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Karen Pence As Condensed Symbol

I read the stories below yesterday, on a train to Valencia (a beautiful city — more on which shortly). I couldn’t get a wifi connection in my hotel, so I couldn’t post this last night. That’s probably for the best; I’ve had more time to think about it. Which, in this case, has not moderated my opinion one bit, but if anything has made me angrier and more concerned.

Here, from the Washington Post, is a prime example of religious ignorance and cultural philistinism in the US media elite. [1] This is what counts as a scandal among these people:

The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, sets forth the position in its employment application for teachers and support staff in a section that requires applicants to initial a set of standards that begins with a promise that they are born-again Christians.

One of the items is a pledge to “live a personal life of moral purity.”

“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture,” the section says, saying that God intended sexual acts to occur only between “a man and a woman who are married to each other.”

“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”

Let me explain something to Washington Post writer Eli Rosenberg and his editors: This. Is. Normal. Within. Conservative. Christianity. You might well think it is weird, but it is perfectly normal, and — stay with me here, Eli Rosenberg [2], Millennial native of southern California, graduate of UCLA, and 10-year resident of New York City — this point of view was common throughout America practically the day before yesterday. Christian schools having moral codes is not news.

A George Washington University law professor explains this in the piece, and says that the school hiring Karen Pence is well within its rights. But it’s still horrible, horrible!:

“They have staked out a certain set of positions on issues that are confrontational,” he said of the Trump White House. “The administration seems to live on wedges, so paying attention to this just feeds their interest in driving one more wedge. And this confirms their bona fides with religious conservatives and they sort of seem to do that, because Donald Trump, whatever he might say, is not that.”

Matthew Haag of The New York Times wrote the same story [3], pretty much. It even has a quote from an Academic Expert who says that this is normal, but still horrible, horrible!:

She said that Mrs. Pence’s choice of employment was not surprising because the school’s values appeared to mirror those of the Trump administration.

“Given the exclusionary nationalism in this administration and sorts of politics taken on various things, it would not be at all surprising for the second lady to associate herself with some prominent fashion with an institution like this,” Professor Hurd said. “It raises important issues about education and diversity, and what kind of forward-facing public officials we want representing our country at home and abroad.”

Haag is a Brooklyn-based Millennial [4], but he’s from Texas, and should know that the story is a lot more culturally nuanced than this. Why no quote from someone like David French?

David French explains why this is no scandal at all, [5] but the sort of thing media (including CNN) are ginning up for purposes of advancing hatred of Americans who believe standard Christianity. Excerpt:

Is the Democratic party wrong if it excludes Republicans? Is a Muslim mosque wrong if it wants to be led by an imam and not a rabbi?

Not only is this not scandalous, but it’s also the exercise of a fundamental First Amendment right. If Lois Romano [of the WaPo] or [CNN reporter] Kate Bennett or any other Karen Pence critic wants to argue against Christian theology, then have at it. Most Christians I know welcome the dialogue. But if they want to condemn a woman for the free exercise of her Christian faith? If they want to argue that there’s something inherently wrong with orthodox Christians’ associating, worshipping together, and teaching their children? Well, then they’re exhibiting a deep intolerance that’s at odds with pluralism itself.

They don’t care. “Diversity,” “tolerance,” and “pluralism” for these people means something very different from what it means for the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett explains the meaning of this “outrage”: [6]

Two things (at least) are worth noting about this:  First, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort to “condition the environment” for situations when nominees to federal courts are revealed to have been involved with/sent their children to schools that have policies in place that reflect the abovementioned norms.  Second, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort by opponents of school choice to — having largely lost the battle over the “statist monopoly or parental choice?” debate — cripple voucher and other school-choice programs by pushing legislatures (and enlisting business boycotts and pressure to push legislatures) to exclude from voucher programs those schools that “discriminate.”

Yep. Similarly, the recent outrage over esteemed natural law scholar John Finnis (see here [7]) was not really about Finnis, who will survive the SJW strike, but about laying the groundwork for the exclusion from the academy of younger scholars who share his views.

Here’s what I think: this is exactly the kind of thing that makes me know who I am, and who — and what — my enemies are.

It never would have occurred to me that Karen Pence going to work teaching art to children in a Christian school was a political act meant to signal to the right-wing base. But that’s how this GW law prof sees it: Pence’s decision to teach art part-time to little Christian schoolchildren is an attack on LGBT people, and part of the Trump administration’s war on decency. My guess is that the Post sees this non-story as a big deal, because LGBT rights are the most important thing that have ever existed in the history of America.

This is how they think: everything is political. Everything. 

What do I mean when I say my “enemies”? My “enemies” are not people who believe in LGBT rights. My enemies — politically — are those in the establishment (media, academia, law, politics, etc.) who insist on portraying people of traditional faith as moral monsters who ought to be hounded out of public life as indecent. To many on the left today, Karen Pence going to teach in an ordinary conservative Christian school under ordinary conservative Christian circumstances is the equivalent of going to teach at a segregation academy that bans black people.

I get that. I get that they see no difference between race and sexuality in terms of identity. What I don’t get is how they refuse to see that theirs is an extremely recent view, one that is rejected by many religious and even some non-religious people. Leaving religion out of it entirely, I truly do not understand why race and sexual desire are equivalent things, much less the same kind of things. This may come as a shock to Lois Romano and Kate Bennett, but I have lived in a variety of places around the US, and I have traveled to a fair number of foreign countries. You know what? People are different. Significantly different. There are some beliefs and customs that I do not like, or really understand. But I don’t have to like or understand them to accept them as tolerably human.

