Sunday 23rd November 2014

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . Political Turmoil And The Wrong Notion Of Who And What Is God

July 17, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By STEPHEN M. KRASON

(Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author of several books including The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic [Transaction Publishers: 2012], and most recently published an edited volume entitled Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System [Scarecrow Press: 2013]. This column originally appeared in Crisismagazine.com. All rights reserved.)

+    +    +

The great political philosophy scholar Leo Strauss was supposed to have said that the only two things in life really worth talking about are God and politics. That’s because at a most fundamental level they are inextricably intertwined. A skewed notion of the very nature of God and whether man acknowledges Him — or tries to substitute himself for God — is at the crux of the turmoil, fanaticism, and destructiveness of the politics of our day and of much of the last hundred years.
This is seen well in two books of the last decade. Robert R. Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind (2010) finds the roots of what it calls “the modern Islamist crisis” that has turned the Middle East upside down and spawned the international terrorist threat in crucial developments in Islamic thought and theology of a thousand years ago.
Within Sunni Islam, the earlier influences of Aristotelian — or any — philosophy were dispelled and a notion of God as pure and absolute will became permanently entrenched. This meant that no act by its nature is good or evil. Something is good or evil only because God — Allah — decreed it to be so, and He could easily decree just the opposite. This means that there is no genuine morality, no freedom of conscience, no role for reason, and no free will for men. At bottom, this is pure moral relativism. Nothing is intrinsically right or wrong; God can go either way.
As Reilly puts it, this makes God a Nietzschean, a “legal positivist,” and a Thrasymachean (“might makes right”). The ruling morality comes forth only from revelation, as explicated by Islam’s legal schools and clerical figures — backed up by supportive political powers. Moral and theological positions cannot be sustained by reason — that isn’t possible — but only, in the end, by force. To be sure, Reilly says this perspective is not intrinsic to Islam, but controls Sunni thought.
It’s not hard to see how this perspective leads to: the unquestioned following of brutal charismatic fanatics like Osama bin Laden, the kidnapping and enslaving of schoolgirls and chaining of pregnant women to prison floors for presumed “apostasy,” terrorist movements that have no compunction about killing innocent people, and totalist states.
Representative government, in fact, has been a rarity in the Islamic world (Reilly tells us that it’s seen as a challenge to Allah’s sovereignty). After all, the proper relationship between God and Caesar cannot prevail when man has the wrong conception of God. While everything is done in the name of God, men — especially those who get enough power — effectively “become” God.
My Franciscan University of Steubenville colleague Benjamin Wiker’s 2008 book 10 Books that Screwed Up the World (And 5 Others That Didn’t Help) shows the widespread deleterious influence of the writings of leading modern Western thinkers, most of whom are categorized as political philosophers. What he identifies as the common theme running through the likes of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, J.S. Mill, Lenin, and Hitler (in Mein Kampf) is that there is no morality above man, because there is no God ruling over men.
When God is abandoned, it is inevitable that morality is abandoned. So often, we encounter someone who will say that men can be moral and not be believers. Some will even make the claim that the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle illustrate this — ignoring the facts that Socrates said he was directed by God, Plato’s “Good” animating all of existence was stumbling in the direction of God, Aristotle’s proving of the existence of God by natural reasoning, and that piety was a great virtue for these and other great ancient philosophers. In fact, relatively few men can be moral without religious belief, and the ones that are tend to have glaring gaps. The more traditional the religion, the sounder its moral code.
The implication for politics of putting man in place of God, Wiker tells us, was the rise of modern ideologies (like Communism, fascism, and Nazism) — which were, in essence, substitute human-fashioned religions — and the aggressive, brutal, and totalist states that came with them. The results, then, were the same as with Islamism. The only difference is that here men outright rejected God. Man becomes God in all but name.

