Betraying Politics: The Mystique of Public Life

This is a fun week—for the second time in as many days, we’re debuting a new writer here at Mere O. It’s a delight to be able to publish this guest piece from John Shelton.

“Everything begins as a mystique and ends as a politique,” observes French essayist Charles Péguy. In other words, that which begins as a pure idea—mystic, even transcendent—devolves into profane politics, the slow grind of policy divorced from any sort of sanguine idealism. The politique politician is an automaton, swayed by the slightest breeze of public opinion and party leadership. Such a man considers himself to be “eminently practical.” If he is always choosing an evil, at least it is the lesser of two. He takes what he can get; he desires the possible and worries not over the good, the beautiful, the true. He scoffs at Plato, even Aristotle. His man is Hobbes—Machiavelli, if he is forthright. He esteems them not for their realism but their cynicism. Such humdrum pessimism is fit cover for this man without a chest. Continue reading

The Five Stages of Evangelical Grief

I’m pleased to publish this guest post from new Mere O contributor Brian Mesimer.

I was recently at a church conference where one of the plenary addresses focused on the role of the Christian in the public square. The speaker, a Christian philosophy professor, said all the right things a Christian professor should say in that kind of lecture. And yet nothing he said made me feel remotely comfortable about the place of evangelicals in the public sphere. I suppose that part of that feeling came from my concern about the coming collapse of evangelical politics after Trump’s inevitable loss. My therapist’s imagination, however, wouldn’t let me stop there. I couldn’t help but think that our strategic planning for 2020 or our concern over whether or not the Benedict Option is viable is a bit premature. Continue reading

7 Theses on Evangelicalism After Donald Trump and 2016

In the aftermath of the many scandals of the past week and a half, which began with the Trump tapes, and the consequent loss of endorsements for Trump (and the increasingly appalling support for the man), now is a good time to take stock of where evangelicalism is as a social movement in America and what our post-Trump future will be.

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Choose: A Republic or “A Basket of Deplorables”

One of the smarter critiques of today’s American liberalism is that it’s actually mainline Protestantism shorn of its explicitly Christian content. Former First Things editor Jody Bottum makes this critique in his book An Anxious Age but others have made similar arguments elsewhere.

Typically the point of making this observation is to highlight points of overlap between mainline Protestantism and today’s liberalism. But in light of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment from late last week, it seems worthwhile to note where precisely today’s liberalism is deeply at odds with Christianity and how this discontinuity with liberal Christianity figures to be far more important than liberalism’s many continuities with that dying branch of American Christianity. Continue reading

The Problem of Pronouns and Pluralism

From the land of “the culture war is interested in you,” here’s this new report from Eugene Volokh at the Washington Post:

From the official Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination’s Gender Identity Guidance, just released last week:

Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts. And even church “secular events,” which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.

You should read the whole thing for context, but the upshot is that there are serious conversations happening right now in the state of Massachusetts that could lead to legal action against churches that do not use a person’s preferred pronouns. Legal action may even be taken against churches whose congregants engage in such behavior, depending on how laws are written and courts rule. Continue reading

The Treachery of Narratives

Yesterday, Vanity Fair published a damning investigative article on Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the biotech start-up Theranos. Over the past few years, Holmes has never been far from the spotlight. She delivered a popular TED talk, won countless awards and placements on prestigious lists in publications such as TIME, Forbes, and Glamour for her supposed inspirational achievements, and was celebrated by many as an example of a woman achieving in the male world of big business. Last year, Forbes listed her as one of ‘America’s Richest Self-Made Women’, with an eye-watering fortune of $4.5 billion. Today her net worth is estimated to be nothing. 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

Global Economies, Immigration, and Precarious Places

I’m pleased to publish this essay by Matthew Petersen.

In response to somewhat shrill claims by some Christian intellectuals that Christians ought to support mass migration, and oppose Brexit, Stephen Wolfe recently published an article at Mere Orthodoxy arguing that Christians can (and perhaps should) oppose immigration. Stephen draws from an impressive array of natural law sources to argue that the differentiation between foreigner and citizen is good, and a natural part of human life. This differentiation is integral in protecting the particularities in and through which communities are formed and given their deep particular character.

This position regarding the deep particularity of places is also argued, persuasively, in a piece by Alastair Roberts published by Mere Orthodoxy on Brexit, and the necessity of making peace between the cosmopolitans who tended to oppose Brexit and the locals who favored it. Alastair lays out the competing anthropologies on which hopes for mass immigration, and opposition to it, are based. According to a liberal anthropology, we are all interchangeable individuals, whose connection to our land, our parents, and our people, is merely accidental; on the other hand, according to a more Biblical anthropology, our person is always deeply embedded in the particularities of a people and a land. Continue reading