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Archive for June, 2016

“Is national grieving still possible?” Russell Moore asked yesterday, for good reason. The Orlando shootings have unmasked a sad reality which, if it continues to spread, doesn’t bode well for the United States going forward: that for many Americans, exploiting the angles of cultural identity politics is more important than expressing common humanity and compassion (e.g., by offered prayers, cries of lament, calls for aid). Not a few words of unqualified, unreserved grief and kindness have been met with something like: “Until you support legislation/programme X, your expressions of grief aren’t worth a single molecule of spit from your vile mouth.”

Also unsettling: several important facts from Orlando — like what the killer’s precise motives and associations were — are only just now being established with something like solid precision. But in many quarters the commentary, spin, and blame cycles ran faster than the investigative and reporting cycles. Instead of digging up and beholding the stubborn facts in all their terror and sordidness — and complexity — the priority of the day was to transform just outrage at a profoundly evil act into hatred against Group X.

Such responses haven’t, thank God, been universal or even predominant. But they have been common. Far too common. Where the expression of human grief and the practical alleviation of human pain are less weighty matters than which Reichstag Fire Narrative wins, there is a disease in the public mind. If you have been smacked down by Bizarro Nation for expressions of grief and sympathy, even for organizing or participating in relief efforts, do not be discouraged. Carry on. You are the sane ones.

That said, since it is imperative that our love “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,” none of us ought be obtuse about the following realities:

(1) The fifty persons who have died, and the one-hundred and three who were shot, were shot at a gay nightclub. The killer targeted his victims because they are gay. Therefore, while constructive responses to this act of terrorism must be general and national, not factional, it will not do to blind ourselves to the fact that all persons and communities which identify as LGBT, and friends and family of LGBT persons, are and for some time will be suffering from particularly acute grief for their loved ones and fear for their safety. Note that, respect it, and act accordingly;

(2) The murderer-terrorist in Orlando was a Muslim. Therefore, it will likewise not do to blind ourselves to the fact that Muslims and Muslim communities in the United States are and for some time will be uniquely subject to, and suffering from elevated fear of, backlash. Note that, respect it, and act accordingly;

(3) Whenever terrorists strike, two opposite errors will appear to tempt us: first, “the killer was a totally unique monster, an unhinged lone wolf”; second, “the killer is the true face of Bogeyman Group X which, given half the chance, stands ready to mobilize an army of people to go and do likewise.” Note both errors well, note that they are in fact errors, and avoid them.

May the recently departed rest in peace. Grace and peace to those whose homes and communities have been and will be particularly affected by this evil.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

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Blessed are the casino owners, for theirs is the kingdom of money.

Blessed are those who boast, for they shall have Total Recognition.

Blessed are the egomaniacs, for they shall inherit the front page headlines.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for controversy, for they will have carcasses on which to gorge themselves.

Blessed are the vindictive, for they shall scratch out vindication.

Blessed are the outrageous, for they shall be seen as inscrutable.

Blessed are those who denigrate the competition, for they shall make the Deal.

Blessed are those who are written about, for theirs is the kingdom of money.

Blessed are you when you have a young, beautiful piece of a**, for it won’t really matter what they write about you.

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I cannot say I’m surprised we’re not doing the French non-Mistake. Still, I find the collapse of Bill Kristol’s first independent-candidate trial balloon a little depressing, for the reasons Mr. Noah Rothman states eloquently in this article.

Which means back to the drawing board for conservative #NeverTrump movers and shakers, and a longer wait for a good candidate for many of the rest of us conservative voters, who are hoping for a reasonable alternative to swallowing either of the presumptive major-party nominees as a “lesser” evil.

Meanwhile, some discontented conservative Christians (by which I mean people, mostly Catholics and Evangelicals, who would regard the Apostles’ Creed as true and the Bible as inspired even where its ethics plainly conflict with the ethics of the contemporary secular world, including but not limited to the ethics of the Sexual Revolution), convinced that stopping the Donald must be regarded as priority no. 1 in the 2016 election, have started floating the possibility of voting Clinton, and even asking Evangelical leaders to spend their credibility in telling their congregations that it’s okay to vote Hillary.

To these I would urge patience and caution, and a more realistic appraisal of the evils a Clinton administration would represent. There are the general evils of a Clinton administration — like the fact that its head would be corrupt — but for small-o orthodox Christian voters, Clinton’s presidency would present the following, more specific, evils:

(1) If Ms. Clinton gets to pick one or more Supreme Court justices (and appoint many lower federal judges) it’s pretty certain that Elane Photography v. Willock will be written into federal Equal Protection jurisprudence, and cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Rosenberger v. Univ. of Virginia overruled, at soonest opportunity. Moreover, as hinted by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli in his oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges (see pp. 36-39), under a Clinton administration and with Clinton appointees as federal judges, it’s quite possible that many evangelical and Catholic institutions which hold to Scriptural and historic Christian norms on sex (the kind we are and the kind we do) will be Bob Jones-ed. And given the tenure of federal judges, the judiciary could continue delivering such results for decades after the end of a Clinton term of office. In other words: goodbye to any meaningful Free Exercise, RFRA, Free Speech, and Free Association protections for the “hater” class; hello to the de facto Establishment of liberal theology and religious tests for office (read: no Evangelicals, conservative Catholics, or Orthodox Christians need apply — unless they’re prepared to remain closeted and perform all official acts like good secular liberals).

(2) A President Clinton would almost certainly enjoy the protection and support of the Democratic Party, its Governors, and its Representatives and Senators. She’d also be propped up by much of the mainstream media. A President Trump, by contrast, would not only face vigorous opposition from the opposition party and media, but also considerable suspicion within his own party. (I regard most of the Trump endorsements now coming from the GOP as pro forma fulfilments of Party loyalty pledges.) And as unsettling as it is that Trump has smashed so many (to borrow David Frum’s excellent term) protective guardrails of American democracy, it wouldn’t surprise me if many even among Trump’s now-devoted supporters end up withdrawing their support after his election. It’s easy to arouse popular anger and energy by cheap (and often inconsistent) signaling on the campaign trail. But when someone has to govern, the all-things-to-all-men signaling has to stop and tough choices have to be made. In that reality, I think a good many grassroots Trump supporters would quickly become disillusioned and fall away — bad seed as well as good withers quickly in the rocky ground.

(3) When the popular support dries up and the opposition and suspicion do not, Trump would no longer have the means to pound further upon the guardrails of American politics — except perhaps via his use of the presidential bully pulpit. And here I’ll make a concession: a President Trump’s use of the bully pulpit would almost certainly prove damaging. Perhaps more damaging than a President Clinton’s. Certainly it would prove damaging in less predictable ways. We can be pretty sure that Clinton’s national preaching, like her policies, would embolden abortion-rights absolutists and illiberal Social Justice Warriors, neither of which needs further emboldening right now. Trump’s pulpit rhetoric would . . . well, who knows? Inflame racial hatred? Teach boys to objectify women? Provoke foreign powers? Alienate allies? Forge unholy alliances with authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin? No one can say with much certainty, but the candidate’s own lips regularly make the darkest speculations entirely plausible.

This likely abuse of the bully pulpit, however, I regard only as a good reason not to vote for Trump. It still isn’t a good reason for conservative Christians to throw their support to Clinton. So don’t be impatient. We may not have a French Revolution, but other help could be on the way — if not to win, at least to lead a serious and noble opposition we can support in good conscience.

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