I know, it’s hard. Because everything that is immoral should not also be illegal, and because we often can’t agree on what’s immoral, living in a pluralist culture requires constantly negotiating between what we should tolerate, both in law and custom, and what should not be tolerated. This idea that Karen Pence teaching art to little-bitties at a private conservative Evangelical school is another sign of Trump’s Assault On America™ is in truth a signal of the kind of secular fundamentalist jihad that the left is gearing up to wage, and in fact is waging.

For Christians, this is a teachable moment. The law protects the right of this Christian school to do what it does, but it does not protect individual Christians from a backlash via media (and social media) shaming. Sorry to be a salesman here, but if you aren’t preparing your kids via The Benedict Option [8] for holding on to their faith despite this kind of thing, they’re going to crack under the pressure.

I’ll be a salesman because I have been in Spain being one for the past week. Spanish Christians are under immense pressure from the government and from the media, the academy, and other institutions of secular society. Spain has a history of ferocious anti-clericalism, so this is nothing new. But I have heard from a number of Catholic laity that they are fed up with their bishops trying so hard to be politically agreeable, and not standing up and leading. Also, more than a few Catholics have complained to me bitterly about Catholic schools. One polite and respectful 14 year old boy told me the other day that in his Catholic school, he said out loud that he did not believe in the gender ideology presented to the students (that is, he stood for orthodox Catholic teaching), and he found himself waylaid by other students, who called him a macho bigot. He told me he only found one other kid in the entire school who agrees with him, and this boy isn’t even a Christian.

Mainstream Spanish society is in many ways strongly anti-Christian, and seeks to punish and to stigmatize believers. One man told me today that Christians don’t have much power at all, but the dominant Left here constantly comes up with new outrages to justify punishing the Church even more.

This afternoon and evening I walked around the old part of Barcelona, and saw churches that had been burned during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). In fact, one of my hosts said that every church in the city had been burned, leaving only the shell standing. An academic historian at dinner one day this past week told me about interviewing someone who fought on the leftist side in the war, and how this man recalled with cold lucidity how he had convinced himself to murder priests (or some other enemies of the revolution) back during the conflict. The historian said that in the end, he had been quite impressed with the icy rationality of the killer: from an ideological point of view, it made perfect sense. Priests, nuns, and those who supported them stood in the way of the Revolution. Therefore, they were evil, and had to die.

Anticlericalism (by which I mean anti-Christianity) has been a mainstay of continental European countries since the 18th century. European liberalism has been unlike Anglo-American liberalism in that it has been fiercely anticlerical. We have been historically unafflicted with this in the US — but now that the American left is so thoroughly and militantly secularized, American Christians are going to have to learn how to live with anticlericalism, as continental European Christians have done for many decades.

It’s an ugly thing, a demoralizing thing. I get the idea that Spanish Catholics would love to be left alone to practice their faith as minorities in a vehemently post-Christian society. But the Left won’t let them. Catholics have to always be looking over their shoulders, waiting for the next thing, and enduring further demonization in the public square.

Here’s a preview of what’s coming after Trump. In the Spanish Civil War, whether or not individual Catholics loved Gen. Francisco Franco, most of them supported his cause because at least the Nationalists weren’t burning down churches and killing clergy, nuns, and lay believers. After Franco’s victory, the Church was given a place of privilege in Franquist Spain. The post-Franco order, which began in 1978, saw a fierce backlash against the Church for having collaborated with the dictator.

Franco has been dead for 45 years or so, but it’s still happening.

Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not Francisco Franco, and America is not 1930s Spain. But it’s not hard to see that the political and cultural dynamic could be similar. Lots of Christians voted for Trump not because they loved or admired him, but out of self-defense from a secularist Democratic Party that is increasingly hostile to social and religious conservatives, and the things we care for.

After Trump and his shambling, punch-drunk administration passes into history, the Left in power is going to double down on punishing conservative Christians for having collaborated with Trump. Trump critics like Russell Moore will be treated no better than Trump lovers like Robert Jeffress. It’s coming.

We just have to hope that we can avoid violence. Don’t think for a second that Americans aren’t capable of it. I was listening today to a Catalan man in Barcelona tell me that he sent his son out of the city not long ago, fearing outbreaks of nationalist violence by pro-independence Catalans, and thinking, “Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to be afraid of that kind of violence in America.” Then I thought about the 1960s and 1970s, with the KKK violence in the South, and the left-wing radical violence elsewhere. We are probably a hell of a lot closer to it than we’d like to think.

I’ll leave you with Alan Jacobs’s reflection on what the writers, editors, and broadcasters in our national media are setting themselves, and all of us, up for. [9] He begins by quoting an interview with French thinker Christophe Guilluy, who observes this about the conditions creating populist movements:

We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.

Jacobs agrees with this assessment, and adds, in part:

And that’s because nowhere has a leader emerged who possesses the combination of charisma and shrewdness to channel the frustrations of the economically marginalized into a meaningful program of reform — or revolution.

Such leaders also take different forms: Nelson Mandela was one, and so was César Chávez, and so was Lenin. It is possible that the union of the global neoliberal order and the big media companies — which serve as the Ministry of Amnesia [10] for that order — will be able to prevent the emergence of such a leader. But I don’t think so. I believe that eventually and somewhere such a leader will arise. And when that happens the cool and progressive Left will be so, so screwed.

However, I suspect that if it happens here so will I.

Yep, me too. And it may end up with me participating in my own self-sabotage, because this Karen Pence thing is, like the Kavanaugh hearings, a reminder of the complete contempt the cultural elite has for people like me, and that it really is necessary to side with politicians I don’t like at all, but who at least don’t want to burn my church and school down, to speak metaphorically (I think).

You go read Thomas Edsall’s analysis of how the conflict over sex and gender norms is generating political conflict [11]. Especially this part:

The current era has been marked by a continuous series of challenges to once indisputable truths about sex and gender. Ubiquitous contraception, for one thing, has altered the fundamentals of reproductive roles. The alteration of these fundamentals has been followed by a series of transformations and dislocations — women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, transgender rights, new forms of family formation and dissolution, and vastly altered patterns of fertility. Challenges to core understandings of masculinity — and femininity — are inescapable.

The immensity of these upheavals should not be underestimated. That people are seeking political solutions to rapid societal changes is no surprise. That these solutions erupt in political conflict is also inevitable. For some, new horizons in matters of sexuality and sexual identity offer opportunity; for others, discomfort and fear predominate. These responses are increasingly sorting themselves into partisan affiliation, sometimes uncomfortably. And as I said at the outset, they have become an integral element of contemporary political conflict, which means that an ultimate resolution is light years away.

The attempted shaming of Karen Pence is a condensed symbol [12] for the elite secular left’s hatred of conservative Christians and our morals and mores. I don’t actually give a rip what a Post, Times, or CNN reporter thinks of Karen Pence and evangelical Christians. What I care about is that their uncomprehending contempt, broadcast nationwide, and magnified massively on social media, is preparing the country for something extremely ugly.

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185 Comments To "Karen Pence As Condensed Symbol"

#1 Comment By Khalid mir On January 19, 2019 @ 7:38 am

Thomas Hobbes:

“It’s worth keeping in mind that Jewish and Christian sexual morality were a reaction to something. Prohibitions against homosexual acts didn’t arise in a vacuum. One can be logically consistent and believe that both the Christian rejection of Roman sexual mores and the sexual revolution were good things. Each tried to correct for pathologies it saw in its existing society.”

I certainly agree that moral standpoints don’t exist in a vacuum (in a similar vein, one might argue that the strict moral laws in the Islamic case were a “reaction” to the ‘age of ignorance’). But that’s not to necessarily imply that there’s only a historical dimension to the perspective. As the sufis would say, the water takes on the shape of the container but remains water.

Yes, I’m sure one could argue that if one were a relativist. It’s not, in my opinion, really about or wholly about how one “sees it”. As if to say the structure or the logic of the argument (i.e.’a reaction to what went before’) can substitute for the content of the argument.

I think I can can see what you’re saying but I don’t think the argument in this case is so much about an *excessive* lust or licentiousness as it is about lust or false desires as opposed to love or appropriate desires.

@Siarlys,

I agree that we live in fractured times and that that is an inescapable fact of our current predicament. But I don’t think that we need “absolute perfection” ..society has always muddled through seeing through a glass darkly, and with some kind of self-evident norms, or what Rowan Williams calls ‘icons’. Having said that, I actually think there would be more of a consensus than we are led to believe if we really thought about it. Again, I realise that that is increasingly unlikely, given market societies promote choice and subjectivity over substantive notions of the good.

@Brian in Brooklyn,

I think the point was about *the* origin rather than *an* origin. But, yes, point taken. I only think that a lot of modern art-to take one example- has been about pushing the envelope, about being on the frontier rather than at the centre. And the word obedience! To something beyond the self. Do you think that that adequately describes some of the main trends in modernity?

#2 Comment By Ted On January 19, 2019 @ 8:05 am

First_Deacon: “Iraqi Christians in general supported Saddam Hussein. Because apparently he, as evil as he was, did protect them from genocide….

“No, I don’t think progressives in the US want to do the same. At least not in this generation.”

The last sentence cited is a killer. Sleep well.

#3 Comment By Ted On January 19, 2019 @ 8:10 am

Fred O’Neal says: “Yes, great atrocities were committed by Franco’s side during and after the Civil War. But, they were committed out of sense of necessity – for self-defense.”

It was no “necessity” for the Guardia Civil, or whoever they were, who killed Garcia Lorca to shoot him in the buttocks because he was gay. Read the Peter Hitchens piece.

[NFR: I read in a history book — one of Stanley Payne’s? I’m not sure — that Garcia Lorca was killed because of a non-political local dispute between his family and another one. The killer took advantage of the relative anarchy of the war to exact vengeance. Garcia Lorca’s murder was politically advantageous to the left, so they made propaganda of it, or so this historian wrote. — RD]

#4 Comment By Ted On January 19, 2019 @ 8:21 am

Connecticut Farmer: “The elites (mostly, but not exclusively, conservatives and monarchists) tried to prevent [Hitler] from emerging too. They, er, didn’t succeed very well.”

Wrong. The conservative elites tried to co-opt him and he was too smart, too fast and too ruthless for them.

#5 Comment By JD Ryan On January 19, 2019 @ 9:12 am

A lot of us lefties don’t see her working there as some sort of intended political statement. We just see it as a reminder of why conservative Christianity is so repulsive.

#6 Comment By Matthew On January 19, 2019 @ 9:54 am

NFR: I don’t believe sexual desire is “chosen” either, but I also don’t believe that it is morally neutral. That’s the difference. — RD]

That really is the rub isn’t it? If you believe that sexual desire is morally neutral (or at least legally neutral as applied to adults) then race and sexual desire become less different.

#7 Comment By VikingLS On January 19, 2019 @ 10:03 am

“Rod, consider this a vote in favor of your publishing fewer concern-trolling comments from anti-Christians.”

I strongly agree.

Do we really need to hear one more round of “You’re just afraid they’re going to do to you what you did to them”?

#8 Comment By BF On January 19, 2019 @ 10:34 am

[NFR: I don’t believe sexual desire is “chosen” either, but I also don’t believe that it is morally neutral. That’s the difference. — RD]

I am puzzled by this remark. In context we were talking about gays, and the idea that their orientation is not a choice. Are you saying that you agree with this idea, and yet this situation is “not morally neutral”, that is, it is sinful?

So in this complex, the mere way that gays are made is sinful? Whose sin is it then? The person, who had no choice? God’s, Who did? At best you are skating close to Calvin, if in fact you have not skated right into him.

[NFR: The *acts* are sinful. The desire is intrinsically disordered, but it is not sinful unless it is acted upon. Heterosexual desire is not *intrinsically* disordered, but if directed towards a person not one’s lawful spouse, it is. It is not disordered for me to desire my wife. It is disordered for me to desire another man’s wife. Because, in Christian teaching, there is no sexual expression of homosexual desire that is morally licit, it is intrinsically disordered. A heterosexual who is not married exists in the same situation as homosexuals: he must live chastely. I have been that man at one point in my life, for years. It is hard, but that’s the road we have to walk. — RD]

#9 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On January 19, 2019 @ 11:00 am

Rob G writes: “The real question is about forcing traditionalists and conservatives to get on board with liberal uni-directional tolerance, which has nothing to do with homosexual equality.”

Which is replacing the previous uni-directional tolerance that pointed a different way. The problem is that Western Abrahamic culture produced a defective practice of tolerance. A pluralist practice of toleration needs to be developed.

#10 Comment By Old West On January 19, 2019 @ 12:47 pm

Thomas Hobbes writes, in response to my saying that there is no equivalent on the right in my comment above:

“I doubt this, small towns can pretty much do as they like culturally if they’re out of the jurisdiction of any bastions of liberalism. I admit I haven’t spent serious time in a town under 5,000 people in a decade though. If you mean cities though, then I’d agree. Cities turn people liberal, crunch enough people together in limited space and a lot of liberal policies start to make sense.

First off, have you not noticed that a lot has happened in the last decade? Again, what I said is that there is no equivalent on the right of blue-state conservatives moving to a red state (there are plenty of those) and then having a green light to write and say whatever they want about their former oppressors.

I spend a lot of time in a very remote part of Old West country, both out in the country, and in a couple of neighboring small towns. And I have lived most of the last 20 years in red-voting cities in rural areas with populations of 30 to 100 thousand–these are also places that most Americans would consider to be rural.

There are a number of reasons that there is the asymmetry of which I speak. First of all, when a blue-state conservative transplants to a red state, it almost always means that he is going to a place where he won’t have a platform that is equivalent to the angry red-state liberal who wants to beat up on his former oppressors. The media, such as it is, has little reach and no national influence, and it is almost always staffed either by apolitical types who don’t want controversy or by outright liberals. The schools are, by definition, staffed by people who have been formed in the state’s university towns, which are islands in what someone has referred to as the “Davos archipelago,” culturally hostile and smug about the sea of red that surrounds them (and that funds them).

What is more than that, as the Democratic Party has become the party of the rich and the educated, it means that increasingly, it isn’t just the school teachers and media types who will be liberal, it is also the most respected and wealthy residents of these small cities and towns as well–doctors, lawyers, etc. This is a very new phenomenon, and it is only going to intensify. There didn’t used to be resentful toward these local “elites” of the well-off and the better educated with secure jobs (e.g. school-teachers), since everybody went to the same churches and tended to have similar cultural outlooks, but it is growing.

So even in places like this, people watch what they say, since while they might be in the overwhelming majority in their socially conservative views, there is a good chance that those in positions of influence disagree with them and look down on them. I stand by my assertion: there is no equivalent on the right as far as I can see. There is no warm haven for a blue-state conservative to run to where he can “be himself.”

Ted: Thanks for your kind comment.

#11 Comment By Andrew On January 19, 2019 @ 1:13 pm

I think the idea that “taking public money” invalidates one’s right to hold religious positions and receive funding is completely non-sensical.

Public money is tax payer’s money. Christians are tax payers and they do not invalidate their right to THEIR money simply because of their religious positions.

Perhaps a better solution is that the government takes less money and lets people decide what they want to do with their hard earned income. Until that day I don’t see why it’s fair or just to take money from Christian tax payers and then tell them they can’t have access to their money because of their beliefs (and that applies to everyone by the way…Buddhists, Muslims, atheists etc.). Our present tax regime is very undemocratic. Maybe allow people to choose where their taxes go.

#12 Comment By Loudon is a Fool On January 19, 2019 @ 2:20 pm

@Ampersand III

That’s why red state liberals are so feisty: we grew up surrounded by you, and used to be one of you. So, when someone says we don’t understand the “nuances” involved, it’s hard not to chuckle.

There is something else at play here. Not to be demeaning to our Protestant brethren, but it’s entirely possible that a lot of red state liberals come to view the inconsistencies of Protestant sexual ethics as a rejection of homosexuality because it’s icky rather than contrary to Christian anthropology. If porn is ok and masturbation is ok and heterosexual sodomy is ok and contraception is ok and divorce and remarriage is ok and fornication is, well, not great, but it happens, but two dudes is just way, way, way beyond the pale you might come to the conclusion that two dudes is ok too.

I’d also suggest that all the gays still smarting from childhood bullying keep in mind that a group of kids is pretty much evil incarnate. The pecking orders among groups of kids are complex and intersecting and kids’ brains are so tuned to social cues that it’s probably the case that everyone got bullied, and left out, and rejected, and rewarded for picking on someone else, etc. Some more than others for sure, but kids will even turn on their popular peers if the opportunity arises. In most cases it was coincidence that people picked on you with gay slurs and you were actually gay. If you were uncoordinated, unathletic, bookish, or played an instrument (especially a string or woodwind instrument), you heard your share of gay slurs regardless of your orientation.

The take away from adolescence is not that Christianity is dangerous. It’s that the mob is dangerous. The mob is generally informed by whatever are the current cultural norms and the mob is going to enforce those norms with the same cruelty and injustice that it used against kids who didn’t fit in. So if you really are still smarting from your treatment by the mob when you were a kid, you should be especially empathetic with the current treatment of Christians.

#13 Comment By Rick67 On January 19, 2019 @ 2:41 pm

I have mixed opinions about this. Not mixed opinions about the progressive bourgeoisie and its antipathy toward traditional/conservative Christians. And not toward Mrs Pence teaching at a private school that *shock gasp* follows traditional Christian teaching. I mostly agree with you and sympathize with Mrs Pence.

That having been said… is it possible that when someone occupies such a high profile position (and I am aware Mrs Pence is not actually in a “position” but is closely associated with someone who is) they choose to step back a little from certain activities that are the focus point of so much controversy. I am aware this is a risky stance to take. And I can certainly understand someone saying “no no no this is exactly the time and place for someone to exercise her rights on behalf of millions of other traditional religious believers”.

I have in mind partly the apostle Paul’s argumentation in 1 Corinthians 8-11 which focuses on the church in the world (and the world in the church). He clearly agrees intellectually with the “strong” camp. And yet he agrees in practice with the “weak”. More specifically (chapter 9) he presents himself as an example of a man and an apostle who has rights and prerogatives. And yet gives them up for the sake of… and at this point the analogy with 2018 is less clear.

Do traditional Christians have these rights? Yes. I affirm that categorically. Do Christian schools? Does Mrs Pence? Yes yes yes.

Could this be an instance in which someone entirely within her rights can “empty herself” and say, I have every right to do this. However I choose not to – and without tearing down this school and/or traditional Christians – for the sake of… (and this is where I don’t quite know how to finish the statement)… peace? harmony?

I could be dead wrong. However I’ve been wrestling with 1 Corinthians in light of the controversy within the United Methodist Church and saw a possible connection.

#14 Comment By John Spragge On January 19, 2019 @ 4:51 pm

Quoting Frostbite

Keep in mind also that they don’t share your metaphysics or about how life and the universe are supposed to work. That traditional Christian teaching is against extra-marital sex, homosexuality, etc. is meaningless to them. In the progressive worldview, if someone is LGBT, that’s just how they’re made. For MTDists, that’s just how God made them.

The letters “MTD”, which I assume refers to moralistic theraputic deists (I prefer to spell the words out for the reason George Orwell espoused: spelling out an acronym forces the writer and readers to think, however briefly, about the actual meaning) should not be used to mean Christians who have theological views you disagree with. There is nothing vague about the position that the ultimate source of Christian morality is the instruction to love God (Deuteronomy 6) and love your neighbour (Leviticus 19:18). We say this because Jesus says it, multiple times, in all four Gospels, and because Paul affirms it. And from that, we conclude the ethical way to treat someone who differs from the majority because of a condition they did not choose, is with compassion; Jesus explicitly rejects the view of difference or disability as inherently unethical (John 9). And again,based on explicit commandments from Jesus, we believe compassion means treating people the way we would choose to have them treat us. We do not insist you agree; Christians have disagreed over the meaning of scripture from the beginning. But our position is not some ill-defined sense God’s love extends to everyone and morality doesn’t matter.
Quoting Rod:

[NFR: I have rejected phony “dialogue”. — RD]

Fine, Rod. Can you please define the conditions for dialogue that is not, as you put it, “phony”?

[NFR: When “dialogue” is nothing but an instrument for advancing the long-term project of throwing the orthodox side out, and ultimately forbidding them to take part in the institution or the discussion. — RD]

#15 Comment By Timo On January 19, 2019 @ 5:27 pm

“[NFR: I don’t believe sexual desire is “chosen” either, but I also don’t believe that it is morally neutral. That’s the difference. — RD]”

I am genuinely curious and therefore hope the following is received as respectful. I am by disposition an observer (lurker?) and rarely step into the fray.

Rod, is it not the case that your morality is (objectively) entirely optional for you? Have you not chosen it after a series of major and minor decisions subject to your evolving knowledge and experiences? Does it not derive its social and political legitimacy from your subscription to it rather than claims that its various proscriptions and ideologies are necessary and actually True?

I’m glad that the 1st Amendment protects your mode of worship, subsequent commitments, and resultant lifestyle. Too, by design and necessity, does it not also require that your mode’s domain of authority apply only to you? (And to some extent your immediate family, depending on how their choices are circumscribed by the authority you exert.) Do you believe that your morality binds to it people who do not share it?

I have read every one of your posts since Obergefell because I would very much prefer that your rights be protected as maximally as viable. I could not claim honestly to agree with or desire much of your morality. And yet I want to have as deep an empathy for your position as possible.

My bottom-line question spawns from this post but draws from my reactions to many others: How might you respond if one of your children chose a substantially different morality than the one to which you subscribe?

Also: how does your answer (and American parents’ responses in their own circumstances writ large) play into the need for the Benedict Option as you see it, especially given the increasing abandonment of institutionalized religion in emerging generations?

Lastly: are the social and political environments around these questions really so different in Europe such that other people’s (peoples’?) responses would be very different there?

I don’t expect a response, obviously. Perhaps my thinking might spark something useful to you.

Best of luck for a speedy recovery from this exhausting trip.

