Don’t swerve, but drive on into the breakers

I just posted over at Inkandescence the first of a couple posts throwing cold water on an utterly understandable movement among many of my best and favorite people in favor of not just a protest vote but an actual, continuing advocacy of the Libertarian Party.  This first one, mostly concerned with principles of practical political advocacy for Christians, crescendoes thus:

Despite [and I might here have just as well said “precisely because of”!] my profound love of the Anglo-American tradition of enumerated liberties against the imagined total reach of government, rooted properly in the natural law tradition that recognizes that each human creature’s transcendent obligations to God and other people, in justice and in charity, individually and in marriage and the Church, are such as demand that no merely secular power claim the right to bind the conscience or impede the performance of these duties; despite my adolescent passion for Locke and Bastiat and von Mises and Hayek, despite my ardency in favor of the “historical best” nature of the United States Constitution and the openness to an honest natural law reading of the Declaration of Independence; despite having for years labelled myself a “civil libertarian” and still defaulting to libertarian arguments and principles whenever a merely American and Constitutional question is in view (though I then often have to correct myself)–despite having longed for decades, literally more than half my life now, to be able to vote for a candidate labelled Libertarian Party or Constitution Party or Taxpayers Party, and having not a few times actually cast sober or protest votes for them–despite all this, I fail to see how it is possible to faithfully relate Christianity to secular regimes and then advocate in favor of the Libertarian Party. Now, go back and note my concessions, and remember that I wish I could agree with you, friends & family who want the Libertarians to be right. But…they just aren’t.  And I would have to sin by taking counsel of despair for all effectual advocacy, or sin by advocating what I know to be utterly unconscionable, to support them.  We’ll have to find another way.

(source: Why I failed to be Libertarian, in spite of myself. – Inkandescence)

Anyway, I would be happy to hear discussion of the matter.

On Christian Faith and “Self-Evident” Truths


Christians who wish to proudly hail what America has been, at this last gleaming of its twilight, may ponder how Christian faith relates to other worldviews in its founding. TGC recently carried my reflection on whether Christians and non-Christians can affirm the declarations of the Declaration together:

The stakes in this question are high. If basic human rights really are self-evident, as the Declaration declares, there’s hope for religious freedom. But what then becomes of the necessity of Christ’s revelation? On the other hand, if only biblical revelation is truly self-evident, how is peace with our neighbors possible?

A time of night is coming on, and there will be rockets glaring and bombs bursting. But there will be some kind of dawn’s early light on the other side of this night – and our flag may well still be there, waving over some kind of new world, but a new world that grew in some way out of the old world; one in which people made in God’s image will still hunger for a land of the free and a home of the brave.

In These Times

I’ve started putting together a playlist of things that hearten and console, In These Times:

And here’s the oldest poem I have written down in my archives (not absolutely the first, but I’m not going to dig out my old file with scraps of blotter pads and napkins on it to check, right now).

For, y’know, a sense of depth.

“To Live”

to laugh at the threat of evil;
to defy death and pain
in a quest for the right,
the greatest gain.

to sneer at wrong and might;
to breath free and deep;
to laugh and love,
to lose and weep.

to be free to the last,
to die with grace;
in the pursuit of truth
to set high the pace.

1991 PGE

Send me a link if you have something to suggest for this playlist. I think we all need it.

Real Disorder Needs Real Compassion

(continued from Part One elsewhere)

And then there’s the other question: how to handle situations in which people, whatever their states of brokenness and healing, want to access basic social necessities (access to institutions, the ol’ “bathroom” question, etc.) that we would not dream of denying anyone, but which are treated socially or administratively under conventions that they don’t “fit” in some way?

It seems obvious to me that we should make such decisions with careful reasoning that preserves intact–lip-service to neither–two principles:

  • Reasonable people try to encourage the integration of each person into any society whose formal principle that person espouses; and
  • Reasonable people do not demand social integration as a means of destroying a society whose formal principles they oppose.

Now, a society whose formal principles are based in the reality of the creaturely being of humans is not going to be able to agree that someone who is known to be a man should be approved in presenting as a woman (except obviously for comedy &c) or vice versa. However, a society whose formal principles included hospitality to those who do not fully understand its principles, or who espoused its principles but were not at this time able to “fit” its conventions, might obviously seek some third way.

Such a third way seems manifestly appropriate, for example, in the case of Christian schools (and, frankly, ought to satisfy secular requirements best, too): the availability of one-hole “family” bathrooms that had already begun to provide a less-awkward facility for Mommy out with The Boy or Daddy out with The Girl. If one is interested in reality, rather than defeating euphemism in order to secure nominal endorsement, that provides a “fig leaf.”

Also, it should not be omitted that a basic habit of decency forbids peering into other’s off-stage (hence potentially “obscene”) behavior uninvited, where such knowledge is not forced upon one (which is unseemly) or part of one’s strict obligations (as, for example, a pastor to teachers in a religious school). Thus a hospitable society should consider finding many tacit ways to reinforce that habit, to make the use of one’s genitalia not seem like a fit subject of everyday conversation.

Good luck with that, in a day when trying to be nice to everyone and not ask about their tackle makes you a probable target of a lawsuit or a federal administrative action, though; I say better to be boldly “out” about Christian principle, down to the metaphysical nitty-gritty, and then throw arms wide and red carpets of hospitality, friendship bread and all, out to any who nonetheless choose to come among you, no matter what kind or where from. And good luck with that, too.

Schools, Transcendence and Pluralism


In other news, I’m launching a new series of posts at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice on the crisis in the education reform movement. Longstanding tensions are becoming an open rift that threatens to bring down what has become a politically very successful movement.

On the one side are technocrats, who bulid centralized systems of control that reduce education to no more than reading and math scores. On the other side are advocates of choice and decentralization, who typically offer little positive vision for what education is for.

In the introduction, just published, I survey the argument that I will unpack over the course of the series:

  • The technocratic approach will be a disaster, not only because the technocratic system will be undermined by ignorance and corruption (although that, too, is important!) but because technocracy is based on a false, materialistic understanding of the good life for human beings.
  • To effectively counter technocracy, advocates of choice and decentralization must stop thinking that choice (“let a thousand flowers bloom”) gives them a hall pass to get out of talking about the purpose of education – involving potentially divisive questions about the good, the true and the beautiful, and what it means to be human.
  • In a society where we have freedom to disagree about the transcendent, we must not try to make public policy that avoids the transcendent, but ground public policy – above all education policy! – in transcendent commitments that justify our freedom disagree about the transcendent.

The series proper will launch right after Friedman Legacy Day on July 29 and will run once every few weeks through the fall. Watch this space for updates; in the meantime, I welcome your thoughts as always!