Sex and the Religion of Me

Orthospherean James Kalb has written an essay for the latest issue of First Things. Sex and the Religion of Me: A challenge to the project of sexual liberation is about – well, you can pretty much tell what it is about.

The full article is behind a pay wall. Jim’s writing is good enough to warrant a subscription in its own right, of course, but it would be understandable if orthosphereans were to pause before committing their dough. At its beginnings, First Things was a revolutionary pioneer of intelligent, erudite Mere Christian traditionalism, both muscular and optimistic. But gradually it became an institution, and more mainstream. Partly this was due to the fact that its own success in making traditionalism respectable was a major factor of the recent increase in our numbers, many of whom are naturally more radical than the coterie of first class writers and thinkers at First Things. For many of the traditionalists First Things helped to incubate, it was not traditional enough, and too ready to accomodate itself to the terms of the discourse under the prevailing political weltanschauung.

In recent months, however, a number of exogenous factors seem to be radicalizing the whole traditionalist right, and First Things is no exception. The recent reversals on gay “marriage,” the apparent nod to libertinism of Pope Francis, last month’s fractious Synod, and the accelerating progress down the slippery slope to utter insanity of every aspect of our culture seem to have made pragmatic engagement with the political establishment impossible for serious Christians. More and more, it seems, the only options open to us are recusal, protest or civil disobedience. As the issues grow ever starker, the fissures ever deeper and steeper, the middle ground disappears. So, the writers at First Things find themselves more and more isolate from and inimical to the American political culture the journal had hoped to influence. Bruised and saddened, they seem to be moving rightward – or no, wait: upward, rather, and ever more perpendicular to the spectra by which kingdoms of this world calibrate each other.

That might make their conversations more interesting to orthosphereans and our ilk.

As a bonus, there is in every issue, and always at the First Things website, a plethora of insightful theology. David Bentley Hart and Peter Leithart are particularly worthy and voluminous contributors under that heading.

Monarchy and the common good

Father Edmund Waldstein has posted some excellent writings explaining the pre-modern (classical and Christian) view of politcs and defending it from its ill-informed liberal detractors.  I particularly recommend them to Orthosphere readers, even though I know by now you’ve all heard plenty of arguments against modern autonomy-worship, because Waldstein bases himself on an understanding of the common good that, although a part of our philosophical patrimony, has been all but forgotten.  To sum it up

the human good is a participation in a higher, divine good. Thus our good exists not principally in our selves, but principally in the divine realm, and secondarily in ourselves. The divine good is more our own good than the good which exists in our own souls.

the community of men reflects God more than an individual man just as the universe reflects Him more perfectly than any one creature. Recall what I said about participation a moment ago: my own good exists more in the divine than in my individual existence; a corollary can now be seen: the common good, the order of the community, is more my good than any private good of mine. The common good of order or peace is common in fullest sense of the word: all the members of the community share it without it being divided or lessened by this sharing. Thus the common good is not merely a useful good; it is not merely the conditions that enable individuals to get what they want, it is the best good that individuals can have, it is that in which they find their happiness.

By the way, Waldstein is guided on this subject by the work of early twentieth-century Thomist philosopher Charles De Koninck, whose writings are one of those many Catholic intellectual resources that seem to have been thrown out and forgotten during the post-Vatican II deluge.

Gulenism, Opus Dei, and the Mormons

Suppose you were a wise, religious man living a century or two ago.  You see that modernity is here and that it will not be stopped.   You see the walls of civilization bowing, cracking, groaning before it.  You see pitiless, red eyes searching out enemies.  You see its thirst for fire and steel.  You see purity surrendering to its overripe sensuality.  What do you do?

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Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Variations on a Theme.

My current brace of columns  includes one at Crisis Magazine about the trend away from concrete loyalties and objective principles toward radical subjectivity and a combination of money and bureaucracy as the basis for what’s still called public life. The other one, at Catholic World Report, makes the obvious point that the result is unlivable and we should all go out and refound Christendom.

Hammer-and-nails Christians

Be ye followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk so as you have our model. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.

– Philippians 3:17-19

Surely you’ve heard the news of a few legislative attempts to prevent entrepreneurs from being legally harrased into material complicity with evil by servicing gay “weddings” — gay “weddings” which, mind you, are not even legally recognized in many of those states (yet).

That’s not especially alarming, or new, anyway; the free and equal new man cannot tolerate any restrictions on his liberty, even those imposed by the mere existence of the reactionary untermenschen who periodically crawl out of the sewer to contradict him. What alarms me is the extent to which Christians have thrown in with this particular anti-Crusade. In the last three days I have personally dealt with the libels of no less than three Christians, at least one of them an ostensibly “good” Catholic, daring to claim that a Christian baker refusing on principle to bake a cake for a gay “wedding” is morally deficient and contrary to Christian love; and my girlfriend (at least as fierce as me, but nowhere near as accustomed to leftist vitriol) has had to deal with several more, to her great distress. (Get it? You can’t “judge” — i.e., not be 100% on board with — sodomites for what they publicly and repeatedly say and do, but you can surely read and know the hearts of far-away small-business bakery owners on the basis of third-hand reports of their conversations.)

Let us be clear; if your position is that the “love” which we mean when we say “God is love” or “God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son” obliges you to sell needles to heroin addicts or to let children eat sugary cereal for every meal, then you are setting yourself against the plain letter of Scripture, the unanimous witness of Christian history, and the dictates of basic human reason. If your position requires you to view faithful Christians as crucifying Pharisees and aggressive, unrepentant sodomites as the hapless sinners who dined with Christ, then you have got absolutely everything backwards. If your position is that the Constitutional-rendering-of-the-moment has higher Magisterial status than the unbroken opinion of all saintly Christians for all of time everywhere, then maybe you should replace that little metal cross hanging around your neck with a stylized hammer and nails.

Elsewhere

I have more comments on subsidiarity at Catholic World Report. Basically, I say that the concept is incomprehensible in a liberal technocracy, and to promote it we have to insist in principle on the autonomy of the family and the Church, and act in ways that make its value evident. I also have something about the sad state of internet discussion up at Crisis Magazine. The conclusion: preach the word in season and out of season even if people are morons. You never know who might be reading.

Democracy, authority, and the moral order

Much of this post will be old news for reactionaries, but it bears occasional reiteration. The tl;dr is as follows: It is a matter of divine revelation, and therefore binding on Christians to believe, that the rule of law was ordained by God and thus that political authority derives from his institution of the state as the minister of divine justice. This doesn’t rule out, for instance, belief that democracy or anything else is the best (because most prudent) arrangement for the governance of society; but it certainly rules out the belief that democracy-or-anything-else is a moral imperative and that the legitimacy of the state is altogether dependent on one such choice to the exclusion of all others. Continue reading

Sex Matters

The modern instinct is to treat sex as a private matter that is of no real consequence to the body politic, and thus no legitimate concern of the sovereign, or of the public. Against this conservatives argue that sex has all sorts of important consequences for the health and welfare of the body politic, whether demographic, epidemiological, economic, pedagogical, or cultural, so that sexual morality matters to the polis a very great deal, and is therefore a fit concern both of the sovereign and the people.

These sorts of pragmatic objections to liberal social and sexual mores do tell, of course, and heavily. But they don’t begin to get at the immense importance of sex in the long run – the really, really long run, under which the whole history of the universe is like an evening gone.

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World without Men: A Novel of Totalitarian Lesbiocracy

When I teach my course on science fiction at SUNY Oswego, I concentrate on classic texts of the highest literary merit – those by Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, and Ray Bradbury.  When I pursue my lifelong hobby I am less selective.  When I discover an unknown paperback title in a second hand bookshop, I frankly judge the item by its cover while where content is concerned I hope for the best.  Most of the mouldering paperbacks fall short of memorability.  Occasionally, however, a jewel appears among the rubble, a short story or novel more or less forgotten that, for one reason or another, merits contemporary re-visitation.  One such, which I encountered again three or four years ago after a lapse of decades, is Charles Eric Maine’s World Without Men (1958), a novel about the long-term implications of birth control, abortion, and the so-called sexual revolution that treats these matters in a bold and prescient way.

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