Conservatism losing its way, as usual

Some random rants for the end of finals week.  (I assume that’s why it’s been so quiet around here lately.)

Every time I read a review of From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin:  Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism by Darryl Hart, I come away renewed in my determination to not read that book.  The latest review, annoyingly uncritical like all the rest, is at Front Porch Republic.  This paragraph captures the gist of it:

Another virtue of Hart’s book is the loving hand that he extends to his Christian brethren via his multi-step counsel for how Evangelicals can become more traditionalist minded. He demonstrates that some Evangelical beliefs about the importance of family and the problems of socialism actually overlap well with traditionalist concerns about the importance of local, human-scale institutions, or what Burke called “little platoons.” Furthermore, Hart counsels Evangelicals to strive for the following objectives: (1) abandon their flirtations with ideologically narrow views of social reality; (2) refrain from trying to establish a Christian civil religion; (3) avoid attempts to impose nationally monolithic morals legislation; (4) stop de-emphasizing spiritual evil over social-political evils; (5) avoid undue focus on political solutions for problems that are largely cultural; (6) refrain from wrong-headed emphasis on being crusaders who fight to win a culture war; and (7) and, very importantly, focus  on being City-of-God-pilgrims who travel within the City of Man.

#5 and #6 go well together don’t they?  “You evangelicals shouldn’t put your energy in politics because the problems are cultural, and you’re not supposed to fight to reclaim the culture either.”    #3 is a smarmy way of saying that evangelicals shouldn’t get so bent out of shape over women murdering their children in utero.  #2 could mean either accepting the current Satanic communal consensus or looking forward to a time when America is too fragmented to have a communal consensus; #7 clarifies that it is the former meaning that is intended.  So, let me simplify the message for my evangelical readers:  “Evangelicals should shut the f*ck up and stop embarrassing Darryl Hart.”

Now, if it really were a choice between pursuing a traditionalist social order and a Christian social order, I would say “to hell with tradition”.  It wasn’t Russell Kirk who redeemed me on the Cross.  Is that really the choice we face, though?  Like most Anglo-American conservative intellectuals, Hart has a very narrow idea of what true traditionalist conservatism is–basically he identifies it with the Russell Kirk interpretation of Edmund Burke.  The great continental counter-revolutionaries–French Legitimists, Right Hegelians, and ultramontane Catholics–are written out of the tradition, and Burke himself is reduced to the platitudes that slow and steady change is best and “little platoons” should be protected.  As I’ve argued before, this is not an adequate basis to resist the Left.  In particular, we have no way to fight Leftist subversion of the family and the Church if our only reason for promoting these groups is that they are small and not part of the government.  We must acknowledge each of these as having a distinct ideal and structure, a distinct nature in other words, that we are morally bound to respect.

Meanwhile, over at the Claremont Review of Books, Robert George discusses Mark Blitz’s Conserving Liberty in a review with the flattering title “Conservatism Properly Understood“.  So, “properly understood”, what do conservatives wish to conserve?  Liberty, of course!  Blitz and George make the best case possible for this wretched thesis, mostly by including lots of qualifications to keep it from being really monstrous.  Liberty is not valued, George acknowledges, for its own sake, but because it contributes to human flourishing and excellence.  Family, religion, and virtue help preserve liberty, but that’s not the only reason conservatives value them.  In his own writings (e.g. in The Clash of Orthodoxies), George has gone further against libertarianism, arguing that pornography should be suppressed in order to protect the community’s “moral ecology”, because this background consensus facilitates healthy marital intimacy.  So, to his credit, George does realize that freedom must be curtailed in the name of superior goods.  This is the one of the major arguments that conservatives make against liberals.  So why structure an exposition of conservatism around the idea of preserving liberty?  Wouldn’t it be more straightforward to just say that one wants to conserve human flourishing, excellence, or virtue?  Maintaining freedom in some restricted spheres of life in some sets of circumstances would then be one (fairly peripheral) application of the general principle.  Suppose an interested outsider, sensing something wrong in our libertine, individualistic world, were to look for a book about conservatism.  Hopefully, he would find The Tyranny of Liberalism.  More likely, he would find a book that reduces his (and historical conservatism’s) main concerns to footnotes in the devotion to liberty.

