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Culture War as Stigma War

Posted by Tony Listi on August 1, 2010

Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.
Alexis de Tocqueville

A friend of mine drew my attention to a very important article written by Jeff Schafer at the Alliance Defense Fund. It’s entitled “Stigma and Dogma, Revisited.”

This article re-echoes something that De Tocqueville (quoted above) observed early on about the dangerous tendencies of democratic culture. Stigma and social pressure rule the day in a democracy.

Yet stigma and social pressure were what kept the U.S. conservative and free for so long, esp. with regard to our current social issues. In the early history of America, abortion and deviations from traditional marriage were so powerfully and thoroughly stigmatized that they were not political issues at all. Not so anymore.

Stigma is the expression of moral outrage. The article reminds me of one of the Leadership Institute’s Laws of the Public Policy Process: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.”

If conservatives are to take the long-term view of changing the culture in order to win (as the left did over a century ago), we have to be willing to publicly engage in the Stigma War. Big govt., govt. coercion, govt. dependency, promiscuity, sexual perversity, infanticide, etc. must all become shameful, stigmatized things again. Conservatives have to be willing to publicly denounce these things as immoral and shameful.

Why do you think the left likes to engage in name-calling? Racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, etc. All these epithets are intended to stigmatize conservative views, whether the labels rationally apply or not. And they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

When people evaluate candidates or policies, it is moral factors that determine their choices; it is the elements of shame and guilt that convince people to be politically active and to hold certain political views with intensity.

We need not lose hope completely that the world is doomed to irrationality though. Feelings of guilt, shame, and moral outrage do not spring up spontaneously or irrationally; they are rooted in certain rational, though often false, paradigms and faith systems. The problem with the left is not that they aren’t rational; they are, assuming their faith-based assumptions to be true. It’s the fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality, human nature, and justice that separate us from them. (And these false assumption are inculcated into Americans through the cultural institutions of primary schools, academia, arts & entertainment, churches, and the media.)

We need to bring the reasons for our political faith and assumptions to the surface in the most clear, concise, direct, impactful, and thought-provoking ways possible. And this is where the necessity of activism comes in. And good activism is based on good organizational preparation beforehand that gathers the people and resources to make activism effective.

Moreover, activism should be directed not merely at challenging current leftist stigmas and dogmas but toward recapturing the cultural institutions mentioned above that inculcate these false stigmas and dogmas into American youth (and older).

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Posted in Abortion, American Culture, American History, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Activism, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Student Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Why Catholicism is Distinctly Conservative

Posted by Tony Listi on January 23, 2010

The Catholic faith teaches that grasping the truth about God, His Church, and His moral precepts is not an ongoing process that never ends. The Holy Spirit led the apostles and the Church built on their hand-picked successors “to all truth” (John 16:13).

While it may take some time for the individual to learn and humbly submit to all these truths, these truths have already been revealed and “handed down once for all” (Jude 1:3). The Christian faith was established with certainty and infallibility long before Martin Luther; it cannot be changed, no matter how scrupulously one studies the Bible. Nothing substantive or fundamental can be added to or subtracted from the early deposit of faith.

Personal Scriptural interpretations and younger, man-made Protestant traditions cannot possibly carry greater weight or be more accurate than the Scriptural interpretations of the early Church fathers and councils long before the Protestant Revolution and its “progressive” and innovative doctrinal additions to and subtractions from the one, traditional Faith handed down by the apostles, the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20).

However, grasping these fixed, traditional Christian truths as they apply to our individual lives and our striving to live out those truths (i.e. sanctification) is indeed an unending, life-long process. We need constant reminders of the truths that have already been revealed to us and constant reflection on how to apply them to our own lives. We need constant prayer for the grace and strength to practice and live out the fixed truths we already know, so that our faith may not be dead, useless, and in vain.

Therefore, Catholicism is distinctly conservative while all other denominations, to a greater or lesser extent, are necessarily liberal, relativist, fallibilist, and egocentric.

Though he’s talking about politics and conservatism, the following quote by William F. Buckley, Jr. (himself a Catholic) in Up from Liberalism applies very similarly to religion and Catholicism:

Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths that have already been apprehended are more important to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal grasp only in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus…. Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgement that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.

With regard to epistemology, i.e. “critical assumption[s],” Protestantism and modern American liberalism are two sides of the same coin.

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Tragic Triumph of the Welfare State over the Church

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

church1By Will Herberg

ALONG with this overwhelming impact of the technological spirit on our culture, and therefore on our religion, we must take account of the effects of the Welfare State, of our Welfare Society, on religious attitudes in this country. Through the past century, the welfare services that ordinarily support human life in society have more and more passed over to the modern State, operating as a huge, centralized, bureaucratic, omnicompetent welfare agency. This has come as the culmination of the relentless secularization of life in the past four hundred years. In earlier days, through antiquity and the middle ages, into the sixteenth century, most of the welfare services that sustain life—taking care of orphans, jobless, old people, sick and incapacitated —were regularly rendered by family and friends within the scope and function of the Church, which was thus bound to the people by a thou- sand threads of everyday welfare interest. For the Amish people, this is still a reality today. In April 1965, wind and flood did wide damage in the midwest and destroyed many an Amish community. Groups of Amish people from the outside came to help their brothers rebuild their communities and their lives. On a TV news broadcast, a commentator noted: These days, when people are in trouble, there is one direction in which they look—to the federal government in Washington. But the Amish people don’t look to the federal government in Washington for help. They look to each other in their church.

That’s how it still is with the Amish people, but that’s how it was once all over in Christendom. I bring this forward not to encourage us to try to restore conditions long gone—that is a human impossibility—but to illustrate the profound changes that have taken place in recent centuries in our relation to religion and the Church.

With the deep and thoroughgoing secularization of Western society, the hopes and expectations of the masses of people have steadily been turning from Church to State, from religion to politics. This is a fact that no one, whatever his opinion or ideology, can deny, or has, in fact, denied. Consider how far this has gone in our own mass society, and our American society is only beginning to take its first steps in the direction of the Welfare State ; if you want to see a Welfare State in its full development, look at Sweden. But already in our own society people have been so stripped of their human bonds in Church and community that they are driven to look to the State for the most ordinary human associations and services. The State has not only become Big Father and Big Brother. It is actually brought to the point of having to supply to the forlorn members of the “lonely crowd” a State-appointed Good Friend. For, what is the modern social worker but a State- appointed Good Friend to the friendless denizens of mass society?

The modern State, in fact, becomes a divinized Welfare-Bringer. In the ancient world, the Hellenistic monarchs, and later the Roman emperors, prided themselves on being Welfare-Bringers (Euergetes, Benefactor), passing on the gifts of the gods to their subjects. They depicted themselves on their coins—the primary vehicle of State propaganda in those days which were without journalistic mass media, radio, or TV—as divinized figures holding a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, from which everything good is shown flowing to the grateful people. This is the modern Welfare State ; even some of the ancient symbols are being revived in cartoons and pictures. The omnicompetent Welfare State thus becomes the modern substitute for God and the Church, “from whom all blessings flow.”

Seen in this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why the Church as a religious institution has become more and more marginal in the everyday life of the people. The broad scope of its interests has become drastically narrowed by the galloping secularization of life. What does the Church do, what can it do, when the State takes over everything and comes to engage our deepest loyalties and emotions? Our religious feelings and religious interests have been more and more diverted from the attenuating Church to the expanding State. Is it any wonder that people are losing their interest in religion? They identify themselves religiously, belong to churches, and attend religious services, but for very different reasons (I have discussed this elsewhere) than once bound them to religion and the Church.

http://www.mmisi.org/ir/06_01_02/herberg.pdf

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Health Care, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Social Security, Socialism, Welfare State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

C. S. Lewis on Barack Obama

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

C. S. Lewis

Lewis died in 1963, so there is no knowing exactly what he would say. But I have come across some wonderful quotes from his satirical Screwtape Letters (uncle demon writing to a nephew demon on how to damn souls) that have obvious significance for what we should think of Barack Obama, the campaign he ran, and the state of American culture.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead….

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other—dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t much matter which) about this war than for him to be living in the present. But the phrase “living in the present” is ambiguous. It may describe a process which is really just as much concerned with the Future as anxiety itself. Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is, going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real course of his tranquillity, his tranquillity will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed. (Letter XV, underlined emphasis mine)

In American politics, the words “past” and “future” have, respectively, negative and positive connotations. Is this a good thing? Did not Barack Obama’s campaign exploit futuristic jargon most successfully? Shouldn’t we be skeptical of so-called “progressive” policy schemes that play on false hopes of heaven on earth?

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing. (Letter XXV)

From the above passage, I think it is quite clear what Lewis would think of Black Liberation Theology and the Trinity United Church of Christ. He would disapprove.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating Pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual ear; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games in which conkers succeed hopscotch as regularly as autumn follows summer. Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up.

This demand is valuable in various ways. In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns. And continued novelty costs money, so that the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both. And again, the more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids. Thus by inflaming the horror of the Same Old Thing we have recently made the Arts, for example, less dangerous to us than perhaps, they have ever been, “low-brow” and “high-brow” artists alike being now daily drawn into fresh, and still fresh, excesses of lasciviousness, unreason, cruelty, and pride. Finally, the desire for novelty is indispensable if we are to produce Fashions or Vogues.

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate his horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so useful. The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking “Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?” they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective “unchanged” we have substituted the emotional adjective “stagnant”. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is…. (Letter XXV)

Is American culture obsessed with change for its own sake? Is it irrationally afraid of “the Same Old Thing”?

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth…. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. (Letter XXVIII, emphasis mine)

Do Obama and liberals believe that they can create heaven on earth?

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Politicians, Politics and Religion, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Left’s Flirtation with the Middle Class

Posted by Tony Listi on December 27, 2008

Historically, the political Left has hated and despised the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie of Marxist thought. Yet in our times, the Left has realized (or rather re-realized) the political suicide of openly denigrating the “mushy middle.”

The Left has always hated the middle class because it has always represented and been the chief obstacle to its utopia, its unconstrained vision, its establishment of heaven on earth. Going back to at least Aristotle, observant political scholars have recognized the stability that a middle class brings to society. But the Left is not interested in stability, far from it. The Left is interested in revolution, in transformation, in the creation of the New Man; in a word: Change, the very opposite of stability. Moreover, the middle class tends to be less vulnerable to demagogic appeals to irrational class envy or self-hatred. In general, the middle class has also been the guardian of traditional religion and morality from generation to generation.  From every angle, the Left has had every reason to attack the middle class.

However, it has been said that the first rule of politics in democratic or semi-democratic nations is to add and multiply, not subtract and divide. Of course, from a practical, electoral perspective, political leaders, if they are to stand for anything at all, can’t help but divide the public with their rhetoric and policy positions. No, it is not a question of whether a politician will divide the country but how and to what extent he will divide it.

And if the middle class (admittedly a nebulous term) represents a majority, if not a super-majority (as it almost always has in America), then any political movement cannot afford to alienate this class–if it cares anything for practical, electoral success, i.e. power.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the Democratic Party have (re-)learned this lesson well. They campaigned as champions of the middle class, with the unending mantra of promising tax breaks for the lower and middle classes rather than the wealthy (Tax breaks for those who pay relatively little to no taxes?). This stance may work well politically under the current unfavorable economic conditions, just as FDR was successful in pushing his socialist-fascist policy agenda during the Great Depression. But as a matter of economic policy, it is unsustainable and not in the public interest. Conservatives and Republicans must powerfully communicate and demonstrate this truth the the American people.

When the American middle class re-awakens to this harsh reality, it will turn on the leftists, just as it did on Jimmy Carter. After that, it will only be  a matter of time before the Left’s natural hatred of the middle class re-emerges. The Left’s only hope is to weaken, corrupt,  or destroy the middle class before it re-awakens, or to patiently wear it down over time and enjoy the fruits at a later time. We conservatives must work to win over the middle class (or more of it) again. We must illustrate the economic harm that the Left is inflicting upon everyone. We must be in the fight for the long haul as well.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Culture War, Economics, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politicians, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Gospel According to Marx

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2008

In the beginning was the Government, and the Government was with God, and the Government was God. All things came to be through Government, and without Government nothing comes to be.

