The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sojourn Among the Right, and a Reminder

So, Ive been engaging with Rod Dreher and his commenters, and they're a fairly mixed bunch. To his credit, Dreher allows a wide variety of viewpoints and doesn't censor them based on disagreement, even strong disagreement, with his views. On a recent thread on schism and same sex marriage, Dreher appended to a comment a "NFR"--Note from Rod--reading "NFR: There is no political, cultural, and legal movement to declare avarice good, and to drive from public life as "bigots" and "haters" people who insist that avarice is not good. Lust has a far better lobby. -- RD

A lot of readers jumped on him for that, including me; I wrote:
Um, Ayn Rand and the cult of the market? Consumerism? That pernicious heresy, the Prosperity Gospel? The very flaws in our culture you’ve been pointing out? Sandel’s “Market Society”? The legal efforts to do away with all limits on corporate power by ALEC and similar organizations?

Avarice has by far the better lobby than SSM (surely you can admit that GLBT people are motivated by more than mere lust, even if you think them wrong)–its worship is so hard-wired into our society that even its critics can fail to recognize . . . its apostles.
(Actually, I cleaned up a word-processing glitch here at the ellipses. Forgive me.)

I was hardly alone in pointing this out, others did it at greater length and more compellingly. Dreher's response was rather poor, but he let the comments through, even though the vast majority lambasted his glib oversimplification.

My own comment was among the more gentle. That's in part because I've learned the hard way to try to reign [Rein, dammit rein. Not reign, nor rain. See comment below] myself in. Reading the comments, some of which embraced the appalling anti-gay bigotry of some of the global South Catholic and Anglican churches (at which I and others protested), or suggested disavowing loyalty to democracy and embracing Franco-ism (yeah, really), I was reminded of the most moving scene in Shaw's St. Joan, when the Chaplain bursts back into the room, horrified by the burning he helped trigger:
The Chaplain staggers in from the courtyard like a demented creature, his face streaming with tears, making the piteous sounds that Warwick has heard. He stumbles to the prisoner's stool, and throws himself upon it with heartrending sobs.

WARWICK [going to him and patting him on the shoulder] What is it, Master John? What is the matter?

THE CHAPLAIN [clutching at his hand] My lord, my lord: for Christ's sake pray for my wretched guilty soul.

WARWICK [soothing him] Yes, yes: of course I will. Calmly, gently--

THE CHAPLAIN [blubbering miserably] I am not a bad man, my lord.

WARWICK. No, no: not at all.

THE CHAPLAIN. I meant no harm. I did not know what it would be like.

WARWICK [hardening] Oh! You saw it, then?

THE CHAPLAIN. I did not know what I was doing. I am a hotheaded fool; and I shall be damned to all eternity for it.

WARWICK. Nonsense! Very distressing, no doubt; but it was not your doing.

THE CHAPLAIN [lamentably] I let them do it. If I had known, I would have torn her from their hands. You don't know: you havnt seen: it is so easy to talk when you dont know. You madden yourself with words: you damn yourself because it feels grand to throw oil on the flaming hell of your own temper. But when it is brought home to you; when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then--then--[Falling on his knees] O God, take away this sight from me! O Christ, deliver me from this fire that is consuming me! She cried to Thee in the midst of it: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! She is in Thy bosom; and I am in hell for evermore.
I've quoted this passage before, of course, and need to remind myself of it regularly. Because it's easy for me to point out when those with whom I disagree as emphatically as I do with Dreher and his fellow conservatives are in need of this object lesson than when I myself am.

So, rather than leave it in a comment there, I thought I'd post it here. Not to draw back from my criticism, or to soften it, but to remind myself that this is my own most common flaw, to move in for the rhetorical kill. And I'm most dangerous, and least Christian, when I just know that I'm right.


William R MacKaye said...

See your text above. You need to rein in your tendency to excessive reigning.At least according to this regular, if occasionally snarky, reader.

Anglocat said...

I totally deserve this bit of snark. What an idiotic mistake.

Your abashed,