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A Century of Tax America, You've Been Had

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The Pope's Challenge to Conservatives

by Christopher Chantrill
April 24, 2008 at 11:47 am

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THE MAINSTREAM media seem to think that the pope’s visit to the United States was all about the delicious priestly sex-abuse scandal and liberal agenda issues like abortion and women priests.

Even some conservatives wonder about Benedict XVI. Last week Catholic convert David Allen Tate worried to host Hugh Hewitt about Benedict’s background in German philosophy.

Conservatives are right to be worried by the Germans. Over the years they have managed to tie our liberal friends up in knots. On the one hand our liberal friends like to call the German pope a Nazi and conservative Americans “fascists,” and this is considered the very height of sophisticated fun by advanced liberal humorists like Bill Maher. On the other hand our liberal friends take many of their ideas straight from the German tradition of Marx and Nietzsche, not to mention the Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger, father of existentialism and postmodernism.

At least Josef Ratzinger has an excuse. As a youngster in wartime Germany he was forced into the Hitler Youth and drafted into the German Army.

If only, conservatives seem to wish, someone had stood astride history after the happy year of 1787 when our remarkable Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia. But nobody did. In 1789 George Washington was inaugurated President of the United States and the sensible people. In the same year the French birthed the modern Left with their Revolution of the silly people. A smart Anglo-Saxon like Edmund Burke could immediately understand and predict where that would all end up.

Less than ten years previously the author of relativism, Immanuel Kant, had published his Critique of Pure Reason, and it was just coming into public notice in Germany through articles published by Karl Reinhold in 1786.

In 1790 a practical politician like Burke had nothing to say about Kant. Nor did anyone else. But 160 years later Russell Kirk still couldn’t detect any response to Kant in The Conservative Mind.

Conservatives might hope to ignore Kant’s relativism, but we cannot ignore relativity. Kant’s notion that we cannot know “things-in-themselves” but only appearances leads directly to a physics of relativity and quantum mechanics.

If relativity is here to stay, then so too is relativism. And ideas have consequences. The relativist narrative of creativity and godlessness and its enticing apology for political power are the chief components in the “belief system” of our modern educated progressive class. Unless that belief system is engaged and challenged in its own terms its naive adepts will continue to believe that all opposition to its ideas and to its power is bitter-end bigotry.

The German pope answered this challenge. He had to. Josef Ratzinger is a German who came to manhood exactly at the moment, in 1945, when the proud German ideology of creativity and state power had crumbled to dust and humiliation and the most advanced country in the world lay at the feet of four foreign armies.

All the world now knows Ratzinger’s personal response to the German national cataclysm.

It was his warning about a “dictatorship of relativism... which only leaves the ‘I’ and its whims as the ultimate measure” before the Conclave that propelled him to the papacy.

But how should we oppose the dictators? His answer is simple and timeless. He proposes Christian love, as discussed in his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” and Christian hope, the subject of his second encyclical, “Spe Salvi.” If you read the encyclicals you will find that they are not just “about” Christian love and hope but utterly drenched in them.

Our progressive friends have been wrong about a lot of things over the years. One of them is the idea that Christianity is a severe “patriarchal” religion. The fact is that Christianity has always had a special appeal to women. There were women at the foot of the Cross. And today in the Christian growth areas of South America and China it is estimated that two-thirds of adherents are women. Why is that?

Lord Byron gives us a clue in “Don Juan:”

Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,
’Tis woman’s whole existence.

Christianity is the religion of love. God loves you; you love God. God loves you so much he forgives everything and sacrifices His Son for you.

Our progressive friends try every way they can to entice women out of an existence of love. They teach them to scorn marriage, to coarsen their loving relations with “a sexual life,” to replace loving service with a selfish “career,” to abandon their circles of care and take jobs in hierarchical government welfare bureaucracies. One fine day even liberal women will discover just how deeply this progressive culture scorns them and denies them everything that matters.

Pope Benedict XVI is a role model for conservatives. He shows that you can engage with the German tradition and not just survive but come out drenched in Christian love and faith.

He’s not the only conservative to have engaged German relativism. British conservative Roger Scruton, author of a book on Kant, has also dared to engage the German philosophers and lived to tell the tale. Jewish conservative Jonah Goldberg had to study the German canon to be able to annoy liberals with his Liberal Fascism.

What are the rest of us waiting for?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

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E. G. West, Education and the State


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