“Doing what conservatives do best”

11.13.2012, 10:19 AM

At First Things this morning, a thoughtful piece by Katherine Infantile on what next for social conservatives.  She’s not much interested in the language of culture war.  (Neither am I.)  Here’s a sentence I liked:  “We have a duty to bring truth into the world in attractive ways so that the Truth may draw others to himself, not so that we may beat others over the head with it.” 

I think I would call Truth an it rather than a him, but that’s just quibbling.  It’s an interesting piece.


16 Responses to ““Doing what conservatives do best””

  1. Mark Diebel says:

    Reading her piece made me wonder which reality I live-in…not hers, but any? Her assumptions about Obama were not mine. But any person living has to wonder if they have much hold on reality. I am wrong about telling my wife what is on the grocery list…good grief, what about national generalizations…statements about people I have only distant ties with? But still we are called by conscience to know what we can. By what means do we know our society and the world? I distrust the news, but I must use it.

    The thought that one can bring truth into the marketplace…packaging it so that it more easily accepted…is utterly bizarre. When has this ever been done? I cannot fathom that the work of St. Paul; or Paul Dirac. I cannot imagine trusting a truth vetted by the marketplace.

  2. Mark S says:

    Perhaps you can explain what you find so interesting here. I read the piece and find it mostly contentless, and what content there is, mostly pablum. As far as the sentence you highlight, I find it completely lacking in the kind of humility you were promoting a while back. Indeed, it seems dogmatic and condescending, something that could be written by someone who absolutely knows the “truth” and will never entertain any doubt.

  3. La Lubu says:

    FWIW, I think conservatives have done an excellent job of both defining and projecting their message. Conservatives dominate talk radio and have a strong presence in print, television and online. Books by conservatives take up plenty of space on the shelves of the popular chain bookstore in my city. Conservative messages have not bypassed me, nor left me confused on the details. I’ve had ample opportunity both during the election season and before to hear the conservative platform.

    It hasn’t changed my mind. I still strongly disagree. The conservative platform either abandons or actively opposes my needs. I am mystified as to why conservatives seem to think their message hasn’t been heard. I hear you. I know you’re against me. Is it really that surprising that I cast my votes (and other support) elsewhere?

  4. Matthew Kaal says:

    David,

    Changing Truth from a “him” to an “it” completely misses the significance of the claim that Infantine (and all Catholics) is/are making about the Truth – that Truth is a living, real, autonomous being who cannot be bent and manipulated like an object, an individual who engages truth seekers and desires to have a relationship with them. Naturally, for Catholics (and everyone else) the question becomes – if Truth is an individual, can we really know him and claim to speak for him? This is one of those questions that all organized religion hinges upon – and one that deserves a thoughtful response, considering the claims being made.

    I agree with Infantine’s main point that for social conservatives (both religious and secular), the true conservative course of action is to first live out the conservative values they espouse and re-enforce them within the culture as social mores. Support and dedication to the valuable institutions of society is equally important – churches, schools, museums, clubs, charities, and the countless other societies we engage with ought to be populated by conservative people who are outspoken about their values and how those values strengthen society. And frankly, conservatives ought to scoff at the idea that FOX News is one such flagship institution – it is neither conservative nor a great institution worthy of our respect – it is a 21st century tabloid establishment.

  5. Tristian says:

    Infantile urges conservatives to get past the rhetoric of the cultures wars, but then we get this:

    Some of our beloved values that have been lost in the political sphere are expressed with words like “responsibility,” “duty,” “honor,” words we seldom hear these days.

    This strikes me as exemplifying the worst assumptions behind that rhetoric, the rhetoric of conservatives who refuse to listen to their political opponents at their best with a willingness to learn and understand. This is what leads to conclusions to the effect that Republican losses can only be explained by the stupidity and depravity of the voter and their failure to really appreciate what conservatives are selling.

  6. Victor says:

    Matthew,

    It’s still a departure from a significant Western tradition – how ironic – to use masculine imagery for an abstract concept. The tradition has been to show Truth as a female. (And if she is depicted graphically, she is usually naked… as in “the naked truth.”)

    Victor

  7. Matthew Kaal says:

    Victor -

    Infantine is referencing Christ when she refers to Truth in the masculine. This is different from classical Greek and Roman depictions of a female Truth (which are certainly a common trope in Western tradition, although they’ve generally been understood as metaphorical). Simultaneously the the Jewish/Christian conception of Truth (as God embodied) developed with a much more literal understanding – this is what Infantine is getting at – Truth is embodied in the person of Christ. She’s Catholic, and writing for a Catholic audience, so this was all assumed to be understood.

  8. Victor says:

    Matthew,

    Thank you for the explanation.

  9. David Blankenhorn says:

    Matt: Thanks for the good remarks on her usage and intentions regarding the word “Truth.” I honestly had no idea. Is this usage common, or least common enough to be generally understoon by non-specialists, in contemporary Catholic writing?

    My own view is that truth cannot be viewed in any sense as a living being, but I am intrigued by the idea that it can, and that there is a way of writing, a way of choosing words, that intentionally conveys the belief that it can.

  10. Mark S says:

    But, David, I thought you liked doubt and humility. I find it difficult to reconcile that belief with your full-throated support of an piece that betrays neither doubt nor humility, but absolute certainty that her understanding of Truth will triumph if only she and her cohorts are able to make it attractive (to whom? everybody who doesn’t find its current manifestation attractive?).

  11. Mark S says:

    I just re-read my comment above and it sounds taunting, and that is not what I intended.

    I think that you see something in that article that I miss. Can you explain why you think it is so interesting? I have re-read it and apart from its backing away from using the language of war, I can’t see anything particularly new or interesting. Your singling out that particular sentence for praise seems to contradict your previous comments about your fondness for doubt and humility.

  12. David Blankenhorn says:

    Mark S: I do like doubt and humility, and my linking to that article was not meant by me to signify that I agree with or endorse everything she is saying. What struck me overall, in both tone and content, was her apparent call to back away from, leave behind, the ideas of culture war, politicized religion, and religionized politics. Her looking to film and other largely non-political (or at leat non-electoral) cultural expressions I found refreshing, at least insofar as it seemed like she is striving for something other than, more creative than, “stay the course!”

    I know that she is not a liberal, and I know that she differs from me in important questions of epistimology, but these differences, as deep as they are, do not mean that I cannot appreciate and maybe learn from what she is writing; when I look for things worth reading, I am not looking first and foremost to the question of how much the author agrees with me.

  13. Ledasmom says:

    It is very difficult to believe that a group has a handle on the moral Truth when said group publicly espouses positions that are contrary to scientific fact. When one sees that a particular group supports creationism and prefers to ignore global warming because it would be more convenient if it didn’t exist, one is not inclined to assume that they are elsewhere correct.
    How is one backing away from the culture war if one is implying that honor, responsibility and duty are concepts only adhered to by conservatives?

  14. Maggie Gallagher says:

    Gee, and I thought it was Nietzche who first proposed that truth is a woman, and therefore to be wooed and never fully won.

  15. Maggie Gallagher says:

    “Supposing truth is a woman – what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women? That the gruesome seriousness, the clumsy obtrusiveness with which they have usually approached truth so far have been awkward and very improper methods for winning a woman’s heart?” Nietzche, Beyond Good and Evil

  16. Mark S says:

    Thanks, David, for the explanation. I too am glad that she advocates backing away from the culture wars, but I rather doubt her organization will agree with her.