Category Archives: Sodom

How to Kill Christ

lord of the flies

I.

Stalin supposedly said, “Gratitude is for dogs.” I’ve always thought there was great truth in that, and have always felt dirty and guilty for thinking so. I mean, how can gratitude be for dogs when everybody knows that an ingrate is despicable? But gratitude and ingratitude are not opposites. It may be despicable to spurn kindness and generosity, but no true act of kindness or generosity is ever committed for the sake of receiving gratitude in return.

So why be generous or kind? Out of a desire (it seems to me) to participate in another person’s happiness. Gratitude is generic, perfunctory. Appreciation, on the other hand, is idiosyncratic, and the way to be appreciated is by the peculiar things we do for others. So the proper response to kindness or generosity is not to be grateful, but to be happy, and thus appreciative.

The same is true of good fortune itself—a blessing, a windfall, a narrow escape. The point is to see it for just what it is, and be glad; to change our ways, perhaps. But not to grovel and scrape. This is what I’ve come to realize about devotional worship. It’s all performative. What God would want us to take our time away from gladness, from self-improvement, from kindness, generosity, and appreciation, in order to lower ourselves to the dust? 

For many years I tried to be a Jew. But I am not a Jew. I tried to be a Christian, but I am not a Christian either, not exactly. Next I thought I might be a pagan, but I’m also not entirely a pagan.

From time to time readers and colleagues chide me for being “inconsistent,” for not being committed to an ideology, as if we must be simultaneously bound by everything we’ve ever said or done. As if we don’t wake up feeling one way and go to bed feeling another. It’s all so pretentious, so tiresome—this moral arrogance of faith and ideology. I cannot know what I cannot know, and I’d rather not be in a position of having to tolerate anybody telling me things that they don’t know either. The only criteria that interest me anymore are good and evil, reason and unreason, worth my time or not worth my time. If you’re trying to trap or denounce me with my words, you’re making me into your criterion. Will you then be “consistent,” forevermore?

II.

I have never tried to make money from this blog. Not even a tip jar.

The minute you make your ideas a commodity, they forfeit their power. This is especially true online, where every personality is beholden to a platform, and a public beyond. Granted, it would be more difficult for me to blog without WordPress, but even if I had a million readers, I’ve not made myself an avatar here. It’s just words on a pseudonymous webpage.

This is why I’ve never vlogged or appeared on podcasts. Those media are more dynamic than the written word (more fleeting, more lost in the ether) and their dynamism comes at the cost of ever greater symbiosis with the medium. If this blog is taken down tomorrow, oh well. It’s just graffiti on a bathroom stall. It’s not my name. It’s not my image. It’s not a business or a brand. I’ve not forfeited that kind of energy to the internet.

III.

The so-called hard problem of consciousness is sometimes cited in support of belief in God. It refers to the fact that we don’t know where consciousness comes from. We may know all about neurology, brain chemistry and the like, we may be able to discover the every natural mechanism and process, but scientific inquiry cannot really show us the true source of perception, of feeling and awareness.

In Matthew 18:18, Jesus says that whatever is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. We’re accustomed to thinking of heaven as the afterlife, and it may be. But Matthew 18:18 is much more readily comprehensible if we think of heaven as the metaphysical realm, co-terminus with the mundane, material one; a supra-temporal canopy of memory, perception, reputation, where every physical phenomenon has an emotional and conceptual analogue. This is the firmament to which we are “bound” by our choices, our sins, our good deeds, our triumphs, joys, fears, and regrets.

A good analogy for such a concept of Jesus’s kingdom is the internet. Your data, your social media avatar, your online reputation, the emanation of information this way and that, the abstracted interplay of thoughts and feelings pinging about the little labyrinths of software systems. The ways they get lost; the ways they get found. A Jewish teaching that I particularly like is that everything—everything—is written by God in one great book. The reason why the internet—the world wide web—is a good analogy for metaphysics is because it is metaphysics: artificial metaphysics. That’s what metadata collection, social media, AI, IoT, 5G, transhumanism, the Great Reset, Agenda 21 and all this kind of shit is about. It’s about the power to see, record, inventorize… everything. It’s an attempt at the total usurpation of all metaphysical power, from the level of the individual man, ad astra.

It’s deicide.

A fig leaf for insanity

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 4.07.41 PM

This dude has a problem with homos?

I just read the SCOTUS decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and I have to say, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent—though disingenuous on numerous points—is more logically consistent than the majority opinion. The fact is, gay marriage cannot, and was never meant to coexist with the free exercise of religion. “Well if your stupid Flying Spaghetti Monster wasn’t such a goddamned bigot….” I rest my case. (See also: “Real Jesus loves everybody just the way they are.”)

But Masterpiece is not actually a victory for religion, or the free exercise thereof. All this case does is differentiate conscientious objection from actual freedom. It’s a protracted religious test at the behest of scorned, chubby poofters, with the result that only the inscrutable fig-leaf of religion at its most passive and irrational now merits a carve-out, so long as you can satisfy a roulette wheel of vindictive bureaucrats that it’s all just in your head; whereas a straightforward moral rationale against the enfranchisement of sexual deviance would never, on its face, have stood a chance here. With Obergefell, such uncomfortable questions about public morality were effectively rendered hypothetical, merely philosophical, historical curiosities. With Masterpiece, they’re now conveniently quarantined (unlike AIDS.)

Of course, like killing a fetus, the scope of the Court’s purview is procedural, not moral. So: does a retailer have a right to inquire what I intend to use his product for, as a prerequisite of doing business? If so (a big “if”), does he have a right to refuse if he dislikes my answer? That depends. In Masterpiece, Phillips (the baker) was presumably being asked to include some message (“Congratulations Adam and Steve,” a couple of little plastic grooms, etc.) That would be compelled speech, a matter the Court already settled in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston. But that’s not the issue this decision focuses on. Rather, Masterpiece is about whether Phillip’s religious beliefs were duly taken into account by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (boy, that sure sounds like an impartial body, doesn’t it?)

Indeed, the inverse case cited by Philips’ attorneys—of one William Jack, a hellfire-and-brimstone Okie from Muskogee who submitted complaints to the Commission against three separate bakers for their respective refusals to decorate cakes for him with biblical verses condemning homolingus—is a bad analogy to Masterpiece, because in the latter case, the Commission was considering (or refusing to consider) a religious exemption; whereas, in the former three cases, it was compelled speech that was the issue.

But according to the majority, there was another problem with the way speech was treated by the Commission:

The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism.

This is highly telling, and Ginsburg doesn’t really have a rebuttal, so she ultimately addresses another difference between the two cases, one that’s more pliant to her purposes:

The different outcomes the Court features do not evidence hostility to religion of the kind we have previously held to signal a free-exercise violation, nor do the comments by one or two members of one of the four decisionmaking entities considering this case justify reversing the judgment below.

The first half of that sentence seems to me factually sound. But there are two problems here. First, Ginsburg comes very close to saying that the Commission’s rationale is irrelevant. Secondly—of course the different outcomes do not evidence hostility to religion per se. Rather, the peculiar way Phillips’ case was adjudicated evidences hostility to his religion in particular. Obviously, the “love-wins” Unitarian community did not file an amicus brief in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Neither is Phillips alleging that the Commission’s ruling implied disapproval of Reform Jews, androgynous Episcopalians, or anglo-Buddhist hot-tubbers. In fact, the notion that a ruling against Phillips would compromise such peoples’ rights, even just in principle, involves quite a stretch of the imagination. So the Court’s decision necessarily grants “religion” a wide berth because otherwise, we persons of Sodom might have to acknowledge what religion actually is, and this here ain’t America if you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

In any case, the comments Ginsburg is referring to are treated more seriously by the majority:

As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. No commissioners objected to the comments. Nor were they mentioned in the later state-court ruling or disavowed in the briefs filed here. The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.

A lot hinges there on the word thus, and Ginsburg’s dissent sidesteps and downplays most of it. But she’s right that a carve-out is being created here for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and to that extent her dissent has greater rhetorical force and logical consistency than the majority opinion.

Ultimately, however, the Masterpiece decision does not merely create a carve-out for religious discrimination against gays. Rather, it creates a carve-out for religious discrimination against gays that affirms the otherwise wholesale banishment of religion from public life; an exception that proves the rule.

Ginsburg again:

Colorado, the Court does not gainsay, prohibits precisely the discrimination Craig and Mullins encountered. Jack, on the other hand, suffered no service refusal on the basis of his religion or any other protected characteristic.

Again, William Jack wanted a cake with anti-homosexual Bible verses on it; three bakers refused, and were vetted by the Commission. They should no more be compelled to make him a cake than Phillips should be compelled to provide one for Craig and Mullins’ wedding. But if objection to decorating a cake with biblical verses on it—on the basis of what those verses say—isn’t “refusal on the basis of religion,” I don’t know what is. And that’s not a carve-out that will ever require defending before the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the carve-out that Masterpiece provides for is tenuous, and remains open to challenge: Jack Philips is being allowed to discriminate not on account of his sincerely held beliefs, but because those beliefs were belittled and not taken seriously prior to being rejected by the Commission.

