Rod Dreher

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American Failure

Is America a failing casino? (Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock)

After seven years of griping about Obamacare, the Republican Party finally failed to repudiate it. They hold both houses of Congress, and the presidency — but still, they failed. I don’t know that last night’s failure was a bad thing for the country. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know; I don’t follow policy closely. But reading a variety of media reports about how it all went down, it looked like the Republicans were in disarray, and just wanted to pass something so they could say they passed something.

This was without question a terrible failure for the GOP. In the Trump era, the Republican Party cannot govern. Trump, as is his way, is faulting Senate Republicans today for the Obamacare repeal disaster, but of course he did next to nothing to make it happen. Obamacare needs to be reformed. These Republicans had years to prepare for that reform if and when they came to power. And this is what we got.

John McCain said he voted no as a protest against the ridiculous way his GOP colleagues tried to get this thing passed:


He’s right about that. So I’m glad he did what he did.

John Podhoretz holds the president primarily responsible. Excerpt:

Trump wandered around the White House eating two scoops of ice cream and watching TV and tweeting. He left the communicating to Republicans on Capitol Hill, who proved uniquely incapable of making any kind of case for anything. But cut them some slack—with no administration involvement whatever, they were both shaping bills and trying to keep Republicans on board and figuring out tricky ways to pass legislation without triggering the need for 60 Senate votes. For them also to be in charge of selling the bill when selling isn’t really part of either Paul Ryan’s or Mitch McConnell’s skill set was jawdroppingly negligent.

There is only one possible salesman for a major national shift in policy, and that is the president of the United States. And Trump is a salesman. The problem is he knows only how to sell himself. He has no clue how to sell anything else.

Ryan and McConnell had to focus on bringing together people with wildly varying constituencies and purposes, and basically ended up throwing crap against the walls to see what would stick. The final humiliation of the process on Thursday—in which the Senate basically agreed to debate a bill that night that had only come into existence at lunchtime—was the necessary end result of seven months in which the president of the United States ate up all the oxygen in Washington with his ugly, petty, seething, resentful rages and foolishnesses as expressed in 140 illiterate characters.

That’s one view, and it’s a correct one. The one that I think is most important is Chris Arnade’s view from 30,000 feet, expressed in a tweetstorm last night that began like this:





It goes on.

You would do well to look over Arnade’s work for The Guardian, writing about his travels in the Other America. His tweetstorm made me think about when I gave up on the Republican Party for good. It was 2008. The GOP led us into the greatest foreign policy disaster since Vietnam — and perhaps even a greater one, we don’t yet know — and they would not take responsibility for it. It took Donald Trump, of all people, to be the first major Republican to speak the truth about the Iraq disaster. These people, the Republicans, could not acknowledge reality, much less own the GOP’s leading role in it. And they still wanted the American people to trust them with national security?

For me, personally, the Katrina response from the federal government was a big part of it. Yes, the government of Louisiana, and New Orleans city officials, displayed gross incompetence. One thing that stuck out in my mind, though, is that the Bush administration put in charge of FEMA a numbnuts who had no experience managing disaster relief and recovery, but lots of experience being a faithful party loyalist.

Then came the financial crash. Both parties were to blame there, as anybody who knows the history of the Clinton administration and its coziness with Wall Street knows. That was a bipartisan failure, and failure to hold the bankers responsible was also bipartisan. There’s no need to go through the ugly details again here, to find out if the Republicans were 64 percent responsible, or whatever. But if you think that it’s all the fault of Republicans, read this 2015 William D. Cohan piece from The Atlantic. Both parties are the party of Wall Street.

And read Chris Arnade’s reflection from the 2016 campaign, explaining why his 20 years on Wall Street caused him to judge that a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean more of the same. Excerpts:

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street.

That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.


The use of bailouts should have also been a reason to heavily regulate Wall Street, to prevent behavior that would require a bailout. But the administration didn’t do that; instead they went the opposite direction and continued to deregulate it, culminating in the repeal of Glass Steagall in 1999.

It changed the trading floor, which started to fill with Democrats. On my trading floor, Robert Rubin, who had joined my firm after leaving the administration, held traders attention by telling long stories and jokes about Bill Clinton to wide-eyed traders.

Wall Street now had both political parties working for them, and really nobody holding them accountable. Now, no trade was too aggressive, no risk too crazy, no behavior to unethical and no loss too painful. It unleashed a boom that produced plenty of smaller crisis (Russia, Dotcom), before culminating in the housing and financial crisis of 2008.

The response to that crisis was Mexico 1995 writ large: bailout the banks and save Wall Street. This time executed by an Obama administration filled with veterans of the Clinton administration, including Hillary Clinton and Larry Summers. Prior to joining Obama’s administration as a senator, Hillary Clinton voted to bail-out the banks, a vote she still defends.

More than 23 years following Bill Clinton’s election, Wall Street is very much intertwined with the Clintons: they helped fundamentally change Wall Street, and Wall Street fundamentally changed the Democratic party.

Hear me clearly: I am not saying that the Republican Party is blameless. It certainly is not. I’m saying that if you cling to the idea that the Democrats are the party of the working man, against Wall Street, you’re very naive.

The main point is that the elites keep failing, but there’s no accountability for them. They look after each other. I lost faith in the Catholic Church institution from years of studying and reporting on the abuse scandal. The gap between the Church’s public face, and what many bishops and some priests were doing behind the scene, was staggeringly wide. People like to say, “Well, the church is made up of people” — as if that’s any kind of defense for the systematic rape and abuse of children, the grinding down of their families, and the coddling of rapist priests. As you know, I eventually lost my Catholicism, but the one thing I have not lost is the inability to trust religious institutions of any sort. I’m not saying that all priests and others who work for religious institutions are untrustworthy. Some of my closest friends are Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant clergy. I’m saying that I find it impossible to trust the system. Maybe that’s wrong. But I just don’t have it in me to do it anymore. That got burned out of me from 2001-2006.

Which, come to think about it, is almost the time I quit believing in the Republican Party and American politics.

I don’t have faith in American universities anymore. I don’t believe in general that they really know what education is. I struggle with belief in the media. I’ve worked in newsrooms, and I know that most reporters are fair-minded professionals, and I believe they do good work. But I also know the strong cognitive biases of most journalists, and how thick is the bubble within which they work. And I know that there are more than a few of us Americans that they think of as the wicked — if they think of us at all.

I want to believe in the military as an institution, but I have heard too many stories from friends who served during wartime, and who told me of their own disillusionment at their higher-ups, and their loss of faith that things could change. So I don’t know.

Having lost faith in institutions, or at least having that faith sorely tried, is not the same as ceasing to believe in anything. I believe in the Holy Trinity. I believe in Orthodox Christianity (of which the institutional church is an indispensable part, but only a part). I believe in my wife and kids. I believe in my friends. I don’t think any of these (except for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are perfect, but I believe that we are trying hard  to seek goodness and truth, and to live them out in our own lives. I believe that everything we do has ultimate meaning, and that all things — even the bad things that happen — can be opportunities for redemption. I have friends I believe in serving in the military, in government, in media, in the classroom, in holy orders, in medicine, in business, and everywhere else. To some extent, they see what I see. The fact that we all see each other at the same time, and that we all see God’s hand at work, makes a big difference.

So that’s why I am not hopeless, even though I am not optimistic. But look: if you have to lie to yourself about what’s really happening to keep from losing your equilibrium, you are on very shaky ground.

John McCain took a stand for the Senate to return to open, normal procedure. I applaud him for that, but I have to say, in an Arnadian vein: Really? That’s what it took to say the system is broken and we can’t continue like this?

Here, in a tweet by a Democratic US Senator from Connecticut, is one of the core problems with American life:


No. It’s not true. It’s not true when a liberal Democrat says it, and it’s not true when a conservative Republican preacher says it.

UPDATE: Reader Kgasmart, from a related thread:

Pretty much the end of the Republican Party, isn’t it? But the Dems are hardly in better shape – do they have an emerging leader younger than 70 or so? Do they actually stand for anything beyond #Resistance and letting Frieda who was yesterday Fred share a public shower facility with your pre-teen daughter?

Yep. I saw an interview today in which Sen. Ben Sasse said that both political parties are “exhausted.” He’s right.

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Conservative Woman Publicly Humiliates Trump

The President of the United States? (Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock)

I don’t know that I have ever read a more devastating takedown of a president than this one by Peggy Noonan, of Donald Trump. She annihilates him, as only a woman could, and as only a fellow New Yorker could. She knows that to liken a New York male like Donald Trump to Woody Allen (without the sense of humor) is about the lowest blow there is. But nearly every line is savage. Excerpts:

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.


The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda. In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery. More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” The new style was more like that of Woody Allen. His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs. They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger.

But he was a comic. It was funny. He wasn’t putting it out as a new template for maleness. Donald Trump now is like an unfunny Woody Allen.

One more:

“It’s so easy to act presidential but that’s not gonna get it done,” Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. That is the opposite of the truth. The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him. If he were presidential he’d be getting it done—building momentum, gaining support. He’d be over 50%, not under 40%. He’d have health care, and more.

Read the whole thing, if you can handle rhetorical violence. This one is one devastating surgical strike after another, until there’s nothing left. If you can’t click through from that link, look for it on Twitter, which is how I got through the paywall.

It’s funny, but before I read this, I was explaining to my kids that the way Donald Trump and Anthony Scaramucci conduct themselves is the opposite of what it means to be a man. It’s how disgusting punks with no respect for themselves or anybody else behaves. Don’t be like that, ever, I said, don’t ever trust men like that, don’t look up to men like that, no matter how rich they are, and don’t ever be friends with men like that, because it will only drag you into the mud. And then along comes Peggy Noonan and says more or less the same thing, a thousand times better, and from one of the country’s biggest microphones.

Good. These cretins disgrace everything they touch. President Pence will have quite a job of rebuilding ahead of him. And this sorry excuse for a Republican Congress is not helping.


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Glengarry Glen Mooch

Anthony Scaramucci, Long Island’s favorite son (JStone/Shutterstock)

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci called Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker on Wednesday to talk. He was angry because Lizza earlier that day had tweeted that Scaramucci and Trump were having dinner with Bill Shine and Sean Hannity of Fox News that night. Here, according to Lizza, is some of what he said (sanitized for your protection, naturally):

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period,” he said. “They won’t do it.” He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.

“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a f–king paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)


Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f–king strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

Toward the end of the conversation:

Scaramucci said he had to get going. “Yeah, let me go, though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some sh-t to make this guy crazy.”

Minutes later, he tweeted, “In light of the leak of my financial info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.” With the addition of Priebus’s Twitter handle, he was making public what he had just told me: that he believed Priebus was leaking information about him. The tweet quickly went viral.

Scaramucci later retracted the tweet, perhaps after the reporter who broke the story about his financial disclosure form said that nobody had leaked it to her, and that it was a public document available to any reporter who asked for it.

Believe me, you’re going to want to read the whole thing. 

And please, enough about the “fake news” every time something negative about Team Trump appears in the media. Mooch owned his foul language in this tweet:


These are the people running the US government, ladies and gentlemen. Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

For old times’ sake, take a look at this clip from President Reagan’s farewell address to the nation. It won’t take long. Just do it. This was the America that was:

UPDATE: From Fox News:

But the comments have spooked some of his co-workers. Speaking to Fox News, one White House official expressed concern.

“This is getting out of hand. I am honestly getting concerned for my safety in the office tomorrow. This type of behavior is unbelievable. Working in the White House and something like that is said, it is a disgrace,” the official said.

What decent person who cares about his or her reputation would stay in that Dumpster fire?

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Two Kinds Of California Liberals

Which side are you own, man of the Left? (Keith Bell/Shutterstock)

A reader writes:

I’ve read your blog for a few months and this San Francisco liberal finds himself maddeningly provoked by your writing.

One notable thing about living in northern California in 2017 is that there is a tension, barely concealed, between the technology-will-perfect-everything liberals and the heed-the-warnings-of-mother-earth liberals (who increasingly resemble crunchy cons with slightly different ideas about economics). A broad consensus on social issues and a completely secular public culture out here obscure the fundamentally different views we liberals have about what it means to be human.

Your post about human genetic modification today ( made me think of this tension. I suspect the Silicon Valley set would read about the Oregon experiments and think we are one step closer to the Singularity. The crunchies and I see, instead, the definition of Pandora’s Box.

Scanning through your archives, I haven’t seen you write about the Singularity concept – the idea that humans and machines will merge into a kind of super-supreme intelligence by the middle of this century, and that eternal life, of a sort, will be possible. It’s not coincidental that this (totally insane and nihilistic) idea often attaches to the radical life extension movement ( Or to the daffy libertarian politics of the Valley. Might be worth a blog post.

What do I know, though? At a “20-questions” office icebreaker, I was the only one of forty in the room who raised his hand in response to “Who considers themself a member of a religion?” Out here, it’s all mindless technological expansionism, masking an infantile terror of death (or perhaps, of having lived a meaningless life), or self-guided mother earth worship. We shall be as gods indeed.

Even if I rarely fully agree with anything you write, you do seem to find many interesting cracks in my thinking. You would be surprised how much appeal the BenOp idea has for many of us liberals who cling to the quaint notions that God is real and modern man shouldn’t destroy his creation. Thanks for keeping me intellectually un-lazy!

Wow, thank you! That’s really encouraging. You might find my 2006 book Crunchy Cons worth a look. In it, I talk about an older, more traditional strand of conservatism that takes a far more skeptical view of mindlessly pro-business, pro-technology libertarianism.

Here’s my 2002 National Review Online essay that proved to be the seed of the book. Excerpt:

In some respects, the life we live and the values we share have more in common with left-wing counterculturalists than with many garden-variety conservatives. What we share is a disdain for, or at least a healthy suspicion of, mass culture.

It makes for interesting bedfellows. Boston College professor Peter Kreeft discovered this phenomenon a few years ago. Kreeft said he and three friends fit John Courtney Murray’s four American political types: radical, liberal, traditionalist, and conservative. One day, Kreeft, a traditional Catholic, discovered a close affinity with the Marxist atheist in the group. What did it was driving around Cambridge and judging everyone’s reaction to a new housing development the conservative Republican had moved into. It was clean, well lighted, green, and spacious, with attractive amenities. Kreeft and his friend Dick, the radical, thought it was an abomination, because it was ugly and therefore inhuman. The conservative said the fact that they cared about how the place looked marked them as “artsy-fartsy,” but the traditionalist and the radical argued that beauty was one of the most important things there is.

Soon, Kreeft and his radical friend found out that despite the gulf that separated them on politics, they shared a number of areas of agreement (suburbs bad; nature good; big business and big government bad; small business and small government good). Kreeft determined from this that “beneath the current political left-right alignments there are fault lines embedded in the crust of human nature that will inevitably open up some day and produce earthquakes that will change the current map of the political landscape.”

Well, maybe. All I can tell you is that the crunchy-granola lefties are often right about little things that make life richer.

I wonder on what grounds crunchyish, traditional conservatives, and crunchy, mother-earth liberals, could find practical common ground today. Twelve years ago, when I was writing the book, the conservative Texas farmer Robert Hutchins, a self-described fundamentalist Christian, told me how surprising it was to him to find that on some things (agriculture, mostly) he had more in common with hippie liberals in his rural area than with a lot of his conservative Republican friends. The California reader has hit upon the reason.

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Today In Dreherbait


Charles Murray speaks the truth.



Debra Messing, as you may know, played a title character in Will & Grace, and fancies herself part of the anti-Trump “Resistance”. Somebody on my Twitter feed, can’t remember who, said yesterday that this tweet captures the moment when a member of the Resistance realizes that she’s part of the One Percent.

Steve Sailer writes:

Anyway, last night, my wife and I were visiting one of America’s most historic grand summer resorts for an evening. She emerged from the ladies’ room to report a newly installed urinal.

You have to admit, this is very strange.

Only if you’re a HATER!

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‘Dunkirk’ As Benedict Option

Mark Rylance, playing the captain of a rescue boat in ‘Dunkirk’. His character is a kind of St. Benedict. Fokke Baarsen/Shutterstock

Here is a tweet this morning from a transgender ACLU lawyer:


It’s a small thing, but it’s the small things that tell a very big story. Notice that a major American hospital has already incorporated the gender ideology narrative into something as mundane as its intake form. This is the new reality. As the conservative Evangelical friend who sent this tweet to me put it, “There’s no going back.”

A Catholic theologian tweeted:


He’s right. Think about how very far we have come, and how very fast. You might believe this is progress — I don’t, obviously — but the fact that we are even having this discussion (about the fact that the US military will pay for your sex change operation — is a sign of the times.

When even Sen. Orrin Hatch, an octogenarian Mormon Republican from Utah, supports allowing transgender soldiers to serve, and criticizes a Republican president for his order reversing the police, that too is a sign. A flashing-red-with-a-siren sign.

If we just elect Republicans, we can turn this thing around! a lot of my fellow conservatives still believe. You’re not going to find many people more socially conservative than Orrin Hatch, my friends. And yet, here we are. It reminds me of a conversation I had in the spring with a Southern friend, a stalwart small-town churchgoer of decades who is about as old as Sen. Hatch. We talked of church things, and he lamented the moral chaos of the world today, and how woefully the church is responding to it. But this Evangelical, who is everybody’s idea of a good-hearted, Jesus-loving pillar of the church, told me he is in favor of same-sex marriage, and looks forward to the day when his own church would perform them. “It’s all about love, son,” he told me.

When you’ve lost that man, you’ve lost.

I’m seeing some conservatives tweeting that the movie Dunkirk is a clarion call to defend beleaguered Western civilization. Maybe it is. I saw the movie last week, and found it excellent. I was thinking after it was over that it could be seen as a metaphor for The Benedict Option.

Religious and social conservatives have been routed. We are penned in on a beach. There is no hope, in our present condition, of fighting back the enemy and reclaiming the ground we’ve lost. Not now. The most important thing we can do is survive, regroup, retrain, and come back to fight another day. If we stay on the beach and think we have a chance of turning back the heavily armed enemy at this point, we’re suicidal.

The Benedict Option says to the church: send your flotilla of small boats, too tiny to be a meaningful target for the enemy, and small enough to get right to the beach, where the defeated and demoralized soldiers are. It says to the soldiers: if you want to live, climb aboard those miniature arks, and get to safer ground.

Yes, what happened to us in this long, complex culture war of these past five decades has been what Winston Churchill, in his post-evacuation speech to Parliament, called the events that led to Dunkirk: “a colossal military disaster” — or, in culture-war terms, a colossal moral disaster, a colossal religious disaster, and a colossal cultural disaster. Churchill said that the evacuation from Dunkirk was a heroic accomplishment, but that Britain must not think of it as a victory.

“Wars are not won by evacuations,” he said. “But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted.”

What he meant was that the incredible performance of the Royal Air Force during the Dunkirk evacuation made the Army’s survival possible. Said Churchill, “May it not also be that the cause of civilization itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen?”

Christians are not called on to fight for “civilization,” but rather the church and the faith upon which our civilization has been built. May it not also be that that cause will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand men and women who understand the stakes, and who commit themselves to being the new and very different St. Benedicts of our time? I believe so.

They could not have long defended the British troops had those troops stayed on the beach. They could better defend them if the troops were back home in Britain, safe (or safer, anyway) from enemy fire, rebuilding their ranks, and training for the long war ahead.

Churchill famously ended his speech like this:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender… .

The men rescued from Dunkirk did not cease to fight when they were back home in Britain. Every single thing they did from the time they stepped back onto British soil until the day they returned to the Continent on D-Day, was part of the fight. This is quite clear when you look at it in military terms. At this low point for the church in the West, this fight for us is primarily within. Our ranks have been decimated from the outside, and from the inside as well. We are not going to win with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. We won’t even survive with it. We will only win with the true faith. This spiritual and cultural battle has to start within our own hearts and minds. Had the troops come back to their island home to await the inevitable arrival of the Germans, there would have been no hope. But they did not, and though the Germans bombed British cities in the Blitz, the British were resilient on the home front, kept the planned invasion at bay, and steadily built up their forces — and their spirits — for the battles yet to come.

The war did not stop with the Dunkirk retreat, not at all. But the British could defend their island, which, in Ben Op terms, was like a monastery. Similarly with us, we can better defend our churches, our schools, and our families by concentrating our fragmented forces there. If we don’t first defend them, we have no hope of reclaiming the massive ground we have lost.

That is where the fight is today. This does not mean that we can cease to fight to keep those who would destroy us at bay. We have no choice, just as the RAF had no choice but to engage the enemy over the English Channel to protect the homeland. I see religious liberty lawyers and advocates as the main part of our culture-war RAF. If they succeed, they will defend for us the space in which the rest of us can train, spiritually and otherwise, for the immense task ahead.

If you think the Benedict Option advocates retreating to “monastery Britain,” where we can live peaceably, unbothered by the Germans, you are wrong, and you have always been wrong. We retreat to Britain so we can survive and train and arm ourselves to fight the long war, spiritually and culturally speaking.

The Dunkirk metaphor only goes so far. The British were fighting an actual war, and knew clearly where the battle lines were. It’s not like that with us. This requires discernment. And the British also knew what victory would look like. With the Church, there is no ultimate victory, until the end of time. As Tolkien wrote:

Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

Commenting on this remark, the Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman writes:

[T]he Classical Christian read on human life contains the deepest hope – set precisely in the heart of the long defeat.

It is that hope that sets the Christian gospel apart from earlier pagan historical notions. For the “long defeat” was a common assumption among the ancient peoples. The Greeks and Romans did not consider themselves to have exceeded the heroes who went before. They could model themselves on Achilles or Aeneas, but they did not expect to match their like. The Jews had no hope other than a “restoration of the Kingdom,” which was generally considered apocalyptic in nature. All of classical culture presumed a long decline.

The narrative was rewritten in the modern era – particularly during the 19th century. The Kingdom of God was transferred from apocalyptic hope (the end of the long defeat) to a material goal to be achieved in this world. This was a heresy, a radical revision of Christian thought. It became secularized and moderated into mere progress. It is worth doing a word study on the history of the word “progressive.”

But Tolkien notes that within the long defeat, there are “glimpses of final victory.” I would go further and say that the final victory already “tabernacles” among us. It hovers within and over our world, shaping it and forming it, even within its defeat. For the nature of our salvation is a Defeat. Therefore the defeat within the world itself is not a tragic deviation from the end, but an End that was always foreseen and present within the Cross itself. And the Cross itself was present “from before the foundation of the world.”

