The literature of American conservatism is vast and varied, but one missing and vital question is of its authenticity. If, as the evidence strongly suggests, the two most empirically verifiable aspects of our nature are original sin and the world’s oldest belief system of “you shall be as gods,” then a continuously constructed inauthenticity of reaction as well as the (hopefully occasional) forces of democratizing and quasi-utopian zeal is entirely plausible as the source material of authenticity. (Is the desire for freedom really written in every human heart, as opposed to, say, tribalist loyalty?) America, after all, was born of revolution and is strongly infused with the constant cousins of political tension – the left-liberalism of a state-sponsored, totalizing strain for equality of station and the atomizing effects of the right-liberalism of “freedom and liberty,” often accompanied by the revolutionary zeal of capitalism. The most pointed criticisms of these ideological tensions come from traditionalist European Catholicism, an awkward source of authenticity for any of our country’s newish and modern temporal mental exercises. And so, despite efforts to source American conservatism in the anti-ideology of Edmund Burke and others figures skeptical of ever greater enlightenment and progress, the author of the founding text of Anglo-American conservatism was a Whig, a (mostly) Protestant, and a staunch defender of the revolution of 1688. This can easily be made to fit American sentiments, especially in a broad electoral coalition not dominated by the idea of Christian salvation. But those Catholics within the coalition tend to view the Sacramental nature of humanity as best expressed in a polity based upon a comprehensive union of two persons then extended outward in the coordination of achieving the biological purpose of the organism as a whole. This regeneration of spirit and character, seeking to address the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul and a restoration of ethical understanding, is authentic not by the practical realities of a political philosophy but by a Triune God reflected in the reality of salvation practice and history through the coming together of persons in one family. If this vision of our state of nature is reality, then I would suggest there is an unresolvable tension at the root of all socio-political thought, rendering it eternally restless and inauthentic: man cannot be as a god, and man cannot escape the various, seemingly endless mechanisms set in place to satisfy that truth.
Monday, March 21, 2011, 2:34 PM