At Crisis Magazine, I read the article Time to Change Pro-Life Tactics?  Given 40 years of complete failure, I’m open to the idea of a change in tactics (or even a change in strategy).  What the author, Dustin Siggins, suggests, though, as his proposed “change” is exactly the strategy we’ve been using all this time.  Some examples:

Recent statistics however show young people are more pro-life than ever, and across the country states (in addition to Members of Congress) are advancing strong pro-life legislation.

One such state is Mississippi. On April 16, the state’s new governor signed legislation that “requires all physicians at abortion clinics in Mississippi to be board-certified OB-GYN and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.” This is both a victory and a “teachable moment” for the pro-life movement.

What is so significant is that the pro-life legislation passed in Mississippi (and similarly in Virginia) was made as fool proof as possible from the demonizing tactics of the left. The pro-life movement should emulate these successful principles and move away from those that are not working. For example, ultrasound legislation can be deemed as guilting mothers into not aborting their children or invading personal privacy. However, it is more difficult to argue against raising the standards of medical clinics so that women have a more sterile and professional environment.

Heaven forbid we guilt mothers into abstaining from murder.  So it seems like the pro-life movement can be successful if it gives up its original aims and instead works to make the abortion business as professional and safe (for mothers) as possible.  That these measures will ultimately make the abortion industry more respectable and unassailable is forgotten in the rush to find ways to successfully annoy it in the short term.  More importantly, this change of focus in the pro-life movement brings a shift in the expectations of the community; by ceasing to agitate on the issue, the actual practice of abortion comes to be seen as settled.

  • Stop using Biblical arguments to debate abortion. After attending the 2010 March for Life, I do not think using religious arguments will persuade either self-described Christians who agree with abortion or non-Christians who agree with abortion.

The Bible doesn’t say anything about abortion; so far as I know, no one claims that it does.  Pro-life arguments have always been based on natural law.  The trouble is that what Christians call “natural law” and what liberals call “public reason” are not the same thing.  When a liberal tells us we must restrict ourselves to arguing from “reason” what he means is arguing from utilitarianism, and we cannot agree to this.  What is naturally knowable to mankind is much wider and deeper than the calculus of pleasure, pain, and choice; it includes knowledge of man’s nature, telos, and Creator.  Trying to always hammer our arguments into liberal form is precisely why we always do such a poor job arguing our case.

  • Stop making abortion about women vs. children. Both are victims.  Every time a pro-life activist blames a woman for having an abortion, that activist should in the same breath blame the men who get women pregnant and then either abandon them or encourage them to abort the child.  We should make the battle about protecting women and unborn children from the abortion centers whose livelihood depends on the murder of children.

Bullshit.  Women who get abortions are murderers–worse than murderers, because they do it to their own offspring.  Once again, sticking to Leftist rules of discourse gets us nowhere.  I for one have had enough of this rule that no woman may ever be criticized for any of her acts, no matter how stupid, irresponsible, selfish, cruel, or monstrous.  Dalrock has done a brilliant job documenting society’s (and the Church’s) refusal to hold women responsible for betraying their wedding vows, no matter how slim the excuse offered.  Now at a Catholic magazine, I am told that I’m not even to hold a woman accountable for murder?  Once upon a time it was said that women were the less selfish sex, that given power they would use it above all for the benefit of the children they cherished.  Even I–tending as I do to imagine that evil is spread more or less equally by gender–would not have guessed what monstrous uses these women would make of their liberation.  The patriarchal society was organized around duty, including to ancestors and progeny.  The feminist society is organized around selfish self-actualization, with impiety to ancestors and murderous indifference to the interests of children.  Women of this wicked age–are none of you ashamed that the movement claiming your name champions sluttiness, divorce, and abortion, while the strongest defenders of the interests of children against the selfishness of adults are the old, celibate men of the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies?  Of course, most women neither divorce nor commit abortion, but if it is wrong to apply to all women the guilt of a substantial minority, how could it be anything but cowardice for us to go along with the popular culture’s thoughtless man-bashing?

39 thoughts on “Conservatism losing its way, as usual

  1. Exodus 21:22-25 NASB

    22“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23“But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

    Whether the Bible speaks to abortion at all depends on how we interpret “no injury” in verses 22 and 23. Upon first reading you will be naturally inclined to believe that injury refers only to the woman. You will think that “gives birth prematurely” (or “has a miscarriage” in other translations) implies that the child is lost. But this is far from the only possible interpretation. The injury in question could refer to the woman or the child; in which case, induced abortion would be murder.

    A minor point, I think, from the perspective of natural law, where induced abortion is obviously (tautologically) murder, but for ‘Gelicals, who tend to range between agnostic to outright hostile to natural law, it’s a significant hermeneutical point.

  2. Bonald,

    This is an excellent post. I found myself making the EXACT same observations when I read the Hart review and the Crisis article days ago. The common thread here is that all of the self-appointed leaders of “conservatism” are really liberals and you certainly cannot beat liberalism with liberalism. Again all of these so-called conservatives make the same tired old point of “get the government out!” That about sums up the intellectual skills. No wonder conservatism is a complete failure: when people like Murray “let babies starve” Rothbard is considered great conservative philosopher you know the term has no meaning.

    Really we are now getting to the point where there is no longer any pretense. American Conservatism IS libertarianism, that is why of the last two Republicans candidates one is the typical corporate CEO and the other follows the Austrian school which is just a front for Capitalism. Then there is the audacity of the classical liberals who have the nerve to complain about “So-cons” First they relegate us to that neat category of “family values” and then they tell us to shut up, despite the fact we are the single largest faction in the party.

  3. Well, the following could be interpreted in a more charitable light:

    (1) abandon their flirtations with ideologically narrow views of social reality;

    Charitable interpretation: Stop supporting crazy warmongers and such.

    (2) refrain from trying to establish a Christian civil religion;

    You’re largely wasting your effort, because Americans aren’t Christian anymore.

    (3) avoid attempts to impose nationally monolithic morals legislation;

    You’re largely wasting you’re effort, because in the end we aren’t going to win on abortion or gay marriage.

    (4) stop de-emphasizing spiritual evil over social-political evils;

    I don’t see how one can disagree with this. (P.S. How is this different from, say, Bruce Charlton?)

    (5) avoid undue focus on political solutions for problems that are largely cultural;

    Hey, this one is absolutely right too.

    (6) refrain from wrong-headed emphasis on being crusaders who fight to win a culture war;

    Using politics.

    and (7) and, very importantly, focus on being City-of-God-pilgrims who travel within the City of Man.



    This doesn’t seem all that different from a paleocon like Rod Dreher. The real question is whether Hart thinks we should really make our peace with the current regime, or is just giving practical advice for how we should engage with politics in our currently very unfavorable circumstances.

    Personally, I think religious conservatives should do the following:

    1. Hunker down in small religious communities.

    2. Highly conditional support for libertarianish politicians who really want us to be left alone.

    The mainstream religious right strategy has failed and should be abandoned. Christians are being used like dirty rags by politicians who cannot or will not implement traditionalist policy. This doesn’t mean abjuring in principle the use of legislation to enforce morals etc. It just means that you need a minimum level of support for those kinds of things before you can pragmatically implement them.

    • Highly conditional support for libertarianish politicians who really want us to be left alone.

      Why? that is exactly the problem.

      • Exactly. A better #2 would be “stop all political activity” or even “give up on politics by exclusively supporting explicitly Christian and traditionalist third parties.” If it’s true (and it is) that the Rs are no better for us than the Ds, then what reason is there to continue to support them? Furthermore, if the real right did this en masse, then the Rs could not win. They would cave to us or die. Either way, the real right wins.

        This is all on the assumption, of course, that it really is abortion and not tax-cutting or killing Muslims which motivates Christian rightists—this assumption, however, is not obviously right any more if ever it was. We have had fusionist/neocon nonsense pumped out by the “right” for so long that it is not at all clear how the masses would react were genuinely rightist ideas decoupled from lunacy. How many evangelicals would vote for a pro-life, pro-welfare-state, anti-war politician over a pro-choice, anti-welfare-state, pro-war politician?

    • Hi “The Man Who Was…”,

      I agree that the Hart’s advice is much better if regarded, as you do, as a practical expedient for evangelicals when they find themselves a minority as opposed to general principles for how Christians should behave politically prior to the eschaton. You’ve hit just the right balance at the end of your comment: realize that the State is our enemy for the foreseeable future; take this into account when formulating strategy, but don’t necessarily rewrite our beliefs about what the State ideally should do to match what is politically feasible today.

  4. I agree that the article on abortion is dumb. And we should keep agitating on the issue. But we’re not going to win in anything like the short term, so again we shouldn’t line up in lock step behind the Republicans/Conservatives in hopes of them throwing us the occasional bone on this issue.

  5. most women neither divorce nor commit abortion

    You may be wrong on this one. Both abortion and divorce rates are high.

  6. When I was young the newspaper would from time to time report that a wizened Japanese soldier had been discovered on a Pacific atoll, still fighting the Second World War. I think of these men when I read modern conservatives quoting their Burke (or really anything from the early counter-revolutionary literature). When Burke was writing, liberals were a tiny minority confined to the largest cities and the great mass of Britain and America was traditional. In these conditions it made sense to argue for “conservation” of the traditional social order, just as it made sense to defend Imperial Japan in 1942. Two hundred years later, the liberals control almost all the territory and the tiny pockets of tradition that remain survive on sufferance. If we traditionalists think of ourselves as defenders, then we’re just like the wizened Japanese soldiers subsisting on wood grubs in the jungle. We are insurgents in enemy territory, apostles in a heathen land.

    I was thinking along these lines the other day when reading about a “Reformers Free Convention” that took place at Rutland, Vermont in 1858. The assembly of “short-haired women and long-haired men” was viewed as a freak show in the respectable newspapers. The reformers passed resolutions against slavery, observance of the Sabbath, study of the Bible, religious worship, submission (by women) to connubial intercourse and unwelcome maternity, and involuntary chastity (again among women) outside of marriage. This was the radical left in 1858, and all of it would be considered moderate in 2012. That’s really all we need to know: today’s moderates sound like yesterdays leftist radicals. A noteworthy speech was delivered to the Convention by Julia Branch, “a pretty young woman from New York, not yet thirty years of age,” who asserted a woman’s “right to love, when she will, where she will, and how she will.” The Sandra Fluke of 1858. Then, she was a dangerous freak; today, she is a darling of the establishment.

    Wood grubs anyone?

    • Your “apostles in a heathen land” remark reminded me of a terrifying thought that struck me a few months ago — that knowledge of the one true faith has been so corrupted and even lost in the West that it may well be necessary to undertake a new evangelical mission, to convert the world’s barbarians. Strange thought, that; missionaries setting up shop not in the African bush or the jungles of South America but in downtown Boston, the Bronx, and Hollywood.

      • Those missions are being set up as you read this. They are missions of the Orthodox Church…

      • This was one of the themes of JPII’s Papacy. The “New Evangelization” was supposed to be exactly this. The monks who hang out with Fr Benedict Groechel are supposed to be an example. They’ve got friaries in the Bronx, Newark, and etc. World Youth Day was supposed to be an example of this. Unfortunately, the Neocatechumenal Way seem now to be the main public face of the New Evangelization.

      • I know next to nothing about the Neocats, and there seems to be a maddening kind of obscurantism about who they are and what they do (of the sort of shoulder-shrugging, aw-shucks, “Well why don’t you just come by and see for yourself?” sort). What’s their deal? I’ve heard they have some questionable liturgies but that’s about it.

      • Proph,

        Here is a link to a doctrinal critique of the neocats. Here is an article from Catholic Family News.

        “Questionable” is a very charitable description of their liturgies. See here for some videos of their Masses, and don’t forget to click the tag at the bottom of the post to see more. Also, Rorate Caeli has lots of articles on the neocats. Search on “neo-catechumenal way”

      • Christ did not give much in the way of practical apostolic advice, but it is interesting to note that three of the gospels relate his command that, when leaving a house or city that rejected him, an apostle should shake the dust from his feet as testimony to this hard-heartedness. A number of things might be said about this instruction, but most relevant to this sub-thread is the warning against prolonged evangelism to an obdurate people. Christ tells us to share the gospel, but to move along when it is rejected. Some of this may simply recognize opportunity costs and the need to cut one’s losses. But I wonder if it isn’t also a warning that an apostle who won’t take no for an answer is an apostle who will debase the gospel to get a skeptic to yes. Many of the corruptions that we see in liturgy and doctrine seem to originate in haggling between apostles who think like salesmen and prospective converts who were looking for spiritual bargains.

      • An interesting and provocative point. I’m going to say that our standing orders to go and make disciples of all nations trumps this though. A spell has been cast on our people. It is our job to save who we can. And remember, liberals see themselves as open minded, so we can’t give up hope that they’ll one day be overcome by cognitive dissonance.

  7. I haven’t read the books criticized here, but based on this post, I think I would generally agree with the books and disagree with Bonald on these issues.

    Liberals aren’t for liberty and really never were. Liberals just oppose traditions, that’s all. Whenever some new anti-traditional fad attracts liberals, they are all too willing to pass a new law to support it.

    Liberty depends on morality. Liberty without morality produces chaos which eventually leads to tyranny. But morality leads to justice and justice includes liberty.

    The failure of modern culture is ultimately a failure of religion to uphold morality. Upholding morality doesn’t depend on government regulation. It depends on religion being able to provide effective guidance for people. Modern religion is a disaster in this department, its members being no more moral than atheists. Religion failed to adapt to scientific advances and failed to provide an intellectual defense of morality. I certainly don’t support a Christian tyranny when Christianity can’t even get its own members to behave morally. This sounds like a return to the Middle Ages. Christianity and other religions should worry about getting their own moral house in order before even beginning to think about politics.

    • Franklin,

      “…Christianity and other religions should worry about ” Is this Mr. or Mrs. Religion? Is it personified religion or the followers of a particular religion?

      Would you explain please why religion needs to conform or even adapt to “scientific advances” or just why those are even in the same category. In addition, why does morality need an “intellectual” defence? What would that be? And while we are at it, could you describe for me what a Christian tyranny constitutes? And why is it necessary for “religion” to get its moral house in order before “worrying” about politics? How would “religion” accomplish that feat? And what is “religion’s” moral house?

      I am wondering also, what was wrong with the Middle Ages?

      • Christianity and other religions refers to all religions that offer an alternative to Liberalism.

        Religions needs to adapt to scientific advances in order to attract scientifically minded people. For example, if a religion insists that evolution is wrong, it will not attract scientifically minded people. This is important because science is widely respected, and by contradicting science, religions lose respect.

        Morality needs an intellectual defense because intelligent people generally expect an intellectual explanation for things. Since the Enlightenment, people have come to expect intellectual arguments. Morality is very defensible, intellectually, but religion has done a poor job at doing this.

        A Christian tyranny would be absolute rule by Christians who are not moral. Many of the popes in history were not moral and most Christians today aren’t particularly moral.

        The reason that Christians should get their moral house in order before worrying about politics is quite well explained by Jesus when he talks about the log in your own eye. Religions can get their moral house in order by enforcing moral rules on its own membership and by greater focus on “works”. Examples include following the Ten Commandments including the Sabbath, modest dress, offering a civilized dating service within the religion, and offering sex separated seating in church. A religion’s moral house just refers the morality of its membership.

        In the Middle Ages, life was poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Christianity hadn’t yet figured out how to get its moral house in order, so immorality was rampant.

      • Franklin,

        Thanks for the reply. However….

        “Religions needs to adapt to scientific advances in order to attract scientifically minded people”
        NO! Religion does not speak to science. Science observes what is (at least tries or should) but religion is revealed truth. Science exists on facts that can be falsified, religion not so much. What you are asking for is called scientism our modern Ersatzreligion.

        “Morality needs an intellectual defense..” maybe if I understand you correctly. However, I would rather you say “an intellectual explanation” Morality needs no defence, it is either moral or immoral… it is pretty self-evident.

        “A Christian tyranny would be absolute rule by Christians who are not moral.” Now in my book that immoral, absolute tyrant is not really a Christian. Or could a man, as you envision truly follow Christ? What you are talking about is a tyrant who is nominally Christian, mostly by convenience, because of the political situation he inherited. There cannot be by definition a “Christian Tyranny.” Hitler was baptised catholic, was he therefore a catholic dictator?

        “In the Middle Ages, life was poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” and so the liberal authors of textbooks wish to perpetuate that myth… Life was poor, in what way? Do you consider our society wealthy in spirit? People were materially poor because that is the default situation throughout history… we’re heading for that default again. Life was nasty? Brutish? Well, another unsubstantiated slogan. Of course there are nasty and brutish people in this world, look around… And life was short. Mmmh, life expectancy was around 1900 in the USA about all of 40 short years on average. So nothing particular Middle Agey about that… and again, should, and it is very likely, our “progressive, scientific civilization run out of steam, that will become again the normality… and I have not even mentioned what these poor, nasty and brutish people have accomplished in their short time on earth…

    • Upholding morality doesn’t depend on government regulation.

