For all those who feel that conservative Republicanism is self-evident ...

I promised the people at tNP that I would put up a post for the purpose of facilitating dialogue about the "self-evidentness" of their ultra-conservative Republican ideology. Others who feel differently are also quite welcome to speak their minds. (For those who wish to read the background to this conversation, read the comments at the Japery.)


Douglas_Coombs said…

Of course conservative Republicanism isn't self-evident. Neither is liberal Democtratism (is that a word?). Most Christians I know simply think that if you are going to vote for somebody who supports the unlimited license to abortion through all nine months, then you'd better have a damn good reason.

Democrats have been pushing Christians out for quite some time. Did you ever see the post on sound politics about the anti-Christian bumper sticker sold in my old haunts by the democratic party?
Democrat Party

I've met several 50+ lifelong Democrats who simply don't feel they can vote that way on a national level in good conscience. This does effect national politics, too. That is why so many registered Democrats in rural Ohio voted for Bush in the last election while voting for Democrats locally. The same thing happened in my home state of NM. In both states it changed the outcome of the election on a statewide level. In OH it had an effect nationally.

Conservative Republicanism is NOT self-evident. However, many Christians simply don't feel welcome anymore by the alternate mainstream party.

Douglas_Coombs said…
oops. The link was supposed to be integrated into the text. Darn html.
timcoe said…
My experience in the evangelical community over the last 23 years has taught me that, with little exception, the Republican Party is the only reasonable choice for Christians. This has little to nothing to do with policies or practices as far as I can tell-- from a very young age I was brought up in the belief that if you were a Democrat, you clearly weren't a Christian.
D.W. Congdon said…
I appreciate the posts. I was going to delete this post when I found out the Fr. Jape decided to remove all of the comments under his post about Wheaton. The reason? Because he feels like blog comments are a symptom of our modern liberal agenda, and that no person has the right to dialogue about his views and expect a reasoned response. (This is true; he sent a private email stating as much.)

However, we can still have an interesting discussion. Let's take the party names out of the equation, so it is just conservatism and liberalism. The first major hurdle is that virtually everybody defines these terms differently. But if I take tNP's presentation of contemporary conservatism, then it appears that they are in opposition to gender, racial, and social equality -- all of which are party of modern liberalism. There are two ways of reaching this concept of conservatism: (1) the religious route of "fundagelicals" (as tNP loves to call them) who reacted against the cultural changes of the late 20th century, or (2) the secular route, epitomized by people such as Mark Steyn, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter, who don't believe a word of Christianity but hold to roughly the same political views.

The latter route makes perfect sense. Without a framework of belief like Christianity to guide one's political and social views, then a person is completely free to say, "I'm going to look out for #1, meaning myself and my version of America." However, it is the former position that is so complex; the problem with people like tNP is that they begin with the political framework established by the secular route, and then argue that these views naturally follow their religious convictions. Unfortunately, their "self-evidentness" is originating apart from their faith, not from within it.

Unless, and here is why I labelled the site as I did, you begin with a model of faith and society that has its roots in Christendom, in which the Church rules society on a governmental hierarchical model of leadership. If this is one's understanding of how faith and culture intersect, then there is no division between the "religious" and "secular" routes of political ideology. The two are identical from the beginning. But of course, church history shows us that when these are identical, it is highly questionable whether those views are truly "Christian" or not. Would Jesus have crowned kings, or excommunicated them? Would Jesus have led crusades? These kinds of questions reveal how incredibly different Christianity became under such a model of government-church relations.

Finally, the history of Christian fundamentalism in the United States is far more complex than can be described here. The point is, though, that Christian fundamentalists were on the front line of cultural changes. They were the very first ones to provide social equality for women by letting women preach and teach in church. Today that seems impossible. The reason is simply because of the "sexual revolution" in the 60s. "Secular" culture changed, and the Christians reacted violently in the opposite direction. Thus we have the opposite model from Christendom: here it is the absolute and polarized opposition between church and society.

