The Limitations of Kitten Hugging

From Douglas Wilson:

You see, if we accept that Jesus is Lord, and that He is the final authority in our civic and public affairs, we might find ourselves, much to the consternation of fair-minded individuals, burning witches and stoning rebellious teenagers. See? We can’t risk it.

Okay. You say that we cannot risk this kind of Christian rejection of secularism, for fear that it might lead to outrages. But what happens if we stay with secularism? Well, it is just possible, for example, that we might find ourselves celebrating as true love the kind of sodomite practices that got the attention of the avenging angel of the Lord for the cities of the plain. We might find ourselves dismembering millions of unborn babies. What if something like that happens?

As Richard Weaver wonderfully put it, ideas have consequences. Moreover, all of them do. One of the most destructive ideas out there is that some ideas are privileged in this regard, and do not have any consequences at all. You have to worry about excesses of fundamentalist zeal if you give an inch to the Christians, but you never have to worry about the excesses of secularism. I can say that we think that we don’t have to worry about such excesses because hardly anybody ever does. And yet, we are living the midst of such pandemoniac excesses. Look at the news, man.

Read the rest in his post The Limitations of Kitten Hugging.

Why Christians Shouldn’t Say “America” When They Mean “The United States”

I admit that this is a peeve for me. So let me get that out of the way before I make my real point.

Listen, beloved, you ought not to call these here United States “America”. They’re the United States. Of America, sure. There are other United States in the Americas, such as the United States of Mexico or the former United States of Brazil, but we can acknowledge the original nature of the United States in this. We can’t grant the geographical America thing.

Americans call the U.S. “America”. But I’m not hear to bash Americans. The Brits do it too. It might, for all I know, be an English language thing. I haven’t asked enough Australians or South Africans to say. And I’m all for semantic convenience. As an American of Latin extraction this use of “America” annoys me, but I realize it’s a personal reaction. So whatevs.

Have your way on the whole “everyone knows you mean the U.S. when you say America” thing.

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What is Our Lord holding? The Law as given to Moses? The Law as given to our Founding Fathers?

Here’s the real reason you shouldn’t call the U.S. “America”.

The United States are/is a polity. America is an idea.

The U.S. can’t ever be ‘Merica!™, but America can be. It is worrying to see Christians thinking of the United States as a nation with a special role to play in God’s plan for the world, a sort of Christian Manifest Destiny. Sure, the United States may have enjoyed some wonderful blessings, but so have many others, and at the end of the day, it is part of the City of Man.

Many post- and late-Cold War Kids like me will wonder why I even bother to say this. In part, because many Christians still believe it. But mostly because, while the idea of America’s Special Christian Destiny may be on the way to bankruptcy, it needs to die. And for the health of the Church, the sooner the better.

We encourage the continuation of this thinking when we say America, even in our own minds. America, as I’ve said, is a special magical place. It’s a pagan place. Stop saying it.

The United States are a place (“is a place” my Yankee friends will say) that we can be honestly patriotic about. The United States are where I’m from. The country I pray for, the country I weep for. It is natural and good for an American to love the U.S. more than he loves Ecuador. All we Americans should. But let us not pray for America, lest we find ourselves praying for the idea of America.

Let us pray for these here United States, for its polity and its people. May God have mercy.

Bill Nye Says Something Douchey

My reaction to Bill Nye’s recent bit of controversy.

“And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

Call to Outlaw Porn Billboards (Reason I’m Not A Libertarian #738)

My wife and I were married at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the small and historic town of Micanopy, Florida, just a few miles south of Gainesville, where we met. Micanopy is a charming little town, the sort where you stop in to go antiquing on Saturdays, or where you might brunch before a little visit to Payne’s Prairie.

Alas that no one in Florida knows that Micanopy. Because what Micanopy really is is Cafe Risque. Like a pornographic South of the Border, I-75 for miles in either direction as one approaches Micanopy is dotted with billboards letting truckers and general citizens know that a world of greasy and tawdry delights awaits them at exit 374.

This is not Cafe Risque. This is where we were married…the Herlong Mansion. Are you being serious right now? “Herlong”? As in “I gave herlong pleasure”? Yes.

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Of the several grocery chains in our area, Bi-Lo is the shadiest, and you can see it in the check-out aisles. Few grocery stores in the area exercise what I think would be the common courtesy of covering up the Cosmo magazines at the check-out (it always seems like Cosmo is the worst), but Bi-Lo is the worst about shoving them right in your face.

The thought that my nine-year-old daughter might be consistently exposed to the sort of misogyny embodied in desperate headlines like “25 Orgasm Tricks That Couples Love” displeases me. I would love to see more grocery store chains adopt policies of covering up those magazines. Ideally, of course, they wouldn’t sell that type of sad pornography for women, but I realize that’s asking the moon.

It would only take enacting a policy. Whatever private company decided to be consistent about such a policy would likely become my new favorite grocery store.

And certainly no one would argue with a private business’ right to choose such a policy.

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I detest federal centralization. I’m all about local representation and a small federal government. I mean, come one, I’m Presbyterian. Even my church polity is about decentralization. The South was right on constitutional grounds…it was a War of Northern Aggression. Lincoln was The Great Centralizer, our Constitution is broken, and now the country’s poorer for it.

Have I established my rabid and crazed anti-federal and anti-centralization radical bona fides? I hope so, because I’m about to get all anti-libertarian on you.

I want city and county governments to make pornographic billboards illegal. GASP! Surely you don’t mean that! Those billboards are on private property!

How wonderful to live in a society with a (at least somewhat) representational government. And that government does not solely exist to keep people off each other and allow them go about their private business. A libertarian thinks that building codes are ridiculous; I think that federal building codes are ridiculous. It’s quite wise of a city or county to make sure no one comes in and starts building and selling really crappy houses to their people. At which point some libertarians say caveat emptor and I ask them to go read Rand by themselves in their selfish little corners.

I am not a libertarian because of Cafe Risque. Or, more appropriately for me now, because of Bedtyme Stories near Blacksburg, SC.

Cafe Risque is actually outside the city limits of Micanopy, which is why it can do what it does. Still, I would love to see the county take care of the problem (yes, I know it won’t because of moneymoneymoney).

The goal of our Constitution was to have minimal federal government.Nothing wrong with a more robust and virile government at town, county, and state levels. In fact, I think that would help in dealing with the federal government. Does this mean that I long for a piling on upon a piling on of laws? No. But I would like Christians to consider being less resentful of the only governments God has put over them that are immediately representational: local government. Of course, most never vote in local elections because they’re busy talking about the evils of Democrats and the Fed.

We have to many laws and too many codes at every level of government. That doesn’t mean we reject all government. The solution is not some principle that rejects the whole package. The solution is the hard work of doing it right. The State exists and is (“Alas”, we think to ourselves) ordained by God. If we have anything to say about the State, it is that it must not be the Leviathan it wishes to be, but that it has a place on the earth. We musn’t abstract government into some sub-category of a sacred meta-concept like Private Property or The Right to Trade.

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Am I suggesting that we legislate morality?

Of course. Is there something else a law is?

Why I Homeschool My Kids

It might surprise some who know me to learn this, but I’m not a sold-out homeschool type. As much as wifey and I are enjoying homeschooling our kids, our preference would be for them to be in school. But that would only be under certain more ideal conditions, which we are not yet operating under, so we continue happily homeschooling away.

I mention this to let you know that this is not some sort of homeschool-or-die apologia.

I have a homeschooling pedigree, having been educated at home myself from the seventh grade on. I am part of the first generation of homeschoolers large enough to be noticed when they went to college, got married, had kids, and started educating them. I was only the second homeschooler to be accepted into the University of Florida. At the time, very few schools had any policies or standards for accepting us. UF decided that Robert (the first homeschooler accepted) and I should take a bunch of subject-specific SAT IIs, a very stop-gap policy that I’m sure has been changed by now. Within a few years I knew several other students who had been homeschooled, many of whom I had known when I was still in high school (my dad was a professor at UF, so I went to high school in the university’s home town).

So I’m part of the first mainstreamed generation. I’m also part of the last generation whose parents wondered and stressed about legalities, when homeschooling was very marginalized. Sure, today social workers still occasionally and usually illegally get in someone’s face, or homeschoolers deal with overregulation there or intrusive policies here. But there were still few enough of us out there back then that when a school board or social worker got offended that homeschoolers even existed, those people might think they could persecute and harass us without anybody important caring. The whole thing felt much more…guerrilla.

We moved from back alley to back alley, always pursued by the robots.

I don’t know what books my mom was reading in 1991, but they must have been pretty weird, since the year we started homeschooling was the same year we stopped eating wheat and moved to Berkeley. Strange times.

Like a lot of parents then, my parents were reacting. It’s a very positive thing that more and more parents are choosing to homeschool proactively. Although opting out is still a very large part of the culture today, opting in to homeschooling instead of opting out of state school is becoming the paradigm. And that’s helpful; it is always better to be formulating philosophies and making practical decisions based on positive frameworks.

My parents were Christians, but they did not believe I need a “Christian education”. They reacted to a dismaying experience, and since they had recently been exposed to the idea, the possibility, of homeschooling, they decided to give it a try.

I had attended school in Brazil from kindergarten to sixth grade. Most of those years I went to private schools, which would have been the norm for people in my class, with one year (I suspect my father was having a hard time financially) in state school.  In 1989/90 we moved from Brazil to Edmonton, Alberta, a large city in western Canada. My parents were absolutely scandalized by the way the kids in our church treated their parents; it was common for Canadian parents to be held hostage by teenagers threatening to call social services, since their version of DSS would remove children at their own request with no questions asked. And they couldn’t believe the stories I told them of my first year in a North American junior high. I was as shocked as they, but even so, I liked the school. I learned to play football, joined chess club, and was on a basketball team for the first time in my life. I was very disoriented, but even then I could see that I had never been surrounded by as much depravity as I was in that seventh grade. Drugs, bullying, sex, suicides.

My parents reacted. When we moved the next year to Berkeley, California, they decided to homeschool us. They made the decision because they wanted to keep us away from bad stuff, from sin and sinful patterns. They knew we were vulnerable to be influenced, and they decided to put us in a safer place.

All of which was good and laudable. And those are reason enough for me not to let my kids into a state school, if the state schools I were around were like that. But here in the Bible belt they’re often not.

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I think that many of the homeschoolers who are homeschool-only-do-or-die are reacting. Yes, I’m generalizing. Don’t get your prairie petticoats in a twist, just keep reading.

Reactions can’t endure; they are at best short-term solutions. Positive otherness is what is needed when considering how most Americans view education and its problems.

Have you opted out of state school until it’s fixed? Until there’s less violence, or they permit the teaching of Creationism? Or have you opted out of state school because it’s wrong? Because there’s a better other?

Our decision to homeschool, even if homeschooling is not our top choice, is a proactive one. It’s a positive choice based on our resources and recourses.

Much of it is about legitimate authority. And on a deeper level, it’s about what it means to be human. Yes, it’s that fundamental, because raising and educating your child are the same thing. There’s no separating them. And when you raise a human, you’re making a human.

Education is teleological. It’s in the word, boys and girls. Educare. To lead out. To lead toward. To lead forth. If you’re educating a kid, you’re taking him somewhere, you’re making him something. If you’re the state you’re making him a citizen. A productive member of society. A worker. That is the state’s highest aspiration for your child. Surely that is not yours.

Of the three spheres of human authority, a Christian might argue about whether education fall under the purview of the church or of the family. All parents ought to be aware of what they’re doing and where they’re placing authority when they choose how to educate their kids. The family would attempt to lead a child to be a faithful son. The church would want to make citizens of heaven, of the City of God. But the City of Man makes Citizens of Man.

I have counseled against being reactionary instead of positive and constructive. But the state of educational philosophy and application is so debased that any path we take will be limited in the good it can do. Building a wall when you’re holding a spear in one hand and a trowel in the other will slow down work significantly.

I believe in community life. And I won’t punch you if you say “it takes a village”. I’ll only punch you if you say “it takes a village” and you mean “it takes the State”. I’m not giving up any of my joyous responsibility over my children, but just as I share my life with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I can share my children. We are a family. Which is why we would prefer to have our kids in a good Christian school, preferably one run by our church.

Alas, we haven’t the funds. Meanwhile, homeschooling is great. God has given us all the tools, starting with the little humans themselves, to make Big Humans. To make Men With Chests. He asked us to do the job. And by his grace, we will.

The question we must always have before us is: what are we doing? Whatever your choices in education might be, the answer should be, “Making children of God”.

The Greatest Disaster of the 19th Century

“The greatest disaster of the nineteenth century was this: that men began to use the word ‘spiritual’ as the same as the word ‘good.’ They thought that to grow in refinement and uncorporeality was to grow in virtue. When scientific evolution was announced, some feared that it would encourage mere animality. It did worse: it encouraged mere spirituality. It taught men to think that so long as they were passing from the ape they were going to the angel. But you can pass from the ape and go to the devil.”

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy