I’m particularly excited about this week’s Patheos column. I begin by talking about my favorite book/movie, High Fidelity (I like the book only slightly more than the movie). In particular, I quote the passage in which Rob says, “Some people never got over the sixties, or the war, or the night their band opened for the Rolling Stones at the Marquee, and spend the rest of their days walking backwards; I never really got over Charlie.”

I love that quote, and I think it aptly describes what World magazine’s editor-in-chief is up to in his recent column. He says that our “national craziness” (it seems he’s referring to divorce, abortion, minimum wage, communism?) began in the 1960s and that in that time “the American left thought we could put an end to hardship.”

I argue that though there are myriad manifestations of sixties influences in contemporary America, the kind of progressivism that was birthed then was not an effort to “banish hardship,” as Olasky says. Rather, by inviting more people to become equal participants in society, things got a lot more complicated.

To prove this point, I take a quick look at the recent controversy surrounding Sojourners and their rejection of an advertisement by Believe Out Loud, the trans-denominational movement that seeks to promote LGBT-inclusion in Christian churches. If you haven’t read anything about this yet, start with this piece in Religion Dispatches and this one to see the fallout.

My point there is that rather than an attempt to make life easier as a part of some kind of hippie copout culture, which Olasky is trying to make his readers believe in, the progressive legacy of the sixties has forced us to consider hard questions. Need more proof, check out this article about so-called “circus barkers” who are offended by President Obama’s use of the term.

That’s a long preview, because it’s a long piece. But I hope you’ll give it a read tomorrow at Patheos and, as always, I’d love to hear any and all feedback.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to I’d Take Nick Hornby Over Marvin Olasky Any Day

  1. Dusty says:

    I politely disagree with your assessment of Olasky in general, and his recent column in particular. Dr. Olasky, should you ever have the pleasure of making his acquaintance, is one of the kindest, easy-going, salt-of-the-earth men of God around. He was a Marxist and progressive Leftist himself in the 60’s and 70’s. Now I realize that at that time he was on the extreme Left, but he has been a student of liberalism, socialism, and collectivism his entire life. He’s seen both sides. He certainly has his opinions, and they favor his free market conservative worldview, but his “answer to everything” isn’t to blame the 60’s. He, like many conservatives of his generation, simply recognize that it is their generation who (as of now) has had the most amount of influence on the way things are currently constituted in the culture/politics/Christianity/etc.

    The political Left in this country over the past half century has, from one legitimate point of view, attempted to forcibly/legislatively do-away with “hardship.” There is a very real idea on the Left that passing a new law, electing the perfect candidate, lowering education standards, etc. etc. will make society better. Olasky, and many of us who appreciate his perspective, agree that this has not worked.

    Just some thoughts. Appreciate your take on it. Look forward to reading your column. God bless.

  2. Well, since you asked for any and all feedback…

    I’m not too impressed with the Olasky article, so I don’t want to defend that. But I also don’t really buy your rhetorical reversal. The fundamental conservative accusation is that Great-Society-style programs don’t take into account the real-world limits (showed by the laws of economics) on what the government can and can’t do. You counter with an argument that maintaining a progressive coalition/society is difficult as the circle of inclusion expands ever outward. Olasky’s talking about goals, and you seem to be talking about process. If I’m right about the goal/process distinction, what you mean by “making life fairer and more just for everyone” just is what Olasky is characterizing as “banishing hardship.” To paraphrase your last sentence:

    “If you believe that progressivism is an attempt to banish hardship, when banishing hardship for everyone is actually much harder than the alternative, you, like Rob, may need to wake up.”

    If I had to write a column on this subject, I would have argued two things:

    1.) To alleviate (some) hardship is a legitimate function of government. Aiming at marginal improvements is not the same as trying to banish hardship. (“…to promote the general welfare…”)
    2.) Great-Society-era liberal thinking was too often blind to unintended policy consequences, but contemporary liberal thinking has absorbed many Hayekian critiques and started using market-like incentive structures in its policy proposals.

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to go much further down that road, because I’m not a policy guy.

    Wouldn’t have left this comment if you hadn’t asked for feedback, so I hope it comes across in a spirit of constructive criticism.

  3. I appreciate both of these comments very much. William, I’d really like to read the column you might write in response. I think that there are many ways to approach Olasky’s piece, and I wish there had been more responses to it.

    Thanks for commenting.

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