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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Search For Maintaining A True Conservatism

Russell Ronald "R.R." Reno (click here for a bio) has just written an article for the conservative Cathlolic website, First Things (click here for the website) that is both a warning and a plea regarding the need for Conservatives to update the way they see the world (click here for the article). Why is such an update needed? It is because, according to Reno, there has been a disturbance in the liberal force. Liberalism has changed and thus poses a new threat. It poses a new threat because unlike the liberalism of the past, it is now using big government to compel us to accept 'plenary liberation and economic growth.'

It's not that liberals have never used big government before. After all, Reno complains about how big government was used to address racism, sexism, and poverty when he was younger. But now big government consists of the expanded use of the judicial system to change the world. In addition, unlike past liberalism that seemed to have unintentionally followed some of Pope Leo XIII's directives on keeping what is necessary to maintain an healthy society, today's liberalism is looking to move society to accept beliefs and practices that totally lie outside of Pope Leo XIII's instructions. What did Pope Leo XIII say that was necessary for a healthy society? He wrote about how the family and domestic part of life, the religious part of life, and Civic life for our political needs were all essential  for a good society. And when these three areas of life are in balance, the political life open as to how to be constructed so that the common good is advanced. And, of course, Reno believes that the Church, that is the Roman Church, has the answers to what best advances the common good.

However now, both family part of life and the religious part of life are under attack by big government forcing some to accept, what is for them, the unacceptable while others seem to be willing to swallow the new values of the 21st Century hook, line, and sinker. Thus because of the Sexual Revolution, the family part of life seems to be slowly dying from the American scene. And because of that, fewer Americans see getting married and having children as being important or even necessary. What follows then is that fewer Americans consider the consequences in the future when it comes to values and beliefs. And that is another part of the disturbance in the liberal force for this represents a change in liberalism and its causes. In addition, the religious part of our nation's life is faltering.

Certainly there is more to the current disturbance in the liberal force than what is being mentioned here. Reno also mentions identity politics along with the over emphasis on the economics through economic globalism. In addition, there is the blaming of government for the corruption of Capitalism.

One of Reno's primary concerns in the article is the survival of the West. And thus he finds what students learn about the West in school to be disconcerting. For too many students have come to associate homophobia, racism, and imperialism with the West. This has, in Reno's view caused a kind of guilt that might make people think that the West is not worth preserving. This guilt, according to Reno, is due to Secularism's overreach that collective guilt now exists for past and present failures.

Now Reno talks about other things such as his pragmatic based support for Trump,  but what has been described above is enough to chew on. We should note that being a religiously conservative Christian, Reno is prone to embracing authoritarianism. That is because conservative Christianity relies heavily on authority structures in teaching people how to relate to others. And his view of the centrality of the Church in society is evidence that he clings to it. For he writes:

I was finishing graduate school when Richard John Neuhaus launched First Things. His outlook seemed right. Again, I wasn’t thinking in Leo XIII’s terms in those days. But I can now see that Neuhaus recognized that our society needed the renewal of the moral authority of traditional institutions, especially marriage and Church, in order to restore the Leonine balance.

We should note that Neuhaus was responding to the exclusion of religious thought in public discussions. However, the mention of the 'moral authority' of the Church implies more than just having a seat at the table of issues.

We should also include what he writes about Secularism:
Secularism takes things out of God’s hands—and puts them in ours.
Or we could add Reno's claim that only the Church can help one to adequately respond to guilt. Secularism might heap guilt on to people, but that it often does that falsely and it offers no remedy for that guilt. This makes society utterly dependent on the Church and independent of Secularism. Of course, this claim is made without reciting the many historical failures of the Church in justly ruling over people in society.

But what most indicates Reno's embracing of authoritarianism is the essential part to a healthy society he believes the Church plays. For such a belief concludes that there has never been a healthy society without the Church playing a key role. And the problem such a view presents is in the area where Christians ask themselves how they will share society with others. Will they share society as equals? Or will we share society feeling entitled to enjoying a privileged position where we can at least partially control society through, of all things, government? 

Those who feel entitled to enjoying to such a privileged position often act as the proverbial bull in a china shop when it comes to recognizing their own faults. Evidence for this kind of acting can be seen in Reno's analysis of the French Revolution. For before the Revolution, the Church sided with wealth and power as the state transferred more and more burdens on the peasant class while enriching and empowering the nobles and the clergy. But Reno doesn't mention any of that. Reno's calloused reactions to the protests of the 60s as well as his defensive reactions to the accusations that the racism, homophobia, and imperialism were key parts of the West provides another example of this bull in a china shop attitude.

What Reno fails to mention is that the 21st Century's challenges to conservatism are due to the legitimate concerns found in Post Modernism. Though while Post Modernism falsely conclude that the metanarratives of Pre Modernism or Modernism are not true, that it made that judgment is largely the fault of institutions like the conservative Church in the West for it failures to acknowledge the injustices it visited or caused others to visit on those from different races, religions, nations, and sexual orientation. For all of the injustices were, and sometimes still are, real and could be quite severe. But feeling entitled to have a privileged place over others somehow robs one of self-awareness and makes one resist feeling guilty for how their use of privilege has hurt others because they are so focused on the 'good' they have done.

Finally, quite often the interest in preserving the West, which is a concern of Reno, indicates, not implies, some racial overtones. Why? That's because the West that was predominant and branched out into empires all over the world, including America, was a White European West. And since many who see the low birthrate in Europe as a sign of doom, what they are saying is that not enough White people are being born. In addition, there are a sufficient number of prominent Christian leaders who have spoken  at meetings of organizations that seem to promote White Supremacy. Sometimes, the appearance of a Christian leader at such a group's event is unrelated to the group's racism. But that other such leaders do have some leanings into White Supremacy is unmistakable. And though I've seen no indication in the Reno writings with which I am familiar that say that Reno leans that way, the concern for the preservation of the West or Western Civilization raise red flags that there could be some racist leanings by the person with such a concern.

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