The Public Square
When the much-celebrated architect Philip Johnson died this year at age ninety-eight the obituaries made little or no mention of his politics. In the days following, some commentators took note of this glaring omission. To be more precise, the omission was glaring only to those who remembered his politics. The worlds pertinent to supporting his celebrity status had long since decided to forget. Johnson was an enthusiastic backer of Hitler. In the 1930s he tried to organize a pro-Hitler fascist party in this country. He published a rave review of Mein Kampf , and he was part of the cheering crowds at the 1938 and 1939 Nuremberg rallies. He followed German troops invading Poland and watched the burning of Warsaw. It was a stirring spectacle, he wrote. Being rich and famous, some might infer, means never having to say you’re sorry. When on rare occasions his sordid past was mentioned, Johnson observed that he was also criticized for some of his artistic flirtations and would say with an impish smile that he had always been a whore. I am told his admirers found this charming. He was a whore, but he was their whore.
Others have been treated very differently. In 1986, Kurt Waldheim, former UN general secretary, was treated as a nonperson when it was discovered he had served in the Nazi SS. Charles Lindbergh, at one time perhaps the most admired man in America, was destroyed by his America First effort to keep the country out of World War II. After the war, Martin Heidegger was permanently denied an academic post for his collaboration with the Nazis. Ezra Pound was locked up for years in St. Elizabeths mental hospital in Washington for his wartime broadcasts on behalf of Mussolini. And of course the witless young Prince Harry was excoriated in headlines around the world a while back when he thought it clever to show up at a party dressed as a soldier of the Afrika Korps, complete with swastika. There is also the case of Herbert von Karajan who never apologized for his Nazi past yet continued, until his death in 1989, to be the honored conductor of orchestras in all the great halls of the world. And Leni Riefenstahl, the gifted filmmaker and Hitler propagandist, was honored at the 2004 Academy Awards for her lifetime achievements.
How does one explain the dramatically different treatment of people guilty of similar offenses? Columnist Ann Applebaum, who is also author of a remarkable book on Soviet oppression, Gulag (see FT, November 2003), writes: In the end, I suspect the explanation is simple: People whose gifts lie in esoteric fields get a pass that others don’t. Or, to put it differently, if you use crude language and wear a swastika, you’re a pariah. But if you make up a complex, witty persona, use irony and jokes to brush off hard questions, and construct an elaborate philosophy to obfuscate your past, then you’re an elder statesman, a trendsetter, a provocateur and”most tantalizingly”an enigma. That is no doubt a large part of it, although Pound was punished, as was Heidegger, albeit more mildly, and their gifts were undoubtedly in esoteric fields. But their punishment was in the immediate aftermath of the last good war, when the line between good and evil seemed less ambiguous.
The erratic course of forgetting and remembering, of absolving and punishing, can also be explained by reference to another tyranny and those who supported it. In our culture-commanding institutions today, including the leadership of the once influential old-line churches, there are thousands upon thousands who enthusiastically backed Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and others whose victims number in the many millions. After the fall of Saigon in April, 1975, hundreds of thousands of boat people fled to their death at sea, while hundreds of thousands of others were driven into reeducation camps, in many cases never to be heard from again. I had been a leader in the peace movement”the quotes are now necessary and maybe were then”and helped organize a protest against the brutality of the Hanoi regime. We asked 104 movement leaders to sign the protest and the split was almost exactly even. Those refusing to sign subscribed to the doctrine of no criticism to the left. No matter what they did, leftist regimes represented the historical dynamic of progress; they were the wave of the future and therefore above any criticism that might slow their course. It was a pity about the victims, but most of them probably deserved it, and, anyway, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
There are things not to be forgotten. At the height of Mao’s cultural revolution in which as many as thirty million died, the National Council of Churches published a booklet hailing China as an admirably Christian society. In 1981, 60 Minutes did an hour-long program on the National Council of Churches’ support for Marxist causes, and I spoke with Morley Safer about religious leaders who had become apologists for oppression. That was the end of some important friendships, or at least I thought they were friends. I was then a much younger man, learning slowly and painfully what many had learned before. Allegiance to the left, however variously defined, was a religion, and dissent was punished by excommunication. There was for a long time no romance so blinding as that with the Soviet Union. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote witheringly about Lenin’s useful idiots”Western progressives on pilgrimage to the Soviet Union, from which they returned with glowing accounts of the future that works. There was also Whittaker Chambers’ Witness , Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror , Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago ”all of them dismissed as right-wing propaganda. To be sure, there were those who had a change of mind, and even instances of something like public penance. In a famously lucid moment, the late Susan Sontag shocked a Town Hall audience by saying that the readers of Reader’s Digest had a better understanding of Communism than did readers of the New York Review of Books . Much earlier, William F. Buckley had launched National Review with the help of apostates from the god that failed. Yet up to the present the hard left, not so reduced in numbers and influence as some claim, is enraptured; not usually by Communism but by a Marxian analysis of oppression and imperialism joined to a more or less consistent anti-Americanism.
Yes, Philip Johnson should have apologized for his repugnant politics, and because he didn’t he should have paid the price of being denied the fame and wealth so uncritically bestowed. But it is almost too easy to excoriate, hunt down, and punish the remaining collaborators with Hitler. That was a long time ago, and they are very old now. Not so with the unrepentant apologists for oppression from the Old Left, the New Left, the Maoists, the cheerleaders for the Sandinistas, and those who make slight effort to disguise their hope for America’s defeat in the war on terror. In many instances they hold positions of influence on the commanding heights of culture. There may not be much that can be done about our circumstance. Nobody should want to revisit the experience of the House committee on un-American activities. And it is impossible to imagine something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up after the end of apartheid, since with the great divide in our society and its politics there is no end in sight. We have to try to get along with one another as best we can, keeping our disagreements within the bounds of civility. But, as was not done in the case of Philip Johnson, we should remember.
