RESTORING THE BALANCE?

Tony is one of our more persistent and interesting commenters. What does Tony think of our political problems? He thinks we need to restore the “balance”. Does that sound silly? If you are of the Liberal persuasion, and you have read his comments (here and here), I suspect you think Tony’s analysis of our political situation quite logical. Consider why Rick Santorum threatens Liberals, and Mitt Romney really doesn’t.  Rush Limbaugh put it this way.

Well, you know, I can see liberals being far more frightened of Santorum.  I think you have a good point there.  Santorum threatens them in their minds. He really doesn’t at all, of course… Ah, well, he threatens them if they’re big government believers. They think he threatens their personal freedom. If anybody’s doing that, it’s Obama.  But they are scared to death because Santorum is a man of core values, and Romney has this image that he goes back and forth, that he flip-flops.  Whether it’s deserved or not, that’s what people think of him.  Santorum, there’s a core there that’s undeniable, and it scares liberals. It scares ‘em to death. Because Dave, most liberals don’t have a core and don’t want one.  Not having a moral core is their definition of freedom. (from here)

Does that sound absurd? Mean to Liberals? Well, consider Tony’s response to criticisms of his political philosophy. He refuses to address moral issues. Instead, he talks about working for the right balance. Yet, without a firm commitment to a sound moral code, mankind is helpless to resist sins such as murder, stealing, rape, and so forth. Even when we remain instinctively kind to the people closest to us, we will try take advantage of strangers. Isn’t that why President Barack Obama has such a long list of enemies? Because Liberals have no moral core, it is easy to pit them against the rich, right-wing Christians, oil companies, Wall Street, polluters, …..

Consider what Kenneth L. Grasso observes in LIBERALISM, DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, AND THE CATHOLIC HUMAN RIGHTS REVOLUTIONLIBERALISM, DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, AND THE CATHOLIC HUMAN RIGHTS REVOLUTION.

From this idea of man, its proponents draw a host of conclusions essential to any understanding of the contemporary American mind. First, a radical individualism: all social institutions and relations must be understood as nothing more than the purely conventional products of free choice on the part of naturally autonomous individuals. Social relations are conceived as something artificial, external and contractual, rather than being rooted in man’s nature as a social being. Secondly, a thorough-going subjectivism: the liberal individualist theory of man culminates in what Stanley Brubaker terms a “dogmatic doubt that we can ever know what is good for man and woman or that there even is such a thing as the human good.”5 Thirdly, the elevation, in the absence of a substantive theory of the good life, of individual autonomy, individual choice, to the status of the highest good. It issues in what Francis Canavan has described as “a steady choice of individual freedom over any other human or social good that conflicts with it, an unrelenting subordination of all allegedly objective goods to the subjective good of individual choice.”6 Fourthly, that the protection of autonomy of the individual demands the construction of an economic and political order that will be neutral on what Dworkin terms “the question of the good life.”7 Even when its proponents advocate a large, activist interventionist government charged with creating a more egalitarian economic order, they do so in the name of securing for each of the individuals who comprise the society an equal opportunity to live the lifestyle of his or her choice. Finally, on the privatization of religion, the systematic exclusion of religion and religiously-based values from public life. It results, in other words, in the construction of what Neuhaus has termed “the naked public square.”8

What is an alternative definition of freedom, one that actually works? Instead of trying to evade the moral laws God created for us, we can choose to love God and be obedient to Him. That is not a huge sacrifice. Without God’s love and guidance, we have no significance. Our lives are without purpose.

Here is an old post that explains, WHEN DO THE PEOPLE STEAL THEIR OWN FREEDOM?

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About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
This entry was posted in 2012 Election, Culture War, Mitt Romney, religion, Rick Santorum. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to RESTORING THE BALANCE?

  1. wdednh says:

    Reblogged this on YOU DECIDE and commented:
    Excellent :)

  2. tsalmon says:

    Tom,

    I will try to think about this and respond more fully when I have more time.

    Like you, I believe that religion is perhaps the dominant influencer of a given culture, but in much more subtle ways than you seem to understand. Like trying to force language or art or music to evolve along a certain grove, I don’t think that one can evolve a culture in predictable, or even intended, ways by forcing a particular religious view upon it. The Constitution is rationalist response by our Founders’ American culture that was as much influenced by a loathing for the centuries of religious wars and inquisitions in Europe as it was by the tenants of dominant confessional faith.

    Despite my being a lifelong Catholic, your implication that I am ignorant of the Bible and of Christianity simply because I don’t study and believe as you do, is just one example of the dangers that our Founders and Framers sought to avoid by making our government purposefully and rationally secular. I applaud the epiphany that you have found “the” religious truth. What you don’t seem to grasp is that religious persons of every denomination (and even committed atheists) also believe that they have found the all-inclusive and exclusive truth about religious aesthetics. Perhaps you and those who believe exactly as you do indeed do possess the exclusive and all-inclusive religious moral truth and that the Bible as you interpret it is the sole source of this truth, but history is littered with the burned cities and dismembered bodies of those who sought to deterministically engineer the religious morality of their culture through political coercion. The unintended results are always predictable only in that they they never lead to some superior or exceptional culture, but instead to the corruption of the government, the religion and ultimately the culture. The teachings of Jesus, because He specifically sought to be apolitical, is particularly susceptible to such corrupting misapplication.

    Even the most cursory reading of our Constitution demonstrates that it is a cynical and pragmatic rational political masterpiece in the art of “balance” and in forcing political compromise, in its treatment of religious freedom, and in every other way. The Constitution does not allow the magistrate to utilize the law to force his or her particular morality, religious or otherwise, upon others. It only allows the magistrate to keep the piece of society, and that is a tough enough tight rope to walk.

  3. tsalmon says:

    One other thing, perhaps I should be careful what I wish for, but I hope that Santorum gets the nomination. I think that most independents and moderate Americans, as well as the Republican establishment, will be so horrified by the prospect of a Santorum presidency that they will vote against or abandon Santorum in record numbers. One way or another, we will finally get a referendum on whether Americans want to have certain religious dogmas, particularly arcane misogynist sexual taboos, legislated. However, I don’t believe the Republican establishment will ever let us get the chance to find out.

    It reminds me of certain Christian conservatives who supported the G.W. Bush’s presidency and went to work in the Bush administration only to find that they were snickered at behind their backs and pushed to the sidelines of policy making. It was OK to use the Christian conservatives’ naive passionate energy to forward the economic policies of the moneyed Republicans until they got in the way of doing business.

    As the Etch-a-Sketch Froydian slip accidentally exposed, once he gets nominated Romney won’t feel the need to be as “severely conservative” on social issues as he needed to pretend to be to get the nomination.

  4. tsalmon says:

    Tom,

    Sorry for all the typos and misspellings above. Aside from being a poor speller and self editor, it’s been a particularly busy last few months, and I’m a little weary. Anyway, I don’t know if you really meant to damn me with faint praise, but I will take it instead as well intended and thank you for the nice comment in the first sentence above. Cheers.

  5. Citizen Tom says:

    tsalmon – Neat gravatar!

    Consider this comment I made earlier.

    I am afraid I understand Tony’s point of view better than He thinks. There was a time I shared it. Then it slowly dawned upon me just how ignorant I was of American history. Even though I enjoyed reading history books, instead of reading what historical figures had actually written, I tended to read what had been written by historians. That included reading what had been written about the Bible instead of the Bible itself. After living for 50 years, I finally decided to read the Bible. I found the Good Book far more impressive than its critics.

    Because academia is too well populated by Liberals, history books often reflect institutional biases, particularly with respect to the influence of the Christian religion on American history. The only good way around that bias is to read books that predate the 20th Century. If we want to understand what the Founders intended, we need to read what the Founders read and wrote. (from here)

    When I said you have not studied the Bible, I based that conclusion upon things you have said that are wrong. Here are two examples. You said the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and you said Jesus never claimed to be God.

    Consider your reaction to my post. When you are demanding that we have a big government, I suppose I should find it curious that you argue that I am trying to force either my beliefs or my religion upon you, but I have been where you are now. As this post observes, the exact opposite is true. Remember this comment.

    You talk about fanaticism without seeming to have much understanding of it. When we define rights Conservatively, then we define a right as something that others can only take away. When rights are defined Conservatively, government exists only to protect our rights. If we define rights as those who have corrupted the word Liberal define a right, then we entitle our leaders to steal from some people to give other people their “rights”. When rights are defined in the corrupted Liberal sense, government exists to steal. (from here)

    When you insist upon defining rights to health care, an education, an economic safety net, retirement income, and so forth, you force your religious notions upon me. Even though you refuse to discuss the ethics of your so-called “balance”, without some kind of underlying religious basis, it makes no sense to insists that all these “rights” exist.

    In fact, this statement encapsulates the religious basis of your “balance”.

    I think that most independents and moderate Americans, as well as the Republican establishment, will be so horrified by the prospect of a Santorum presidency that they will vote against or abandon Santorum in record numbers. One way or another, we will finally get a referendum on whether Americans want to have certain religious dogmas, particularly arcane misogynist sexual taboos, legislated.

    Are you or are you not suggesting that your political opponents are evil? We define “evil” without religion? Do you want a “balance” or to establish your own religion?

    All laws have an underlying basis in morality. To minimize the intrusion of government into our moral decisions, we have no choice except to minimize the role of government. The moment we insist that we need government to give us our rights we cross a line to makes it very difficult to limit the power of government. For at that point, we have allowed public officials to steal, supposedly on behalf of a tyrannical majority.

  6. tsalmon says:

    “When I said you have not studied the Bible, I based that conclusion upon things you have said that are wrong. Here are two examples. You said the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and you said Jesus never claimed to be God.”

    Depending upon how you want to interpret the Bible, that book condemns and mandates many things, including prohibiting divorce, mandating certain dietary habits, outlawing bacon (I love bacon), endorcing mass murder and the legalization of polygamy. Jesus said some things about many of these topics and many things about the spiritual morality that we should follow. Jesus was pretty opposed to divorce although no one, even religious conservatives, is seriously campaigning to legally ban divorce. On the other hand, although homosexuality must have been around in His day, if it really is terrible a moral ban, one wonders why Jesus never said a word about it. My reading of the New Testament finds that Jesus was just not a politician, He did not advocate new laws, He seemed not only uninterested but downright turned off by imprisoning or legally punishing people, and He repeatedly refused the mantle of political leadership.

    You may interpret the Bible differently than I and that is quite ok with me. Theologians and religious scholars also disagree and have their own interpretations of the Bible and all sorts of Christian dogmas. I have enough education to be dangerous, and I read a lot. Religion has been a lifetime study, including the Bible and about the Bible. (And please don’t give me that nonsense about reading about the Bible instead of reading The Book itself – you know as well as I that biblical exegesis means, besides just reading one translation, reading a good deal “about” the Bible and about various individual passages in the Bible in order to get to the particular and the broad meaning). You and I have the right, perhaps even the duty, to have personal opinions on these areas of lifelong scholarly research, but no one should put much weight in them, and as I have said, even the scholars disagree.

    My point is that the disagreement is good, and only becomes dangerous when some of us use the coersive force of government, of the law and of public policy to impose such theological theories on everyone else, especially upon a minority view.

    “Are you or are you not suggesting that your political opponents are evil? We define “evil” without religion? Do you want a “balance” or to establish your own religion?”

    No Tom, I am saying that what Santorum advocates is dangerous to our constitutional form of government. I have no idea if Santorum is any more good or evil than any one else. (Like you, I’m sort of jaded by all politicians though). Obviously many people think that our Constitution provides much good, and avoids a lot of evils, but it is mostly a process document, not a religious or moral treatise. It’s like saying a workable machine is good or evil. It only becomes good if it’s essential purpose gives us results that the consensus of our culture believes is good. In the case of the Constitution, that would be the mission statement in the Preamble. On the other hand, the Constitution could be warped into something that our culture historically would consider a bad moral consequence, such being used as tool for religious domination and strife.

    Finally, as you have aluded to yourself, an important purpose of government is to define, arbitrate and protect rights and responsibilities – contractual rights, property rights, spousal rights, dependent rights, religious rights, individual rights, equal opportunity rights, etc., etc., etc. As I have stated repeatedly, those rights may be “natural” (it’s impossible to know or prove), but historically and factually, without government to define, arbitrate and protect our rights and responsibilities, such rights have never, ever, existed in the past and they would not exist in this country today. As I said, although most of the rights that we take for granted today did not exist in practice until we had governments that defined, arbitrated and enforced them, perhaps rights and responsibilities existed in God’s mind from the beginning of time, but who gets to figure out God’s mind so that we can give God’s will the protection of the law? You? Of the many religions, sects and denominations, whose taboos and arcane tenets do we use to define rights and make laws? The Catholic Church? Of course that has worked so well in the past (he wrote sarcastically). Whose religious interpretations of the Bible whose do we give the force of law? Do we enforce dietary restrictions? Return to multiple wives? Get rid of equal rights for women and return them to their Biblical subservient role? Reinstitute slavery? All these things can and have been justified by the claim that one groups’ religion is or should be the bases of law and governmental authority.

    I prefer the Constitution, even though it specifically and purposefully does not mention God, or Christianity, or any religion once as the moral source of its soveriegn authority. And thank God it doesn’t, and let’s pray for our own sakes that we as a nation never become so pridefully self righteous that we fail to keep it that way.

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – You are deflecting. Even your deflections indicate you have not studied the Bible very carefully. The New Testament makes it quite clear, for example, that Christians are not subject to Old Testament dietary laws.

    I am not holding myself up as THE AUTHORITY. If you don’t want to study the Bible, I do not believe I have the right to make you study it. Nonetheless, we have a government bent upon setting national educational standards that takes money from the People and gives their kids a “free” education so long as their children are taught by people selected by the government using a curriculum approved by the government.

    You are a lawyer. You are suppose to know something about the Constitution. To vote for Obama and then complain Santorum is a threat to the Constitution is just plain ludicrous. You have to know that. So why do you have to dig up all the nonsense? Multiple wives? Enforcing dietary laws? Re-instituting slavery? Is it because that is the sort of stuff your party stands for? Homosexual marriage? School lunch programs that tells parents how to feed their children. A tax system that redistributes the wealth…. And all that is constitutional, of course.

  8. tsalmon says:

    While I’m on a tangent.

    You say that religion is the moral basis for government, and there is some truth to that point, enough so that many people, maybe even most people, just sort of take it as a given. However, the truth about morals and government is far more subtle and indirect than most of us realize.

    In order to properly deal with this issue we would have to have an endless discourse on what morality is. I’m just going to try to give you my very inadequate quick opinion.

    Morality is the mythological norms that are repeatedly wired into the neural pathways in our brains throughout our lives by those closest to us and by our culture. We hear the same morality stories over and over again in new and different ways constantly so that we each get enormous emotional satisfaction from our ability to both anticipate how the story will go and by our delight in being surprised at the new and interesting variations that our culture constantly generates on these same themes. For a good analogy, think music.

    Although there is a massive number of mathematic combinations of the patterns of various frequencies of sound in the form of musical notes, only certain patterns of these notes give us pleasure. On the other hand, placing just random notes together without these familiar patterns sounds discordant to us.

    Different cultures find very different patterns and themes acceptable. Because of our engrained familiarity with these standard patterns and themes, even though we may not cognitively understand anything about music theory, each of us gets intense emotional pleasure from anticipating and correctly predicting in real time what the next note will be (such emotional pleasure is no doubt part of the reason why adictive gambling is such a problem). On the other hand, we each also derive similar emotional pleasure from the surprise of variations that are new and not completely anticipated so long as the surprises fit within the rules of the themes that we come to expect. One of my favorite country albums is Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger which is simply several unique variations of the song Red River Valley. Blues, Rock and Roll, Country, Classical and even Rap all have common rules and themes that encourage incredible variation, but that also cannot go to far outside of their own accepted and anticipated thematic rules and still be appreciated by fans of that musical genre.

    The cultural moral myths (and no mythology more so than that culture’s dominant religion) of a society works similarly. Thus a member of a given culture does not have to have a degree in philosophy or religion (any more than a music fan needs to have a degree in music) in order to know that a given situation is immoral by the standards of that culture. It is an emotional reaction to discordance in an engrained mythological pattern, and most of the time for most of us, it is subliminal and automatic. Thus most of us don’t have to make a conscious decision not to shop lift the attractive things that we may desperately want in front of us at a store. Most of us don’t have even raise to the level of consciousness whether we can get away with not stopping at that red light. Although we think that we are rational moral persons who constantly consciously chose to make moral decisions, in actuality, most of our moral life is on an autopilot system that is deeply inculcated into our subconscious mind. This is why it is so difficult for people to change their bad impulses, even when rationally they firmly believe that those impulses are immoral. This is also why those with uncontrolled impulses that they feel are immoral often project their demons onto others in an effort to hide from these demons they either cannot or donot face in themselves.

    The point of all this is to say that of course religion, as the most important cultural myth (the Greatest Story Ever Told for that culture), necessarily is one of the dominant forces that mostly unconsciously defines the moral impulses of the culture’s individuals and the culture as a group. Despite sex being one of our most dominant instinctive drives, most of us do not need a law to keep us from having sex with our sisters – we are culturally engrained to find the whole thought emotionally and sexually revolting. On the other hand, no law is likely to stop someone who lacked that moral impulse control.

    Because our founders were very cynical about promoting any one group’s religious taboos, laws in our secular constitutional democracy mainly exist, not so much as to promote a specific moral religious behavior, as to keep the peace of society. There are laws against murdering and stealing in all societies, even ones that don’t have the Ten Commandments because murdering and stealing, aside from the moral reversion we have for it, disturbs the peace of society. In a very few cases (mainly dealing with sexual taboos) a very few laws precude open behaviors that would shock the moral conscience of the culture as a whole, and thus such laws preclude actions that by their very nature would hurt the peace of society. On the other hand, because of constitutional privacy concerns, courts mostly have been very careful not to prohibit or preclude private victimless behaviors that would not disrupt the peace of society simply because we don’t like what they are doing in their bedrooms. (Prostitution may be an exception, but then again arguably prostitution is not a victimless crime, although it is legal in Nevada).

    Finally, like music, moral systems evolve in cultures over time as the mythos changes and adapts for that culture. Religion probably serves as a drag on this evolution happening too fast, but if one looks at how much the social taboos against blacks in the South have changed drastically for the better, it is amazing how rapidly things can change if the change does not harm, and may indeed benefit the peace for society. Today with television and the internet dominating our cultural mythos, I think that this evolution is accelerating. For example, because of shows like “Will and Grace” and “Glee,” I think most of our kids generation already believes that some people of my generation’s homophobia to be as silly as I came to think my parent’s racism was outdated because of shows like “All in the Family.”

  9. tsalmon says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for the compliment on the gravatar. As kind of a computer and Internet Luddite who only really regularly visits your site, I have envied the nice displays next to each person’s post. Finally figured out how to get one too. But then I struggled with what to use to represent me. This was the best I could come up with in my picture file. In a few years, maybe I’ll come up with a profile, and in a few years more, maybe even a blog of my own. Doubt I’ll find the time any sooner. I’ll be gone for a while, but I will check back eventually. Do skewer all the liberal windmills while I’m away.

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