Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 (9:53 pm), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Wednesday, December 8th, 2010:
Robert R. Reilly, concluding a smart essay originally published by the National Review in November 1996, entitled “Culture of Vice”, which discusses the psychological origins of moral disorders that threaten whole cultures:
Controversies about life, generation, and death are decisive for the fate of any civilization. A society can withstand any number of persons who try to advance their own moral disorders as public policy. But it cannot survive once it adopts the justification for those moral disorders as its own. This is what is at stake in the culture war.
Reilly does a terrific job in a short space of exposing the process that moves inexorably from personal immorality, toward a society-wide capitulation to systemic evil, skirting cognitive dissonance on its way.
With rare exception, the human person is not much capable of embracing evil per se. In the absence of a will to pursue righteousness through the inculcation of virtue, he will not only rationalize his personal immorality, but will ultimately be satisfied with nothing short of a social affirmation of the “goodness” of his immorality – even to the point of overturning the public moral order. Un-resisted personal vice, in other words, eventually demands the destruction of the good in the public sphere.
Well worth reading.
HT to James V. Schall, posting at The Catholic Thing, for the link.
Posted: Thursday, December 2, 2010 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis
Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R), addressing his fellow members of the President’s Deficit Commission, as they wrapped up deliberations Wednesday:
As a physician, I’m trained to find the real problem… What’s the real problem – not the symptoms, but what do the symptoms and signs lead me to is what is the real disease. And he real disease is we’ve abandoned the concepts of our founders. We’ve created reliance instead of depending on self-reliance; we’ve created government programs that are unaffordable; we’ve abandoned limited government; we’ve abandoned the enumerated powers. And now we’re in trouble. And nobody’s looking at what the real problem is. And the real problem is us.
Coburn seems like one of the real decent people in Washington. I think what he says here, in understated terms, about the fragility of the Republic is really important to grasp. Every government, under every conceivable form of government, is a transitory form of order: imperfect both in its form and in its practice. But a society can hold together under an imperfectly established and implemented government, as long as the level of corruption and systemic disorder does not rise above a critical mass.
When the members of a republic begin turning on each other by voting themselves "rights" to their neighbors’ property, it seems to me that the point of critical mass has already begun to be reached in that level of systemic disorder, and that any such society will necessarily begin, as Coburn puts it, to “rot from within.”
I don’t subscribe to the idea that our society’s most serious disorders are fiscal in either origin or solution, but I don’t doubt for a minute that the current model of fiscal order is an immoral one, which discourages and even squelches the practice of virtues, from industriousness to honor to charity, supplanting them at every turn with vices ranging from sloth to envy to greed. We need to establish a public order that encourages and rewards virtue, lest we leave our children a society poised on the brink of a new era of class warfare. That process has to begin by grappling with Leviathan, and resisting its creeping absolutism and pretensions of supremacy over communities large and small.
Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 (5:58 am), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010:
An encore: J. Gresham Machen, this time writing in The Presbyterian, February 7, 1918, on the waning of Greek & Hebrew knowledge within the (protestant) ministry of his day (quoted from Dr. Rod Decker’s NT Resources Blog):
“The real trouble with the modern exaltation of practical studies at the expense of the humanities is that it is based upon a vicious conception of the whole purpose of education. The modern conception of the purpose of education is that education is merely intended to enable a man to live, but not to give him those things in life that make life worth living.”
It would be easy to say that nothing much has changed in the past 90 years, but I think this modernizing, flattening, utilitarian tendency in educational (mal)practice has actually been accelerating – and I don’t think that assertion would meet much serious contention. Modern education exists to equip a man to make a living, but not to make a life. And I don’t see any improvements on the horizon.
People often ask me what I’m "going to do with" my Theology degree, should I manage to complete it. Well, I’ll give thanks for the gift of time to pursue it… Will that suffice?