Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Pornography vs. The Nude in Art: The Catholic-Christian Perspective

Posted by Tony Listi on December 9, 2011

Many colleges and universities offer art classes which necessarily involve the viewing of the nude male or female human body. There are two extreme and wrong-headed responses or approaches to this kind of situation:

  1. It is always and absolutely wrong to look at the naked human body merely for artistic reproduction or training. It is also always and absolutely wrong to publicly display such artistic reproductions of the nude body. Anybody who engages in such things is engaging in the deadly sin of lust.
  2. Looking at the naked human body, whether in person or through art, is no big deal and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. Anybody who wants limits upon or has any concerns about the morality of looking at the naked human body are prudes who hate the human body or don’t sufficiently value its beauty and dignity.

The correct, prudent, and temperant approach is the Catholic Christian approach outlined by Blessed Pope John Paul II (JP2) in his Theology of the Body. Artistic representation of nude forms is a very complex issue because it combines very objective truths with very subjective experiences.

Let’s look at JP2’s own words: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Catholicism, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Sex, The Papacy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Conservatism & Science: Why Politics is Not a Science

Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011

Science is conservative in some respects:

  • It generally changes incrementally and gradually as new evidence comes to mind.
  • It tests everything against experience. Results matter, not just theories or intentions.
  • It inherently looks to the past. Past occurences and observations are the foundation of science. Without faith in the past, science could not function.
  • It sees the world as inherently orderly, functioning according to certain reliably consistent laws of nature.

But science is not conservative with respect to the fact that science is fallibilistic. The foundations can and have been uprooted several times. The notion of science as the slow, steady, and conservative accumulation of knowledge was destroyed by a series of revolutions at the biological, cosmic, and atomic levels. Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, and Heisenberg in partcular were instrumental in proving that science sometimes radically uproots the current paradigm of empirical/scientific knowledge. Strictly speaking, nothing is ever really “settled” in science.

True conservatism does not allow for epistemological revolutions in moral and political philosophy:

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. (William F. Buckley Jr. in Up from Liberalism)

Marxists and libertarians of almost all varieties think that politics is a science. But it isn’t, strictly speaking.

Conservatism is a more humane political philosophy because it recognizes the reality of human nature and the influences upon it. People are not mere physical material, mere combinations of atoms and molecules, who react in the exact same way to certain external stimuli, whether economic or political. Sure, human nature in general doesn’t change, but culture and nurture mould the raw material human nature. Also, people are individuals and thus sometimes deviate from nature, culture, or nurture by willful choice. No nation is perfectly virtuous, but some nations are more virtuous than others in certain respects. 

Thus, while there are certainly timeless political principles, their direct and pure application will not yield the same results for every single group of people under any and all circumstances. Prudence cannot be dispensed with, and thus politics should be considered an art ultimately. Of course, just because something is an art doesn’t mean that reason should be ignored. Orderly art requires reason, the faculty that creates order.

Moreover, it is actually the notion itself of politics as a science that has been so harmful to American politics. Science became largely about experimentation and knowledge for its own sake or for the sake of power, unhinged from moral considerations. Regressives applied hubristic, reckless, and immoral political experimentation in America, irrationally disregarding experience and time-tested experience (not to mention constitutional law). The consequences have been devastating.

Science in itself has no moral compass. To say that politics is a science is to introduce the element of amorality (or rather immorality) into politics.

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

The Statist Origin of the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011

 

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by and promoted by a socialist named Francis Bellamy to inculcate statism in school children. The only good part of the pledge, “under God,” was added later in 1954.

The words of the pledge embody statism because they declare an allegiance to a flag, which is a symbol (of a nation), and to a nation, whose laws can and do change. Because symbols and nations change, it is very dangerous to pledge any allegiance to them.

In fact, the laws of the United States of America have steadily become more immoral and statist over time: 

  • Our laws steal property from some and redistribute it to others (esp. govt. employees) for their private advantage rather than tax for common good that cannot be secured in any other way or at any lower level of government.
  • Our laws stifle economic liberty in general, codifying envy and greed, impoverishing our citizens, and stifling the means for true charity and generosity.
  • Our laws financially coerce parents into sending their children to state-run schools that banish Christian and moral instruction from the classroom and often indoctrinate them in socialism, sexual depravity, and atheism/heresy.
  • Our laws have allowed the slaughter of 50+ million baby sons and daughters, and the genocide continues.
  • Our laws steadily put adult self-indulgence over the positive rights of children, especially with respect to the institution marriage.

And all of this happened because the culture of our country was corrupted first.

If this trend continues to the point where the tyranny and decadence of our culture and politics justifies secession and (God forbid) another war of independence, of what value will our flag and the pledge be?

As a matter of principle, I suggest we reject the current pledge and perhaps substitute a better one:

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution and to the republic which it governs, sovereign states, under God, divisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Now that is a pledge that I would say. The Constitution is fundamental, structural law that cannot be changed without the formal amendment process. It is not a perfect document; in fact, it was more perfect before many of its amendments were added (e.g. 14th, 16th, 17th). But the Constitution is not a mere symbol; it is the embodiment of prudent political principles that are rooted in the Christian view of human nature and this view’s vindication in human history (especially Western history). The Constitution was also ratified under the presumption that secession was allowed.

Moreover, members of the U.S. military pledge allegiance to the Constitution first and foremost. Why not its citizens too?

Sure, it is possible that the Constitution and thus the republic will be amended, misinterpretted, or abused to the point where it no longer embodies the sound political principles the Framers meant it to establish. And so, one may argue that no pledge should be said at all as a matter of prudence. 

But ideally, Americans would indeed pledge allegiance to timeless, immutable, and crucial principles that promote virtue, liberty, peace, and prosperity. To have no allegiance whatsoever to anything is also very dangerous and fertile ground for statism. To successfully resist a tyrannical state, the American people must have a strong allegiance to something other than the state itself, something valuable that the state threatens.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Education, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Contraception (& Protestantism) Paved Way for Gay “Marriage”

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

No Children

Contraception literally divorces procreation from sexual intercourse in violation of Scriptural commands and of both Catholic and early Protestant traditions. It is immoral and its rotten cultural fruit, including the gay “marriage” craze, has been immensely harmful to American society.

Contraception also allows men and women to divorce procreation from marriage. Because of contraception, American society no longer views marriage as a children/family-centered institution but merely a relationship of mutual self-gratification and convenience that can be ended at whim. Children and their rights are no longer integral to the institution of marriage in the minds of many Americans, especially among the young.

Because marriage is viewed this way now, it is only natural that the notion of gay “marriage” has gained ground culturally. Popular debates surrounding the issue hardly ever even mention children and their positive rights (see here also). Marriage is treated as an institution whose purpose is primarily for the benefit of the two (or more, perhaps) people involved. Only when one forgets that only one man and one woman united together procreate children and that children develop better under the care of their biological parents do the notions of “marriage discrimination” and “marriage equality” begin to gain plausibility.  

Contraception is what started the cultural ball rolling in divorcing children and their positive rights from marriage.

And how exactly did contraception come to be accepted and widespread in American society? American Protestants caved in to liberal regressives in the early 20th century. Up until around 1930, all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) rejected contraception as immoral. It was only a matter of time before this cultural change would produce legal changes.

So I find it very ironic that many conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of marriage and yet condone the use of contraception, the very thing that paved the way for gay “marriage” in American culture and law.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Culture War, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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).

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 Youth Politics Matters More than the Next Election

Posted by Tony Listi on February 28, 2010

Conservatives of all ages tend to be very short-sighted and ineffective when it comes to political warfare. They put all their energy into electoral and legislative battles but largely ignore the crucial Culture War that CampusReform.org fights daily.

When things get bad politically, conservatives volunteer and work for campaigns, for political parties, and for already elected officials. And when they win an election or legislative battle, they rejoice and go back to their normal lives…until the other side starts winning the elections and policy battles again.

But a battle here or there in itself is meaningless. Who is winning the war? The left is.

Why? Because despite the Reagan Revolution and the consequent short-lived ascendance of the Republican Party, the overall trend in public policy has been toward more government control of the economy and more government-pushed erosion of traditional moral values.

How did this happen? Conservatives have allowed the left to largely dominate the key cultural institutions that shape and determine political outcomes: schools, arts & entertainment industry, churches, and the media.

Create a leftist electorate and leftists will get elected. Simple as that.

While conservatives thought they were turning the tide in the 80s, 90s, and first half of the 00s, leftists had a better long-term strategy, steadily increasing their control over American culture, especially youth culture. All of a sudden, young people helped Barack Obama get elected, not just with their votes but also with the favorable image and winning psychology they provided him.

But which cultural institutions should be a priority for conservatives? The leftist monopoly on the media has been broken. FOX News, talk radio, and the internet have seen to that. Conservatives still do better than leftists among the church-going crowd because of the pro-life and pro-marriage factions of the conservative movement that Reagan and George W. Bush brought on board. But the left has made some gains over time, deceiving many Christians into believing that government can be compassionate and charitable.

But neither the churches nor the media has as great an influence on young Americans as do our schools and the arts & entertainment industry. Teachers unions, liberal professors, Hollywood airheads, musical blowhards, and misguided entertainers promote Big Government and immoral lifestyles among the young.

We shouldn’t have to wait and hope for sincerely misguided young liberals to grow up to become conservatives. If we take these institutions seriously and meet the challenge of reclaiming them, there will be more cradle-to-grave conservatives and more effective, intense conservative activists generation after generation.

Why are young people crucial to long-term political success?

  • It will take generations to undo what the left has inflicted on us over several generations.
  • They are future candidates, campaign staffers, campaign donors, activists, teachers, professors, artists, actors, musicians, priests, pastors, pundits, and journalists.
  • They can recruit and persuade their peers to join and be active in the conservative movement.
  • The young today become the electorate that decides tomorrow’s elections.
  • They will have children who eventually join the Culture War and the electorate that decides future elections.

Therefore, the most important policy endeavors conservatives can undertake lie in the realm of education, at both the primary and college level.

The left has understood this and is patient, fighting the daily battles always with the long-term cultural objective in mind. If conservatives want their principles to win, they will follow suit, giving priority of time and resources to supporting student activists!

Here’s what you can do to join the ranks in the broader war for the hearts and minds of American youth:

  1. Support the mission of CampusReform.org by getting active in or creating a conservative student group on your campus!
  2. Support CampusReform.org financially! Help fund political training for young conservatives!
  3. Tell all your like-minded friends about CampusReform.org! Spread the word about the crucial importance of youth politics!
  4. Make school choice for parents a top legislative priority in your state!

Posted in American Culture, American History, Art and Creativity, Culture War, Education, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Hollywood and the Film Industry, Political Activism, Student Activism, The Media, Old and New, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Does Free Market Undermine Culture?

Posted by Tony Listi on November 19, 2007

http://www.acton.org/files/mm-v2n1-schansberg1.pdf

D. Eric Schansberg
Associate Professor of Economics
Indiana University at New Albany

Posted in American Culture, Economics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »