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What, generally speaking, is to be done?

A commenter asks those who post here “What does your ideal America look like?” The question’s worth discussing.

From the standpoint of specific practical political goals, I don’t really have an ideal America. No society is ideal, since every society depends on the cooperation of imperfect human beings. The specifics of what’s good politically depend on time, place, habit, history, what works out, and a lot of unpredictable contingencies. And in any event politics has to do with force, so it has a limited and not-very-ideal role.

Still, some things are better than others, and what I’d like to move toward is a society that allows more play to natural human ways of doing and understanding things, one driven less by attempts to force everything to conform to narrow and inhuman misunderstandings of knowledge, reality, and human life. I’d like to have less of a role for scientism and formal expertise and more of one for local and traditional institutions—e.g., family, neighborhood, religion, particular culture—that are capable of capturing the kinds of perceptions and experiences that value-neutral reasoning, social science, economics, therapeutics and so on can’t take notice of.

So my improved America would be more decentralized than what we have now. The Feds and the states would be responsible for less, localities and informal institutions for more. Borders and local authorities would count for more, so social relations would gain in particularity and concreteness. Government responsibility for the material well- being of particular individuals would be reduced, so enduring personal connections and responsibilities would gain in importance. Antidiscrimination laws would be cut back, so people could establish cooperative connections based on the affinities and commonalities that seem relevant to them.

The most directly political part of my “program” would therefore be reduction in the activity of the state, although the state would still be important for some things, for example national defense, suppressing crime, and establishing boundaries so social arrangements can have a certain local particularity and stability. However, society isn’t just a matter of politics and programs. Beyond the particulars, every society has ultimate reference points that have to do with what people, or the dominant classes, think is good, beautiful, and true. Those reference points are normally the single most important thing about political society, even though they’re more fundamental than politics and so can’t be treated as simply political.

Anyway, in this country and the West generally the overgrowth of the state and of specialized authority has turned those reference points into something that state officials remake at will based on ruling class ideology—concretely, liberalism and scientism. So you get atrocities like the school prayer cases, the abortion cases, and the recent judicial redefinition of marriage in Massachusetts. I think the understanding of law and government that made those decisions possible is outrageous and has to be changed, so the ideas of man and the world that guide government can correspond less to to the ideology of technocratic elites, and more to deeper, more widespread, and more enduring understandings that take institutions other than the state and the formal bureaucracies of knowledge seriously.

Naturally, like other people I have views about which understandings are best. For example, I consider Islam better than contemporary advanced liberalism, the individualistic, nondoctrinal and moralistic Protestantism traditional in America better than Islam, and Catholicism better than Protestantism. You can’t force such issues though. The government of a country should in general recognize and cooperate with the country’s informal, traditional, moral and religious habits and institutions. Those things have to do with what people at bottom believe in and love, and as the philosopher (or whoever) said, “you can’t hurry love.” They precede politics and the attempt to remake them politically is tyrannical.

Those are my thoughts. Others?



It was inappropriate and unCatholic of me to me post such provocative, undeveloped comments. I apologize to my Christian brothers and sisters for my offense. Catholics are called upon, as part of Catholic evangelicism, to first and foremost set a good example. I failed.

I believe Catholics can learn a lot from and gain spiritual support from Protestant ministers and believers. Before EWTN became available, I used to watch Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and Oral Roberts. I read C.S. Lewis, and still do. They did not talk about doctrine but about the love of Jesus.

I was trying to say Catholics have nothing to learn from Protestant doctrine, which is different from Catholic doctrine, which I consider normal; that is the sense I used inappropriately the word perverse, which has a negative connotation. I was trying to be precise at the expense of connotation. I confess I was influenced by anger and frustration over the recent and not so recent, massive wave of Protestant inventions such as homosexual clergy, female clergy, homosexual marriage, adultery (i.e., divorce), disrespect for the Pope, etc. Hit me with a laundry list of Catholic wrongs (e.g., the supposed worship of the Blessed Virgin) if that will help us to come together. Let’s get it off our chests.

Bless my interlocutor for calling me to task and Mr. Kalb for providing such a forum. Paul Henrí.

