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Tradition And Traditions

Greetings from Munich. This week, I have been in Trento, in northern Italy, attending a conference about the role of Tradition in contemporary American, European, and Russian life. I was there with a group of academics from all three places. The conference was more of a workshop than a formal event. I’m still trying to get my thoughts about what I heard sorted, but I do want to present you with some preliminary insights.

To protect the anonymity of the participants, I will not identify them or attribute particular comments to particular persons. It’s not that people said anything scandalous, but rather that I wanted people to be free to say what was on their minds without having to worry about being quoted. I will honor that here. I am also hesitant to attribute this or that view to members of a particular group, because it is possible, even likely, that those within the group dissent. Please read what follows as subject to clarification or correction. I offer all of this to spark discussion here.

With that out of the way, here we go.

I noticed at the beginning a sense among many of us that the others had an unrealistic idea of what conditions were in our own home countries. For example, the Russians were eager to counter the view of American traditionalists (like me) that looks to Russia as a defender of traditional Christian moral and religious values. Some of the Russians present are religious believers, others are not, but there seems to be a general consensus that there is much less to this religious revival in Russia than sympathetic Americans think.

One Russian contended that what is being reborn in Russia is not Christian tradition but Soviet tradition that has been lightly baptized. He said that the trauma of totalitarian communist rule destroyed Russian Orthodox traditions. The only clergy who survived the persecution were those who collaborated with the Soviets.

Other Russians disagreed with this. Nevertheless, it seemed to me useful to consider in our own American context how what we call “traditional values” may not really be all that traditional. It is surely true that in some cases, we are investing a particular set of political, or cultural-political, stances with the authority of tradition. This is misleading. “Tradition” can be a useful concept for pushing through a political agenda. Some of the Russians talked about how what is being portrayed as a religious revival is actually little more than a revival of nationalism, with religious sanction.

We may argue over what “tradition” means in Russia and in various European societies, but nobody denies that traditions exist. As I rode the train north through the Alps of Italy, Austria, and Bavaria, I was struck repeatedly by the age of the built landscape. Look at that medieval church built on that outcropping. Does anybody pray in it anymore? Maybe not, but cultural memory is hard to avoid. Tradition took particular forms — artistic, architectural, social, and so forth — as it evolved in European countries.

Not so in the US. What does “tradition” mean in a country and society where the tradition is anti-traditional? America is an Enlightenment nation, which was consciously and affirmatively anti-traditional. Our dynamism as Americans comes in large part from our anti-traditional orientation, including our individualism.

This, I think, accounted for the difficulties that some of the non-American participants had grasping how quickly and radically the situation is changing in the United States. Even though all of us come from countries and societies that are in transition, Europe and Russia have more stable traditions — not necessarily religious ones. I might be wrong about this, but I intuit that this has something to do with why the Manif Pour Tous movement to preserve the forms and privileges of traditional marriages and families emerged in France but not the United States — even though the level of religiosity is much higher in the US.

One of the European participants who reads this blog said that it is hard to believe that things in the US are as dire as this blog often depicts them. Several of the Americans (other than me) affirmed that yes, they are — particularly in academia. They offered particular accounts of how discussions regarding gender and sexuality that ought to be a normal part of the educational process are now off-limits — and the professional and personal costs of violating these new, severe taboos. How do you defend any kind of tradition that conflicts with these norms when dissenting from them can mean social and professional ostracism at best, and career suicide at worst?

Moreover, this new, rigidly intolerant way of thinking is colonizing the minds of the younger generation of Americans. One professor said that his students simply cannot understand why any decent person would disagree with them on LGBT matters. This is not a matter of them thinking that the moral or religious traditionalist is wrong. It is a matter of the older view being utterly incomprehensible. It is, therefore, either wicked, morally insane, or both. In private conversation, I related the story of a theologian I know who cannot risk teaching in his Catholic university what the Catholic Church proclaims is moral truth on sexuality — not even as a topic for classroom discussion. He fears that his students will protest that he has created an “unsafe space” in the classroom, will protest to the university administration, and he will be sanctioned or fired.

The idea that a professor cannot even discuss things like marriage, family, and religious freedom as they relate to LGBT matters unless he takes the pro-LGBT line without reservation — this was hard for some of the non-Americans to comprehend.

One of the Russians expressed frustration that the most contentious issues regarding religion and tradition have to do with homosexuality. He believes that Christianity has nothing to do with homosexuality, and that Christians who insist that it does are making a big deal out of nothing important. This was a minority view among the Russian delegation, though some of those more sympathetic to Orthodox tradition said that the strong hostility to LGBT issues in Russia has a lot more to do with sheer prejudice than with theological reflection. This they rightly deplore — and they certainly expressed disgust with the cruelty and abuses that thugs are heaping upon gay Russians.

On the other hand, things have gone so far in the opposite direction in the US, and for the same reason (mindless prejudice and hatred of the Other), that it is easy for us traditionalist Americans to understand why Russians have so much hostility to the idea of expanding gay rights. And it’s easy why Russians would take the lesson from our example that expanding tolerance on LGBT issues only opens the door to radical intolerance once LGBT activists and their supporters gain the upper hand.

The question of Islam arose as well. Modern laws, in both Europe and the US, are based not on religion, but on a secular conception of rights. True, secular liberalism emerged out of Christianity, but takes a more neutral stance towards particular religions. How will European countries deal with believing Muslims among them? Believing Christians within European nations may now be a minority, but nobody expects them to disturb the civil peace. That’s not true with Muslims, obviously. Yes, yes, not all Muslims, and so forth. But no serious person in Europe today believes that they don’t have a very, very difficult problem on their hands. Besides which, how do you respect the legitimate desires of Muslim Europeans to live by their own traditions? Where do you draw the line?

Obviously we don’t have nearly this problem in the US, owing in part to the fact that we are much better at assimilating immigrants, and that we don’t have a large Muslim population. I sensed within myself, at least, a struggle to get inside the heads of Europeans regarding Islam in their civilization. As an American who strongly believes in religious freedom, my first impulse is always to defer to maximal religious expression. Yet that ideal cannot obscure the fact that Europeans face an immensely dangerous and complex problem. One question the emerges from it: How do a people whose religious traditions are diminishing in importance fare when confronted by a minority people whose devotion to religious tradition is strong?

At one point, the group talked about how hard it is to establish and preserve a modus vivendi (way of living peaceably together) in a pluralistic society. One speaker said that if one side gets too much power, it becomes impossible to do. He said that the United States is not there yet. I disagreed, saying that we are very much getting there with the clash between LGBT rights and religious liberty. The secular elites — political, business, media, entertainment — having either gone over to the progressive side, or, in the case of conservative politicians and far too many religious leaders, having chosen to avoid speaking out for fear of being called bigots — has tipped the balance. What many of my fellow cultural and religious conservatives don’t grasp is that in a short while, the balance among the people will also tip to the pro-LGBT side, given that traditional views are disproportionately concentrated among older Americans.

And then what? One of the problems I see with the stance taken by Prof. Robert George of Princeton (see this short video conversation on the Benedict Option with George and Sen. Ben Sasse) is that the to-the-culture-war-barricades stance he takes is radically insufficient. I agree with him that we have to fight as hard as we can! But what good will our freedoms do us if we have lost our own internal cultures? The Benedict Option is not an either-or, but a both-and — with greater emphasis on cultural formation, not legal and political combat. Anyway, I will write more about the George-Sasse conversation later.

Another topic: one professor brought up what he termed “the Hasidic mistake,” defined as believing that preserving authentic Jewish tradition requires dressing like 18th century shtetl-dwellers. He certainly has a point. On the other hand, it’s also the case that ideals have to be instantiated materially — in art, architecture, customs, practices, and yes, even clothing. The trick is determining which of those things are vital to keeping the tradition alive, and which are not. And that brings us back to the point that some of the Russians made at the conference’s beginning: that what constitutes authentic tradition is a matter of real and consequential dispute. An American law professor observed that in the US, the progressives are trying to redefine religious liberty as the more restrictive “freedom of worship,” and calling it consistent with American tradition, though it certainly is not.

Later, walking through the streets of Trento and talking, one of the American conferees said he was struck by how different the Russians’ problems were from ours, but also how similar. Both of us are dealing with the role of the State with regard to the life of religious believers — in the Russian case, with the State bigfooting everything, in part through political co-optation, and in the American case with the State moving towards restricting religious liberty. It occurs to me that the weakness of religious tradition in both countries as a counterforce to modernity accounts for the common crisis.

The Russians who brought up my book The Benedict Option [1] were somewhat critical of it (constructively, I might add, which was welcome), but they all agreed that it should be translated and published in Russia, because the thesis is relevant to Russia’s own struggles. That surprised and gratified me, as did the interest the European conferees showed in the book. I finished this post on the train from Trento to Munich, where Matt and I will be staying with some Catholic fans of The Benedict Option [1]. I look forward to hearing their ideas, and learning how we tradition-minded Christians can all work together. It has been a good week for that kind of fellowship.

79 Comments (Open | Close)

79 Comments To "Tradition And Traditions"

#1 Comment By schmenz On June 16, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

The sympathy expressed by some of your Russians toward homosexuality is, I doubt, very widespread over there. Religious feeling or no religious feeling, the natural disgust for this unspeakable perversion is part of human nature. (And by the way, Mr Dreher, there is nothing “gay” about someone placing his generative organ into another’s excretory one.)

No religious revival? Tell that to the hundreds of thousands in Russia now lining up to view and pray before the relics of St Nicholas which were brought to Russia by the Vatican.

#2 Comment By Rob G On June 16, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

“You can say that, yes, those institutions were overall more sympathetic to GLBT, but only in hindsight compared to the rest of the culture.”

Well, no. They’ve been pretty much on-board with ‘gay liberation’ at least since the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973, and they were certainly huge backers of SSM.

#3 Comment By Luther Blisset On June 16, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

I’d agree with the poster above that “Traditionalism” is mostly a modern construct. If you actually take the time to understand culture and how culture changes through the plethora of human variations, you will understand that even “traditions” as such change radically from generation to generation, and depends largely on socio-economic circumstances.

Tradition is largely arbitrary; just looking at how Christianity is constructed, for instance, not based on empirical facts (like what Jesus *actually* said, but instead the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated). That is, it’s not based on empirical facts, but arbitrary decisions made by people — usually for a political purpose, not a divinely ordained one.

Basically “Traditionalism” is more or less the right-wing version of the left-wing “virtue signaling” phenomenon. Traditionalism becomes another consumer good to be sold on the market, its speakers basically salesmen of ideology.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 16, 2017 @ 9:02 pm

the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated

And you know this… how?

#5 Comment By VikingLS On June 16, 2017 @ 9:35 pm

“Given that Christian traditionalists voted en masse for a presidential candidate who is thrice married and an unrepentant serial adulterer, I’d say that ship has already sailed. Many traditionalists are clearly A-OK with adultery. ”

Given that many liberal progressives voted for a warmongering Wall Street tool who thought Israelis bragging about their body counts was a good thing I guess we can say that liberal progressives have decided they are a-ok with war and possible genocide and the plundering of this nation by the financial elite.

You people need to knock this off. Your candidate was a monster in her own right and you know it.

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 16, 2017 @ 11:19 pm

“[NFR: Well, keep in mind that Russian Orthodoxy is not the same thing as Orthodoxy, in the sense that the Orthodox faith does not require that the state and the church be intertwined. — RD]”

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been outlawed in Russia just now, and all assets and worship properties seized. People are now being arrested and sentenced to many years in prison for meeting together to worship even informally.

Last century in America, JW’s refused to fight in both world wars. During the first, some were imprisoned then murdered at Ft. Leavenworth, along with Mennonites and others who would not violate their consciences.

[NFR: It’s awful, I agree, but please understand that this is a Russian thing, not an Orthodox thing. There is nothing in Orthodoxy that requires the persecution of JWs. — RD]

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 16, 2017 @ 11:21 pm

“the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated”

Just where did this “clairvoyance” of yours come from, except wishful and bogus personal opinion?

#8 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 16, 2017 @ 11:32 pm

Schmenz,

There is a religious revival in Russia in the sense that people are more religious than they were back when they were run by an officially atheist state. Russia is still a less religious, and by most measures less morally ‘traditionalist” society than America, even though it’s also a less liberal one. For one example: public approval of both premarital and extramarital sex, as expressed in opinion surveys, is higher in Russia than in America.

#9 Comment By Red brick On June 17, 2017 @ 12:12 am

I don’t understand the “the Hasidic mistake” statement.

Unlike the rest of Jews (replacement level fertility) the Hasidic are growing almost as fast as the Amish.

Doubling in population ever 20-30 years.

They will be the majority in Israel by 2060 and the majority of all Jews by the end of the century.

For a pure numbers game there is no “Hasidic mistake”

#10 Comment By Alex Duvall On June 17, 2017 @ 8:50 am

“see this short video conversation on the Benedict Option with George and Sen. Ben Sasse” was not linked. I would be interested in seeing this video as, like many Christian Americans, I’m trying to prayerfully balance strengthening what remains with still having some Godly influence on the culture. Thanks for continuing a much needed discussion!

#11 Comment By Rob G On June 17, 2017 @ 10:05 am

“Tradition is largely arbitrary; just looking at how Christianity is constructed, for instance, not based on empirical facts (like what Jesus *actually* said, but instead the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated).”

This would be quite a surprise to all those Christians who lived prior to 1611.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 17, 2017 @ 7:36 pm

NFR: It’s awful, I agree, but please understand that this is a Russian thing, not an Orthodox thing.

That’s what I keep saying about Stalinism. It was a Russian thing, not a communist thing.

Given that many liberal progressives voted for a warmongering Wall Street tool who thought Israelis bragging about their body counts was a good thing I guess we can say that liberal progressives have decided they are a-ok with war and possible genocide and the plundering of this nation by the financial elite.

Well, what those of us to the left of that mess have been pointing out for some time, is that this is EXACTLY what liberalism is all about. Always has been. Liberals made the British Empire … Liberals got us into Vietnam, Kosovo, Korea, the Great Imperialist War (later known as WW I).

#13 Comment By I Don’t Matter On June 17, 2017 @ 10:51 pm

“You people need to knock this off. Your candidate was a monster in her own right and you know it.”

Yes she was awful. But what does this have to do with the fact that your morals seem to be only important as long as they don’t get in the way of something you want? Don’t you realize that no one who’s not you is going to “knock it off”? That these protestations only reinforce the hypocrisy of your “moral majority” BS? That if you hope to slow down the liberal juggernaut you may want to at least pretend that your morals are, you know, actually important for you, so that those who are inclined to be persuaded and take your side could have something to hang on? At least try, for crying out loud!

#14 Comment By Reader John On June 18, 2017 @ 7:20 am

Last September, Albert Mohler interviewed Alan Jacobs, following up on Jacobs’ Harpers article The Watchmen: What Became of the Christian Intellectuals?
One thread of their discussion reminds me that the Benedict Option, insofar as it stands for building parallel consciously Christian institutions to preserve and channel the Christian tradition, even at the price of less “public involvement,” is nothing new, not even in the U.S.
Jacobs:
“…Christians—orthodox, biblical, Nicene Christians, evangelicals, yes, but also traditionalist Catholics—found themselves in a situation where the intelligentsia and educated classes were to some degree drifting away from them. It was becoming more difficult for them to get a hearing. They became concerned, I think, to make sure that their positions didn’t get lost, that their positions were passed down to the next generation of believers. They chose to do that primarily—not exclusively by any means—but primarily by building up Christian institutions … They were able to build themselves up, and strengthen themselves in such a way that they were able to pass down core Christian convictions to the next generation. But the more energy you spend doing that, the less energy is left over to be a player in the larger, broader, especially secular, culture. And, I’m not sure, I don’t think any of those people were wrong to make the choice that they made.”

#15 Comment By JonF On June 18, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

Re: the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated

There are reasons to take issue with some of the choices of the translators, but not to suggest they were willfully dishonest.

Re: Tradition is largely arbitrary;

“Arbitrary” is the wrong word here. “Contingent (upon history’s turnings)” is more correct. For example, what would the English (and American) Christian tradition be today if Henry VIII’s firstborn son had lived, obviating the reason for the annulment he sought? Or if the Italian Wars had gone differently, freeing Pope Clement from the power of Charles V and probably leaving him willing to grant the annulment Henry sought?
Tradition is history still living is us. We are free to judge that history as wise or foolish, virtuous or sinful, but not to dismiss it as meaningless.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On June 18, 2017 @ 3:10 pm

@I Don’t Matter

That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the double standard. Liberal support for Clinton makes liberals look like hypocrites too.

You seem to want that to only work in one direction, where conservatives (who I guess in your mind are all moral majority types?” can only support people who embody their values perfectly, but liberals can support a candidate that embraces the Wall Street agenda, already waged one destructive war that ruined a country with no hope in sight for its citizens, and was regularly one of the last Democrats to get on board with your social agenda, and somehow you aren’t compromised?

Just saying “she was awful” doesn’t cut it.

So yes, unless you want to talk about Clinton, and the pathetic, craven way Democrats just accepted her being forced on them by the party, despite knowing she was incredibly compromised, and jsut exactly what that says about your morals, or lack thereof, you need to knock it off.

Honestly though, I think conservatives aren’t attacking Democrats and liberals enough right now for their rank hypocrisy, and I think it would be nice if the Socialists treated you more aggressively as well (you really screwed them over).

#17 Comment By I Don’t Matter On June 18, 2017 @ 9:01 pm

@Viking LS:
Yes “we” are. Compromised, tainted, paying the price for ignoring our values and steamrolling Clinton into the “inevitability”. The Dem party screwed up, closed its eyes, plugged its ears, and whistled all the way to the moral dump.
None of this makes so-cons betrayal of their morals any better. Someone else’s sins don’t make yours go away. If you don’t see it, I can’t explain it to you.

#18 Comment By VikingLS On June 19, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

“None of this makes so-cons betrayal of their morals any better. Someone else’s sins don’t make yours go away. If you don’t see it, I can’t explain it to you”

@I Don’t Matter

No, but you seem to be taking great pains to miss my point. I really can’t tell you how much I don’t appreciate it.

NOWHERE at any point did I say that the actions of liberals made the compromise of Conservatives go away.

What I am saying is that liberals who attack conservatives for doing the same thing they did, need to back off on the accusations. You all did it too.

Why is this so hard for you to understand?

#19 Comment By VikingLS On June 19, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

And to clarify a little further.

It’s a two party system. Liberals voting for Clinton don’t necessarily not care about their stated values, and conservatives who voted for Trump don’t necessarily not care about serial adultery.

It’s a two-party system. It just looks and awful like only one party, the Republicans, are being expected to hold up their values.

#20 Comment By I Don’t Matter On June 20, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

Yes, actually it is true: Republicans are expected to stick to their moral values more than Democrats are. This is because Democrats don’t seem to run on moral values nearly to the extent that Republicans do (btw, why Democrats completely cede symbols like the flag, Constitution, patriotism, etc. to the opposition is beyond comprehension).
For years, Republicans made moral values a cornerstone of their campaigns: remember Bush “restoring dignity to the WH”? Democrats not so much (again, “why” is not the issue here). Which is why their enthusiastic abandonment of their morals in 2015-16 is so clashing, and it’s not like Trump was shoved down their throats by the Party apparatchiks the way Clinton was – Trump really was elected in a competitive primary.
So that’s why their wholesale abandonment of their morals for him is so hard to swallow.
See, I don’t matter – the point is that plenty of people in the middle, who were sympathetic, if disagreeing, to so-cons positions as being driven by core values – now will be a lot less willing to do so. And no telling them to cut it out will change it…

#21 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On June 20, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

Interesting discussion. You can reflect on each comment for a long time …
I had a desire to compare the traditions of Russians and Americans and their adherence to conservatism according to their calendar system, the names of the days of the week.
I compared what the days of the week mean in Russian and English and that’s what I got: Sunday was named after the name of the Sun God. Sun, representing the daylight, was the main one in the pantheon of the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon gods. The first day of the week was dedicated to him – “San’z Deg”.
Monday was named after the Goddess of the Moon. The Goddess of the Moon was revered on the second day of the week, which was called “Mun’z Deg”. The deity patronized the pregnant, the parturient women; Travelers and sailors, as well as priestesses of magical practices.
Wednesday was named after the deity of Vouden. God Vouden (or Odin), was the supreme deity of the northern nations. According to legend, the hero came from somewhere in the east, but it is not known from what country and when exactly.
His exploits make up most of the myths of ancient peoples. They are exaggerated so much that they are beyond the probable.
Thursday was dedicated to God Thor. God Thor is the eldest and bravest son of Odin and Frigi. The fifth day of the week was called “Thor’z Deg”
Friday was named after the goddess Frigi. The goddess Frigi, wife of Odin was considered the goddess of the Earth. The sixth day of the week was called in the Saxons “Frigga’s Deg”
Saturday was named in honor of God Seater. It was God of hunting, water and fertility.
The seventh day was called the “Seater’s Dag”
In the Russian language, before the Christian times, the 7 days of the calendar
( the week) were Sedmitsa. Sunday was called the “Nedelya”. On this day, people nothing “did”, rested. Monday in Russian “Ponedelnik” literally means after the day – “Nedelya”. Tuesday in Russian means the second. Wednesday in Russian is medium.Thursday – the fourth. Friday – the fifth. Saturday – . The word goes back to the Hebrew “Shabbat”, meaning “calm, rest”. The first day – “Nedelya”, with the spread of Christianity in Russia renamed on “Voskresenye” and it became the seventh. “Voskresenye” is a word of church origin, and means resurrection. In Orthodox Russia it was customary to visit the church that day. But even in the Soviet Union at the peak of the struggle against religion, the authorities did not dare to rename the religious names of the days of the week. “Nedelya” has been preserved and now this word means 7 calendar days – the week. The English word week comes from the old wice, ultimately from a Germanic root *wik- ” move, change”.
It is still not clear which of the two peoples has stronger Christian traditions?
Americans who go to church pray on Saturday and Sunday or Russians who rarely go to church but prefer to rest on days: “Subota” and “Voskresenye”

#22 Comment By VikingLS On June 20, 2017 @ 7:57 pm

@I Don’t Matter

No, sorry, Democrats also claim moral superiority. Every identity politics position the Democrats take is rooted in the claim that Democrats are morally superior. Even as we speak your part is claiming that Republicans are trying to kill people by repealing Obamacare. I

I will cut Democrats some slack if they’ll back off on the “you are all EVIL for voting for Trump!” Why are you so determined not to do the same?

And yes you DO matter, and you’re accountable for your words, in this life and the next. Don’t forget it.

#23 Comment By Brendan from Oz On June 21, 2017 @ 2:24 am

“Saturday was named in honor of God Seater. It was God of hunting, water and fertility.
The seventh day was called the “Seater’s Dag””

Well, most sources say that Saturday is the only day in the Germanic naming that retains the Latin (Saturn) and in Anglo-Saxon was Sæturnesdæg.

I have heard of Seater and neither has Google, for what it is worth.

#24 Comment By Brendan from Oz On June 21, 2017 @ 2:25 am

Doh! Correction: “I have NEVER heard of Seater and neither has Google …”

#25 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 21, 2017 @ 11:36 am

No, sorry, Democrats also claim moral superiority. Every identity politics position the Democrats take is rooted in the claim that Democrats are morally superior.

That would seem to be self-evident in the Dems’ own words… I don’t know why anyone would challenge it.

Although, Republicans ARE trying to kill people by repealing the Affordable Care Act. I’ve sometimes mulled over asking Senator Johnson why he wants to kill me.

The nature of my paid job, as well as a rather varied life experience, has put me in contact with many people who voted for Trump, and given me a good understanding of the diversity of motives for doing so. I despise those who see some real good in the man, although even some of them are decent people who could as well see some real good in a more robust socialist than Bernie Sanders… a lot of it is about imagery, unfortunately.

But 40-60 percent of voters this election had to hold their nose for whoever they voted to elect. I know what it felt like to hold my nose and vote for Hillary. I can empathize with those who felt they had to hold their nose and vote for Trump.

It may be true that Trump in office will drive many people in the opposite direction. But that is less likely to happen if they face a constant drumbeat about how stupid they were to vote for Trump, nay, treasonous. And, it will be a rather small and short-lived wave if the Dems don’t do some thorough house cleaning. Or, of course, unless voters find some better parties to gravitate to, leaving the GOP and the Dems in the dust-bin of history where both belong.

#26 Comment By pepi On June 21, 2017 @ 11:23 pm

According to a new report by the Public Religion Research Institute, support for religiously based service refusals is quickly declining.

[2]

According to that report, in response to the question “Do you favor allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products and services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs?”

approval rates were

Evangelicals 50%
Mormons 42%
Hispanic Protestants 34%
Catholics 30%
Orthodox Christians 29%

and every other group was under 30%.

It would seem to me that blaming “the lefties and the gays” is ignoring the log in your own eye. If only 30% of Catholics and 29% of Orthodox Christians approve, what does that say about “traditions”?

It would, indeed, seem that the battle is lost and that the BO is required not to shore up the faithful but to bring them back into the fold because 2/3 of them have gone awol.

#27 Comment By JonF On June 22, 2017 @ 7:03 am

Dr. Diprospan

The names of the days in the Germanic languages are translations of the Latin names, which reference the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Notice something about that list? Those are all heavenly bodies. Indeed they are the seven heavenly bodies (other than stars) known before the telescope. The seven day week was imported to Rome not by the Jews or Christians, but by astrologers, since astrology was extremely popular in that era.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 22, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

According to that report, in response to the question “Do you favor allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products and services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs?”

I would answer “no” to that question also. The devil is in the wording of the question. Now, try this question on the same population, you might get very different results:

Do you believe that the constitutional protection against compelled speech should be extended to commercial settings so that small business owners are not required to directly participate in crafting a message or celebrating an event that violates their own religious beliefs?

I know some “religious liberty” advocates go beyond the scope of that question, and I think that’s why they are not making an acceptable case to the general public. But a long-term modus vivendi requires going into the kind of details I’m highlighting here.

I also note that constitutional protections are no more dependent on the ebbs and flows of voting majorities than they are on the whims of crowned monarchs.

#29 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 23, 2017 @ 11:37 am

Tradition is largely arbitrary; just looking at how Christianity is constructed, for instance, not based on empirical facts (like what Jesus *actually* said, but instead the King James Bible, which is clearly modified/largely fabricated). That is, it’s not based on empirical facts, but arbitrary decisions made by people — usually for a political purpose, not a divinely ordained one.

Do you have any evidence that the King James Version was “clearly” modified or largely fabircted? Since you think it’s so clear, I certainly hope you do.

Let’s be charitable here and assume by “KJV” you mean “Textus Receptus”, since it’s pretty easily verifiable that the KJV is actually a very faithful translation of the Textus Receptus, although you can quibble about wording choices here and there. What elements do you think of the King James Bible (or the Textus Receptus) were fabricated or modified, and why?

You can certainly make a theological case that the New Testament isn’t a faithful representation of the truth about Jesus or God, and you can make a similar case (with less justification) about the Gospels themselves. Muslims make a case to that effect, the gnostics made a very different one, modern day liberal believers make yet a third one, and on purely theological grounds it’s hard to argue with them. I don’t think there is much objective historical evidence that the King James Bible was “largely fabricated” though, so I’d be interested to hear why you think so. (And please don’t outsource your arguments to ‘the consensus of modern scholarship’, since arguments by appeal to intellectual authorities, outside the hard sciences, are usually quite weak. Present the arguments yourself).

Most of the purported historical-critical arguments I’ve seen against the historicity of the Gospels are really quite weak, and rely either on assumptions of metaphysical naturalism, heavy reliance on dubious literary-criticism techniques, contradictions with history or within the Gospels that turn out to be largely illusory when you look at them closely, and really shoddy use of logic and statistics. Again this is not an argument for the historical truth of the Gospels (although in a few instances where they make testable claims about history they’ve turned out to be correct), it’s an argument that standard historico-critical arguments against them are really terrible.

There are plenty of good arguments against orthodox Christianity (well, two really good ones: natural evil and moral evil). Historical inaccuracy of the Gospels really isn’t one of them.