The irreligious Trump and his religious fans

Michael Gerson on thrice-married Donald Trump and some of his biggest supporters, who you’d think wouldn’t approve of three marriages, two of which ended in divorce:

In the compulsively transgressive, foul-mouthed, loser-disdaining, mammon-worshiping billionaire, conservative Christians “have found their dream president,” according to Jerry Falwell Jr.

It is a miracle, of sorts.

In a recent analysis, the Pew Research Center found that more than three-fourths of white evangelical Christians approve of Trump’s job performance, most of them “strongly.” With these evangelicals comprising about a quarter of the electorate, their support is the life jacket preventing Trump from slipping into unrecoverable political depths.

The essence of Trump’s appeal to conservative Christians can be found in his otherwise anodyne commencement speech at Liberty University. “Being an outsider is fine,” Trump said. “Embrace the label.” And then he promised: “As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith.” Trump presented evangelicals as a group of besieged outsiders, in need of a defender.

This sense of grievance and cultural dispossession — the common ground between The Donald and the faithful — runs deep in evangelical Christian history. Evangelicalism emerged from the periodic mass revivals that have burned across America for 300 years. While defining this version of Christianity is notoriously difficult, it involves (at least) a personal decision to accept God’s grace through faith in Christ and a commitment to live — haltingly, imperfectly — according to his example.

In the 19th century, evangelicals (particularly of the Northern variety) took leadership in abolitionism and other movements of social reform. But as a modernism based on secular scientific and cultural assumptions took control of institution after institution, evangelicals often found themselves dismissed as anti-intellectual rubes.

The trend culminated at the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which evolution and H.L. Mencken were pitted against creation and William Jennings Bryan (whom Mencken called “a tin pot pope in the Coca-Cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards”). Never mind that Mencken was racist, anti-Semitic and an advocate of eugenics and that Bryan was the compassionate progenitor of the New Deal. Fundamentalists (a designation adopted by many evangelicals) lost the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, even in their own minds.

After a period of political dormancy — which included discrediting slumber during the civil rights movement — evangelicals returned to defend Christian schools against regulation during the Carter administration. To defend against Supreme Court decisions that put tight limits on school prayer and removed state limits on abortion. To defend against regulatory assaults on religious institutions. Nathan Glazer once termed this a “defensive offensive” — a kind of aggrieved reaction to the perceived aggressions of modernity.

Those who might be understandably confused by the current state of evangelicalism should understand a few things:

First, evangelicals don’t have a body of social teaching equivalent, say, to Catholic social doctrine. Catholics are taught, in essence, that if you want to call yourself pro-life on abortion, you also have to support greater access to health care and oppose the dehumanization of migrants. And vice versa. There is a doctrinal whole that requires a broad and consistent view of social justice. Evangelicals have nothing of the sort. Their agenda often seems indistinguishable from the political movement that currently defends and deploys them, be it Reaganism or Trumpism.

Second, evangelicalism is racially and ethnically homogeneous, which leaves certain views and assumptions unchallenged. The American Catholic Church, in contrast, is one-third Hispanic, which changes the church’s perception of immigrants and their struggles. (Successful evangelical churches in urban areas are now experiencing the same diversity and broadening their social concern.)

Third, without really knowing it, Trump has presented a secular version of evangelical eschatology. When the candidate talked of an America on the brink of destruction, which could be saved only by returning to the certainties of the past, it perfectly fit the evangelical narrative of moral and national decline. Trump speaks the language of decadence and renewal (while exemplifying just one of them).

In the Trump era, evangelicals have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice for their pains — which is significant. And they have gotten a leader who shows contempt for those who hold them in contempt — which is emotionally satisfying.

The cost? Evangelicals have become loyal to a leader of shockingly low character. They have associated their faith with exclusion and bias. They have become another Washington interest group, striving for advantage rather than seeking the common good. And a movement that should be known for grace is now known for its seething resentments.

Whether you approve or not, the cause of this is obvious — Trump’s predecessor in the White House. Barack Obama was as big a fan of abortion as Bill Clinton, and opposed religious liberty for conservative Christians. (See “wedding cakes.”) In these divisive days, you’re either for something or against something, and apparently doing what you say is preferable to doing what you do in your private life.


Creative class claptrap

I have written here previously about the false promise of community development strategies based on attracting the so-called “creative class.”

Now, its discoverer finds problems, as the Washington Post reports:

Richard Florida is rethinking things.

Since publishing the best-selling book “The Rise of the Creative Class” in 2002, Florida has used his considerable speaking and writing heft to push mayors, urban planners and company executives to cater to tech-savvy young professionals.

His argument, in short, was that in order to save themselves from post-industrial ruin, cities needed to attract the best young talent in computer programming, engineering, finance, media and the arts so their towns could build economies based upon the venture capital and start-up companies the new workforce would produce.

Often taking a cue from Florida’s mantra, real estate developers dialed up hip but tiny apartments designed for creative millennials and outfitted them with coffee bars, gyms, pool tables, bocce courts, pool decks and fire pits. Mayors invested in better sidewalks, bike lanes and business incubators aimed at nurturing the new arrivals and keeping them around longer.

Somewhere along the way, however, Florida realized that the workers he so cajoled were eating their cities alive.

In places like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and arguably Washington, the mostly white, young and wealthy “creative class” has so fervently flocked to urban neighborhoods that they have effectively pushed out huge populations of mostly blue-collar and often poor or minority residents.

“I think, to be honest, I and others didn’t realize the contradictory effect,” Florida said Tuesday at a panel discussion. He said he realizes now that prompting creative types to cluster in small areas clearly drove living costs to such heights that low-income and oftentimes middle-income households have been forced elsewhere, creating a divide he did not anticipate.

“We are cramming ourselves into this limited amount of space. And at the same time that the super-affluent, the advantaged, the creative class — we could go on and on [with what to call them] — the techies, global super-rich, absentee investors, invest in these cities, they push others out … and it carves these divides,” he said.

How much of the boom American, Canadian and European cities have experienced can be attributed to Florida’s influence is difficult to discern, but the popularity of his book and its sequels, along with his founding of the CityLab website in partnership with Atlantic Media, plus numerous speaking gigs, made him a household name in planning and business circles. In 2007, for instance, he shared a star turn with futurist Alvin Toffler and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman at a National Conference of the Creative Economy, hosted by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Last week’s event, held at Union Market in Northeast Washington, drew a crowd of more than 500 people and must have felt like something of a reunion for people who have reshaped Washington since dysfunction and governmental malfeasance drove Congress to temporarily put the city under the authority of a financial control board in 1995. Two former city administrators and three D.C. planning directors attended, dating back to former mayor Anthony Williams’s administration.

But as inequality has deepened in top cities, writers on class and poverty have begun to take sharper aim at Florida’s theory, calling the “creative class” a fallacy and a failed experiment, not because he was wrong that investing in cities would help draw the creative class, but because he argued that doing so would benefit cities at large.

So although he still champions investments in urban areas, at the panel event Florida said the criticism had made a mark. “To be seen as the neoliberal devil, foisting gentrification on cities, is not a situation I like to be seen in,” he said.

Like any good ideas man, Florida has a new idea to fix the old idea, and a book to go with it, called The New Urban Crisis. In an excerpt published on his web site, Florida explained the turnaround in his thinking.

It became increasingly clear to me that the same clustering of talent and economic assets generates a lopsided, unequal urbanism in which a relative handful of superstar cities, and a few elite neighborhoods within them, benefit while many other places stagnate or fall behind. Ultimately, the very same force that drives the growth of our cities and economy broadly also generates the divides that separate us and the contradictions that hold us back.

I’m going to repeat part of a post on this subject in 2012:

Florida has an ideological message here too, as Steven Malanga pointed out:

But most important, to a generation of liberal urban policymakers and politicians who favor big government, Florida’s ideas offer a way to talk economic-development talk while walking the familiar big-spending walk. In the old rhetorical paradigm, left-wing politicians often paid little heed to what mainstream businesses—those that create the bulk of jobs—wanted or needed, except when individual firms threatened to leave town, at which point municipal officials might grudgingly offer tax incentives. The business community was otherwise a giant cash register to be tapped for public revenues—an approach that sparked a steady drain of businesses and jobs out of the big cities once technology freed them from the necessity of staying there.

Now comes Florida with the equivalent of an eat-all-you-want-and-still-lose-weight diet. Yes, you can create needed revenue-generating jobs without having to take the unpalatable measures—shrinking government and cutting taxes—that appeal to old-economy businessmen, the kind with starched shirts and lodge pins in their lapels. You can bypass all that and go straight to the new economy, where the future is happening now. You can draw in Florida’s creative-class capitalists—ponytails, jeans, rock music, and all—by liberal, big-government means: diversity celebrations, “progressive” social legislation, and government spending on cultural amenities. Put another way, Florida’s ideas are breathing new life into an old argument: that taxes, incentives, and business-friendly policies are less important in attracting jobs than social legislation and government-provided amenities. After all, if New York can flourish with its high tax rates, and Austin can boom with its heavy regulatory environment and limits on development, any city can thrive in the new economy. …

Except that …

But a far more serious—indeed, fatal—objection to Florida’s theories is that the economics behind them don’t work. Although Florida’s book bristles with charts and statistics showing how he constructed his various indexes and where cities rank on them, the professor, incredibly, doesn’t provide any data demonstrating that his creative cities actually have vibrant economies that perform well over time. A look at even the most simple economic indicators, in fact, shows that, far from being economic powerhouses, many of Florida’s favored cities are chronic underperformers.

Exhibit A is the most fundamental economic measure, job growth. The professor’s creative index—a composite of his other indexes—lists San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and San Diego among the top ten. His bottom ten include New Orleans, Las Vegas, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, which he says are “stuck in paradigms of old economic development” and are losing their “economic dynamism” to his winners. So you’d expect his winners to be big job producers. Yet since 1993, cities that score the best on Florida’s analysis have actually grown no faster than the overall U.S. jobs economy, increasing their employment base by only slightly more than 17 percent. Florida’s indexes, in fact, are such poor predictors of economic performance that his top cities haven’t even outperformed his bottom ones. Led by big percentage gains in Las Vegas (the fastest-growing local economy in the nation) as well as in Oklahoma City and Memphis, Florida’s ten least creative cities turn out to be jobs powerhouses, adding more than 19 percent to their job totals since 1993—faster growth even than the national economy. …

It’s no coincidence that some of Florida’s urban exemplars perform so unimpressively on these basic measures of growth. As Florida tells us repeatedly, these cities spend money on cultural amenities and other frills, paid for by high taxes, while restricting growth through heavy regulation. Despite Florida’s notion of a new order in economic development, the data make crystal-clear that such policies aren’t people- or business-friendly. The 2000 census figures on out-migration, for instance, show that states with the greatest loss of U.S. citizens in 1996 through 2000—in other words, the go-go years—have among the highest tax rates and are the biggest spenders, while those that did the best job of attracting and retaining people have among the lowest tax rates. A study of 1990 census data by the Cato Institute’s Stephen Moore found much the same thing for cities. Among large cities, those that lost the most population over a ten-year period were the highest-taxing, biggest-spending cities in America, with per-capita taxes 75 percent higher than the fastest-growing cities. Given those figures, maybe Florida should have called his book The Curse of the Creative Class.

My favorite demographer, Joel Kotkin, added after the 2010 election, which reversed much of the 2008 election, which Kotkin called “the triumph of the creative class”:

A term coined by urban guru Richard Florida, “the creative class” also covers what David Brooks more cunningly calls “bourgeois bohemians”–socially liberal, well-educated, predominately white, upper middle-class voters. They are clustered largely in expensive urban centers, along the coasts, around universities and high-tech regions. To this base, Obama can add the welfare dependents, virtually all African-Americans, and the well-organized legions of public employees. …

In contrast, the traditional middle class has not fared well at all. This group consists of virtually everyone who earns the national household median income of $50,000 or somewhat above. They tend to be white, concentrated outside the coasts (except along the Gulf), suburban and politically independent. In 2008 they divided their votes, allowing Obama, with his huge urban, minority and youth base, to win easily.

Since Obama’s inauguration all the economic statistics vital to their lives–job creation, family income, housing prices–have been stagnant or negative. Not surprising then that suburbanites, small businesspeople and middle-income workers walked out on the Democrats last night. They did not do so because they loved the Republicans but because the majority either fears unemployment or already have lost their jobs. Many were employed in the industries such as manufacturing and construction hardest hit in the recession; it has not escaped their attention that Obama’s public-sector allies, paid with their taxes, have remained not only largely unscathed, but much better compensated. …

The middle class is a huge proportion of the population. Thirty-five million households earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year; close to another 15 million have incomes between $100,000 and $150,000. Together these households overwhelm the number of poor households as well as the highly affluent.

In contrast, the “creative class” represents a relatively small grouping. Some define this group as upward of 40% of the workforce–largely by dint of having a four-year college degree–but this seems far too broad. The creative class is often seen as sharing the hip values of the Bobo crowd. Lumping an accountant with two kids in suburban Detroit or Atlanta with a childless SoHo graphic artist couple seems disingenuous at best. In reality the true creative class, notes demographer Bill Frey, may constitute no more than 5% of the total.

As (apparently) a member of the creative class, I say that any politician who creates an economic development strategy based on 5 percent of the population deserves to be unemployed by the voters. (See Cieslewicz, Dave.) Official Madison has failed to notice that its quality of life is dropping like a rock due to the uncool issues of crime and schools, but on the other hand Madison is also increasingly unaffordable to live in. None of that is particularly friendly for families, regardless of how many parents they have in the house. Nor is substandard job growth.

There is only one demographic group worth pursuing: Families with children. No unit of government should spend 1 cent on attracting non-parents.


The latest from the culture wars


I was going to start this blog by saying that every once in a while news comes out of left field. However, that seems to be an increasingly common place from which news arrives these days.

For instance, did you think last week that Pope Francis was going to opine on libertarianism? If you did, play Powerball tonight. Breitbart reports:

Pope Francis had harsh words to describe libertarians Friday, saying they deny the value of the common good in favor of radical selfishness where only the individual matters.

“I cannot fail to speak of the grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education,” the Pope said in an message sent to members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences meeting in the Vatican and subsequently shared with Breitbart News.

“A common characteristic of this fallacious paradigm is that it minimizes the common good, that is the idea of ‘living well’ or the ‘good life’ in the communitarian framework,” Francis said, while at the same time exalting a “selfish ideal.” …

Francis said that libertarianism, “which is so fashionable today,” is a more radical form of the individualism that asserts that “only the individual gives value to things and to interpersonal relations and therefore only the individual decides what is good and what is evil.”

Libertarianism, he said, preaches that the idea of “self-causation” is necessary to ground freedom and individual responsibility.

“Thus, the libertarian individual denies the value of the common good,” the pontiff stated, “because on the one hand he supposes that the very idea of ‘common’ means the constriction of at least some individuals, and on the other hand that the notion of ‘good’ deprives freedom of its essence.”

Libertarianism, he continued, is an “antisocial” radicalization of individualism, which “leads to the conclusion that everyone has the right to extend himself as far as his abilities allow him even at the cost of the exclusion and marginalization of the more vulnerable majority.”

According to this mentality, all relationships that create ties must be eliminated, the Pope suggested, “since they would limit freedom.” In this way, only by living independently of others, of the common good, and even God himself, can a person be free, he said.

This isn’t the first time that the Pope has taken issue with popular social and political trends.

In March, Pope Francis told leaders of the European Union that the populist movements that are sweeping many parts of Europe and other areas are fueled by “egotism.”Populism, he said, is “the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and ‘looking beyond’ their own narrow vision.”

That prompted this response from Stephanie Slade:

“Pope Francis had harsh words to describe libertarians Friday,” Breitbartreports. That’s OK. I’m a Catholic libertarian, and I’ve had some harsh words to describe Pope Francis.

My main critique, which I published here at Reason on the eve of his 2015 visit to the United States, was that the pontiff’s ignorance of basic economics has led him to a bad conclusion about which public policies are best able to reduce the crushing yoke of poverty in the world. I went on to encourage him to consider that, as a matter of empirical fact, markets are the single greatest engine for growth and enrichment that humanity has yet stumbled upon.

I don’t doubt for a second that Pope Francis cares deeply about the least of his brothers and sisters. But I deny that his chosen prescriptions would do anything but make the problem worse.

This is not a bad time to be reminded that popes aren’t infallible, according to Catholic doctrine—instead, they are possessed of the ability to deliver infallible teachings on matters of faith and morals. As I pointed out in my piece, “In practice, such ‘definitive acts,’ in which a pope makes clear he’s teaching ‘from the chair’ of Jesus, are almost vanishingly rare.” Arguably, though, the pope’s remarks today to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences do pertain to faith and morals. He seems to be arguing that an outlook that places the individual above “the common good” is morally suspect.

As with his comments about capitalism, then, the problem is not so much that he’s speaking to issues that go beyond the scope of his office; the problem is his speaking to matters on which he is ill-informed. In this case, his statements betray a shallowness in his understanding of the philosophy he’s impugning. If he took the time to really engage with our ideas, he might be surprised by what he learned.

