Rod Dreher

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Snowflake Campus Banishes Crimethink Prof

In an earlier posting today, I said that Special Snowflake students who successfully badger their own universities to prevent them from having to hear words they might not agree with are not being well prepared for life in the real world. I would like to amend that statement: they are being well-prepared for a job at Marquette University, which is apparently now ruled by the Law of Merited Impossibility. You know that Law, right? It has to do with the relationship between the advancement of gay rights and the restriction of free speech. The Law of Merited Impossibility says: It will never happen, and when it does, you people are going to deserve it.

Last month, John McAdams, a conservative Marquette poli sci professor, blogged critically about the behavior of Marquette philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate, who told her ethics class that she would not tolerate the opinions of anyone in her class who opposed same-sex marriage. She told a student who disagreed that he should drop her class. McAdams wrote on his private blog:

Thus the student is dropping the class, and will have to take another Philosophy class in the future.

But this student is rather outspoken and assertive about his beliefs. That puts him among a small minority of Marquette students. How many students, especially in politically correct departments like Philosophy, simply stifle their disagreement, or worse yet get indoctrinated into the views of the instructor, since those are the only ideas allowed, and no alternative views are aired?

Like the rest of academia, Marquette is less and less a real university. And when gay marriage cannot be discussed, certainly not a Catholic university.

This is the letter McAdams received today from the Arts & Sciences Dean:

Dear John:

The university is continuing to review your conduct and during this period–and until further notice–you are relieved of all teaching duties and all other faculty activities, including, but not limited to, advising, committee work, faculty meetings and any activity that would involve your interaction with Marquette students, faculty and staff. Should any academic appeals arise from Fall 2014 semester, however, you are expected to fulfill your obligations in that specific matter.

Your salary and benefits will continue at their current level during this time.

You are to remain off campus during this time, and should you need to come to campus, you are to contact me in writing beforehand to explain the purpose of your visit, to obtain my consent and to make appropriate arrangements for that visit. I am enclosing with this letter Marquette’s harassment policy, its guiding values statement, the University mission statement, and sections from the Faculty Handbook, which outline faculty rights and responsibilities; these documents will inform our review of your conduct.


Richard C. Holz, Ph.D. Dean

What the heck? Eugene Volokh contacted Marquette about the matter, and it turns out that McAdams is now suspended from his job and forbidden to come to campus simply for criticizing a college instructor for intolerance of dissent on gay-rights orthodoxy.

On a Catholic campus. A Catholic campus where, on the matter of gay rights, a professor cannot defend intellectual freedom and Catholic teaching without being suspended from his job and banned from campus.

Volokh adds:

Given that the university’s actions seem to be based just on McAdams’s criticism of another instructor (though I’d love to hear more from readers who know any further facts on all this) those actions strikes me as quite improper. Marquette is a private university, and thus not bound by the First Amendment; and Wisconsin is not one of the states that generally restricts private employer retaliation based on an employee’s speech. Still, Marquette frames itself as a university that respects academic freedom and free speech rights. Acting this way towards a faculty member who publicly expresses his opinions on an important issue, including when the issue involves what he sees as improper suppression of student views by a colleague, stifles that freedom.

It not only deters faculty speech critical of colleagues, but it also tends to suppress student speech critical of faculty, and student and faculty speech on controversial subjects more broadly. If you knew that criticizing a teacher this way could lead even a senior tenured faculty member to be suspended from teaching and ordered off campus, would you as a junior faculty member feel comfortable criticizing homosexuality or gay rights? Would you as a student feel comfortable criticizing homosexuality or gay rights, or criticizing instructors who you think are intolerant of certain student views on ethics and politics?

It gets worse. Volokh follows up with a post decrying the “Unlawful Harassment Prevention” effort at Marquette. Basically, at Marquette, if somebody says they feel harassed by things they overhear on campus, then they can accuse someone of breaking the law. Volokh writes:

Universities, it seems to me, shouldn’t just take the most liability-avoiding, speech-restrictive position in such situations — if they want to continue being taken seriously as places where people are free to investigate, debate and challenge orthodox views. A professor at Marquette (not Prof. McAdams) tells me: “[T]he new harassment training, which McAdams mentions on his blog and which we as faculty all had to go through this fall, has a chilling quality to it, … then basically urging people, when in doubt, to refrain from expression.” A sad thing to see at a university.

Not at Snowflake Campuses like Marquette’s, though.

Send in more examples of Snowflake Campuses, wouldja?

UPDATE: Daily Nous says that Abbate was sandbagged by this student, apparently some kind of activist, and their classroom run-in did not happen like he claims it did. Susan Kruth of FIRE says not so fast, and reproduced a partial transcript of the student’s recording of the exchange:

Student: Regardless of why I’m against gay marriage, it’s still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person’s opinion when they may have different opinions.

Abbate: Okay, there are some opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions. And quite honestly, do you know if anyone in your class, in your class is homosexual? And do you not think that it would be offensive to them if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?

Student: If I choose to challenge that, that’s my right as an American citizen.

Abbate: Well, actually, you don’t have a right in this class, as the, especially as an ethics professor, to make homophobic comments, or racist comments, sexist…

Well, what is “homophobic”? If the student in question was making slurs against gays, then he ought to be censured. But if he was only opposing SSM, so what?

Inside Higher Education has a report on it. Their reporter listened to the recording. From its report:

After the class, another student approached Abbate to tell her that he was “very disappointed” and “personally offended” that she hadn’t considered his classmate’s example about gay marriage more thoroughly, according to the student’s recording of the conversation, which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed. The student said he had seen data suggesting that children of gay parents “do a lot worse in life,” and that the topic merited more conversation.

Abbate told the student that gay marriage and parenting were separate topics, since single people can have and adopt children. She also said she would “really question” data showing poor outcomes for children of gay parents, since peer-reviewed studies show the opposite (indeed, the major study showing negative outcomes for children of gay parents, by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, has been widely discredited).

Regardless, the student said, “it’s still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person’s opinion when they may have different opinions.” Abbate responded: “There are opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if someone in the class is homosexual? And do you not think it would be offensive to them, if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?”

The student then said it was his “right as an American citizen” to challenge the idea. Abbate told the student he didn’t, in fact, “have the right, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments or racist comments.”

His opinions weren’t homophobic, the student argued. Abbate said he could have whatever opinions he liked, but reiterated that homophobic, racist and sexist comments wouldn’t be tolerated in the class. She said the class discussion was centered on restricting the rights and liberties of individuals, but said that making arguments against gay marriage in the presence of a gay person was comparable to telling Abbate that women’s professional options should be limited. She invited him to drop the course if he opposed her policy.

The student asked whether his opposition to gay marriage made him “homophobic” in Abbate’s view, and she said that certain comments would “come across” as homophobic to the class. The conversation ended somewhat abruptly when Abbate asked the student if he was recording the conversation. He said “no,” but admitted he had been recording it when Abbate asked to see his cell phone.

I’m certainly prepared to believe that this student was a provocateur. And Abbate is right that the student doesn’t have a “right” to say whatever he wants to in class. I would even agree that if the student had been making abusive comments about gays in the class, he would be out of line and should be silenced. What it sounds like from the recording is that Abbate believes that simply expressing opposition to same-sex marriage constitutes homophobia. If you see anything online adding to our understanding of what happened here, please post it in the comments section.

UPDATE.2: And by the way, as far as I know, McAdams might be a cranky right-wing SOB, but so what? He’s a 70 year old man, by the way. His criticism of Abbate was incredibly minor. Read it for yourself. How is it that a professor can’t say something so mildly critical about another instructor’s behavior, even if he went off half-cocked (which I don’t concede that he did), without being suspended from a university campus for harassment?

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Campus Snowflakes & Enabling Masochists

A recent Michigan State graduate sweats the real world (Illustration: Ozerina Anna/Shutterstock)
A recent Michigan State graduate sweats the real world (Illustration: Ozerina Anna/Shutterstock)

You would think that the collapse of the UVA rape hoax story would make college students and college administrators a little bit less anxious to go into full-blown hysterics against people who question the “campus rape culture” narrative. You would be wrong, at least in the case of Michigan State, where the university accommodated five special snowflakes who could not bear to hear George F. Will speak at their graduation. What did George Will write back in June that aggrieved heretic-hunters? He questioned the statistics and the ideology behind the campus anti-rape movement: Excerpt:

Meanwhile, the newest campus idea for preventing victimizations — an idea certain to multiply claims of them — is “trigger warnings.” They would be placed on assigned readings or announced before lectures. Otherwise, traumas could be triggered in students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence (dammit, Hamlet, put down that sword!) or any other facet of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity. This entitlement has already bred campus speech codes that punish unpopular speech. Now the codes are begetting the soft censorship of trigger warnings to swaddle students in a “safe,” “supportive,” “unthreatening” environment, intellectual comfort for the intellectually dormant.

It is salutary that academia, with its adversarial stance toward limited government and cultural common sense, is making itself ludicrous. Academia is learning that its attempts to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations — brings increasing supervision by the regulatory state that progressivism celebrates.

What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.

Michigan State’s Snowflake Graduation could not have been a more perfect proof of Will’s thesis:

At Michigan State’s “alternative ceremony,” one speaker was professor Ruben Parra-Cardona, associate director of MSU’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. Ruben, in a speech, criticized Will for seeing sexual violence ideologically. The scholar also checked his own privilege.

“As a person holding many layers of privilege—because I’m an academic, I’m a male, I’m heterosexual—to name a few of those privileges. As a holder of those privileges, today, I want to apologize to you,” Parra-Cardona said in his speech as he held back tears. “I want to apologize for people not apologizing to you.”

What kind of miserable quivering bowl of Jell-O is a grown man, a representative of the academy, who can abase himself before children like that? It’s a wonder he didn’t pull out a dagger and slit his belly open in atonement for his very existence. Prof. Parra-Cardona, with his captive mind, sounds like he missed his calling as a Cultural Revolution punching bag.

You want to know what privilege is? Having the power to force a university to give you a separate-but-equal graduation ceremony because your feelings were hurt over a completely ordinary column a journalist wrote six months ago. Michigan State is conferring an enormous sense of entitlement and, yes, privilege on these young people, who believe that the whole world must cater to their sensibilities, and who will be utterly unprepared, emotionally, to deal with a world in which they will have to come to work the next morning and put in an honest day’s labor even if somebody said something on Twitter that triggered their sanctimony and sent them to the fainting couch.

I can grant students some grace here, because they are young, and because college students are apt to emote more than they think. But the adults throughout their educations who have allowed them to get away with throwing these tantrums are contemptible. They have not prepared these kids for life.

If this is what progressivism has come to, I don’t think we have to worry overmuch about it. As Cosimano’s Law of Microaggressions teaches us, “If you are going to be the bad guy, be the BAD guy. People who get weird about microaggression will not stand in the face of macroaggression.”

UPDATE: Gromaticus writes:

However in the real world, these “special snowflakes” will be continue to be indulged and empowered because their company’s HR director aced “MPHR-707 Creating and Sustaining a Climate of Inclusion” in grad school and really took a lot away from that eye opening experience.

Meanwhile, the students that listened to George Will will be cowering in their cubicles, terrified that HR will find a joke posted on their Facebook page that might indicate that they aren’t a good ally of Karl/Carla the transgendered accountant.

You know, he’s right.

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Putin, Checkmated?

Have you been following the collapse of the ruble? Matt O’Brien says Putin’s goose is well and truly cooked. Excerpt:

Russia has opted for the financial shock-and-awe of raising rates from 10.5 to 17 percent in one fell swoop. Rates that high will send Russia’s moribund economy into a deep recession—its central bank already estimates its economy will contract 4.5 to 4.7 percent if oil stays at $60-a-barrel—but they haven’t been enough to stop the ruble’s free fall. Russia might have to resort to capital controls to prop up the value of the ruble now, and might even have to ask the IMF for a bailout, too.

Putin’s Russia, like the USSR before it, is only as strong as the price of oil. In the 1970s, we made the mistake of thinking that the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan meant we were losing the Cold War, when the reality was that they had stumbled into their own Vietnam and could only afford to feed their people as long as oil stayed sky-high. The USSR’s economic mirage, though, became apparent to everybody—none less than their own people, who had to scrounge in empty supermarkets—after oil prices bottomed out in the 1980s. That history is repeating itself now, just without the Marxism-Leninism. Putin could afford to invade Georgia and Ukraine when oil prices were comfortably in the triple digits, but not when they’re half that. Russia can’t afford anything then.

Noah Millman has some thoughts about Putin and Russia at this crossroads:

What should already be buried, though, is the idea that there is a thing called “Putinism” that represents some kind of alternative to the Western way of organizing society. Nationalism is very much on the rise worldwide, but Putin only gets cited as a leader of this “movement” because he wants to be – it’s very much in his personal interest and the interests of his regime to be seen that way. But in fact he represents nothing more than the self-interest of the regime he heads. And to the extent that he represents more than that, it’s something very specifically Russian: a reaction to the chaos and vulnerability of the Yeltsin years.

Even while Putin was riding high, nobody of consequence in China or India, or Japan or Germany, was saying: I hope we can make our country more like Putin’s Russia. They certainly won’t be saying it now.

To me, the most striking thing about Russia’s current crisis is not that it was provoked by falling oil prices or Western sanctions (though each played a role), but by corruption:

According to analysts, the ruble’s fall on Monday was sparked by word of an opaque deal involving the central bank and the state-controlled oil company, Rosneft. The well-connected business executive running the company, Igor I. Sechin, a longtime associate of Mr. Putin, had apparently persuaded the central bank to effectively issue billions of new rubles to his company to help cover debts.

The governor of the central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, speaking on Russian television, said the interest rate decision had been made to stanch the fall of the ruble. In its moves, the Russian central bank also increased allotments of dollars to the Russian banking system to finance the purchase of rubles as part of the effort to stabilize the currency.

“We have to learn to live in a different zone, to orient ourselves more toward our own sources of financing,” she said. In her televised remarks, Ms. Nabiullina said Russia would not resort to capital controls to stem the ruble’s fall.

But traders have long fretted that Ms. Nabiullina, a former economy minister, lacked the political spine to stand up to Mr. Putin or his longtime allies like Mr. Sechin. And yet, though the absence of any credible independence by the central bank is at the heart of the ruble crisis today, it is unclear any figure in Russia could provide it given the ever more authoritarian nature of Mr. Putin’s rule.

Aleksei L. Kudrin, a former finance minister, wrote on Twitter that “the fall of the ruble and the stock market is not just a reaction to the low price of oil and to sanctions, but also due to a lack of confidence in the government’s economic policy.”

McArdle indicates that the corruption aspect of this crisis is perhaps the worst thing about it for Russia, because it indicates weakness, and a perhaps fatal flaw, in the regime. If oil prices rebound, Russia’s crisis won’t be over:

This tells us many things, all bad: that the central bank is not strong enough to resist President Vladimir Putin; that Putin is desperate enough to print money to cover Rosneft’s problems; that capital controls may well be in the offing (so oligarchs and traders are eager to get their money out of the country); that Russia’s financial situation is spinning out of control.

Larison says that Obama would be a fool to sign the new Russian sanctions bill, in part because it will only make a situation that is grave and highly volatile in Russia even worse.

Walter Russell Mead says Putin is cornered:

One hopes for the sake of the long-suffering people of Russia that Putin somehow finds it in himself to turn away from the very dark path that now lies before him. But it won’t be an easy thing to do. He’s gone out on such a limb in Ukraine, introduced such a poisonously chauvinistic public mood in Russia, and alienated so many potential partners and interlocutors in the West that it will be extremely difficult for him to defuse the crisis while remaining in power.

The path of least resistance for Putin is the path of greatest danger for Russia; we shall see what choices he now makes—and we shall see if he has so thoroughly mastered Russia’s oligarchs and institutions that no effective opposition to him is possible even if he pushes the country further down the road to isolation and ruin.

I can’t think of another country that is as culturally great as Russia, and that has suffered more from bad government. Putin has made his own bed, and now he’s lying in it. Whether or not he survives this crisis, the most worrying thing is who comes after Putin. I don’t think we in the West are going to like him.

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Dismal St. Dismas

Roger Mahony, retired Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, the godfather of Southern California Catholicism (Photo: Salina Canizales/Flickr)
Roger Mahony, retired Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, the godfather of Southern California Catholicism (Photo: Salina Canizales/Flickr)

I’ve been wondering when First Things was going to publish this story. Its author is a Catholic friend of mine. I know the name of the school. The writer is not making it up. Read on:

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in the Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work—cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.”

More, about the parish to which the school is attached:

Fr. Dave knows better than to suggest to his flock how to live as Catholics. He does not speak of sin. Ever. He does not discuss the saints, devotions, the rosary or prayer of any kind, marriage, death, the sacraments, Catholic family life, the Devil, the poor, the sick, the elderly, the young, mercy, forgiveness, or any other aspect of the Catholic faith that might be useful to a layperson. His homilies are the worst sort of lukewarm application of the day’s Gospel reading—shopworn sermons that sound very much like they were copied word for word from a book of Gospel reflections published in 1975. No one in the pews ever discusses his homilies as far as I can tell.

Read the whole thing. Fr. Dave seems to understand his parishioners well. St. Dismas’s is in Laodicea Beach, sounds like.

Serious question: why do people attend churches like this? How do they continue on? Why do people send their kids to Catholic schools like this? Anonymous says that the teachers aren’t practicing Catholics, and neither are the parents.

I’m not asking rhetorically. I really want to know. How do these parishes and schools survive?

UPDATE: Reader Lorenz says that in some cases, Father Dave is exactly what people want:

An opposite case then Father Dave in the article. In Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, Alberta a wonderful Polish priest showed up two years ago. He began preaching solid Catholic homilies. He spoke of sin and how it separates us from God. He spoke of the machinations of the devil. He spoke of (gasp) marriage being between one man and one woman. He spoke against contraception and abortion. He moved the blessed sacrament behind the altar and he replaced a resurecifix with a crucifix. This was too much. Members of the parish council complained to the Archdiocese of Edmonton and had a sympathetic ear from parasitic bureaucrats there with no fondness for the faith. A year ago he was removed from the parish. The message is clear. Priests are not expected to challenge parishioners with the powerful and sometimes uncomfortable teachings of the faith but give lukewarm therapeutic feel good sermons. They are expected to operate just like Father Dave. Live a celibate life and perform weddings and funerals for people who never attend church and provide base sacraments without substance. Not a surprise that there is no surplus of men interested in this deal.


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Vatican To Radical Nuns: ‘Never Mind’

Tide goes out on American nuns Michael Foley/Flickr
Tide goes out on American nuns Michael Foley/Flickr

Bet you forgot about the apostolic visitation of women’s religious orders in the United States, ordered by Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a short list of why the then-Pope ordered the investigation. The one-line answer is that most (but not all) American women’s religious orders are embracing and teaching serious heresy, and are in absolute freefall in terms of membership.

In May of this year, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the CDF (the Vatican’s doctrinal office), strongly criticized the American nuns for going all-out for New Age wackjobbery. That criticism by the Pope’s doctrinal watchdog made it seem that Pope Francis was just as concerned about the abandonment of Catholicism by the American nuns as Pope Benedict was.

Well, now the Vatican’s summary report on the American nun investigation has been released. From the NYT’s report:

Vatican investigation of American nuns started under the previous pope, which prompted protests from outraged Catholics, ended in Rome on Tuesday with the release of a generally appreciative report that acknowledged the achievements and the challenges the nuns face given their dwindling ranks.

The relatively warm tone in the report, and at the Vatican news conference that released it, was a far cry from six years ago when the investigation was announced, creating fear, anger and mistrust among women in religious communities and convents across the United States.

What changed? The canning (in the final year of Benedict’s papacy) of Cardinal Franc Rodé, who had overseen the investigation:

Cardinal Rodé was replaced as head of the Vatican’s office on religious orders, and the report was finished in 2012 under Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, who said he wanted to “rebuild trust” with the nuns. Francis, who was elected last year, has said repeatedly that he wants to create more opportunities for women to have decision-making roles in the Vatican, and in church leadership.

Cardinal Braz implicitly condemned his predecessor for being too harsh, and said that the Vatican has started “to listen again.”

Here’s a link to the Vatican’s summary report. It’s a total and complete whiff. So, crisis averted. The radical nuns can carry on with their work. The only comfort Catholic conservatives and traditionalists can take from it is that the problem of the heretical orders will be solved shortly by the march of time. From the Vatican report:

Today, the median age of apostolic women religious in the United States is in the mid-to-late 70s. The current number of approximately 50,000 apostolic women religious is a decline of about 125,000 since the mid-1960s, when the numbers of religious in the United States had reached their peak.

By the way, a recent Georgetown study found that the belief that the orthodox women’s religious orders are booming with vocations versus the heterodox (my term) ones is a myth. That study also found that there are as many nuns in the US under the age of 60 as there are over the age of 90. By 2030, the problem that prompted the Vatican’s visitation will have solved itself, if morbidly.

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Jindal for POTUS (Preacher of the US)


This is discouraging:

Gov. Bobby Jindal will host a mass prayer rally on the LSU campus in January called “The Response,” sponsored by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group based out of Mississippi.

American Family is covering the cost of the event, scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Maravich Assembly Center. The mass meeting is billed as a group meditation — a response, if you will — to the multiple crises facing the country.

“What we really need in these United States is a spiritual revival. … It is time to turn back to God,” said Jindal in a video invitation to The Response. “It’s time to light the spark that starts the spiritual revival that will put these United States of America back on the right path.”

Why is this discouraging? Here’s what happened the last time the AFA hosted a “prayer rally” featuring a leading Republican governor who was considering running for president:

Standing on a stage surrounded by thousands of fellow Christians on Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called on Jesus to bless and guide the nation’s military and political leaders and “those who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.”

“Lord, you are the source of every good thing,” Mr. Perry said, as he bowed his head, closed his eyes and leaned into a microphone at Reliant Stadium here. “You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”

In a 13-minute address, Mr. Perry read several passages from the Bible during a prayer rally he sponsored. Thousands of people stood or kneeled in the aisles or on the concrete floor in front of the stage, some wiping away tears and some shouting, “Amen!”