Tolkien’s long defeat, is, as he noted, of a piece with his Catholic, Christian faith. It is thoroughly Orthodox as well. For the victory that shall be ours, is not a work in progress – it is a work in wonder.

According to Christian belief, the decisive victory was won at the Resurrection. In Revelation 4, St. John writes:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

But in Revelation 5, it looked as if the promise he had been given — to be shown the future — was not going to be fulfilled. The future was written on a scroll, and no one was able to open the scroll. St. John began to cry.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

For Christians who believe, that scroll, which only Jesus Christ can open, foretells a future of global tribulation: war, famine, disease, natural disaster. This is the Apocalypse. The point the elder is making to St. John is that the future belongs to Jesus Christ. Even though terrible things may await us, we must place our hope in the assurance that these things must happen, but that the final victory has already been won. God is the author of history, and the master of this narrative.

We Christians have to find the victory inside this defeat. The entire narrative by which we make sense of our lives culminates in a staggering defeat — the death of God — and in His resurrection. In our own present defeat, we may relearn our radical dependence on God, and how our defeat is owed in large part to our trust in our own powers, and in making false idols — politics, wealth, worldly standing, America, the church — to stand in His place. As Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has written, “redemption [is to be found] in the depth of crisis and failure.”

In his time — the sixth century — St. Benedict was living through a cultural and social collapse even greater, in most ways, than what we are mired in. His retreat from the city of Rome, and the life his parents sent him there to train for, was not for the sake of reclaiming civilization. It was only for worshiping God in community in a time of immense turmoil and decadence. In Benedict’s defeat was his victory — and ultimately, over the course of centuries, the victory of civilization, which was preserved and spread largely because of the Benedictine monks, as well as the efforts of heroic bishops and priests working in the dark wood of the post-Roman world.

Did the early Benedictines surrender? Or did they continue the fight in other ways — ways that would last?

We don’t know how this war will end in our time, or if it will end in our time. I very much doubt it will. The work of recovery will take centuries. The only things we are assured of are these: 1) that all of history is a long defeat for the Church, and 2) that we are assured of the final victory. We are called neither to abject surrender, nor surrender masquerading as a valiant but impossible “last stand” on the battlefield. Would we consider Noah brave to have held his ground against the rising waters and refused to climb aboard the Ark?

Some of us Christians are called to send out the flotilla of arks to rescue those who want to get off the beach and live to fight another day. Others are called to board those little boats and head for a safer place — to “Britain,” so to speak, to “the monastery,” which is our true home. Some of us are called to defend the borders of the monastery with the skill and courage of RAF fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain.

But in no case may we let ourselves believe that the war is over. The enemy would cross the channel and conquer our monasteries, if we let him. We shall defend our Monastery, whatever the cost may be — and the Church’s 2,000-year history tells us that the cost may well be severe. At this point, that defense requires a retreat, but it’s a strategic one. The British did not surrender at Dunkirk, nor would the Church be surrendering by evacuating land it can no longer hold. Within that defeat lies the seeds of ultimate victory.

I invite Christian readers to go see Dunkirk with this in mind.



UPDATE.2: A reader writes:

Just FYI, Mt. Sinai Hospital did not change its intake forms by choice. This has been mandated by the Federal Office for Civil Rights. Google “Brooklyn Hospital” and “transgender” to see what happens when a hospital inadvertently violates a transgender person’s perceived rights.

My gosh, the reader is correct:

A landmark voluntary settlement agreement between the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and a New York City medical center announced last month has established a new standard for appropriate policies and procedures to ensure privacy and appropriate care of transgender patients.

OCR’s agreement with The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) was prompted by allegations that it violated an antidiscrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it assigned “a transgender female who presented as a female at the hospital…to a double occupancy patient room with a male occupant.”

Under the terms of a two-year settlement, TBHC agreed to adopt, and train employees, on new policies and procedures tailored to transgender patients that address everything from admitting and rooming to documenting patients’ “legal and a preferred name” and their “gender and/or transgender status, if the Patient has identified that status and agrees that it should be recorded.” Employees also are to become familiar with terms such as “gender non-conformity” and “sex assigned at birth.”

Another reader, this one a physician, tells me that the Dunkirk analogy is spot-on, and that it drives him crazy to see how many fellow Christian conservatives don’t recognize how thoroughly we have been defeated. He told me that the new, post-Christian — indeed anti-Christian — reality is being written into the bureaucratic structures of our lives. And so few of us notice what’s happening, or appreciate the magnitude of it all.

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We Shall Be As Gods

I was trying to figure out what to say about the new research findings that the sperm counts of men in the West have halved in the past 40 years. Our ability to produce life naturally is drying up. Similar results have not been seen in non-Western males, but the story says studies on non-Western males haven’t been done nearly as often. So we really don’t know what’s going on globally, nor do we know why this is happening in the West.

But now comes the most important news of the day:

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, Technology Review has learned.

The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.

Until now, American scientists have watched with a combination of awe, envy, and some alarm as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.

Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.

Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans.

You can’t have the technology that eliminates inherited diseases without also having the technology that opens the door to designer babies. It’s the same technology.


A person familiar with the research says “many tens” of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations. Embryos at this stages are tiny clumps of cells invisible to the naked eye.

Let me point out to readers who believe that life begins at conception: this means that “many tens” of human beings were killed for this experiment. But then, if you’ve accepted the morality of IVF, you have no problem with killing innocent life, as long as the consequences merit it.

Did you know that the US intelligence community identified CRISPR as a weapons of mass destruction threat? True:

Clapper didn’t lay out any particular bioweapons scenarios, but scientists have previously speculated about whether CRISPR could be used to make “killer mosquitoes,” plagues that wipe out staple crops, or even a virus that snips at people’s DNA.

“Biotechnology, more than any other domain, has great potential for human good, but also has the possibility to be misused,” says Daniel Gerstein, a senior policy analyst at RAND and a former under secretary at the Department of Homeland Defense. “We are worried about people developing some sort of pathogen with robust capabilities, but we are also concerned about the chance of misutilization. We could have an accident occur with gene editing that is catastrophic, since the genome is the very essence of life.”

I’m sure many people would choose to let scientists correct the gene in their unborn child that would give the child a dread disease. But where would you draw the line after that?

If it were possible to identify at the embryo stage a gene that controlled the child’s sexuality, would you choose to modify it one way of the other?

If it were possible to identify a fat gene, would you modify it on behalf of your child?

What about a gene regulating one’s capacity for anger? Would you want a more serene child? Or would you be afraid you would get a docile one?

You see where I’m going with this. If the technology is available to do it, where would you draw the moral line? Where should the line be drawn for everyone?

I confess it would be very, very difficult for me to be told by a doctor that the baby my newly-pregnant wife was carrying had a gene for lung cancer, or some other horrible disease, and then to make the decision to let the child be born with that gene uncorrected. If we did not correct it, we would surely feel a heavy burden over the child’s future suffering. If we did correct it, though, on what moral grounds would we tell another couple that they should not be permitted to edit their embryonic child’s genes to spare her suffering from being overweight, or too short, or having some other characteristic associated with disadvantage?

We are in no way capable of handling this technology responsibly.
But here it comes all the same.

So: in addition to the socially engineered demise of the traditional family, we are embracing the elimination of the natural connection between biology and gender, the collapsing natural fertility, the advent of the ability to control the human genome. Oh, and at the same time, humankind has provoked the natural world to revolt with global warming. It’s almost like a curse, isn’t it?

Ross Douthat, writing in this magazine in 2006, had it right:

The picture is further complicated by the fact that because conservatism only really exists to say “no” to whatever liberalism asks for next, it fights nearly all its battles on its enemy’s terrain and rarely comes close to articulating a coherent set of values of its own. Liberalism has science and progress to pursue — and ultimately immortality, the real goal but also the one that rarely dares to speak its name—whereas conservatives have … well, a host of goals, most of them in tension with one another. Neoconservatives want to return us to the New Deal era; Claremont Instituters want to revive the spirit of the Founding; Jacksonians want to rescue American nationalism from the one-worlders and post-patriots; agrarians and Crunchy Cons pine for a lost Jeffersonian or Chestertonian arcadia. Some conservatives think that liberalism-the-political-philosophy can be saved from liberalism-the-Baconian-project and that modernity can be rescued from its utopian temptation; others join Alasdair MacIntyre in thinking that the hour is far too late for that, and we should withdraw into our homes and monasteries and prepare to guard the permanent things through a long Dark Age.

Liberals, on the other hand, dream the same dream and envision the same destination, even if they disagree on exactly how to get there. It’s the dream of Thomas Friedman as well as Karl Marx, as old as Babel and as young as the South Korean cloners. It whispered to us in Eden, and it whispers to us now: ye shall be as gods. And no conservative dream, in the 400 years from Francis Bacon until now, has proven strong enough to stand in its way.

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Goodbye, Coke Zero

I wish to associate myself with the remarks of Jay Willis, upon today’s announcement by the Coca-Cola company that as of next week, Coke Zero will be no more. Excerpt:

Coke Zero is the best of all the diet sodas, and it’s not close. Diet Mountain Dew delivers the heartiest caffeine wallop to your late-afternoon drowsiness, but between the multiple-greens color palette, the aggressively 90s-esque disemvoweling, and the EXTREME logo design, being seen in public with a can of it is low-key embarrassing, since it makes you look like a middle-schooler on his 14th consecutive hour of playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Diet Dr. Pepper manages to combine 23 distinct flavors in a way that destroys every single one. And although I haven’t verified this through laboratory testing, I’m reasonably sure Sprite Zero is manufactured by a guy filling plastic bottles from a Sodastream and then spritzing in imitation lime juice out of one of those green plastic spheres they sell at the bodega.

But Diet Coke isn’t going anywhere, you, an ignoramus, might protest. Isn’t that good enough? It is not. Diet Coke is a beverage that tastes like someone left a watered-down, room-temperature glass of store brand cola in an empty coffee tin for three days. It’s roughly the equivalent of emptying a packet of Splenda directly into your mouths and then washing it down with an already-flat bottle of Perrier. This is not a matter of opinion: In 2016, even as soda sales plummeted nationwide, Coke Zero sales grew 3.5% last year, compared to a 1.9% drop for Diet Coke. By law, every offer of Diet Coke that occurs in the United States should be followed immediately by a sheepish apology.

Read the whole thing here. Stupid Coca-Cola company. You are awful. Thirty-two years ago, you inflicted New Coke on the nation. A generation has passed in the interim — a generation that did not live through that cultural collapse, from which we almost didn’t recover. And now look at you. This new replacement drink you’re coming out with ought to be called Dog Vomit, after Proverbs 26:11 (“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly”).

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Trump’s Transgender Troops Blunder

Is this soldier a biological man? A biological woman? Does it matter? (Niyazz/Shutterstock)

When I first read about the president’s banning transgender troops from the military, I thought it a good thing. The Obama administration never should have forced this onto the military. But now that I’ve thought about it, and more has become clear, I fear that this will have been a consequential blunder on the part of the Commander in Chief, who did the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Politicians do the right thing for unprincipled reasons all the time, so that’s no big deal. The real problem here is that Trump made this radical decision without apparently consulting anybody, or giving them a heads-up. The Pentagon didn’t know this was coming. Nor did the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense Secretary Mattis knew something like this was a possibility, but was out of town on vacation, and knew nothing o the timing. It was out of the blue.

