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Christian Pessimism, Christian Realism

As I mentioned earlier this week, the religious liberty conference I attended recently was marked by sobriety in the face of the severe challenges the Christian community faces. Believe me, this is far more hopeful than the false optimism so many Christians cling to. One of the most common observations I heard from those gathered was that it is very difficult to shake one’s fellow Christians out of their pollyanna daze. They really do believe that somehow, God’s going to pull off a miracle that saves us all from suffering. Because they just cannot imagine that He would let that happen to us.

Barronelle Stutzman is not that kind of Christian. She is an absolute rock of faith, as well as one of the most gentle people I have ever met. You remember how I described the monks of Norcia as luminous in their serenity? That’s Barronelle, a 70-year-old Baptist from Washington state. She told me in an interview that Christians in America had better prepare themselves for the trials ahead.

“Whatever God has in store for us, He said be thankful for everything. Regardless of what happens, that’s what we need to do,” she said. “Christ gave his life for us. He put everything on the line for us. Are we not willing do that for Him?”

Those are just words on a page, but when you hear them coming out of the mouth of a woman who has suffered as much as she had, simply because she would not do flowers for a same-sex wedding, they are something far more powerful. She bears witness. She is not an optimist. But she is filled to bursting with hope.

I find that I crave talking to Christians with hope, but have no patience for those cockeyed with optimism, because it’s not based in reality. The philosopher James K.A. Smith dismissed the Benedict Option in an appearance this past March. From the transcript [1]:

So the “Benedict Option” is a certain response of religious conservatives who are sort of, I would say waking up to the fact that American culture, generally is not going to form them in faith. Apparently this is a revelation. And therefore, and by the way, it seems so clearly catalyzed by the Supreme Court gay marriage decision, which to me is one of the reasons why I feel like it’s suspect.

I’m not deciding either way on that. I’m just saying that there is a, certain reactionariness about it that I find narrow and uninteresting. And so what they advocate is — it comes of course from the Benedictine tradition of monastic life. It really is an allusion to the final sentence of Alasdair MacIntyre’s famous work “After Virtue,” in which he says, “We are waiting now for another Benedict to come along and give us a society that actually forms virtue and character,” and so on and so forth.

And so the “Benedict Option,” as I understand it—I do think it’s misunderstood often—is about prioritizing an intentionality within Christian communities, in this case, to be much more intentional about formation and so on, and less confident that they will be able to steer, shape, and probably dominate wider cultural conversation — so it’s actually a refusal of the culture wars as well. What I just find a bit frustrating about it, is again, the particular reactionary point about marriage that I do think is the live option. It also comes off as alarmist and despairing in ways that I find completely unhelpful.

After the break, I’m going to give you a copy of the Fall 2013 issue of Comment magazine. I got to interview Charles Taylor a couple years ago, and one of the things that just struck me is that hope is his dominant posture. And I think that’s really important. I think if you actually have the long game in perspective here, if you have the long history in perspective — I spend most of my time reading St. Augustine in the 5th Century, and nothing surprises me, like nothing surprises me today, and so I don’t feel, like oh, “my goodness, the sky is falling because the Supreme Court decision,” or something like that. There’s a different set of expectations about that.

Finally, I would say what Rod is advocating as this new thing that we should be doing, just sounds like what the Church was always supposed to be doing. It comes off as a little bit like here’s the next great thing, and it turns out it’s only because we’ve failed to do what we were supposed to be doing. Again, Rod’s a friend, and what’s odd for me, is how much he sort of draws on my own work, to sort of articulate this, and yet, I, myself feel a certain distance from it because it comes with a grumpy alarmist despair that I don’t really want to be associated with.

Well, leaving aside the fact that I tell everybody I can that yes, the Benedict Option is simply the church doing what it ought to have been doing all along, but hasn’t been, I think that if James K.A. Smith, who appears to be reconciling himself to Obergefell, were to go talk to Christian lawyers and others who are more deeply involved in the fight for religious liberty, he would find his lack of alarmism impossible to sustain. It is well and good to point out that Augustine saw worse. But the people around the country that I talk to, and hear from almost every day, including Christian academics, may wonder why they are being counseled to calm down, because at least the Vandals and the Goths aren’t sacking our cities.

If you are an orthodox Christian and aren’t alarmed, you are not paying attention. That alarm should not paralyze you with fear, but it should tell you that it’s time to take action, to prepare yourself, your family, and your community spiritually and otherwise, for the trials ahead.
Michael Brendan Dougherty writes about Mary Eberstadt’s latest: [2]

In her new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies [3], Mary Eberstadt finds a dark pessimism settling over many American Christians when they contemplate the future. They perceive a foreboding shift in public attitude. Once there seemed to be a broad and liberal respect for the free exercise of religion, even in public life. But now, the very cultural forces promoting tolerance and diversity treat Christians and their institutions with broad suspicion, and demand absolute conformity with an egalitarian ethos that has only recently even announced its own existence.

Believers see the recent battles over religious liberty in the courts and in public opinion as a desire to purge orthodox Christian views, particularly about sex and the two sexes, from the public-facing institutions that they have built: their schools, hospitals, and adoption agencies. Instead of their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, Christians are being offered, with a great deal of bitterness, mere “freedom of worship,” narrowly defined to thinking your own thoughts in your head and participating in ceremonies behind closed doors.

Eberstadt documents in exhaustive detail this widespread social urge to rob Christians of their livelihoods and their good names, merely for believing what their churches have always taught, and acting on those beliefs. This is not just a handful of bakers who refused to make gay wedding cakes.

Dougherty is darker than Eberstadt:

Eberstadt argues that the way to end the moral panic about Christians and their institutions is for the two camps in the culture wars to acknowledge their differences and then agree to disagree.

But I can’t help but wonder if the analogy that is more appropriate to our times is to the English Reformation. There, a new rising faith, led by Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, confronted an institutionally powerful set of church institutes. There were many elements of moral panic around this conflict, particularly the fear of subversive Jesuits sent from the Continent to destroy England’s state power and ruin the morals of her people.

But this wasn’t a moral panic that just subsided. The new faith was part of a state-building and state-reforming project, and that meant the continued prosecution of the old one for centuries. Instituting the new faith meant crushing those institutions, robbing them of their wealth, and taking over their social functions for the new faith. Driving the old faith underground made Catholics lest trustful of the state, and in turn obedient citizens became more distrusting of them. English anti-Catholicism meant the banning of Catholics from many vocations, especially those in public life.

Read the whole thing.  [2] I bought Eberstadt’s book yesterday, so I’m going to read it and make up my own mind. David P. Goldman, in a friendly but critical review in First Things, says similarly that Eberstadt is too optimistic.  [4] Eberstadt, he says, calls what the left is doing to traditional believers a “witch hunt,” which understates and mischaracterizes matters:

By contrast, the purge of traditional Christians and Jews is a heretic hunt, an Inquisition, whose objective is to isolate and punish individuals who actually profess opinions contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy. There can be some overlap between an Inquisition and a witch-hunt, to be sure. But today’s liberal Inquisitors are not searching for individuals secretly in communion with God—yet.

This is a critical distinction. Witch-hunters eventually discover that burning a few old hags does not prevent cows’ milk from souring. Inquisitions, by contrast, usually succeed: The Catholic Church succeeded in stamping out broadly held heresies, as in the Albigensian Crusade of 1220-1229, which destroyed between 200,000 and 1,000,000 inhabitants of Cathar-controlled towns in Southern France. In many cases a town’s entire population was killed, just to make sure. For its part, the Spanish Inquisition eliminated all the Jews, Muslims, and Protestants, although it sometimes drove heretical opinions underground [5], with baleful consequences for the Catholic faith.

Because Eberstadt confuses the present persecution with mere witch-hunting, she hopes that the witch-hunters will realize their error and do the decent thing.

They’re not gonna, says Goldman (an Orthodox Jew and a friend of mine, I should say), because they perceive traditionalists as a threat to the social order. This is not going to end anytime soon. Goldman says that the only alternative is for Christians to counterattack. They have nothing to lose that won’t be taken from them anyway, so they might as well fight.

He also says that the Benedict Option is “impractical,” because, as he explains in the comments, he thinks it’s about going Hasidic. Um, no. If I had to live with Christian Hasidim, I would be the world’s worst at it. I’ll make sure my friend gets a copy of the galleys when they’re out. He’ll see that I’m up to something broader and more ambitious. Frankly, there is nothing un-Ben-Op about counterattacking. But unless we are committed to the Masada Option, we had better be busy with long-term plans for resistance.

Anyway, read the whole thing.  [4]

Overreacting and falling into paranoia and loathing is a temptation. But so is assuming everything’s going to be okay in the end, and believing that you can avoid trouble by being nice. Sooner or later, you are going to have to take a stand — and if you stand on Christian orthodoxy, you are going to be knocked flat. Can you take that? You had better be able to. They’re coming for the pharmacists and florists and cake-bakers now, but if you think they’re going to stop at the fringes, you are out of your mind. If you’re a teacher in the Fort Worth public schools, and you refuse to teach gender ideology to your elementary school students, you will be fired under the new policy there. In Texas. 

Hope is the sure conviction that suffering has meaning in God’s inscrutable will, and that it can be redemptive. That’s not optimism. Be hopeful, but not optimistic. It’s later than you think.

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91 Comments To "Christian Pessimism, Christian Realism"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

“The Black Lives Matter movement is honest, blacks are being killed by cops and they won’t stand for it anymore, they will do what has to be done to protect their members”

The organization name is misleading because its leaders are primarily for advancing the SJW LGBTQ agenda above everything else, and using otherwise disposable black lives to selfishly do that.

As for the honesty of the LGBTQ movement… please. It’s suffused with both self-deception and active lying to outsiders, sacrificed to the demands of the agenda.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 29, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

“It is a zero sum game and the gays have won public support and you have lost it. You should receive the same amount of deference in measure to what you gave when you were in the majority.”

Yet not one of these “wins” has been by democratic acclaim, but by imposition and edicts of elites.

The public accepts tolerance for deviance, but that it approves of a gay putsch is an entirely different matter that propaganda may temporarily hide, but does not change. You overplay the fascism with a velvet glove at your peril.

#3 Comment By sickatheart On June 29, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

I think in some ways all of this is less disturbing for people who are experiencing faithful Christianity from the perspective of the past few generations, compared to people who have just in their own lifetimes come out of the world and into striving for faithfulness.
When you consider the entire trend of things that have challenged faith over the past century, from war drafts, public schooling, spread of divorces and results upon relationships and families, birth control and its results on youth, medical technologies, war technologies, violence in entertainment – and that your grandparents down to your own grandchildren today have been struggling in these battles all along, the recent same-sex, transgender, fights just don’t feel to be as much.
It is the same thing we are told by Jesus about not being of the world, being hated by it because it hates Him, the way being narrow, and all of it. Every decade brings another step in the descent that forces us to stop compromising. When Christians in ignorance use as excuse against obeying God their jobs, money, reputations, how is it not a blessing that God then forcefully removes those from us and challenges us again why we are not following him in our lives? We are being sorted; it is no less than the Bible says.
In my own decades of being a religious nutter and saying all the socially “wrong” things, I can honestly say that today’s climate is the most hostile, the hatred and threats are the strongest I have ever seen, from the same sex and transgender supporting people. People descend being out of their minds until finally they are left at the state of the man who could not be bound by chains, ran naked and cutting his body with stones, and no one could even go near him anymore, until Jesus arrived to put him back into his right mind.

#4 Comment By MichaelGC On June 29, 2016 @ 5:15 pm

CharleyCarp says on June 29, 2016 at 10:58 am:

I think selling flowers to her friend even if she believes that the wedding has no theological significance —

Sigh. It wasn’t that Stutzman thought that two men marrying had “no theological significance”, she refused to be part of a ceremony that sanctions and celebrates acts for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

it had legal significance that cannot be denied — would have been “nice.” And if she’d done that, no one would be after her, no matter what she believed.

Yes, she could have taken the easy way out and been off the hook and would have been approved by men. All she had to do was violate the integrity of her faith in Christ, because being “nice” and doing what others want is always more important than the Light that informs one’s Hope for eternal life.

Seriously, you don’t know anything at all about the saints and martyrs, and why they gladly chose pain and death rather than be compelled to make an offering?

#5 Comment By al On June 29, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

Rod, I’m still not clear just how Stutzman is at risk for much of anything. Your links are well over a year old, the Washington Supreme Court site only lists actions, not the actual filings, and the ADF site is manly a series of press releases. The WSC accepted her appeal which would seem to indicate a judgment against her but the only reference to a judgment I can find is the $2000 or so fine. Given the $180,000+ that she is reported to have received before her GFM site was shuttered, I just don’t see how she is at any risk. It would really be helpful to see the actual filings and amici (the WSC docket shows quite a few).

#6 Comment By Will Harrington On June 29, 2016 @ 6:13 pm

Oss icle

You have to start by understanding the history of the Christian faith. We have been tortured and killed in the past because we would not burn a small pinch of incense to the Emperor in worship. We have died and continue to die because we will not renounce Christ for communism or Islam or whatever. The Ben Op is about preparing ourselve to be affected by laws that would seek to compromise our faith. It is through being the Church that we find the strength to stand as Christians. That strong church is missing in America. That is what the Ben Op idea is about. Creating strong Christian communities that will enable us to stand as Christians, to suffer for our Lord, and to do this with joy.
On the up side, the priest who brought me into Orthodoxy once told me that what Americans were suffering was worse than outright persecution. Persecution such as Christans faced in the Soviet Union (where he was born, raised, and educated) only suffered in the body, but often grew stronger spiritually, but the soft, materialist and nihilistic culture that Americans faced was killing tour souls.

#7 Comment By Christopher Landrum On June 29, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

Two points: (1) I’ve heard some liberals reason, in effect, that it things like the Inquisition are what drive them to be so uncompromising and teeth-gnashing against Christians–“i.e. they did it to us back then, but they’re getting their comeuppance now.

(2) The real war will not be between liberal SJWs and little orthodox Christians; the real conflict will be between Moral Therapeutic Deists who thought they were legitimate Christians and Benopters who will tell them they’re not allowed inside the newly built monastic walls (whether figurative or literal). I foresee concentric rings of resentment developing between Benopters and MTDs, with secular liberals uninterestedly, but perhaps not disinterestedly, watching the war from the sidelines. That’s what C. S. Lewis’s “The Ring” essay was really all about.

#8 Comment By An Agrarian On June 29, 2016 @ 6:41 pm

Maybe we need more missionaries.

To come to America.

From North Korea, Iraq, Yemen, Columbia & Vietnam.

#9 Comment By JV On June 29, 2016 @ 6:47 pm

“[NFR: Says the person who won’t lose his livelihood over it. Let me ask you, if a gay man was fired from his job for being gay, would you tell him to get over it, because at least they’re not throwing him off of buildings, like in ISIS-controlled territory? You would not. And if you did, you would be wrong. — RD]”

The gay man in your scenario is not attempting to curtail or restrict anyone’s activities and/or access to services. Most cases of “religious liberty” involve someone doing just that within the public sphere.

#10 Comment By Tom Knight On June 29, 2016 @ 6:47 pm

Hi Rod, I work with collegiate ministry across my state. I am helpling churches and ministries understand these issues and trying to get people ready. I need to attend some of these type conferences as well. Would you please tell me/us some names of different conference that address these issues. Thanks Rod!!

#11 Comment By JonF On June 29, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

Re: The organization name [Black Lives Matter] is misleading because its leaders are primarily for advancing the SJW LGBTQ agenda above everything else, and using otherwise disposable black lives to selfishly do that.

Fran, you have offered not one scintilla of evidence for this strange assertion. Every time I have seen someone from BLM on the news, and everything they’ve been involved in here in Baltimore, has been about claims of police brutality in the black community, with some more general complaints about white privilege thrown in. I have never seen or heard one word from that group concerning GLBT issues.

#12 Comment By Erin Manning On June 29, 2016 @ 7:20 pm

What frustrates me sometimes is that I seem to meet two main types of political-minded Christians (including fellow Catholics): the pollyanna sort who don’t think they’ll personally ever have any problems with the new regime, and the Extreme Recreational Pessimism sort (or ERPs) who think that they are battling for the Kingdom one snarky Fwd:Fwd:Fwd at a time.

I got called a liberal recently by a Catholic because I’m a) not willing to vote for Trump (and they’re still saying “if” he’s the nominee–IF?) even though I don’t live in a swing state and it really doesn’t matter what I do, and b) because I don’t think Pope Francis is a secret Communist out to destroy the Church.

The ridiculous part is that some commenters here seem to put Rod into the ERP category for pointing out real things that are happening and for looking towards creative solutions for Christian flourishing that don’t depend on who is elected President. Trust me: the ERPs out there make Rod look like a pollyanna himself, because he still thinks it’s possible for Christians to flourish at all. The ERPs think we’re one ditzy liberal at City Hall away from a Diocletian-level persecution event–and, secretly, they like thinking that, because it leaves them free to wail and moan about all that evil out there without looking into their own hearts.

#13 Comment By John Spragge On June 29, 2016 @ 7:31 pm

I remember some years back, Rod, you mentioned that no popular vote affirming same sex marriage had passed in the United States. Then four years ago the voters in several states affirmed same sex marriage. You argued against same sex marriage until the US Supreme Court decided Obergfell v. Hodges. Now you claim society will no accommodate of accept any traditionalist religious claims at all. While I grant that possibility, I don’t believe we have nearly enough evidence to predict, and I believe traditionalists can do a lot to affect the outcome.

Holders of traditional attitudes do not enjoy a universal presumption of good faith. Centuries of collaboration by the institutional church in the atrocities of European colonialism have deeply wounded the moral credibility of the church. Gay, Lesbian and Transgender advocates look at the sorry record of children rejected by their parents for their sexual orientation, and the incredible waste it caused and causes: a waste of life, of potential, of hopes, of happiness, and some of them, understandably, get angry. I don’t blame those people if they don’t find the freedom of someone who hangs out a shingle as a professional cake baker to not bake a cake all that compelling.

Despite this, the actions of traditionalists can either allay the suspicions of many in the LGBTQ community and their allies, or else confirm it. If you truly want nothing more than accommodations for traditionalists who conscientiously want nothing more than the ability to decline to participate in same sex marriages, you will have to reckon with people who see your goals in a [6]:

The Christian Right is now busy seeking to limit the implementation of the [Obergfell] decision and to make it as unworkable as possible, in part by attempting to subject it to a death of a thousand exemptions.

The article goes on to assert:

The Baptists claim that a reason for such measures [requiring all employees to agree to a statement on sexual ethics] is that malevolent intentions lurk behind the passage of local LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances. These laws “are not designed for the innocent purpose of ensuring all people receive basic services,” they claim. “Rather, their practical effect is to legally compel Christians to accept, endorse, and even promote messages, ideas, and events that violate their faith.” The manual avers that religification cannot inoculate institutions from “all attacks by marriage counterfeits and those advocating for complete sexual license.” But it concludes that these measures might place an organization in a “more defensible legal position should it face a lawsuit for discrimination.”

A statement, and policy, such as this raises two questions.

First, do the institutions and individuals involved really want mutual accommodation, as appeals to religious freedom suggest? Religious freedom, after all, requires accommodation; it requires all believers, at some level, to accommodate non-believers or those who believe different things.If you take the view that, in the end, you will brook no disagreement because there can be only one truth, then others have no obligation to tolerate your viewpoint. The winner will set the terms of acceptable public engagement.

The second question proceeds from the first: if you want a tolerant society, open for different viewpoints including your own, what positive steps will you take to make space for people who differ from you? If you want the freedom to refuse to bake the cake, arrange the flowers, rent the hall, how will you step back and make a space so that two women or two men who want to marry can exercise their rights?

#14 Comment By Will Harrington On June 29, 2016 @ 10:24 pm

Hooly

Why not be honest? I am a Christian. I am also an American of the old school. I did not identify as a Christian in the tribal sense you invoke until I was left with no other choice. When I talk about freedom of religion I mean just that. The only limitations on that freedom should be those that actually harm other people in a substantial way. My Asatru friends should be able to make sacrifices, for instance, but not human sacrifices. Freedom of religion must also include the freedom to leave a religion without fearing for one’s life. Other than that, I believe more people who believe in the freedom of religion probably understand it the way I do. It means that we will tolerate even religions that we can’t condone and, in fact, condemn. For instance, I would have to say that Satanism should be condemned but I will tolerate its practice as long as its practitioners are not actively harming people.

#15 Comment By John Spragge On June 29, 2016 @ 11:48 pm

Quoting Fran Macadam:

Yet not one of these “wins” has been by democratic acclaim, but by imposition and edicts of elites.

In the election of 2012, the [7] (Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington) all endorsed marriage equality.

Quoting Christopher Landrum:

…the real conflict will be between Moral Therapeutic Deists who thought they were legitimate Christians and Benopters who will tell them they’re not allowed inside the newly built monastic walls (whether figurative or literal).

I have worked in prisons and on suicide prevention phone lines and in soup kitchens, partly in obedience to the command in Matthew 25:31-46; I have worked with men and women who bore prophetic witness to the call for peace and justice in the Sermon on the Mount. Some of my colleagues paid with their lives; some were beaten and maimed; all of us took risks. Does that make us, does it make me, does anything make anyone, a “legitimate Christian”? Only one judgement in the world matters to each of us, to any of us, only One voice may pronounce that judgement, and I hope I will never mistake any human voice for His.

I doubt very much whether my colleagues who have faced guns and beating without flinching will worry about being excluded by the “cool kids” behind the walls (literal or figurative). They have too much to do with ministering to the victims of the casual brutalities of neo-liberal society, and they measure their victories in lives saved hope restored and human dignity asserted.

#16 Comment By MichaelGC On June 30, 2016 @ 12:18 am

John Spragge says on June 29, 2016 at 7:31 pm:

I remember some years back, Rod, you mentioned that no popular vote affirming same sex marriage had passed in the United States. Then four years ago the voters in several states affirmed same sex marriage.

In 2012 it was actually only 2 states that affirmed SSM, Maine and Minnesota. In fact, in 35 state referenda from 1998 through 2012, SSM was rejected 32 times. Arizona was the only other state in 2006, but 2 years later it passed another referendum recognizing only the legacy form of marriage. Altogether, it was about 43 million votes (62%) against SSM, 26.5 million votes (38%) for, out of a total electorate of 138 million, so slightly more than 50% of the electorate voted on the issue.

