Wednesday, February 8

Pigeons From Hell

I LET Douthat in here, not to run up the rhetorical score, nor even to goad the ungoadable Grey Lady for the worst choice in Opinion columnists since the guy Douthat replaced, but because he represents the cutting edge of the Religio-Cultural argument in this country: thirty years out of date, friendless even in its own party, and theologically, uh, facile.

The Culture War is Back! pants young Ross, apparently forgetting that he's been covering the Republican Presidential race in his voluminous spare time.

Okay, so there was one other reason I brought him up:
Before he disappointed his many admirers by declining to seek the Republican nomination, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana told the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson that the gravity of the economic and fiscal challenges facing America’s next president might require calling a temporary “truce on the so-called social issues.” On culture war controversies like abortion and same-sex marriage, he suggested, “we’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while.”

The comments earned Daniels a round of criticism from social conservatives, and they probably would have haunted him on the primary trail. But in a sense his point was understandable — and given his own firm anti-abortion record, he probably thought he had the credibility to deliver it. To everything there is a political season, and in an era of high unemployment and record deficits a president who picked too many fights on non-economic issues would find himself an ex-president soon enough.
Isn't is abso-fucking-lutely remarkable how such a simple little gag as Daniels' flew over so many heads? Especially in our nation's typing class?

I mean, it's bad enough that this got treated at face value, coming as it did from one of the most disingenuous PR concoctions in all of American politics. Why is it treated as though President Daniels could have, or would have, called such a truce? It was patent nonsense then, and it was patent nonsense again when he used it in that State of the Union response. He used it at the Weekly Standard, in 2010, as a declaration that the Money Boys who run that national pea-shake game known as the Grand Old Party weren't going to follow Sarah Palin down the drain pipe, and he used it again two weeks ago in a risible attempt to assure rational Americans that the Republican party isn't held hostage by religious fanatics. It meant about as much, each time, as any other advertising slogan. Or as anything else Mitch "Indiana Doesn't Need A Right To Work Law" Daniels says when there's money on the line.

(Daniels own "firm" anti-abortion record consists, like most things about the man, of hot air and spittle. He kept the cranks in the Indiana Republican party from pulling any funny stuff until he'd been reelected--every Life Begins At Conception Act or Act of Conception Act, died in the organizational period before the General Assembly met. Then, having been convinced by his own Presidential bull of the need to get with the Republican times, namely the 1870s, he defunded Planned Parenthood last year, before his wife, the Lovely Cheri-with-an-I, told him he couldn't run.)

Let's get to some award-winning journalism:
Most Americans can hardly believe we’re having a national debate about birth control in the 21st century — more than 50 years after the Pill became available and decades after condoms became as commonplace as, well, balloons.
The reason for the incredulity is because we’re actually not having a debate about birth control. To repeat: The debate is about freedom of conscience. It ain’t about the Pill.
Does this mean most Americans have slept through the intervening forty years of conscience clauses, including the radical agitation of the Bush Comedy Administration, and are just now waking up?
This particular episode is significant because the Obama administration has provided the narrowest conscience protection in our nation’s history, according to legal experts who are challenging the administration’s rule.
Well, if legal experts who are challenging the administration agree…
We have a long tradition in this country of working around religious differences so that people are not forced to violate their faith to satisfy a secular mandate. This is the essence of the debate.
Sure, sure. Tell it to the Mormons. Tell it to people who think they should vaccinate their children with Jebus. Tell it to Catholic young men who might object to serving in the military in an unjust war. Set it to music and whistle it while you go try to join the Native American Church.

Tell a Quaker employer he doesn't have to withhold taxes that go to military spending. Tell a Christian Scientist employer he doesn't have to without Medicare contributions. Tell Bob Jones University it can still accept Federal monies but go back to hatin' the coloreds.
When the state insists that one’s religious beliefs be supplanted by another’s, in this case by secularism, then might one argue that the state is establishing a religion in contravention of the Constitution’s intent?
Sure one might. Just as one might tap dance with no legs, provided words were all that was needed.

Come to think of it, they're exactly the same.

And "secular religion", Kathy? Secular religion.? The Roman Catholic Church, with nearly two millennia of intellectual history behind it, is going to borrow arguments from backwoods Baptists?
The new health-care reform act’s mandate that Catholic institutions pay for insurance to cover birth control and even abortifacient drugs (a.k.a. “morning-after” pills) runs deeply contrary to fundamental Catholic teaching.
Yeah, fundamental for a hundred fifty of the last two thousand years. And it's "Catholic institutions" being mandated to pay only if you ignore the fact that Catholic religious institutions are exempt.

And, okay, look: some of y'all get a little emotional about this; lots of your fellow Catholics do not. I realize it can trigger the occasional exaggeration. The Catholic Church is not being "forced" to "pay for abortions"; the Catholic Church as any other employer in the US will be mandated to provide comprehensive medical insurance to the people it employs while seeking to make a profit. I'm sure you all are actually willing to be reasonable about this, and as respectful of other people's beliefs as you demand they be of your own.
These are tough, emotional issues, to be sure. But consider that we allow even Nazis to march because we believe so fervently in freedom of expression.
All righty, then.


KWillow said...

Who started the "Secular atheism" is a religion gag?

Anonymous said...

Why should the Catholic Church be allowed to provide substandard medical care to women ?
Should Evangelicals be allowed to refuse to provide snake antivenom ?
Should Jehovah's Witnesses be allowed to refuse to provide blood transfusions ?

The Catholics seem pretty inconsistent since it's a fundamental Catholic belief that abstinence doesn't prevent pregnancy (or is it the "partly-Virgin Mary" ?).

scripto said...

70% of the employees of Catholic charities are not Catholic. Don't these women have the right to equal protection under the law? Contrary to the protestations of that gasbag Hennenberger in the Washington Post, the Catholic Church doesn't have 1st Amendment rights - Catholics do. As for the Catholic vote - no such thing. It has been a long time since most of us paid any attention to the Bishops. Obama will gain more votes than he will lose with this one.

Christopher said...

the cutting edge of the Religio-Cultural argument in this country: thirty years out of date, friendless even in its own party, and theologically, uh, facile.

You know, back when I was a militant atheist, people like Ross annoyed me a lot.

Now that I'm older, more mellow, and starting to wonder if maybe there's something to this whole religion thing, I find them even more annoying.

Mike said...

70% of the employees of Catholic charities are not Catholic. Don't these women have the right to equal protection under the law?

Yes, much in the same way that the poor and destitute also have the right to not be poor and destitute, one presumes....

Fiddlin' Bill said...

As the missus pointed out to me, health insurance is a benefit--in a sense, part of an employee's salary. The institution does not control what that salary is spent for. This whole flap is merely and only a framing device aimed at dividing voters. The most shocking thing to me about it is that Chris Matthews apparently buys in--on the wrong side.

Cato the Censor said...

As Ambrose Bierce pointed out over a century ago, a religion is defined as a belief in a supreme being. Atheism, on the other hand, is a belief system that posits there is no such thing as a supreme being. Hence the etymology for atheism, "a" meaning without plus "theism," a religion, without a religion. It is therefore ridiculous to argue that atheism is a religion. It is the logical opposite of the term.

Anonymous said...

I just heard on the radio that 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives.