Skip to content

“Traditional” = “Sex,” Dreher Admits

It’s refreshing to see Rod Dreher drop the pretense of euphemism and admit that when he uses the terms “traditional Christianity” or “orthodox Christianity,” he’s really talking about sex.

It seems to me that “traditional Christian” is political code for “Christians who adhere to traditional teaching about sex and sexuality.”

There is nothing more or less “traditional” about the Christianity of those of us who seek to prioritize the actual Gospel of Jesus over and above the exertion of sexual dominance through pharisaical legalism . It’s not a question of valuing or not valuing “objective truth.” We all necessarily come to Scripture with an interpretive lens. The use of the “rule of love” as a primary interpretive lens is deeply traditional – in the Gospels themselves we find Jesus interpreting Mosaic Law to his audiences!

And here’s the thing: Rod himself abandons the interpretive lens that leads to sexually conservative Christianity when it comes to some other scriptural issues. As discussed in Fred Clark recent “Whatever Happened to the Clobber Texts for Slavery,” if we honestly apply the textualist approach Rod’s “traditional” brethren apply to sex to scriptural teachings on slavery, an honest “traditional Christian” would today defend the institution of slavery. There are only two ways to get around the Bible’s slavery problem: Simply ignore all biblical text on slavery; or interpret biblical text on slavery through the lens of Christ’s Great Commandment.

The problem being that if one admits that this is what one is doing, it becomes difficult to sustain a scripturally coherent case for ostracizing and punishing homosexual persons as such or discriminating against monogamous homosexual relationships. (See also Eric Elnes’ “The Sin of Sodom.”)

In point of fact the notion of “religious liberty” that Rod and other sexually conservative Christians advance is not traditional. Rod’s “religious liberty” consists of the demand that one be free in all aspects of civic and secular life to avoid contact with or providing service or accommodation to other persons on the basis of their characteristics or beliefs. (Also, and this is important to Rod, the demand to do these things and not be called unpleasant names by anyone anywhere for doing them.) This demand is not found in any ancient Christian doctrine or practice, and it is not recognized in any traditions of American constitutional jurisprudence. It is a novel, indeed radical, doctrine. In America’s civic traditions, we call this demand “discrimination” or “bigotry.” Where this principle shows up in Christian practice, it ranges from the despicable separatism of Dominionism or Christian Identity to the noble communal pietism of some Anabaptists.

But none of those are in the mainstreams of Christian theology or practice. In terms of “tradition,” when a Christian seeks to separate from the world, he separates from the world. He does not remain in the world and demand that the world separate from him. To have the Amish cake, one must give up eating the worldly cake. Rod and others who advance this radical new concept of “religious liberty” seek the benefits of Amish-style communal pietism without the inconveniences of separation from the secular, profane world.

The West Bank as Israel’s Texas

In his post, “Understanding the Permanence of Greater Israel,” Andrew Sullivan quotes Rhubarb Preserve:

This is what really put Israel’s occupation and settlement of the West Bank in perspective for me: Israel has possessed the West Bank for almost precisely the same proportion of its national existence as the United States has possessed Texas and California. About seven-tenths. That is, Israel has occupied the West Bank for 71 percent of the time since national independence in 1948; the United States has possessed Texas and California for 69 percent of the time since national independence in 1776.

Imagine an American claiming that possession of Texas and California was not in some way fundamental to the character of the nation. Imagine if American border politics was predicated on the claim that possession of Texas and California was temporary and both would someday be returned to Mexican sovereignty. Preposterous! A United States without Texas and California would not be the United States anymore. Though it might keep its name, it would be a fundamentally different nation. Even more, the United States would first have to become an existentially different nation before it would even consider peaceably permitting California and Texas to leave the union.

Just so with Israel. Despite protestations otherwise, possession of the West Bank has become a fundamental and existential part of the character of Israeli nationhood. Possession of the West Bank is not temporary, it is not contingent, and it is not an exception to the general rule of the character of Israeli nationhood. Occupation and settlement are as central to the Israeli nation, its politics and culture, as burritos, Hollywood, and Sunbelt conservatism are to American politics, culture, and national identity.

Franken, Sen.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled, and Norm Coleman has conceded, and so when Congress reconvenes after Independence Day Al Franken will hold Paul Wellstone’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Just goes to show what I know: In 2007 I thought that Al Franken was the one man in Minnesota who couldn’t beat Coleman.

Foreshortening the Game

Slate’s Greg Hanlon writes about the use of dead-center cameras in baseball, rather than the traditional left-center shot of pitcher and batter.

It’s a good point, and the dead-center view is superior to the left-center. But Hanlon misses the real question: Why put the camera in the outfield at all? After all, nobody who attends a game in person sits in the outfield in order to get a closer view of the batter. No, the view people are willing to pay top dollar for is behind home plate. There one gets a good look at the batter, the pitcher, the umpire, the pitch, as well as the fielders and any runners on base.

Here in Washington, a few times a game MASN will use a behind-home-plate camera on a pitch or two. It’s absolutely the best angle when runners are in motion or when the batter hits the ball. In the behind-home view, the camera can follow a hit ball without changing cameras or reversing the left-to-right screen angle between shots. Watching a televised game from this angle is like sitting in the best seat in the park.

Watching a televised game perched over the pitcher’s shoulder in deep center field is like sitting in the worst seat in the park, with binoculars. Switching from the traditional left-center camera to a true dead-center view is an improvement. But it amounts to moving from the worst seat in the park to the second-worst seat. Wouldn’t it be better to put fans in the best seat instead?

Death of a Pitchman

Billy Mays, dead at age 50.

Billy Mays, icon of his times, symbol of the American service economy, committed advocate of the vernacular, and consummate broadcaster. In the future, no novel about this time will be complete without a character based on Billy Mays.

Been Stuck in My Head for Months

Pandora understands the excellence of minor-key pop songs with prominent jangly guitars, vocal harmony, melancholy lyrics and upbeat tempo and so played Modest Mouse’s “Missed the Boat” for me in March. Haven’t gotten the song out of my head since then.

I love the plaintive first verse: “Looking toward the future / We were begging for the past / Well, we know we had the good things / But those never seem to last / Oh please just last.”

How to Amend the Constitution, If You Must

By popular demand from the old site, here is my standing list of amendments to the Constitution that wouldn’t suck.

1. Gay Marriage
The Congress shall have the power to establish a uniform rule of marriage, and uniform laws on the validity of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings related to marriage, and any privileges and immunities resulting therefrom.

Rather than imposing a permanent ban on federal or interstate recognition of gay marriage, this amendment would simply give Congress the legislative authority to do so. When the time comes that a majority of Americans in most states accept marriage equality, contrary federal legislation will be easier to reverse than a contrary constitutional amendment.

2. Naturalized Presidents
A foreign-born person who has been for twenty years a citizen of the United States shall be eligible to hold the Office of President.

3. Congressional Succession
Section 1. Congress may by law provide for vacating the seat of a member of the Senate or House of Representatives who is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

Section 2. When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the House of Representatives, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct. No appointed Representative shall be eligible for election to the House of Representatives during the term of the Congress to which he is appointed.

The Sept. 11 attacks revealed the vulnerability of Congress to physical attack; the need to elect new representatives to fill a quorum in the House means that Congress may not be able to exercise its legislative powers in a crisis for up to three months. Other proposals along these lines only trigger in the event of the death of a large number of House members, but that is needlessly complex. Instead, governors should have the power, which they need not exercise in normal times, to appoint a replacement representative who may not stand for permanent election to the seat. In addition, this amendment would deal with the threat of chemical or biological attack — or indeed natural pandemics — by granting Congress the power to vacate seats in the event of incapacity, thus preserving in all instances Congress’s ability to muster a quorum in a matter of days.

4. Expanding Congress, Fixing the Electoral College
Section 1. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States so that the population of each Representative district is not larger than one-half the number of inhabitants of the least populous State. Each State shall have not less than two Representatives.

Section 2. Each State shall appoint a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Representatives to which the State my be entitled in the Congress.

Section 2 would become irrelevant if Section 1 were ever enacted; were the House of Representatives large enough to give each state at least two seats, the Electoral College would no longer be capable of awarding the presidency to the popular-vote loser. In addition, with a larger Congress, the cost of corruption would rise while the marginal reward would diminish, gerrymandering would be more difficult, and incumbents would be more vulnerable to challengers.

5. Flag Desecration
Section 1. The legislatures of the several states shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. The physical desecration of the flag of the United States shall not be a felony. The crime of desecration shall consist only in the physical destruction or defacement of the flag of the United States, or the display of a damaged or defaced flag of the United States, without regard to the intent or purpose of the destruction, defacement, or display.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to prohibit the display, by the federal government or the governments of the several states, of flags, emblems, symbols, or insignia associated with current or past armed insurrection against the United States.

Section 3. Congress shall have the power to prohibit the display of flags, emblems, symbols, or insignia associated with foreign states currently or formerly at war with the United States.

Banning flag desecration is a bad idea, but if it must be done, this is how it should be done: By state laws, with strict limits to their extent and application, and with concomitant federal powers to ban the display of Confederate flags by state and local governments, which is itself a form of desecration of the American flag.