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On Thinking Counter-Revolutionary Thoughts

There’s some really interesting stuff in Eric Mader’s review [1] of The Benedict Option. Mader explains that he has always been on the Christian left. But the advance of same-sex marriage changed things:

How did this revolutionary victory, once realized, affect the culture? Myself I noticed a very tangible shift in the terrain during Obama’s second term. I now attribute it to awareness among liberals and leftists that, with “marriage equality”, the old regime had finally been routed. This meant a new kind of relationship to those like myself who were, on some matters, still part of that old regime. If previously the left could consider me one of them, a somewhat eccentric religious guy whose “heart was in the right place”, suddenly there was a new coldness. In the past it had always been “Well, Eric, you subscribe to a religious interpretation, I don’t”–but our conversation, whatever the subject, would go on. Now any time the discussion, whether face to face or online, got near any part of my Christianity, their point seemed to be that the conversation would not go on. I’d get the equivalent of a scowl, as if even mentioning the Christian tradition was repugnant: all such thinking needed to be finally and utterly pushed out of sight.

I’d always had gay friends, written on gay writers, supported gays and lesbians in their struggles against the anathema conservatives placed on them. I’d always found the bourgeois Christian stigma on sexual sin over the top; it was often cruel and un-Christian–seeming to imply as it did that sexual sin was in a special category that made it worse, even qualitatively different, than sins like pride or greed. I never thought this way myself. But any nuances in my thought made no difference in the new climate. When it became clear to liberal acquaintances that I didn’t agree to their fickle redefinition of marriage, they jumped straight to ostracism. It was not any more that I “disagreed” with them (as I always had on abortion)–no, I had to be made to disappear. Those who held to the old view of marriage were to have no place in our Brave New World. They could be given no place even to speak.

Why such weight put on this particular issue? I’d disagreed with my fellows on the left before, and my right to such disagreement had been recognized. Why now was it suddenly necessary to censor me?

I now see it as related to something Dreher and others have been onto for years. The logic of Enlightenment, the way this logic has been pushed and combined with the Sexual Revolution, has in fact made sexual self-definition the very center of a new cosmology, even a new religion of sorts.

More:

The insults I was getting from my fellow leftists were not far from what these “progressives” dished out to Ms. Stutzman. Which made me realize: Were they actually my fellow leftists in any meaningful sense? Could I in any way work together with people who obviously wanted me in a prison camp?

To interpret such visceral hatred, I now think it useful to focus on the revolution part of Sexual Revolution. We might look at previous political revolutions to get some idea of where we’re at as orthodox Christians. American historian Crane Brinton, in his The Anatomy of Revolution, was one of the first to analyze the stages a revolution goes through.

Revolutions are typically won by a coalition of political actors working together. Once victory is clear, there is often a brief “honeymoon period” where it seems to the victorious classes that anything is possible. For obvious reasons, this euphoria wears off quickly. Because it’s not long before those who backed the revolution realize that life goes on much as before: Utopia has not been established on earth. A growing malaise combines with the fact that the revolutionary leaders are used to living in battle mode, and thus comes the predictable next step. Moderates among the leadership are accused of not being radical enough in their policies–“We must not give in to these backsliders!”–a purge takes place, and the radicals take over. The ambient ardor left over from the initial revolution is then refocused on two new tasks: 1) ensuring ideological purity; 2) mopping up what remains of the defeated classes, who are depicted as all that stands in the way of Utopia’s final arrival. Thus begins the Terror. During this immediately post-revolutionary period, wholly new planks are often introduced into the ruling committee’s platform, typically of a more extremist nature than what was originally demanded in the revolution.

If we view the Sexual Revolution through this lens of past political revolution, it’s pretty clear where we are at present. The revolution has been won, sexual Utopia still hasn’t arrived (because, duh, it never can arrive) and the only thing that might keep our successful revolutionaries busy for the next decade is mopping up what remains of those who refused to drink the Rainbow Kool-Aid when it was first served–i.e. us orthodox religious people. Religious conservatives must be mopped up because, according to the logic, it is our mere existence that prevents Utopia’s final arrival.

This is in fact just how it is playing out in America, in our media and in our courts. Note especially the new plank that was quickly added to the revolutionary platform: the trans movement. There’s really no surprise in the meteoric rise of this raging trans craze. All the revolutionary zeal left over after the victory on marriage–something had to be done with it, no? To keep momentum going, the woke among the liberal intelligentsia had to quick set about destroying the very idea of sexual difference. “Yes, let’s invent thirty new genders and demand citizens use new pronouns. Those who don’t will face fines. Let’s put biological males in teen girls’ locker rooms. See how the rubes like that!”