The rally was seen as one of the biggest tests of Mr. Perry’s political career, coming as he nears a decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination for president. While the event will be sure to help Mr. Perry if he tries to establish himself as the religious right’s favored candidate, it also opens him up to criticism for mixing religion and politics in such a grand and overtly Christian fashion.

In many ways, the rally was unprecedented, even in Texas, where faith and politics have long intersected without much controversy — the governor, as both a private citizen and an elected leader, delivering a message to the Lord at a Christian prayer rally he created, while using his office’s prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote it. Mr. Perry said he wanted people of all faiths to attend, but Christianity dominated the service and the religious affiliations of the crowd. The prayers were given in Jesus Christ’s name, and the many musical performers sang of Christian themes of repentance and salvation.

Several days later, Rick Perry announced he was running for president in 2012.

It’s hard to imagine that Jindal will benefit outside Religious Right circles from being yoked to the AFA. The Times-Picayune reported on what the AFA has been up to lately, and included a “prayer guide” that the organization distributed when it announced the Jindal-led rally:

The prayer guide – which appeared to be a few years old and outdated — was pulled from The Response’s website Friday (Dec. 12). Before it was taken down, it contained the following language:

“We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation ‘under God’ it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.

“This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.”

Here’s the thing. I bet there’s not much distance between Bobby Jindal and me about the need for a spiritual revival in America. I bet we share the same moral views about most things. But I find it exasperating that once again, a Republican politician is conflating his own political ambitions with the Gospel, and once again, a prominent Religious Right organization is conflating the Gospel with the ambitions of a Republican politician.

Jindal’s people are saying that this will not be a political rally, but one that focuses solely on matters of the spirit. Nonsense. Anything involving the governor of a state, especially one who is widely believed to be planning a run for the White House, is political. And we have the Rick Perry precedent. It seems that Jindal is trying to become the standard-bearer of the Evangelical-fundamentalist wing of the GOP. I don’t think Jindal has, well, a prayer of being the GOP nominee, but he’s angling for the No. 2 slot on the ticket. If he can deliver the Religious Right bloc, that’s something.

I am not an Evangelical, nor am I a fundamentalist, but I am a religious and social conservative who certainly would like to have a president who shared my beliefs and concerns. But one of the biggest mistakes we Christian conservatives make is thinking that electing politicians who share our views is going to straighten the country out. How many times do we have to learn this lesson? It doesn’t work, and only serves to make the world think that the Body of Christ is the Republican Party at prayer. I’m not all that worried about religion corrupting politics (and any liberals who are ought to first pluck the log of liberal religious political activism out of their own eyes), because religious believers, progressive and conservative alike, have a right to bring their faith to the public square.

I’m worried about politics corrupting religion, which has been a particular problem on the Right. I’m worried about politics corrupting the way American society sees the Christian faith, but I’m more worried about politics corrupting the way American Christians see our faith. Bobby Jindal is not helping. Ronald Reagan didn’t die for our sins, and though we should hope and pray for righteous leaders, no president of the United States can take away the sin of the world.

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COBs for TAC

Best motivation for a TAC donor ever! From a reader of this here blog:

Rod, even though I’m totally on the other side from you I just donated as well. If I had more available would donate more. Mainly because I’m a cranky old bitch that appreciates great writing and thinks that we need to have good thinkers on all sides.

I’m skeptical about conservatism because I see it used far too often as justification used by privileged people to keep themselves on top and not share the goodies. But if I argue with conservatives, I’d rather argue with conservatives who use reason and logic, rather than some screaming talk-show host who flails around and calls me a “feminazi”.

Bless you, COB. You complete me. I know this was Beatrice Arthur from beyond the grave.

Have you donated yet? Won’t you help us? Here, let this encourage you. What other right-wing site are you going to get this blast of 1970s Americana?:

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Sony Gets the Kim Jong-un Treatment

Have you been following the ongoing saga of all the Sony Pictures’ internal documents seized by hackers and put into the public realm? It has been incredible, and a massive humiliation to all kinds of Hollywood professionals, whose private, often scathing, opinions of each other’s work are now in the public realm (to say nothing of Social Security numbers and all kinds of private data). You can get into the weeds by searching Gawker. Here’s the NYT’s report today. Excerpt:

Then, last month, hackers unleashed one of the most punishing cyberattacks on a major corporation in recent memory, pilfering private emails, detailed summaries of executive salaries, and even digital copies of several unreleased Sony films that they posted online. It remains a mystery who was responsible.

Suspicion has fallen on Mr. Kim’s Bureau 121, an elite cyberunit, or patriotic hackers. But experts say pro-North Korea messages left behind could be a ruse to cover the hackers’ real tracks.

What is clear is that by deciding to go ahead with the film, Sony stumbled into a geopolitical mess complete with all the elements of a Hollywood thriller: international intrigue, once imperious, now humiliated, film executives, strong-willed leading men and highly sophisticated cyberattackers. The studio’s first miscalculation, film experts say, was in venturing beyond where big-budget moviemakers dared to go in the past.

“The gory killing of a sitting foreign leader is new territory for a big studio movie,” said Jeanine Basinger, a professor of film studies at Wesleyan University.

The film depicts Kim Jong-un, the porcine megalomaniac who rules the decrepit commie wasteland, being assassinated. And not just being assassinated:

According to hacked emails published by other media and interviews with people briefed on the matter, [Kazuo Hirai, Sony's Japanese president] insisted over the summer that a scene in which Mr. Kim’s head explodes when hit by a tank shell be toned down to remove images of flaming hair and chunks of skull.

Good grief. The film is a comedy.

The Times reports that Seth Rogen, one of the film’s stars, reacted harshly against the editing proposed by the Sony chief in Tokyo:

In one email, Mr. Hirai approves a newly altered assassination shot that had “no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire.”

At one point in the tug of war over the script, Mr. Rogen weighed in with an angry email to Ms. Pascal. “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy,” he wrote. “That is a very damning story.”

I despise North Korea, and may well go see The Interview just because it makes Kim Jong-un angry. As a general principle, artists and writers should have the legal right to create works that offend the political and religious sensibilities of others. But the arrogance of Seth Rogen here really chaps me. The president of Sony lives in a country that is a neighbor of North Korea’s, and which is threatened by North Korean missile overflights. If a war should break out, the North Koreans, who are insane, would likely bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities. This is not a joke for Kazuo Hirai.

In a perfect world, Seth Rogen would get to make his gory comedy, Pyongyang would scream its head off, and the world would keep on turning. But this is not a perfect world. The idea that Hirai should be willing to take on the moral responsibility for provoking those lunatics to wage an act of war on his country just so Seth Rogen can show Kim Jong-un’s face melting is pretty arrogant.

Kim Jong-un is a sitting head of state. It would be shocking for a movie to show President Obama or Angela Merkel being gruesomely murdered, and offensive if it did so for comic value. Why should this not offend the North Koreans? Plus, remember, they are batsh*t crazy, and have a million man army. 

Freedom of expression is very important, but it’s not a moral absolute. Personally, I don’t care if Kim has his feelings hurt. He’s a monster. But if I were Japanese, living with that loon in my backyard, I would be a lot more worried about this than I am as an American. And if I were the head of Sony, my responsibility to my employees, my company’s interests, and to my countrymen would weigh a lot more heavily in my mind than the demands of an American filmmaker. Frankly, I’m surprised that Hirai let it go this far.

I had something of an education on this point at a conference of international journalists in 2006. I couldn’t understand why some of the journalists present believed that it was legitimate to conceal information about suspects in murder cases — their religion, specifically. The truth is the truth, right? Some journalists from Bangladesh and India explained to me that sectarian hatred runs so high in their countries that if they observed American standards of reporting, scores of people would die in rioting — and had done in the past.

I had to concede their point. It’s easy to defend freedom of expression, even in hard cases, in a culture where free speech is commonly understood to be a basic value. It is also easy to defend it when the object of your extremely hostile speech isn’t a heavily armed lunatic living right next door.

Again, I wish Rogen et alia well with the film. Anything that ruins Kim Jong-un’s day can’t be all bad. But I understand Kazuo Hirai’s concern, and think he is not a villain here.

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The Desecration of Chartres

You will never see this image of the Black Madonna of Chartres again. She and her Child have been painted over. (Photo: Walwyn/Flickr)
You will never see this image of the Black Madonna of Chartres again. She and her Child have been painted over. (Photo: Walwyn/Flickr)


When I was last in the cathedral of Chartres, I saw a lot of scaffolding — the apse was full of it, and you couldn’t get close — but I did not realize what was going on. I thought they were cleaning the place. It turns out that they are — get this — painting it. Martin Filler was there recently, and was scandalized:

Carried away by the splendors of the moment, I did not initially realize that something was very wrong. I had noticed the floor-to-ceiling scrim-covered scaffolding near the crossing of the nave and transepts, but had assumed it was routine maintenance. But my more attentive wife, the architectural historian Rosemarie Haag Bletter—who as a Columbia doctoral candidate took courses on Romanesque sculpture with the legendary Meyer Schapiro and Gothic architecture with the great medievalist Robert Branner—immediately noticed that large areas of the sanctuary’s deep gray limestone surface had been painted.

The first portion she pointed out was a pale ochre wall patterned with thin, perpendicular white lines mimicking mortar between masonry blocks. Looking upward we then saw panels of blue faux marbre, high above them gilded column capitals and bosses (the ornamental knobs where vault ribs intersect), and, nearby, floor-to-ceiling piers covered in glossy yellow trompe l’oeil marbling, like some funeral parlor in Little Italy.

How could this be happening, and why had we heard nothing about it before?


In this part of the cathedral one can already determine how the lighter wall colors change our perception of the incomparable stained glass, whose effect is hugely diminished by their new surroundings. Whereas the old, age-darkened masonry heightened the intense colors of the windows, the new paint subverts them. As Adrien Goetz wrote in Le Figaro last month (in one of the very few critical accounts of the overhaul in France), the new effect is like “watching a film in a movie theater where they haven’t turned off the lights.”

Take a look at the Filler piece, and see the before and after photo of the famed Black Madonna. She and the Christ Child now look like a piece of Baroque marzipan. Unbelievable.

You can’t blame the Church for this wreckovation; I’m fairly sure that the Chartres cathedral belongs to the State, as does Notre Dame de Paris.

Back in 2009, the Independent published an upbeat report on the repainting, which had just begun. Excerpt:

Mr Fresson [the historian overseeing the renovation -- RD] expects some visitors to Chartres to be taken aback – maybe even angered – by the transformation. “There is no doubt that we will lose something, even if we gain a great deal,” he said. “The sense of mystery, the sense of the passing ages, which you receive when you enter the dark interior of today will be replaced by something fresher and much more dynamic.”

Yes, we cannot have a sense of mystery. Freshness and dynamism, that’s the ticket. Good Lord. You expect this in America, but in France?

I am grateful that I was able to see the cathedral as it was. My children will live their entire lives without that privilege.

(Via Micah Mattix’s daily arts & culture digest Prufrock. Subscribe for free; you’ll be glad you did.)

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The Value of an Elizabeth Warren Run

Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave ‘em hell on the Senate floor this past Friday, ripping into the influence of Citigroup and the Wall Street banks in the wake of the must-pass Cromnibus budget bill. Watch the speech above, but if you don’t have time, read the transcript. Excerpts:

Fact two: During Dodd-Frank, there was an amendment introduced by my colleague Senator Brown and Senator Kaufman that would have broken up Citigroup and the nation’s other largest banks. That amendment had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks—and now Citi is bigger than ever.

The role that senior officials working in the Treasury department played in killing the amendment was not subtle: A senior Treasury official acknowledged it at the time in a background interview with New York Magazine. The official from Treasury said, and I’m quoting here, “If we’d been for it, it probably would have happened. But we weren’t, so it didn’t.” That’s power.

Mr. President, Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts. And yet here we are — five years after Dodd-Frank – with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for middle class, do nothing for community banks – do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again.
There’s a lot of talk lately about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect.

So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect.

It should have broken you into pieces.


A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt was America’s trustbuster. He went after the giant trusts and monopolies in this country, and a lot of people talk about how those trusts deserved to be broken up because they had too much economic power. But Teddy Roosevelt said we should break them up because they had too much political power. Teddy Roosevelt said break them up because all that concentrated power threatened the very foundations of our democratic system.

And now we’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of the country. And it’s attached to a bill that needs to pass or else the entire federal government will grind to a halt.

Think about this kind of power. A financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is a reason enough for us break them up. Enough is enough.

Read the whole thing. Preach it, lady.

We don’t endorse candidates at TAC, and I want to make it very clear that nothing I write ever should be read as an endorsement of Elizabeth Warren or any politician, Republican or Democrat. But I hope that Sen. Warren will run for president in 2016 to force a national conversation on the Washington-Wall Street power nexus. Hillary Clinton won’t talk about it. You know that no Republican presidential candidate will talk about it (with the possible — possible — exception of Rand Paul). We all need to be talking about it.

A populist who talks like Elizabeth Warren and really means it is a Democrat a conservative like me would consider voting for, despite her social liberalism. As Phyllis Schlafly said back in 1964, in defending Goldwater against the Establishment Republican Nelson Rockefeller, a contest between Warren and Clinton, and a contest between Warren and just about any Republican would give the country a choice, not an echo. She almost certainly couldn’t beat Hillary for the 2016 nomination, but a Warren candidacy would get her name and her issues out there.

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