July 8, 2017


Why Progressivism and Religion Don't Go Together : Leftists want government to do the work of God -- transform human beings into perfect creatures .(ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS, July 7, 2017, National Review)

While the problems afflicting the party must stem from some combination of these factors, Democrats' scorn for religion should be their biggest concern. That scorn is compounded by the party's sudden and dramatic swerve to the Left on key social issues -- abortion, contraception, religious liberty, and marriage, to name a few -- in a quest for votes from far-Left, progressive Americans. [...]

Progressivism has always been premised on the notion that man has a changeable nature and thus is able to achieve perfection during his time on earth. As a result, progressives consistently maintain that government is responsible for transforming men and women into perfect creatures. They develop programs and reforms suited not for man as he is, but for man as he ought to be (and, progressives would argue, for man as he could become, with the right societal structures).

Against that idea, most religious believers contend that man is flawed by his very nature and incapable of perfecting himself without the help of God, and that perfection is in fact unattainable during earthly life. While sects and denominations differ vastly, religion itself -- and indeed any dependence on a Creator -- is a direct contradiction to the progressive conception of man as changeable and perfectible.

In short, progressivism and religion -- understood as a fundamental reliance on God rather than on oneself or on other men -- are inherently incompatible. Where progressivism asserts that properly ordered government can and should transform man into a perfect being who lives in a man-made utopia, religion insists that God, not government, is responsible for changing men's hearts.

Orestes Brownson's Republican Remedies (Scott Yenor, June 28, 2017, Claremont Review of Books)

No one cringed at the younger Brownson's naive idealism--what Tocqueville called a faith in the "indefinite perfectibility of man"--more than the older Brownson, who converted to Catholicism in 1844. Though his zeal for social reform never wavered, Brownson changed his mind about the modern regime's ends.

Brownson developed a more nuanced understanding of the nature and conditions for religious freedom, and its relation to modern democracy. The mature Brownson equated religious freedom with "civil tolerance." Though error, he argued, has no rights before God, the erring and unerring stand as equals before the civil authority. Brownson's position opposed both traditional Catholic teaching, which insisted error had no rights before either God or the civil authority, and modern humanitarians, who doubted man could ever err before God. Within this civil space, thought Brownson, man must be left free to situate himself before God. Liberty of conscience must therefore extend to individuals and churches.

Brownson believed certain elements of the modern regime were inimical to human flourishing. Protestantism's embrace of individualism, modern democracy's assertion of indefinite human power over the moral and physical world, and consensual government's continual remaking of the civil order all combined to uproot the citizen, leaving him at the mercy of his own fallen nature.

Checking modernity's destructive tendencies required: reverence for restraints of the sort found in America's Constitution; informal and social checks on government's power; adherence to the inviolable liberty of the human person with respect to belief and property; and an understanding of the ends individual liberty serves. But ultimately, a widespread conversion to traditional Christianity, i.e., Catholicism, was necessary to counter the modernizing revolution.

The checks on modernity are unjustified absent the doctrines of traditional Christianity. Each check points to man's sinfulness or his thirst for community. The mature Brownson--in what seems a direct rebuke to his earlier self--held that "the mad effort to separate progress from religion...has rendered modern Liberalism everywhere destructive, and everywhere a failure." Though he retained his understanding of progress and civilization, he became convinced that they were inseparable from religious authority.

Such have been the terms of the struggle for centuries now, as the Anglosphere advanced from victory to victory.

Posted by at July 8, 2017 6:29 AM