So I agree that Republicanism is not self-evident, but what about conservatism? Why do so many Christians feel like it is a natural product of the faith? I think it comes down to one of these two routes, or a medieval connection of both.
brian said…
Mr. Congdon,

Have you anything besides Jape's column in tNP? You should examine their editorial roundtable before the last presidential election before you hang labels upon them. Or perhaps their alternatives to modern liberalism, some of which (anarchism) don't fit very well with the sort of contemporary conservatism that you with which you wish to associate the journal.

You don't have to agree with their positions, but at least represent their positions correctly.

What is self-evident about the tNP's conservatism? Their focus on community, on family, on church--things that are dying thanks to the radical individualism of modern liberalism. If we have a strong community, a strong family, a strong church, then much of what liberalism offers as solutions--the welfare state, for exampel--become less important. We are to take care of one another, not rely on the government to do so. Yes, the government does have an obligation to care for its citizens (and this most certainly includes the poor--as tNP editors have said), but it is not only the government's responsibility.

Christians must, as part of their calling, be countercultural. Those Christians who have accepted a seat at the political table do so by accepting certain elements of our culture that are decidely un-Christian. We should not be reacting to culture--we should be shaping it ourselves, according to Christ. Even Fr. Jape has said the best we, as Christians, can do these days is to resist the disorder of the age personally--have a family, be a part of community, put others ahead of ourselves. It's this sort of action, moreso than attempting to influence culture by "engagement," that will bring about the sort of cultural change mandated by Christ.
Shane said…
just to clear up a little misunderstanding here. The pro-tNP people seem to be saying, "how could shane and david think we are conservatives? they must really not have read anything in the magazine except for jape, (which is all just a joke that they are too young to understand, God bless 'em)."

Now, i do not agree with david's initial characterization of the new pantagruel, but I certainly have not been persuaded by the advocates of the New Pantagruel that the journal is as ideologically diverse as they claim.

I had not read the pieces Brian linked to just a moment ago, but i have read the New Pantagruel occasionally for several years (mainly because a beloved undergrad profs was an editor). moreover, i did not base my judgments about the ideological tilt of the magazine just on jape's remarks.

Look at the page right now. Let's read a couple of the tNP 'classics'. What do we have there?

A very interesting, well written historical article by Mark Henrie "Understanding traditionalist conservatism" that tries to rehabilitate the concept of traditionalist conservativism (over against the neo-conservativism of the Bush Regime). It is largely a historical article and not a stump speech, but does seem to make an interesting link, "If neoconservatives are aptly described as “conservative liberals” – as I believe they are – perhaps we can best understand the Burkean tradition as “liberal conservatism.” Is this a distinction that makes a difference? I believe it does."

Now, I am going to go out on a limb and guess at the subtext of this article: One should be a traditionalist conservative, because neo-cons are complicit in liberalism. Henrie might be right, neo-cons might really be closeted liberals, but he does not seem to open up other possibilities reacting to this fact other than moving a bit further right to traditionalist conservatism.

Now read through the interview with Roger Scruton from this issue. Quite interesting. Scruton is lucid and brilliant. But what viewpoint is being advocated here? Again it is traditionalist conservativism, is it not? Look also at the coda appended to the end of the interview:

The Meaning of Conservatism belongs on the shelf of every thoughtful conservative; click here to view it on Amazon. A complete listing of Roger Scruton’s books and much else can be found on his website. Dozens of his articles are linked on the internet bibliography compiled by Christopher S. Morrissey.

My question is how to read the word 'thoughtful'. If i was a cynic i would guess that 'thoughtful conservative' = 'traditionalist conservative' = 'reader of the New Pantagruel'. Fortunately, my experience with tNP has made me a much more positive person and I no longer draw cynical conclusions like this.

One more example from the main page (which is all I took the time to read during my imbroglio chez Jape) is Jeremy Beer's piece "Resurecting [sic] Caelum et Terra" which takes issue with 'Whig Thomists' who are, again, implicity linked with liberalism. Who are these 'whig thomists' complicit with the capitalistic destruction of traditional family values? why, Pope John Paul II and Fr. Neuhaus, of course! (Please forgive the gross oversimplification of Beer's article, it's actually a very interesting case he makes, but i'm simply trying to draw a connection between several articles here).

I hope that it is more obvious now why david and I would see tNP as a ultra-conservative magazine. 'Liberal' seems to = 'wrong'. If you write an article for tNP that manage to create a link between a self-described 'conservative' figure X and some tenet of 'liberalism', then you may safely insinuate that X is simply wrong.

Now, when I saw John Paul II, Duane Litfin and George Bush all called 'liberals', I had to wonder if Fr. Jape was voting for Mussolini in 2008?

Perhaps one would object to my point and try to find other articles that have a little more of a lefty feel to them.

Well, one such article might be, "My Africa Problem and ours" by Gideon Strauss. This is a touching article by a man with an obviously deep love for Africa. And it does have sort of a lefty feel, global consciousness, give money to the poor, etc. and so on. What I wonder about, however, is this line, "The most important political work in South Africa, I came to believe, was that of proclaiming the gospel." I do not necessarily disagree with this statement, but please let's not pretend that tNP is advocating political radicalism or anything like a 'liberation' theology. It seems as if the author is deliberately going out of his way to make sure his article doesn't come off as lefty. He doesn't talk about development or globalization or structural evils or anything that might be offensive to the right-wing. What does strauss think we should do about the political crisis in africa? pray and give money to missionaries? No, i think he wants it to be something more than that, but he only hints indirectly and obliquely and thus article squeaks under the conservative radar. (i understand that traditionalist conservatives are less interested in free-market ideas than their neo-con brethren, so perhaps this one might have made it to tNP, even if it had gotten a bit more uppity with its economic analyses and so forth, but somehow i doubt it).

The only article I see on the front page that can really be described as having anything approaching a leftist tint is the piece "Christian intellecutals, embedded or otherwise" by McCarraher, who comes out swinging at the theologians who came out in favor of the unjust war in Iraq. McCarraher quotes Cavanaugh and calls for the disentanglement of Christian loyalties to the leviathan of the state. A very nice piece indeed.

But only one. And one that doesn't really strike me as that provocative. Right, interesting, well-written. But not something that I didn't already know, or with which most people in America disagree. Most of us already think that George Bush lied to start an unjust war. Maybe that crazy liberal Pope John Paul II had already paved the way for this view way back before the war had even started.

In short, Yes Virginia There Is An Ideology in tNP, one which Brian himself repeats to us . . . "It's this sort of action (having a family, going to church), moreso than attempting to influence culture by 'engagement,' that will bring about the sort of cultural change mandated by Christ." Traditionalist conservativism, coupled with the rejection of the 'engagement' model of christian thinking ('whig thomism') is what characterizes the thinking of tNP. Perhaps not all the articles. I didn't have the energy, motivation, or desire to read the articles Brian linked, so I'll generously assume that they prove that I am completely wrong about this.

But, I maintain that david and I were perfectly rational in saying that tNP is an exteremly conservative magazine. An interesting form of it, admittedly, but just another conservativism after all. (A form which I personally join in David's recommendation via Hopkins, "Forget it/The Middle ages are over.")

If you want to prove me wrong, show me a bunch of articles in tNP that would make a person want to vote against a Republican political candidate.


Douglas_Coombs said…
"Would Jesus have crowned kings, or excommunicated them? Would Jesus have led crusades? "

Samuel and other kings at God's behest. The Israelites were involved in what one might term holy wars. Paul excommunicated the man fornicating with his mom.

The extent to which church law should be civil law is debatable and changes with cultures, but the idea that the church leadership was heirarchical and male from the beginning is a historical fact. The council of Jerusalem is a perfect example of that.

Douglas_Coombs said…
"Would Jesus have crowned kings, or excommunicated them? Would Jesus have led crusades? "

Samuel annointed kings at God's behest. The Israelites were involved in what one might term holy wars. Paul excommunicated the man fornicating with his mom.

The extent to which church law should be civil law is debatable and changes with cultures (e.g., civil marriage vs. Christian marriage), but the idea that the church leadership was heirarchical and male from the beginning is a historical fact. The council of Jerusalem is a perfect example of that.

Shane said…

Where does it say in the Bible that all of the people at the council of Jerusalem were men? There were female prophets and deacons and apostles. (Junia, in Rom 16.7, who is listed 'among the apostles', was a woman).

There were women anointed as Judges in Old Israel. Deborah was a prophetess as well as a judge (jud 4).

moreover, even if it had been the case that historically God only appointed a hierarchy of men to shepherd his people (and it isn't), from this historical fact one still could not to derive that therefore God wants it always to be this way.

the arguments for male 'headship' of the church strike me as a textbook example of the sort of mythologization of power that the marxists loved to uncover. (one cheer for marx). The divine right of kings and the divine right of popes are pretty much the same thing, in that respect. L'eglise c'est moi!

hey hey, ho ho, theological absolutism has got to go.

brian said…
If you want to prove me wrong, show me a bunch of articles in tNP that would make a person want to vote against a Republican political candidate.

Read the articles I initially linked to. Re-read the Caelum et Terra essay. Re-read the Understanding Traditionalist Conservatism. You are mistakenly associating traditionalist conservatism with Republicanism, when Republicanism is just as liberal as the Democratic politics it rails against (and this much has been said in tNP before). The only reason you may see contributors or editors advocate a Republican candidate is because of that candidate's anti-abortion stance.

I don't understand why we can't think outside the Left/Rigth box. It is assumed that since tNP believes that Liberalism and modernity have done much to damage the the Christian spirit, the only solution is to roll back the clock to the Middle Ages. But again, the journal has been clear this isn't the solution. Part of the solution, however, is resistance to the disorders of the age. And, by the way, shoring up family, community, and church does not exclude cultural engagement (even Fr. Jape has kind words for those cultural warriors, the Neo-Calvinists). But one cannot engage culture without having the proper foundations. What good is it to transform art or literature if families and communities are broken?
Shane said…

i do grasp the difference between the traditionalist conservative and the died in the wool (classical) liberal neo-con. my point is that functionally tNP seems to come down to advocating republicanism. a traditionalist conservative might not like bush, but they sure aren't going to vote for kerry. Thus, even if neo-cons are 'liberals' in palaeo-con eyes, they are still two peas in one ideological pod.

(at least based on the articles i mentioned, i don't really care to read the others, honestly, so i'll just take your word for it that they completely prove me wrong. oh well, my point was simply that i had done my epistemic duty vis a vis tNP before i callled them 'conservatives'.)

moreover, what about the benefits of liberalism? might there not have been something really good and positive about the enlightenment and the turn toward the individual? i am sympathetic with the need to critique liberal individualism, but there is something valauble about liberalism as well.

brian said…
moreover, what about the benefits of liberalism? might there not have been something really good and positive about the enlightenment and the turn toward the individual? i am sympathetic with the need to critique liberal individualism, but there is something valauble about liberalism as well.

No one, including tNP, is throwing the baby out with the bath water. This interview will founder/editor Caleb Stegall provides a better insight into tNP's relationship with modernity:

Let's get this straight—you're not a fan of the modern world, right?

I suppose I am a critic of modernity, a friendly critic I hope. I have been charged with wanting to "turn back the clock," but I don't think there is much intelligence in that accusation.

I'm sure many people reading this are wondering—why? What's so bad about the modern world?

The overwhelming moral sense I have when surveying the modern world is one of loss. A sense that what we have left behind in our affluence and mobility is a certain kind of Good that flourishes in rootedness and struggle—a way of being human that was always understood as the good life; a kind of self-provisioning that took place within a small network of interconnected social obligations, each to the other and all to a particular place, and to the customs and rites that naturally complimented that place. The spiritual order—both personal and social—of this good life is nourished on a veneration of children, work, craft, a sense of honor in commitments, and a common responsibility.

In place of this, modernity has given us the atomized individual, armed with a plethora of rights, making his way in a system of "opportunity" that requires the spiritual symbolization of society as a ladder to be climbed, which leaves a wake of personal disorder, the destruction of exploited people, places, and traditional communities, and loss of meaning on a massive scale.
brian said…
And this, from the same interview linked to in my previous comment:

Of course there are multiple reasons for this, but foremost in my mind is that it does no good to vote an anti-abortion ticket if in one's life and community there is no drive and discipline towards holiness.
D.W. Congdon said…

Based on the interview you quoted, there comes to mind one person embodies that same vision, and yet is not encumbered by the ideological straightjacket that seems to flourish among some at tNP: Wendell Berry. He says virtually the very same things about the "Good" (life) and the critique of modernity's atomization of individuals. All of this I agree with, as would Berry. So on one level, Berry is indeed a traditional conservative, but on another level, conservatism in the U.S. is one of his enemies because it advocates the kind of capitalistic industrialization that is a primary cause of our divisions and disordered relations between human beings. I'll end with a quote of his, just one of many:

"The line that connects the bombing of civilian populations to the mountain removed by strip mining ... to the tortured prisoner seems to run pretty straight. We're living, it seems, in the culmination of a long warfare -- warfare against human beings, other creatures and the Earth itself."
D.W. Congdon said…

What I am still waiting for is a convincing argument about why evangelicalism is necessarily complicit in this modern liberalism such that the movement is inherently inable to promote the kind of goods that you are advocating.

Now I am no fan of evangelicalism, by any means. But I grew up within the very heart of it, and my experience showed me that evangelicals are some of the most concerned about nuclear family, anti-abortion, local church community issues.

Here is what I am afraid of. I am afraid that evangelicals are liberal because they are too egalitarian, too accommodated to the recent cultural shifts that have altered the socio-political landscape of this nation. I would agree with you if your critique was limited to evangelical individualism, because that is indeed a prevalen reality. But if tNP is going to criticize the egalitarianism within some (by no means all!) families, then this is where we will have to part ways.

This goes for Doug as well. I am astounded that simply because male hierarchies have been around since nearly the dawn of humanity, that this is therefore God's design and will for the world. Such a view is repulsive and anti-Christian in my mind. And to many, many others as well.
brian said…
What the blurred Left/Right, Blue/Red lines of traditionalist conservatism can look like.
D.W. Congdon said…

The kind of political mentality advocated by Nichols via Buchanan and McGovern is very appealing to me, and I have nothing really to say against it. That said, I see none of that represented in tNP. In fact, tNP exemplifies, in my opinion, the grenade-tossing politics which Nichols openly rejects from the start. If you wish to convince me otherwise, you'll have to wrestle with the fact that Fr. Jape believes that dialogue and compromise are simply signs of our modern liberal agenda.
brian said…
Jape is a shameless Machiavellian, and as he has even pointed out, is at odds with much of tNP's staff politically. If you want to know what the voice of a farcical, 500 year old Jesuit thinks, read the Japery. If you want to what the editors of tNP think, read the journal (this is, apparently, something some critics chose not to do). If you actually read the journal, I think you'll find plenty of essays in the spirit of the Nichols peice.
G.J. said…
Pearls before swine, brian. Congdon and the rest here merely like to hear themselves talk, and they have no problem using defunct but conventient political steroeotypes. I recognize nothing of TNP and little of myself in their phantastical straw men. The most sense I can make of it is that they are inflamed that something like abortion might be a make-or-break issue (as most Christians see it and as the church teaches) and in some sense "force" them to vote for authentically pro-life candidates running for offices where they'd be in a position to affect abortion law. Since Democrats have taken a pro-choice stance as part of their platform and party dogma, while forcing out or forcing conversions on old pro-life democrats, this forces a lot of hands. Congdon and others like him want to minimize the issue and not be told that there is no moral equivalence between the parties, generally speaking. Except, I bet they like to think there is no moral equivalence because republicans are evil and dems are not. What-evah.

As for the mentioning of "gender equality" and so on, it beats me where Congdon gets TNP opinions about that, because I don't think it's ever come up.
brian said…
beating a dead horse here, but....

tNP editor has been a part of the National Review's new Crunchy Con blog, and if you read through it, you will note Mr. Stegall has consistently butted heads with the NRO's neo-con cabal over the nature of conservatism.