Dr. Moore and the Politics of Dinner Parties

I’m pleased to publish this essay by Susannah Black reviewing Dr. Russell Moore’s recent Erasmus Lecture given last weekend in New York City.

On Monday night I got on the E train in Forest Hills and headed to the Union League Club on East 37th Street to hear Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, announce the end of the Religious Right as a political force in America.

So that was interesting.

This was, of course, the Erasmus Lecture: First Things’ signature annual lecture; a sort of State of the Nation or Setting of the Agenda for politics and religion in America, straight to your computer’s livestream from Murray Hill in Manhattan. It’s been going on for 29 years now, and past speakers have included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Timothy Dolan; past subjects have included Islam and Christianity; the crisis of conservative Catholicism in the age of Francis; the development of Catholic moral teaching; genealogies of modernity… the gamut of the topics of conversation that those who can’t help but talk about politics and religion at the dinner table have been talking about for the past quarter century plus. Continue reading

On David Gushee’s Dishonesty

Earlier this week David Gushee continued his sad decline with a cowardly piece for Religion News Service. It’s all par for the course for progressive evangelicals like Gushee, of course, which is why I’m generally not too bothered by what they say. But even so the dishonesty in this particular piece is jarring and merits further comment.

I could quote multiple lines, but this one will suffice, to begin. In talking about those awful backwards bigots (that he used to hang out with), Gushee writes, “(Religious conservatives) are organizing legal defense efforts under the guise of religious liberty, and interpreting their plight as religious persecution.” Continue reading

Recovering our Confidence: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#4)

Note from Jake: This is the final post in Matt’s social conservatism series published in 2012 which we are re-publishing this week.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3

One of my underlying themes through this week has been the current lack of confidence among mainstream social conservatism.  I’ll grant this is a somewhat surprising subcurrent:  after all, the religious right hasn’t exactly earned its street cred through timidity and reserve.  But I have always been haunted by that old verse, “in quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” as though the most authentic and honest sign of assuredness is the mocking silence in the face of those who oppose us. Continue reading

End the Hostilities Against Elites: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#2)

Note from Jake: We are re-publishing Matt’s old series from the fall of 2012 on social conservatism:

Part 1

Thesis: For social conservatism to thrive, it needs to end its hostility toward elite institutions that are currently opposed to it.

Consider this bit by Rick Santorum from this year’s Values Voter Summit, which both stunned and saddened me: Continue reading

Idylls of the Right

This guest post is by Matthew Mellema.

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfills himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The rise of Donald Trump has me thinking of Tennyson, and specifically of the last scene in “Idylls of the King.” Arthur, mortally wounded in a final battle against his son Mordred, reflects on his failed kingdom to Sir Bedivere, his only surviving knight. It reminds me of the Religious Right after Trump.

I have some expertise on the Religious Right. I worked at an evangelical ministry during the halcyon days of the Bush Administration. Early in college, I was that conservative firebrand who loved picking fights with liberals in econ class, and thought that Reagan’s gospel was a logical extension of Jesus’s.

A lot of that embarrasses me now, and I’ve been distancing myself from it for years. But I still have enough of a connection to feel like Sir Bedivere, alone among the ruins of Camelot. Like Arthur, the Religious Right sowed the seeds of its own destruction. But also like Arthur, there’s something tragic in its passing. Continue reading

Responding to Alan Jacobs on the Benedict Option

Alan Jacobs has some very good questions for critics of the Benedict Option, and at the risk of possibly digging myself into a deeper hole with yet another BenOp post I would like to offer some answers.

My only grounds for doing so are that I have lived in about 2½ different communities that I think could be considered “Benedict Option” (the ½ being my homeschool co-op, which I would say lacked the localism that attends most BenOp discussions).  

Here is Jacobs’ succinct description of why we need the Benedict Option followed by a conclusion, which I find quite helpful:

The dominant media of our technological society are powerful forces for socializing people into modes of thought and action that are often inconsistent with, if not absolutely hostile to, Christian faith and practice.

In America today, churches and other Christian institutions (schools at all levels, parachurch organizations with various missions) are comparatively very weak at socializing people, if for no other reason than that they have access to comparatively little mindspace.

Healthy Christian communities are made up of people who have been thoroughly grounded in, thoroughly socialized into, the the historic practices and beliefs of the Christian church.

From these three premises proponents of the Benedict Option draw a conclusion: If we are to form strong Christians, people with robust commitment to and robust understanding of the Christian life, then we need to shift the balance of ideological power towards Christian formation, and that means investing more of our time and attention than we have been spending on strengthening our Christian institutions.

Continue reading

The Culture War Is Interested in You

NOTE: Because Jake is a nincompoop he accidentally forgot to update the author information on this post before posting. The post is by Samuel James of the ERLC.

Last summer, David Brooks wrote that the social conflicts “oriented around the Sexual revolution” were over. Legal same-sex marriage and the declining influence of traditional Christianity had combined, he wrote, to put the goals of the culture wars of the last few decades out of reach. Conservatives, Brooks argued, now had two options: They could continue to fight a losing battle and eventually be counted among our culture’s worst civic villains—or, they could fight a new war, not zeroed on things like sexuality, marriage, and abortion, but on poverty and the fragmentation of society.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

Brooks acknowledged that conservatives are already involved in the work he suggests, but his prescription was that such work in humanitarian efforts become the primary concern of social conservatives. If Obergefell ended the first culture, conservatives should go fight another one, a war centered not over ideas about human flourishing but over situations where it is threatened.
Continue reading