Timo

#16 Comment By Thaomas On January 19, 2019 @ 5:31 pm

The school has a right to its peculiar view of Christian morals, Ms Pence has a right to take a job there, and VP Pence has a right to express his “offence” that people have criticized her, but these rights do not make the school’s ideas or Ms Pence’s decision right, moral, Christian, or immune from criticism by people who do not share those views on morals.

#17 Comment By Kevin Sullivan On January 19, 2019 @ 8:53 pm

NFR: After going through the comments on this thread while sitting here at the Madrid airport, and throwing a bunch out for being straight-up trolling and knothead whataboutism, I am inclined strongly to your position. — RD]

Are there any comments that disagree with this post that you find compelling?

Although you have written many posts disparaging Christians who support same sex marriage as followers of MTD, I do not consider you my enemy. As you said, there are many different people in this world, and so it follows that there are many types of Christians.

And, is the Washington Post allowed to write an article about the vice president’s wife’s profession? Am I obligated to mute my opinion that I find this objectionable because . . . religious freedom?

#18 Comment By Lee On January 19, 2019 @ 9:58 pm

If you want some insight into young people who have left the church, Mike Pence said that criticism of Christian schools has to stop and people have responded on twitter with thousands of tweets with the hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools

#19 Comment By KateLE On January 19, 2019 @ 10:06 pm

If, during the Obama administration, Jill Biden had started working at a school that teaches that religion is a mental illness, and her husband openly pushed for laws to make the practice of Christianity subject to criminal penalties, would you have shrugged and said “nothing to see here, she’s just a private citizen”?

Note that I think Mrs. Pence should do whatever she wants, but can’t you see your double standard?

#20 Comment By Ben On January 19, 2019 @ 10:18 pm

but I was a loyal foot soldier in the culture war trenches for half of my life. That’s why red state liberals are so feisty: we grew up surrounded by you, and used to be one of you.

Me too. Except from the opposite direction to the opposite end, i.e., I was a militant, proselytizing atheist until a very sudden and unexpected conversion to Catholicism at age 33.

I can see the secular atheist position coming from a mile away because I used to be one.

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 19, 2019 @ 11:49 pm

” What should we do for them not to feel threatened? Burn all the bibles because they contain that offending verse? Ban the publishing of any more so as not to offend gays? ”

That is exactly what a high official in the Canadian government called for after the Pulse Club mass murder (not then publicly known to have been by an Islamic homosexual). He said that an advanced progressive nation like Canada could no longer afford the Bible to be printed or distributed.

#22 Comment By Richard Parker On January 20, 2019 @ 1:56 am

“Both CA and NY are apparently ready to do just that.”

You have no idea what is coming down the pike in California. There is literally no political constraint at all on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

#23 Comment By John Spragge On January 20, 2019 @ 1:41 pm

Quoting Rod:

When “dialogue” is nothing but an instrument for advancing the long-term project of throwing the orthodox side out, and ultimately forbidding them to take part in the institution or the discussion.

Has anyone advocated this? Has it ever happened? Seriously, Rod, I have never heard of any Christian denomination throwing any congregation, or indeed any person, out for not being affirming or inclusive. Please provide examples of this, because if I don’t know what you mean by “throwing the orthodox side out” in practice, I can’t get a handle on how you determine any given invitation into dialog is intended to have that result.

#24 Comment By First_Deacon On January 20, 2019 @ 1:57 pm

[Loudon is a Fool] “In most cases it was coincidence that people picked on you with gay slurs and you were actually gay”

That was my experience. I was mercilessly hounded in middle school for close to all of the reasons you cited, being overweight, bad at sports, socially awkward, and unwilling to fight back, I heard a lot of F bombs of the other variety directed at me. It did a real number on me for sure. But I never really had any inclinations in that direction, I was just an easy target for the mob.

Where I was, virtually all of the kids were either nominally Christian, a few Jewish, very few nones (I was one, I was raised by atheist Unitarian-Universalists). Only a few of the Christians I knew seemed to be very serious and/or fundamentalists – and none of these serious Christians ever hassled me; it was the more popular kids who, even though they called themselves Christian if you asked, once they got to high school, were drinking, getting high, and sleeping around, indistinguishable from someone completely non-religious.

At any rate, I’m totally perplexed at the progressives who seem to be telling me that I, personally, convert to Christianity in my 30s and to Orthodox Christianity in my 40s, I need to atone for the past sins of other Christians with regards to behavior towards LGBT individuals. I was on the receiving end too.

And if one believes, as I understand most progressives do, that the proper framework for moral questions is striking a balance of fairness and avoiding harm, what in that system justifies revenge?

#25 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On January 20, 2019 @ 3:53 pm

Khalid mir says:
Yes, I’m sure one could argue that if one were a relativist. It’s not, in my opinion, really about or wholly about how one “sees it”. As if to say the structure or the logic of the argument (i.e.’a reaction to what went before’) can substitute for the content of the argument.

I think I can can see what you’re saying but I don’t think the argument in this case is so much about an *excessive* lust or licentiousness as it is about lust or false desires as opposed to love or appropriate desires.

I’m not so much coming from a relativistic view point, more from the pragmatic view point. There is a Biblical Ideal Morality that can never be achieved by man on earth, but during different time periods society has fallen away from it in different ways that require different types of correction to move closer to the Biblical Ideal. I know there are people here who think early 20th century US sexual morality was great for promoting love and appropriate desires, but I’m not one of them. The relativistic issue, of divine revelation coming to a particular society and needing to be understandable to and interpreted by that society, is well beyond my pay grade.

Old West says:
First off, have you not noticed that a lot has happened in the last decade?

Honestly, I haven’t compared to previous decades. Do you mean, culturally, politically, economically? In the last decade I’ve been living in ultra liberal big cities and only visiting small towns for brief visits to friends and relatives. In the city I noticed major reactions to the housing crash and Trumps election. In small towns I didn’t really see much change in response to either of those (nor gay marriage), though as noted, I’ve just been passing through and town to town differences can be immense. The biggest change I’ve noticed in the past 10 years that applies to both locations is that everybody has become entranced by small glowing rectangles they carry with them everywhere. I recognized Christianity as dying in the US when I was a teenager, I don’t really view this as something new in this decade.

Old West says:
I spend a lot of time in a very remote part of Old West country, both out in the country, and in a couple of neighboring small towns. And I have lived most of the last 20 years in red-voting cities in rural areas with populations of 30 to 100 thousand–these are also places that most Americans would consider to be rural.

When I think of small towns I think under 30k. I don’t really have much experience with the 30k-100k range, which I would classify as small cities (nor do I have experience with suburbs where most of America lives for that matter). My experience is in the Northwest (including northern California) and the Northern Midwest.

Old West says:
What is more than that, as the Democratic Party has become the party of the rich and the educated, it means that increasingly, it isn’t just the school teachers and media types who will be liberal, it is also the most respected and wealthy residents of these small cities and towns as well–doctors, lawyers, etc. This is a very new phenomenon, and it is only going to intensify. There didn’t used to be resentful toward these local “elites” of the well-off and the better educated with secure jobs (e.g. school-teachers), since everybody went to the same churches and tended to have similar cultural outlooks, but it is growing.

Interesting, I remember seeing significant resentment of the doctor/lawyer/managerial class as a kid (I’m in my late 30s) in the city. I still see lots of resentment of them in the city despite the fact they are less Republican now. In those really small towns I visit, there hasn’t been much change in that regard, people still know each other and have always been distrustful of the “big city” and liberals. I can imagine the larger towns being different since there is much more anonymity there.

One note, the Republican party is still the party of the rich, though the Democrats are no longer the party of the working class (has never really been in my lifetime). The managerial class (including doctors and lawyers) is still full of Republicans (though mostly the sort of Republicans who are fine with gay marriage). It’s possible the parties may be in the realignment process so that Republicans represent the working class, but there’s a long way to go (Republicans would have to figure out a way to not scare off minorities). Right now it’s just two different parties representing the desires of different groups of the rich.

#26 Comment By Andrew Cheevers On January 20, 2019 @ 6:21 pm

People who are not bigots despise bigotry, whether the bigotry is inspired by the culture you grew up in or not. That is the deeper meaning behind the attacks on the Vice President and his wife. They are bigots.

#27 Comment By Lee On January 20, 2019 @ 8:18 pm

[I have been that man at one point in my life, for years. It is hard, but that’s the road we have to walk. — RD]

Having been around for more than 60 years now, I can tell you that doing something that is hard for years is one thing, doing it for decades is another and doing it “forever” is yet another.

I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with this Christian theology that you described if it were actually practiced as you describe it, if gays were accepted if they were celibate, if the difficulty of their “road” was acknowledged and if they were given support. That simply is not the case. Karen Pence’s school bans gays, period, not sexually active gays. The distinction only comes up in discussions, not in real life.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 20, 2019 @ 8:43 pm

If, during the Obama administration, Jill Biden had started working at a school that teaches that religion is a mental illness, and her husband openly pushed for laws to make the practice of Christianity subject to criminal penalties

I fail to see even a remote approximation of a valid analogy here. You’re playing MAD Lib games — as long as the grammatical structure of the sentence is correct, it doesn’t matter what the content is.

If you want some insight into young people who have left the church, Mike Pence said that criticism of Christian schools has to stop and people have responded on twitter with thousands of tweets with the hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools

If all the idiots in the world would confine themselves to fighting verbal battles on twitter, our problems would be half solved.

Are there any comments that disagree with this post that you find compelling?

Rod posts many comments that he does not find compelling, including many of my own. If he found them compelling, he would be effusively agreeing. He’s distinguishing here between arguments that are well argued, but in his mind factually, logically, rationally, or teleologically faulty, and arguments that are so mindlessly repetitive and obtuse that a middle school debate team would be disqualified for using them.

Rod, is it not the case that your morality is (objectively) entirely optional for you?

Yes, and no. Most of us believe that there is some objective truth to the universe we inhabit. It may be scientific and materialist in nature, it may be teleological and theological in nature, or both, and maybe something else besides. But, if its true, ite true, regardless of whether we recognize it or understand it, or not.

The subjective component is in how we as individual organisms living in communities come to terms with it. Rod’s belief as to what is objectively true do not accord with my own, and neither of us are in accord with either Franklin Evans or Pat Robertson. But ultimately, if there is any basis to religion, what God decrees does rule, in the end. Because God is God. Unless there is no God after all.

The difficulty is that none of us are qualified to dispense authoritative pronouncements of exactly what God is and desires. So we allow freedom of religion, and leave people free of coercion by the police powers of the state, or hopefully the mob as well. But a given belief may still be true.

#29 Comment By Dale McNamee On January 20, 2019 @ 10:48 pm

Can you believe it ?

A Bible-believing Christian teaching at a Bible-believing school !

Amazing !

BTW, the God of the Bible is not tolerant of sin and unrepentant sinners won’t enter heaven… Revelation 20: 11-15, Revelation 21:27

#30 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On January 21, 2019 @ 12:35 am

Khalid writes: “I only think that a lot of modern art-to take one example- has been about pushing the envelope, about being on the frontier rather than at the centre.”

I do believe in the middle path, but I wonder if that is what you are referring to as “the centre” and what benefits you believe it possesses.

More Khalid: “And the word obedience! To something beyond the self.”

I am obedient to the Four Noble Truths which are not beyond the self (which does not exist anyway), and yet they serve me (as well as millions of Buddhists it seems) well.

> Do you think that that adequately describes some of the main trends in modernity?

I am not sure about your first point, but if by your second you mean that people are putting desire/craving before ethics, I agree. But I find such destructive behavior among both those who obey rules issued from beyond the self and those whose guidelines are internal to self–both groups let their cravings lead them and do nothing to unattach from them–hence the dire situation in which humanity finds itself.

#31 Comment By Khalid mir On January 21, 2019 @ 1:37 am

Fair points, Thomas Hobbes. But if there’s the danger of an unrealistic idealism -and fundamentalism is surely one of those dangers-then there’s also the danger of a realism devoid of any ideals. For me, it’s interesting that the idea of a “release” from constraints corresponded to a shift in gears in capitalism (to unbridled consumerism). I think that’s one of the themes in D. Bell’s great ‘Cultural Contradictions’.

#32 Comment By Lee On January 21, 2019 @ 11:08 am

@ John Spragge
“But our position is not some ill-defined sense God’s love extends to everyone and morality doesn’t matter.”

Thank you for your post. It was beautifully put. I get rather irritated by the “if you support gays, your Christianity is, by definition, MTD and only about feeling good about yourself”. It is no more right or fair to dismiss the faith of other Christians this way than it is if someone on that side dismisses anti-gay Christians as bigots.

#33 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 21, 2019 @ 8:27 pm

Karen Pence’s school bans gays, period, not sexually active gays.

And you know this… how?

It could be true, but I have seen no evidence of it here. And frankly, I never heard of the school before.

I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with this Christian theology that you described if it were actually practiced as you describe it, if gays were accepted if they were celibate, if the difficulty of their “road” was acknowledged and if they were given support.

“This Christian theology” is diffused among several different denominations with wildly varying doctrines, and various degrees of perfect and imperfect practice by people with a variety of motives and influence. Some come closer than others to what you say you would wish.+

People who are not bigots despise bigotry, whether the bigotry is inspired by the culture you grew up in or not.

I take it you have an absolutely reliable test for bigotry, to insure infalliably that you yourself are definitely not a bigot, not ever, not even a little bit, and to identify those who unquestionably are? What do you do, throw people in the river, and if they float, they’re a bigot?

That is the deeper meaning behind the attacks on the Vice President and his wife. They are bigots.

You’ve tested them?

I have less than zero respect for the man who currently holds the office of vice-president, although in the unlikely event that he moved into my neighborhood, I wouldn’t refrain from saying good morning when I saw him. He strikes me as cold, cruel, distant, and opportunistic. But I couldn’t state with confidence that He Is A Bigot. As to his wife, well, she married him, but that’s a personal choice. How do you know that She Is A Bigot? (And don’t respond, “Because she teaches at that school,” I’ll laugh in your face.)

#34 Comment By Lee On January 22, 2019 @ 11:02 am

[NFR: The *acts* are sinful. The desire is intrinsically disordered, but it is not sinful unless it is acted upon. Heterosexual desire is not *intrinsically* disordered, but if directed towards a person not one’s lawful spouse, it is. It is not disordered for me to desire my wife. It is disordered for me to desire another man’s wife. Because, in Christian teaching, there is no sexual expression of homosexual desire that is morally licit, it is intrinsically disordered. A heterosexual who is not married exists in the same situation as homosexuals: he must live chastely. I have been that man at one point in my life, for years. It is hard, but that’s the road we have to walk. — RD]

[This. Is. Normal. Within. Conservative. Christianity… What I don’t get is how they refuse to see that theirs is an extremely recent view, one that is rejected by many religious and even some non-religious people.]

Do you really think that it is being honest when you say that an unmarried heterosexual is in the same situation as a homosexual? Being chaste for a period of time with hope is not the same as being chaste for a lifetime with no hope. That guy who studied priests for a couple decades and wrote multiple books about them estimated that about 50% of them were sexually active AT ANY ONE TIME. I wonder how many priests, with all of the supports they have, are able to live their entire lives chastely? Even if a homosexual is able to do that, there isn’t any acceptance of them much less support in most of the conservative Christian world.

I don’t get why you don’t seem to get that you object to criticism for the conservative Christian view and worry about your place in the public square while your message to LGBTQ people is “there is NO place for you in our world – NONE”. Don’t you see the difference here in degree? People who don’t have a dog in the fight certainly do. This is why the tide is turning against your stance.

With regard to how recent a dominant view is, up until about 1880 – so for nearly 2 millennia – the dominant view of Christians was that a fetus was not a person until quickening (usually 18-20 weeks) and abortion prior to that was acceptable and even provided by Catholic health practitioners. How long a view is held has nothing to do with whether it is right or not.

#35 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 23, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

Do you really think that it is being honest when you say that an unmarried heterosexual is in the same situation as a homosexual? Being chaste for a period of time with hope is not the same as being chaste for a lifetime with no hope.

Your argument assumes that sexual fulfillment is either the highest good in life, or an essential fulfillment. This may be true, but it is not a mandatory premise. Some people might disagree with it, and if they do, arrive at different conclusions.

I would be very concerned with this argument if traditional Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Baptist morality were enforced by the police powers of the state. But its not. If you believe, if you feel you are called by God, to adhere to this set of moral doctrines, then you will obediently seek communicant membership in one of these churches. If you don’t believe there is a God, or that God really cares about this, then you will not join one of these churches. Your opinion as to the rationality of their doctrines is therefore irrelevant.