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Progressivism in the Resistance

In a first installment (“Resistance, in the light of 1776”), following the lead of Pierre Manent, the Resistance came to sight as a way of looking at things characterized by 1) a binary view of legitimate and illegitimate views (in keeping with Hilary Clinton’s “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it” litany); 2) a quasi-religious cast (“political orthodoxy” and “heresy,” observed Manent); and 3) a novel form of democracy characterized by terms such as “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” and “inclusion,” but with its own blind spots and exclusions.  As I put it:  it is “rather exclusive in its inclusivity and monolithic in its view of diversity.” 

A second installment (“What are they thinking?”) focused on the moral core of the worldview, the secular trinity of race, sex and gender.  The Resistance view of black and white America casts a harsh, demanding Manichean gaze upon the country and its white citizens, while its latitudinarian view of human sexuality and gender can be understood in Tocquevillian and Durkheimian terms.  Over time, as Tocqueville foresaw, democracy’s principles of equality and freedom have been radicalized, that is, emptied of substantive content and extended to more and more of reality (in this case, human sexuality); given that this extension is conducted in the name of democracy’s sacred values of equality and freedom, to question an extension and its legitimacy is tantamount to profanation (hence Durkheim).   In the first case, the older liberal view of equality under the law is seen as a pretext for malign neglect, while in the latter area, Socrates and his probing questions are banished from the public discussion of eros.  Sturdy modernity and classical thought share a similar fate.

During the course of the second reflection, religion (especially in its traditional form) and the Constitution came up, traditional religion as an object of deep antipathy to the Resistance because of its benighted and bigoted views of human sexuality, the Constitution as invoked by the Supreme Court in its privacy and dignity jurisprudence, which has done so much to further the sexual revolution.   These two subjects, at least as the Resistance views them, merit further consideration.

The Constitution, of course, is the American framing document, while religion is a significant part of the lives of many Americans, an important social presence.  While different, the two are not simply separate phenomena, witness the First Amendment and recent Supreme Court decisions (Hosanna-Tabor, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Trinity Lutheran).  More importantly, both present themselves as above ordinary democratic will, as providing settled norms and forms that allow for communal progress and human flourishing.   They are part of the “what we look up to” of our democracy.

The Resistance has a particular take on both, dictated by its moral commitments and its core progressivism.  It tends to instrumentalize the two instances, to judge them by external criteria, thus depriving them of their distinct contributions to our democracy.  Both instances elevate free and democratic selves, but they also indicate salutary limits to freedom, but only if viewed in their proper natures.   James Davison Hunter captured important aspects of this instrumentalizing worldview in his 1991 study, Culture Wars, under the rubric of the “Progressive” impulse (pitted against the “Orthodox”).

While he does not say so, the Progressive attitude exemplifies Tocqueville’s twin-fears of democratic “pantheism” (or immanentism) and historicism.   The Progressive worldview locates ultimate moral authority, not in a transcendent Instance (the Biblical God or a normative Nature), but in Humanity itself.  Moreover, Humanity is put in a progressive view of History:  the democratic age succeeded the aristocratic, and the democratic age will become progressively more so.  Finally, the species and history are united in “the spirit of the times.”  The modern Zeitgeist is committed to the twin lode-stars of “scientific rationality” and individual “autonomy.”  Science debunks myths and prejudices, as well as empowers, while autonomy is the effectual truth of human dignity and the main criterion of social progress.   All this enters into the Resistance view of things.  The monkey wrench which was the election of Trump and the shock it engendered in the Resistance indicates how ingrained a progressive view of history was, especially after eight years of Obama.

When it comes to religion, the Resistance necessarily harbors hostility towards traditional religion because of its refusal to go along with its sexual and gender views, but also because of its purported variance from Science.[1]  More broadly, orthodox religion is seen as a public threat to democracy itself, to be kept at bay, if not disqualified.  Bernie Sanders and Chris Holland recently displayed this hard-edged prejudice against religious beliefs that do not comport with progressive views of human equality and democracy.  Before them, we heard the blunt declaration of Julian Castro, the Chairman of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Obama administration:  “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious liberty’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any form of intolerance.”   “Nothing”?   The secular litany, once again, is the criterion for judging the sacred.

