Sociologist Daniel Bell once famously defined an intellectual as someone who knows how to make relevant distinctions. He might have added as a corollary: Disputation among intellectuals more often than not involves disagreement about which distinctions are relevant. I give you Exhibit A: In this post, I argued that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism would make a more suitable form of civil religion than the "mere orthodoxy" favored by traditionalist evangelicals and Catholics over the past two decades.
The ordinary resources of empirical observation and ordinary human knowledge give us no warrant for supposing that all good things are reconcilable with each other.--Isaiah BerlinThis quote -- a long-time favorite of mine -- came to mind when I heard that James Dobson had conceded the religious right's defeat in the culture war. Let's assume for a moment that the right has indeed been routed (which I doubt). Dobson and his admirers and allies no doubt view the event as a terrible thing -- as definitive proof that the United States is in irreversible moral and cultural decline.
Book, magazine, and newspaper publishers love headlines announcing the "end" of this or that -- because they sell books, magazines, and newspapers. And so we have this week's issue of Newsweek, announcing "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" in red letters laid-out in the shape of a cross on a black background. Powerful. Dramatic. Exciting. Chilling. Inside, the lead article, by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, is titled "The End of Christian America." Really? Christian America is coming to an end?
What more is there to say in the Great Gay Marriage Debate? (Start here for my first post. Then go here and here for Rod's responses. My rejoinder to Rod can be read here. Andrew Sullivan's intervention can be read here. Finally, Rod replies to both of us here.) I've spent the past few days pondering Rod's claim that I concluded my last post with "a snarky and facile summary" of his views.
I don't expect very much from movies. Most are mediocre, falling far short of quality entertainment, let alone art. For the most part, the mediocrity doesn't disappointment me because great art is always rare, and it makes no sense to hope for more from movies, especially when commercial considerations exert so much pressure on those artists who work in the (extraordinarily expensive and technically complicated) medium of film.
Those of you who spend all of your time on the left side of the blogosphere have missed the right's recent and ongoing display of indignation at the decision of the University of Notre Dame to invite the President of the United States to deliver its commencement address this spring.
Rod Dreher has now written two responses to this post of mine, on what I called his (and, more broadly, the social conservative right's) "fixation" with homosexuality -- and in particular with the possibility that being gay may come to be widely accepted in American life.
I like and respect Rod Dreher. We've known each other for a long time and gone through some spiritual trials together. And for the past few years I've read his Crunchy Con blog nearly every day, appreciating his honesty and learning from his fresh take on a wide range of social, cultural, and economic issues. But there's one thing about Rod -- and many other social conservatives -- that I just don't get.
Charles Murray's recent Irving Kristol lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, titled "The Europe Syndrome and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism," has been extravagantly praised by conservatives. From these accounts, I figured that Murray had something new or interesting or thoughtful to say about the question of American exceptionalism or the problems confronting contemporary Europe.But no.
You know that proposal in Connecticut, now tabled, that would have forced the Roman Catholic Church to turn over its governance in the state to boards of Catholic laypeople? As Walter Olson points out, some theocons have (surprise surprise!) been using the controversy over the bill to rally the troops: Many traditionalist Catholic commentators, like Kathryn Lopez at National Review, have promoted the view that the bill somehow constitutes “retribution” for the Catholic Church’s Culture War stands, specifically its promotion of Proposition 8 in California.