Gaying away the Prey, Part Deux

A queer theory field day

….a Queer-theory field day….

Pt. I here

Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, “There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.” That’s taking things a far sight beyond the categorical imperative. But if TMI is a universal law, then (as it turns out) the emotionally spread-eagle American public and its Orwellian overseers cannot be said to have disregarded all of our third president’s advice. And though whether and to what extent to telegraph or conceal our sexual inclinations remains largely a matter of personal choice, when it comes to others’ choices in these matters, we mustn’t mind being made captive audiences. For instance,

At Wonderland Avenue Elementary School in Laurel Canyon, there are lesson plans on diverse families — including those with two mommies or daddies — books on homosexual authors in the library and a principal who is openly gay. But even at this school, teachers and administrators are flummoxed about how to carry out a new law requiring California public schools to teach all students — from kindergartners to 12th-graders — about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history classes. (LA Times, October 16, 2011)

I’m going to assume that Laurel Canyon skews a bit left. But for the past several decades, parents in certain less enlightened school districts have proven liable to voice opposition to their first and second-graders receiving instruction in such sensitive subjects, and this legislation of California’s is designed as a sort of preemptively lubed-up middle finger to such small-minded recalcitrants, whom progressive policymakers apparently consider inveterate bigots entirely unworthy of regard. (Not their kids, though.)

Ironically, the periodic, local culture-war skirmishes this California mandate is designed to forfend place gay advocates in the once-counterintuitive position of challenging public lack of concern for what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. After all, parents who object to the topic of homosexuality figuring early in elementary school curricula never (but never) demand their views, nor any particular view of gays, be taught, at least not in the public schools. In fact, I think all will agree that socially conservative parents are generally less likely to discuss birds and bees with their school-age kids at all. Supposing you picked your six-year old up from school and asked him “What did we learn in school today, Timmy?” and he told you, “Well, mommy, today Sister Agatha taught us about heterosexuality.” Is it conceivable that there’s a Catholic phalangist or evangelical troglodyte anywhere on the face of the planet who’d be okay with that? Get real.

But even within more liberal families, sex can be a hugely uncomfortable, generally unnecessary and potentially harmful topic to broach with a small child, which is why most parents (whatever their politics) would probably prefer to limit their children’s exposure to the topic as they see fit. Of course, such parental discretion can never be absolute, but plainly it cannot be maintained at all if a public body is empowered to override it. To cede this discretion is to relinquish the necessary intimacy of a time-honored dialogue through which children’s personalities negotiate family dynamics with those of their parents. Such delicate developmental processes cement familial ties which serve (even under far less-than-ideal circumstances) to outweigh relationships that don’t sufficiently take a child’s best interests into consideration. Interference in them is characteristic of totalitarianism, no matter how noble the rationale.

So when those who demand that other people’s six-year olds be compulsorily taught about a single, narrow facet of sexual identity insist that their purpose is merely to foster recognition of “families [that] come in all shapes, sizes and configurations” (as one school official told the author of the LA Times story block-quoted above), they’re being disingenuous, because although their program promotes diversity of sexuality and “configuration”, it enforces homogenization of otherwise idiosyncratic family dynamics that depend on the initiative of childhood curiosity to inquire, and the prerogative of parental care to determine when and how best to reply.

On the other hand, on the cultural left it’s axiomatic that children are already becoming aware of sexual identity at very young ages, since awareness of heterosexuality is filtering in through every aspect of their lives—often with adult intervention via children’s literature taught in school that refers to mommies and daddies, princes and princesses, etc. But to suppose this necessitates the provision of comparable information about gays doesn’t follow. Regaling children with tales of princess and princesses follows upon the emergence of inklings of concepts that are beginning, gradually, to dawn upon them without formal elucidation; whereas getting very young children to grapple with concepts that are significantly less readily apparent and comprehensible to them represents not a response to their pace of perception and inquiry, but an imposition of adult interests in rank disregard for the natural autonomy of that largely self-directed process.

Regardless of politics or sexual orientation, adults should not need it explained to them why, by-and-large, naturally procreative relationships are of greater societal import than the alternatives, and that the practices of the vast majority of people are more liable to garner children’s awareness earlier than less prevalent ones are. Either way, what small children don’t inquire about in these areas, they generally aren’t ready to learn. Gays who feel this falls short of affording them all the validation they’re entitled to would do better to look to themselves for equanimity, rather than to other people’s children. Sexual identity (or even just the way we conceptualize other people’s) is a mighty idiosyncratic lurch toward enlightenment to be setting collective timetables for. It is perfectly reasonable and intuitive to deeply distrust those who attempt to meddle in them.

Of course, other than LGBT advocates, practitioners of precisely zero minority romantic arrangements are agitating for the inclusion in first-grade lessons of information about the life-patterns arising from their novel inclinations. Neither are most alternate family configurations’ demanding their arrangements be formally elucidated (or even hinted at) as part of fucking kindergarten curricula. Is there really such harm in awareness of homosexuality setting in later that’s egregious enough to justify granting it so high a priority?

Perhaps, yes. But that’s a highly debatable supposition for which there’s little, if any, conclusive evidence. So by demanding formal elucidation (however gradual) of sexual orientation in first grade classrooms, gay advocates are implicating the pace of children’s maturation in an dubious definition of societal ill. The corrective measures they’ve managed to implement in California are adult initiatives to conscript children to the cause of affirming the emotional needs of select adults, designed without the slightest real consideration of actual children’s (pawns) needs in mind.

Again—if we’re going to teach public school pupils that “families come in all shapes, sizes and configurations”, all equally deserving of respect, then why does only one such configuration merit mandatory formal elucidation to six-year olds? I understand that gay couples parenting children are sometimes denigrated or excluded on the basis of their sexual orientation, while divorced or adoptive heterosexual parents are not usually shunned or condemned in the same way (i.e., because of their sexual identity), but isn’t this about children before all else? If the starting assumption is that elementary school is ground zero for redress of social maladies—a sort of pre-reeducation program—then is divorce, domestic turmoil, or the absence of one or more biological parents in the home really less traumatic for a child, and therefore less deserving of curricular redress by the school authorities, than having gay parents or experiencing same-sex attraction in a less-than-accepting world?

Interestingly, not all gay activists are quite so circumspect as to demand mere equality. Author Dan Savage is one of a handful of high-profile gay pundits (Masha Gessen and Andrew Sullivan among them) who have advanced one form or another of the thesis that, because adultery and divorce are so common, monogamy is inherently untenable. Moreover, he suggests that, because gays (particularly gay men) tend more than straights to openly eschew exclusivity even with long-term partners, the mainstreaming of gay marriage holds out the benefit of eroding monogamy’s demands by diluting them with the less exacting standards that more often pertain among gay men. (This is characterized in the media as a pro-marriage position, by the way.)

In other words, the same folks who keep conflating sex with love are also telling us that sex is far less relevant to our familial and social bonds (i.e., to love) than we’ve been led to believe (by nefarious white church fathers who want to control us through our loins), and that we would all be happier if we were to scrap the mutual self-sacrifice and impulse control that marriage entails and just act more like feral dogs, who don’t hold out for approval in these matters from arcane authorities. (And it gets better): to that end, we need the highest, most arcane authority, the state, to approve our updated definition of marriage, because we’re pro-marriage. As an added bonus, straight people, whose intimate pursuits we have some opinions about (great non-judgmental sexual libertarians that we are), will get divorced more.

This is precisely the kind of high-hatted meddling in the private affairs of strangers that gay advocacy once claimed to stand against. Indeed, Savage is keen to argue that nearly any kind of sexual relationship whatsoever must be worthy of outside approval as marriage if the parties to it so desire, because peoples’ private lives are not to be meddled in by high-hatted outsiders bent on fashioning society the way they see fit. By this formula, gay marriage is less a diffusion of the power to rank and sanction social arrangements than a reallotment of it. And despite the past two decades’ increasingly affirmative media portrayals of gay monogamy, gay advocates like Savage can hardly be expected to face accusations of slander when they assert, in making their case, that gay marriage is characteristically anything but monogamous.

But part of Savage’s point, shopworn though it is, cannot be brushed aside peremptorily. Of all the features of American life, divorce (the fate of roughly 50% of marriages) is far more prevalent than any societal ill that might conceivably be imputed to gays. Why the resistance to the mere mention of gay marriage in public school classrooms when we’ve got an epidemic of straight divorce on our hands? (What’s the big deal, guys? All we want is to mold your friggin’ children. We swear: we’re good).

The motive imputed most often to social conservatives is vestigial bigotry, and there may be many, many people who are anti-gay because Leviticus, or somesuch. But the uncomfortable question (muted though it often is) that divides gay advocates from social conservatives is not a purely moral one. It’s whether and to what extent human sexuality is malleable, and what’s divisive about the question isn’t its answer, which is obvious. It’s why that answer disconcerts us.

