Proposition or Place?

I have heard America described several times recently as “the first nation built on an idea,” or words to that effect. It made me uncomfortable, somehow coming across as sinister blather. But I didn’t stop to figure out why.

Yet there are few questions – perhaps none at all – more important to our common life than just what it is we do “have in common.” In that form, the question has been roiling me for more than a decade. Now my thinking has been jump-started  Continue reading “Proposition or Place?”

Right diagnosis, wrong prescription

I often like Dennis Prager’s syndicated columns, and there’s some things to like about a recent one titled “The World is a Cruel Place and if America Weakens, It Will Get Crueler.”

Prager first, and pretty fairly, defends Christianity against today’s common calumnies. Then he realistically rehearses the woes of much of the world today, including the oddity that Russia, while remaining fiercely Orthodox in many ways, nevertheless lost its moral compass during 70 years of Communist tyranny and hasn’t regained it, functioning today as a nihilistic thugocracy.

Then he proposes that Lincoln’s America — “The Last Best Hope of Earth” — is the balm for the world’s woes — if only we can get the left out of power,  because the left thinks of America in post-Christian, Christendom-hating ways that render America impotent.

But there’s an odd asymmetry to that argument. It seems to presume that if we only get rid of left-leaning leaders, America will resume its role as the modern realization of Christendom rather than another nation rapidly becoming post-Christian. Although we’re lagging Europe in explicit secularization, we are implicitly secular right down to the pews of most Churches (see here for a long and evocative essay by Father Stephen, and here for a shorter piece explaining that “The default position of America is secular protestantism”).

Our foreign policy as carried out by both parties promotes our imperial goals, not Christianity, and muscular Krustian foreign policy will only make us more odious in the eyes of the world.

Sorry, Dennis: I’m not sure even you believe this one. If you want to make a case for voting out the Democrats and voting in Republicans, you’ll need to do better.