Isabel and the Hypocrite

There is something pompously ghoulish about the public confession of shortcoming. I don’t speak of sin, necessarily, since the confession of sin is vital to the renewal of spirit that goes with forgiveness, nor do I speak of telling someone who deserves to know that you have failed them in some way. I’m talking about the kind of ostentatious public humility that can sometimes be seen in otherwise entirely prideful figures, when they point to themselves and talk about how terrible they are, in ways that often may seem fairly trivial. They may be quite correct in their confessions, and even motivated quite properly, in that they confess as a step towards repentance. Nonetheless, I always find that it has a tinge of macabre voyeurism about it.

I keep having to admit all sorts of ironic things about myself these days, for I have come to a place in my life where the only appropriate next action is a public confession of shortcoming.

I am a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite in a way that I never understood could exist until I acknowledged it about myself. Here’s why: some months ago I began to write a column for an opinion site. Being the humble man of modest pretension that I am, I decided that my first endeavor would be a working definition of virtue, which I termed arete, drawing on an Aristotelian understanding of virtue. I wrote several articles (I have not yet decided if I will repost them here, although I might), which were well received within the relatively limited circulation I had.

Then I came to the time of writing the article that would tie the entire series together. As I shared my thoughts on virtue, I was developing towards a specific point. I had discussed the interplay of tolerance and courtesy, judgment, and duty as civilizational virtues, and I had given fairly broad instances of what they might look like, but I knew where I was going with this entire series. First, however, the confession.

I sat in front of my keyboard, and I couldn’t make a single word come. I didn’t know how to start, I didn’t know what to say, so I spewed drivel for an hour or so. After three attempts over five days, I accepted that I simply needed to back away from the topic for a bit and think it through. I started to think about a filler article. I emailed the editor and told him that I was having trouble finishing my piece, and that I would send it to him in the next couple of days. Those days passed, and then became a week, which became two, which has since become… well, at this point, it’s safe to say that that bridge is fairly thoroughly burned. And possibly bombed.

The irony and the hypocrisy of the whole thing is that that final article was supposed to be on the core of virtue, which I referred to (in a phrase that I’m quite sure I stole, but I can’t recall from where) as a discipline of choice. It’s not the external discipline of schoolmasters, nor yet of the monastery or the military. It’s the internal discipline that is self-reinforcing, self-defining, and self-motivating. It’s the discipline to return to doing one’s work, despite doing it poorly or having some other thing that one wants to do more, in the sure and certain knowledge that good work will bring about good results. It’s the discipline, in fact, to choose to be disciplined, and it’s the discipline of understanding that virtue is chosen, not born, not inculcated, but it must be chosen in a deliberate, eyes-open fashion.

So, in attempting to write about this idea, I found myself incapable of demonstrating it in myself, as I ignored emails first from embarrassment, then what can only be termed humiliation, as I considered the idea of submitting that article first a week late, and then two, and then four…

I return to writing for public consumption now, chastened and taught a significant lesson in personal humility. I was considering creating a new blog (and still might), but I think that this, at least, deserves to be here, and for now I shall continue to write on this blog.

Why I still attend church

Read this.

“John” as shown in the article is where I was a couple of years ago. I stopped attending services, and distanced myself from the visible church. I made a mistake. Fortunately, I was required to start attending again because of a ministry that I wanted to be involved in. This ended up revolutionizing the way I thought about the Body.

John is tired. John feels frustrated. John is in a place where he does not feel needed, useful, or like he is part of the Spirit’s ministry to the world. I get where John is coming from.

John made a mistake in leaving the Body behind.

I exhort you, if you’re finding yourself to be exhausted by churchianity, and you feel yourself ready to walk away from organized religion, to reconsider your modes of action. Far and away the easiest thing to do is to start meeting at the local Panera with six other people on Sunday mornings, and discussing the Bible for a few hours, but you’re not addressing the problem. At the end of the day, we’re still called to be salt and light, and if that means that we need to be salt and light to our home churches when they have lost their way, then WHY ARE WE WALKING AWAY?

The harder path is to address the problem. So what if you’re not an ordained pastor or a member of the board or if you’re fighting entrenched power structures? Start a small group. Gather together people who can form a group that is ready to change the worldly way we do things now. If you can find even one other member of your local church that objects to the way things are done, you have a core of people who can fight. Use the system if you can, but don’t be afraid to stand up to authority. Be salt and light. If we don’t fix the rot in ourselves, we surely won’t fix it anywhere else.

Creating the boogeyman

“Democrats are cynical manipulators that give not one damn about their constituencies except as a vehicle to win elections.”

I am sure this isn’t the first time that I have heard my father curse, but it is the first I can recall. This is a phrase from his critique of my post Republicans are whining, self-pitying children, too. I think that he’s right in general. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a dangerous attitude to have, though.

Here’s the problem – the average Democrat on the street is no more a cynical manipulator than you or I are. (To be fair – my father made this point as well. I just happened to like his statement, and it IS reflective of a certain attitude that is not uncommon among the right.) The average Democrat, the one that creates so many problems, is one of the Entitled or the Benighted. That link is well worth a read, but I’m going to briefly cover the three categories of progressive here.

The Anointed

The Anointed are the enemy. The Anointed are the cynical manipulators mentioned in my father’s quote. Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, Harry Reid – these are the Anointed. You’ll note that I did not mention Our Glorious Leader. I’ll get to him shortly.