Of course, progressive believers and denominations are welcome, and many are part of the Resistance.

It (almost) goes without saying that the Resistance views the Constitution as “a living document.”  Another way of putting the point is the medieval tag:  “Authority has a nose of wax [i.e., easy to twist to one’s desire].”  Decisions are commended or not according to their consonance with Progressive moral and political desiderata.  The privacy and dignity jurisprudence of the past fifty years is hailed and the Supreme Court lionized as a bastion of individual liberty.   On the other hand, President Obama’s critiquing the Citizens United decision during the State of the Union indicates that the Court can err in its historical mission.

Ambivalence runs throughout this mentality when it comes to constitutional matters.  Stephen Knott has shown how the phrase “the imperial presidency” was coined to indict Richard Nixon’s presidency, but held in abeyance when progressive chief executives hold office.[2]  In general, since the clear and present danger to the Republic today is located in the executive office, the Resistance looks to members of the other two branches to Resist.  Early judicial decisions staying the administration’s travel ban, despite egregiously departing from settled rules of construction, were hailed as victories.   Likewise, while progressives are naturally suspicious of the deep state, the Resistance has discovered unsuspected virtues and work for it in these harrowing circumstances.   Just ask Sally Yates, or read the New York Times and the Washington Post day after day after day … .

While we have covered some significant ground in this and previous reflections, other topics relevant to understanding the Resistance still have not been discussed.  Muslims, for example, enter into the Resistance view of religion, as well as of immigration and citizenship.    We need to broaden our horizons, therefore.  We began by looking at the Democratic Party, the most visible organized component of the Resistance.  Then, following James Davison Hunter, we broadened our perspective to Progressives, so as to include those not registered as Democrats.  Now we need to look more closely at a topic that Hunter brought up:  the  Progressive and Resistance’s view of Humanity.

To do so, we will enlist a thinker we have previously cited, Pierre Manent, and a new one, John Fonte.  Manent has long considered the cosmopolitan humanitarianism of European elites and Fonte has done so among us, under the rubric of “transnational progressivism.”   Resistance draws its moral authority from its view of Humanity.  It is Humanity’s defender against its Enemies, not just Donald Trump, but those who put country or people above Humanity.

[1] Admittedly, there is low hanging fruit to be plucked in this area (e.g., Ken Ham), but generally speaking the progressive Resistance is woefully ignorant of the faiths they critique and the relevant work on faith and science (and philosophy and theology) of thinkers such as Joseph Ratzinger, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Spitzer, Stephen Barr, Michael Hanby, and many others.  I talk with Ph. D. candidates at Johns Hopkins University from time to time and am astounded at their ignorance and errors in this matter.

[2] Rush to Judgment (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

Reader Discussion

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on August 04, 2017 at 15:14:01 pm

My goodness, Seaton's three post are difficult to read.

"Instrumentalize;" what exactly does that mean to people who are not fluent in the jargon of philosophers? I know from linguistics that the instrumental case is important in modern Russian and was important in Gothic [e.g.; "He was killed by a shark." The noun "shark" would be in the instrumental case in Russian and Gothic but in the accusative case in modern English and German].

Then Seaton's syntax is difficult. After challenging the reader with terms like "instrumentalize," he writes a sentences like:

"The Resistance has a particular take on both[,] dictated by its moral commitments and its core progressivism."

This sentence would be clearer to a reader who is already unsure of what the heck he is talking about if he had simply omitted using the comma and written:

"The Resistance has a particular take on both [which is] dictated by its moral commitments and its core progressivism."

But what really is the point of all this rhetoric? We all know that we are facing one of those fanatical and utopian insurgencies that have arisen from time in recorded history. We know we are holding on to the old Gods and the old culture while the other side wants to make everything new. We know from history that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. We also know from history that the losers in such contests always suffer very harsh consequences.

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EK
on August 04, 2017 at 20:12:05 pm

Dear EK, thanks for wading through the mire, Sorry you didnt find it worth the while. C'est la vie, sometimes. I'll take your writing suggestion into consideration, although at my age the leopard may find it hard to change his spots. I didn't use 'instrumentalise' in any fancy sense. My dictionary says, 'to use as a means to an end,'. In this case, inappropriately. We perhaps share the same broad judgment about the Resistance. I just have a peculiar need to think about what I find misguided and worse. Of course, I do so from a particular vantage point. Not all will find it congenial. C'est la vie.

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Paul Seaton
on August 05, 2017 at 09:47:41 am

Had no real problem with the *writing* BUT think it would be worthwhile and clear up potential confusion were you to expand upon Manent's thinking for the readers.

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gabe
on August 05, 2017 at 13:24:36 pm

Easily done, gabe. You're ahead of the game, since the next installment will do so. However, here's a bit of a precis: Manent has observed a certain humanitarianism, a certain view of Humanity, on the European scene, at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has been used to justify the construction of the European Union, especially since the Maastricht Treaty. It is a very questionable view of humanity. It 1) is decidedly atheistic; 2) it believes (against common sense and all evidence) that the human race is virtually unified, with only a few outliers; 3) whatever differences there are among human beings individually and in their various collectivities are insignificant, they don't challenge us to give an account of them, to weigh the reasons for them, perhaps to critique them, or perhaps to change our minds and our lives in keeping with what we've learned. 4) This happy-face, nihilistic view of Humanity is glossed with the term "dignity" that is just a mask for relativism and nihilism.. And 5) it is at the root of open-borders insouciance and privileging of a person's status as a human being over his status (or not) as a citizen of a particular country. You might take a look at Damon Linker's most recent column to see how he exposes the latter (# 5) as central to the Left and the Resistance. In any event, glad to hear you wanted more clarification and that I was planning on providing it.

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Paul Seaton
on August 05, 2017 at 15:43:43 pm

While you're still thinking about this, do give some consideration to the way Germany west of the Elbe River has developed since May 1945. Also consider that the French did not enjoy stable governments between 1872-1958 when De Gaul founded the Fifth Republic. Also consider that France and Germany had been devastated by the wars of the 20th C. to the point where there simply was no longer a traditional culture to fall back on.

The Germans' present constitution was drafted for the approval of the Allies and tended to adopt the universalism of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen coupled with the formalisms associated with the US Constitution and the British unwritten constitution and the first stirrings of court defined and state imposed "universal rights" emanating from the US Supreme Court in the 1940s - in short Roosevelt's Four Freedoms war propaganda. These were all reinforced by the Supreme Court's subsequent statist decisions through 1990.

The Europeans seem to have no idea of who they are or what they should be doing and they are treating these political documents like divinely inspired scripture. The Western Europeans remain badly damaged and quite divorced from reality.

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EK
on August 06, 2017 at 08:27:55 am

Hello EK, good topic, of course, along with an interesting suggestion about its contours. As a francophile, Germany has always been of interest because of its stormy but constitutive relationship with France. Richelieu and Ferdinand, anyone? Or the war of 1870? Or1940? Or, happier, de Gaulle and Adenauer? And as a philosophy prof, Germany thought is must-read. So your topic and suggestion resonate. Alas, the Manent piece is already in the hopper. Plus, I'm primarily interested in what you indicate with your last sentence ("quite divorced from reality.") Perhaps it might help to say a word about the perspective I'm taking. My focus is the Resistance. But they didn't come out of nowhere, and there are remarkable overlaps between their worldview and certain prominent European visions of things. As something of a socratic, I'm focusing on how they/it views things, such that Trump is an abomination and, more importantly, what he represents is an existential threat. I'm trying to get at its core vision of man, humanity, and the right order of things -- which too often it does not express, much less open to question. Manner can help in this investigation, because, as I said, he's been observing something very similar for a couple of decades. So, my focus is us and the US, I'm just adopting from Manent and Europe what illumines us/the US.

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Paul Seaton
on August 06, 2017 at 08:35:15 am

... pardon the two typos. "German thought" and "Manent"

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Paul Seaton
on August 07, 2017 at 14:26:49 pm

I feel somewhat timid to make a comment. I might open myself to ridicule were I to say much of what the Professor wrote escaped me. I caught some of his references and a drift of what he was trying to say. Whom did he think was his audience--his students? I think after being satisfied of his words he was writing to himself. A confirmation of the arguments he wanted to make to a random reader. If it is possible to re-write his style and whatever he was trying to say in a less professorial manner I would find that most welcome. Not all of us are Ph.D candidates in Philosophy. He wrote about something I feel a need to be informed. How about it, Teacher?

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Martin Kessler
on August 08, 2017 at 10:51:13 am

No problem with a comment and a request, Martin. No offense given, non taken. May I ask a few preliminary questions: Do you know who Tocqueville and Durkheim are? Have you heard of James Davison Hunter? Pierre Manent? And a threshold question: what is your interest in understanding the thinking of the self-proclaimed Resistance? (You said it is "something I feel a need to be informed [about]." Thanks. I appreciate your comment and your request.

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Paul Seaton
on August 11, 2017 at 17:27:43 pm

l only have three earned university degrees, and confess that any point the author strives to make is lost in prose that is both needlessly abstruse and haphazardly organized. Yet, l will try to parse out what l perceive as the gravamen of the lament.

l am not persuaded that anyone should care what the opinions of Hunter and Manent are, if for no reason other than they are the opinions of Hunter and Manent. Maybe it is just me, but l am more accustomed to seeing scholars' views used as authority for the proposition advanced by the author. A quick perusal of Hunter's works and where he gets his paychecks suggests that he is not so much a scholar as he is an advocate. He is pimping conservative Christianity, and his findings must be filtered through that lens. No one seriously trusted the tobacco industry's findings regarding the safety of tobacco use back in the '70s, either. But ultimately, an argument must stand or fall on its own merit.

This sentence is telling: "The Progressive worldview locates ultimate moral authority, not in a transcendent Instance (the Biblical God or a normative Nature), but in Humanity itself." This begs an obvious question which its proponents can never seem to answer: How can we find "moral authority" in anyone's psychotic and genocidal ancient tribal sky-daddy? The Christian iteration appears particularly noxious: Nero, Torquemada, Stalin and Hitler were his fair-haired boys, Rom. 13:1-7, genocide is good. Jos. 6, and collective punishment is just. Exod. 11:1-12:36. The Christian god's only moral code is "might makes right, and the ends always justify the means."

As there is no rational basis for embracing a religious code--and especially, one devised by a radically different society--as moral authority, how can Progressives be faulted for not embracing it?

This, in turn, puts an intriguing spin on the Resistance: lt is resisting the theocratic designs of American ayatollahs, who strive to spread the Good New$$$ of $upply-$ide Jesus (the Jesus of the Gospels was a filthy communist!). ls this what you are intending to say, Professor (or shall l say "Reverend?) Seaton?

As for "profanation," if nothing is sacred, nothing can be profane, and it is difficult to see why anything of a sexual nature should be declared "profane." Societal mores change as societal needs do; in ancient lsrael, the main societal challenge was maintaining a stable population and as such, their mores were designed to enhance procreation. ln modern society, the most pressing problem is over-population and marriage at 12, malum prohibitum; contraception and recreational sex are encouraged. [E.g., Search "Garfunkel Oates Loophole Youtube" (Warning: NSFW)] Nothing personal, but your unduly stilted view of sexual morality is losing--which appears to be why you are complaining!--because it appears to have no intrinsic merit.

The rest of the world (except the lslamic world) has no problems with topless women, but toxic Christian prudes like John Ashcroft sought to cover Minnie Lou's breast. lt is as if you think the female form is somehow dirty. (lronically, l have a conservative Christian friend who sent me photos of a naked model he had recently taken, asking whether they were "sinful." Your views are the ones perceived as perverted, and not without cause.)

l'm a libertarian; l find the entire notion of "morality" self-stultifying, as it ultimately distills to a human construct. But the absence of a ubiquitous moral code does not preclude limitations on one's freedom of action; that is what laws are for.

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LawDog
on August 11, 2017 at 17:57:56 pm

As a card-carrying Resistance member, l think l can help you out.

Trump is a mentally-ill (classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder; see DSM-V) man-child with his finger literally on the button, who may end up irradiating the planet before he and his henchmen can destroy the ecosystem. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want to murder my wife to provide a tax cut to those who (according to Jefferson) have too much, in violation of natural law. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch15s32.html And you expect me not to resist THAT?

"I’m trying to get at its core vision of man, humanity, and the right order of things."

One photo neatly and dramatically summarizes the Christian "order of things": https://iconicphotos.org/2009/08/12/vulture-stalking-a-child/ Supply-side economics, reducing us to serfdom. Late-stage capitalism, consuming itself. Bloomberg declares: "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions." Your Christianity is so toxic that even the Pope objects!

The Resistance is not monolithic, any more than Christians are. Quite a few are professing Christians. But we all see a common problem.

We endure the brutal jackboot of an oligarchy. A government of the people, by the oligarchs (via proxy), for their sole benefit. Bernie Sanders's economic platform is largely lifted from lke's in 1952, and Teddy Roosevelt could have been the Resistance's leader: "We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal." Theodore
Roosevelt, Letter (to Sir Edward Gray), Nov. 15, 1913. The Resistance agrees with him, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Standard and Poor's: Laborers are entitled to a living wage, and our grotesque GlNl score materially depresses our GDP. A society that only serves the few fails all, and will eventually collapse.

My question to you is why any rational human being would embrace your worldview over the alternative.

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LawDog
on August 12, 2017 at 11:47:12 am

You cannot possibly think we love Trump.

The one thing we all hold in common is that Trump was better than Hilly and he remains better than Hilly. We voted as we did because we perceived the choice to stark and binary and picked what we believed to be the lesser of two evils. Our presumption about the Resistance is that you hold the opposite to be true.

We are in something of a pamphlet war at the moment. In addition to "Law and Liberty," you might want to look at "American Affairs" and "The Claremont Review of Books" and you simply must read Michael Anton's (Decius Publius Mus) "Flight 93 Election" at the Claremont Review of Books. Michael Anton recently published an appreciation of Manent in "American Affairs." I've not read anything by Hunter. William Kristol calls Anton a Nazi so Anton can't be all bad.

I think we are are gravitating to the position that the founding documents of US are not a secular creed and do not establish universal truths but rather reflect the experience of a particular culture over a very long period of time - "time out of mind" as Coke put. Further, I think we all agree that we are simply not going to allow our culture to extirpated by a secular cult of universal humanists that is in it's fanatic and iconoclastic phase.

Personally, I think there is a lot of Whiggism implicit in our faction that needs to be examined and ultimately rejected. You seem to have had some exposure to English history so I suggest we find ourselves in the same position as did the English Independents on the eve of Pride's Purge. We don't like our erstwhile allies, the Presbyterians, we can never support the monarchists and Trump, our Cromwell, seems to be very unsure of what he stands for.

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EK
on August 12, 2017 at 15:28:21 pm

Addendum:

I was mistaken it was Pierre Manent, himself, who contributed to "American Affairs."

https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/05/populist-demagogy-and-the-fanaticism-of-the-center/

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EK
on August 13, 2017 at 09:39:36 am

No problem, EK, on the Anton/Manent identification. Quite the contrary, you showed the conscientiousness of the (amateur?) historian and scholar; very admirable. Perhaps you noticed that I used the Manent piece in the essay that got this back-and-forth going, "The Resistance, in the Light of 1776"). He'd noticed the rise of binary thinking that was designed to delegitimate all other points of view and positions. Yoram Hazony made a similar point recently in his "There's No Such Thing as an 'Illiberal'" (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 4, 2017). The traditional response to such procrustean bed alternatives is still apropos: tertium non datur.

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Paul Seaton
on August 13, 2017 at 14:45:13 pm

EK:

Although l find your interpretation of the 9/10Am demonstrably ahistorical and somewhat self-serving, l never questioned whether the people around here are literate. Not your classic knuckle-dragging Trumpeters.

2016 was the Sophie's Choice of American elections. We would have been better off following WF Buckley's advice--pick someone at random from the Boston telephone directory. Whereas HRC was a crime wave in a pantsuit who was likely to get us into a nuclear war over Syria, DT is mentally ill and a horrific administrator. l don't know if we are going to be alive long enough for his minions and investors to destroy our ecosystem. The thought of "President Pence" is unappealing, but at least we have a good chance of living through it.

WRT the culture wars, history teaches that cultures evolve naturally, and that evolution is unstoppable. Birth control pills and safe therapeutic abortion gave us the sexual revolution. Pat Buchanan may be correct in his conclusion that it was the Caucasian race's suicide pact, but l would place as much of the blame on the Reagan Revolution (which systematically disemboweled the middle class). America has devolved into an oligarchy--and all oligarchies are inherently unstable.

The difference between a conservative and his liberal and libertarian counterparts may actually be biological. Political conservatives have been found to have larger amgydalae--the area of the brain regulating fear. See http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(11)00289-2. l view change as all but inevitable, trusting that the best of our past will be retained. But you may not be able to, cleaving to your King in the face of a modern (Gay?) Pride's Purge.

The Republican Party used to be made up of libertarians such as myself and old money. We used to be a Party of civil rights and environmentalism. But Nixon's Southern Strategy upset that applecart, and a new brand of conservatism emerged. Nixon gave us the EPA and Reagan defended labor unions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn28oayX31Y, but neither one could be elected dog-catcher today. l have been purged from the Party ... or as Reagan once quipped, "the Party left me." All that is left are Luddites, acolytes of Ayn Rand, and White Nationalists. Especially if DT can't deliver--his administrative incompetence is derailing investment in our crumbling infrastructure--a major realignment of the Parties appears imminent.

Anyone who can use "extirpated" both comfortably and accurately in a sentence is entitled to my respect. But your lament begs two obvious questions (setting aside your "cult of secular humanists" remark): What part of that culture is being defenestrated? And why do you believe that it is worthy of preservation?

The Framers were inveterate Calvinists, under no Marxist illusion as to the inherent goodness of Man. The structure of COTUS reflects their concern. "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." 3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 45 (2d ed. 1836) (stmt. of Patrick Henry). This universal sentiment caused them to embrace Montesquieu's separation theory, and include the RKBA as a part of our portfolio of inalienable rights.

Should we preserve this? Of course. The nature of Man has not changed. But are there traditions and beliefs that should be relegated to the scrap heap?

Jefferson believed that we should have a revolution every twenty years or so. While COTUS embodies some timeless truths, we could probably do without slavery and the egregious natural gerrymander of the Senate. And Christianity appears to be dying of its own accord. lf change is inevitable, what should we hang on to?

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LawDog
on August 13, 2017 at 17:06:27 pm

ln a sense, lawyers are professional historians. Both disciplines reconstruct the past, striving to make it understandable.

Seaton: "generally speaking the progressive Resistance is woefully ignorant of the faiths they critique and the relevant work on faith and science (and philosophy and theology) of thinkers such as Joseph Ratzinger, Alvin Plantinga..."

l actually had this discussion with Madalyn Murray-O'Hair--one of the most pleasant curmudgeons l've ever had the pleasure of speaking with. lt is scarcely possible to be an educated Western man without a working knowledge of the Bible; that having been said, having an almost-encyclopedic knowledge of the vast array of conceptual and evidentiary flaws in the Christian worldview, l am not sure that that is essential knowledge. There is little to be salvaged from the often-bizarre speculation of those who believed that Cappodocian mares were impregnated by the wind, De Civitate Dei, Bk. XXl.

