Friday, May 18, 2018

Goldberg's Failed "Suicide"

Jonah Goldberg is a Platinum Card Member of the NeoConservative Club.  That's the bunch which has fallen (far!) from favor and power following the end of the GWBush presidency.  They were all nice guys, of course; but they were wrong in their diagnosis of the problem, and remain so today.  They cannot understand how Trump managed to emerge--but it's not that hard to figure it out.

So when Goldberg writes a book, he writes for an audience which is diminishing but which still has some potency.  As a result, it is reviewed by serious people such as John Horvat II.

“There is no God in this book.” Thus reads the provocative first sentence of Jonah Goldberg’s latest release, The Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy.

This declaration is perhaps an unintended summary of the book about the crisis in the West. ...

Indeed.  When Justice Kennedy's 1992 madness:   “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" becomes normative, the West is undoubtedly committing suicide.  This is something that Goldberg misses.  It is a whiff with enormous significance.

Goldberg characterizes America as "a miracle" which springs from the Enlightenment; specifically, from the Lockean part thereof.  And that Enlightenment produced classical Liberalism (not the modern-day perversion of same.)  But there's a problem with that, as we shall see.

...Mr. Goldberg’s liberal vision of man is quite severe. He writes that “The natural state of mankind is grinding poverty punctuated by horrific violence terminating with an early death.” We are naturally barbarians motivated by unrestraint and self-interest. This barbarism is hardwired into our DNA as the result of millions of years of evolution.

Unless restrained, he claims society will naturally degenerate into tribal loyalties, nationalism, and absolutism, with disastrous consequences to modern democracy. The Enlightenment’s unnatural and abstract structures served to rein in these natural bad habits and bring about the Miracle....

Yah, a bit too much Locke will do that to ya, as we see:

...On the contrary, the Church teaches that man is made in the image and likeness of God (imago dei). As Saint Augustine states, we are created for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. We are naturally attracted to the good, true, and beautiful that speak to us of God. By Original Sin, we tend toward evil also with disastrous consequences. By grace, we are drawn to God to overcome evil.

In one perspective, the attraction to sin is natural and virtue unnatural. In the other, the attraction to virtue is both natural and supernatural, and sin is unnatural and irrational. Each perspective requires a different culture to express itself....


We'll go directly to the critic's third point of contention.

...In all fairness to Mr. Goldberg, it must be said that he is not an atheist. He also does not deny the role of God in history. In the final chapter, he even acknowledges the great and unique role of the Christian God in helping to bring about the Miracle by defending universal human dignity. However, he believes the idea of God worked because it made man accountable for his actions. “The notion that God is watching you even when others are not is probably the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history.”

While we may believe that God watches our every move, he is not allowed to act upon his observations. The Enlightenment notion of God is that of the exiled watchmaker who set the world in motion and left it and humanity to itself.  [We should add that this is the vision of the Masons, too.] Religion is a mere framework for how people approach the world and establish their priorities and desires. Thus, the author observes that “We created the Miracle of modernity all on our own, and if we lose it, that will be our fault too.”...

But that's not an accurate anthropology.

...The Christian perspective is that of God as a provident, personal, and benevolent Creator. He intervenes in history. His Divine Providence guides and directs all creatures to their proper end. Ever mindful of man’s free will, God requires the intelligent cooperation of his creatures in carrying out his designs. He gives us his grace and supernatural gifts to aid in this cooperation.

That same Providence that directs the course of the affairs of each man with purpose and benevolence also directs and provides for the affairs of families, societies, and nations. This working with the action of Divine Providence makes up that fascinating narrative, which we call history....

The failure of Lockean/Enlightenment liberalism results from its failure to understand God--which has led to its failure to even acknowledge Him.  Much of the Trumpian conquest has to do with Trump's acknowledgement of God which--despite all the moral turpitude in which Trump engages--is far more sincere than that of the vast majority of the Establishment, including perhaps Goldberg.

As to Trump voters:  they have found in Trump someone who honors and respects--loudly and clearly--intermediate institutions, or at least ONE of them:  the nation.  Those intermediate institutions (family, community, church, clubs/associations, and the several States) are NOT part of the Lockean/Enlightenment of Goldberg.

...The Christian idea of community sees natural associations differently. Because of Original Sin, we depend on communities to supply our deficiencies and thus reach the perfection of our essentially and intensely social nature. The more intense the association, the better we can develop ourselves. United in Christian charity and a strong moral order, we naturally build associations and relationships to help us in the quest for sanctification. So important is community that any seclusion from the fullness of community life is seen as a personal loss....

Perhaps that's a bit "village-esque", but it's certainly not the 'village' that Hildebeeste rattled on about.

Can the US be re-formed along distinctly Christian lines to prevent the cataclysm about which Goldberg warns?

Maybe.  But this will take prayer, and a lot of it.

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