NRO: Organizing Groupthink

The Left applies lessons learned from gay-marriage victories to the next war.

Politico treated it the way we treat news stories nowadays, in our celebrity-driven culture in which a beloved actor’s suicide can drive front-page news for a whole week: “Media Matters’ David Brock expands empire,” it reported.

David Brock may not be exactly an A-lister, but he is one of a contemporary cluster of insiders who have changed the way the “mainstream media” game is played. Bias, once the offshoot of genteel groupthink, has become progressively, aggressively organized.

Under the old model, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which played a key role in bringing down Jack Abramoff and the once powerful GOP congressmen Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, felt the old-school need to burnish its credibility by targeting some Democrats alongside a majority-Republican target list. (CREW’s widely covered “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” lists included 25 Democrats among its 88 featured members since 2005.)

No more. Brock was elected chairman of the board after laying out a new aggressively partisan plan to transform CREW into what the Washington Examiner called a Democratic “lapdog.” From Politico:

The reconfigured CREW, which is searching for a new executive director, will add a more politically oriented arm, expand its focus into state politics and donor targeting and will operate in close coordination with Brock’s growing fleet of aggressive Democrat-backing nonprofits and super PACs — Media Matters, American Bridge and the American Independent Institute.

“CREW gives us some potentially powerful tools in the tool box,” said Brock, who founded his flagship organization Media Matters in 2004. “We have been in the accountability [business] for 10 years very successfully. It is kind of a one-stop-shop now.”

Read the full article at the National Review Online

Why Catholic Marriage Matters

From the National Review Online

Pope Francis has called for a reexamination of how the Church treats Catholics who have divorced and (civilly) remarried. Because a valid marriage between baptized Christians is considered indissoluble, a Catholic who remarries after a civil divorce is living in open adultery and so may not take communion. A synod of bishops this October will lay the groundwork for all the world’s bishops to gather in 2015 and consider how the Church treats sex and marriage.

This new call has sparked enough conversation about prominent thinkers, from theNew York Times’ Ross Douthat to this July 30 commentary by Peter Berger, to make me think that my two cents, my widow’s mite, is worth offering.

This conversation takes place in a particular context: first, the challenge to the Catholic Church to combine truth and love, teaching and mercy.

The overall trend in the Catholic Church has been to hold tight to dogma but retreat from discipline, leaving more matters to the individual conscience of the believer, who has presumably both the teaching of the Church and the door of the confessional always open for him to receive Christ’s forgiveness for his or her sins. Hence the American bishops have mostly resisted calls to refuse the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Nancy Pelosi, and even disciplined priests who withheld communion from partnered lesbians.

I personally don’t think this dogma-without-discipline plan has worked that well, overall, especially given the failure of the Church to communicate its teaching to the children in its schools and to the people in its pews on Sunday, and sometimes apparently to priests in its seminaries. But nobody made me a bishop, and it is understandable, at least in theory, given the havoc the sexual revolution (not to mention consumerism) has wreaked in ordinary people’s lives.

But that strategy doesn’t work at all for the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics. Remarried Catholics cannot just go to confession for their sins, because they intend by their public act of remarriage to keep on sinning against their original vow.

Read The Full Article Here

 

Are Evangelicals Bad for Marriage?

From the National Review Online:

“Red state” values supposedly increase divorce risk, but the least religious couples are equally vulnerable. 

An April 2014 Urban Institute study predicts that if current marriage rates do not rebound, just 69 percent of Millennial women (and 65 percent of men) will marry by the age of 40. By contrast, in 1990, 91 percent of U.S.-born women had married by the age of 40.

Almost none of this retreat from marriage will be felt among college-educated white Americans. The majority of college-educated Millennials will marry and have their children in marriages that last until the death of one partner.

Meanwhile, the average American lives in a world where sex is plentiful but stable families are not, leading many a Millennial to conclude that there is little point in marriage at all. You can’t fail at what you don’t attempt.

Read the full article here

 

Catholics and Queer Theory

John Corvino, the co-author of my latest book, takes on Catholics like Michael Hannon, who in First Things essay “Against Heterosexuality” try to use queer theory to dismantle homosexuality as a “real” category in Commonweal (John is an ex-Catholic and an ex-seminarian as he makes clear):

“Hannon argues that religious conservatives should embrace queer theorists’ view that sexual orientation is a social construction, rather than a natural and inevitable feature of persons. Furthermore, they should stop categorizing anyone as gay, because doing so organizes that person’s sexual identity around a particular temptation to sin, leading him to believe that he needs that sin in order to be fulfilled. Finally, and most important, they should stop categorizing anyone as heterosexual, because doing so lets people off the hook as “normal,” thus blinding them to their own sin. . .

Hannon, who is a candidate for religious life with the Norbertine order, is hardly the first Catholic to invoke queer theory in support of conservative causes. Back in the late 1990s, when the essentialist/constructionist debate was still fresh, my old sparring partner Maggie Gallagher made a similar point at a Georgetown University conference on “Homosexuality and American Public Life.””

Small point, I don’t recall making this point in that conference but it’s years ago and I don’t still have a copy of that talk (and neither does John).

In any case I agree with John Corvino more than I disagree with him in this piece on his main point, although he seems to interpret a discussion of how Christians should think about same-sex attraction and the people who have it with an attempt to determine how everyone thinks about it.

Even if the broader culture accepts homosexuality as a social fact, which is clearly the case whether Hannon likes it or not, that does not settle how Catholics should think about it.

Here’s my view: When Christians tell me that homosexuality is “socially constructed” and therefore not a “real” permanent feature of human existence, I generally respond “I know gay people exist the same way that I know that Methodists exist. I’ve met them.”

In other words, not all categories that are real are founded on fixed unchangeable essences. Sexual orientation as a concept is a way of organizing “given reality” (sexual attraction) into a communal identity, the strongest kind.  It is therefore not at all like race, and but rather more akin to religion.

I never ever think of myself as a heterosexual, nonetheless my own ideas about my experience of sexuality (“we are born male and female and called to come together in love in this thing called marriage”) are core enough to my identity and my sense of what is required for communal good that I am willing to suffer rather than renounce them, if necessary. They are not positions I hold, they are part of who I am.

Corvino acknowledges that in a gay-affirming culture more people will label their feelings as gay and grow up to live a gay life, which he sees as the great moral advance on the subject and orthodox Catholics see as Not a Good Thing. (Although the openly gay community of priests, brothers, and seminarians in Corvinos’ seminary by his account applauded his coming out).

I do not have strong feelings whether Hannon is right or whether  orthodox gay Catholics like Eve Tushnet are right in thinking she should retain her lesbian identity while committing herself to faithful Christian practice (meaning in her current situation, celibacy).

But as an atheist, that is not the question that John Corvino is thinking about.

NRO: GOP Should Address Falling Value of Wages

From the National Review Online.

I was in the Eisenhower Lounge of the National Republican Club, where the executive directors of the RNC, the NSRC, the NRCC, the RGA, and the RSLC called a press conference to announce: The Rs think Republicans are going to win in November.

Mamie Eisenhower in her sweet pink ball gown smiled gently down on the solid show of middle-aged men in suits, blue or grey, and ties ranging from red to auburn (only the NRCC’s Leisl Hickey broke the monotony). While the press turnout is good (the conference closes with a question from Luke Russert), the stories afterward were thin, with the Hill presenting dueling interpretations, “GOP Presents United 2014 Front,” and “GOP Primary Wounds Still Smarting.”

The latter referred to the unforced PR error by the NRSC’s Rob Collins in responding with visible venom to a reporter’s inevitable tea-party question. “The for-profit conservative base here in D.C., we’re never gonna get along with, at least this cycle,” Collins said, before backtracking slightly: “That’s not true, there are some that will have a role to play in the general election. But some of the louder voices, it has not been good for their bottom line to get along with [us], so they choose not to.”

Read the full article here.

Hill OpEd: Reid, Dems running scared on abortion issue

This article originally appeared on The Hill.  Read the original here

By Maggie Gallagher

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is running scared on abortion.  That may be surprising to conventional pundits who believe “social issues” are ruining the GOP politically, but you can tell when a Democrat leader is scared of a social issue – when he attacks his GOP opponents for allegedly acting on “politics” not principles.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) rallied with prolife groups to push for a vote on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks (around five months), the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and made Reid sound annoyed, not at all the happy War on Women camper:

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Bend it Like Benham

The best bit of good news I have seen is this report from the Hollywood Reporter suggesting multiple other networks are considering picking up the series “Flip it Forward” that HGTV cancelled.

Since Carrie Prejean was hounded off the national stage for the crime of answering the question, should every state have gay marriage, with a polite “no,” Hollywood and the entertainment industry have made their point of view crystal clear: The glamour of television and movies is not for people who believe marriage is the union of a husband and a wife.  (The pageant judge who videotaped himself and posted the video calling Ms. Prejean the “c-word” was welcomed back to judge more young would-be beauty queens—what does that tell us? And when Carrie’s not atypical California teenager’s sexual/romantic history was exposed for the clear malicious purpose of “slut-shaming” her to retaliate for her refusal to recant on gay marriage, not a single progressive voice rushed to her defense.)

Duck Dynasty’s survival was the first crack in this new and quite literal McCarthyism, the one sign of hope that the new blacklist was not impenetrable, some could seep through.  True, the Robertson’s Duck Dynasty was a monster hit network-sustaining franchise player.  But when the family who would not recant faced down a network whose economic survival depended on this hit franchise, the entertainment industry and its LGBT allies relented: that show at least could go on.

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Cooper, Mozilla, Arizona

A friend asked me, after reading my last interview with HuffPo, “So are you really stepping down from the marriage and religious liberty fight?”

No, I told him.  Sorry if it sounded like that.  What I am advocating doing is three very big, and very hard things: a) accepting where we are and b) learning from what we did not succeed in so that we can get to c) how do we build anew?

Right now most people who believe in the classic understanding of marriage are in shock, they are awed by the powers now shutting down the debate and by our ineffectualness at responding to these developments.

The temptation to shout and yell and stamp our feet in ineffectual ridiculousness is understandable, but it is to be resisted.

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