The Bible recognizes many evils, but does not supply a specific mandate for outlawing all that believers consider immoral or improper. As the late theologian John Courtney Murray put it, “The law, mindful of its nature, is required to be tolerant of many evils that morality condemns.” Christian should not adopt the habit of their secular brethren in turning to the law to right every wrong, especially on issues where only a genuinely restored moral authority in the culture will get the job done.
The reason, I think, is that politics itself has failed. And politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture. The culture is becoming an ever-wider sewer. We are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics.
In 1947 Carl Henry published The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism and led Christians back into the American mainstream. What really galvanized them, however, was the liberal victory in Roe v. Wade. In one swoop, the Court struck down abortion laws in all 50 states, turning around an entire culture on the most crucial moral
issue of the day. The lesson was not lost on moral conservatives: they concluded that top-down political action was the
most effective means of cultural transformation. If liberals could do it, so could they.
But if the earlier hope to “save Amerca” was overblown, so too is the current counsel to withdraw from politics — an overreaction against an original overreaction. In the elegant words of Richard Neuhaus, such pessimism “expresses a painful deflation of political expectations that can only be explained by a prior and thoroughly unwarranted inflation.” Were Christians in fact to withdraw, we would simply ride a pendulum swing back to the isolationism of the fundamentalist era.
Public statesmen today should imagine themselves as called to serve, not in a predominantly Christian nation, but one that more resembles the conditions Paul encountered in Athens, where he invoked the literature and philosophy of the times to make his point without imagining a large sympathetic majority standing behind him.
Christians are understandably dismayed that the culture has become unhitched from its Judeo-Christian roots. What many refuse to acknowledge is that, in a thousand ways, this unhitching was produced by a massive retreat by Christians from the intellectual, cultural, and philanthropic life of the nation. While evangelicals count millions of members among their grassroots political groups and are now, if anything, overrepresented in the legislative arena, the number of evangelicals at the top of America’s powerful culture-shaping institutions could be seated in a single school bus! The watching world is understandably chagrined by the interest evangelicals have shown in power while simultaneously showing so little interest in the noncoercive arenas of society where one’s only weapon is persuasion.
The problem has not been expecting too little of politics, but far too much. True conservatism brings a natural skepticism to the reforming possibilities of politics. It sees as its first job the long-term cultivation of character, culture, and community. It views politics as “downstream” from culture, more reflecting it than shaping it. Conservatism avoids excessively politicizing religion or religionizing politics because genuine religious faith stirs allegiances that transcend nation and ideology. The Scriptures would counsel even more skepticism about both the possibilities of politics and the form in which it should be practiced.
Preachers should not be known for condemning others. If God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, what gives them the authority to condemn? If the ordained believe “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases,” they have a biblical mandate not to trash a President they don’t like or mawkishly support one they do admire.
…The unbeliever is unlikely to accept biblical truth when it comes wrapped in the voter guides of the Christian Coalition. Preachers occupy a unique place in American life. When they are known for their denunciation of the President or the endorsement of someone to replace him, unbelievers see them as players in the corrupting political power game. Preachers already possess a greater power than the world offers. When they grasp for the immediate and lesser power of partisan and necessarily compromising politics, they make a Faustian bargain for something that rarely changes hearts and minds.
Frustration at slow progress in the political arena is understandable. But my advice to my friends in the pro-family movement is this: Do not be discouraged. As Reinhold Niebuhr once observed, "The arc of history is long, but it curves towards justice." This road is often long and hard. But it has always been so. The antislavery movement began petitioning Congress in the 1830s, and did not see slavery abolished for 30 years — and that required a bloody war. The NAACP was founded in 1909, but it did not even gain support in a national party platform until 1948, and it did not pass landmark civil-rights legislation until 1964. The suffragist movement gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848, and women did not gain the right to vote nationally until 1920. The same will be true in the pro-life and pro-family movements. The gradual and incremental nature of our progress and victories is not unusual in the history of social-reform movement in the United States. It is the norm.
Politics is not the answer to our national spiritual salvation. Only personal evangelism, marriage enrichment, the rebuilding of a child-centered culture, and spiritual revival can do that… But surrendering politics would essentially condemn future generations to the failed policies of the Left. And make no mistake: without our check, there would be no balance. Our withdrawal would condemn millions in this nation who otherwise might have struggled to maintain our culture. It would send countless more unborn to their premature deaths. It would consign too many children to lives without hope or opportunity in the inner city. It would mean a crushing burden of higher taxes that weighs too heavily on the middle-class families struggling to give their children a chance at the American dream. This we cannot and must not do.
Conservative Christian activism has been largely ignorant of and disinterested in a philosophy or theology to guide such action. In some circles it’s more dangerous to disagree with Rush Limbaugh than with the Apostle Paul. Running roughshod over the long-standing distinction between the “two kingdoms,” Christian activism over the last few decades has been shallow, confused, reactionary, and narrowly focused on behavior almost to the exclusion of larger questions of justice, community, selfhood, duty, and so forth. We simply haven’t given much thought to the theological framework.
Beginning with the great church father Augustine (354-430 AD.), Christian thinkers have developed criteria for distinguishing justified wars from unjustified wars. What they really tell us is which hard judgments we need to make. First come criteria for when going to war is permissible. It isn’t enough to honor most of them; all seven must be satisfied.
You know the law we live by. And where is it written beyond Camelot live lesser people, people too weak to protect themselves, let them die? Malagant: Other people live by other laws, Arthur. Or is the law of Camelot to rule the entire world. King Arthur: There are laws that enslave men, and laws that set them free. Either what we hold to be right and good and true is right and good and true for all mankind, under God, or we’re just another robber tribe. Malagant: Your words are talking you out of peace and into war. King Arthur: There’s a peace you only find after war. If that battle must come. I will fight it!
Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies. This volume presents twelve original essays by leading natural law theorists and their critics. The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law. Readers get a clear sense of the wide diversity of viewpoints represented among contemporary theorists, and an opportunity to evaluate the arguments and counterarguments exchanged in the current debates between natural law theorists and their critics. Contributors include Hadley Arkes, Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., John Finnis, Robert P. George, Russell Hittinger, Neil MacCormick, Michael Moore, Jeffrey Stout, Joseph Raz, Jeremy Waldron, Lloyd Weinreb, and Ernest Weinrib. ~ Product Description
The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. Despite dynamic success at a popular level, modern American evangelicals have failed notably in sustaining serious intellectual life. They have nourished millions of believers in the simple verities of the gospel but have largely abandoned the university, the arts, and other realms of “high” culture… The historical situation is… curious. Modern evangelicals are the spiritual descendants of leaders and movements distinguished by probing, creative, fruitful attention to the mind.
It is the things for which there is no evidence that are believed with passion. “Nobody feels any passion about the multiplication table or about the existence of Cape Horn, because these matters are not doubtful. “But in matters of theology or political theory, where a rational man will hold that at best there is a slight balance of probability on one side or the other, people argue with passion and support their opinions by physical slavery imposed by armies and mental slavery imposed by schools.
The initial relevance of the traditional doctrine [of just war] today lies in its value as the solvent of false dilemmas. Our fragmentized culture seems to be the native soil of this fallacious and dangerous type of thinking. There are,first of all, the two extreme positions, a soft sentimental pacifism and a cynical hard realism. Both of these views, which are also "feelings," are formative factors in the moral climate of the moment. Bot of them are condemned by the traditional doctrine as false and pernicious. The problem is to refute by argument the false antinomy between ware an morality that they assert in common, thought in different ways. The further and more difficult problem is to purify the public climate of the miasma that emanates from each of them and tends to smother the public conscience.
In a nutshell, Weaver takes on the role of doctor — identifying and prescribing a cure for the ailment that had plagued (and still does) the United States, culminating in the barbaric conclusion of World War II. Weaver meticulously describes the ailment, including the chief causes of the crisis: (1) Replacement of transcendent sentiments with utilitarianism & pragmatism; (2) Undermining senses of order and hierarchy (from liberalism/collectivism); (3) Loss of focus and an embrace of fragmentary obsessions; (4) Exercise of raw ego and self-indulgence; (5) Dereliction of media responsibility; (6) Emergence of the spoiled-child phenomena. Despite the rather gloomy prognosis, Weaver does not leave the reader without hope. In the final three chapters, he proposes corrective actions that he believes will get America back on track away from the path of self-destruction: (1) Preserve the sanctity of private property; (2) Use of meaningful language and rhetoric; (3) Embrace notions of piety and true justice. After the elapse of fifty years, Weaver’s estimation of the crisis as well as his proposed corrective actions are as relevant and useful today as when they were first written. I highly recommend this book to historians of American conservative thought as well as those who wish to be inspired by one of the best authors that conservatism has been blessed to have. ~ A Customer @ Amazon.com
After reading this book, the reader will have a solid base to make judgement upon those who believe THEY (the Utopians) are better suited (intelligence, benevolence) to take control of everybody else’s lives (the DAILY living decisions). The “everybody else” are those who don’t fit into their ruling crowd. ~ Darrell G. Eson @amazon.com
If a man in the fullness of his days, at the end of his life, can pass on the wisdom of his experience to those who grow up after him; if what he has learned in his youth, added to but not discarded in his maturity, still serves him in his old age and is still worth teaching the then young—then his was not an age of revolution, not counting, of course, abortive revolutions. The world into which his children enter is still his world, not because it is entirely unchanged, but because the changes that did occur were gradual and limited enough for him to absorb them into his initial stock and keep abreast of them. If, however, a man in his advancing years has to turn to his children, or grandchildren, to have them tell him what the present is about; if his own acquired knowledge and understanding no longer avail him; if at the end of his days he finds himself to be obsolete rather than wise—then we may term the rate and scope of change that thus overtook him, “revolutionary.”
Here we must stress a paradox to which we cannot, I think, direct our attention too closely; theoretically one might have imagined — and this indeed was what many people did in the nineteenth century — that as soon as the majority of men in a given society ceased to believe in an afterlife, life in this world would be more and more lovingly taken
care of and would become the object of an increased regard. What has happened is something quite different, the very opposite in fact: this cannot, I think, be overemphasized. Life in this world has become more and more widely looked upon as a sort of worthless phenomenon, devoid of any intrinsic justification, and as thereby subject to countless interferences which in a different metaphysical context would have been considered sacrilegious.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.