[8]

Holders of traditional attitudes do not enjoy a universal presumption of good faith. Centuries of collaboration by the institutional church in the atrocities of European colonialism have deeply wounded the moral credibility of the church.

Say what? You mean the West? Were the Conquistadors churchmen?

If you are going to cast such a wide, sweeping net of condemnation, then also give credit where it is due. Activism by Christian churches and Christian sentiment was largely responsible for bringing about an end to slavery in the US. As Christ died to make men holy/Let us die to make men free.

The second question proceeds from the first: if you want a tolerant society, open for different viewpoints including your own, what positive steps will you take to make space for people who differ from you? If you want the freedom to refuse to bake the cake, arrange the flowers, rent the hall, how will you step back and make a space so that two women or two men who want to marry can exercise their rights?

Then why don’t you call off the goon squads that descend on the florists and bakers with a storm of obscene phone calls, hacked web sites, death threats, hate mail, and all the other vicious attacks that happen whenever someone gets on the wrong side of the rainbow mob? Such behavior is reflecting very poorly on your side, you know.

#17 Comment By Christine On June 30, 2016 @ 1:34 am

“In my experience, there is nothing like the hatred that comes from the LGBT movement and its allies”

That’s interesting. Earlier this same week you were emphatically declaring that in most cases, statements like that are an instant signal that the person making them is not serious and not to be listened to. Is that still true, or am I to take your word for it that this isn’t one of those cases and that you know the difference? Because everyone who complains about being hated has stories to tell about it.

For what it’s worth, Rod, I don’t hate you. I’m taking the time to write this not as an insincere “Gotcha!” but in the genuine hope that you will choose to recognize it as an opportunity for personal growth. I hope you make an effort to examine why you were so neatly caught at direct and open hypocrisy by a rhetorical snare of your own design and deployment.

When I look at this, I see it as a particularly sharp example of something I more generally perceive in you, which is a sense of haphazardness and inconsistency of thought. I don’t have much sense of an internal logic to your ethical structure. You seem to rationalize each belief you assert as it comes in accord to your feelings about it at the moment, without much concern for how it interacts with your other beliefs or even what you say it is from one day to the next.

It pains me to see someone making so little progress by doing so much work.

R,
Christine

#18 Comment By galanx On June 30, 2016 @ 5:18 am

If a gay florist( surprise, they’re not all rugged cowboys) refused to serve a Catholic wedding I’d support the Catholic couple who laid charges.

[NFR: I wouldn’t. — RD]

#19 Comment By galanx On June 30, 2016 @ 5:27 am

The other thing is, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to tell the Evangelists you’re interested in courting that the evil secularists are going to be just as bad as those mean and nasty people who started the Protestant Reformation.
For instance, the new Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., funded by the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, will have

Animatronics of historical figures like Queen Anne Boleyn and William Tyndale, who played major roles in preserving and translating the Scriptures over the centuries

#20 Comment By galanx On June 30, 2016 @ 5:36 am

pitchfork says:

In NC, they’re fighting. And the Obama administration has walked back their threat to withhold Federal funds:

Senate leader Phil Berger issued a statement saying that the Department of Justice can’t take away funding on its own.
…..
The real test may come when the courts side with the Obama administration, but at least for now they’re standing up to both the Federal government and the big corporations. I know Berger and I doubt he has any interest in their 30 pieces of silver. Gov. McCrory, though, strikes me as an opportunist. Time will tell.

Here I heard it was North Carolina backing down, faced with the power of the NBA

New legislation drafted by leadership in the North Carolina House of Representatives seeks to walk back portions of a controversial bill passed during a special session this spring restricting the rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.
….
The draft legislation is the result of months of conversations between leadership in the state legislature, including the Speaker’s office, and officials from the NBA, On Your Side Investigates has learned.

[9]

#21 Comment By Elijah On June 30, 2016 @ 7:44 am

I have been of the opinion that the BenOp is really somewhat of a hysterical reaction to the sturm und drang of sexual politics as played out in the media. Strong Christian communities are going to survive come what may.

But I’ve been wrong to think that. The speed at which gay marriage, trans ‘rights’, and efforts to curtail religious liberty (to name just three) have advanced requires that Christians have not just healthy local communities, but a larger community to rely on.

I don’t think that there are all that many pollyannas out there, just people who appear to be (though there are some, to be sure). It’s just that there are a lot of Christians who simply don’t know what to do. In a very real, practical sense, what do they do? Where do they start?

As you know, the decisions on a family level can be overwhelming. What books and media to allow, what families to associate with, and so on. I know families who are dead nuts against drink or media with any kind of sexual content, but they’ll watch the most disgusting kind of violent spectacles. And these are the ‘easy’ decisions. When you get to education, career, finances – how do Christians even start preparing for the fallout of a hostile secular state advancing against them?

And there is no doubt that the free exercise of religion stands to be limited in the coming years not by active legal or judicial maneuvering, but by passive re-definition. And what’s worse, an increasing number of people don’t see a problem with this.

Where do we start?

[NFR: I hope my book is a help. I have chapters dealing with Faith, Politics, Education, Family & Community, Sex & Sexuality, and Technology. Far as I can tell, nobody has this entire thing figured out. We will need to learn from each other. — RD]

#22 Comment By JonF On June 30, 2016 @ 10:48 am

MichaelCG,

I live in Maryland and I pay some heed to elections here. In the general election of 2012 Maryland approved SSM.
In Minnesota, where I have family, SSM was not approved that year (it was the following year by vote of the legislature) however an anti-SSM ballot initiative was voted down. My Mormon niece had something of a meltdown on Facebook over that result.

Washington state also approved SSM in 2012: a total of three states. All of this can be verified by some simple Google searches.

#23 Comment By Chris 1 On June 30, 2016 @ 11:52 am

Let me ask you, if a gay man was fired from his job for being gay, would you tell him to get over it, because at least they’re not throwing him off of buildings, like in ISIS-controlled territory?

Let me ask you: Do you remember Anita Bryant and the anti-gay campaigns of the 1970s? Do you remember when citizens voted >60% to not give the “special rights” to gays, that is for the absolute right to fire or evict homosexuals for being gay?

Where you there when AIDS was declared God’s judgement upon homosexuals, and when it was used to stoke fear and pass even more laws removing rights you take for granted?

Because it seems that you’ve come late to the party, that you have no memory of the events that galvanized the LGBT movement. Your history appears to start in the 1990s when Pat declared it a “culture war” for homosexuals to stand up for themselves the very way you are attempting to rally Christians to stand up for themselves.

You should study how the LGBT movement went from zero to hero, from pariah to winner. They did it by letting all their friends and neighbors know who they were…by refusing to be in the closet.

My suggestion is that Christians do the same, that is “kill ’em with kindness, and don’t be afraid to be a Christian.”

You wish to distance yourself from the politics of Anita Bryant, to deny it has anything to do with you, but to the LGBT community the refusal to bake a cake or make a bouquet hearkens to the laws good Christians like you voted to enact, laws designed to push gays back into the closet.

And in 2016 you feel the same way LGBTs felt in 1976.

The pyrrhic victories of the right paved the way for the victories of the left. The unwillingness to acknowledge this is as much a failure of memory as the unwillingness to remember Athens and Rome and etc…

#24 Comment By Joys-R-Us On June 30, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

Yep. Obergefell by itself — a radical decision, but one that wore a pretty tame, bourgeoisie face and included a few olive branches to traditionalists — would not have been particularly alarming. The Jacobin bloodlust that followed was a different story.

Did I miss something here? A Jacobin bloodlust followed Obergefell? How many people were killed? Have they been arrested?

#25 Comment By John Spragge On June 30, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

Quoting MichaelGC:

In 2012 it was actually only 2 states that affirmed SSM, Maine and Minnesota.

[7], actually.

Were the Conquistadors churchmen?

They acted with explicit church sanction. See the [10] and the [11] of 1493.

…why don’t you call off the goon squads…

References please, preferably from reputable sources.

#26 Comment By Bobby On June 30, 2016 @ 3:34 pm

Christine said, “You seem to rationalize each belief you assert as it comes in accord to your feelings about it at the moment, without much concern for how it interacts with your other beliefs or even what you say it is from one day to the next. It pains me to see someone making so little progress by doing so much work.”

I agree. I can discern no consistent standard underlying RD’s viewpoints aside from a subjective belief that conservative Christians have a right to enjoy privileges at others’ expense merely because they are conservative Christians. I don’t think that RD actually believes that. But it’s the only consistent legal standard I can induce from what is published here.

As a conservative and someone who actually practices fairly traditional values–and who believes in the merits of those values–I saw in conservative Christians potential allies for halting the nihilistic march of progressivism. But I have given up that hope as foolishness, largely because I can’t discern any consistent intellectual framework that shapes conservative Christian thinking on these topics. That is, except for “We Christians must always get what we want.”

I’ve come to see that conservative Christians care more about preserving authoritarianism than they care about promoting traditional virtues. They seem to have little interest in constructing a society that softly nudges people to make wise choices that inure to their own benefit, even while people perceive themselves to be the primary actors in making those choices. Rather, for conservative Christians, it seems like the values questions are just a means to another end. That other end is the revival of a robust institutional form of Christianity that shapes all of society under the heavy-handed authority of religious leaders. Maybe that’s not what conservative Christians want. But it’s the only narrative I can imagine that seems to encompass all of their otherwise intellectually inconsistent positions under one roof. And that’s why there’s distrust. I have no more desire to live under the authoritarian hand of a church bureaucrat than I would live under the authoritarian hand of political correctness. In fact, I’d probably prefer the latter over the former. But as an anti-authoritarian, I’d prefer to live in neither such world. And that’s why the honeymoon with conservative Christians is largely over for this conservative.

#27 Comment By dominic1955 On June 30, 2016 @ 7:40 pm

JonF,

“I realize Eberstadt is not writing a history of Tudor England but he leaves out an important fact: the reign of Mary Tudor, called “Bloody” for a good reason.”

Please. If anyone should have the “Bloody” moniker, it should have been Elizabeth I, the old witch.

“Catholics, given the chance, had turned on Protestants and burned them at the stake.”

Maybe because England was just as Catholic as Italy or Poland a few short decades before and had Protestantism forced on it both by boiling the front and outright violence. The only problem with Mary was that she didn’t purge the whole isle of those treacherous vipers.

“And those assassins coming after Elizabeth were not just imaginary. People really were trying to kill her.”

What should an usurper and regicide expect?

“Obviously nothing like that is happening in the US. But as I mentioned on another thread just yesterday, the secular Left is afraid of the Religious Right, and does not see itself as winning that battle, but as being at risk of losing to would-be theocrats.”

They doth protest too much because they know, deep down, they are illegitimate frauds.

“You and and I may both think that is a foolish fear, but it is there and it’s motivating those people every bit as much as Protestant Englishmen were once motivated to fear Catholics.”

They were ALL Catholics. Protestantism was a cancer unleashed on a deeply Catholic country as the bare ruined choirs that still dot the English countryside bare silent witness to.

#28 Comment By dominic1955 On June 30, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

JonF,

Actually, on second thought, you put forward an excellent analogy. An elite forces an alien Johnny-come-lately upon a country aided and abetted by venal people who should have been defenders of truth but valued their gold and titles more than their souls. Most of it was done by boiling the frog and getting people to go along with cleverly worded “compromises” and then mop up any remaining weak resistance mercilessly.

The Pinkshirts/Homintern = 16th Century English Protestants? Yup, pretty much…

#29 Comment By MichaelGC On June 30, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

John Spragge says on June 30, 2016 at 2:42 pm:

…why don’t you call off the goon squads…

References please, preferably from reputable sources.

Feign ignorance much? Did you miss the articles right here on Baronelle Stutzman and what she went through? By now the routine with the threats is expected and typical, but you know the drill.

I saw this while it was happening, with the obscene, disgusting pictures being posted on Yelp.

[12]

I can’t believe that you don’t know about Memories Pizza, made famous during the media-sponsored Hate Week over Indiana’s RFRA. They had to close for a while.

[13]

Interview with Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, about what happened to him the day after the homosexual couple for whom he declined to bake a wedding cake left his shop in a rage, flipping him off:

Q: What did the caller say?

A: He was going to come and he was going to shoot me. He said he was driving past a certain [nearby] street. He said he also knew that my daughter was here.

[14]

[15]

Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon. They had to close down over safety concerns, too. Excerpts from e-mails here, too.

[16]

#30 Comment By Brendan from Oz On June 30, 2016 @ 11:04 pm

As a conservative and someone who actually practices fairly traditional values–and who believes in the merits of those values–I saw in conservative Christians potential allies for halting the nihilistic march of progressivism. But I have given up that hope as foolishness, largely because I can’t discern any consistent intellectual framework that shapes conservative Christian thinking on these topics.”

Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox do not share the same intellectual framework, while all consider themselves Christians and possibly Conservative.

Sola Scriptura, Biblical Literalism and such are as foolish to me (Catholic) as the Sophistry progressivism is based upon. Mine is the intellectual framework of Aristotle, Aquinas, Newman and the like rather than Calvin or Luther or even Jeremy Taylor.

In the rejection of Sophistry, Catholics and Orthodox share in an intellectual framework that rejects the individual as the measure and decider of all things. The adoption of Sophistry and Pyrrhonism by Bacon and the Empiricists (named for the ancient Sceptic Sextus Empiricus who wrote Contra Logic) ensured the rift in perpetuity.

Yes, it’s a mess and can be confusing, especially without knowing the history. There will be no common intellectual framework among conservative Christians as we have too many histories and denominations.

But we do unite on certain subjects common to all Christian traditions, even if from different intellectual frameworks.

#31 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 1, 2016 @ 2:39 am

“Fran, you have offered not one scintilla of evidence”

Go to their website. Find out who the founders are.

Then come back and apologize.

#32 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 1, 2016 @ 3:23 am

One thing about Rod – he’s certainly of a tolerant, even libertarian bent. You don’t see that kind of open platform on sites that favor the same opinions some of the commenters here sport.

Personally, I can tolerate a whole lot of deviants and deviance. What I can’t is those who won’t tolerate my own opinion of it and the right to hold and express my own opinions. My definition of deviants who will settle for no less than what amounts to a compulsory pink imperial salute, is that they are no more than fascists, Mountain Jacobins of the Robespierre variety, wannabe totalitarians who might yet turn out to be as bad as any others who’ve preceded them.

“No one is going to be told, ‘You’re a Christian, therefore you’re fired.’”

I have seen that exact hostility expressed by managers in companies that aren’t large corporations. Recall that sexual harassment does occur, even if every accusation of it isn’t true, but a cynical means of gaining power. Real discrimination against Christians can be just as visceral as predatory sexual behavior by managers and others. If it should happen that people of a certain bias think they can get away with it, they will do it. A recent labor case in Washington dealt with a situation where an outfitter denied employment specifically because of an expressed animus against Christians. Once the rage rises to a certain self-righteous hysteria, it is self-justified, just as if it were a case of a Jew not hiring a neo-Nazi, or once upon a time a self-righteous Nazi no hiring a Jew in Germany.

I have stuck my neck out to hire openly homosexual IT personnel when it wasn’t wanted by other managers who weren’t Christians, but when I needed the same, none of those I’d helped expressed support. I don’t believe there is any practical goodwill that can be expected in return, because for them, Christianity itself is the problem – just as it was to a lesser degree to the careerist managers.

#33 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 1, 2016 @ 3:31 am

“Sola Scriptura, Biblical Literalism and such are as foolish to me (Catholic) as the Sophistry progressivism is based upon. Mine is the intellectual framework of Aristotle, Aquinas, Newman and the like rather than Calvin or Luther or even Jeremy Taylor.”

I’d like to see more literalism in following Jesus’ words rejecting violence and war, rather than the disproven Just War Theory’s elaborate intellectualizing it all away.

Or rather than Aristotle’s geocentric cosmology.

What I find more sophisticated, spiritually, is the Holy Fool of The Island. The wisdom of God, seems foolish to the worldly wise.

#34 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 1, 2016 @ 4:23 am

“Because it seems that you’ve come late to the party, that you have no memory of the events that galvanized the LGBT movement.”

Some parties. I was there, right in the gay bath houses now celebrated as sacred spaces, the cubicles with waist high openings between them, the orgy rooms padded and dark. The promiscuous anonymous sex, eulogized in my friend John Rechy’s novel “Numbers.”

#35 Comment By Joys-R-Us On July 1, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

MichaelGC,

Are you even aware that the term “good squad” refers to criminals or private merceneries who use violence to intimidate or achieve their ends? The term came into use to describe the anti-Union thugs hired by big companies to beat up Union organizers and their sympathizers.

So it’s a literal question that needs answering: where are the example of actual anti-Christian good squads using violence against opponents of gay rights? Where are the casualties, the deaths, the guillotines? I know the fantasy here is that Christians have to become “warriors” in this matter, but where is the actual violence to fit the rhetoric? Anything even remotely comparable to the violence historically used by Christians against their opponents?

All the cites you mention involve non-violent protest of one kind or another. No “goon squads”. I don’t necessarily approve of what they do. I don’t like the whole “Social Justice Warrior” fiction either. But falsely speaking of violent groups without actually citing any incidents of violence is highly disingenuous. And the claim often made here that “it’s coming”, is not credible without actual violence in evidence. We could also claim that the whole Christian Ben-Op project is also a cover for a violent counter-revolt against the gay rights movement. Because, you know, there are actually people here on this blog advocating violent secession for that very reason. Fortunately, I think they are all blowhards and can’t be taken seriously. But then again, I’m not determined to make myself out to be a heroic martyr.

#36 Comment By John Spragge On July 1, 2016 @ 4:21 pm

Quoting MichaelGC:

Did you miss the articles right here on Baronelle Stutzman and what she went through? By now the routine with the threats is expected and typical, but you know the drill.

OK, time for a lesson on the Internet and language. The Internet has people called trolls who put out messages, including messages of hate, obscenity, and violence. Many of those people do what they do out of sheer desire for attention; they have no particular axe to grind [17] They just post to get a rise out of people.

Other people invested in a cause, or directly affected by someone’s actions, do post or message out of anger.

A third group consists of people who actually belong to coordinated groups. They post in response to “call outs”, and in that sense the title of “goon squad” would potentially apply. One “men’s rights activist” website has a section aimed at encouraging members to harass particular feminists. Unless you can post some evidence of an analogous calls from Gay and lesbian website to harass conservative or businesses that discriminate, your claim of a “goon squad” doesn’t hold up. Looking at the sources you’ve provided so far, you haven’t come close. You haven’t even provided any evidence the threats and abuse comes from members of the Gay and lesbian community rather than the attention seekers these controversies attract like flies.

#37 Comment By JonF On July 1, 2016 @ 4:48 pm

Re: I was there, right in the gay bath houses now celebrated as sacred spaces

Huh? Are these sacred fanes to be found in some other universe? I have never heard one word of such in this one. (I mean, yes, I know there are bathhouses, but “sacred” ones?). As far as I know the only place connected with gay rights that has any sort of formal recognition is the old Stonewall Inn in NYC.

#38 Comment By JonF On July 1, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

Re: “And those assassins coming after Elizabeth were not just imaginary. People really were trying to kill her.”

What should an usurper and regicide expect?

Elizabeth was neither. She had come to the throne legally according to the will of her father Henry VIII*, who named her as a potential successor, and whose will was formally accepted by Parliament as the law of the land in the matter.

Mary the erstwhile Queen of Scots was put to death for involvement in a plot against Elizabeth. If some foreign ex-ruler living on US soil were implicated in such a plot against the President of the US with an eye toward supplanting him (or her) such a person would find themselves in considerable legal trouble too– which could include the death penalty even today. To be sure we will never know the extent of Mary Stuart’s guilt, and quite likely a modern court would acquit her due to the paucity of hard evidence. She was however no longer queen of anything, her own people having tossed her out. England was fortunate never to have her as monarch. Even Mary Tudor never gave a moment’s serious thought to leaving her crown to her incapable, imprudent Scottish cousin.

About 300 Catholics were put to death under Elizabeth, all of them for acts of treason– though some may have been innocent. But it was a brutal time all over Europe. In neighboring France thousands had died in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre alone– and many more in the era of religious violence that continued for another generation.

* Before you point this out, Elizabeth was, legally, a bastard– even under English law since both her father and her brother had proclaimed her status as such. That did not prelude her succession. William the Conqueror was born on the wrong side of the sheets. And elsewhere the Spanish House of Trastamara (Ferdinand and Isabella both were members) and the Portuguese House of Aziz were both founded by bastard sons of former kings.

#39 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 1, 2016 @ 6:12 pm

It’s amazing that a guy who believes as strongly about issues as JonF does, that he hasn’t gotten out more, where experience and reality could inform bubble preconceptions.

#40 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 1, 2016 @ 10:34 pm

Fran, you really put your foot in your mouth. I can’t remember how many different parts of the country JonF has lived in, but he currently lives in a rather economically modest area of inner city Baltimore, a diverse area where he gets out in several directions and experiences all kinds of life and reality.

Its amazing that a Mennonite Christian who once voted for Barack Obama jumps to the conclusion that anyone who doesn’t see things her way must live in a bubble.

(And by the way, I have some testy arguments with JonF too.)

My definition of deviants who will settle for no less than what amounts to a compulsory pink imperial salute, is that they are no more than fascists

On this I agree. It is one of the main reasons I have developed a jaundiced eye toward the whole LGBTQWERTY phenomenon. You have a right to live your life, but not to demand that every salute and celebrate your every whim. I must add though that the Jacobins and the “Mountain” were mortally opposed factions, who sent each other to the guillotine whenever either had the upper hand. (Mostly it was the Jacobins who had the upper hand.)

The Black Lives Matter movement is honest, blacks are being killed by cops and they won’t stand for it anymore

There are instances where individuals of dark skin color are killed by cops. Sometimes its because the individual concerned was pointing a loaded weapon at a police officer, or at another civilian in the officer’s presence. Sometimes it is because the officer was a little faster on the trigger in an ambiguous situation with a person of dark skin color — which is a legitimate problem. To merely say that cops are killing black people tells us nothing useful.

#41 Comment By JonF On July 2, 2016 @ 11:48 am

Thanks for defending me, Siarlys.

Re: And by the way, I have some testy arguments with JonF too.

Yes, because you insist on defending that crook-backed usurper and disappearer of children, Richard III against the honest (if a bit greedy) Henry Tudor. 🙂