Tuesday 21st April 2015

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:

Untitled 2

Attention!

Our On-line Store is currently experiencing problems. If you are ordering a print edition of The Wanderer 

CLICK HERE!

ISIL video purports to show killing of Ethiopian Christians

A video purporting to show the killing of Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State-affiliated militants in Libya has been released online. The 29-minute video appears to show militants holding two groups of captives, one by an affiliate in eastern Libya known…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke Responds to Recent Criticisms

In an Italian-language interview, the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta said, ‘I am not against the Pope; I have never spoken out against the Pope. … My purpose is to serve the truth.’ Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke,…Continue Reading

‘Prominent’ Catholics attacking Archbishop Cordileone are big donors to Pelosi and pro-abort Democra

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Big donors to the Democrat Party and pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi are among those publicly harassing San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for protecting Catholic identity in the area’s Catholic high schools. A big-ticket…Continue Reading

American Sisters accept Vatican reforms on doctrine, theology

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2015 / 04:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a joint report marking the conclusion of a multi-year mandate for reform, members of the LCWR have agreed to corrections called for by the Vatican, and said they will…Continue Reading

Cardinal George, archbishop emeritus of Chicago, dies at 78

DEVELOPING: Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago from 1997 to 2014, died Friday at the age of 78 after a long battle with cancer, the Archdiocese of Chicago has confirmed.

We Must Pray For And Defend This Good Bishop

bishopcord

I call on all the readers here to pray and offer fasting and alms for the spiritual defense of Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco. Will San Francisco be the Alamo of the Church in these USA? Today, in the ultra-liberal…Continue Reading

Prominent Catholics call on pope to oust S.F. archbishop

In an unprecedented move, more than 100 prominent Roman Catholic donors and church members signed a full-page ad running Thursday in The Chronicle that calls on Pope Francis to replace San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for fostering “an atmosphere of…Continue Reading

This teacher cannot sue the Catholic Church for firing him because he openly rejects Catholic teachings: Legal experts

OMAHA, NE, April 14, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Legal experts agree that, if you openly flout Christian teachings, you have no right to sue a religious school for firing you – in most instances. That analysis comes after a sexually active…Continue Reading

PETITION TO POPE FRANCIS: Declare St. John Paul II “Doctor of the Church”!

johnpaul

I, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, do hereby petition our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to declare St. John Paul II Doctor of the Church. I ask that St. John Paul II, who instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, be declared Doctor of…Continue Reading

Cardinal Brandmüller: Advocates for changing Catholic teaching on marriage are ‘heretics’ – even if they are bishops

April 14, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Cardinal Walter Brandmüller has been among the leading voices critical of proposals stemming from the Vatican’s Synod on the Family that risk subverting Catholic teaching on the sacraments and morality. He was one of five…Continue Reading

Obama administration: Catholic school upholding marriage is ‘sex discrimination’

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — The Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has found “reasonable cause” to rule that a Catholic prep school has unlawfully discriminated against a homosexual band director formerly in the school’s employ. Mount…Continue Reading

God or Nothing

ROME, April 10, 2015 – He has said so himself, with candor: “I have the feeling that God has put me here for a short time.” Four or five years, or even less. It is natural that this disclosure 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

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

Today . . .

Pope appeals to the world to act to avoid more tragedies of migrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to the international community to take swift and decisive action to avoid more tragedies of migrants seeking a better life. His heartfelt cry to the world came following news of the sinking of yet another boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in which it is feared 700 people may be dead. The Pope was speaking on Sunday morning after the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, where he…Continue Reading

May His Soul Rest In Peace . . .

george

Pope Francis: Christian humility is not masochism, but love

Vatican Radio) Humiliation for its own sake is masochism, but when it is suffered and endured in the name of the Gospel it makes us like Jesus. That was what Pope Francis said in his homily at the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he invited Christians to never cultivate sentiments of hatred, but to give themselves time to discover within themselves sentiments and attitudes that are pleasing to God: love and dialogue.   Is…Continue Reading

Pope Francis to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay

(Vatican Radio)  A communique from the Holy See’s Press office on Thursday announced that Pope Francis will make an apostolic visit to three Latin American countries in early July. It said following invitations from the respective heads of state and the Catholic Bishops, the Pope will be in Ecuador from the 6-8th, Bolivia from the 8th- 10th  and Paraguay from the 10th-12th. Full details of the programme for the visit will be published at a…Continue Reading

The Long Retreat In The Culture War

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN The Republican rout in the Battle of Indianapolis provides us with a snapshot of the correlation of forces in the culture wars. Faced with a corporate-secularist firestorm, Gov. Mike Pence said Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act would not protect Christian bakers or florists who refuse their services to same-sex weddings. And…Continue Reading

Cardinal Brandmüller Says . . . Advocates For Changing Church Teaching On Marriage Are Heretics

By MAIKE HICKSON (LifeSiteNews) — Walter Cardinal Brandmüller has been among the leading voices critical of proposals stemming from the Synod on the Family that risk subverting Catholic teaching on the sacraments and morality. He was one of five cardinals who contributed to the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which focused on criticizing…Continue Reading

Income Inequality: Married Couples With Kids Make Average Of $107,054

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + If American politicians wanted to drive down the income of the American people and make this a poorer nation — and they actually studied the government’s own data…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . The Artful Ploys Of The Noonday Demon

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN The Noonday Devil: Acedia, The Unnamed Evil of Our Time, by Jean-Charles Nault, OSB (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2015), 203 pp. $16.95. Available through www.ignatiuspress.com. Some temptations are bold and brazen in their seduction, and some are subtle and artful. While the temptations of the flesh disorder the appetites and produce uncontrollable…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Can We Use Our Consciences On Contraception?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + “Surveys in many countries consistently show that most Catholics believe that decisions of conscience about…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Traditional Latin Mass Leading A Southern Baptist To Rome

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “The Lord is risen, Alleluia!” A most blessed Easter season to you and your family. Only the Lord knows what He wants to accomplish with our obedience, and we must trust Him to see His will through to the end, while asking only for the grace that we remain faithful in doing His will as…Continue Reading

Did Jesus Christ Found A Church? If He Did, How Can She Be Identified?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 In the previous article we saw that Jesus gave to the apostles the royal ministry, that is, the power to exercise authority over the people in His Church, to shepherd over, to rule over, and even to judge them. He also gave to the apostles the prophetic ministry, to be the teachers of…Continue Reading

The Church’s Origin, Foundation, And Mission

By DON FIER Sacred Scripture reveals a rich and diverse tapestry of images to describe the Church. Each of these symbols enables one with faith to gain additional insights into the various complementary aspects which are present in this great mystery which the Fathers of Vatican Council II refer to as the “universal sacrament of salvation” (Lumen Gentium, n. 48…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. In the second reading on Good Friday (Heb. 5:8-9), there is a phrase toward the end of the epistle that says: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” I am puzzled by the words “when he was…Continue Reading

The Good Shepherd

BY FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday Of Easter (YR B) Readings: Acts 4:8-12 1 John 3:1-2 John 10:11-18   In the Gospel reading today we hear our Lord telling us that He is the Good Shepherd. We have all heard this many times and, in our minds, we have our own notions of what that means. We can think about…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anselm

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anselm was born in France near the Swiss Alps around 1033. At the age of 15, he wished to enter religious life by joining a monastery. Sadly, his influential father was so against it that the monastery refused to accept him. This so discouraged the youth that he drowned his sorrows in worldly pursuits. He deeply…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Marguerite D’Youville

By CAROLE BRESLIN By 1701 the European colonies in North America had expanded beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The Anglo population in the English American colonies had reached 275,000. The French had recently established a colony in Detroit. Catholics, however, were persecuted as Massachusetts passed a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave or face execution. New York passed a…Continue Reading