Politico’s reporting suggests it might have been a knee-jerk move by Trump to get social conservatives off his back about Jeff Sessions. Trump also tweeted this morning, after the anti-trans tweets, more griping about Sessions. More:

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

While Democrats and centrist Republicans are already blasting the move, one White House official said the decision would be “seen as common-sense” by millions — though likely vociferously protested by others.

“It’s not the worst thing in the world to have this fight,” the administration official said.

Really? In one sense, I get this. The Congressional GOP, terrified of being called bigoted, has been largely AWOL on these issues, trying to avoid fights, even when we ought to be talking openly about these things. But the way Trump went about this is guaranteed to draw maximum ill will. David French, a military veteran, nails it:

As a general matter, I agree with the policy. The American military has a specific and violent purpose. It pushes human beings to the limits of their emotional, spiritual, and physical endurance to defeat our nation’s enemies. Successful combat operations require not just physical and emotional fitness but also an extraordinary amount of unit cohesion. Transgender Americans, though undoubtedly as patriotic as any other Americans, are disproportionately likely to suffer from mental illness, are more prone to attempt suicide, abuse alcohol and drugs at higher rates, and often require extensive medical care and comprehensive medical intervention during and after their “transitions.” An infantry soldier, for example, could be sidelined for weeks as he purports to transition from male to female — taking hormones that could make him physically weaker and undergoing painful, debilitating surgery that would prevent him from serving in the field and training with his unit for long periods of time. This is not a formula for successful military service, and while there are certainly extraordinary individuals who are able to serve effectively, that is no argument for opening service to a group that would collectively degrade military readiness.

But, says French, “he did it exactly the wrong way”:

Not only did he reportedly blindside members of the military (he tweeted while Secretary of Defense James Mattis was on vacation) with the timing and nature of his announcement, his typical inflammatory tweeting was guaranteed to ignite yet another round of public fury. He virtually guaranteed that the next Democratic president would immediately reverse his policy, and he made any congressional debate that much more challenging. Here’s what actual presidential leadership would look like. After permitting his respected secretary of defense to comprehensively study the issue of transgender service, he would draft a carefully written, factually supported statement describing in detail the military justifications for the policy. Then, with the full, prepared backing of the Pentagon, he’d approach a Republican-controlled Congress and write his policy into law — creating a far more permanent standard that couldn’t be quickly reversed by the next administration and wouldn’t jerk the military into a game of culture-war hot potato depending on whose party controls the White House.

But that’s hard work. It’s much easier just to tweet.

I think too that Josh Barro, who supports transgender troops, is correct to say that if Trump had handled this more intelligently as a political matter, he probably could have made it stick. But that’s not what happened:

By seeking to bar transgender people from the military, Trump makes the fight all about public policy. And he moves the public discussion of transgender people to some of the most unfavorable political ground possible for conservatives: Should people who wish to serve their country in a way Trump never did be allowed to do so?

Democrats shouldn’t worry they’ll get in trouble for saying yes.

This is probably right, but we’ll see. I would like to hear more from this guy, who lost an arm in Iraq combat, and who is against trans troops. Click this tweet to read the whole thread (but warning: a couple of F-bombs might make this NSFW):


And by the way, this trans troops thing should not earn Trump any respite from social conservatives whacking him on his treatment of Sessions. Read Ross Douthat unloading a B-52 bellyful on Trump. Excerpt:

This blame-Sessions perspective is warped, since it was Trump’s decision to fire James Comey (an earlier monumental folly) that was actually decisive in putting Robert Mueller on the case. But regardless of whether he has his facts straight, Trump’s logic is a straightforward admission that he wants to eject his attorney general because Sessions has not adequately protected him from legal scrutiny — an argument that at once reveals Trump’s usual contempt for laws and norms and also suggests (not for the first time) that he has something so substantial to hide that only omerta-style loyalty will do.

Which, of course — now we’ve reached the peak of the tower of folly — he probably will not get if Sessions goes, because no hatchet man will win easy confirmation, and until Sessions is replaced the acting attorney general will be Rod Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the first place!

So it’s basically madness all the way to the top: bad policy, bad strategy, bad politics, bad legal maneuvering, bad optics, a self-defeating venture carried out via deranged-as-usual tweets and public insults.


You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.

The whole thing is just as brutal.

UPDATE: Reader Nomo makes sense. I wish he/she would not make so much sense:

Let’s recap what’s happened in the few hours since Trump tweeted about the ban:

– Democrats are uniformly opposed
– Moderate Republicans are opposed
– Even some conservative Republican senators are opposed
– The rest of the Republicans are silent.
– The Hartzler Amendment denying transgender troops medical treatment was voluntarily withdrawn and never brought up for a vote.
– Most of the major newspapers are carrying front-page interviews or full first-person editorials by transgender veterans. (Go read some of them – you’ll understand why this is huge.)

Now, every time someone tries to bring up transgender bathrooms, the standard Democratic line will be about respecting transgender veterans. About how all American blood is the same. That all are patriots. Instead of Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox, we are going to mint new household names of transgender veterans with impressive service records. All it took was one tweet to completely change the tenor of the conversation. The Democrats could not have done it themselves without seeming self-serving. Now, because of Trump, it’s about veterans, not bathrooms.

Somewhere, I am very sure the LGBT activists are breaking out the champagne.

UPDATE.2: Reader Steve S.:

I was in the Army, combat arms, for five years. I’m going to assume the legitimacy of gender ideology for a moment and ask the military experts here in the comments, of which there seem to be many, their opinions regarding the following:

-What happens when a “genderfluid” person or “gender non-binary” person wants to enlist? This is, of course, a key part of the gender ideology, that gender is non-binary and totally based upon a person’s subjective experience. So what happens when someone wants to be a “sir” one month but feels like a “ma’am” the next month, and then wants to be “xer” (or whatever) at some point after that? Should the military come up with height/weight standards and PT standards for all 37 (or whatever) genders there are nowadays? Should soldiers receive training on new standards of military protocol to conform with the non-binary reality of gender? Would it be bigoted to still maintain a hard gender binary even if trans people, who conformed to that gender binary, were allowed to serve? In other words, is there any reasonable line that the military can draw that doesn’t conform 100% to gender ideology? Or would it be bigotry all the down? Serious question.

-Are you ok with mtf transgenders maxing out on the PT tests on the female grading scale, thus consistently earning more promotion points than cisgendered female soldiers? Does this seem fair to you? Are you a bigot if you sense something wrong with this?

-Do you think having soldiers receive hours of powerpoint presentations for transgender sensitivity training is time well-spent for an organization whose core mission is to close with and destroy our nation’s enemies on the battlefield? This “training” is happening. Would this time be better spent at a range or in a field training exercise? Or is our military readiness best served by making sure Private Bubba knows the latest pronoun protocols?

These are all serious questions. No trolling.

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Waterloo Of Christian Colleges

If you read nothing else today, make it Carl Trueman’s massively important piece on the coming capitulation of conservative Christian colleges and universities to the LGBT movement. Trueman prophetically sees the stakes in this clash, and the elements of how it is likely to be resolved. Excerpts:

The expansion of the scope of Title IX legislation by the Obama administration makes colleges that hold to traditional Christian moral positions on homosexuality and transgenderism vulnerable to loss of government funding and to damaging legal actions. We might add the related matter of accreditation: Failure to conform to Title IX will be punished with notations and probable loss of accreditation. Perhaps even more deadly than these threats is the role of the NCAA, as schools that are not “friendly” to LGBTQI students will find that they are unable to compete in sporting events. Sadly, while the choice between sport and one’s faith should not merit a second thought, I expect that this will be the point at which many colleges crack.

How Christian colleges respond to all this will be critical. The desire expressed by some to dialogue with their opponents on this matter is not a good sign. At worst, it represents the cynical prelude to capitulation: “We listened, we heard, we changed.”

He says that conservative Christian college administrators who think that opponents are actually interested in good-faith dialogue are guilty of naïveté that “verges on criminal negligence.” The Law of Merited Impossibility is infallible in these matters: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”

And there’s this:

In conversation after conversation over the last few years with friends at Christian liberal arts colleges, I have encountered the assumption that few administrators will choose fidelity to their faith over institutional prestige. And administrators are only half the story. There are also the professors. The dominant philosophy in so many secular humanities departments—that there is nothing so complicated in history or literature that it cannot be reduced to a simple question of power and exploitation—has allowed academia to be hijacked by those who are marked less by their knowledge of their subject than by their ability to spout angry clichés about privilege and power and hegemony. These people represent the spirit of the age, and their language is seeping into Christian discourse. In some colleges, it may not be the administrators who lead the charge for change.

This is true in my more limited experience as well. You may recall that last year, the president of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Notre Dame’s Michael Rea (who now holds Alvin Plantinga’s old endowed chair in philosophy), and its executive director, Calvin College’s Christina Van Dyke, issued a public apology after the eminent Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne mentioned briefly in an SCP lecture that the Christian moral tradition holds homosexuality to be sinful. Read Edward Feser for a quick recap of that controversy. Shortly thereafter, when a foul-mouthed Yale philosopher posted on Facebook how much he hated conservative Christians, Van Dyke responded with a smiley emoticon, which she quickly retracted — but not before a screenshot could be taken.

The point is not that all Christian philosophers agree with them. The point is that when one of the world’s most important living Christian philosophers cannot affirm Scripture and Tradition on the matter of homosexuality, and in the mildest of terms, without sparking a massive row among other Christian philosophers — well, Christian colleges are in trouble.

To Trueman’s broader point about how the dominant secular humanities department discourse driven by anger and intersectionality cliches seeping into Christian colleges, note well that those conservative Christian colleges that tolerate this kind of poisonous discourse around race and gender will not be able to defend themselves against the same thing manifesting itself around sexuality. This is happening right now, as a moment’s Googling will reveal.

Trueman also despairs of what Christian colleges are likely to do if the NCAA forces them to accept full LGBT rights, or surrender their athletic programs. He ought to despair of it. The real religion of a lot of these places is football and other athletics, as we shall soon see.

A couple of paragraphs in Trueman’s piece deserve a long essay on their own (I hope we’ll see one from him). He says that the old arguments in favor of the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality do not work anymore, because young people have been formed by a culture of emotivism, not reason. Syllogisms are swords of spaghetti in this new environment. The real battlefield is in the imagination. 

Trueman is blunt:

With Trump in the White House, Christian colleges have four, maybe eight, years in which the cultural and political tide might not flow as strongly against them as it did under Obama. Now is the time to organize, externally and internally. Colleges with a mutual interest in religious freedom and in preserving Christian standards of sexual morality and human personhood should talk to each other, abandon pipe dreams of “dialogue,” and coordinate their legal actions and political lobbying. They have the constitutional right to do so. America is still a free country. The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. But time, focus, and realism are of the essence.

Read the whole thing. “Realism” is exactly the right word. There are so many conservative Christians who are determined to close their eyes to what’s right in front of their noses. They think that the name-brand Christian colleges they’ve put their faith in are holding the line. They trust their churches and Christian high schools to form their children in the faith. This is extremely unrealistic! There might be churches, Christian schools, and Christian colleges doing these things, but there are many fewer of them than most Christians think.

