Charlie's Blog: New Year's Day Reflections


New Year's Day Reflections

For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.

2015 is gone, and 2016 has come. What to make of it? I suppose reflection is needed. I will begin with the year that was--2015.

I don't consider 2015 a good year. I can't point to anything particularly good or awesome about this year on a personal basis. I haven't made significant progress in any of my projects. The only thing I learned new in 2015 was that Islam was a religion of evil, but I had already suspected that before. Beyond that, my life has been a version of Groundhog Day. I can also say that the only change you can count on is a change for the worse.

There is one significant thing I did do this year, and this was to re-embrace the conservatism of my twenties. My thirties were a decade of libertarianism because this is what Christians do when they become atheists. They become revolutionary utopians and embrace whatever philosophy allows them a more libertine lifestyle. I feel ashamed of this time in my life and things that I have done, but it did have one supreme benefit. It rescued me from Protestantism.

My present conservatism is different from my former conservatism because of being informed by the true faith of Catholicism. Russell Kirk was a convert to Catholicism like myself, but he was a conservative before he was a Catholic. The two things are really not in conflict, but I think conservatism is firmer with Catholic Christianity as a cornerstone as opposed to Protestantism. Consequently, my conservatism is best described as traditional conservatism or "paleoconservatism."

Does religion matter to political philosophy? I think it does. I will ignore the Left completely as I always have, but this is how the Right breaks down. You have the libertarians who are largely atheist. You have the neoconservatives who are largely Protestant and Jewish. Then, you have the paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan who are Catholic. Now, you will find Catholic neocons and Christian libertarians, but their politics are simply in opposition to their worldviews producing cognitive dissonance. A potent example would be Ron Paul who is thoroughly libertarian until the subject of abortion comes up. Then, his religion comes into conflict with his ideology.

You have the temporal realm, and you have the spiritual realm. With matters of the spirit, I am Roman Catholic. With matters of the temporal, I am paleoconservative. I don't see how you can be Catholic and also be a Marxist, a libertarian, a progressive, or a neoconservative. If you took the Catholic perspective on temporal matters and turned it into a political philosophy, it would look virtually identical to paleoconservatism. The best example of paleoconservatism is Pat Buchanan who is also a traditionalist Latin Mass Roman Catholic. I love Pat Buchanan.

The problem with conservatism as a movement today comes from the fusionism practiced by guys like Buckley and Kirk that formed coalitions of Straussians, libertarians, and the like into a coalition that basically opposed communism. That coalition is now splintering to pieces as you can see in the mass confusion and lack of leadership that is the Republican party today. The GOP is having an identity crisis, and nothing typifies this more than the campaign of Donald Trump, a guy who is not really a conservative.

True conservatism is fundamentally Christian. It is not ideological which is why you don't see purges in conservative ranks like you see among libertarians. For instance, a neocon who is pro-life can find common cause with a Catholic paleocon. The problem is when that neocon brings his other garbage ideas with him. And this is where it gets interesting. A paleoconservative will tolerate a neoconservative, but the neoconservative will not tolerate the paleoconservative. Neocons always purge. To the extent that they have succeeded in this purging, the Republican party now is fundamentally indistinct from the Democrat Party. The only thing that keeps Obama from being a neocon is his tepid support of Israel.

In 2015, my thinking has progressed and evolved as I have learned more about Catholicism and practiced it. Catholicism is not merely a religion but a "complete worldview" as Belloc put it. The Catholicism/distributism/paleocon thing is a package deal. As a corollary to this package, my thinking is also progressing in terms of strategy. I distinguish philosophy from strategy. For instance, let's say two people oppose abortion. The first person wants to end it by lobbying Congress, electing pro-life leaders, and shifting the Supreme Court with new appointments that would reverse Roe v. Wade. The other person thinks this strategy is futile and focuses more on women's pregnancy centers and changing the culture in a bottom up approach. Of the two strategies, I am shifting more towards the latter approach. I will write more on this in future blog posts, but I think the institutional strategy is doomed to failure. The cultural strategy is the better way.

This brings us to resolutions and my Bible quote above. If I can tell you the key difference between being Protestant and being Catholic, it is this. I could not change as a Protestant. Being Protestant was very frustrating because I wanted to achieve sanctification but failed. The reason for this is because Protestants are cut off from the sacraments which are the channels of God's grace. This is why there are no Protestant saints. A Protestant is virtually identical to those Old Testament faithful trying to keep the law in their own power.

As a Catholic, I am able to change. This is the power of the confessional and the eucharist. Grace really does work. I am not perfect and will remain this way until the day I die. But I no longer struggle with sins that bedeviled me in my younger days. I think one of the reasons I am able to stick with a vegan diet is because I am no longer a glutton. I ate crap food and lots of it to try and fill my empty soul. God's grace has moved me beyond that.

People make resolutions at the beginning of a New Year, and they are usually doomed to failure. I don't think you can be good without God. You might make some amends and habit changes, but you cannot become a saint without God's grace.