Category Archives: Materialism

Behavioral Poverty

More than 50 years of social-sciences evidence demonstrates that behavior is highly predictive of many important life outcomes. Children who are temperamental, fussy, and aggressive often cause their parents to withdraw affection and to limit supervision, which leads to further bad behavior later on, along with subsequent struggles and frustration. Adolescents who verbally accost or threaten their schoolteachers are more likely to be suspended or expelled, as well as to spend less time studying, working on homework, and attending classes. And adults who engage in crime are the same ones who not only frequently end up in jail and prison, of course, but also remain voluntarily unemployed, and often find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder. Behavior is predictive from one setting to the next, and consequences snowball. The body of research linking bad behavior to negative and cumulative consequences is remarkably robust, extends across countries, and has been replicated across academic disciplines with diverse samples, methodologies, and analytical techniques. These findings provide the basis for a range of policies and cultural narratives that could, if embraced, help people avoid many of life’s costly pitfalls.

. . .

Behavioral poverty is reflected in the attitudes, values, and beliefs that justify entitlement thinking, the spurning of personal responsibility, and the rejection of traditional social mechanisms of advancement. It is characterized by high self-indulgence, low self-regulation, exploitation of others, and limited motivation and effort. It can be correlated with a range of antisocial, immoral, and imprudent behaviors, including substance abuse, gambling, insolvency, poor health habits, and crime.

While behavioral poverty’s causes are likely complex—involving the interplay between parents, genes, and culture—understanding its consequences is not complex: they are depressingly predictable. Because behavioral poverty can emerge early in life and remain stable over time, it’s not uncommon to see behaviorally poor children perform badly at school, compile arrest records as juveniles, and transition into adulthood with few or any skills outside those valued on the street. Few who work in the juvenile-justice system, for example, are surprised to find out that former clients get arrested as adults, or involved with drugs, or pregnant with no means of support.

. . .

The ingredients to living a meaningful life involve self-restraint, tenacity, and personal responsibility.

. . .

Behavioral poverty is perhaps most vividly illustrated in the lives of drug addicts. Here, adult responsibilities and even basic human needs, such as eating and sleeping, are subordinated to the compulsive ingestion of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or a mixture of these substances. We’ve interviewed offenders who reported staying mostly awake for ten to 20 days while on a binge. When drugs are not available, the addicts usually resort to crime. Drug offenders commit offenses at rates several times higher than their non-drug-using peers. Much of the incidence of crime, particularly burglary and theft, is tied to drug use.

. . .

[M]any criminal offenders have no desire to engage in conventional, productive adult conduct. In our experience as criminal-justice practitioners, researchers, and clinicians, thousands of offenders have told us as much. All the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood—from paying rent and utilities to maintaining relationships—are fulfilled, free of charge, by the criminal-justice system. Conventional adults are horrified by the idea of imprisonment, but many offenders view jail as a refuge from the demands of life.

Behavior Matters: Why some people spend their lives in poverty and social dysfunction,” by Matt DeLisi and John Paul Wright, City Journal, Summer 2019

 



Angus Deaton: Measuring and understanding behavior, welfare, and poverty

 

We’ve known for a long time that unstable family life related to divorce, missing fathers, and communities with large numbers of single-mother households can be bad for kids. Deaths of despair are a red-flag warning that that these disruptions are similarly hard on adults. Though only 32% of the population, unmarried and divorced men account for a stunning 71% of opioid deaths. Emile Durkheim, one of the godfathers of sociology, found a link between suicide and family breakup over a century ago; the same link remains today. Divorce increases the risk of alcoholism for both men and women; so does checking “single” for marital status on government documents.

These numbers shed some light on why deaths of despair are concentrated among those with lower incomes. Higher income folks are more likely to marry and to stay married. They have closer, more sustained relationships with their children, relatives, and in-laws. In recent years, despite its one-time reputation as stalwart family traditionalists, the white working-class has diverged from its more affluent counterpart. As of 1980, about three quarters of white working-class adults were married; that was very similar to the 79% of high-income adults. By 2017, however, the working-class number had fallen to only 52%.

. . .

It’s also true that many singles and divorced people, though unmarried, are not alone. Unmarried couples today frequently live together, sharing a roof, a bed, and meals. But these cohabiting arrangements tend to be short-lived and are often just a pitstop in a series of transitory, quasi-monogamous relationships. Fathers who split up with cohabiting partners are far more likely to visit erratically or disappear entirely from their children’s lives. Moreover, cohabiting couples’ ties to their significant others’ families and friends remain looser than do those of married couples.

The upshot of all of this is a growing subculture of loosely bound or even isolated adults. No wonder so many of them lapse into despair. Humans have always depended on close kin to love and care for them, especially when times are tough. The dismantling of kin networks is proving to be especially hard on the weak, ill, and elderly.

A nation dying in despair, and family breakdown is part of the problem,” by Kay Hymowitz, September 26, 2019

“every human being has a soul fashioned in God’s image”

More concretely, you don’t get white supremacy if you believe that every human being has a soul fashioned in God’s image. Neither do you get far-left racial and ethnic identitarianism. Both are symptoms of a metaphysical deficit. It’s very easy to start dividing people up into tribal categories; after all, humans vary massively in just about every imaginable quality. It’s really something of a miracle that we ever came up with a notion of common humanity at all! We have the Judeo-Christian heritage to thank for this in the West. This is something secular people ought to consider before making glib criticisms of traditional religion.

France’s Master Of ‘Materialist Horror’

With no belief that “every human being has a soul fashioned in God’s image”, i.e., God, tyranny and statolatry result.

 



I Shall Not Want Audrey Assad Lyrics

 

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

― G.K. Chesterton

KoC insurance scammers?

BuzzFeed News spoke to seven current and former Knights of Columbus, two of whom are involved in the case, and reviewed emails, court documents, and internal membership spreadsheets and contact lists. All of the men were in leadership positions in their local chapters that enabled them to have access to membership information. The men were from four different states and seven different towns, but their stories were nearly identical. All of them said that they noticed large numbers of inactive members on their local council’s rolls, that senior members of the Knights of Columbus ignored their questions about it, and that they had to use donations meant for charity or pay out of pocket to cover dues owed by what they began calling “phantom” members.

Each of the men said they joined the Knights of Columbus years ago because they wanted to do good work; the group was influential and respected in their local parishes. And the Knights did do good work, giving back to their parishes and creating a sense of community. It was worth the $30 to $100 annual membership fee. Once they entered leadership positions, however, they each noticed something odd — there were dozens of inactive members on each of their books who hadn’t paid their dues or participated in the Knights in years, sometimes over a decade.

The men tried to contact the members to see why they weren’t paying their dues, but many of them had moved away, changed parishes, left the Catholic Church, or, in some cases, were listed as over 100 years old and were almost certainly no longer alive. In one case, an internal membership spreadsheet provided to BuzzFeed News showed that of one council’s 399 members, 97 were inactive. After making several efforts to get in touch, the leaders of the council managed to track down most of them, but two were dead, about 40 said they planned to withdraw from the Knights, and they never managed to find another 30 of the members.

When they tried to alert the state and national council of Knights, known as “the Supreme Council,” about the issue, they were instructed to jump through nearly impossible hoops to get the inactive members off their rolls, they said. Several of the men pointed out that this goes against a section of the Knights of Columbus constitution that states that after three months of a member not paying his dues, he “ipso facto forfeit[s] his membership.” But this didn’t seem to matter to their higher-ups.

. . .

All of the men who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they still greatly valued the work done by the local chapters, and recognized how important the Knights were to their communities.

“What they’re doing is so un-Catholic,” a man from Texas who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution from the Knights said. “When I found out what they were doing, I almost resigned.”

. . .

All of the seven agreed that the Knights were not a lost cause, but said the organization’s leaders need to be held responsible for what is happening. The local Knights have to fight for what’s right, they said, and go against the Supreme if that’s what’s necessary.

“It’s like David versus Goliath,” Mishork said. “But the truth has to come out.”

A Powerful Catholic Group Is Facing Allegations of Insurance Fraud: The Knights of Columbus is being accused of inflating its numbers to appear more profitable to insurance companies — and some of its members say they’re paying the price.” by Ema O’Connor, BuzzFeed News, August 22, 2019

The noble lie of self-reliance

 


Working-class agony: Who is to blame?

 

In faith, as in work and in family, the working-class men of Philly, Chicago, Boston, and Charleston sought autonomy and self-fulfillment but rejected institutions, structure, and tradition.

“Spiritual but not religious” is a growing portion of our working-class as Americans fall away from belonging to any particular religion. One subject rejected the idea of “a God with strings telling us how to live.” Such strings constrain our autonomy.

Of course, the traditional family also constrains our autonomy. Being bound to a community with all of its rules and norms constrains our autonomy. Working for a boss constrains our autonomy.

All of these constraints, most of us believe, help make us happier people, because they foster virtues and build bonds of reciprocity and even love. But this knowledge is almost a secret among those who hold it. Because our media and political megaphones blare the message of secularization, new modern families formed with individualism in mind, a robust “gig economy,” and the need to buck “the man.”

There are virtues to this myth. But look at the record number of suicides in the U.S. Look at the rising portion of babies born outside of marriage. Look at the stagnation of the working-class male.

Then, you see the danger when folks who were told they could fly come crashing down to earth.

When the noble lie of self-reliance becomes the dangerous myth of ‘autonomy’,” by Timothy Carney, Washington Examiner, May 29, 2019

Venezuela IS Socialism

 



Stossel: Venezuela IS Socialism

 

As Venezuela collapses, many people say, “don’t blame socialism.”

“Blaming socialism for Venezuela’s riches to rags story is grossly misleading,” an Al Jazeera reporter claims.

John Oliver claims: “If you follow conservative media at all you might have seen it frequently painted as the inevitable dire consequences of a socialist government.” Oliver blames it instead on “epic mismanagement.”

But John Stossel says: “Mismanagement is what happens under socialist governments. It always happens, because no group of central planners is wise enough to manage an entire economy. Even if they have good intentions, the socialists eventually run out of other people’s money.”

In Venezuela, when their socialist government ran out of money, they just printed more. When business owners raised prices to keep up with inflation, the government often took away their businesses.

Yet celebrities praised Hugo Chavez, who started Venezuela’s socialism. Model Naomi Campbell visited Chavez, calling him “a rebel angel.”

Venezuela Is Socialism: New at Reason

Statolatry and thugocracy

Statolatry and Illiberal Politics

Our modern world tries extremely hard to protect us from the sort of existential moments experienced by Mill and Russell. Netflix, air-conditioning, sex apps, Alexa, kale, Pilates, Spotify, Twitter … they’re all designed to create a world in which we rarely get a second to confront ultimate meaning — until a tragedy occurs, a death happens, or a diagnosis strikes. Unlike any humans before us, we take those who are much closer to death than we are and sequester them in nursing homes, where they cannot remind us of our own fate in our daily lives. And if you pressed, say, the liberal elites to explain what they really believe in — and you have to look at what they do most fervently — you discover, in John Gray’s mordant view of Mill, that they do, in fact, have “an orthodoxy — the belief in improvement that is the unthinking faith of people who think they have no religion.”

But the banality of the god of progress, the idea that the best life is writing explainers for Vox in order to make the world a better place, never quite slakes the thirst for something deeper. Liberalism is a set of procedures, with an empty center, not a manifestation of truth, let alone a reconciliation to mortality. But, critically, it has long been complemented and supported in America by a religion distinctly separate from politics, a tamed Christianity that rests, in Jesus’ formulation, on a distinction between God and Caesar. And this separation is vital for liberalism, because if your ultimate meaning is derived from religion, you have less need of deriving it from politics or ideology or trusting entirely in a single, secular leader. It’s only when your meaning has been secured that you can allow politics to be merely procedural.

So what happens when this religious rampart of the entire system is removed? I think what happens is illiberal politics. The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.

America’s New Religions

History Repeats Itself

In the Catholic Church as in the presidency, institutional crisis has been a long time coming, for those who had eyes to see.
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[O]n my mind is another institution being destroyed by its leadership. And it turns out that the most insightful thing written on the crisis of the Catholic Church appeared 14 years ago. It was an address by the Jesuit priest Father Paul Mankowski. He describes a series of interlocking dysfunctions in the Catholic Church. First, there’s the way that the Catholic priesthood’s high status, reputation, and relative material comfort began to attract immoral men. Second, there’s a crisis in the culture of the episcopacy, which in the wake of Vatican II prized “collegiality” so much that it selected for men who were, even if not morally compromised, so deeply conflict-averse as to become co-conspirators with immoral priests.
. . .
Mankowski also has a rich discussion of the Church’s wealth and prestige. It has lost the working class in Europe and America, and lost the working-class priests that come with working-class members. It lives in a bubble of comfort. Further, the religious life of monks is also too comfortable. He says it suffers from “Mertonization,” after the famous monk Thomas Merton. Instead of asceticism and holiness, monastic life is reconciled to a journey of the self, and self-actualization.

Lacking the living example of self-sacrifice in healthy religious orders, the rest of the priesthood begins to slide, too.
. . .
the culture of therapeutic self-actualization remains ascendant in the Church. Weeks ago, when the revelations about Cardinal McCarrick were still pending but before the Vatican ambassador called out the pope, Cardinal Donald Wuerl gave a jaw-dropping interview in which he said that the McCarrick revelations were not some huge crisis. He then went on to talk about how bishops needed to give one another more support, implying that what they needed was more retreats together. It was astonishing. In the wake of reports about his predecessor’s systematically harassing seminarians in a beach house, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that it was nothing that couldn’t be solved with more vacation time.

Now that the Pennsylvania grand-jury report has exposed him as an enabler of abuse, and the former Vatican ambassador has accused him of being a shameless liar, Cardinal Wuerl has managed to get an audience with the pope, who told him to go home and consult with his own priests about whether he should resign. It’s not as if priests can easily jump from diocese to diocese. They have to live with Wuerl’s decision no matter what. So Wuerl has announced a six-week “season of healing.” No penitence, no accountability. Just an announcement that in six weeks, he expects his image to be rehabbed, and everyone else will have to move on. You weren’t healed during my season of healing? That’s on you, bub. As for me, it’s time for another retreat with the lads. Humanly speaking, the situation in the Church is hopeless.

Off the Shelf: History Repeats Itself,” by Michael Brendan Dougherty, NR, September 9, 2018

What went wrong, and why? Everyone in the room will rightly understand the question to refer to The Crisis, the daily revelation over the past eighteen months of numberless instances of priestly turpitude, episcopal mendacity, and the resultant bewilderment and fury of the laity. My own take on the problem, which I offer for your consideration, is that the Crisis is chiefly surprising in how unsurprising it is. No one who has been fighting the culture wars within the Church over the past twenty years can fail to recognize his own struggles with a hostile bureaucracy and conflicted hierarchy in the struggles of those pleading for relief from sexual abuse — notwithstanding the disparity in the attendant journalistic drama. In fact, I’d contend that the single important difference in the Church’s failure regarding abusive clergy and the failures regarding liturgy, catechesis, pro-life politics, doctrinal dissent and biblical translation is this: that in the case of the sex abuse scandal we’ve been allowed a look over the bishops’ shoulders at their own memos. Deviant sexual assault has accomplished what liturgical abuse never could: it has generated secular media pressure and secular legal constraints so overwhelming that the apparat was forced to make its files public.

What we read in those files was shocking, true, but to most of us it was shocking in its sense of déja vu. In the years following the Second Vatican Council, the housewife who complained that Father skipped the Creed at mass and the housewife who complained that Father groped her son had remarkably similar experiences of being made to feel that they themselves were somehow in the wrong; that they had impugned the honor of virtuous men; that their complaints were an unwelcome interruption of more important business; that the true situation was fully known to the chancery and completely under control; that the wider and more complete knowledge of higher ecclesiastics justified their apparent inaction; that to criticize the curate was to criticize the pastor was to criticize the regional vicar was to criticize the bishop; that to publicize one’s dissatisfaction was to give scandal and would positively harm discreet efforts at remedying the ills; that one’s duty was to maintain silence and trust that those officially charged with the pertinent responsibilities would execute them in their own time; that delayed correction of problems was sometimes necessary for the universal good of the Church.

. . .

What I’ve put before you are two scenarios in which complaints of abuses are brought to those in authority and in which they seem to vanish — the complaints, I mean, not the abuses. One hoped that something was being done behind the scenes, of course, but whatever happened always remained behind the scenes. As the weeks went by without observable changes in the abuse and without feedback from the bureaucracy, one was torn between two contradictory surmises: that one’s complaint had been passed upstairs to so high a level that even the bishop (or superior) was forbidden to discuss it; alternatively, that once one’s silence had been secured and the problem of unwelcome publicity was past, nothing whatsoever was being done.

Now the remarkable thing about The Crisis is how fully it confirmed the second suspicion. In thousands and thousands of pages of records one scarcely, if ever, is edified by a pleasant surprise, by discovering that a bishop’s or superior’s concern for the victim or for the Faith was greater than that known to the public, that the engines of justice were geared up and running at full throttle, but in a manner invisible to those outside the circle of discretion. Didn’t happen.

. . .
Let me sum up. I believe the sexual abuse crisis represents no isolated phenomenon and no new failure, but rather illustrates a state of slowly worsening clerical and episcopal corruption with its roots well back into the 1940s. Its principal tributaries include a critical mass of morally depraved and psychologically defective clergymen who entered the service of Church seeking emoluments and advantages unrelated to her spiritual mission, in addition to leaders constitutionally unsuited to the exercise of the virtues of truthfulness and fortitude. The old-fashioned vices of lust, pride, and sloth have erected an administrative apparatus effective at transmitting the consolations of the Faith but powerless at correction and problem-solving. The result is a situation unamenable to reform, wherein the leaders continue to project an upbeat and positive message of ecclesial well-being to an overwhelmingly good-willed laity, a message which both speaker and hearer find more gratifying than convincing. I believe that the Crisis will deepen, though undramatically, in the foreseeable future; I believe that the policies suggested to remedy the situation will help only tangentially, and that the whole idea of an administrative programmatic approach — a “software solution,” if I may put it that way — is an example of the disease for which it purports to be the cure. I believe that reform will come, though in a future generation, and that the reformers whom God raises up will spill their blood in imitation of Christ. In short, to pilfer a line of Wilfrid Sheed, I find absolutely no grounds for optimism, and I have every reason for hope.

What Went Wrong? by Fr. Paul Mankowski, Catholic Culture.

The “priest crisis” cannot be limited to priests on the front lines. The problem has its roots in the episcopacy and in chanceries all across the country. It is more accurately a “bishops crisis.” The hierarchy has too often failed to promote authentic Catholic truth and justice. Over the years, there is clearly a pattern of cover-up and lies by an unexpectedly large number of bishops.

The bishops insist that they were on some kind of “learning curve” with respect to disciplining sexual offenders. But this is nonsense. In the 1960s, a bishop in Louisiana excommunicated Catholics who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. The bishops rightly recognized racial hatred as unworthy of a Christian and demanded swift and certain justice.

But many bishops did not have the same passion for justice when it came to clerical sexual abuse. The toleration for homosexual activity by priests who have exploited adolescents (very few of the abuse cases were outright pedophilia) is inexplicable unless the bishops were crippled by deliberate ignorance, gross apathy or cowardice. The ugly possibility of blackmail also cannot be ruled out.

Not a single bishop has resigned because of incompetence or mendacity. Why not? Are bishops compromised or do they fear that their bishop friends will be compromised if gay priests or other sexual predators are punished? The litany of bishops who have resigned or are under a cloud for homosexual behavior is growing: Bishop Emerson Moore, a notorious homosexual in clerical ranks who eventually died of AIDS, Bishops Zieman, Ryan, O’Connell (who was the chairman of the NCCB’s committee on marriage and family), Symons, Lynch, and Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Archbishop Weakland, you may recall, often held high profile positions in the NCCB (now the USCCB). Before their sinful lifestyles became public, did their secrets motivate the cover-ups?

The crisis: Déjà vu all over again,” by Fr. Jerry Pokorsky, Catholic Culture, August 31, 2018

 


Rev. Jerry Pokorsky, Can the Laity be Trusted?

 

Crooked Timber


The Death of Stalin

If you believe that H. sap. is only time’s favorite monkey — that man is meat — then there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the kind of behavior we’re talking about, and no need to justify it, since there is nobody to justify it to. If you believe that man ought to be better, it implies that he can be better, and that “better” means something. And here materialism fails us, which is why Marxism became an ersatz religion. Christianity is a fortunate religion in the sense that the endless moral failings of its leaders (and followers) keeps illustrating, generation after generation, the fundamental facts of the creed. The creeds based on human perfectibility, which is the romantic notion at the heart of all utopian thinking, have as their main problem the countervailing example of everybody you’ve ever met and ever will.

It is tempting to make like the Pharisee rather than the publican and say: “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” It is unpleasant to meditate on the truth at the center of Christianity, and perhaps at the center of all wisdom: I am like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous. (I have never been guilty of collecting taxes.) We must sympathize with the victims and care for them, but we must also identify with the malefactors, who are made of the same stuff as we are, cut from the same crooked timber.

Stalin at the Movies

The tyranny of the mad

When a social order collapses, and “conventional” ideas are overturned — of what is right and wrong, of what is reasonable and unreasonable, of what is true and false, of what is sane and insane — we do not promptly get an alternative social order. Instead we get a world turned upside down: the tyranny of the mad, under the direction of those drunk on power.

The loss

Ozymandias

Give me that new time religion…

It was foolish for anyone to believe that a less Christian America would be a less religious America. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, God “put eternity in man’s heart.” Traditional Christianity and Judaism aren’t just being removed from American life; they’re being replaced. The more passive person often fills his heart with the saccharine sweetness of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The angry activist often stokes the burning fires of intersectionality. And when commitment collides with confusion, commitment tends to win.

America’s traditional Christian and Jewish communities need to understand this reality. Intersectionality steamrolls right over the lukewarm, leaving them converted or cowed. The answer, of course, isn’t to steamroll back — after all, our faith is supposed to be full of grace — but rather to respond with calm conviction. Christianity has survived ancient heresies. It can prevail against modern fads. But don’t for one moment underestimate the depth of the zeal that drives our latest religious divide.

Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

Porn



Sing Sing Sing – Carnegie Hall 1938

We know that porn causes sexual disorders. We know it normalizes violence towards women. We know it’s a leading contributor to divorce. Thirty percent of men between the ages of 18 and 30 use it daily, while 10 percent of the population believe they are porn addicts. The average age of exposure is 11. Were it not for our oversaturation in sex, we wouldn’t think twice about banning it.

There is a greater principle at work here, too, and it’s equally promising: young men and women on both sides of the political spectrum are questioning the Sexual Revolution. Last November, The Spectator’s Lara Prendergast called out those prudish elements of the sisterhood whipping up a “Sexual Reformation”:

“The old feminist trope says that it is not a woman’s responsibility to worry about her own safety; it is a man’s job not to harass her. Yet women are clearly taking increasingly extreme measures to protect themselves because a small number of vocal campaigners are telling us that all our worst fears about men are true—and we must take action.”

Prendergast reminds one of Wendy Kaminer, who in 1992 wrote in The Atlantic warning that anti-porn feminism “promotes a view of men as lubricious brutes, and that has united authoritarians on the left and the right in an assault on free speech.” In fact, we are brutes—at least when we’re told to indulge our most lubricious appetites and play out our most bestial fantasies.

What’s happening is that these “sex-negative” feminists are coming back around to the idea of the Fall of Man. Russell Kirk, in his “Ten Conservative Principles,” explained that “human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults”:

“…if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: ‘the ceremony of innocence is drowned.’ The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.”

Until the advent of fusionism, no conservative would have doubted that the government is (to a strictly limited extent) one of those safeguards. The idea that mankind’s Fallenness is a grave threat to social stability, and that we must in extreme cases use the force of law to restrain our destructive appetites, is not a progressive one. It’s deeply conservative.

We on the right shouldn’t pooh-pooh them for it. We should welcome them with open arms. We should explain that their horror at man’s potential for depravity is not only valid: it’s central to both orthodox Christianity and Anglo-American conservatism.

In fact, Kirk wouldn’t be surprised to hear of the traditionalist remnant finding common cause with leftists. As he wrote in “Libertarians: Chirping Sectaries”:

Conservatives have no intention of compromising with socialists; but even such an alliance, ridiculous though it would be, is more nearly conceivable than the coalition of conservatives and libertarians. The socialists at least declare the existence of some sort of moral order; the libertarians are quite bottomless.

After three centuries of “Enlightened” faith in mankind’s invincible goodness and wisdom, liberals are finally coming back around to the ancient notion of Fallenness.

Fighting Porn: The Reviving Cause Social Conservatism Needs

Our “Modern” Pagan World

If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents.

The Claims of the Unborn

But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms “assault” and “rape” have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds.

. . .

Feminists hate to seem to pine for love and romance, yet their responses to Grace seem to hint at the disappointment the sexual revolution has delivered.

. . .

Or is it the sexual free-for-all they hate? Perhaps the new feminist slogan should be “Down with the sexual revolution!”

What Is the Real Message of #MeToo?

We’ve seen it happen: A new assault on the sanctity of human life appears—say, infanticide being promoted in a major bioethics journal, or officials in Iceland bragging that no children with Down syndrome are born there, thanks to prenatal genetic screening—and some horrified opponents respond in horror, “That’s what the Nazis did!” It’s an easy accusation to wield, but rarely a wise one. Often, these proposals and policies have little to do with the crimes of Hitler and his minions—and a great deal to do with the eugenicist movement that preceded them.

Take the euthanasia killings of people with disabilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada. Certain analogies to Nazi horrors spring to mind: German doctors killed disabled babies between 1939 and 1945—as is happening today in the Netherlands, despite being technically illegal. And German doctors terminated disabled adults in hospitals. In the latter example, however, there are some crucial differences. Unlike legal voluntary euthanasia of disabled people in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, the disabled victims of the Nazis were part of mass killing experiments at the start of the Holocaust. And since people who are accused of Nazi thinking don’t appear threatening—they don’t wear “SS” insignia on tailored black leather coats or boast funny mustaches, and they haven’t swallowed the poisonous ideology of fascism—the Nazi epithet is more likely to undermine the accuser’s credibility than persuade his audience.

So, what are we supposed to do, Wesley? Ignore history? Not at all. In fact, I think a more apt thought connection to the culture-of-death practices and proposals of today can be made to the invidious beliefs that animated eugenics—a movement still disdained by most people. This analogy is less likely to be rejected out of hand.

The Deadly Legacy of Eugenics

China was supposed to have its Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962, under the leadership of Chairman Mao. That didn’t work out — Mao’s policies ended up killing about 50 million people instead. China later had its genuine Great Leap Forward after the market-oriented reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping. “To get rich is glorious,” he declared. “It doesn’t matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice.” (He was a prolific aphorist.) Deng’s program was “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which turned out not to be socialism at all. But beginning in the late 1970s, China experienced an economic boom for the ages, with economic growth averaging 9.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. In purely material terms, life got substantially better for the average Chinese and radically better for the upper middle class and elites.

China isn’t the only country that has had a period of growth like that. The old Soviet Union had one, too, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting about 15 years. Both the Soviet experience and the Chinese experience are examples of the fact that a sufficiently brutal police state can, if it implements the right policies, transform a backward agrarian economy into a modern industrial economy, generating tremendous economic growth — once. But brutal police states get it wrong as often as they get it right, hence the sorry state of Cuba, North Vietnam, Venezuela, etc.

The Great Leap Forward

What really happens when you couple [John] Dewey’s pragmatic and collectivist ideas with the value neutrality that grew out of Mann’s non-sectarianism? The product is a philosophy that sees the student as merely an animal who functions in a kind of stimulus/response/adaptation cycle. Education is tedious because its utilitarian nature subverts development of the ability to see the beauty that underlies much literature, history, and the natural sciences. At the same time, its collective nature devalues them as individuals. Their souls deadened, students see only an ugly world—one which they do not care to understand.

Progressive education has ultimately failed because its premises are anti-human. Mann’s and Dewey’s ideologies must bear much of the responsibility for the deplorable state of American public education.

How John Dewey Destroyed the Souls of Our Children

The sexual revolution has a well-known masculine bias. Though feminists have won real battles, the outcome of the war has never been in doubt. Unmooring sexuality from the home, from marriage, and from religion has benefited nobody more than lecherous, grasping men.

The two most consequential gains of the sexual revolution in my lifetime have been birth control and pornography, both of which have radically shaped the public square in the image of male desire. Both oral contraceptives and abortion have been cast as victories for female liberation, and to the degree that “liberation” means the weaponizing of our bodies against nature, this is true. But it is the men who have reaped the richest rewards (sex without children), without any of the tradeoff. Men, after all, need not concern themselves with the physiological effects of the pill, or with the surgeon’s knife, or with the risks of darkness and depression. It is the liberated women, not the men, who are asked to sacrifice their bodies for equality.

Likewise, pornography has been pitched as empowerment, the public affirmation of woman as a self-sufficient sexual being. If this is so, why are the kings of the mammoth porn industry so male? Why is Hugh Hefner lionized and eulogized as a social revolutionary, while the women in his sweatshops toil away, often at the cost of great social shaming and self-loathing? We haven’t even mentioned the porn industry’s influence on mainstream entertainment, expressed violently in the testimonies of women like Salma Hayek, coerced by Harvey Weinstein into filming a sexually explicit scene. And we could spend much time contemplating porn’s influence on the modern, Tinderized dating scene. Does the age of swipe-right sound like an egalitarian age to you? Or does it sound like a horny frat boy’s dreamland, a sex factory designed by a grown-up, amorous Augustus Gloop?

Purity and Prejudice

Catholicism and Secularism and Nostaligia


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Is a Christian cakemaker required to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, in violation of his religious beliefs? That is the issue in a case currently before the US Supreme Court. The case looks like yet another major clash between the forces of secular progressive liberalism and their Christian targets. And yet some Christians are so optimistic as to hope for a truce. For instance, the New York Times’ Ross Douthat has appealed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who as so often will almost certainly cast the deciding vote. Despite Kennedy’s record – he composed the 2015 Obergefell decision which divined a right of same-sex marriage in the Constitution – Douthat hopes that the judge will vote to protect the baker, and so bring about some peace, of uncertain duration, between liberalism and Christianity.

In so doing, Douthat illustrates a pervasive tendency among Catholic intellectuals today: the temptation of nostalgia. He casts a wistful glance backwards, to a time in which secular progressive liberalism and what he calls “religious conservatism” peacefully coexisted. When exactly? One candidate is the period just before the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, but it seems likely that by 2014 it was already too late to disband the competing forces. A better candidate is 1950-70, which Douthat believes future historians will identify as the glorious peak of the American polity. Douthat is slightly coy about whether he thinks these future historians will be correct, but it is clear that he thinks something went very wrong in American life in the 1970s, and that Hugh Hefner played an important role. One can see why 1950-1970 would appeal to a certain strain of traditional Catholic. The immediate postwar period was a time in which Catholics peacefully coexisted with the liberal Imperium, and indeed became increasingly integrated into it, helping to elect a quasi-Catholic President. Anthony Kennedy is no John F Kennedy, as it were, but in Douthat’s view “you appeal to the emperor you have.”

. . .

Why are self-described “trad” Catholics prone to nostalgia? The typical mistake is to conflate the traditions of the Church with the traditions of the broader society. These are very different things; the Church is an ark afloat on a dangerous sea, which preserves its own internal traditions in part with walls that prevent it from being deluged by secular practices and mores. 1 Peter thus connects Catholic rootlessness and homelessness with a rejection of human political traditions, enjoining Catholics to “live out the time of your exile here in reverent awe, for you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood …” Catholicism is not Burkeanism. Because Catholics are exiled in the world, they can ultimately have no attachment to man’s places and traditions, including political traditions. They can have no final affection for the misty English landscape that always stands just behind Scruton’s prose, for Reno’s polite distinction of liberal tradition and liberal creed, for the bipartisan fedora-hatted governance of Douthat’s postwar golden age, or even for Ahmari’s era of the triumph (albeit short-lived) of liberal democratic freedom after 1989.

As secular liberalism attacks the Church, Catholics can’t afford to be nostalgic

I am going to risk a prediction: 2018 will be the year we see an end to the fighting over Amoris Laetitia.

This might seem rather presumptuous, given that just this week five bishops have underscored the Church’s traditional teaching on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried. The bishops’ statement is a positive delight to read for its clarity of thought and expression – especially after some of the tortured sophistries we have had to endure of late.

The document unflinchingly reminds us that some things are just wrong, and no amount of personal reflection or mitigating circumstances can change that.

Seeming to address directly the various interpretations of that single contentious footnote in Amoris Laetitia (the one Pope Francis cannot remember), the five bishops quote St John Paul II: “The confusion created in the conscience of many faithful by the differences of opinions and teachings … about serious and delicate questions of Christian morals, ends up by diminishing the true sense of sin almost to the point of eliminating it.” This describes all too well the results, and I would say the intentions, of many of the opaque and tendentious “pastoral” guidelines which have followed Amoris Laetitia.

The doctrinal errors in interpreting Amoris Laetitia are part of a serious movement afoot in the Church to undermine her clarity of thought and expression on the moral order, especially regarding marriage, sexuality and personal conscience. What drives this movement? Let’s be clear: it has nothing to do with helping divorced and remarried Catholics. Those of us who work in marriage tribunals, where canonists and priests have more contact with such couples on a daily basis than most working in bishops’ conferences have in a year, can tell you that the divorced and remarried are, in the vast majority of cases, desperately seeking clarity from the Church, not to be told to “do whatever they think is right.”

. . .

At the time of the cultural and sexual revolution, the Church spoke powerfully and prophetically against the inevitable consequences of what was happening. In the last half-century, Paul VI’s encyclical has proven ever more prescient and relevant. It is a bitterly comical irony that, just as wider society is beginning to wake up to the consequences of a sexual ethic based solely on consent and the pursuit of personal fulfilment, the Church is having to defend herself against those within who deny not just the Church’s teaching, but the last 50 years of history which have so convincingly vindicated it.

There’s a movement to undermine Catholic morality – Communion is just the start

Growing in wisdom involves growing in the discernment of who is wise, and who only parodies wisdom. While there are many ways to parody wisdom, two stand out in the age of the internet. At first glance they might seem to be opposites, but (on closer inspection) they reveal themselves to be alter-egos of one another. Tragically, each of these tendencies has plenty of public representation. Let us label their distinctive brands as “Prophetic Performers,” and “Authenticity Acts.”

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“Prophetic Performers” prey upon the humans’ natural (and good) instinct to respond to certain modes of rhetoric and prophetic inflexibility. Since humans are sometimes liable (some more than others) to say “whatever” too often, to be morally lazy, or to fail in their capacity to protect sheep from wolves, it is important that we can nevertheless be psychologically accessed by a strong rebuke, by a reminder that some things are hard, that some bits of reality are unsavory and rough-edged, sometimes you have to confront your own will and sentiments, etc.

. . .

More popular in our era is the “Authenticity Act.” Sometimes, but not always, this person started out in the first camp and ends in the second. One will frequently hear this sort waxing eloquent about how “messy” and “complicated” life is. Rather than reducing the complexity of life, they will tend to reduce the complexity of God’s law (not to mention His character) to some vague platitudes about infinite empathy. These persons are frequently hurting and broken, and use the public platform they have to tell their personal narrative, process their lives, and garner empathy for their spiritual destination, or the turns their “journey” has taken.

. . .

What do these two characters have in common? Fundamentally, they have a narcissistic relationship to reality. Even when they are correct (as they sometimes accidentally are), their relationship to the reality that they presumably elucidate is inflected through their final goals of self justification – whether it be of the deeply fearful valiant badass for Jesus in the case of the former, or the deeply broken demander of infinite affirmation in the case of the latter.

In both cases, what is required is getting out of one’s own head and into the world. Wise men do not safely wax about a reality which functions as their shield, but speak of it with fear and trembling. Wise men are humble before God. Wise men often admit that life is complicated. Wise men sometimes do not know the answer. Wise men are also willing to receive an answer that they find unsavory. And most importantly, wise men will ask divine help to bend their will to savor reality over their distorted sentiments.

Prophetic Performers, Authenticity Acts, and the Need for Wisdom


The Butterfly Circus