Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The loony left and religion

Good article from Rod Dreher here.

HT: Dr. Tighe


The Anti-Gnostic said...

Other than a few discrete policy examples like abortion, I'm not sure there's a single liberal framing that modern Christians--including the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies--don't actually agree with.

Would any Christians outlaw sodomy, adultery? How about usury? Would any Christians condition immigration on the immigrants adopting the Christian faith? How many Christians realize that there is zero support for secular democracy in the Tradition?

Modern Christianity is absolutely bound by the secular, liberal frame. It's literally the First Commandment of modern Christianity. Rod Dreher obeys it as well.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Also, the government has eviscerated the tactile elements of our Faith, so it's just incorporeal doctrine and individual methodism at this point.

rick allen said...

It is always pleasant to find agreement, or at least partial agreement, with internet posters with whom you've almost always disagreed in the past.

I think our friend who calls himself the Anti-Gnostic is right that modern Christianity, though in various degrees, is largely in sync with liberal social and political values, and that includes Mr. Dreher.

I don't find that fact particularly distressing because those values, in my view, are perfectly consistent with the Christian faith. So was the older view, which prevailed from the fourth century up until the last hundred years or so. These notions of the best form of a society and the preferable political order have of course been advocated and questioned according to Christian norms. But none constitute Christian dogma.

These changes were expressly recognized in Catholicism in the decree Unitatis redintegratio and the declaration Dignitatis humanae personae, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council over a half century ago. Traditionalists are right to point out that these were not dogmatic constitutions. But they are wrong to infer from that fact alone that those changes from former Church policy and practice are therefore unacceptable.

Mr. Dreher loves to lampoon the fringes, and while we can all enjoy that, I don't think that that justifies the labeling of ordinary Christians, with our loosey-goosey grasp of dogma, our tolerance for mediocre aesthetics, and our "live and let live" approach to social behavior, as practicing a fake Christianity. It is good to be strict with ourselves, but when so many think themselves, literally, more Catholic than the pope, there is more than a little danger of the deadly sin of spiritual pride.

I would not call myself a religious liberal, though I affirm that liberality is a Christian virtue. I would not call myself a traditionalist, though the Christian faith would never have reached me were it not for the Tradition. I think it acceptable to no longer make adultery, sodomy, usury and abortion matters for secular criminal punishment, though they are serious sins. I'd like to think that that attitude is consistent with the attitude displayed by Jesus himself when confronted with the unfortunate woman taken in the very act of adultery in the Gospel according to St. John.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

QED. The merger of Christianity and secular democracy.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Actually, it's not a merger; it's a chimera. Leftism eviscerates Christianity and wears its skin.

rick allen said...

"Leftism"? Here's my own patron, St. Thomas More:

"Adeo mihi certe persuadeo res aequabili ac iusta aliqua ratione distribui aut feliciter agi cum rebum mortalium, nisi sublata prorsus proprietate, no posse."

"Thus I am wholly convinced that unless private property is entirely abolished, there can be no fair or just distribution of goods, nor can the business of mortals be conducted happily."

That's not dogma, but neither does it eviscerate Christianity.

And here, about a hundred years later, is Gerrard Winstanley, the most eloquent of the Levellers:

"Not one word was spoken in the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another....But...selfish imaginations...did set up one man to teach and rule over another. And thereby...man was brought into bondage, and became a greater slave to such of his own kind than the beasts of the field were to him. And hereupon the earth...was hedged into enclosures by the teachers and rulers, and the others were made...slaves. And that earth that is within this creation made a common storehouse for all, is bought and sold and kept in the hands of a few, whereby the great Creator is mightily dishonoured, as if he were a respecter of persons, delighting in the comfortable livelihood of some and rejoicing in the miserable poverty and straits of others. From the beginning it was not so."

The sources of this are purely biblical--the common origin of all mankind, God's breaking of the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, the denunciation of monarchy by the prophet Samuel, the execrations brought down by the later prophets against the oppressors of the poor, Jesus' virtual exclusion of the rich from the Kingdom of Heaven, and the holding of all goods in common by the earliest Christians, as related in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.

It's always good to remind ourselves that "socialism" didn't begin or end with Karl Marx.

William Tighe said...

Thomas More's "Utopia" was not a political program; it was a semi-satirical piece of "utopian" literature, "Utopia" being simultaneously Eutopia, a "good place," and Outopia, "no place;" an impossibility, or a jeu d'esprit on More's part. The "pointed" part of the work, when More wrote it, was the discussion of whether a serious Christian can or should serve in political office, given the nature of politics and princes, and the compromises involved in doing so. In fact, by the time he finished the book in 1516 he had already decided so to serve, having accepted the office of Master of Requests in 1514. Perhaps it was a decision that he was to come to regret (his friend Erasmus regretted More's choice), although there is no evidence that he did come to regret it.

As to Winstanley, he was a sectarian enthusiast, a universalist, and by the end of his life something of a Quaker. He may have been a Christian, although his "enthusiasms" seem to have been more political than religious, and to describe his views as "socialist," while perhaps plausible, would require a lot of explaining.

More, when it comes down to it, was an "Augustinian realist" about human nature, but I would not want to characterize Winstanley as in any sense a "realist."

rick allen said...

More's intent in Utopia has been a matter of debate for centuries now, and I admittedly have never felt quite sure where More's irony ends and his earnestness begins. He certainly never proposed any of the Utopian institutions for adoption in Henry's England--though his attack on enclosures in the "reformist" part of Utopia, if not calling for common ownership of land, certainly protested the privatization of certain lands formerly enjoyed in common.

The point here, though, was that genuine Christianity can exist under a variety of social and political orders, and that socialism and democracy, even though resting, like any other form of the City of Man, on coercive force (per the said Augustine in Book XIX of the celebrated Civitate Dei), are no more inconsistent with Christian faith than those other systems of rule under which it has flourished.

I would not deny Winstanley the title of "Christian" just because he was a radical Protestant. He proposals may not have been realistic, since they certainly failed, but their damnation of slavery and the hoarding of the world's goods by a few are not at all inconsistent with the preaching of many of the most orthodox fathers.

I had never heard of Winstanley, by the way, until last year, when I read Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down. Hill called himself a Marxist historian, but, based on the book, his Marxism was about as orthodox as Winstanley's Christianity was.

William Tighe said...

Hill (1912-2003) was a member of the Communist Party from his undergraduate years until 1957, when he resigned over the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian Revolt in the previous year. He was widely admired but also widely disdained by other professional historians, the latter in part because he never learned to read 16th and 17th century handwriting, and so all his works were based on published works, whether from the time of his expertise or edited later.

rick allen said...

A flaw indeed, but I have to admit I seem to be losing my ability to read twenty-first century handwriting.

123 said...

Orthodox Christians might want to take a(nother) look at the 48th of the "Prayers by the Lake" by St. Nikolai Velimirovic while reading this article and the comments above:


At the very least, please consider emulating the religiously more respectful way he speaks of Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-tse [sic] while discussing other religions and their leaders.