He might, for instance, be taken aback to discover that many libertarians hold beliefs that transcend an Ayn Randian glorification of selfishness (and that Ayn Rand rejected us, too, by the way). Or that what Pope Francis calls an “antisocial” paradigm in which “all relationships that create ties must be eliminated” (Breitbart‘s words) is better known by another name: the liberty movement, a cooperative and sometimes even rathersocial endeavor among people who cherish peaceful, voluntary human interactions. Or that lots of us are deeply concerned with the tangible outcomes that policies have on vulnerable communities, and that libertarians’ support for capitalism is very often rooted in its ability to make the world a better place. Or that some of us are even—hold on to your zucchetto—followers of Christ.

Most of all, he would likely be startled to find that, far from thinking “only the individual decides what is good and what is evil,” few libertarians are moral relativists. (Except the Objectivists, of course. Or am I getting that wrong?) Speaking as a devotee of St. John Paul II, one of the great articulators of the importance of accepting Truth as such, this one is actually personal.

It’s hard not to wonder whether Pope Francis knows any libertarians. In the event he’s interested in discussing the ideas of free minds and free markets with someone who ascribes to them, I’d be happy to make myself available.

Were I Roman Catholic instead of just raised Catholic, I’d be torn about this. I’m more a fan of Pope Francis and what could be reasonably called certain liberal Catholics (including my favorite nuns) than I am of certain conservative Catholics, such as Madison Bishop Robert Morlino. (But you knew that.) But Francis speaks from either ignorance about libertarians or deliberately ignoring our God-given free will. (Which includes our free-will choice to go to church or not, or go to a specific church or not.)

The Catholic Church is not a democracy, of course. A church also gets to decide its own rules, contrary to what “cafeteria Catholics” might like to think. Our choice is to attend and support a church, or not. I didn’t leave the Catholic church for any political reason, but as I’ve written here before, my decision to leave has been validated numerous times since then.

I wonder what Catholics think about this news, from the Kansas City Star:

Saying that Girl Scouts is “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel,” the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is severing ties with the organization and switching its support to a Christian-based scouting program.

“I have asked the pastors of the Archdiocese to begin the process of transitioning away from the hosting of parish Girl Scout troops and toward the chartering of American Heritage Girls troops,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement released Monday.

“Pastors were given the choice of making this transition quickly, or to, over the next several years, ‘graduate’ the scouts currently in the program. Regardless of whether they chose the immediate or phased transition, parishes should be in the process of forming American Heritage Girl troops, at least for their kindergartners, this fall.”

American Heritage Girls, founded in 1995, has become an option for those who say Girl Scouts has become too liberal and has relationships with organizations that support abortion rights and do not share traditional family values — allegations the Girl Scouts deny.

Naumann also called for an end to Girl Scout cookie sales in the archdiocese.

“No Girl Scout cookie sales should occur in Catholic Schools or on parish property after the 2016-2017 school year,” he said in a letter to priests in January.

The action has angered some Girl Scout leaders and parents in the archdiocese, who say Girl Scouts is a respected program that helps raise strong girls who become good stewards. They call the move punitive and unfair and say it treats girls in their troops like second-class citizens.

“This is frustrating; parents are very irritated,” said Maria Walters, a former Girl Scout leader in the archdiocese and mother of two Girl Scouts. “I feel we should all be together as one in the community. This does nothing but divide us.

“I don’t know why you would take an organization out of a school when it provides an option for girls to feel like they’re part of a group.”

Walters said her parish has had a Girl Scout troop for at least 25 years.

“They’ve done a father-daughter dance that has been a huge success,” she said. “And they do service projects at Children’s Mercy, animal shelters, battered women’s shelters, the Ronald McDonald House and projects around the parish.”

Walters said the troop used to have about 100 members but now has around 75.

“We have lost some to American Heritage Girls,” she said. “We are still allowed to meet here, but I don’t know for how long. It’s frustrating when you have American Heritage Girls and Boys Scouts in the school newsletter, but no Girl Scouts. We are not allowed to recruit on campus, so we’re going to have to use Facebook and other technology to reach out to people.”

Deacon Dana Nearmyer, the archdiocese’s director of evangelization, told The Star that careful thought went into the decision.

“Several years ago, a number of Catholic school moms called us up and said, ‘We’d like to have a Christian program for our after-school girls’ program,’ ” he said. “So we did a bunch of research and tried to find the best mission fit for us, and American Heritage Girls seemed like that was going to be the best fit.” …

American Heritage Girls, based in Cincinnati, is described as “a Christ-centered character development program for girls ages 5 to 18.”

“We use the methods of scouting to achieve our mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country,” said Patti Garibay, national executive director and founder. ,,,

The organization also was attractive to the archdiocese because of its opposition to abortion. Some of the troops have participated in protests and prayer vigils outside clinics that perform abortions. …

Some Girl Scout leaders disagreed, saying they were never consulted about the decision and that some of their girls had been bullied because they were involved in Scouts. …

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has studied the issue in recent years and said it held a lengthy dialogue with the Girl Scouts. It developed a resource guide for Catholics and concluded that the question of whether the church should sever its ties to Girl Scouts must be answered at the local level.

“Diocesan bishops have the final authority over what is appropriate for Catholic scouting in their dioceses,” the bishops’ conference said.

Last year, Archbishop Robert Carlson of the Archdiocese of St. Louis urged priests to drop Girl Scouts, saying the organization was “exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior” and was “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.” …

Naumann said Girl Scouts contributes more than a million dollars each year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which he called “an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood and its advocacy for legislation that includes both contraception and abortion as preventive health care for women.”

He also said that many of those who have been cited as role models by Girl Scouts “not only do not reflect our Catholic worldview but stand in stark opposition to what we believe.”

The Girl Scouts, which has 1.9 million girl members and 800,000 adult members nationwide, does not take a position or develop materials on human sexuality, birth control or abortion, according to its website. And despite what critics say, the organization says, it does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.

“Parents or guardians make all decisions regarding program participation that may be of a sensitive nature,” it says.

Girl Scouts officials say that each member organization of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts creates its own programs that are based on the needs and issues affecting girls in its individual country. Girl Scouts does not always take the same positions or endorse the same programs as the world organization, they say.

Some parents in the archdiocese have nothing but praise for Girl Scouts. …

Some are wondering why the Catholic dioceses haven’t taken similar actions regarding Boy Scouts.

“I feel like we’re being discriminated against,” Walters said. “We’ve been wiped from the archdiocese website, and we have no leadership role in the church at all. There’s nothing like this going on with the Boy Scouts.”

The discrimination in the last paragraph isn’t because of sex; it’s because of viewpoint. As far as I know the Boy Scouts haven’t been supporting Planned Parenthood. (As you know, the Boy Scouts has taken considerable heat over its policy to not allow atheist Scouts or homosexual leaders to the point where United Way chapters pulled their funding of the Boy Scouts.)

This could be seen as an argument about centralized or decentralized organizational leadership analogous to arguments about federalism. Apparently dioceses are free to create their own policy about the Girl Scouts, and Girl Scout leaders are free to make their own decisions about “program participation that may be of a sensitive nature.”

The church has the right to create and enforce its own rules. It seems only logical that a church’s members have the choice to either follow those rules, or leave. (And if more Catholics did leave, some of those rules might change.) Not being Catholic, I have free will to agree or disagree with the pope or a bishop and feel free to not follow their instructions.



The problem with baseball is …

Andy McDonald claims:

I have the same conversation multiple times per year. “Ugh, baseball is so boring,” people tell me when I bring up ― what will always be ― the national pastime.

And every year I have to lay out the reasons why I think that, no, baseball is great, it’s you that’s boring.

I’m not going to dive too deep into the same tired arguments, so we’ll get those quickly out of the way.

“The games are so long!”

… They are as long as they’ve always been: nine innings. Sometimes that means it will go two-and-a-half hours. Sometimes that means four-and-a-half hours. It’s one of the reasons the game is so great. The clock has no impact on the field.

The average 2016 regular season NFL game was three hours and eight minutes, according to According to the data from, the average 2016 regular season MLB game was three hours and five minutes.

“There’s not a lot of action!”

… This depends completely on what you consider “action.” Maybe you need people running around the field to prove to yourself that things are actually happening. …

“If we make the games shorter, people will more likely tune in!”

… You’re telling me that shaving 15 minutes off a baseball game will keep the average person interested in a baseball game? That was the issue this whole time??

