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April 24, 2008

Porn and the military -- a bad mix

There's an interesting argument going on at The Corner about whether military bases should be allowed to sell pornography. (See here, here, here, here -- my father answered that query, but I haven't seen his e-mail posted --  herehere, here, herehere, here, and here. Or you can just go here and start scrolling. There's a bit of language here and there that might be offensive.) As usual, at least one of the perpetual dissenters over there tries argument by disdain. Also as usual, it's ineffective.

Kathryn Lopez's most recent post is particularly good:

Like I said yesterday, I don’t know that [Rep.] Broun’s legislation is a good idea. But I know what he’s thinking: Porn is bad. Why is the military peddling it? It’s a good question. Not the biggest question of our day; it's not the hill to die on, as many readers have put it to me. But porn in our culture does need to be addressed and discussed. And if that indicates a feminization of anything, maybe that’s what women are here for — to, every once in awhile, stand athwart history and yell, "Stop. What are we doing to our men?" Porn is a sad and lonely world, and I respect men — especially military men — too much to know they may be living in it. Is there a role for the government in it? I don't know. My instinct is always respond "no," until convinced otherwise. But Broun's brought up the topic and that's a good thing, even if the bill isn't right or exceedingly necessary.

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Comments

anne morse

I haven't read the Corner's comments, but I can tell you, as a military wife, that I HATE seeing porn at the PX. I especially hated it when I took my two little boys along shopping with me. Funny--I don't think I've seen porn sold at the PX in Bethesda--maybe each PX makes its own decision. If so, three cheers for whoever made that decision at the National Naval Medical Center.

Jason

National Review has become very disappointing in recent months. I believe it was John Mark Reynolds from Biola that comments on, what he calls, the very poor atheist to evangelical ratio for that publication, as in there are plenty of the former and none of the latter.

To see the need for an argument in a conservative magazine about why porn isn't that bad, really makes you want to turn off that end of the conservative stream.

Gina Dalfonzo

Actually, I believe there are some evangelicals at "NR," not to mention conservative Catholics. But there are several strains of conservatism, not all of which are congenial to Christianity.

Jason

I'm aware of the strains of conservatism that are not congenial to Christianity, including the objectivists sorts, among others.

If there are evangelicals at NR, they are very quiet about it. I don't mind the atheist conservative world view, or the Roman Catholic world view being aired as much as I mind the complete lack of an evangelical world view being aired, and the snide comments about evangelicals that appear from time to time round that publication, that ignores large swaths of the conservative coalition.

Jason

http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2008/01/24/a-simple-question-are-there-more-atheists-or-evangelicals-at-nro/

This is a nice essay regarding suspicion about the perceptions between mainstream conservatives and evangelical conservatives.

Conrad

If there are "several strains of conservatism" that are not "congenial to Christianity," then there are also several strains of conservatism whose adherents favor the rather unconservative notion of using the government to impose their own moral values on the nation at large.

I'd also be interested in hearing why Andrew Stuttaford is "ineffective." He may have strong disdain for Broun, but he also makes a good case that the government should not be banning pornography from PXes.

Gina Dalfonzo

Jason, thanks for your contribution. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, as it's not really my place here to keep coming to the defense of a publication for which I don't work (except for the occasional freelance piece) and with whose authors I don't always agree.

However, while I understand where John Mark Reynolds is coming from -- and while I like and admire him -- I have to say that the essay does not prove anything. It does make a few good points, but its main argument, or what I think is its main argument, doesn't hold up. Dr. Reynolds appears to take one quote from one writer at "NR" who is admittedly not a Christian, and use it to extrapolate that the place is full of atheists who look down on Christians.

But supporting same-sex marriage does not make one an atheist. Goldberg himself is not an atheist, and we have commenters who frequently come here to defend same-sex marriage who would hotly dispute the idea that they're atheists. While I and others here have debated their idea that homosexual practice is compatible with Christianity, we would not presume to tell them that they don't believe in God, when it's quite clear that they do.

Also, going back to a point you made earlier, the essay never says that there are no evangelicals at "National Review," so I'm not sure where you got that idea. Considering that I've met evangelicals who write for "National Review," I would most certainly not presume to tell them that they don't exist! :-)

Just as with The Point, writers at "NR" are free to differ on many things, and they do. No one person speaks for the entire group. So for instance, you have this week's long and heated Corner debate over whether religion is wise or foolish (with most of the group taking sides against John Derbyshire, who, incidentally, was an Anglican when they hired him but now is an atheist). At Christian publications, debates like this among the staff would most likely not take place, but "NR" is not a Christian publication -- it is a conservative publication that has some Christians working for it. So these things are bound to happen -- but maybe it's good for the world to see them happen, and get to read some of the arguments for and against faith. If, heaven forbid, the day should ever come when there's no one over there to come to the defense of faith when these questions come up, that's when I'll be worried.

I do understand your concern, but with all due respect, you don't get anywhere by making blanket statements about how everyone at a place believes this and no one believes that. Such statements are neither true nor fair nor helpful.

John Mark Reynolds

Good to see someone reads the blog!

My simple point was NOT that NRO was anti-Christians, but that it frequently showed misunderstandings of Evangelical sub-culture. Evangelicals as Evangelicals may work at NRO . . . but they do not educate the same way the Roman Catholic contingent do when someone says something foolish about RC beliefs. (I think that is a good thing.)

During the Huckabee campaign (which I did not support), the ignorance level was pretty high. Since in some states (as we just saw) the Evangelical part of the Republican party is a plurality of the groups that make up the party it would be nice to see an Evangelical (not just a mere Christian) who is as willing to defend their particular beliefs and community as K-Lo is RC beliefs or John D is willing to defend non-theism.

John Mark Reynolds

Again, while nobody thinks NRO should be all Christian all the time . . . it is easy to pick out RC Corner-ites over time (K-Lo comes to mind) or secularists. It is hard to pick out any Evangelical defenders.

Why?

Why are Evangelicals (if they exist) "mere Christians" and not defending the sub-culture, since other Cornerites feel free to do so?

I think it interesting that nobody has yet named an Evangelical Corner-ite (my main focus).

Given their numbers in the movement, one would think this would be very easy. It is not. You have to know something about them beyond their Corner writing to be sure (as I suspect) that at least one Corner-ite is a typical Evangelical.

Gina Dalfonzo

Dr. Reynolds, thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it.

I wonder if the phenomenon you note is caused at least partly by the fact that -- as "NR's" Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in "Time Magazine" -- "Evangelicals rarely move in unison. . . . Usually Evangelicals have split their vote, and their influence has thus permeated the party." ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1694486,00.html ) The fact that neither you nor I nor many other evangelicals supported Mike Huckabee is proof enough of that. So evangelicals at "NR" (and I'm pretty sure Mr. Ponnuru himself is one) might find themselves taking a wide range of positions on certain issues. The Catholics over there -- particularly since they tend to be the kind of Catholics who actually pay attention to the doctrine of their church, rather than what's known as "cafeteria Catholics" -- have more in common with each other, and thus, perhaps, more of a presence.

John Mark Reynolds

Gina,

Great comments. I think this is likely true . . . as far as it goes.

However, though I did not back Huckabee, I knew people who did. I was able to understand their point of view. It would be a weird Evangelical in politics who did not . . . given the huge number of Evangelicals that voted for Huckabee back when the race was competitive.

There seems, to me, to be a lack of understanding or passion for (in particular) Southern Evangelical perspectives. In fact, often the "house Evangelical" at some conservative places is distinguished by how little he or she has in common with the average pew sitter.

For example, Intelligent Design or even (drum roll) creationism are pretty standard beliefs in the pews . . . but you don't often get as full throated a defense of ID as you get attacks on it at blogs like the Corner.

