I read the stories below yesterday, on a train to Valencia (a beautiful city — more on which shortly). I couldn’t get a wifi connection in my hotel, so I couldn’t post this last night. That’s probably for the best; I’ve had more time to think about it. Which, in this case, has not moderated my opinion one bit, but if anything has made me angrier and more concerned.
Here, from the Washington Post, is a prime example of religious ignorance and cultural philistinism in the US media elite. This is what counts as a scandal among these people:
The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, sets forth the position in its employment application for teachers and support staff in a section that requires applicants to initial a set of standards that begins with a promise that they are born-again Christians.
One of the items is a pledge to “live a personal life of moral purity.”
“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture,” the section says, saying that God intended sexual acts to occur only between “a man and a woman who are married to each other.”
“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”
Let me explain something to Washington Post writer Eli Rosenberg and his editors: This. Is. Normal. Within. Conservative. Christianity. You might well think it is weird, but it is perfectly normal, and — stay with me here, Eli Rosenberg, Millennial native of southern California, graduate of UCLA, and 10-year resident of New York City — this point of view was common throughout America practically the day before yesterday. Christian schools having moral codes is not news.
A George Washington University law professor explains this in the piece, and says that the school hiring Karen Pence is well within its rights. But it’s still horrible, horrible!:
“They have staked out a certain set of positions on issues that are confrontational,” he said of the Trump White House. “The administration seems to live on wedges, so paying attention to this just feeds their interest in driving one more wedge. And this confirms their bona fides with religious conservatives and they sort of seem to do that, because Donald Trump, whatever he might say, is not that.”
Matthew Haag of The New York Times wrote the same story, pretty much. It even has a quote from an Academic Expert who says that this is normal, but still horrible, horrible!:
She said that Mrs. Pence’s choice of employment was not surprising because the school’s values appeared to mirror those of the Trump administration.
“Given the exclusionary nationalism in this administration and sorts of politics taken on various things, it would not be at all surprising for the second lady to associate herself with some prominent fashion with an institution like this,” Professor Hurd said. “It raises important issues about education and diversity, and what kind of forward-facing public officials we want representing our country at home and abroad.”
Haag is a Brooklyn-based Millennial, but he’s from Texas, and should know that the story is a lot more culturally nuanced than this. Why no quote from someone like David French?
David French explains why this is no scandal at all, but the sort of thing media (including CNN) are ginning up for purposes of advancing hatred of Americans who believe standard Christianity. Excerpt:
Is the Democratic party wrong if it excludes Republicans? Is a Muslim mosque wrong if it wants to be led by an imam and not a rabbi?
Not only is this not scandalous, but it’s also the exercise of a fundamental First Amendment right. If Lois Romano [of the WaPo] or [CNN reporter] Kate Bennett or any other Karen Pence critic wants to argue against Christian theology, then have at it. Most Christians I know welcome the dialogue. But if they want to condemn a woman for the free exercise of her Christian faith? If they want to argue that there’s something inherently wrong with orthodox Christians’ associating, worshipping together, and teaching their children? Well, then they’re exhibiting a deep intolerance that’s at odds with pluralism itself.
They don’t care. “Diversity,” “tolerance,” and “pluralism” for these people means something very different from what it means for the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Two things (at least) are worth noting about this: First, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort to “condition the environment” for situations when nominees to federal courts are revealed to have been involved with/sent their children to schools that have policies in place that reflect the abovementioned norms. Second, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort by opponents of school choice to — having largely lost the battle over the “statist monopoly or parental choice?” debate — cripple voucher and other school-choice programs by pushing legislatures (and enlisting business boycotts and pressure to push legislatures) to exclude from voucher programs those schools that “discriminate.”
Yep. Similarly, the recent outrage over esteemed natural law scholar John Finnis (see here) was not really about Finnis, who will survive the SJW strike, but about laying the groundwork for the exclusion from the academy of younger scholars who share his views.
Here’s what I think: this is exactly the kind of thing that makes me know who I am, and who — and what — my enemies are.
It never would have occurred to me that Karen Pence going to work teaching art to children in a Christian school was a political act meant to signal to the right-wing base. But that’s how this GW law prof sees it: Pence’s decision to teach art part-time to little Christian schoolchildren is an attack on LGBT people, and part of the Trump administration’s war on decency. My guess is that the Post sees this non-story as a big deal, because LGBT rights are the most important thing that have ever existed in the history of America.
This is how they think: everything is political. Everything.
What do I mean when I say my “enemies”? My “enemies” are not people who believe in LGBT rights. My enemies — politically — are those in the establishment (media, academia, law, politics, etc.) who insist on portraying people of traditional faith as moral monsters who ought to be hounded out of public life as indecent. To many on the left today, Karen Pence going to teach in an ordinary conservative Christian school under ordinary conservative Christian circumstances is the equivalent of going to teach at a segregation academy that bans black people.
I get that. I get that they see no difference between race and sexuality in terms of identity. What I don’t get is how they refuse to see that theirs is an extremely recent view, one that is rejected by many religious and even some non-religious people. Leaving religion out of it entirely, I truly do not understand why race and sexual desire are equivalent things, much less the same kind of things. This may come as a shock to Lois Romano and Kate Bennett, but I have lived in a variety of places around the US, and I have traveled to a fair number of foreign countries. You know what? People are different. Significantly different. There are some beliefs and customs that I do not like, or really understand. But I don’t have to like or understand them to accept them as tolerably human.
I know, it’s hard. Because everything that is immoral should not also be illegal, and because we often can’t agree on what’s immoral, living in a pluralist culture requires constantly negotiating between what we should tolerate, both in law and custom, and what should not be tolerated. This idea that Karen Pence teaching art to little-bitties at a private conservative Evangelical school is another sign of Trump’s Assault On America™ is in truth a signal of the kind of secular fundamentalist jihad that the left is gearing up to wage, and in fact is waging.
For Christians, this is a teachable moment. The law protects the right of this Christian school to do what it does, but it does not protect individual Christians from a backlash via media (and social media) shaming. Sorry to be a salesman here, but if you aren’t preparing your kids via The Benedict Option for holding on to their faith despite this kind of thing, they’re going to crack under the pressure.
I’ll be a salesman because I have been in Spain being one for the past week. Spanish Christians are under immense pressure from the government and from the media, the academy, and other institutions of secular society. Spain has a history of ferocious anti-clericalism, so this is nothing new. But I have heard from a number of Catholic laity that they are fed up with their bishops trying so hard to be politically agreeable, and not standing up and leading. Also, more than a few Catholics have complained to me bitterly about Catholic schools. One polite and respectful 14 year old boy told me the other day that in his Catholic school, he said out loud that he did not believe in the gender ideology presented to the students (that is, he stood for orthodox Catholic teaching), and he found himself waylaid by other students, who called him a macho bigot. He told me he only found one other kid in the entire school who agrees with him, and this boy isn’t even a Christian.
Mainstream Spanish society is in many ways strongly anti-Christian, and seeks to punish and to stigmatize believers. One man told me today that Christians don’t have much power at all, but the dominant Left here constantly comes up with new outrages to justify punishing the Church even more.
This afternoon and evening I walked around the old part of Barcelona, and saw churches that had been burned during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). In fact, one of my hosts said that every church in the city had been burned, leaving only the shell standing. An academic historian at dinner one day this past week told me about interviewing someone who fought on the leftist side in the war, and how this man recalled with cold lucidity how he had convinced himself to murder priests (or some other enemies of the revolution) back during the conflict. The historian said that in the end, he had been quite impressed with the icy rationality of the killer: from an ideological point of view, it made perfect sense. Priests, nuns, and those who supported them stood in the way of the Revolution. Therefore, they were evil, and had to die.
Anticlericalism (by which I mean anti-Christianity) has been a mainstay of continental European countries since the 18th century. European liberalism has been unlike Anglo-American liberalism in that it has been fiercely anticlerical. We have been historically unafflicted with this in the US — but now that the American left is so thoroughly and militantly secularized, American Christians are going to have to learn how to live with anticlericalism, as continental European Christians have done for many decades.
It’s an ugly thing, a demoralizing thing. I get the idea that Spanish Catholics would love to be left alone to practice their faith as minorities in a vehemently post-Christian society. But the Left won’t let them. Catholics have to always be looking over their shoulders, waiting for the next thing, and enduring further demonization in the public square.
Here’s a preview of what’s coming after Trump. In the Spanish Civil War, whether or not individual Catholics loved Gen. Francisco Franco, most of them supported his cause because at least the Nationalists weren’t burning down churches and killing clergy, nuns, and lay believers. After Franco’s victory, the Church was given a place of privilege in Franquist Spain. The post-Franco order, which began in 1978, saw a fierce backlash against the Church for having collaborated with the dictator.
Franco has been dead for 45 years or so, but it’s still happening.
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not Francisco Franco, and America is not 1930s Spain. But it’s not hard to see that the political and cultural dynamic could be similar. Lots of Christians voted for Trump not because they loved or admired him, but out of self-defense from a secularist Democratic Party that is increasingly hostile to social and religious conservatives, and the things we care for.
After Trump and his shambling, punch-drunk administration passes into history, the Left in power is going to double down on punishing conservative Christians for having collaborated with Trump. Trump critics like Russell Moore will be treated no better than Trump lovers like Robert Jeffress. It’s coming.
We just have to hope that we can avoid violence. Don’t think for a second that Americans aren’t capable of it. I was listening today to a Catalan man in Barcelona tell me that he sent his son out of the city not long ago, fearing outbreaks of nationalist violence by pro-independence Catalans, and thinking, “Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to be afraid of that kind of violence in America.” Then I thought about the 1960s and 1970s, with the KKK violence in the South, and the left-wing radical violence elsewhere. We are probably a hell of a lot closer to it than we’d like to think.
I’ll leave you with Alan Jacobs’s reflection on what the writers, editors, and broadcasters in our national media are setting themselves, and all of us, up for. He begins by quoting an interview with French thinker Christophe Guilluy, who observes this about the conditions creating populist movements:
We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.
But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.
Jacobs agrees with this assessment, and adds, in part:
And that’s because nowhere has a leader emerged who possesses the combination of charisma and shrewdness to channel the frustrations of the economically marginalized into a meaningful program of reform — or revolution.
Such leaders also take different forms: Nelson Mandela was one, and so was César Chávez, and so was Lenin. It is possible that the union of the global neoliberal order and the big media companies — which serve as the Ministry of Amnesia for that order — will be able to prevent the emergence of such a leader. But I don’t think so. I believe that eventually and somewhere such a leader will arise. And when that happens the cool and progressive Left will be so, so screwed.
However, I suspect that if it happens here so will I.
Yep, me too. And it may end up with me participating in my own self-sabotage, because this Karen Pence thing is, like the Kavanaugh hearings, a reminder of the complete contempt the cultural elite has for people like me, and that it really is necessary to side with politicians I don’t like at all, but who at least don’t want to burn my church and school down, to speak metaphorically (I think).
You go read Thomas Edsall’s analysis of how the conflict over sex and gender norms is generating political conflict. Especially this part:
The current era has been marked by a continuous series of challenges to once indisputable truths about sex and gender. Ubiquitous contraception, for one thing, has altered the fundamentals of reproductive roles. The alteration of these fundamentals has been followed by a series of transformations and dislocations — women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, transgender rights, new forms of family formation and dissolution, and vastly altered patterns of fertility. Challenges to core understandings of masculinity — and femininity — are inescapable.
The immensity of these upheavals should not be underestimated. That people are seeking political solutions to rapid societal changes is no surprise. That these solutions erupt in political conflict is also inevitable. For some, new horizons in matters of sexuality and sexual identity offer opportunity; for others, discomfort and fear predominate. These responses are increasingly sorting themselves into partisan affiliation, sometimes uncomfortably. And as I said at the outset, they have become an integral element of contemporary political conflict, which means that an ultimate resolution is light years away.
The attempted shaming of Karen Pence is a condensed symbol for the elite secular left’s hatred of conservative Christians and our morals and mores. I don’t actually give a rip what a Post, Times, or CNN reporter thinks of Karen Pence and evangelical Christians. What I care about is that their uncomprehending contempt, broadcast nationwide, and magnified massively on social media, is preparing the country for something extremely ugly.
CNN legal analyst Areva Martin thought she was talking to a white man Tuesday while appearing as a guest on David Webb’s SiriusXM radio show.
When Webb, a frequent Fox News contributor and host on Fox Nation, said he considered his qualifications more important than his skin color when applying to jobs in journalism, Martin accused him of exercising white privilege.
But there’s a problem with that sentiment, as Webb quickly pointed out:
“Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should’ve been better prepped,” he responded. “I’m black.”
You can hear the whole thing by following the link above. Shorter Areva Martin: “Non-White Person Good, White Penis Person Bad.”
I also encourage you to read this Jesse Singal thread. Singal, a left-liberal journalist, here makes fun of what gullible sheep progressives are for giving big corporations a pass if the corporations signal their woke virtue (this, in response to a woke razor ad):
ExxonMobil: Listen up folkx- Fracking Just Got Feminist
Twitter progressives: YASSS KWEEEN EXXON
Lockheed Martin: Intersectionality is da BOMB
Twitter progressive: OMG THISTHISTHISTHI
Hitler’s ghost: More like DIE Stürmer, because gender’s just
Twitter progressives: 🔥🔥🔥
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 16, 2019
Left Twitter jumped on him for making fun of the Victims™, or whatever. Singal came back:
2/ Someone responded by calling this “red-pill” stuff. I guess it’s my fault i people misunderstand, but I’m NOT making fun of, like, the *causes* being referenced here. I’m making fun of hokey corporate manipulation that I think people are a bit too credulous of.
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 16, 2019
Orwell had Left Twitter’s number in Animal Farm:
None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A. It was also found that the stupider animals, such as the sheep, hens, and ducks, were unable to learn the Seven Commandments by heart. After much thought Snowball declared that the Seven Commandments could in effect be reduced to a single maxim, namely: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” This, he said, contained the essential principle of Animalism. Whoever had thoroughly grasped it would be safe from human influences. The birds at first objected, since it seemed to them that they also had two legs, but Snowball proved to them that this was not so.
“A bird’s wing, comrades,” he said, “is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The distinguishing mark of man is the HAND, the instrument with which he does all his mischief.”
The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD, was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters. When they had once got it by heart, the sheep developed a great liking for this maxim, and often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!” and keep it up for hours on end, never growing tired of it.
Lunch across the street from my publisher’s offices. that in the middle is a “tortilla”: eggs, potatoes, and cured ham. On the left is a pork cutlet with a quail egg over easy on top. In the rear, fried cheese. All utterly delicious.
This “tortilla” option seems to me well worth exploring further, back home, in my own kitchen.
I know people say this every time something like this comes up, but we all know that they never, ever would have done anything like this to Islam. The thing to keep in mind here is that this art exhibit is sponsored by Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions. What on earth is Harvard teaching its students about how men and women who actually follow the world religion that is Eastern Christianity live out and understand their faith? What this exhibit teaches them is that Eastern Christianity is something to sh*t on for a laugh, because HA-HA, we’re Harvard, and we know better than you prostrating, icon-kissing hicks.
A few odds and ends from the trip so far:
1. The Spanish reader who tipped me off about the radical sex education the provincial government of Navarra is forcing on all schools there writes with more information:
To reply to some commentators, colleagues and people generally recognize how radical Skolae is…it is every bit as radical as it seems to be, encouraging all sorts of erotic games and role playing for the very young, etc etc.
Back in Nov. there was hope Catholic and other “concerted” schools would be exempted from Skolae, and CitizenGo/Haszteoir Christian online platform even sent out an email claiming this partial victory. Then they had to correct themselves, as the regional government confirmed it would be applicable to everyone, including Opus Dei schools (the same ones being choked off by the new numbers limitations- people in the know tell me all of this is to make Navarra less attractive to large Catholic families coming in [it was a magnet for years], and to force some out, like we had to do — as we went to live in another region). Let me see later if I can find an update, but
A few links on the underhanded efforts to choke off Catholic “concerted” schools [those that have a partial state subsidy] with class-size limits:
Blog posting on the matter with a slide show of additional related articles:
2. Last night in the Sevilla audience, someone said that they didn’t understand what the big deal was about the Benedict Option. Aren’t we Christians supposed to be doing these things already? The answer is yes! But we are not doing them. The Ben Op is a call to repentance.
But it is more than that. It is also a call to recognize that we small-o orthodox Christians live in a world that is far more hostile to what we believe to be true. Accepting that reality requires us to be far more countercultural than we are accustomed to. It means we will have to radically adjust our expectations for life, and develop new ways of living out the faith that build resistance and resilience. We have to be what Benedict XVI called “creative minorities” — accepting the reality that ours is a post-Christian society, but responding to it with creativity.
In The Benedict Option, I give examples of Christians doing exactly this (e.g., the Tipi Loschi of Italy, the Benda family of Prague, the Catholics of St. Jerome School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and others). One main goal of the book is to wake up Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, and encourage them to form networks of mutual support, and foster creative resistance to the Zeitgeist.
3. Last night in Sevilla, a woman in the audience was overheard remarking that one wishes for the courage simply to stand up and say that what is going on is crazy and intolerable. Everyone she knows says this privately, but no one is willing to say it publicly, because they are afraid of the Left. They are afraid of being called a fascist, a bigot, and so forth. This fear must be cast out. I learned from a local I met yesterday in Andalucia that the political party Vox, which was recently voted into regional government in a province that has always voted Left since Franco’s death.
The press calls Vox a “far-right” party, which says more about the media than it does Vox, I’m guessing, but I refrain from passing judgment until and unless I know more about the party. My interlocutor told me that the people he knows that voted for Vox are not racists at all, but they are above all sick and tired of the endless inflow of migrants from Africa, who land on Spain’s shores then disappear into Europe. And they’re tired of being told by the left and the mainstream that they are racists for wanting to keep Spain like it is. They see the mainstream conservative parties as useless in fighting for Spain.
Again, I don’t know enough about this party to support or oppose it. I’m simply repeating what an Andalucian who came to hear my speech said to me. I suppose he could have been misleading me, but this same pattern can be observed all over Europe, and even in the United States: people don’t understand why they should be ashamed to surrender their countries and their traditions, and they are fed up with political correctness making them afraid to say what’s on their mind.
One thing I hope comes out of my Ben Op tour of Spain: that I will have encouraged traditional Spanish Catholics to realize that they are not alone in this country, that there are others who agree with them, and who are tired of dealing with Catholic schools that are Catholic in name only, and sick of dealing with governments that seem determined to destroy the faith and its practices.
4. Politics, though, cannot answer every problem. In talking with Andalucians yesterday, I heard that young Spaniards are strongly resisting marriage, and starting families. Spain has one of Europe’s highest rates of delaying marriage; the average age of first marriage for men is 38, and for women 35. The number of church weddings in Spain is remarkably low — only about one in five. More:
Now, Pérez-Agote feels that Spain is undergoing a third wave of secularization.
“Today’s youngsters are the children of people who have no interest in religion; when they think about getting married they don’t think about doing so through the Church, which feels alien to them,” he notes.
I heard two adult Catholics in Andalucia — neither married, both wanting to be — saying that it is very, very hard to find marriage partners who take the faith seriously. Seems to me to be one very important Benedict Option project: establishing a network through which serious Christians can find each other and marry. Last year in Italy, someone told me that Catholic families like his are in touch with other young Catholic families, all of whom have a Benedict Option attitude towards the future of the faith, and who are building family networks in hope that their children, having been raised as serious Catholics, will marry each other and raise Catholic families. Said this man, “This is how the Church is going to survive in Europe during this century.”
Anyway, politics can’t solve the problem of the steep decline of marriage culture. A few years ago, I spoke to an American academic who studies family formation and cultural factors. He had been hired by the European Union to do a paper recommending ways to raise the fertility rate without religion. He told me that he researched the question, and reported back that it couldn’t be done. They were not happy with that result. Apparently in a modern society, unless you believe that children are a primary good, the reasons not to have children are convincing. But that’s how a people dies off.
For what it’s worth…
Back in 2016, I blogged critically of a speech young black pastor Michelle Higgins, a #BlackLivesMatter movement activist, gave to the annual InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting. She criticized the pro-life movement, and went heavy on identity politics. IVCF official Greg Jao responded with some objections to claims I made in my post, and Carl Eric Scott, a former IVCF member, questioned the organization’s leftward drift. Another reader pointed out that in that same speech, Higgins said Christians should embrace transgenderism.
Criticizing Higgins unintentionally burned an important bridge for me. I didn’t see it coming, but I learned from a couple of folks inside the Evangelical movement that one should not criticize #BlackLivesMatter if one wants to stay on good terms with woke young white Evangelicals. I wonder if that’s still true. I wonder what those same Higgins defends have to say about this latest news about her, via Denny Burk:
Over the weekend, I was gobsmacked by something that I read on social media. A PCA church in St. Louis is hosting an event that includes an openly lesbian speaker named Jay-Marie Hill who is coming to the church to “teach us how to not only mourn the tragic deaths of trans folx, but learn to celebrate their lives and humanity.” It is important to note that the teaching is not only about mourning the deaths of precious image-bearers (something we would all agree with). It’s also about affirming transgenderism (something every orthodox Christian must oppose).
When I first read this, I thought, “Surely this is an inaccurate report. Surely there is some mitigating piece of information that will make this not what it appears to be.” Then I followed the links and did a little poking around. No, the report is accurate as far as I can tell—at least that is what the organization hosting the event says.
The event is to be hosted by a group called “Faith for Justice,” which has as one of its founders a woman named Michelle Higgins. Higgins serves as Director of Worship at South City Church (PCA) which is hosting the event and where her father Mike Higgins is pastor.
I really did think that the Presbyterian Church in America was Biblically orthodox. What’s going on? Would readers who are Millennial Evangelicals please tell me where the lines are now being drawn? Serious, non-trolling question. Is it becoming heretical to oppose transgenderism within conservative churches?
UPDATE: South City Church has now pulled out of this particular event. Statement here. That’s good news, but come on, it cannot be the case that the church’s leadership had no idea how radical Michelle Higgins is. Did they not speak out because she’s the daughter of the pastor?
UPDATE.2: Reader Edward Hamilton lets it all hang out:
Intervarsity is already in the position of a zombie-movie victim waiting for the virus to spread to the brain. It’s already deeply infected by the SJW contagion and short of some major amputation-tier surgeries, it’s not going to be able to recover. And that would require cutting off a substantial portion of IVCF staff devoted to it’s racial-reconciliation agenda, so you can imagine what kind of public-relations disaster that would entail.
Here, for example, is Brandi Miller, one of their justice program directors. A quick look at her (“she/her”!) Twitter feed indicates that she’s a totally woke member of the Resistance, she’s committed to fighting the gender-binary tyranny at Urbana, and she shows courageous hostility to non-inclusive language like “brothers and sisters”. (I’m old enough to remember when that phrase was the cutting edge of wokeness, and grated on conservatives!) Of course there are standard-form denunciations of capitalism and how it contributes to indigenous-peoples genocide. She occasionally mentions missionaries, mostly to denounce them for trying to convert anyone instead of working for political goals. A representative quote (from October 26): “It should not be surprising that many are abandoning the Christian project when it’s primary function in many spaces is to embolden white supremacy, sexual assault, homophobia, ableism, & climate degradation with no awareness that its doing so or little remorse if they are aware.”
Intervarsity Press has been strongly pushing work from their social justice program. This month it’s a major roll-out for Jonathan Walton’s new SJW-themed book about dismantling white privilege. As you might expect, Miller and Walton engage in constant social-media cross-promotion. None of the above stuff is outside the evangelical mainstream. IVCF defines the mainstream. When evangelical parents send their church youth and college/career groups to the triennial Urbana missions conference (15,000+ kids in 2018), they’re being educated by queer-affirming speakers.
It’s hard to exaggerate how dramatic of a coup this is. IVP has been a mainstay of evangelical intellectualism for 70 years — in a Christian tradition with very few other lay-centered intellectual communities! It’s been a publisher for Schaefer and Stott. There’s nothing closer to the center of college experience for many young evangelicals today. And now it’s becoming indistinguishable from mainline social justice organizations. Within another couple decades, the power consolidation will be sufficiently complete that the remaining orthodox hold-outs can be ejected for all the usual reasons. Here’s Brandi Miller on Nov 10: “In theological conversations the quick turn to arguing “orthodoxy” typically warns me that the conversation is about to shift to White centered virtue signaling.” It requires little imagination to anticipate the endgame.
It’s all enormously sad, and part of the reason I keep forcing myself (not always successfully) to read all the stuff about the Catholic crisis as a shared tragedy instead of a vindication of Protestant ecclesiology. There’s no time left for triumphalism on any side. The waves are coming in high and fast enough to drown all of us at once.
UPDATE.3: Judging from this poll, it looks like the PCA’s future is pro-LGBT. Maybe those within the denomination who adhere to Biblical orthodoxy will hold the line, I dunno. But it sure seems that as the middle class in America embraces LGBT, so too will the Middle Class At Prayer.
Look at this! It’s the bell tower of the Seville cathedral, the largest cathedral in the world, and the largest Gothic church in the world. It was originally built in 1172 as a grand mosque by the caliph. Upon the Reconquista in 1248, it was declared a church, and then torn down in the 15th century and rebuilt as a Gothic cathedral. They kept the former minaret of the mosque, and turned it into a bell tower. Stunning to think that a muezzin once stood at the balcony atop that minaret chanting the call to prayer.
That’s Seville. I cannot wait to return to this city. Honestly, it is captivating. I rolled into town today at 2:30 with Manuel Oriol, my publisher. We walked to our hotel, stopping in an ordinary cafe for a tapas lunch. I let Manuel order for us. Here’s part of what we had:
The soup is salmorejo, the Andalucian version of gazpacho. It is thicker and creamier than standard gazpacho. It’s like eating a bowl of velvet sunshine. I was stunned by how bright and tangy it was. Behind is a dish I don’t know the name of, but it is tiny, crisp-fried fish with fried eggs over easy on top, and cured pimentos at the bottom. You break the egg yolk and mix it all up. Weird and delicious. Later, the waiter brought a bowl of espinicas con garbanzos (spinach with garbanzo beans) that was thick and creamy, like an Indian paneer. He also brought a plate with bite-sized chunks of spiced fish that had been infused with lime juice.
If we had gotten this in a fancy restaurant, I would have been pleased. But this was a dime-a-dozen neighborhood cafe playing Top 40 radio and sports on the wall TV. Not for the first time did I wonder, Do the Spanish know how good they have it?
There are orange trees fruiting all over the city. I was warned not to eat one, because they are quite bitter. Of course I ate one, and indeed they are bitter, but still delicious (I love bitter things). After we checked into the hotel, I met this blog’s reader Scott Myers, from Baton Rouge. He owns a small vineyard in an Andalucian mountain village, and is learning to make wine. He came into Sevilla today to meet and hear me speak. We had coffee and a great talk. Notice the orange tree behind us; these are everywhere:
Elena is from Sevilla, and gave Scott, Manuel and I a quick tour of one of the parks on our way to my talk at the Fundacion Valentin de Maradiaga. I took this selfie; they’re all too fuzzy, I’m afraid:
Such a nice group of friends. At the Fundacion, the room was packed, and I got some great questions. My hardworking translator, Elena Garcia, did an excellent job, I was told. Elena, Scott, Manuel and I joined two of our local hosts for a walk through the old city, including the Alcazar (!), and then to Placentines, a tapas place, for dinner. Here, my dears, is the View From My Table:
The meat is a local specialty called carrillada de cerdo, which is cheek of Iberian pork braised in red wine. I testify without fear of contradiction that those pigs died smiling. Behind it is a plate of flash-friend fish. We also had jamon iberico — better than prosciutto, I have to say — and Manchego wedges, as well as braised baby calamari, and for dessert, a rice pudding of the gods. James C., this city is waiting for you.
We started dinner at about 11pm, which is … normal here. It’s almost 2 am, and I’m crashing. Manuel and I catch a train in the morning back to Madrid. If you are in Madrid on Tuesday night, I hope you can come hear my talk. I’m sorry Scott and Elena won’t be there, so I could have an excuse to spend more time with them. But believe me, I’m coming back to Sevilla. The very brief time I had walking around and eating in the Andalucian capital convinced me that this is the kind of place you come back to, and bring your wife. And your appetite. I can imagine that it’s beastly hot in summer, but winter is pleasant.
Here’s info for the Madrid talk on Tuesday night. Please come, if you can:
It’s after one a.m. in Madrid, and the dinner guests left only a short time ago. This is normal for Spain, they tell me. I couldn’t live like this all the time, but boy, is it fun now.
Above, a selfie with the Spanish journalist and Catholic novelist Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, author of The Awakening Of Miss Prim. A couple of years ago, I wrote about this delightful novel (“The Ben Op As Light Fiction”), which has become a favorite in Ben Op and classical education circles in the US. Natalia came for coffee late this afternoon.
[Picking up the story now on the train to Sevilla. I fell asleep after writing the last word.]
So, about my busy Sunday. It began actually in the morning, with the Divine Liturgy at the Orthodox church of Santa Maria Magdalena. After coffee hour, I gave a talk about the Benedict Option to about 40 people who stayed around. Father Andrey, the pastor, translated into Russian. During the question-and-answer period, the first question came from a brave young man, 14, who said that he attends a Catholic school, but is pushed to the social margins because he does not affirm LGBT ideology and feminism. They call him a macho bigot who is a slave to the patriarchy.
He said that he is not that at all, that he believes in treating everyone with kindness. But he will not abandon his Christian beliefs. He finds it hard to understand how he is the only high schooler in a Catholic school who believes in Christian teaching on sexuality. This young man was so gentle and respectful. I refuse to believe that he is any kind of bully. In fact, based on his testimony, he is the victim of social bullying.
I congratulated him on his courage, and told him that there is no choice but to endure this kind of mockery, for the sake of Christ. Maybe, though, he can find others in Madrid his age who share his convictions. Earlier in my visit, I met a high school student from a different Catholic school whose leadership recently brought in some “genderqueer” people to do an education session. Without informing the parents in advance, this Catholic school’s instructors taught the kids about anal sex, and many other forms of sexuality, and encouraged them to “explore your gender.” They passed out a quiz asking students which gender they were “assigned at birth,” and which gender they identify as today. This student and his parents were deeply shocked, especially because this is a Catholic school. Now they are trying to decide what to do.
The places we think are safe places may not be safe at all. That is one of the big lessons for Christians in our time: we cannot automatically trust our religious institutions to be faithful to the religious they profess.
After the talk, I went back to my hosts’ home for a quick nap. Then Natalia came over. It would not be fair to her to write in detail about our conversation, but boy, was it a delight. She told me that as a young woman, she lost her faith, but when she had a re-conversion, “it was like falling in love.” So strong was her reconversion that she realized how incompatible Christianity is with secular modernity, and that most parishes were not prepared to live and teach this. She became a Traditionalist — someone who goes to the Latin mass. She is not a member of the SSPX; she is in full communion with the Roman church. But she does attend the Tridentine mass.
Natalia has such a light spirit — exactly the sort of person you would expect after reading Miss Prim. We laughed at the role the Benedictines of Norcia played in our two books, even though we didn’t know each other’s work when we wrote. Natalia emphasized the importance of Christians today recognizing how important it is to be countercultural. This is a theme that keeps coming up in conversation with Spaniards.
Natalia couldn’t stay for dinner, which is too bad, because she missed a great conversation. Tote Barrera came, with his wife Christi; he is a Catholic who directs the Alpha Course in Spain. Father Andrei came. Another Catholic priest came, a Father Manuel, but I didn’t get his last name. And a young man named Ramón, a member of Opus Dei.
Again, out of respect for the guests’ privacy, I won’t blog about our conversation. But generally, we talked about the state of Christianity in Spain. Tote had an interesting observation: he said that the Catholic Church in Spain is operating on a model that derives from the Council of Trent (that is to say, from the Counterreformation), but it no longer works. Most bishops know this, he said, but can’t figure out what to do about it. There are many initiatives being taken by lay Catholics and by visionary priests who are starting new communities (this, as well as the well-established movements, like Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, and the others). I came away from the long conversation with a very clear awareness of the depth and breadth of the Church’s crisis in Spain, but also with a real sense of hope from the “creative minorities” at work here now.
Only my host, E., had read The Benedict Option, but by the end of the conversation, I had the sense that all of the guests affirmed that it speaks to the heart of what’s happening in Spanish Catholicism now at the grassroots level. That was great to hear.
Side note: You know what else was great? This chicken tagine my host E., also an accomplished home cook, prepared:
Back to the Benedict Option. I’ve only been here for a couple of days, but already my experience is a repeat of what I have encountered in Spain and in Italy: a strong sense of joyful hope and resistance among young Christians who are clear-eyed about the seriousness of the crisis, but who are also determined not to wait for someone to solve the problem for them, but rather to figure out how to do it themselves.
My publisher told me on the train to Sevilla just now, “Here in Spain, we are used to being ten to twenty years behind you Americans. But maybe in this, we are ahead of you.” Yes, that is certainly true. They have lived through de-Christianization, which is continuing, and even, under the current left-wing government in Spain, getting more intense. We in America are still near the beginning of the process. It is still possible in the US for Christians who don’t want to see what’s happening now, and what’s coming in the future, to live in denial. That luxury does not exist for the Christians of Spain. We American Christians need to watch them and listen to them. We are going to need their wisdom and their friendship in the years and decades to come.
A reader of this blog who lives in the province of Navarra writes to say that the leftist government of the province is now trying to quash Catholic education. He gave me some details, but asked me to keep them confidential for now, as his job would be at risk if he were identified as one of the Catholic Deplorables. He said I should ask Spaniards on this trip about how the war on the faith is being played out in educational policy today, especially in Navarra. The reader writes:
The 1930s are back, they were just frozen for several decades.
He directed me to this blog, which discusses Skolae, a mandatory sex-and-gender education program in Navarra schools. Excerpt (translated roughly by Google):
“Skolae, berdin bidean – growing in equality” is the program through which the quadripartite will convert gender ideology into a compulsory subject for absolutely all schools in Navarra, private or arranged. Although this is a long read, Skolae’s program (of which we include a link at the end of the news) demonstrates the undisguised purpose of converting the entire public and concerted educational system into a channel through which the far left imposes its vision of the world, the person, the relationships of couple and the sexuality to the children of all.
The program is pure ideology and its treatment is absolutely one-sided, it is simply that, at the educational level, the ideology of the extreme left is no longer optional and becomes obligatory. The natural state of the child who receives this ideological bombardment will, logically, be the total confusion over his sexual identity.
To the child as they go through the courses repeat like a parrot the whole program of gender ideology, word by word, they call for the child to develop his “critical thinking”.
Here is a photo from the Skolae website, listing some of their goals:
Here is a translation of No. 2 on the far right, the part with the highlighted text. This is the Skolae program for children ages infant to six:
To make visible the diversity of bodies, all of them sexed and valued. Reflection on images of different sexual persons in masculine and/or feminine, different ages, cultures, functional diversity … Recognition of child sexuality from birth by decriminalizing the recognition and experience of this sexuality at school and in the family (sexual vigilance, erotic games, etc.).
Encourage dialogue and trust in communication about sexual issues both at school and in the family as a factor in the prevention of child abuse.
This is insane. You get that, right? They’re using the words “dialogue” and “prevention of child abuse” as a way to radicalize children into gender theory and the like. This is what parents in the province of Navarra have to deal with. There is no way to escape it, not even in Catholic or private school.
The Benedict Option in Navarra would have to take this into account, and figure out a way to fight this. If it is not possible at the present time to overturn it politically, then Ben Op Christians must figure out a way to teach their children that this indoctrination is a Big Lie.
Here is a link to the PDF (in Spanish) of the Skolae program, produced by the regional government. An excerpt, translated by DeepL:
SKOLAE is articulated around different concepts that cross the whole itinerary; the prevention of the violence against women and girls, women’s visibility and contributions, respect for identities, women’s rights, and the rights of women and girls, cultures, sexualities and their diversity, social participation and the shared commitment to make the world of equality a reality.
You see how this works? They use the language of anti-bullying and violence prevention, and of egalitarianism, to justify the radicalization of children along sexual lines. More from the government’s document:
It is necessary to reflect on the multicausal nature of social phenomena and, as is evident, also of gender inequality. Angela Davis, for example, elaborates the concept of intersectionality in order to “understand the categories of gender inequality.
race, gender and class as connected, intertwined and intertwined elements”. It is necessary to make visible the diverse categories that generate and reproduce inequality: race, gender, class, ethnicity or culture.
It is necessary to incorporate progressively some keys of analysis that question the influence received from a sexist society. The radical demand for the full exercise of economic, social and political rights by women and men. The value of equality within the ethical principle of justice. The right to a safe and full life, the need for early training in the detection of the symptoms of gender-based violence and in the opportunity to be able to articulate both a challenge to those actions and a response to them.
These keys to analysis must progressively make it possible to identify both the historical invisibility of women’s contributions to the development of their own lives and their own. our society, as the sexist elements that still perpetuate this invisibility (language, mass media, cultural consumption…)
One more passage:
The coeducational school must train for the identification and assessment of the egalitarian achievements made in our environment by feminist movements and by equality policies; moreover, it must be able to propose new ones. achievements yet to be made. From the co-educational commitment for a more egalitarian world, identities must be strengthened — egalitarian, diverse but committed to the exercise of the right to equality in both the public and private spheres.
Likewise, a new imaginary of healthy and equitable coexistence relations and social organization guidelines must be presented. which promote equality between women and men. The school must be able to identify concrete egalitarian components, that must be present in a personal commitment to change towards an egalitarian identity. In addition, the following should be encouraged visibility of the citizens’ and associations’ movement, whether mixed, women’s or men’s, in favour of the equality that exists in the social environment.
For all these reasons, the school environment must be aware that it is one of the few spaces in which it is possible to guarantee that the students are involved in self-analysis about what their personal, interpersonal and collective participation will be in the conquest of the full exercise of citizenship by women and men. Furthermore, the school should be a space for active learning, for permanent promotion of creativity, as this is an essential contribution to making it possible to create different responses to the sexist pressures of differential socialization and in the configuration of one’s own personal identity.
If you read Spanish, read the entire document here. This is as radical as it gets — and there is no escaping it in the schools of Navarra. They really are using the schools to create 2019’s version of the New Soviet Man.
Do you have the slightest doubt that if they had the power in the US, our intersectionalists and Social Justice Warriors would work to impose the same thing on all American students? You should not. We have to use whatever means are at our disposal, politically and legally, to fight this, but that will not be enough. We have to fight it culturally as well. And we should prepare for the day when, as in Navarra, political means of resistance have failed. We cannot give our children to these monsters without a real fight.
Natalia Sanmartin said nothing about Skolae, but having read about it this morning, I can understand very clearly why she says that nothing short of radical countercultural Christianity is capable of meeting the current challenge.
If you are in Spain, and would like to come to one of my presentations, here is the schedule. One reason you might want to do this is to meet other Christians who are interested in the idea.
Hello from Madrid! My friend and host E. took me for a long walk around the city this afternoon and evening. We went to the Mercado de San Miguel, which is culinary holy ground, if you ask me. I did not expect to have oysters in Spain, but E. ordered a half dozen of these babies, and a split of Champagne for us to sample, standing at the bar. They were terrific, some of the best I’ve ever had.
This is not actually a VFYT, but gaze upon this glorious porkness in the mercado, and be of good cheer, for the Lord has not forgotten us:
I also ate breaded and flash-fried baby octopus at the mercado, which was exquisite.
Here was the view from our table on the Plaza Mayor. We were drinking sidra (cider):
When I arrived at the home of E. and his family, I took a nap, and then woke up for ice-cold beer and jamón iberico:
Stupidly, I forgot to do a VFYT for the luscious lunch of sea bream, roasted potatoes, and grilled peppers that E. made for us. We drank a rich, floral white wine from Galicia, made with the Albariño grape. It was one of the most memorable wines I’ve tasted in ages.
Tonight, after tapas at the mercado, E. and his wife took me to a Basque restaurant, Casa Julian de Tolosa, where the menu was simple, but the food was extraordinary. I didn’t want to be obnoxious and take out the camera in the restaurant, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. We had a kind of sauteed wild mushroom in olive oil, with raw egg, that was the hobbitiest thing I’ve yet tasted. With the steak, they served a kind of smoked, sweet red pepper preserved in olive oil. Extraordinary depths of flavor. There was more, but I am very, very sleepy, and full of delicious things, so goodnight. I promise I’ll eat nothing else this week in Spain but lettuce and tap water.
