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Christianity In Negative World

Reader SB writes:

Rod, and Jefferson Smith above – Catholics won’t give in to the LGBT agenda, but liberal fake catholics will (a tragedy, not a sneer!).

The question is not – how is a LGBT dance being held at a Catholic University? But why is there no accountability? That is, why is there no mechanism for outraged Catholics to have action taken?

Instead, we hear the usual calls for action, even (in the Providence College case) the local bishop Tobin calls for change from the university, but nothing substantive happens. Like Notre Dame Uni no allowing staff & student insurance for contraception.

So, who owns and controls these ‘Christian’ institutions? If they are Catholic, then who is enforcing them to uphold Catholic values? And if that mechanism is (clearly) broken, how can we fix that to get fast, Christian resolution to these disputes?

Lay people should be able to lay a complaint, have a quick investigation and decision (in line with church teaching) to uphold the faith ad prevent scandal.

The real problem is not people asking for or planning a gay dance, but that there appears to be no mechanism to prevent it and uphold the university’s supposed Christian values.

This is why I am unconvinced of your Benedict Option – withdrawing into devout intentional communities abandons the many ‘stray’ Christians attending these colleges and confused by gay dances promoted by the church… we should fight for valuable institutions, not surrender them meekly.


You say that, and in principle I agree, but tell me, where are the fights that you can hope to win? Do you really think that most Catholics are with you? There is no “accountability” because most of the stakeholders have already gone over to the progressive side. According to surveys, most Catholics are to the left of the American public on key issues. Even half of weekly massgoers [1](for example) believe that employers should be forced to provide contraception as part of their health care plan. More broadly, the news about the beliefs and practices of young Catholic adults is very grim from an orthodox Catholic point of view, as I pointed out in my answer last fall to Father Spadaro [2]. Spend a little time online in the Pew research, and looking through Christian Smith’s research out of Notre Dame, and honesty will compel you to ask: with what Catholic army are you going to fight for these institutions?

I’m honestly not trying to be snarky. I wish you well if you choose to fight for them. I think the battle for most of them, though, is already lost, and that the orthodox Catholics remaining within them would do well simply to hold their own in hostile territory.

What’s more, how do you fight for institutions when you can’t even hold the chanceries in the Francis era? Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark is emerging as a leading pro-gay [3], pro-Francis voice in the US church. He just delivered a speech at Villanova in which he warned against the Benedict Option.  [4]From America magazine’s coverage:

“Even from ancient times, there have been individuals and movements who have tried to define and delimit what it means to be a Catholic Christian. Nevertheless, the universal church has always repudiated such attempts. It is only the Lord who ultimately judges who belongs or does not belong.”

This is preposterous, spectacularly so, and cannot withstand a moment’s reflection. What on earth does Cardinal Tobin think that church councils did? They had to decide what Christian doctrine was. Were the Arians Christians, or were they not? What is the Nicene Creed for? What was the Reformation, and Counter-Reformation, about? Why does the Catholic Church need a catechism if the Church denies any attempt to define Catholicism?

Of course that’s not what the Church does at all. Cardinal Tobin is being extremely dishonest — but he can get away with it because he’s counting on Catholics in his audience either a) not knowing the slightest thing about Church history and theology, which will lead them to take him at his word here, or b) understanding that he’s saying what he has to say to stigmatize orthodoxy within Catholicism, and open the door for all manner of heterodoxy.

It appears that the cardinal did not bring up the Ben Op by name, but condemned it all the same:

Cardinal Tobin seemingly condemned this approach to faith, characterizing it as an effort to form “small enclaves” of believers who will somehow “safeguard the treasure of the Christian tradition in its purest form from the corrosive intrusion of a corrupt society.” He said instead that engagement with the world is a Christian principle that dates back to the earliest followers of Jesus.

Reading his remarks from an electronic tablet, the cardinal said Catholics must not be afraid of engaging with the world.

“The church has no other option but to turn outward,” he said. “This turning outward extends to the human condition in its heights and depths.”

