these debates and demands, Voderholzer proposed something different entirely. On the anniversary of a schism that is commonly called “reformation”, the bishop reminded his flock of a different meaning, which is the only way forward for the German Church:
“The first and foremost step on this path is the daily struggle for sanctity, listening to God’s Word and being prepared to start the reform of the Church with oneself. For that is what reformation means: renewal from within the faith, restoration of the Image of Christ, which is imprinted in us in baptism and confirmation. Where that is granted to us, by the grace of God, where this succeeds, we will also make the people of our time once again curious about the faith that carries us. And then we will also be able to bear witness to the hope that fulfils us.”
The German bishops will embrace every progressive fad they possibly can to keep the faith “relevant” — and it will do no good. Bishop Voderholzer’s call is the way of the Benedict Option. It is the only way Catholicism in Germany will survive: by digging in deep, and resisting through prayer, sacrifices, and keeping the authentic tradition alive. It is the only way Christianity of any kind in the West will endure. This picture is clearer in Europe than it is in the US now. But in the lifetime of my children, it will be undeniable.
At Tim Montgomerie’s compulsively readable new website Unherd, the prominent left-wing Anglican divine Giles Fraser finds that he has a lot in common with … me. Excerpts:
But Macintyre’s reception in the United States has been very different. Whereas in Britain, the political influence of After Virtue has been on those who have been seeking to bring new life to society in general, with the conservative Christian Rod Dreher (and with Stanley Hauerwas too), the After Virtue legacy has taken on a more sectarian and inward-looking turn.
Public culture has become irredeemable, Dreher argues, it has been captured by the forces of individualism and liberalism, and there is no way to build communities of moral purpose in such hostile territory. The Benedict Option represents a tactical withdrawal, an attempt by serious Christians to regroup in community, to construct an ark with which to ride out the storm and from there to present a challenge to mainstream culture.
This is why I admire Dreher: he is one of the few conservative Christians to recognise and publicly to admit that the United States is not really a Christian country at all, that it worships a god that has been made in its own image – that is, it worships itself. And that capitalism and a belief in the total freedom of the individual is not the unmitigated good that the Christian Right has so often trumpeted.
Capitalism is a threat to traditional Christian values, he reluctantly admits. This is a decisive break from Ronald Reagan’s folksy conviction that God and Mammon made for easy bedfellows. These days, Dreher maintains, Christian conservatives must think of themselves as what Hauerwas called “Resident Aliens”. They have to learn to be faithful in an overwhelmingly hostile environment. Christians have to prepare to live like Orthodox Jews, sufficiently separate from the mainstream to preserve Christian patterns of life.
Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The US is a country in which many Christians live, and was a Christian country once — not in its constitutional structure, but by dint of the fact that most Americans considered Christianity, in a substantive sense, to be the story by which they understood themselves. That’s gone.
Dreher is wrong about a lot, though. Like so many American conservatives, he is creepily obsessed with homosexuality. His analysis of Freud is risible. And unlike the pacifist Hauerwas, he doesn’t understand that the greatest corruption of public Christianity in the US comes from the American war machine. Jesus didn’t care all that much about sex. And said nothing whatsoever about homosexuality. But he cared a great deal about loving your enemies.
The fixation that American conservatives have with sex is a convenient way for them to avoid a much harder and challenging question: the unchristian obsession they have with guns and bombs. I would prefer my Benedict Option to look a bit more like that proposed by the extraordinary Dorothy Day who founded a number of Catholic communities of resistance committed to non-violence and feeding the poor. But in the context of the scale of the incoming crisis, this may look like haggling over the details.
It is indeed odd that a socialist like me finds common cause with an American conservative like Rod Dreher. But the faith we share is under threat. We both diagnose liberalism as the common enemy. And opposition makes for unlikely bedfellows.
These are typical contemporary left-wing Christian shibboleths, alas, but I don’t want to get into “haggling over the details,” especially given that the Revd Fraser and I do, apparently, have a lot in common. I wager that I care a lot more about the war machine than Fraser thinks I do, but it’s not unfair of him to assume that I don’t, given that I don’t write a lot about it. My recent visit to war sites on the Somme reinforced within me a disgust for war that has been present since changing my mind on Iraq.
Still, it must be said that there is no way to excise Christian teaching on sexuality — hetero and homo — from a truthful and holistic account of Christian teaching. One ought to be suspicious of why Christian progressives are so eager to do so. My chapter in The Benedict Option on sex and sexuality is largely based on this TAC essay, titled “Sex After Christianity,” which is one of the most popular things I’ve ever written. It says, in part:
This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?
Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.
Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.
You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).
Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.
It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.
It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.
What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.
Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.
How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.
Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”
Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.
Read all of “Sex After Christianity” here.
I would invite Fraser and those sympathetic to his point of view to watch the documentary film Liberated, now on Netflix. It’s about the devastation to basic human decencies wrought by contemporary sexual mores, in which men and women treat each other as nothing but meat. I understand there’s some controversy over whether or not to show it on the Baylor University campus this weekend. I can understand why some are reluctant to do so; it is foul-mouthed and at times sexually explicit, if not graphic. But it is a documentary in which the filmmakers turn their cameras and microphones on spring break culture, and interview college students there about sex and sexuality.
For me, it had the same effect as reading Michel Houllebecq: it shows the dead souls, and the dead end, of the Sexual Revolution. It is a kind of hell. The film reminds me of Sarah Ruden’s book about St. Paul, and why his message — especially his sexual ethic — was seen by women in pagan Roman culture as truly liberating. It restored their humanity to them. What Fraser et alia ought to think about is what liberalism has done to turn human sexuality, a topic that is inextricable from the questions, What is man? What are people for?
Of course as Fraser rightly points out, conservatives ought to be asking themselves the same question about our economic system, and how it turns human persons into materialist objects, into mere consumers. But you knew I would say that. Anyway, I was onto all this in 2006, with Crunchy Cons. The book drew a lot of comment when it came out, but sales were not proportional to the agita it caused on the Right. I wonder how it would be received if it were freshly released today…?
Remember me telling you the other day about my having met Pascal Coudray, a fifth-generation Breton dairy farmer who could no longer keep his farm going? Pascal is fortunate in that he has a strong Catholic faith; he has seen nine other small farmers in similar positions commit suicide.
What Pascal is trying to do today is to turn his farm, Le Chadoux, into a kind of working school for teaching organic farming and tradition. His long-term goal is to provide a model of social re-integration, by using the land and those who work on it to resist atomization and rootlessness. Coudray is looking for stakeholders to come join Le Chadoux and build a kind of village there.
If you read the site through Google Chrome, you can get it to automatically translate the page (which is in French — though unfortunately, it can’t translate the video). Watch the video, though, if only to see Pascal’s great face. That is a man through whom the Light shines brightly.
Specifically, Le Chadoux is searching at the moment for someone to raise cows, someone to raise chickens, someone to oversee vegetable production, someone to raise goats, and an artisanal baker. Do you speak French? Are you interested in agrarian life? Le Chadoux may be calling you. This is a Benedict Option project I discovered on my recent trip to France.
I’m not fluent in French, and I’m middle-aged, with a wife and kids, but if I were a single young Francophone, I would write to Pascal to see if there was a place for me at Le Chadoux. I’m sure it’s a lot easier for EU residents to get on there than for non-EU residents. I hope some of my European readers will reach out to Pascal Coudray. Here’s the contact page.
The Office of Student Life has placed religious group Harvard College Faith and Action on “administrative probation” for a year after the organization pressured a female member of its student leadership to resign in September following her decision to date a woman.
College spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman announced the move to put HCFA on probation in an emailed statement sent to The Crimson Wednesday afternoon.
“After a thorough review and finding that HCFA had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide, OSL has placed HCFA on a one year administrative probation,” Goldman wrote in the statement.
Goldman did not specify how HCFA, the largest Christian fellowship on campus, had violated Office of Student Life “expectations.” In an emailed statement Wednesday, HCFA co-presidents Scott Ely ’18 and Molly L. Richmond ’18 were slightly more specific.
“Earlier today, we met with an administrator who informed us that the College would place HCFA on probation, citing our relationship with Christian Union as well as our standards for leaders,” Richmond and Ely wrote Wednesday. Christian Union—a national umbrella group with outposts at all eight Ivy League schools and Stanford—helps fund and support HCFA.
The decision to suspend HCFA, though, is almost certainly tied to the Sept. 2017 resignation of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader. HCFA leadership asked the woman to step down from her position after they learned she was dating another female student—violating guidelines laid out in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.”
What does this mean for the group?
Goldman, the University spokesperson who announced HCFA’s probation, did not immediately respond to a question asking whether probation means the group will be stripped of all rights and privileges granted to recognized student organizations.
Recognized student groups enjoy several benefits courtesy of the Office of Student Life, including the ability to reserve Harvard rooms and venues as well as access to a bank account.
Traditionally, HCFA has often held its weekly Doxa events—gatherings during which members worship together—in Yenching Auditorium, a Harvard space.
Other privileges granted to recognized student organizations include the right to poster on campus and permission to participate in activity fairs, both key ways campus groups recruit undergraduates. HCFA, founded in 2008, currently boasts roughly 200 members.
Earlier this month, Jackie Hill-Perry, a Christian woman who repented from her lesbian sexual activity caused a big stir on campus when the Christian group brought her in to speak. Hill-Perry rejected “conversion therapy,” but called on same-sex attracted students to live chastely — a position that is entirely Biblical, entirely orthodox:
Some professors who joined in the protest Friday night said they disagreed with Hill-Perry’s ideas about sexuality.
