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Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Modernity

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a Colorado man named Jack Phillips does not have to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seven-to-two majority decision is so carefully and narrowly worded that it’s not entirely clear if everyone else is similarly at liberty, but we’ll chalk it up as a win for religious freedom and freedom in general.
Although Phillips’ does not routinely refuse the services of his Masterpiece Cakeshop to homosexual customers, he did politely decline a homosexual couple’s request for a wedding cake because of his Christian belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. Until recently that definition of marriage had been largely unquestioned in western civilization for more than two millennia, and until a relative blink of an eye ago even the likes of President Barack Obama had the same opinion, even now there are still a very large number of people who hold that view, and a fair-minded observer would admit that the social consequences of such changes being so hard to predict there’s still a chance it will ultimately prove wise.
Even if Phillips is wrong, we figure that’s his right. If the Colorado Human Rights Commission can compel him to bake a cake in violation of his religious beliefs, we shudder to think what else an American citizen might be compelled to do. In his decision Kennedy rightly noted that the CHRC seemed to regard the past two millennia of mainstream Christian belief as rank bigotry akin to the Ku Klux Klan’s racist terrorism, and rightly regarded that as an obvious assault on religious freedom, but in doing so he left open the possibility that other human rights commissions could persecute other traditionalists if they do so more politely. Modernity’s assault on the Judeo-Christian foundations of western civilization will surely continue, but for now only two members of the Supreme Court are on record saying that a Christian baker has to bake a gay wedding cake.
That homosexual couple has a right to get married, according to a Supreme Court decision penned by the same Kennedy, and it naturally follows they have a right to buy a cake to celebrate the occasion, but we don’t see why they have any right to force Phillips to bake it. They live in a populous part of Colorado that surely has plenty of bakeries happy to accept their business, and they seem to have turned Phillips into the CHRC in order to punish him for his beliefs and lifestyle, and the CHRC sure did seem to intent on criminalizing those still widely-held beliefs and that common lifestyle. We wish that homosexual couple a happy marriage, but we expect that in the long run they’ll be better off if the government doesn’t get back in the messy business of punishing unfashionable beliefs and alternative lifestyles.
There’s a nutcase cult up in Topeka’s that’s notorious for anti-homosexual protests at funerals and other private occasions, and if they ask some homosexual baker in that town full of desperate-for-business bakers to decorate a cake with their infamous “God Hates Fags” slogan we think that baker has every right to decline the offer. For now the culture wouldn’t tolerate it, and the forces of modernity have even dragged a Christian baker before the Supreme Court and found two Justices who would compel the poor fellow to a bake a cake, but not so long ago in our lifetimes even the New York City cops were raiding gay bars and the consensus of the American Psychiatric Association was that homosexuality was a mental illness. These things can change in the relative blink of an eye, we’ve noticed, and at this point we think it best that tolerance prevails.
We have a lot of Christian and quite a few homosexual friends here in Wichita, and naturally there’s some overlapping on the Venn diagram of our social circle, and of course they all have their own particular opinions about all of this. Happily, they all somehow coexist. Most of our Christians friends have jobs that don’t involve same-sex marriages, and if they did many of them probably decline the work, but none of them are waving any “God Hates Fags” signs at the few same-sex weddings around here and they try their best to be unfailingly polite to everyone they meet in the course of their jobs. Some of our homosexual friends are pretty outspoken about it, but even the most political of them have been bullied and wised-up and worn out enough they would much rather find another bakery rather than drag some pre-modern Christian neighbor all the way to the Supreme Court.
At this point we’re all living an alternative lifestyle,from somebody’s perspective,  and none of our beliefs can possibly keep up with the ever-sharpening blade of the cutting edge of bien pensant opinion, so we figure we’ll just go about business and hope that as usual most people do the same. We hope that Phillips fellow returns to a thriving business at his Masterpiece Bakeshop, and that the homosexual couple has a happy marriage and realizes how lucky they are everyone involved was able to go about their business.

–Bud Norman

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A Prayer for the Dead and the Rest of Us