The fact is, parents who wouldn’t like their first graders being taught in school that some boys like other boys just aren’t entirely confident that their kids are impervious to being turned through early normalization because, like gays, they see sexuality as inextricably linked to values.

When I say that Christians/social-conservatives and gays/progressives both share a sense that sexuality is linked to values, I’m reiterating what you already know: that a gay dude’s values wouldn’t be quite the same if he wasn’t gay, and a Christian’s would be quite different if he was. So, while the gay guy’s kid, through some innate personality quirk, might have in him the seeds of a rabid right-winger and will one day decide to become a Catholic and consult for the Heritage Foundation, in the meantime that gay guy wants to teach the kid acceptance and openness toward gays. And while the Christian’s kid might one day be gay, or might have been born gay already, in the meantime the Christian wants to encourage his kid to one day marry and procreate organically.

Ironically enough, gay advocates who advance the proposition that we’re all more or less bisexual, and that traditional discouragement of homosexuality explains its lack of prevalence, are actually in agreement with social conservatives (at least, if the latter’s actions should speak louder than their words.) But when it suits them to drop this meme about heterosexuality’s predominance being culturally determined, gay advocates insist that homosexuality arises less in response to environmental factors than hereditary ones. Well, which is it? We just don’t know for certain. If most people had to bet, no wishy-washing, I think they’d say it’s hereditary. On the other hand, most every aspect of behavior is malleable. Putting aside questions of degree, it would be odd indeed if sexual behavior is exceptional in this regard, or impervious to prevailing norms—which is why God learned Greek when he wished to become an author*, right?

Those who would implement a sexual-identity curriculum so early are driven by the conviction of their values system’s superiority. They’re proselytizing, and they want a captive audience—the more tender, the better. By comparison, socially conservative parents opposed to these curricular innovations exhibit far greater reticence in the face of all the information we have yet to uncover about childhood development and human sexuality—theirs is really just the null hypothesis here. Even supposing some of them believe gays should be stoned to death—at least they aren’t proposing that the topic be broached with everyone else’s five-year olds.

But supposing there are parents who actually prefer to see heterosexuality take root and, in that interest, wouldn’t like their kids being taught an inimical set of values. Is that so strange? After bare survival, procreation is the highest priority of billions of years of our evolution, all the way back to those ignominious first protozoa. Of course, children who exhibit homosexual or gender non-normative tendencies should be afforded all the love, acceptance and protection that their parents would extend to them if they were straight. But it would be odd indeed if it isn’t embedded in many of our hardwirings for parents to want their kids to procreate naturally, far before they want them to find strictly romantic fulfillment, or professional success, or to marry inside the religion of their upbringing, or whatever. Leviticus has fuckall to do with this, because modern civilization can’t possibly stray farther than it already has from monotheism’s original strictures, yet gays (of all people) are jumping at the chance to mimic Eisenhower-era family values. This is Frankenstein’s monster seeking a mate, it comes not from a place of love, but of ressentiment. The system rejected me, so I’m going to fellate it. Love wins (according to five of out of nine jurists emeritus.) It just requires government approval now to an extent it never has before, i.e., to define it, as opposed to merely recognizing what it intrinsically is.)

Considering the significantly higher incidence of mental illness, pederasty, suicidality and venereal disease among sexual and gender non-normative communities—which have remained constant in spite of a century of changing attitudes, and which do not present among comparably marginalized minorities—proponents of gay-friendly elementary school curricula may be motivated as much by the promise of inoculating children against a deeply cultural animus toward gays as by a taboo cognizance of a widespread, innate, needed and advantageous evolutionary aversion to homosexuality itself that cannot be readily done away with, but can be further repressed by making it a grave social liability. Perhaps in some sense this is a worthy endeavor, though I doubt it, and I hope I’ve made clear here what other important societal interests are at stake in its pursuit.

Of course, many gay advocates would argue instead that homophobia of any variety stems in significant part from self-identified heterosexuals’ terror of their own latent passions, and that in order to preempt intolerance these must be gently validated before small-minded parents have the chance to discourage them. Such certitude about the inner lives of others is classic projection that shouldn’t ever contribute to informing any school curricula, anywhere.

For the foreseeable future the jury is out when it comes to the nuances of nature’s and nurture’s respective contributions to our indices of sexual proclivities. But to the extent that behavioral outcomes can be molded and attitudes inculcated, responsibility for attempting this should rest primarily with parents, with the community only secondarily, and with bureaucrats not at all. This is the least that gay partners raising kids together are asking for their families, and traditional families have at least as much right to it as they do.