It’s all both supremely perverse and, and, given where we’re at, depressingly predictable.

Liberals often accuse Christians of being obsessed with sex, but really there’s nothing like the obsessive focus on sex we see in this new mainstreamed liberalism. The reason for it, again, is the need to make the desiring individual the very center of the Sacred. To balk at a man who demands you refer to him as they or ze rather than he is now a kind of sacrilege. And they want punishment for those who don’t conform. (Cf. the struggles of Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson [2].)

More:

Far too many have seen in Dreher’s project a call to “run for the hills”, to “retreat” from public life; a call to “let the public arena go to hell on its own” while hiding out in the catacombs, as it were. Many of these critics, to read them, seem not to have read the same book I just finished. Their reaction to Dreher’s project might have been understandable before the book was out, but now that the book is on the shelves, I think they might need to take a more careful look at the actual arguments, the double-directedness of the project. On this, Dreher quotes with approval one of the Norcian Benedictines, who speaks of the need to have “borders” behind which we live to nurture our faith, but also the need to “push outwards, infinitely.” This double focus has always been implicit in Dreher’s writing on the Benedict Option, so it’s odd how often it’s missed. Some critics, I suspect, are mainly afraid to face up to what’s happening in America.

Given our decisive rout in the culture wars, you’d think we Christians would step back a bit and ask ourselves if we weren’t doing a few things wrong.

Read the whole thing. [1] It’s one of the better reviews I’ve seen — and Mader’s challenge at the end to think about how the language we use construes our imaginations.

69 Comments (Open | Close)

69 Comments To "On Thinking Counter-Revolutionary Thoughts"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 20, 2017 @ 10:30 am

Seperate but equal is always a good idea in theory, but never actually works in practice.

What has that got to do with same sex marriage? This is not about “separate but equal.” This is about ‘different, and no basis to make a comparison.’

Now, to be completely clear, I voted against my state’s DOMA some years back for several reasons. One, our state Supreme Court showed no inclination to stretch “equal protection of the laws” out of shape by accepting the so-called “marriage equality” arguments. Two, I saw no reason to constitutionally bind the hands of the legislature. If a majority of voters was OK with electing a majority of legislators who were willing in some manner to license, regulated and tax same-sex couples, sure, why not? I wouldn’t life a finger to make it happen, or to stop it. I wouldn’t vote for or against any candidate on the basis that they were for or against such legislation.

Carlo’s prognostication is about equally valid as Jesse’s. We don’t really know. There is nothing so unreliable as projecting current trends indefinitely into the future. But there is no certainty that present trends will turn out to be a disaster either.

My rough guess is, issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples will continue, because it will be accepted practice and nobody has that strong a reason to strenuously object. But people will get tired of the constant whining narcissism of the LGBTQWERTY, will yawn and move on to more important things, will be open to a variety of approaches to adoption, and the trans-sexual tempest in a teacup will be relegated to private medical consultation, where it belongs.

#2 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 20, 2017 @ 11:06 am

Well, sometimes the moderates purge the leftists, as in Portugal in the late 1970s. Salami tactics work both ways.

Moderates purging the leftists actually has happened a whole lot of times. Especially in countries that like Portugal were derived from Iberian cultural tradition. Major political parties in modern day Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and elsewhere in the region all started out on the left and ended up on the right.

#3 Comment By JonF On April 20, 2017 @ 11:10 am

Carlo,
The “natural” realities of marriage are whatever they are. (One should not make an idol of Nature, or assume that it always and everywhere offers moral guidance– it decidedly does not).
Holy Matrimony is a revealed institution, not natural to us at all, though it rests on a natural foundation as Baptism does on the act of washing and the Eucharist does on the act of eating). Christians would be wise to understand that both “natural” and “legal” marriage can and do go wrong and therefore look to a sacramental understanding of marriage in their own lives.

Re: The idea that any couple who wants to live together on a semi-permanent basis is entitled to “state endorsement”, regardless of the possibility of childbearing, remains an unjustified postulate.

Numerous heterosexual marriages exclude childbearing, both by nature (infertility/menopause) and design (the couple has no desire for children). Yet the state recognizes these marriages still.
Overall why does it matter? Separating legal marriage from sacramental marriage pretty removes any moral dilemma from the business. SSM then becomes simply a legal arrangement that confers certain responsibilities and privileges by law just as, say, a business partnership does. Christians of course remain entirely free not to enter into such a union just as Muslims and Mormons are free not to own and operate an establishment serving alcohol, while tolerating existence of bars and the like for and by those who do not agree with them.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 20, 2017 @ 11:11 am

2.) Seperate but equal is always a good idea in theory, but never actually works in practice.

Jesse, do you have the slightest bit of evidence for this?

“Separate but equal” was a vicious and immoral model to impose on race relations in the American South. There are clear historical and demographic reasons for that. That actually doesn’t say much more about the merits of “separate but equal” as an ideal than, e.g., Stalinist famines have to do with the merits of “from each according his ability, to each according to his need….”

Malcolm X was insightful enough to get that, and to be able to respond when someone asked him how he differed from the segregationists: “They want separation imposed on an exploited and weaker people by a stronger and more advantaged one: I want separation between two peoples negotiating on an equal basis.” Unfortunately I guess most of today’s liberals aren’t as smart as Mr. X (who was as Siarlys has noted, a very smart guy, even if a largely self educated one).

#5 Comment By Antonia On April 20, 2017 @ 5:57 pm

Anyone notice on NY Times yesterday, the opinion article about My Daughter is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.

All of a sudden, people who have known this girl for years, such as teachers, are asking the mother if her daughter is identifying as a boy, and what pronoun to use, etc.

I feel sorry for kids. They are living in an insane world.

#6 Comment By Carlo On April 20, 2017 @ 6:43 pm

JonF:

your understanding of marriage, and in general of the relation between nature and grace, seems super-protestant. What can I say?

As for the second point of your response, it is completely beyond the point, which was whether we are talking about a civil rights issue. I argued we are not, just a matter of public policy on which people can disagree.

#7 Comment By Ken’ichi On April 20, 2017 @ 7:19 pm

Those who held to the old view of marriage were to have no place in our Brave New World. They could be given no place even to speak.

And those who “have no place in our Brave New World” often end up literally killed, do they not?

Could I in any way work together with people who obviously wanted me in a prison camp?

Better question is how you stop them from putting you in that prison camp, as they want. Particulary when they rule, and you are powerless.

mopping up what remains of the defeated classes, who are depicted as all that stands in the way of Utopia’s final arrival. Thus begins the Terror.

What shall stop you, the “remains of the defeated classes”, all from being “mopped up”, when it reaches the full “the Terror” stage? What shall stop the state from rounding up every last person who refuses to “convert”, and who’s “mere existence… prevents Utopia’s final arrival” , and executing them to the last man (or child)?

On this, Dreher quotes with approval one of the Norcian Benedictines, who speaks of the need to have “borders” behind which we live to nurture our faith, but also the need to “push outwards, infinitely.”

Forget “pushing outwards”, how do you defend your “borders” against total invasion by the state and their men with guns?

>>MikeS

With its own definition of orthodoxy and heresy as stark as any other religion.

And with plenty of it’s own witch-hunters and amateur volunteer inquisitors all looking to purge the heretics, potentially with “fire and sword”.

>>Robert Marvin

I scratch my head and wonder exactly why they want to play nice with the revolution.

Because of the immense (and growing) harm “the revolution” can do to those who don’t “play nice”?

The revolutionaries might smile and pat progressive believers on the head and say “you’re not so bad” today. My concern and prediction is they will give progressive believers some space and respect, because they are seen as less of a threat. And come after them later.

Still, should one not fight to be the last fed to the crocodile, as it were? “Perhaps the horse will sing” and all that? Plus, even if you’re right, what can you do about it? “The revolutionaries” have already won utterly. They rule, you don’t.

>>Charles Cosimano

Given the power to enforce a position, argument for it becomes unnecessary. It is not necessary to persuade when you can coerce.

Indeed, and it is clear which side has the power, and which side has neither power nor the means to acquire it (without significant foreign support).

>>Eric Mader

That if this happened, if there was going to be recognition of these new “marriages” in terms of state licensure and benefits, etc., there also had to be rigorous protection for the huge swath of the citizenry that would not, on grounds of tradition, recognize these new marriages as marriages.

Why so? If the state has declared its position, why should it provide “rigorous protection” for those who dissent, and through such disloyalty, disturb the harmony of society? Your lords have spoken; who are you, peasant, to openly declare otherwise? This looks like another example of Westerners failing to understand there are different kinds of truth, and failing to grasp the difference between “built face” and “true sound”. Your “strong pluralism” is merely a fancy name for chaos, and disobedience of lessers to their betters. Any state, whose first duty must be to maintaining wa, should rightfully suppress such attempts to sew disorder.

All states, as being a state, get to declare official truths and doctrines, and it is right and proper for them to punish those who speak in open “heresy” to these doctrines.

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 21, 2017 @ 12:04 am

“SSM then becomes simply a legal arrangement that confers certain responsibilities”

Responsibilities? Such as?

#9 Comment By Oakinhou On April 21, 2017 @ 7:07 am

“I’m fine with a clerk saying “Although my religion teaches that joining you two together is a abomination, I am required by law to issue you this marriage license.”

Would you be fine if the response was “We think you are a rude, troglodyte, bigot. Thank you for the License and have a nice day”

Or, alternatively, we could all be polite, and keep our opinions to ourselves.

The clerk doesn’t really need to say anything. No one asks him to congratulate the happy couple. Unless absence of explicitl condemnation is the same as the dreaded “celebration” (as in “we are required and forced to celebrate gay lifestyles “)

#10 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 21, 2017 @ 12:56 pm

“SSM then becomes simply a legal arrangement that confers certain responsibilities”

Responsibilities? Such as?

Power of attorney, joint property, shared liability for debt for starters. All of which, by the way, have been often shirked by one or both parties in heterosexual marriages for decades, quite as much before the advent of no-fault divorce as after.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 21, 2017 @ 2:03 pm

Would you be fine if the response was “We think you are a rude, troglodyte, bigot. Thank you for the License and have a nice day”

Sure, why not? And hopefully all those involved would cheerfully laugh over the differences. I had a friendly rivalry all through high school with a young man who was a local activist for YAF (Young Americans for Freedom — not quite the youth wing of the John Birch society, but sort of out in that direction. They had bumper stickers saying “Register Communists, Not Guns.” I was going to buy one and cut and paste with “Support Your Local Police” to form “Register Police Guns” and “Support your local Communists.”)

Last time I communicated with him, via email, he was a prominent criminal defense attorney, and angling for a U.S. attorney post he never got. I asked him how someone of his convictions could go into criminal defense. He responded “I believe in a strong defense, whether of the USA or my clients.”

In short, a sense of humor helps to defuse these things well short of rudeness. Qui tacet consentit may be a bit overplayed, although Thomas More is rumored to have made tactical use of it at his trial, but it is a natural human impulse. Its best to be open about these things without drawing weapons.

And those who “have no place in our Brave New World” often end up literally killed, do they not?

One of the fundamental reasons we must grant no toleration to such a Brave New World.

Particulary when they rule, and you are powerless.

That can be rearranged. But if the oligarchy continues to back LGBTQWERTY, orthodox Christians are going to find it necessary to form at least a tactical alliance with the “Schism of Mark.”

#12 Comment By DR84 On April 21, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

Franklin-

Hope you don’t mind me jumping in, but it speaks volumes that your responsibilities do not include faithfulness. Which is precisely the issue with so called marriage equality. It is fundamentally about a view of marriage in which fidelity/monogamy is at best optional. A view in which no one is truly morally obligated to be faithful to their spouse or children for that matter.

Siarlys-

What is the schism of mark? I’m curious and don’t get the reference and Google didn’t help.

#13 Comment By Ken’ichi On April 21, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

>>Siarlys Jenkins

That can be rearranged.

But can it really, though? How? And like DR84, I ask what “Schism of Mark” is?

#14 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 22, 2017 @ 2:37 am

DR84: I’m very glad to read what you wish to express about any post I make.

My post above was strictly aimed at the legalism. Indeed, one of the milestones (well, as it were) of the evolution of same-sex marriage was the legal battle to confer via a marriage license what could only be accomplished with a plethora of separate legal documents. The “convenience” aspect is of course debatable, but there are documented cases of same-sex couples doing all of that work and still being denied their legal relationship and all that it entails, not to mention the political stomping on the very notion of a “civil union”.

I respectfully request that you try to avoid “you didn’t write this, so you must have decided it was wrong/invalid/whatever.” My ending phrase “for starters” should have given you pause before writing an implied putting words in my mouth rebuttal.