The Entitled

The Entitled are the people who form the foundation of the power of the Anointed. They are the ones who stand to ‘benefit’ from the policies enacted. Our Glorious Leader is one of these (yes, it’s because he’s black. Yes, I’m racist. Did you think there was any OTHER reason a third year senator with not one single real accomplishment to his name was elected? Doesn’t sound nearly as racist when phrased that way, does it? He’s a puppet.)

The Benighted

The Benighted are those who support progressive policy because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do. You know them. You work with them, you go to church with them, and you wonder how someone who is fundamentally a decent person can possibly believe the utter BULL being peddled as morality.

Here’s the deal – the average Dem is either Entitled or Benighted. There are very, very few Anointed. We must assume that our goal is to strip the support of first the Benighted, and then the Entitled away from them. Very simply, there’s only one way to beat a lie. Beat it with the truth. Refuse to concede, refuse to acknowledge that cynical manipulation will EVER conquer the truth, and expect to die on that hill.

If we permit the Anointed to scare us away, because they don’t care and we know they don’t care, and that they’ll gladly use our bodies to grease the treads of their political tanks, we have conceded to them. We are hiding under the blanket, afraid of a boogeyman that will melt away when we turn on the light of truth. This boogeyman has SOME power, but not much. The more people cast a light on him, the less he can do. Witness the recent stridency from the left over the “War on Women”. They know they’re losing. Yeah, you might get hurt, but if you’re one of thousands, your personal injury will likely be very slight. Stand up. Turn on the light. Face the boogeyman, until you realize that you’re the only reason he has any power at all.

Republicans are whining, self-pitying children, too.

This makes my blood boil.

I am not a Republican. I haven’t been, during my entire adult life. The Republican party is made up of a bunch of jellyfish who have no idea how to take a moral stand. The single best thing ever to happen to the Republican party is the Tea Party Movement.

The thing that frustrates me most about this, though, is the fact that they think it will work. This is the same error that decent people always make. They assume that their opponents will treat them the same way that their opponents demand to be treated. (Yes, I accused the Democrat Party of not being decent people. If that offends you… well, you can tell that I already thought of that, and left it in. Pick two – you understand human nature, you understand and support the Democrat platform, you’re a decent human being. You can’t have all three. If you think you do, you’re wrong, usually on the first point.)

But that’s not the point. My point is that the Republican party used to be made up of people who believed in self-starting, making your own way in the world, and overcoming obstacles. Mensch, in other words. When did we sacrifice our testicles on the altar of “being nice”?

Yes, Republicans are people too. Yes, they need to seek re-election. But I rather suspect that they would be better liked by being honest, than by faking niceness. That might not get them re-elected in the short term, but it might actually make a difference, rather than alienating the people that they should be turning to for support. The Republicans need to stop trying to toss a sop to the middle, and become the firebrands that this country needs. They need to accept short term losses in order to establish a meaningful party platform where they can actually make a difference in the long term. In short, they need their balls back.

Voluntary morality

Can you force someone to do good?

This is at the core of many issues in religion and politics (two of my three favorite subjects), and the twentieth century answered this question with a resounding “YES!”

The twentieth century was wrong.

Forcing someone to do good is meaningless. Your actions in taking away their moral agency negate any possible benefit that their actions have.

So, what implications does this have for legislation related to moral issues? (Leave aside ones that have obvious, quantifiable societal impact – murder, obviously, should be prevented, as should theft, breach of contract, etc. Those can be seen as the business of the state, and not only morally wrong, but a violation of a social compact that permits us to live in the unnatural concentration of modern society.)

Would you rather be right or be effective?

A few days, I read an interesting article over at Dalrock. Following through to The American Catholic, I read the thread that originated it all. I pointed out that it seemed to me that Dalrock and Elaine K. were talking past each other, not actually communicating. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a short conversation wherein I was accused of much the same thing as she was – to wit; excusing feminist rebellion by way of admitting that maybe women need a break. I’m not going to dissect the entire comment thread – frankly, I respect Dalrock’s opinions a great deal, and I think that he has a good point, and that many of his commenters are generally right-thinking people who have a handle on some stuff that the larger culture is missing in a big way. This post is not an attack on him, or them.

I just want to ask one question – which is more important, being factually correct, or making a positive difference in the world?

Don’t think that I suggest for a moment that the two are mutually exclusive. I do not. In fact, the second generally requires the first. The important thing to remember, however, is that the first does not imply that the second will happen. Dalrock sacrificed a potential rapport with another individual, for the sake of, let’s be honest, scoring some cheerleading from a group of people who already agree with him. He was absolutely correct about what the two anecdotes implied about rebellion and sin, and I think that, in general, he was right about Elaine K. making an apologia for feminist rebellion. That doesn’t mean that he made a positive difference. In fact, he alienated a potential ally. Elaine K. probably thinks of herself as fairly traditional, and would normally be an ideal philosophical ally. A gentler, less strident approach might have been exactly the right thing to bring her around to agreement, and to bring another ally into the androspherian fold. (Yes, I’m aware of his opinions on tradcons. It’s one of the few areas where I think he’s simply flat out incorrect.)

So, my exhortation to everyone who considers themselves Christian, traditionally conservative, men’s activist, whatever; ask yourself if you would rather be right, or make a difference. The time for deliberately alienating people is quickly coming to an end. That kind of absolute hard-line approach is fantastic at the beginnings and the ends of a social movement, but in the middle, it is death. Opponents of feminism, Epicureanism, and postmodernism are at a schwerpunkt. This is the time when everything might change. Are we going to accept a few sops thrown to us, in order to get the majority (not the most vocal, but the most VOTES – in other words, the ones who tend to be the most moderate of any social movement) to shut up, or are we going to moderate our rhetoric, in order to have a continual, long term effect on society and culture?