First Wendell Berry, and now…



UPDATE: …and the echo chamber hums to life.

UPDATE II: Mr. Bottum responds.


  1. Really, I was printing it when the email from this post arrived.


  2. I think this is probably worse, but Wendell Berry made me sadder.


  3. The Duffer says

    Wendell Berry said something totally different than what Bottum is saying.

    • I’d have to agree if I understand both of them. But perhaps you could spell out that difference to validate my own confusion-amid-the-thickets?


      • The Duffer says

        Berry dismisses any Church wisdom on the issue out of hand, makes a weak comparison between the sterility of homosexual acts and infertile couples, and calls opponents of gay marriage perverts.

        And Bottum, I don’t really know why I started defending Bottum’s essay, because, really, it wasn’t a very exciting read. But the criticisms I was reading of it were not fair either. My best take on it, without reading into it what I want to read into it is–make friends with gay people and let the church work its magic from there.

  4. Help me out. I confess to not having read every word – it was an awful weekend here at Casa Godsbody. But the sense I got was that he was pointing out that the naked public square was in fact naked, and there was no sense in trying to say otherwise. Am I wrong here?

  5. Jonathan Webb says

    That was a bushel full of words. I guess he’s saying that Christians don’t have to perform same-sex weddings, but that we should make a political fight. I wasn’t aware that many people were these days. I wonder how he will feel when his friend Jim gets his wish and the marriage sacrament goes underground. Maybe by then Mr. Bottum won’t have the faculties of reason to care judging by this little gems of logic:

    “In fact, same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in chastity in a culture that has lost much sense of chastity. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in love in a civilization that no longer seems to know what love is for. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in the coherence of family life in a society in which the family is dissolving.”

    I miss Neuhaus.

    • It was Neuhaus-nemesis Thomas Fleming who said that a civil or political argument against SSM is impossible without a grounding in the Good Book. I think rather that must be the case – in which case I’d agree with Bottum/Zmirak – that the game is up. But Zmirak’s seems the more appealing solution to my conscience.

      The only people who thump Bibles anymore are those that don’t understand it – or misunderstand it. The Judeo-Christian tradition no longer holds as the center of things. It is impossible to cite John Locke or James Madison as evidence to convince a people intent on fucking that fucking is not the same thing as marriage.

      Sorry, but I had to say that out loud.


      • Jonathan Webb says

        As usual, you’re right on all of the above. And of course, as we’ve learned from history, men with guns can change the definitions of words.

      • You’re right because that’s basically what it is now, as Bottum makes that point. No-Fault divorce, contraception, all contributed to a meaning of marriage in the public eye that it’s just a contract for guilt free sex and a tax benefit. He makes good points there though he is wrong overall.
        When the Catholic Church was the only religion to hold fast against contraception way back when, the Bible thumpers need to realize they are making a ruckus too little too late.
        I’m not for SSM because I know what marriage is, but when I discuss it with anyone I can’t just say blah blah blah the Church says… You don’t convince anyone who’s not Catholic (even many Catholics) you’re right by a religious argument. There is next to no secular argument against SSM except studies pointing to the wellbeing of the children, which Zmirak has pointed out is the only real argument right now.

        • Indeed. And even so, “do it for the children” isn’t much of an argument for a culture that doesn’t see children as the primary end of marriage but rather sees them as a nice dividend if that’s how you roll but really not for me, my partner and our expendably incomed summer house in the Hamptons…


          • Jonathan Webb says

            Yes, marriage has been dying for years. Artificial contraception, no-fault divorce, shacking up and the welfare state created a toxic soup.

            Gays not to blame, for sure.

  6. Jonathan Webb says

    I meant NOT make a political fight.

  7. Jonathan Webb says

    I expect Bottum to pay me back for that time when we get to the other side.

  8. It strikes me that Douthat is overly easy on Bottum, but his take on where he’s coming from strikes me as fairly plausible:

  9. The most cogent reply to all that is wrong with what Bottum says is by David Ross down in the first page of the comments.
    It’s a dangerously murky read. Because Bottum sounds like he is saying something sane but he really isn’t at all. The only time he almost makes an argument is when he talks about how divorce has undermined marriage rendering the vow meaningless from the get go. But then he fails to make an argument. IF he is trying to say that the church should stay out of the political arena and only make its point if it has a point to make, through charity and love…then he might have something. But he undermines himself over and over again by implying that the church really has no case whatsoever to stand on anyway. Except for what he calls it’s “enchanted” world view. I found the piece disturbing. When I read David’s comment, sanity returned….

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