Readers of The Benedict Option [5] know perfectly well that’s a mischaracterization of the book’s argument, and I’d bet money that Cardinal Tobin knows it, and knows what he’s doing here, just as he knows what he’s doing by wildly mischaracterizing Church history. If Catholics were to do what the Ben Op says they should do, and study their own history, and the teachings of their Church, it would become crystal clear to them that Cardinal Tobin and his ilk are deceiving them. Therefore, the Cardinal assures them that the past is not what they may think it is, that indeed in the past, the Church has always been wide open to anybody professing anything. And then they tell them that the Church shouldn’t look inward, only outward. That is, no examination of tradition and its teachings, in order to help Catholics know how to look outward, and how to engage the world as Catholics.

Look at this short passage from The Benedict Option. [5] Does it sound to you like the book counsels turning away from sharing the Good News with the world?

Father Bryce Sibley, who directs Catholic campus ministry at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL), told me that the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), a growing national campus ministry that has a chapter in over one hundred universities, including ULL, has been key to building a strong intentional Catholic student communities among Millennials. “These young Catholics are orthodox. They want to confession, they want the sacraments, they want formation,” Father Sibley said. “We’re not just about pizza and having fun. As a result, in the past six years, we’ve had almost fifty people enter seminary or religious life.”

Unlike Catholic campus ministry when he was in college a generation ago, said Father Sibley, FOCUS concentrates intensely on discipleship through prayer, study, and worship—often in small groups—and preparing students for evangelization. “You talk to most Catholic campus ministers today, we’re really hopeful,” said Father Sibley. “These kids want the real faith, not a watered-down version. If you want to evangelize, things will change.”

Spadaro, Tobin, Cardinal Cupich, and that crowd know perfectly well that the Ben Op does not call for total withdrawal from the world. Rather, it calls for Catholics (and other Christians) to prioritize strengthening their catechesis and spiritual disciplines, so that when they go out into the world (as we must), we can faithfully stand for authentic Christianity. By bearing false witness against what I’m actually advocating in The Benedict Option [5], these churchmen want to discourage Catholics from reading it.

Actually, I don’t blame them. Catholics who read the book and are encouraged by it to go deeper into Catholic teaching and history, will not be as susceptible to the lines peddled by these churchmen.

On the question of LGBTs in the Church, Cardinal Tobin said:

He added that “the church is moving on the question of same-sex couples,” albeit not as quickly as some people would like. Dialogue, he said, is key.

Ah yes, dialogue. [6]That’s the liberal Christian word for the process by which they slowly wear down the orthodox, until liberals get the upper hand, then it’s whammo! 

So, what do Catholics learn from Cardinal Tobin’s talk, as reported by America?

  1. Catholicism has never tried to define itself, to to limit who counts as a Catholic, and who doesn’t.
  2. Catholics should keep their focus outward, because focusing inward only leads to sectarianism and rigidity.
  3. LGBT Catholics and their allies should be patient, because prelates like him are using the “dialogue” tactic to neutralize and marginalize orthodox Catholics.

This is the new line in the Francis-era Catholic church. This man is a cardinal, chosen and elevated by Pope Francis. Reader SB, you say that “true Catholics” won’t give in to this kind of thing, but you ought to reflect on the fact that generations of terrible catechesis and lack of formation has prepared the majority of American Catholics to do precisely what you say they won’t do. Though not a Catholic, I agree with you about the need for orthodoxy within the Catholic Church and other Christian churches. My contention is that there are far fewer people like you and me than you prefer to see.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [10]

Well, this is half right.

The position of reader SB, and the plight of the orthodox Catholic in a liberalizing Catholic Church, should be understood in light of Aaron Renn’s commentary in the current issue of the e-mail newsletter The Masculinist. [11] Renn writes:

In Masc #13 [12]I laid out the three cultural worlds Christianity has faced in America over the last few decades:

Positive World (Pre-1994). To be seen as a religious person and one who exemplifies traditional Christian norms is a social positive. Christianity is a status enhancer. In some cases failure to embrace those norms hurt you.

Neutral World (1994-2014). Christianity is seen as a socially neutral attribute. It no longer had dominant status in society, but to be seen as a religious person is not a knock either. It’s more like a personal affectation or hobby. Traditional norms of behavior retain residual force.

Negative World (2014-). In this world, being a Christian is a social negative, especially in high status positions. Christianity in many ways as seen as undermining the social good. Traditional norms are expressly repudiated.

Today’s church is divided between a legacy positive world contingent (typically religious right types) and a neutral world contingent of mostly urban based cultural engagement types. Each as their own characteristic memetic styles.

I don’t know reader SB, but my guess is that he (she?) believes that we live in Positive World or Neutral World. Renn says that characteristic Neutral World churches are Hillsong and New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian, both of which have been quite successful in their context. Renn writes:

Both of them use a memetic strategy based on communicating that “we are just like you [neutral world]” and which delivers aesthetic and programmatic excellence in markets where that’s expected. It’s a memetic strategy, blending both new and other media, that has delivered results in the neutral world.

But Neutral World is swiftly passing into Negative World. Renn says that the Benedict Option is the only attempt he has yet seen in which mainstream figures anticipate this and try to figure out how to face it:

In the negative world, there’s an agonistic relationship between the church and the world, whether or not the church seeks it out. But unlike with positive worlder thinking, there’s no prospect in sight of dominating or even much influencing the direction of secular culture or potentially even thinking that’s not even something to aspire to. Christianity may get reduced to a relatively small minority.

This space requires the masculine virtues because being a cultural minority requires being comfortable with something of a low status or outlier memetic that is self-consciously different. But understanding that you are in that minority position opens up tremendous cultural space too. Historically Christianity, as a default national faith, had to ensure a relatively broad based, mainstream appeal. That’s no longer a requirement. What does that give the church the freedom to do?

Renn says that Christians should observe the memetic strategies of minority religions. He posts a photo of two Hasidic Jewish men, with their distinctive way of dressing, and says:

Despite being a tiny minority, Hasidic Jews have immense confidence in being highly visibly distinct from mainstream society. Their very appearance (memetics) conveys that while they don’t care what you do, they are doing something different and are not ashamed of it.

Muslims are another group that figured it out. You’ve probably seen pictures of people observing the Muslim prayer times in the streets of various Western cities. Islam, as a universalist religion, is more culturally aggressive than Judaism. The memetics of praying in the street make clear that they are not just broadcasting distinctiveness but symbolically occupying territory. Nevertheless it’s a self-confident, attractional memetic for a minority religion in Western countries. There’s a lot to learn from Muslim communities.

Christianity is fundamentally a religion of the Word. The gospel is Good News, not Good Aesthetics. So the logos aspect must be right. That’s a precondition to anything more.

Where memetics comes in is creating the ethos and pathos that attract people who are willing to sign up for a status lowering religion. I posit that this requires showing that the church has something you can’t get from the world, and which has the self-confidence to be different.

In the negative world the church has to be distinct, not assimilationist, in the manner (if not the exact way) of the early church. The early church had many distinctives from the surrounding culture: they refused to worship the culture’s gods, they avoided many of the practices approved of by the culture, and they established their own practices like refusing to abandon the sick. They had a community that was difficult to be part of, but which generated immense value as well (in addition to possessing metaphysical truth). They did this by and large without attacking anyone else (though they did have what was essentially an intragroup feud with Jews who did not buy into Jesus as the Messiah).

I’m going to give one idea for a possible negative world move for the church: a reinvigorated and unapologetic memetic around healthy traditional families.

You can read the whole thing by subscribing to The Masculinist [11](it’s free).

In an important sense, what one thinks of the Benedict Option depends on whether one has made the shift yet from Positive or Neutral World to Negative World.

If you live in Positive World, of course it looks crazy. But Positive Worlders are living in an impenetrable bubble. I think even Neutral Worlders would agree that the Positives are totally unrealistic.

If you live in Neutral World, the Ben Op looks alarmist and defeatist. Neutral Worlders think that winsomeness can conquer all. They believe that the church can ultimately accommodate itself to post-Christianity, and be tolerated, if not affirmatively embraced. Neutral Worlders have either surrendered traditional Christian morality about sexuality or soon will, because that is the price of maintaining their status in the public square.

Why is sex such a big deal? Why can’t Christians agree to disagree on this point? Both seculars and Neutral World Christians who wish to rid themselves of the tension between the Church and the World ask.

The answer, in short, is that the Sexual Revolution challenges Christianity at a fundamental level. There is the matter of Biblical authority, but there is also the matter of Christian anthropology (what is man for?) and ultimately, of metaphysics (does matter matter?). This post has already gone on for too long, so I won’t get into these questions again right here; I’ve talked about them at length in this space before. For a wholly secular take on the issue, read Philip Rieff’s introduction to his 1966 book The Triumph Of The Therapeutic.  [13]

The more important questions are: Why is sex such a big deal to the gatekeepers of the public square? Why can’t they tolerate religious traditionalists, especially given that we have lost, and don’t threaten them in any meaningful way? After all, a prohibition on sex outside of male-female marriage is one of many basic teachings of orthodox Christianity. Nobody in the world is going after Christians, their livelihoods, and their reputations, for affirming any other teachings.

