March 10, 2005

ANTECEDENTS:

Lent and the Modern Mind (Patrick O'Hannigan, 03/10/05, Catholic Exchange)

What happened, then, to liberalism? How did a once-enlightened ideology become the piñata at a birthday party for conservatives who don't even speak Spanish? And what does the pope remember that many of those who work the phones for pledge drives at public television stations seem to have forgotten?

Most people locate the metamorphosis from classical to modern liberalism in the late sixties, when the ideology originally grounded in human dignity and natural law became a shadow of its former self as a result of hanging around efforts to broaden the definition of victimhood.

The success of the civil rights movement taught advocates for less reputable causes to seek shelter under the same umbrella. When continued failure to persuade a majority of their fellow citizens to vote the way they did on a host of issues made the legislative branch of government a disappointment to various activists, they learned to present their skinned knees and bruised feelings to surrogate parents in judicial robes. The courts, for their part, were happy to kiss the boo-boos and make them all better.


Let us accept this definition:
[C]lassical liberalism includes the following:

# an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society,
# the support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system,
# the desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion, and
# the universal (global and ahistorical) applicability of these above convictions.


and the problem is readily apparent. For modern liberalism, which is secular, rights are purely gifts of the state. All else follows.

The classical, or American, premise is quite different:

You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.
--John Adams

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2005 1:54 PM
Comments

Also, the modern left has no history.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2005 1:57 PM

The love affair with the state or the collective was out of character for classical liberals. Most define themselves liberal today because they like the sound of it. Most self-described liberals wouldn't know a liberal from a bolshevik.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at March 10, 2005 2:35 PM

While I generally agree with O'Hannigan's analysis, I find his tone to be sadly typical for Right Wing Catholics: snide, mean spirited, bitter, "holier-than-thou" and generally nasty.

The only thing missing was an obsession with sex.

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 10, 2005 4:00 PM

daniel:

Of course Right Wing Catholics are holier than thou. What's your point?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 4:13 PM

daniel:

Isn't it interesting how those who believe the sexual impulse is, at least partly, a public matter and should be channeled and/or restrained are said to be "obsessed with sex", while those who believe anything goes and to restrict it in any way is unhealthy and oppressive aren't?

Posted by: Peter B at March 10, 2005 8:13 PM

Peter:

That is a strawman.

What about the vast majority who have concluded their sexual decisions--those decisions falling well short of "anything goes"--are absolutely none of anyone else's business?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 10, 2005 8:57 PM

Jeff:

They are wrong.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 10:29 PM

Jeff,

By your definition, that vast majority isn't liberal!

It is the narrow minority-the one that 'feels' my children must understand, in very explicit terms, all sexual decisions humans are capable of making as merely equal 'alternatives'-that bothers me. The narrow minority that 'feels' it is their business to tell me when and how to be offended... But then they aren't snide, mean spirited, bitter (really!) or holier than thou, and they certainly aren't Christian, they are today's liberals.

Posted by: cma at March 11, 2005 12:55 AM

I am much more disturbed by O’Hannigan’s terrible use of metaphor than by his sex obsession or lack thereof. “...piñata at a birthday party for conservatives who don't even speak Spanish?” What is that supposed to mean?

Posted by: Shelton at March 11, 2005 10:17 AM

OJ,

Not my point, but His. Seems Jesus didn't think much of self-righteous, holier-than-thou types:

Luke
18-9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others:
18-10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
18-11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
18-12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.'
18-13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
18-14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

It seems He also didn't much like religious bureaucrats who are more interested in rules and ritual and compassion and love:

Matthew
23-4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. ...
23-24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

And of course the most appropritate of His commands for the Church today:

Mark
9-42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Anyone care to explain to me the difference between the Catholic heirarchy of today and the Pharisees of Jesus' time?

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 11, 2005 10:19 AM

Peter,

Only perverts and celibates obsess about sex, especially other people's sex.

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 11, 2005 10:21 AM

daniel:

Yes, the point is you advocate sin:

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea."

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2005 10:25 AM

Don't be dishonest OJ, I never said any such thing. AFAIC if two consentual adults want to do something, and as long as they don't "do it on the street and scare the horses", it's nobody else's business. No harm, no foul.

Thankfully, we live in a democracy, not a theocracy (like those advocated by the Taliban, the Pharisees and Right Wing Catholics).

Now can you explain to me the difference between the Catholic heirarchy and the Pharisees?

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 11, 2005 11:13 AM

Yes, that's advocating sin. Easy for you, hard on them.

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2005 11:17 AM

How is minding my own business advocating sin? Ar you suggesting that the police patrol people's bedrooms? I don't know about you, but I kinda like living in a free democracy as opposed to a repressive thocracy. Like I sad, only perverts and celibates obssess (or even care about) other people's sex lives.

You're not a celibate are you?

Now then, when are you going to explain to me the difference between the Catholic heirarchy and the Pharisees? Or for that matter, the diference between the Pharisees and yourself?

Or is this going to be another dance where you dodge the issue in a cowardly fashion and then go back later to expunge the record in a deceitful fashion?

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 11, 2005 11:55 AM

Daniel, there is a big hint to the answer you seek at the end of my core dump so please read through.

Have I read a different article? Hasn’t my friend, Patrick written about the demise of Classical Liberalism? Where was he talking about sex? The only one obsessed with sex is Daniel? Are you married?

I don’t know Patrick that well, but my guess is that like most of us Orthodox Catholics (Right wing? Use your descriptors properly Daniel) he has a pretty healthy appreciation of human sexuality. I’d wager however, that he also recognizes it as a gift from God, a creation of God’s to allow humans to participate in creation, through pro-creation. (Ah one of the many things that brought me back to Mother Church, she recognizes that God loves us so much that He has from the beginning created us to participate with Him in every facet of it and of our salvation. But that is another article.)

This article if I understand it discusses the loss of Classical Liberalism’s foundation, objective, yes even ultimate, Truth. Without objective Truth, we are relegated to feelings, which are a very fickle thing indeed and worse, we are prisoners of a will we can’t control. We are then no better than the beasts, we live by instinct. Feelings, which seem to be the hot button of modern liberalism, are nothing more than the human equivalent of animal instinct. The classic liberalism that is at the foundation of this country, I think, sought to uphold the majority while protecting the minority from the possible (not probable) tyranny of that majority. Isn’t that one of the reasons we are a republic and not a pure democracy?

To take a line from one of my favorites, ‘The Bird Cage’…”It’s always all about you Armand …” What happened to being ‘grown ups’ and recognizing that it is never all about you or me or anyone person! If my kids learn anything else in this life, we will see to it that they learn that.

Grown ups, left and right leaning, built an incredible nation, flawed certainly, but better than any place else on earth. It was not built on pluralism or its cousin relativism. This nation was built on shared ideals, on a shared identity the foundation of which was built on the belief that there is objective truth. The question was never what the ideals and values were but how to accomplish them.

The immigrants who came here loved our American ideals which were rooted in Judeo-Christian values. Values so fundamental to human existence that Hindus, Shintoists, and even atheists were willing to die to preserve them. They were ‘grownups’! 'Grown ups' won the Cold War, not with tolerance (another perfectly good word made ugly) but with objective truth, born again of those pesky Judeo-Christian values. Values spoken by a Polish Prelate (yes Daniel, the highest of the hierarchy) out of an all consuming love of Jesus and His creation, that gave a desperate people the courage and heart to fight their oppressors. And through that courage and the intolerance of an idealistic American president not one but a host of nations recovered their freedom.

Daniel, this one is for you!

We are all sinners and what separates we Orthodox Catholics, all of us mind you, from Pharisees and even a lot of our protestant brothers and sisters is that we recognize it, we shout it out loud and we call ourselves to task for it. Our only hope is in Jesus who stregnthens us. In Jesus who told Peter to forgive 70x70 but who also tells those He forgives and cures, “Go and sin no more.” We are a church of sinners relying on His help daily to go and sin no more. “Lord I am not worthy that you should come unto my roof, say but the word and I shall be healed.” We don’t need bitter, holier-than-thou people to remind of us our sorry state.

Posted by: cma at March 12, 2005 2:03 PM

The immigrants who came here loved our American ideals which were rooted in Judeo-Christian values. Values so fundamental to human existence that Hindus, Shintoists, and even atheists were willing to die to preserve them.

Yes, even the lowly atheist! Thanks cma, at least you are willing to acknowledge us.

CMA, that is an excellent defense of classic liberalism. I would agree with the definition given in the article, specifically this point:

an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society

Notice the absence of a mention of divinity in that sentence. And why the following sentence is wrong:

For modern liberalism, which is secular, rights are purely gifts of the state.

This is nonsense, it says that secular people are somehow passive gift-takers, unable to assert and defend their own rights. Rights are not gifts, they are assertions. They are only as good as the willingness of people to defend them. Rights are won, they are not given.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 13, 2005 11:56 AM

Robert:

Yes, as he says and you prove, atheists can pay obeisance to God indirectly by embracing the Founding, even thjough they could never arrive at it on their own. We're a big enough people to carry some freeloaders. The gift is yours with our best wishes and hopes that you one day come to believe in its source.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 12:00 PM

"even thjough they could never arrive at it on their own."

Nonsense, the Greeks found it on their own, without needing to resort to some idea that their rights were bestowed on them from God.

I served in the military to protect my rights and yours, I ain't no freeloader. As far as the protection of rights go, there are the invokers and there are the doers. The invokers make the high-sounding claims, the doers back it up. Someday you'll learn which is more important.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 13, 2005 2:30 PM

Robert:

Actually they didn't, which is why it didn't work out there.

You don't need to understand your rights to protect them.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 3:56 PM

Robert, I in no way meant to be demeaning when I said 'even atheists'. I may be a believer, but I respect anyone who is willing to stand up for what is right. There is a group called Atheists for Life, I'll stand along side them anytime. I was making a point as did you.

I agree that rights are assertions, but it is the basis upon which those assertions are made that we are talking about. I agree with OJ that without a belief in the divine there would be none of the assertions we stand up to defend. The Greeks were not without a concept of the divine, quite the contrary, however they put too much store in themselves to make things work.

There are invokers and doers. Your implication there is that believers aren't doers, and yet for all our sins, we have done and continue to do great things for the mankind and for our fellow sojourners.

Western Civilization, science (yup that too), art, music, charities, hospitals etc. Prejudice has clouded the truth of history but it is out there to find. If you don't think so, you might want to read Rodney Stark's, The Rise of Christianity. It is an eye opener because the writer is a sociologist and not an historian and while he is not an atheist, he is or was at the writing, who knows now, a practicing agnostic.

Let's keep fighting for our rights. And we will continue to pray that someday we can all agree as to where they originate.

Thanks Robert

Posted by: cma at March 14, 2005 4:57 PM
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