Monday, December 3, 2012

IRD: Christianity and the liberal right

Pursuing spiritual ends through secular means is never wise. This is true perhaps now more than ever, as the IRD's Addie Darling observes.
Looking back at the discourse of the past month, I can’t help but wonder if – given the current dialogue- the alignment of traditional Christians with the goals of political parties- particularly the Republican party, will doom any attempt at salvaging a society that values human dignity, the family, and authentic justice. This is not necessarily because the goal of promoting the traditional family or preserving the institution of marriage is an unworthy cause, nor because our culture is too “lost” or depraved to understand the Gospel, but because both parties’ individualist foundations undermine a Christian understanding of the world. While cooperation with political parties is necessary to achieve certain ends, Christians must distance themselves from the heresies of Americanism and radical individualism that infect both parties. Radical individualism undermines the communitarian and cooperative nature of the Church, has given rise to the sexual and social revolutions that have gotten us into this mess, and it won’t get us out of it.

At the core of Christian social teaching- on sex, on economics, on justice, on poverty- is a theory of solidarity with all men- particularly with the weakest and the marginalized who have no one to turn to. Yes we have personal relationships with Christ, sin is an individual action and we are judged as separate persons. However, Christianity is fundamentally a communitarian faith: with the support of the family and the Church, we come together as parts of a body in pursuit of Christ.

Individualism, however, destroys this body. Its isolationism and self-interest sends a message that the individual’s actions do not concern anyone else, and furthermore, that the individual has few-if any- obligations to others. The apologists for modernism preach that so long as one does not directly and significantly impede the ability of others to pursue their own desires, nearly all things are permissible- even at the expense of the community. This divorce of man from community reduces morality to the pursuit of one’s personal pleasure, rather than what is good, and transforms politics into a tool for supporting individual prerogatives. In short: individualism breeds moral relativism and gives public license to nearly all self-centered initiatives.

Gone is an idea that Christ is the vine, and we are the branches; annihilated is the idea that we grow in our own ways and towards our own goals, but we fundamentally are part of the same body. Instead, this view creates a society of princes, lording over their own self-designed kingdom – and anyone who suggests otherwise is a tyrant seeking to impose himself upon others.

It is this rhetoric and set of assumptions that underlies the core of the both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms today, and, as hinted by R. Reno in First Things, if this message does not change, then it will undermine the conservative philosophy that it masquerades as, not to mention orthodox Christian beliefs.