Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chris Christie cometh

“Christie-ism”—an aggressively anti-worker conservatism that uses working-class affect and the promise of solidarity to push right-wing policies and mask a broader assault on the social safety net. It’s an approach that could take Christie to the White House. Indeed, this speech was a virtual audition for 2016 and Christie’s inevitable run for the presidency if Romney loses in November.

 OK, Obama, you mealy-mouthed wimp: listen up. Romney will lose and you will have four more years to show your stuff. So let's see some guts for a change: show the white working class Republican "base," what a welfare state can deliver. Put together a WPA-style works project to get those dumb grunts out on the streets hacking and hewing. And it's not as if this is pointless make-work: the infrastructure is crumbling. Especially Harbor Drive, San Diego, which is pocked, potholed, and perfectly miserable for biking. And which has been under construction in a desultory fashion for about two years now. Get those guys out and digging!

And if a Republican-dominated congress says that we can't afford it, get up on your bully pulpit--on TV, radio and the Internet, and tell those guys that you're just asking the rich to pay their fair share to fix the roads so that they can drive around in their fat SUVs, and creating jobs for workers to fix and maintain them. You might even want to explain a little about public goods--those grunts aren't that dumb. They might actually understand.

Show these jerks what a welfare state can deliver, what it can do for them--not some mythical Welfare Queen.

You got four more years to deliver a European style socialist welfare state. Get going.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Liberal Christianity

If all publicity is good publicity Ross Douthat has done a service to the Episcopal Church by announcing its forthcoming collapse in his NYTimes column and blog. His thesis is the standard, discredited explanation from Dean Kelly's 1972 book Why the Conservative Churches are Growing

By the same token I suppose liberals are doing good simply by responding--even though their defenses of the faith range from unconvincing to offensive:

Unconvincing: "My wonderful inclusive parish is vibrant and growing." (Congrats to your vibrant, inclusive parish but, sorry, the stats overall for the Episcopal Church, and all other mainline churches are terrible)

Offensive: "People are leaving because they're a bunch of ignorant, homophobic bigots who prefer to check their brains at the door: our church is too good for them. And we have a low birth rate because our people are conscientiously choosing to be child-free in order to save the environment." (No comment)

For heaven's sake, isn't the problem obvious? People look to churches for religion--not endless politically correct harangues and volunteer work. The problem isn't that liberal churches have become too liberal socially and politically, or that they've rejected "traditional morality"--the problem is that they've jettisoned traditional metaphysics and liturgy. Currently slightly more than half of Americans support gay marriage: the Episcopal Church is hardly showing "prophetic witness" in this regard. If some 51% of Americans agree with the Episcopal Church's sexual ethics, how come the Episcopal Church now represents just under 1% of the population?

The problem isn't that the Episcopal Church is too ethically and socially liberal for most people's tastes. The Church is collapsing because of lack of faith--because the leadership has rejected supernaturalism, believes that theism is completely out of the ballpark for educated people (as Spong declared in his 12 Theses) and regards religion as uninteresting and basically a waste of time. Given these assumptions it's hardly worth making the effort to get more people into the pews (as long as the endowment holds out). Anyway, they should be out in the World, doing social service and political activism--not wasting their time in church.

Why, why couldn't the church have ditched "traditional morality" but kept the metaphysics and liturgy? Isn't this what the whole "spiritual-but-not-religious" movement is about? People want the the woo-woo, the ceremonies and paraphernalia, without the Biblical literalism, puritanism and social conservatism they associate with Christianity. Here is a market niche the Episcopal Church was ideally situated to capture: fancy churches, good music, elaborate rituals, and mysticism without "traditional morality" or Biblical literalism. But it didn't. It adopted a stinking new Prayer Book, contemporary English, the Peace and other detestable garbage that expunged every bit of the numinous from the liturgy.

And ironically, that was just more puritanism, more moralism. Liberals condemned conservatives for puritanitanical restrictions on sexual activity, but liberals were even more puritanical about fantasy, beauty and "escapism." Don't you dare enjoy church--you're here to be edified, to be pushed to go out into the World and work for Justice, Freedom and Peace. Of course if we had a moral motivation drug that we could put in the water supply to make everyone go out and work for social justice we wouldn't need religion at all! We'd sell off all those wasteful churches--every grain of incense is bread from the mouths of the poor--and spend all that money on Justice, Freedom and Peace.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Religion Dying Out

Hard to accept but religion is dying out--slowly, lingering in the Third World and among the poor, but inevitably dying.

I don't understand why people are pleased about that. The death of religion means a duller, deader, more prosaic world--without rituals and myths. I prowl the blogs and read the comments, and I'm baffled why there is virtually no one who has my take on religion.

I love religion. I wish I lived in a world where religiousity was all pervasive, where there were innumerable churches and little shrines where people stopped to mumble the quick prayer, where every other day was a holy day honoring a saint, a dogma, or the translation of some holy bones, with processions in the street, where people engaged in 1000 little rituals, swore by Saint Loy and went on pilgrimages.

It's a fantasy, a dream. I just don't understand why it doesn't appeal to other people in the way it appeals to me.