Now Mary was with child, though she was not married to Joseph. And it came to pass during the reign of Herod that Jesus Christ was born out of wedlock in a Bethlehem stable (for Planned Parenthood had not been established yet).  Poor Mary and Joseph had sought shelter in many places, but the greedy Jewish innkeepers would not let them in. Three travelers from afar, from the distant national capital of Rome, came bearing gifts of universal health care, housing, and education.  And so they prospered as Jesus grew in enlightenment and diversity sensitivity.

As Jesus grew into a man, he saw so much suffering and poverty among his fellow human beings. He decided to become a community activist, the only way he would ever make a difference. And so one day as he was walking beside the River Jordan, he happened upon some fishermen. He began to talk to them about their wages and stir in them a zeal for economic justice. “Fishermen of Judea unite!” cried Jesus.

He befriended tax collectors and Roman officials as well and made them his disciples, for they were doing God’s work in resisting the bourgeoisie. “Let the proletariat with no purse, sell his cloak and buy a sword,” Jesus said. His ministry grew far and wide as he and his naked disciples went door-to-door demanding money from the wealthiest of Jews. Those who refused were threatened by the swords of Rome and easily surrendered their ill-gotten gain. And thus Jesus went throughout the land performing all manner of miracles, redistributing wealth to the poorest of people. The multiplication of wealth continued until 12 baskets full of coins were left over.

Jesus gathered the people around him and began to preach: “Blessed are the poor, for they deserve to be the kings of the earth. Blessed are those who cry, for government will comfort them. Blessed are the meek, for no one should be stronger or better than anyone else. Blessed are the peacemakers, for war is evil and should be outlawed.” The peace of Christ reigned throughout the land.

He then told them a parable. “The master gave five talents to three servants – to each according to their need. When the master returned days later, he found inequality among his servants. One had made another five talents. One had managed to hold onto his five. One had squandered his five in dissolution. So the master took five from the servant with ten to give to the one who had none. For to everyone who has more, more will be taken away. To he who has little, he shall receive in abundance.”

Now the religious establishment in the region, the Pharisees, was not happy about the revolution Jesus had been leading. They were cold-hearted and increased their power and wealth through the lies they told to the poor about morality and an afterlife.  So this group of bigoted, reactionary, hypocritical religious fanatics plotted to destroy Jesus.

But Jesus was intelligent and sophisticated. A certain disciple of his, Nicodemus, had infiltrated the Pharisees and informed him of their treachery. And in the dark of night, the disciples of Jesus raided the homes of the Pharisees and dragged them and their families onto barges from which they were sent down river to re-education camps in the desert.

With the land cleansed of all iniquity, Jesus performed one last wondrous deed. He gave all his followers eternal life on this earth through the power of science.

And so Jesus was elected emperor of the world forever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Just for Fun, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brave New World: The Liberal Vision

Posted by Tony Listi on August 2, 2008

What would the world be like if liberals took over the world? What would happen if they really could have all the CHANGE they wanted? What would life be like if all their HOPE and dreams were fulfilled? What if communism actually “worked” the way it was supposed to? What if we could see Alexis de Tocqueville’s “soft despotism” first hand? What if science finally triumphed over religion? What if we finally freed ourselves from all the “quaint” traditional moral norms, especially regarding sex?

It would be the cold, mechanical, perverse existence of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Have you read this book? If not, I urge you to watch it here. Everyone should read or watch it; only then may they realize the hell that liberalism wishes for us all. There is no better depiction of the liberal vision that conservatism opposes.

We must all watch it soon, for if we don’t, the sharp and grotesque satire of this story will slowly grow familiarly dull to us such that even this rich, powerful portrayal of our doom cannot reach our numbed souls.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Stork Economics

Posted by Tony Listi on July 28, 2008

Liberals have a childish understanding of economics.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1078

By James Kerian

If you ask a child where babies come from, you can get a lot of interesting answers, but traditionally the most common answer is that they come by stork. Children tend to have a similar understanding of economics. If you ask them where their allowance comes from, the two most likely responses are “Daddy’s wallet” and “Mommy’s purse.” In both cases, nothing is created, just transferred. Babies are transferred by storks, and wealth is transferred by parents.

If a child is blessed with good parents, they will soon learn that God makes babies and gives them as gifts to their families. Likewise, “God has given riches and wealth . . . this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19). Most of us grow up to understand that God allows us to participate in the procreation of babies, but unfortunately very few ever realize that God allows us to participate in the procreation of wealth. Rather than procreation, most people assume what is commonly referred to as a zero-sum view of economics. In this view, wealth can neither be created nor destroyed but only transferred from one person to another. This, essentially, is stork economics.

It would be very sad if someone reached adulthood still believing that babies are delivered by stork. (This is the consummate fear of the “comprehensive” sex-ed lobby.) It could make it very difficult to start a family, at least without kidnapping or adoption. In the same manner, those who still believe in stork economics often find it very difficult to acquire wealth, or at least to create it.

While the method for procreating babies is extremely popular, the methods for procreating wealth are, unfortunately, much less attractive. The first method, hard work, is particularly unappealing. The second, ingenuity (both in technological development and efficient procedures), has its appeal but is not something that people like to have expected of them. The third, risk (the investment of time and resources), has glamor but obviously often leads to great disappointment. Nevertheless, these are the three things that have raised the wealth of humanity to the present age from a time when nearly the entire population of the planet was preoccupied with daily sustenance.

Since these methods for procreating wealth are relatively unattractive, there has to be some motivation—an expectation of fair recompense—for wealth to be created. When policymakers subscribe to stork economics, they inevitably deal serious damage to their economy. In their efforts to “fairly” distribute wealth, they remove the incentives for hard work, ingenuity, and risk and thus undermine the creation of the wealth they are attempting to allocate. This has happened repeatedly in varying degrees virtually everywhere—from the Soviet Union to the American welfare state to modern-day North Korea—but it always leaves the advocates of stork economics confused about the sudden absence of wealth. As John Chancellor once said of the Soviet Union on the NBC Nightly News: “The problem isn’t communism . . . the problem is shortages.”

Wealth, like life, can also be destroyed. If hard work, ingenuity, and risk are capable of carrying mankind away from sustenance living, then sloth, ignorance, and recklessness are just as capable of taking him back to it. Wealth should not be the preeminent concern of the Christian, and it is certainly of less importance than the immortal souls of our children. But if you should chance upon someone preaching that the gospel of “social justice” demands “wealth equity,” please take him aside and gently explain. I assure you, he’s old enough.

James Kerian is a mechanical engineer and small-business owner in Grafton, North Dakota.

Posted in American Culture, Economics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dobson accuses Obama of ‘distorting’ Bible

Posted by Tony Listi on June 24, 2008

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Dobson is right about Obama distorting biblical teaching. Hopefully, every Christian will recognize this. 

At the same time though, I can’t help but laugh ironically at conservative Protestants like Dobson who try to argue with liberal Protestants like Obama based on the “traditional understanding of the Bible.” Tradition?! What happened to sola Scriptura? Surely, Obama can read the Bible for himself and reach a correct conclusion inspired by the Holy Spirit and by his own private judgment and reason, no? Seems like an arbitrary appeal to obedience to tradition when it suits one’s own personal preferences. Obama and his church embody the real and deep divisions within Christianity that were created by Protestantism and sola Scriptura.

Dobson is right, but his own theology leaves him helpless to combat the false doctrines and interpretations of Obama. When will Protestants realize that sola Scriptura inexorably leads to theological relativism which in turn leads to moral relativism which in turn strengthens liberalism and corrupts American politics?

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080624/D91G8E200.html

By ERIC GORSKI 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement’s biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a “fruitcake interpretation” of the Constitution.

The criticism, to be aired Tuesday on Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program, comes shortly after an Obama aide suggested a meeting at the organization’s headquarters here, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family.

The conservative Christian group provided The Associated Press with an advance copy of the pre-taped radio segment, which runs 18 minutes and highlights excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. Obama mentions Dobson in the speech.

“Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” Obama said. “Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s?” referring to the civil rights leader.

Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy – chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application.”

“Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles,” Obama said.

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament.

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology,” Dobson said.

“… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Politicians, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Sola Scriptura | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »