Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils is for Serfs.

Blogger’s note:  No, I haven’t given up the blog;  I’ve just been off for some paternity leave.  Blog posts should now be resuming with whatever passed for “regularity” in the past.

It will come as a surprise to no one that I’ve never been a fan of the Republican party. But for as long as I’ve been voting, there has been one argument on which Republicans have heavily leaned convince me to finally cast a ballot in favor of their candidate: you need to vote for the lesser of the two evils. Given the caliber of the candidates they regularly put forward, this plea and it’s variations (“otherwise the Democrats might win,” “a vote for a third party is a vote for the Democrats,” etc) are unsurprisingly the only electoral leg they have left to stand on.

Nevertheless, every four years this cry is raised far and wide, and the conservative faithful have dutifully lined up to hold their noses as they try to punish leftist Democrats by rewarding leftist Republicans. On the surface, pragmatism of this sort makes a kind of practical sense. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade; and when life gives the American right the quadrennial choice between a punch in the face and a kick in the butt, the least painful choice is to turn the other cheek.

But when we speak of “life” giving us things, we’re speaking in terms of fate or providence—something over which we have neither control nor responsibility. There is no fighting against it; the wise man simply accepts reality, adapts accordingly, and makes the best of it. This is the wisdom the lesser-of-two-evils crowd tries to root itself in, but is this really the sense given to us by American democracy?

When a servant receives commands from his master, he is (apart from open rebellion) bound by something over which he has neither control nor responsibility. It therefore makes sense for him to make the best of whatever he receives from his master—good or bad. It’s simply his lot in life. American citizens, however, are not servants of our government—or at least, we are servants only inasmuch as we choose to behave like servants. Our Constitution makes voters the rulers rather than the ruled. We are ultimately the ones in charge of our nation and ought to act accordingly.

This means that we are not speaking in terms of fate when it comes to voting. Americans have a measure of both control and responsibility. While a single vote is insignificant, the entire conversation of “who should you vote for” assumes some measure of control, or it wouldn’t matter who anyone votes for. And it is right to assume control, for single votes are never alone—they join together with others, even if they aren’t part of the majority. Inasmuch as they are rulers, voters have a responsibility to wield their power wisely and make good decisions. Again, even those who speak in terms of the lesser of two evils recognize this, for when they see conservatives refrain from voting for the latest Keynesian statist offered by the GOP, they treat it as a dereliction of duty.

But if this is the case, then we are the masters and the dominant political parties are our servants. When the Democrats and Republicans consistently give us candidates who blatantly take sides against liberty in many and various ways, our job as their masters is to discipline them where we can and find new servants when discipline fails. We do not simply accept what we’re given and make the best of it. If we are rulers rather than the ruled, then the pertinent question this election is not how quickly a servant should fall in line with his masters’ selected candidates, but how a wise ruler ought to choose. (And if we are instead the ruled, then voting is a meaningless ceremony anyway.)

What then of Trump? In one sense, he’s business as usual: yet another self-interested, corrupt liberal with a few token conservative positions masquerading as the conservative candidate. In the midst of it, however, there is a key difference. He really is an outsider to the two-headed globalist monster that is the sum of our two major parties. The Democrats and Republicans alike have aligned themselves against America and the liberty of her peoples. They are both our enemies. What about Trump? I certainly don’t believe Trump to be a friend to liberty or to America, but neither has he taken sides against us (yet). He is, by all appearances, on no one’s side but his own. That’s by no means the makings of a good candidate, and it certainly qualifies as damning with faint praise. However, it is a tangible difference between Trump and his predecessors in the GOP.

I still don’t support Trump and do not currently plan on voting for him come November. But neither am I #NeverTrump, and here is why:

Our political elites—both Democrats and Republicans—are actively fighting against conservatives and conservative interests. That’s not news to many of us, but if this election cycle has done nothing else, it has carved that on tablets of stone. But it’s not just the elites—it’s also our fellow citizens.  Much has changed with the advent of Social Justice Warriors who do not merely disagree and fight for their beliefs in the public square but declare that there is “no place” for anyone with a contrary opinion and therefore work hard to actively take away their opponents’ jobs, homes, and livelihoods simply for being their opponents. That has shifted a long-running political conflict into open social warfare. In the past, conservatives could work together with liberals to govern our shared nation. Our respective principles might have differed, but there was relevant overlap, and both sides still analyzed the world in terms of facts to which those principles are applied. Today’s progressives, however, no longer think in terms of fact and principle at all, but rather fact and narrative—and the narrative doesn’t simply analyze the facts but has begun to devour them. The upshot is that we can no longer reason with the left—we can only defeat them.

The question of voting for Trump is then a battlefield question, and that puts certain character issues into perspective. Is Trump a boorish man who says mean things and exploits people? Certainly, but as uncomfortable as it makes me, its not really a big concern of mine. The battlefield is no place for manners. If (figuratively) killing your foes is your goal, then the guys who are best at it are the ones out there collecting ears. The real problem is this: While (unlike most Republicans) Trump is a fighter, he fights for himself and not for us. If we continue with the warfare motif, then making Trump president is the equivalent of releasing a rabid beast onto the battlefield and hoping that it kills more on the other side than on ours.

Like it or not, there’s a time when one needs to make that kind of choice. But when I consider Trump’s priorities, his multiplicity of positions on the issues, and the way he rides the mob rather than directing it, I am not convinced that the casualties would really be in our favor. Frankly, I’m not even convinced he’ll maintain his one true distinction—opposition to our globalist elites. There is no reason to assume he won’t pursue their interests if they make it worth his while to do so. And given how many of their endorsements he’s collected, one cannot help but wonder whether that’s already the case.

So if you want to be a free American this November, don’t vote for the lesser evil. Don’t meekly accept your lot in life. Don’t worry about which liberal is going to win just so you can throw in with them to make your vote “count.” If you would be a serf, then there’s no point in going to the polls anyway. But if you would be a ruler, then be a good one and make your own judgment.

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We Don’t Trust You to Regulate Firearms

And its because you’re untrustworthy.

In what has become our new national pastime, the recent tragedy in Orlando was immediately politicized, and as such, internet, radio, and television were all inundated with nonsense in short order. It makes me wish there were some way to convert inexhaustible cognitive dissonance into renewable energy, for it seems as though a great many liberals think that an ambulatory AR-15 rifle walked into a club and killed dozens of LGBT folks because it was homeschooled by conservative Christians.

Then they turn around to demand “common sense” gun regulation to prevent any more untimely deaths and get immediately flabbergasted that anyone would resist such measures.  After all, how could anyone be so cruel, uncaring, and blinded to the suffering of others by their ideology to refuse some simple and practical rules about who can acquire guns?

So liberals and progressives, let me lay it out for you: One’s invocation of common sense invariably falls on deaf ears when one is uncommonly senseless. The left’s reactions to Orlando do not exhibit the kind of good judgment necessary for making sensible decisions about who is allowed to own which weapons.

Some of you want to ban what you call “assault” weapons. Now, that’s a rhetorical label rather than a meaningful term, but behind it is the wish to outlaw weapons whose design and purpose is primarily to kill large numbers of people at once. On its face, that sounds like a sensible reaction to someone killing a large number of innocent people at once. That is, until you demonstrate the kind of gross ignorance and hyperventilating fear that makes one incapable of sound judgment.

