Sunday, July 17, 2005

Why the International Herald Tribune gets religion wrong

MSM approach nuanced and sensitive matters as the intersection of religious and political beliefs like zolted jackhammer operators. They slice and dice issues to generate oppositions that fit into a story. Such marketing may move product and create exposure for ads but it butchers reality. Case in point? "Why the West gets religion wrong" - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune Here, they try to play the balanced middle. They decry the extremists on either side of the secularitst/religionists divide. Observe:
Contemporary secular liberalism is bankrupt. Historically, liberalism drew its strength from a critique of divinely sanctioned absolute monarchs and authoritarian rule. As such, liberalism had republican values and communal aims. But in overcoming absolute sovereignty, liberalism internalized it, reproducing not mutual citizens but self-sufficient subjects. This process reached its zenith in the 1960s, when genuine political transformation was aborted in favor of the subjective desires of pleasure-seeking adults.

The left that emerged from this generation eschewed a genuine public morality in the name of personal choice and private gratification. At great political cost, it handed over to the right the language of formation, values and religion. Unable to craft for itself a new form of civic collectivity, secular liberalism remains mired in individualism and blind to cultures built around universal ideals and collective aspirations.

Contemporary religious conservatism is more mobilizing yet no less exclusive. Politically, conservatism originated from a critique of liberal relativism. In its stead, conservatism sought to provide a public morality. But in challenging secular permissiveness, conservatives promoted conformity with the dominant class. Rather than uniting the citizenry around a common project, this led to the elevation of one group at the expense of all others. In consequence, the right surrendered to the left the ideal of a communal solidarity involving all sectors of society.

Additionally, in a fanatical overreaction to the atomization of liberal society, American conservatives embraced a new Christian fundamentalism that promised its followers an eternal community - composed only of themselves.
Now, I certainly won't argue the bankruptsy of secular liberalism. However, what measure of liberal does Philip Blond talk about? Even among the secular left there are varying degrees of liberal. Is he talking about the hard-core socialist/sex libertine axis that defines the Kool-Aid drinking secular extremists of the Left? Does he mean the photo-seizing, pander-happy soft-core socialism/libertinism of Ted Kennedy, etc? Does he mean something else entirely? It's difficult to say. It's Jackhammering reality when brush-strokes are needed. Were he a paleontologist unearthing a new fossil, the dig would be over real soon. There'd be dust clouds left where fossils used to lay.

Mr. Blond is equally obtuse on conservatives. Again, which conservative does he mean. Is there any differentiation between "neoconservatives" and "paleoconservatives". Does he distinguish the difference between certain Christian conservatives more sympathetic to "dominion" theological ideologies from those Traditionalist conservatives that many Catholics would identify themselves? These have little patience for theocratic visions or secessions from the Union. Again, his effort to paint with broad strokes leaves clarity of analysis as the first casualty. He may even have an important message to send, such as the assumptions both secularists and Traditionalists make regarding the importance of politics today. The assumption that public order strictly governed through polity may well combine the worst elements of absolute authoritarianism of divine right of kings with materialist assumptions that undergird natural rights arguments for republicanism in liberal reforms. Of course, it's hard to trust this instruction since so much of the rest of this essay slams the facts on the ground with pointless and imprecise labeling. The MSM just doesn't get religion. How are they going to get religion in politics?