Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Discussion With Editor David Swindle

Michael L.

David Swindle of Pajama's Media and I are having a discussion around the question of religious faith in politics and his latest contribution to that discussion is here:

Secular Political Ideology Vs. Biblical Moral Values: Continuing A Debate With Michael Lumish

My contribution opening the discussion is here:

Politics Vs. Theology: Beginning a Debate with David Swindle

You guys should check it out.

I will have my response within about a week or so.


  1. I've been following since your first post, unaware of who David Swindle is. I'm rather disappointed by his response, as I was hoping he would be somebody above calling liberals a 'disease,' not to mention seeming to claim being above run-of-the-mill, angry partisan stuff, while claiming numerous times that only conservatives (of both the social and economic variety) are moral, and therefore apparently the "Good," as opposed to our "Evil."

    Honestly, I'm not sure what is to be gained from discussion with such types. Not to come off as condescending, but I hope as Mr. Swindle ages and gains more life experience, he'll realize he doesn't have all the answers yet, and will reconsider his frankly quite extremist ideas and positions.

    I will, of course, follow the conversation as it goes along, hoping my initial thoughts are mistaken...

    1. I actually haven't read his response, yet, but intend to do so tomorrow.

      I just find these kinds of exercises interesting and very much enjoy talking to people with very different sensibilities, so long as they can keep it civil.

      I will probably publish my response come next Sunday and we'll see how long the back and forth lasts.

      I have to tell you, tho, one of the great things about being non-partisan is that it allows you to look at arguments that you might otherwise dismiss with an open mind.

  2. His specific reference to David Goldman's "How Civilizations Die" and by implication "It's Not The End of the World, It's Just The End of You" was painful. Both of them are very difficult slogs to get through. Goldman claims to be an observant Jew and yet both books and his archive of articles at "First Things" itself a somewhat academic Catholic publication are pointedly focused on Christian, specifically Catholic theology. In fact the content of the second book here is nearly three quarters an apologia for extremely conservative early Church and Medieval Church theology and religious dogma - a day and age where there were no crisp distinctions between Church and state. If one were to then read Manent's "Democracy Without Nations" you'd be left thinking that the whole lot of them are advocating a Catholic "Ummah" as it were, where Mother Church is a transnational body of first primacy and last recourse.

    Theocracy, even in its more benign forms, should worry us. Not because the so and so teachings of religions are bad but because combining faith and legitimate secular power in the same place makes for horrible leaders and worse priests. Legitimacy isn't supposed to stem FROM power and the clericy is typically a poor choice to wield power. The issue should not be 'what role does faith play in the political lives of nations or the people who run them' but instead the question should be how do you control the force of state ordered morality as it applies to the normal carrying on's of governance.

    For example, no one doubts that Moshe Feiglin is an observant Jew, a believer, one of the faithful. But he's the first one to say that religious laws are bad, that theocratic politics are bad, that there's a subtle power in them even when there's no formal coupling of religion and law. This is why he's not in the religious parties in Israel.

    Morality you could say is ex nihilo - it arises out of itself. But here you have to be careful. Are you talking about the religious moral precepts of good governance or are you talking about an ethical polity. They are often radically different from one another. Frequently when we talk about morality we mean ethics and when we talk about ethics we mean 'being nice'. And none of that has much to do with any of those other things. In fact there's a good case to be made to keep them all separate in order to create a constant tension that keeps them all in check from one another. I don't want an entirely 'moral' government. The world isn't sweetness and light. And being 'nice' isn't useful when dealt different bad choices of which the ethical persona must choose. But a government of robotic angels coldly calculating the cost benefit odds isn't anywhere most people would choose to live either. You need the push and pull of all of that working at odds with one another - you need, an inefficient cumbersome government where power is hard to wield and success is hard to come by. And that cumbersome shell has to be based on some but not all you wish to see in a 'moral' world even a religiously based one else we could pitch it all over to the clerics who decide whatever they like and tell us it's all fine.

  3. Still reading and rereading but I gotta tell ya I like this little sentence...."When a progressive’s brain is all gummed up with postmodern nonsense then any fact you’d fling at them will just get stuck in the sticky outer shell of graduate school-induced, perpetual debate."

    A LOT!