Mr. Henri: I also deplore such “Protestant” inventions such as queer and female clergy, queer marriage, and the like - and I am Protestant. But these are not truly Protestant inventions per se - not in the tradition of the Reformers Luther, Calvin, et al., but rather in the faithless, apostate, Protestant-In-Name-Only churches of today, the “mainline Protestant” churches. These are quite different from what confessional, traditional Protestants (who are conservative, traditionalist, and confess the old ecumenical creeds (the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed)), believe and practice. We traditionalist Protestants are truly Protestant; those “progressives” are not, despite cloaking themselves thus - a wolf in sheep’s clothing remains a wolf.

As for our lack of veneration of the Pope, that is an entirely different matter - we make no apologies for such, any more than you would make any apologies for your veneration of the Pope; same with special veneration of Mary, etc. These are defining doctrinal differences, that’s just the way it is. Frankly, quite apart from those historic differences, I find myself equally, and perhaps even more, dismayed at some of the new things happening these days within the Roman Catholic Church, which I’m sure even traditionalist Roman Catholics must also find cringe-worthy: guitar-driven “folk masses”, priests who try to be “hip” by concluding Masses with “see you all again next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-place!”, and the like, all of which I’ve heard and read about - and I can’t see much difference between these crazy post-Vatican-II practices, and mainline Protestant and evangelical Protestant insanity - as far as I can see, it’s much the same phenomena… When the Latin, Tridentine Mass is restored to all Roman Catholic Churches, and the congregational singing of pop songs such as “Lean on Me” and “Let it Be” is ended (a Roman Catholic friend of mine attested that sort of thing happens at his church), then I’ll join you in seeing anti-traditional, “progressive” worship practices as a particularly Protestant failing…

He was venerated for about 1500 years by all Catholics and by the early Church fathers. What went wrong? I admit the elaborate trappings of the office are confusing to many Catholics, but Protestant’s build elaborate places of worship and maintain a large degree of trappings for their clergy. Is it the inaccurate belief that the Pope cannot be disagreed with? I suspect the basis is some inaccurate belief in something that Protestants are unaware of. I hear some weird ideas about what Protestants believe about Catholics, so this is the basis for my conclusion.

I’m really not interested in getting into a Protestantism vs. Catholicism debate at present; previously on one of the discussion threads branching off from this very same main thread (#1113), I’ve linked two older discussions from Pro and Contra (the previous Turnabout forum), you can go read them if you’re interested - traditional Protestantism’s and Roman Catholicism’s differing views of what constitutes the Church, the authority of Scripture, and a host of other issues - and some similiarities, are discussed there. (I believe we also touched on the different understandings re: church offices, the papacy in particular.) And of course, you can use a search engine like Google to research these matters.

For my part, I don’t think I have any major, serious misunderstandings about Roman Catholic doctrine, I just have a difference of belief from Roman Catholicism, that’s all. I know why the Reformers felt they had to break from Rome - I know the major doctrinal differences. With regards to some of the finer points of Roman Catholic doctrine, I’ve learned a number of things in previous discussions with Turnabout and Pro and Contra participants; these have been very helpful.

I appreciate Will S’s disinterest. End of discussion. But I am interested in the reasons of non-Catholics or the reasons other Catholics know about. Catholicism is not merely a faith; it is truth. So objective reasoning is important. Paul Henrí,

—lest you think I am throwing stones on the things of which I speak, I think that I am not to be looked to in those respects myself, but you appear to be strong and there is much good you could do.

If you place non-doctrinal, moralistic Protestantism above Islam but below Catholicism, where do you put the Reformed (that is, Calvinist) Protestantism of the Puritans and others?


I suppose in the same general place, between Islam and Catholicism. How I’d chart the comparative virtues and vices of vague Protestantism and strict Calvinism I can’t say. Probably I’d end up distinguishing cases.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Mr. Kalb is, once again, displaying his customary charity and fair-mindedness, in his willingness to properly distinguish between different strains of Protestantism.

For my part, I tend to, like Messrs. Fleming, Wolf, and Trifkovic at Chronicles, see a commonality of traditionalist sentiment amongst Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and traditionalist Lutherans and Calvinists, which, notwithstanding our huge and important doctrinal differences, nevertheless distinguishes us all from other Christians (see here, here, here, and here.)

As I’ve argued before, this is something which, despite our important diffences, we can perhaps build on - I don’t know exactly how, but one way to start is of course with charity and understanding towards each other, notwithstanding our great differences. After all, theological and political liberalism threaten us all (as does global Islam) - it doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good to try to assign blame, compared to trying to find solutions, so we can fight our common enemies.

An ideal America is truly a stupid idea. A nation cannot be ideal because it is composed of flawed, sinful citizens. Perhaps the best approach is to seek the Kingdom of God through the Catholic Church and the rest will follow. But how to deal with aggressors, such as liberals? Practice Catholicism and fight. Recall that Jesus violently overturned the tables of the moneylenders in the Temple.

The additional Trifkovic articles linked by Will S. (9/09, 3:10 AM) are indeed extremely important. This man Trifkovic has a soul. To show the calibre of his thinking, here are excerpts, if I may, from, respectively, the two articles:

“By ‘common heritage’ we mean the underlying unity of the Eastern and Western wings of the Christian civilization long split by the tragedy of the Great Schism, and now threatened by the rot of disbelief, Christophobic norms and functional nihilism rampant throughout the Western world, but still one. […] That the heritage needs defending is obvious. The present technological, military, and financial might of the Western world are a mere façade. They conceal an underlying moral and spiritual weakness that may yet undermine the entire edifice. The symptoms of that malaise start with the loss of religious impulse, manifest in the fact that, in todays Britain, France, Belgium, and Germany, more people pray in mosques on Fridays than in churches on Sundays. Unbelief and unconventional sects that are ‘Christian’ in name only are on the rise in America. The loss of a sense of place and history experienced by millions of Westerners goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of the European Union, a transnational hyper-state in Europe, and the quest for global dominance by the political duopoly in the United States. Both share the same distaste for traditional societies and cultures. Globalism destroys the remnants of the old order, and causes drastic demographic change within the West. Europe is dying. North Americans of European descent are reproducing below replacement levels and, within a decade, will start the precipitous decline that has already taken place in Europe. By allowing vast Third World immigrant subcultures to emerge within their societies, the Western nations have permitted the emergence of an alternative social and political structure, of which Islamic terrorism is but one consequence. In both America and Europe, multiculturalism has ensured that Western nations have lost the capacity to define and defend themselves vis-à-vis other civilizations. Muslims, in particular, have profited. […T]he price of the emerging post-modern global empire is the obliteration of the ethnic identity of peoples, their special color and uniqueness, [and] the loss of diversity of social evolution that goes side by side with the diminishing diversity of nature. At home the ultimate price of empire is the death of the very people and civilization of the society that is cajoled onto the self-destructive path of imperial over-reach. […] The alternative is enlightened nationalism, consistent with Christianity. […A]nti-Christian beliefs and assumptions of the elites are at odds with the majority of the people in every traditionally Christian country in Europe and America. But this majority is embattled. It is being steadily and deliberately whittled away by the continuing onslaught on ‘conventional morality’ in schools and the media, and by the attack on the demographic structure of our societies by immigration. [Emphasis added.] The problem is compounded by an ongoing betrayal from within the Christian camp, and the conquest of many churches by Marxists, sexual perverts, and radical feminists. […] Instead of being thrown to the lions, [traditionalist Christians] may be subjected—by some judicial mechanism dictated by bureaucrats to mandatory ‘sexual diversity orientation sessions,’ or feminist-led pro-abortionist ‘right-to-choose education workshops,’ after which the refusal to recant could lead to ‘therapy’ and forced medication. […] Is a political theory of Christian resistance possible? Perhaps […]. To regain the war-ravaged remnants of ‘Christendom,’ its embattled majority of manipulated citizens needs help to become conscious of the power that it still possesses […].”


