Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Catch-All Christianist Smear

Readers certainly know where I stand regarding the political disaster of today's Democratic-left.

It's bad enough to deal with the widespread moral bankruptcy and progressive nihilism of today's leftists, but as well it's the utter intellectual dishonesty of these people that's like a moldering filler of waste on top of the long-fetid ideological corpse below. Sometimes the relativist backlash and evil smears against conservatives are enough to drive people of good moral standing off the web, and if that doesn't do it, threats of intimidation or outright censorship will form the next steps of the left's campaign of death to right and wrong.

What's getting me going is
E.D. Kain's de facto endorsement of Andrew Sullivan's all-purpose attack on conservatives as "Christianists." Sullivan, as many know, deploys the "Christianist" attack on traditionalists as an attempt to reclaim the moral high-ground from alleged extremists who have purportedly hijacked the moral debate on the right. As R. Andrew Newman notes, "Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist." As such, Sullivan and others who use the term have a ready wedge of repudiation and marginalization for traditionalists who stand in the way of the postmodern radical agenda, on gay marriage especially, but also any other policy associated with Bush administration backers and cultural conservatives, from coercive interrogations to race relations.

The smear of Christianism is now a catch-all attack on anyone of faith who rejects Sullivan's moral bankruptcy, his policy hysteria, his total hypocrisy on any and all subjects, and frankly, his own assumed universal standard of the acceptable for anyone with whom he disagrees. Yesterday, Sulivan denounced global warming skeptics as "
Climate Christianists," as if there's the slightest possibility of such a thing.

This man is a nutcase first and foremost, and as
Victor Davis Hanson argued the other day, it's a wonder that people still take this guy seriously. But they do. Time Magazine just included Sulivan's Daily Dish among its list of "Top-25 blogs," although Sullivan rightly ranks up there with Daily Kos as one of the "Most Overrated Blogs" on the web.

In any case, for reasons that
I've discussed before, E.D. Kain has sold out to the dark side. He's abandoned the intellectual rigor of neoconservatism to join up in the moral wasteland of "postmodern conservatism" and "liberaltarian" advocacy. In doing so, he's increasingly twisting himself into knots of Gordian scale and slowly but surely reducing his arguments to the most banal pedestrianism of the ideologically confused.

Check out this passage, for example, from E.D.'s post, "
Christianism and the Gay Marriage Debate":"

Opponents of gay marriage have adopted faux-conservative positions and adopt religious arguments in place of legal ones, and so within the American legal system any conclusions they draw are false. A better tact for conservatives to take would be to evaluate social harm on a civilizational level - not simply the institution of marriage, but the larger society - and to realize that preserving our civilization, which is by nature one of continued traditions and continuous social progress, entails embracing gays into the mainstream through the institution of marriage. Nothing “normalizes” an outcast sub-culture like the suburbs, two cars, three kids and a mortgage.

The point of conservatism is to preserve the stability of the social order, and the only way to do this is to put out the fires of the culture wars, to take the war out of it altogether, and tackle each issue on a cultural rather than political level. The problem with politicizing the culture wars is that they become self-serving and cyclical–a sort of beaurocracy [sic] of ideas. This is why the GOP is ostensibly the party of cultural conservatism and yet never achieves any of the cultural reforms it promises. This is a political tact, not a religious one, and is ironically as much an affront to religious voters as to anyone else.
Where to begin, as they say?

Well, first of all, be sure to check the whole post, which begins as a really rank attack on Mormons (and even E.D.'s
relaxing some of claims in a later post as a result of some pushback).

In any case, this notion that conservatives have mounted religious arguments in place of legal ones is bogus. E.D. provides no links, so it appears he's directing his assualt on truly religious organizations like the Family Research Council, and the like, who naturally advance a political-morality of traditionalism. But on purely political, non-religious grounds we can object to same-sex marriage as a violation of the precepts of conservatism, or classical liberalism, to be precise.

As I have shown in "
The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage," marriage is historically substantiated as an institution that is fundamentally and essentially procreative and regenerative. That is, men and women marry in a civil legal regime for the elevation of the basic biological union of spouses. As a particular social practice, marriage has always been about the fertile union that serves for the regeneration of society, even in the situation of marriage among a man and women who have no desire to bear children. The foundation of marriage is a civil principle, not religious exclusively, for the consecration and protection of the family unit as a socially recognized partnership for human generation. Marriage, in this sense, is a civic rite that is not interchangeable with other definitions of marriage, for example, as that between two men or two women, because the historical function of the bounding of purpose and social utility is negated and perverted. As with other civic rites, like funerals, marriage is not something that can be just thown open to any combination of people or groups on demand. If it is, it will then not serve as the norm-bounded regime of goodness that it has in the past.

Indeed, as Susan Shell indicates, in "
The Liberal Case Against Gay Marriage:
A similar constraint applies to death. A society could abolish "funerals" as heretofore understood and simply call them "parties," or allow individuals to define them as they wish. Were the "liberationist" exaltation of individual choice pushed to its logical conclusion, would not a public definition of "funeral" as a rite in honor of the dead appear just as invidious as a public definition of "marriage" as an enduring sexual partnership between a man and woman?
But beyond this, E.D.'s not speaking logically or factually when he says a traditional embrace of marriage as between one man and one woman is to elevate "social harm on a civilizational level." In fact, it's precisely the opposite, for if gays - through their increasing campaigns of intimidation and violence - are able to transform society to their definintions and dictates, their wouldn't be much of anything at all about that "civilizational level" that remains. E.D. speaks of conservatism as embracing constant change, as "continuous social progress," but progress can only be an improvement if it builds on the practices and presumptions that the social consensus says need improvement. Any genuine conservative can tell you this, and thus for E.D., his criticism of Christianism is not geunuine. He's ultimately reduced to attacks on marriage traditionalists on religious grounds, and thus his argument's a de facto endorsement of Sullivan's "Christianist" smear, which is to demonize and discredit those with whom he disagrees (E.D.'s effort to distance himself form Sullivan utlimately fails, for as he says, "Used properly, Christianism can be a valid and effective rhetorical weapon").

Lastly, this part about Republicans and cultural conservatives failing to achieve "any of the cultural reforms" they promise is pure hogwash. The most important socio-cultural policy development in the last two-decades is arguably the 1996 welfare reform agenda, which came after years of conservative advocacy for family traditionalism and following the widely-validated attacks on Democratic federal polices that were exacerbating poverty.

We could go into to crime and education as well, as other areas of public policy where conservative ideas and institutions are having a dramatic effect. But the point should be clear by now. E.D. Kain at
Ordinary Gentlemen is not only wrong on the facts, but intelletually dishonest. These are slimy, spurious attacks on traditionalists, plain and simple. Wrapping this stuff up in Sullivan-esque anti-Christianism makes all of this even worse, for these attacks by definition endorse a form of argumentation that eschews ideological and prescriptive clarity, but can be rightly regarded as unhinged as well.

As a professor, I would not recommend Andrew Sullivan as one to emulate for intellectual or policy guidance.

On November 7th, a couple days after California erupted in hardline protests against Propostion 8,
Sullivan exhorted folks to chill: "I totally understand the anger, hurt and pain now roiling the gay community and our families, especially in California. But it's important to keep our heads ... Calm down. We are not experiencing a massive, permanent backlash." But as this very backlash has indeed started to build, Sullivan has dug in his heels, explicity repudiating his earlier arguments, with a new commentary suggesting that the left's campaign of intimidation has been characterized by "massive peaceful, even joyful, protests."

This, of course, is exactly the modus operandi of the catch-all Christianist smear campaigns.

These attacks are not about seeking truth and justice for the oppressed or disenfranchised. The gay rights community is anything but. These smears are about the delegitimation of a privileged moral community. These attacks take for granted the goodness of heart of traditional communities and seek to coopt conservatives' sense of decency and fairplay in a boomerang effect of inflicted guilt and the repudation of values. That is, if traditionalist are attacked hard enough and long enough they'll cede the moral high ground, and in the wake of this the left can step in and defile these old values - the civil regimes of goodness and human regeneration - with a replacement of gay licentiousness that will work to further breakdown that foundations of American society.

People should have no doubt about the true agenda behind all of this. And as they do, folks of good moral grounding must stand firm. Society will change organically if that's what people want. Revolutionary, violent change is not conservative, but the
E.D. Kains and the Andrew Sullivans of this world want to make you believe that they are.


Tom the Redhunter said...

"Opponents of gay marriage have adopted faux-conservative positions and adopt religious arguments in place of legal ones"

Yes, how dare one argue from the basis of morality, and worse from a morality based on religion.

You're right, Kain has sold out to the dark side.

I share your view of Sullivan. Back in 2002 I thought he was great. Sometime in late 2003 he started to go whacky, and just got worse and worse to where I could no longer read him.

I too read VDH's piece on Sullivan, and as always Hanson was brilliant.

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Tom the Redhunter.

shoprat said...

Sullivan snapped his cap over the GOP the Defense of Marriage.

JBW said...

That was hilarious, thanks Don. Sullivan is of course nothing like you describe him but it was still pretty funny.

I'm curious: what will you do if it turns out that one of your sons is gay and wants to get married someday? Quandary, huh?

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Dr. D., do you ever sleep?

Good essay...