On the President’s Church Photo-Op

On the President’s photo op at church – The Christian faith itself builds bulwarks of freedom, equality, dignity, and enables good people to stand against evil, and thus intertwines itself with the welfare of nations whose people honor it and practice it; thus the value of the Christian faith to the people of Britain and its stand against the evils of fascism. But the use of the Christian faith for nationalistic purposes is filled with traps and off ramps that end up in terrible places. The examples are many. Nazism first posed itself as “positive Christianity.”

From the Holocaust Encyclopedia: THE GERMAN CHURCHES AND THE NAZI STATE – “Most Christians in Germany welcomed the rise of Nazism in 1933. They were also persuaded by the statement on “positive Christianity” in Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform, which read:

“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.”

“Despite the open antisemitism of this statement and its linkage between confessional “freedom” and a nationalistic, racialized understanding of morality, many Christians in Germany at the time read this as an affirmation of Christian values.”

I grew up in the South and have a working acquaintance of the use of the Bible for the purposes of bigotry and hatred. I was explicitly taught things that make me shudder still. As a child deeply in love with Jesus and the church, I knew this was wrong, that this could not be true. I in large measure knew it because my parents had converted to Christ when I was two and lived out a life of love. I never heard a word of hatred toward anyone, much less toward minorities of any kind. I knew by early Jr Hi that someday I would have to leave the church of my childhood years. And when in my junior year of high school I found a Christianity being practiced by another church that I could have confidence in, my parents gave me permission to change. So I did, knowing some day they would follow. And they did. One of the reasons I am comfortable living in the North is the distance I feel from those dynamics set loose in the South, even as I am thankful for the emergence of the huge numbers of churches there that have found and practice a better way.

Ever since then I have been keenly sensitive to the use of the Bible to stir hatred toward others and especially nationalism and any attempt to co-opt our faith for purely political ends. Thus I looked at our President’s photo op in front of a church with a Bible held up as flashing warning signs. I was, and am, very uncomfortable. I wish it had not been done in the manner it was.

I support the President. If you read my FB page, that’s one thing you know about me. I resist the Democrats and their use of the Bible to support abortion and weaken traditional marriage and family structures. And that is only the beginning! I work, give time, talent, and treasure to defeat them at the polls. But I will not accept the use of my faith for partisan political purposes.

If I may quote, “Here I stand.”

The People Will Have to Lead

36 million Americans unemployed!! Put out of work by the government!!! All now dependent upon government largesse. What government will do and not do for them is the thread they are hanging by. Catastrophic.

Authorities are changing their minds everyday on what hoops they want Americans to jump through. Tomorrow it will be different still. How many phases are there anyway? And what phase are we in? Do we wear masks on beaches? And what is loitering on a beach anyway?

This is now our government. Actually, their masks are off. The emperors are naked. Nothing behind the titles. People are getting it. Nobody knows anything, as Alan Jacobs of Baylor keeps repeating. Posing, that’s what’s going on. Now the people will have to lead. The wisdom they carry will emerge, rolling over the sham experts and the titled and the unentitled.

Reading about Leonard Cohen in 2020

I’m reading “I’m Your Man: A Life of Leonard Cohen,” by Sylvie Simmons, published 2012. Cohen’s first album came out my freshman year at Old Dominion University, 1967. I remember many a discussion about it. He wasn’t exactly folk but certainly not rock. He fell in between and never was a chart topper in America like he became in Europe and the UK.

In philosophy classes we try to track ways that philosophy leaks into our culture, music being one of the more dominant paths. Cohen songs are a must for listening. I also play Cohen songs for the World Religions class, particularly for the Buddhism module, since he was a Buddhist priest. He also comes up in the module on Judaism as a Jew shaped by Old Testament narrative and a Christ-haunted man. In Hinduism Cohen’s views are explored when it comes to sexuality and “higher consciousness.” One option, of course, is to just call Cohen a dirty old man and move on, as plenty of people do.

He didn’t start singing until he was 30 and by that time was an accomplished poet with several collections published and also novels. All of Cohen’s music serves the words he composed and put so much effort into constructing. Cohen is not a hero, but there is some courage and willingness to say things everyone knows to be true but no one dares to say.

When I read him I go back to the sixties and the cultural shift the West was experiencing. If I could ever choose a time to go to college, it would be the time I was in college. There was a massive conversation going on just 20 years on the other side of WWII. Where we are today is part of the flow that had its source in those times. My entire life has been this conversation we are now having. It is clear that we are not returning to what we were.

Conservatism doesn’t demand that do, though it does ask of us to discover the headwaters that shaped our civilization and what needs to be guarded even as our narrative takes twists and turns. Sometimes I am optimistic, at other times “whatever,” and then in some moments ready to close my front door and enjoy the small world I inhabit. But my sons can’t do that like an old man can. They face a future that signals some danger and the call to not let it go to the dark side. Marking time is not really an option for them.

Sohrab Ahmari and Common Good Constitutionalism

I follow Sohrab Ahmari on Twitter on “common good constitutionalism.” His assertion, the best that I can understand it (for now) – the Enlightenment view of liberty, the one that informs our Constitution, is partial and not fully up to the job of a flourishing culture. Ahmari proposes that we need a definition of liberty that is shaped by historic definitions informed by Greek philosophy, Aristotle in particular, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Western medievalism. It is the Enlightenment version that Ahmari believes is now running aground on the shoals of libertinism, and which no longer has the authority to press the case for responsibility, which is critical to what liberty actually is. I am sympathetic to this concern.

As we know, libertinism is bondage, not freedom. Ahmari’s view does not ask for a change in the Constitution but a change in interpretation of liberty. Of course, this would not be Scalia’s or Thomas’ originalism, since this perspective on liberty would go beyond that of the Founders. It would give a more historical definition as well to the Constitution’s phrase, “common welfare,” something that the Constitution does not elaborate on but which government is responsible for. What actually is the common welfare? Once again, Ahmari proposes that we fill that term with the meanings garnered from the Western tradition, going as far back as the Greeks and the Hebrew Bible.

Here is a screenshot of Ahmari’s tweet today.

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