Are Christianity and America finished and is it delusional to defend them?
As I’ve been perusing through the VFR web site, I’ve noticed that what underlies most discussions (and your response to most queries) is an amalgam of Christianity with American History that defines “the American self.”
You’ve stated that one without the other cannot stand in the U.S. as the sole definer of our experience, our self-image, and our community. Those two threads intertwined “make” our civilization on this continent.
However in my estimation, that WAS the case. Vietnam killed American history. To the extent that “American history” is no longer an indubitable truth in people’s minds but has become a debatable and questionable component in our national makeup. To be “American” these days is not a virtue.
Ditto for Christianity. The 1960’s killed Christianity in America. It as well is no longer an indubitable truth in people’s minds. To be “Christian” these days is not a virtue.
You really have two threads that cannot stand on their own and cannot be intertwined together any longer to create a social whole. Neither one separately or together has any credibility in society today. Hoping for an apocalypse of liberalism will not open the way for a return to a Christian-American amalgam to define civilization.
I really don’t see that either American history or Christianity have any philosophical, sociological, political and psychological credibility to define our experience (separately or together) any longer except as forms of nostalgia.
Once something has died, to “return” to it usually means returning to a pale copy of it, sometimes to a counterfeit of it. When “the spirit has left the temple,” useless to worship at that tabernacle…
But of course the starting point of traditionalism is the recognition that there has been a liberal revolution that has transformed the world, that liberalism is completely in the saddle and is set on finishing off whatever remains of the civilization it has toppled and taken over. These grim realizations are the starting point of traditionalism. Yet traditionalism also recognizes that this liberalism is itself false and built on lies and unsustainable and cannot form the basis of an enduring society. Meanwhile the things you so evidently despise and casually dismiss, traditional America and Christianity, while no longer dominant, still exist and have not disappeared. In the manner of a progressivist master of history (do you have any notion of how often modern intellectuals have knowingly declared Christianity “dead,” and then been shocked to find out that it wasn’t?), you declare an entire civilization and people dead and finished because of Vietnam and the Sixties. But the story is still open-ended. The question is, what do we do now?
We can accept your nihilistic assumption that everything we have been is gone forever and so continue to yield to the apparently triumphant liberalism, but that only leads to increasing social chaos and further destruction of whatever good is left over from America and Christianity, and to the ultimate takeover of the West by non-Western peoples and cultures and religions. That is the inevitable end of your kind of contempt for or dismissal of the West, and that is why, as I have written, people like you resent any continued Western resistance, and positively desire that it all come to an end, and so you pass from liberal indifference to a stance of actively pushing along the suicide of our civilization, just to be finally done with it; and, when push comes to shove, will welcome the Muslim takeover and accept your new position as functionaries or dhimmis under a Western Caliphate, happy to be no longer carrying the burden of despised Western dominance.
Or we can resist the triumphant liberalism, in the name of a Western truth and tradition that liberalism has toppled but not yet destroyed; and, knowing that the liberalism that overthrew the traditional West is itself doomed, hold out the hope that the doomed liberalism will be ultimately succeeded, not by a Third-World/Islamic takeover, but by a restored West.
Traditionalists believe in the good and in what Western man has been. What do you believe in?
Reader to LA:
You still haven’t addressed the issue that the twin pillars of your/my western identity are philosophically dead. It doesn’t matter “what I believe” because Christianity as a way of knowing (epistemology) and a way of life (ethics) has suffered a death blow to the head. Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud (need I go on?) demolished the foundation; Christians themselves such as Paul Tillich then destroyed whatever remnants were left of Christian philosophy so that today Christianity is a pseudo-philosophy whose roots in civilization and history have been severed. There is no longer any “native soil” for that plant and those roots to grow. The facts are on my side, not on yours—churches are empty these days and in academia no one, but no one accepts the historic Judeo-Christian stream as the foundation for any serious intellectual effort. Wishing that it were not so, or that those anti-Christians are clinging to the sides of a void, or that this superstructure of liberalism will implode is a pipe-dream.
The same for American history. US schools don’t even bother mentioning Washington and Jefferson any longer in class except as historical artifacts. American history does not animate or empower the current generation through symbols or images. Every single film revises American history from a standpoint different than yours. The American self-image took a 180 degree turn in the 60’s from the nostalgic framework you are burdened with. The neo-cons realize this when they assert that American history is incomplete (as Condi Rice claims) in and of itself without its extension into the multi-cultural, multi-racial realm.
There is no “traditionalism” except in a nostalgic sense. I am 35 years old and nobody but nobody that I know thinks of themselves in a pre-1960’s mode. Traditionalism as you define it (composed of the thread of a Christian world-view allied with the thread of American history) no longer animates the spirit of our identity. Both those strands were intellectually and psychologically dealt fatal injuries. How do you resurrect something that has no intellectual validation any longer except as a myth?
The story is not “open-ended” because the only Christian viewpoint available these days is based on an existential “leap in the dark” without any rational foundation. Today only a certain portion of the Vatican releases empty intellectual guides to Christian religiosity that has since long vanished as a serious intellectual perspective. So that strand of our former identity is dead; all the ACLU is doing in the public square is administering “last rites”.
The only aspect of American history that has any social resonance among people today in America is the civil-rights movement in all of its manifestations. It is the driving force behind most political initiatives and government policies—not anything else out of our past. Who in people’s minds is the most significant, the most revered public figure from American history? Washington? Jefferson? Lincoln? FDR? JFK? Or Martin Luther King Jr? Want to wager?
It does not matter how wrong liberalism is because there is no concept any longer of right and wrong. Things are now mythically defined and liberalism can go quite a long way on half-truths, myths, symbols and icons. And survive quite well… because liberalism does not depend upon a fixed identity. It is biologically (Darwinistic evolution), socially (multi-culture, multi-racial), and philosophically (relativism) ever-changing, fluid, evolving and devolving, being transformed. In that sense liberalism can live equally with half-truths and “lies” continually ad infinitum. It does not need a fixed core of knowledge or dogma, a static identity or teleology. You are fighting a multi-headed hydra; chop off one head, another grows in its stead—and that head does not need “truth” as its brain-power.
Your concept of suicide is predicated on one having a fixed identity. That concept was killed off 40 years ago—in psychology, in religion, in anthropology, in history, in sociology, in philosophy. Where have you been? Reading Aquinas? Did you miss Nietzsche, Freud, Darwin, Sartre…all those thinkers that form the backbone of today’s psyche? Good lord, the church (whatever that is) lost its epistemological, cultural and psychological authority to define the self a century ago. There is no resurrection for it.
And as far as American history is concerned, Viet Nam embarrassed the hell out of it. The portions of American history that the rest of the world accepts are things like rock & roll, jazz, porn, Hollywood, black thugs and rappers, Sicilian gangsters and New York mobsters, Jewish self-guilt-circumcisors, etc.
In this post-modern world, resurrecting old myths (such as Christianity and American history) may be an interesting cultural exercise. But hardly anybody now believes that those two things have “truth content” in themselves.
So what is the alternative for the American identity? One such alternative is not even caring whether “it” survives or not. What’s the big deal if “it” dies? Is America a building-block in the heavenly city? If it’s just another earthly incarnation of a life-form, then its manifold transformations will be consistent with biology and history in their evolutions.
LA to reader:
You’ve got to be kidding. You expect me to take seriously this hackneyed modernist notion—my gosh, it was hackneyed even when I was a kid—that Nietzsche, Darwin and Freud killed Christianity? When you utter tripe like this, all you are doing is rehearsing what crowds of second-rate college professors have treated as gospel truth (the gospel truth of secular liberalism, that is) for the last few generations. And then you cite liberal Christians like Tillich to prove your point? All you’re doing is quoting the non-believers or those whose belief is so intellectualized that it amounts to non-belief. You yourself haven’t the slightest notion of what Christianity is about. You approach it like a perfectly obedient student of the modernist dogma. Your information about Christianity all comes from non-believers! And then, to top it off, you reference the idea that the churches are empty. The churches are empty? In America? This is such an off-base statement that it puts into doubt anything you have to say on the subject of religion. True, the churches are empty in Europe, but the fact that people have lost belief in Christianity tells us nothing about whether or not Christianity is true.
As for the total deconstruction and trashing of American history in the schools, that is of course true. But that deconstruction is all lies, advanced by leftists (and enabled by superficial conservatives) whose agenda has been to destroy America. If your enemy captured you and strapped you into a chair and shined a hypnotic light into your face (like in that episode of Star Trek) and told you of your complete nothingness and worthlessness, would that make it true? Yet you are accepting as the “final truth” about America and Christianity, the homicidal lies disseminated by their enemies. Which makes me think you are not in good faith here (i.e., as a person who regretfully has come to believe that America and Christianity are finished), but that you share that destructive agenda.
You argue from externals. You say that Christianity and America were “intellectually and psychologically dealt fatal injuries.” But what is the nature of these “fatal injuries”? They are a combination of ERRORS and LIES.
This is not to say that historic Christianity did not have serious flaws and weaknesses, and that it is not in a horrible crisis today. But what you’re doing is taking the decadence of the modern churches, and modern people’s loss of the experience of the objective truth of Christianity, and acting as though that turning away from the truth reflects on the truth itself. It does not. God exists. Christ exists. The revelation of God in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is as true now as it was two thousand years ago. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is as true now as it was two thousand years ago. This truth is always fresh, always new.
It’s just so funny that you treat the nihilist Nietzsche (a great and sympathetic genius, despite his terrible errors) as a greater authority than Genesis and the Gospels. Nietzsche said that God was dead. Well, what do you think God thought about that? (When I returned to undergraduate school in my late 20s and took a course on Nietzsche, I wrote a paper on that subject. Instead of looking at God from the perspective of Nietzsche’s denial of God, I looked at Nietzsche’s denial of God from God’s perspective.)
As for the absence of any traditionalism for people to relate to today, I agree that this is a terrible, horrible problem. The mainstream of our society, including the mass of Christianity, does not offer a living traditionalism. But it is still there, in a thousand ways and forms, in the corners of our society, under the surface, waiting to be discovered. It’s been redefined and trashed and thrown aside by materialistic modern people, but it’s still there, still true, and still alive. But we have to work at rediscovering it and bringing it into our lives. But this job is only for people who are willing to RESIST the dominant beliefs of their age, not treat them as unquestionable authority, as you do .
As for the supposed deadness of Christianity, you write that “the only Christian viewpoint available these days is based on an existential ‘leap in the dark’ without any rational foundation.” This is false. You are approaching Christianity as though it were a matter of believing or disbelieving certain intellectual assertions. I don’t think that’s the way people become believers. They become believers because the truth becomes manifest to them, as Paul speaks of in the first chapter of Romans. It’s not just revelations from above like the Bible that tell us that God exists, it is the world itself that tells us that God exists. It is mountains and trees and animals that tell us that God exists—that this visible world emerges from something infinitely greater than itself.
Twenty years ago I was on an Appalachian Mountain Club hike on a steep trail leading up from the Hudson River a few miles north of West Point. As we got up to a certain height I looked back and saw the beautiful mountains flanking the river to our south, and the words came to me out of nowhere, the opening words of a psalm that I hadn’t thought of in years, “The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof.” That wasn’t just an uplifting, poetic idea; it was the truth. It is this kind of experience, whether communicated by nature, or by scripture, or by the liturgy and sacraments of the Church, that tells us, in the most immediate, convincing, transforming way, that God exists. Jonathan Edwards wrote of how faith is triggered by an experience of the “divine excellency” of the words of Scripture. What this means is, the person sees the truth that is being conveyed, he sees that these words are not ordinary human words, that they come from above, just as, with nature, we see by an immediate yet rational intuition that nature comes from something beyond itself. This is not about an existential leap in the dark (one of those fashionable modern notions). This is about SEEING the truth, a truth that exists independently of us.
So when you talk about the only recourse being an “existential leap in the dark,” you are speaking in the categories of false modern intellectualism, like a liberal Episcopalian for whom the truths of Christianity are not true, but are odd and strange and very unfashionable assertions that he attempts to find some accommodation with by interpreting them in accord with his own modernist experience and disposition.
Here’s the bottom line: you’re saying that FOR YOU Christianity is dead; FOR YOU America is dead. And therefore you conclude that they actually are dead. And then you tote out all these spiritually lost, modernist authorities (you actually cite Freud—hey, man, talking about living in the dead past!) to buttress your point.
You may reply that you have not had such glimpses or experiences of God as I describe, and that I say are the basis of religion, so what are you supposed to do? I don’t have an answer to that, any more than I know why, say, some people have an ear for music, and others don’t. But I will say this. There is a great difference between a person saying, “I have no experience of God, the idea of God makes no sense to me,” which in individual instances may be a true and sincere statement, and a person saying, “God doesn’t exist, because the gods of modernism say he doesn’t exist.” The latter is just an arrogant, baseless assertion.
Finally, your subscription to an unchallengeable liberalism that has no intelligible form, that is ever evolving and morphing into something else, is simply NIHILISM—the image of a world without truth. But it’s the smiling, post-modern, self-esteeming type of nihilism that you’re into. There is no truth or permanent entity, according to you, but that’s ok, because things keep evolving. However, this postmodernist credo of yours does not, as you like to imagine, keep leading in “cool” or progressive directions; its leads to societal death, with the dead corpse of the society then being taken over by aliens.
- end of initial entry -
Jeff writes from England:
Just read your Chrisitianity is dead, Nietzsche and Darwin and Freus killed it, Vietnam did too exchange. One of the stupidest reader’s articles ever sent to you! So dumbed down so predictable so banal. You gave it more time than it deserves.
Apart from his silly appeal to the great authority of the tarnished gods of modernism, Nietzsche, Darwin, etc., he made a larger point that I think many people today, not just liberals/leftists, sincerely feel: that our culture is already gone, that there is no tradition to appeal to. That is a real concern, and I feel it is very much worth replying to. (Someone addressed a challenging question to me on this a few weeks ago on this, and maybe my answer here was the beginning of a reply.)
The reader takes the usual superficial moral jab at America for its bad deeds. His point, “It’s all about Viet Nam,” describes the shallow depth to which U.S. history education has sunk.
The reader needs to calibrate his “American, All Too American” morality-meter by taking a prolonged stay in Egypt or Rwanda or Bosnia or Moscow. He would discover the real human miseries and debasements of living in geographical areas that have never had the civilizing influence of a Western Christian, rule-of-law culture—a culture that provides the underpinnings for all our moral advances and attempts to extend human rights. Like fish swimming in water who cannot conceive of a different atmosphere, the fish foolishly think they no longer need the water but can live in air. I’m amazed that anyone these days still touts Freud and Darwin, who developed their clever but limited hypotheses within the inadequate, mechanistic, Newtonian framework.
As for Nietzsche:
Nietzsche to God: God is dead.
God to Nietzsche: Nietzsche is dead.
I like how you ended your (first) response: “What do you believe in?” The subsequent discussion only shows how this reader is himself a void. I often ponder the fate of Christians in the Communist Soviet Union. Surely they had hope, that a personal God was on their side (or, rather, that they were on God’s side). The Communists had the conviction that something called “history” was on their side. I believe that I am on God’s side, so it doesn’t matter how dark things look. It doesn’t matter how bad things get.
I find this theme running through Revelation (I claim no authoritative insight here). The persecuted church, when all about looks dark, is triumphant, and the “final battle,” when it looks darkest, is when the church is about to emerge fully and finally triumphant—with Christ at the head. It’s a glimpse into God’s view of reality, not our visible view of it. Your reader, the void, does not see God’s view; he sees only what he sees, down at the baseboard.
It’s right in line with your comment on your Nietzsche paper, taking God’s view of this denier, rather than the denier’s view of God. What is seen from the dark baseboard is often squalid and grim.
Mark D. writes:
I’m satisfied with your response to your disillusioned, postmodernist reader, with his accusations against Christianity and America.
Just a couple of observations:
1. Your reader complains that Christianity is irrational, as if rationality mattered to him. If Christianity were only rational, then he implies that he could consider it. He writes:
“The story is not ‘open-ended’ because the only Christian viewpoint available these days is based on an existential ‘leap in the dark’ without any rational foundation.”
But does rationality matter to your correspondent? His argument, if it may called it that, is a series of fallacies, the largest and most egregious being the argument from authority. This fallacy relieves your correspondent of telling us why Darwin, Freud, Tillich, Sartre, Nietzsche, etc. are right, and what they are right about. It also relieves him of the obligation of telling us why the intellectual competitors of these writers are wrong, and what they are wrong about. By invoking the argument from authority, your correspondent doesn’t have to think, and he invites his readers not to think.
2. In pronouncing the death sentence upon Christianity and the American experience pre-1965, your correspondent says:
“How do you resurrect something that has no intellectual validation any longer except as a myth?”
Good question. How does one resurrect Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Tillich at this late date, in the face of their obliteration by experience, peer review, and rational examination and discussion? Perhaps your correspondent could enlighten us.
3. Your correspondent tells us that liberalism is beyond right and wrong, and therefore it cannot be “wrong.” Do I hear Nietzsche bellowing in the background?
“It does not matter how wrong liberalism is because there is no concept any longer of right and wrong. Things are now mythically defined and liberalism can go quite a long way on half-truths, myths, symbols and icons. And survive quite well… because liberalism does not depend upon a fixed identity. It is biologically (Darwinistic evolution), socially (multi-culture, multi-racial), and philosophically (relativism) ever-changing, fluid, evolving and devolving, being transformed. In that sense liberalism can live equally with half-truths and ‘lies’ continually ad infinitum.”
If there is no longer any concept of right and wrong, then your correspondent won’t complain if Christianity is either wrong or irrational. But, yet, he does so complain. If liberalism can survive on “half-truths, myths, and symbols,” then why does your correspondent complain that Christianity is merely an intellectual myth, or that the American tradition is full of half-truths and myths? Your correspondent doesn’t explain these contradictions. Your correspondent asserts that liberalism is “fluid” and “evolving,” and can survive “without a fixed identity.” This is nonsense, as your website has demonstrated repeatedly. Liberalism is rigid, closed, and ideological. It actively seeks to undermine and destroy competitors such as Christianity and traditionalism. Liberalism’s obsession with its competitors reveals that it most certainly believes there is “a right and a wrong,” and that liberalism is the right choice in this deliberation. And, because your correspondent puts so much faith in his “half-truths and lies,” then he won’t object if I say that I think that he is lying, that he cares very much that liberalism be true, that the dogma of liberalism is a truth for him, and that he is very concerned that competitors to that truth seem stubbornly to survive in the face of continued dismissal by self-confessed lying liberals.
P.S. When liberals tell you that lies and half-truths are sufficient, even good, are they lying?
Mark D. continues:
… If liberalism can survive on “half-truths, myths, and symbols,” then why does your correspondent complain that Christianity is merely an intellectual myth, or that the American tradition is full of half-truths and myths?
His argument is logically inconsistent, unless one accepts an unstated premise, that is, that current myths have some rational priority over “earlier” myths.
I don’t accept that premise, and I see no good reason to accept it. But, a liberal must accept it, because it’s part of the more central liberal Myth of Progress (which is just dogma).
As for the substantive argument that “the old myths don’t work anymore,” that is just liberal dogma. Tillich was saying that 50 years ago; it’s old hat and stale stuff by now. If the old myths don’t work anymore, why do liberals feel compelled to continue to recognize and attack those old myths? Why can’t they kill them off, if they don’t work anymore?
Alex K. writes:
What is odd is that the reader sounded like the most pessimistic reactionary, though he clearly wasn’t.
“all the ACLU is doing in the public square is administering ‘last rites.’”
That’s the first non-conservative I’ve read who admits the ACLU is out to kill religion! Liberals tend to think we are sliding toward theocracy and every mention of God by a politician is the sound of Torquemada preparing new stakes.
Some more of his statements:
“U.S. schools don’t even bother mentioning Washington and Jefferson any longer in class except as historical artifacts.”
“Every single film revises American history from a standpoint different than yours.”
“It does not matter how wrong liberalism is because there is no concept any longer of right and wrong.”
There are aspects of truth in what he says in the sense that we’ve fallen back from where we were. But I’ve only heard these things stated so extremely by writers who are comparing them to healthier times. Liberals on the other hand usually think they have a long way to go (in this country, if not Europe)….
So in a sense this strange letter is that rare leftist who is realistic and honest about the dire situation of the West and the U.S. (even if he doesn’t consider it dire). Most don’t get or won’t admit that we are so much more fallen into liberalism than we’ve ever been. But just as despair can make traditionalists exagerate the state of things, triumphalism is making this guy miss the obvious signs (the American churches are empty?) that what he pronounces dead or mortally wounded is neither.
Of course, his observations are only part of his case. The other is his trust in academic heroes. Sartre is the one I thought was funny—I dunno, maybe the true believers are out there, but all the lefties I know think Sartre is a joke. That may be why he jumps too far ahead of his somewhat accurate observations.
Here are two long e-mails from Ben M., the reader who started off this discussion. The first one is a reply to me. I haven’t gotten around to replying to this yet, and don’t know if I will. How do you speak to someone who, as a metaphysical (or rather anti-metaphysical) principle, treats whatever is currently dominant as the authoritative truth? Ben M. writes:
Let’s take your statements one at a time.
1. “Liberalism is completely in the saddle and is set on finishing off whatever remains of the civilization it has toppled and taken over.”
Liberalism is not “finishing off whatever remains of civilization” because civilization has no fixed identity to terminate. On the contrary “civilization” is a progressively evolving organism that is transformed from one entity to another. It “grows” from local specificity to universal extension. That is not “finishing off” something but extending it by growth.
2. “Yet traditionalism also recognizes that this liberalism is itself false and built on lies and unsustainable and cannot form the basis of an enduring society.”
Traditionalism can only label liberal ideology as “lies” if its own sense of right & wrong is universally acceptable. But traditionalism is only “traditional” in a limited sense (a region, a time, a place, a set of concepts) and so has no universal applicability. What is the “truth content” of traditionalism? And if its own “truths” are provincial, then how can any tradition have claims to an “enduring society”?
3. “Meanwhile the things you so evidently despise and casually dismiss, traditional America and Christianity, while no longer dominant, still exist and have not disappeared.”
They have not disappeared but they are not authoritative intellectually and socially. They have become individual choices a la Kierkegaard.
4. “In the manner of a progressivist master of history (do you have any notion of how often modern intellectuals have knowingly declared Christianity “dead,” and then been shocked to find out that it wasn’t?).”
Christianity is intellectually dead. It does not command the respect of most government officials, academic researchers and teachers, scientists and technologists, philosophers, sociologists and psychologists. It is available as a form of worship to individuals through personal, subjective choice. The Judeo-Christian ethic no longer informs public behavior, political choices and juridical judgments. It is dead.
5. “You declare an entire civilization and people dead and finished because of Vietnam and the Sixties.”
I declare a form of culture dead, not a civilization. That civilization continues in different forms and psyches. Those people that are “dead” have children who are “alive” in a different psychological framework.
6. “We can accept your nihilistic assumption that everything we have been is gone forever and so continue to yield to the apparently triumphant liberalism, but that only leads to increasing social chaos.”
It can only be deemed “social chaos” by you insofar as it deviates from your concept of social organization. It may be a different form of organization which appears as “chaos” to you because it runs counter to what you believe structures a society.
7. “…and further destruction of whatever good is left over from America and Christianity.”
It is not “destruction” but transformation. It is only destruction if one accepts a fixed concept of the good as emanating from a certain form of religiosity. “America” is not a static concept; it is an evolving, fluid one. Destruction is not a final cessation of this organism but its traversal through multiple transformations through time.
8. “You pass from liberal indifference to a stance of actively pushing along the suicide of our civilization, just to be finally done with it.”
It is not “liberal indifference” to past forms but “liberal interest” in extending and growing past forms so they don’t become fossils.
It is not “suicide” because it is not a cessation of an organism. The organism dies if it has a fixed identity and teleology—that is suicide. But western civilization and American society are not defined by the liberal to have a fixed persona that dies when the fixed structures that define it are changed.
9. “Or we can resist the triumphant liberalism, in the name of a Western truth and tradition that liberalism has toppled but not yet destroyed; and, knowing that the liberalism that overthrew the traditional West is itself doomed.”
Liberalism did not overthrow the “traditional West” because the West has been in a state of flux for centuries. By the time of the Enlightenment, fixed Christian “truths” were already being questioned.
Is liberalism “triumphant”? Yes it is. It is the acknowledged state philosophy of government in every single Western democracy. there is no hope of overturning that because liberalism is the only environment in which competing groups can co-exist. It is the only structure of government that can mediate between competing interests on a secular basis while maintaining the character of those divergent groups in their personal identities. There is no hope in heaven or hell of turning of liberalism. It is a fluid mechanism, a non-static organism that can survive through half-truths, lies, myths in the absence of complete truth. It can also accommodate competing claims of absolute truths in the arena as those cannot in themselves.
To put it quite honestly, God himself has to accept a limited role in the liberal arena and live with that or become a tyrant (which does not become him). When liberalism came out of the box (Fukuyama is right), it set the standard for ever and ever… You cannot kill it.<>
Here is a second e-mail from Ben M.:
I have read some of the responses at VFR to my assertions.
Allow me to respond.
1. People took issue with the intellectual authorities I cited. The names I referred to are just a handful of modernists; I could have pointed to post-modernists such as Beckett, Borges, Barth, Rawls etc. but these names are more obscure to readers.
Some people ridiculed the trio I mentioned (Darwin, Marx, Freud). Of course I know that Freud and Marx have been discredited but it doesn’t diminish the fact that Marxist ideology is STILL the foundation for most historical and sociological studies in university. In their rush to criticize my “assertions through authority”, they missed the statement I made that these “authorities” (right or wrong, dated or not) form the backbone of our psyche (consciously or subconsciously).
Darwin is alive and well in academia—proof of which is the Dover decision. Creationism and/or Intelligent Design took a big hit in Pennsylvania. And that was not merely a juridical decision involving some technical points of organic development. That was significantly a major and social judgment as to what constitutes how we view time, space and history! Genesis may be “right” but not in America and in that sense Genesis doesn’t exist as “truth” here. It may be “objectively” right in God’s mind but it has no objective standing in our schools…and in the regard “objectivity” is irrelevant.
2. Most respondents criticized my statements based on a sense of right and wrong. When all along I’ve stated that today’s “truth content” is established through myth, symbol and icon. Criticizing my conclusions based on their “correctness” is irrelevant because the rightness of something is a metaphysical claim that is no longer accepted as a social criterion. Most people today cannot offer a critical assessment of another religion or ideology; they’re merely “OK” with a different viewpoint as long as theirs is not attacked.
3. In both the short term and the long run your respondents will be proven to fall short. Liberalism as an ideology will persist well into the next century. It is the basis for every Western secular democracy (something none of the respondents bothered to address). It forms the ideological structure for almost every single discipline in academia. Even conservatives have tacitly accepted most of liberalism’s social tenets (does anybody dare criticize the civil rights movement and its tentacles anymore?).
The respondents can justify the “correctness” of their own criticisms but the facts remain (something they cannot evade). The basis for all government in Western society is liberal in nature and those institutions will not be overturned. The Darwinian basis for biological evolution (which forms the scientific foundation for liberal social progress) will not be displaced in the university as over 85% of scientific professors adhere to some form of evolution. Non-Christian agendas (such as the acceptance of gay culture in our society) are well ensconced and about to be solidified through political legislation.
There is no chance in hell that the liberal psyche will wither and die. Hoping for some sort of liberal apocalypse is the equivalent of those Christian believers who have been hoping for “the second return” of Christ. Hasn’t happened and conservatives (those you deem “truly conservative) can gather on the mountain tops to await the liberal apocalypse. In the meantime history and biology work out their course…
As to being taken over by Islam as a consequence of liberal obsequiousness, were we taken over by Communists due to the same reason? On the contrary, what the Communist youth wanted was more Paul McCartney and Elton John (thank you Ronald Reagan).
Clearly, my two long comments in this thread, as well as other people’s comments, are useless in reaching Ben M., since his very premises exclude any truth that is not currently authoritative. We would therefore have to pursue the discussion on his own terms. Jim Kalb offers what strikes me as an accurate description of Ben M’s position:
Your reader seems to be saying that there’s no truth or reality beyond the view of truth or reality on which the movers and shakers of our social world habitually act. He also seems to be saying that at any time (or at least at present) there’s a great deal of consistency among everybody who counts what that view is, or maybe that private idiosyncrasies don’t matter because what counts is the outlook implicit in public discussions among the people who run things, and those always have a great deal of consistency.
Based on this, the question arises, is there anything that Ben M. would object to, once it became publicly accepted and authoritative? For example, suppose that Islam became publicly respectable, because everybody was afraid of it. Would Islam then become the public truth beyond which there’s no reality? If the yuppies don’t have any kids and the Muslims really do take over, will Sharia be truth?
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 08, 2006 12:30 PM | Send