August 26, 2016
I should say at the outset that the title of this post is a little misleading, because the California law I'm going to write about here was actually passed years ago, in 2012, it appears. Here, as far as my best googling efforts extend, is the text of the law. It's in the news again now because of a recent (bad) Ninth Circuit Court ruling on it.
This law forbids all "sexual orientation change efforts" by any licensed counselor, including any licensed marriage and family therapist (a credential earned and possessed by some pastors), for a counseling client under eighteen years of age. "Sexual orientation change efforts" are defined very broadly. This law doesn't apply only to some highly specific type of "reparative therapy" but to any attempt to work with the young person to "eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex." The law is sufficiently broadly worded that it presumptively also forbids attempts to help gender-confused minors become un-gender-confused. (In other words, telling confused boys that they are boys and confused girls that they are girls.)
The Pacific Justice Institute, another of the hard-working pro bono conservative legal organizations, has been filing suit against this law ever since using both freedom of speech arguments and freedom of religion arguments.
The case is in the news again because, just a few days ago, the infamous Ninth Circuit Court upheld the law against a religious liberty challenge from the PJI on behalf of pastors who are also licensed counselors.
August 20, 2016
To say that Mikey Weinstein of the misnamed Military Religious Freedom Foundation has a hang-up about Christianity would be much too mild. It would be closer to say that Weinstein is a mouth-foaming, obsessed Christianophobe, a word I don't use lightly. Weinstein is Captain Ahab, and out-of-the-closet Christians in the military are his white whale.
Weinstein is so crazy that he doesn't even realize how crazy he sounds. His unhinged rants, which he fully expects to be taken with dead seriousness by everyone, would be funny if he didn't have far too much influence with higher military brass. See more examples here.
August 18, 2016
By this time it should be obvious to anyone who is not living under a rock that the left's LGBTQ!%!@#% agenda is a zero-sum game. And many people are saying as much. The attempt to pass SB1146 is further evidence. Moral traditionalists, even those with an explicitly religious rationale, are not going to be left alone to "do their own thing" as long as they leave the homosexuals and transgenders alone to do theirs. You must affirm. Ask the baker, the florist, and the photographer. Ask the employers and businessmen in New York City who are having their speech micromanaged by the civil rights commission to insure that they call a man by his "preferred pronouns" if he identifies as a woman. Ask all the colleges who almost had their California funding pulled because they wouldn't house homosexuals in married student dorms and affirm that a man can turn into a woman.
But some people are still playing the tired, old card, raggedy and fraying around the edges by now and instantly recognizable from any angle as a failed trick: If Christians would just be nicer to homosexuals, we could all get along.
The latest example thereof is this article on the web site of The Atlantic.
August 16, 2016
A friend asked me the other day to repeat my opinion, which he'd heard me give at one time, about an alleged discrepancy between Mark's and Luke's location of the feeding of the five thousand.
August 14, 2016
Leon Bridges of Ft. Worth, Texas, is one of the best things going right now in American music. His throwback R&B, his classy demeanor, his generous charisma, his excellence in singing, his subtle innovations in truly American forms — why, this just the kind of thing this polarized country needs.
The young man has a fan in me.
I was born in 1978. Anyone born in the thirty years preceding that year will have an instant connection with the songs of Leon Bridges; anyone born in the succeeding ten will have an instant connection to the nostalgia for those earlier years which Bridges exemplifies. The 80s through mid-90s were, probably, the years most nostalgic for the late 50s and 60s.
What all that yearly babble is intended to say is this: that his guy Leon Bridges can play an updated version of a style of music that everyone thinks they know, but maybe they really don’t. Maybe it took Leon Bridges to re-awaken it.
Bridges is capable of blues tunes of superbly tight construction. “Flowers.”
He is capable of more moody climactic bluesy songs. “Coming Home.”
He is capable of masterful straight-up R&B love songs. “Better Man.” “Twistin’ & Groovin.”
I can’t wait to see what else this talented young man might supply to the Americana canon.
Below is a little concert that Bridges performed for National Public Radio a year or so ago. Keep in mind that this concert was purely acoustic while his normal sound has a great dancing beat to it.
August 11, 2016
Well, a surprising bit of partially good news. After a lot of negative publicity, the sponsor of California's SB1146 has blinked on its worst provisions--namely, blocking colleges from taking any students who receive state aid if the colleges "discriminate" on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. See my earlier posts here and here.
Senator Lara, who sounds like a leftist totalitarian if there ever were one, has said that he will back off on those provisions in his bill for the time being. But it sounds like he may try again next year. Meanwhile, the new version of the bill still tries to brand schools with a scarlet letter if they get a religious exemption to the transgender interpretation of Title IX, and it will do one more thing: It will require schools to report to the state (!!) when they exercise discipline on a student for moral code reasons.
August 10, 2016
I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment and take a trip back in time. I was feeling nostalgic due to the fact that our disgraced former Governor, Rod Blagojevich (“Blago” for short) was just in the news here pleading for clemency before the federal judge who handed down his 14 year sentence for various forms of political corruption. Some of his charges were eventually thrown out by a federal appeals court, which is why he was before the judge yesterday arguing that his sentence should be reduced (it wasn’t.)
August 5, 2016
I'm re-reading Dickens's Bleak House. In case it's been a while since you've read the book, Bleak House features the endless case Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Chancery, which eventually, after decades, eats up the entire estate it's about in court costs.
England is still at it, abusing court costs. The difference is that, in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, only the estate itself is devoured. Individual people become involved and lose all their money only insofar as they are mesmerized by the case and choose to devote themselves to it, thinking to gain something from it. (There is one exception: a pathetic executor who is imprisoned indefinitely for obscure reasons, but Dickens only mentions him once.) There is no intent to target any individual for ideological reasons. It's just, as Dickens observes repeatedly with some bitterness, a bad system that rewards cynical lawyers. In the case I'm about to write about here, the targeting is obvious and deliberate, and court costs are the means of punishment.
August 3, 2016
People don't always seem to understand this, but here it is: Having principles means having fewer choices.
That's true even when it feels like you could do something that might prevent a bad thing from happening. If that something goes against your principles, then either you won't do it, or you don't really hold that principle.
If you think torture is intrinsically evil, or that "going after" the families of your enemies is evil, you can't vote for someone who would do those things. I mean, you can, but don't pretend that torture or murder are against your principles.
If you think abortion is intrinsically evil, you can't vote pro-"choice". I mean, you can, but don't pretend that you're pro-life if you're willing to vote for a candidate who supports the right to choose pre-natal infanticide.
Casting a vote reveals what principles you truly have. A vote for Hillary isn't just a vote for Hillary -- it's a vote that demonstrates that a candidate with her principles will get your vote. Likewise with a vote for Trump. And the political class will take note, and adjust their future platforms accordingly.
The problem isn't just the candidates (although there are massive problems with the candidates). It's us.
This idea -- that having principles leaves us with fewer choices -- extends far beyond the election. But at least for this election, its consequences are clear.
July 31, 2016
Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago is, of course, a monumental work of history. The three formidable volumes, multitudinous in their breadth, comprise a daunting task to even the most tenacious of readers. The effort untaken by this remarkable man, to collect the material that fills his volumes, recurrently boggles the mind.
We’re intimidated by the prospect of reading it? Reflect now on the prospect of assembling and composing it.
But part of what elevates this work to the status of literary achievement of the highest order is the personal voice of Solzhenitsyn, which grounds the entire chronicle. Just when a flash of skepticism, from years of active reading, urges the internal question, “But how could he know about that?” — something in the phrasing, or something in the comparison, or something in the context, supplies the answer: “Because he was there” or “because a man he shared a cell with was there.” This is not only history, but testimony and autobiography.
Even more than the personal experience undergirding the history, there is the sheer vigor and range of the great Russian’s pen: its capacity for varied styles, for formality and intimacy, for poetic and prosaic diction, for imitative dialogue in diverse voices, for irony and subtlety as well as brute fact piled on brute fact, almost a catalogue of horror and misery. This diversity of literary form buoys the narrative and supplies it with its mark of singular genius.
July 27, 2016
It so happens that this week, it's been my duty to watch many gruesome hours of ISIS propaganda. With the latest sacrilege and bloodletting at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, it is safe to say that all of us have had a belly full of it.
July 24, 2016
I am currently reading the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In literary terms, it has some flaws. Ideologically, it is self-consciously non-religious but advocates ethical humanism with a commitment to moral objectivity.
There is a horrifying scene in which boys and teachers at an elite Nazi school are forced to throw water over a bound prisoner in the freezing cold, a process that freezes the prisoner to death. Only one refuses. He pours out bucket after bucket of water on the ground, saying, "I will not." He later pays the price.
That ability to draw a line, to say, "I will not" is important to all human beings. There has to be something about which you will say that, a line you will not cross, a thing you will not do. If not, you have lost yourself.
In Vermont right now, some doctors are being told that they have to do something, and they are saying, "I will not." Their lawyers for the ADF (these are people really doing something for the cause of the right and the good) have filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The complaint is here.
July 20, 2016
There's been a recent brouhaha connected with Twitter concerning a certain columnist whom I'll just call Kilo. I ignore Twitter as much as possible. I have no Twitter account, and not much in my life would change if Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow. In fact, I doubt it was a very well-conceived idea to begin with.
I'm taking note of this particular brouhaha because of what it reflects about a certain segment of the population that calls itself "conservative" but is anything but.
July 18, 2016
An argument for the historicity of the Gospels that deserves attention is the argument from the reticence of the evangelists. Here's, in outline, how it goes: Consider the hypothesis that the Gospels are, or include, later, legendary stories. Then look at various places where human curiosity is not gratified in the Gospels by added stories, where one might expect these if the Gospel authors were not constrained by their actual knowledge or the information they got from real sources close to the facts.
This argument is closely related to the apparent reticence of the Gospel authors to "read back in" theological interests into early material.
July 14, 2016
In Orwell’s novel 1984, in chapters 2 and 3 of part Three, during the interrogation and dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien (sadly, I could mine these sections of the novel for posts here the rest of my life); O'Brien asks Winston if, in his opinion, the past has real existence and, saying that Winston is no metaphysician, he continues by affirming that:
until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects where the past is still happening?
Winston replies in the negative and O’Brien questions him “then where does the past exist, if at all?”