Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Failed God

Why do liberals love government, but hate the government, so much, and at the same time?

It's because government is the god of liberalism. It may be a failed god, but it's all they have.

The worship of government is nothing new. In the ancient world, worshiping the emperor, or the pharoah, or the king, as an actual god was commonplace. During the middle ages, however, Christianity had reduced such worship to something called "divine right of kings" -- the king was revered because he was God's chosen leader, but he was no longer worshiped. This was progress.

However, the dictatorships of the 20th century pulled state worship out of history's dustbin and turned it into a fierce pageantry on a world-wide scope. Catch some of the films of parades in the old Soviet Union, with the belligerent likenesses of Lenin and Stalin hanging from every building; see the body of Lenin, preserved still, in a glass case. (He still looks good enough to share a stage with Joseph Biden.) Also: the Mao parades in China, the interminable Castro speeches in Cuba, and so on. There is something about government that titillates the fever swamps, particularly but not exclusively on the left, to a degree that is inexplicable as anything other than a manifestation of religious fervor. Such is its pull that it even turns rich liberal Americans into drooling sycophants. Examples abound. E.g., lefty journalists like John Reed (paid homage by Warren Beatty's in his movie, "Reds"), and Lincoln Steffens (who proclaimed, "I have seen the future and it works!"). E.g., Walter Duranty, the Pulizter Prize-winning New York Times reporter who helped the Soviets cover up Stalin's program of Ukrainian genocide. E.g., every Castro interview ever conducted by an American journalist. E.g., Ho Chi Minh posters in the 1970s. E.g., Che! T-shirts. Every left-wing dictator is some liberal's icon. They should make trading cards.

Why? Part of this is the problem of rejecting religion in the first place, or claiming it has no place in the public sphere. Nonsense. It will always be in the public sphere, the only choice we have is which form it takes. Human beings don't quit worshiping because they quit worshiping God. They will worship something -- if not brutal dictators, then their own wisdom, and politics is just the stage upon which vanity and egomania are played out on a large scale. Thomas Sowell often refers to these highly motivated busybodies as "the Anointed", a self-selecting class of folks who see it as their divine commission in life to bless the lives of the rest of us, a.k.a. "the Benighted", with their wisdom.

Just because the Anointed may not believe in Heaven doesn't mean they don't yearn for it. Such yearning takes the form of trying to create Heaven here on Earth -- to "immanentize the eschaton", in Eric Voegelin's eloquent phrase. The problem with making Heaven is that it requires superhuman wisdom and power. We must settle for Republicans and Democrats. Heaven help us.

But that doesn't stop the Anointed from trying. Problem is, there are too many institutions in the U.S. that stand in their way. The democracies in Europe have fewer checks and balances than our Constitution provides, and so the socialist agenda has been easier to implement over there. Our institutions are never so flawed as when they allow conservatives to be elected, or even to speak their minds. Hence, the hatred.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mormonism Hits the Hustings

With Mitt Romney in the news, Mormonism is one of the hot topics. Accusations are flying that their natural political allies, namely evangelical Christians, will refuse to support Romney because they are prejudiced against Mormons.

That, and many other curious charges, will be explored in upcoming posts.

Many folks think that Mormonism is just another form of Christianity -- a notion that Mormons don't try to discourage. And let's stipulate at least this much: it is the fervent hope of this writer that it is possible to disapprove of Mormonism without disapproving of Mormons. I have Mormon friends and I value their friendship, but that does not mean that I am willing to give their theology a free ride. Experience suggests that Mormons know there are significant differences between their religion and Christianity, but for practical reasons pretend that there aren't. Only Mormons are allowed to be aware of the differences. It's impolite for Christians to notice.

But let's concede that at least Mormons have a theology, which is more than can be said for many of the liberal Protestant denominations these days. For just one appalling example, a woman Bishop in the Episcopal Church claims also to be a practicing Muslim, and claims not to see a theological contradiction. Even worse, the Episcopal Church apparently has no plans to excommunicate her. Folks, you can't make this stuff up.

Let's begin the festivities by exploring the notion that God was once a man. I don't mean that a man named Jesus was the eternal God the Son made flesh. Forget the Trinity. I mean that God was once an ordinary man, born of a woman, who managed somehow to become good enough to earn godhood. As the Mormons put it, "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man shall become."

It follows from this belief that God was born into a world He did not make. In Mormon theology, this is quite feasible. There are millions of gods, each with his own planet, and no word about who created the very first one. So then, we do not pray to the Creator of All Things, but only to one god of many, a celestial bureaucrat who has been assigned to regulate this planet. Not God at all, as Christians think of Him, but just the local sheriff.

But let's forget all that for just a minute and (as Alfred Drake implored in the song, "Rahadlakum!") discuss the nature of virtue. Christianity holds that morality is part of God's nature, and with Him always. Morality is absolute and has authority because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Otherwise, moral values would not be absolute and neither would be God.

However, if God is as the Mormons claim, having had a finite beginning to his life, then it follows that morality must not have originated with him, and is therefore not intrinsic to his character. It may be something he acquired, but that would imply some period of time during which he was without it. Or perhaps, God invented morality -- but then what about the period of time before that? How did he come to see the need for it, given that he was promoted to God beforehand?

Perhaps morality was something God was completely imbued with at birth -- but then that too would imply morality somehow predates God, and that someone or something else originated it. Whatever that someone or something was, that would be the real God, wouldn't it? The local constabulary would just be posturing.

And finally, if morality did not originate with God, by what authority could it compel anyone's allegiance? It would be just an aspect of nature, no different than a cloud or a particle of rock. Terrific, if you liked it; unnecessary, if you didn't. For morality to compel, it must be transcendent. How does morality transcend when God doesn't?

Mormonism shares with Christianity its nomenclature, and little else. It is not enough just to claim that one worships God the Father and Jesus, his son; it also matters who you think they are. If I were, for example, to create two golden calves, name one of them "Father God" and the other "Jesus the Son", and then worship them, I would still be guilty of worshipping false gods. Clearly, nomenclature is not enough.

Say It Isn't So

Prominent evangelical conservative Pat Robertson has endorsed Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid.

Erstwhile conservative magazines such as National Review and the American Spectator have been cautiously testing the waters for Giuliani support for a while already. Which is to say, winning elections is becoming more important than certain principles, such as opposing abortion.

That professional policy wonks lose sight of principles in the heat of a campaign is understandable. Regrettable, but understandable.

That a man of the cloth would do the same is just, well, depressing.

Someone please wake me from this horrible nightmare.