“The history of this speaker and the things that she keeps promoting are things that basically alienate and threaten the existence of queer students on campus,” said Ahmed Ragab, a professor at the Divinity School. “I think it is a problem to have a speaker that promotes this kind of discourse.”
Threatens the existence? Jackie Hill-Perry will kill queer students? A Divinity School professor said this? Hysterical. What’s next? Does Jackie Hill-Perry kidnap queer babies and use their blood to make the saltines her church uses in celebrating the Lord’s Supper?
HCFA now has an opportunity to bear witness, through suffering, to the truth of the Christian faith, in the face of spite and rejection. Stay strong, y’all. You are on the front lines. All eyes will be on you, watching to see how you love even those who treat you cruelly. If Harvard will not let you meet in its rooms, then meet on the yard.
As for the rest of us, understand that this is how it’s going to go for all orthodox Christians. Pray for these Harvard believers … and prepare for how you will handle it when it happens to you. Because the LGBT movement and its supporters will tolerate nothing.
This is not just a one-off event. It’s part of a broad strategy. In an article in the present issue of Touchstone magazine (no link to the article is yet available), the
Eastern University Witherspoon Institute professor R.J. Snell describes what’s going on in incidents like this:
Antonio Gramsci (1897-1937), one of the intellectual fathers of anti-culture, rejected what he believed to be the naive economism of Soviet-style Communism, with its belief in the historical necessity of revolution and the advent of socialism. Instead, as explained by Roger Simon, hegemony must be developed and exercised by “persuading the subordinate classes to accept the values and ideas which the dominant class has itself adopted, and by building a network of alliances based on these values.” Overcoming the perceived hegemony of traditional culture was to be accomplished by a “counter-hegemony, requiring a prolonged process of moral and ideological reform.”
This was a “war of position,” as Gramsci termed it, in which coercion and persuasion would be combined, such that the subordinate classes would not be dominated by power alone but would somewhat freely consent to the new values. Their own values would be cajoled and pushed along-nudged-sometimes bullied, sometimes seduced or entertained, until the people desired anti-culture. Hegemony, thus, was “the organization of consent,” the structuring of institutions so that people would view the world through new lenses.
Of course, the mere presence of the older system is incongruous, a sign of contradiction; it shows the people’s consent to be arbitrary, provisional, and reversible. The existence of the Church, for instance, is a mark of difference that calls the new values into question, and so the Church must be eviscerated, or better, be so corrupted as to lose its moral distinctiveness and become part of the consenting anti-culture. (Why, after all, were the Little Sisters of the Poor forced to provide contraception when it would have been so easy for the Affordable Care Act to make accommodations for them?)
Attaining consent, and the legitimizing power that goes with it, is quite an accomplishment, but maintaining hegemony after power is attained is equally important. It is not enough to have dominance; that dominance must be continually re-entrenched and strengthened. This explains, in part, the relentlessness of the sexual revolution — it was not enough to have secured same-sex “marriage,” for example, and so the turn to “transgender rights” ensued with remarkable speed and ferocity.
This is why you should not believe the power-holders when they talk about “tolerance” and “dialogue” on these matters. They will satisfy themselves with nothing short of the obliteration of dissent. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature. Simply to continue to exist — to pray, to worship, to refuse to capitulate — is an act of courageous resistance. At this point in the long war, refusing to surrender is a victory.
The Harvard debacle is an illustration the necessity of the Benedict Option. I hope and expect that Harvard College Faith and Action will use all means open to it to fight for its right to be on campus, and to govern itself in accordance with its religious convictions. It is unlikely to win, it would appear — but that doesn’t mean that the organization should either surrender and accept the imposition of anti-Christian values upon it, or disband. Its members need the deep practices prescribed by the Benedict Option to build within themselves the spiritual and moral resilience necessary to withstand whatever Harvard throws at them, without compromising their testimony. They will need to strengthen the bonds of fellowship, and to root themselves profoundly within the Bible, and the history of the Church.
And they will need help from the orthodox Christian community from outside. The Benedict Option is meant precisely for moments like this. This is a comparatively little thing, but it is a preview of much bigger things to come. Much bigger things. Let this be a sign to you all to prepare.
UPDATE: A reader from Harvard writes:
Speaking from inside the Crimson bubble – I have had the privilege of having some of the student leaders of HCFA in my classes the past few years. They are just about the most faithful and also the nicest kids you could imagine. I cannot say that I am surprised at this point by Harvard’s censure at this point, but I am disturbed by it.
It certainly demonstrates that limits of “winsomeness” as a Christian tactic – you could not imagine more pleasant and friendly folks, and yet the hammer is coming down on them.
One note though Rod – the kerfuffle over Jackie Hill-Perry wasn’t just “earlier this month” – it was less than a week ago, and various LGBT groups across the university have been holding protests and “concerned conversations” in its wake. I find it very hard not to imagine this administrative action was triggered by that event.
UPDATE.2: A reader comments:
Harvard undergraduate and current HCFA member here.
There’s seems to be three distinct things which have happened over this past year that led to HCFA being put on probation.
1) The leadership requirements were actually enforced on a queer student in a relationship. HCFA has had queer students in leadership before, but none were in homosexual relationships. The requirements have always been there.
2) Certain members of HCFA this fall semester started openly complaining about HCFA’s policy on these things on the group email list and some dorm-wide lists. These people likely also alerted the various deans of diversity. I would contrast this with a few years back, when HCFA during a week of programming on Christian sexual ethics, hosted a very respectful debate between a pro-gay marriage member and a pro traditional marriage ministry fellow. There was disagreement but it didn’t seem to boil over into open complaint and criticism, but perhaps I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.
3) HCFA brought in a speaker who was publicly and clearly against the LGBTQ agenda, and caused a ruckus with protesters, police presence, media coverage, and all that jazz. That was Friday night, a little too close for mere coincidence as Ahenobarbus pointed out.
Most Christian fellowships have leadership requirements like HCFA, it takes more than that to get kicked out, but really it was just a matter of time. The Dartmouth equivalent of HCFA (funded by the same parent organization, Christian Union) is already not recognized, but still going strong.
Now I’m not one of the leaders of HCFA or a dean of diversity or student life, so I can’t be certain, but that’s how things look from the ground. Pray for the leadership of HCFA, they’ve had to work really hard on all this on top of their classes.
Reader Isaac Inkeles e-mails to say (I quote him with his permission):
I’m writing to thank you for publicizing the HCFA probation at Harvard. As a recent alumnus of the college (’16), the events have been particularly troubling.
While at Harvard, I spent a year as editor of The Salient–the conservative undergraduate publication–and wrote a right-of-center column for The Crimson. I also wrote my senior thesis (and subsequent MPhil dissertation) on pluralism. The issue of political/ideological/religious tolerance at Harvard is therefore one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. (Here’s a column I wrote about anti-religious bias.)
Anyway, I just want to make one quick point: this incident reveals how many on the left critically misunderstand religion. Religion isn’t just an internal experience; it’s about having beliefs and living them out. This is implied in HCFA’s name: faith in action. If you are not allowed to put your beliefs into practice–even in groups explicitly for that purpose–then you’re not free. As a Jew,this point is of the utmost salience, not just because of our history of persecution, but because mine is a religion that emphasize performance of commandments.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the right-wing French politician, delivered a solid speech to CPAC today. It’s embedded above. It was not the usual American conservative boilerplate. For example, check out this passage:
To open oneself to the outside, you must have a solid core. To welcome, you have to remain, and to share, you must have something to offer. Without nation, and without family, the limits of the common good, natural law, and collective morality disappears, as the reign of egoism continues.
Today, even children have now become merchandise. We hear now in the public debate, we have the right to order a child from a catalog, we have the right to rent a woman’s womb, we have the right to deprive a child of a mother or father. No you don’t! A child is not a “right”. Is this the freedom that we want? No. We don’t want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without fathers, without mothers, and without nation.
She went on to condemn euthanasia, gender theory, and transhumanism. Le Pen said that the fight cannot be political alone, but must take place in culture, in media, and in the education system. She ended like this:
I finish with a Mahler quote I like very much, a quote which sums up conservatism in modernity: ‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
I like that quote very much too:
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” — Gustav Mahler. #BenedictOption
— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) September 23, 2017
Michael Brendan Dougherty picked out the most unusual thing about her speech: how it inadvertently revealed how very, very Protestant most American conservatism is. Check out his short reaction piece for the details. That is what occurred to me as well, especially having just returned from a week in France. Even though The Benedict Option was written for an American readership, I find it so much easier to discuss it with French and Italian Catholics, for reasons that I have not been able to figure out. Hearing Le Pen in an American context really brought that out. Even American Catholics are a lot more Protestant in how they think politically than they realize.
I don’t say this as a put-down; it’s what you would expect from people raised in an overwhelmingly Protestant nation, one built on Protestant, classic-liberal principles. But there it is. My friend Fred Gion, a Catholic and political conservative in Paris, told me over a decade ago that the arguments in my book Crunchy Cons, which was being attacked by many US conservatives for being crypto-liberal, made perfect sense to European conservatives.
Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture. Conservative US Protestants share a lot of the views of European conservatives, but there seems to be among conservatives from Catholic cultures a deeper sense of order unifying these principles. There also tends to be much more skepticism of the free market and individualism.
Readers who have thought more about this than I have: tell me why this is. Which principles define conservative politics in Britain and America as more Protestant than conservative politics on the continent? Let’s talk about this — but anybody, Protestant or Catholic, who wants to sneer at the other, keep it to yourself.
I agree with this from Dougherty as well:
And I have a warning for those who would warm to [Le Pen’s speech] uncritically. As my career grants me friendships with other conservatives across Europe, I notice the tendency in them and in myself to idealize or project hopes onto the conservatives in other nations. My Irish and English friends tend to be far more positive about Trump than I am. And I have been far more positive about some of their would-be champions than they can be. Unfamiliarity breeds fantasy.
This is true. I was asked quite a bit about Trump while I was in France. It was interesting to me that most of my interlocutors regarded him ideally, in contrast to Emmanuel Macron, whom they detested. I could tell that folks didn’t really understand why I was so cool on Trump. I bet that things would be exactly reversed in the matter of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (but not her secular nationalist aunt Marine, whom I find unappealing!).
Because I don’t have cable television, I didn’t watch the CNN “town hall” on gun violence last night. Following the social media commentary, I am glad I didn’t see it. From the descriptions, it seemed all heat, no light. Several thoughtful conservatives I follow on Twitter said the whole thing played like a dream advertisement for the NRA, in that it played right into the fear among gun owners that the Left despises them and is eager to take away their guns.
Cards on the table: I am in favor of a significantly greater degree of gun regulation than many of my fellow conservatives are, and I get as annoyed with right-wing Second Amendment absolutists who insist that any attempt to control guns will lead to a civil liberties apocalypse as I do with left-wing First Amendment absolutists who hold that any attempt to control access to pornography is welcoming Big Brother. That said, it drives me to despair to see how so many on the left demonize guns so thoroughly that they imagine that guns themselves are the prime source of our mass violence problem.
Here’s what I can’t figure out: I grew up in a rural hunting culture, where guns were, and are, widely available. Nothing like this ever happened. If a troubled kid wanted to shoot up his school, the weaponry and the opportunity was there, in spades. But it didn’t happen. It doesn’t happen.
Look at this:
If conservatives are right that the cause of this country’s large # of gun massacres has nothing to do w the easy availability of heavy firepower, it must be the result of something uniquely terrible about American culture that drives so many to become homicidal maniacs, right?
— Damon Linker (@DamonLinker) February 22, 2018
Well, I believe that this country’s large number of gun massacres does have something to do with gun availability, but I also believe that there is something terrible about American culture. I don’t have a clear theory — does anybody? should anybody claim to? — but I want to offer a few thoughts toward one.
Here’s something Wendell Berry wrote in his short essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”:
XIV. The main thing is, don’t let education get in the way of being nice to children. Children are our Future. Spend plenty of money on them but don’t stay home with them and get in their way. Don’t give them work to do; they are smart and can think up things to do on their own. Don’t teach them any of that awful, stultifying, repressive, old-fashioned morality. Provide plenty of TV, microwave dinners, day care, computers, computer games, cars. For all this, they will love and respect us and be glad to grow up and pay our debts.
XV. A good school is a big school.
XVI. Disarm the children before you let them in.
Of course, education is for the Future, and the Future is one of our better-packaged items and attracts many buyers. (The past, on the other hand, is hard to sell; it is, after all, past.) The Future is where we’ll all be fulfilled, happy, healthy, and perhaps will live and consume forever. It may have some bad things in it, like storms or floods or earthquakes or plagues or volcanic eruptions or stray meteors, but soon we will learn to predict and prevent such things before they happen. In the Future, many scientists will be employed in figuring out how to prevent the unpredictable consequences of the remaining unpreventable bad things. There will always be work for scientists.
Second, here is a piece from today’s NYT: “When Is My Child Instagram-Ready?” The idea that this is a question parents ask is a sign of our problem.
1. The Size and Model of Mass Schooling Is Alienating
Back in 1929-30, there were about 248,000 public schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. How many today? Far less than half. By 2013-14, the number had shrunk to 98,000.
When you consider that the U.S. population nearly tripled in that timeframe, there’s no question this factory model of schooling has grown exponentially. The numbers speak to the intense bureaucratization of a public school system that is becoming more centralized with less local control, packing ever-larger numbers of students in one place.
The natural effect is an emotional malaise that fuels a sense of confusion and detachment. I believe the sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term “anomie” to describe this sense of isolation. Even the physical architecture of public schools is getting more estranging. They tend to be larger and more looming, almost blade-runner-like in their effect of shrinking and sequestering individuals to irrelevance.
There’s already much to be anxious about in those settings: the intensity of testing, the long days, the labelling, the constant social—and now, political—expectations that students must meet to fit in. The alienation of amassing larger groups of children enhances that.
I don’t agree with everything Morabito says in her column, but I think it is absolutely the case that the form of schooling in our current day ought to be critically examined for its social effects. Homeschoolers are accustomed to people asking us how we can possibly expect our children to be “socialized” if they don’t go to standard schools. There’s a polite answer that most of us use, but the real answer is something like, “Are you out of your mind?! Socialized to that standard?!”
Anthony Esolen, on his Facebook feed, commenting on the Morabito piece:
And this goes under the heading for that ever-bulging file, I Knew It Was Bad; I Had No Idea How Bad It Was.
One thing the author says here jibes with another datum I found some years ago. She says that seventy or eighty years ago — I cannot remember the year she cites — there were twice as many public schools as there are now. That was for one third of the population. The upshot is that each school is now SIX TIMES as large, take it all in all, as the typical school was in the past. We insist on viewing human beings as functionally interchangeable, and as no different en masse than in small and personal groups. That is a profound error, and one that only a post-industrial “culture” would make. A mansion with sixty people in it is not the same as ten homes with six people in each. My college, Princeton, was relatively small for the sort of thing it was, and there were features in it that retained something of the human intimacy of a small school; most notably, the construction of the old dormitories and the large rooms and suites in them brought small groups of people together in ways that high-rise dormitories with single cells for two roommates cannot. But if they multiplied Princeton’s enrollment by SIX, resulting in a mega-school of 25,000 undergraduates, it would be an entirely different kind of place, and would, I think, breed plenty of dysfunctions.
As I said, her datum fits with another: there used to be SEVEN TIMES as many school boards, at roughly the same time that she cites, as there are now. That means that TWENTY ONE times as many ordinary citizens were responsible for the oversight of the public schools. Parents, pillars of the community (businessmen, clergymen, the leaders of all the women’s charitable organizations, college educated persons), and former teachers would be involved, and that must have resulted in a close relationship between the school and the neighborhood. Sure, sometimes it would have grated on a teacher’s nerves, but against that we must place the feeling of belonging, of order, that everyone would have taken for granted.
Grown men and women do not really thrive, I think, in workplaces where no one knows more than a small fraction of his or her fellows. But they are grown up, they can suffer through it; children aren’t, and should not be expected to suffer through it. Break the schools up. Give each one a school board of volunteers from the community. Give them the go-ahead to try things out; maybe one school might be strong for music, another for arts and letters, another for trades. But by all means do not house children in places that must necessarily be impersonal, gigantic, and soul-crushing.
I wonder if the reason nobody ever shot up a school in these small Southern towns where guns are abundantly available, and boys are typically taught how to use them in hunting, has to do with the fact that society is (or has been) more coherent there. Life was far from perfect, but it made sense. Most people internalized a sense of social and moral order, such that they didn’t really think about shooting up schools.
Where is the moral order today? Where is the sense that life coheres, that there are limits, that there is meaning?
In related news, a new online publication for women sponsored by the Washington Post is pushing polyamory (“She had a hard time separating her desire for a primary partner with her interest in various kinks, so she compartmentalized in a way that enabled her to see multiple people”); and a magazine that is not Penthouse or even Cosmopolitan consults a gynecologist for advice about a procedure celebrated in a mainstream film of the sort you would have had to go to a fleabag theater to see 40 years ago:
In the newest — and, tragically, final — installment of the Fifty Shades franchise, Fifty Shades Freed, there’s a darkly memorable scene wherein human pommel horse Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) appears to be seconds away from feeding an entire spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s into Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) vagina. After stealing the spoon from Anastasia — who, only minutes earlier, had been melancholically enjoying the midnight pint in the storied tradition of anxious rom-com heroines before her — Christian “playfully” drives the kitchen implement in the direction of her most precious innards. The spoon hovers in midair in the most twisted iteration of “here comes the airplane” imaginable.
Come to think of it, Teen Vogue in the past few months has advised teenage girls on the best way to be sodomized (the magazine’s chief digital content officer accused those objecting to it of “homophobia”), and published a “vibrator gift guide” for Christmas. The most tender, intimate expressions of love between a man and a woman, reduced to bestial gestures. Meanwhile, many schools are forbidding parents even from knowing what kind of indoctrination into this kind of filth their kids will be receiving at public school — and not even Republican legislators in some places resist.
And let’s not even get started on the fetishization of graphic violence in popular culture.
It’s almost as if the dominant culture and its institutions are radically dehumanizing teenagers, and are mystified as to why some of those teenagers don’t see others as human beings worthy of respect and care.
Yes, maybe Stella Morabito is right, and Wendell Berry is right, and the form of our schooling has to do with this dehumanization. I think they are correct, to a great degree. But that’s only part of the story. The other part of the story is the culture itself present in these schools, among the children who have been raised like embourgeoised animals, and utterly failed by their parents and all the rest of us.
Mene, mene, tekel upharsin. Exit this decadent empire, if you can. Our culture has a death wish, and it is receiving what it has prepared.
UPDATE: Reader Matt in VA writes:
I am surprised that you don’t draw out the parallel between school shootings and another common theme on this blog — early-onset transgenderism.
Both are to some degree social contagions and media/extremely-online-culture phenomena.
The most recent school shooting in Florida is depressing but the school shooting itself is not the only thing that is revealing. What is most interesting from a cultural-criticism standpoint is the way the shooting generated a simultaneous parallel media spectacle in the form of the survivors who were already making videos for Youtube while bullets were being fired and who had media handlers and hashtags ready to go before the bodies had a chance to get cold.
I have seen the faces of the *gun control NOW* kids about 1,000 times since the shooting happened less than a week ago. I don’t think I’ve seen any photos of the kids who got murdered at all.
Generation Z will have two big cohorts:
alienated dysfunctional (to a greater or lesser degree) kids who engage in activities ranging from incredibly dedicated online trolling to can’t-get-a-girlfriend PUA forum posting to going crazy and school shooter speedrunning like it’s a videogame
smarmy cold-blooded strivers born on third base whose reaction to traumatic and horrifying experiences is to seek–instantaneously, instinctively, even while bodies are hitting the floor around them– to convert them to clicks, engagement, and fodder to pad college resumes with killer ways to sell themselves as passionate self-starters and change agents, hugely effective at doing exactly what Silicon Valley wants most — generating likes, comments, and shares.
100 years ago, many young people (not too much older than these high school kids) responded to the carnage they witnessed and experienced on the Western Front — how? By carrying around a well-worn volume of Housman and writing poetry (*the* characteristic response of that particular generation to the war.)
Now, kids’ primary response to something like this is to trample over the freshly fallen bodies of their classmates in order to throw themselves in front of as many TV and smartphone cameras as possible. The narcissistic sociopathy (cloaked of course, in repeated hysterical assertions of moral self-righteousness based not on acts but on political positions) is related, in a way, to the murderous nihilism of the school shooters themselves. This is how the winners and the losers of today’s society conduct themselves.
Y’all remember around 2003, the media started propagandizing for gay marriage? I don’t mean “reporting on the emerging movement in favor of gay marriage”; that would have been entirely understandable. I’m talking about openly advocating for it, and ignoring counterarguments. I can remember as far back as 2005 being told by fellow journalists that there is no argument against it other than the naked assertion of bigotry, and that we were under no more obligation to be fair and balanced in our coverage of the issue than we would be if we were covering the Civil Rights movement.
This wasn’t in 2012 or thereabouts. This was in 2003-05, in journalism circles. And now, that view is mainstream. Don’t you remember the line about how this was only about giving the nice gay neighbors a chance to find some stability in their relationship, and that people who said otherwise were just cruel homophobes who were trying to scare people? Well, the script worked so well last time, why not try it again? That’s what’s happening. This is the Law of Merited Impossibility in action.
Take a look at Margot Cleveland’s piece on how the Indiana House gutted an informed consent bill that would have required public schools to allow parents to inspect educational material used to teach their kids about human sexuality and gender identity. The bill would have required schools to obtain signed parental consent before teaching kids about any of this stuff.
The state Senate passed the bill earlier this year by a comfortable majority. But the House Education committee — controlled by Republicans, note well — gutted it. Here’s Cleveland:
What does that mean? Schools may teach children as young as age five that a boy can become a girl or a girl can become a boy. Teachers may tell students that they must refer to a transgender student as belonging to a false sex and using incorrect pronouns. In other words, it allows exactly what transpired in a California kindergarten in August.
As I explained at the time, parents in California, as well as most other states, have no ability to prevent this type of indoctrination in public schools because “gender identity” is not considered “sex education.” In fact, in opposing Senate Bill 65, the ACLU of Indiana used this point to argue that the law should be scrapped, tweeting, “[g]ender pronouns are not sex education. Learning how to treat transgender people with respectful language should not be controversial.”
What the ACLU calls “respect,” however, is a demand for science denial and heresy. The Indiana legislature had a chance to prevent the public-school system from steamrolling parents who refuse to submit to the latest idolatry. Unfortunately, the House Education Committee bowed to the god of political correctness when pressured by LGBT activists. It’s a repeat pattern in a supposedly socially and fiscally conservative state with a decade-long GOP majority that in 2015 famously capitulated to LGBT activists in reversing a religious freedom bill to strip potential legal protections from religious people while extending extra legal rights to LGBT people.
Where are the Indiana conservatives? Where are the state’s Catholic bishops, its Evangelical pastors? Or is this just one more sign that moral and religious conservatives should abandon the public schools in states where legislators have capitulated?
Similarly, Mary Hasson finds some value in an Ohio judge’s opinion in that Michigan case in which the judge removed the transgender teen from his parents’ house in part so he could continue to receive medical treatment to become female-like. Hasson says that the judge expressed a lot of concern about the impartiality of medical experts in cases like these. As Hasson writes, “Put differently, the judge seems suspicious that just as everything’s a nail to a person with a hammer, every troubled kid is ‘transgender’ to a gender ‘specialist’ with hormones to dispense.”
The closing paragraph of the judge’s order quite likely foreshadows the looming fight on the horizon. The judge called on legislators to propose criteria for courts to use in deciding whether and when a minor has the “right to consent” to transgender treatment.
Parents’ rights have been eroded already by “mature minor” laws, which allow minors to consent to medical care regarding sexual and reproductive matters. For example, teens may consent to testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, receive contraception without parental notification, and undergo abortions (although some states require parental notice or consent, with judicial bypass options).
Parents’ rights have been curtailed in indirect ways as well, as states, cities, and school districts increasingly promulgate new regulations or policies that prohibit schools from informing parents—unless the child consents—that the child is expressing a new gender identity at school. Schools also integrate gender ideology into anti-bullying programs and general school culture, making it impossible for parents to “opt” their kids out of exposure to LGBTQ or transgender issues while keeping their kids enrolled in public schools.
If state legislators heed Hendon’s call, parents will face the terrible prospect of losing the ability to protect their children from the harms inflicted by self-serving gender “medical professionals”— “experts” bent on advancing an ideological agenda and growing an increasingly lucrative business.
By the way, the (non-political) site 4thwavenow, which is for parents and others skeptical of the transgender child/teen phenomenon, has a good analysis of the judge’s decision by a couple of lawyer parents in the 4thwavenow community. They say it’s balanced, and not a reason for pro-trans people to be triumphalist, or for skeptics to freak out. But they do add:
Know what you’re getting into when you seek psychiatric care for your child or teen. In this case, a referral for anxiety and depression “quickly turned into” a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Forewarned is forearmed.
A reader sends in a link to the above Firing Line episode (June 12, 1969), in which Billy Graham says the following (go to the 22:00 mark):
I think the Christians are going to have to get back to the early Church, of realizing that we’re living in the middle of a hostile secularism and paganism that has enveloped our country. And that we’re going to have to come to small groups, and live dedicated, disciplined lives, and that we might even suffer persecution.
Man, that’s something. Billy Graham was advocating for the basic Benedict Option when I was only two years old. He saw it all coming.
You know who else saw it coming in 1969? Father Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who prophesied:
The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves. To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!
How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.
Two Christian giants who spoke to millions foresaw the ultimate crisis through which we’re now living.
Along these lines, you might have seen last week the piece that the prominent Vaticanist Sandro Magister wrote about the Benedict Option, and how it has become a matter of “global import” — in particular given the attacks certain liberal Catholics in Pope Francis’s circle have made on it.
Magister publishes a follow-up in the form of a letter and short piece by Leonardo Lugaresi, a scholar of the early Church who teaches at the University of Bologna. Prof. Lugaresi says that those who say the Ben Op is a return to the ghetto are wrong:
The “Benedict Option” overcomes the risk of becoming a self-ghettoization if – as I believe is in the author’s mind – it is armed with this strong “critical capacity,” which is the opposite of closure, and on the contrary is the true form of dialogue with the world that Christians, explicitly called be Christ to be the leaven, salt, and light of the world, can and must conduct.
In further remarks, Prof. Lugaresi writes:
So then, during the course of the first three centuries Christians did not do any of the things that we have just said:
1) they did not assimilate, because if a full and complete assimilation of Christianity into Hellenism had truly taken place, we today would not be here talking about it as a reality still existing and clearly distinct from the Greco-Roman cultural legacy;
2) they did not separate and close themselves off in a world apart, and did not take on the logic of the sect (at least when it comes to “mainstream” Christianity: there have been sectarian tendencies, but these have always taken, in fact, the way of new formations, which, significantly, have exercised their separatist criticism above all toward the “big Church” that has compromised with the world);
3) much less did they dream of, let alone plan, an exit, a secession, from the Roman world.
Of course, starting at the end of the 3rd century, with monasticism there would be in the ecclesial experience a form of estrangement from the “polis” and of choosing the “desert,” which would seem to present itself as this third option. This, however, concerns an élite group of individuals and is a critical self-distancing rather than an abandonment of the city. The monk indeed leaves the urban social context, but maintains with it a relationship that is very close and incisive, because he holds onto a relationship with other Christians who “remain in the world” and makes his anchoritic existence a parameter of judgment for all those who continue to live in the urban space.
There exists, however, a fourth modality of relationship that a minority group can have with the world that surrounds and “besieges” it, and it is that of entering with it into a strongly critical relationship and of exercising – including by virtue of its own capacity to maintain solidity and consistency of behaviors with respect to the judgments thus elaborated – a cultural influence on society, which in the long run can come to the point of bringing the general order into crisis.
The fundamental question that we should ask ourselves, therefore, is not: “How did the Christians conquer the Roman empire?” but rather: “How did they live as Christians in a completely non-Christian world,” that is, perceived by them as foreign and hostile to Christ?