As Dire Straits quipped, "philosophy is useless; theology is worse." ln my experience, Christian theologians tend to be sloppy thinkers. For instance, in his critique of classical foundationalism, Plantinga actually argued that "l had lunch this afternoon" was neither properly basic or derived from basic propositions. Of course, even a middle linebacker for the lrish could have caught his error: memory is a form of sensory input. As it was the foundation of his entire argument, it collapsed of its own weight.

lt is difficult to rationally justify a rational belief in any god who fails his own test of divinity ("The god who answers by fire—he is God.” 1 Ki, 18:24). Experiential faiths such as Hinduistic mysticism or Native shamanism are experiential: whether the experience was true or false (self-induced), it is grounded in "properly basic" evidence. By stark contrast, the victim of injustice can test the Judeo-Christian god's clam that "I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth," Jer. 9:24, and conclude that he is an epic fail. Nor could Leibniz save him: the god of the Bible selects our leaders (Nero, Stalin, Hitler, Gorsuch), Rom. 13:1, and is the proximate cause of their depredations. Based on his own holy book, Jesus is a sinner who needs a Saviour. Jas. 4:17.

For these reasons, it should not surprise anyone that the intelligentsia has relegated your Christianity to the ash-heap of history. My attitude is that if it helps you to get through life, if you choose to urinate on a cold spark plug (the rough equivalent of prayer), l have no quarrel with it. All l ask is that you not force your superstitions on society as a whole to assuage your own doubts.

Christianity is the Borg of world religions: it assimilates and adapts. The notion of sin requires a literal Adam and Eve; science has proven conclusively that they could not have existed. But cognitive dissonance and compartmentalization kick in; you need to be saved from your sins even though the concept is self-stultifying. Faith will adapt to science, as Heinlein's Chrislam or some similar creed comes into being.

Christianity is also the Amway of world religions: You make more money selling distributorships (gaining converts) than product (practicing your faith). But as is the case with Amway, no one really needs what you are selling; that seems to be the source of your angst.

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LawDog
on August 13, 2017 at 20:18:01 pm

What I'm trying to do is to suggest a definition of Anglo-American republicanism that can be catechized and then preached. Franklin said "a republic if you can keep it" but one one must have an idea of what Franklin meant by "a republic" before you can set yourself to the task of preserving it.

I'm trying to answer that question by relying exclusively on republican arguments first made between 1630-50 by: the English Independents in the first decade of the Bay Colony (Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, John Wheelwright, John Cotton and others); by English Parliamentarian radicals (Edward Coke, John Selden, John Pym, Henry Marten, Henry Vane, the Younger ); and by the London Levellers and the Army Council of the New Model Army (Henry Ireton,Thomas Rainborowe, Hugh Peter, John Lilburne, William Walwyn, Edward Sexby, Richard Overton and many others).

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EK
on August 14, 2017 at 08:57:43 am

Translated, EK, you are searching for a definition that meets your provincial purposes.

You're delving far deeper than l've ever contemplated. For instance, l wasn't aware that Williams added a lot to the conversation. l've always seen him as more of a religious dissenter than a political theorist.

While it sounds like a fascinating (and, ambitious) project, l'm not sanguine about the concept itself. "It must be acknowledged that the term republic is of very vague application in every language... " Thomas Jefferson, Letter (to John Taylor), 1816. "A democracy [is] the only pure republic, but impracticable beyond the limits of a town." ld., Letter (to Isaac H. Tiffany), 1816. My initial fear is that you are going to be trying to hit a moving target.

Beyond that, l don't think you can get into the heads of the intelligentsia of the day without starting at Plato and ending somewhere near Montesquieu. Moreover, the Framers were about a century removed from the Glorious Revolution; the effects of the deistic heresy have to be factored in. ln his magnum opus, Locke separated natural law from the need for an ancient tribal sky-pixie (he despised Deism, and inveighed against it); the Framers were closer to Democritus than the prophet Daniel.

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LawDog
on August 14, 2017 at 14:02:31 pm

I prefer to think that I'm searching for a definition of Anglo-American republicanism that might be useful in the coming storm. So, I went to the ur-source; England between 1620-60. Just to be clear, I'm not and never have been a GOP type Republican.

Jefferson was a bit off when he identified the town meeting as the only pure republic. The town meeting is a direct democracy open to all residents. But he was correct that beyond the structure I've already outlined, there are all kinds of republics. That is clear from the exchange between Rainborowe and Ireton at Putney in October 1647 where Rainborowe argued for a written constitution and something like universal suffrage ("the least hee...") of the well affected while Ireton insisted that the franchise should make some substantial account for property. The radicals never did get that sorted out and so the Commonwealth and Protectorate failed. Happily for us, New England had better luck and was able to preserve the formal structure of a constitutional democratic republic although a fundamental error in allocating the franchise made in 1630 meant it had to wander in the wilderness of Presbyterian authoritarianism for 40 years between 1660-1700.