We first learned of the past weekend’s mass murders in Florida while at our Sunday morning worship services. The very fine fellow who leads our congregation’s singing and offers its closing prayer is the sort of early-riser who eats a full breakfast and drinks a cup of coffee and looks over the day’s song list and catches up with the latest news before arriving resplendent at worship, whereas we’re the more nocturnal types who stumble more or less directly and somewhat shabbily out of bed and into our usual spot in the last row of pews at some point during the opening hymn, so it was news to us when he prayed for the redemption of those souls that had been taken in yet another of those all-too-common tragedies, and for the quick recovery of those who had been gravely injured, and for comfort to all those who know and love them.
Constant scanning of the local radio stations on the short drive home turned up nothing but ads and awful country music, so when we arrived at home we re-heated the coffee we’d earlier brewed but didn’t have time to drink and went to the internet for further details on the latest atrocity. Even the earliest dispatches we found reported that the attack had occurred at an Orlando nightspot that catered to homosexuals, and by the time that very fellow fine who leads our singing had left for the all-too-early morning Bible classes he had probably also heard about the murderer’s all-too-common Islamic beliefs, so we were pleased he had humbly admitted none of us yet knew all the facts and addressed our prayers only to the more pressing matter of the lost souls and the gravely wounded and the suffering of those who know and love them. Now that the all-too-predictably dreary facts of the matter are better established and the inevitable necessary dreary political debates are following, we appreciate that fine fellow’s priorities all the more.
Over on the secular left there’s the all-too-familiar clamor about America’s gun culture and the anti-homosexual stance of America’s conservative Christian culture and even some talk about how the latest carnage occurred because so much of America’s common sense culture has resisted the new rules about men using the women’s rooms and hanging around their public showers. The President of the United States acknowledged that the murders were terrorism but once again wouldn’t go so far as to describe its motivation, the presumptive Democratic nominee at long last called it “radical Islamic terrorism,” but everyone else on the secular left was trying to deny the plain fact that one member of its designated-for-protection minority groups had perpetrated such a horrible mass murder against one of its other designated-for-protection minority groups. None of it, of course, is likely to make any sense to the common sense majority of the voting public.
As usual nothing on offer by the gun-grabbing left would have prevented the murderer from obtaining the mundane weapons he used for his carnage, and he not only passed all the background checks for ownership even after two federal investigations but also passed muster to work for a security company often hired by the federal government, with his outspoken Islamism apparently being more a shield than a signal to investigators, and we’re sure if he’d tried his plot in a gay bar in the more gun-friendly jurisdiction of Wichita, Kansas, even such church-going types as ourselves have some dear and rather formidable homosexual friends who would have been armed and ready to lower the resulting death toll. The idea that western Christianity’s rigidly traditional yet ultimately forgiving belief in procreative sexuality as a social and spiritual ideal is responsible for Islam’s more stern and frequently murderous stance against the alternatives is laughable, and the notion that the ridiculous recent flap over men using the women’s restrooms and showers is more laughable yet.
These days the once-feared looming “Handmaiden’s Tale” theocracy of the “Religious Right” is reduced to defending its right not to bake a same-sex wedding cake or have nuns or Baptist entrepreneurs pay for contraception coverage, and with a presumptive Republican nominee who’s a thrice-married and boastfully adulterous and four-times bankrupt casino and strip joint owner who says he’s good with God because he “eats his little cracker” and “drinks his little wine” on infrequent Sundays there’s nowadays a certain unmistakeable secularism to the rest of the right. That presumptive Republican nominee has little to say about same-sex marriage or the right of people to not be involved in it, and has been utterly worthless on the matter of creepy men hanging around women’s restrooms and public showers on the federal government’s say-so, but he’s bound to gain some ground in the lately unfavorable polls by his full-throated denunciation of the secular left’s obvious nonsense.
Regular readers of this publication already know that we don’t place much hope in the presumptive Republican nominee’s ever-shifting yet always cocksure proposed solutions, either, so for now we’re left with that fine fellow’s prayer. The congregation we worship with is affiliated with one of those “politically incorrect” evangelical denominations that is invariably and and more or less accurately described as politically and theologically conservative, and despite those old-fashioned views we pray the same prayer as that fine fellow we know for the recently deceased no matter what their private lives, and no matter how vigorously we disagree with the religious beliefs of their killer we will pause to pray for their souls and those who were gravely injured and all those who know and love them, not matter what they say on the secular left and the secular right. There seems to be a battle between good and evil looming, and at this point we’re not looking to politics for redemption.

— Bud Norman

On the Proper Papal Protocol, As Well As an Old Pope Joke

Although we are not Catholic, and in fact worship with an exceedingly Protestant church at the opposite end of the low-church-high-church spectrum, and although we strenuously disagree with the current Pope’s oft-stated anti-capitalist views, we vow that would be properly respectful in the unlikely event of a Papal visit. The current President of the United States seems to share the current Pope’s anti-capitalist sentiments, but while his religious views are somewhat murkier it is crystal clear that he does not share the same old-fashioned notions about homosexuality and abortion and transgenderism and whatever other newfangled notion the left has lately come up with, and perhaps as a result he seems to have violated a few rules of etiquette that even the likes of we would have honored.
We’re sure there are well-trained protocol experts in the administration, and given that the president is a Democrat there are bound  to be at least a few nominal Catholics left in the administration, but we hope they’ll accept a few suggestions regarding Papal visits from such amateur and Protestant observers as ourselves.
First, don’t load the rest of the guest list with people obviously chosen to embarrass the honored guest. The White House has arranged an appropriately swank State Dinner, which we hope the Pontiff will enjoy, but the rest of the seats will include a conspicuous number of homosexual Catholics and pro-abortion Catholics and transgendered Catholics and whatever other Catholics can be rounded up who defy the Catholic church’s teaching on whatever newfangled notion the left has lately come up with, which strikes us as rather undiplomatic. The more polite media report that “White House guest list for the pope irks some conservatives,” which suggest that only certain crazy people such as ourselves that you won’t be running into at a swank Georgetown party are likely to be bothered, but it’s also worth considering if that uncapitalized Pope might also be irked by the blatant disrespect. This is statecraft, after all.
Second, no matter how much you might share the guest’s anti-capitalist views, or how much you might enjoy the swell eats and the company of homosexual and pro-abortion and transgendered and otherwise fashionable nuns at a State Dinner generously funded by the capitalist system, don’t send your spokesman out to boast that you’re more Catholic than the Pope. White House spokesman Josh Earnest took the occasion of the Pope’s visit to boast that “Both men have talked, quite publicly, about their commitment to social justice, and both men have dedicated their, not just their careers, but their lives, to that effort.” He added some boilerplate about the president’s days as a “community organizer” in the impoverished neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side, added a nod to Pope Francis’ similarly disastrous efforts on behalf of his that have had even more disastrous results on his even more impoverished homeland of Argentina, and left the listener with the impression that Earnest’s boss is the holier of the two. It’s a political pitch worth trying, we suppose, given the gullibility of the president’s remaining faithful, but once again it’s not exactly statecraft.
Lest we seem too punctilious about protocol, we’ll admit that every Papal visit reminds of the many Pope jokes we’ve heard over the years. We’re quite fond of the one about the Pope, the mafia, and the vows of celibacy, but that’s probably far too blue for our readership, and certainly for a Papal visit. Instead, we can’t resist re-telling an oldie but goody that even Pope Francis might find inoffensive.
The Pope — it could be any Pope of the last 67 years — is in New York to address the United Nations. As he starts to leave the airport he rolls the darkened back-seat window down in his limousine and tells the driver that he’d like to drive. The chauffeur protests that his boss might not like it, but the Pope pleads that they never let him drive anymore and he’d love to take the wheel one last time. The driver reluctantly moves to the back seat, the Pope sits down in the driver’s seat, and the limo peels off toward the expressway. When the limo hits 95 miles per hour en route a couple of Irish New York cops pull it over. The veteran cop walks to the limo, the window comes down, there’s a short exchange, and the cop walks back to the squad car.
The rookie asks, “Why didn’t you give him a ticket?”
“He’s too big to write up,” the veteran said.
“What was he, an alderman?”
“No, bigger than that.”
“The mayor?”
“Bigger than that.”
“The governor?”
“No, far bigger than that.”
“You mean, we pulled over the President of the United States?”
“No, even bigger than that.”
The rookie asked, “What could possibly be bigger than that?”
“Let me put it this way,” the veteran said. “His chauffeur is the Pope.”

