Thanks to Jason for his very instructive post below on Wendell Berry.
For me, it’s not so much that Berry is for same-sex marriage these days. It’s that he thinks–with his characteristic self-righteousness–that anyone who disagrees with him is a bigoted jerk in the thrall of industrial capitalism. He’s less tolerant or open to the thought that he might be wrong than many or most feminists. It’s like no one ever told him that capitalism isn’t so industrial any more. And it’s definitely like he’s never really been about spirited dialogue about the comparative merits of small-town and big-city life. There might even be a good thing or two about techno-liberation that’s escaped his notice.
We POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVES are put off by the political stupidity of many “traditionalists.” And it’s pretty much always the case that the problem is less the stupid opinion itself than the moralistic ferocity by which it is held. I remind you, for example, of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Marxism. To lesser but real extent, I can also remind you of what Carl called, in the thread, Pat Deneen’s annoying neutrality, which also, I think, is grounded in some Marxist assumptions.
The problem is the view shared by the Trinity of thinkers mentioned above that we live in an after-virtue time, a time where the contents of life have been completely emptied out by capitalism. It’s a view that’s forgetful of the fact that even Marx meant THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO–which is, I admit, very exhilirating to read–to be polemical exaggeration or self-conscious pseudo-scientism. “Capitalism” is a word that doesn’t correspond very well to any empirical reality; it’s not synonomous with “liberalism.”
It’s not that we postmodern conservatives don’t see some truth in this after-virtue view. We see, for example, a connection between the current plausibility of same-sex marriage as a right and the Lockeanization of marriage. But we don’t make the mistake of thinking that all relational life has withered away in our country. We remember, for example, that our Evangelicals and Pentecostals, despite their lack of aesthetic sense and deep book-learning, really are Christians who love one another and practice the virtue of charity. And we see marriage making a comeback even among our bourgeois bohemians. Elvis is still right about what just about everyone can’t help doing, and the transhumanists are wrong to think death doesn’t have much of a future. (I resist the temptation to move to talk about the almost-beautiful last episode of GIRLS.)