Coke sponsored Williams' education and his first position after Cambridge was as Coke's secretary during the Petition of Right Parliament of 1628 (3 Chas.). Williams' initial difficulty in the Bay Colony in 1634 arose not from his position on the covenant of grace but rather from his political opinion that the Bay Colony should separate immediately from the English crown and the Church of England. The governor, his assistants and their sponsors in England had already decided that it would wisest to attempt to establish the Bay Colony as a free state with nominal allegiance to the crown and hoped that the CoE could craft a confession that would accommodate both high church Anglicanism and low church Calvinism. Later, in 1644-5, Rogers returned to England to publish "The Bloudy Tenent." But this had a political purpose. He met with Vane, Marten, Cromwell and Walwyn and the text was used to support the Independents' position that the CoE should have no secular authority, that it need not be an established church and, if it must be an established church, the widest possible toleration of dissent must be allowed. All this was aimed directly at the Presbyterian faction and was immediately adopted by the Leveller press.

The English I referenced were not the intelligentsia of their day, they were political actors and practical revolutionaries. Their common references were to Coke's Institutes, chiefly the First and Second Parts, and the Bible. Their immediate antecedents were the puritans whose objective was to continue the Reformation begun in the reign of Edward VI and interrupted by Mary I and Elizabeth I. Towards the middle of the reign of Elizabeth I, Coke, the champion of the common law and the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen, was involved in disputes with Bacon about reducing the common law to a civil code and in disputes with the prerogative courts and ecclesiastical courts over jurisdiction. After 1615, the puritans adopted Coke's positions in civil matters as the Stuarts viewed both a civil code and prerogative courts quite favorably.

You see, we don't have to get into the heads of philosophers and theorists. Their stock and trade is offering elaborate rationalizations for what has happened. We will do better by studying what did happen, why it happened and drawing useful lessons from the consequences of both victory and defeat.

Above, you wrote: "But are there traditions and beliefs that should be relegated to the scrap heap?"

If you are thinking about actively identifying certain existing traditions and beliefs and then relegating them to the scrap heap, I must ask, are you a Maoist; do you miss the Red Guard and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution?

You also seem to be one of those atheists who can quote the Bible. I leave you with the thought that a rationalist calvinist who has read Epictetus inevitably becomes something that looks very much like a Unitarian or a deist. If so, maybe you too can be a radical calvinist Independent.

Have you read Allan D. Boyer's "Sir Edward Coke and the Elizabethan Age" (2003)? Boyer says he is working on a book about Coke and the Stuarts.

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EK
on August 16, 2017 at 14:52:35 pm

Excursus: l discount the possibility of an afterlife, as it seems that the notion that the multiverse (Guth) can't get along without us is the bastard child of fear and hubris. But that is separate from the question of whether a Creator exists; conclusive evidence appears to be hopelessly beyond our event horizon. And as long as the postulated God does not micromanage Creation, it doesn't matter overmuch whether s/he/it/they exist/s or not.

As a recovering ex-Christian, l am thoroughly familiar with the NT, and the vast array of fatal evidentiary and logical flaws in that worldview. But that has nothing to do with COTUS, or how it is to be interpreted.

l have no problem with relegating bad ideas like Christianity and Maoism to the intellectual scrap heap; if you are confronted with facts incompatible with your worldview, you need to revise your worldview. And as l can no longer credibly argue for Christianity on the merits, l have to toss it onto that scrap heap.

A republic is a democracy operating under constraints. Remember that in Britain, Parliament is the supreme authority and as such, it is not a republic. Could Parliament repeal Britain's Bill of Rights? Yes. lt is a mere statute. Here, you have to obtain the approval of the people, who are our true sovereign.

COTUS was designed to fix the mistakes Britain made. How do you build a catechism from their worst failures?

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LawDog

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