Has this gotten tedious yet?

So, in what appears to be an ongoing saga, Rod Dreher has added another post to the long back-and-forth between himself, Damon Linker and Andrew Sullivan. It is quite lengthy, and includes extended quotes from other sources. I'm going to go through it with some responses, and then I'm going to call it a day. First of all, none of the principals are even aware that I exist, much less that I have been "contributing" to their conversation. Secondly, I suspect that this is getting a wee bit too close to "boring" territory, and I should find something else to rant about. But, for now, onward!

His lengthier quote is from Jim Kalb, a man whose writing I will not pretend to know. I won't reproduce the whole thing here, but there is something I would like to address. Describing liberals, Kalb says:
Such tendencies make it impossible to deal reasonably on their own terms with issues of identity, such as sex, kinship, ethnicity, and religion. Those distinctions play no role in the liberal understanding of rational social functioning, so they are understood as pure principles of irrational opposition and hatred: absolute, unbridgeable, and impossible to reconcile with a peaceful, just, and efficient social order. The consequence is that they must effectively be abolished--trivialized, conceptually dissolved, canceled through reverse discrimination, or kept from entering into thought at all.
This is manifest hogwash. I have known many, many, many liberals in my life, and happily consider myself one of them. I have yet to meet anyone who seeks to abolish the concepts of sex, kinship, ethnicity or religion from public discourse or understanding. (I know a few very strident atheists who would happily abolish religion from the public sphere, but I would hardly say that Christopher Hitchens could tidily be described as "liberal," and conflating liberalism with atheism is painting with too broad a brush.) Liberals object to social advantage or policy being made on the basis of such things as kinship or religion, since they interfere with the workings of a meriocratic state separate from the church, but this doesn't mean we object to people forming understandings of themselves or their world on the basis of their sex, or their family, or their religion. The premise is false.

Then there is this, from an interview he did about the appeal of liberalism:
I think the ultimate reason people are afraid of conservatism is that they don't want anything to touch them. It's frightening to think that we don't make the world and can't control it, that we have to accept and trust things that lie outside of us that we don't understand completely. After all, the world can seem very threatening, and it's nicer to think that there are experts somewhere who understand things and take care of everything for us.
Um, as opposed to having intercessory priests offer supplication to ineffable gods, perhaps? At least science is objectively verifiable, and theoretically accessible to everyone. Again, this all plays on his premise that liberalism seeks to destroy (as opposed to remove from political power) institutions like the church and family.

There is also this hum-dinger:
On its positive and more practical side, conservatism is an attitude of trust toward basic features of the social world, an attempt to make sense of social life and carry it on by reference to inherited habits and understandings. It's based on a sense that loyalty is a good thing, that what's worked for a long time probably has something to it, even though what that thing is can be difficult to articulate without some thought.
That's all very well if you happen to be loyal to inherited habits and understandings that benefit you. It's another thing entirely if those same habits and understandings keep you in purdah or the closet. I'm sure slavery was a very handy system for the plantation owners, but it didn't work out so very well for the black people, who were understandably interested in some other social order.

And finally, from Dreher himself, this:
The question is: does gay marriage serve to incorporate same-sex couples into the moral order, or does it, in ways that may not be easily apparent, radically undermine the foundation of our moral order? I keep saying that gay marriage is only the logical extension of a change that overtook our society after the Second World War, specifically in the Sixties, led by heterosexuals. The next logical step is legalized polygamy, or a more generalized and bourgeoisified version of whatever you call the anarchy they have in the inner city. But the social radicalizers would never admit this, and may not see it themselves. Then again, if you had said back in the Sixties and Seventies that abandoning traditional standards of marriage and sexual relations would lead to gay marriage, few people would have believed you. Ideas have consequences, as traditionalists know.
Dreher does not answer his own question, because he is wholly uninterested in the answer. (My answer is that of course it does.) He views same-sex couples as immoral by definition, based solely upon the authority of his own belief system (and, I would argue, biases). He laments that the sources of his church's authority do not compel the majority of us to go along with its fiats, apparently uncomfortable with what it means to live in a democracy. He cannot stop himself from seeing gay people as innately "other," and clings desperately to the social structures that comfort him. Which is fine, but hardly the basis of a good argument against social change.

There. I'm done.

Update: More excellent thoughts here and here.


  1. This whole ongoing conversation (which I've been following here and at TNR) has been so disappointing. I was really hoping for what Linker asked for -- an intelligent conservative to sit down and make a case against gay marriage that did not rely on "because it's in the bible".

    of course, I am not surprised there seems to be no such case, but it's disappointing that stuff like this just remains in the realm of the completely irrational. especially since I think there are very very good conservative arguments FOR gay marriage, if only some conservative would wake up and see them.