Hundreds of thousands of Republican voters know what AWANA is . . . how many Corner writers do?

In short, I worry (and this is a worry not something I know) that Republican or conservative leaders were very out of touch with Republican or conservative primary voters in part because they don't get the culture.

How many "secularist" voters are there in Republican primaries? How many traditionalist Roman Catholics? I have a sense that both groups tend to be over-represented in leadership at some places compared to their actual numbers.

The usual excuse given is that Evangelicals don't "do" that sort of thing . . . but in new media that is just nonsense. There are hundreds of bright Evangelicals (I know hundreds personally) who could give a perspective that is often lacking.

Again: I am NOT talking so much about particular candidates, but about someone who knows (without looking it up) about the best Evangelical bands or why Bob the Tomato is great.

I see secular or Catholic cultural references often . . . but rarely see Evangelical ones. I do NOT think this is because young right-of-center Evangelicals want to write only for Christian publications. I know scores (at least) who do not and suspect most of those (who are center-right) do not wish to do so.

So these publications should do better (I think) than they do.

Or perhaps I am wrong and places like NRO are hotbeds of Evangelical young interns thinking big thoughts. Conservative groups need millions of Evangelicals, but they are not good at talking to the next generation at all.

As a result, I fear that we are going to lose them. . . at least in the numbers they could traditionally rely upon.


Jason

Mr. Ponnuru is a Roman Catholic, and a darn fine writer, probably my favorite at NR, and his contribution in The Party of Death was outstanding.

I used to appreciate NR a lot more than I do now. It helped pull me into intellectual conservatism while I was in college, and I saw the wide range of debate within the conservative movement on a bi-weekly basis. I came to enjoy lots of writers, who I knew were not in any way Christian at all, but were fair and considerate. Buckley's work to have that solid source of a wide range of conservatives, while kicking out the fever swampers, like the John Birchers, should always be respected.

Yet over time, I've become increasingly disaffected from the publication because not only a lack of any evangelical voice appearing in any regular way (an old professor of mine, Harold O J Brown wrote for them years back occasionally ), but the voices that were/ are there either were/ are completely unaware of the currents of thought within evangelical conservatism, or at times openly dismissed them. As far as reporting on the southern, evangelical world, it's like reporting on a foreign, third world country.

I don't care if there atheists, theists, cafeteria Catholics, Opus Dei, objectivists, Taft or Eisenhower, or whatever brand that writes for them. I think the real challenge is for younger evangelicals, who claim to be conservative, to be in the marketplace of ideas and to do outstanding work. And for those in that marketplace to at least give them a seat at the table.

Jason Taylor


Before confusion comes this is another Jason which is commenting. Which is not to say I am either endorseing or antiendorseing the other Jason's statements, merely that he is not in fact Jason Taylor and I do not wish confusion.

LeeQuod

Jason Taylor wrote: "he is not in fact Jason Taylor and I do not wish confusion."

We could probably give Jeff Clinton chest pain, and Gina heartburn ("Take Rol-Adys!"), by suggesting that commenting be restricted to only those who register and get a login ID and password.

BTW, nice job on "Dancing With The Stars" last night. :-)

Rolley Haggard

Pssst, LeeQuod, remember, our 401Ks are in the tank. So it’s Rol-Adys ™. Don’t forget the ™.

Steve

I've been an NRO fan a long time, but the comments above are right on target. The evangelical or reformed Christian view is sometimes mocked or caricatured but not represented or defended. (Witness Derbyshire's hysterical rant over "Expelled" posted today). But they can't be good at everything. It's mostly a political blog and the political & economic commentary is great; they're clearly winging it on social issues.

So why not open up the floor and send Rich Lowry a candidate: who shall we nominate to be the evangelical heavyweight at NRO?

Gina Dalfonzo

ID isn't specifically evangelical (no matter how much Derbyshire, whose rants have indeed grown childish and tiresome, might like to think so).

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