So Who Exactly Is Pushing A Social Agenda?

The typical complaint one hears about conservatives, particularly from libertarians, is that social conservatives want to use the government to advance their agenda and force their beliefs down everyone’s throats. Normally the first issue that is brought up to defend this proposition is abortion. I find that odd because if wanting to prohibit abortion is akin to being a proponent of big government, then anyone who advocates for laws against murder is clearly also an advocate for big government. The next most commonly cited issue is gay marriage. Again, I find this odd because it is the proponents of gay marriage who want government to make a complete change to the institution of marriage in order to advance their agenda.

At any rate, libertarians and other social liberals usually run out of steam after those two big issues, though the more creative will invent issues that social conservatives supposedly support in order to defend this thesis.

What frustrates me about this is that left-wing attempts to use the government to indoctrinate society are ignored or downplayed, yet examples of left-wing attempts to influence the culture through the government are far more plentiful than conservative ones. One need only look at Mayor Nanny Bloomberg in New York – hardly a raging social conservative – to recognize that.

Want more proof? First, here’s a bill sponsored by Senate Democrats to fund comprehensive sex education.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Thursday that they’d introduced sex-education legislation limiting funding for “ineffective” abstinent-only programs.

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools, while ensuring that federal funds are spent on “effective, age-appropriate and medically accurate” programs.

. . . The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act aims to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and expand sex education programs at colleges and universities. The bill would also prevent federal funds from being spent on “ineffective, medically inaccurate” sex-educ

ation programs.

To translate, we’re going to spend tax money teaching kids about birth control but we’d be verbotten to teach them “medically inaccurate” information like keeping it in your pants will prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. We wouldn’t want kids being told off-the-wall ideas about not having sex before the age of 18 or – even nuttier – before marriage. No, no, no – we gotta get to these kids and make sure they know how to put a condom on a banana.

And do we really need to spend federal tax dollars on expanding sex education at colleges? Are college-aged kids that really in the dark about sex that this justifies federal intervention?

Want to know the kicker? One of the co-sponsors of this bill is Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In that case there will probably be an amendment setting aside funds teaching underage Dominican prostitutes to keep their mouths shut.

And that wasn’t the saddest news of the day. Here’s a story via Creative Minority Report:

Parents across Massachusetts are upset over new rules that would not only allow transgender students to use their restrooms of their choice – but would also punish students who refuse to affirm or support their transgender classmates.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The 11-page directive also urged schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and gender-based activities – like having boys and girls line up separately to leave the classroom.

Schools will now be required to accept a student’s gender identity on face value.

“A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day and throughout every, or almost every, other area of her life, should be respected and treated like a girl,” the guidelines stipulate.

As long as little Johnnie feels he’s a little Joannie, no one can tell him/her otherwise.

Hey, but these rules only help liberate young transgendered people from being discriminated against. It’s not like this would impinge anyone else’s freedom, right?

Another part of the directive that troubles parents deals with students who might feel comfortable having someone of the opposite sex in their locker room or bathroom.

The state takes those students to task – noting their discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

And any student who refuses to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify with could face punishment.

For example – a fifth grade girl might feel uncomfortable using the restroom if there is an eighth grade transgendered boy in the next stall.

Under the state guidelines, the girl would have no recourse, Beckwith said.

“And if the girl continued to complain she could be subjected to discipline for not affirming that student’s gender identity choice,” he told Fox News.

“It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline,” the directive states.

But that’s okay, says a spokesman for the transgendered.

Gunner Scott, of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, praised the directive – and said punishing students who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying.

That’s right. Feeling uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex who doesn’t think he or she is a member of the opposite sex is bullying, dont’cha know? And the only way to deal with bullies is to, well, bully them. That sounds reasonable, said Dan Savage.

And yet we’ll continue to hear countless fairly tales about how young modern hipsters would vote Republican if only they’d drop their obsession with silly social issues.

Well, as long as you’ve got useful idiots like Rod Dreherwriting for ostensibly conservative publications, we’ll just keep losing the culture wars.

102 Responses to So Who Exactly Is Pushing A Social Agenda?

  • For some reason, the link to Dreher isn’t working on my computer. What does he say?

  • Link is working now. It’s similar to the article I blogged about the other day on why conservatives are losing the debate on gay marriage.

  • Dreher is useful to Ron Unz because he can produce a certain quantum of copy on deadline. The quality is not important, and is often a daily diary of his upsets and insecurities. When he is out of ideas, he’ll tell you what he ate that day, complete with pictures.

    Did you catch the Huntsman article? If the behavior of the body of Republican primary voters disappoints you often, you should remember they can be very discerning at times.

  • It helps when those who would inform the public about a group pushing their agenda. Doesn’t warn us at all. It further assists the social engineers when the media is complicit. It’s pretty Orwellian. I’d be concerned.

  • It’s similar to the article I blogged about the other day on why conservatives are losing the debate on gay marriage.

    He has actually written the same article again and again and again for the last half-dozen years or so. Eventually Unz is going to dock his pay for persistent self-plagiarism.

  • i know of a kid whose parents let him identify as a girl in middle school for a couple years (name change, hormones and everything) who’s then went back to thinking he’s a guy. certain people don’t seem to acknowledge any line between toleration and full normalization that can potentially have this kinda effect for a small minority of unsure kids.

    as far as indoctrination, i get what you’re saying but when people’ve decided they’re merely “correcting” our past on these issues this argument’s naturally kinda stacked against you. you gotta point out why you have an issue with ‘em to get anywhere.

    for me it all comes down to “tolerance” arguments sort of being fake — society will favor one vision (though this doesn’t mean shunning people obviously) or another. liberals realize this, when they refer to their position as more tolerant they’re only referring to the fact that they generally don’t make distinctions between different behaviors.

  • re:amconmag, i noticed former writer Michael Brendan Dougherty (orthodox Catholic) snarking on twitter asking why people were messaging him about the Huntsman piece, saying just cuz the magazine ran it doesn’t mean they endorse it (imagine them saying this about a piece arguing in favor of a mildly interventionist foreign policy, or defending Israel on something) and finally arguing (like Dreher) in favor of Huntsman saying that because the tide’s turned, it’s better to focus on religious exemptions. i’m not sure how people expect tenable exemptions if broader society increasingly views religious teachings on the issue to be without merit, plus, simply deferring to “it’s against my religion” and not making a broader argument will just lead to more criticism about it being an irrational belief, etc.

    regardless of the different writers there, the important thing to remember about amconmag is that they are first and foremost anti-neocon, as well as anti-whatever the Republican base thinks. their stance is reactive, they do not have any guiding principles besides anti-“Empire” and anti-Israeli sentiment (which is essentially given a pass by their writers who aren’t Israeli-obsessed, who also snark with comments on how the GOP’s too nice to Israel/perpetually on the verge of launching a war with Iran if they ever come back to power)

  • Showing libertarians that the pro-life position is consistent with the non-aggression principle isn’t that difficult:

    http://libertyanddignity.wordpress.com/pro-life-libertarianism-abortion-faq/

    The gay marriage issue is a little more complex. I discuss it here:

    http://libertyanddignity.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/gay-marriage-a-libertarian-critique/

    Most self-identified libertarians I know are very receptive to the pro-life message, because most of them are at least what I would call ethically conscious, if they take the NAP seriously.

    But you’re right. There is an unreflective assumption that social conservatism must be federally imposed. I honestly think it is one of these stupid memes that people repeat because it kinda sounds right. “Well, the DEMOCRATS want to tell you what to do with your wallet and the REPUBLICANS want to tell you what to do in the bedroom, and we LIBERTARIANS don’t want to tell you what to do at all.” There’s no evidence to substantiate that anyone in the GOP or the mainstream or even most of the fringe conservative movements wants to tell anyone what to do in the bedroom, but its a nice slogan I guess.

  • If the science fiction meme of time travel ever became fact, I would shove every writer of The American Conservative into Vienna in September 1683. If that did not change their minds, I would shove them into Poland in 1918 and keep them there through 1921.

  • On the one hand, I would like stuff like the MA transgendered nonsense to be challenged all the way to SCOTUS…

    OTOH, one of two things would happen as a result:

    1) The Court might uphold it, or

    2) The Court would rule against it, but the school districts would pull a collective Andy Jackson and carry on as before…

  • i dunno that the libertarian position on marriage is stable. it makes sense that the federal govt. would want to endorse a certain vision of what marriage is, whatever that may be, as opposed to having your status change depending on what state you’re in.

    abortion is different because it’s a one-time action, and while obviously if you think it’s immoral you’ll likely want it banned, period, giving states the opportunity to decide the immorality/illegality of an action (not a status) makes more sense. however given “Roe v. Wade” it’s impossible to not fight for either the states’ rights or absolute position on the matter at the federal level, unless Congress were to strip courts of their jurisdiction in this specific area, which ain’t gonna happen.

  • and i’m aware of the “get the state out of marriage” argument where neither states nor the feds would be involved in it. just not something i agree with

  • one thing about people who won’t vote GOP based on social issues, look out for Mr. or Mrs. Democratic nominee 2016 to be Mr. or Mrs. Fiscally Conservative

    “well i was thinking about voting for Jon Huntsman, buuut…”

  • i noticed former writer Michael Brendan Dougherty (orthodox Catholic) snarking on twitter asking why people were messaging him about the Huntsman piece, saying just cuz the magazine ran it doesn’t mean they endorse it

    A certain amount of misdirection and irony is Mr. Dougherty’s trademark. He is one of a minority of contributors to the magazine who does not seem to have issues.

  • But you’re right. There is an unreflective assumption that social conservatism must be federally imposed.

    Bonchamps, the opposition planned to impose their burlesque on the country through the full Faith and Credit clause and did in fact impose abortion on demand through the judicial ukase. Not much option but some sort of cross-state response.

  • Why does it seem libertarian causes boil down to legalizing weed and gay marriage?

    What sense does that make?

    America is threatened by graver perils like national bankruptcy, socialism and statism.

    And, just how is legalizing gay marriage liberatrian? The motivation is to procure state approval, recognition and coercive enforcement, thus outlawing religious beliefs of millions. We owe perverts Christian charity because as long as they live they may come to a better “mindset.”

    In a free state, Catholics wouldn’t be forced to alter our religious beliefs.

  • Showing libertarians that the pro-life position is consistent with the non-aggression principle isn’t that difficult…
    Bonchamps

    I’d like to believe you’re correct, Bonchamps. Alas, in my experience the typical libertarian who attempts to discuss abortion in the context of the non-aggression principle (NAP) will speedily claim that the baby in the womb is aggressing against the mother blah blah blah Judith Jarvis Thompson, blah, violinist, blah blah, my ears are plugged, naah naah, I’m not listening to you, naah naah, the science is settled, case closed.

    Most self-identified libertarians I know are very receptive to the pro-life message…

    I worry that you don’t know as many libertarians as I do.

    And remember, in a political movement those most committed to it set the movement’s agenda and shape how the movement is defined.

  • The smear job on Dreher doesn’t make any sense. What are you actually trying to imply? The man has repeatedly reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage, and this piece is simply a lament of society’s understanding of marriage. I’m not sure what there is to take issue with.

  • AD,

    “Not much option but some sort of cross-state response.”

    Repealing Roe sends it back to the states. That is ultimately what we would like to see.

  • Also, the slam on his “View from you table” posts is really bizarre. Usually, the pictures, sent in by readers, include descriptions of the food, the gathering, and the significance behind it. Things like family traditions and cultural customs. You know, ideas that conservatives are supposed to care about and preserve. If you want to take issue with AmCon as a whole, that’s fine, but the attacks on Dreher are unsubstantiated and really pathetic.

  • ME,

    “And remember, in a political movement those most committed to it set the movement’s agenda and shape how the movement is defined.”

    Ron Paul’s campaigns have challenged the monopoly of opinion enjoyed by pro-abortionists. And Libertarians for Life have been around for some time. We also have Tom Woods, Judge Napolitano and others who oppose abortion. So it is no longer credible for anyone – either anti-libertarians or pro-choice libertarians – to insist that pro-abortionism is the default and necessary libertarian position. In fact it is absurdly easy to take apart Rothbard’s pro-abortion ethics (without viciously hating every word the man every wrote and even finding some value in it).

  • Bonchamps,

    I think AD was referring to gay marriage and the use of the full faith and credit clause to inevitably force states that do not recognize same sex marriage to recognize same sex unions from states that do.

  • Ah. That’s what he meant by “burlesque.”

    Well, the point basically remains. I wouldn’t view a refusal to recognize gay marriage at the federal level to be an example of imposing morality at the federal level. Whether it is a state or the federal government refusing such recognition, it has nothing to do with the regulation of individual, personal behavior. There are no sodomy police, nor is anyone calling for them – but to hear some libertarians and leftists discuss the issue, they sound as if this is exactly what is being proposed.

  • “If you want to take issue with AmCon as a whole, that’s fine, but the attacks on Dreher are unsubstantiated and really pathetic.”

    Pathetic actually sums up Dreher’s frequent changes in religion and ideology. His preoccupation with food seems to be one of the few constants in his career. A man really should not write opinion pieces when his own opinions have all the rock solid stability of a weathervane.

    Classic Jonah Goldberg takedown of Dreher in his insipid “Crunchy Con” incarnation.

    http://old.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200603020807.asp

  • JL: i don’t think anyone’s saying that a blog has to be all politics, all the time. however, since “crunchy cons” Dreher has tried to extrapolate his personal tastes & preferences into a unique form of conservatism in a way that i think is really silly, especially since, let’s call them the “greedy cons,” i’m sure have their own things they enjoy doing & don’t think amassing wealth is the sum of all human existence like he claimed they do.

    “Things like family traditions and cultural customs. You know, ideas that conservatives are supposed to care about and preserve.”

    well sure. the problem is that this can get vague to the point that trying to attach any political label to it is reading too much into things in my view. for instance i come from a family that’s almost all Democrats and you’d think of as upstanding, good people. does this have much to do with the “Burkean conservatism” defined by amconmag? not really, and personally i try to avoid imputing politics to every little aspect of life.

    on the pro-life thing, i don’t doubt that libertarians can have that view (although i never understood Paul’s stock “get the federal government out of it” response when the issue’s been unavoidably federalized since 1973, at least as far as the courts go) however given the amount of emphasis that libertarianism puts against the state and on personal autonomy it’s unsurprising that the liberal and libertarian position would converge for a lot of people

  • I wonder how long before boys start declaring they “feel” like they’re women just to get into the girls’ locker rooms… ;)

  • If you want to take issue with AmCon as a whole, that’s fine, but the attacks on Dreher are unsubstantiated and really pathetic.

    “Unsubtantiated”? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    JL, Mr. McClarey, among others, has experience directly tangling with Dreher and others have observed him for some years. Persistent features of what he has to say are as follows:

    1. An almost compulsive need to display himself.
    2. Great anxiety about his appearance and juxtaposition to others.

    The content of what he says is incidental. It’s all in the stances.

    A man really should not write opinion pieces when his own opinions have all the rock solid stability of a weathervane.

    He is 46, he has three kids, his wife has a spotty job history, and his employment at The American Conservative (a publication with a paid circulation less than a tenth of the one he resigned from a decade ago) would appear to be the result of a career crash. He may not have too many alternatives.

  • “Pathetic actually sums up Dreher’s frequent changes in religion and ideology. His preoccupation with food seems to be one of the few constants in his career. A man really should not write opinion pieces when his own opinions have all the rock solid stability of a weathervane.”

    Ahh yes. This trope. If only we all had life figured out before we turned 11, like you Donald. Blokes like Chesterton are incapable of opining with any credibility!

  • lotta strawmanning goin’ on

  • “”“Unsubtantiated”? I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    It means that if someone’s making a claim, I’d like to see some sort of justification for it.

    “JL, Mr. McClarey, among others, has experience directly tangling with Dreher and others have observed him for some years. Persistent features of what he has to say are as follows:

    1. An almost compulsive need to display himself.
    2. Great anxiety about his appearance and juxtaposition to others.””

    OK, well pardon me if you stating these “facts” doesn’t amount to substantive evidence in my eyes. If these two have tangled, I’d love to see the primary source for myself and form my own opinion.

    “The content of what he says is incidental. It’s all in the stances.

    A man really should not write opinion pieces when his own opinions have all the rock solid stability of a weathervane.

    He is 46, he has three kids, his wife has a spotty job history, and his employment at The American Conservative (a publication with a paid circulation less than a tenth of the one he resigned from a decade ago) would appear to be the result of a career crash. He may not have too many alternatives.”

    Ha, thanks for the conspiracy theory Art. Clearly it’s an impossibility that he could actually have convictions that GASP! aren’t identical to ones he had 10 years ago.

    Now let’s get back to bashing “The View From Your Table!” Take this iteration, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/view-from-your-table-170/, where Rod, an alleged “conservative,” has the balls to say this!!! :

    “That, my dears, is a vasilopita, or, St. Basil’s Cake. Today, on the Old Calendar, is the Feast of St. Basil. Inside the cake is baked a coin, in honor of a tradition that says St. Basil wanted to distribute money to the poor, but to allow them to retain their dignity. So he baked gold coins into cakes he distributed to them. Today, people put a single coin into the batter. The the tradition is that the first slice is for Jesus Christ, the second for his Holy Mother, and the third for St. Basil. And then on you go, through each member of the family. Whoever gets the piece with the coin in it is said to be blessed throughout the year.

    St. Basil got the coin in our house tonight, but Nora (see right) got that piece. She holds the coin in her hand. This was the first year we had such a cake. It was completely delicious.”

    Clearly talking about Orthodox customs has no value to conservatives at all. He’s obviously desperate for content! Instead he should devote a blog post to a Russian folk song.

  • Chesterton and Dreher, please! Chesterton was a Catholic in belief long before he converted, and when he converted he stayed converted. He remained remarkably consistent in his political and economic beliefs throughout his career. A better example of Dreher’s career is actually that of Gary Wills, although Rod mercifully does not have the rancor of Wills for people believing what he used to believe.

  • JL i have been familiar with Dreher for a while now. it’s not inaccurate to say he conflates his own personal lifestyle a lot with what he thinks conservatism should be. it’s not the same as offering certain critiques of modern conservatism.

    as far as the post you mentioned…cool? like i mentioned above these things might be interesting for some but i do not view them in political terms. i’m averse to affixing liberalism or conservatism to what are basic human experiences

  • The conversion from Methodist to Catholic to Orthodox is far less radical than that of an agnostic steeped in the occult ending up in the RC. I’m not attempting to make the claim that Dreher is somehow on GKC’s caliber. I’m saying your dismissal of a man’s opinions and beliefs because they’re not the same as they were 10 years ago is petulant.

  • “well sure. the problem is that this can get vague to the point that trying to attach any political label to it is reading too much into things in my view. for instance i come from a family that’s almost all Democrats and you’d think of as upstanding, good people. does this have much to do with the “Burkean conservatism” defined by amconmag? not really, and personally i try to avoid imputing politics to every little aspect of life.”

    I think I get what you’re saying, but I don’t really follow. So Value A is inclusive to both Group 1 and Group 2. Therefore Group 1 is forbidden from talking about it?

  • I’m glad I don’t have an opinion-maker in this fight.

    I read Taki’s :)

  • “JL i have been familiar with Dreher for a while now. it’s not inaccurate to say he conflates his own personal lifestyle a lot with what he thinks conservatism should be. it’s not the same as offering certain critiques of modern conservatism.”

    So his actions in life are actually informed by his convictions? Ok…I’m really failing to see the harm in any of this.

    “as far as the post you mentioned…cool? like i mentioned above these things might be interesting for some but i do not view them in political terms. i’m averse to affixing liberalism or conservatism to what are basic human experiences”

    I’m not sure Dreher views them in “political terms” either, whatever that means. The entire idea of Burkean/Kirkean liberalism is that its non-ideologocial, and is simply the articulation of what was generally accepted as true about life and society before liberalism sprang up, but never before needed to be summed up in some grandiose political programme.

  • -There are no sodomy police, nor is anyone calling for them – but to hear some libertarians and leftists discuss the issue, they sound as if this is exactly what is being proposed.

    Because such tactics work in changing the conversation. If you’ve had any dealings with young turks on twitter and other social media you realize that they don’t have any ability to cogently put forward an argument in defense of same sex marriage. What they can do is offer jeremiads about “hate” and “bigotry.” It’s a beautiful tactic, really, because it plays on people’s emotions.

  • They seem to be under the impression that opposition to “gay marriage” is tantamount to a legal prohibition on personal behavior. This is the great lie I am trying to defeat.

  • no i’m saying there is a line between a particular lifestyle you live and taking it to be some unique form of political philosophy. you don’t typically see eccentric liberals who maybe don’t quite fit in with some of their peers try to invent a new subset of liberalism based on this for example.

    also the “political” comment was in response to you, you’re the guy who said that people here were being mean to the guy by supposedly refusing to acknowledge the relevance of these things to traditional conservatism, and then pulled the all-purpose ill-defined “Burkean/Kirkian” card to make my point on AmCon for me

  • “They seem to be under the impression that opposition to “gay marriage” is tantamount to a legal prohibition on personal behavior”

    no one thinks this. people like those mentioned above are just playing on the fact that opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to homosexuality are related, though not always, and their view that you shouldn’t be allowed to make a distinction between traditional and SSM

  • If minor childen must be in school by law, then the public schools must accomodate their needs for modesty and privacy until they are adults. This would outlaw strangers talking to the minor children about sexual intimacy, soul raping through indoctrination and kidnapping by the state. Every civil right in the Constitution by its nature has sanction against the violation of its freedom. Atheism is sanctioned by freedom of Religion. Perjury is sanctioned by free speech. Social engineering is sanctioned by peaceable assembly. Peaceable assembly is freedom not only to petition government for redress but for persons, especially minor children, to be secure in their virginity and innocence, as they are created, because innocence and virginIty are the bone and sinew of JUSTICE.

  • Ha, thanks for the conspiracy theory Art.

    JL, that term does not mean what you think it means, either. (For one thing, ‘conspiracy’ implies common action with some other individual).

    To make it more explicit for your understanding: Dreher’s career has been producing commentary. That is what he does. He has been variously a film critic, columnist, editorial writer, and now a a daily blogger. He has lived in six different cities and been employed by seven different publications, but admits to no history as a reporter (a trade not in the best of straits as we speak) Retooling at his age is difficult and his last attempt (an editorial position with the Templeton Foundation) came a cropper. Even if he makes a buffoon out of himself, his options to do something other than topical commentary are constricted.

    OK, well pardon me if you stating these “facts” doesn’t amount to substantive evidence in my eyes. If these two have tangled, I’d love to see the primary source for myself and form my own opinion.

    JL, just to recall the history of this exchange, Dr. Zummo referred to Mr. Dreher as a ‘useful idiot’. That’s an insult. It is not something one substantiates or fails to substantiate. My remarks are as follows: He has actually written the same article again and again and again for the last half-dozen years or so. Eventually Unz is going to dock his pay for persistent self-plagiarism.. There are two parts to that. One is readily verifiable if you assemble a bibliography of his writings. It is not that difficult for you to rummage through the archives of The American Conservative or Beliefnet or find Maggie Gallagher’s replies to Dreher in various fora if you are at all curious as to how often he returns to this theme. My second sentence is what is known colloquially as a ‘joke’. That is not something you substantiate either.

    That Dreher has an atypical impulse to publicize his opinions and impressions is one he admits to himself. It was his explanation for resigning from the Templeton Foundation, which had insisted as a condition of employment he discontinue his Beliefnet column.

    As for my understanding of the common threads in Dreher’s writing, well, that is a matter of opinion as well. We could assemble his stray topical commentary over the years, his articles and columns, and in particular look at aspects of form, which, in Dreher’s case is important (emotionalism is standard fare). There was a period during which Rod Dreher was all over Catholic discussion fora and anyone who perused it got to be familiar with him. For Dreher, the personal really is the political (and the religious). Honestly, though, this is a blog posting, not a master’s thesis, and the man’s a rank and file pundit, not Karl Barth. (And I have wasted too many pixels on this already).

  • “JL, that term does not mean what you think it means, either. (For one thing, ‘conspiracy’ implies common action with some other individual).”

    Well clearly his wife and kids are in on it. But you’ve nabbed em, Art!

    Again, nothing you imply about Dreher’s convictions or lack thereof amounts to anything more than overwrought, contrived conjecture, “reading” your own nefarious motives into another man’s actions. Apologies for taking the man at his word.

    “JL, just to recall the history of this exchange, Dr. Zummo referred to Mr. Dreher as a ‘useful idiot’. That’s an insult. It is not something one substantiates or fails to substantiate. My remarks are as follows: He has actually written the same article again and again and again for the last half-dozen years or so. Eventually Unz is going to dock his pay for persistent self-plagiarism.. There are two parts to that. One is readily verifiable if you assemble a bibliography of his writings. It is not that difficult for you to rummage through the archives of The American Conservative or Beliefnet or find Maggie Gallagher’s replies to Dreher in various fora if you are at all curious as to how often he returns to this theme. My second sentence is what is known colloquially as a ‘joke’. That is not something you substantiate either.”

    Actually Art, opinions can and should be substantiated if their issuer wants them to be perceived as anything more than a string of baseless syllables. Calling someone a “useful idiot” without much explanation, save a link to an article which seemed anything but idiotic, isn’t just insulting, it’s flippant and wrongheaded. As is implying that someone resorts to showing pictures of food when they run out of ideas.

    “, which, in Dreher’s case is important (emotionalism is standard fare).”
    Depends on what you mean by “emotionalism,” but probably another unsubstantiated claim.

    “For Dreher, the personal really is the political (and the religious).”
    Good, I hope it’d be.

  • “no i’m saying there is a line between a particular lifestyle you live and taking it to be some unique form of political philosophy. you don’t typically see eccentric liberals who maybe don’t quite fit in with some of their peers try to invent a new subset of liberalism based on this for example.

    also the “political” comment was in response to you, you’re the guy who said that people here were being mean to the guy by supposedly refusing to acknowledge the relevance of these things to traditional conservatism, and then pulled the all-purpose ill-defined “Burkean/Kirkian” card to make my point on AmCon for me”

    I don’t think it’s a “unique form of political philosophy,” I just think alleged conservatives should be less derisive of a nice feature that celebrates tradition, family, and culture.

    I think Dreher’s brand of conservatism differs substantially from other forms. He might generally vote GOP, but there’s nothing wrong with distinguishing his approach to politics from the approach of others who happen to vote for the same candidates as him, but for different reasons. The more specificity the better.

  • “I just think alleged conservatives should be less derisive of a nice feature that celebrates tradition, family, and culture.”

    if someone’s not allowed to mock a post about kale, the terrorists truly have won

    me myself i eat conservative food, take conservative walks and drink conservative beers on a regular basis

  • in seriousness i get that people would have certain issues with the modern-day GOP, certain Team Red conservative commentators, i get it. and i appreciate that there’s an interest in other, less partisan arguments with a different focus. i just don’t find AmCon to be a useful alternative for reasons Art has outlined before

  • Art Deco has outlined

  • Donald, I agree Chesterton was a Catholic before he converted. I also think he retained a personlity that was quintessentially Protestant throughout his life. That was his paradox.

  • There are many words that I would use to describe Chesterton in his adult years, and a “Protestant personality”, whatever the devil that is, would not be among them. On my father’s side all my relatives are Protestant and I have never noted any difference in personality between them and me attributable to our difference of religion.

  • Does the government have the authentic authority to take your tax money and force your daughter to go to potty with a male child to validate his feminine side? Let his mother and father valid his sex. Your daughter owes him/her nothing. NOTHING.

  • Donald, I’m drawing on biographical information I’ve come across on him. He was quintessentially Protestant, though Roman in doctrine.

  • In what way was he Protestant in personality Jon? Be specific.

  • Well, Donald, that’s the great paradox of this man. He was an Englishman, an eccentric (he messed with a ouji board during his occult phase), a sort of freethinker, very hung up on liberty, an Anglican for many years, and what drove this otherwise Protestant figure to Rome was the decay that had already begun to set in in highchurch Anglicanism by his time.

  • I see nothing specifically Protestant about any of that Jon. Chesterton was a Catholic in belief long before his formal conversion in 1922. For example in 1911 in his poem Lepanto he wrote:
    The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
    And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
    And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
    And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
    And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,—

    If anything I would say that Chesterton as an adult had a naturally Catholic way in which he viewed the world.

  • Yes, Donald. I’m trying to say something different. His formation was high church Anglicanism. Not Roman, but as close as you could get. This was what moulded him. He then became disgusted and went over to Rome. But he was quintessentially Protestant, even if his beginnings were in high chruch Anglicanism. The fact is that he didn’t start in Rome. That’s my point. He’s a Protestant character.

  • What many people don’t realize is that Anglicanism is a hybrid. Canterbury is a cross between Rome and Geneva, and some are totally on one side or the other. They remain completely Protestant in character, though their doctrine can be pretty Roman.

  • Jon, unless you actually define with some specificity you mean when you “character,” I don’t think anyone will know exactly what you’re talking about.

  • “if someone’s not allowed to mock a post about kale, the terrorists truly have won”

    Not at all what I said. Mock away, but it probably reveals that they have a personal ax to grind instead of a legitimate criticism of someone’s political views.

  • “The fact is that he didn’t start in Rome. That’s my point. He’s a Protestant character.”

    Until you define what a “Protestant character” is Jon, there is no way that the accuracy of that statement can be judged.

  • “What many people don’t realize is that Anglicanism is a hybrid.”
    Bastard child might be a better way to put it. Henry VIII and Elizabeth were basically religious conservatives and wanted all the traditional smells and bells with them being pope. As a result the Anglican prelates of their time, most of them Protestants in belief, had to walk a tightrope and many of the 39 Anglican articles could either be interpreted in a “Catholic” or Protestant sense if one closed one’s eyes to the obvious implications of all of them taken as a whole. The Protestant interpretation won the day over time, with occasional “Catholic” reactions, most notably the Oxford Movement that Newman helped head. As for Chesterton Anglicanism was actually the faith of his wife. He converted to it from Unitarianism but was never really satisfied by it. Here is what he has wrote in 1911:

    “I think I have known intimately by now all the best kinds of Anglicanism, and I find them only a pale imitation”

    Out of respect for the sensibilities of his wife he delayed his conversion to 1922. She converted in 1926.

  • Mock away, but it probably reveals that they have a personal ax to grind instead of a legitimate criticism of someone’s political views.

    What personal axe, JL? Rod Dreher would not know me from a cord of wood. We’ve exchanged two sentences online in 11 years.

  • I suppose all of us who are converts carry something of our protestant “baggage” with us, but that doesn’t necessarily make our “character” protestant.

    The essence of protestantism is a prediliction for picking and choosing what they prefer to believe and a take-my-ball-and-go-home (or switch churches) mentality when things don’t go their way. Sadly, there are converts that continue to exhibit this trait. Chesterton, however, was decidedly NOT among those types.

    I will leave it to others to decide for themselves whether they believe anyone else discussed in this thread might seem to fit the bill.

  • “What personal axe, JL? Rod Dreher would not know me from a cord of wood. We’ve exchanged two sentences online in 11 years.”

    Well you apparently know plenty about him. I really don’t understand the bashing of “View From Your Table.” As I’ve already detailed how its content and purpose should resonate with and be celebrated by conservatives, I’m forced to conclude that your dismissal of it can only be chalked up to an ignorance of what it is or animosity towards its originator.

    By the way, here’s a kick-ass Dreher post from today: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/wapo-error-has-no-rights/

    Perhaps nothing earth-shattering, but it’s little things like this that make me wonder if we’ve crossed the Rubicon and it’s just time to get out of Dodge.

  • It is the Catholic Church Who defines and interprets scripture for the Catholic Faith and uses tradition and the Magisterium. The Protestant faith has sola scriptura and does not use tradition or a single Pontiff, unless one considers Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Church of England. I do not know and cannot say how the Church of England defines its tenets.

  • Well you apparently know plenty about him.

    He is a public figure and says plenty about himself.

  • Donald, I think Chesterton was a Protestant character insofar as he thought independently, was pretty eccentric, and very libertarian. He didn’t fit the mold of many pre-Vatican II Catholics, many of whom are alive now and are not Berean-like (they would not go home to search the Scriptures to see if what they are told by authority is correct, but will take authority at face value as if following authority were virtuous in itself–why did fascism appear in Italy and Spain?). Of course Chesterton was Roman Catholic in doctrine.

    As for the Reformation in England, it began politically. I know Henry VIII was a jerk. Everyone does. And I think Mary took after him–they were both incredibly pigheaded. I find Elizabeth I to be an absolute delight. A real gentlewoman. I read the collected works and can discern that she was Protestant in doctrine. The doctrine that made its way to the Anglican church was Lutheran under Edward, and when it was safe enough for the refugees to return, Calvinist. The Articles are pretty Calvinistic, though they haven’t always been taken very seriously, for better or worse.

  • What many people don’t realize is that there are basically three Anglican types: the Evangelical who is like a Baptist, the broad churchman in the middle who is not at either extreme, and the Anglo-Catholic who is not Roman. Many people become confused because they’re unaware of this. The diocese of Sydney, for example, is so reformed you would swear you were worshiping in a Baptist or Presbyterian church. Now there is a segment that’s very liberal and undefined in doctrine, but that allows just about anything. So the Anglican communion and the Episcopal Church in America, especially, are very diverse internally. Some of these people feel Roman Catholic and may wind up there. Others many wind up in a low church. Still others may continue to stay, either upset or upsetting others. It’s a complicated situation.

  • Jay, you are correct to a degree. When many diverse Protestant chruches exist, people can switch when they becvome dissapointed. But the feeling is that it’s better to have diversity than uniformity. Everything has its pros and cons, but at the end of the day one wishes to held captive to Scripure and God, and the church insofar as it adheres to that. Every chruch has its quarrels and its bigwigs and its showoffs, some of whom are sometimes the leaders. One simply has to learn tolerance and excersise charity.

  • Part of the problem with getting anything across to “Libertarians” is that it’s the go-to self-label for folks who want to be special snowflakes and grant their own views Super Special Rational Powers unlike any other political view. Even if they’re “libertarians” who vote Dem or Socialist consistently or want licenses for people to be allowed to reproduce, they’ll take the name. (Examples from real life– humans! What more is there to say?)

    Generally, when you do make the case for abortion being illegitimate because it’s killing another, they just get angry.
    I’ve had one anarcho-capitalist type Libertarian stop talking to me because when he threw a fit about gov’t being able to use deadly force, I pointed out that his “no killing humans” stance was rather weak because he is pro abortion.

    While straight Libertarian philosophy should be very obviously pro-life, libertarian has a strong tendency to be used when libertine would be more accurate, famous statements not withstanding.
    They just want to be the ones deciding who is person enough to have their rights respected.

    Gets darkly funny when you run into the strain of Libertarian that holds nobody has the right to say someone else isn’t part of this or that group….

  • “Donald, I think Chesterton was a Protestant character insofar as he thought independently, was pretty eccentric, and very libertarian”

    All of which fit many Catholics both pre and post Vatican II. Chesterton would have fit in well with most of the Irish nationalists of his day if he had been born one of the Great Gaels he wrote about:
    “For the great Gaels of Ireland / Are the men that God made mad, / For all their wars are merry, / And all their songs are sad.”

    “I to be an absolute delight.”

    She was an absolute bundle of laugh for my Irish Catholic ancestors.

    “I read the collected works and can discern that she was Protestant in doctrine.”

    In regard to religion Elizabeth viewed herself as trodding a middle path between those she condemned as Romanists, ie those who possessed the True Faith and died for it under Bloody Bess, and radical Protestants. This from a speech in 1583:

    “One matter touches me so near as I may not overskip; religion is the ground on which all other matters ought to take root, and being corrupted may mar all the tree; and that there be some fault finders with the order of the clergy, which so may make a slander to myself and the Church whose overruler God hath made me, whose negligence cannot be excused if any schisms or errors heretical were suffered.

    Thus much I must say that some faults and negligence may grow and be, as in all other great charges it happeneth; and what vocation without? All which if you, my Lords of the clergy, do not amend, I mean to depose you. Look ye therefore well to your charges.

    I am supposed to have many studies but most philosophical. I must yield this to be true, that I suppose few that be no professors have read more. And I need not tell you that I am so simple that I understand not, nor so forgetful that I remember not. And yet amidst so many volumes I hope God’s book hath not been my seldomest lectures; in which we find that which by reason, for my part, we ought to believe–that seeing so great wickedness and griefs in the world in which we live but as wayfaring pilgrims, we must suppose that God would never have made us but for a better place and of more comfort than we find here. I know no creature that breatheth whose life standeth hourly in more peril for it than mine own; who entered not into my state without sight of manifold dangers of life and crown, as one that had the mightiest and the greatest to wrestle with. Then it followeth that I regarded it so much as I left myself behind my care. And so you see that you wrong me too much if any such there be as doubt my coldness in that behalf. For if I were not persuaded that mine were the true way of God’s will, God forbid I should live to prescribe it to you. Take you heed lest Ecclesiastes say not too true; they that fear the hoary frost the snow shall fall upon them.

    I see many overbold with God Almighty making too many subtle scannings of His blessed will, as lawyers do with human testaments. The presumption is so great, as I may not suffer it. Yet mind I not hereby to animate Romanists (which what adversaries they be to mine estate is sufficiently well known) nor tolerate newfangledness. I mean to guide them both by God’s holy true rule. In both parts be perils. And of the latter I must pronounce them dangerous to a kingly rule: to have every man according to his own censure, to make a doom of a validity and privity of his Prince’s government with a common veil and cover of God’s word, whose followers must not be judged, but by private men’s exposition. God defend you from such a ruler that so evil will guide you. Now I conclude that your love and care neither is nor shall be bestowed upon a careless Prince, but such as for your good will passeth as little for this world as who careth least. With thanks for your free subsidy, a manifest show of the abundance of your good wills, the which I assure you, but to be employed to your weal, I could be better pleased to return than receive.”

  • “While straight Libertarian philosophy should be very obviously pro-life, libertarian has a strong tendency to be used when libertine would be more accurate, famous statements not withstanding.
    They just want to be the ones deciding who is person enough to have their rights respected.”

    Bingo. They usually have a very cramped idea of when “rights” impact those luckless enough to be in their way. Abortion is the classic example.

  • Very good, Donald. Thank you. Celtic territories were never far from Protestantism even while Roman. So I agree with what you said about Chesterton. Celtic pockets have been linked with mroe independent thought in religion.

  • My Irish Catholic ancestors wished they were very far indeed from Protestantism Jon, especially of the English variety or that of the Scottish Calvinist “settlers” to their land.

  • COncerning Elizabeth I, I’m not sure what’s comic. I never found her funny or amusing. Thanks for the quote. Yes, it was a settlement for the crown and the growing nation that worked. She didn’t like those who preach long and get very detailed and who stress the regulative principle of worship. The settlement was at stake, and this comes through in your quote. In many other places throughout her writings she seems authentically Protestant in doctrine, sentiment, and temperament. We already knwo the settlement accounted for some of it. It cannot account for everything she wrote. She always spoke as one who had to give an account to a higher one, as one who knew she was placed upon the throne and dependent upon the one who placed her there. As one who knew she shoulod shepherd her people affectionately and humbly. She knew she was there for a task and that it was pivotal. Her father was obviously a jerk and her half sister wasn’t too swift either.

  • “As one who knew she shoulod shepherd her people affectionately and humbly.”
    Yes, many of my English Catholic brothers and sisters felt her affectionate regard at Tyburn.

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/02/312-english-catholic-martyrs-and-heroic.html

  • Yes, Donald, there is the Irish crisis with the Englisha dn Scots settlers, or rather those who were dumped there. I know that. But celtic religion has always been of a different variety and alien to the Roman structure. Witness Rowan Williams, who recently resigned but who was arguably the most eccentric cleric and a Welshman! Very interesting fellow and a real genious.

  • “But celtic religion has always been of a different variety and alien to the Roman structure.”

    Not really. Once communication was firmly established between Rome and Ireland, the Irish began their long career as the loyalest sons and daughters of the Church. Would that the present generation in Ireland had not foresaken that old allegiance.

  • Yes, more research needs to be done on Celtic Christianity, not in the popular sense of advocating wishy washy spirituality, but of establishin its unique character and links with independent and reformed thinking throughout Europe. There’s a connection.

  • Well it was from the grassroots, Patrick and all. In Britain it was superimposed more or less. But Ireland was a far trip from Rome and I think it can be established that the Celtic areas though not necessaritly Ireland were to some degree more prone to local spirituality.

  • Well it was from the grassroots, Patrick and all. In Britain it was superimposed more or less. I think it can be established that the Celtic areas though not necessaritly Ireland were to some degree more prone to local spirituality.

  • Apparently, Freud did not say, regarding the Irish, “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.”

    But, likely it’s correct.

  • Jon, your argument essentially boils down to something like “Anyone who doesn’t live in Rome is Protestant in character.” I really don’t get it.

  • No, there’s research to suggest a connection exists between celtic pockets and a break away from Rome. I haven’t looked into it so I can’t specify. While Elizabeth wasn’t perfect, her half sister Mary was no bargain either. She earned a dark reputation for killing people who didn’t acquiese when she steered the realm back to Rome. Then she wanted children but couldn’t get pregnant so she psychosomatically expanded her stomach, and she kept herself surrounded by ‘little people’ at court.

  • She earned a dark reputation for killing people who didn’t acquiese when she steered the realm back to Rome. Then she wanted children but couldn’t get pregnant so she psychosomatically expanded her stomach, and she kept herself surrounded by ‘little people’ at court.

    I haven’t been monitoring this thread too closely because I’ve been travelling, but how on Earth did we go from a post about cultural issues to a discussion of Mary, Queen of Scots, and what she may or may not have believed or done?

    That said, yeah, Jon’s definition of “Protestant” attitudes is . . . something.

  • Jon, the Catholic Church is decidedly culturally-relativistic. Incorporation of local customs and traditions, insofar as they do not violate theological precepts and moral standards, are more or less par for the course.

  • NO, not Mary Queen of Scots, but Mary who reigned immediately prior to Elizabeth I. Someone mentioned Elizabeth I wasn’t perfect, so I pointed out a few of Mary’s imperfections.

  • JL, I agree. That’s the way it should be, though wherever the gospel is preached and many lives are changed, some cultural patterns change. Some practices change. I thinhk of the peace and truce of God in the MIddle Ages. Barbarism yields to civility.

  • NO, not Mary Queen of Scots, but Mary who reigned immediately prior to Elizabeth I.

    Kinda missing the point, Jon.

  • especially of the English variety or that of the Scottish Calvinist “settlers” to their land.

    You got something against my family?

  • If I did Art I’d have to go to war against myself since on my father’s side I am pretty sure they were reprepresented among those Calvinist “settlers”.

  • I did a little research and what I found out was that the Irish church was more in touch with earlier, eastern christianity and rather disconnected from Rome. The Irish church sent out missionaries to the continent. Those places turned out to be fertile soil during the Reformation. So it was areas reached by the Irish church that gave a ready welcome to Protestant theology. It makes sense.

  • Complete and total rubbish Jon. This missionary effort occurred almost a millenium before the Reformation and the Irish missionaries established monasteries which were anathema to Luther and his ilk. These monasteries were pillars of the Catholic Church, centers of learning, during what has been erroneously called the Dark Ages. The Stowe Missal, a sacrementary in Ireland written in 750, has prayers for the Pope as part of the Mass. You are sadly mistaken in your attempt to depict the earliest Irish Catholics as proto-Protestants.

  • The Irish saved civilization.

    During the Middle Ages, newly converted Irish Christians embraced monasticism as a sort of martyrdom. These holy ascetics preserved ancient books and spread it back to western Europe.

    If they were not faithful to the Gospel, the Irish had a huge beef with the Pope that effectively ceded Eire to the Norman conquerors. The Irish stayed in a clan/tribal system. They did not go through a feudal economic/political era.

    That being said, the Irish can be very “hard cases.”

    And, Freud did not say, “The Irish are the only people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” Although, that does not alter the reality of the condition.

  • Yes, it seems there has always been a disconnect between Rome and Ireland, if not in thought then at least in practice.

  • I agree the Dark Ages were not ‘dark’. The renaissance was not as much of a revival as we have thought.

  • Yes, the Irish, who suffered conquest, persecution, death, and disenfranchisment in their own country for daring to practice the Roman Catholic faith, and who kept that faith alive in secret Masses in bogs and on hillsides, and who put candles in the windows of their homes to let priests know it was safe to come in to say Mass, and who, if discovered doing those activities were liable unto death, were REALLY “protestants” who, if shown the error of their ways, would have gladly accepted the “reforms” of the “Church of Ireland” (i.e. the Church of England) or the Calvinism of the Scottish transplants.

    Yes, those Irish were so “disconnected” from Rome that, up until very recently, they were among the most faithful Roman Catholics in all of Europe.

  • Art Deco says:
    Tuesday, February 26, 2013 A.D. at 5:47pm
    especially of the English variety or that of the Scottish Calvinist “settlers” to their land.
    You got something against my family?
    Donald R. McClarey says:
    Tuesday, February 26, 2013 A.D. at 5:50pm
    If I did Art I’d have to go to war against myself since on my father’s side I am pretty sure they were reprepresented among those Calvinist “settlers”.

    Good grief, y’all are BOTH my relatives?

    Explains so much….

  • “Good grief, y’all are BOTH my relatives? ”

    ..and then there was that Scot who came to Poland and married one of my ancestors.

  • The “explains so much” statement stands. *grin*

  • “Explains so much….”

    Yep. My Irish and Scottish ancestors were the most peace loving people in the world and they would gladly have gone to war against anyone who said otherwise. :)

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