Wednesday, June 11, 2008

MORAL FAILING. Ross Douthat:
Here's another way of looking at the issue of how social conservatives ought to view McCain's 1970s marital misconduct in the year 2008. Last July, I argued that Louisiana's David Vitter ought to resign his office after he more or less admitted to having frequented prostitutes. I stand by that position. However, if David Vitter - having conspicuously failed to resign - were to face off in a Presidential race against Barack Obama, I would be inclined to hold my nose and vote for Vitter...
Douthat is a Christian, so we can't be surprised by the moral relativism. And he's an Atlantic Monthly writer, so we can't be surprised that he wandered so clumsily into this rhetorical thicket (to follow Douthat's progress from "an America in which politicians had a more difficult time recovering from flagrant private misbehavior would be a better place to live and vote and marry in" to "The point is to deter misbehavior, not to protect the country from the perils of being governed by a rake" to "Regretting the passing of a particular moral standard does not require one to always vote as if that standard were still in place," see his two priors).

What we may wonder is: why does he bother? I guess half-baked theology is Douthat's hook. And it's a good one. In the rarefied high-end opinion market, wingers will approve any reliably rightish lad with a major media gig, and the God stuff is always welcome, even if it is not explicitly connected to the persecution of homosexuals. And gullible liberals will regard Douthat's tedious paradoxes and think, oh, this reminds me of that religious studies class I didn't like, I'm unqualified to judge, he must go around in a thick, uncomfortable brown robe muttering profundities; touch not the cloud-dweller.

The joke's on them, but not many of them will ever get it. Though they may spare a snort for the rubes attending Big Daddy in the megachurch -- while chastising themselves for their elitism in thinking so -- the Chestertonian ruse still confuses them. Some of us, of course, long ago learned to look quick whenever we hear morality mentioned, even in plummy tones, for the marketing angle. But that takes years of training, and requires the loss of that nagging yet oddly hopeful suspicion that one of the godly men who keep raiding one's pantry is really just so Christian that he's taking the fall for the others.

No comments:

Post a Comment