The Church of Government

GoreSaintThumb2by Brad Nelson
“It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even with some loss of the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist.” — Edmund Burke

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” — Benjamin Franklin

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” — Alexis de Tocqueville

“. . . a government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it . . . Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education; but the surest way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.” — Montesquieu

“Liberty . . . is the great parent of science and of virtue; and . . . a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free.” — Thomas Jefferson

“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” — George Washington

“To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.” — James Madison

“The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue.” — Thomas Jefferson

Thank you for first reading and contemplating those eight quotes. It is background for the rest of what I will say.

This issue of the maintenance of America is classically framed as “You need a virtuous people in order for our American republic to be maintained well.” That may be true. If so, the challenge is to understand why. I think the second quote from Franklin gets directly to the point which is basically that if there is no private virtue, government will step in and try to be the nanny, the priest, the master. Do not we see that in our own time? We have nannies trying to control everything from the size of the soft drink we can buy to whether or not we can throw a Frisbee on the beach (which you cannot do now in LA County except “off-season”).

Another way of thinking about this is to understand two points about human nature: One, our morality and values are instilled to a great extent by external forces (that is, much of our ethics are a result of how we are taught). Two, we are a religious or spiritual being by nature. If you take those two premises to be true (and I think they are obviously so), then logically when moral instruction isn’t done at home (or in the church), it will be out-sourced to something else. And in our time, that “something else” will be government and public schools who are only too glad to do so. When good religion is marginalized, de-legitimized, or excluded, you will find people orienting religiously toward the state, looking to it for its moral bearings.

Although, god knows, no religion is without problems, the inherent problem with looking to the state for moral instruction is that government itself is an inherently corrupting influence. Ultimately, politicians care about votes, not about you, and certainly not about ethics. Your father and mother may love you, your brothers and sisters may love you, your friends may love you, your minister may love you, even your boss may care a great deal about your well being. But a politician is here today and gone tomorrow. We need them, but politics, for lack of a better word, tends to attract those who are best at dispensing bullshit.

Expecting the state to “care” for you is like going to a prostitute to ask for guidance on how to behave with your soon-to-be bride. It’s a non-sequitur. In the realm of politics, right and wrong are not primary. What is primary is politics, and politics itself is often little more than the art of organized deception. And yet people’s values are now to a great extent being formed by government instruction and pop political attitudes. We are told that we need to “save the planet” and yet, as Dennis Prager has noted, the same people who believe this are the same ones who think it’s okay to cheat on your test if you can get away with it.

I take it as axiomatic that Judeo-Christian ethics are, by and large, superior and demonstrably so compared to most (or all) other ethical systems. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. But one needs to understand that even if you don’t buy all the supernatural aspects, another aspect of Judeo-Christianity is that it is the accumulated trial-and-error wisdom of the ages regarding morality. Again, for the pointy-headed liberals out there, no, I don’t mean it’s all perfect. Nothing in this life ever is. But just because something is lacking in the eyes of the exalted and unforgiving postmodern perfectionistic “Progressive” mindset is no reason to throw it out in its entirety.

But I’m not selling religion today. By all means, believe in religion or don’t. But do note that it is a fact that if you don’t have an established religion (for yourself), you will tend to make your politics your religion. And because politics is (at least when we expect it also to be our church and moral instructor) inherently corrupting, you will end up having your morals and ethics corrupted as well. You will be led astray and will delve into goofy stuff such as (as Laura Ingraham calls it) the “Church of Global Warming,” which was the corruption of science and scientific ethics because of politics.

Politics is where good ethics go to die and they are certainly not born there. The inherent ethics of government (absent any other overriding virtue) is to trap people in dependency, to enslave them, to take their power for their own. And then, as Thomas Jefferson said:

“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”

That’s right. As Thomas Jefferson notes, we all become tools. Although the left has done its utmost to spread a distrust and even hatred for Judeo-Christianity, all they have replaced it with is this bizarre appeal to trust government to know what is best for us. But last time I looked, the religious in this country weren’t ringing up trillions in debt and selling this country piecemeal to China. They weren’t cozying up or bowing to the world’s dictators and tyrants. They weren’t demonizing freedom, individual rights, and the free market while bowing to the altar of Karl Marx and his ideological descendents. Whatever the faults of Judeo-Christiantiy (and I’ve been a harsh critic myself at times), the ethical “secular” pseudo-religious melange of values derived from the governmental process has been, and continues to be, abysmal. • (1048 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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8 Responses to The Church of Government

  1. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Is that Al Gore?

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Excellent post. I think the point you make about the necessity of our inherent spiritual nature being fed one way or the other. If it can’t get proper nourishment, it will take settle for junk food.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mr. Kung, this entire subject reminds me of that Chesterton quote: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

      I don’t think I (or Laura Ingraham) exaggerate when I say that a large number of “secular” people in this country worship the environment as a religion. I see nothing wrong im appreciating, even loving, nature. But as I think Dennis Prager, my Jewru, pointed out, there is a difference between worshipping nature and nature’s creator.

      And this isn’t, to my mind, just a matter of semantics. We can be wholly (or holy) in the dark about the nature of that Creator. But to have our eyes set to this wider perspective is different than worshipping a rock.

      (Okay, wait for it. You knew this was coming.) A good example of this difference is St. Francis. He is often presented in this day and age as the touchy-feely lover of animals and nature. And that is true as far as it goes. But he loved nature, animals, and people because they were creations of God. He saw the wonder of Creation in these creations.

      That’s quite different from worshipping nature for its own sake or — as I believe is prevalent these days — as an expression of anti-humanism. Rob has expressed some brilliant thoughts elsewhere on the anti-humanism that is typical of the Left.

      I’ve often run into examples of people worshipping nature, particularly in and around colleges. And even though I’m not a church-goer, it is instinctively repulsive to me. It’s pathetic but it’s also somewhat understandable. You see people trying to reach out for something. In this age that has been spiritually torn asunder by the poisonous beliefs and practices of the Left, many many people have been hollowed out by that Statist-like religion. I can’t blame them for looking for something, especially when they’ve been told that religion, proper, is all bullshit.

      And note that I make forays into nature just about every chance I get these days. And anyone who has been out in nature knows that nature is no place for the naive. It will bite your ass off in a minute if you are not careful. I’ll save my Kumbaya vibes for maybe good movies, but not nature.

      That said, I doubt that I could survive or thrive without getting away from people from time to time. There is indeed something wondrous and inspirational about getting out in nature. But I can assure you that I don’t stop and hug trees. I tend to take a leak on them. 😉

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        Brad, if you haven’t already read Chesterton’s “St. Francis of Assisi” you might find it worthwhile.

        I think it interesting that so many modern people have gone back to “nature worship”. I believe this is a sign of regression. Our ancient ancestors around the world were animists and worshiped wood sprites and various other imps hoping to appease them. Ancient people understood nature was not necessarily benign and they tried to figure out ways to mitigate some of the natural calamities which can befall man.

        Those tree hugging leftists who deny the existence of God seem to be happy worshiping supernatural tree sprites.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thank you, Mr. Kung. And I see that Chesteron’s bio is available online and in the public domain.

          This worshipping of Mother Gaia may indeed be a sign of regression. But I think it’s certainly a sign at how effective the secular/atheistic/radical-materialist view has been in both demonizing traditional religion while infusing yutes with a heady notion of their own god-like powers.

          After all, aside from eternal life and forgiveness, traditional religion generally teaches people how much they need to improve. This is in complete contrast to the feel-good narcissistic tendencies of the Cult of Progressvism, if you will, which teaches people that they are the kindest, smartest, and — gosh darn it — most likable people on the planet just as they are. The cultish catch is that they don’t have to actually do anything to achieve this self-aggrandizing status. All that they must do is spout liberal cliches. And if they want some more tangible means to show how much they “care,” that’s what those obnoxious bumper stickers are for.

          The Cult of Progressivism offers much to today’s yutes. For no cost at all (but their freedom and subservience to government) they can think of themselves as a Citizen of the World. And that’s heady stuff.

          Those who dismiss all religion (well, perhaps except Islam for some strange and possibly diabolical reason) see this as a major advance. Mankind is said to be rising above superstition and dogma (even as these same types ram the dogma of global warming and various other liberal dogmas down our throats). We instead are now supposedly guided by “reason.”

          And there is something to be said for getting beyond superstition and certainly the infusion of reason is good and necessary. But the Cult of Progressivism is simply full of nothing more than conceits of obtaining these things and/or they simply misunderstand these things.

          But, hey, if all it takes is wearing the right color of ribbon and walking in the right victim-of-the-week parade, then that’s what many people do. It is the “secular” version of going to church. And we see more and more of this. And this is different from the usual community involvement in private charities, much of which is not at all showy and happens behind the scenes.

          No, our precious little snowflakes of narcissistic pride must make a big show of it. And that is how you know that this is the Cult of the State infusing itself into people’s lives. These things are as much, if not more, political shows than any kind of personal charity.

          • faba calculo says:

            Shouldn’t he be Mr. Zu?

            There’s nothing worse than vulgar familiarities!

            😉

            • Kung Fu Zu says:

              No, Mr. Kung is correct. With Chinese and Japanese names, the last name is said first.

              For example, Zhou En Lai’s first name was En his middle name was Lai and his last name was Zhou.

              In the old days, and even sometimes today, a poem would be written over the generations of a family using the first and middle names of sons. The names were often picked for this reason. I don’t recall if the poem went on for a specific number of generations, but knowing Chinese culture, it wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps five as that is the Buddhist cycle.

              By the way, in case you didn’t know Kung Fu Zu is the Chinese name for Confucius. An homage and little conceit on my part.

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