Well, hand me a Pepsi can, who knew that was the answer!Listen, I’m sorry, we can’t squish a Major League Baseball game into a time-slot comparable to “The Voice” for the casual fan who is called a “casual fan” for a reason.

Baseball is a game of thoughtful pauses and contemplation. It’s a game of conversation and debate. It’s a shared experience, whether you’re at the game or not.

When there’s a break in the action, that’s when the other fun-but-often-overlooked part begins: interacting with another human being. For baseball fans, the discussion of the game is sometimes as exciting as the game itself.

Which brings me to my ultimate point:

Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to you? Why are you bored when things aren’t happening?

Because, if you’re bored when the action on the field stops, it means that you’re a boring person.

For reference:

Baseball has stood at the forefront of larger national conversations for a hundred years. Baseball is fascinating, on and off the field, action or “no action.”

So, I’m sorry you had to find out this way, but I’m afraid you suffer from being a boring person.

Or at least a person who cannot entertain himself or herself without increasingly loud external stimuli.

There is obviously a difference in experience between watching a game on your favorite broadcast device and attending a game in person. The commercial breaks are for such activities as dragging the infield (the former province of Bonnie Brewer — remember her?), videos on the scoreboard, running to the concession stand or bathroom, etc. If you’re not doing anything, the between-innings period can get tedious, and for that you can blame TV.

It should be obvious that the billion-dollar entertainment center that is now a major league ballpark is (in addition to pulling as much money out of the wallets of fans as possible) an attempt to attract the non-hardcore baseball fan. That may be a hopeless case, and one wonders why a sport would seek to attract non-hardcore fans at the risk of alienating their hardcore fans, who are much more likely to purchase season tickets than someone who might go to a game if he or she has nothing better to do.

The operating assumption is that hardcore fans won’t stop going to games as MLB tries to attract younger, less interested fans. How likely is that?


Higher education (if that’s what you want to call it)

In case you wonder how well your tax dollars are spent on higher education, begin with UW–Madison’s Daily Cardinal:

In classrooms across the country, students might be scolded for using “ain’t” instead of “isn’t.” But a UW-Madison student is working to erase the stigma against Ebonics, also known as African-American Vernacular English.

UW-Madison junior Erika Gallagher conducted research about code switching, also known as code meshing, in which people change their regular speech tendencies to fit into the mold of what is commonly accepted as appropriate.

Ebonics is a variety of English that is commonly found in the center of large cities that have been historically populated primarily by black people. It is commonly found in slam poetry, as well as hip-hop and rap music.

Gallagher, a Posse scholar, began her research during her time as an undergraduate Writing Fellow this semester. She said she realized, as she sat in her seminar class of predominantly white students, that she wanted to focus on standard written English and how it excludes marginalized groups.

“I want to center the voices of the people who need to be centered,” Gallagher said. “As a Writing Fellow, as a white-passing person, I have a lot of power and privilege that should be shared.”

Gallagher conducted much of her research through three interviews. She talked to UW-Madison student leaders from marginalized groups and asked how they felt about code switching. She said all three “overwhelmingly” said it felt oppressive—one said “it is the biggest form of cognitive dissonance that exists.”

She presented her research at the Collegiate Conference on Composition and Communication in Portland, Ore., earlier this semester. She was selected as one of roughly two dozen undergraduates from across the U.S. to participate in the conference, which is typically attended by graduate students and professors.

Gallagher said she hopes to develop her research into a nonprofit organization that “teaches teachers to teach,” with the goal that educators will eventually express disclaimers at the start of each semester that state they will accept any form of English that students are comfortable with.

She also hopes increased acceptance of different rhetoric will encourage the formation of a campus-wide diversity statement.

“Just because you speak a different way doesn’t mean you’re not smart, but there’s a huge stigma around it,” Gallagher said. “I want to teach [educators] a different rhetoric, teach them to be more accepting.”

A “white-passing person.” Really nothing more needs to be said after that.

Fortunately, not all of the Daily Cardinal’s readers are idiots, as demonstrated by these comments:

Using correct English doesn’t ‘exclude’ anyone. People choose to exclude themselves by refusing to use it. But hey, go ahead and stick it to the man by refusing the benefits of literacy: financial independence, career success, and the ability to think and reason.

Let’s just call it what it is, racist. I would have expected this in the 1960’s, not the 21st century. How does she explain the fact that immigrants can come to this country and speak perfect proper English in less than 10 years. Using Ebonics in places where it is never spoken would be detrimental to those speaking it.

BASED ON three interviews? Three? Really, just three? Has this young lady taken ANY courses in Statistics? Obviously not. This is complete and total nonsense. Three. Think about that.

‘A white-passing person’? Are you f-ing serious? If this is what tax payer-subsidized higher education has become in this country, it’s time for a national enema of this schools.

IMHO this isn’t logical; if children are to be afforded equal opportunity, then they must feel comfortable moving in all walks of life; It is difficult enough for a young adult to move out into the wider world without being saddled with ignorance of common social conventions; A child who is not taught basics in the home, such as table manners, forms of address, standard English, etc, will, in new social settings, be overloaded by the demands of unfamiliar social conventions, when they should be free to let their talents shine; “manners”, including a common tongue, are the lubricant that allows a diverse society to function smoothly. And, these things, and most particularly language, are most readily learned by the young.

But wait! There’s more, from the College Fix:

If you want to schedule a meeting at Clemson University that starts on time … well, that’s not going to happen.

The university warns faculty not to enforce start times for gatherings in an online training featuring “fictional characters,” made public by Campus Reform:

On another slide, a character named Alejandro schedules a 9:00 a.m. meeting between two groups of foreign professors and students. The first group arrived fifteen minutes early, while the second arrived ten minutes late [and wanted to “socialize” first]. According to the answers, it is wrong for Alejandro to “politely ask the second group to apologize,” or explain that “in our country, 9:00 a.m. means 9:00 a.m.”

It disrespects other people’s cultures to ask them to follow American conventions of appointments starting when they are literally scheduled to start, the slide continues:

Alejandro should recognize and acknowledge cultural differences with ease and respect. Cultures view many things, including death, prosperity and even colors, quite differently. Time may be considered precise or fluid depending on the culture. For Alejandro to bring three cultures together he must start from a place of respect, understanding that his cultural perspective regarding time is neither more nor less valid than any other.

Another slide explains hierarchies of privilege. A female hiring manager with a common white name is accused by a woman with an African American name of not giving her a job interview because her competition is a “white male.”

Hiring manager Stephanie should “reflect on her behavior to see if Tanisha is correct” and contact Clemson’s departments of human resources and “Access and Equity” about the African American woman’s accusation.

There is much more revealed in the training, created by compliance training provider Workplace Answers, which cost Clemson nearly $27,000. The invoice went to the department led by Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill, who earns $185,850 per year.

Employees who do not complete the “inclusion awareness course” will get “two automated reminders,” according to emails to faculty from HR and the Office of Inclusion and Equity.

That prompted these comments:

Does the offensive line of Clemson’s football team have to show up at kickoff, or can they wander in during the first quarter?

Well football is important. This businessy stuff is just a bunch of nonsense anyway.

When they get fired for habitual tardiness they can thank the University for such poor guidance

More from the cultural civil war

Reed Galen:

Last year’s election taught us more hard lessons than we can count. We learned that too many of us who claim to be smart about politics were dead wrong. We learned that inherent biases create unbreakable assumptions. We also learned that we are now two divided nations sharing borders, technology and infrastructure but too often little else. In 2017, America is a dual-civilization country, with each viewing the other with suspicion, disgust and disdain.

America is no stranger to conflicts between civilizations. We had fought a Revolution over it. We fought a horrible, bloody and ultimately unifying Civil War between two civilizations who could no longer co-exist. Starting when the first European settlers arrived and hitting its apex in the late 1800s, the United States fought a civilizational battle with Native American tribes across the Great Plains. In each of these instances, one civilization decisively overtook the other thereby subordinating or replacing the weaker of the two. The 20th Century saw less of this, caused perhaps by two world wars and a Cold War, all civilizational struggles in their own rights, largely holding internal American divisions in stasis, creating a co-mingling of regions, religions and creeds that might otherwise have never met and allowed us to view each other as Americans first and sectionalists second.

In 1993, Samuel Huntington writing in Foreign Affairs, posited that the next world conflict would not be among nation-states, Russia v. Germany or the US v. Japan, but a clash of civilizations. A little context: Huntington was writing in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Iron Curtain had come down and the Berlin Wall was historical rubble. His theory on civilizations is worthy of consideration today. Here are the five components of a civilization according to Huntington:

1. Shared History
2. Language
3. Culture
4. Tradition
5. Religion

I was born in Marietta, Ohio. It is a small town tucked into a bend of the Ohio River across from West Virginia. For the past 50 years its population has hovered somewhere around 15,000 citizens. An old coal town (my mother was born and raised there) and a current college town (Marietta College, my father’s alma mater) looks much today as it did when I was born there 40 years ago. We didn’t stay long. When I was about six months old, we moved to the Washington, DC area.

Many of the jobs that once kept the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory moving forward are long gone. Those that stay there now most likely do so because they’ve been there all their lives, have nowhere to go or no way to get there. Like so many other Rust Belt states, lack of opportunity and opioid addiction are on the rise. Just this year, Washington County, Ohio (of which Marietta is the county seat) pharmacies started offering overdose-reversing Naloxone for home use without a doctor’s prescription. Think about that: Folks are going to the Kroger to buy Narcan to keep in their houses in case a friend or family member ODs.

Bobby told Lucy: “The world ain’t round.
“Drops off sharp at the edge of town.
“Lucy, you know the world must be flat.
“‘cause when people leave town, they never come back.”

Hal Ketchum — Small Town Saturday Night

When folks wake up in Marietta, or in a thousand other small American towns they don’t see much of the American dream anymore. The America they see every morning doesn’t look like the one they grew up in, expected to come of age in, or certainly expected for their children. As so many of them told us in last year’s election, the country has passed them by and they’re not happy about it. They may watch Fox News and listen to Rush or Mark Levin or any of the conservative talk radio yakkers who tell them they’re getting screwed by the politicians in Washington. As distasteful as his hyperbole and message may be, in someways, Rush is right: the old manufacturing towns, and most below-the-line Americans (of all colors) are getting screwed. On any given day, most folks in Washington are far more concerned about whatever lobbyist just came into complain about than figuring out how to restore the economic and cultural fabric of the vast majority of the United States.

Contrast that with a place like Park Slope, Brooklyn. With more than three times the population of Marietta, in just one neighborhood, Park Slope is an exemplar of what an American urban renaissance looks like. It ranks highly in per capita income and has excellent public schools supported by soaring property values. Jobs are plentiful just over the bridge (or through the tunnel) to Manhattan. A 2,300 square foot home in Park Slope runs more than $1 million (you can purchase a similarly sized home in Marietta for less than $200,000.) Drug use, probably high-grade marijuana, is a part of life — a happy part of life.

Waking up to a new day in Park Slope is not just a different zip code, for folks in towns like Marietta, it might as well be Mars. They know where they’re going to work and know, know, their kids are safe walking to school. They look forward to visiting one of many new boutiques or organic quinoa cafes that have sprung up in the last decade or so to keep up with the demand for an upwardly mobile and plugged-in clientele. They love discussing quinoa with their friends and paying $25 for it. After all, you’re eating an ancient grain originally grown by the Inca. The Inca!

When Brooklynites turn on their televisions, they don’t deign to watch Fox News except for a laugh or to watch a 90 second clip of the latest outrage. NPR plays on a continuous loop throughout the neighborhood. Folks discuss the latest hard-hitting piece in Vox or the Huffington Post and accept it as the gospel. The Sunday New York Times is the secular Bible. Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, HBO Go, all the subscription services are must-haves; you can watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, how you want to watch it, where you to watch it.

The media divide today is so real and pervasive that neither the Red Country nor the Blue Nation will accept the other’s news outlets as legitimate disseminators of objective information. In the eyes of Team Red, the Main Stream Media is a wholly owned subsidiary of the liberal, internationalist left. For the Blue Squad, so-called conservative media is beholden to cranks and conspiracy theorists, worthy only of scorn and head-shaking disbelief.

Long-hailed or derided as “fly-over country,” major news outlets now send reporters out into the hinterlands on the heels of big events to gauge the opinions of the hustings’ denizens. With the exception of a handful of journalists who’ve covered this divide extensively, it’s become almost a cottage industry for writers and cable networks to have a reporter dedicated to spending time in these vast, deep red areas, as if they never existed until they rose up and helped elect Trump last year. Finally worthy of attention and study, the coverage too often still has an anthropological feel to it. “Well, Brian, here we have…”

Residents of Marietta and Park Slope probably both believe in American “values” and “freedom” — but freedom from what, and for whom? If you live in Marietta, you probably feel regularly bombarded by pop culture that doesn’t reflect your way of life, belief system or reality. Maybe you just want to be left alone. If you’re lucky enough to live in Park Slope, and because you live in Park Slope, you likely believe that your worldview is correct, morally superior and should be adopted by everyone, everywhere. Anyone who disagrees with this assessment is a luddite.

When participating in media interviews, some of my hosts will state flatly that anyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist. If you pulled the lever for the president, you turned your back on decades of institutional racism and accepted, part and parcel, his numerous white ethno-nationalist statements. Unfortunately, Trump’s candidacy did allow many political earthworms to surface, but the “Trump voter as racist” trope overlooks two key factors: 1) We are at our core still highly tribal in our politics. You’re red or you’re blue. You vote Republican or Democrat. Those are the choices. 2) That voters in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, far from bastions of the old Confederacy, may have seen Secretary Hillary Clinton as a continuation of the systemic diminution of working-class voices and concerns, and frankly they just weren’t going to take it anymore: Even if President Trump was the unsavory answer to their angry question.

For a nation so divided, it is telling that in 2016 both sides chose nominees that bear so little resemblance to the people for whom they were claiming to speak. While Donald Trump may have riled up the anger in coal country, he’s never had to actually put on a hardhat to go to work. Yet, white working class voters flocked to him in the millions. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, may have garnered all the votes of her campaign’s neighbors in Park Slope, but her message did little to resonate with Bernie Sanders’ ultra-progressive supporters, suburban independents or African Americans who for decades created a bulwark in urban areas for Democratic nominees. Ultimately, Trump was able to turn out his base and Clinton wasn’t. Welcome to the longest first 100 days in American presidential history.

In his thesis, Huntington marks religion as the most important differentiator between civilizations. That divide is on display within the Red and Blue nations living within America’s borders. Smaller, rural or more conservative areas are more likely to be religious. Bigger, densely populated cities see a lower percentage of the population attending church or viewing the world through a religious prism. When then-Senator Barack Obama, speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco’s swanky Pacific Heights neighborhood claimed that conservative Americans “cling to God and guns,” there was outrage on the right. Was that outrage sparked by the soon-to-be president’s cultural elitism or because he was in some ways right and struck an exposed nerve? In some respects, both are probably true.

“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” — Senator Barack Obama, 2008

If, in the face of personal or economic hardship, a person goes to church to find comfort and community, why is that a bad thing? Regardless of your zip code, everyone has issues with which they contend, and different outlets to confront them. In Marietta, it may be the congregations of St. Luke’s or First Presbyterian that open their arms to those looking for some meaning. In Park Slope, perhaps they pray to the gods of the grape, and raise a glass, or three, every afternoon, to overcome the realities and hardships of everyday life that will drive anyone to look for distraction.

In 2017’s America, religion is also a wedge explicitly used to divide us. From the well of the House of Representatives, the president trumpeted the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism” against the advice of his own national security advisor. When Trump does this, he incites anger and mistrust within his base against a faith that numbers more than 1.6 billion adherents worldwide. It is possible to simultaneously believe ISIS is an evil force that deserves eradication and the world’s other 1.599 billion Muslims aren’t out to get us or establish a caliphate within America’s borders.

But Blue America is too often unwilling or unable to call out an objective evil when it shows itself; somehow preferring to see America as an overbearing power who must face and contend with its transgressions. Some of this too, is true. Because today if a little outrage is good, than a lot of outrage is better, both sides run to their respective corners and get ready for the next round of zero-sum, “I’m right therefore you’re wrong,” sparring.

Red America and Blue America may agree on little, but on two major issues they’re of similar minds, even if they come from different places. The recent healthcare debacle in Congress was indicative of a Washington generally, and Republican leadership specifically, that was knowingly ignorant of its citizens. They forgot that Donald Trump got elected by those same coal miners in Kentucky, many of whom rely on the Bluegrass State’s expanded Medicaid system to gain coverage. While those in Park Slope may believe in single-payer, they see Obamacare as a worthy substitute — if the end goal is offering more Americans coverage. There is a reason why public opinion surveys had the American Healthcare Act clocking in at a whopping 17% approval: that sort of universal disdain doesn’t come from just one side of the aisle.

On taxes, too, most in Park Slope and in Marietta will likely agree that what Congress is about to propose is a bad deal for most Americans. In Marietta, it is entirely likely that you want rich people to pay more taxes, believe corporations don’t pay enough and don’t want your bill at Wal-Mart to rise by 20%. In Park Slope, you may not like paying taxes, but see it as your duty as a successful American. Though you likely receive your paycheck from a publicly-traded multinational corporation, you have no real love for them and don’t believe they should pay less than they do now. As for Wal-Mart, you probably stopped at one on your cross-country road trip years ago, or when you needed a stroller in a pinch on that vacation to Maui.

These are tendrils of agreement and unity that we must foster. We all have a responsibility to begin the process of healing by reaching out to someone we don’t agree with and understanding their point of view. This does not mean agreeing with it. Understanding means setting aside the purity of your beliefs, if just for a few minutes, to even believe that someone holds a different, but valid, worldview. From the public sector the to town hall meeting, we as citizens must be the white blood cells for a republic infected by anger, distrust and disdain.

This is not easy, nor will it always be fun. Reaching out does not mean convincing someone that you are right and they are wrong: doing that is missing the point. Our political and media landscapes both allow and encourage us to look only for the news and opinions that reinforce those beliefs we already hold.

If you live in Park Slope, try and imagine walking a mile in Marietta’s Redwings. If you live in Marietta, try and understand what Park Slope’s clogs feel like for a day. People in both places, despite the distance in miles and lifestyle, ultimately want the same thing: a world that is, for their children, or their families, or their country or the world, better tomorrow than it is today. Someday soon, find someone you know you disagree with and talk to them. Simply talk to them. Sit down and have a conversation — words do matter. They matter immensely. Once they’re gone, only bad options remain.

If there are rays of sunlight peaking through the gray clouds of Trump’s election, they are the hundreds of groups and millions of people, from across the political spectrum, whom have decided to stand up and begin charting a different path forward for the greatest republic the world has ever known. Groups like the Centrist Project, the Serve America Movement, Matthew Dowd’s Country Over Party, Stand Up Republic and Action Utahare doing yeoman work, left, right and center, in bringing politics back down to Earth. This is truly the only way we will make significant change — from the bottom up. Those at the top either have too much at stake, or are too rigid in their tribalism to make significant changes. Groups like those above, and the millions of Americans who can and should get involved, can begin making the course corrections we desperately need to get back on the path to prosperity.

This Republic of ours isn’t great because of our government, or our companies, or our technology. This Republic is great because of our people; and it is our people — all of us, that will return us to a place where we are all proud to call ourselves “American.”

Catholics and being catholic, or not

It may surprise some people who pay attention to such things that apparently there are members of the Roman Catholic Church who are not necessarily fans of Pope Francis.

You might be able to tell from a blog’s naming the pope “Chaos Frank” that the Novus Ordo Watch is not part of the Franciscan Fan Club:

Every day we are being drowned in news about “Pope” Francis and the Vatican machinery. The incessant flood of information is becoming increasingly difficult for everyone to process, which means it is easy for stories to get missed.

Such was apparently the case with a real bombshell Francis dropped on February 26, 2017 while visiting an Anglican parish church in Rome. Virtually everyone seems to have missed it. What happened? During a Q&A session in which Francis was answering people’s questions off the cuff, he related an anecdote about ecumenical practice with Anglicans in his homeland of Argentina.

Have a look at what Francis said, and don’t forget to close your mouth afterwards:

And then, there is my experience. I was very friendly with the Anglicans at Buenos Aires, because the back of the parish of Merced was connected with the Anglican Cathedral. I was very friendly with Bishop Gregory Venables, very friendly. But there’s another experience: In the north of Argentina there are the Anglican missions with the aborigines, and the Anglican Bishop and the Catholic Bishop there work together and teach. And when people can’t go on Sunday to the Catholic celebration they go to the Anglican, and the Anglicans go to the Catholic, because they don’t want to spend Sunday without a celebration; and they work together. And here [at the Vatican], the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith knows this. And they engage in charity together. And the two Bishops are friends and the two communities are friends.

I think this is a richness [treasure] that our young Churches can bring to Europe and to the Churches that have a great tradition. And they give to us the solidity of a very, very well cared for and very thought out tradition. It’s true, — ecumenism in young Churches is easier. It’s true. But I believe that – and I return to the second question – ecumenism is perhaps more solid in theological research in a more mature Church, older in research, in the study of history, of Theology, of the Liturgy, as the Church in Europe is. And I think it would do us good, to both Churches: from here, from Europe to send some seminarians to have pastoral experience in the young Churches, so much is learned. We know [that] they come, from the young Churches, to study at Rome, at least the Catholics [do]. But to send them to see, to learn from the young Churches would be a great richness in the sense you said. Ecumenism is easier there, it’s easier, something that does not mean [it’s] more superficial, no, no, it’s not superficial. They don’t negotiate the faith and [their] identity. In the north of Argentina, an aborigine says to you: “I’m Anglican.” But the bishop is not here, the Pastor is not here, the Reverend is not here . . . “I want to praise God on Sunday and so I go to the Catholic Cathedral,” and vice versa. They are riches of the young Churches. I don’t know, this is what comes to me to say to you.

(“Pope’s Q & A at Anglican All Saints Church”, Zenit, Feb. 27, 2017; underlining added. Original Italian at Vatican web site here.)

Wow. Anglicans worship with “Catholics” and “Catholics” with Anglicans because they “want a celebration”, as though sacred worship were about them and not about God primarily. (To see what God thinks of unauthorized worship, even if not heretical, have a look at the demise of Core in Numbers 16; cf. Jude 11.)

Does Francis condemn this practice? Does he denounce it as offensive to God, dangerous, and favoring the heresy of indifferentism? Of course not. No, it is clear from the words, the context, and the absence of a condemnation that he is effectively endorsing it, using it as an example of ecumenically “working together”, which he calls a “richness” (or “treasure”) that churches in Latin America can give to Europe! The man is an indifferentist and a Modernist through and through. This should make it even more clear now why Francis couldn’t have had the slightest bit of a problem with the Anglican evensong service that was recently performed in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. …

Notice also that he speaks of “church” and “churches” entirely without qualification, refusing to distinguish the true Church from Protestant sects. He does not have the Catholic Faith, which is why he cannot possibly be the “rock” on which Jesus Christ built His one and only true Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15; cf. Mt 16:18-19) — the rock whose purpose is to confirm the brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32), and who will never himself suffer shipwreck in it:

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; underlining added.)

By the way: In 1868, Pope Pius IX had something to say about the true Church of Christ versus the false churches of the Protestants:

Now, whoever will carefully examine and reflect upon the condition of the various religious societies, divided among themselves, and separated from the Catholic Church, which, from the days of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles has never ceased to exercise, by its lawful pastors, and still continues to exercise, the divine power committed to it by this same Lord; cannot fail to satisfy himself that neither any one of these societies by itself, nor all of them together, can in any manner constitute and be that One Catholic Church which Christ our Lord built, and established, and willed should continue; and that they cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity. For, whereas such societies are destitute of that living authority established by God, which especially teaches men what is of Faith, and what the rule of morals, and directs and guides them in all those things which pertain to eternal salvation, so they have continually varied in their doctrines, and this change and variation is ceaselessly going on among them. Every one must perfectly understand, and clearly and evidently see, that such a state of things is directly opposed to the nature of the Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ; for in that Church truth must always continue firm and ever inaccessible to all change, as a deposit given to that Church to be guarded in its integrity, for the guardianship of which the presence and aid of the Holy Ghost have been promised to the Church for ever. No one, moreover, can be ignorant that from these discordant doctrines and opinions social schisms have arisen, and that these again have given birth to sects and communions without number, which spread themselves continually, to the increasing injury of Christian and civil society.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes)

A few years prior, the Holy Office under the same Pope had written a letter to the Puseyite Anglicans and reminded them that “all groups entirely separated from external and visible communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff cannot be the Church of Christ, nor in any way whatsoever can they belong to the Church of Christ” (Instruction Ad Quosdam Puseistas Anglicos, Nov. 8, 1865; italics added). So much for the Vatican II doctrine of “ecclesial elements” and “imperfect communion” that supposedly exists between the Church of God and the sects of man — but that’s another issue.

Assisting at the liturgical services of non-Catholics is a mortal sin and makes anyone who does so, suspect of heresy. This is clear from the Church’s Code of Canon Law (1917) and her moral theology:

It is not licit for the faithful by any manner to assist actively or to have a part in the sacred [rites] of non-Catholics.

(Canon 1258 §1)

Whoever in any manner willingly and knowingly helps in the promulgation of heresy, or who communicates in things divine [=assists at sacred rites] with heretics against the prescription of Canon 1258, is suspected of heresy.

(Canon 2316)

It is unlawful for Catholics in any way to assist actively at or take part in the worship of non-Catholics (Canon 1258). Such assistance is intrinsically and gravely evil; for (a) if the worship is non-Catholic in its form (e.g., Mohammedan ablutions, the Jewish paschal meal, revivalistic “hitting the trail,” the right hand of fellowship, etc.), it expresses a belief in the false creed symbolized; (b) if the worship is Catholic in form, but is under the auspices of a non-Catholic body (e.g., Baptism as administered by a Protestant minister, or Mass as celebrated by a schismatical priest), it expresses either faith in a false religious body or rebellion against the true Church.

(Rev. John A. McHugh, O.P. & Rev. Charles J. Callan, O.P., Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities, vol. I [New York, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, 1958], n. 964)

The Catholic prohibition against worship with non-Catholics is clear, then, both from a legal-canonical as well as a moral perspective.

In 1948, this prohibition was underscored once more through a canonical warning issued by the Holy Office specifically in the context of a rising interest in ecumenical (ha!) religious gatherings, which for Catholics were (and still are) strictly forbidden:

Mixed gatherings of non-Catholics with Catholics have been reportedly held in various places, where things pertaining to the Faith have been discussed against the prescriptions of the Sacred Canons and without previous permission of the Holy See. Therefore all are reminded that according to the norm of Canon 1325 § 3 laypeople as well as clerics both secular and regular are forbidden to attend these gatherings without the aforesaid permission. It is however much less licit for Catholics to summon and institute such kind of gatherings. Let therefore Ordinaries urge all to serve these prescriptions accurately.

These are to be observed with even stronger force of law when it comes to gatherings called “ecumenical”, which laypeople and clerics may not attend at all without previous consent of the Holy See.

Moreover, since acts of mixed worship have also been posed not rarely both within and without the aforesaid gatherings, all are once more warned that any communication in sacred affairs is totally forbidden according to the norm of Canons 1258 and 731, § 2.

(Holy Office, Decree Cum Compertum)

In the case of Francis’ practical endorsement of Anglican worship, there is more to it than a “mere” participation in false worship, however, because not only is the worship of Anglicans heretical, schismatic, and unauthorized, and therefore objectively odious in His sight (cf. Jn 4:24; Jude 11; Num 16), but any Anglican “Masses” are also invalid because all ordinations performed by the Church of England are “absolutely null and utterly void”, as declared by Pope Leo XIII in 1896:

Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void.

(Pope Leo XIII, Bull Apostolicae Curae, n. 36)

Thus, Anglican “priests” are nothing but mere laymen dressed in fancy clerical robes. (The same theological principles which prove Anglican orders invalid, by the way, also prove Novus Ordo ordinations [after 1968] invalid.)

Pope Leo’s pronouncement, we might add, is considered infallible:

It belongs to a class of ex cathedral utterances for which infallibility is claimed on the ground, not indeed, of the terms of the Vatican definition, but of the constant practice of the Holy See, the consentient teaching of the theologians, as well as of the clearest deductions from the principles of faith.

(The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Anglican Orders”)

For all intents and purposes, then, Francis has endorsed active participation in non-Catholic, heretical, schismatic, and even invalid liturgical rites, for he has told his followers that assistance at an Anglican “Mass” is not objectionable but praiseworthy, and is licitly done at least whenever (what he considers to be) a Catholic Mass is not available.

Here we see once again that the real news is much more absurd than any fake news ever could be. You just can’t make this stuff up!

Indeed. So as someone raised Catholic who is now a member of the Episcopal Church I am now a heretic? Cool! (Of course, as a journalist I am a heretic anyway and undoubtedly going to Hell. So I’ve got that going for me too.)

The author of that hate-filled screed is not the reason I left the Catholic Church, but this writer certainly validates my departure. (Along with a certain bishop and his supporters.) I have my differences with the extreme liberalism of the Episcopal Church, but as someone given a brain and free will by God I would be no happier in today’s Roman Catholic Church, which is not really the church I was raised in.

It should be pointed out that there is no Biblical justification for papal infallibility, and that any church document is subordinate to the actual Word of God, which is spelled out quite clearly in the Gospels: (1) Love God, (2) love your neighbor as yourself. The writer may want to familiarize himself or herself with the second Great Commandment.



The alt-right is the left’s fault

In the same way that Barack Obama caused Donald Trump’s presidency, Owen Strachan identifies the root cause of the alt-right:

Various journalists have helped form a narrative of sorts about the identity of this shadowy, boisterous alt-right movement. The alt-right is childish and vicious, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing other than the message-board histrionics of aggrieved young men in their parents’ basement.

From what I can see, this narrative does apply to a degree. Where various alt-right voices have articulated ethnocentrism, outright racism, misogyny, decadence, and a kind of juvenile hatred, among other vile stances, we should offer condemnation in no uncertain terms.

I do wonder, however, if the media has missed at least one true thing regarding the “alt-right.” The movement (if we can call it that) may often prove inchoate and even inarticulate, but behind the memes and coded language, there seems to be a massed sentiment. It is this: men feel left behind.

America is divided today on this matter and its import. Many folks, particularly those of a more progressive bent, see men as whining over lost cultural capital. Once, men had it good; now they’re forced to compete in an even playing field, and they’re falling on their faces. Sorry for the stacked deck, guys—how does it feel, losers?

Others see men struggling, observe them falling precipitously behind in earning college degrees and other achievements such as earnings for unmarrieds, watch them leaving their wives and children then violently lashing out, and begin to wonder if men need something besides elaborate gender theory or a dismissive long-form hot-take. Maybe men, particularly young men, need help.

This second group does not wish to cut men a blank check for their ill behavior. Actually, this group—a diverse and motley crew of religious groups, libertarians, and people who care about the future of civilization—wishes to hold men to a high standard. In other words, this is the group that most wants to hold men to account, that most takes their failings seriously. It is the group that dismisses men’s concerns with gentle remonstrance, that accommodates men by dumbing things down for them, that unwittingly ends up doing them terrific harm.
Because it is not friendly to them, many men do not like postmodern society. They have been taught they have no innate call to leadership of home and church, and accordingly have lost the script for their lives. They have been encouraged to step back from being a breadwinner, and do not know what they are supposed to do with their lives.

They have been told that they talk too loudly and spread their legs too wide, and thus do not fit in with a feminized society. They may be the product of a divorced home, and may have grown up without an engaged father, so possess both pent-up rage and a disappearing instinct. They did nothing to choose their biological manliness, but are instructed to attend sensitivity training by virtue of it. They recognize—rightly—that politically correct culture constrains free thought and free speech, and so they opt out from it.

But here is where the common narrative of the alt-right and related groups makes a major mistake. Men are disappearing, but they are not vanishing. They are moving out of the mainstream, and into the shadows.

Many men do not want this. Many men do not want to fall back. Many men want a challenge. They want to work. It is not in their nature to sit back; men on average have 1,000 percent more testosterone than women. Men know they are not superheroes, but they watch superhero movies because they wish in the quietness of their own lives to be a hero to someone, even just one wife and a few children. Men have a “glory hunger” that is unique and in many cases undeniable. For the right cause, men are not only willing to sacrifice, and even die, for the right cause they are glad to die.

But such discussion is not the lingua franca of our day. Young men have these desires coursing through their blood, but very few outlets in normal American life help them to understand such hard-wired drives. Those voices who do offer such a view face tremendous pushback and retributive hostility.

As a result, many younger men today do not know how to voice their instincts. This is at least partly why so many have adopted ironic signifiers for their frustrated ambitions and impolitic views—frogs, memes, and catchwords like “fail.” What young men cannot say in plain speech they say through an ironic graphic.

It is easy, and right, to identify where aspects of the alt-right are plainly misogynistic. But tying an entire people group to its worst excesses allows for the full-scale dismissal of a diverse array of concerns and experiences. This has happened with Donald Trump’s voters, for example; according to many journalists, they’re all either racist or angry about the loss of the halcyon days. The media executes the same lazy move with the angry young men of the alt-right: they’re idiotic little boys. We have nothing to hear from them, nothing to learn, nothing to consider.

This is a foolish instinct. But it is not only that: it is a dangerous one. It leaves you susceptible to groundswells that sweep over a culture seemingly without warning—the Tea Party, Brexit, Trump. Many folks on the progressive side assume that because they have won the college campus and now dominate the urban centers of power that the cultural game is over.

But what looks like a fortress-grade progressive order is really an unstable element, as we have seen several times over. The ideological insurgency will never have Ivy League degrees to award, coveted Beltway bylines to dole out, or global-power conference invites to issue. But the insurgency is finding its audience, and the audience is destabilizing and even remaking the public-square, and all without central coordination or control of leading cultural institutions. …
We can debate the extent to which the perceptions of angry young men are reality. What we cannot debate—if we care about them, that is—is that many men are angry, flailing, and dangerously volatile today.

We will not find an easy solution to this troubled situation. The public square is roiled and shows no signs of calming down soon. True, restoring the family will greatly aid in the nurture and care of young men. Sure, strengthening the economy and putting men to work will help. Yes, tabling the speech codes and thought codes of the secular academy will bring some men back to the table.

But men need a deeper solution than this. They need something more than a message-board movement to join. They need a call to maturity, to repentance, to greatness, to leadership, to courage, to self-sacrifice on behalf of women and children. They need a hero: not a political performance-artist, but a true hero, a savior who, unlike a fallen culture, leaves no repentant man—or woman—behind.

A question for the pulpit today

James Freeman:

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is having fun implying that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s effort to replace ObamaCare is at odds with Mr. Ryan’s Catholic faith. The column is of a piece with the “Jesus was a socialist” arguments that bounce around the left half of the social media universe.

Without wrestling with any difficult questions of faith or logic, Mr. Kristof simply casts the federal bureaucracy in the role of Jesus. Then the Timesman proceeds to suggest through satire that by seeking to reduce outlays and improve incentives in federal programs, Mr. Ryan is defying the will of his God. Of course if federal agencies were ever actually given the statutory mission to do as Jesus would do, Mr. Kristof would be as horrified as anyone. But this seems to be a political season when people who spend much of the year driving religion out of public life abruptly drag it back in as they attempt to justify big government. It’s not necessarily persuasive.

The ancient book has numerous admonitions to perform charity and various condemnations of greed, but it’s not easy to find a passage in which Jesus says that government is the best vehicle to provide aid, or that anyone should force others to donate.

Even casual readers of the Bible may notice that Jesus doesn’t get along all that well with the political authorities of his time and (spoiler alert!) his relationship with government ends rather badly. Back then, tax collectors were not presumed to be the dedicated public servants that we appreciate so much today. And in our own time, social conservatives who think the U.S. Government has become hostile to religion—Christianity in particular—should consider what Jesus had to put up with.

Fortunately, in part because of the influence of the Bible on America’s founders, we enjoy a form of government that is much more humane than the one that Jesus encountered. This raises the interesting question of what Jesus would say about our contemporary political debates. Perhaps he would gaze approvingly upon the $4 trillion annual federal budget and intone, “Whatever you do to the least of my appropriations, you do to me.” But would he still say that after examining all the line items? Beyond questions of specific allocations for Planned Parenthood and the like, would Jesus see even a relatively benign government like ours as superior to individual acts of charity in comforting the afflicted?

In contrast to Mr. Kristof’s drive-by, John Gehring nicely limns the issues at the heart of this debate in a 2015 piece for the National Catholic Reporter. He notes that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned GOP attempts at budget-cutting but also mentions that a few church leaders are on Mr. Ryan’s side of the argument.

Mr. Gehring refers to a 2012 lecture Mr. Ryan delivered at Georgetown University. “Simply put, I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government,” said the Speaker. “Look at the results of the government-centered approach to the war on poverty. One in six Americans are in poverty today – the highest rate in a generation. In this war on poverty, poverty is winning.” He concluded that “relying on distant government bureaucracies to lead this effort just hasn’t worked.”


Christian capitalists

Today begins the penitential season of Lent in the Christian church. The concept of humans as sinners in need of redemption is as countercultural as it gets in American society.

The Roman Catholic Church (in which I was raised) contains the unusual (for this country) combination of social conservatism (opposition to abortion rights and divorce) and economic liberalism. The latter is a mistake if the church wants to improve the lives of people, according to convert Arthur Brooks:

I fancied myself a social justice warrior and regarded capitalism with a moderately hostile predisposition. I “knew” what everyone knows: Capitalism is great for the rich but terrible for the poor. The natural progression of free enterprise is that the rich and powerful accumulate more and more of the world’s resources while the poor are exploited. That state of affairs might be fine for a follower of Ayn Rand, but it is hardly consistent for a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Right?

As with most people of my generation, for me the symbol of world poverty was a starving child in Africa. I remember a picture from my childhood—I think it was from National Geographic—of an African boy about my own age. He had a distended belly and flies on his face, and he became for me the human face of true deprivation. As I grew up, I assumed, as do most Americans, that the tragic conditions facing the starving African boy had gotten worse. Today, more than two-thirds of Americans think global poverty has worsened over the past three decades.

This assumption and the attendant beliefs about capitalism hit a snag when I studied economics for the first time. In reality, I learned, humanity has starvation-level poverty on the run. Since 1970, the fraction of the global population that survives on one dollar or less a day (adjusted for inflation) has shrunk by 80 percent. Since 1990, the number of children who die before their fifth birthday has collapsed by more than 50 percent. Life expectancy and literacy rates have steadily climbed.

When faced with suffering, we often ask a conventional question: “Why are some people poor?” But grinding material poverty was the norm for the vast majority of people through the vast majority of human history. Our ancestors had no concept that mass poverty was an acute social problem that cried out for remedies. Deprivation was simply the background condition for everyone.

In just the last few hundred years, that all changed for a few billion people. So the right question today is: “Why did whole parts of the world cease to be poor for the first time in history?” And further: “What can we do to share this ahistorical prosperity with more people?” Economics taught me that two billion of my brothers and sisters had escaped poverty in my own lifetime. This was a modern-day miracle. I had to find its source.

My search for the “why” of this miracle required almost no detective work. Virtually all development economists, across the mainstream political spectrum, agreed on the core explanation. It was not the success of international organizations like the United Nations (as important as they are) nor benevolent foreign aid that pulled billions back from the brink of starvation. Rather, the responsibility lay with five interrelated forces that were in the midst of reshaping the worldwide economy: globalization, free trade, property rights, the rule of law and the culture of entrepreneurship. In short, it was the American free enterprise system, spreading around the world, that had effected this anti-poverty miracle.

Again, this is a mainstream scholarly finding, not some political cliché. Informed people from left to right agree on these basic points. As no less an avowed progressive than President Barack Obama put it in a 2015 public conversation we had together at Georgetown University, the “free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history—it has lifted billions of people out of poverty.”

None of this is to assert that free enterprise is a perfect system—but more on that in a moment. Nor is it to claim that free enterprise is all we need as people. But it has unambiguously improved the lives of billions. It became my view that if I was truly to be a “Matthew 25 Catholic” and live the Lord’s teaching that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” then my vocation was to defend and improve the system that was achieving this miraculous result.

That is how an unlikely Catholic became an even more unlikely warrior for free enterprise.

My new mission gave meaning to my growing disenchantment with music. I was hungry for work that served vulnerable people more directly. Now I had a roadmap to point me toward that future. I graduated from correspondence college shortly before my 30th birthday. Traditional graduate work in economics followed, and I left music for good to pursue a Ph.D. in policy analysis. That sparked a career as a university professor, teaching economics and social entrepreneurship.

As I taught about the anti-poverty properties of free enterprise, a common objection—especially among my Catholic friends—remained. “Okay,” many said, “I see that markets have pulled up the living standards of billions, and that’s great. But they haven’t pulled people up equally. In fact, capitalism has created more inequality than we have ever seen.” This spawns ancillary concerns about the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, and the rising inequality of opportunity. My challenge as a Catholic economist was to answer these questions in good faith.

The evidence on income inequality seems to be all around us and irrefutable, particularly in the United States. From 1979 to today, the income won by the “top 1 percent” of Americans has surged by roughly 200 percent, while the bottom four-fifths have seen income growth of only about 40 percent. Today, the share of income that flows to the top 10 percent is higher than it has been since at any point since 1928, the peak of the bubble in the Roaring Twenties. And our lackluster “recovery” following the Great Recession likely amplified these long-run trends. Emmanuel Saez, a University of California economist, estimates that 95 percent of all the country’s income growth from 2009 to 2012 wound up in the hands of the top 1 percent.

Taking this evidence on its face, it is easy to conclude that our capitalist system is hopelessly flawed. Digging deeper, however, produces a more textured story.

To begin with, we should remember that inequality is not necessarily a bad thing when the alternative is the equality of grinding poverty, which was the case in previous centuries. Few would prefer a nation of equal paupers to modern-day America. But in any case, the notion that global income inequality has been rising inexorably is incorrect. From 1988 to 2008, a key era in the continued worldwide spread of market systems, economists have shown that the worldwide Gini index—a common measure of inequality—at worst has stayed level and has most likely fallen.