Regis College educators training for same-sex issues

Regis College educators training for same-sex issues

By  Jean Ko Din, The Catholic Register

  • October 23, 2016

Regis College at the University of Toronto is training Catholic educators on how to provide pastoral care for students who are homosexual, confused about their sexuality or feel conflicted with their physical gender.

As part of the College’s Professional Development Certificate program, Fr. Gilles Mongeau is conducting a three-lecture series to unpack “Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Orientation,” published by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario education commission.

“Our purpose at Regis in offering this mini-course is practical,” said Mongeau. “Given the pastoral guidelines… How can the various actors in a Catholic high school implement practices that are appropriate to their role to ensure that LGBT students feel safe, are informed and receive the psychological and pastoral accompaniment that can help them flourish as persons and as disciples of Christ.”

Mongeau said educators within the Catholic high school system need to be equipped because it is within this age range that students begin to explore their sense of identity and sexuality.

Mongeau said educators and other concerned lay people are not without resources. This document, originally published in 2004 and updated inMay, is a good start.

“One of the real breakthroughs in the update of last May, there is an insistence that wasn’t so clear in the original document that we begin with persons, real persons,” he said.

Mongeau said moral theology is not a good substitute for good psychology. Discussions in moral theology within the mini-course, which began Oct. 13 and runs to Nov. 3, will not help the teacher or the chaplain who is in front of a teenager who needs to have a conversation.

Instead, the lecture series will provide workable teachings that will help educators understand their role in accompanying LGBT youth.

“We start from psychological health and from there, we invite people to a discernment on how they want to live their life and their vocation,” said Mongeau.

The Church does not take an official position on the psychological causes of sexual orientation or issues of gender identity. Therefore, Mongeau asserts that educators can look to what psychological studies are saying about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“First and most important thing to remember is that a homosexual orientation is not a psychological disorder,” said Mongeau. “I shouldn’t have to say that but the reality is that it is still, in some circles of the Church, understood and it’s even believed that the Church teaches… this is simply not what psychology tells us.”

Modern psychological studies agree that homosexual orientation does not lead to more or less maladjustment than those with a heterosexual orientation. As such, the role of the educator is not to correct or repair.

“Mainly, the educator needs to respect what’s going on in (counselling) and then accompany the student in terms of the faith dimension of that,” said Mongeau. “The educator will help the student that struggling with, ‘Did God give me this body that I struggle with, that is uncomfortable?’ That’s a big faith question and the psychologist can’t help the teenager with that but a good high school chaplain can.”

Mongeau said that because studies in gender identity and gender dysphoria are a new field of knowledge, this is a more difficult topic to address.

Gender dysphoria is when a person experiences persistent feelings of identification with the opposite sex and distress with one’s own biological sex.

During the three-lecture series, Mongeau aims to “debunk myths and break down nuances of understanding.”

 

LITURGY RESOURCES, DECEMBER 4 – DECEMBER 11, 2016, DAY BY DAY EDITION

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2016         SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Lectionary 4:   1)   Isaiah 11:1-10;   2)   Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17;   3)    Romans 15:4-9;  4)     Matthew 3:1-12.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120416.cfm

FOCUS: We are called to prepare the way for Jesus.   John the Baptist was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus. He did this by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Similarly, each one of us is called by God to prepare the way for Jesus. We do this whenever we assist someone in need, visit someone who is sick or lend a listening ear.        Reform your lives (3); live in God’s peace (2) so that justice may flourish (1, Ps).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading prophesies that the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon the promised Messiah, who shall come forth from the line of King David. The second reading from Romans reminds us that by living in love and unity with one another, we glorify God. In the Gospel, John the Baptist preaches in the desert, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Monday, December 5, 2016         MONDAY OF ADVENT – SECOND WEEK

Lectionary  81:   1)   Isaiah 35:1-10;   2)    Ps 85:9-14 Lk 5:17-26;    3)    Luke 5:17-26.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120516.cfm

FOCUS:    Faith enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns and keep our feet planted on the path to life.    Unexpected twists and turns are part and parcel of life. If we try to handle them all on our own, we will surely fail. But if we trust in God and rely upon him for guidance and support, we will find the strength to persevere and stay on the path of discipleship and life.      God has come to save us (1) in Christ Jesus. He offers us peace (Ps), forgiveness, and healing (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

Today’s first reading from Isaiah describes the joyful return of God’s people to the Holy Land from exile in Babylon. The Gospel tells of Jesus healing a paralytic lowered to him through a hole made in the roof of a house.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016    TUESDAY OF ADVENT – SECOND WEEK

Optional Memorial:  Saint Nicholas, Bishop

Lectionary 82:    1)   Isaiah 40:1-11;   2)     Ps 96:1-3, 10-13;      3)   Matthew 18:12-14.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120616.cfm

FOCUS:    God’s power is found in love and consolation.  It is easy to think of power as something that injures or takes advantage of another. But God’s power is one of love; it is a love that consoles, rescues from death and seeks us out when we go astray.   God comforts (1) and abides with us in love (Ps), seeking out those who are lost or who have gone astray (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The passage from Isaiah provides us with some of the most optimistic and consoling words in Scripture. God’s power is shown in his love toward us, and he uses it for our rescue and our safety. The parable of the lost sheep in Matthew’s Gospel demonstrates the love God has for his people, and all that he will do to keep us safe and bring us home.

Nicholas, †4th c.; bishop of Myra in Asia Minor; model pastor noted for charity; popularized as Santa Claus (anglicized from Dutch “Sinter Claus”); patron of children, bankers, pawnbrokers, sailors, perfumers, brides, unmarried women, travelers, fishermen, dock workers, brewers, poets, and prisoners; also of Russia, Greece, Sicily, Lorraine, and Apulia in Italy where his relics are enshrined in Ban.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016      WEDNESDAY OF ADVENT – SECOND WEEK

Obligatory Memorial: Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary    83:   1)   Isaiah 40:25-31;   2)    Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10;   3)   Matthew 11:28-30.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120716.cfm

FOCUS:    Jesus offers us a blessed invitation to rest in him when we are weary.  The Lord’s great strength lifts us when we are tired and feel we cannot go on. The demands of daily life can seem daunting, but if we seek out Jesus for strength and guidance, he will help us carry our cross. Jesus is our respite when the world seems to go on “non-stop.” Merciful and kind (Ps), the Lord gives strength to the weary (1) and to all who are overburdened (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading from Isaiah reminds us that God gives us strength at all times and renews us so that we may run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. In the Gospel, we learn that Jesus gives us rest from our busy lives, cares and burdens.

Ambrose, † Holy Saturday, 397; born in Trier of noble parents; classi­cally educated; while a catechumen, chosen by popular acclaim as bishop of Milan and consecrated 7 Dec. 374; his allegorical exegesis and rhetorical skill made him a compelling preacher; defender of ortho­doxy against Arianism; brought Theodosius to public penance; com­posed several liturgical hymns; baptized Augustine; along with Sts. Jerome (30 Sept.), Augustine (28 Aug.), and Gregory I (3 Sept.), declared one of the four great doctors of the Latin Church (by Pope Boniface VIII, 1298).

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Thursday, December 8, 2016     THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE  BLESSED VIRGIN MARY – SOLEMNITY    (Patronal Feast Day of the United States of America)

(Holy Day of Obligation)

Lectionary 89:   1) Genesis 3:9-15, 20; 2) Ps 98:1-4;    3) Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12;  3) Luke 1:26-38.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120816.cfm

FOCUS:    We celebrate the unique place of Mary in God’s plan of salvation.  With the coming of Christ into our world, God enters into humanity in a new and dynamic way. Mary’s role in this great drama as mother is essential, and yet another example of how God has chosen and blessed the people who belong to him. With this Christ-filled blessing comes God’s peace, and our adoption as his sons and daughters.   Chosen by God (2), Mary reverses the sin of Eve (1). Because of her obedience (3), God’s salvation is made known to all the nations (Ps).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The reading from Genesis recalls that moment when humanity, having defied its Creator, is expelled from Eden and separated from the Lord. Saint Paul reminds the Ephesians that, like all believers in Christ, they have been chosen, blessed and called to be holy before the Lord. The Gospel recalls the Annunciation and Mary’s yes to the Lord.

Originating in the 7th c. feast of the “Conception of Mary by St. Anne,” Pope Clement XI, in his Bull, Commissi Nobis, established this Solemnity for the entire Church in 1708; patroness of the United States of America, Spain, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Friday, December 9, 2016         FRIDAY OF ADVENT – SECOND WEEK                                         Optional Memorial:  Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Lectionary 85:   1)   Isaiah 48:17-19;   2)    Ps 1:1-4, 6;   3)   Matthew 11:16-19.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/120916.cfm

FOCUS:    Every Christian is called to be in dialogue with the message of sacred Scripture.  The great Scripture scholar Saint Jerome once said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Scripture is addressed to us, and we must try to understand what the Lord wants to tell us. We need to remember that the word of God has been given to us to build communion with others on our journey toward the heavenly kingdom.    Isaiah exhorts his listeners to follow the Lord (1, Ps). Jesus exposes the lack of wisdom and obstinacy of his contemporaries (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading from Isaiah is focused on faithfulness to the Lord’s commandments.    If the people of Israel would have remained steadfast, they would have prospered and flourished. In the Gospel, Jesus scolds the people for not listening to either John the Baptist or him. Jesus’ own deeds are evidence that he is revealing the wisdom of God.

In 1531, Our Lady appeared four times to a native convert, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (meaning “the talking eagle”), at Tepeyac, near Mexico City. A member of the Chichimeca people, he was perhaps a leader of his own people and may have been involved in the area’s textile indus­try. Known for his holiness, he devoted himself, tradition says, to the pilgrims who came to see the miraculous image of Mary imprinted on his cloak. Pope John Paul II canonized him 31 July 2002.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Saturday, December 10, 2016       SATURDAY OF ADVENT – SECOND WEEK

Lectionary 86:   1)   Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11;   2)    Ps 80:2-3, 15-16,18-19;                                        3)   Matthew 17:9a, 10-13.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/121016.cfm

FOCUS:    At this midpoint of Advent, let us refocus our hearts on reflection and prayer.  Advent invites time for quiet, time for prayer and time to allow our God to come near to us. Yet the world distracts us with many things to do as we prepare for Christmas. Let’s refocus on those special Advent invitations that allow for spiritual renewal, and enhance the fire of our devotion to God.  Elijah, a type of precursor of the Messiah (1), is identified with John whose death foretells that of Jesus (2), the Son of Man (Ps).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading from the Book of Sirach remembers the fiery zeal of the prophet Elijah for God. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that Elijah has already come in the person of John the Baptist.

  • Tomorrow, the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, so-called from the first word of the antiphon at the Introit. Gaudete (“Rejoice”), taken from the Latin translation of Phil 4:4-5, sets a tone of joyful expectation for the Lord’s birth and Second Coming, as does the permitted use of rose-colored vestments.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2016               THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Lectionary 7:  1)   Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10;   2)   Ps 146:6-10;    3)   James 5:7-10;    4)   Matthew 11:2-11.

http://www.usccb.net/bible/readings/121116.cfm

FOCUS:    Rejoice in the Lord always; for indeed, the Lord is near.   As we wait for the coming of the Lord, we prepare our hearts and homes to receive him. As Saint Paul instructs, we prepare with patience and a firm heart. We will know he has come into our hearts and homes when we model true discipleship and work to bring the Good News to those around us. In the person of Jesus (3), God has come to heal and save us (1, Ps). Patiently, yet joyfully, we await the fulfillment of his advent (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, the prophet proclaims the joyful news that God saves his people and gives them great reason for rejoicing. Saint Paul, in the second reading, exhorts the faithful to prepare for the coming of the Lord with patience and a firm heart. In the Gospel, John the Baptist asks if Jesus is really the Messiah, or should they seek another?

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊            ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

 

Sunday, December 4, 2016      Second Sunday of Advent

Reflection:  Why John the Baptist Was Sent

John was sent to them to destroy their indifference and delusions, and to make them receptive to God’s plans. And besides Israel there was the new people which was being prepared and for which John was to act as precursor. Even though he himself was not a mis­sionary to the nations of the world, he had a mission to prepare those who would be sent out as missionar­ies, once the hour of God had come. On that day, they would truly be his disciples, since they would come to know the light shining out of the darkness, and would bear witness to it to the very ends of the earth. Thus John occupies a unique place in the history of the people of God. He belongs to the long line which constituted the axis of history from Adam to Jesus, and which would continue after Jesus from Peter to the Church today….

In this way, too, John’s vocation is an example for us. It gives him a place in the community so that he can fulfill his unique role there. Now this is precisely the essence of a vocation: it makes a person realize the necessity of his existence, that is, discover that he is necessary to others, and answers a vital need. A truly miserable life is one which serves no purpose, which feels itself cut off, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind, as Saint Paul said. It is superficial with the horri­ble superficiality of one who is not carried along to his proper place (the place where God wants him) by the force of love. True happiness of life, on the other hand, consists in having found one’s rightful place, the place that God wants, no matter what that place might be.

CARDINAL JEAN DANIELOU        Cardinal Danielou († 1974) was a Jesuit priest, theologian, historian, and member of the Academie Francaise.                                                      Magnificat, December 2016, pages 66–67.

 

 

Monday of the Second Week of Advent, December 5, 2016

Being a Healing Power

Let us look at some of the strong thoughts the Church puts before us in her beautiful Latin hymns. Creator Alme Siderum speaks of our dear Lord being “urged on by generous love.” This is always at the heart of Advent: that we are urged on, that we are hurrying, rising up, casting off darkness. The Church says to our Lord, “urged on by a generous love, you, Lord Jesus, became a healing power for a sick world.”…

This is what we are to realize anew in Advent, how to be a healing power. We are not to produce the medi­cine; we are not to be the healing hands, but a healing power. And to do this we must do it in the way that Christ became a healing power: he was urged by a generous love, a love that desired to give and give and that drove him on. It pushed him on; it pressed him on.

Then in the hymn at Lauds, Verbum Supernum, we ask God to “inflame our hearts by the fire of love and empty them of earth’s fleeting desires.” It is quite a pain­ful process to empty out a heart of earthly desires. The more interior the desire, the more difficult and painful it is to remove it. But the Church tells us in her very realistic way that it is only hearts that are emptied of worldliness, of earth’s fleeting desires, that God can in­flame with his love. Empty out your hearts; turn them upside down; pour out all these things so that the liq­uid love of God can flow into them.

MOTHER MARY FRANCIS, P.C.C.     Mother Mary Francis ( 2006) was abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico.                                         Magnificat, December 2016, page 77.

 

 

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent, December 6, 2016  – St. Nicholas

The Helplessness of the Lost Sheep

Faith is the acknowledgement of one’s own helpless­ness and the awaiting of everything from God. This experience of helplessness and of awaiting everything from God is humble means par excellence.

Do you see the value of humble means in your life? God certainly does not limit your opportunities of this kind. Who among us does not undergo moments of torment, some particular difficulties or moments of the spiritual desert? Who among us does not have problems with our own selves and with the external conditions of life? All of this cannot be seen, classified, or evaluated. It is so unnoticeable that one cannot find any statistical data on this subject. Who could possibly know that, at a certain point in your life, you said yes to God, / do want—I want everything that you expect from me.

Who could know that, at a certain point in time, when it was very hard for you, you said through tears that you love him and always want to love him? Who knows how many times you vanquished your own self, denied yourself something, and overcame your own will? These humble means are of the utmost importance to you, to the Church, and to the world; these are the means that summon the might of God.

FATHER TADEUSZ DAJCZER          Father Dajczer († 2009) was a Polish priest and professor of theology in Warsaw, and co-founder of the Families of Nazareth Movement.                     Magnificat, December 2016, pages 88-89.

 

 

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent, December 7, 2016 – St. Ambrose

“Come to me”

The soul hastens to the Word and asks that she be drawn to him, so that she may not, perhaps, be left behind, for the Word of God runs and is not bound. Indeed he rejoices as a giant to run the way and be­cause his going out is from the end of heaven and his circuit even to the end thereof, the soul, seeing that she is no match for such great swiftness, says, Draw us.

And good is the soul that asks, not alone for herself, but for all souls. Draw us. For we have the desire to follow, which we have inhaled from the gracious gift of your ointments. But since we cannot match your course, draw us, so that we can follow in your footsteps through your assistance and support. If you draw us, we will run and will take hold of swift spiritual breezes. For they put aside their burden who have your hand as their support, and into them is poured your oil, with which the man who was wounded by robbers was healed.

And do not consider shameless her statement, Draw us, but hear him as he says, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. You see how gladly he draws us, so that we may not be left behind as we follow.

SAINT AMBROSE     Saint Ambrose († 397), known as the Pastoral Doctor, was a model bishop and an eloquent preacher He was instrumental in the conversion of Saint Augustine.       Magnificat, December 2016, page 100.

 

 

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent, December 8, 2016

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Immaculate Conception

The second chapter of Genesis is absolutely beyond comprehension if you do not remember Mary. It is true that everything is beyond understanding without her….

It is well enough for us to know that God is our end; what means have we without Mary even to give shape to such a thought?

Our minds cannot receive God except through Mary, just as the Son of God could not be born except through the operation in her of the Holy Spirit. Human speech is there so powerless that all words are fearsome. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which puts her at an unspeak­able distance from us, is nevertheless the sole point of contact. By means of the Immaculate Conception God was able to place his foot upon earth. Here is the sole door through which he was able to escape from the Garden of Delight which is his Mother, and whom a thousand centuries of blessedness could not enable us to understand.

You would have to know what were Adam and Eve, what were the plants and animals in that garden, what was the disobedience and what it cost. You would have sufficiently to wipe away everything men have thought for seventy or eighty centuries in order to make possible, I do not say the evidence or the distant mental image, still less the vague expectation, but a bare something resembling a heartbeat in the face of this fact: that with everything lost forever, as it is with the fallen angels, there all the same remained preserved a drop of divine Sap, just enough to save billions of worlds; and that in the end there blossomed that Flower more beautiful than Innocence, which Christians name, understand­ing nothing about it, the Immaculate Conception, Mary herself, the sublime garden regained.

LEON BLOY       Leon Bloy († 1917) was a French novelist, essayist, pamphleteer, and poet. Magnificat, December 2016, pages 115-116.

 

 

Friday of the Second Week of Advent, December 9, 2016

Optional Memorial:  Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Wisdom Is Vindicated

Wisdom consists wholly in our ability to discover a certain relationship between what we purpose and what happens to us….

And wisdom does not consist, as is often believed, in renouncing the absolute; on the contrary it is a meeting with the absolute which gives each thing its “measure.”…

Wisdom…imposes order on our desires and passions….

Wisdom is the discovery and the love of our essence, of the being which has been given us, and the universe which spreads out before our eyes; of the situation in which we find ourselves and its attendant obligations. It is the death of envy, for it is the realization that the inner life of the world into which every man penetrates the moment he says “I” is so precious a thing that nothing else could possibly be worth more, or be more highly desired. From now onwards, nothing counts but the use to which he puts this discovery; and this is precisely what has been entrusted to him….

It is the courage which is demanded if we are to at­tribute an incomparable value to the humblest things, once we become aware that they have been entrust­ed to us as the instruments with which to work out our destiny.

LOUIS LAVELLE     Louis Lavelle († 1951) was a professor at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, and was a prominent Christian philosopher.           Magnificat, December 2016, pages 127-128.

 

 

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent, December 10, 2016

From the Poem:   “Saint John the Baptist and His Persecutors”

He worked no miracles, yet wise men saw in his career a mission without flaw.               Surely a new Elijah intercedes With God, and, taught by him, the people leads,

Like that old Prophet; aye repentance teaches, and with a mystic power the conscience reaches. No flattering words are his, nor glozing modes; Each trickster dreads his sermons like as goads, Or nails by masters of assemblies given, Piercing the heart until it quite be riven. He spared not the expounders of the law—Vipers he called them, for their craft he saw. He gave to the baptized a form of prayer Less than his Master’s good, yet sweet and rare.

FATHER ROBERT WILLIAM JOHNSON

Father Johnson († 1889) was an Anglican clergyman from England.                                       Magnificat, December 2016, page138.

 

 

 

Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, 2016

In this Mass, the color violet or rose is used.

Third Sunday of Advent – John the Baptist has lived like a patient farmer awaiting “the precious fruit of the earth.” From the midst of the “hardship and patience” that he suffers in prison for being a prophet “who spoke in the name of the Lord,” John’s heart bears only one question: “Are you the one who is to come?” John’s longing for Christ is what keeps him looking eagerly to each new day. He lives with the expectation to “see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.” And that is why Christ’s reply is so deliberately elaborate. When John hears of the miraculous benefits accorded to the blind, the lame, the leprous, the deaf and the poor, he will know that the One he has been waiting for all his life has come: the God of mer­cy. The greatness of John the Baptist is that he refused to settle for anything less.                Magnificat, December 2016, page 146.

 

◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊            ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊    ◊

THE PERILS OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY — FIRST THINGS February 2016

Yuval Levin warns against an individualist understanding of religious freedom.

On January 24, 1774, the young James Madison, twenty-two years old and two years out of Princeton, wrote an exasperated letter to his college friend William Bradford, who lived in Pennsylvania. In Virginia, Madison wrote, a season of intolerance had dawned. “That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages,” and perfectly well-meaning men of religion were finding themselves imprisoned for expressing any deviation from the views of the dominant Anglican Church. He told his friend that he had “squabbled and scolded, abused, and ridiculed so long” about this that he had no more patience for the fight. “So I leave you,” he concluded, “to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

Of course, Madison ultimately did more than beg for pity and prayer. He made religious liberty a fore­most cause of his political action. And he enshrined in our Constitution, and so etched in our national consciousness, a principled and practical commit­ment to that liberty that has helped us remain a free society ever since.

These days, however, many religious and moral traditionalists in America can easily relate to the young Madison’s anguished plea for pity and prayer—or at the very least for a revival of liberty of conscience. In our time, too, a season of intolerance has dawned. Over the past few years, the Obama administration has actively worked to isolate, vilify, and intimidate opponents of abortion, for instance, making it increas­ingly difficult for them to run a business or operate in the public square in accordance with their convictions. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has declared the tra­ditional understanding of marriage anathema, and left wide open many vexing questions about the standing of individuals, groups, and institutions who continue to uphold that understanding.

Major corporations have launched brazen attacks on communities seeking to carve out spaces for com­peting views on such questions. The key organs of popular culture have declared dissenting views on sexuality and marriage unfit for polite conversa­tion, setting off occasional high-profile witch hunts against dissenters and enabling an environment of in­timidation well beyond those. Prominent academics and civil liberties organizations have raised the pros­pect of stripping churches of their tax exemptions and pursuing litigation to require private companies and civic groups to be led and staffed by people who pledge allegiance to the moral creed of the left. Major newspapers have begun to put the phrase “religious freedom” in scare quotes, as if everybody under­stands that it is just a cover for bigotry abusing the sacred name of liberty.

Much of this might have seemed unimaginable even a decade ago, and that sudden collapse in our standing in society has left many traditionalists reeling. For some, this dark turn offers proof that the American project of virtuous democratic capitalism has always been inherently untenable: Ever since the nation’s founding, if not since the dawn of the En­lightenment, the liberal society has been at war with its own moral foundations, they argue. It is now on the verge of demolishing them altogether, and the only real question is why it has taken so long. Now that the reckoning is upon us, we need to seek refuge for traditional ways of life where we can and accustom ourselves to the manners of exiles in our own society.

Others, on the contrary, see the rise of an op­pressive, progressive anti-traditionalism as a kind of betrayal of the principles underlying the American experiment and the practice of American life as we have known it. To them, recent years have involved a sharp break from our political tradition, and they call for a recovery—not only of our moral order but of our constitutional order, too.

Social conservatives in both groups have turned to religious liberty—whether as a shield or as a sword, as a means of guarding orthodox communities from the corrosive decadence of the broader culture or of reasserting the proper bounds of public power. Re­ligious liberty has therefore become the foremost public priority of social conservatives, and the im­portance of that first freedom has taken center stage in our case to the larger society.

This makes sense, of course. It is right that we should turn just where Madison did in the face of this new persecution. Religious liberty is plainly es­sential for the endurance of our free society and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of the many millions of Americans who dissent from the caustic Gnosticism that increasingly dominates our culture. The cultural revival we yearn for is only imaginable if we fight now against the suppression of dissenting views on moral questions.

But the unavoidable appeal to religious liberty is not without dangers of its own. The emphasis we are compelled now to put upon our first freedom risks distorting the moral message of religious and social conservatives in a number of important ways, and in the process undermining our case for liberty and tolerance. A deeper appreciation of the nature of that message could help us understand and minimize these dangers, and might also bring us to a deeper appreciation of religious liberty itself.

Key to such an appreciation will be taking note of the always uneasy relationship between theory and practice, or principle and action, in the life of a society. Both broad streams of traditionalist responses to the contemporary climate of oppres­sion—those who say our troubles are an extension of liberal principles and those who say they are a be­trayal of those principles—tend to jump too quickly from theory to practice, and so to treat the lived ex­perience of our society as a kind of working out of philosophical premises. Needless to say, however, the actual life of a society is not just a playing out of prin­ciples. It is an experience of living together, in com­munity and in conflict, within boundaries set by our moral and philosophical commitments but also under conditions determined by our vices and virtues, our character, our circumstances, and the habits of our variegated culture.

Both of the major camps of social conservative re­action to the challenges of the last few years are right in part: We have always had to struggle against the inclination of our liberal society to furiously pound itself into what Edmund Burke called “the dust and powder of individuality,” and to resist its elevation of choice above commitment. And we have always engaged in that struggle in part by calling upon the ideals of our founding—principles of both repub­licanism and liberalism, natural law and common law—and by carving out space for family and com­munity, commitment and responsibility, using the tools provided by our Constitution.

The distressing threats to religious liberty in recent years have therefore been both an extension of and a break with the principles of American liberty, because those principles are themselves not perfectly coherent. But these threats implicate not only our principles but our life together in practice, and it is in light of that practice that both the absolute necessity of a commit­ment to religious liberty and the dangers involved in such a commitment become most apparent.

For that reason, we might best reflect on those dangers by considering two arenas in which theory meets practice in the life of our society. One is the law—and the question of religious liberty is in an im­portant sense, of course, a legal question. The other, and surely the most significant arena where abstract philosophy must interact with concrete experience, is community life—where principle and practice come together on a personal, human scale.

The legal arena is where the case for reli­gious liberty seems most straightforward and securely rooted. The First Amend­ment to the Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free ex­ercise thereof.” These sixteen glorious words make for a sword, a shield, and a banner for today’s beleaguered believers. They seem to safeguard the right of every American to live by his convictions. But let us consider what they really demand, and on what grounds.

Our first instinct in the legal battles spawned by the progressive excesses of the last few years is to reach for the free exercise clause, which after all exists to protect religious people’s ability to live out their faiths in practice. It is easy to see why that seems like the right tool: Free exercise jurisprudence has frequently involved the crafting of prudential exemptions and ac­commodations—precisely the carving out of spaces—that could allow religious believers to act on their convictions even in the face of contrary public senti­ments or (up to a point) public laws. In their present circumstances, many religious traditionalists would surely benefit from such prudence and protection.

But the logic of free exercise is, at the same time, highly individualistic, while the problems traditional­ists now confront are frequently communal or (in the deepest sense) corporate problems. The free exercise clause offers a defense of religious freedom rooted in a defense of individual conscience and in turn in the broader liberal logic of individual rights. And those roots run deep.

The English tradition of religious toleration, which is the source of our legal ideal of the free exercise of religion, arose in the wake of long and bloody religious wars to secure some peace among conflicting sects by keeping individual belief out of the state’s reach. This was done in a nation with a strong estab­lished church, so that the freedom enabled by religious toleration at its origins was a freedom of private wor­ship and belief for dissenters, but not quite a freedom of common action in the public square. Religious free­dom was a very liberal liberty—a freedom afforded to individuals to keep them out of one another’s hair and so to keep the commons peaceful and orderly.

Indeed, the exigencies of England in the early Enlightenment meant that this toleration was itself selective: It was intended to protect Protestant dis­senters and Jews but to offer less protection to Catho­lics, and this aim meant that toleration quickly took on a particular form with troublesome implications for our own situation.

Perhaps the most blatant, if not comical, illustra­tion of this ambiguous character of English toleration at its origins can be found in John Milton’s noble case for freedom of thought and expression, which was also among the first explicit statements of the English mode of toleration. Milton’s Areopagitica, published as a letter to Parliament in 1644, in the midst of the English Civil War, was an impassioned case against censorship and the oppression of thought. When Milton applied his arguments to religion, though, he put the matter this way:

Yet if all cannot be of one mind—as who looks they should be?—this doubtless is more whole­some, more prudent, and more Christian that many be tolerated, rather than all compelled. I mean not tolerated popery, and open supersti­tion, which as it extirpates all religions and civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate, provided first that all charitable and compassionate means be used to win and regain the weak and the misled.

Tolerate all, but not Catholics. Even the greatest statement of the early Enlightenment’s tradition of toleration, John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning Toleration,” which is much more subtle on this point, draws a distinction that’s relevant today.

Locke argues there is no reason to ban the belief and profession of any article of faith, since beliefs can’t do any harm. “If a Roman Catholic believes that to be really the body of Christ which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. If a Jew does not believe the New Testa­ment to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter any-thing in men’s civil rights.” Individuals may believe what they wish.

But institutions formed around such beliefs were not to be similarly tolerated if they were to exist for a purpose beyond the mere expression of faith. This was especially a problem for Catholicism, which is a uniquely institutional religion. And Locke intended it to be such a problem. Catholic beliefs could be toler­ated, but the institutional existence of the Church, and its hierarchy answering to the pope (a foreign prince, Locke says), could not. The Act of Toleration, enacted by Parliament in 1689, set out the same dis­tinction, which remained an element of English law until well after America’s independence.

This tradition of toleration, therefore, es­tablished a highly individualistic under­standing of the right of conscience and of the protection of religious practice. Thus the particular question that has been at the heart of a lot of our religious liberty cases in the past few years—the question of whether institutions in the corporate form are entitled to religious liberty—is not a new question for our political tradition, and the answer that tradition has often offered it is not always friendly to the cause of contemporary traditionalists.

In 2012, when the Obama administration first proposed the so-called HHS mandate, requiring em­ployers to provide insurance coverage that included free access to contraceptive and abortive drugs, it provided an exceedingly narrow religious exemption from the rule that echoed some of the distinctions first made in these earliest incarnations of the English tradition of toleration. An organization could only count as religious, the regulation asserted, if “the inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization,” if it “primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization,” and if it “serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.”

This would effectively mean that only houses of worship, or institutions that otherwise serve the di­rect expression or inculcation of articles of faith, are to be granted religious liberty. Essentially no religious charities could qualify, no hospitals or schools, no adoption agencies—let alone private institutions run by religious people in the service of their convictions.

Religious practice, in this understanding, involves the profession of faith, but it does not extend to par­ticipation in the broader life of the society. It is es­sentially a private intellectual exercise. Freedom of religion here serves the ends of the liberal society, but it is not quite a constraint on the reach and power of that society over its members.

The case law arising out of the free exercise clause has long involved broadening such narrow definitions, which has resulted in requirements for accommoda­tions of various sorts for religious people in the pub­lic square. Accommodations for religious institutions have been somewhat more rare, and accommodations for private businesses owned by religious people all the more so. In this tradition, religion has rarely been treated as one of the things people do together.

And yet, there is in our tradition of re­ligious liberty a set of arguments and categories better suited to the kinds of challenges religious people now con­front. These arguments see religious liberty as demanding some essential limitations on the reach and power of liberalism itself, but they also point out the limits of religious liberty as a legal principle and affirm its breadth and reach as lived communal practice.

James Madison was among the original architects of such arguments. In his 1785 “Memorial and Re­monstrance against Religious Assessments,” written eleven years after his anguished letter to William Bradford, Madison put the point this way:

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to Him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.

Religious liberty, in this view, is therefore not quite a liberal liberty. It is not a freedom to do what you want, but a freedom to do what you must. It describes a duty FIRST THINGS February 2016

of society to retreat and give its members space to act on what they deem essential; an acknowledgment not of a human liberty or right, but of a human obligation that precedes the social obligation and so shapes it.

Madison also recognized that near the core of re­ligious liberty is the freedom not to be coerced into doing that which your religion prohibits you from do­ing. He proposed that a liberal society should make room for a moral code that comes with constraints. Indeed, he seems to suggest that a society that refuses to allow its citizens to be constrained by their reli­gious convictions is an unacceptably coercive society.

But Madison advanced this case not in the service of a protection of the free exercise of religion but rather in opposition to the establishment of religion. His point was that no one ought to be compelled to af­firm as true a religious tenet he took to be false and that no one should be compelled to participate in a religious rite that violated his own understanding of his religious obligations. He was making what we would now recognize as a non-establishment argu­ment, one that was not exactly an extension of the traditional Anglo-American case for toleration. Like the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which Madison authored a few years later, it was a Madisonian addendum to the Lockean ideal of lib­eral toleration in a society with an established church.

Yet it is also the essence of the argument that, say, a wedding vendor who wants to remain free to refrain from participating in a same-sex wedding would ad­vance. The question of the definition of marriage is, for many people, a fundamentally religious question. It is also a civil question in our country. But some religiously orthodox wedding vendors are finding themselves compelled by the civil authorities to af­firm an answer to that question that violates their religious convictions on the subject, and some reli­gious institutions—from universities to social service agencies to private companies owned by orthodox believers—are finding themselves forced to take part in the enactment and enforcement of a moral code they are obliged to reject.

They would like to be relieved of that compul­sion, but that can’t happen, they are told, because the larger society’s understanding of the moral life overrules the understanding prescribed by their reli­gious convictions. If they want to participate as busi­ness owners or service providers in the life of that society, they must give ground. They are more like religious believers under compulsion in a society with an established church than like believers simply de­nied the freedom to exercise their religion. Only now the compulsive state religion, or at least our new civil religion, is supposed to be progressive liberalism.

Of course, liberalism is not literally becoming a re­ligion—but it is approaching the question of society’s moral order from the point of view of a dominant, established power that expects to command formal assent to its views in the public square. People are al­lowed to believe what they want, but when they act together in public, they must abide by the beliefs of the established order.

That liberalism is not an actual religion means the establishment clause will not generally avail contemporary tradition­alists as a legal tool; arguments in court must continue to make the most of the free exercise clause, which offers us vital protections. But Madison’s argument against religious establish­ment speaks powerfully to our situation, and can help those traditionalists understand it better.

For one thing, it brings into sharper relief the dis­tinction between individual and communal religious liberty. In calling for keeping our national life free of the overbearing power of one church, Madison was not suggesting that we should have no churches at all, but rather that we should have many. And by withholding public sanction from any one set of reli­gious institutions, his approach makes it possible for many religious institutions, not just many religious individuals, to populate our public life.

Madison’s implicit assumption, and that of the entire tradition of religious toleration until the last few decades, however, was that religious diversity and conflict would involve competing sects that dif­fer on some important questions of doctrine and practice but nonetheless share in common a basic Judeo-Christian orientation that is also, in very broad terms, our society’s implicit civil religion. The erosion of that common soil, that common culture, is the essence of our modern condition.

That erosion is also why an individualist under­standing of religious liberty is now less adequate, and more dangerous, than it might once have been. Dif­ferences of dogma in an essentially Christian society mostly call for giving individual believers the room for distinctions of belief while allowing genuinely dis­tinct (and inevitably very small) religious minorities broader latitude. Differences of fundamental moral premises in a society no longer unified by basic moral assumptions call for more than that. They require us to carve out broad protected spaces for traditional culture as such—for a way of life, not just a set of beliefs. And that means they require us to carve out spaces for communities, not just individuals.

In some important respects, moreover, carving out room for cultures and communities still shaped by a basic Judeo-Christian orientation is about more than protecting religious minorities. It is about sustain­ing our liberal society itself, and about producing the kinds of free citizens it needs. It is essential to the revival of a liberal society worthy of the name.

Modern liberalism assumes and requires a society with a certain moral foundation, but it does not always reinforce that foundation, and increasingly it under­mines it. This is what critics who argue that liberal­ism has always been driving toward a self-destructive moral chaos have in mind. And yet, American liberal democracy has nonetheless always made available the tools to nurture those essential moral foundations of freedom. This is what critics who argue that today’s progressive radicalism is a betrayal of the American tradition have in mind. The fact that both are right means that it is up to us to use the tools at our disposal to sustain that moral culture, and to cultivate in its soil a generation that will yearn for revival.

That is, without question, a much taller order than what Madison imagined his approach to religious lib­erty would be required to support. Indeed, his com­mitment to religious liberty was at least as much a function of his worry about domineering religious sects imposing themselves on the public square as of any concern about a loss of society’s fundamental moral character. But the foundation he established is nonetheless available now as a bulwark for tradi­tionalists, if we are willing to make the most of what it offers and build on it.

That work must be practical, not just conceptual. And it will need to be more than legal work. Our vital commitment to religious liberty must not blind us to this basic, daunting fact: Religious liberty is as much a product as a precondition of our free society. For that society to endure in a culture at war with the very foundations of its freedom will require more than space for alternatives. It will require filling that space with actual living alternatives—moral commu­nities that help us see what our freedom is for.

Community life is therefore the second arena in which we can appreciate the perils and the necessity of religious liberty.

As a practical matter these days, religious liberty is essential not so much because it protects people’s ability to believe and say certain things but because it protects people’s ability to live a certain way. That way of living—shaped by memory, bounded by tradition, directed to the future, formed to meet obligations both sacred and profane, and ultimately answerable to permanent truths—cannot be em­bodied in the practice of lone individuals, because at its essence it is about relational commitments. It describes a culture, and so can only be given concrete form in a community.

Therefore, in practice, religious liberty now fre­quently describes the freedom of a community to live in accordance with a moral vision shared among its members. This understanding of the practical mean­ing of our first freedom makes it easier to see why the practice it protects so easily outgrows the narrow bounds of the exercise of religion as envisioned by our legal system. And it also helps us see why religious liberty should be so controversial today. Everything about this idea of a morally meaningful community is now countercultural.

The very notion that a moral vision should be em­bodied in community life and relational obligations, rather than in the choices of any given individual, is a direct challenge to the ethic of expressive indi­vidualism that animates our popular culture. And the notion that culture can be local and communal, and so not merely popular, argues against the (closely related) centralizing tendencies of modern progres­sivism. This vision therefore pushes against both individualism and centralization, and seeks human flourishing in the fertile space between them.

Forcing the case for this kind of living moral alternative into the narrow confines of an argument that is just about religion and liberty makes the treasure we seek to pro­tect seem smaller and less significant than it truly is. And it causes traditionalists to underplay what we have to offer.

For one thing, to articulate that case above all in the parlance of religious liberty is to approach our society defensively. We thereby risk appearing to our neighbors to be a plaintive and inward-looking mi­nority asking to protect what it has and to be left alone. But what social conservatives “have” is a vi­sion of the good and a deep conviction that it would be good for everyone and therefore ought to be made as widely available as possible.

That doesn’t mean we can avoid first defending our­selves. A truce on the social issues has never been an option—and it surely isn’t now. But it does mean we should be more than defensive, and should always be careful to highlight the nature and the appeal of what we are defending, and so of what we are offering—the larger human good in the service of which some con­straints on our individual will and power are required.

The struggle for religious liberty is crucial as a means of making possible a more-than-defensive approach to the broader society. It is a prerequisite for the essential work of social conservatism. Its goal is to keep open the space in which cultural conserva­tives might appeal to their neighbors. Yet it must not substitute for that appeal.

This may be the greatest peril we face in championing religious liberty—the dan­ger that our call for sustaining a space for living out our moral vision might be mistaken for an argument that the sus­taining of space for ourselves is itself the essence of our moral vision. As Richard John Neuhaus warned three decades ago, in demanding exemptions, protec­tions, and accommodations, we need to be careful not to be understood as champions of universal non­judgmentalism, or of a naked public square.

The risk of giving that impression has grown great in the circumstances we now confront. In February 2012, at the height of the battle over the HHS man­date, William Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College, was interviewed by the Washington Post about the school’s legal fight against the man­date. Thierfelder wanted to be certain that people understood the limits of the claim his school was making, but in the process he exposed some of the dangers inherent in couching moral arguments en­tirely in the defensive terms of religious freedom. He told the Post reporter:

We’re not trying to tell anybody else how to live their lives. I, personally, I would hope people don’t seek abortions, but we’re not saying that. We’re being asked to violate our religious beliefs in our Catholic home.

He was right, of course. And he was also wrong. He was defending his institution, first and foremost, as he must. But the idea that a Catholic university is not in the business of telling anybody else how to live their lives can’t be quite right. It may not seek to compel people to live by its moral vision, but it does seek to persuade them to do so. It surely cannot serve its mission if it is not allowed, itself, as a Catholic home, to abide by Catholic convictions. But its mis­sion inevitably looks outward.

Social liberals are right to see institutions like Belmont Abbey as competitors for the souls of the young. If understanding our case as above all a mat­ter of protecting religious liberty rights means that social conservatives don’t think or talk that way any­more, then we are in great trouble.

This means we need to see that we are defend­ing more than religious liberty: We are defending the very idea that our government exists to protect the space in which various institutions of civil society do the work that enables Americans to thrive, and we are defending the proposition that this work involves moral formation and not just liberation from con­straint. That is an entire conception of the meaning of a free society that goes well beyond toleration and freedom of religion. It is ultimately about the proper shape and structure of American life.

Making that clear—to ourselves and to others—will require an emphasis not just on the principles in­volved (be they religious liberty or subsidiarity or the freedom of association), but also on the actual lives of our actual, concrete communities. It will require that we turn more of our attention homeward, away from raging national controversies and toward the everyday lives of our living moral communities—toward fam­ily, school, and congregation; toward civic priorities and local commitments; toward neighbors in need and friends in crisis. It will require us to see that we need to build more than protective walls; we need to build strong, thriving, attractive communities.

The purpose of fighting to defend religious liberty is therefore not only defensive but also missionary: It is to allow the ortho­dox to meet their obligations, and to show the country a better way in practice. And that better way can only be embodied in real, living communities.

Only such communities can model appealing al­ternatives to the lonely decadence of the popular cul­ture’s ideal of the life of a young American. Only such communities can create meaningful norms of respon­sibility and commitment that can help their neighbors see why family matters and what it can make possible. Only such communities can demonstrate how mean­ingful progress can be rooted in collective remem­brance rather than just individual desire, ambition, preference, or choice. Only such communities can give rise to a new generation committed to living out the virtues, or seeking out the wisdom of our moral and intellectual traditions, or continuing the struggle for a free society and a more just world. Only such commu­nities can embody for the broader culture the large, capacious vision of the good made possible by moral restraint and traditional ways of life—the vast and beautiful “yes” for the sake of which an occasional narrow or stern “no” is required.

This broader understanding of what we seek to de­fend should make social conservatives both more and less political than we have tended to be: We should be more political in that we do more than occasionally resort to legal appeals to protect our own freedom of action. We also must advance a compelling vision of society rooted in mediating institutions and a govern­ment that exists to sustain them.

We should be less political, however, in that we need to invest more of ourselves in those institutions. We need to build appealing subcultures rather than advance our own version of the Great Society or spend all of our energy on roiling national debates that stand far apart from the everyday experience of those Americans who could most benefit from what we have to offer.

With such a commitment to a genuine “plural­ism of communities” (in Robert Nisbet’s phrase), we would not treat our inheritance with contempt by insisting that our political tradition has always been headed for self-destruction. And we also would not appeal to any simple confidence that our political ideas, if only fully put into effect, would by them­selves resolve the crisis we confront.

Instead, we must seek solutions at the juncture of principle and practice—where ideals are turned into action in our everyday lives. The law can help us sustain the room we need to find those solutions, and our noble political tradition can reinforce the argu­ment for freedom understood as chosen virtue. But ultimately, it is in the institutions and relationships in which we learn to make those virtuous choices—in the family, the school, the synagogue and church, the civic enterprise, the charitable venture, the as­sociation of workers or merchants or neighbors or friends—that the fate of our experiment in moral freedom will be decided. We would be wrong to think that fate has long been sealed, one way or an­other. It is up to us.

What James Madison described as “that diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution” remains a pri­mary obstacle to realizing this vision of the free society. It has reared its head again in our time, and religious liberty can once more help us push it back. But we would be wise to remember that we require more Than the freedom to be virtuous. We require the will, and the spirit, and the faith, and the humility, and the wisdom to be virtuous, too. We require a culture of flourishing, which will only endure if we never stop building it. II     – Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of National Affairs. The funding for this essay was provided by the Hertog/Simon Fund for Policy Analysis.

 

Los ALAMOS

The mountaineers of Hitler’s 16th corps

stood on Mt. Elbrus and admired the view,

confident that peace was near. Case Blue

had gone as planned. In one last blitz they’d tour

the storied Caspian—along its shore,

the vital oil of Grozny and Baku.

Russia would fall in 1942—

the stronger race deserved to win the war.

Though it was clear on Europe’s highest peak, the view was incomplete.                             They were too late: a Soviet collapse could only slow certain defeat.                                            That month, some of the weak—yes, many Jews—began to concentrate up on a mesa in New Mexico.        —Robert W. Crawford

 

First Things, February 2016, pages 29-36..

 

Mammon Ascendant – First Things June- July 2016

MAMMON ASCENDANT   (excerpt)

. . . . The history of capitalism in the history of secularism are not two accidentally contemporaneous tales, after all; they are the same story told from different vantages. Any dominant material economy is complicit with, and in fact demands, a particular anthropology, ethics, and social vision. In the late capitalist culture, being intrinsically a consumerist economy, of necessity promotes a voluntarist understanding of individual freedom and a purely negative understanding of social and political liberty. The entire system depends not merely on supplying means and satisfying natural longings, but on the ceaseless intervention of ever newer desires, evermore choices. It is also a system inevitably corrosive of as many prohibitions of desire and inhibitions of the will as possible, and therefore of all those customs and institutions – religious, cultural, social – that tend to restrain or even forbid so many inquisitive longings and individual choices.

This is what Marx genuinely admired about capitalism: it’s power to dissolve all the in Memorial associations of family, tradition, faith, and affinity, the irresistible dynamism of its dissolution of ancient values, it’s (to borrow a little some praise) “gales of creative destruction.” The secular world – our world, our age – is one from which as many mediating and subsidiary powers have been purged as possible, precisely to make room for the adventures of the will. It is a reality in which all social, political, and economic associations have been reduced to a bare tension between the individual and the state, each of which secures the other against the intrusions and encroachments of other claims to authority, other demands upon desire, other narratives of the human. Secularization is simply developed capitalism in its ineluctable cultural manifestation.

Mind you, part of the difficulty of convincing American Christians of this lies in the generous vagueness with which we have come to use the word capitalism in recent decades. For many, the term means nothing more than a free-market in goods, or the right to produce and trade, or buying and selling as such. In that sense, every culture in recorded history would have been called “capitalist” in some degree. And for many then, it also seems natural to think that all free-trade and all systems of market exchange are of a piece, and that to defend the dignity of production and trade in every sphere, it is necessary also to defend the globalized market and the immense power of current corporate enti­ties—or, conversely, to think that any serious and sustained criticism of the immorality, environmental devastation, exploitation of desperate labor markets, or political mischief for which such entities might of­ten justly be arraigned is necessarily an assault on every honest entrepreneur who tries to build a busi­ness, create some jobs, or produce something useful or delightful to sell.

But, in long historical perspective, the capitalist epoch of market economies has so far been one of, at most, a few centuries. At least, in the narrower acceptation of the term generally agreed on by eco­nomic historians, capitalism is what Proudhon in 1861 identified as a system—at once economic and social—in which, as a general rule, the source of in­come does not belong at all to those who make it operative by their labor. If that is too vague, we can say it is the set of economic conventions that suc­ceeded those of the “mercantilism” of the previous era, with its tariff regimes and nationalist policies of trade regulation, and that took shape in the age of industrialization. Historically, this meant a shift in economic eminence from the merchant class—pur­veyors of goods contracted from and produced by independent artisanal labor or subsidiary estates or small local markets—to the capitalist investor who is at once producer and seller of goods, and who is able to generate immense capital at the secondary level of investment speculation: a purely financial market where wealth is generated and enjoyed by those who produce nothing except an incessant circulation of investment and divestment.

Along with this came a new labor system: the end of most of the contractual power of free skilled labor, the death of the artisanal guilds, and the genesis of a mass wage system; one, that is, in which labor be­came a commodity, different markets could compete against one another for the cheapest, most desper­ate laborers, and (as the old Marxist plaint has it) both the means of production and the fruit of labor belonged not to the workers but only to the inves­tors. Hence the accusation of early generations of so­cialists, like William Morris and John Ruskin, that capitalism was to be eschewed not because it was a free-market system, but because it destroyed the true freedom of the market economies that had begun to appear at the end of the Middle Ages, and concen­trated all real economic and contractual liberty in the hands of a very few.

This is a system that not only allows for, but positively depends upon, immense concentrations of private capital and private dispositive use of that capi­tal, as unencumbered by fiscal regulation as possible. It also obviously allows for the exploitation of materi­al and human resources on an unprecedentedly mas­sive scale, one that even governments cannot rival. And it is a system that inevitably eventuates not only in economic, but cultural, “consumerism,” because it can continue to create wealth sufficient to sustain the investment system only by a social habit of consump­tion extravagantly in excess of mere natural need or even (arguably) natural want. Thus it must dedicate itself not only to fulfilling desire, but to fabricating new desires, prompted by fashion, or by seductive ap­peals to what 1 John calls “the lust of the eyes”—the high art of which we call “advertising.”

Now, without question, capitalism works. It is magnificently efficient at generating enormous wealth, and increasing the wealth of society at large—if not necessarily of all indi­viduals or classes—and adjusting to the supersession of one form of commercial production by another. But this is practically a tautology. That is its entire purpose, and it is no great surprise that over time it should have evolved ever more refined and compre­hensive means for achieving it. It generates immense returns for the few, which sometimes redound to the benefit of the many, but which often do not; it can create and enrich or destroy and impoverish, as pru­dence warrants; it can encourage liberty and equity or abet tyranny and injustice, as necessity dictates. It has no natural attachment to the institutions of dem­ocratic or liberal freedom; China has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that endless consumer choices can comfortably coexist with a near total absence of civil liberties. Capitalism has no moral nature at all. The good it yields is not benevolence; the evil is not malice. It is a system that cannot be abused, but only practiced with greater or lesser efficiency. It admits of no other criterion by which to judge its consequences.

This last point, moreover, needs to be particularly stressed, at least in America, where many of capital­ism’s apologists are eager (perhaps commendably) to believe that our market system is not only conducive of large social benefits, but possessed of deep structural virtues. This belief often leads them both to exaggerate those benefits and to ignore the damages, or to explain them away (like good Marxists preaching the socialist eschaton) as transient evils that will be redeemed by a final general beatitude (“rising tide” . . . “all boats” . . . “supply-side” . . . “trickle down” .. . “Walmart may destroy small businesses and force the formerly well-employed into inferior jobs, but, hey, think of the joy  that all those cheap—if occasionally toxic—Chinese goods produced by ruthlessly exploited laborers will provide the lower middle class in its ceaseless fiscal de­cline!”). But, given the sheer magnitude of capitalism’s ability to alter material, social, economic, and cultural reality, to cherish even the faintest illusions regarding some kind of inherent goodness in the system is to risk more than mere complacency.

Yes, venture capital built Manhattan—its shin­ing cloud-capped towers, its millions of jobs, its in­exhaustible bagels—but the cost of a world where Manhattans are built has to be reckoned in more than capital. And one does not even need to travel any great distance to assess some of the gravest of them. One need go no farther than the carboniferous tectonic collision zones of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky to find a land where a once poor but prop­ertied people were reduced to helotry on land they used to own by predatory mineral rights’ purchases, and then forced into dangerous and badly remuner­ated labor that destroyed their health, and then kept generation upon generation in servile dependency on an industry that shears the crests off mountains, chokes river valleys with slurry and chemical toxins, and subverts local politics. And what one must re­member is that all that devastation was not the result of one of capitalism’s failures, but of one of its most conspicuous successes. All the investors realized re­turns on their initial expenditures many thousands of times over. Those who win at the game can win everything and more, while those who lose—who more often than we care to acknowledge lose every­thing and forever—are simply part of the cost of do­ing business.

None of which is to deny that capital investment can achieve goods that governments usually can­not. While it is certainly not the case that, say, the world’s rising mean life span or the increase in third-world literacy are straightforwardly consequences of globalization, it certainly is the case that global in­vestment and trade have created resources that have made rapid medical progress, improvements in nutri­tion, and distribution of goods and services—by pri­vate firms, charities, governments, and international humanitarian organizations—possible in ways that less fluid commercial systems never could have done. There are regions of sub-Saharan Africa currently enjoying the kind of economic development that once seemed impossible because certain governments and businesses (such as numerous small technology firms) have set aside generations of post-colonial prejudice and finally begun building businesses there.

On the other hand, untold tens of thousands of Africans have died as a result of large Western pharmaceutical firms, concerned for their market share and their proprietary rights, exerting fiscal and government pressure to deny access to affordable antiretroviral drugs manufactured in Thailand and elsewhere. The market gives life; the market murders. It creates cities; it poisons oceans. And throughout the third world, as well as in less fortunate districts of the developed world, the price of industrialization remains (as ever) environmental damage of a sort that cannot be remedied in centuries, along with all its attendant human suffering. The World Health Orga­nization, on very judiciously gathered data, estimates that roughly 12.6 million persons die each year as a result of environmental degradation, particularly pollution from industrial waste products. This being so, it seems only decent to wonder whether a thriving market system might be run on more humane prin­ciples—which is to say, on principles alien to capital­ism as it has always existed.

Perhaps, though, I am allowing myself to drift away from my original point. Even if it were not so—even if fully developed capitalism, per impossibile, operated with­out any destruction of ecologies, communi­ties, and lives—it would still carry moral costs that would render it ultimately antagonistic to any but an essentially secularized culture. At least, it could not coexist indefinitely with a culture informed by genu­ine Christian conviction. Even the fact of the system’s necessary reliance on immense private wealth makes it a moral problem from the vantage of the Gospel, for the simple reason that the New Testament treats such wealth not merely as a spiritual danger, and not merely as a blessing that should not be misused, but as an intrinsic evil. I know there are plentiful interpretations of Christianity that claim otherwise, and many of them have been profoundly influential of American understandings of the faith. Calvin’s scriptural commentaries, for instance, treat almost all of the New Testament’s more consequential moral teachings—Christ’s advice to the rich young ruler, his exhortations to spiritual perfection, and so on—as exercises in instructive irony, meant to demonstrate the impossibility of righteousness through works. Calvin even remarks that having some money in the bank is one of the signs of election. But that is offen­sive nonsense. The real text of the New Testament, uncolored by theological fancy, is utterly perspicuous and relentlessly insistent on this matter. Christ’s con­cern for the ptõchoi—          the abjectly destitute—is more or less exclusive of any other social class.

What he says about the rich youth selling all his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, and about the indisposition of camels trying to pass through needles’ eyes, is only the beginning. In the Sermon on the Plain’s list of beatitudes and woes, he not only tells the poor that the kingdom belongs to them, but explicitly tells the rich that, having had their pleasures in this world, they shall have none in the world to come. He condemns those who buy up properties and create large estates for themselves. You cannot serve both God and mammon. Do not store up treasure on earth, in earthly vessels, for where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. The apostolic Church in Jerusalem adopted an abso­lute communism of goods. Paul constantly condemns pleonektia, which is often translated as “excessive greed” or even “thievery,” but which really means no more than an acquisitive desire for more than one needs. He instructs the Corinthian Christians to do­nate all their profits to the relief of the poor in other church assemblies. James says that God’s elect are the poor of this world; the rich he condemns as op­pressors and revilers of the divine name, who should howl in terror at the judgment that is coming upon them, because the rust of their treasure shall eat their flesh like fire on the last day. And on and on. This is so persistent, pervasive, and unqualified a theme of the New Testament that the genius with which Chris­tians down the centuries have succeeded in not seeing it, or in explaining it away, or in pretending that it does not mean what it unquestionably means may be among the greatest marvels of the faith.

But, again, even if it were not so—even if there is a way of possessing wealth purely as a blameless stewardship of God’s bounty, or if the system could function as well in a society with more equitably dis­tributed capital, or what have you—the problem with which I began remains. As a cultural reality, late capi­talism is not merely a regulatory regime for markets, but also a positive system of values, necessarily at odds with other orders of desire, especially those that seek to limit acquisition or inhibit expressions of the will. We may think we are free to believe as we wish because that is what our totalitarian libertarianism or consumerist collectivism chiefly needs us to think. But, while our ancestors inhabited a world full of gods or saints, ours is one in which they have all been chased away by advertising, into the hidden world of personal devotion or private fixation. Public life is a realm of pure elective spontaneity, in every sphere, and that power of choice must be ceaselessly directed toward an interminable diversity of consumer goods, and encouraged to expand into ever more regions of fiscal, moral, and spiritual life. We are shaped by what we desire, and what we desire is shaped by the material culture that surrounds us, and by the ide­ologies and imaginative possibilities that it embodies and sustains.

This is not to say that believing Christians, Jews, and other retrograde types cannot live peacefully amid the heaven-scaling towers and abyss-plumbing indulgences of late modernity. Believers of every kind are strangers and sojourners in this life, and should not seek to build enduring cities in this world. Still, all of us must make our livings, and seek to provide for others, and that means buying and selling, hiring and being hired, seeking justice and enduring injus­tice. That is the business of life, and conducted well, it can bring about many good things. And who knows? Perhaps it is possible to reimagine a real market econ­omy on a more truly human and humane scale, of the sort envisaged by E. F. Schumacher or various other religious “economists of the small.” After all, the ex­change of goods, the common commerce of everyday life, the community that exists wherever one person trades one “gift” for another—all of these are natural goods, part of the corporal grammar of community, and can usually in some way exhibit a generosity more original and more ultimate than any calculus of greed or selfish appetite. But, beyond that, the claim that capitalist culture and Christianity are compatible—indeed, that they are not ultimately inimical to one another—seems to me not only self-evidently false, but quaintly (and perhaps perilously) deluded. FT

FIRST THINGS, June/July 2016, David Bentley Hart, pages 34-38.

 

 

 

FIRST THINGS COLUMNIST RECOGNIZES COUNTRYS CORE ISSUE

Of all our major columnists, Peggy Noonan has thought the most deeply about the anti-establishment sentiments roiling our political culture. In last week’s column, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen,” she puts her finger on the central issue. Ordinary people in Germany, Great Britain, France, America, and elsewhere aren’t just experiencing the dislocations of economic globalization. They’re not simply responding to cultural change, which is often driven by immigration. They’re losing their trust in those who rule them.

As Noonan puts it, over the last generation there has been “a kind of historic decoupling between the top and the bottom in the West that did not, in more moderate recent times, exist.” Those at the top of society no longer share the interests of those less fortunate. “At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signaling.”

I’ve written about this phenomenon in the American context. It’s striking how often our leadership, both right and left, punches down. Conservatives call half of Americans “takers.” Liberals call them “bigots.” I can’t count the number of columns Bret Stephens has written in the last six months expressing his unqualified horror over the ignorance and stupidity of the Republican voters who have the temerity to reject the political wisdom of their betters.

Noonan admits she hasn’t quite gotten her mind around this decoupling of the leaders from the led. I, too, am struggling to understand. It’s odd, as Noonan says, “that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.”

Viewed humanly, yes, it is odd. We have a need to belong. Loyalty is a natural human impulse. But a recent book by international economist Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, has helped me grasp some of the underlying forces that are driving the leaders away from the led.

Milanovic draws attention to an “elephant graph,” so called because it looks like the hulking body of an elephant raising its trunk. On the horizontal axis, we see global income distribution. The citizens of very poor countries are at the elephant’s back end. Their median income is quite low. Those on the trunk-end of the elephant are the citizens of developed countries. The vertical axis charts the rate of growth of incomes. Here we see a very telling story. Emerging economies have given birth to a new middle class that has experienced rapid income growth. Meanwhile, the rich world is diverging. Middle-class wage growth is stagnant in the globalized economy, while the well-to-do have seen great gains.

.

Much of the story this graph tells is well known. We’ve heard a great deal about income inequality in recent years. But seeing the whole world at a glance shows something more. Those whom Noonan called “the protected,” which is to say the rich and powerful in the West, share with the rising middle class in the developing world a remarkable harmony of interests. Both cohorts benefit from the new global system. By contrast, in the West, the middle class is losing ground.

In short, the global system—which is committed to the free flow of labor, goods, and capital—works well for the leadership class in Europe and North America, as it does for striving workers in China, India, and elsewhere. It doesn’t work so well for the middle class in the West. Thus, in the West, the led no longer share the economic interests of their leaders.

It’s natural, therefore, to see a decoupling. We’re fallen human beings. We often develop convictions that conveniently correspond to our interests. When it comes to the rising nationalism in Europe, elites there see as much. They don’t interpret the striking new support for right-wing parties as expressions of patriotic fervor, but instead see patriotic rhetoric as a front for, at best, economic frustration, but more often racism and xenophobia.

What elites don’t see is how their own interests are dressed up as cosmopolitan idealism. Noonan points out that German elites compliment themselves on the moral rectitude of Angela Merkel’s decision to admit a million Muslim migrants. True, but they’re also insulated from the consequences. And more than insulated, they stand to benefit from lower labor costs.

Over time, the elephant graph predicts large-scale changes in democratic politics in the West. Elites now have a strong interest in weakening the nation-state, and thus diminishing the power of the voters to whom they are accountable. A radical ideology of open borders is one way to do that. Another way is to increase the power of international human rights tribunals. In a decade’s time I can easily imagine rulings that override national majorities that are deemed “unprogressive.”

But I need not evoke the future. For at least a generation, America’s most elite colleges and universities have explicitly refashioned themselves as global institutions. By implication, they are no longer accountable to America’s national interest. Their mission is more noble: the world’s interest. They same dynamic gets repeated in the corporate world. Silicon Valley answers to the world, not to America.

What goes unnoticed is the fact that a global mission provides reasons to discount the concerns of non-elites in America. Convenient theories about the inherent racism of ordinary people nicely discredit their opinions. The critical fire of a plastic, easily manipulated multi-culturalism can be trained this way or that to degrade patriotic loyalties. Meanwhile, a strict utilitarianism tells us citizenship is a construct designed to secure “rents.” Ordinary people feel abandoned and frustration builds, driving today’s populism.

Noonan is right. The decoupling of the leaders and the led is “something big.” The economic forces driving this decoupling are powerful. The ideological supports—a morally superior cosmopolitanism, a flexible multi-culturalism, and now dominant utilitarian thinking—are strong. As I’ve written elsewhere, odds are good that the democratic era will come to an end. The elephant chart suggests the future will be one of empire.

R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.

Become a fan of First Things on Facebook, subscribe to First Things via RSS, and follow First Things on Twitter.

UNC Study Shows Enormity of Abortion’s Impact on Public Health, Minorities

Study included abortion in nation’s mortality statistics

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

OJPM5Public health statistics do not, as a rule, take account of the unborn lives lost to abortion when calculating mortality. A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina has challenged this omission and published a paper examining just how much the correction of this omission would change our perceptions of America’s most preventable health crises.

The consequences are enormous, across the board, but the impact is absolutely devastating on black and Hispanic communities. When one considers not only the lives, but the years lost, the loss is staggering.

Something missing from death stats

The paper, “Induced Abortion, Mortality, and the Conduct of Science” was written by James Studnicki, Sharon J. Mackinnon, and John W. Fisher and was published in the June 2016 online edition of the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine.

It starts with a statement both bold and obvious: “There is no credible scientific opposition to the fact that a new genetically distinct human organism begins with fertilization and that, simply stated, human life begins at conception.” The authors then affirm that, barring natural fetal losses (e.g., miscarriage), “conception usually results in a live birth.”

Given that, the authors draw the logical conclusion that abortion results in a human death.

Despite this undeniable truth, these deaths are not counted in the nation’s mortality statistics. When added back in, some astounding conclusions are revealed.

Research the major causes of death in the United States for 2009, as the authors did, and you will find that the top two causes are “diseases of the heart,” which accounted for 599,413 deaths, followed closely by “malignant neoplasms” (cancerous tumors) at 567,628.

Not surprisingly, cancer and heart disease are considered major health concerns, and with good reason.

But when one considers abortion as a cause, it is almost equivalent to the government’s top two causes combined! Using estimates for 2009 from the Guttmacher Institute, Studnicki and colleagues calculate that the 1,152,000 deaths from abortion easily make it the nation’s leading cause of death, responsible, when added back in, for almost a third (32.1%) of all the deaths recorded that year.

Abortion leading cause of death among minorities

While abortion has harmed society as a whole, the impact on minorities is even more significant.

As many pro-lifers know, abortion rates for minorities are considerably higher than they are for whites. Figures cited by authors from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), combined with data from Guttmacher, showed that 11.9% of non-Hispanic white pregnancies were aborted, 17.1% of Hispanic pregnancies, and 35.5% of those of non-Hispanic blacks.

Applied to the overall pregnancy figures, this translates into 383,000 abortions for whites, 252,000 abortions for Hispanics, and 445,000 abortions for blacks. Looked at in relation to other causes of death by race and ethnicity, this makes abortion responsible for 16.4% of white deaths–the third most significant cause behind heart disease and cancer. But abortion is by far the leading cause for Hispanics, responsible for 64% of deaths, and for blacks, at 61.1%– close to two out of every three deaths experienced by these communities.

Lost years as well as lives

The authors point out that much more is involved here than abortion simply increasing the numbers of deaths.

One of the reasons that mortality statistics are carefully collected and scrutinized is to determine how best to focus research and public resources. If cancer, heart disease, or the like constitute the leading preventable causes of death in the United States, it makes some sense to focus attention and funding on those conditions and diseases.

Another way researchers measure the impact of disease is to count not only the lives lost but the relative years lost. This calculates how many additional, potentially productive years of life people would have experienced if they had not succumbed to that particular malady.

“Years of potential life lost,” or YPPL, is the standard used by the NCHS, now pegged as “YYPL 75” to reflect the idea that 75 years is now closer to the average American’s longevity.

However, when abortion is considered and contrasted with other causes of death, the disparity is even more jaw-dropping.

For everyone in the U.S., cancer was responsible for nearly 4.4 million YPLL. Heart disease was responsible just over 3 million. All other remaining causes of death (accidental, homicide, diabetes, respiratory diseases, etc.) were responsible for only about 13 million YPLLs.

The calculations of these researchers on the years of potential life lost due to abortion? Even after subtracting for estimated “natural fetal losses” — a staggering 68.4 million years!

Minorities were hit the hardest. Of the 17.7 million YPLLs lost by Hispanics, nearly 15.5 million (or 87.4%) were due to abortion. Of the 29.4 million YPLLs lost by blacks, 25.4 million (or 86.5%) were from abortion.

The cost is extraordinarily high

No disease, no kind of violence comes close to having the impact on these communities that abortion does. Not only lives are lost, but years of creativity, productivity, and love.

Billions are spent to try to eradicate heart disease, to end cancer, to stop violence. To the extent we succeed and families enjoy a few more years with their loved ones, we all celebrate.

But if the figures are telling us that abortion is, by far, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, wouldn’t the prevention of abortion represent one of the best possible uses of our time, resources, and efforts?

 

IS LIBERALISM A HERESY

FIRST THINGS    June/July 2016   —   IS LIBERALISM A HERESY?

Francesca Aran Murphy argues that liberalism
and a market economy are based on Christianity
.

The only viable vehicle of conservatism in modernity is a market-oriented liberalism that regards freedom within law as the means to the common good. Some religiously engaged conservative intellectuals cannot accept this. What drives their animus against the only workable form of conservatism in modernity? They cannot accept that this version of conservatism is at all conservative.

But how conservative is it to refuse to act in and through the givens of our historical moment? Is the paradox of liberalism as the way of being conservative too whimsical for conservatives to wrap their bookish noodles around? Could it be rationalist irritability with the irrationality of liberalism? Is the conservative affronted by liberal­ism’s vulgar historical success, like a Ph.D. student who cannot enjoy a popular movie? Is he like the teenager in Little Miss Sunshine, who cannot bear the boisterous eccentricity of his family? Does lib­eralism’s cheerful, can-do lack of a rational founda­tion drive the conservative into dark Nietzschean foreboding? Does he share the Marxist’s contempt for the bourgeoisie who are at home in the market economy? Is he too logical to be persuaded that the only human beings who actually and historically ex­ist are individual persons?

The fact remains: For at least two generations now, the most politically effective conservatism in the West has largely been a conservative liberalism. This political success has not been accidental. As a social, political, and economic form of life, liberal modernity does justice to important truths about the human person.

At the origins of modernity lie the market economies of late medieval Europe. A mixture of the rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge. People readily took to the roles of buyers and sellers of goods, be­cause buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish. The market econ­omy involves an exchange of goods in which both parties benefit. The seller trades his goods for what he really wants, payment, and the buyer hands over his money for what he really wants, the goods. Because they obtain what they desire, both buyer and seller gain more than they give. Appealing as that may be, market exchange has a still greater allure. However well-meaning the administrator, we would exchange an administered life for the tension of auctions, the drama of negotiations, and the stratagems of the salesman that test our self-discipline. Buying and sell­ing became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of conceal­ment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic natures like a glove.

Modern philosophers reflected upon modern eco­nomic practice. Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling took homo economicus to be “humanity” as such. They rightly drew the lesson that human beings are made for praxis, for action, and for dramatic role-playing. But these bookish philosophers were not men of action themselves. In their recoil from the sheer inscrutability of the free play of market exchange, they exaggerated the fact that exchange involves competition for marginal advantage. They mytholo­gized this into a conception of human culture as a life-and-death struggle, and reinterpreted the role-playing in free-market exchange as competition. That hypes up role-play into a battle of wills. According to them, the marketplace trains us to think of life in terms of winners and losers, masters and slaves.

In all of this we find part truth, part Gnostic fantasy. On the one side, our exercise of freedom in the particularity of daily life makes us enigmatic to others. A market society is built around this relative inscrutability. Whether the exchange takes place at the local fish stall or in large-scale transactions of complex financial instruments executed by comput­ers, buyers and sellers play their parts. Each seeks to take advantage of an exchange, wanting as much as possible without scuttling the deal by eliminating any benefit for others. Human nature is expressed in this serious play of exchange—the brinksmanship of negotiation, the uncertainties of market conditions—which liberal philosophies capture in their emphasis on freedom and its drama.

Yet the marketplace and our roles in it look like a Gnostic melodrama when the play of exchange is inflated into a metaphysical drama rather than a hu­man one. A German idealist like Schelling pictures God-and-humanity as the single “playwright.” The struggle to get the best deal on day-old bread becomes the engine of human history. For Hegel, God storms through history in the guise of strug­gling and ascendant human desire. Sellers seek to incite desires in buyers. Seventeenth-century vendors during the tulip mania in Holland asked, how can one do without the exotic tulip bulbs? Buyers seek to satisfy their aroused desires, often for goods they never even knew they wanted. This pattern of desire evoked is the fuel of a market economy. Hegel inter­prets the open-ended nature of our market desires as a metaphysical desire for divinization. He made the further assumption that we play for keeps, and thus the market game of angling for advantage becomes the struggle for mastery, which is the world’s story.

For two centuries, Christians have quarreled over how to deal with the mixture of imagi­native half-truths, philosophical errors, and Gnostic heresies that make up modern phi­losophy. Between Vatican I and Vatican II, Catholics tried to sort things out and develop a philo­sophically cogent and spiritually sound approach to modernity in two different ways. Fortified by Thomis­tic encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII, Thomists thought that the way forward required a rejection of liberal philosophies and a revival of the premodern philoso­phy of Thomas Aquinas. They assembled a litany of errors that they ascribed to liberalism: making man the major of all things, exalting will over cognition, denying are created nature and more. . . .  (Pages 39&40)

Article concludes on Page 45 with the following paragraphs:

. . . Do we encourage liberalism to remember its birth in a market economy that drew ordinary people into habits of free action for the sake of satisfying desires, or do we anathematize it for itself self-caricature as a Gnostic capitalist heresy? . . .

Liberalism is no heresy, and the market ex­change from which it emerges does not sin against the light. It is a healthy byproduct of Christianity, and the only means by which Christians can fight Marxist-capitalism, that stage-managed freedom in which the benevolent will of the powerful consults reason, discerns what people “truly” need and want, and then superintends over and administers the al­ways vulnerable freedom of ordinary people. If one were searching for Gnostic heresies, surely this tech­nocratic political economy, which is very much with us today, is a good candidate for anathema. RR

Francesca Aran Murphy is a senior fellow at FIRST THINGS.

First Things,  June /July, pages 39-45.

 

PUBLIC SQUARE — PERMANENCE FOR MARRIAGE

Family and faith. These are two powerful ways of belonging, one natural, and the other supernatu­ral. But they, too, are weakened by the dissolving forces of our time. Pope Francis’s recent Apos­tolic Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Laetitia, represents an effort to combat this trend. The document affirms many aspects of the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, including permanence. But it also seeks to increase scope for pastoral discretion so that those in “ir­regular” situations can participate as fully as possible in the Church’s sacramental life.

The effort to be more pastoral characterizes this pa­pacy. Francis wants to emphasize the power of God’s love, even in circumstances when we’ve wavered, failed, and fallen. Unfortunately, Amoris Laetitia participates in the dissolving trends of our times rather than resisting them. This is an unwitting complicity, no doubt. But we can see it in the way in which the exhortation turns marriage into something we aspire to rather than a sacramental reality we can rely on. The Church seems to become a plastic instrument of mercy, not a stable anchor.

When the document was released, journalists fixed on chapter eight, “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.” There, Francis takes up the controversial ques­tion of whether those in “irregular” situations can receive Communion, including those who have been civilly di­vorced and remarried, but have not received an annulment.

There’s been lots of commentary on just what is implied in the often technical and sometimes muddy verbiage of the chapter. Canon lawyers and moral theologians have parsed what Francis has written in different ways. But one thing is clear: Francis makes an ill-considered conceptual move. In order to create an atmosphere of flexibility and welcome, he speaks of marriage as an “ideal” rather than a sacramental reality.

This approach makes permanence itself into an ideal. Divorce betrays this, of course. As Francis writes, “It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and family.” Moreover, “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur.”

These seem like decisive affirmations, but they’re not. Remarrying after divorce is an “objective situation” that the Church teaches is an impediment to the reception of Communion. The reasoning is straightforward. The Church does not recognize civil divorce, and therefore regards the first marriage as ongoing. Thus the second marriage (without an annulment) isn’t a marriage at all, but instead an adulterous relationship.

To avoid this summary judgment based on the “objec­tive situation” of divorce and remarriage, Francis implies that what really matters is the “ideal.” The driving ques­tions become subjective, not objective. Divorced and re­married? Yes, that presents serious difficulties. But there is a way out (perhaps). Are you appropriately penitent for the past failure to live up to the “ideal,” and now newly committed to the “ideal” in a sincere way? A person’s conscientious discernment of the answer to that question, Francis suggests, is what’s important. One’s relation to the “ideal,” determined in “conversation with the priest,” can open the way to further discernment about “what hin­ders full participation in the life of the Church and [about] what steps can foster it and make it grow.”

Will this process of self-examination mean that di­vorced and remarried Catholics will receive Communion in some circumstances? The debate goes on, and it’s an important one. Yet I find myself concluding that the most important dimension of Amoris Laetitia is found in the fact that Francis adopts and affirms what most of us now experience. This is not helpful. In our culture of divorce, permanence is only a distant ideal to which we can aspire. Marriage is no longer a trustworthy institution we can rely on.

What’s true for marriage is true for a great deal of our experience. We suffer an increasingly atomized, fluid, and vul­nerable existence, because we lack in­stitutions we can trust. We have plenty of ideals, some quite noble. But we have very few stable places to stand and little in the way of reliable permanence.

At one point, Francis writes about “the values of the Gospel.” One understands why. Values-talk is popular these days. It’s a way of signaling moral aspiration with­out focusing on the troublesome “thou shalt not’s.” Along with ideals, “values” allow us to imagine a moral outlook without law, moral failure without shame, and moral dis­cernment without negative judgments.

Which is why our therapeutic age is awash with ide­als and values. They’re in university mission statements. Corporations proudly tout their values, and “ideal­ism” becomes a marketing tool. Buy these shoes or that toothpaste, and Company X will make a contribution to eradicate polio, plant a tree, or bring Internet connections to Africa. It’s a dangerous misstep for Christianity to get into the business of marketing ideals and values.

Parmenides was one of the Greek thinkers who flour­ished before Socrates. His philosophical task was revealed to him when the goddess Justice whispered into his ear, “Cling to that which is and cannot not be.” “Unite your­self with permanence” was her message. That’s precisely what a man and a woman seek when they make their wedding vows. They desire a covenant that is, and can­not not be.

This desire is for a reality, not an ideal. For this reason, the Church’s teaching on marriage, strict though it may be by the standards of our time, is good news, a gospel in a way ideals and values can never be. We’re finite creatures, often sabotaged by our own deformed desires and bad choices, and always vulnerable to suffering and death. The sacrament of marriage anchors us, fusing our fragile lives to something that will not be eroded, will not fail us or betray us, even if we betray it. To refuse divorce, as the Catholic Church has done, is to reassure us that permanence in mar­riage is not an elusive ideal, but an accessible reality.

Francis misjudges our era. He seems to think we’re enclosed within rigid institutions and beaten down by legalistic systems. To my mind, the situ­ation is otherwise. We live in a dissolving era. The problem is not that divorce is judged harshly. It’s that young people experience marriage as a fragile institu­tion, one incapable of protecting them from the relentless flux of life.

This is part of life without a reliable inheritance. Few institutions are trustworthy today. The endless flow of power and money rules in our fluid world. Whatever per­manence is possible now depends upon steadfast personal commitments—a terrible burden for anyone with enough self-knowledge to recognize the unreliability of our fallen nature. It’s a sad irony that Francis gravitates toward no­tions such as “ideals” and “values.” They’re part of the contemporary toolkit for dissolving permanent truths. They serve the master-ideal of our time: the solitary in­dividual navigating on his own toward goals of his own.

St. Augustine observed that we’re all pilgrims in this world, journeying toward our home in heaven. But he did not think us alone and homeless. In Christ, God was made man, not an ideal. His sacraments make real what they sig­nify; they do not symbolize values. His Church is an “objec­tive situation,” a civitas with her own cult, rites, and laws.

Pope Francis speaks often and eloquently about “accom­paniment.” As so many other institutions weaken in our dissolving age, the Church’s greatest gift is to accompany us with a stubborn givenness, an inflexible permanence. Rusty R. Reno.

First Things, June/July Issue, pages 6-7.

“Food for thought as we work our way through gaining an insight into mercy, in this year of Mercy.” Editor’s Note.

Modern Treason: The Corporate Moral Person Denies Any Allegiance To Our Country.

VOLUME 18 NUMBER 6 ¨ JUNE 2016 ¨ WRITTEN BY JIM HIGHTOWER

— WORKERS AT UTC’S CARRIER PLANTS IN INDIANA

A nasty new species of “jumping bean”                 Carrier and Nabisco close US plants,                      hop to Mexico and stoke the anger of working-class America.

When I was about six years of age, my Uncle Earnest showed me some­thing that made my jaw drop, my eyes bug, and my mind boggle: four beans that, on their own, moved. Leaping legumes!

It wasn’t trickery (or deviltry), but an odd twist in the natural world that creates the novelty of “Mexican jumping beans.” They’re not beans, really—they’re brownish seedpods from a desert shrub in northwest Mexico. A larva from a small moth invades a pod, hollows it out, attaches itself to the inner wall with a silk-like thread, and waits in relative coolness for its metamorphosis into mothdom. When you hold the “bean,” however, the warmth of your palm discom­forts the larva so that it twitches and pulls on that thread, causing the pod to “jump.” It’s actually more of a mini-hop or a rollover—but still, pretty astonishing to a kiddo. Decades later, I find myself wide eyed again, astonished by the odd movements of a new species of Mexican jumping bean I’ve named Corporados Greedyados. Far from being a creation of the natural world, these jumpers are enormously profitable, brand-name manufacturers. Native to our land, they’ve long reaped the benefits of being US corporations, including having highly skilled and loyal blue-collar workforces, corporate-friendly labor and consumer laws, publicly funded education and training, an interstate highway system, legal protection of special corporate privileges, extensive tax breaks, on-call police to safeguard their corporate order, military defense of their worldwide commercial pursuits, and much, much more. But now they’re twitching in their conglomerate pods and abruptly jumping to Mexico. Giving no more notice than a cursory shout of adios, they’re leaving US workers, communities, the future of our middle class, and our unifying ethic of fair play in the dust of their corporate greed.

Taking avarice to a new level

Yes, perfidious corporations have been jumping to cheap-labor countries for years, particularly since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), China’s admission to the World Trade Organization, and other policies incentiv­izing corporations to export our blue-collar jobs. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, 50,000-plus US factories have closed and more than 5 million jobs have been lost to the offshoring fad.

Unfortunately, that was just a warm-up. During the past decade, corrupted and compliant legislatures, courts, and regulatory agencies have effectively removed our society’s reins on these profit-seeking powerhouses. Not since the robber barons of the late 1800s have those in executive suites felt so free (and even entitled) to work their will on the rest of us. And they are not hesitating. Their recent surge in abandonments of the Good 01′ USA is different from the offshoring of only a dec­ade ago—today’s are bigger, cruder, greedier, and wholly narcisstic.

The real difference is a fundamental, regressive shift in the ethos of the elites who run major corporate empires. These inordinately rich executives and investors believe that what they think and do is what’s best, and everyone else should just get out of their way. This has led them to adopt a thoroughly unethical ethic of social irresponsibility, unilaterally decreeing that they and their corporate entities owe nothing to the country and the people who have nur­tured and even coddled them.

They’ve even packaged their conceit in a hokey doctrine they’ve dubbed “shareholder hegemony” (see the Lowdown, February 2016). It asserts that corporations exist strictly to benefit their shareholders—ergo and hocus pocus, corporate managers bear a “mandate” to do whatever is necessary to increase stock values, no matter what this costs everybody and everything else.

Consequently, we’re presently witnessing the murder of our country’s manufacturing prowess by industry’s own leaders. CEOs of even the most iconic, well-established, financially secure corpora­tions—companies with deep roots in our communities—have gone honkers, asserting a “moral duty” to shut down factories here, dump the workers, desert our hometowns, and hightail it out of country to any low-wage, low-environmental-standard refuge on the map.

Of course, the beneficiaries of this Kafkaesque doctrine of share­holder supremacy include not only the large stock owners, but also the very CEOs whose paychecks and bonuses depend on jacking up stock prices at our expense. It’s a socially suicidal system, providing both an irresistible incentive and a moral excuse for executives to commit corporate treason, even as their moves expand the ever-widening chasm of inequality that cleaves our society. And, by the way, CEOs and billionaire shareholders aren’t moving south with their bottom-wage factories, preferring instead to enjoy their life of luxury in America the Beautiful. Apparently unaware that their elimination of middle-class wages is eliminating their own custom­er base, they also expect you and me to continue being the primary buyers of their now foreign-made products.

And they wonder why an angry, populist rebellion is spreading like a prairie fire.

It’s getting hot in Indianapolis

If the chieftains of industry and their political henchmen want to know what’s roiling the riffraff, they could read Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty’s landmark, 1,000-page book on inequality, or listen to one of Bernie Sanders’s hour-long, tub-thumping speeches.

Or they could just spend 3 minutes and 32 seconds watching an online video showing a Carrier Corporation executive speaking to hundreds of workers in the air-conditioning giant’s Indianapolis manufacturing plant this past February (www.youtube.com/watch? v=Y3ttxGMQ0rY). The proud Steelworkers union members thought maybe they’d been called to the factory floor to hear about new orders for their quality products. After all, sales at parent-company United Technologies (UTC) were zooming—expected to jump at least $2 billion to $58 billion in 2016.

Instead of receiving praise and good news, however, they got an ugly surprise. In the fuzzy video (recorded on a worker’s phone) UTC/Carrier honcho Chris Nelson doesn’t bother with any open­ing pleasantries. He gets right to the point, reporting in the dry tones of a corporate lifer that the bosses have decided, “The best way to stay competitive and protect the business for the long term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico.” KABLOOEY! He couldn’t finish his scripted sentence, for ­the entire assembly exploded like a human cluster bomb, with cries of disbelief, paroxysms of anguished working-class rage, raucous booing, and a steady barrage of “x#@! you.”

“Please quiet down,” the obtuse functionary instructed. But the devastated workers, realizing in an instant that Carrier is kicking their families right out of the middle class, just get rowdier. Then, as though he’s delivering a line from The Godfather, Nelson assures the angry crowd that the corporation means nothing personal by taking their jobs: “This is strictly a business decision.”

No, it wasn’t. This was a calculated greed decision. Severing this workforce of 2,100 top-quality, experienced, and dedicated producers (1,400 at the UTC/Carrier factory in Indianapolis and another 700 near Fort Wayne) makes questionable busi­ness sense: The move to Mexico is expected to save UTC only 2.W.theCREM $70 million a year in labor costs—a blip on the spreadsheets of a global behemoth that hauls in $56 billion a year in revenue and has an uninterrupted, 22-year record of increasing dividends. But UTC’s greedy Wall Street investment bankers are demand­ing that the giant go on a cost-cutting binge aimed at generat­ing a 17-percent hike in its stock price over the next two years. And what better way to please big institutional shareholders than to show a cold willingness to whack payroll.

Making such cuts is “painful,” mused Carrier’s top financial executive (though not to him personally, of course). But, he ex­plained, they are necessary for “shareholder value creation,” adding cheerfully: “We feel good about being able to execute on that.” So a city must suffer a factory abandonment, and workers must have their decent-paying jobs taken from them just so some distant, don’t-give-a-damn, rich shareholders can see a dollar rise in UTC’s stock price. “Execute” seems like just the right word.

There’s also an unstated motivation in play: Gregory Hayes’s pride. The UTC chief had taken heat from a board of directors con­cerned that the stock price hadn’t climbed as high and fast as Wall Street wants. Indeed, last year, Hayes took a “haircut” (corporatese for a pay cut). The board sliced his executive bonus in half!

“It’s embarrassing,” a financial analyst noted. “He got dinged.” But no need to cry for Greg, however, since his 2015 paycheck still totaled nearly $6 million. (A typical Carrier worker would need to stay on the job 150 years to earn that much.)

Welcome to the new, phantasmagoric Wild Kingdom of Corporate World, where prideful executive royals are empowered to uproot the livelihoods of commoners in a ploy to (1) please Wall Street, (2) manipulate corporate stock prices, (3) collect extrava­gant bonuses, and (4) save face.

Notice that such whimsy was pulled off autocratically. Despite a unionized workforce, UTC/Carrier simply commanded the workers to assemble so they could be unilaterally dispatched—there was no negotiation, consultation, or any other say-so by them, the community, public officials, or anyone else. This is our new norm of plutocratic rule, envisioned and implemented by the rampaging forces of corporate avarice.

Don’t think this is just a one-time Indiana problem. Carrier’s chief financial officer blurted out to a New York Times reporter that top executives are eying other factories to move to Mexico. Look out Charlotte (NC), Collierville (TN), and Tyler (TX)—UTC and Wall Street will be punching a one-way bus ticket to Monterrey for your Carrier jobs next.

Souring Chicago’s sweet treat

For generations, kids from 3 to 100 have loved munching on chocolaty Oreo cookies dipped in a glass of milk. But just over a year ago, the tasty treat suddenly went sour.

In May 2015, bakery workers in Nabisco’s monumental 10-story plant in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood had been expect­ing some sweet news from corporate headquarters. Rumor had it that their renown facility—after more than half a century and millions of Oreos—was about to receive a $130-million modernization invest­ment to upgrade equipment and add new production lines. So the future looked bright and spirits were high on May 15 when management convened members of Local 300 of the Bakery Workers Union to announce that the investment was indeed going to be made. In Salinas, Mexico.

For 104 years, the Marquette Park community has been proud that the delectable smell of “milk’s favorite cookie” wafts through their neighborhood. But the noses of Nabisco’s corporate brass are clogged with greed, incapable of sniffing out anything but ever-fatter profits for themselves and other rich shareholders. So, taking the NAFTA low road, they intend to move the iconic Oreo brand—and the jobs of 600 top-quality bak­ery workers—from Chicago to Mexico, where the minimum wage is a bit more than $4. Not per hour, but per day.

This is the tyranny of corporate globalization in action. In 2012 Kraft Foods split off its grocery business, which retained the Kraft name, and rebranded its remaining snack-food empire as Mondelez International, which includes Nabisco and its many brands includ­ing Triscuit, Planters nuts, Ritz crackers, Chips Ahoy, and Oreos.

Such corporate empires now reign over millions of working families, arrogantly and even lawlessly making self-serving decisions from within the shrouded confines of faraway executives suites, wreaking havoc on workers, local economies, democratic values, and our sense of community. People affected get no input or warn­ing (much less any real say-so) in the profiteering that now routinely strikes us like lightning bolts from hell.

Worse, the so-called humans who’ve enthroned themselves with this autocratic power find it amusing to toy with those they rule over. Mondelez executives did exactly that after their sneak attack on Chicago’s bakery workers. In a crude gambit to shift blame to the union, the plutocratic powerhouse claimed it had made an offer to Local 300 to keep producing Oreos in Chicago, but that recalci­trant union officials had refused.

Of course they did, for Mondelez essentially proposed that the workers commit mass financial suicide. Here’s the “offer”: Since the move to Mexico is expected to save $46 million a year, the con­glomerate would graciously let the 600 ransom their jobs by paying that $46-mil themselves. Just slash your annual pay and benefits (as well as your throats) by that amount, the executives told the union, and you can keep making Oreos for us. At a poverty wage. This from an outfit that banked $7 billion in profit last year!

If Mondelez executives are so inept that they can’t find an honest way to fill a $46 million hole, here’s a suggestion: They could start by docking executive pay. The three top honchos—whose com­pensation last year totaled $37 million—can damn sure afford it. CEO Irene Rosenfeld alone took a $20 million paycheck in 2015, bringing her eight-year total to almost $200 million.

I’d say her gluttony is hoggish, but that would be unfair to swine, which have far better manners and more delicate appetites.

CORPORADOS GREEDYADOS SUCH AS Gregory Hayes of United Technologies and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez continue to be obsequiously deferred to and even celebrated as semi-divine social benefactors.

This is OUR fight

In a March protest outside Nabisco, a bakery worker held a hand-lettered poster aloft, proclaiming: “Crime Scene.” She’s right, but it’s not just true of her Chicago workplace—the entire United States should be enclosed in yellow tape.

Corporate America is now openly flouting our laws, violating our ethics, and rampaging over our society’s unifying sense of com­mon decency … because they can. Almost no one is telling them “no”—not Congress, the White House, Republicans, Democrats, the courts, the clergy (with the exemplary exception of Pope Francis), the police, the educational system, or others with power (and responsibility) to stand up to thugs.

We tell children to be good, to follow the Golden Rule. We teach that proper social behavior is essential, and that wrongdoing will always be punished.

But every day they see that America’s biggest, richest, most pow­erful, and most influential institutions—giant corporations—are free to be as bad as they want to be. Corporations bully their way over anyone, anything, and any rule, creating the vast inequality that presently disgraces America. Yet, perversely, rather than being punished by our society’s various authorities, Corporados Greedyados such as Gregory Hayes of United Technologies and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez continue to be obsequiously deferred to and even celebrated as semi-divine social benefactors.

The carnage on working-class Americans won’t stop until we actually start punishing these corporate malefactors. And that won’t start until We the People overthrow today’s clueless, elitist political establishment. The good news is that the current populist upris­ing—having spread from Occupy Wall Street in 2011 through Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, Bernie 2016, and soon to What’s Next—is the way to get that job done. Let’s keep at it.

 

♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠

 

Here are some ways to help unions battle runaway Corporados Greedyados:

SUPPORT COMPANIES THAT MAKE THEIR PRODUCTS IN THE USA. To learn more, check out the Made in America Movement: www.themadeinamericamovementcom

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NABISCO FIGHT and to sign a petition in support of the Nabisco workers, visit: www.fightforamericanjobs.org

By the way, you can still buy American-made Nabisco products. To learn what to look for when buying groceries, check out the Check the Label campaign:

www.fightforamericanjobs.org/check-the-label or fightforamericanjobs.org/checkthelabel.pdf

And for more information on rebuilding a strong manufacturing economy in the USA, visit this site: www.americanmanufacturing.org/issues/issues/made-in-america

 

♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠

 

YOU CAN GO NOW. HERE’S $195 MILLION.

ALTHOUGH, UNITED TECHNOLOGIES SAYS it must skip off to Mexico with its Indiana factory jobs to save $70 million in labor costs, the conglomerate has actually been exceptionally generous to its workers. Workers in the executive suite, that is. For years, the CEOs of UTC have ranked among America’s high­est paid.

Consider the corporation’s cosseting of Louis Chenevert, who stepped down in November 2014 after six well-compensated years as CEO. The corporate board eased him out of his cushy executive chair for being too disengaged from the affairs of UTC and too focused on living the good life of wealthy swells. (The final straw came during a business trip to Asia, when he suddenly skipped over to Taiwan to check out progress on a sleek, 100-foot, 20-passenger, luxury yacht he was having built there.)

Rather than being bounced, though, Louis was squeegeed out with money: $31 million in pension benefits, $136 million in stock options, and $28 mil­lion in other compensation. Sadly for him, he got no severance pay. Still, that tidy $195 million goodbye kiss is more than twice the annual salaries all of UTC’s 2,100 displaced Indiana workers.

 

♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠

 

The Hightower Lowdown (ISSN 1524-4881) is published monthly by Public Intelligence Inc. at 81 San Marcos Street, Austin, TX 78702. ©2016 in the United States. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions: 1 year, $15: 2 years, $27. Add $8/year for Mexico or Canada; add $12/year for overseas airmail. Back issues $2 postpaid. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The Hightower Lowdown, P.O. Box 3109, Langhorne, PA 19047. Moving? Missed an issue? Call our subscription folks toll-free at (877)747-3517 or write subscriptions@hightowerlowdown.org. Send mail to the editor to 81 San Marcos St., Austin, TX 78702 or to editors@hightowerlowdown.org Printed with 100% union labor on 100% recycled paper.

 

♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠    ♠     ♠     ♠     ♠

 

 

 

FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE – Rusty Reno on Russell Moore

FIRST THINGS April 2016RoseIII

Faith in the Public Square

Russell Moore has written a very good book. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel seeks to orient us in the changing culture of twenty-first-century America. It’s written with the folksy verve of a very good Southern Baptist preacher, which Moore is. I can’t count the number of memorable sentences I underlined. After a thoughtful analysis of the fatal temptation to confuse God’s Kingdom with the United States of America: “Jesus promised those who overcome a crown of life. But he never said anything about a ‘God and country’ badge.” On put­ting political power ahead of Gospel truth: “It would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ.”

Onward is more than mellifluous; it’s also astute about the moment in which we live and the kind of Church we need to become. Moore’s analysis has a strong critical thrust. Again and again he observes that the days are over when Christians could imagine themselves at the center of a “Christian nation.”

Moore emphasizes our post-Christian cultural context because he’s a son of Biloxi, Mississippi, which was once part of the Bible Belt, that wide swath of God-haunted America that runs from West Virginia to Texas. In those communities, being Christian and being an upstanding American citizen often seemed fused together. As Moore points out, this can make us complacent “have-it-all” Christians who want to follow Christ while fitting in with mainstream culture. The problem is that this can tempt us to dilute the Gospel so that we can remain “normal.”

The Moral Majority approach tried to solve the problem by “taking back” the mainstream culture through political action. Moore thinks that project failed. The bad news is that this failure has made America increasingly post-Christian. That’s as true in the Bible Belt as elsewhere, as he illustrates with vivid anecdotes. The good news is that we can no longer fool ourselves. We’ve got to make a choice. Will we live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the American way of life?

By Moore’s reckoning, this is a renewing choice. It pro­vides us with the opportunity to rediscover the power of the Christian message. The choice also winnows. He re­ports that Evangelical churches are undergoing “a mirror image of the Rapture.” Nominal Christians are vanishing from the pews, and those who choose to be defined by the Christian Gospel rather than “Christian America” are “left behind.” This clarification will not weaken Christian engagement and influence in American public life; it will strengthen it. A post-Christian context is a forcing ground: “Once Christianity is no longer seen as part and parcel of patriotism, the church must offer more than ‘What would Jesus do?’ moralism and ‘I vote values’ populism to which we’ve grown accustomed. Good.”

Moore fleshes out the “more.” He argues for an expan­sive understanding of our duty to defend human dignity. It includes a wide range of efforts on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. We should attend to the needs of the poor, migrants, the disabled, and the homeless, as well as the unborn. To be pro-life is to be whole-life, to paraphrase one of his lapidary formulations. But Moore avoids a fac­ile “seamless garment” approach. Defending the lives of the innocent, especially the unborn whom our legal cul­ture has abandoned, is the foundation of a culture of life. Without a pro-life commitment, no “whole-life” stance can endure.

His treatment of religious liberty and freedom of con­science draws upon the Baptist tradition. From its incep­tion it recognized the dangers that flow from too close a connection between religious authority and civil authority. Moore provides theological justification for our constitu­tional principles of non-establishment and free exercise. But he draws attention to a deeper truth about religious freedom: Our greatest freedom comes from the strength of our faith in God, not by way of rights given to us by constitutions. The freedom of the martyrs is the founda­tion of the Church’s freedom.

Sex, marriage, and family are today’s battlegrounds. They’re the reason why we’re arguing over religious lib­erty. They’re the reason our society ignores the claims of the unborn. There are moral arguments to be made, and they should be made. But at root these battles are spiritual, not merely moral, as Moore helpfully reminds us. Far from being a liability, the Bible’s countercultural sexual ethic and theology of marriage may end up being the Church’s greatest tool of evangelization. The day is coming when more and more people damaged by the sexual revolution’s false promises will seek a gospel promise they can trust.

Onward suggests a sober rethinking of pub­lic engagement by conservative American Protestants, one that moves in the direc­tion outlined by Stanley Hauerwas over the last four decades. Put succinctly, Hauerwas has argued that the Church fails to leaven society when it poses as culture’s friendly chaplain, because in that role it gets coopted. The same is true when the Church poses as culture’s stern, disciplining chaplain, which is, perhaps, a way to sum up Moore’s appraisal of the Moral Majority’s approach to influencing society at large.

Hauerwas’s genius was to see that living a faithful Christian life explodes the pretensions of the world. Going against the grain—as sojourners or pilgrims, to use the bib­lical image—is a public statement that does more to shape the future of American society than “cultural engagement.” Moore’s insight is similar. He points out, rightly, that we can fix too much attention on discussions about how to get cultural leverage. We forget that, in a society in which aborting Down syndrome children is taken for granted, pastoring a Church that forms Christian parents to wel­come them is a powerful way to claim cultural territory.

Unlike many who recognize the de-Christianizing main­stream culture, Moore does not shy away from the culture wars. As he knows, we can’t avoid them. Secular progres­sives wish to conquer all the territory in American society. That means they cannot help but battle with Christ-formed communities for our spiritual loyalty. The battle is coming to us, even if church leaders wish to avoid controversy. We see this in the contraceptive mandate and gay marriage. Here Moore is admirably clear. The Moral Majority may no longer show the way to stand for what we believe in public life. But stand we must. “If we do not surrender to the spirit of the age—and we must not—we will be thought to be culture warriors. So be it. Let’s be Christ-shaped, Kingdom-first culture warriors.” Amen. – Rusty Reno           Pages 6-7.

(The preceding article which appears in the April 2016 Issue of First Things is the author’s rationale which makes clear how and why we have come to the conclusions about a number of issues such as Secularism,  the loss of a Christian-based society upon which our Constitution was founded, marriage of same sex couples, the black eye which has been administered in our culture to rule out religion and the values which our Constitution was based upon and the stalemate in our political system, not to mention the establishment of individualism in place of the common good in our social systems, nevertheless you may want to become a bit more real by reading the other articles  (2) which I recommend to you.)   — Pinionmarc.com