Moral Nihilism

Then, we have today’s leftism. What stands behind it, also, are the political thinkers in Wiker’s book. In spite of the defeat of Communism a generation ago, most of today’s left embraces consciously or not a vulgarized version of Marxism.
Nevertheless, its inordinate regulation of the business community instead of outright government ownership, eagerness to use Corporate America to promote its cultural agenda, and readiness to tolerate such things as the shameless pressure tactics — a kind of interest-group thuggery — of what Bill Maher (hardly a conservative) called the “gay mafia” also show a dimension of fascism.
Its extreme individualism and nearly maniacal moral nihilism ring of Rousseau and Nietzsche. Its longtime obsession with overturning traditional culture bears the imprint of the other writers — who might be called cultural radicals — that Wiker profiles: Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Mead, Alfred Kinsey, and Betty Friedan.
If they — and contemporary leftism — don’t provide the well-developed theoretical schemes that the architects of modern political ideologies did, the practical effects of their assault on culture have been as pronounced as the latter’s were on politics. As with modern political ideologies and the predominant strain of Islamic thought that Reilly discusses, man is the measure of all things.
As time has gone on, the opponents of traditional — that is, sound — culture have continually used the state, and even international political institutions, to further their agendas.
Even if today’s leftists are not all the thoroughgoing atheists that Communists and Nazis were and are — although contemporary leftists have become increasingly, and more openly and aggressively, secularistic — practically speaking, man has become God for them.
Along with that, they too have become increasingly intolerant and repressive (consider, for example, the HHS mandate, the silencing of moral opposition to the homosexualist agenda, and the suppression of dissenting views on university campuses) and insistent on more and more centralized state power to put their objectives into practice. The outline of, once again, the totalist state comes more sharply into view.
The bottom line for the sad, chaotic, and ultimately disastrous political developments accompanying the rise of Islamism, modern political ideologies, and contemporary leftism, again, has been the fact that, one way or the other, man has tried to make himself God.
To paraphrase Irving Babbitt and others, as the notion of God goes, so goes philosophy, and society and culture, and politics, and economics — the religious outlook is at the core of all other perspectives.
I recall a political philosophy professor in my undergraduate days mentioning a famous passage in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. When Prometheus thunders, “I hate all the gods,” Hermes responds, “Your words declare you stricken with no slight madness.” The professor used the passage to illustrate the problem caused by modern political thought: When man pushes aside the transcendent, his hubris takes over and calamity follows.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…Continue Reading

Pope names new ‘foreign minister,’ prefect of Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Burke given new position

The Holy See Press Office announced on November 8 that Pope Francis has named Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, as the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Mamberti replaces Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has served…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church Risks Serious Tensions in Months Ahead

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said he is at the service of Pope Francis, has no personal animosity towards him, and those who claim the American cardinal is an opponent of the Pontiff are trying to discredit him. The head of…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope: All Christians Called To Be Missionaries, ‘Not Just The Few’

pope668

(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis.He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Pays Tribute To Blessed Paul VI’s Devotion To Mary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Jesus Weeps

pope667

(Vatican Radio) Jesus weeps today when the doors of our hearts, those of the pastors of the Church, are closed to His surprises not recognizing the One who brings peace said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis said Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because its people did not…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Universal Call To Holiness

(Vatican Radio) “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift, said Pope Francis Wednesday speaking of the universal call to holiness of all baptized at his general audience. Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis: Dear brothers and sisters, good morning. A great gift of…Continue Reading

The Synod And The New Evangelization

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Apparitions At L’Ile Bouchard

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is first of two articles about the Marian apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard, in northwestern France, near Tours, which took place from December 8-14, 1947. The situation in postwar France was very serious, and there was a real threat from Communism, and even of civil war, but, unknown to…Continue Reading

Applying Just War Theory

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK The conditions that must be present before military force can be justified, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are as follows: “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; “2. all other means of putting an end…Continue Reading

A Parody From Hell

By DONALD DeMARCO “My symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state” — C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. + + + Screwtape: I am proposing a new method for promoting hatred. Wormwood: There is already a great deal of hatred in the world. Shouldn’t we set our targets on something…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

In The Footsteps Of St. Paul… Bishop Conley’s Pilgrimage Teaches About Evangelizing Culture

(Editor’s Note: Below is the latest column by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., for the Southern Nebraska Register. Bishop Conley, in conjunction with Spirit Catholic Radio and others, went on an October 31 to November 9 St. Paul Mediterranean Pilgrimage Cruise. (ZENIT News Agency provided the text. All rights reserved.) + + + The ancient Christian writer and theologian…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Social Kingship Of Christ And Religious Freedom

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” The first reading…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the United States is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, we do not have as many canonized saints as do France, Italy, or Spain. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821) was the first person born in the United States to be canonized, although she lived many years after Kateri Tekakwitha (died 1680)…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading