What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

The evolution of liberalism (and “conservatism”)

Lydia calls attention below to this satire of theological liberalism’s approach to sexual morality. But today’s over-the-top satire is tomorrow’s Righteous Liberal Cause, and as readers of chapter 5 of The Last Superstition know, this is more or less inevitable given the metaphysical revolution that gave rise to liberalism. There is in principle no absurdity or abomination that the liberal cannot convince himself is really good and rational. The only limit is the current, temporary position of the cultural ratchet. This seems like a good time to reprint the following March 2007 post from the old Right Reason blog. (Go here for the original, complete with the combox discussion it generated.) Liberalism repeats itself, the first time as farce, the second time as tragedy. And as you marvel at the craziness engulfing the world around you, remember, kids: The horror is just beginning.

Steve Burton (citing David Frum) describes some chilling developments in the UK vis-à-vis the growing conflict between antidiscrimination laws and religious freedom. Chilling, but not at all surprising. The developments in question illustrate a pattern that is characteristic of liberalism as it slowly works out the implications of its underlying assumptions.

To the charge that liberals are (or, given their principles, should be) in favor of X [where X = legalizing abortion, liberalizing obscenity laws, banning smoking on private property, legalizing “same-sex marriage,” outlawing the public advocacy of traditional sexual morality, etc. etc.], the standard liberal response goes through about five stages (with, it seems, roughly 5-10 years passing between each stage, though sometimes the transition is much quicker than that). Here they are:

Stage 1: “Oh please. Only a far-right-wing nutjob would make such a paranoid and ridiculous accusation - I suppose next you’ll accuse us of wanting to poison your precious bodily fluids!”

Stage 2: “Well, I wouldn’t go as far as X. All the same, it’s good to be open-minded about these things. I mean, people used to think ending slavery was a crazy idea too…”

Stage 3: “Hey, the Europeans have had X for years and the sky hasn’t fallen. But no, I admit that this backward country probably isn’t ready for X yet.”

Stage 4: “Of course I’m in favor of X - it’s in the Constitution! Only a far-right-wing nutjob could possibly oppose it.”

Stage 5: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…”

With respect to the severe threat to religious liberty described by Frum, we’re probably already at stage 2 here in the US. But given how quickly “same-sex marriage” has jumped from stage 1 to stage 4, I wouldn’t be surprised if mainstream American liberals start calling in five or ten years for restrictions on the rights of religious organizations to “discriminate” in hiring practices or publicly to teach doctrines that might be offensive to “sexual minorities.” (The theoretical groundwork is already there. See my review of Amy Gutmann’s book Identity in Democracy.) Or at least, this will be the inevitable next step if “same-sex marriage” makes serious headway in the US.

Fortunately, though, we can rely on conservatives to hold the line, and indeed to turn back liberal advances. Right?

Well, no, of course not. (You can stop rolling your eyes, I was being facetious.) For conservatives - or maybe I should say “conservatives” (since there’s very little that they ever actually manage to conserve, unless money is somehow involved) - seem to go through five stages of their own. Here they are:

Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”

Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”

Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”

Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”

Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…”

Nope, they don’t call ‘em the Evil Party and the Stupid Party for nothing.

(cross-posted)

Comments (79)

Surely, the liberal slide still has a ways to go before it bottoms.

This was _such_ a great post, Ed. I'm so glad you re-posted it.

From the perspective of this last summer's ordinance fight here in my own town, I would say that a simple majority (perhaps not a heavy majority) of conservatives, including many Christians, are at stage 5 on the "conservative" side w.r.t. "discrimination" by _non-religious_ employers and property owners against openly homosexual people and couples. I found that among my fellow workers in the campaign, the most "hard-core" would say in private that they believed that a Christian or conservative owning rental property should be allowed to "discriminate" against an openly homosexual couple who wished to rent their property, but only once did I hear this expressed in public, and most even of the people on "our side" felt it was something we should not say out loud. Many disagreed with it outright. A lot of people I talked to who were in some measure against the ordinance believed that all open homosexuals have a right to a job with any employer other than a religious _organization_ and considered only that the transvestite aspects of the ordinance were objectionable and "going too far."

We saw, of course, how under the Bush administration the mother of a homosexual partner was referred to by an administration offical as "your mother-in-law."

Surely, the liberal slide still has a ways to go before it bottoms.

TomH, I think you are right, there is quite a ways to go still. Unfortunately, there is also every reason to expect the current slide to get there eventually, and sooner rather than later, without a massive, unpredictable, and shocking miracle to change things.

I fear for my children, who are likely (during their child rearing years) to have to go to jail for doing what is right. 5 years ago I said as much to some people, and I was laughed at as a doomsayer. Fewer are laughing now.

Lydia, I also see what you are seeing. Few now openly speaking in terms of disgust and revulsion for homosexuality in the way it deserves. Even those who are adamantly opposed to it in toto have gotten used to watching how and when they speak against it, and limiting themselves. This self-censorship has its own effect, highly beneficial for gay support, but there is no way to undo it.

One problem is that I think we conservatives assume that there is a "bottom." I'm no longer sure that is true. At the risk of sounding Manicheean, I have developed a hearty respect for the sheer creativity of evil over the past few years. They always come up with something you didn't expect and would not have thought of.

Tony, I have even more self-censorship stories. During the campaign, we were advised by an outside group (and one that is known for its _adamant_ opposition to the gay political agenda) never to use the word "homosexuals" in our ads or printed materials. We were told we should always use the word "homosexual conduct." Now, this is ridiculous, because in practice it will gain you no friends. But we tried to do that. Still, it wasn't enough for the Nervous Nellies. In the newspaper a reporter interviewed someone working on our campaign who merely said, "I don't support the gay lifestyle." On the telephone a couple of days later I was told that several people in the campaign leadership were unhappy about this interview, because they thought it "made us look like a bunch of homophobes." The attempt to avoid even the term "homosexuals" even resulted in our giving out incorrect information. I caught it both times, when one of our leaders wrote that the ordinance created no new rights for anyone but transsexuals and that all other groups named were "already protected" by existing anti-discrimination law, which was not true. There was previously no anti-discrimination law for homosexuals. But she didn't want to use the word. I had to pressure her to go back and correct the information, which she did in the first instance but only using circuitous language. The second time she refused to correct it. Very frustrating.

Few now openly speaking in terms of disgust and revulsion for homosexuality in the way it deserves. Even those who are adamantly opposed to it in toto have gotten used to watching how and when they speak against it, and limiting themselves. This self-censorship has its own effect, highly beneficial for gay support, but there is no way to undo it.

This is a problem whenever someone forthrightly defends a conservative, traditional value. Try defending an conservative, Christian understanding of marriage to a normal group of conservatives. Most of them will be shocked and appalled that you:

1) Believe that divorce without genuine grounds is sinful.
2) Believe that remarriage without justifiable grounds (ie, you were a good spouse and were abandoned or your spouse died) is adultery.
3) Believe in an Ephesians 5 marriage which is a benevolent but "male-dominated" household.

In fact, conservatives tend to have a lot more in common with the left that they ever dare to admit. Most of them are really just moderated liberals with some traditional values who hate the hippies.

Ed,

Great post. I also think that somewhere in between Stage 2 and Stage 3 (call it Stage 2 1/2) is a conscious attempt by liberals to come up with a rationale or story for why X is O.K. For example, when I told a liberal close to me that my views on homosexuals had changed and I thought it was wrong for society to protect homosexuals in some sort of special way or recognize their conduct as moral, I was accused of being just like the Nazis. It doesn't matter that I wasn't advocating a policy of rounding up gay people and putting them in camps -- it was my attitudes towards homosexuals that was dangerous and reminded this liberal of the Nazis (which then leads the liberal to say to themselves if I don't want to be a Nazi I need to be in favor of gay marriage, etc.)

I also think, speaking both to Tony and Lydia, that the most effective way to go after liberal assumptions is not with "disgust and revulsion" but with firm declaration of moral principal backed up with compassion for sinners. I saw Chuck Colson on Huckabee's show not to long ago talking about the Manahattan Declaration and there was something refreshing in his willingness to simply declare homosexuality sinful but quickly remind the audience and the viewers that all of us are sinners in one form or another and we are all called to be moral and make laws that respect morality (Colson used the example of a cheating spouse and said both the cheating spouse and someone acting on their homosexual desires need to change their behavior and ask for God's forgiveness for their sins). So while I agree with Lydia that we have to stop being afraid to stand up to liberal assumptions and use clear moral language, we should act in a spirit of compassion and marshal our best moral teachers to help us defeat bad liberal laws. Let's not forget that in most places around the country when put to a vote gay marriage has failed.

"outlawing the public advocacy of traditional sexual morality"

"I fear for my children, who are likely (during their child rearing years) to have to go to jail for doing what is right."

Easy to write Ed and Tony, but given that we have the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the UK doesn't have a written constitution how are you not comparing apples with oranges and, given the past decisions by the Supremes, how do these changes actually happen? Are there even any law review articles challenging cases like Meyer, Pierce, and Stromberg?


The lemming-like nature of contemporary American conservatism never ceases to amaze. One person pulls a sky-is-falling projection out of thin air and everyone else falls in line.

Al, it starts with "hate crimes" legislation in which extremely minor torts are prosecuted much more harshly if they have any association with a mascot group. For example, in New York State a koran was thrown in a toilet and this was going to be prosecuted as a state hate crime, which put the perpetrator in danger of prison (or a very heavy fine, I forget which). If he had taken someone's copy of The Brothers Karamazov and thrown it in the toilet, no such thing would obtain. This approach obviously has all sorts of speech-related issues. Even the smallest underlying crime (minor civil trespass, for example) will have huge implications if you happen to utter words against the mascot group while committing the minor offense.

More: In New Mexico right now a judge has ruled that a photographer was _obligated_ under non-discrimination laws to photograph a *purely informal* lesbian commitment ceremony (New Mexico does not even recognize the union in any special legal way) under her (the photographer's) wedding photography rubric on pain of fine for discrimination. The photographer has argued that this violates her First Amendment rights by forcing her to produce her artistic product to affirm values she opposes. And believe me: Forcing people to produce speech _is_ supposed to be a First Amendment issue, as well as forbidding speech.

I wouldn't be surprised if you support the judge's position. If so, that only tells us how valuable your opinion is on how much protection we in America will and should receive from the First Amendment when it clashes with liberal values. If you do not support the judge's position, you should at least take this as a cloud no larger than a man's hand on the horizon concerning the future of First Amendment jurisprudence in America and its protections for conservatives. The ruling also shows that we don't need to wait for "homosexual marriage" to see a forced recognition of homosexual unions, even legally informal ones, as the equivalent of marriage in private business relationships. The non-discrimination laws do the trick all by themselves.

Mike T, I agree with you concerning divorce. I think part of the issue is that most Christians think that even if you have _wrongly_ divorced your spouse and remarried, the new marriage is still, at that point, morally valid and wholly binding, and that you can just go on from there after some sort of "repentance" for ditching the earlier spouse, which is regarded as an entirely past action. The present sexual relationship with the civil spouse for whom you wrongly ditched your first spouse is never even on the radar as a possible problem. I have had this position expressed to me expressly by a dear friend, one with whom I otherwise have much in common. He joined me in strongly disapproving of a mutual friend who left his wife and children for a younger woman, whom he "married," but said to me, "I think the biblical position is that you have to stick with your most recent marriage"--words to that effect.

Oh, I forgot to add: The "hostile work environment" aspect of non-discrimination law will effectively suppress free speech about protected classes, including "sexual minorities," in all workplace situations. It is already doing so, and no First Amendment challenge has been mounted, due to the indirect way it works: Employer X is required to make sure the workplace is not a "hostile environment" towards its homosexual employees. If Employee Y says in the lounge at lunch that he believes homosxuality is objectively disordered, even if he says this after being pressed and baited by homosexual employees (and, yes, this kind of thing has happened), he will be immediately fired. If he is not fired, homosexual Employee Z can simply bring suit/complaint with the local human rights board or whatever government entity handles such complaints at the local or state level for a hostile work environment on the grounds that the employer didn't discipline Employee Y for his speech. Thus the claim can be that the _government_ is not supressing the speech, but of course the government's laws require the employer to suppress the speech, though this is not spelled out and hence cannot be cited in a First Amendment suit by Employee Y.

By the way, "hate crimes" laws will also be able to be used in claims of "incitement" against free speech that is deemed to encourage or incite hate crimes. We're still waiting to see how that plays out, but it's significant that Congress refused to rule out this possibility recently with a clear First Amendment statement in hate crimes legislation.

I think it's easy to predict liberalism's development in some cases and hard in others. For instance: obviously, polygamous marriages are going to be legalized in the not-so-distant future. There are groups that would benefit a lot (Muslims, deviant Mormons) and the cost would be low to each particular individual (though possibly great to society-at-large), and moreover, the people who don't benefit from it who advocate it could feel good about themselves for their high-mindedness.

Harder to feel confident about, but still likely I think, is the criminalization of eating meat. This would happen only if we could grow meat cheaply in labs, but we're on our way to doing that. Once we do that, then rights-based arguments for vegetarianism will all of a sudden appear more plausible; after all, why not accept it when you don't have to give up eating meat? (I know some vegetarians who tell me that they would happily eat meat grown from a lab.)

I also think a lot more environmental regulations will continue to take effect, but only ones that aren't onerous for individual consumers. Thus, we won't see cars outlawed, but when electric cars are just as cheap, neat-o, and plentiful as gas-powered cars, we might see gas-powered cars outlawed. Again, you can feel good about yourself and there's no cost.

And yet, I think al is right that conservatives are too quick to think the sky is falling. I don't know why they think that--if I had to speculate, I would think it's because they have suffered defeat after defeat after defeat, at least on the social issues, and so now simply expect to lose. But consider the legalization of drugs. Here, you would think, is a prime example of something that should have been totally legalized a long time ago: you can argue that drug-crimes are victimless crimes, that we're wasting lots of resources on the drug war, that if you don't like drugs, don't use drugs (which bumper stickers you see for abortion and, I would bet, gay marriage), etc. And yet, not only is heroin and crack not legal, marijuana isn't legal (though I expect it to eventually get legalized). Moreover, we've had lots of push-back against cigarette smoking; it wouldn't shock me if it were criminalized. So what's going on here?

In the case of drugs, I think it's much easier for people to draw a connection between legalizing drug-use and devastating effects on communities. It's much harder for people to draw any similar connection between gay marriage and bigamy or abortion or euthanasia and such effects. Perhaps something similar explains why it's difficult to legalize prostitution in all fifty states.

Long story short, life is complicated and hard to predict. I just hope that my cats don't get criminalized. In fairness, they are very naughty.

One of my complaints with conservatives is like Ed's--they have only a brake, so they only slow the slide. I am a traditionalist rather than a conservative. Traditionalism has an engine as well as a brake, so it's possible to go uphill out of the ditch by using the traditionalist engine.

Another complaint I have with conservatives is that they operate on the assumption that the U.S. is a representative republic. However, much of our chimerical government consists of unelected bureaucrats who pass fiat laws. Therefore, the conservative strategy aimed purely at winning elections is doomed to fail--a strategy must be formed to deal with the bureaucracy as well as winning elections.

I remember Thomas Jefferson's quote: "Where the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Where the government fears the people, there is liberty." Any successful strategy _must_ encompass Jefferson's idea here. I propose a march on Washington under the slogan, "Next time with guns."

"I think the biblical position is that you have to stick with your most recent marriage"

Wow, which Bible was that, I wonder? Not any Bible I have ever read. Just curious: did you ask him which passage said that?

Maybe, (even probably), conservatives would be able to make more headway against the liberal clap-trap on a whole host of issues (including abortion, pornography, and homosexuality) if we did in fact have our own house in order on divorce and remarriage. I just don't see a likely mechanism for achieving that degree of right ordering in our own ranks to a sufficient level to matter, without my aforesaid miracle.

Doesn't mean that I won't, and don't, strive for it. I do, plenty, every chance I can, but I don't fancy that such efforts are having any noticeable effect.

Al, real conservatives for years have been connecting the dots between tiny little advances in the downward slope and long-range slippery slides into the suburbs of hell. More than just a few of those connections have already come to pass here in this country. The fact that we can see the slide is even further along toward #10 Satan's Way in certain other English speaking countries is hardly likely to make us complacent in the US ability to withstand the coming storm. Did you know that Canada has a written Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with supposed freedom of speech built in? Did you know that Canadian judges have been overriding it quite regularly in favor of politically correct enforcement for gays? Sure, the specific mechanisms by which the gay movement would be likely to succeed in imposing forced acceptance of their lifestyle is different here than there. But the writing is on the wall for us to see and fight against. Complacency in our "Constitution" is pretty pointless when we have at least 4 Supremes and an Obama administration quite openly interpreting the Constitution to mean whatever they feel it ought to mean.

"Al, it starts with "hate crimes" legislation in which extremely minor torts are prosecuted much more harshly if they have any association with a mascot group."

No, it doesn't. While torts can have a criminal element, it seems you are using the term to unfairly minimize the issue. Hate crimes are enhancements to acts that are already criminal. Over-charging is a real problem not only confined to hate crimes. I am sure liberals and libertarians will be happy to see conservatives join in these concerns.

In the case you mentioned, the outcome was a misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct and he received community service. He was released without bail. Are you prepared to argue that vandalism and other minor criminal acts become protected speech under certain circumstances? As political and religious speech receives the highest level of protection in this country your comparison is totally off point.

As for New Mexico. I generally consider public accomodation laws to be good public policy however the NM law is (IMHO) overly broad as it includes non-essential personal services from what I take to be a sole proprietorship (the photographer strikes me as somewhat of a jerk, but no law against being a jerk). Even though I consider the law poorly written, I don't see it rising to Firts Amendment concerns. For the record, campus speech codes are generally wrong.

One is free to be a racist and say all sorts of things. One is free to be a Communist and say all sorts of things. One isn't free to act out on those opinions in every conceivable manner and in certain extreme cases even speech may cross the line. That has been the law for quite a while. It is your burden to explain how what hasn't happened in the matters of race and politics will come about because of sexual orientation. Perhaps social conservatives are just overly sensitive on these issues.


"Al, real conservatives for years have been connecting the dots between tiny little advances in the downward slope and long-range slippery slides into the suburbs of hell"

Tony, this is not a healthy way to view the world. If we are going downhill, was that from a plateau or a reversal in course? When was this Golden Age?

"Complacency in our "Constitution" is pretty pointless when we have at least 4 Supremes and an Obama administration quite openly interpreting the Constitution to mean whatever they feel it ought to mean."

As there is no such thing as an undisputed original interpretation of the Constitution, you probably mean "at least nine Supremes", and it is probably impossible to lead the Harvard Law Review and teach Constitutional Law at a tier one school without having at least a few well based opinions on the subject.

I don't know about Canada but the body of law is so strong here that you really need to go beyond mere assertion and tenuous connections to have the level of confidence that you all seem to have.

It's a curious premise that conservatives are somehow more moral than liberals. If I want to find morality, I'd have a better chance of seeking among moral people. Conservatives of all sorts have shown time and time again they are perfectly capable of grave moral sins, of committing them personally, and also advocating them as part of the culture, government, or as part of an ideological system.

Even though I consider the law poorly written, I don't see it rising to Firts Amendment concerns.

See. So much for the First Amendment as a bastion against liberal tyranny and forced, _positive_, _active_ approval and advocacy of the gay lifestyle.

The truth is, Al, that I have made it pretty clear, using multiple points, that we conservatives are not just behaving like lemmings in expressing our concerns in this area but have specific, concrete, plausible things in mind, many of them already taking place. Not that this will force you to withdraw your accusation.

Bobcat, when it comes to the homosexual agenda and its advance, from a conservative perspective, the sky has already fallen in some places and is sagging badly and raining down debris in others. I could give example after example after example here. If you don't think the sky is falling in that area, I assume that's because you don't share the priorities of us conservatives. Which is one thing. But it's a different thing from conservative alarmism about something _they_ think horrible that isn't happening and isn't going to happen.

Todd -- could you kindly point to the passages in this post and comment-thread which gives evidence to your "curious premise" claim? Ed's post assails liberals and conservatives alike.

Al -- thank you for allowing that the New Mexico ruling was "overly broad." How very generous. There was also a church in Massachusetts that was ordered to allow the use of its facilities by a homosexual couple for their union. Perhaps when, after some shocking and stupendous revolution, the law allows us to compel you to labor in our service, writing posts at What's Wrong with the World in defense of Christendom and Conservatism, or allows us to make use of your property to store our servers -- perhaps then you will see why the principle of compulsion at issue there was more than a minor hiccup.

you really need to go beyond mere assertion and tenuous connections

We have.

This might be a good time to mention this November post of mine:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/11/speak_now_or_forever_hold_your.html

Peter Vadala was fired by employers claiming to be punishing him for "harassment"--in other words, claiming to be enforcing rules against "harassment" on the basis of sexual orientation, which are, as anyone knows who knows anything about it, directly related to laws against "discrimination" on that basis. In actual fact, it was Vadala who was subjected to harassment by a lesbian manager who goaded him _all day_ until he eventually came out and expressed opposition to her homosexual "marriage," at which point she laughed in his face and went and got him fired.

Oh, and let's not forget the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia and Catholic Charities in Boston. And on, and on, and on, and on.

Lydia,

I think that statement could apply to a couple brought together through unacceptable remarriage if they come into it unsaved. I doubt the Lord would want such a couple to celebrate their becoming "new creations" by "burning in lust" through forced celibacy or by separating. For a Christian, however, the response should be tough luck if they find themselves in that situation and their old spouse won't take them back. God's grace does not in any way guarantee cover for us with regard to the consequences of our sin in this life.

I would go so far as to say that gay marriage simply could not do to marriage what family law courts, anti-male bias and no fault divorces (women initiate nearly 75% of all divorces!) have done to marriage.

I think when it comes to sexual morality in general, the sky has not fallen, although it is sagging precipitously. Hard-core pornography is not yet shown on free TV, though with its prominence on the Internet, it's close enough. Moreover, it is assumed that most men and a large number of women, at least if you listen to mainstream television shows on network TV, indulge in pornography regularly. Also, there is considered nothing morally illicit about masturbation, premarital sex, or birth control sex, while on the other hand, it is considered at least weird or worse repressed not to masturbate, have premarital sex, or use NFP. Not having children is considered perfectly fine, while having lots of children is considered morally wrong (witness the Duggar family or Natalie Sulamon (or whatever her name is; I'm talking about Octomom)). Still, there is lots more room to go: it could happen in the future that parents insist on their children having sex while in high school, or that orgiastic sex is considered normal (witness Britney Spears's latest song, "3", a paean to group sex).

When it comes to gay rights in particular, I think the sky has fallen, but can sink further. It is no longer acceptable--in the sense that it is considered morally tolerable--to hold that there is anything defective about being homosexual, or that there is anything more morally illicit about having gay sex than about having straight sex. Moreover, in some quarters (I'm not talking about homosexuals here), I think people think there is something better about same-sex relationships than about different-sex relationships (this, however, is a blip, I think; should the morality of same-sex relationships become entirely uncontested, then people will no longer feel proud of themselves for having a higher opinion of homosexual than of heterosexual relationships). The next step, and I think a likely one, is for conservative groups and religions that condemn homosexuality to be considered hate groups (one stumbling block for this movement, though, is the fact that Islam condemns homosexuality, and it's hard for me to imagine liberals condemning Islam as a hate religion).

I should say, I almost certainly have different opinions about homosexuality than the majority of the posters on this site. I think homosexuality is defective in the same way that deafness is, but I don't think of it as vile, or as crying out for condemnation from heaven (though I, as a Catholic, am supposed to; perhaps this is my defect).

Paul, that the post's title bothers to label them by name is proof enough. It should be enough to say that "immoral people evolve to greater immorality" and be done with it. Ideology has no direct connection to morality. Except, perhaps, when it descends to extremism.

Still, there is lots more room to go:

I don't think this is really relevant as to whether conservatives are overly inclined to say the sky is falling. How does the fact that there are more and more horrible things that could be approved of, that people could be forced by law to approve of, or that people could be pressured into even bear on the issue? If we murdered five-year-olds regularly and legally, would it be relevant to the cries that the sky has fallen to say that we don't eat them?

You said,

And yet, I think al is right that conservatives are too quick to think the sky is falling.

But then you agreed that, at least from a conservative perspective, the sky has fallen in terms of the success of the homosexual agenda. And by your own account it's "sagging" in the area of sexual morality (and you even included reference to a song about three-person sex in your examples). So I guess we aren't jumping the gun on those, right?

Lydia,

Yes, I don't think conservatives are jumping the gun on homosexuality and sexual morality in general.

As to your point about the relevance about how bad things can get, you're right that the fact that things can get worse isn't obviously relevant. Maybe it's not relevant at all. That said, I do think there are points of no return on things. I don't think sexual morality is past the point of no return, though I do think traditional positions on homosexuality are past the point of no return. So, I think I was subconsciously equating "the sky has fallen" with "past the point of no return".

BTW, "past the point of no return" I take to mean "I can't imagine a plausible scenario by which the traditional position, or something closer to it than what we have now, could return."

Incidentally, although Spears's song is called "3", she indicates that she thinks group sex involving more than three people is better.

Incidentally, I don't think the sky has fallen, even from a traditional perspective, w/r/t abortion, euthanasia, race relations, and other such things. Obviously, the incidence of abortion is horrible, but I think I see signs among my peers that abortion is not an unmitigated good, and should perhaps be rolled back. With race relations, I think that push-back, from blacks as well as whites, is starting to appear about the manner in which we talk about things.

Oh, finally, I should say that I think Ed's post is a really excellent post, and a model of how to write a blog post.

Bobcat,

While poking around the Catholic Encyclopedia looking up natural law I found this, which if true suggests that polygamy should not be absolutely intolerable:

As regards the vigour and binding force of these precepts and conclusions, theologians divide them into two classes, primary and secondary. To the first class belong those which must, under all circumstances, be observed if the essential moral order is to be maintained. The secondary precepts are those whose observance contributes to the public and private good and is required for the perfection of moral development, but is not so absolutely necessary to the rationality of conduct that it may not be lawfully omitted under some special conditions. For example, under no circumstances is polyandry compatible with the moral order, while polygamy, though inconsistent with human relations in their proper moral and social development, is not absolutely incompatible with them under less civilized conditions.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09076a.htm

Obviously, the incidence of abortion is horrible, but I think I see signs among my peers that abortion is not an unmitigated good, and should perhaps be rolled back. With race relations, I think that push-back, from blacks as well as whites, is starting to appear about the manner in which we talk about things.

Bobcat, I have noted these changes also, and taken some slight hope in them. Unfortunately, I suspect that that what is happening on these fronts is actually only a temporary blip, and that without a change on MOST areas of culture conflict, or at least a change on MANY such areas and a virtual standstill on many others, such blips will only be identifiable as local lulls before the hurricane hits.

While a culture has a thousand facets to it and never do all of the facets move in lockstep order with all the others, still normally there is a predominant congruence with most facets. Today that predominance is in the direction of an anti-morality controlled by liberal standards. Furthermore, that predominance tends to have a self-protective effect: where some one or two items of cultural aspect start to fall out of conformity with the norm, the other parts of the culture push in creating a social force toward cohesion.
Thus changing only one isolated point of immorality when the entire culture is bent on ever more immorality is unlikely to be lasting. While I agree wholeheartedly with efforts to overturn abortion, and to stop pornography, and to reverse gay marriage, I doubt that a success in any one of these efforts would mean a lasting victory unless many other areas also saw some successes.

On these points, it is time to defer to the wisdom of Leonard Cohen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FzM_XrgtPo


The lyrics follow. This is powerful stuff:

"The Future"

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin'

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

When they said REPENT REPENT ...


Todd --

It should be enough to say that "immoral people evolve to greater immorality" and be done with it.

That is far from enough. That is actually closer to the beginning of a discussion; not the end of it.

It is perfectly legitimate business to examine a system of ideas or precepts or tendencies and adjudge them according to a standard of moral behavior. It is perfectly legitimate to observe and test whether a philosophy inclines toward certain vices and corruptions. For instance, a man might say that Capitalism tends toward plutocratic, and Socialism toward tyrannical corruptions and vices. The man would hardly feel that is proposition has been refuted if someone pipes in with "no, both Capitalists and Socialists can be vicious, and that is that."


Ideology has no direct connection to morality.

"Direct?" If we dealt only in directly provable causative relationships, we would have very little knowledge in the world of politics and ideas. Alas, it is not given to men to have direct knowledge of the connections in the world. Proof of "direct connection" is a rare thing indeed. Mostly, we are left to work by inference and implication and even intuition. Such is our lot.

Now, the working theory of this website, based observation, study, analysis, is that Liberalism tends very strongly toward certain vices; that, furthermore, at this late date it is pretty well apparent what some of these vices are; and, finally, that when men reason rightly they will discover for themselves folly of Liberalism and repudiate it.

So, when you show up in this thread to declare: "It's a curious premise that conservatives are somehow more moral than liberals" -- you err out of ignorance. The premise of What's Wrong with the World is that Liberalism as a framework of ideas and dispositions is gravely flawed, tending toward vice and ruin. There is no premise concerning liberals as individuals men and women.

"Al -- thank you for allowing that the New Mexico ruling was "overly broad."

No, I believe I said the law was overly broad. There is a difference.

"There was also a church in Massachusetts that was ordered to allow the use of its facilities by a homosexual couple for their union."

Source please. I vaguely recall a case in another state that was a bit more complex. Perhaps you are confusing that case with Catholic Charities in Mass. Update, just remembered. Are you referring to the Orange Grove, New Jersey case? As I recall that one hung on a public accommodation/ free exercise burden call that was fact and precedent dependent.

"Perhaps when, after some shocking and stupendous revolution, the law allows us to compel you to labor in our service, writing posts at What's Wrong with the World in defense of Christendom and Conservatism, or allows us to make use of your property to store our servers -- perhaps then you will see why the principle of compulsion at issue there was more than a minor hiccup."

That is an example of how irrational you all get on this issue and how uncomfortable you are with nuance when it's your ox that's being gored. Rights are often going to be in tension. My objection is that you create an analytical framework that excludes facts that are inconvenient to your case. In your example, you need to go beyond mere assertion and explain how we go from public accommodation laws to involuntary servitude. Invoking some revolution to come is sort of Underpants Gnomes thinking.

Please explain how you can ignore recent cases like Hurley and Dale. You may not like where the burden line is drawn in this case or that but all an objective review will show is that you win some and lose some and that is how the law has always worked. Please recall that conservatives engaged in the same sky-is-falling rhetoric back in the previous century when civil rights for African Americans was the issue.

As for Peter Vadala. Lydia do you know him? Were you there? Why do we automatically believe him (or the manager)? Is there any way to verify anybodys claims? Is it your point that we can never pass a law that might lead to some abuse, somewhere, by someone?

Ocean Grove, NJ. My mistake.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91486340

The lines about a "stupendous revolution" were not meant to suggest that I expect something that like. They were meant as an exotic and even exaggerated analogy, designed to illustrate that forcing private businessmen to perform services contrary to their moral principles, is a serious step, which I think would be instantly recognized if the shoe were on the other foot.

Thanks for the response, Paul. I cannot share your enthusiasm for the interpretation of human behavior as a choice between unadulterated ideologies. First, I don't see ideology as capable of sin. Human beings, either in their flawed state or in the flawed application of an ideology, are prone to sin. Systemic evil is more a function of a mob mentality, either institutionalized, or driven by the particular fears of leaders.

Second, it is part of human nature, especially those with deep religious sensibilities to overcompensate for their own sinfulness. We have many tragic examples of conservative religious figures who seem focused on sex who themselves are grave transgressors with adultery, pornography, or other indulgences. It's not that their message is wrong, but only the means by which they deliver it.

I think I would question the working theory of your website as you describe it. Inference, implication, and intuition is the work of gossip columnists or paparazzi--not serious thinkers. That's not to say you shouldn't call out the sins of say, Dick Cheney or Mark Sanford or Bill Clinton--as if anyone would care. The other mark of serious Christian thinking would be in the self-examination using these same principles. It helps you to stand apart from other pajama bloggers who are just shooting first, and asking convenient questions later.

The whole of human nature, when it doesn't accept God and rely on him, is vice and ruin. Liberalism, as a secular philosophy, is no different a conduit than feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism, nepotism, or any other approach that combines two or more human beings in a social system. Additionally, by focusing on the flaws of others, you yourselves have fallen into a very old moral trap.

If indeed the purpose here is to expose the flaws of liberals, the question goes begging: why only that?

If indeed the purpose here is to expose the flaws of liberals, the question goes begging: why only that?

Not only that. See: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/about.html

Also, perhaps the distinction between people and philosophical systems is really obscure to you. More likely it is just convenient for you to keep eliding the distinction. But just to repeat: the purpose here is to examine and expose the flaws of Liberalism as such. Ed's post is manifestly an exercise in the analysis of systems of thought -- their tendencies and inclinations.

I cannot share your enthusiasm for the interpretation of human behavior as a choice between unadulterated ideologies.

I don't know where you are coming up with this stuff. The fact that Ed is examining behavior in light of an ideological system -- namely Liberalism -- does not for a moment mean he (or any of us) denies that there are other influences on behavior.

So, Al, we bring up specific examples of things we deem outrageous and you make vaporous statements like,

As I recall that one hung on a public accommodation/ free exercise burden call that was fact and precedent dependent.

or you question Vadala's honesty in that case. Or you ignore the general point concerning hostile work environment law and on-the-job speech concerning morality. Or you imply that _somehow_ the New Mexico case isn't an indictment of sexual orientation non-discrimination laws and _somehow_ doesn't undermine your claim that the First Amendment will protect conservatives, even though you _expressly_ state that it isn't a violation of the First Amendment.

In other words, you're a snow-job artist. Whatever specific examples anybody brings up, you just shoot off your mouth with some words or other to make it _appear_ that you are responding and that your original claim that we're a bunch of irrational lemmings who never go beyond innuendo can still stand in the face of the fact that, y'know, actually, we're pretty darned well-informed lemmings and have specific events in mind that we believe, even if you don't, are outrageous mistreatments of moral people.

So go pound sand, Al. Why should we bother answering you with facts and instances, when you just blow smoke in response?

"The lines about a "stupendous revolution" were not meant to suggest that I expect something that like. They were meant as an exotic and even exaggerated analogy, designed to illustrate that forcing private businessmen to perform services contrary to their moral principles, is a serious step, which I think would be instantly recognized if the shoe were on the other foot."

Not at all. Basing public policy on any one individual's (or group's for that Matter) moral principles, to the exclusion of other considerations, would make civil society impossible. I believe that was the point of a recent topic below.

Our culture has internalized the primacy of ones feelings way too much. Folks can engage in commerce because the society as a whole has heavily invested in the structures that allow for those activities to have the prospect of success. It is not altogether unreasonable that those who take advantage of that which is provided by all be reasonably limited in their ability to choose with whom they will engage.

Do you oppose all public accomodation laws or just those that apply to certain groups?

Lydia, I'm sorry but your examples don't make your case. I get that you don't like the way some of these cases turned out. Fine, we disagree but that doesn't excuse your, by this point, willfully ignoring those cases that don't fit your mold. I challenge you to take the NM case, the NJ case, and whatever else you choose and also factor in the body of First and Fourteenth Amendment decisions from Meyer and Stromberg to Hurley and Dale and justify any rational linear projection.

Your or my or anyone elses moral outrage on whatever may well constitute a personal problem not an obligation on the society as a whole.

I don't know about you but my life experience has been that blind faith in one party's testimony, especially when that testimony confirms my prejudices, may be unwise. My point was that we only have one side. Is yours that the Christian never lies or that teh gay is always evil?

If you find the use of fact and precident in matters of law vaporous, how would you handle matters - a coin toss?

Your or my or anyone elses moral outrage on whatever may well constitute a personal problem not an obligation on the society as a whole.

In other words, you don't think these cases are outrageous. Okay, I do. But your point was supposed to be that we conservatives exaggerate the danger to ourselves and our moral principles and don't take into account 1st amendment, etc., protections. My point, which evidently you either don't get or refuse to see, is that if these examples can happen *even with* the case law you talk about, then that law is not the protection you claim we should acknowledge it to be. The things _we_ think outrageous can still happen under it, so why should we submit to your claim that we are "lemmings," etc., when we predict that more things _we_ think outrageous will happen? You, being a liberal, don't think them outrageous. That doesn't make us irrational for seeing them and predicting more of them.

The reason I think your comment vaporous is because, *if anything*, the claim that the case was based on precedent and fact _supports_ our claim that the protections you cite aren't very good protections *against the things we are worried about*. The things we are concerned about are, according to you, required by precedent! That's supposed to be reassuring? You don't even seem to know what supports and what undermines your point, so long as you can find something to say.

First, I don't see ideology as capable of sin.

If you want to get literal, then of course it cannot since an ideology itself is merely a set of ideas with no human actors.

On the other hand, there is a direct causal link between Marx's ideological command to liquidate rebels and expatriates and what the Communist regimes did to their dissidents.

So you may say that there is no link between ideology and morality and that ideology is incapable of sin, but actual events show that ideology has a direct causal relationship with the behavior of a significant number of people.

Unconvincing, Mike. Communists in Russia, China, and elsewhere weren't only influenced by Marx. They were products of their cultures, their history as much as by their pet ideologies. Lenin was influenced by the czarist tradition, and Mao by centuries of imperial rule. It's no coincidence neither one could completely rid their nation of generations of traditions in the treatment of dissenters.

Like others on this site, you are extremely selective in the input you receive and respond to. You misunderstand my statement as "literal," which it might be. I'm also striving for accuracy and for the truth.

Lenin was influenced by the czarist tradition

Todd, I fail to see how that matters in the least to the specific result Mike brings up: Marxism urges killing those who speak out against communism, and Lenin kills those who speak out against communism, saying that he does so on account of Marxism. Whether Lenin responded to Marxist theory in part because of the czarist tradition is irrelevant to whether there is a causal link between Marxism and murders committed in its name.

We are all influenced by our past. But we all act on account of our own understanding of goals and methods.

Should the government force a Muslim-owned deli to sell ham if a non-kosher customer requests it?
Should the government force a photographer to work the honeymoon in addition to the wedding even if he finds sexual voyeurism to be a sin?

If the answer is "no" to both of these, then the same goes for Christian or Orthodox Jewish photographers who don't want to work a gay "wedding" or Christian or Orthodox Jewish homeowners who don't want to rent rooms to cohabiting couples of whatever gender combination.

Lydia, I get your point and I understand that the facts and precidents can lead to decisions that you don't like (same with moi). My point is that there isn't a slippery slope. There are real barriers protecting the free exercise of religion and there are also real barriers to the discrimination that poisons the possibility of a healthy civil society. No new ground was tilled in these cases. After all you all won in Hurley and Dale. That you don't like the results in some cases doesn't mean that there is any implied directionality.

"...the danger to ourselves and our moral principles..."

Danger??? Isn't that somewhat overwrought?

If I stretch I guess I kind of see where conservatives are coming from. We started out with a system that disproportionately privileged white men with property to the rest (slavery followed by Jim Crow, coverature, etc.). Conservatives have kicked and screamed all the way as we have shaken off a few chains here and there so I guess from that point of view we have a slippery slope (before anyone reacts please read the back issues of The National Review from the late 1950s and early 1960s. They are on line.). Would any of you really want to live in the world we would have if conservatives had had their way?

Dr. Beckwith, sorry but no cigar.

"Should the government force a Muslim-owned deli to sell ham if a non-kosher customer requests it?"

This is from the California Civil Code.
"51. (a) This section shall be known, and may be cited, as the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
(b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and
equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion,
ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital
status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal
accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.
(c) This section shall not be construed to confer any right or
privilege on a person that is conditioned or limited by law or that is applicable alike to persons of every sex, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation."

I don't see how you can make a case for discrimination because a store doesn't stock a given item as the not-stocked item is equally unavailable to all customers. Selling a line of goods that reflect a given religion or culture is so obviously different from refusing to sell to persons based on their religion or culture that I am somewhat shocked you that you would try.

"Should the government force a photographer to work the honeymoon in addition to the wedding even if he finds sexual voyeurism to be a sin?"

To my knowledge exhibitionists are not a suspect class in any jurisdiction in the United States. I guess it would be an interesting case if a photographer advertised honeymoon photos for same or opposite sex couples but declined a mixed race couple on account of religious based disapproval of miscegenation. There may also be a more general public policy issue here. Anyway if the photographer declines all honeymoon work there can be no discrimination.

"If the answer is "no" to both of these, then the same goes for Christian or Orthodox Jewish photographers who don't want to work a gay "wedding" or Christian or Orthodox Jewish homeowners who don't want to rent rooms to cohabiting couples of whatever gender combination."

The answer is no to the first point and no or maybe to the second depending on the circumstances. Your points fail based on the wording of the relevant laws, at least in California and the new Mexico statute as I remember it.

As for the homeowners, the California Government Code sec. 12927 states, " (2) "Discrimination" does not include either of the following:
(A) Refusal to rent or lease a portion of an owner-occupied
single-family house to a person as a roomer or boarder living within the household, provided that no more than one roomer or boarder is to live within the household, and the owner complies with subdivision (c) of Section 12955, which prohibits discriminatory notices, statements, and advertisements.
(B) Where the sharing of living areas in a single dwelling unit is involved, the use of words stating or tending to imply that the
housing being advertised is available only to persons of one sex."

and, "12955.4. Nothing in this part shall prohibit a religious
organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in
conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, from limiting the sale, rental, or occupancy of dwellings that it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion or from giving preference to those persons, unless membership in that religion is restricted on account of race, color, or national origin."

Miliage may vary with other jurisdictions but the law generally recognizes the special circumstances that apply when foks take in a boarder or room mate.


I don't see how you can make a case for discrimination because a store doesn't stock a given item as the not-stocked item is equally unavailable to all customers. Selling a line of goods that reflect a given religion or culture is so obviously different from refusing to sell to persons based on their religion or culture that I am somewhat shocked you that you would try.

Same with the photographer. He or she does not do same-sex weddings, regardless of the sexual orientation of the participants. On the other hand, the state is singling out for coercion photographers who hold the theological view that their profession is a vocation with which they must honor God and his moral laws. So, the state is violating equal protection.

Miliage may vary with other jurisdictions but the law generally recognizes the special circumstances that apply when foks take in a boarder or room mate.

Actually, in the statues you cite, the only entities that have religious liberty are "organizations" and "societies" but not individual citizens. So, the Salvation Army may act as if its theology is true in its rental properties, but no individual member of the Salvation Army may do so when it comes to his or her own property.

This prima facie violates equal protection since it provides 14th amendment corporate persons with rights and privileges not given to 14th amendment organic persons.

To my knowledge exhibitionists are not a suspect class in any jurisdiction in the United States.

Who said anything about exhibitionists? They are a couple with a particular sort of sexual orientation that is best fulfilled when their sex acts are photographed by a stranger. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. What if the couple has a religious belief that maintains that the honeymoon is in fact part of the wedding (like on the fictional Vulcan of Star Trek lore)? So, if this photographer declines, he is discriminating based on "religious belief," since he has no problem photographing the weddings of other religious traditions that do not think the honeymoon is part of the wedding.

Anyway if the photographer declines all honeymoon work there can be no discrimination.

So, if a photographer declines all same-sex wedding ceremonies there is no discrimination either, since again, he is not discriminating based on sexual orientation. He is discriminating based on a moral judgment of an act he thinks is wrong: same-sex marriage.

If I stretch I guess I kind of see where conservatives are coming from. We started out with a system that disproportionately privileged white men with property to the rest (slavery followed by Jim Crow, coverature, etc.). Conservatives have kicked and screamed all the way as we have shaken off a few chains here and there so I guess from that point of view we have a slippery slope (before anyone reacts please read the back issues of The National Review from the late 1950s and early 1960s. They are on line.). Would any of you really want to live in the world we would have if conservatives had had their way?

Actually, the Founding Fathers of the system you decry were all liberals!: Descartes, Adam Smith, Kant, and Spencer. The reason why Enlightenment Liberalism produced the horrors that we all condemn is that its leading lights elevated homo economicus above animal rationale, denied that the human intellect could know universals and/or natures and essences (and thus, "empirical" assessments of human worth were elevated above metaphysical assessments, the latter of which are the only way securely ground our intrinsic dignity), and treated the human body as nothing but a tool of the mind (and thus commodifying the human person). It took centuries for this to come to fruition, but it did. This is why it is clear to me that racism and sexual libertinism are two sides of the same coin: once one abandons the ideas that we can know that human beings are intrinsically valuable by nature and that human beings, because of their nature, have a rightly ordered way to exercise the self-giving of their sexuality, then it becomes nearly impossible to offer a principled reason why racism is wrong and why sexual libertinism ought not to be tolerated (and in some cases, embraced).

As a former liberal (as I discuss in m book Return to Rome), what pushed me to conservatism was the deep connection I saw between the sanctity of marriage, the personhood of the unborn, and racial equality that depended on Christian anthropology.

Al,
Let this be a lesson to you. All anti-discrimination laws violate equal protection. Furthermore, what is unacceptable to some wedding photographers is the wedding ceremony, not the sexual orientation of the participants. If you could have a wedding without the ceremony and exchange of vows they would be totally willing to provide their services.

Unconvincing, Mike. Communists in Russia, China, and elsewhere weren't only influenced by Marx. They were products of their cultures, their history as much as by their pet ideologies. Lenin was influenced by the czarist tradition, and Mao by centuries of imperial rule. It's no coincidence neither one could completely rid their nation of generations of traditions in the treatment of dissenters.

It is also no coincidence that they didn't even bother trying since Communist ideology openly calls for the persecution of rebels and dissenters once the Communists take power. Interestingly, there has never been a Communist state that behaved liberally toward dissenters rather than persecuting them, regardless of the culture.

Like others on this site, you are extremely selective in the input you receive and respond to. You misunderstand my statement as "literal," which it might be. I'm also striving for accuracy and for the truth.

If I had a dime for every time that someone said that on this site...

Todd,

Furthermore, two things can work together to have a causal relationship. If the Czarist tradition made Lenin open to mass murder, that has no bearing on whether or not his Marxism finally pushed him over the edge into doing it. Would you argue that smoking and drinking alcohol cannot work in concert to push someone into heart disease? Individually, each one can, so why cannot both have a causal relationship together? Some of the more infamous American converts to radical Islam also counter your arguments on ideology and behavior.

Funny thing is, I suspect the reason why you argue that ideology doesn't have a direct influence on behavior is that you just don't want to abandon the liberal belief that no one can/should be judged for their beliefs and assumptions made about them accordingly.

I don't know how this went as far as it did, but the progression in the original post is obviously accurate; one need only look at gay marriage, already mentioned, to see it in action, but other examples include pornography, welfare, and yes Jim Crow. An innovation is proposed, conservatives oppose it, inevitably lose, and then time passes and a new generation of conservatives, having grown up without any experience of what is lost, comes to maturity and doesn't really care that much about it. When's the last time a conservative with any power said that Social Security should be ended? Consider abortion as well. Though pressing the right button on a Republican congressmen still nets you a boilerplate condemnation, 12 years of supposedly conservative domination produced no results. They just don't care.

Whether the sky is falling or not depends on your outlook. If you think people should be free to associate with whomever they wish, then you likely oppose laws that force wedding photographers to work gay weddings. If you value equality and the ability to actualize desires more than the freedom of association, especially if said freedom of association preserves a right to act on a moral belief you find repugnant and an artifact of a dumber time, then you probably don't mind compelling photographers to work such events.

Furthermore, what is unacceptable to some wedding photographers is the wedding ceremony, not the sexual orientation of the participants. If you could have a wedding without the ceremony and exchange of vows they would be totally willing to provide their services.

Step2, I'm not sure what clever thing you think you are saying here, but Elaine Hugonin made it quite clear what she opposed, and it was using her photographic talents to celebrate a sexual relationship she considers morally wrong. I'm sure she would have made the same objection to, say, an "engagement" photo package for the same two people.

Lydia,
I was poking fun at Frank's convoluted argument for being nonsense. If you are going to be opposed to same sex marriage, at least be honest enough (like Elaine Hugonin apparently is) to admit that it is because of their orientation.

Nice try, Mike, but your suspicion is incorrect.

I prefer to see people take responsibility for their own actions. I remember Flip Wilson's schtick, "The devil made me do it!"

It's fine as part of a comedy routine. But conservatives, like everyone else (and has been suggested above) are influenced, one might say polluted, by the culture they live in and its ideas. What I see operating among many conservatives is the same culture of victimhood I see on talk media, sport, reality tv, and the like. I'd prefer y'all to take responsibility for your own moral failings, cutting back on the analysis of others'.

Why would anyone bother to listen to conservatives wax proudly on liberal sins, unless perhaps they were confirmed in avoiding their own?

Al says,

There are real barriers protecting the free exercise of religion and there are also real barriers to the discrimination that poisons the possibility of a healthy civil society.

What I'm hearing here is, "There are real barriers protecting what Al thinks is legitimate free exercise of religion and private morality in business relations, but there are no real barriers protecting what we conservatives think is that sort of legitimate exercise and use of morality."

For that very reason, I see no reason to doubt a directionality. For example, Hugonin could just as easily have been forced to photograph a "group wedding" amongst five people if, in the future, non-discrimination statutes are extended either by revision or by court interpretation to cover group weddings. Directionality also applies in many other areas. For example, in terms of what subjects are introduced and what acts are presented as normal to children in public schools.

Furthermore, to say that the sky is falling, as it were, is not _merely_ to emphasize "directionality" but to emphasize the badness of what is going on *right now*. I don't have to make accurate predictions of precisely what new sexual perversions and bizarre behavior conservative businessmen will be forced to treat as perfectly normal on pain of civil punishment. It's bad enough already. We are not "lemmings" or "irrational" for pointing this out and expecting more and more incidents of the same kind as we already have.

I would note, too, that the incident regarding Catholic Charities in Boston is itself a bellwether. The First Amendment did not prevent that. That is definitely already, here in the United States, a move in the very direction we have seen in other countries, and here's how it goes: The sphere of acceptable religious exceptions is whittled down until it covers only pastors. You are graciously permitted not to hire homosexual pastors or female pastors, but you are not permitted thus to "discriminate" in employment or accommodation if your non-profit religious organization offers services to those who are not members of your own religious community. So, the exception does not apply to the secretary at your Christian school or to your youth workers.

That is clearly the type of approach used in the Catholic Charities case. They couldn't "discriminate" in offering adoption services, even though they were a religious organization.

Some jurisdictions in the U.S. have fairly robust religious exemptions that would prevent that sort of result; some don't. But apparently there is nothing in the First Amendment that prevents that from changing, and I think the Catholic Charities situation makes that quite clear.

As Frank has already pointed out, none of this applies to individuals who run businesses in any event, who can be hounded in whatever way the government chooses for refusing to condone immoral behavior through the use of their business service. And the First Amendment doesn't do a thing about it. "Directionality" will emerge simply through the proliferation of cases like the Hugonin cases. More and more and more of the same, as it were, until all Christians either go out of business or submit to the regime. Which is not progress, though it is a change.

It is obvious that what is being opposed is homosexual behavior, not an orientation. There is a correlation between sexual orientation and behavior, however a straight man engaging in gay sex,for whatever reason, is acting illicitly regardless of his sexual orientation. Likewise, a man who has attractions to other men, but has decided to seek a wife or remain celibate, is not acting sinfully. It is the act that is sinful, not the orientation.

Nice try, Mike, but your suspicion is incorrect.

I prefer to see people take responsibility for their own actions. I remember Flip Wilson's schtick, "The devil made me do it!"

For someone so concerned with accuracy and truth, you have a hard time distinguishing between an alleged case of spiritual coercion and someone acting out freely chosen actions based on an ideology. A more "truthful and accurate" comparison from you would have been "The ideology made me do it!"

Please, explain the dichotomy between someone acting under the influence of a bad ideology and them taking personal responsibility for their actions. I'd love to hear that rationale.

It's fine as part of a comedy routine. But conservatives, like everyone else (and has been suggested above) are influenced, one might say polluted, by the culture they live in and its ideas.

But apparently each ideology and its attendant ideas is passive in polluting and guiding the actions of individuals toward certain foreseeable outcomes.

This photography case keeps getting mentioned. The prevailing assumption is that it was a sole propreitorship. It wasn't. It was a corporation. She had incorporated the business in Arizona.

Kurt, I don't know what the legal language is in New Mexico, but in my own town the local new non-discrimination ordinance expressly defines "sexual orientation" to include sexual behavior. Legally, sexual orientation laws have always been interpreted in this way. I don't know how many of them include the definition to include behavior expressly, though I doubt my local one is unique in this respect, but I know of no court decision and no enforcement decision that permits local businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual behavior without incurring charges of discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

While the distinction is a real one, conservatives need to stop fooling themselves: Regulations and laws that ban discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" are intended and will be applied to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual acts. Just try making that distinction as a businessman and relying on it, and you'll find out.

Badger, your point is? That certainly doesn't make it just for her to be fined for refusing to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony.

There is a correlation between sexual orientation and behavior, however a straight man engaging in gay sex,for whatever reason, is acting illicitly regardless of his sexual orientation. Likewise, a man who has attractions to other men, but has decided to seek a wife or remain celibate, is not acting sinfully. It is the act that is sinful, not the orientation.

That's absolutely correct. In fact, I was watching a documentary a couple of years ago on HBO in which I learned--not that I wanted to know this--that a large number of gay male porn actors are straight!

I have a good friend who is a psychiatrist (and practices in Northern California) and he tells me that I would be shocked at how many openly gay men and women seek him out in order to change. And what is remarkable is that he has a pretty good success rate. But he dare not publish this for fear of recriminations. The other thing he tells me is that human sexuality is incredibly malleable. He has had male patients--firmly convinced of the immutability of their homosexuality--change in their mid-40s, get married, have a family, and never look back.

So much of this discussion is clouded in ideology that I am convinced that some very otherwise bright people employ their considerable skills in service of advancing libertine dogmas that they would never entertain if the topic were religion and not sex.

You're not making yourself entirely clear, Mike. It might be I'm at fault in part.

I believe that adults have a responsibility to ponder, to investigate, and as Christians, to pray and discern on big things.

On the other hand, I can accept someone else's testimony on a minor matter, like where I should get my car serviced and what repairs and preventative measures I should take.

I tend to distrust taking advice on more grave matters, especially when the advisors tend to coercion or a mindless acquiescence. The extremes of the blogosphere, marxists, third-world dictatorships--they all look pretty similar to me. And they spread all over the map in terms of ideology, conservative or liberal. The sin of Soviet marxism was not that it was liberal (necessarily--I might dispute that the Soviets were liberals) but that it was a fearful, oppressive, and secretive in its praxis.

To restate my proposition: If one is concerned with "what's wrong with the world," one might wisely look to oneself, one's ideological confreres, and engage in a critical self-analysis. In sacramental circles, that would be known as an examination of conscience. Jesus pegged it pretty well. People are blind, and Jesus attests there is no sin in that. But some claim to be able to see, yet their blindness remains. I suppose you (and others) can claim ignorance, and if this is true, your readers are more or less aware and they approach your web site with a significant caveat emptor. Yet you claim to have something to offer in response to the question, "What's wrong with the world?" yet you seem singularly uninterested in some major answers to that question.

Take the last word. After all these psots, you've earned it.

My point was to more firmly establish facts.

When you offer business to the public, the public has a reasonable expectation that services will be rendered. If you go to a strange city, you should expect to be able to purchase an available hotel room. When a photography company solicits business, a person should be able to purchase those services. These situations are qualitatively different than private clubs or religious organizations restricting rites or facility use to members. It is different than an individual photographer that doesn't solicit business but does on occasion sell his services.

I tend to distrust taking advice on more grave matters, especially when the advisors tend to coercion or a mindless acquiescence. The extremes of the blogosphere, marxists, third-world dictatorships--they all look pretty similar to me. And they spread all over the map in terms of ideology, conservative or liberal. The sin of Soviet marxism was not that it was liberal (necessarily--I might dispute that the Soviets were liberals) but that it was a fearful, oppressive, and secretive in its praxis.

And I never once claimed that the sin of Soviet Marxism was due to its alleged liberalism, but rather claimed that there is a direct link between the advocacy by Marx of persecuting dissenters and the way that the Communist Party ran the Soviet Union.

I suppose you (and others) can claim ignorance, and if this is true, your readers are more or less aware and they approach your web site with a significant caveat emptor. Yet you claim to have something to offer in response to the question, "What's wrong with the world?" yet you seem singularly uninterested in some major answers to that question.

I'm uninterested in them because they strike me as axiomatically wrong. To say that ideology does not have a deep impact on one's behavior is basically to say that ideas have no consequences.

Badger,

Here's a scenario for you.

Suppose you don't believe in child marriages.

A Muslim man walks into your photography shop and says that he's marrying a 13 year old girl with the blessing of her parents (which is legal in most states).

Should you be able to turn him down because you think that that marriage is wrong?

"Who said anything about exhibitionists?"

Well. Dr Beckwith, you wrote,

"They are a couple with a particular sort of sexual orientation that is best fulfilled when their sex acts are photographed by a stranger,"

so I believe you just did.

Anyway, I get your larger point that there is a category difference when it comes to same-sex and opposite-sex unions. Holding that view is, of course, your right, as it is mine to hold an opposite view. However, until you are able to change the law all that is is your opinion while the law, in some places, is very different.

BTW, you seem to be unfamiliar with the NM case. This wasn't a marriage or even a civil union. I believe it was some sort of New Agey commitment ceremony. There was an exchange of emails in which the photographer clearly broke the law and so she lost the case. I do find the emails puzzling and troubling. The photographer was either stupid or ignorant of the law or trying to make some point and the plaintiffs were, at some point, trying to set up the photographer, which I find despicable. The photographer could have replied that her schedule wasn't open for that date and that would have been that. The couple could have shrugged it off and hired another photographer. Oh well, Plains Apes...evolutionary mistakes.

That, of course, begs the question as to the necessity of public accommodation laws as well as, should we find them in general necessary, the categories of accommodations and the protected classes to be defined. On all this we likely disagree,

"This prima facie violates equal protection since it provides 14th amendment corporate persons with rights and privileges not given to 14th amendment organic persons."

Leaving aside the error from the Santa Clara County case, it is well established in the law that religious and other non-profit entities provide such benefits to the society as a whole that limited special treatment is sometimes justified. Note that public policy still trumps religion when race or national origin is involved.

Equal Protection just means that folks in similar situations will be treated in a similar manner instead of being subjected to arbitrary and unreasonable class distinctions.

(As a side note, have you considered the benefits that will accrue to the Orthodox Jewish family, if they take in the gay couple as boarders?)

"Actually, the Founding Fathers of the system you decry were all liberals!"

Now I'm confused. Is it your point that Europe, prior to the Enlightenment, was a human and civil rights paradise? Or is it that nineteenth and twentieth century conservatives were so poisoned by the Enlightenment that they were moved to oppose what their conservatism would otherwise have caused them to embrace?

Spencer??? Social Statics led the robber barons to embrace unions and social democracy? And what happened to Locke?

The conservatism you have embraced defended Jim Crow at a critical point in our history. All of the convoluted natural law reasoning in the universe won't get around that simple fact. Whenever we have faced serious social issues, conservatism has inevitably adopted a calculus that leads to bad decisions. Were Bill Buckley or Barry Goldwater racists? Of course not, but if you value second order abstractions like states rights and localism over basic human rights then, surprise, surprise, you are going to get the wrong answer. Rinse and repeat, that was our conservatism in the 19th century and the 20th century and likely forever.

The photographer could have replied that her schedule wasn't open for that date and that would have been that.

What if it was open? You're saying she should have lied, Al? Gee, and Step2 up above was just talking about the importance of honesty from conservatives.

Badger, you're entitled to your opinion, which is that it is legitimate to force a photographer who "offers her services to the public" to take pictures of two women kissing each other at a commitment ceremony, because, you know, well, just because. Because she offers her services to the public. Which in your mind, amounts to some kind of, "I don't care what sexual feelings are being celebrated in your made-up ceremony; I will help you celebrate them" message to the world at large. Which as far as I'm concerned is absolute nonsense on stilts. In any event, the sky is definitely falling because too many people think like you and have managed to put their totalitarian impulses into effect. Congratulations.

Oh, on "directionality," a term Al added: The idea that a biological man with full sexual equipment could don a dress, call himself "Diane," "identify" as a woman, and have the *legal right* to use the women's restroom at the local restaurant was so radical ten years ago that I have read (though I haven't checked out the quote) that Barney Frank said it was crazy, going too far, or something to that effect. It is now law in my town. Welcome to directionality. Gay rights is so nineties. Gender identity rights are the new black. *Of course* the progressive agenda is...progressive.

(As a side note, have you considered the benefits that will accrue to the Orthodox Jewish family, if they take in the gay couple as boarders?)

Have you considered the infringement on their individual liberty that comes from being forced to take on this unwanted "benefit?"

"Who said anything about exhibitionists?"

Well. Dr Beckwith, you wrote,

"They are a couple with a particular sort of sexual orientation that is best fulfilled when their sex acts are photographed by a stranger,"

so I believe you just did.

For the record, exhibitionism requires a public locale. Private photography is not exhibitionism.

The conservatism you have embraced defended Jim Crow at a critical point in our history.

Read Return to Rome it will inform you of the conservatism I embraced. Here's the relevant text:

We lived pretty standard American Catholic lives for the era, with Vegas and its culture being incidental to our home life and our relationship with our parents. However, my parents were, and are, instinctively charitable people, revealing something from the Church and its teachings that had been placed deeply in their hearts. For example, whenever one of the Casellas needed a place to stay, my parents took them in, oftentimes for a few days, sometimes for months and even years! My parents treated my cousins as if they were their own sons, and none of us ever felt deprived for that. In fact, I’m confident that my parents’ spirit of generosity enhanced, rather than diminished, the love we had for one another. For this reason, some in the family would on occasion jokingly refer to our home as “Boys Town.”

We always seemed to have guests over for Sunday dinner, which consisted of my Sicilian mother’s pasta and meatballs. These dinner guests ranged from friends and relatives to the friends and acquaintances of friends and relatives. Guests were entertained by (or forced to hear, depending on one’s sense of humor) my father and his many jokes and stories. A Korean War Veteran, my father had done some emceeing and stand-up comedy while serving in the U. S. Army. Whatever comedic skills he acquired while working for Uncle Sam, they were not missing in action when he returned to the states. It made our home a wonderful place in which to grow up.

My parents exposed me to the importance of politics and citizenship at an early age. In the mid-1960s, they encouraged my brother James and me to watch important political events and speeches. In 1968, when I was seven years old, I distinctly remember watching and listening to Senator Robert F. Kennedy on the evening he was assassinated in Los Angeles, and seeing my parents cry when his death was announced on our television hours later. Only months earlier, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been murdered in Memphis. My parents supported the Civil Rights Movement and were diligent in making sure that my brother and I knew of Dr. King and the tragedy of his death. Although I was too young to remember the presidency of John F. Kennedy, my father made sure we listened to the late president’s 1961 inaugural address, one of the great political speeches in American history. On several occasions, my father played the recording of Kennedy’s speech on our old family turntable. As in other matters, my father also had a sense of humor about politics. When I was eight years old I asked him to explain to me the difference between communism and capitalism. He answered, “Well, son, in America, a capitalist country, some people own Cadillacs and some people don’t. But in communist countries like the Soviet Union, everyone is treated equally, and no one owns a Cadillac.”

During several months in my middle school years I would return home every afternoon to see my mother watching the Watergate Hearings, chaired by one of her heroes, Senator Sam Ervin. She always invited me to join her, which I usually did. I was fascinated by the hearings, the issues surrounding them, and the historical importance of all the figures that were participating. As I grew older and began to develop my own political opinions, my parents exhibited a level of tolerance and openness that was exemplary. While my father and I became more conservative in our views over the years, my mother remained a moderate Democrat (as she is today). However, my conservatism, ironically, developed out of my liberalism. I was taught by my parents that one of the roles of government was to protect the “little guy” and to make sure that those not well off should be given a chance to succeed and make a decent living. But in my early twenties I began to notice that self-described liberals had no interest in protecting the littlest guy of all, the unborn, and that they often advanced policies that inhibited economic growth, and thus harmed those who most needed the wealth produced by free markets, the poor and the underprivileged. So, for me, true liberalism is conservative, for it strives to protect and nurture, indeed conserve, those people, institutions, and practices that advance the common good and thus provide a framework for human flourishing.

Al, argue for your position. But complaining that I won't accept the straw man you built for me means you would rather rebut the views you wish I held rather than ones I actually embrace.

David Frum was mentioned in the worthy original post. Note his apparent change in positon from Conservative Stage 2 to Stage 3 or more within a year's time:

There is a widespread view that gay liberation is a movement toward greater freedom. Up to a point, that was true. That point, however, is now receding in the background. The movement for gay equality has rapidly evolved into movement to restrict personal freedoms, including freedoms of religion and conscience. The British example is not a special case. What is being done there today will be demanded here tomorrow.

-Frum, "Can Religious Freedom Survive Gay Liberation?" NRO, 3/9/2007


"Social traditionalists too need to adapt to new realities. Opposition to same-sex marriage is dwindling." -Frum, NYTimes, "Turning the Triple Play" 1/25/2008


It's as if he said "Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.” Only he didn't use the word "grim." (Not sure how wobbly he is, since a 2009 article was still somewhat critical of SSM.)

======

As for the soft despotism, we should remember that political speech is generally not protected from employer retribution. So even what you write in your off-hours can be cause for firing--and will be if the decline continues.

Why bother imprisoning your opponent when you can just cut him out of power?

Kathy Shaidle has said conservatives may need to decide between paying for their kids' orthodontics or continuing their principled opposition and risk getting fired. She favored the second, obviously, but then she doesn't have kids.


I'm repeating myself here, but anti-discrimination laws in employment already suppress speech in several ways.

Most obviously, by forbidding "dissenters" from assembling in a corporate organization like a for-profit newspaper or a private college or even a neighborhood. This decapitates many centers of social, economic and political power. Pass such a law in L.A. or NYC, and the media centers of America will pass into your hands.

Less obviously, by preferring anti-discriminatory ideologues in human resources offices, management circles, and court lawsuits, such laws create partisans and indeed an entire industry.

Lydia's comments about the PR debacle in her valliant attempt to fight that local law made me think of starting a blog themed "Conservative marketing fails." After seeing a Colorado GOP PR consultant in action, I need to add "...and is designed to." This woman was entirely trapped in the marketing ethos, another extremely anti-discriminatory field. She was concerned with winning elections, seemingly unaware that others are concerned with winning wars.


=====

Is this chilling account from a New England commenter only a rumor? Hard to say nowadays:

Sometimes, silence and going along to get along is the only safe way. I know of a man who was fired from a job for being homophobic. His offense? Refusing a kiss on the lips from a superior male staff member

=====

Conservatives are frequently compared to Jim Crow-era segregationists. And then we're mocked as Chicken Littles for remembering that Jim Crow and segregation were suppressed by massive federal action and re-education of the young.

What's amazing about that story you tell, Kevin, is that of course "sexual harassment" is supposed to be a form of discrimination and actionable in itself. Hence, if the story is true, the _employee_ should have had grounds for workforce complaint on the grounds of sexual harassment. But, if the story is true, it went just the other way--not unlike the Vadala case, though even more blatant, if possible.

I would add to your valuable comment that employers who fire employees for "homophobic" talk can _claim_ that they themselves are simply "following the law"--they don't even have to admit that this is their own ideological bias. The non-discrimination law, in other words, gives them an excuse and makes the less ideological employers feel like they have to become ideological monitors.

Didn't read the entire thread, so if someone's already said this, forgive me. One of the points in Kalb's 'The Tyranny of Liberalism' is that there is no internal governor or brake on liberalism, so it eventually devours itself, so to speak. Liberals are at pains to realize that there is always someone around the bend who's more liberal than them. As someone said above, there's not really any bottom to it, other than totalitarianism or anarchy.

Hadley Arkes on the self-devouring of liberalism ( http://www.fww.org/articles/wfpforum/harkes.htm ):

The Founders insisted that certain rights arose from the very nature of human beings, in the things that separated human beings from animals. As the understanding ran, no man is by nature the ruler of other men in the way that men are by nature the ruler of dogs and horses. As Abraham Lincoln understood this ancient teaching, the right of human beings to be ruled only with their consent was a right grounded in nature; and that right would remain the same in all places, in all parts of the world, where that nature remained the same. But now, in one of the strangest turnabouts, the understanding of Lincoln and the Founders stands in an adversary relation to the understandings held by radical feminists, gay activists, and the opinion that is dominant now on the American campuses. For the partisans of sexual liberation have found it necessary now to deny that there are natural rights, grounded in human nature, because they wish to deny that there is a distinct "nature," and they most certainly wish to deny that there are moral truths grounded in nature. That strategy of argument seems to have been chosen for the sake of fending off those other people who might be inclined -gasp! -- to cast moral judgments on others. And so, the people who would seek to be free in matters of sex have oddly adopted the perspective held by the adversaries of Lincoln: They too deny that we can speak about the things that are right or wrong for people in all places or cultures. In the sweep of their argument, they have been led to insist that there is not even such a thing as human "nature": that what some of us have been all too quick to treat as human nature is really "socially constructed" from one place to another, according to the vagaries of the local cultures. By this construction, everything in the laws is dependent merely on local opinion, and so even the laws of marriage are not grounded in anything in our nature. They too are to be shaped solely by the positive law, the law that is "posited" or enacted in any place, by the people who have the power to make law. And in this construction, the positive law may treat, as a marriage, anything that the community is willing to regard as a marriage.

But the curious thing about the people who take this line is that they don't seem to show the slightest hesitation or reluctance when it comes to casting moral judgments. Nor are they shy about casting those judgments on cultures, and regimes, in other places. Evidently, they think there are human rights, arising for human beings, whom they find violated in many places, and among those rights are the rights of women. They think, then, that they can identify certain distinct rights of women that hold true in all places -- and come to think of it, they even seem to assume that they can identify women in all places (even though some feminist theorists actually deny that there is a category, of ontological standing, called women or females). And so we find ourselves in this curious situation: In the world of the radical feminists on the campuses, there are human rights to be vindicated in all places; but strictly speaking, there are no humans, because there is no distinct human "nature." And because there are no moral truths, there are no "rights" that are truly rightful.

The activists seeking gay and lesbian marriage have worked through the courts, and that strategy has become necessary only because they understand that they cannot depend on legislatures, or on voters, acting in referenda, to change the laws on marriage, to permit marriage by partners of the same sex. And yet, if there are no natural rights, or moral truths that undergird our judgments of right and wrong, then the sentiment of the majority, reflected in legislatures and referenda, should be the opinion that is decisive in settling the question.

But of course, the party favoring gay marriage is no more inclined than any of the rest of us to take the sentiments of the majority at any moment as the definitive standard of judgment on any matter of right and wrong. Yet, in that event, the question has to bring us back to the problem of whether there is, finally, a nature, or a set of objective truths, that must indeed form the groundwork of any law of marriage wherever it is found, in the United States or Africa or China.

The recent troubles, in this country, over President Clinton has brought forth some of the clichés that have been established by now as surrogates, or replacements, for principles in our law. And so I find it quite common, among papers written by students, to hear it said that Mr. Clinton was involved in merely a private, consensual sexual relation with Ms. Lewinsky. Such private consensual relations in sex, it is said, should not even be a concern of the law, let alone a ground for the impeachment, or removal of the President. In this popular refrain we have, concentrated and summarized, some serious misunderstandings about nature, sexuality, and the law. There are some notable things the law will not permit -- indeed, which the law insists on restricting or punishing -- even though they have the consent of the participating adults: Consenting adults may not contract themselves into slavery or peonage; the courts will not uphold contracts of that kind. We are reminded here of a logic that seems to have fled from the historical memory of our people -- the notion of "unalienable" rights, of rights we do not have the competence to waive or to alienate, even for ourselves, because their rightness or wrongness is grounded in a principle that has nothing to do with our personal consent or disapproval. The wrongness of ruling human beings without their consent turns on the differences in nature that separate human beings from other animals, and even a person who is willing to regard himself as a slave does not have the competence to efface those differences in nature that separate him from other animals.

And so, with the same sense of things, the law has taken a strong stand in forbidding dueling, even though the custom may claim the, consent of the participating adults. As we extend the matter to questions of sex, we may note that courts have regarded adultery as a telling act or relation, which justifies the removal of custody over children, even though the adultery might have had consent of the participating adults. When we deal with children, we usually require the consent of their parents, or some responsible adult; and yet, when it comes to the participation of children in prostitution or pornography, we have not been willing to honor the preferences, or consent, of the parents, who might be altogether willing to have their children make money, and achieve stardom of a sorts, in pornographic films. There, we seem to say, the activity involving sex is so wrong that even the consent of adults will not render it innocent.

But then of course, we may ask, why do we seek the consent of adults in these cases? If sex has no moral significance, if it is something that may be pursued wholly for pleasure, without any sense of commitment or moral purpose, then what is it that a mature person is supposed to understand, which is not accessible to a child? What is it necessary to know here that is not known by a child or a teenager? The youngster may tenably claim to be the sovereign judge of the things that give him pleasure. On that limited point, his feelings are as reliable as those of the most mature adult.

The requirements of consent make sense only if there is something else involved, that runs beyond feeling or the sensations of pleasure. If we linger with the question for a short while, we would discover that this something else must be a matter of moral significance or moral understanding. It must have something to do with the grounds on which people understand what it means to make an enduring commitment to a partner, because they must understand what makes a partner enduringly worthy -- or morally deserving -- of that kind of lasting respect. What would we think, after all, of someone who said, "I married her because I had done over my apartment in Art Deco, and her complexion went with the curtains. But now, I'm redoing the apartment, and she just doesn't fit any more into my scheme of life.” This hypothetical always elicits a laugh, but this situation would not be ludicrous if we credited the notion that sex and marriage were entirely matters of aesthetics, or of subjective feelings, quite detached from moral judgments about the character of the partners.

But if moral judgment is relevant, "consent" implies some moral grounds of understanding, and we may ask, who determines just what age marks the age of consent? Or who determines what person stands in relation to the child as the person most qualified to tender that consent? If we were dealing with a young boy and a member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association -- if we were dealing, that is, with a sexual relation between a teenager and an adult -- who should be in a position to give that consent? Why not the man who professes to love that child -- and whom the child professes to love in turn, far more than he loves his parents? We've already had a precedent for this kind of shift in the cases involving abortions for teenage girls. There, we have been willing to credit the notion that a teenager might be too intimidated, or too embarrassed, to turn to her parents, and that she could get better counsel at the hands of a judge she doesn't know, than at the hands of the parents who do know her well. In the same way, why would we not be willing to let the child make the decision on sex with the lover he or she wants -- why do we not leave it to them? And yet, even the libertarians among us would reserve that kind of decision, to establish the terms of consent, to "the law," rather than to the parties themselves. And even the libertarians, even now, even in our own age, seem inclined to say that they would prefer to leave the decisions in the hands of the parents, who begot and nurtured the child. Is this but another path of backing into a recognition of the claims of "nature"? Is there an assumption that parents are more likely to be concerned about the well-being of their own children more than a stranger, who did not beget them and see them as their own "flesh-and-blood"?

But of course, we know that parents cannot always be trusted to take a nurturing view of their own children. Some parents take a mercenary or merchandising view. Some parents are willing to rent out their own children for the pleasure of others; some, in fact, are willing to sell them, and as we have come to know, far more fully than we ever wished to know, some parents are quite willing to kill the children who stand as a serious strain on their convenience or their plans in life.

Yet, all of that we have known since the beginning of political life, which is why we brought forth very early the recognition that children may not be merely the property of parents, to use as they would use any other property. At a certain point, a disinterested party should be able to step in, on behalf of the child, to offer protection to the child, and that party acts on the most plausible ground when he intervenes in the name of "the law," to extend the protections of "the law."

Frank, that's a great article by Arkes. Great illustration of the intellectual emptiness of liberalism at its cutting edges.

"Public" standing alone, meets neither the DSM IV criteria or the more general understanding that I intended.

" The conservatism you have embraced defended Jim Crow at a critical point in our history.

Read Return to Rome it will inform you of the conservatism I embraced. Here's the relevant text:"

The reasons you have worked out to explain why you are a conservative are irrelevant. Conservatism as a political and social movement in the United States has always been about "enact[ing] Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics." Other matters are merely tactical.

Read in context, I believe my point was quite clear. Since the mid-nineteenth century, conservatism has been wrong on every major domestic social issue. You may disagree but all that shows is that you were never a liberal in the sense in which that term has had any meaning in this country.

It is a common theme among "former liberals" to invoke folks like Kennedy, implying that liberal values then were good but liberalism (and the democratic Party) left them.

Truman, Kennedy, Humphrey and Johnson were liberal New Deal Democrats. Truman wanted single payer medical care. Kennedy and Johnson gave us single payer for old folks. Humphrey, Truman, and Johnson took real risks to advance civil rights for African Americans.

The folks who held these views,

"National Review editorial, 8/24/1957, 4:7, pp. 148-9: ...The central question that emerges--and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by meerely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal--is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced ace...National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numberical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence...",

were conservatives in good standing when you joined their ranks. It is clear from your statement and the positions you have subsequently taken that you are at ease with the calculus that led Buckley to come to his opinions on Jim Crow when analyzing other political and social issues. Just to be clear, one doesn't have to be a racist to come to the conclusions he did; one has only to employ the standard conservative analytical tools and one will likely get the wrong answer.

But that was then. We can now add fiscal irresponsibility, incompetent governance, unnecessary war and torture to the list. Over at Mirror of Justice, Robert George also referenced the "littlest guy" reason for supporting Republicans. I can understand that one could find it impossible to vote for a given candidate or party over abortion. I can understand a certain exasperation with 1970s liberalism. I will never understand how that leads one into conservatism as a political movement or voting with enthusiasm for the current Republican clown show.

About this "nature" thing. Do you hold that adopting your metaphysics inevitably leads one to mostly agree with the Republican Party platform?

Arkes' article equivocates on "consent" and, after what followed, his passage on Clinton seems quaintly naive. If the choice is gay marriage on the one hand and (we now have an advantage that Mr. Arkes didn't have in 1999) incompetence, irresponsibility, war, and torture, just how do his remarks help us in our political decisions?

Lydia, this is a perfect example. Why would you take Kevin's unsourced item and run with it? for that matter, why would Kevin buy into an unsourced item? After the "death panel" fiasco I would have expected a more skeptical approach to things that confirm ones ideological prejudices.

Yeah, I ran so hard and so far. That's why I kept throwing in "if this is true" caveats all over the place and made one single comment in one comment thread only. I don't even have time to go back and count. "Taking an unsourced item and running with it" would be, you know, putting up a blog post without caveats, restating the allegations made in the indicative case. Which I didn't do and wouldn't. And Kevin, he asked if it were only a rumor and seemed to take that possibility quite seriously. But never mind, Al. You'd better watch all that finger shaking. If you keep doing it, your forefinger may fall off.

I think when it comes to sexual morality in general, the sky has not fallen, although it is sagging precipitously. Hard-core pornography is not yet shown on free TV, though with its prominence on the Internet, it's close enough. Moreover, it is assumed that most men and a large number of women, at least if you listen to mainstream television shows on network TV, indulge in pornography regularly. Also, there is considered nothing morally illicit about masturbation, premarital sex, or birth control sex, while on the other hand, it is considered at least weird or worse repressed not to masturbate, have premarital sex, or use NFP. Not having children is considered perfectly fine, while having lots of children is considered morally wrong (witness the Duggar family or Natalie Sulamon (or whatever her name is; I'm talking about Octomom)). Still, there is lots more room to go: it could happen in the future that parents insist on their children having sex while in high school, or that orgiastic sex is considered normal (witness Britney Spears's latest song, "3", a paean to group sex).

Jiminy Cricket, what's it take for the sky to fall in your book - government funded mandatory prostitution with twelve year olds? I suppose it's hard to notice the sky falling when it drops from 500 feet to 479. But when it used to be at 20,000 feet, the drop to 500 is easier to recognize as a falling sky.

I don't know about Canada but the body of law is so strong here that you really need to go beyond mere assertion and tenuous connections to have the level of confidence that you all seem to have.

Yes, so strong that it took only one term to completely reverse the SCOTUS position on a Constitutional question - what was the stalwart and strong tandem? - Oh yeah, Boyer (I think) and Lawrence. In one term, anti-sodomy laws are constitutional; next term, not so much. That body of law could use a little more exercise.

I will never understand how that leads one into conservatism as a political movement or voting with enthusiasm for the current Republican clown show.

I don't know many who voted with enthusiasm for the current Republican clown show. Some voted for them with dyspepsia; some voted for them as a vote against Obama/Democrats; many didn't vote for them at all.

That body of law could use a little more exercise.

Ba-dum ching! Great line, C Matt.

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