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Failing On The Right

I posted a really good letter this morning from a reader giving advice to “Weary Ghost”. [1] The reader talked about how she was a fired-up progressive feminist in grad school, but shed those immiserating dogmas, and has built a life of joy and meaning. She tells Weary Ghost not to fall victim to the ideological lies of the cultural left.

In the comments, a reader said that he (she?) made the same mistakes “from the right” — that is, tried to build a life around ideological certainties, and made a hash of it. I asked the reader to please explain this. I haven’t heard from him or her, but I did get the following letter from a different reader. She asked me to reword it somewhat to protect her privacy. Here she is explain how she messed up her life “from the right”:

I’m not the commenter you addressed this to, but I might have similar experiences. The commenter refers to the (mistaken) “moral certitude that being right will bring you happiness.” I can connect with this in a few ways.

I used to be fiercely attached to Catholic orthodoxy, and I took child-raising advice without questioning from respected people on the Right. This ended up severely damaging my relationship with my children. What’s more, years spend in the traditionalist/conservative Catholic turned my heart to stone. It drove me out of Christianity, and straight into nihilistic atheism.

(Who brought me out of that black hole? Jordan Peterson.)

The right-wing Internet is also a cesspit. There are so many blogs and online forums consumed with racism and all kinds of vicious rhetoric and behavior. People get swept up in it. It changes the way they relate to friends and neighbors. They become different people.

I have also seen personally how people lose their ability to think clearly and practically about the real world because they get so caught up in various historical myths. We see this on the Left too, but on the Right, this uncritical hero-worship of America, and the Founding, and America’s role in the world seriously damages people’s ability to deal with problems. I’ve seen plenty of it.

Russell Kirk says conservatism is the negation of ideology, but lots of conservatives don’t live that way. Conservatism should be an attitude or a set of basic principles that can fit a whole society like a comfy old shoe. When it becomes an ideology, and conservatives turn into a clique that scared, angry people run to, all kinds of pathologies come out of it. We need to remember that life is complicated, and that what really matters for most people is how we relate to real people in our lives.

Does anybody want people to stand around at their funeral, saying, “He was right about politics”? No! They won’t care about that. They will only care about how you treated others.

I allowed ideological conservatism, in a Catholic package, to rule my life for years, and it did a lot of damage that I struggle to repair. The problem is not really conservatism, but allowing ideas to be more important than people. I used to think that you were paranoid to have so much fear of the Democrats, but then came the Kavanaugh hearings, and boy, did I ever understand your point after that.

Is this your story too? Do you have a similar story from the Left? Let’s make this a storytelling thread, shall we?

UPDATE: Here’s a good test as to whether or not you’re an ideologue. If you fail to be moved by this scene at the US Capitol today, chances are that you have allowed your politics to replace your humanity:

UPDATE.2: Reader “Badger,” who inspired the above e-mail, comments:

Like your writer, my issue was politics. I governed my personal relationships by agreement with my ideology. I was a jerk for truth, including with you. For that I am sorry and apologize. Anyhow, I didn’t value my career or finances. I didn’t subscribe to the health and wellness gospel, but my beliefs certainly rhymed with it. At 30ish I found myself financially ruined and jobless. Being a jerk for Jesus and Catholicism wasn’t working. Concomitant with that was holding my fellow parishioners in contempt. Not many people escaped my contempt but boy was I right. The writing was on the wall though, and I could see that I needed to change.

I went back to school and got my degree. Toward graduation, I gave up blogging. A few years ago, I stopped having public political opinions. This is a rare indulgence, and I now do it anonymously. I have a healthy relationship with my parish. I have a fulfilling career and financial security.

On the negative side, my oldest is an atheist. My daughter is an SJW looking to make all of my mistakes except under a different banner. I retain hope for my youngest but am not optimistic. My children are good, for which I’m thankful, but I lament my failures. I am chastened. I would like to think my priorities are now in check and pray that it is so. Do not let my tombstone read, “But I was right.” I got some things right – don’t get me wrong – but boy did I get some huge things wrong.

On the right the biggest thing I see is on the personal relationship side. So many men and women lament that “I’m a good and holy person who wants to make a family but I just can’t find anyone.” Many of these folks are in their late twenties or early thirties. While right thinking has some importance, it isn’t the be all and end all, be it personal relationships or career development. Idiots manage to have good careers and personal relationships. Sometimes you have to just learn from an idiot.

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84 Comments To "Failing On The Right"

#1 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On December 5, 2018 @ 2:04 am

Herenow says:
It’s a human temperament thing – a psychological feature. People use ideological certainty to make themselves feel secure, but usually without knowing it of course.

It is a evolutionary shortcut to save energy and reduce stress (and yes that does make people feel more secure). Having a quick way to make decisions that produces good results most of the time is a tremendous saver of time and mental energy now, and even more so for premodern man. Societies, religions, cultures, and individuals make rules for themselves and others so that there is a clear and fast way to judge the correct action for themselves and the actions of others. Ideologies provide a framework to do this in novel situations. Similarly, stereotypes allow one to quickly infer a great deal about someone in a short time (depending on accuracy of course). These are shortcuts that our brain is hardwired to use because they have proved beneficial, and require conscious effort to avoid.

Haigha says:
To me, an ideologue is just someone who cares enough about ideas to sort through and examine his own and follow them to their logical conclusions in a reasonably consistent manner.

I am not at all surprised to hear you say this. Thoughtful examination of ideology is certainly a good thing, and having an ideology isn’t a bad thing. There are a few issues though. Ideologies are theories for how the world works and what produces good results. They will all have particular circumstances where they fail, because they are, by their nature, simplifications. The best of them have lasted for millennia because they work well most of the time, NOT because they never fail. An ideologue is someone who, though he may have arrived at his ideology through careful examination, does not think about the application of his settled ideology anymore. This means they will be willfully blind on the rare (or not so rare) occasions when their ideology produces non-desired results.

Seoulite says:
Ideologues on both sides believe they are in a fight to the death, and they might be right. For many, it is no longer disagreements at the dinner table. It is fighting for and against various apocalyptic futures. For some its the Handmaids Tale. Others the new Caliphate. Others the return of the Nazis. Others the destruction of America.

Your reader’s account is fine if you are counting on the world remaining American-style comfortable and safe and middle-class. But many see a future where people don’t have the luxury of being nice. They might be wrong, but there it is.

If a large portion of world develops a terrible ideology the best way to defeat it is not by developing an equally terrible ideology. The adherents of a Handmaids Tale type culture, Nazism, and the new Caliphate are all quite small (because they are terrible ideologies). What makes the people fighting against these ideologies terrible is tribalism (another evolutionary adaptation), which allows them to lump large swaths who don’t subscribe to terrible ideologies into the same group as the Nazis or whatever.

#2 Comment By Rob G On December 5, 2018 @ 7:20 am

For the past dozen or so years I’ve considered myself an “independent conservative.” I don’t pay much attention to partisan politics, believing that A) politics is largely downstream from culture, B) both parties are controlled by special interests, and C) neither party is much interested in resisting the rise of the corporate state. As something of a political outsider then, looking at both the Fox/right/GOP bubble and the SJW/left/Dem bubble, it seems to me that they are equally ideological, totalizing, and toxic. Their toxicity manifests itself in different ways, of course, because the ideologies are different, but “preferring” one to another is an exercise in preferring death by cyanide to death by strychnine. Perhaps one is less painful than the other, or tastes better, or is easier to obtain, but the end result of ingesting both is the same.

#3 Comment By Southside On December 5, 2018 @ 7:59 am

When my mid-teens son was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer his doctor suggested he stay away from TV and specifically the media due to its negative effects on attitude and thus healing. He and I both did this, and it helped to clear our hearts and minds for the more important task of focusing on the many decisions that needed to be made, and on his time remaining. Merely turning off the insanity released to us the most precious gift of time. If you had 3-months to live, would you spend it on acrimonious viewing? Then why are you spending any at all?

#4 Comment By Pius X On December 5, 2018 @ 8:07 am

The INS has already been abolished, there is no INS anymore.

#5 Comment By madge On December 5, 2018 @ 8:13 am

“Elijah writes . . . “my in-laws, who have Fox News on from dawn til dusk, are the mirror image on the right – everything is a catastrophic failure of “liberals” (they are in their early 80s!)”

My gym has both MSNBC and Fox News on big screens, and I can’t watch more than 5 minutes of either without wanting to vomit. I can’t even start imagining what watching that stuff for hours every day is doing to one’s brain. (I petitioned the gym management to just put sports on TV because who the hell wants to watch news when exercising and to my genuine shock, management said that the older people in the gym all insist on watching it..)

[NFR: We don’t have cable or broadcast TV in our home, so I sometimes watch it when I am on the elliptical trainer at the YMCA, and have forgotten to bring my mobile. It’s bizarre. Like you, I don’t understand the pleasure of it. Even network news is crap. I watched ABC’s evening broadcast the other day, and it was like watching Facebook for TV: lots of “stories” that have a strong visual element, but no substance. For example, they gave a minute to a story about an alligator in Florida captured after he bit the leg of an old man walking by a pond. The only reason this was national news was because there was video of the gator being captured with a sneaker in its mouth. Imagine all the real news not being reported because of crap like that. — RD]

#6 Comment By JonF On December 5, 2018 @ 8:22 am

Peterk, it’s already been pointed out that it’s ICE not the INS that people on the Left want to shut down. It’s from little mistakes like that that fake memes are born.