Dialogue is not possible with power-holders who think you are evil and that goodness requires you to be crushed. This is the situation orthodox Christians and their institutions are in now, and it will only get worse. As I say in The Benedict Option, hope is not the same thing as optimism. There is no reason right now to be optimistic. If we are going to be hopeful — that is, if we are going to have solid reason to believe that we can endure, and that suffering for our faith is a blessing — we are going to have to accept certain realities, and act in the face of them. Carl Trueman gets it.

In 2014, before Obergefell, Ross Douthat wrote that the debate on same-sex marriage had shifted:

But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.

Which has a certain bracing logic. If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job. Already, my fellow Christians are divided over these issues, and we’ll be more divided the more pressure we face. The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.

This is the new reality. Even if a conservative Supreme Court somehow permitted these institutions to teach and govern themselves from within their own tradition, there can be no doubt that the social and cultural price those colleges will pay will be severe. Graduates can expect that their degrees will be shunned. And for that matter, the students who still bother to attend will have likely come to them with imaginations catechized by popular culture, not any kind of robust church.

The lines between the church and the culture on this issue are not where many Christians think they are. They run right through the heart of churches and Christian institutions. The sooner orthodox Christians accept that fact, the better informed and, one hopes, the more effective, our survival strategy will be. Blind optimism serves us not at all.

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Sweden Mainstreams LGBT Lysenkoism

At Stockholm Pride parade, even Minecraft embraces the cultural revolution (Anastasiia Petrych/Shutterstock)

President Trump rarely fails to surprise with his tweets. From this morning:




Good. As it happens, I checked my Twitter feed immediately after watching this 30-minute VICE documentary about a Swedish family raising their two boys “without gender.” One of the parents is an American intersex person named Del LaGrace Volcano, who writes on his/her website about parenthood like this:

MaPa is the name I chose for my new role in life as a parent. Mika Alexis was born in 2011 and Nico Ilon in 2014. As someone who tries their best to walk the walk as well as talk the talk it felt important to not allow myself to be seen as a father. As a lifelong queer feminist I reject all forms of patriarchy, which in my case also means rejecting the name of the father, the son or the holy ghost. So MaPa is what I came up with, what feels right and what works for the kids and the kids they go to daycare with.

As an artist and activist with (a bit more than) a sideline in sex-gender issues the opportunity to observe how small human creatures develop, especially in terms of gender, has been enormously satisfying and constantly in flux. Our oldest child has been allowed the room to manouver [sic] outside the borders usually imposed by obedience to the binary gender system that only validates the existence of male and female, in that order.


Do not miss that apropos of nothing, Del rejects the Holy Trinity.

Below, is the short film. We do not meet the other parent in it, but we do meet the children’s troubled grandmother. Note that these children are biological males, but are being raised as female, under the guise that they are choosing to identify as gender neutral. The poor grandmother tells the film’s host that she wonders whether these children are really choosing to wear dresses and their hair long, or whether their parents are forcing this on them.

Watch the film. It’s important:


This is madness. The important thing here is not to stay focused on this one family, but to grasp the context that led the filmmakers to their doorstep. The filmmakers wanted to go to Sweden, which is perhaps the most progressive country in the world on gender issues. The government requires schools to teach gender ideology (here’s the government website explaining the rationale for the state’s broad interest in re-educating society). This story from the Christian Science Monitor explores the fallout. Excerpt:

In 2008, the Swedish Department of Education appointed the Delegation for Equality in Schools, which  made the issue of gender equality central to the Swedish education system. The government spent 110 million Swedish crowns ($16.3 million) on promoting equality in schools along the lines of school laws that stipulate that teachers must actively counteract gender stereotypes and promote equality.

Yet when the Green Party recently proposed placing gender pedagogues at every preschool in Stockholm, the capital, they were accused of promoting an extremist feminist agenda and told they were not reflecting parents’ interests. And when it emerged that some preschools have banished references to children’s genders, it sparked a national furor, revealing that while most Swedes support gender equality, not all are on board with the idea of gender-neutral child-rearing.

Can you imagine that? State-funded commissars posted in preschools to brainwash children about gender. More:

Kristina Henkel, a gender expert specializing in equality in schools, disputes the argument that gender pedagogy and neutrality are being foisted on Swedes. “Sweden has a long tradition of working with equality and this has had strong support among politicians,” she says, and adds that “the question of gender neutrality, or of everyone having equal rights despite their gender, has also been driven by activists at the grassroots level.”

But Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, disagrees. “I have long participated in debates with gender pedagogues and they act like an elite,” she says. “They tend to be well-educated, live in big cities, and have contacts in the media, and they clearly despise traditional people – that is, the … heterosexuals living in nuclear families.”

This, from the piece, describes what it’s like at Egalia, one of the most radical of Swedish kindergartens on the gender front:

Egalia received widespread attention for banishing gendered pronouns and applying for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual (LGBT) certification from the Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights. At Egalia, everything from the books the children read to the toys they play with has been carefully selected to avoid stereotypical depictions of gender and relationships. When Egalia students, who are between one and six years old, play house, they are as likely to act out the roles of “mommy, daddy, child” as “daddy, daddy, adopted child.” A key policy at the school is to avoid words like boy and girl. Instead, teachers address the children by their first names or as friends.

The VICE film visits Egalia and talks with the Swedish teacher who has been the greatest national advocate for gender-neutral pedagogy. She defends it by saying everything they do is about promoting “democracy” and “anti-discrimination.”

Note this well: “democracy” and “anti-discrimination” are deployed to deny basic scientific facts. This is LGBT Lysenkoism, with the psyches of little children turned into the raw matter for experimentation.

It’s not just the children. Del takes Mika to visit a Steiner school that the child may attend. Later, the film shows Del writing an e-mail to all parents at the school, demanding that they all change their way of seeing gender and the family to accommodate their bizarre arrangement. Del wants the children at the school to accept that Mika has a “MaPa,” not a papa or a mama. Del writes, “We are non-binary, part of the larger trans-masculine spectrum.”

At the end of the documentary, the host asks Del if hen (the gender-neutral pronoun that was not long ago introduced into the Swedish language) worries that the kids will grow up and enter the world confused. Del says that he’s hen’s not worried, because his white, able-bodied, intelligents, “assigned male at birth” children have “a full knapsack of privileges” to protect them. So, if they have to deal with problems in the future, then:

“Gender confusion is a small price to pay for social progress.”

Hey, as Stalin, one of the great social engineers of all time, said, “When you chop wood, chips must fly.”

It is vitally important for Americans to understand that this is the world that many liberals, in particular those in charge of the Democratic Party, wish to bring into being. President Obama ordered the normalization of transgenderism in the US military, and brought about a policy that compelled the Pentagon to pay for sex-change operations for soldiers. It was the Obama administration that issued guidelines telling public schools nationwide that they must accommodate transgender students in every way, including giving them access to the locker rooms and bathrooms of their preferred gender.

And educational bureaucrats at the local level are pushing this revolution too. Last year, the leadership of Fort Worth, Texas, public schools declared a new policy that would have instituted these guidelines:

  • There doesn’t need to be a medical or mental health diagnosis involved. If a male student says he’s a girl, then he’s a girl, and vice versa.
  • Schools are instructed to keep the student’s asserted gender identity hidden from parents unless authorized to share that information with them.
  • School personnel are to consider themselves to be allies of a student undergoing gender transitioning. That means not telling their parents or guardians.
  • Transgender students must have the opportunity to participate in school sports as the gender they claim to be, though they are not guaranteed this as a right.
  • Teachers are no longer to call their students “boys” and “girls,” but to use gender-neutral language to refer to them, e.g., “students”
  • Classrooms are to “feature diversity” in their classroom materials

It was only grassroots pushback from parents that stopped this thing. I hear anecdotally from parents all the time that gender ideology is mainstreamed in their kids’ public schools. This Chicago Tribune story reports on how this is happening in one school district:

Teachers and administrators milled around the hallways during a break at a seminar in Naperville in late February, chatting about everything from single-stall bathrooms to appropriate pronouns to gender-neutral uniforms.

The conference, called “A Day in the Life of Transgender Students,” explored policies and cultural changes to promote transgender inclusion in elementary, middle and high school, sponsored by the Naperville Community Network for Professionals Serving LGBT Youth. It was the third-annual seminar of its kind, attended by roughly 150 educators from 23 school districts in DuPage, Kane, Cook and McHenry counties.

A kindergarten teacher asked for advice on how to respond when parents would ask whether a student was a boy or a girl, because the child was consistently bucking gender stereotypes. One participant lamented how even innocuously starting the day with “hello boys and girls” can be rough for kids who aren’t sure where they fit.

A west suburban mom spoke of her son who is now in college, noting that it was a third-grade teacher who persuaded the mom to stop forcing her son to wear “girl” clothes, and it was a fifth-grade teacher who explained to her that her child was transgender.

“You educate the parents as you educate the kids,” she said. “You are the front line.”

So, to stop students from bullying children (!) who identify as transgender — and make no mistake, there can be no place in schools for bullying of any kind! — we have to brainwash children and their parents to reject male and female — which even stone-cold secularists know is the product of tens of thousands of years of human evolution.

Religious people, don’t be fooled, either: when this Del person says that she rejects the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, she’s saying too that she rejects the religion that proclaims the Holy Trinity. This is exactly how these cultural revolutionaries are going to brainwash children whose families confess a religion that teaches that God made humans male and female (Genesis 5:2) to reject their religion as hateful. And, if they are allowed to prevail, in the name of “anti-discrimination” they will ultimately have Christians, Jews, Muslims, and secular people who believe that male and female are biologically embedded norms treated as bigots in the law.

When I wrote here the other day that I believe the Democratic Party wants to tear down Western civilization, this is the kind of thing I was talking about. They are so radical that they want to re-engineer civilization from the ground up, even to the point of denying biological facts. In so doing, they are destroying the conditions necessary for a stable, thriving society. From the Democratic Party’s website:

Experience tells us that progress is incremental — just as President Obama said, “step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind.”

Democrats are ready to continue to strive for progress. Leaders in Congress and around the country will fight alongside the LGBT community for full equality under the law, ending harmful conversion therapy for LGBT youth, and full legal protection for transgender Americans.

This is a big reason why many cultural conservatives who cannot abide Donald Trump find him less of a threat to social order and the common good than we find the Democrats. Whatever crackpot things Trump may so or do, he does not support tearing down the basic social constructs of ordinary human society, and brainwashing children, as if traditional families were kulaks whose normative identity needs to be obliterated for the sake of the revolution.

Do you think most Democrats at the grassroots level want their children educated in this way? I don’t. If the Democratic Party would stop this, and stop threatening religion and the family, focusing instead on jobs and economics, they could be the majority party in America. But they cannot do it. As the Swedish critic of gender ideology put it about the activists in her country:

“They tend to be well-educated, live in big cities, and have contacts in the media, and they clearly despise traditional people – that is, the … heterosexuals living in nuclear families.”

This is a pretty fair description of the people who fund the Democratic Party and who hold the high ground within the party. These are the people control the universities, which as someone said the other day, have replaced churches as the dominant catechists of American society. These are the people who control the means of production of news and entertainment.

If we as a civilization lose the basic idea of what it means to be male and female — and these powerful elites are trying to make that happen — then there is no hope for us, except in pockets where people have held on to these fundamental realities, and raised their children to reject this insanity.

Watch the VICE documentary. Sweden is the paradise our own progressives have in mind for America. If you doubt it, just look at the Fort Worth guidelines. This is real.

UPDATE: Forgot to add this about Trump. Note well that he announced this radical policy shift not from the Pentagon, or even by informing the Pentagon. He put it out on Twitter. This video is also going around this morning:


I believe Trump did this not out of any firm, principled stance, but based solely on a political calculation. He is cynical in the extreme. Still, I’m glad he did it.

UPDATE.2: I agree with Ben Shapiro:


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‘The Benedict Option’ — A Sonnet

Marco Sermarini, the Doge of the Benedict Option and a self-described ‘old donkey,’ in the valley near Castellucio, Umbria

Tristan Macdonald, a theology and literature teacher at a Catholic high school in Boston, did me the very great honor of sending me a sonnet he wrote after reading The Benedict Option. Here it is:

The Benedict Option

Upon learning that my wife was pregnant,

I finally fully felt my true calling:

to reflect the Father in my falling,

in my self-submergence as a servant

and teacher of my kids. But in this scarring

culture cut off from the past, in this segment

severed from Tradition, is there some remnant

to prevent their stunting and their stalling?

These schools are mostly broken incubators

or breeding, gene-tweaking laboratories,

these cities rich, heavenless hermitages.

Yet have I the strength to leave my creator,

this state containing my family’s stories,

for distant, religion-stitched villages?

Magnificent. Thank you, Tristan — and congratulations to you and your wife on the baby to come. If you want some light Ben Op fiction to read, try The Awakening of Miss Prim, which even has the monks of Norcia in it. It’s not poetry, but it’s lovely and inspiriting, like vinho verde on a hot day.

Readers, check out this wise piece Tristan Macdonald once wrote on the importance of reclaiming a culture by living out narrative.

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Why People Can’t Stand The Media, Chapter MDCCXVI

A CNN hagiographer reporter named Stephen Collinson actually wrote these words — not in an editorial, but in a straight news story. No, really, he did:

In a Washington moment for the ages, Sen. John McCain claimed the role of an aging lion to try to save the Senate, composing a moving political aria for the chamber and the country that he loves.

With a deep-red scar etched from his eyebrow to his temple, the legacy of brain surgery less than two weeks ago, McCain beseeched his colleagues to forsake political tribalism and restore the chamber to a spirit of compromise that had helped forge national greatness.

Here is exclusive video of Collinson reading over this lede one last time before filing the story:

But seriously, nothing against McCain, who was just doing that McCain thing that Washington journos have been getting moist over for years. I saw the speech. It was a good speech, but really, “one for the ages”? This is a good example of why people hate the media. Again, it’s not that this particular story slobbers over McCain, but that the reporter could not resist grotesque editorializing.

(And by the way, McCain, who earlier said he would vote no on the BCRA, flip-flopped tonight and voted yes. The measure failed anyway.)

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Trump’s Revolting Betrayal Of Sessions

Was blind, but now he sees (Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock)

Worser ‘n worser. From the WSJ:

President Donald Trump  expressed his disappointment in Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday and questioned the importance of Mr. Sessions’s early endorsement of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, but the president declined to say whether he planned to fire him.

… Mr. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to back Mr. Trump, a decision that was seen as a major blow to rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). The endorsement came ahead of a handful of primary contests in Southern states with large numbers of evangelical voters—including Alabama, Mr. Sessions’s home—that Mr. Cruz’s campaign had banked on winning.

Mr. Sessions’s endorsement came at a rally in Alabama, one of the biggest of the campaign.

“When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday , recalling the endorsement . “I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”

Let’s see how Politico reported the Sessions endorsement on February 28, 2016:

Donald Trump won another major endorsement Sunday, surprising the political world when he walked onto the stage for a rally in Madison, Ala., with Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Two days ahead of Super Tuesday when 11 states will cast votes, Trump continues to dominate the national airwaves and demonstrate growing support from Republican elected officials.

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who threw his support behind Trump on Friday, is a pillar of the GOP establishment, Sessions is a tea party idol who helps validate the New York City billionaire with the conservative grassroots.

Sessions’ endorsement is a major blow to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose success may hinge on winning those Tea Party and evangelical voters — and who has so often cited Sessions as an ally in his fight against the 2013 immigration reform effort.

The pair of endorsements for Trump serves as an indication of a growing acceptance on both ends of the Republican Party that he, not Cruz or Marco Rubio or anyone else, is likely to be the GOP nominee.

Think about it: two days ahead of Super Tuesday, an important Tea Party figure endorsed Trump, gutting Ted Cruz. But according to Trump today, Jeff Sessions only endorsed him to jump on the bandwagon and to benefit himself.

Knifing Sessions like that — it’s just dirtbag behavior. Anybody who trusts Donald Trump from now on out is a fool.

Let’s not forget that Jeff Sessions was obliged by the law to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. As Ruth Marcus points out:

The facts: Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump and served as a close campaign adviser. That is conflict enough, but he piled conflict on conflict by meeting during the campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then omitting to inform the Senate Judiciary Committee of the meetings when questioned about it.

The law: Justice Department regulations provide that “no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship” with the subject of the investigation or “any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.” A political relationship “means a close identification with an elected official … arising from service as a principal adviser thereto.”

So Sessions’ situation and the question of whether he could oversee the Russia investigation isn’t a close call. As Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, “That regulation states, in effect, that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign adviser.”

In other words, it’s a no-brainer, at least if you understand basic concepts of conflict of interest. What Trump perceives as betrayal is Ethics 101.

Trump’s related argument — that Sessions at the very least should have given him a head’s up in advance so that he could have picked a different attorney general at the start — suffers from a similar flaw. A different attorney general might not have needed to recuse himself, but in the end that attorney general would have come to the same conclusion as the deputy left acting in Sessions’ place, that a special counsel was required to oversee the investigation.

Again, the law: Justice Department regulations require appointment of a special counsel when the attorney general, or someone acting in his stead, determines that investigation through the normal departmental processes “would present a conflict of interest for the Department.” How could this not be true of the Russia matter?

What realistic choice did Sessions have? And this is how Trump treats one of his most loyal advisers? A man who left his secure seat in the US Senate to serve as Attorney General! And we’re only six months into this presidency!

(You know what’s going to be funny? When Trump turns on his court Evangelicals. But then, they would have to challenge or otherwise displease him in some way. So they’re probably safe.)

I find it hard to separate the utter lack of character and judgment displayed by Trump in the Sessions matter from the same qualities on display in the Boy Scout speech. What a revolting spectacle! Full transcript here. A president with a shred of common decency (to say nothing of common sense) would have been ashamed to turn an appearance before the Scouts into a political rally.

My friend Ryan Booth is a white Evangelical, a former state GOP committee member, and one of the most sensible, upright people I know. After this Sessions insanity, he writes:

Hillary would not have been worse, folks. As some of you know, I didn’t vote for either. But Donald Trump is an unstable lunatic. If he lasts until 2020, then I’ll likely end up voting for a Democrat for the first time in my life.

I’m almost there with him. I believe the Democratic Party today wants to do as much damage as it possibly can to social and religious conservatism. I believe the Democratic Party would empower some of the worst people in America. But at least you know what they’re going to do. Trump really is an unstable lunatic whose word means nothing, and who sees no higher obligation than serving himself. If he will do this to Jeff Sessions, there is no reason at all to expect that his next SCOTUS nomination will be Gorsuch II. Maybe it will, but how do we know that?

Some years back, I read — maybe it was in a David Brooks column or book — about a psychological study comparing people who had been raised in an oppressive but stable environment with people who had been raised in a free but unstable environment. Those who grew up in the oppressive but stable environment were happier and had overall better life outcomes than the others. Why? The theory was that predictability had a huge effect on one’s inner state. People who did not know what to expect from day to day, and who therefore could never rest, were significantly less able to thrive.

I don’t know how you would measure this in terms of our political culture, but I suspect that the Trump presidency, whenever it ends, will have had an effect like this on the body politic. Plus there is the shredding of democratic norms of behavior that weren’t questioned before Trump took office. The longer this carnival continues, the more contempt the president invites onto his office, and onto Washington itself.

Look, I think it’s fair and accurate to say that the establishment — both Republican and Democratic — bear a huge amount of blame for the Trump presidency. They deserved to be badly disrupted. But every thoughtful conservative ought to have committed to heart the maxim that says before you tear down a fence, you had better understand why it was erected in the first place. As I’ve said before, Trump is not the cause of this disease, but a symptom. If we have forgotten why it’s important to keep certain basic norms of character and protocol in place, we will lose them — and indeed, have lost them.

Libertarian writer Julian Sanchez gets it:


I just watched the entire Trump speech in Youngstown, Ohio, live on YouTube. If you only encounter Trump’s words on TV news, in print, on the radio, or via Twitter, you will not have gotten a sense of how incoherent he is. He was no different in today’s rally than he was on the campaign trail — but now he’s President of the United States. At least twice during the speech, protesters stood and yelled. The camera from the broadcast I was watching didn’t take its focus off the president, but it did show him walking away from the podium and watching as security (apparently) hauled the protesters away. I don’t complain about security removing disruptive protesters from a speech. What was unseemly about it was the obvious pleasure Trump took in watching the protesters removed. With the second one, he sneered something like, “That one looked young. I guess they’re taking him home to Mommy.”

Can you imagine Reagan acting that way? Can you imagine any American president behaving with such boorishness? Trump said in this rally that it would be easy for him to be “more presidential” than anyone who ever held the office, Lincoln excepted. Sucks to be you, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Truman, Reagan… .

This presidency is a travesty. Trump told all those former steelworkers in hard-hit Youngstown that he was going to bring all the steel mill jobs back, and make their lives good again. Those poor people need hope, hope in something real, not this carnival barker who showed up ranting about immigrants, Muslims, the Fake News, lying Obama, and the rest. What are they going to do when they can no longer deny that Trump is a con man? Who will they blame then?

It is possible that Hillary Clinton would have been worse, in her own way. I’ve believed that, even though I could not bring myself to vote for either one of them. But today, I’m just about where Ryan Booth is. I cannot say with confidence which one is worse, but I’m inclining toward Trump. Our country is in a terrible place now, and we’ve brought it onto ourselves. It is going to take a lot to put back together what Donald Trump has broken, and I don’t trust politicians in either party to do it.

Here are short excerpts from the “reactionary” (his preferred label) historian John Lukacs’s 2005 book warning about the threat from populism. I posted them on this blog in January 2016. I want to recall these three today:

Meanwhile, we ought to consider the tendency of journalists and of political commentators throughout the Western world: their extreme sensitivity to every manifestation suggesting the appearance of so-called right-wing political phenomena anywhere. That sensitivity is not comparable to anxieties about a resurgence of the extreme Left. It is not attributable to “political correctness” (a stupid phrase) either. It reflects, instead, anxiety and fear about the potential mass appeal of populist nationalism in the age of popular sovereignty.


