Christmas season usually generates
reflection on the spiritual / philosophical side of life for many of us. What
follows pays reverence to the profound importance of our Judeo-Christian
heritage to America and Western civilization. It is based on an excerpt from my
book, The Golden Mean:
Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values.
will antagonize many of the modern intelligentsia. But the evidence is
overwhelming that their collectivist-materialist-secularist paradigm (with its
dictum of moral relativism) is grievously false. I think it is fair to declare
our civilization today to be undergoing a crisis of immense proportion, and I
think it is equally fair to declare that the crisis stems from the compulsive
materialism and secularism of our culture. If the Middle Ages glorified the
spiritual aspect of life at the expense of the material, then our era has now
enshrined the material at the expense of the spiritual.
century - in its acquiescence to scientism, immediacy, superficiality, statist
aggrandizement, and endless material gratification - lost the great benchmarks
of heroism and virtue that historic Christendom holds to be the true pillars of
progress and proportion. By forsaking the spiritual side of our existence and
its philosophical ground in natural law, the thinkers of modernity have hoped to
unify mankind under the aegis of a technocratic and managed world bureaucracy of
scientifically indoctrinated happiness. As if multi-faceted men and women, with
all their diversified peculiarities, aptitudes and ambitions, will react in the
manner of inanimate chemicals and thus can be molded into a socio-economic
paradise through pervasive state coercion and planning.
The dream of
the 20th century collectivists (a result of hubris unchained) was hideous in
origin, and consequently the end product of such a dream has been the tragic
erosion of the three pillars of civilization: objective morality, family
solidarity, and ordered freedom. In abandoning the great religious tradition of
our civilization, we have cut asunder the majestic unifier of life and with it
all hope for true progress, harmony, and happiness.
Age of Freedom
consider the early years of our country. Political philosopher, Frank Meyer,
described them with the following: "Where has there ever been a society at once
so noble and so free as the American Republic in the first half century of its
actually extends further, for the first 125 years of our nation (1789-1913) were
history's golden age of freedom. The values of a chivalrous and heroic existence
were still predominant in men's lives. The moral capital of a still
Christianized West had not yet been expended. The concept of man being capable
of becoming a great and noble soul through acceptance of a God-centered
universe was what gave to this era its magnificence.
flaws, of course - the disastrous contradiction of slavery in the South for one,
the restricted role of women for another. But for the most part, America of this
period exemplified a way of life that strived mightily to approach a noble
existence. And such an existence was the result of the value structure that
sprang from the Judeo-Christian ethos. It did not come from materialism or
relativism or egoism or any of the modern idols. It came from
visions of the Transcendent and the glorification of man as something more than
a consuming animal, from the knowledge that men have moral duties as well
as political rights, that there is such a thing called "truth," and that
the rightful life will now and forever be sustained only through man's capacity
to choose what is heroic and honorable, elemental and enduring.
today has abandoned such guiding principles in favor of false rights and
lessened duties, a relativistic concept of good and evil, and the base
conception of man as nothing but an economic groveler consisting of
predetermined matter in motion devoid of choice. The tyrannizing of our society
is the result.
If we are to
restore an enduring vitality to our way of life, we must then reinstate the
great spiritual truths that gave us birth. We must find our way back to the
beginning vision of America where the doctrine of traditional individualism
resides upon the foundation of Judeo-Christian brotherhood.
When implemented into a political
system, such a vision offers man the chance to find happiness and goodness
through adherence to natural law and to grow as tall as he can dream. It praises
his strengths, his accomplishments, and the nobility of his volitional concern
for others because these attributes are grounded in reason and thousands of
years of historical experience. They coincide with the characteristics of man's
basic nature, and their exaltation supports the needs of a peaceful, ordered,
honorable society. Such a philosophy tempers the egoistic core of man with the
concept of reverence for life and its Creator, while holding up to him the great
ideal: a man of independence, purpose, courage, and integrity, plus
compassion and concern for one's fellows.
Reinstilling such a philosophy
will not be easy, for the collectivist intelligentsia, so caught up in the
ideologies of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte, and Karl Marx, has succeeded
in thoroughly bastardizing the Judeo-Christian ethos and its foundation of
natural law. It is this trio of philosophers that, more than any others, laid
the groundwork for the downfall of the Lockean-Burkean blend of freedom, virtue,
and order that animated the Founding Fathers.
collectivist intellectuals have learned their lessons from many philosophers of
the past, but the above trio has been the most influential because of its
banishment of the moral prescriptions of religion and its substitution of
revolutionary egalitarianism for the rational individualism of Aristotle,
Aquinas, Locke, Smith and Jefferson.
Using the creed
of Rousseau and his progeny, today's intellectuals have distorted the
Judeo-Christian ethos and its libertarian-conservative political order,
denigrating its verities, emaciating its spirit, and worst of all, secularizing
its creed of "love thy neighbor" into a totally selfless doctrine of altruism
wrapped up in the rigid determinisms of our age and the pseudo-scientific
theories of the collectivist elite.
this problem is the fact that religion is now thought of as something derived
solely from superstition and inappropriate to not only modern times but to
reality itself. As a result of this debasement and man's naive faith in the
power of science to establish a material paradise on earth devoid of stringency
and struggle, there has taken place a gradual erosion of the West and its
natural law foundation.
If America and
the West are to be saved, however, spiritual-philosophical balance must win out.
Balance is the ideal, and this is man's great quest, the search for the ideal.
The Enlightenment vision of the Founding Fathers integrated with
Judeo-Christianity offers hope for just such a balance. But what has to be done
is to rid both the modern Academy and the modern Church of their tragic
obeisance to statism which has made them partners to tyranny.
The ideas of
Rousseau, Comte, and Marx must be rejected. This will restore the vigor, the
immutability, and the assertive exaltation of heroic virtue that Western life
was at one time all about. Then men will return to this great code of living
once it has become again the rock of stability and sanity. And America will be
able to once more get about the job of demonstrating the true gospels of
life to the world - personal independence, productive work, and good will
toward all men.
Nelson Hultberg is a freelance writer in Dallas,
Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic www.afr.org. A graduate of
Beloit College in Wisconsin, his articles have appeared in such publications as
The American Conservative,
Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, The Dallas Morning News, and the
San Antonio Express-News, as well as on numerous Internet sites. He is
the author of The Golden Mean:
Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values. Email: NelsonHultberg@afr.org