And more generally when doing a retrospective on a politician’s public life it’s not rude or gauche to point out that they had flubs and failures. The problem is in failing to note the successes or in attributing the flubs to personal wickedness. By the way I am not seeing any sort of freak out on the Left over praise for Bush 41’s successes. The push back is the more reasonable sort, noting his failures.

#7 Comment By Robert G On December 5, 2018 @ 9:34 am

Humans are at their core emotional, social animals. We assume we can be clear headed rationalists. But no one is really that way (only psychopaths maybe). Increasingly people are defining their group in narrower and narrower ways. As people withdraw into the comforts of their own group, they shut out any influence from those outside as corrupting or disordered. Instead of bringing us together, technology is pulling us apart further. Ultimately what will bring humanity together (or destroy us) will be actions of God (or nature if you will): natural disasters and climate change.

#8 Comment By Acilius On December 5, 2018 @ 10:17 am

“[NFR: Man, that is stone-cold cynical: assuming that Dole did what he did so that people would admire him. I don’t believe that at all. — RD]”

I suppose my favorite conservative writer is Michael Oakeshott, largely because he appreciates politics the way politicians appreciate it- as an interpersonal game. It’s possible to enjoy the game, including the parts where you upstage an old rival at his funeral, without being a vicious or hateful person, and certainly without seeing the political arena as the equivalent of war.

My reference to my wife is meant to suggest that this is a more normal attitude than the sort of people who comment on political blogs might be inclined to think. She is extremely sweet and warm, the world’s least calculated individual. She doesn’t follow national politics closely, and has zero interest in online controversies of any sort. What she does have are social skills, and she does take pleasure in using them. Not at all competitively- the only contest she ever makes a determined effort to win is an apology contest. (She’s a Quaker, that’s a thing they do.)

Anyway, I don’t think it’s at all cynical to say that Bob Dole knew that by having himself raised up to give Bush’s casket that salute he would steal the spotlight. On the contrary, it was him continuing the relationship that he and Bush had in fact had for the decades they spent competing with each other at the the game to which each had devoted his life.

#9 Comment By ginger On December 5, 2018 @ 10:21 am

Man, do I ever relate.

Growing up, I was saddled with the Unbearable Heaviness of Being a Good Catholic Example. I didn’t even feel like I could be myself around people (probably because I was never really a Good Catholic at heart! My sense of humor is far too earthy and irreverent. And I’ve always had a soft spot for people who live colorful, imperfect lives but are so very human about it). It was exhausting. It was also heavily fear-driven, because I was terrified of mortal sin and hell. If I just laughed at some off-color joke somebody told, am I going to hell? 1) for finding it hilarious in the first place, but 2) even worse, for being a bad example to the non-Catholics around me, who saw me laughing.

Also, I can’t speak for others, but for me, there were a lot of sour grapes. I was living by all the rules, don’t you know! And it was damn hard! At least I could take some comfort knowing others would have to pay for their happier, easier, but more sinful lives.


My saving grace was being somehow savvy enough to marry a Catholic man who was far happier, kinder, and more generous. He was also somebody I could finally be ME around, and he wasn’t going to be shocked or lecture me about sin. In fact, he would tell me how ridiculous that way of thinking and that view of the world was.

It was a huge relief to finally understand I’m not really so important that being less-than-perfect around others was going to lead them (and me!) to damnation.

The older I have gotten, the more convinced I am that the less human a thing is, the further it is from what God wants for us. My husband saved me from being inhuman. I know plenty of other orthodox Catholics who were not so lucky and who have paid a heavy price for it in their lives.

[NFR: Yesterday I got a long, stern letter from a Rad Trad priest I used to know years ago, letting me have it for just about everything. It literally made me laugh out loud. This guy has a stick so far up his rear end it’s tickling his nose hairs. To be honest, I was thinking about you, Ginger, as I read it, and the stories you’ve told here about being in that world. There is nothing the least bit warm, human, or inviting about that priest and his worldview. He makes the Pharisees look like a bunch of hobbits celebrating Bilbo’s birthday. It is genuinely hard for me to imagine what it must be like to have placed oneself under the spiritual authority of such a man. He would last about five minutes with south Louisiana Catholics. — RD]

#10 Comment By YM On December 5, 2018 @ 10:59 am

I hate communism, because it uses force to compel people to support policies they don’t want. I hate that the government spends more $$ than it takes in. I have personally benefited from President Trumps reduction of tech worker visas – every day I get multiple emails from recruiters, a year ago – nothing. I believe that the 2015 supreme court decision allowing gay marriage was horrible, and that sooner or later it may cause it to be difficult for me to hold a job.

I don’t think it is wrong for me at all to hold these positions. My politics reflects reality as I see it.

#11 Comment By Argon On December 5, 2018 @ 11:22 am

Thomas Tucker: “The problem is not really conservatism, but allowing ideas to be more important than people.”

Naw. I think it’s lust for power. “Ideas” are just cover to justify Machiavellian impulses.

#12 Comment By Tom Marchione On December 5, 2018 @ 11:27 am

This rings very true. I’m still conservative at heart, insofar as I believe that true conservativism is in some sense a “meta dogma” — a respect for the truth of who we are and how experience tells us to live our lives, vs. catering to a delusional hope for a world that can never exist. But age and experience eventually reveal the truth about most synthetic dogma, loosely defined as the theses people generate to further agendas and confirm biases. And in this sense I am delighted to be passing through middle age quickly. The wisdom of age is a comforting remedy to the battle scars of life.

As I have described a few times in comments to this blog, I am that rare person who has spent large chunks of his adult life in both very conservative and very progressive churches. I’ve not only seen both sides, I have lived them for extended periods. I have functioned on the inside of both experiences, in leadership roles. I have great friends who are still buried on one side or the other, and will likely go to their graves in their ideological burrows. Dogma burrows as far as the eye can see.

When I left the conservative church, I had great hope for what the progressives might teach me. And they did teach me quite a bit about a side of real Christianity that you never see in a conservative church, one that is addicted to doctrine as both ideology and as a basis for relating to people. It was a good thing to have my eyes opened in this way. I am a better person for it.

Unfortunately, over time, it became very apparent that these progressive folks are also one trick ponies, just as enslaved to ideology as their ultra conservative brethren. In lieu of “Doctrine 24/7”, their approach is “Doctrine 0/0”. For all that matters is “love” – a word that is never really defined, but almost never involves correcting anyone or restraining one’s passions (unless it’s about an “ism” on the progressive agenda du jour). Then Trump was elected, the colors morphed from comforting earth tones to obnoxious fluorescents, and the dial is now pegged at 11 on the Progressometer. And I have had my fill of it.

One fairly reliable mark of ideological addiction is hypocrisy …conservative Protestants who profess sobriety but hide a bottle of scotch for those occasions limited to the trustworthy …progressive Christians who profess redistribution but show up in their Mercedes S Classes to drop off stained old clothes for donation. Such single-minded holiness – it’s breathtaking. I can spot it from the space station at this point. Of course, we are all hypocrites to some degree, but it is more difficult to extend grace to those who subjugate themselves within ideological bubbles, almost begging for ridicule. Especially when you were one of them for a good long time.

But hypocrisy is only one of many pathologies spawned by ideology run amok. An hour on Facebook reveals many others – which is why I no longer engage in such discussion on social networks. Another bone thrown to age and maturity. It turns out that people like to hear and smell themselves. Who knew?

And so my story is ongoing. I am not sure what is next, but I am reasonably certain that I will need to move on. My wife and I have searched far and wide for a church that is interested in bothintellectual rigor and compassion for the less fortunate. A church that is wedded to the truth rather than to ideologies grasped from the ether by strong-willed personalities over the past 1900 years, personalities clever enough to convince people that the emperor has nice clothes. A church that values simplicity and complex beauty at the same time, that can admit to value in secular art while firmly rejecting the profane. A church whose members routinely vote for the best candidates rather than parties. A church that is interested in worship rather than a “worship experience”.

So far, we have not found such a church. I could start one, I suppose, but my fear is that services would never get much beyond my kitchen table. And I fear that my story will eventually end there – scouring the Christian wilderness, never quite sure if the crazy ideologue is… me, after all.

#13 Comment By Tony D. On December 5, 2018 @ 11:56 am

Mr. Marchione,
You win Best Comment of the Month, and it’s only the 5th. It would be too easy for me to suggest the Church in which I have found a home, but instead I’ll ask, sincerely: Have you visited the Society of Friends, a.k.a the “Quakers?”

#14 Comment By Hound of Ulster On December 5, 2018 @ 12:11 pm

@Tom Marchione

Psst…hey kid, wanna try some Orthodoxy?

I think the problem, at least in the US, is the Calvinist roots of American culture. Everyone thinks they are the ‘elect’, the ‘blessed’, the ‘Real Americans’, and that everyone in (insert region/political party/cultural group/ethnic group here) needs to be shut up/disenfranchised/*gulp* in order for things to be ‘great again’, which feed into the universal sins of pride, hatred, and lust for power. This is a universal disease in American culture, goes way back almost before the Founding of the Republic, and it infects pretty much every aspect of cultural/political/social discourse, even in regions where Calvinist theology didn’t have any organizational presence. Maybe we as a culture need to burn our inner Calvinist at the metaphorical stake, and thus burn our pride, greed, and lust of control over our fellow citizens in the process.

