Our friend as Tom Harmon is big on a CONSERVATIVE yet POSTMODERN response to the exchange in PUBLIC DISCOURSE . I’m glad, of course, to see the exhange, although it doesn’t cover new ground.

PM’s attempt to be all civil theological about the Declaration depends on an interpretation that has never struck as plausible. The most noble way to interpret the Declaration is as a compromise between Lockean and Puritanical factions, a compromise between two modern heresies that each contains part of Christian truth. But I’ve told you about that before.

PD at his most strident writes as if THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO were a realistic description of something called capitalism and liberalism is nothing but another name for capitalism. But even Marx knew he was exaggerating big-time. He was, you might remember, trying to incite a revolution.

But there is an upside to Locke. His Christian heresy, as I’ve told you before, is to understand us as PERSONAL but not RELATIONAL. There’s someting good about not seeing each of us, fundamentally, as either a citizen (as do the civic republicans) or as species fodder (as do the Darwinians). Our Lockeans and our Christians, remember, uniteded against those Communists and Fascists who want to reduce persons to History fodder.

I agree with Patrick (which really means I agree with Tocqueville and Carey McWilliams) that the Americans often ARE better than they SAY. And there’s a constant danger that therapeutic Lockeanism might deprive us of the words that correpond to who are as free and relational beings open to LOGOS—to the truth about all things. I also agree that we’ve almost Lockeanized marriage out of existence. But we really haven’t done the same for love and death. We don’t live after virtue. MacIntyre’s exaggerations cause too many traditionalists to disparage Americans as they are— as, say, charitable and honorable southern evangelicals who enjoy NASCAR and shop at Walmart—too much.

I think PM is right, following either Jaffa or Chesterton, that any American conservatism has to incorporate what’s true and dignified about the Declaration. It’s a good thing that our nation—more than any other—is a nation with the soul of the church, and that we worship at the altar of the equal unique and irreplaceble dignity of every human person. That kind of interpretation of the Declaration, of course, depends on bolstering Thomas Jefferson with Thomas Aquinas—or at least with Orestes Brownson and Chesterton.

Tom, that’s all I got. Again, I didn’t really see anything NEW in the exchange. You might respond that you don’t see anything new in what I’m saying here. Not bad for 22 minutes, I hope.

Articles by Peter Lawler

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