“It is in disease and looming death that Europe (as we know it) and America (as we know her) most tellingly certify that they […] share the same chromosomes, that they belong to one culture and constitute one civilization. The same traits of terminal decrepitude are present in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Canada, and the United States, including both the primary cause which is the loss of religious faith and a number of secondary ones. These include their ruling elites hostility toward all forms of solidarity or coherence of the majority population based on common ancestry and traditional culture; the loss of a sense of place and history; rapid demographic decline probably irreversible and unparalleled in history that goes hand in hand with rampant Third World immigration; the collapse of private and public manners and morals; the imposition of ‘diversity,’ ‘multiculturalism,’ and ‘sensitivity’ by despotic means; and the demonization and criminalization of any opposition to any of the above [emphasis added; here is your leftist/Wall-Street iron boot heel that certain left-liberal posters at Turnabout have tried to deny exists]”


He states the hard truth. But we must not stop fighting. The Cold War was 45 year’s long and the outcome uncertain. Our culture and race must not stop fighting because of uncertainty; the future is always, always uncertain. Uncertainty is a trivial reason to stop trying; it is a reason accepted by losers. Paul Henrí.

When I read a few of the comments in this thread touching on stark doctrinal criticisms the three main kinds of Christian level at each other, and then saw this comment by Will S. (today, 3:47 AM): “I’m really not interested in getting into a Protestantism vs. Catholicism debate at present; […],” I thought of the following “welcome to readers” message on the Touchstone web-site’s homepage:

“Touchstone is a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom—Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The mission of the journal and its publisher, the Fellowship of St. James, is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.

If we Christians expend our energies making harsh mutual criticisms among our three main branches don’t we risk diverting our attention from the bigger task of facing the leftist threat, sapping strength put to better use fighting that war? Touchstone manages to be “a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith.”

Incidentally, speaking of the Touchstone web-site, it looks like a first-rate outfit. I browsed it for the first time recently when an entry in its web-log was linked in a Turnabout entry. That was such a great little essay on an instance of supposed “expertise” (an essay which inspired the motto I’ve been appending to the ends of my posts lately) that I browsed the site a bit further and the next two log entries I read were this one, on falling birthrates and what governments could do about them if they wanted, and this, on the absolutely poisonous influence the left has had on male-female relationships in today’s society. I especially liked that this last entry was written by a woman (“Kristi Herman”)—women all too often fall for women’s-lib nonsense, so it’s always nice to see them debunking it for a change (men “get it”; it’s always nice to see women “getting it” too, because I think they “get it,” in this particular regard, way less often than men do … sorry girls, but I fear it’s true—and a great irony, too, since women’s lib, which of course harms both men and women, harms women much more).

Touchstone’s blog, linked under “Mere Comments” at the top of its home page, makes for excellent browsing.


“If a tree falls and an expert doesn’t hear it, is there a sound?” Yes, the sweetest, most melodious sound in all creation: the sound of entropy being brought clanking, screeching, grinding to a halt.


I love Touchstone Magazine, great stuff! They don’t update the site very often tho.

Kevin V.
(God asks for our obedience, not our opinion)

Looks like they update their blog, though. And their blog archives are great for browsing.

“If a tree falls and an expert doesn’t hear it, is there a sound?” Yes, the sweetest, most melodious sound in all creation: the sound of entropy being brought clanking, screeching, grinding to a halt.


I have seen on t.v. many years ago,to priests from this university (here) designating as president from their executive board to gustavo cisneros rendiles.He is a member from malta order of knights,the problem here is he is representative from adult channel-linked to playboy- for latin america and his corporation directtv broadcast erotic films,and last but no least as owner from venevision and univision he is responsible for producing latinamerican soap operas,with naked and erotic scenes.

Anyone that reads or views the accounts of these blessed events cannot help but believe Christ is our Savior. Check out Jennifer Jones in the Song of Bernadette or Our Lady of Guadalupe as narrated by Ricardo Montalban. Evidence abounds in the accounts of other Catholic Saints. Catholicism is not an easy religion, as you will learn; but it is the one true religion. Focus on forgiveness instead of sin. Jesus died not to condemn us but to have His Father forgive us. Saints have a special, awful place in our view considering their suffering; yet we are not all called to be saints. So thank Jesus for his daily blessings.