Neutral World Christians will find that if they surrender on this issue, it won’t be the last one. In fact, having surrendered here, they will find it easier to surrender when the next demand is made of them.

I find what Cardinal Tobin argues for — and, to a large extent, Pope Francis’s agenda — to amount to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church betting all the chips it has left on Neutral World — that is, on the belief that the modern world is not hostile to Christianity, and that Christians can be just like everybody else. How else could one explain the absurd view that “the universal church has always repudiated … individuals and movements who have tried to define and delimit what it means to be a Catholic Christian”?

How is this not saying, “You can believe whatever you want to, and if you call it Catholic, that’s okay with us. Who is anybody to judge?”

If that’s the case, the Catholic Church will be absorbed fully into modern liberalism, which is by no means neutral about orthodox Christianity. The modern world is not particularly hostile to Christianity, as long as it doesn’t challenge the modern world’s cherished dogmas But a Christianity that doesn’t fundamentally challenge the modern world is something other than Christianity.

Christians who can read the signs of the times will get about preparing themselves for Christian life in Negative World, and building church and church-related institutions to survive, and even to thrive, in Negative World. That’s what the Benedict Option tries to do. It’s only “defeatist” to people who don’t understand how decisively the Western world has changed with regard to traditional Christianity.

I’ll leave you with a link to Issue 13 of The Masculinist [12], in which Renn (a conservative Presbyterian) goes more deeply into his ideas of Positive, Neutral, and Negative World. He’s writing about American Evangelicalism specifically, but these same ideas could be transferred over to American Catholicism without losing much.

I first created this positive/neutral/negative framework in 2014 when I saw For the Life of the World, a series of seven short films talking about Christianity and life. A friend of mine was heavily involved in making this. It played to enthusiastic crowds at Christian colleges and elsewhere, with at least half a million people having watched it.

When I saw it the first time, I said to myself walking out, “That was really well done, but it was the film for five years ago.” I went back and started taking notes, and rapidly sketched out my framework.

My initial thought  is that as soon as being known as a Christian would incur a material social penalty, which I anticipated happening soon, there would be a mass abandonment of the faith by the megachurch crowd, etc.

I was wrong about that. What happened instead is that the neutral world Evangelicals largely decided to follow the response of the traditional mainline denominations before them in embracing the world and focusing on the social gospel. In other words, they decided to sign on with the winning team.

The average neutral world Christian leader – and that’s a lot of the high profile ones other than the remaining religious righters, ones who have a more dominant role than ever thanks to the internet – talks obsessively about two topics today: refugees (immigrants) and racism. They combine that with angry, militant anti-Trump politics. These are not just expounded as internal to the church (e.g., helping the actual refugee family on your block), but explicitly in a social reform register (changing legacy culture and government policy).

I’m not going to argue that they are wrong are those points. But it’s notable how selective these folks were in picking topics to talk about. They seem to have landed on causes where they are 100% in agreement with the elite secular consensus. It’s amazing how loud and publicly chest thumping they are on these topics while never saying anything that would get them uninvited from a Manhattan cocktail hour.


People are going to be forced to make choices, across a wide spectrum of domains. I’m afraid current trends indicate that Christian leaders are going to make the wrong ones. We already know from the past that social gospel style Christianity is a gateway to apostasy. That’s where the trend is heading here. I was speaking with one pastor who is a national council member of the Gospel Coalition. He’s a classic neutral worlder who strongly disapproves of Trump. But he notes that the Millennials in his congregation are in effect Biblically illiterate and have a definition of God’s justice that is taken from secular leftist politics. They did not, for example, see anything at all problematic about Hillary Clinton and her views. A generation or so from now when these people are the leaders, they won’t be people keeping unpopular positions to themselves. They won’t have any unpopular positions to hide. They will be completely assimilated to the world. Only their ethics will no longer be Hillary’s, but the new fashion du jour.

Rather than a mass blowout then, Evangelicalism would thus die from a slow bleed, much as the mainlines and the Church of England did before them. Indeed, today’s Evangelicals are retracing the steps of the mainlines. The parallels with the late 19th/early 20th centuries are there and should be studied. Back then, for example, virtually all of the sophisticated intellectual and cultural types – the cultural engagers of their day – sided with the world and became today’s liberal mainlines. Many of the ones who remained orthodox, like Gresham Machen, paid a huge price for doing so – largely inflicted by their erstwhile brethren who assimilated. As it turns out, intellectuals are very easy to co-opt with a few trinkets. It looks like it’s happening again. Almost every Evangelical institution I know is explicitly reformulating itself around secular social gospel principles, even if they wouldn’t use those words to describe it. There will be residual beliefs in place, but over time they could dissipate to nothing. (Remember, the liberal mainlines didn’t go from A to B overnight. It was a long process. For example, earlier this year I read a book by famed early 20th century liberal preacher Henry Emerson Fosdick that contained things so reactionary that even many “conservative” pastors today would be unwilling to write them). Practically speaking, folks like Ben Sasse might obtain great sinecures for themselves, but they will never effect any real, positive change in the world. And their attractiveness to others will dwindle over time and their Christianity will fade into the background and ultimately disappear.

Read the whole thing.  [12]


108 Comments (Open | Close)

108 Comments To "Christianity In Negative World"

#1 Comment By Ryan W On April 17, 2018 @ 1:08 pm

Oddly enough, I often feel like the best response to a lot of this stuff is a line in the Quran

Oh, you who disbelieve!
I do not worship that which you worship,
Nor do you worship That Which I worship.
Nor will I worship that which you have been worshipping,
Neither will you worship That Which I worship.
To you your religion and to me mine.

When you read statements like those of Cardinal Tobin quoted here, it’s really easy to see that these aren’t people who are arguing in good faith. There’s nothing to be gained from entering into discussions with them or trying to answer them in their own terms. You could very easily show that what he says is outrageously false from a simple factual point of view, but does anyone think that would get you anywhere? At the same time, these arguments are so silly and transparent that no one who doesn’t actively want to be deceived will be fooled by them, if they have any chance at all to hear a more authentic version of the gospel. Best just to leave these “blind guides of the blind” to their own devices, and focus on preaching and catechizing.

#2 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2018 @ 1:12 pm

Yep. The same handing down that gave us the NT canon and the Creeds. If you’re equally agnostic about their provenance your version of Christianity has a rather large epistemological problem.

I adhere to the heresy that the Bible contains the Word of God, as distinct from the teaching that it IS the “complete and perfect Word of God.” I don’t worry about precise doctrine, we’re all going to get a good deal wrong if we try hard enough. The point is the search to come as close as we can, listening to each other’s insights as well as our own. My salvation is not mine to accomplish, that is something only God can do.

How is marriage consummated by sodomy?

All of the claims of discrimination turn on this one thing.

Well, they don’t. Lesbians don’t come close to committing sodomy. And a plausible argument could be made that God doesn’t mind lesbians, just sodomites.

To the extent that marriage is an effort, divine or human, to tame a raw animal instinct and make it fit for human company, for experience with mutual respect by curious animal-spirit hybrids into whom God has breathed a living soul… if the raw animal instinct an individual feels is same-sex attraction, the bond of marital fidelity and mutual respect may be reasonable, even though it is very much a sideshow to the reasons we have sexual emotions at all.

Or, maybe the fact that sexuality is by nature dimorphic and heterosexual means that marriage simply does not apply.

I’m rather agnostic about which is True.

The similarity I see is this: With the exception of a few edge cases, people don’t choose either their racial classification or their sexual orientation, and unchosen traits that are non-sociopathic are invalid grounds for discriminating against people.

That’s a common argument — and since you mention it only to discard it, I will say little about it. The concept of “race” has many different origins and applications, but as applied to the history of racial discrimination within a nation growing out of the apologia for slavery, it is an artificial construct of very recent origin — whereas sex is a very real distinction that pre-dates human history. This may be why you discard the analogy.

Left-handedness IS a better analogy. Reserving the plentiful evidence that SOME people turn to homosexuality for traumatic reasons, rather than congenital ones, there is no massive political controversy over left handedness. There is no movement to give left-handed people special status as a “marginalized group.” There are no demands from an organized lobby for “Left Handed Liberation.” There have been some misguided attempts to “retrain” left handed people to write with their right hand, but its never been, e.g., a bar to receiving communion.

There are many legitimate grievances for people who couple with a same-sex partner, or feel that is what they will look for. It is in fact irrelevant to most job qualifications. (An occasional exception — if a male customer at a legal brothel in Nevada were told that recent civil rights rulings require them to accept any employee without regard to sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, it would be a real problem).

What we’re arguing about is the misguided demand that churches stop teaching taboos about homosexual acts. I’m a militant First Amendment guy. I would never countenance the criminal or civil law making distinctions based on whether this or that church classifies your acts as those of an unrepentant sinner. I support Lawrence v. Texas as good constitutional law, quite as much as I deplore Obergefell as the product of sloppy reasoning. But by the same token, I have little to no patience with asserting that churches must conform to a prevailing civil orthodoxy in defining what is a sin.

Muslims have taboos about dogs, pork, alcohol, shellfish, and although somewhat different from either Jews or Christians, homosexuality. Jews have taboos about pork, shellfish, lobster — but love their wine and don’t mind dogs. Some Protestants have taboos about wine, but love dogs, crabs, lobster, and forbid homosexual encounters. There is no real difference between any of these taboos. They may correctly or incorrectly understand what God really expects of us, but they are none of them civilly binding, and all of them within a given faith’s right to teach to anyone who will listen.

What I’m calculating is that these organizations will wish to remain big and mainstream, rather than become small and sectarian, and therefore will find ways to go with the flow, probably while at least initially claiming not to.

What I think you may be missing is that a large mass of the civilian population simply is not on board with the militance of the elites who think they tell people how to think. Churches that adhere to traditional teachings on homosexuality will not become small, although any church could be considered sectarian, since they exist as a separate sect. The elites may deplore this, but millions will go right on attending churches where they hear sermons denouncing homosexuality. Those who don’t agree, will find plenty of churches that lack this teaching.

I recall reading an opinion by Richard Posner in one of the pre-Obergefell cases, in which the good judge just seemed baffled at what the states were asking for, because without religious arguments (obviously not cognizable for this purpose) they really had none.

I agree that the states and the “Christian law firms” did a poor job arguing their case. I’ve offered better arguments here, much better arguments, but none of them consulted with me.

My initial point is, you can’t even consider whether someone has been “deprived” of the “benefits” of “marriage” without rigorously defining what marriage IS. Instead, starting with Goodridge, courts “construed” marriage as something different than what it had ever been, in order to make something CALLED marriage available to plaintiffs. Term definition was the end product rather than the antecedent exercise. That’s invalid on its face.

Second, while its not true that marriage is all about procreation, it is true that marriage was about a specific biological relationship, that between male and female, and that biological relationship exists only because it was a good reproductive strategy. If not, then there would be no sexuality, and therefore no homosexuality.

Third, no “class” of people have been deprived of anything. Equal protection of the law applies to “any person” not to “any class” or “any couple.” If your particular personal inclinations do not lead to the specific bond that marriage laws were written to regulate, then marriage simply doesn’t apply to you.

As both Justice Hugo Black and Justice Antonin Scalia said in various ways, the constitution means what it says, not what we would like it to mean. That said, I had no objections when the New York legislature voted to license, regulate, and tax same-sex couples. No constitutional reason why not. To someone with a sacramental view of marriage, the civil marriage license is a legal fiction, but its perfectly serviceable for all practical intents and purposes.

I did pour a lot of vinegar on the pathetic whining narcissist who bemoaned that he wasn’t “truly equal” as long as the Roman Catholic Church could decline to host his wedding to his new husband.

#3 Comment By Ryan W On April 17, 2018 @ 1:15 pm

1) “It is only the Lord who ultimately judges who belongs or does not belong.” Cardinal Joseph Tobin

“This is preposterous, spectacularly so, and cannot withstand a moment’s reflection.” Rod Dreher

“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” James 4:12

This is proof-texting of the worst kind. You haven’t even engaged with the most simple material on excommunication, including material in the New Testament itself. The same New Testament that you’re quoting also calls for excommunications of church members, so obviously the matter isn’t quite as simple as your Sunday-school proof-texting would suggest. But actually it’s not even that much more complicated. There’s a difference between people’s individual flaws and imperfections (which they themselves acknowledge as flaws and imperfections), which are up to God alone to judge, and “high-handed”, open and unabashed, contempt for Church teaching on doctrinal matters or issues of Christian life. The first is between the individual and God, the second is a matter for Church discipline. This isn’t that complex.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 17, 2018 @ 10:19 pm

“‘How is marriage consummated by sodomy? All of the claims of discrimination turn on this one thing.’ Well, they don’t. Lesbians don’t come close to committing sodomy. And a plausible argument could be made that God doesn’t mind lesbians, just sodomites.”

You didn’t address male homosexual realities. Any reason, other than being evasive?

If you don’t think significant numbers of lesbians use dildos, and anal penetration isn’t common, I don’t think you are very familiar with their world of sexual obsessions – which to contemplate pretending marriage need be very obsessive indeed.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 17, 2018 @ 10:31 pm

People think the current trajectory will go on, forever and ever, Pax Americana westernism eternal, from the statements averred on all sides.

That depends on no unforeseen material disaster ever overtaking the empire, which is against all historical precedent.

There is so much depending now on deception, both of others and self, that the claim to successfully create one’s own reality at some point will run up against immutable forces and consequences that won’t be able to be propagandized away, due to how overwhelming they will be.

#6 Comment By Rob G On April 18, 2018 @ 7:11 am

“I don’t worry about precise doctrine, we’re all going to get a good deal wrong if we try hard enough. The point is the search to come as close as we can, listening to each other’s insights as well as our own.”

As close as we can to what? If there’s no standard by which to judge how do we determine if we’re “close” or not?

“My salvation is not mine to accomplish, that is something only God can do.”

One is not saved by holding the correct theology. But this does not mean that there is no such thing, nor does it mean that we’re free to take it or leave it when we do find it.

#7 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 18, 2018 @ 8:24 am

@Siarlys, a few other things:

First, to be absolutely clear: I would in no way support any pressure on churches from the civic authorities to change their teachings. I think there will be increasing social pressure on them not to deny or oppose gay equality, but that’s certainly not the government’s business.

Second, in predicting that they will, by and large, ultimately give in to that pressure, I’m basically just echoing Rod Dreher’s frequent warnings about the hostile turn in the wider culture, and his sharp criticisms of the various high-ranking clerics who seem to be signaling their wish for a climbdown on divorce/remarriage and various other issues. I think he’s right: those guys cannot be relied on to stand up for principles that come to be widely viewed as a kind of bigotry. Obviously I’m not alarmed at that prospect the way he is, but purely at the level of prediction, I don’t really mean to say anything more than that I think the basic premise of the Benedict Option is correct.

Third, I like the handedness analogy because it accords with my experience of how homosexuality and gay relationships are already viewed in large parts of our society, including all the circles I move in. There are people in our midst who are known to be gay, some in long-term gay relationships, and it’s a matter of almost complete indifference — very much like happening to know that somebody is left-handed. It just has no bearing on anything. Part of why I’m predicting that this view of the matter will continue to spread is that I’ve seen for myself that it’s a perfectly workable modus vivendi that many have already embraced.

Finally, I’m sure you’re aware that physicists have been exploring various theories that the universe itself is “handed.” In light of this, one could, if so inclined, construct a grand theory of how the “wrong” handedness is a violation of some principle of nature, much as the “wrong” sexual orientation is said to violate some great principle like “gender complementarity” inscribed in the structure of Creation itself. Maybe some people are born with the wrong orientation, but they are obliged not to express it in their “behavior,” and perhaps even should be “cured” of it. Some cultures apparently have viewed left-handedness in just that way, and of course some still view the left hand as the “dirty” or disfavored one.

I think those are silly prejudices. Very few Americans would defend anti-left-handedness today. But that’s why I think that very few will still defend anti-gay prejudices tomorrow — because they’re about equally as well grounded both morally and metaphysically. It’s just going to get to the point where it’s not worth it, I think.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 18, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

You didn’t address male homosexual realities. Any reason, other than being evasive?

You had already addressed them, Fran. I was expanding the scope of the discussion, not limiting it. Any reason you didn’t respond to the perspective I offered, but merely hid from it by reiterating your own prior contribution?

Anyway, I probably offer the best legal arguments you are going to find to keep some social and legal space for your take on things. Don’t bite me just because I’m agnostic about what others do.