      That’s a pretty strong claim. There are, of course, plenty of small, insular communities which uphold moral codes without the government helping them much. These communities tend to depend on shunning to work, though. They are also self-consciously weird: you gotta wear funny hats, give up electricity, wear magic underwear, etc. They also tend to do a lot of the things contemporary governments do (mediate disputes, distribute social welfare, etc). Now, being a fan of lifeboats, I’m in favor of the Christian right getting a clue about how bad things are and setting up these sorts of communities to ride out consequences of the shipwreck. But these are not society-wide solutions.

      Our current society upholds a moral code, and it upholds it via government regulation. It is “immoral” to engage in racism or sexism. It is immoral to question the benefits of diversity. It is immoral to demand that anyone subordinate their desires to their duties (outside of what is absolutely necessary to pursue the previous two tenets). It is immoral to violate anyone’s “rights.” Etc. All this is upheld, directly or indirectly, via government regulation.

      In the large and given something like contemporary conditions, how are we going to get morality upheld without government morals regulation? The whole-society version of shunning is called prison, after all.

      • Jesus didn’t involve himself in politics. Instead, he created a moral community of followers. I think Christians (and other religions) should follow Jesus’s example.

        The things that you mention insular communities doing, shunning, looking different to set themselves apart, and arbitrating disputes, are all good things.

        My kids asked me the other day what liberalism means, and I explained to them the liberalism is the belief that bad is good and good is bad. I think that pretty well summarizes modern society.

        Modern society will simply disintegrate. There is no reason to fight it because it will collapse on its own. The important thing is to get out of the way and to start building a replacement that can take over after the collapse. I suspect that Jesus understood this as applied to the Roman Empire. Modern society is very similar to Rome.

      • The things that you mention insular communities doing, shunning, looking different to set themselves apart, and arbitrating disputes, are all good things.

        Yes, as I said, I favor these things. But, after modern society fails, going back to the Middle Ages should be the plan. We ought to be aiming at helping everybody, even the clueless, the stupid, the weak, and the conformist.

      • Franklin,
        I laughed before when you mentioned an “in religion dating service”, but maybe I shouldn’t have. I think you’re pretty much right on with everything else.

        I also agree with your reaction to the book review, and Bonald acknowledged there is a more generous interpretation that doesn’t stretch credibility too much, considering Hart’s association with FPR.

        (I thought this sentence was worse than the points quoted:

        “The so-called “Religious Right” has displayed the most systemic political and philosophical similarity with various Left-leaning ideologies, those that aim at social-political perfection by realizing (via coercion) favored ideological principles through politics.”

        Now this is true, and lamentable, but this idea that “coercion” is an awful, evil thing that is never alright must be refuted everywhere, and I’d bet that’s what set Bonald off. It’s funny considering the great FPR/First Things battles of a little while back.)

        But I think you sell the Middle Ages short. No doubt about the bad popes, but do you really believe the masses were as immoral as they are now? Consider how much residual influence traditional morality has, such that a modern has to work around the clock, with the help of several institutions, to keep in mind how much better everything is now than it was then, and how superior we are to our ancestors, intellectually and morally. Obviously we believe most of the guilt even godless men feel is due to the law being written on their hearts, but the institutions we’ve seen defaced were built in those times, when the entire culture conspired to help men live better lives. A people gets the culture it deserves.

      • “Since the Enlightenment, people have come to expect intellectual arguments”

        This is pure nonsense. With the rise of the so-called Enlightenment we have seen people both common and elite fall for irrational ideologies even when empirically those ideologies have proven complete failures. Must I go into specifics?

        “Morality is very defensible, intellectually, but religion has done a poor job at doing this”

        Depends on what you mean. As Bonald has brilliantly pointed out above, the so-called “best” defenders of Christian morality (like Robert George) are really at root not conservatives. They dress up fundamentally liberal arguments in a conservative veneer. I am all for doing away with these hacks, but a robust defense of Traditionalism would require a thorough critique of political liberalism that would have to go beyond the bounds of an contemporary conservative, Alasdir MacIntyre and the “Augustinian Thomists” are leading the way but they must be built upon. We must add to their speculation a practical element. In short no more constitution fetishism and no more passing off Ayn Rand, Von Mises or Rothbard off as great conservatives.

