The sacralization of government

The holes in 'progressive' reformers' Enlightenment thinking

 

We are by now familiar with the drive to secularize American society.

Prayer in school – gone. Christmas manger scenes and long-standing memorials to war dead regularly challenged in court. Likewise, religious schools would be excluded from taxpayer-subsidized student scholarships if the atheist lobby had its way. (They didn't.)

The next phase seems to be the sacralization of government.

Not content to offer a higher standard of living for Americans here on earth, candidate Biden sees his bid for the presidency as "a battle for the soul of the nation." President Trump rejoined, "In America, we do not turn to government to restore our souls. We put our faith in Almighty God."

For those who might still expect political candidates to offer laws or policies, Biden told us, "love and hope and light joined in the battle." He promised to be "an ally of the light."

Candidate Biden also promised he would "finally" wipe "the stain of racism from our national character."

The modifier "finally" moves this aspiration from laudable to questionable. For someone of the candidate's age should understand that the line between good and evil runs through the human heart. It is in the heart that racism, like all other evils, abides – finally.

Does Biden believe he can finally, eternally, cleanse the heart to "finally" eliminate evil? If so, how will he do this? He did not call on a higher power to assist in this mighty task. Does he believe speech codes and quotas, in jobs, housing and education, will be sufficient to achieve the lofty goal he has set?

One suspects the speechwriter subscribes to the philosophy, popular on the left, that says racism is a social construct and that social structures don't just perpetuate racism (true enough in some cases) but they cause it. A species of the nurture over nature, or matter over spirit, argument, it holds that we can "finally" eliminate racism by changing the material world alone.

The belief in the ability to perfect humanity unaided by divine assistance is a favorite conceit of progressive reformers, a product of Enlightenment thinking. Curing social problems replaced alleviating individuals' suffering as large, organized philanthropies displaced charitable organizations.

No one argues the existence of social injustices nor the need to eliminate them. The argument is with how, and with those who have a blind faith in humanity's ability to perfect itself through government alone.

The urge to create heaven on earth has led humans to commit crimes of a monstrous scale: the Reign of Terror, the Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge Year Zero just a few examples from the modern age.

Orestes Augustus Brownson, once described as "a Universalist determined to reform the world by sundown" was a leading social reformer in 19th century America. A religious conversion led him to reform his reformist views. Humanitarianism devoid of faith could "easily degenerate into zeal, coercion and violence," he warned.

"The universal lust to reform society, to reform other people in a spirit of ideology rather than faith, must at the last come to this," Brownson said. "Love me as your brother, or I will cut your throat."

The desire for a better society, for the righting of wrongs, is a universal one, and beneficial. The belief it can be done without recourse to a supernal authority, is a dangerous one. Martin Luther King beseeched Caesar for justice, but first last and always he appealed to God.

Brownson offered another warning to the well-intentioned reformers of 1849. His words apply equally to today's apologists for "peaceful protesters":

"You cannot go on, year after year, denouncing social order, denouncing society itself, denouncing every restraint of law, all faith, piety, conscience, everything the race has hitherto held sacred, and hope that the multitude, if they heed you, will remain quiet … or that they will not take up arms to realize the visions of … paradise on earth, with which you have maddened their brains and inflamed their lusts."

Copyright © 2020 Curtis Ellis, All rights reserved.