[Note: I asked Tobias Klein, a German Catholic journalist, and German translator of The Benedict Option, to comment on the court ruling against the German homeschooling parents (I blogged on it Friday.) He writes that if we want to understand Germany’s compulsory schooling system, we should look at early childhood education first. More from Tobias below — RD]
From the day my daughter was born – or possibly even before that – practically everybody we’ve met has asked my wife and me whether we had made sure to apply for a daycare slot. In Germany, that is basically the first question anybody asks a new parent. Or maybe the second, right after “Is it a boy or a girl?”, but that one will probably be outlawed soon for being heteronormative. (Just kidding. Or am I? I’m not quite sure.)
Anyway, in our case the answer to the daycare question is “no.” And the more we get pestered about the topic, the more daycare-negative we get.
I take my daughter to playgroups circa twice a week; these groups are mostly private, parent-led initiatives, sometimes endorsed by a church or by district authorities. A few months in, I began noticing that children older than ten months tended to disappear from these groups. Moreover, the mothers of the relatively few older kids that still attend these playgroups are constantly talking about how hard it is to secure a daycare slot for their children.
One might think they’d be happy to know that there are parents who don’t compete with them for those much-desired daycare slots as they haven’t even applied for one in the first place, but they’re not. It’s more likely understood as a kind of reproach.
So why are Germans so intent on handing their kids over to the state? To be fair, many families simply don’t have a choice. If your family can’t get by on a single income, you have to get back to your job as soon as the paid maternity leave runs out. Others think they owe it to their self-respect to have a job. Stay-at-home moms are held in incredibly low esteem in Germany, particularly by other women. (Stay-at-home dads tend to be viewed a little more favorably. Lucky me.)
It is perfectly clear that parents who work full-time jobs – be it out of financial necessity or for the purpose of self-fulfillment – don’t want to feel like they are neglecting their children. Thus, they are happy to be told that comprehensive daycare from a very early age is actually good for their children. After all, child care workers are professionally trained, so they are probably better at raising children than some random people who happen to be parents. (I’m exaggerating the argument, but not by much.)
Plus, being together with other children of their age group helps kids to learn faster and to develop social skills. (As if parents would keep their children in a cupboard under the stairs if the state let them have their way.)
In fact it should be rather obvious that in everyday life there are lots of opportunities for putting your kids in touch with other people’s kids, but maybe parents who work full-time and send their children to daycare at eight or ten months really don’t see these opportunities. I live around the corner from a public playground, and I have observed that during the week this playground gets crowded twice a day. Early in the afternoon it’s occupied by schoolchildren playing on their own, and late in the afternoon by parents with little kids whom they probably have picked up from daycare just moments before.
At any rate, daycare for children aged one to three is pretty common over here, and nearly all children aged three to five attend nursery school (kindergarten). Nonetheless, there have been some news reports lately about growing numbers of parents (especially mothers) who make a point of not sending their children to daycare centers or even nursery school. I was rather nonplussed to find that these reports tend to describe these parents as potentially dangerous weirdos and extremists. One newspaper article bluntly stated that the “kindergarten-free movement” was mainly made up of “environmentalists, esoterics, anti-vaxxers and conservative Christians.”
Granted, there may be more than a splinter of truth to this observation. It makes sense that people who profess a particular, decidedly non-mainstream worldview are more likely to distrust public early childhood education. Politicians are pretty outspoken about the fact that an important goal of comprehensive state-run child daycare is to be able to control the values and worldviews the children are taught.
In 2002 Olaf Scholz, then general secretary of the Social Democratic Party, openly claimed that the state needed to seek “air supremacy over the cribs.”That same man is now Vice Chancellor of Germany. Over the last twenty years or so, federal and regional governments in Germany have been constantly pushing comprehensive child daycare – and they even have the gall to call that “empowering families.” And people buy it.
Still, at least in theory, daycare and nursery school for children under six years is voluntary. At the age of six, however, compulsory school attendance starts. And there’s no escaping that. Unless you take the word “escape” literally, that is: I know families who have moved from Germany to France or Switzerland for the explicit purpose of being allowed to homeschool their children. But obviously that is not a solution for everyone.
At the same time, there is practically no political debate about compulsory schooling in Germany. People are so used to it that they can hardly imagine things being any different. Homeschooling, they think, is something only Young Earth creationists and shotgun-wielding rednecks would do, so most Germans consider it appropriate and reasonable that it is unlawful in their country.
So where does that leave parents who don’t trust the public school system or who just wish to provide their children with a different kind of education? To be sure, compulsory school attendance does not strictly mean that every German child has to attend a state-run public school. There is a broad range of private, independent and alternative schools, including Christian ones – in fact, the Catholic Church alone is the largest private school provider in Germany. This may sound like good news for Christian (and especially Catholic) parents, but as Mr. Sportin’ Life used to say, it ain’t necessarily so.
My wife is a teacher who has worked at both public and church-run schools, and she says that from an orthodox Christian point of view the church-run ones are worse – precisely because they pretend to offer a religious education while what they actually do hardly deserves to be called that. As a Catholic, I would love to see Catholic schools in Germany develop and practice concepts for a thoroughly Christian education, in the sense that not only the contents that are taught, but also the methods of teaching are permeated by the Christian faith. But to be honest, I just cannot imagine our bishops endorsing such an idea. They seem much too busy trying to convince the secular society that Christians aren’t so different from Non-Christians after all.
What to do, then? I admit that I don’t have a practical solution ready. It seems obvious to me that devout Christian families need to connect on a local level to support each other in teaching their children the Faith and help them grow in holiness. I could imagine various different forms and models of parent-led initiatives for the Christian formation of children. Thus far, I know too little about the particulars of German school laws to be able to assess the chances for Christian parents to found their own independent schools or somehow “take over” existing ones. But I think about these things a lot, and I sincerely hope that there will be some feasible solution before my daughter turns six… .