        “A Christian tyranny would be absolute rule by Christians who are not moral. Many of the popes in history were not moral and most Christians today aren’t particularly moral.”

        This doesn’t make much sense either. Was Christendom worse off because of Constantine or Charlemagne’s flaws? Still practically speaking if by a miracle a Catholic monarchy or a Francoist style regime were to somehow emerge somewhere international Liberalism would destroy it. It would be an American led coalition probably in the name of women’s rights. Or an assassination like in Ecuador.

        “Religions can get their moral house in order by enforcing moral rules on its own membership and by greater focus on “works”. ”

        But this is virtually impossible in our Liberal Lockean order. The Lockean state exalts individualism and reduces the Church to a mere social club.

        ‘In the Middle Ages, life was poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Christianity hadn’t yet figured out how to get its moral house in order, so immorality was rampant”

        Typical Enlightenment nonsense. Really don’t come on here a lecture us when you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Well hang on a minute there… whether the ideas that have replaced traditional morality are coherent or not, most moderns will only consider questions supported by at least a rational veneer. That we have much more than that, and can vanquish them on their own terms, is gravy.

        You seem to cede the point about the church’s poor showing in robustly defending its teaching by trotting out popular apologists who betray the foundations of moral order and highlighting lesser known thinkers doing God’s work. They first are popular for a reason, and it’s not a good one. This would seem to reinforce Mr. Hart’s argument: stop agitating for power in a realm where you don’t actually have any, and wait the bastards out while keeping the flame alive in your own churches, communities, and families. There’s your practical element. But it’s fun to see your leaders on TV and yell at the bad guys.

        The liberal-Lockean order is not an omnipotent boogeyman. Do you think there is any hope if the church refuses to actually make it’s teachings mean something to its members?

  8. Now at a Catholic magazine, I am told that I’m not even to hold a woman accountable for murder? Once upon a time it was said that women were the less selfish sex, that given power they would use it above all for the benefit of the children they cherished.

    It’s similar to the arguments people make when they work for a parochial school that enforces no premarital sex policies. The accountability is taken off the woman and the school is told they’re too nosy and need to stay out of people’s sex lives. Like women who abort, they should be “allowed” to do whatever they want with their bodies, regardless of the consequences.

    Women are the less selfish sex? LMAO, yeah right.

  9. ” The great continental counter-revolutionaries–French Legitimists, Right Hegelians, and ultramontane Catholics–are written out of the tradition,”

    Because they are NOT in the Anglo-American tradition.

    • Yes by default American “traditon” is Whiggish. Alasdir MacIntyre has it right when he says: “Indeed when a tradition becomes Burkean, it is always dying or dead”

    • That’s a good point, but there are examples of reasonably serviceable traditionalists in the English tradition: Charles I, Charles II, St Thomas More, Mary I, etc. In the Anglo-American tradition, not so much—America is the child of a union between Oliver Cromwell and John Locke.

    • Then what would you fellows propose Anglo-American traditionalists do?

      And I always found Burke a good conservative criticism of the Enlightenment. What are his problems?

  10. People like General Washington show themselves as good models, but it is also true that they were not traditional Christians. They are good examples of the English tradition in America, however.

  11. Pingback: How to Think About the Foundations of American Conservatism – John Malcolm

  12. The United States used to be a good God fearing republic, but it started to go down hill, when all those Southern European Papists infected the body politic. Soon after, socialists, feminists, and the secular liberals who defended Rome’s virus corrupted true Christianity.

    • You are right as to timing, but you are wrong as to cause. Catholics first entered the U.S. in significant numbers in the 1840s, the same decade that apostate Protestants (mainly Unitarians and Quakers) began to seriously promote feminism, birth control, socialism, free-love, etc. Some apostate Irish joined these movements, but the Roman Catholic Church opposed them. Your last remark is half right. Secular liberals (most of whom would have called themselves “liberal Christians”) often defended mass immigration in the 1840s. One reason they did this was to get the get the Calvinists and Catholics to fight, and so drive the Bible out of the public schools (they played us on that one). They never, ever, defended Roman Catholic Christianity. In their minds religious history went this way: the Roman Catholic Church replaced Judaism, the Protestant churches replaced the RCC, Liberal Christianity (Liberalism) replaced the Protestant churches. The RCC has plenty to answer for, but these folks are your heretics, not ours.


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