#15 Comment By RealAlan On December 5, 2018 @ 12:34 pm

Russell Kirk says conservatism is the negation of ideology, but lots of conservatives don’t live that way. Conservatism should be an attitude or a set of basic principles that can fit a whole society like a comfy old shoe.

That’s only when one lives in a healthy society. These days that approach is as dated as, well, Russell Kirk’s works.

#16 Comment By Haigha On December 5, 2018 @ 1:27 pm

Thomas Hobbes:

Arguments about definitions are usually fruitless, and I’m not bothered that you add a “takes it too far” clause to the definition of “ideologue” that I leave out. Perhaps yours is the better definition, since the word is mostly used pejoratively.

That said, a couple of general points:

1. There’s often an element of circularity in the accusation of being an ideologue (as you define it), since the person accused generally does not concede that he has failed to take changed circumstances into account, or that his preferred policy would not in fact produce the desired outcome.

2. Ideologies are often heavily dependent on a priori moral assertions, which by their nature do not change with circumstances, and are not dependent on a particular “result”. Ideologues often make pragmatic arguments in support of their ideologies in order to persuade others who may not share the underlying moral claim that animates the ideologue, but the ideology is not in fact dependent on the pragmatic argument.

#17 Comment By Rick Steven D. On December 5, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

At the hospital where I work, there is an 88 year old aide. God bless this woman, still comes to work. We call her Frenchie.

Frenchie was a child during WWII, in Vichy France. She once told me a story about the difference between the American and British bombers.

In the village where she lived, everyone knew the difference between the two. The British, she said, would fly lower, at greater risk to themselves personally, but they would hit their targets more accurately. In contrast, Frenchie said, everyone knew when the Americans would fly, because the GI’s were WAY, WAY up there. Therefore, it was often a free-for-all, in terms of civilian causalities.

Frenchie’s story has bothered me for a long time. The Greatest Generation were The Greatest Generation, of course. I believe that with every fiber of my being. My late father included.

But even then, I believe, America’s bad conscience, our overwhelming fear of death, was somewhat manifest.

For clarification: In recovery, there is an acronym: FEAR. It can mean face everything and recover. Or, f–k everything and run.

All anger is fear-driven. Political anger, righteous indignation the most, since we convince ourselves of how RIGHT we are.

It may seem self-evident, but I believe an awful, awful lot has been swept under the rug, for a long, long time in this country.

And we, as a people, are currently trivializing ourselves. With all of this absurdity. Like the current song by Arcade Fire goes, Born in a diamond mine/it’s all around you/but you can’t feel it…(I HATE contemporary music, but I couldn’t work in Morrison’s Astral Weeks)

Please, PLEASE, take a step back, for Ch–sakes! And I will say to myself, Physician, heal thyself…

#18 Comment By kijunshi On December 5, 2018 @ 3:58 pm

How interesting that most of the comments here mention family members obsessed with inflexible politics on both the Right AND the Left – almost like it was genetic or something, amirite??

A good reminder for readers to examine their own inflexible opinions – truly, karma will get you in the end on this one.

#19 Comment By Brian Walsh On December 5, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

This comment section is riddled with smears against traditional Catholics and Catholics in general, which is unfortunate.

First, the rules by which some lament they lived are not man made. Yes, there has been doctrinal development such as Thou Shalt Not Kill being applied to abortion. But nothing logically inconsistent nor out of step with the Bible. That one doesn’t find joy in living out the commandments is not proof of the faultiness of those dictates nor of the person: it’s simply that life on this earth is not supposed to be easy. If you’re getting along with everybody around you and going with the flow then you’re probably not on the narrow road spoken of by Christ.

Second, if your misery comes about because you’re judging fellow parishioners, that’s not the fault of the faith: it’s on you. Yeah, if somebody is living sinfully then you should naturally recoil at being around them but you also separate sin from sinner and treat them as people whom God imbued with dignity. It is right to look at what others are doing wrong and judge the sin accordingly. It’s also fine to look around the parish and see people being irreverent at Mass and to be disturbed. However, beating your breast like the publican is obviously not acceptable. Say a prayer for them and whoever taught them so poorly and pray that Christ will help you in whatever areas in which you lack.

I’ve also noted a few comments from people who tried SJW parishes and trad parishes and didn’t find the right mix. Well….um….I’m a trad at a parish that would consider itself SJW but does not engage in community outreach and so I’m thinking of ways to do it myself in terms of volunteering at rest homes and also I always make a point to talk to the homeless I encounter, help them when I can, etc. It’s not up to a parish group to determine the good you do. So your trad parish doesn’t have a rescue shelter outreach group: then start one or volunteer yourself. Your salvation is not dependent upon other people making it easy for you to engage in works of mercy.

Finally, I’ve read some comments regarding eschewing traditional Catholic morals to be more human, to enjoy an off color joke, to be around people engaging in sin. I dunno, if somebody told Christ a joke about Bill and Monica, would he laugh? Did I miss a passage in scripture about getting along and going along with the cultural milieu? Of course it’s easier and more enjoyable to take people where they’re at and we aren’t called to randomly rebuke strangers or friends for sins. However, at some point silence appears to be and is condoning sinful behavior. St. Paul and the other martyrs didn’t die because they went along with the cultural elites or the prevailing opinions.

We’re not all called to be martyrs (thankfully because I’m sure I’m not up for the job) but that doesn’t mean we shrug off any responsibility. Christianity isn’t lived nor witnessed to easily. Unfortunately a lot of people want it to be easy and so they shop for the church that will give them what they want. But it’s not about what you want or I want.

#20 Comment By Brian Walsh On December 5, 2018 @ 5:52 pm

But my heart did not turn to stone and I was not driven to nihilistic atheism. I was driven away from Catholicism and organized religion but believe in God. I believe we are all a part of a creation that is good. I believe, when we look at ideologues, we are looking at horrible human beings whose self-righteousness and hubris and smug attitudes of superiority are sins against that creation. They refuse to accept the world as it is or people as they are, and in trying to force the world and the people in it to be as they (the ideologues) want them to be, they inflict great harm and misery.

I laughed when you categorized people as horrible people for being self righteous and smug and refusing to accept the world as it is. Sounds kind of self-righteous and smug to call people horrible who don’t agree with your view of the world as it is.

Also, what God do you believe in? What attributes have you ascribed to this god and what does this god you believe in want from us? It seems weird to believe in a God who likes the world as it is because…you know…there’s alot awful things going on in this world at any given second.

#21 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On December 5, 2018 @ 6:43 pm

Haigha says:
2. Ideologies are often heavily dependent on a priori moral assertions, which by their nature do not change with circumstances, and are not dependent on a particular “result”. Ideologues often make pragmatic arguments in support of their ideologies in order to persuade others who may not share the underlying moral claim that animates the ideologue, but the ideology is not in fact dependent on the pragmatic argument.

I agree with 1 and you are correct that many (most?) ideologies are supported upon moral frameworks, however nobody outside of moral philosophy (and few inside) builds their ideology from moral first principles. Ideologies arise from our view of the world and how it works and we try to bootstrap them to our moral codes to get everything to make sense. This process typically modifies both the moral code and the ideology, which occasionally leads to unfortunate outcomes like the belief that not using one’s preferred pronouns is equivalent to violence or paying taxes is morally equivalent to rape. The degree to which one is an ideologue is probably dependent on the degree that one can make their morals continuous with their ideology and the detail/specificity of their ideology.

#22 Comment By JonF On December 5, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

Re: Finally, I’ve read some comments regarding eschewing traditional Catholic morals to be more human, to enjoy an off color joke, to be around people engaging in sin.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Geoffrey Chaucer? A 14th century guy who wrote a famous book about people going on a religious pilgrimage who nonetheless tell some bawdy stories and admit to being quite human.
The Roman Catholic tradition is vast: it’s basically all of Western civilization from the fall of Rome to the Reformation and a huge chunk of it thereafter. It had a place for feasts and well as fasts, even for some plain old fun. In fact it could laugh at itself (see: the medieval Feast of Fools)
In the US “trad Catholicism” all too often means the narrow, cramped late Irish tradition, born of poverty and persecution with a vaguely Jansenist air about it. The more florid and festive Latin tradition is ignored, as is the down-to-earth, pragmatic Germanic tradition.
Wasn’t it James Joyce, though Anglo-Irish, who dubbed the Church Here Comes Everyone?

#23 Comment By JonF On December 5, 2018 @ 8:53 pm

Re But even then, I believe, America’s bad conscience, our overwhelming fear of death, was somewhat manifest.

If American aviators really were doing as you relate might there not be other considerations involved than just a personal fear of death? after all, they were being trained and probably ordered to fly in that manner by superiors who were ack on the ground and quite safe. I’d suggest a brutal calculus of efficiency mattered more: why waste expensive aircraft and hard-to-train men, neither of which was in infinite supply?

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 5, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

Sounds kind of self-righteous and smug to call people horrible who don’t agree with your view of the world as it is.

There is a difference between “your view of the world as it is,” and “the world as it is.” The universe does exist, whether you like it or not. There is a finite possibility that God exists, or a god exists, or some gods exist. If true, it matters not what your view on the matter is.