I take your use of “faithfulness” in the moral, social and emotional sense. Legally, a contract is a contract, and violating it is actionable in civil court. Are you suggesting something similar is applicable morally?

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 22, 2017 @ 10:23 pm

The “Schism of Mark”…

Some years ago, I read a science fiction short story about a totalitarian society known as “Stasis.” It was more or less secular in nature, but had been established according to the political theory of a man who declared that human society had reached its apogee, and any attempt to change anything would only make matters worse. Then Orwellian slogan was “Stasis Be Perfect.” There were sophisticated psychology techniques to “cure” anyone who didn’t see that this was so.

Various effective underground movements fought this ideology, rather ineffectually, including outlawed cellar Christians, and those referred to as the “Schism of Mark,” or “Mark Schism” which all will perhaps now recognize as “Marxism.” The point being, that the nomenclature and identities and even substance change over time, and in the face of Stasis, outlawed Christians and outlawed Marxists sharing a certain outlawed humanism were able to make common cause.

Now, can who rules and who is powerless be rearranged? Certainly, although the attempt is certainly not guaranteed to succeed. The Taiping rebellion fell a bit short, but might have won, particularly if the European powers had offered a bit more aid. The American Revolution certainly succeeded. The Bourbons were certainly overthrown, not once, but twice, and the second time, they did not come back.

Indeed, one of the milestones (well, as it were) of the evolution of same-sex marriage was the legal battle to confer via a marriage license what could only be accomplished with a plethora of separate legal documents. The “convenience” aspect is of course debatable, but there are documented cases of same-sex couples doing all of that work and still being denied their legal relationship and all that it entails

This has always, in my seldom humble opinion, been the strongest argument for SSM. However, the real issue is not, do two gay people constitute a marriage? The real issue is, are legally binding documents legally binding?

There was a time when hospitals refused to honor Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney, for reasons having nothing to do with sexual orientation. Now they urge patients to have one on file. Something similar could have been done that protected, inter alia, same sex couples, from interference by skeptical blood relatives.

#16 Comment By JonF On April 23, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

Re: your understanding of marriage, and in general of the relation between nature and grace, seems super-protestant. What can I say?

Could you elucidate?
I mention Holy Matrimony, which is a sacrament of the Church– one that Protestants generally reject in terms of it being a grace-conferring sacrament.

But nota bene, marriage qua marriage is not a sacrament. No Justice of the Peace confers sacraments– neither do rabbis, imams, Pagan priests of antiquity or today, or Protestant ministers (save Baptism and maybe Communion). Holy Matrimony and non-sacramental marriage are already on different levels. Why not acknowledge that reality?

#17 Comment By DR84 On April 24, 2017 @ 1:24 am

Franklin-

Have you ever been to a wedding? Whatever mere legal responsibilities that may exist are not central to any wedding, or at least any wedding I know of. However, the moral responsibilities of marriage are very much emphasized.

Siarlys-

Thanks for clarifying that reference. Cant say I know what to make of it. I am not sure who, Mormons and perhaps some Muslims and Jews aside, that orthodox Christians could form a tactical alliance with. I am assuming your reference is not exactly literal, but more of a things are looking bad for orthodox Christians and they may need to find some allies asap even if those allies may be objectionable in normal times. By bad, I mean that the legal landscape is changing rapidly and in such a way that it appears increasingly likely that living faithfully as a orthodox Christian and living within the law will be difficult if even possible (and I understand you may have a different idea here).

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 25, 2017 @ 12:54 am

DR84, I believe that the only way to keep life safe for orthodox Christians is to reaffirm that the constitution is a jurisdictional document, not a laundry list of good and bad, and that certain matters were put outside the purview of even voting majorities, one of the principal ones being questions of faith and doctrine. I may not prevail, but I think this is the way to move. Homogeneity is the enemy of diversity.

#19 Comment By Ken’ichi On May 6, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

>>Siarlys Jenkins

The Taiping rebellion fell a bit short, but might have won, particularly if the European powers had offered a bit more aid. The American Revolution certainly succeeded. The Bourbons were certainly overthrown, not once, but twice, and the second time, they did not come back.

And all of these revolutions were led by rival elites or fairly-newly-risen proto-elites. Who are your elites who shall lead you? Because without them, any “revolt” is for certain doomed.