dLetter To A Liberal - Road to the Middle Class - by Christopher Chantrill
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Letter to a Liberal

by Christopher Chantrill
January 03, 2004 at 7:00 pm

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LISTEN UP, liberals. I am about to tell you how to defeat the evil Republicans and sweep back to power.  It’s a very small thing, hardly worth mentioning.  You could do it without breaking a sweat.

Stop your war on the middle class.

You could have everything you want: a world of creativity and authenticity, peace and justice, and an end to the cycle of violence—if you would just stop trying to smash the middle class and its totems of God, work, and family.  Another way of saying this is: stop trying to neuter the Christian Right.

Last week I read Peggy Noonan relate the problems she faced years ago when she displayed a sculpture of the Virgin Mary outside her apartment off Park Avenue.  It got so bad that she decided to take the Virgin back inside.  But when she moved to Brooklyn, she found that Virgins are acceptable.  She displayed the Virgin again, and nobody complained.

Imagine the trouble she would have got into if she had been living on the Upper West Side instead of the Upper East Side!

What is it about you liberals?  Why can’t you leave people alone, in their rich diversity, and let them worship their gods as they wish?

Luckily, some of us do know why you liberals, deep down, want to “neuter” the Christian Right. It’s an old, old story.  It’s the age-old effort to stamp out superstition, the instinct inside everyone of us to replace your lie with my truth.

There’s a problem with this inquisitional approach, and nobody has described it better than conservative thinker Eric Voegelin.  When we grasp a new truth, we do not really stand the old knowledge on its head, sweeping the slate clean.  We merely accomplish a “leap in being” from compact knowledge to more differentiated knowledge.  Even the great Copernican revolution did not invalidate the entire corpus of Aristotelian science. It just came up with a much better model of planetary mechanics than the old Ptolemaic model.  Since then, we have accomplished another leap in being with the Einsteinian revolution.

If you are pushing a lawn mower around the yard, then Aristotelian mechanics still works pretty well: if you stop pushing the mower, it will stop.  But if you want to compute the trajectory of an artillery shell, then you need Newtonian mechanics.  If you want to compute the trajectory of an electron, then you need quantum mechanics.

For the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, the shadows on the wall represent the whole of reality. There is no use telling them about fires and walls and people walking to and fro until you have freed them from their chains and turned them around.  Likewise, there is no hope in getting a liberal professor to understand about startups, market capitalization, and IPOs when all he knows is salary, tenure, and TIAA/CREF.  To the liberal professor, the totems of capitalism are frightening mysteries beyond the familar world of the campus that he has mastered so well. As Plato knew, if you come back to the cave with your fantastic tales, the prisoners will laugh at you.  “If they could lay hands upon the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him.”

Let us stipulate that the liberal vision of creativity, diversity, and one world human community of caring and sharing is the way to go.  The next question is: what do we do about the current culture of nation states, capitalism, and Christianity?  Do we encourage it?  Do we replace it? Do we tolerate it?

We know what you liberals have decided: replace it.  All this Puritan Ethic stuff was all very well in the nineteenth century, but now things are different.  Yet the Chinese have recently decided, according to David Aikman in Jesus in Beijing, that Christianity is part of the package that makes the west pre-eminent all over the world.  Said one academic: “the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful.”  There are said to be 80 million Christians in China right now, and we ain’t seen nothing yet. 

Then there is the phenomenon of exploding Christianity in Africa and South America, not to mention megachurches in South Korea.  It seems pretty clear that people on the cusp of the middle class, learning to make it in the city, choose Christianity.

If you stop your war on the middle class, you could still advance your progressive agenda. You would just concede a place in your progressive nirvana for enthusiastic Christianity.

But if you don’t, then maybe we evil Republicans will get to govern America for another generation until there are a billion Chinese Christians.  Then you liberals will really have your work cut out for you.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


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


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


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


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”


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