One fallacy of civicly uneducated American culture is mistaking “you are free to seek the truth” for “there is no truth but the truth you personally recognize.” It is as true of God, if there is one, as of smashing your head into a brick wall, that if you’re wrong, it could hurt you very badly.

However, God is rumored to be a merciful and forgiving God, so you may be all right in spite of your smug self.

NFR: A liberal either on this blog or in my social media feed, can’t remember which, expressed shock the other day that when he posted something respectful of President G.H.W. Bush upon the man’s death, he was set upon by fellow liberals. — RD

I’ve seen little or no animus expressed toward GHW Bush, and only a few quiet voices expressing a view similar to mine — may he rest in peace, let the family have a consoling funeral, but let’s not exaggerate how good a president he was. I’ve seen a lot of people who are rabidly opposed to Trump who extol Bush in all kinds of unreal ways just to highlight how bad Trump is. I don’t think that’s a very good approach.

Rod, we live in an age of idolatry.

Which dates back several millenia…

Someone would need a heart of lead not to be moved by Dole’s actions.

Why? I’m sure it was a sincere farewell from an old friend and political ally. But what’s so terribly moving about it?

#25 Comment By Brian Walsh On December 6, 2018 @ 2:15 am

Perhaps you’ve heard of Geoffrey Chaucer? A 14th century guy who wrote a famous book about people going on a religious pilgrimage who nonetheless tell some bawdy stories and admit to being quite human.
The Roman Catholic tradition is vast: it’s basically all of Western civilization from the fall of Rome to the Reformation and a huge chunk of it thereafter. It had a place for feasts and well as fasts, even for some plain old fun. In fact it could laugh at itself (see: the medieval Feast of Fools)
In the US “trad Catholicism” all too often means the narrow, cramped late Irish tradition, born of poverty and persecution with a vaguely Jansenist air about it. The more florid and festive Latin tradition is ignored, as is the down-to-earth, pragmatic Germanic tradition.
Wasn’t it James Joyce, though Anglo-Irish, who dubbed the Church Here Comes Everyone

Wish you would have addressed the entire paragraph but…

Your comment assumes quite a bit. The trads I know are quite fun. Yes, they take faith, doctrine, Mass and morals seriously (should they not?) but enjoy a drink and a laugh. When responding to or penning articles about the Church and society, they are serious. As they should be. People who extrapolate the lifestyle of trad Catholics in totality from internet comment boxes are vapid and disingenuous.

Were Joyce around today to see the post conciliar novus ordo Church which is devoid of serious and reverent liturgy, incapable of passing on the faith and replete with relativists and active homosexuals (clearly not mutually exclusive) he would undoubtedly reprise and revise that earlier quip by saying “There goes everyone”.

#26 Comment By Rick Steven D. On December 6, 2018 @ 5:44 am


Thanks for the feedback. That never occurred to me. I may have I taken this dear woman’s story at face value, and, with an admitted ignorance of military tactics, twisted it to fit my own, perhaps biased narrative. And the last thing I would ever want to do is second guess our armed forces. I spent some time as a cop, but I am still a civilian.

However, I am old enough to remember the first Gulf War, when our country pioneered a sort of warfare by remote control. And of course, it would be natural to use technology to minimize casualties on one’s own side. Still…

I truly believe that trying to deny death itself is both this country’s greatest strength as well as it’s greatest weakness, and might even color how we conduct warfare.

On the strength side, well, the evidence is all around us. We have used our faith in scientific progress, in the perfectibility of nature, in a denial of death, say, as the motor that has allowed us to create an unprecedentedly comfortable and technologically sophisticated society. On the weakness side, well, there is an hysteria that takes over, all of the time, whenever we are forced to look at the brutal realities that I believe most other cultures and civilizations have taken for granted throughout history. One person dies of Ebola, and almost the entire country grinds to a halt. To say nothing about the overreaction to the trauma of 911.

#27 Comment By Ms On December 6, 2018 @ 6:48 am

JonF, nothing vague about the Jansenism in Irish Catholicism – it permeated Irish Catholicism in every nuance. I think that’s one reason why the current abandonment of the RCC was so fast and so steep. Not that I didn’t know holy and wonderful Jansenist RCs when I was growing up – but I feel it was an unfortunate influence.

#28 Comment By scineram On December 6, 2018 @ 6:56 am

This reminds me of Spring 2002, when Orbán was booted from power. Just half a year too young to vote I got extremely caught up along with my family in defeating the ex-communists and not allowing the traitors back in charge. But when it happened anyway I was even more shocked to find most of my classmates and best friends supporting the socialists. Having had to process those facts was a very instructive experience, still still guiding me about the mixing of personal and political matters.
I guess it does help things that most of my acquaintances are basically normal people. Radical SJW progressivism is a fringe in Hungary, so no need to get all that worked up about politics in the first place.