— Bud Norman

The Strange Matter of the Rent Boy Investigation

At the risk of sounding not only straight but also square we will admit that we had never heard of Rentboy.com until the Department of Homeland Security raided its offices and arrested its chief executive and several other employees on charges of prostitution. According to the ensuing news reports Rentboy.com is a nearly twenty-year-old web site where homosexual “escorts” advertise their services, which made the news of legal difficulties seem peculiar.
Although we’re in favor of strict enforcement of any laws against prostitution, whether of the heterosexual or homosexual or variety, or some other variety we’re not yet aware of, it’s hard for us to see why this is a matter of concern to the Department of Homeland Security rather than the police in the alleged perpetrator’s jurisdiction. A spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, which was also somehow involved the arrests, explained that “As the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is responsible for the enforcement of laws that promote the legitimate movement of people, goods and currency in domestic and foreign transactions,” but he didn’t explain why a prostitution ring is not a matter better left to the local or state authorities. The charged company is apparently located in a prime part of New York City, in a state and locality that probably have more pressing problems for their law enforcement agencies to deal with than a web site advertising the services of homosexual “escorts,” and given the political influence that homosexuals have in those areas it’s all the more unlikely that the cops would ever get around to raiding the joint, but this only raises the question of whether this is really something that threatens the homeland’s security.
What seems most peculiar, though, is that the federal government, of all people, have apparently picked a fight with the homosexual portion of the country. We guess that most of our homosexual friends share our distaste for prostitution, but an organized segment of the homosexual rights movement seems to believe that the right to rent a boy, or at least a boyish young man, is surely embedded somewhere in all those penumbras of the Constitution, and lately the federal government and the culture at large has been inclined to go along with whatever such organized segments of the homosexual rights movement insist upon. Same-sex marriage has not only been legally enshroud but rigorously imposed on even the most recalcitrant County Clerks and old-fashioned bakers and wedding photographers, the surgical mutilation of human genitals is celebrated on magazine covers and sports network shows, and the White House has been bathed in the pastel colors of the rainbow flag. An odd time, then, for the same federal government to crack down on a web site that facilitates consensual homosexual activity.
These days an observant news-reader will naturally go in search of some political explanation for what the federal government is doing, but in this case there doesn’t seem to be one, which is also peculiar. Given that heterosexual men on the whole are every bit as libidinously irresponsible as homosexual men we assume there are numerous similar web sites advertising the services of female “escorts,” and they still have a broader potential audience than a similar homosexual site, so of all the possible targets it’s hard to see why the feds would want to pick on Rentboy.com. Every time some bureaucrat does something we assume that it’s so he can proclaim that he is, indeed, doing something, but we can’t think of any reason that an executive branch bureaucrat ultimately responsible to President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party would be annoying libidinously irresponsible homosexuals.

The folks at Rentboy.com are arguing in the press that they only advertised their clients’ “time,” and not anything that might reasonably construed as sexual, and this might or might not prove a persuasive argument in a court of law, so we’ll keep on an eye on the outcome. Our interest in homosexual escorts is nil, but we can’t quell our curiosity about why the federal government is taking such an interest in the matter.

— Bud Norman

A Gay Old Time in Kenya

Modern liberalism has so many rules, with new ones constantly being added by both the bureaucracy and the more unofficial social justice warriors, that it’s hard to keep up. Oftentimes the rules are in conflict with one another, too, which can lead to the sort of awkward moment President Barack Obama recently endured while advocating homosexual rights during a trip to his ancestral homeland of Kenya.
One ironclad rule of modern liberalism is that every primitive instinct of third world hellholes as such Kenya are to be regarded as ancient wisdom far more profound than anything our decadent western civilization has concocted, and that any attempt to correct them is tantamount to cultural imperialism, but another even more ironclad rule is that homosexuality should not only be tolerated but celebrated with the rainbow colors on the White House, and given the fact that Kenya and most other third world hellholes regard homosexuality as a crime punishable by years in prison or even more draconian punishments this poses something of a dilemma. For Obama, who has famously proclaimed that “No nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” except perhaps for Israel, whose housing policies and ability to defend itself from terrorist attack are of course exempt from this rule, the dilemma is especially vexing. Homosexuals are a more sizable voting bloc than Kenyans in American electoral politics, however, and more generous donors to Democratic candidates, so we are not surprised that Obama went right ahead lectured his Kenyan hosts on the need to get up to date with western civilization’s recent embrace of homosexuality.
We have no problem with Obama’s statement, as we think that Kenya’s criminalization of homosexuality is an egregious violation of human rights and a futile effort against the many varieties of human nature, but then again we’re unapologetic cultural imperialists who would happily impose even older and more unfashionable notions of western civilization on such third world hellholes as Kenya. Given the opportunity of a presidential visit to Kenya we would also criticize the tribalism that has divided its society, the Afro-Marxism that has destroyed its economy to the point that Obama’s own half-brother is living in a shack, the strange superstitions that has impeded its scientific and technological development, the primitive sexism that has oppressed its women, as well as its considerably less consequential animus toward homosexuals. What we can’t comprehend is why Obama found only the homosexual issue worth mentioning.
The reluctance to criticize the tribalism of such third world hellholes as Kenya can be explained by Obama’s affiliation with a modern liberalism that feels obliged to apologize for saying that “all lives matter,” which also explains the reluctance to criticize the Afro-Marxism that has reduced Kenya to squalor, and the unscientific nature of Kenyan society has at least arguably reduced its contribution to the superstition of “global warming” or “climate change” or whatever they’re calling it these days, and we understand that the privileged white women who comprise the modern feminist movement in America don’t really care about what the black women in Kenya are enduring, but it’s still hard to see why homosexuality is the only issue that is exempt from the otherwise ironclad rule about one nation trying to dominate another. Domestic politics is an obvious explanation, but modern liberalism insists that it is above such crass considerations.

— Bud Norman

The Big News of the Day, Here and There

The big news on Friday, at least here in the United States of America, was the Supreme Court’s discovery that same-sex marriage is a previously undiscovered right guaranteed by the 18th Century framers and ratifiers of the Constitution. Meanwhile, in France and Tunisia and Kuwait, the big news of the day was a trio of simultaneous terror attacks that left at least 54 people dead and one victim’s disembodied head impaled on the gates of an American-owned factory.
America’s State Department won’t yet concede that the simultaneous terror attacks were coordinated, but with uncharacteristic frankness it does at least acknowledge that they were more or less simultaneous, and were undeniably acts of terrorism, and at the risk of political incorrectness one might infer from this reluctant admission that it was all inspired by the same Islamic ideology that has also lately inspired the very Sunni Islamic State to toss homosexuals from tall buildings in its recently-conquered portions of Iraq and Syria and Libya to the delight of the assembled throngs and the very Shiite Ayatollahs of Iran to subject homosexual males to brutally forced sex-change operations. Still, we are told that any Catholics or Protestants or any other varieties or Christians or Orthodox Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or any other religions that hew to their millennial-old notions regarding sexual morality must reconcile their beliefs with the latest Supreme Court ruling and social fads, while the Sunni Islamic state is merely a “jayvee team” of terrorism and the Shiite Iranian ayatollahs are rational people who can be entrusted with nuclear weaponry no matter what declarations they have made about Jewish genocide or death to the Great Satan of America or the arrival of the 12th Imam and the end days, and that any old Baptist congregation or obscure Indiana pizzeria that is perfectly willing to tolerate but unwilling to celebrate a same-sex marriage must get its mind right about the latest judicially-mandated fads.
Although we are clearly damned to political incorrectness and whatever social stigma it might entail by saying so, this strikes us as absurd. By happenstance we ran into a dear old homosexual friend of ours on Sunday, not long after our attendance at a fundamental Christian worship, whose seemingly happy relationship with a homosexual lover has long outlasted our heterosexual but devastatingly failed marriage to a woman, and we shared a much-need laugh with a favorite old dirty joke of ours about parachute training and sodomy. We aren’t all assured that our friend shares our concerns about originalism versus that crazy “living constitution” interpretation of the legalistic stuff, or the ramifications for those of us those who still worry how that the latest Supreme Court ruling will affect the religious liberties of those of us who still harbor doubts about the future of a civilization based on old-fashioned notions notions about married men and women raising the next generation, but we are hopeful our friendship will remain intact. We assume he has the usual fashionable notions about same-sex marriage and tolerance of an Islamic ideology that quite clearly thinks otherwise, but we can’t help wondering how it might look from a French or Tunisian or Kuwaiti perspctive,

— Bud Norman

Second Thoughts on a Sexual Revolution

One of the compensating advantages of growing older is that one’s sex drive eventually diminishes to a point it no longer overwhelms dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. At least that used to be so, until modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue started selling perpetually teenaged libidinousness, but now it seems that the older the United States of America gets the more its public square becomes obsessed with private parts.
The economy is contracting and the national debt is rising, murders are up in the recently burned-down sections of Baltimore and other cities where the police are in retreat, a head-chopping gang of Islamist psychopaths calling themselves the Islamic State are conquering more of the Middle East, and similarly significant stories abound for those still interested in finding them, but dip into a random magazine story or coffeehouse conversation and the subject is more likely to have something to do with sex. If it’s not the former Bruce Jenner’s glamour girl appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair or that hipster co-ed hauling a mattress around Columbia University to protest a “culture of rape” in higher education, it’s the latest court ruling on same-sex marriage or one of those stories that keep popping up lately about women teachers in the middle schools with an unaccountable attraction to schoolboys. There also the usual tawdry sex scandals in Washington and every state capital, all the tiresome and un-erotic babble about the intersectionality of race and class and gender categories and the fluidity of sexual identity and the rest of that cacophonous jargon one suddenly needs in order to be conversant down at the coffeehouse, and of course there are still plenty of those biennial election-cycle allegations about the Republicans’ insidious plot to revive the Comstock Law and restore the patriarchy and roll back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought about these happy times.
The entertainment media are similarly sexually obsessed, as we suppose they have been at least since the silent movie days of Clara “The It Girl” Bow, and judging by what we see on models on the high-fashion runways and the starlets at the award show red carpets and the scantily-clad women staggering on the cracked sidewalks outside the low places of our prairie hometown the entire women’s clothing industry is as well. Sit-coms, hip-hop records, television advertisements, magazine covers, “reality shows,” late night cable programming, all the fawning attention paid to that naked fat woman from HBO’s “Girls,” entire departments of modern academia, along with the rest of our culture, including the more up-to-date churches, all proclaim an age of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal and infernal bickering over the proper terminology and protocol to make it all go smoothly. People who used to explain themselves to strangers in terms of their occupation or denominational affiliation or number of children now identify themselves by their sexual preference or “gender identity,” any sexual predilection, no matter how arcane or disconcerting to normal sensibilities, now has a web site and a lobbying group and “community” of like-minded people to provide encouragement, and the Roe v. Wade decision and an Obamacare law that mandates contraception and abortifacient coverage for everyone from nuns to Baptist businessmen and a host of other public policies make it all official, and anybody who admits any discomfort with this state of affairs is routinely dismissed from polite conversation as a blue-nosed puritan.
So far as we can glean from the snippets of boisterous conversation we involuntarily overhear from the fashionably hirsute fellows and their tattooed but otherwise comely young women companions in the next booth at a coffeehouse where we drink beer and grouse about foreign policy and economics and baseball with a gray-haired pal of ours, and from the often tragic gossip we can’t avoid despite our best efforts in our infrequent social encounters elsewhere, as well as the conspicuous lack of non-political and non-sports conversation we share with our gray-haired friend, it doesn’t seem to be working out very well for anyone. As we read the news, with agedly skeptical eyes unaffected by modern pharmacology and largely immune to the blandishments of Madison Avenue, we find further confirmation that no one out there seems genuinely satisfied with the situation.
That campus “culture of rape” that the young woman with the mattress and the Senator from California and the editorialists at the big papers and the rest of the feminist establishment are so worried about doesn’t seem to be so much an epidemic of college boys forcing themselves with brute strength onto unwilling young innocents as it is a widespread regret with the consensual albeit slightly reluctant “hook-up” encounters that have become so common since universities stopped being in loco parentis and started being simply loco. We’re sympathetic to the young women’s plight, as our hazy memories still recall the social pressures that accompany sexual desire and how very powerfully they can affect someone who hasn’t yet acquired advanced age and diminished sex drive, and how very grave the consequences can be, yet we find ourselves averse to their cause. Unable to come right out and call for a return to chivalry and chastity and the rest of that religious ’50s-era repression stuff, the “culture of rape” critics and their friends at the Department of Justice are urging that due process be suspended for any college boy accused of letting his sex drive overwhelm his dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul, even if it didn’t cross any established legal boundaries, and was well within the standards of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal that has been officially established as the societal norm, and we don’t believe that will work.
Nor do we believe that the former Bruce Jenner will likely find genuine satisfaction by having his penis and testes amputated, no matter how comely he might appear through the miracles of Vanity Fair’s photographic and make-up and air-brushing experts. That’s not just our admittedly uniformed opinion, as even a doctor at Johns Hopkins University, which was once the first hospital in America to perform “sex-change operations,” argues that the procedure doesn’t really change a person’s sex, tends to result in a suicide rate 20 times that of the general population, and is no longer done at his institution because some patients’ claims to be “‘satisfied’ but ‘still troubled'” are “an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.” The social consensus seems to be otherwise, what with the all-powerful ESPN sports network awarding the former Bruce Jenner its “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” rather than to an Iraq War veteran who became a successful athlete and “Dancing on the Stars” competitor despite the double amputations he endured from his service to his country, but we don’t think that will work, either.
All that blather about people basing their self-estem and personal identities on their sexual predilections seems equally futile, as a person’s occupation and numbers of children and denominational affiliation will ultimately have more important social consequences, and little of the rest of it makes any sense from our admittedly straight white Christian Republican conservative perspective here in the middle of America. Straight white male Christian Republican conservatives in the middle of America that we are, over the years we’ve had a number of dear friends who were homosexual or bisexual or something for which we’re not even sure what the currently polite terminology would be, but all had admirable attributes we found in common which seemed entirely unrelated to either their sexuality or ours. They seemed to find something in common with us as well, and some valuable friendships have resulted, so we are inclined to believe that social interactions are best conducted on such terms. By now we are inured to even the most lurid tales of heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual and whatever your might call it behavior, and you don’t even need to couch your back alley encounter in terms of “love,” as the homosexual lobby and broader sexual freedom movement routinely does, but we can’t help noticing that the tellers of these tales never sound genuinely satisfied, and that the fulfillment of their overwhelming sexual desires has come at the expense of some noticeable measure of dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. This surely marks us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose we’ll just have to declare that an oppressed identity and start a web site and hire some lobbyists and find a community of like-minded individuals to encourage such anti-social tendencies.
We have no hope or even any desire of reviving the Comstock Laws or restoring the patriarchy or rolling back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought us such happy times, nor do we believe that any other straight white male Christian Republican conservatives entertain such fanciful fantasies, but of course those allegations will continue. During the last presidential election the former Clinton family operative and putative American Broadcasting Company “journalist” George Stephanopoulos quizzed all the Republican presidential contenders about their stand on banning contraception, and despite all of those candidates’ obviously sincere confusion about what the hell he was talking about we were overhearing coffeehouse conversation about the Republicans’ attempts to revive the Comstock Laws and how it was far more important than the national debt or the deteriorating situation in the Middle East or the economy of any of that that asexual stuff. As a matter of fact, which is still out there for those who take in an interest in such outdated concepts as facts, the congressional Republicans are currently pressing for over-the-counter contraception deregulations that the Democrats and their doctor-lobby pals oppose, but in the end this will matter even less than the fact that former Bruce Jenner will still won’t be a woman even after his normal male organs have been lopped off.
We’ve also given up any hope of restoring the patriarchy, and won’t lament the worst of it, and we continue to wish our best to all those women who find fulfillment in the workplace and other non-traditional niches of our society but can’t help noticing that its passing is not without some unfortunate consequences. The patriarchy has already been quite thoroughly smashed in such places as those burned-out neighborhoods in Baltimore and the other murder-ridden jurisdictions where fathers are rare and even  the police are in retreat, and the social consequences don’t seem nearly so idyllic as what was promised, and we’re skeptical that whatever comes in its wake in the rest of the country will be any more successful. This will also mark us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose that we’ll just have to start a web site and hire a lobbyist and seek the company of like minded-indivuals as well as stocking up on whatever guns and ammunition are still legally available to deal with that.
Our personal inclination, after so many years of being young and libidinous and our many dear friendships with heterosexuals and homosexuals and bisexuals and whatever you’re supposed to call them, is to live and let live. That’s why we’re still affiliated with a Republican party that isn’t really calling for a revival of the Comstock Laws or fighting for the maintenance of an imperfect patriarchy or hoping to roll back the sexual revolution to the point that the married sit-com characters are still sleeping in separate beds, as Rob and Laura Petrie did on the “Dick Van Dyke Show” of our innocent youth, but we would appreciate a more agedly asexual and dignified and dispassionate and commonly courteous assessment of the rest of it.
The left’s reaction to oppressing gender discrimination of the Islamic world has been heartening to us, and we believe its revulsion of that culture’s murderous homophobia is entirely justified, but for the sake of solidarity we’d like to see it must some outrage about Islamism’s executions of Christians and Jews and the rest of the privileged people they’ve lately been executing. It would also  be nice if the oh-so-sensitive sensibiliies of the left would consider one parent homes affected those inner-city neighborhoods they claim to care about . We further suspect that the left’s indifference to the matter of national debt also derives fro the fact that it will eventually be dealt with by the children they never had, thanks to Roe v. Wade and all those contraceptive mandates and the rest of the popular culture and official mandates, and that all of these issues are being considered from the perspective of a society that by virtue of modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue are considering these issues from the perspective of perpetually teenaged libidos, and at the risk of sounding blue-nosed and puritan we’d like to see an end to that. It would be nice, too, if the left’s preference for unfettered freedom were extended beyond the bedroom and into the workplace and the rest of those boring areas of life. We’d also prefer that the facts of biology and economics and basic human nature prevail, and a world where women don’t freely admit to voting with their private parts rather than their brains, but that’s about as likely as a revival of the Comstock Law.

— Bud Norman

Those Crazy Christians

Christians still comprise a significant percentage of the American population, at least according to the polls we see from time to time, but so many people seem to have no familiarity with them. We notice this from time to time in our social encounters with people who assume we share their agnostic or atheistic or otherwise enlightened notions of the universe and proceed to speak of Christians as some sort of remote and primitive tribe, and in widely disseminated news outlets that attribute that all sorts of strange opinions to Christians that we’ve never heard one utter, and in even a symposium at last week’s Catholic-Evagenlical Leadership Summit at Georgetown University featuring a best-selling author and the President of the United States.
Harvard professor Robert Putnam, best known for the book “Bowling Alone,” got the ball rolling with an interview with The Washington Post, in which he said “The obvious fact is that over the last 30 years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for. That is the most obvious point in the world. It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.” When Putnam repeated the claim at the Georgetown, President Barack Obama chimed in that “Despite great caring and concern, when it comes to what you’re really going to the mat for, the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, what have you, that (fighting poverty) is oftentimes viewed as ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”
This might seem “the most obvious point in the world” to a Harvard professor or a President of the United States, but it will surely come as a surprise to anyone who actually lives among the Christians of America. Even the editors at The Washington Post know a couple of Christians from the Religion News Service who had the numbers at hand to refute such nonsense. They note that in 2009 America’s churches donated more than $13 billion to overseas relief and development, which is more than the secular charities could muster, and even looks pretty good compared to the $29 billion the federal government spent, largely with the taxes paid by Christians. In 2012 the evangelical group World Vision spent about $2.8 billion caring for the poor, which would put them 12th among the world’s nations. The Catholics, whom we also consider Christians, our president’s clumsy locutions notwithstanding, spend about $97 billion on health care networks, many billions more on colleges and schools, and another $4.6 billion to various national charities.
Even the most diligent research will fail to account for all good works done to alleviate domestic by done by America’s churches. Our own small congregation at the rough edges of a working class neighborhood chips in for a local orphanage and offers whatever help it can to anyone who walks in, our parents’ congregation in the Philadelphia suburbs runs a food distribution center with its time and money, and every Christian we share church chat with tells of a similar endeavor. Diligent research shouldn’t even be required to notice this phenomenon, as a daily drive through almost any city or town in America will take one past the various shelters and soup kitchens and hospitals and assorted charities created and run and supported by Christians, and in to contact with someone who has benefited from these efforts, and perhaps even one of those Christians who made who put a buck in the collection plate and did some volunteer work to make it possible. Those professors and presidents who dare to take the daring anthropological plunge in to the most remote portions of Christian America might even find that the natives aren’t quite so sexually obsessed as they’ve imagined.
At our small congregation on the rough edges of a working-class neighborhood that stuff rarely comes up, and in a lifetime of worshipping with this very conservative church we can’t recall many times when it ever did. We listen to the talk radio and read the web sites and newspapers and magazines that conservative Christians follow, and notice that the social issues aren’t such a hot topic there as they seem to be in the more ostentatiously secular media. The combined budgets of the best-funded organizations devoted to the social issues are supposedly American Christianity’s main concern spend in the mere millions, and are vastly outspent by Planned Parenthood alone, and of course the occasional protests heard on those conservative Christian media are vastly out-shouted by the more ostentatiously secular media. To complain that American Christianity is obsessed with the social issues to the extent that it ignores other pressing problems is not only divorced from reality, it seems rather unsporting.
Nor do we concede that those social issues are unrelated to those other pressing problems, or that American Christianity’s last resistance is unjustified. Issues of sexual morality have much to poverty and the general social well-being. A society of people raised by baby mamas and baby daddies will be poorer and more generally unpleasant than one raised by husbands and wives, no amount of federal spending will change that time-honored fact, those crazy Christians out there in the hinterlands and the socio-economic elites of our time seem to be the only ones who understand this, and those crazy Christians out there in the hinterlands and the only ones who will come right out and say it, so we hope they don’t go away or agree to shut up.
Much of American Christianity has already agreed to shut up, and its focus on the social issues has been devoted to accommodating the latest trends, and its churches seem to be losing congregants to whatever’s on television at those hours of a Sunday morning. Many continue to insist on traditional notions of sexual morality, even as they divvy up the church funds to the orphanage or the food distribution center or whatever its charity might be, and at this point they’re just hoping that they’ll be able to be live by these beliefs after the latest trends take root. Those churches are struggling, too, but we expect they’ll persist, as they have the past two tough millennia, and we believe the world will be better for it.
Yet apparently it looks different to a Harvard professor and a President of the United States. Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” was about the decline of bowling leagues and increase of individual bowling and the decline of fraternal orders and social organizations generally, and was well reviewed by both liberal commentators who decried the retreat into private live and conservatives who found proof of a government’s encroachment on the free association of individuals into effective groups, and we’d have expected him to notice that the churches are among the last effective non-governmental groups. We’d also have expected more from any President of the United States, especially one who has proclaimed his Christianity almost as much as he has criticized the faith.

— Bud Norman

A Rainbow Jumper in Indiana Hoops

Our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers won’t be playing in the “Final Four” of the college basketball championship tournament this weekend, having lost to a tough Notre Dame squad in the “sweet sixteen,” but at least they won’t be accused of homophobia for playing in Indianapolis. The entire state of Indiana is being boycotted by the more fashionable sorts of people because of its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics allege will unleash a torrent of anti-homosexual hatred in the Hoosier State, and a team that’s already so politically incorrect it plays its home games in Charles Koch Arena and has a fan base comprised largely of blue-collar types who make corporate jets and a mascot that’s hardly gluten-free doesn’t need that kind of trouble.
The impeccably up-to-date cities of Seattle and San Francisco have announced boycotts of Indiana, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed an executive order barring state employees from visiting any state with a similar law, and a “hashtag” campaign is currently recruiting more boycotters. The chief executive officer of the Apple computer company has written an op-ed for the Washington Post denouncing Indiana, and of course all the celebrities are “tweeting” about it. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association that is hosting the tournament in Indianapolis has issued a statement affirming that it is “deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our athletes” and “will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.”
Our guess is that any homosexual hoops fans who are well-heeled and lucky enough to have scored “Final Four” tickets will find Indianapolis a most hospitable host, despite the recent restoration of religious freedom there, and that any homosexual “student-athlete” competing in the tournament should hire a good agent to look over all the book and movie deals that will surely be coming his way. The federal government has had a Religious Freedom Restoration Act since the Clinton days, 19 other states have followed suit, each have simply reaffirmed legal principles that have prevailed for decades, and until recently the idea wasn’t at all controversial, yet the social trend has been toward ever greater tolerance for homosexuality. The trend has proved so inexorable that by now the cultural left no longer demands mere tolerance but is intolerant of any dissent on questions of sexual morality and intends to impose its own views through force of law.
Restoring religious freedom was all well and good when it meant that Native Americans could use peyote or the Amish could ride buggies or Muslims could wear beards, or some similarly sympathetic group demanded some similarly unusual right, but the idea that a plain old Christian businessman might be able to decline baking cakes or creating floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony, as Indiana’s new law allows, is just too weird for fashionable opinion to put up with. Seattle and San Francisco might be among the most racially segregated and economically stratified cities in the country, but at least they’re willing to force a Baptist baker to violate his conscience. Connecticut has its own religious freedom laws, which makes its governor looks rather ridiculous, but at least the University of Connecticut’s defending national champions didn’t qualify for the NCAA’s tournament and he’s not forced to bar its  state-paid coach from going to to the “Final Four.” The Apple company’s corporate conscience might allow it it do business with Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are routinely punished with lashes and execution, or China, where all manner of human rights violations occur, but at least it has bad things to say about Indiana. The cultural left will soon move on to another “hashtag” campaign urging closer ties to Cuba, where homosexuals are routinely harassed, and continue its apologetics for the brutally harsh treatment of homosexuals almost everywhere in the Muslim world, but it won’t put up with any white bread businessman’s qualms about same-sex marriage in Indiana.
Next season we expect the ‘Shockers will play their obligatory Missouri Valley Conference games in Evansville and Terre Haute, and we won’t be the least embarrassed to have them playing in the state that not only produced Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael but also Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. We root for the ‘Shockers because they’re the plucky underdogs going up against the rich and powerful, and if there’s a baker or florist in Indiana that would rather not work on a same-sex marriage ceremony regardless of what the Apple corporation or those “tweeting” celebrities think we’ll be rooting for him for the same reason. The same-sex couple that wanted to buy a cake or some flowers used to be the plucky underdogs, but we seem to have moved beyond that.

— Bud Norman

Illiberalism and Free Speech

The deadly Ebola virus has flown from west Africa to the United States, the head-chopping terrorists of the Islamic State are within striking distance of Baghdad, and the stock markets are retreating in the face of dire economic news, and there are more scandals and screw-ups and sob stories afoot than can possibly be fit into a lead paragraph, but at least we’re free to gripe about it. Even that small compensation is increasingly endangered, though, and that might be the worst of it.
The latest outrage against free speech comes from the formerly sane community of Houston, where the municipal government is threatening a contempt of court charge against a group of Christian pastors if they don’t turn over copies or recordings of any sermons mentioning homosexuality, “gender identity,” or the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. Throughout the past governments within the United States of America have not concerned themselves with the content of sermons in the nation’s churches, a blessing conferred by the First Amendment to the Constitution and the sanity that once prevailed in our communities, but of course homosexuality and “gender identity” and openly lesbian mayors are now more important than such timeworn traditions. The subpoenaed pastors had been part of a coalition that included 400 Houston churches opposed to a city ordinance that would end sex segregation in public restrooms, among other things, so there was a special urgency to scrutinize their opinions.
Such fashionable causes seem especially censorious, and have frequently proved intolerant of any chicken sandwich shops or computer geniuses or t-shirt printers who won’t conform to the expected enthusiasm for homosexuality or trans-gendered identities or whatever they’re peddling on the premium cable channels, but the modern left’s intolerance of dissent is spreading into other issues. The Internal Revenue Service’s unequal treatment of conservative groups, that proposal to amend the First Amendment to allow for regulation of political speech, all those stories out of academia about speech codes and bans on conservative speakers, the pesky litigiousness of climate scientists, the denunciations of pro-capitalist private citizens from a Senate floor that is exempted from any libel suits, and a seemingly endless stream of similar stories all testify to the left’s ardent desire that any dissenters be made to shut up.
There’s not much chance of us right-wing bastards complying, however, and it should make for an interesting battle. The left has been getting the best of it lately, but Houston seems the wrong place to pick a fight and unisex restrooms a most unpromising issue. Our experience of Houston suggests that most of its women will not be pleased to share restrooms with the sort of creepy men who will insist on invading their formerly segregated space, the men will be just as put off by the far more infrequent women who prefer their facilities, and that even the most heathen among the will sympathetic to the pastors who raised objections. Our experience of the city further leads us to believe the Democratic coalition that elected the city’s first openly lesbian mayor is largely comprised of black and Hispanic voters who aren’t entirely comfortable with the latest addition to their identity group coalition, and there is likely to some backlash even if some court doesn’t rediscover the First Amendment. It’s easy enough to suppress the free speech of an unpopular minority, but a multi-racial majority that includes a whole lot of women is going to problematic for the left. Targeting Christian churches who hew to a traditional disapproving but tolerant view of homosexuality for scrutiny while forbidding investigation of mosques that advocate an even harsher attitude will also be a hard sell, but until the heads start getting chopped off in Houston we expect liberal sensibilities will continue to insist on such inconsistent notions of tolerance.

— Bud Norman