The Tendency of Empire

Tacitus, in describing the Romans…and it feels all too familiar.

They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger, they loot even the ocean: they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; neither the wealth of the east nor the west can satisfy them: they are the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal passion to dominate. They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.

Cornelius TacitusDe Vita Gnæi Julii Agricolæ cap. xxx (98 CE) in the Loeb Library ed., vol. 35, p. 80 (S.H. transl.)

Christian Hegemony

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. ~  John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi

The insistence that America was and is a Christian nation, by an Evangelicalism broadly defined, is built upon a Christianity that is dominated by a Jeffersonian egalitarianism that has very little to do with orthodox Protestantism or even a traditional Catholicism. It’s a Christianity conceived as an individual perception and conception, eschewing both tradition and education; an intentional disconnect from the faith of our fathers. It’s a system the dismisses any authority that is does not elevate the will of the parishioners as primary; it insists to such a degree the priesthood of every believer, either by not acknowledging or through ignorance of the definition of the clergy as a vocation and its requisite qualifications, it sees no point in the education of ministers, nor the guidance of church history in its breadth nor narrowly by particular creeds and confessions.

As a consequence, rejection of the past and the intellectual isolation it brings seems righteous and liberating. And in its infancy, appears the correct choice, as a repudiation of the sins of our forefathers both real and imagined. But as often happens in revolutions fueled by tyranny and oppression, the enlisted soldiers of liberation, both of the masses or the minority become the inquisitors. In the pursuit of preventing the sins of the past and granting humanity to the memory of the fallen, they become the abusers of the new underclass.

And that seems to be the thing that we either avoid confronting or just don’t have the time to contemplate — that revolutions propelled by violence, be it through force of arms or political coercion, never produce equality. It always demands reparations. It always demands vengeance cloaked in acts of justice.

Liberals and Conservatives, Meh

The social gospel, the belief that Church has the skills and obligation to ameliorate the moral deficiencies society, both real and imaginary, is not only a disorder of the liberal church today but of those that ostensibly identify as conservative evangelicals. But the real differences are largely circumstantial, rather than largely substantial. Both seem to be more concerned with a socio/political vision of the perfect society than with the person and work of Jesus; the great society rather than the great commission. This is where we’ve come to, where the differences between the liberals and conservatives in the church are ones of moral persuasion rather a commitment to a transcendent message.

As a result, the politics and the ideologies that develop with the subsumption of theology to social activism contribute to the privation of sanctuary that the church is supposed to provide for the body of Christ. There is no escaping the travails of society in the Church when to it has been co-opted by politicians and those they manifest from as a wing of their political party and a means of legislative dominance. And Evangelicalism has embraced the message and vociferously dispensed with the spirituality of the Church. And without the spirituality of the Church, one may argue that the institutional Church vanishes, along with any true and lasting influence, namely the gospel.

Almost a hundred years ago J. Gresham Machen, seeing something similar in his own day, and foreshadowing our current predicament, closed Christianity and Liberalism with this.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus name, to forget the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.

J. Gresham Machen

The Need To Ditch The Me First Syndrome

Without distinctions, without declarative and vigorously defended ideologies and traditions, there can be no diversity and by consequence, no dialogue either of the intramural sort or the kind one imagines should carry on between parties of diverse opinion and position in a society of intellectual rigor.

But those are things which matter little when your ears itch. You need it scratched and quickly. Continue reading “The Need To Ditch The Me First Syndrome”

A Collusion of Confusion

D.G. Hart hits it spot on regarding the relative confusion and pathos that is the presence of the evangelicalism on the right and especially in the Republican party. Theocratic tendencies will always attempt to assert themselves in a vacuum of political sensibility and absence of a true, formal and active distinction between that which is Sacred and that which is Secular. Continue reading “A Collusion of Confusion”

The Inquisition of the Moral Minority

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The coming of civilization, why, that’s just the death of society.

Continue reading “The Inquisition of the Moral Minority”

Prospects For Democracy

The Internet is an odd edifice, sort of a public square that only exist insofar and as long as we will it. It isn’t real in the traditional sense, it doesn’t require presence, attendance and yet it remains there, somewhere in the ephemeral ether of caffeine and insomnia fueled consciousness. We log in and out, completely unaware that we are participating in the life, death, and internetrebirth of society, community and democracy itself. The internet is our Zen moment and the point at which our mortality strikes with all the same force that the dawning of the nuclear age struck our predecessors. Everything. Has. Changed. Continue reading “Prospects For Democracy”

Nice Observation

In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else’s mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one’s own place and economy.

In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers…Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else’s legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits.  For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make.  What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed?

The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth.  This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.
―     Wendell Berry,     The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays