Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Women, Sexual Pleasure, and Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on August 27, 2012

Conservatives seem to be ignoring or dismissing the fundamental and apparently somewhat persuasive “pleasure argument” made by sexual egoists to women about sex and contraception.

The egoists tell women that vanity, independence from men, and sensual pleasure and self-indulgence are the sources of happiness rather than love, sexual joy, commitment, and lifelong marriage to a truly loving husband at their service. Therefore, they celebrate and worship contraception, which “empowers” women to get a lot more sex and a lot more physical sexual pleasure than ever before without the “burdens” of  men, marriage, and/or children. The egoists want women to have the same qualities as the worst kind of lustful men.

Conservatives often seem to assume that women don’t fall for this, assuming that women are less attracted to sexual self-indulgence than men. But many women, including many young liberal and libertarian women, have accepted that logic and those values. Increased pornography use among women is also indicative of this problem.

At the very extreme, some conservatives seem to forget that women can get just as much physical and emotional pleasure from sexual activity as men, if not more so.

The image of very lustful and vain women is indeed very repulsive to the conservative mind (as is lustful and prideful men), but it’s an image of reality in a great many women and needs to be recognized and confronted. (Though of course, it is more important to recognize and confront it in men, who typically initiate sexual behavior.)

So today, conservatives unfortunately have to re-establish the fundamentals, especially those about happiness. They have to argue the case that love brings real, lasting happiness and is better than use, than mere self-indulgence in vanity and pleasure. We should not assume that women today understand this truth better than men and embrace it more often and more strongly than men.

As a whole, women’s values and demands regarding sex have changed over time. Many women are not demanding marriage, commitment, and love anymore; they are satisfied with vanity, pleasure, and independence and reject commitment and responsibility.

If one wants to be harsh and cynical, one could say that women’s values (like men’s) haven’t changed at all,  that women (in their fallen nature) have always desired vanity, pleasure, and independence rather than commitment and responsibility, and that contraception has merely lowered the personal cost to women of pursuing those egoist values. Before contraception, the costs were just too high. A woman may have wanted to indulge in sexual pleasure and vanity (in or outside of marriage), but she knew the consequences were more children and the sacrifices necessary to care for them.

Contraception in itself, like all technology, is not the source of hedonistic, self-centered values. It merely allows people to act on pre-existing values or tendencies (good and bad) at a lower cost.

Posted in American Culture, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Frank Meyer, Libertarianism, and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on July 24, 2010

 

Frank S. Meyer

Frank S. Meyer’s book In Defense of Freedom and essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” are must-reads IMO. His critique of Russell Kirk in his essay “Collectivism Rebaptized” is also insightful and persuasive. Kirk and Meyer have been the most influential thinkers on my own political views but Meyer most of all.

In his essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” Meyer argues his belief that conservatism and libertarianism derive from the same Western political tradition and merely represent two different but complementary emphases that have always been in tension:

I am well aware that what I have been saying can be criticized as eclecticism and attacked as an effort to smother principle. But it is not the laying aside of clear belief, either by the libertarian conservative or the traditionalist conservative, in order to present a front against contemporary collectivist Liberalism, that is here conceived. Rather it is the deepening of the beliefs which each holds through the development of their implications in a dialectic free of distorting narrowness…a dialectic in which both sides recognize not only that they have a common enemy but also that, despite all differences, they hold a common heritage….

[E]ach side emphasizes so strongly the aspect of the great tradition of the West which it sees as decisive that distortion sets in…. [T]he complementary interdependence of freedom and virtue, of the individual person and political order, is forgetten.

Moral order, tradition, liberty, and individualism need not be in conflict in a free society though a healthy tension exists among them.

Notably for contemporary disputes among conservatives and libertarians, in his book In Defense of Freedom, Meyer affirms the exceptional and necessary character of the institution of the family (emphases mine):

To this completely voluntary character of associations proper to the free nature of men, there are only two exceptions–the state and the family. Neither can be voluntary because of the human condition itself…. The family is the institution into which children are born and under which they develop as human beings. As far as they are concerned, it is not voluntary…. As far as their parents are concerned, the family is, however, entered into voluntarily; marriage is, in a free society, originally a mutual voluntary act of two individuals–voluntary, even though any marriage worthy of that exalted name is an unbreakable compact and though the family, proceeding from marriage, creates morally indissoluble bonds of parental obligation.

The family is the most important form through which virtue is inculcated in children. But it is not the institution of the family as such that inculcates virtue; it is the persons who constitute the family–father and mother and other close relatives–who in actuality decide the issue of the moral and intellectual direction that children take…. The family as an institution cannot guarantee the raising of the young in the paths of virtue, although the family is a necessary form; only individual persons, acting through the form of the family, can do so.

Frank Meyer embodies my political philosophy: an Austrian libertarian who recognizes the necessary and exceptional nature of marriage and children. Libertarians would do well to temper their ideology of liberty with the same recognition of the unique nature of the family. One cannot expect limited government and liberty in a society where the institution of the family is weak, if not completely destroyed.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

C. S. Lewis on Diabolical Democracy, Socialism, and Public Education

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

Is democracy a trap?

Is democracy a trap?

The following quotes below are taken from his satirical Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1959). Screwtape, a demon, speaks at the graduation of other younger demons from Tempters’ Training College.

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state….

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose…. [T]hey should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal…. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you….

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority…. “They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.”

Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic…. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals….

Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects…. As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.

But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?…

Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time…. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem”…. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma…by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career….

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”

We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.

For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible….

It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government….

The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave states are for us a means (besides, of course, being fun); but the real end is the destruction of individuals. For only individuals can be saved or damned, can become sons of the Enemy or food for us. The ultimate value, for us, of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce. I’m as good as you is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But it has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Fascism, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Quotes, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

The Bible and Slavery

Posted by Tony Listi on May 17, 2008

There seems to be a lot of ignorance and confusion among Americans (especially on the Left) about what the Bible says about slavery and the impact that the Judeo-Christian tradition had on that peculiar institution. So it’s time to set the record straight: the Bible does not encourage or approve of slavery and it is the Judeo-Christian tradition that provided the moral force to abolish it.

First of all, it is important to realize that slavery was by and large uncontroversial and accepted in the ancient pagan world. Slavery was widely practiced in every ancient civilization, but only one civilization took it upon itself to abolish slavery within its own communities by force of law: the Christian West. In fact, slavery still exists today in some parts of the Islamic world and Asia.

It is not surprising that historically the Judeo-Christian tradition is responsible for abolishing slavery if one takes a careful look at the Bible. Equality before the eyes of God became equality before the law for all.

The Old Testament and Slavery
In ancient times, slavery was not based on racism. In ancient Israel, the slaves were prisoners of war, criminals, or indentured servants. Relative to the time, slavery was a humane alternative to slaughter, cruel punishment, starvation, or debt imprisonment. Most Hebrew slaves were probably bondsmen who voluntarily bound themselves to a master and thus not really “slaves” in the modern understanding of the term.

Keep in mind one crucial point when reading the Old Testament: just because it regulated a practice does not mean that it approved of that practice. For example, the Old Testament regulates divorce, but it also says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And Jesus tells us that the Father tolerated divorce among the Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts (Mk 10:4-5; Mt 19:8) Thus, though the Old Testament regulated slavery, it did not approve of it.

Moreover, compared with the other ancient civilizations of that time, the regulations of slavery within the Old Testament were almost always to moderate the practice. For example, according to the Code of Hammurabi, a person who harbors a runaway slave should be put to death. In contrast, the Old Testament prohibits one from returning a runaway slave to its master: “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has taken refuge from him with you. Let him live with you wherever he chooses, in any one of your communities that pleases him. Do not molest him” (Deut 23:16-17).

Anyone who abducted another person and sold them into slavery (cf. the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis): “A kidnapper, whether he sells his victim or still has him when caught, shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).

It was required that slaves be freed after six years or on the Jubilee Year:

“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, sells himself to you, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall dismiss him from your service, a free man” (Deut 15:12; see also Exodus 21:2).

“When, then, your countryman becomes so impoverished beside you that he sells you his services, do not make him work as a slave. Rather, let him be like a hired servant or like your tenant, working with you until the jubilee year, when he, together with his children, shall be released from your service and return to his kindred and to the property of his ancestors. Since those whom I brought out of the land of Egypt are servants of mine, they shall not be sold as slaves to any man. Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God” (Lev 25:39-43).

A slave could also buy his freedom or be redeemed by relatives: “When one of your countrymen is reduced to such poverty that he sells himself to a wealthy alien who has a permanent or a temporary residence among you, or to one of the descendants of an immigrant family, even after he has thus sold his services he still has the right of redemption; he may be redeemed by one of his own brothers, or by his uncle or cousin, or by some other relative or fellow clansman; or, if he acquires the means, he may redeem himself” (Lev 25:47-49).

Moreover, a slave was to be treated quite generously upon emancipation! “When you do so, you shall not send him away empty-handed, but shall weight him down with gifts from your flock and threshing floor and wine press, in proportion to the blessing the LORD, your God, has bestowed on you.For remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, ransomed you. That is why I am giving you this command today. If, however, he tells you that he does not wish to leave you, because he is devoted to you and your household, since he fares well with you, you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear into the door, and he shall then be your slave forever” (Deut 15:13-17; emphasis added).

A slave not wanting to leave his master? Obviously, this is not the kind of slavery that most Americans envision when they hear the word.

The Mosaic Law recognizes that slaves are human beings, not merely property. The punishment for killing a slave is the same as for killing a free person, i.e. death: “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished…. But if injury, ensures you shall give life for life….” (Exodus 21:20, 23). This was unique in the ancient world at that time.

All slaves were expected to participate in religious ceremonies and duties of the household too, including observing the Sabbath and all holy days:

“…but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you” (Exodus 20: 10).

“In the place which the LORD, your God, chooses as the dwelling place of his name, you shall make merry in his presence together with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite who belongs to your community, as well as the alien, the orphan and the widow among you” (Deut 16:11).

If a household had no heirs, the slave could inherit the estate: “Abram continued, ‘See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir'” (Genesis 15:3).

There are even special regulations for female slaves. Whereas sex slaves were common in the ancient Near East and in the Islamic world, it was forbidden under Mosaic Law: “When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion” (Deut 21:10-14).

And of course, we must not forget the Exodus story, how God freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God continually reminds them of the freedom he gave to them and thus to take it to heart not to mistreat their own slaves. And let’s not forget that black slaves in America looked to the story of Exodus for hope and inspiration.

The New Testament and Slavery
In the Roman Empire (the time of the New Testament), slaves were apprentices and indentured servants. They represented a broad social and legal category. Some slaves were very well educated and thus more valuable to their owners (e.g. Epictetus). It was common for slaves to live apart from their masters with their own home and families. In fact, many slaves did not want to be free, and some owners wanted to be rid of their slaves! Slaves were expensive to feed and house. (The high cost of feeding slaves is a common motif in Roman literature.) With this context in mind, the following statement of St. Paul makes perfect sense: “If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity” (1 Cor 7:21).

Also, when Jesus talks of slavery (which is not often) in the New Testament, it almost always in the context of a parable. Thus, Jesus is not approving of slavery; he is merely using examples of everyday life in Roman Palestine.

Like Jesus, St. Paul does not seem to think it is important whether one is a slave or free man: “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:25-29; emphasis added of course). Thus sprang the Western conception of equality of dignity of all human beings. For the Christian community, there is no slave and free.

Moreover, St. Paul and the early Christians believed that the Apocalypse, Christ’s 2nd Coming, was near. There was no reason for sweeping social reforms if Jesus was to going to establish justice soon enough.

St. Paul also says, “Were you a slave when you were called [to be a Christian]? Do not be concerned but, even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of it. For the slave called in the Lord is a freed person in the Lord, just as the free person who has been called is a slave of Christ. You have been purchased at a price. Do not become slaves to human beings” (1 Cor 7:21-23). He urges people not to bind themselves in servitude to others.

Paul did not approve of slave-trading: “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, slave traders, liars, perjurers,…” (1 Tim 1:8-10).

The most important slavery that concerns Jesus and St. Paul is spiritual slavery, slavery to sin. But even so, the entire book of Philemon is an emotional appeal by St. Paul on behalf of a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul writes to the master, Philemon, and asks him to show mercy and receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ: “Perhaps this is why [Onesimus] ran away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me” (Philemon 15-18).

Slaves and masters are brothers in Christ. This spiritual equality laid the foundation for social and legal equality.

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Leadership and the Federal Government

Posted by Tony Listi on May 16, 2008

What does leadership mean to you? What kind of leadership do you want to see in our politicians?

Here are my thoughts on leadership and its tension with centralized government:

Leadership inspires and thus motivates. Government coerces and thus causes bitterness.

Leadership is a bottom-up process. Government has become a top-down process, from Washington, D.C. down to the local city and citizen.

Leadership is personal, developmental, and relational. Government at the national level is inherently impersonal, obstructive, and distant.

Leadership teaches and mentors. Government pontificates and condemns.

Leadership is empowering others by giving them freedom to make their own successes and mistakes. Government has become a command and control system that takes freedom away from people in order to punish the successful and reward the inept.

Leadership seeks the empowerment of all. Government is cannibalistic; it “empowers” people by disempowering others.

So the next time you hear a liberal Democrat claim they can bring “change” and “leadership” to Washington, D.C., take a moment to reflect on what real leadership is and what the federal government actually does.

Posted in Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Freedom Creates Diversity, Government Creates Uniformity

Posted by Tony Listi on May 16, 2008

Diversity is inextricably linked to freedom. Economic freedom naturally produces a diversity of income levels. Freedom of speech naturally produces a diversity of speech and opinions. And so on.

Uniformity is inextricably linked to coercion of some sort. Government is inherently an instrument of coercion that reduces freedom.

Therefore, because conservatism is for limited government and thus a champion of freedom, conservatism  (NOT liberalism) is the true proponent of responsible diversity!

Global economic inequality is merely economic diversity; each country practices different economic theories (capitalism, socialism, communism, etc.) and are free to do so. Seems liberals do not like economic diversity and that is why they despise economic freedom.

Capitalism, because it is inherently a system of freedom, creates a greater diversity of goods and services than any other economic system (a diversity relative to consumer demand). Because capitalism is based on voluntary exchange, it creates a just diversity.

Now conservatives are NOT devotees of every kind of diversity. Unlike liberals, we are not worshippers of the Idols of Difference and Change. Rather conservatives uphold a value system and a moral code. Therefore, a diversity of moralities is abhorrent to conservatism. Serial killing and living in peace, or homosexuality and heterosexuality, may be merely “diverse lifestyles” according to liberalism, but conservatism upholds and proclaims these differences to have absolute normative value. One is bad and one is good. Now, for the conservative, it is a matter of prudence whether certain tenets of his moral code should be imposed on society. The law is a teacher, but sometimes its good intentions can create more harm than good.

Posted in Government and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Which is More Materialistic: Capitalism or its Alternatives?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

Marxism is specifically atheistic. By denying the supernatural, transcendent, and spiritual aspects of reality, it is inherently materialistic and deterministic. The world is atoms, their random motions, and absolutely nothing else. Marxism seeks to satisfy material needs and desires regardless of the moral consequences (because morality, a transcendent thing, doesn’t exist). Communism, socialism, and welfare statism are merely derivatives of this Marxist theory.

Capitalism inherently believes that all human beings have free will and should be free to exercise that freedom without coercion from others in economic matters. Now the very idea of free will and freedom presupposes the divine, the supernatural. Freedom presupposes something more than a mere mass of atoms and random chance. It presupposes something more than the material world. It presupposes something (or someone) that can actually choose, i.e. the soul, and thus presupposes a Soul-Maker too. Thus capitalism presupposes the transcendent and spiritual and thus is less materialistic than any of its alternatives.

There is a distinction between materialism and productive use of the Creation. But of course, if you are an atheist, this distinction necessarily has no meaning for you.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Socialism, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pride in Your Gay Genes?

Posted by Tony Listi on April 27, 2008

Hypothetically, let’s suppose that homosexuality is completely and ineradicably genetic. Let’s suppose that people actually are born gay. The breakdown of the traditional family and our hyper-sexualized society have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Then I have a question: how can homosexuals possibly take pride in their homosexuality?

Typically, we take pride in the things that we personally choose and accomplish. Can one conceive of pride in any other way? We can have pride when we set goals, choose to pursue them, put our best efforts into them, and then, hopefully, succeed. We can have pride in a culture that we choose to identify ourselves with because of the values and beliefs that it upholds. But homosexuality supposedly has nothing to do with this. We are constantly told that homosexuality is not a choice. But no choice means no pride. How can one take pride in one’s genetic makeup? How can one take pride in something that one has/had no control over whatsoever?

Regardless of whether homosexuality is good or bad, if it is genetic, then not only can one not take pride in it, but one should not take pride in it. This is because there is something extremely perverse and dishonest in taking pride in something that one played no role in. Blacks have no reason to take pride in the genes that make them black. Hispanics have no reason to take pride in the genes that make them hispanic. Women have no reason to take pride in the XX chromosomes that make them women. The Nazis had no reason to take pride in the genes that supposedly made them Aryan.

But somehow this conflict between pride and genetics within the so-called “gay rights” movement has been ignored or overlooked.

If homosexuals want to reasonably take pride in their homosexuality, then, at the very least, they should back down from their claims that they were born gay. They need to revert to their previous position that homosexuality really is a choice to have sexual relations with people of the same sex. Like other minorities have done, they need to claim (however absurdly) that homosexuality is a culture, a lifestyle. Otherwise, those gay pride parades can be nothing other than silly, ridiculous nonsense.

Posted in American Culture, Feminism, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Individual Freedom: A Tenet of Christian Prudence

Posted by Tony Listi on April 21, 2008

Within limits, human beings should respect the individual freedom other human beings because this freedom, our free will, is a gift of God. I believe our freedom is also a reflection of the freedom of God, a reflection of his image and likeness perhaps.

However, we live in a fallen world such that people do not always use this gift responsibly. Human beings must endeavor to order themselves correctly as best they can, though knowing all the while that everyone, even our leaders, are fallen and prone to the disorder of sin. So for the sake of ordered society, we cannot tolerate the abuse of that freedom in certain circumstances, especially when they cause harm to others. And because human beings are dependent on each other for learning and practicing good order, widespread abuse of freedom could ultimately destroy a community or a nation. In such cases, power and coercion (i.e. government) must be brought to bear to curb individual freedom.

Therefore, the social and political life of human beings is characterized by the tension between order and liberty (which is a key insight of conservatism). Theoretically, if the state could in fact order human beings’ lives and society well (totalitarianism), would Christians have any reason not to support state intervention into all aspects of their lives? Yes, because such a fact would deny the value of human freedom. There would be no value in a hypothetically all-benevolent state controlling each and every citizen like a remote controlled robot. Individual freedom does have value in and of itself.

Also, for all the imperfections of the human soul and the free market, more often than not, government intervention in the market and the lives of individuals does more harm than good. The concentration of power necessary for a supposedly benevolent government to totally order society, that concentration of power is itself corrupting and thus a cause of disorder.

Therefore, individual freedom, for the Christian and conservative, is not a matter of absolute principle but rather one of prudence (as is requiring obedience to human authorities). And thus the exercise of reason is required too. Harm to others must be weighed against individual freedom.

Thus the conservative certainly believes that prudence dictates much more economic freedom than we have currently in the US. The conservative, though, may struggle on a variety of issues relating to personal freedom (gay marriage, prostitution, drugs, etc.). The struggle arises because the harm to others may be less apparent or immediate and little to no coercion is involved.

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

God, The Absolute Monarch of Ordered Liberty

Posted by Tony Listi on February 29, 2008

God is an absolute monarch, the absolute monarch of everything. Even Americans and Europeans, the most democratic of peoples, are subject to him though they may resist his commands. But he is also a benevolent and liberating monarch. Unlike human monarchs, he is a creator, the Creator of all that is good. He is an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving monarch, and thus his rule is never despotism or tyranny. Unlike human monarchs (and all highly centralized government), he does not lack any power, knowledge, or good-will necessary to implement his policies. In a country ruled by absolute monarchy, the monarch is the whole of political life. So it is in heaven.  

Therefore, God is not only Love, not only the Way and the Truth and the Life, but also Politics. He is Government. And yet look how much freedom he allows and gives us (free will). If only governments on earth would reflect and emulate the Government and give their subjects/citizens more freedom, the world would be a better place though still imperfect. If only governments would learn to embrace freedom (especially economic freedom) with all its imperfections, as God has embraced his free people with all their imperfections.

God is also a monarch who respects the dignity of his free subjects (because it is a dignity he himself gave them). Thus, somewhat strangely, he enters into a convenant (or contract, to use a more modern term) with them. Basically, he enters into a deal or bargain with his subjects. This begins with the Jews: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezk 36:28). The quid pro quo of the Old Testament convenant is hard to miss. God promises blessings in return for obedience to his commands, which demand both right belief and right action/behavior. And this convenant is continued, renewed, and fulfilled (in the sense that the fact that we can never fully keep our part of the bargain has now been taken into account)  in the New Testament. Yes, Jesus slightly modified or clarified some of the Law (mainly the punishments for its violation) for the time in which people then lived and he demands a personal faith and relationship with himself. But the basic responsibilities of both parties to the convenant have not changed; we must still believe in Him and act according to His will. We are free to carry out the responsibilities and receive our reward or neglect them and face the consequences.

Thus God is not only the giver of freedom (and thus all our human rights), he is a giver of Law and Order (just look at the Old Testament). God demands and commands very specific things of us. There is a purpose behind the freedom he has given us: to always choose all the good that all comes from him and that he commands us to choose. And yet he does not and will not attempt to control us or impose his will on his creation until the End of Time, the Final Judgment; he leaves us free to choose and suffer the natural consequences our disobedience (guilt, alienation, conflict, loneliness, depression, suffering, melancholy, pain, disease, etc.). God punishes, but usually through Nature, the natural order, the overarching framework of reality, that he has already created. Thus the physical laws of nature and the moral laws of human nature punish. Reward and punishment take the form of incentives and disincentives, not coercion (sounds very economical…). 

But here we come to the interesting and complicated question: does God punish through earthly government too? Or perhaps more appropriately phrased: should government become a means or tool for the punishment of God (especially since he has revealed certain laws)? For example, should government punish murder on behalf of God’s justice? How about rape? Theft? Dishonesty? Adultery? Greed? Pride? Sloth? Impiety? I think most of us would accept some of these as the purview of government but not others even though all of them are evil sins. Why? The correct answer is the master political virtue of Prudence: to prevent greater evils that will probably occur when sinners try to govern other sinners with regard to a particular sin. However, most people would probably appeal to the vague and somehwat unhelpful notion of the “separation of church and state.”  However, as easy as it is to separate church and state, it is impossible to separate religion from politics. These people would claim that certain sins or wrong doing are in principle off limits to government punishment. They are imprecise and thus slightly inaccurate in their analysis, though they may reach the same conclusion (I have libertarians in mind). The “harm principle” is ultimately meaningless without an adequate definition of “harm.”

Perhaps it would help if we asked what God has revealed with regard to his relation to government?

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom,To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”
God intends an “increase of His government” in the future that he himself will establish.

Psalm 86:9 “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,And they shall glorify Your name.”
All nations will submit to his governance.

Mark 12:17 “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This must have been important because it is repeated in Mt 22:21 and Lk 20:25. Here Jesus articulates powerfully a separation between church and state in some sense. Specifically, he articulates a division between duties we owe to the state and those we owe to God. On a fundamental level, Jesus proclaims that there is a difference between the state and God! One should never confuse the two and make an idol of the state.

Rom 13:1-10 “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Government is meant to establish justice as much as is possible. At its best, it is a servant of God.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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