Dirty Jokes and Freedom in America
Two years ago Frank Rich was moved from his op-ed column to a space in the Sunday Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times , and that was generally taken to be a demotion. Insiders said his one-note snarl and sneer was just too much on a page that also features Maureen Dowd, the mistress of the manner. But in March it was announced that Rich is back on the Sunday op-ed pages (there are now two of them). I admit to checking out Frank Rich’s columns from time to time, just to see what has sparked the latest snit. His reactions are old reliables most reliably outraged by the nefarious doings of the oppressive prudery of the mindlessly homophobic religious right.
Today’s column by Mr. Rich is entitled The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told, and it rails against the censors of the right who are enlisting the government to restrain pornography and related smut on television. He is further appalled by the decision of PBS to delete profanity from a documentary on American soldiers in Iraq. The First Amendment is on the ropes as the religious ayatollahs have taken control of the Bush administration’s assault on the artistic expression of real life. This is very serious. The freedom Mr. Rich is defending is represented by the aforementioned great dirty joke he heard at a Friars Club roast. A family comes to a talent agent who asks them what kind of act they do. Mr. Rich writes, What followed was a marathon description of a vaudeville routine featuring incest, bestiality, and almost every conceivable body function. The agent asks the couple the name of their unusual act, and their answer is the punch line: The Aristocrats.’
The joke as it was actually told, Mr. Rich assures us, is hilarious, and he complains about the current Comstockery that forced its omission from the television broadcast of the Friars roast. But why doesn’t Mr. Rich give us the marathon description that made the joke so funny? The obvious answer is that the Times would not publish it, and the Times pays Mr. Rich’s large salary. Mr. Rich does not complain about being censored. Presumably the Times does not publish what he thinks should be broadcast to the general public because it would offend its readers and hurt advertising sales, which is the business the Times is in. Unless, of course, the Times has been taken over by the religious right, which seems improbable. Neither, for that matter, did the Times , in its story on the PBS documentary, tell us what had been cut. Mr. Rich and other free-speech zealots do not complain about being censored or having to practice self-censorship by resorting to euphemism and evasion in their own writing. That is required by the discreet respectability of the Times and is in no way to be compared with the oppressive decency that concerns those religious fanatics.
The readers of the Times are properly protected from the smut that, in the name of the First Amendment, should be thrown in the face of the booboisie that is the general public. I do not say that Mr. Rich is a hypocrite. Hypocrisy, properly speaking, requires a certain clarity of thought in feigning to be or to believe what one is not or does not believe. I have no doubt that Mr. Rich is sincere, which requires no clarity of thought whatever. He has a job to protect and he plays by the rules. Perhaps he dreams that one day, just maybe, he will manage to smuggle the f-word into a column. In the journalism of arrested adolescence, that would be to die and go to heaven. Absent that great achievement, Frank Rich will play by the rules, among the chief of which is to pander to the felt sense of moral superiority among readers who share his contempt for the insufferable decency of fellow-citizens who consent to the oppression of being denied the dirty jokes that Mr. Rich will not tell. Those to whom he panders are similarly denied, of course, but that is a small price to pay for reading a really respectable newspaper. Such respectability, once again, is in no way to be confused with the right-wing decency-mongering that has all but destroyed freedom in America. This is very serious.
Where Have All the Children Gone?
We have referred frequently to the dramatic decline in population around the world. The following excerpt from Life Insight provides an informative overview of what is happening:
Recently the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) hosted the Countdown 2015 Global Roundtable in London. Its goal was to assess progress in curbing world population growth through universal access to reproductive health care since the 1994 UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
Although the Cairo Conference explicitly rejected abortion as a method of family planning, groups like IPPF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have never retreated from their aggressive advocacy of a universal right to abortion on demand. And the Conference’s final Programme of Action was bad enough: promoting universal access to artificial birth control and condoning what has been interpreted as a right to sexual activity for children aged ten and above. By 2005, wealthy countries were supposed to pony up $6.2 billion annually to achieve these and other Conference goals. They are only halfway toward that goal.
According to some published reports, the London meeting turned into a major gripefest about current U.S. Administration policies: 1) against worldwide abortion on demand; 2) favoring abstinence before, and monogamy in, marriage over condom use to combat AIDS; and 3) refusal to fund UNFPA as long as the organization continues to support China’s coercive population program.
Tim Wirth, who led the U.S. delegation in Cairo that pushed without let-up to expand abortion rights and now heads the pro-abortion U.N. Foundation, complained that the current administration has placed ideology above evidence and bias above science.
If any side has been blinded by ideological bias, it is surely the folks at Countdown 2015. It’s not a secret that fertility rates worldwide have plummeted in the past thirty years. The UN Population Division, numerous respected demographers, economists and social scientists have described this phenomenon in official publications, books, scholarly articles, and the popular press.
Today the only sources which still warn of an impending population explosion are outdated American textbooks and diatribes from population control extremists and abortion ideologues.
Consider the demographic evidence : Global fertility rates are 50 percent lower than in 1972”2.9 children per woman, down from six children per woman. They continue to fall at an increasing pace. For population to remain stable, the fertility rate must be 2.1 in nations with relatively low infant mortality and proportionately higher than 2.1 where greater numbers of children die in childhood from communicable diseases or malnutrition.
Philip Longman, author of the new book The Empty Cradle , writes in Foreign Affairs (May/June 2004): All told, some fifty-nine countries, comprising roughly 44 percent of the world’s total population, are currently not producing enough children to avoid population decline, and the phenomenon continues to spread. By 2045, according to the latest UN projections, the world’s fertility rate as a whole will have fallen below replacement levels. In Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future , sociologist Ben Wattenberg states: Never in the last 650 years, since the time of the Black Plague, have birth and fertility rates fallen so far, so fast, so low, for so long, in so many places.
The average fertility rate in Western Europe is a dismal 1.4 children per woman, ranging from 1.8 in Ireland and France to 1.2 in Italy and Spain. This is what a 1.4 fertility rate means for Germany: Germany could shed nearly a fifth of its 82.5 million people over the next forty years”roughly the equivalent of all of east Germany, a loss of population not seen in Europe since the Thirty Years’ War which ended in 1748. Western Europe is losing approximately 750,000 people a year.
Economist Robert Wright of Stirling University (Scotland) warns of a demographic time bomb because of a precipitous fall in the fertility rate in Scotland, now below 1.5 children per woman. The current population of over five million is expected to decrease by more then 20 percent by 2041. A recent survey showed that over 40 percent of highly educated Scotswomen aged forty-five to forty-nine were childless.
President Vladimir Putin calls Russia’s population loss of 750,00 people a year a national crisis. The yearly loss could increase to three million or more by 2050. And it is estimated that Bulgaria will shrink by 38 percent, Romania by 27 percent, Estonia by 25 percent.
Japan’s fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman will soon put the population into absolute decline. According to U.N. estimates, over the next four decades, Japan will lose a quarter of its 127 million people.
China’s fertility rate has dropped from 5.8 children per woman to 1.3 (Chinese census data). One scholar writes, By 2019 or soon after, China’s population will peak at 1.5 billion then enter a steep decline. By mid-century, China could well lose 20 to 30 percent of its population every generation.
Despite government incentives to produce more children, the industrialized nations of Asia such as South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are now at sub-replacement fertility levels.
In Canada’s Institute for Research and Public Policy’s Policy Options magazine (August 2004), the Canadian government is urged to import more young people to counter declining fertility rates.
Mexican fertility rates have dropped so dramatically, the country is now aging five times faster than is the United States. It took fifty years for the American median age to rise just five years, from thirty to thirty-rive. By contrast, between 2000 and 2050, Mexico’s median age, according to UN projections, will increase by twenty years, leaving half the population over forty-two (Philip Longman, The Global Baby Bust, Foreign Affairs , May/June 2004).
Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba and many Caribbean nations are also experiencing sharp declines in birth and fertility rates.
The U.S. fertility rate dropped to a low of 1.7 children per woman in 1975, but rose to 1.99 where it currently is, largely as a result of the slightly higher birthrates among Latino immigrants. However, the population in the U.S. sixty-five years and older is expected to double by 2035.
Why are birthrates plummeting?
To start with, forty-six million abortions occur annually, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. More or less effective artificial contraception and widespread sterilization have greatly reduced birthrates, especially in those developing countries where coercion is used to reach population targets. UN data report that 62 percent of women of reproductive age who are married or in union are using some form of artificial birth control.
But economic and lifestyle factors also can affect a family’s decision to have fewer children, for example:
Migration of families from farming areas”where children’s labor benefits the family”to urban centers where there’s no immediate economic incentive for having children.
Women’s access to paying jobs in urban areas, and the reality that many have to work to help support the family.
The continually rising cost of raising children: in the U.S., over $20
0,000 to age eighteen, excluding college, according to the Department of Agriculture.
High taxation, reducing the family’s disposable income.
Young people spending more years in higher education to meet the demands of a more highly skilled workforce, which delays the average age of marriage and increases their education debt.
The later average age of marriage, resulting in lower fertility among women and a shortened period of child-bearing in marriage.
Sexually transmitted diseases which can impair fertility are at epidemic levels due to multiple partners.
Materialism and consumerism, fueled by advertising and television.
Radical feminist ideology that measures women’s worth solely by the acquisition of money and power, and denigrates their contributions to family life.
As demographers examine declining birthrates worldwide, economists are beginning to raise the alarm about what this portends for the future economic health of nations when there will be far fewer workers contributing to the programs which support a growing population of the elderly.
Obviously, the benefits of raising children transcend economics. Children are a source of joy, love and hope.
They transform and sanctify their parents. Our society and our world need to recover an appreciation for the gift of children, whose presence is needed now more than ever.
While We’re At It
I have done dozens of radio and television interviews and have written or helped write obituaries for several national publications, all in anticipation of the death of John Paul II. These are, as one producer remarked, in the can for the final event. Every time the Pope goes to the hospital, the media deathwatch, as one network inelegantly termed it, starts up all over again. It was not always this way. As recently as 1967, Paul VI had prostrate surgery in a makeshift operating room set up in the papal apartment, and the world was not told. It was long the custom that no medical reports were issued on a pope, leading to the wry observation that a pope is never officially sick until he is dead. Also in the modern era, it is reliably reported that popes have been incapacitated for months or even years. So who is running the Church? it is asked. Well, nobody really runs the Church in the sense that a CEO, for instance, is supposed to run a corporation. Traditionally, a pope presides more than he directs. He is not the CEO but the father of the family. The Catholic Church, with 1.1 billion members, is the most decentralized of the world’s large institutions. The number of people working in the Vatican is comparable to running the U.S. government with 500 employees. Much has changed, however, with John Paul II. His has been an unprecedentedly public pontificate. Over the years, he has made public appearances several times a week and often daily. When he is sick, he goes to the hospital and detailed medical reports are issued. The very public and active days of this pontificate are winding down. The Holy Father has made it clear that the father of a family does not resign. Curiosity about what happens if he is completely and permanently incapacitated tends toward the macabre. I do not know for sure but expect that arrangements are in place for that possibility. History suggests that the Church can get by for a time without a pope actively in charge. Father Raymond de Souza puts the matter nicely in a column in the National Post : Pope John Paul is aging, deteriorating, and moving closer to his death. He and the Church are entering a period of reflection, contemplation, and prayer. Reflection, contemplation, and prayer are not something to pass the time until the Church can get back to work”they are the work of the Church.
At the meeting point between science and moral judgment on matters environmental, Professor Thomas Sieger Derr of Smith College is second to none. He has been studying and writing on these issues for decades, and his work came to mind while reading a big story by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times , Evangelical Leaders Swing Influence Behind Effort to Combat Global Warming. In our November 2004 issue, Derr concluded his analytical survey of research on global warming and the fears it has aroused with this: It is clear, then, given the deep roots of the scare, that it is likely to be pretty durable. It has the added advantage of not being readily falsifiable in our lifetimes; only future humans, who will have the perspective of centuries, will know for certain whether the current warming trend is abnormal. In the meantime, the sanest course for us would be to gain what limited perspective we can (remembering the global cooling alarm of a generation ago) and to proceed cautiously. We are going through a scare with many causes, and we need to step back from it, take a long second look at the scientific evidence, and not do anything rash. Though the alarmists claim otherwise, the science concerning global warming is certainly not settled. It is probable that the case for anthropogenic warming will not hold up, and that the earth is behaving as it has for millennia, with natural climate swings that have little to do with human activity. The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has taken a different route in researching the global warming question. Haggard, writes Goodstein, said he had become passionate about global warming because of his experience scuba diving and observing the effects of rising ocean temperatures and pollution on coral reefs. The Caribbean clime is, some contend, conducive to careful moral reasoning on the way to passionate commitments.
The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was led to commitment under the auspices of the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Ball, the founder of the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign who followed the example of Jesus in driving a hybrid vehicle across the country, got Cizik to attend a global warming conference. The New York Times reports: Mr. Cizik said he had a conversion’ on climate change so profound that he likened it to an altar call,’ when nonbelievers accept Jesus as their savior. Mr. Cizik recently bought a Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle. The mainline evangelical magazine, Christianity Today , eager to demonstrate that evangelicals are unpredictable and can embrace liberal causes, has signed on to the global warming cause. The Rev. Ball says his most effective argument in persuading fellow evangelicals is that global warming has a disproportionate effect on poor regions of the world that are most subject to hurricanes, droughts, and floods. One is reminded of the imagined Washington Post headline: New York Destroyed by Nuclear Attack: Women and Minorities Hardest Hit. The Rev. Cizik draws an analogy with abortion: We try to restrict it. So why, if we’re social tinkering to protect the sanctity of human life, ought we not be for a little tinkering to protect the environment? But of course. Although one might observe that proposals such as the Kyoto treaty on climate change, rejected by the United States and unobserved by nations signing it, mandate more than a little tinkering. But the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is forging ahead. President Haggard says, The question is, Will evangelicals make a difference, and the answer is, The Senate thinks so. We do represent thirty million people, and we can mobilize them if we have to. He already has nearly a hundred evangelical leaders who have signed a statement saying that government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. The laconic Ms. Goodstein observes, But it is far from certain that a more focused statement on climate change would elicit a similar response. As the Washington Post did say, evangelicals are, among other things, easily led. Apparently the Revs. Haggard, Cizik, and Ball are counting on it. At the NAE convention in March they got a supporting statement, although some evangelical leaders were less than enthusiastic. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family promptly announced, Our friends at the National Association of Evangelicals, with whom we agree on . . . so many other issues, have now staked out a position in the very controversial area of global warming. This is despite the fact that significant disagreement exists within the scientific community regarding the validity of this theory. Our concern with global warming’s more radical proponents is the way in which they have attempted to manipulate this issue to stifle advances in numerous fields”advances that would benefit the lives of people the world over, including many of its poorest citizens. Any issue that seems to put plants and animals above humans is one that we cannot support. On a related development: The Times notes with satisfaction that the banning of DDT spraying some years ago has succeeded in saving the bald eagle. Regrettably, at the cost of an estimated 100,000 children who have died of malaria.
At age sixty-seven, Hunter S. Thompson, author of the pharmaceutically inspired Fear and Loathing books, was taking a call from his wife whom he asked to come home and help him with the writing of a column. In the middle of the conversation, without saying anything out of the ordinary, he put down the phone and fired a .45-caliber bullet into his mouth. I heard the clicking of the gun, Anita Thompson said. I was waiting for him to get back on the phone. Hunter’s son, daughter-in-law, and six-year-old grandson were a few yards away in adjoining rooms when he killed himself. The Rocky Mountain News reported: Hunter S. Thompson died Sunday as he planned, surrounded by his family, at a high point in his life, and with a single, courageous, and fatal gunshot wound to the head, his son says. The son and daughter-in-law declared they could not be prouder of his suicide. The family gathered around the body sitting in the kitchen chair and toasted his achievement with Chivas Regal, Hunter’s alcoholic favorite. It was very loving, said Anita Thompson. This is a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure. In the days following, numerous writers reminisced about a wild night once spent with Thompson, and generally agreed that his exit was in character. He was really something. Novelist Tom Wolfe declared him the Mark Twain of his century. In the account of the post-suicide kitchen party, the six-year-old grandson is not quoted.
Asked whether apocalyptic scenarios about the mass conversion of Jews does not temper his appreciation of evangelical support for Israel, Irving Kristol responded some years ago, No. It’s their theology but it’s our Israel. This year thousands of enthusiastic evangelicals met in Anaheim, California, for the annual rally of Christian broadcasters and were addressed by Israeli consul Ehud Danoch, who expressed his country’s gratitude for evangelical support, also in keeping up the flow of pilgrims to the Holy Land even during the violent times of the most recent intifada. Asked whether he is not bothered by the convention speeches about the Middle East being bathed in fire as the end time approaches, Mr. Danoch said, The end of time, it’s not something we’re looking at.
Mixed and somewhat confusing is the way to describe the responses to the February meeting of Anglican primates (heads of the thirty-eight provinces) in Newry, Northern Ireland. Some liberals and conservatives (as I suppose we must designate the parties) said they were pleased, while other liberals and conservatives were deeply disappointed. The issues, of course, have to do with the American consecration of an actively gay bishop and the Canadian blessing of same-sex unions. A number of primates had declared that their churches were no longer in full communion with the churches of the United States and Canada. At the Newry meeting it was unanimously agreed to request the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to voluntarily withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council for three years, during which time the offending churches should mend their ways or offer a persuasive theological case for their rejection of the communion’s teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts. At the start of the Newry meeting, it was agreed that the tradition of daily Eucharist would be dropped. Led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a number of primates insisted that unity in doctrine must precede unity in the Eucharist. Anglicans are famous for a mastery of ambiguities that facilitates muddling through, but it would seem that the action at Newry is strikingly straightforward. The American and Canadian churches are disinvited from meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council and the primates are not able to participate in the same Eucharist. It is no longer a question of whether communion among the Anglican churches will be broken. The only fair reading of the Newry meeting is that communion has been broken. To be sure, there is a further three-year period for discussion, negotiation, persuasion, and accommodation. But restoring communion would seem to depend on the North American churches repudiating what they have done or convincing the other churches either to follow suit or to agree that what the North Americans have done is not church-dividing after all. These possibilities appear to be extremely improbable. If it is now formally the case that Episcopalians in the United States, along with their counterparts in Canada, are no more than a minor part of liberal old-line Protestantism, that is a great sadness. They once claimed, and their friends may continue to hope, that they are much more than that.
It is said that a week in politics can be a lifetime, with setbacks or successes working kaleidoscopic changes, and there is no doubt something to that. But as of this writing, the Bush administration appears to be on a foreign policy roll, and the direction of that roll is in continuity with the decisions made and publicly articulated in the months following September 11, 2001. The dramatic success of the Iraqi elections of January 30 is being hailed, also by formerly harsh critics of the administration, as a tipping point, with many comparing the moment to the fall of the Berlin Wall. That purple revolution (referring to the ink-stained fingers of voters) is joined to the orange revolution in Ukraine, and in the minds of many is associated with the red revolution of last November 3 in the U.S. In his low-key but unmistakably triumphant tour of Europe in February, Bush politely received the grudging acknowledgments of critics that maybe the Americans know what they’re doing after all. Add to this the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Lebanon’s cedar revolution against Syrian control, tentative moves toward a measure of freedom by the dictatorship in Egypt, and a revived road map toward peace between Israel and Palestine, and it begins to look something like what a cowboy president calls democracy’s moment. Not to be overlooked are striking changes at the UN. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the UN itself are under siege as outrage builds over the exposure of widespread mismanagement and corruption in the secretariat, the multi-billion-dollar scandal of the Iraqi oil-for-food scheme, and UN troops in Congo engaged in systematic rape and looting. Only a couple of years ago, the UN seemed to be riding high, presenting itself as the source and guardian of moral legitimacy in international affairs. Even the Vatican seemed to be going along with that pretension. Now UN-boosters such as Richard C. Holbrooke, President Clinton’s ambassador to the organization, are much sobered. The UN cannot stand above its member states, he says. That’s not acceptable to the big powers, and not just the U.S. The Chinese and the Russians and countries like India also won’t accept the UN as senior to them. We have not moved beyond the sovereignty of nation states after all. The UN exists and operates at the sufferance of the P5”the five permanent members of the Security Council who have a veto (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States)”and most particularly of the P1, meaning the United States, which pays the biggest part of the bills and provides the muscle behind UN decisions. World-government enthusiasts, a group largely indistinguishable from the declared opponents of the world’s only hyperpower, have not raised the white flag, and probably never will, but their influence has been sharply curtailed. This is notably the case with the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that have tried to use the UN to trump national sovereignty by advancing their social agendas through international law. We are witnessing the shape of a new realism in world affairs. It is not a cynical Realpolitik. Under the leadership of the United States, it is very explicitly moral in purpose, and some complain it is dangerously moralistic. It appears, however, that we are finally being given the answer to the question of what comes after the end of the Cold War. All in all, and as of this writing, it is an answer that is hopeful and increasingly believable.
Now that we’re well into the 2008 presidential election cycle, which began the day after the 2004 election, among the names being bandied about as possible Republican candidates is that of Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. Charles Colson recently commended Romney for taking on Harvard by challenging its plans to, in Colson’s words, create human embryos and then turn these tiny human beings into laboratory rats. Proponents of creating, using, and destroying human embryos routinely speak of their interest in helping people with terrible diseases. To which Romney responds: Respect for human life is a fundamental element of a civilized society. Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experimentation or destruction. My wife has multiple sclerosis, and we would love for there to be a cure for her disease and for the diseases of others. But there is an ethical boundary that should not be crossed. Colson writes: I agree with Romney”and I applaud his courage. At the same time, I’m sorry that he doesn’t entirely support the pro-life agenda. His qualifications stem, I believe, from his Mormon faith. Mormon theology leads Mormons to believe that embryos are not alive until they are implanted on the wall of the uterus”an utterly unscientific view, by the way. Governor Romney’s approach reminds us that, while Mormons share some beliefs with Christians, they are not Christians; they rely not on the authority of the Bible alone but also on Joseph Smith. I respect Mormons, work with them, and consider them co-belligerents in many causes. But we can’t gloss over our fundamental differences. There has been some media interest in whether Romney’s Mormonism would deny him the support of evangelical Protestants. I have indicated that I did not think so, not if he is right on the really big questions. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. I do think we have to be careful, however, in saying that Mormons are not Christians. Some while back I offered an extended discussion in this space under the title Is Mormonism Christian? (FT, March 2000). My answer was qualifiedly in the negative, and that stirred some lively exchanges. It is not possible, I believe, to square some official Mormon teachings with what is called the Great Tradition of Christian orthodoxy. At the same time, Mormons are very eager to be recognized as fellow-Christians by Christians, and some Mormon scholars are working earnestly to demonstrate the compatibility of Mormonism with historic Christianity. Mormonism came late on the scene, and its effort to demonstrate its Christian bona fides is a still more recent development. So are there Mormons who are Christians? I think so. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a Christian communion? I think we must answer no. But that may well change over the next fifty or hundred years, by which time I expect to be permanently excused from addressing the very interesting theological questions involved. As for Mitt Romney and 2008, it is only a little too early to be giving the matter serious attention.
We are among the many who have been watching with great interest Baylor University’s effort to become a top-drawer research university under the all-encompassing lordship of Christ. The vision is called Baylor 2012 and has been pressed these past ten years by Robert B. Sloan, who has now resigned as president and assumed the title of chancellor, an office without policy-making authority. Sloan’s vision was, as they say, controversial from the beginning; most things worth doing are. He says he would not have resigned as president if he were not confident that Baylor 2012 is secure. The school’s governing board insist they stand behind the vision. Some are skeptical, and understandably so. What Sloan proposed is that Baylor could defy the drift into either secularization or academic mediocrity (or both) typical of religiously-affiliated institutions, as documented by scholars such as George Marsden and James Burtchaell. Robert Benne, a Lutheran and close observer of church-related higher education, writes: Protestants have simply not been able to establish the one thing Sloan has been striving to establish: a first-rate research university that preserves its soul . . . . Sloan’s resignation poses a serious question: Do Protestants have enough confidence in the intellectual claims of the Christian faith to make them relevant to the educational life of a great university? The more hopeful believe that Sloan’s fault was to press a course that was too fast and too expensive. Baylor 2012, they say, will now be implemented in a more-deliberate manner that does not risk excessive destabilization of the school. Benne writes, There is no guarantee that this ambitious plan will be completely successful or that it will now be free of controversy, but its likelihood of success is now greater without Sloan than it was with him. Everybody concerned about the future of Christian higher education in this country has reason to hope that Benne is right.
A reader found this on the Internet, so it must be true. A man in Charlotte, North Carolina, bought a box of very expensive cigars which he insured against fire. Having smoked them, he filed a claim, saying they had been lost in a series of small fires. The insurance company balked, the case went to court, and the judge ruled in the man’s favor, noting that the company did not specify what is an unacceptable fire. The company was required to pay the fellow $15,000, but then had him arrested on twenty-four counts of arson. He was convicted and sentenced to twenty-four months in jail and a fine of $24,000. If true, it is a sobering tale, confirming me in the wisdom of smoking cigars that are inexpensive and uninsured.
Come this time of year and the indomitable Cardinal Newman Society sends out its list of Catholic colleges sponsoring a performance of The Vagina Monologues . The performance entails, as I understand it, women getting their kicks by talking as dirty as possible about their sexual fantasies. This year’s list included Nazareth College and St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. Upon investigation, however, it was determined that the Diocese of Rochester no longer recognizes the two schools as Catholic. So they join Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, as schools decertified by the Church. According to the 1990 Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), such schools are not to advertise themselves as Catholic, but of course that is not binding in U.S. law. The standard equivocation employed by dubiously Catholic or definitely not Catholic schools is in the Catholic tradition or, sometimes, in the Jesuit tradition. Proceeds from last year’s performance of Monologues at St. John Fisher went to Planned Parenthood. Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, England, was one of the most renowned scholars of the land, a friend of Erasmus, who alone among the English bishops refused to acquiesce in King Henry’s adultery and pretension to being the Supreme Head of the Church in England. After imprisonment in the Tower, he was beheaded on June 22, 1535, and shares a day on the Church’s calendar with another martyr, St. Thomas More. One wonders what, if anything, is taught about St. John Fisher at the college that bears his name. While hypocrisy may be the tribute that vice pays to virtue, one would like to think that somebody there might succumb to a twinge of decency and suggest a name change. And then there is Nazareth. I suppose it might be argued that the name is a purely geographic reference, although, admittedly, a rather odd one for upstate New York. Brighter students probably know that the school was named for somebody really famous who came from Nazareth, or visited Nazareth and, like, really liked it, or whatever.
Any number can play in this year’s most popular political game, What Democrats Must Do to Restore the Two-Party System. Some of us do believe it would be good to have another party; that it is not a good thing for one party to have a monopoly on the sensible answers to the really big questions”or a permanent predominance in elections. I’m not sure that William Voegeli believes that, but his Claremont Review essay is, in addition to being an astute analysis of Democrat problems and what needs to be done about them, a model of polemic in an elegant mode: Bill Clinton was fond of saying that character is a journey, not a destination.’ But to leave home without a destination, convinced that the very idea of a destination is arbitrary and false, is to embark on a journey’ that will be no different from just wandering around. How, then, shall we live? The entirety of liberalism’s answer is, according to Rawls, that it is better to play chess than checkers: human beings enjoy the exercise of their realized capacities (their innate or trained abilities), and this enjoyment increases the more the capacity is realized or the greater its complexity.’ Humans can rescue their lives from meaninglessness by striving, however they pass their days, to employ more rather than fewer of their talents, finding new ones and expanding known ones, to the sole purpose of being able to enlarge them still further, endlessly. We have seen the future, and it’s an adult education seminar, where ever-greater latitude is afforded to ever-smaller souls, and where freedom means nothing higher than the care and feeding of personal idiosyncrasies. As an ethical precept this position is risible. As the basis for social criticism, it is infuriating. This is the standard by which liberals judge us to be spiritually unemployed, the basis on which they are going to lift the level of our existence? Many Democrats lament that Republicans have been successful in getting working-class Americans to vote against their own interests,’ by stressing social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Thomas Frank wrapped an entire bestseller, What’s the Matter with Kansas? , around this idea. It’s a false consciousness’ diagnosis that betrays rather than describes the Democrats’ problem: the smug assumption that we know, far better than they do themselves, the real interests’ of people who live in dorky places and went to schools no one has heard of.
If you liked that, perhaps I could interest you in a bit more. Voegeli recalls that at a 1964 rally in Providence Lyndon Johnson climbed atop his car, grabbed a bullhorn, and offered a summary of his party’s political philosophy: I just want to tell you this”we’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few. Many people are saying that the Democrats have to make clear what they stand for. Voegeli thinks they have to explain what they stand against: Tell us, if indeed it’s true, that Democrats don’t want to do for America what social democrats have done for France or Sweden. Tell us that the stacking of one government program on top of the other is going to stop, if indeed it will, well short of a public sector that absorbs half the nation’s income and extensively regulates what we do with the other half. Explain how the spirit of live-and-let-live applies, if indeed it does, to everyone equally”to people who take family, piety, and patriotism seriously, not merely to people whose lives and outlooks are predicated on regarding them ironically.
According to Reuters, gay and lesbian organizations are in an uproar. It seems that male penguins in the zoo of Bremerhaven, Germany, have been attempting to mate with one another and to hatch offspring out of stones. The zoo has imported some female penguins from Scandinavia. In response to protests, the zoo’s director, Heike Kueck, says, Nobody here is trying to break up same-sex pairs by force. We don’t know if the males are really gay or just got together because of a lack of females. The protesters are not appeased. Giving the penguins a choice would deprive them of the choice of being gay. And who knows whether, given time enough, the stones might hatch?
A red herring still successfully employed to distract attention from serious arguments about government funding of faith-based organizations is the claim that such organizations engage in religious discrimination in hiring. Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic puts the matter succinctly, It’s obvious on reflection that, without the ability to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring and firing staff, religious organizations lose the right to define their organizational mission enjoyed by secular organizations that receive public funds. In other words, the charge of religious discrimination is but another instance of discrimination against religion. These questions are expertly addressed in a 170-page study from the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. For more information on The Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations to Staff on a Religious Basis, edited by Carl Esbeck and associates, contact www.cpjustice.org .
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, reliably attracts major media attention. It is a gathering of some two thousand presidents, prime ministers, treasury secretaries, and corporate CEOs and chairmen, with a small smattering of folks who are to address values questions in order to create moral uneasiness about Corporate Social Responsibility, commonly referred to as CSR. I was invited a few years ago and was duly impressed by the global display of egos and power on display. I have declined subsequent invitations, but it was almost worth going that one time for the panel discussion in which I questioned Nobel laureate James Watson on moral questions related to the Human Genome Project. He answered that I should not worry since the project had set aside several million dollars to get the best ethicists that money can buy. Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal reports on this year’s meeting: Many of the sessions are devoted to managerial, technical, and scientific topics, and these are dealt with straightforwardly enough. But when it comes to politics, the Forum reflects a Davos Consensus’”that is, the clichés, nostrums, banalities, elisions, evasions, upstanding sentiments and lowest common denominators generated when people of differing views are at their most polite. Everyone gets along splendidly at Davos, but platitude is frequently the glue that holds them together. Then there are the weird attitudes of the business community, which seems besotted by something called Corporate Social Responsibility. Late Friday evening I am accosted by a prominent American CEO who apparently feels the need to set the record straight with the Wall Street Journal . He takes his CSR very, very seriously, he says, and then rattles on about his record. Indeed, CSR, like climate change, is a Davos Verity: One session here is titled Is Responsible Investment About To Pay Off?’ Another one is, How Responsible Is Responsible Enough?’ No prize for guessing where such discussions drift. Corporate Social Responsibility as measured by The Davos Consensus, is a generally leftist and Eurocentric list of concerns almost always biased against America and America’s role in the world. American participants such as George Soros, Ted Turner, and Al Gore do little to balance that perspective. CSR-thought is, it seems, a mix of capitalism with a bad conscience”and one notes that many capitalists should have a bad conscience”and a cynical judgment that buying off leftist ideologues is simply part of the cost of doing business. After Prime Minister Tony Blair gave his keynote address this year, Forum organizer Klaus Schwab asked him what business can do to improve the world. Blair responded, The business community can make sure its businesses work well”and make a profit. I expect Mr. Stephens was not alone in welcoming the violation of the platitudinous Davos Consensus.
Funny things continue to happen at the New York Times . Somehow a press release from the Society of Jesus got printed as a story under the headline, Jesuits Show Strength, Even as Their Numbers Shrink. One thinks of St. Paul: I am strong when I am weak and They call us dead men, yet we live. The release-report begins with a reference to the lofty status of the Jesuits in the Catholic firmament [which] has always been supported by their remarkable universities. The putative evidence of Jesuit strength is that Boston College, a school in the Jesuit tradition, has oodles of money with which it is buying up properties of the financially strapped Boston archdiocese. This would seem to overlook the fact that the Jesuits relinquished control of Boston College to a lay board years ago. The college may be rich, but the New England Jesuit Province has been hit by sex-abuse payouts much in the way the archdiocese has been hit. The Jesuits are, institutionally and otherwise, in a bad way. In 1960, they had 409 new recruits in the U.S. Last year they had sixty-five. In the last year alone 104 American Jesuits died and fifty-three left the order. Father Robert Manning, president of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology which is soon to be absorbed by Boston College, is quoted as saying, It is certainly the case that we are getting smaller, but I see it as the religious life being restored to its proper minority status within the Church. Right. I prefer to walk anyway, as the fellow said, climbing out of the wreck. Now I must ask my Jesuit friends, of whom I have more than you might think, to hold off on their protests. This item is only indirectly about the Jesuits. It is mainly about the Times mistakenly running a press release as a news story.
The old joke that academic controversies are so bitter because so little is at stake misses a major point. Unlike the larger, public realm, where most citizens have only a tangential interest in vindicating their opinions and even political leaders can walk away from conflicts after splitting the difference, in academe professional lives, fortunes, and”perhaps most sacred”personal self-esteem can hang on the outcome of even the most recondite disputes. Too often under such circumstances, yearnings to preserve a comfortable environment of orthodoxy trump the interest in maintaining free debate. That is Stephen Balch writing in the Chronicle Review . Balch is president of the National Association of Scholars and his essay, The Antidote to Academic Orthodoxy, describes how John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy, who founded the American Association of University Professors, were convinced that tenure and professorial self-governance were essential to protecting the academy from the pressures that so biased the newspapers. Balch observes, Dewey and Lovejoy might well have found it remarkable that, even without the practice of tenure, American journalism provides a profitable home for a multitude of sophisticated commentators who dissent from its dominant opinion. The marketplace has apparently proved a more effective means of preserving reasoned diversity than the insulated self-governance of the professoriate. That the academy has become so insular and monocultural is perhaps not surprising, writes Balch. Considered as constitutional systems, our institutions of higher learning are ill equipped to thwart the power of the over-bearing intellectual majorities that strong preferences and prejudices mobilize. In fact, academe’s characteristic mode of governance magnifies majoritarian power. As polities, colleges and universities bear more than a passing resemblance to federations of small, semi-autonomous republics”in this case the departments that make up their main subdivisions. Those generally hire, give tenure, and promote their teaching staffs; fix major and graduate-studies requirements; admit and finance graduate students; award the doctorates that provide new practitioners with credentials; and help journeymen secure their initial jobs. The bigger and more prestigious the institution, the less the department is likely to be subject to serious oversight from above. Those who have fiduciary responsibility and who, not incidentally, pay the bills of both public and private universities are getting restless, says Balch. Our universities would be wise to make the cause of intellectual diversity their own. I hope Balch is right about the restlessness of those in charge. And I hope educators have the wit to preempt their probably clumsy interventions by taking the initiative in putting their own house in order. But why should they? Especially if they have tenure? Because, answers Balch, the university’s mission is serving the cause of truth. That has about it the quaint ring of an idea that could someday spark a revolution.
A number of universities around the country are accommodating transgendered, transsexual, and otherwise ambiguously self-identified persons who protest the heteronormativity of restrooms designated for men and women. Matthew Rose, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, former FT editorial assistant, and legendary football star of Wabash College reports: The University of Chicago has just supplied us with a number of bathrooms for those uncomfortable’ about classifying themselves within the hegemonic taxonomies of bourgeois heteronormativity. The new bathrooms are private and much nicer than the bathrooms for those of us who have timidly accepted the social construction of our maleness or femaleness. They are so much nicer, in fact, that I use them regularly. When I was confronted about using the bathroom by a confused looking somebody,’ I simply replied, I’m not comfortable calling myself a man on this campus.’ Heteronormativism. Add it to the list of things of which you are probably guilty.
Res Publica, which describes itself as a public interest group, which is about what one would expect from an organization named Res Publica, is sponsoring a project called Abortion and Values: An Interfaith Consensus. The process will involve a software program called Synanim that allows hundreds of people to collectively draft a statement. That will be followed by a closed meeting of key stakeholders in the progressive faith community, who will draft the final statement and try to gain maximum publicity for what will be announced as a new religious consensus on abortion. Some who are known for their definite pro-life convictions have been invited to participate in this project and have declined for very good reasons. The way the questions are framed in the project proposal, plus some of the key leaders and participating organizations, suggest that this is yet another of many initiatives in recent months to soften the image of pro-abortionists. The proposal cites favorably the essay by Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for a Free Choice, as an attempt to open a more nuanced conversation (see my discussion of the Kissling essay in the March issue). Glen Stassen, an anti-Bush activist and professor of ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary whose arguments have been employed by Senator Hillary Clinton, is another key player in the project. The consensus at which the project aims is intended to overcome polarization and de-politicize the controversy over abortion, which, being translated, means to preserve the status quo of the unlimited abortion license. Or at least, now that the pro-choicers are on the defensive, to keep the license as unlimited as is politically possible. Prolifers who know their nursery rhymes will decline the invitation to the parlor of Res Publica.
Yes, I got up to Central Park to take a look at the big project of Christo Javacheff and his partner Jeanne-Claude, 7,500 steel gates hung with orange nylon along twenty-three miles of park paths. On first look, it seemed a tacky display that had the saving merit of lasting only sixteen days. Myron Magnet, editor of City Journal , got more worked up about it: For all the cant about the artist as liberator of the human spirit, there is much in contemporary art and especially architecture that seeks to impose upon individuals the artist’s vast ego and confine them within it, so that they cannot escape his will. It is this whiff of totalitarianism that makes Polish intellectuals label such architecture neo-oppressionism.’ While I agree with my friend Myron’s view of much contemporary architecture, his alarm is something of a reach with respect to the Christo lark. Christo is a master of publicity who, as in wrapping Berlin’s Reichstag in plastic,