None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Tuesday, September 02, 2003
You Don't Say...

Headline from today's WaPo:

U.S. Casualties in Iraq Rising

As opposed to falling?

Sunday, August 31, 2003
Update on the Lemonade Sisters

In this post I relayed the now-infamous story of two little girls who had their lemonade stand shut down for failure to obtain the proper business license from the St. Paul authorities.

As with the last such incident, the mayor has stepped in and told his local functionaries to back off. The little entrepreneurs are back in business, and business is good.

So why am I not smiling? Well, there's this:

According to a contrite officer of the Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection,

"We don't make the laws; we only enforce them."

You forgot "unthinkingly, blindly, and with no basic regard or compassion for our fellow man."

Also, there's this:

This is being praised up and down as some kind of victory for the common man, proof that, in the words of City Council Member Jay Benanav,

"You can fight City Hall sometimes. You've won!"

and of their mother,

"The girls got a kick out of knowing they could stick up for themselves."

No, this case absolutely is not proof that the system works, or that you can beat City Hall. All it demonstrates is that the mayor of the city of St. Paul was bright enough to know bad press when he saw it, and cut his losses. Had our enlightened, Platonic mayor decided to stick to the rules, there would have been exactly jack-squat anybody could have done about it.

They didn't beat City Hall. City Hall decided to cover its own ass with a rational PR decision, this time. Again, suppose the city refused to back down. What recourse would there have been? Zero.

So the real lesson of the story is that if you have to live under petty tyrants, you'd better hope they're merciful.

Just Terrible.

That's the only way to describe this steaming heap of nuggets, a column by a Rev. Peter Mullen, Anglican, in this weekend's Opinion Journal.

Essentially, he expresses dismay at the current state of the small-"c" church, particularly as evidenced by the recent ascention of Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, to the status of bishop in the Anglican Church. I'm of two minds about this:

Good for the Reverend, since whatever my own thoughts on homosexuality might be, I think the "Western church," as he calls it, has basically thrown in the towel. He makes a pertinent point, namely, that a church that simply follows the whims of popular secular opinion is no church at all, as it lays no claim to any kind of intransitory Truth.

The quality of the piece ends there, though. He writes, in unbelievably glib tones,

The Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New, condemns homosexuality as a sin. But it is not the only sin, though the church behaves as if it were. St. Paul lists a whole repertoire of sins: pride, vain-glory, envy, gluttony, hatred, malice, conspiracy, backbiting and so on. But when did you last hear of a churchman thrown out of the choir for gluttony, or a woman dismissed from the Ladies' Circle for backbiting? Besides, the Christian faith has always taught that we should hate the sin but love the sinner.

This mealy-mouthed concession strikes me as odd, considering the point I mentioned above. Does the Reverend not see the difference at work here? The real question isn't when the "last time" was that a person was ejected from the church for backbiting, but rather when the last time was anyone proclaimed gluttony and back-biting sinless, in keeping with the changing times.

Of course thieves and gluttons manage to find themselves ordained into the church's hierarchy. We're all sinful creatures. But how many of those attend Thief Pride Parades? Last I checked, the agenda of gay Christians was not to find acceptance in spite of their sexuality, but rather because of the fact that they were loved by God in that special way reserved for gays.

This bishop does not, to my knowledge, admit to the sinful nature of his tendencies nor ask the forgiveness of his parishoners. Campaigning for the wholesale acceptance of your vice isn't the same as begging God's mercy in light of them. The argument isn't over whether thievery is still a sin, but whether homosexuality is, and the Reverend ought to have realized this without pausing for thought.

Then, in the opposite direction, I have a problem with this:

Homosexual bishops? How long before we see paedophile bishops, necrophile Deans of Cathedrals and cannibalistic Archdeacons?

I'm sorry, but to compare willing adults egaged in willing behavior, sinful or not, to the forcible molestation of children is too much. Cannibalism? Gracious, grow a sense of proportion, Rev.

Even more puzzling is the fact that this seems contradicted by what precedes it:

Few would ever condemn a faithful, loving relationship between two people of the same sex...

Except you, four paragraphs later.

...but when promiscuous homosexuality becomes a sort of fashion statement, many people are sickened. Nowadays the love which once dared not speak its name screeches at us in the tones of high camp from every high street.

So what you're saying is that "few would condemn as sinful" something you place on the road to paedophilia? Unless, that is, you advertise it publicly? What is this guy actually saying?

Look, if the thing is morally impermissible because it's having its name-brand shoved in our faces, then by that standard heterosexuality must also be a pretty rotten condition. If it's a sin by its very nature, then this pair of sentences sounds like mere hokey-pokey, more appealing to that sentimental critter in all of us who wants to be good without making judgments about behavior. Which is what he says is wrong with the church.

What is wrong with your church, my friend, is that it has refused its proper role as a counter-cultural institution, and has instead sought broad acceptance (and the power that comes with it) by moderating its stance on touchy issues like these. This began with the acquiescence of church authorities to secular pressures and a failure of faith that led them to abandon the teachings of Christ for the more comforting and self-affirming spectacle of overflowing pews and donation plates.

In short, your church has made the deal that Machiavelli proclaimed necessary of politicians because of the human condition: In order to have the influence required to do good for others, you must sacrifice your own moral character in the process. Thus the Anglican church waxes coy on the meaning of "is" for the sake of attracting a larger flock--not realizing that all it gains by that process will be a flock with no shepherd. It will have already disqualified itself for that role.

So make up your own mind first, Padre, and maybe the rest of the world might take your religion seriously again.