I generally notice liberal incompetence on matters with which they have little experience when it comes to religion—for example, the tendency of liberal reporters is to report on the pious as though they were discovering a remote tribe of hunters and gatherers for the first time. While I’m no gun aficionado, my understanding is that the same is true for firearms. When reporters, politicians, and your other decision/opinion-makers get basic facts like what gun was used, whether fully automatic and “military grade” weapons are readily available, and so forth wrong on a regular basis, they merely demonstrate an ignorance that should disqualify them from making sweeping decisions on what weapons should be available for everyone.

As for the kind of overwhelming fear and terror that drive out rational thought, Gersh Kuntzman provides the quintessential example:

I’ve shot pistols before, but never something like an AR-15. Squeeze lightly on the trigger and the resulting explosion of firepower is humbling and deafening (even with ear protection).

The recoil bruised my shoulder. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary case of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.

These are not the words of someone making a sober assessment. They are the words of someone who, as Kuntzman himself admits, “was just terrified.” He actually thinks that firing a gun a few times gave him PTSD.  Stephen Green put it well over at instapundit: “Other than the fact that Gersh Kuntzman was apparently holding the rifle incorrectly, firing it incorrectly, made an incorrect (and shameful) claim about having PTSD, was incorrect that Mateen used an AR-15 in the Orlando terror attack, and was incorrect about being able to purchase a fully automatic ‘tactical machine gun,’ this is a totally accurate piece he’s written for the Daily News.”  How are folks that wet themselves at a firing range going to make sensible decisions about which weapons are too dangerous to own?

Others of you want to keep any weapon out of the hands of dangerous people. That too sounds very sensible until we consider who you seem to deem most dangerous. Every time a Muslim slaughters a bunch of people, you fall all over yourselves to assure everyone that a religion characterized throughout its history by violent expansion is really a religion of peace. Instead, you try and find a host of bizarre ways to somehow blame the murderous actions of a gay Muslim Democrat on conservatives, Christians, and 2nd Amendment supporters. Heck, a liberal reporter just blamed the shooting on supporters of the North Carolina bathroom bill. In light of this, it is perhaps understandable that conservative Christian gun-owners think that when you want to come take guns away from dangerous crazies, you really mean us.

But its no better when we move beyond popular rhetoric into the realm of official acts. Why not use the no-fly list or the terror watch list or some other official list to enumerate who may not own a gun? Well, in addition to such lists being notorious for lacking any due process because they’re the products of unaccountable bureaucrats, too many of those bureaucrats bear the same prejudices as the typical liberal. The FBI was watching Omar Mateen, but decided he wasn’t a threat. The State Department shut down an investigation into his mosque because it “unfairly singled out Muslims.” This fails to inspire much confidence that public service will somehow improve on the left’s typical ability to make good judgment calls. From top to bottom you have folks who think that a boy’s declaration that he’s a girl really makes him a girl, but that a boy’s repeated declarations that he’s killing people on behalf of ISIS has nothing to do with why he’s killing people. We would have to be insane to let you decide which of us should be armed.

Our right to bear arms is guaranteed in the constitution because our founders wanted to put decisions about who is empowered to defend themselves and their liberties outside the purview of mobs, politicians, and bureaucrats whose interests in the matter run contrary to the interests of the American people. Every time a mass shooting happens, the over-reactive left only proves the wisdom of that decision.

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The Real Tragedy of the Cincinnati Zoo

If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Harambe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. To sum it up, a 4-year-old boy got away from his mother and fell into the gorilla habitat, and zoo officials were forced to shoot the gorilla to protect the child. The boy sustained injuries when he was being dragged around by the gorilla, but seems to be doing fine. Nevertheless, I’ve seen precious little concern for the boy’s well-being in the midst of the uproar and rage concerning the unfortunate fate of the gorilla. Unfortunate though it may be, however, there are three far greater tragedies that are revealed by our reaction to this event.

1. Americans Don’t Know How to Parent

No, I’m not referring to the poor mother whose child fell into the Gorilla habitat. I’m instead referring to the horde of childless armchair parents second-guessing every moment of the encounter. Its a lack of know-how emerging primarily from our growing refusal to have any personal experience parenting.

Parents do not control their children. We raise them. We teach them. We train them, discipline them, punish them, praise them, nurture them, and guide them. But as my son approaches two years old in a couple of months, it has already become quite clear that “control” was never in the cards. He has a will of his own, and he exercises it. A child’s personality may trim at the fringes of their will—one might act boldly while another is shy; one might act impulsively while another considers—but they all have one; its part of being a person.

Make no mistake, children are people, not machines. As such, the only control they will ever truly be under is self-control. But this is a character trait that needs to be learned. Infants are not born with it. They have to reach a certain age before they even have the capacity for it. And then it is a long road as the ability grows and matures while parents provide it with shape and direction. Even at maturity, self-control never becomes inviolable; it can falter in times of trial and lapse in moments of carelessness. How much less consistent will it be in a child?

Of course, one can physically restrain a child, and parents will always need to do so from time to time. However, this is an option that must be exercised judiciously. I’ve seen a frightening number of people calling for children to be literally leashed in public so that they can’t ever run off—completely oblivious to how belittling that would be. It is only in the direst of circumstances when we choose to restrain a human being all of the time—that’s what prisons are for. This cannot be the go-to method of raising one; a child cannot grow up in time-out. Parents must therefore decide moment-to-moment when to restrain and when not to, and it doesn’t take a child very long to get out of arm’s reach.

That danger is simply the price we pay for continued human existence. A brief look at the world around you should be all anyone needs to confirm that God made a dangerous creation. Eden was a paradise, but clearly it was not the kind of paradise in which nothing could go wrong. Adam chose to listen to his wife instead of God and sent the whole thing off the rails. For humanity, the privilege of choice necessarily entails the risk of failure, and God has given that privilege even to the youngest of us. No matter how much parents might want to keep our children safe and no matter how much we minimize the risks, parenting is always a dangerous endeavor and our offspring are never completely safe. It is only the ignoramus who thinks that a child must never ever be allowed to be out of sight, out of hand, or out of a parent’s control.

2. Americans Don’t Know How to Mourn

I’ve written on this before, but it bears repeating. When tragedy strikes, we react like mechanics considering why an engine failed. We consider what parts need replacing and what design aspects need to change to make sure it works correctly next time. When a shooting occurs we want to ban guns. When a child goes missing we want to set up total surveillance. When feelings are hurt we want to ban the offending words. We want a rule and a failsafe for every eventuality so that we might someday become the perfect machine that never ever malfunctions.

This was the dream of modernism, and progressives still clutch it tightly to their collective bosom, but society isn’t a machine anymore than a child is. Treating it as one is destructive to us all. If leashing a child as a matter of routine is belittling, so is doing the same to all of society. It destroys our freedom and along with it our humanity. It is only the tyrant who wants to prevent all misfortune, and our growing inability to accept failure is turning all of us into petty tyrants. One can smell this rank totalitarianism every time a tin-pot dictator says things like “Why kill the Gorilla? You should had shoot [sic] the stupid parents!” or “This beautiful cincinnati zoo gorilla shot has paid the price for the parent’s stupidity. If you can’t control your kids in public, then keep them at home!” or even “They shot the wrong gorilla.”

We have not been given the impossible task of fixing the world and making sure nothing bad ever happens to anyone. We have only been given the possible task of loving one another through life’s ups and downs. Calling for children to be leashed and parents to be shot is not loving. This is not time for an unloving and futile attempt to fix something that isn’t a broken machine. It is instead a time to mourn with those who mourn.

3. Americans Don’t Recognize the Beauty of Children

Being upset that a beautiful creature was killed is understandable—it may even be laudable. Nevertheless, this distress has turned very ugly very fast. So many people are so proud to recognize the beauty of this gorilla and signal to world how deeply they feel for its loss (when they had no idea it existed a couple days ago.) And yet, these same people seem too myopic to recognize the beauty inherent in the child who was saved.

As someone who was once an avid gamer, I was always irked when somebody came out and said one of my favorite pass times was “just a video game.” I’m one of those people who believes games rise to the level of art, and so I objected to the diminutive “just” that so many people use as an adjective. Nevertheless, there are times when adding that “just” is entirely appropriate. When my son wants to play ball with me, it’s just a video game. When I have to work to feed my family or to maintain our home, it’s just a video game. When I get to go to church, hear God’s word, and receive the body and blood of my Lord, it’s just a video game. In cases like this, a diminutive “just” is good, right, and proper because it implies nothing more than having perspective and recognizing that some things are more important than others.

It is precisely this kind of perspective that is missing from the droves of people blowing up social media over this incident. Harambe wasn’t “just” a gorilla in the sense that what happened to him was irrelevant or meaningless. Nevertheless, he was just a gorilla in the sense that he was shot so that a child—a childwould live. Humans are greater than animals, and it is truly pathological for men to think otherwise. There are a lot of fools who want to extend human rights to animals and treat them like people, but in the end, treating animals like people only means that you treat people like animals—a fact that is prominently on display in the outrage that calls for leashing children and shooting parents for the sake of a beast.

I’ve never been a big primate fan myself, but I’m comfortable with people finding gorillas to be beautiful and majestic. Nevertheless, doing so without recognizing the far greater beauty and majesty of little children is myopic. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in response to those who counted men as just another kind of animal:

Monkeys did not begin pictures and men finish them; Pithecanthropus did not draw a reindeer badly and Homo Sapiens draw it well. The higher animals did not draw better and better portraits; the dog did not paint better in his best period than in his early bad manner as a jackal; the wild horse was not an Impressionist and the race horse a Post-Impressionist.

All we can say of this notion of reproducing things in shadow or representative shape is that it exists nowhere in nature except in man; and that we cannot even talk about it without treating man as something separate from nature. In other words every sane sort of history must begin with man as man, a thing standing absolute and alone.

It is truly an insane sort of history that we’re witnessing today in which children—our own flesh and blood—are hated for infringing too deeply on our own self-centeredness and our preference rests on the beasts who dutifully stay out of sight and out of mind.

Posted in Culture, Ethics | Leave a comment

As Though It Were Actually An Ebook

I just got word from my publisher that my book on Christian apologetics, As Though It Were Actually True, is now available on Kindle for $10 (which, considering that a paper copy runs $28, is a pretty good deal.)  The book approaches defending the factual truth of Christianity from a variety of directions (evidence for the Resurrection and the historical reliability of Scripture, philosophical arguments about the existence of God & objective morality, defenses of controversial theologies and ethics.) If you want to learn how to intellectually defend the faith, it’s a great place to start.  It also serves well as a textbook for a Bible study, adult/teen Sunday School class, or other small group that wants to study apologetics.

 

From the back of the book:

How true can Christianity really be? In a culture where religion and “real life” often occur in completely different times and places, the question troubles many Christians. How can we give the reason for the hope that we have amid the many voices telling us that Christianity might be helpful or interesting, but not really “true” for anyone except Christians? Why should we ourselves bother with a religion so insubstantial that it is only legitimate within our own minds? People with real sins require a real savior, not merely inspiring stories and advice on how to live.

As Though it Were Actually True provides Christians with an introduction to the age-old practice of apologetics–the rational defense of Christianity as objective truth. It explores some of the most important issues on which the Church finds itself in conflict with today’s culture through a combination of critical reasoning, evidence, and the law written on our hearts. By providing a philosophical foundation that is reasonable, a historical foundation that is factual, and a theological foundation that is Biblical, this book will help equip Christians to contend for their faith against the shallow and deceptive philosophies that seek to undermine it.

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America Needs Procreative Unions NOW [A Satire in Defense of Marriage]

Even within the warped worldview of a caricatured leftist, it seems that marriage between one man and one woman makes too much sense to ignore or conflate with something else.

[satire]
All right-thinking Americans have long been celebrating the fact that marriage equality is a done deal, and there’s no going back. Even stubbornly radical conservative extremists like John Kasich have recently acknowledged this obvious and indisputable truth. Progressives have, at long last, convinced the American people that marriage belongs to everyone, and rightly so. The romantic feelings of homosexuals are just as deep & meaningful, their intimacies just as enjoyable, and their commitments just as strong. (Although, due to the stubborn persistence of archaic religious beliefs in some backwater parts of our culture, I feel compelled to add that my use of the word “commitment” is not in any way intended to imply any kind of promise of exclusivity or permanence. Marriage, as we all know, can involve any number of outside sexual partners and can be ended at any time, even by the most committed of couples.) But let’s not dwell on the benighted past. Instead, let’s pause and give ambiguous, non-sectarian thanks that marriage is now equally open to all because we finally realize that there is no real difference between gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, pansexuals, and any other sexual orientations when it comes to their intimate relationships.

Unfortunately, the work of those who strive for social justice is never done, and we must take up our banner once again. It’s time to cast our gaze upon another underprivileged minority struggling to come to terms with a sexuality that their society fails to understand and embrace: monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals. For those of you who are not keeping up with the latest developments in gender studies (shame on you,) these kinds of relationships involve a permanent and exclusive pairing of one male person who chooses to embrace the gender foisted on him by society and one female person who does the same. However you might judge such unique choices and however high or low your awareness of them might be, together they create one more small tile in the beautiful mosaic of human sexuality.

But all is not well in this community. These brave individuals face unique challenges, but society has not done enough to accommodate their needs and facilitate their sexual empowerment. I don’t make a habit of dredging up biological specifics—too many have used such facts as tools of oppression. However they are relevant when it comes to certain medical realities, and such is the case here. In cisgender heterosexual relationships, one partner has a penis while the other has a vagina, and they often unite these two organs during intimacy. This creates a special challenge for them. Their unique biology combined with their lifestyle choice makes them susceptible to the most pernicious of sexually transmitted diseases: Pregnancy.

Pregnancy begins simply enough. Scientifically speaking, cisgendered heterosexual intercourse routinely creates a tiny blood clot in one partner’s uterus. However, that blood clot slowly grows and develops into a kind of goopy tumor that causes all sorts of complications. The war against this global tragedy has raged for decades, and progressives have long been at the vanguard. Planned Parenthood and other wonderful organizations have tirelessly devoted themselves to the eradication of pregnancy. Countless dollars have been spent on developing techniques, equipment, and pharmaceuticals designed to prevent this disease. Our schools have devoted a significant part of their curriculum to educating people on the subject. We have (at great financial and political cost) ensured easy access to procedures that evacuate the uterine contents when contraceptive measures have failed. And they fail frightfully often. Hundreds of thousands of such treatments are administered every year in America. Unfortunately, even the magnitude of these noble efforts is simply not enough. In 2011 alone, 2.8 million women were unwittingly infected despite all these precautions, and of these, a mere 45% received proper treatment in time to be cured.

And timing is very important. Pregnancy is a disease that needs to be caught early because a frightening development occurs after roughly 9 months of infection. I hope you will forgive what follows, but sometimes graphic language is necessary. If you feel you might be triggered, please stop reading now. Up until this point during pregnancy, the symptoms are bad enough. The partner with the uterus slowly becomes grotesquely deformed by the ever-swelling tumor. Meanwhile, the hormonal changes wreak further physical havoc on that same partner, and psychological havoc on both partners. At around 9 months, their condition takes a turn for the worse. At this point, The tumor has grown so large that it begins emerging from the uterus through one partner’s vagina in an incredibly painful and unsanitary process.

At the moment when the tumor’s characteristically large, hairy nodule emerges (it even has human-like eyes, mouth, and nose; YIKES!), the tumor suddenly develops acute personhood and must therefore be sheltered and nourished. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, abortion has not yet been deemed a medically appropriate treatment subsequent to this stage of pregnancy. When this happens, the disease affects both partners by triggering the release of even more hormones that create a kind of psychosis which makes them feel attachment and even affection for the little tumor-person. (They call the tumor-person a “child,” so I will adopt that term going forward to avoid any unintentional micro-aggression; I only used the more popular “tumor-person” for the sake of clarity among a broader audience.) This affect is so powerful that it persists even as the “child” begins secreting disgusting substances, emitting irritating noises, and expelling foul odors.

Catching pregnancy early is further complicated because many monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals hold to peculiar indigenous religious beliefs. They have been brainwashed to believe that this tumor is actually a human being (which science has long known to spontaneously generate from our public schools.) Odd as it may seem to us, however, these stupid beliefs need to be treated with dignity and respect. Molech-worship might be the dominant spirituality in our country, but we are nevertheless committed to protecting religious minorities.

Unlike other sexual orientations, this disease can strike any cisgendered heterosexual couple at any time without any intention, simply because they love in the way that’s natural to them. All of our precautions have utterly failed to prevent mass infection. The prudish and the retrograde might therefore compel these persons to change the way they love to match society’s expectations, but we know full well how cruel and insensitive this would be. Society must take action on their behalf, and so I would like to propose what I call “procreative unions.”

A procreative union is simply a legal and social arrangement designating a comprehensive union of the couple, recognized by the government, and made available to monogamous cisgendered heterosexual couples for the purpose of honoring and facilitating their efforts to grapple with all the unique challenges their lifestyle entails. It could help smooth any number of difficulties: shared property & finances, estate planning, making legal and social decisions for the child, and more. It could also lend them a kind of official mark of social esteem, just as marriage has done for other sexual orientations to prevent discrimination. Fecundophobes, you are on notice!

You might be asking yourself the obvious question of why the pair can’t simply get married. As it turns out, the situation is more complicated than that, and marriage might not be enough. Because marriage is all about love, it needs to be able to be dissolved at any time and for any reason, and so divorce must always be quickly and easily available. As radical as the idea may be, procreative unions would need to be a little stickier. (Don’t worry: granting monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals procreative unions won’t have any affect on your marriage. What some couples you don’t know do on their own doesn’t affect you in any way.)

While the romantic feeling we call love which serves as the foundation of marriage comes and goes along with the marriage itself, the fallout of pregnancy lasts a lifetime. A pregnancy left untreated is incurable—in most cases, children even persist past the couples’ deaths. The children that pregnancy produces need round-the-clock care for years and regular maintenance indefinitely. At the same time, cisgendered heterosexual lifestyle choices create both a common interest in the child as well as shared responsibility for it. It makes a peculiar kind of sense for them to team up. And because dealing with this STD is so time-consuming, this comprehensive partnership even extends to areas of life that might unsettle strong independent persons who rely on no one but themselves (and the government, of course.) But while you personally might find even the prospect of sharing a bank account terrifying, it takes all kinds to make a world.

What’s more, because of their duration, these child-related responsibilities persist through the various seasons of life: the good times & bad times, wealth & poverty, sickness & health (children are well-known vectors of infectious disease) and so forth. It only makes sense that their partnership persist through those seasons as well. After all, its a daunting situation for one person on their own, which is precisely why we worked so hard to lionize successively polygamous cisgendered heterosexual female persons who contract pregnancy on their own and why we created so many broad safety nets to assist the ones who aren’t treated in time. Why should we fail to give an even smaller and less-expensive measure of assistance and recognition to monogamous cisgendered heterosexual couples? Why not let them know we have their back too? Besides, those who engage in other cisgendered heterosexual lifestyles (such as the aforementioned successively polygamous cisgendered heterosexuals that comprise the largest segment of the American population) will not be forced to enter a procreative union. This status would be completely voluntary.

Now, there is an obvious objection to this plan. If children are the unfortunate axis around which these matters turn, why can’t they be dealt with exclusively by teachers, day-care workers, and other licensed & certified caregivers who have already been properly trained to transform children into human beings? It’s a sensible thought, but presents numerous practical difficulties. For one, Federal labor laws and union rules simply forbid the kind of hours involved in caring for children. In addition, our zero tolerance policies forbid the administration of the medications that are frequently needed or domestic tools that are used in food preparation (such as knives.) That list of technicalities could go on forever. But on top of it all, even our best philosophers acknowledge that there are certain goods uniquely created in the home and that taking care of a child by committee is less than ideal. No, teachers already have a full-time job—let’s not foist another one onto them when there’s a better way.

This is 2016, and 21st century issues require 21st century solutions. We need to crowdsource the treatment of children. What if, when the child first appears, it is simply taken and accepted by first people who lay claim to it? As we’ve already covered, the symptoms of pregnancy predispose monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals towards such volunteer work. This is already a promising start, but what if they were further prepared by having the option of joining in a procreative union beforehand? Nobody can truly understand the unique challenge of an untreated pregnancy before they’ve experienced it, but we can help predispose them to success. Doing so can even help all of society at the same time. Though causation is still a bit murky, study after study (trigger warning: regressive language is present in those links) has shown a high correlation between the care a monogamous cisgendered heterosexual couple gives their child and the long-term success of adult persons.

Of course, the peanut gallery must be addressed as well. Naturally, conservatives, libertarians, and other regressives will oppose this initiative just as they do all civil rights. They will no doubt complain about creating yet another government program. But recognition and some legal streamlining is hardly a program. Besides government does have a legitimate interest in this, even by their astringent standards. Children are the raw material from which human beings are made—the very same humans that exist to sustain our government. Surely government has an interest in its future citizens.

Conservatives might likewise complain about “fairness.” After all, some monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals have a natural immunity to pregnancy. The so-called “right” will no doubt complain about occasional childless procreative unions just as they do about the occasional welfare recipient who uses their benefits as a way to avoid work. Its a silly objection, of course. Immunity, even when it is detected, is not always permanent. Sick and twisted individuals are always looking for new ways of making immune cisgendered heterosexuals susceptible to pregnancy once again (its one of the many microaggressions that society forces on them.) Beyond that, however, perhaps they can be soothed with the knowledge that actually taking such things into account in practice would require a level of government investigation that they would no doubt find “invasive” and “undignified.”

The course progress must take is as clear as the special plight faced by those affected by pregnancy and the unique susceptibility of cisgendered heterosexuals. Procreative unions are not for everyone—some don’t need them, others don’t want them, and that’s all fine. It’s not as though such discrepancies impeded our efforts at making sure health insurance covers things like free hormonal contraception or pap smears—services required only by a subset of certain gender identities. Helping everyone embrace their sexuality includes helping monogamous cisgendered heterosexuals, and helping them means offering procreative unions.

[/satire]

Posted in Abortion, Chastity, Natural Law | Leave a comment

If I Can’t Believe the Bible, No One Can!

It would seem that Bible believers are not really Bible believers according to “Progressive Christian” Chuck Queen. His charge is simple:

No self-identified Bible believer actually believes the whole Bible — at least not in the way they claim to. Bible believers claim that the whole Bible, every part of it, is inerrant and infallible.

What then of his argument supporting the charge? Well, he himself used to claim to be a Bible-believer, but he could never really stomach Apostolic instruction like 1 Timothy 2:11-15, in which Paul forbids women from usurping the pastoral office. Even in his “conservative” days, he used to avoid the implications by claiming it was culturally conditioned (although he’s honest enough to note how grounding the instruction in Creation and Fall cannot help but make it universal.) But he’s learned and grown since then. Now he avoids the implication by claiming it wasn’t written by Paul. In other words, Mr. Queen was never a Bible believing Christian, and all that’s changed are his rationalizations for rejecting the parts of Christ’s teachings that he doesn’t like.

He goes on to argue… Wait, he doesn’t. That’s actually his whole argument. Needless to say, it’s not terribly compelling.

Of course, extending his personal experience to all self-proclaimed Bible believing Christians is nothing more than projection. He doesn’t even try to give examples, but is content to provide groundless assurance that it covers pretty much everyone. That is, until the last paragraph, in which he says:

Of course, some Bible believers are simply patriarchal, condemnatory, prejudiced Bible thumpers. But there are also many basically good-hearted Bible believers who continue to claim to believe the whole Bible when they really don’t.

Ah. So there are actual Bible believers after all, but they’re horrible people.

So Queen’s “argument” is basically this: Back when he called himself a Bible-believing Christian, he was too “good-hearted” to really believe the Bible. Most other people who call themselves that are the same way, and those who actually do believe the Bible are just “patriarchal, condemnatory, prejudiced Bible Thumpers.” In the end, the piece is nothing more than a circumlocutious and self-aggrandizing way of calling Christians names. Everything else is a rhetorical flourish meant to make actual believers feel like they are alone.

But contrary to his claim about Christians, Queen is the truly prejudiced one, for he is the one who decided beforehand that God could not possibly be against egalitarianism in the pulpit and thereby determined what He is and is not allowed to say. All that remains is to speculate on why 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and other passages don’t apply. On that score, Queen does give his (poor) reasons why, but concludes them with a very revealing statement:

All reasoning here is speculative, but clearly this text in 1 Timothy reflects a push back that contradicts Paul’s earlier practice of incorporating women leaders (see Romans 16) and prophets (1 Cor. 11:5).

And that, my dear readers, is prejudice in a nutshell: Our reasoning is entirely speculative, but our conclusion is clear.

To be honest, I’m not terribly fond of the “Bible-believing” modifier either. Many Christians have issues with reading comprehension, and so, when its not tied to a particular confession of faith, “Bible believing” doesn’t mean all that much. Nevertheless, it does mean something because the term exists for precisely one reason: to distinguish orthodox and even heterodox Christians from the heresy of theological liberalism—the grand tradition of Schleiermacher that proudly stands up to declare itself way too intelligent and sophisticated to believe Christianity is true, but nevertheless wants to use its trappings and institutions for political advocacy and vague spirituality. But that is the natural reaction for those who put a premium on worldliness, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Posted in Apologetics, Theological Liberalism | 1 Comment

Regaining Sanity on Trump

To say it’s been an interesting election cycle so far would be an understatement. Of course, most of the chaos revolves around Donald Trump, and where there’s chaos, there are people freaking out. When it comes to Trump and the magnitude of the changes he’s causing, the freak-out’s go in two directions: either he’s America’s savior or he’s Satan himself. Among the Republican segment of the latter group, the insanity is to the point where they’re defending the mob of violent socialists who disrupted one of his rallies in Chicago. If you’re prone to using overwrought historical imagery and therefore believe Trump is basically Hitler, then it’s no less fair to recognize those Sanders supporters as basically Bolsheviks. The stupidity of legitimizing them is boundless. In any case, neither half of the false dichotomy between deliverer and devil totally captures Trump. There’s good and bad in both situation & candidate, and people need to get grounded.

First the good:

  1. Trump revealed the liberal media as a paper tiger.

    Republican politicians live in fear of the media. The emotion is understandable given the obvious hostility, but the way they let it control them (and therefore allow the media to control the framing of every issue and the “electability” of our candidates) has been disastrous. But now… the media hate Trump even more than the typical Republican, and yet their hatred has done anything but bring him down. His casual disdain for them mirrors how many Americans want to feel about big media. Few people like them, but many feel beholden. Among that latter group, Trump’s open disrespect is eroding the vestiges of their credibility and has defanged them to a remarkable degree.

  2. The GOP establishment is impotent and clueless

    Well, the clueless part isn’t news to anyone, but the way none of them saw this coming underscores it. As for the impotence… Trump & Cruz are the only two candidates a large swath of Republican voters want, and the establishment hates them both. Until now, party elites dominated primaries with their selection of neocon (i.e. almost conservative) candidates. But more than Cruz, Trump took advantage of that building discontent and managed what to do what principled conservatives couldn’t—turn that massive discontent into clear electoral success and become the obvious front-runner in spite of their frothing hatred. Whether or not one wants him as the nominee, it’s a feat worthy of respect.

  3. Amnesty and open borders are the “unelectable” stances on immigration.

    Build a wall? Repatriate? Pause Muslim immigration in an age of terrorism? The media and elites of both parties were aghast when Trump came out with that—they wouldn’t have been any more flabbergasted if he had suggested concentration camps. I think they really believed it would be the death knell of his campaign. And yet… this is one huge disconnect between them and the typical American. When it came to Republicans, it was the amnesty folks—Bush, Rubio, Kasich, etc—who were roundly trounced at the polls.

    This is an extremely important issue, and Trump did a good thing by dispelling illusions about which policies can’t be talked about openly.

To be fair, these are some pretty significant accomplishments for someone who’s still merely a candidate. But if fairness is something we’re looking for, we need to look at the other side too.

  1. Trump is a corrupt, opportunistic boor.

    I could explain why, but the media has already been jumping up and down on this like a child with a trampoline and a sugar rush, so I don’t think there’s a need. And is the point seriously in contention? All the divorces, bankruptcies, shady business practices, and general intemperance may not have the usual force of scandal because everyone knew who Trump was before he ran for president. However, that doesn’t make them all go away. He remains who he is, and I, for one, have had enough of this sort of thing in the White House.

  2. There’s no good way of telling what positions he will actually fight for.

    The best example of this is probably his immigration proposals that were the big draw for many of his supporters. But then at debates and other off-the-cuff responses, he undercuts them quite a bit. So do his own personal business practices. His rhetoric is all over the place, to the point where it’s impossible to tell what positions he actually holds, what positions he’ll fight for, and what positions he’s cynically using to gather supporters that no one else was trying to represent.

  3. He is an elitist demagogue

    He’s clearly not one of the party elites, but he is very much an elitist of a different clique. His derogatory attitude toward both supporters and opponents alike might be a practical way of displaying dominance, but he’s someone running on the backs of the “folks” who clearly has no love of the “folks.” In the end, his success is going to trade one establishment with contempt for its base, with whatever contemptuous establishment Trump ends up building in its place. It could end up even uglier, which would take a great deal of wind out of the sails of those fighting a corrupt establishment. Even their victory could become a defeat that nudges people back into the comfort of America’s liberty-destroying business as usual.

The list of cons is just as remarkable as the pros. We’re certainly in for interesting times. In a sense, both the people who adore Trump and the people who despise him have good reasons for doing so—he’s a naturally polarizing figure, after all. But which side wins out when both are true? Speaking for myself, I can’t help but notice that the good points are all effects of his campaign, while the biggest dangers are from a prospective presidency. So I’m grateful that he’s running, but I don’t support him for the office.

Can we learn the lessons Trump’s campaign has revealed without actually bringing the problems into the White House? I really want to say yes because I will not vote for Trump. I’ve never been one to bow to pragmatism at the polls and vote for someone who is unfit for the office. Nevertheless, if I’m honest, I can’t give a certain yes. A Trump victory in November might be what it takes to drive the lessons home. But in the end, I can only vote my own conscience, and I don’t need his victory for that. I can use his disruptive campaign as evidence and argument even if it ultimately fails, and I’d rather use Trump than be used by him.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Probably Because You Aren’t Preaching It

At least, that’s my best guess after reading Why Are You Asking For More Law?

In it, a Lutheran pastor briefly recounts a time when he was approached by some scare-quoted “pillars of the congregation” who were scare-quoted “very concerned” about his teaching. According to his account:

Even though I went through each of the ten commandments and told the congregation that they—each and every one—deserved nothing but hell and damnation, it was not enough law. Even though I pointed out that they were godless idolaters who didn’t love their God nor did they love their neighbors, it wasn’t enough.

It seems that I needed to pick a specific sin and address that one individually, especially a sin that is pertinent to this particular congregation this week. I was to call people out for looking at porn or downloading music illegally from the internet. I was supposed to tell people to mend their evil ways, or the wrath of God would be upon them for their evil doing!

So the members were dissatisfied with his preaching of the law. They said he didn’t preach it enough, they said he didn’t address specific sins, and they might have asked about God’s attitude towards sin. Although, unless Jonathan Edwards is a member at his church, I suspect some heavy-handed hyperbole by the end there, so its hard to discern whether that was actually their complaint or the writer’s straw man. I could be wrong, but I don’t get the rhetorical sense that he’s trying to fairly present their side of it.

Unfortunately, his written response appears typical of theological pietism—just call them self-righteous Pharisaical pietistic old adam doo-doo heads™ and go about your business.

This sort of interaction is not entirely uncommon for pastors to hear. As a matter of fact, if a pastor wants to hear outrage and howling from the masses, all they need to do is preach this one sentence: “You cannot out-sin God’s grace!” This sentence drives the Devil and Pharisees mad. It is too much to accept. The idea that eternal salvation is not dependent on your behavior is very worrisome indeed, after all if Jesus has done all of the work for me, then what is left for me to do? I MUST DO SOMETHING!

Here is the heart of what we theological geeks call “pietism.” Pietism is an inward looking faith. It is Christian navel-gazing at its worst. The idea that we can contribute anything to our salvation simply means that Jesus didn’t do enough FOR our salvation. His perfect life, His suffering, and crucifixion, His atoning sacrifice, His resurrection was not enough, because, after all, we must do something. Poor God needs our help.

Ascribing this particular motivation to his flock’s request seems like quite a bit of a leap. It would be truly shocking for pillars of a Lutheran congregation to voice such a thing, and he doesn’t actually report that they did, so I can only conclude that he’s playing at reading their hearts in an attempt to explain away their complaint. But is self-righteousness the only explanation for their request? Is it the best? Explanations are generally evaluated on how well they fit the facts and how much they explain, and by such reckoning (based on what was written,) I have a better one: this pastor is not preaching the law to his congregation very well.

By his own account, his preaching of the law is to list the 10 Commandments, tell everyone they’ve failed to keep them (along with Christ’s summary of the law,) and then tell them the justly deserved penalties for this failure. None of that is wrong, and every Christian needs to hear that on a regular basis. However, this is not preaching the law—this is preaching about the law. The determining factor for me is the way he sneers at specifics in favor of mere summary and conclusion. Unlike, for example, Luther, who goes into all sorts of specifics when he goes through the 10 Commandments in his catechisms, theological pietists hate mentioning specific sins. They prefer to focus on original sin because this doctrine teaches that all are guilty and so the whole congregation is laid low. Specifics of the law have this tendency to be followed by some Christians some of the time. In other words, guilty though we all are of breaking the law and forgiven as we all are in Christ, not every Christian has had an abortion, or divorced their husband, or beat their wives, etc. Theological pietists fear that if any Christian actually does part of what God says or avoids part of what He forbids, he might become self-righteous and begin thinking that he’s actually keeping the law on his own merits. Seeing a Pharisee around every corner, they therefore assume that anyone asking for more law is seeking to justify himself before God.

But God’s word is full of specifics—things that Christ and the apostles actually expected Christians to try and do. In their fear, theological pietists hide those parts of God’s word from their congregations. Forgetting that the three uses of the law are the Holy Spirit’s rather than the preacher’s, they attempt to tailor their message towards their preferred use—showing us our sins—just like classic pietists try to tailor their message toward guiding our lives. The end result for both pietists and theological pietists is that they preach a subset God’s word rather than all of it—an exclusion that God never authorized them to make. They pronounce God’s ultimate judgment and think they have taught the law. It would be no different than if a preacher mentioned that Jesus died for the sins of the world without any elaboration and then claimed he preached the Gospel to its fullest.

The person sitting in the pews who hears a steady diet of redacted law knows that something is wrong. Without concrete specifics, the law becomes wholly abstract. He knows that he is guilty of breaking God’s law, but not because he can actually recognize himself doing so every day of the week—he would need specifics for that. No, he only knows he’s guilty due to original sin, which—without the anchor of specifics—becomes some sort of celestial checkbox that was marked when he was conceived and unmarked when he was baptized. And so the gospel begins to become just as vague as the law in his heart—some metaphysical reclassification with no tangible connection to his life. He knows that this isn’t how its supposed to be—even without sermons. After all, he’s heard enough Bible passages that seem to pierce through this gray, almost nihilistic fog to know that there’s something else for us. But still, he doesn’t quite have the theological education to put it all together. So he seeks help from the person God appointed to help him—his pastor.

But God help him if he cannot articulate his plea with anything less than perfect theological precision.

If he asks for more third use, he gets condemned as a pietist. If he asks for more specifics, he’s condemned as a self-righteous legalist. If he phrases his plea as a request for more law and less gospel, he gets condemned for despising the gospel. What he doesn’t get is pastoral care.

Strictly speaking, there is some truth to each of those condemnations. The uses of the law do belong to the Holy Spirit rather than the preacher or the congregant who wants to do good works. Specifics can be used to condemn one’s neighbors and elevate oneself. Someone asking for less gospel doesn’t appreciate the gospel. Theological pietists take this part of the truth as license to dismiss the complaint altogether and double-down on what they were already doing.

And yet, it’s not the whole truth. The uses of the law don’t belong to the preacher either, but theological pietists edit God’s word as though they do. A steady diet of different specifics from God’s word will eventually condemn everyone specifically—not just that fellow’s neighbors. If a Christian doesn’t appreciate the Gospel, it’s usually because they don’t really understand the extent of the Law. So in each of these circumstances, the person asking for more law has a point as well. A pastor who puts the best construction on what his sheep tell him will recognize that and do his best to care for them—by preaching the whole counsel of God and helping them to understand it. A theological pietist, however, will just dismiss it as “itching ears” and go about his business. Meanwhile, the malnourished person in the pews will try to get comfortable with Lutheran nihilism, never succeed, and perhaps—God forbid—slowly drift away from the Church altogether.

Being a confessional Lutheran does not require being a theological pietist. My church has just begun holding a weekly “Night Out With Luther” event on Sunday evenings. Each time, we read and then discuss one of Luther’s Invocavit sermons—the ones he preached to the people of Wittenburg after he returned from hiding at the Wartburg. They preach the law, and they proclaim the gospel. The two are properly distinguished, but never separated; they are woven together throughout sermons that addresses the very specific issues of that congregation at that time. Neither law nor gospel lack depth or nuance. The sermons include plenty of exhortation, but nary an exhortation is given without having been grounded in the boundless grace we’ve been given in Christ. In short, he manages to do everything the theological pietists strive for as well as everything that they foolishly forgo.

If the plea for more law is truly “not entirely uncommon for pastors to hear,” then perhaps pastors should not immediately dismiss it out-of-hand. Take the time to listen to your flock and put the best construction on what they say. Then compare your own preaching to what God has asked of you in Scripture—all of it. Look at what other, theologically-sound pastors have preached at different points in history, (for every age and culture has its own blind spots.) If you find that you are preaching faithfully, then by all means continue no matter how much “outrage and howling” you hear. The world hates what Christ taught just as much. But also beware, for dissatisfaction with your preaching is not identical with hatred of Christ’s teachings, and despising the law is not the same as loving the gospel.

Posted in Gospel, Law, Lutheranism, Theological Pietism | 1 Comment

Parenting Rules

J. Budziszewski had a great post on Friday:

A surprising number of parents tell me that they are afraid to “force” their children to worship with them, because then the kids might come to resent religion.

By this reasoning, children should not be “forced” to take baths for fear that they will come to despise cleanliness, “forced” to be gentle with smaller children for fear that they will come to hate kindness, “forced” to do their homework for fear that they will come to love stupidity, or “forced” to share family meals for fear that they will come to loathe the taste of food.

Now that parenting is something I’m personally involved in, I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how scared parents are of actually teaching, training, and disciplining their kids in two important areas:  faith and morality. I’m not talking about radical leftists or anything like that—just normal everyday parents in contemporary America, myself included.

After all, we all want our kids to be able to think for themselves. We don’t want drones whose entire mental world amounts to rote compliance. Likewise, those of us who are Christians don’t want our offspring’s spiritual lives to be empty religion—going through the customs and ceremonies merely because they’ve always done it that way. We want them to choose to be good, to be virtuous, and to truly believe in Christ. We don’t want them to just follow a list of rules that approximates these things.

It’s a fine goal, but very often the way people try to carry it out amounts to a kind of naivete that puts the developmental cart before the horse. We all remember stupid rules we had to follow when our parents didn’t really understand our situation—when we were held back from one good thing or another. We remember times when rules made us act in ways that looked good but didn’t reflect any real goodness on our part—like when we were forced to say “thank you” to Great Aunt Mabel for that pair of socks at Christmas even though we couldn’t care less about them. We remember having to get up and go to church on Sunday morning and just mindlessly zoning out until it was over. Then we remember when we began to come of age, rub up against these things, shake off some of them, and ultimately learn to think and act for ourselves despite the rules rather than because of them.

We remember these things, and our own experiences and concerns are amplified by a flood of pop-culture that hits nothing but these notes whenever youth is involved.  And it scares us.  So we think we can make it easier on our own kids by clearing the road a little bit. Following the rules isn’t the end goal, and at a certain point, they got in the way, so why not dispense with them? In the end, we become genuinely afraid of giving our children rules or requirements—even expectations—lest we accidentally hold them back or foster rebellion.

To a certain extent, parental experience somewhat mitigates this fear as we realize that leaving our children completely to their own devices is going to get them hurt or killed. So we force them to look both ways before crossing the street, not to play on the stairs, and so forth. The guidelines of doctors give us some measure of courage when it comes to issues of health, and so we make them take their medicine, their naps, and eat as reasonably as we can manage. When it comes to the formation of faith and virtues, however… we don’t get the same kind of immediate support.  Being spoiled or snotty doesn’t put them in some kind of imminent danger.  Every kid spends a lot of time doing things they shouldn’t no matter what you do—even the strictest of parents have to put up with some of it.  Lots of people are successful by American standards without darkening the door of a church.

At the same time, our culture has little of the kind of expectation of faithful religion that we do for health or education, nor do we have much in the way of institutions that guide parents on matters of virtue the way doctors do on matters of health. We can find some if we search, but when we do search, we find literally every possible answer—most of which are mutually exclusive. Morally speaking, we don’t have any kind of entrenched “right” way to parent—making a cultural fixture of such a “way” has drawbacks, to be sure, but it also provides a starting point that works fine in most-but-not-all cases. Neither do we really have the know-how to help discern good ways of parenting from bad ways. My generation’s upbringing focused on how to become educated and successful in the workplace—children of our own were always a matter of “maybe you’ll have them someday.” And so, in the absence of such things, we usually go with our guts, which are very much rule-averse.

This is truly unfortunate, because rules are a necessary part of teaching children to think for themselves—or at least of doing so well rather than poorly. As Budziszewski goes on to point out, “Faith is not the same thing as compliance, but compliance and imitation are how children learn everything.” When we think of rules, we tend to think back to adolescence, but there many years of a child’s life that happen first. Ultimately our children will be able to grasp the abstract principles that enable them to think for themselves, but there are quite a few years before all of this comes about.

Those early years are best spent immersed in concrete expressions of the abstract principles that we want them to learn. For example, if they are ever to be generous or know what generosity is, they need to see generosity in action and be trained on ways of carrying it out. So we tell them to share their toys and let them watch us help our neighbors.  If they are ever to understand gratitude, we need to tell them to say thank you and to do the same ourselves–even when their feelings don’t yet match up. If they are ever to understand faithfulness, we must bring them with us to Church, catechize them at home, and let them see our own faith in action.

But what about when we screw up as parents and lay an unnecessary rule on them? Well, whether we lay all the rules we can imagine or as few as we can get away with, we’re going to screw up in one direction or another. We are going to let them do something they shouldn’t and stop them from doing something they should. We therefore cannot allow an irrational fear of rules stop us from making the best judgments we can in any given case. What about when they reach their teenage years and start to fight us? Well, all children grow up, and they all need to learn to make decisions for themselves apart from their parents. If its inevitable that this growth lead to familial conflict, then the least we can do is show them what good decisions look like and give them the tools to make decisions well before we start losing our ability to do so.

No parent will come through the experience without making mistakes, but God’s grace is still sufficient—both to wash away our own sins and to sustain our children through those times when we do fail them. In that, it was no different for our own parents—nor for theirs.

Posted in Christian Youth, Ethics, The Modern Church | 2 Comments

Frivorce Apologetics

Whenever one comes across commentary on an issue of broad cultural confusion—for example, marriage amidst American gender confusion and self-centeredness—one has to get used to seeing people realize an important truth while still managing to be completely wrong. It’s like hitting the bullseye on a target you weren’t aiming for; You completely missed despite being dead-on.

So it is in a blog post I came across recently: She Divorced Me Because I Put Dishes in the Sink. In it, the author sets out absolve his wife and blame himself for what happened to their marriage. He explains that while leaving dishes around wasn’t a big deal to him, it was a big deal to his wife, and he should have treated it that way solely for her sake. In her mind, putting the dishes away was synonymous with caring for her, and so her husband now realizes that he should have taken it as an opportunity to care for her.

This is entirely true in a certain context. Putting the dishes in the sink is merely one expression of the kind of charitable love that a husband and wife ought to have for one-another. When a man and a woman are one flesh, what is good for one is also good for the other. Ideal marital love is the kind where each spouse gives himself completely to the other for her true good—where both realize it is better to give than to receive, but each still receives what they need. And so, when bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh really prefers that he do something small like putting the dishes in the sink, love does its best to do so.

This is, by-the-way, how people naturally act during the highly romantic state of infatuation. Infatuation is designed to help prime the pump of loving charity and make it easy to establish the hundreds of small habits that keep a marriage running smoothly. It’s a shame that Americans waste infatuation on having fun with a series of hookups only to settle down in a marriage-like relationship when they’re finally too emotionally worn out to experience it anymore. To be sure, one can love charitably and develop the necessary habits without infatuation, but that particular experience makes it considerably easier and more fun.

What is true in one context, however, doesn’t always hold true in another. And the author brings up this dynamic in a context of conflict as a way to resolve a disagreement—to declare one party innocent and the other guilty. Doing so, however, turns charitable love into a rule by which we are judged, and transforms it into something that resolves nothing at all.

Consider: Should a husband insist on his right to leave dishes by the sink? Of course not. Marriage is no place for rights. But by the “rule” of charitable love, neither should a wife insist on her right for the dishes to go in the sink. Real charitable love should be leading each spouse to accommodate the other. If it existed mutually in a situation like this, the husband would be putting dishes in the sink, the wife would be taking care of those that he misses herself, and neither one would consider either of these things an imposition. If either the wife is complaining about not getting her way or the husband is insisting on getting his way, then that spouse is not practicing charitable love. In such a case, neither spouse can call upon charitable love as a justification for their entitlement—that’s not what love is.

Could one party to such a conflict unilaterally defuse it by sacrificing their own interest? In theory, yes; either spouse could do so. Sometimes that works beautifully. However, charitable love does not act from the expectation of gain—which is convenient because more often than not, it won’t achieve anything in this kind of situation.

Things are not so simple when it comes to ongoing tasks that can be carried out only through habit and to which the other spouse firmly considers herself entitled. The reason for this is inadvertently given by the author himself: “There is only ONE reason I will ever stop leaving that glass by the sink. A lesson I learned much too late: Because I love and respect my partner, and it REALLY matters to her.” That is indeed the only reason, but it’s not the kind of reason that immediately creates habit. Our own desires are immediate and almost always come to mind; we don’t really have to think about it to put them into action. The desires of another, however, are contingent and have to be deliberately recalled until new habits form. In other words, a man may never forget that he loves and respects his wife, but he will never remember every last way of showing it every moment of every day.

Even a husband who resolves to put his dishes in the sink from now on is still going to miss dishes sometimes. Some men will do better than others. One husband might remember 99% of the time while another may only remember 75% of the time. One husband might take a week to form the new habit while another might take months. Nevertheless, every husband will leave dishes on the counter sometimes if putting them in the sink is a contingent desire. Even Mr. 99% is going to leave 3 or 4 glasses on the counter every year if he only uses no more than one glass a day. Unfortunately, the wife who has decided that a dish on the counter means, as the author put it, “Hey. I don’t respect you or value your thoughts and opinions. Not taking four seconds to put my glass in the dishwasher is more important to me than you are” is therefore going to hear that from even the best of husbands multiple times every year.

What this wife who is “literally caused pain” by these dishes is not going to notice are the hundreds of glasses put in the sink. Nobody notices all the times we aren’t struck, or aren’t yelled at, or aren’t called names. We rightly expect not to be harmed by others. The moment a person starts dramatizing the trivialities by treating things like dirty dishes, uncapped tubes of toothpaste, and lights on in empty rooms as deliberate personal attacks and blazing klaxons declaring enmity is the moment they begin turning off their capacity for happiness in a marriage. These little things—so essential as the flesh and blood of charitable love in a healthy marriage—become useless to someone who is so shackled by her own entitlement. Every dish in the sink is business as usual while ever dish on the counter is dramatized as a punch to the face.

When one has such a mindset, there’s only one way such a situation can be perceived—too much harm and nothing else. A wife who turns charitable love into a demand and is looking for grievances to justify her entitlement will never have a hard time finding them. This dynamic of fallen human nature is precisely why the Apostle Paul tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs. Honoré de Balzac was likewise quite right to observe, “When women love, they forgive us everything, even our crimes; when they do not love us, they give us credit for nothing, not even for our virtues.”

And so that brings us back to the ultimate point of the blog post, and the reason it received so much praise in the comments from wives who had finally found something with which to put their husbands in their places. The author’s point is that frivolous reasons for divorce aren’t really so frivolous in the minds of women. However, the context of divorce is always the context of conflict and entitlement—divorce is the ultimate expression of “my way or the highway.”

Such a nuclear option may be tolerable in cases of adultery and literal abandonment (which is not the same as feeling abandoned.) Nevertheless, when it comes to leaving dishes by the sink, burnt toast, and so forth, it is the marital equivalent of fatally shooting a dog-walker who doesn’t clean up after his pet—it doesn’t really matter how mad that sort of thing happens to make you. And if the last thing to go through the vandal’s mind other than the bullet is the thought that “Gosh, I really should clean up after my dog,” well… that’s true, but it’s also no longer the biggest problem with the situation. However it might appear to those who have dramatized the little things in their minds by weaponizing charitable love into an entitlement, in reality, divorce over such things is horrendously frivolous. False and twisted charitable love absolves no one.

The author’s ex-wife did not divorce him because he failed to put his glasses in the sink (although he should have put them away.) She divorced him because she’s so selfish that she would rather cluster-bomb her family than let go of her overgrown sense of entitlement. The perpetrator of a divorce is never practicing charitable love. The victim of a divorce might not be either, but for the perpetrator, it is a certainty.

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Feminism | 4 Comments