In our times … toward the end of the Modern Age, the difference — indeed, the increased discrepancy — between fame and honor has become so large that in the characters of presidents and in those of most public figures in all kinds of occupation, the passion for fame has just about obliterated the now remote and ancient sense of honor.


The “Left” has been losing its appeal, almost everywhere. It may be that in the future the true divisions will be not between Right and Left but between two kinds of Right: between people on the Right whose binding belief is their contempt for Leftists, who hate liberals more than they love liberty, and others who love liberty more than they fear liberals; between nationalists and patriots; between those who believe that America’s destiny is to rule the world and others who do not believe that; between those who trust technology and machines and others who trust tradition and old human decencies; between those who support “development” and others who wish to protect the conservation of land — in sum, between those who do not question Progress and others who do.

This prediction has not aged well. I think today, the Right is divided into three basic factions: 1) Those who hate liberals more than they love anything else; 2) those Republican establishment regulars who think that everything can and should go back to being how it was before the Trump aberration; and 3) a motley crew of conservatives, traditionalists, and religious folks who still hold on to the old ideals, but despair that there are few if any people in national public life who embody them.

Our political future is either Democratic establishmentarianism (whoever Hillary Clinton’s successor is), left-wing populism (whoever Bernie Sanders’s successor is), Republican establishmentarianism (Mike Pence), or Trumpian populism. There is no fifth option. Like I said, the country is in a bad way. If Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions isn’t a canary in the pro-Trump conservative coal mine, nothing is.

UPDATE: Salena Zito reports from the enthusiastic rally in Youngstown:

Dave Torrance, from Hermitage, Pa., had left early in the morning with three of his friends to see Trump. Torrance, 71, wore a blue ball cap with “American Patriot” embroidered across the top and a navy T-shirt with an American flag across the front.

Torrance, who is black, says he gets his fair share of criticism from folks when they find out who he supports. He got more when he told them he was driving to see him in person at the rally.

“They don’t understand why I think he is doing OK,” he said. “They don’t think because I am black that I should support him. I am polite about it, but I tell them that politics isn’t about color, it is about accomplishments, and I think Trump is doing the right things.”

His friend, Roxanne Jewell, of Orangeville, Ohio, is tired of all of the news focused on Russia.

“Yes, of course we need to look into things, but I am tired of the information being delivered in a way that says to me the only reason you voted for Donald Trump was because the Russians interfered,” she said. “That is so far from true. I had made my mind up on my own, not by any misleading Internet ads.”

Youngstown is a good representation of the towns that feel left behind in America for the past few decades. Trump has punctuated that in the three previous visits he has done in Mahoning County since announcing his bid for the Republican nomination.

Each time he comes here has drawn supporters from nearby Ohio cities, as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania; all areas filled with struggling former manufacturing towns down on their knees but not down for the count.

“Trump has shown that he is interested in these people, they represent the people of the Youngstowns across the country that he connected with during the campaign and still connects with today now that he is president,” said Paul Sracic, a political science professor at Youngstown State University, who was standing in the crowd watching the festivities.

“This is like a tailgate before a Steelers game,” he said.

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Charlie Gard Is Going To Die

From the statement that Charlie Gard’s mother made to the court, in which the boy’s parents formally gave up their fight to take him to the US for experimental treatment:

Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly and that’s why we fought so hard for him.

We are truly devastated to say that following the most recent MRI scan of Charlie’s muscles, as requested in the recent MDT meeting by Dr Hirano; as Charlie’s devoted and loving parents we have decided that it’s no longer in Charlie’s best interests to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

The American and Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie after seeing both his recent brain MRI and EEG performed last week. He’s not brain dead (and never has been). He still responds to us, even now, but after reviewing the recent muscle MRI it was considered that Charlie’s muscles have deteriorated to the extent that it is largely irreversible and, were treatment to work, his quality of life would now not be one which we would want for our precious little boy. They both agreed that treatment should have been started sooner.

There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now – TIME. A whole lot of wasted time. Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.


His muscles were in pretty good shape in January, although obviously weaker than a child of similar age, and his brain scan was that of a relatively normal child of his age. He may well have had some disabilities later on in life but his quality of life could have been improved greatly.

The reason that treatment was not commenced in January or April this year was that Charlie was found to have ‘irreversible brain damage’ and treatment was considered as ‘futile’. Dr Hirano and [another doctor], together with other internationally renowned paediatric neurologists have now reviewed Charlie’s MRI’s and EEG’s which were performed in January and April respectively and they have confirmed that these MRI’s and EEG’s showed NO actual evidence of irreversible brain damage.

Read the whole thing. 

It’s an outrageous situation. It is possible that the Gard family was wrong about how treatable Charlie was. But here’s the thing: it wouldn’t have cost the UK government a penny to allow the child to go abroad for treatment. The Gards had raised the money themselves.

And now, Great Ormond Street Hospital won’t let Charlie go home to die. 

It is terrifying to face the fact that the British state will not allow the parents of a child to whom doctors have given no hope of survival to take that child overseas at their own expense for medical treatment that just might save his life. The Gard-Yates family weren’t proposing to take Charlie to a Mexican fly-by-night clinic to have him dosed with laetrile. It was to be in a New York hospital, overseen by a Columbia University neurologist. Why does the state have more rights over a dying baby than the baby’s mother and father?

Here is the FAQ from the Great Ormond Street Hospital. It says that under British law, the courts have the ultimate responsibility for determining what’s in a child’s best interest, not the parents. I find this difficult to accept in this case, given that the family could have afforded treatment. If I understand the case correctly, the UK medical authorities decided that Charlie would not have enjoyed a sufficient “quality of life,” even if the treatment saved his life (nobody ever claimed that the treatment could cure him). Who decides what “quality of life” means?

One almost gets the idea that the fix was in here:

Charlie Gard’s parents have privately expressed their concern after discovering that the lawyer appointed to represent their 11-month-old son in court heads a charity that backs assisted dying.

Victoria Butler-Cole, who speaks on Charlie’s behalf in court, is chairman of Compassion in Dying, a sister organisation to Dignity in Dying which campaigns for a change in the law to make assisted dying legal in the UK. Dignity in Dying used to be called the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The two charities share the same chief executive and media team and trustees – such as Mrs Butler-Cole – can only sit on one charity if they support the aims of the other. Mrs Butler-Cole was appointed to the role by the publicly-funded state body Cafcass which acts in the best interests of children in court cases.

Of all the lawyers in Great Britain who could have been appointed to represent the interests of Charlie Gard in court, the state just happened to choose one who runs a euthanasia charity. Funny how that worked out, innit?

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The Unstable Donald Trump

What the hell is this?


And the Associated Press reports:

Privately, Trump has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions. That’s according to three people who have recently spoken to the president and demanded anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Can anybody think of a time when a US president repeatedly attacked his Attorney General in public, and whose White House leaked that he was looking to fire the AG? If only six, seven months into the presidency, Trump is publicly turning on Jeff Sessions, of all people, who is safe?

And now, this morning, this:


The Washington Post reports:

President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks.

Members of Trump’s circle, including White House officials, have increasingly raised the question among themselves in recent days as the president has continued to vent his frustration with the attorney general, the people said.

Replacing Sessions is viewed by some Trump associates as potentially being part of a strategy to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and end his investigation of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

Note too that in this morning’s tweet, the President of the United States expresses his wish that the Attorney General use the powers of his office to investigate a rival politician — one he defeated, ending her political career.

What if he does what he clearly wants to do, and fires Robert Mueller? This, after we know that Trump family members and his campaign manager went to a meeting with someone who — to speak charitably — they believed was a representative of the Russian government, and would offer them intelligence damaging to Hillary Clinton.

We are very close to the brink here. The President of the United States is not a stable man. And none of the sins and failings of the Democrats makes him one.

UPDATE: McClatchy:

President Donald Trump is getting a bitter Washington lesson when he messes with Jeff Sessions – you don’t pick a fight with one of the Senate’s guys.

It’s a lesson that could cost him politically in a Senate where he badly needs Republican support for his lengthy agenda, starting with healthcare on Tuesday.

“I don’t understand it. There’s no more honorable person I’ve ever met in my life than Jeff Sessions,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a close friend of Sessions and his wife. “The only person who is more upset with Trump about this than me, is my wife.”

Sessions spent 20 years in the Senate, winning a reputation for affability and party loyalty. He understood and doggedly practiced the code of what’s been called the world’s most exclusive club: You can disagree without being disagreeable, but you protect the institution and its members.


Senators made it clear the attack on one of their own stands to color Trump’s relationship with Senate Republicans, said Inhofe, a senator since 1994.

“I’m 100 percent for the president, but I really have a hard time with this,” he said.

UPDATE.2: The man is at war with his own administration:



UPDATE.3: The plot thickens:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no plans to leave office as friends say he’s grown angry with President Donald Trump following a series of attacks meant to marginalize his power and, potentially, encourage his resignation.

“Sessions is totally pissed off about it,” said a Sessions ally familiar with his thinking. “It’s beyond insane. It’s cruel and it’s insane and it’s stupid.”

I used to believe that Sessions should resign on principle, rather than stick around and take Trump’s insults. Now I believe he should make Trump fire him … which Trump seems about to do. And when he does it, Trump will have made a formidable enemy — and a completely unnecessary one.

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Ancient China For Modern Conservatives

Tanner Greer writes from China:

I am the fellow who wrote the “everything is worse in China” post you linked to the other day. Thank you for sharing it with your readers.

I obviously think there is a great deal in the Chinese literary and philosophical tradition that fits the present moment. But I think there are some special barriers that make it difficult for Americans to delve into them. Imagine if you had to introduce Dante to a Chinese audience. This audience knows nothing about the background of the book. They can’t find Rome on a map, and haven’t read a Christian flavored book in their life. At best they have some highly stereotyped ideas about what Western civilization is all about. So can this audience just read Inferno straight through? Or do they need to read the Gospels first? The Gospels and Virgil? The Gospels, Virgil, and Augustine? Dante’s Divine Comedy is not just a “great book”—it is a commentary on all the great books that came before. Great works are always like this. It is part of what makes them great.

This is just as true in China as elsewhere. The Chinese canon, like the Western canon, is a conversation. Coming to a conversation mid-stream is at best disorienting. At worst you can leave with a errant sense of what the conversation was actually about. My dilemma is finding the best place for newcomers to first jump in.

One of the places I usually suggest conservative thinkers start, especially conservative thinkers whose past exposure to ancient China thought came in a new-age guise, is with Xunzi. Xunzi was a self proclaimed Confucian who lived a few centuries before Christ. In the West we kind of have this fortune-cookie vision of Confucians: we see them as a bunch of old, secluded sages spitting out epigrams and coining pithy little proverbs. That might be justified for Confucius; we don’t have anything more sustained from him on record. But by the time Xunzi rolls onto the scene a few centuries later the game has changed. Xunzi’s preferred form was the treatise. In English these are usually 8-15 pages long, each an incisive attempt to ponder through the sorrows of mankind. Sorrows there were: Xunzi lived at the tale end of a terrible, vicious age, where China was divided between dueling leviathans engaged in constant, devastating war. These wars sucked up villages, towns, and peoples, with a bureaucratic efficiency the West wouldn’t see until the 1700’s. It was a terrifying, dispiriting time to be alive. My guess is that few of his contemporaries would have thought twice about one of Xunzi’s most famous pronouncements: “Human nature is evil.”

That is where Xunzi starts. Thankfully it isn’t where he ends—he sets himself the task of figuring out how humanity can pull itself out of the mess he sees all around him. The answer he comes up with is extraordinary: ritual. Personal and communal rituals are what, he claims, make us more humane. Ritual is the path away from blindly following our animal instinct; ritual is what raises humans above the beasts.  Within a few essays he develops an entire theory or ritual and its relationship to character building, slowly crafting the case that ritual is the training ground of righteousness and joy.

Xunzi had never heard of a Christian liturgy, of course, but each time I read his work I come away with the conviction that Xunzi explains its purpose better than most Christians ever do.

The really inspiring thing about Xunzi, however, is that you can tell how deeply personal this entire project is to him. Whether he is talking about ritual or kingship or music or education or any of the hundred things he turns his mind to, the feeling is the same. Xunzi is a man who has stared into the abyss of human cruelty, and is fighting with all of his might to not let that overwhelm his humanity. He sees the world for what it is. He doesn’t believe in the utopian fairy tales of the Daoists, nor the warm-fuzzy feeling based theories of Confucianism’s more optimistic strains. But he insists to the end that humanity is salvageable. The next generation of philosophers—according to some traditions, Xunzi’s own students—would turn totalitarian. That is not an exaggeration. This is what scholars in the field have called them: “the world’s first totalitarians.” Those theorists worshiped state power for its own sake, happily relegating human life to the maw of the leviathan. Xunzi sees the possibilities of that path, he knows its seductive logic. But he refuses. He stubbornly insists on seeing the world through the lens of human virtue, that politics and ethics must be focused on individual acts of goodness and virtue, despite–no, because of–the bloodshed and terror of his day.

So Xunzi is a great starting point for an intellectual journey into the Chinese tradition. He is a traveling companion worthy of just about any discussion or topic. Eric Hutton’s translation is accessible to just about anyone. Some other thinkers might be more ideally suited for the Benedict Option, though. Many Chinese poets come to mind here. But poetry is hard. Poetry never seems to translate well unless it is narrative poetry, which Chinese poetry almost never is. (David Young cleverly gets around this by setting a selection of Du Fu poems chronologically, allowing the poet to tell the story of his own life). On top of this, Chinese poets are very self-referential. They quote and allude to each other constantly—they are quite aware that great works are part of a conversation, and so design half of their poems to be direct responses to various poems that came before.

But they are so relevant to the BenOp project.

I mentioned three poets in the original post: Tao Qian, Li Bat and Du Fu. Tao Qian is the spiritual grandfather of all the famous nature poets in China. But how he gets there is interesting. Tao Qian was born into a prominent family involved in national affairs. His grandfather had been a major political figure; service in the bureaucracy was just what was expected for folks like him. So he joins it. He spend thirteen years career climbing. But then he breaks. Society is too vain, the monarch unworthy, bureaucratic politics too soul crushing. So he unpacks his entire family out to the boonies and restarts life there as a poor farmer. He struggles to make ends meet, and he writes about that. He is a drunkard, and he writes about that. He is enchanted with small town life, and he writes about that. He wanders the hills and forest, and he writes about that. And occasionally he even writes about the pressure he feels to compare himself to the success of his ancestors, or friends once known. It is all very poignant stuff, and it has been enormously popular in China ever since, no matter how far away the contemporary ethos may be from its spirit.

This whole tradition of scholars fleeing from official society as a protest against its evils has tremendous relevance for BenOp Christians. I suspect that  few who reviewed your book  have really come to terms with the kind of sacrifices your choices will cost you. There will come a point where you must choose success in the world or banishment outside it. Tao Qian chose banishment and a clear conscience—but along with that choice came isolation and poverty.  I don’t think many of the people who wrote nice reviews of your book are really prepared for that choice. Folks like Tao Qian can make those choices a little bit easier.

Du Fu’s poetry has the opposite effect. There is a lot of escapism in Chinese literature. Escape into wine, into rural retreats, into monasteries, into history reading. Du Fu refused to do it. He lived through another era of chaos—the An Lushan rebellion, described in some historical gazetteers as the most violently destructive war in human history before the 30 Years War. Du Fu was a bit like Shakespeare, in that his poetry covers the entire scope of human society: everything from the beggars, soldiers, and farmers grinding away in poverty to the emperor and his consorts are taken as subjects of his art. Du Fu spends the first half of his life in Chang’an, imperial capital of the Tang Dynasty, then center of the known world. The whole time he seeks patronage from the emperor and accolades from the literati’s leading lights. Then the war comes crashing down and rips society apart. Du Fu is actually kept in the city under siege and occupation for more than a year, separated from his wife and children. When he finally escapes he writes a beautiful poem about the pain of seeing your children grown tall in your absence that any veteran would appreciate. Then he must begin his wanderings—years spent wandering from one part of China to the next, first as a refugee of war, later as a loyal minor official trying to make it back to the emperor’s court-in-exile. On one of these tiresome journeys through the mountains of China he writes the following poem:


“Imperiled, I flee to a new province

All my forced effort ends with bitter exhaustion

Spirit wounded, wandering in mountain deeps.

Yet my sorrow dissolves before an ancient cliff-side temple. 

Charming: its pure, verdant moss .

Vulnerable: its wintry, bamboo clusters.

Streams twist and turn through the mountains

Raindrops drip and hang on the pines.


Melting mists obscure the morning light

The rising day hides, then lets forth its rays

In that half-light scarlet tiles flash

Doors and windows gleam, and are seen distinct.

I lean on my staff, the next stage forgotten 

When I emerge from my dreams, it is already noon.

Then faintly, a distant cuckoo’s cry–

Up this small path, I do not dare to go. 

[Forgive me if the translation is poorly rendered, I don’t have much time to devote to the task today].

To understand the poem you need to know that the phrase “cuckoo” is a homophone for “come home!” The cuckoo is also associated with Sichuan in Chinese thought, and that was Du Fu’s eventual destination. So here we have the story of a  soft court mandarin being forced from home in his old age, transversing forgotten mountain paths, with his young family (Du Fu married late) to reach safety. And then he sees the monastery! A beautiful place of peace and serenity, something so clearly lacking in Du Fu’s own life. If this were the normal Buddhist poem this would be the moment where Du Fu declares he will stay the night there, perhaps the life there, intoning on his escape from the “net of dust” that has trapped the rest of mankind. Du Fu is tempted-oh, he is sorely tempted. But then he hear’s the cuckoo call “Come Home!” and he sees the temple for what it is: a temptation. He has a duty (‘dharma’) to his family, and a duty to help rebuild his county. He does not dare to travel up the path to the monastery for fear that if he does he won’t ever be able to come back and continue his journey.

Who among us cannot sympathize with him? Is this not a beautiful expression of a dilemma so many of us must feel—the desire to retreat from the world, and a duty to make the world a better place? Du Fu realized that continuing the journey was the right thing for him to do. His role is to live in the world. The question he must then wrestle with is whether he can live in the world without being trod down by it.

Well that is enough for today. I hope this e-mail has given you glimpse of what Chinese philosophy and literature offers conservatives in America today.  There is so much more that could be said (and I have written about some of these themes  as they are expressed by other great works in the Chinese tradition before-see here and here), but it is not possible to fit an entire’s civilization’s corpus into one e-mail, so I will not try!

This is remarkable. I see a book here: a general survey of ancient Chinese philosophy and literature, drawing life lessons from it for contemporary Western cultural conservatives — a book that acts as a kind of literary self-help gateway into ancient Chinese thought, in the way that my Dante book attempts to be for Dante, or Alain de Botton’s Proust book does for Proust.

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The End Of A World


It’s happening because in 1907, the French government expropriated all church buildings. It was theft, yes, but it also meant that the government took on the cost of maintaining them. Now it cannot afford to keep doing this, especially given that relatively few French people go to mass anymore.

That beautiful church above was built in 1880, but no masses have been held in it since the 1970s. It was deconsecrated a few years ago. After the demolition ends this week, and the space is cleared of rubble, a parking lot will go in where once there was a church.

A sign of the times. Those believers who hope to make it through what’s coming cannot sit quietly and hope the trouble will pass.

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A Full Monk Of Norcia

Wonderful news from Father Benedict, prior of the Norcia monastery: Father Martin Bernhard has made his full profession of vows as a Benedictine monk:

The solemn profession of Fr. Martin Bernhard last week left many in the chapel in tears.

Surrounded by family, friends and his monastic brothers, Fr. Martin’s resounding “Volo” (“I do desire”), in answer to the several ritual questions within the ceremony, publicly announced his commitment to remain a monk of Norcia until his death.

What does he desire? Stability in Norcia. Poverty. Obedience and chastity. Conversion of his life. To renounce “the pomps of the world.” This last phrase evocatively refers to all those things in the world that might take us away from God. May this be true for Fr. Martin and all Christians.

Idleness can take us away from God, and for that reason, St. Benedict encourages monks to work. Recently, our work has been focused on the building of our new monastery on the mountainside. For what remains of 2017, we’ve decided to focus our efforts on the construction of a new brewery. Starting and finishing the brewery this year, God willing, will enable us to continue our industry of brewing beer. That way, long after the hard work of building the monastery is over, the monks can continue to glorify God through the work of their own hands as St. Benedict prescribed.

Here’s a new video of the monks in their new, post-earthquake quarters:

Y’all know how much I love and support these monks, and how important I believe their mission is to all Christians (even us non-Catholic ones) in the West. Please consider helping them if you can. If you have read and benefited from The Benedict Option, I encourage you to help these good men.

Here’s a photo of Father Martin, serving Your Working Boy and his friend Casella beer in 2015 at the monastery:

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‘Islamophobia,’ According To London Police

A 2016 rally in London (Ms. Jane Campbell/Shutterstock)

From this 2015 official report, here are the guidelines that the London Metropolitan Police use to determine if someone is “Islamophobic”:

That is astonishing. They’re criminalizing negative opinions about a particular religion. Why do the London Metropolitan police reserve the right to decide whether or not people’s opinions of Islam are based on hatred?

I believe that the Islamic religion is inferior to Christianity because it is not true, in my view. I expect that believing Muslims have the same view about Christianity, and non-Muslim religions. So what? That has nothing at all to do with whether or not I treat Muslims (or people of other non-Christian religions, or atheists) with respect and fairness, or whether or not they treat me with the same respect.

If people conclude that Islam is engaged in a “clash of civilizations,” so what? Seriously, so what? That is a debatable thesis. Would the London Met have arrested the late Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington for holding this view?

Does the London Met have the insight to determine when a hate-crimes suspect is rejecting Islamic criticism of the West “out of hand,” and is therefore guilty of a hate crime, as opposed to rejecting the criticism after thoughtful deliberation? What’s the dividing line on that one?

And so forth.

This is chilling. What the police force of a major Western capital city is doing is making it a crime to think and speak critically about Islam. People who hate Muslims because they are Muslim are bigoted, and those who treat Muslims unjustly are wrong, and quite possibly are lawbreakers too. But they are not lawbreakers because they hold bigoted opinions. And holding negative opinions of Islam — or Christianity, or any other religion — does not by itself make one a bigot.

Steve Sailer has said that “political correctness is a war on noticing.” He’s right.

(Via this tweet)

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