My dear friend Kathleen and I had a short discussion the other night on her blog, Catholicism Pure & Simple. It was as such things are both productive and friendly. One of the things we touched on was whether it is appropriate for a specifically Catholic or even a Christian blog to touch on things like Brexit and President Trump.
It becomes almost impossible to shirk the debate when our governments intrude on religious beliefs and practices, such as marriage, abortion, freedom of worship and practice.
And so while CP&S has touched on these matters, I seem lately to write of little else, my self imposed remit is political with an American, and Lutheran foundation. That is part of why I’m rarely writing here lately, while congruent if feels just a bit unseemly, and a fair number of you read my blog as well. And there is no point in dragging my friends into the line of fire to no purpose, and that is pretty easy, as our friend Caroline Farrow‘s current problems with the British legal system indicate.
In any case, imagine my surprise as I’m looking around this morning to seeing Dr. Gene Veith of the Cranach blog working on exactly what Kathleen and I were discussing. He excerpted an article by British author Will Jones entitled: Progressives vs conservatives: This is why we can’t just all get along. British, American, British, American, British, Catholic, Lutheran, who says our problems are different. In any case here’s Gene, with Dr. Veith in bold:
. . .The divide [is] between those who believe the world has a given order that ought to be respected because it makes things go best in the long run, and those who do not believe this and think invoking such order is little more than a tool of oppression wielded by the powerful against those they exploit.
The social order, says Jones, expresses itself in institutions such as the family and the nation-state, along with the ideas and practices that support them, such as sexual morality and the rule of law. Conservatives support them–with religious conservatives seeing them as facets of God’s creation–while progressives find them oppressive.
This conservative respect for natural and social order contrasts sharply with the progressive outlook which is typically hostile to claims of inherent order in nature and society. Progressives tend to follow Marx in regarding such ideas as devices created by the powerful (in Marx’s case, the owners of capital, these days, more likely straight white men) to perpetuate inequalities and restrict people’s freedom of action.
Progressives and conservatives both say they want people to be happy, but they understand very differently what this involves. Whereas conservatives see happiness as emerging from respect for the natural and social order, for progressives almost the opposite is the case: the individual’s pursuit of happiness must as far as possible be achieved by not conforming to the social order. This is because to do so is to become complicit in oppression and to succumb to the ‘false consciousness’ of being happy when enslaved. . . .
Conservatives and progressives differ also in their visions of freedom. Conservatives seek the freedom that comes from respecting the boundaries inherent in the created order. Progressives, on the other hand, aim for freedom from the created order – from biology, from the family, from the nation, from God. As a consequence, progressive freedom has a strong authoritarian bent. This might seem paradoxical, but in fact it follows directly from the progressives’ need to oppose by force the outworking of the order of nature, and to silence those who attempt to point out the problems with this.
So how does Christianity fit with this?
Yes, Christians do believe that God has ordained the family. The “nation-state” is a relatively modern invention, unknown in the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and tribal societies, but the “state” as some sort of social organization with earthly authorities that restrain evil and protect the good is indeed one of the God-given “estates” for human flourishing (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Also, Christians believe that moral truths are part of a reality built into creation and human nature (Romans 1-2). So by these definitions, Christians will tend to be conservative.
No one will be surprised that I heartily concur with them both, and with Kathleen as well. Here is part of one of my comments to her, which sums up my view pretty well.
As a Lutheran, I would point out that the Kingdom of the Left Hand (secular government) is also of God, although not as directly as the Kingdom of the Right hand. And so our governments on earth are also of concern to us. But while I straddle that fence, you, here, are more focussed. And, in truth, I don’t write much on the other blog for that reason as well, since I find my well pretty dry lately on church topics.
And Dr. Veith ends with this, which is certainly appropriate for us to discuss as well.
[…] The Christian’s hope is fixed not so much on this world, which will soon pass away, but on the world to come–on Christ who has atoned for the sins of the world and who will reign as King over the New Heaven and the New Earth.
Is this right? Am I missing something? How does this accord with Two Kingdoms theology?
I do think Jones’s analysis explains a lot, from our current political polarization to the behavior of people that we know. But does it follow that such extreme polarization is inevitable, that there can be no common basis for consensus and social unity? Is it impossible, in these terms, to have a “center”? How did we as a nation function in years past? Were there different ideologies at work? If so, might we bring some of those back?