#29 Comment By Thomas Kaempfen On December 6, 2018 @ 7:26 am

Rod, do you think there’s any contradiction between your desire to lead a traditional Christian life and the rejection of ideological thinking? Doesn’t serious dedication to Biblical principles of living demand renunciation of even minor transgressions like off-color jokes, etc.? And can’t the more humble, tolerant, genuinely conservative attitude you express in this column too easily slide into something like the expressive, therapeutic, liberal Christianity you’re always criticizing?

Or are these the sort of difficulties that formulations like “Hate the sin, love the sinner” or “Be in the world, but not of it” are designed to navigate?

Don’t get me wrong. I heartily endorse the notion that people on both sides should be much more humble and tolerant. And please don’t think I’m doing this as a “gotcha”. It just that the humble and tolerant attitude does seem to be somewhat in tension with your view about how your religious conviction should play out in the real world.

#30 Comment By JeffK On December 6, 2018 @ 9:00 am

@Rick Steven D. says:
December 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

“(I HATE contemporary music, but I couldn’t work in Morrison’s Astral Weeks)”

How about “Whenever God Shines His light” from the wonderful Avalon Sunset album? This is the album my wife goes to when she’s looking to be introspective.


Or another personal favorite “Coney Island” from the same album. Both great songs.


Or the whole album, if you want to put it on in the background while you drink your coffee.

#31 Comment By JonF On December 6, 2018 @ 9:49 am

Rick Steven D, the fear of death is universal to humanity. Nothing particularly American about it. If you’re a Tolkien fan, (re)read the tale of Numenor as a cautionary fable.

Thomas Kaempfen, there’s a higher, heroic morality that is incumbent on on clergy and monastics and on anyone who wishes to attempt it, with proper spiritual guidance of course. Then there is a more humdrum ordinary morality that is incumbent on everyone. I don’t see that off color jokes, assuming they are not maliscious, transgress the latter. Life, including things like sex and body functions, is occasionally funny, and humor is often a better response to the follies and foibles of this world than anger or despair. In fact sometimes laughing at things is the best way to put them properly in their place, and defang the serpent. Your moralistic concern is precisely the sort of gloomy and dour religiosity that I criticized above. I’ll take the Wife of Bath over Savonarola any day.

#32 Comment By JeffK On December 6, 2018 @ 10:55 am

@Rick Steven D. says:
December 6, 2018 at 5:44 am

“One person dies of Ebola, and almost the entire country grinds to a halt. To say nothing about the overreaction to the trauma of 911.:

Right before the 2012 election Faux News was all in the on “Obama, Ebola, Benghazi” mantra. Literally dozens of ebola stories and hundreds of Benghazi stories. The day after the election Faux virtually shut down ebola propaganda. It’s sole purpose was to drive fear into the 80 year old Faux News viewer, hopefully to drive them to vote (Republican).

#33 Comment By John-Peter Pressom On December 7, 2018 @ 3:07 pm

These days, my despair of the political scene has been to consume just enough news and opinion to know what’s going on and then leave the radio on All-Classical Portland for the rest of the day.

Thus said Ed the security guard to Jack Benny:
“Jack? Is the war over?”
“Yes, Ed”
“who won? The North or the south?”

#34 Comment By taad On December 9, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

I would caution against any suggestion to start bans on web sites one disagrees with. No one forces people to watch, read, or listen to any of these sites. Once you start banning or regulating thought, it is short route to dictatorship and tyranny. The best way is for people to discern what they reading or viewing listening to. I read conservative stuff all the time, and even liberal stuff. But I do not put my defenses down just because some conservative says something. Our Lord gave us the grace of a brain, his church, and the Holy Spirit, if we pray for wisdom. If we properly use them all together, and “chew” on what we are being told, and weigh it against what we know is true, then we will not be easy prey to any of these groups. Our guard should always be up! I am not a great fan of everything Francis says, or does, but some of the things he is being attacked for are completely unjust, just mean spirited, and completely wrong. I would say they are guilty defamation and calumny with some of their posts. Pope Francis has helped me to be more concerned for the poor, and others. He has made me examine myself in many areas I had not done so in the past. He has not made a liberal. He has made me better at discernment. Prayer and discernment are very greatly needed in these days. We can not live as if we heads of mush. Many sides are vying for your allegiance, even Rod Dreher is vying for you allegiance to his beliefs. Discern the spirits. Pray, pray, pray. We are being “sifted like wheat”, by many different groups. Who will you follow? Following Jesus Christ is not a burden, but a Joy. It does not make one less human, but more human.