Thursday, October 3, 2019

We're All Religious

Michael Knowles, of The Daily Wire, spoke at a YAF event at George Washington University Wednesday. During the Q&A, he answered a question about social degeneracy and religion. This was his answer:

Michael Knowles speaking at YAF event
at George Washington University, October 2, 2019
screenshot from here

Conservatives need to talk, not just about policies and economic issues, but about culture. And not just about culture, but about religion, because, there was a famous cardinal who said, “At bottom, all political disagreements are theological disagreements.” St. Andrew Breitbart, the patron saint of Hollywood conservatives said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” And cult and culture are related words. What the culture worships defines that culture.
Nobody wakes up in the middle of the night, says, “Aaahhh! We’ve got to lower the top marginal tax rate by 0.2%. We have to! And then we’ll have a country.” But no one cares about that. I like low taxes as much as the next guy, but that is not motivating to people.
Because, ultimately, we are religious beings. We long for religion. And everybody’s got to serve somebody. So, when the left abandons traditional religion, they don’t just become materialists; they become weird cultist materialists.
Just last week you had children taking off school for multiple days at a time to protest the weather or something. And it was being organized by the government, so I don’t even know what they were protesting. They were all on the same side.
Bernie Sanders came out and said that we need to sacrifice our children to the climate gods. We need to stop global warming by not having children anymore.
You hear this on— NBC News came out and created a climate confessional. Very Catholic; I kind of like that. But it’s like the opposite of Catholic, because they’re worshipping the creation, rather than the creator.
The rot begins at that level—at the religious level. You will not have an irreligious America that’s successful. John Adams put it very well. He said the country is built for a moral and religious people. It is not fit to the governance of anybody else. Moral and religious, because morality doesn’t just float in the air. It has a shape. It has form. It looks like something. And, if you are not going to enact that, if you are not going to deal in metaphysical reality, then you are going to find yourself very very confused. Not without religion, but with a very very strange looking religion, where you are clamoring and screaming at the sky for it to stop being so sunny everyday.
I’m considering that idea, near the beginning, about political disagreements being theological disagreements. This may be true, even when people who disagree aren’t aware of their religious premises.

Let’s take a look at a historical example: slavery. The anti-slavery movement took root among people who came to believe it was morally wrong. What kind of people think about the morality of something that had been legal and practiced in most societies for millennia? People who believed some basic things: human beings are divinely created by God. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Galatians 3:28). God grants us certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, the right to property ownership, and the choice to choose how to pursue our life’s work. Such people can see that taking the liberty of another person and using it for your own enrichment is morally wrong.

It took a religious people to recognize the divinity of human life, to raise awareness in a society that had accepted it as just the way the world always was, and then root it out.

That was a big task. And it took a good long time, which included a civil war here in America. But that society-wide repentance did happen. While slavery still may exist in the world, civilized people the world over all agree that it is morally wrong, and we must work to root it out.

There’s another divide now: abortion. The more we learn medically and scientifically, the more obvious it becomes that abortion is the killing of a human life. Looking at it morally, it appears to be a sacrifice to the religious belief that sex is a good, and a right, and should not have a negative consequence such as pregnancy. That’s not a Christian view. But it is religious—as Knowles calls it some “weird cultist” type of religion. This view actually sees killing a baby up to (and sometimes including shortly after) birth as a holy right (rite?), so moral that they require support of it by all of society through taxpayer money. It’s also political in our day.

Look at the religion of our founders. Sex outside of marriage was considered immoral. Sinning in that way, resulting in a pregnancy, was to be compensated for through marriage, since the important thing was to correct for the sin, for the sake of the new life coming from it. Killing the baby to cover up the sin was seen as abominable. That view was so long-standing that it is part of the Hippocratic oath, dating to about 275 AD Greece—not a Christian land, but you don’t get civilization without living the laws of civilization.

As a reminder, what are the principles necessary for civilization? You need a particular type of religious people—for the reasons I’m talking about today—who recognize God the Creator as the arbiter of good, to whom we are accountable, and from whom we are given our human rights. Such religious people need at least these five things: they honor God, life, family, truth, and property rights. As we’ve said here before, that is a summary of the Ten Commandments. And we emphasize the need for strong families—ideally a married husband and wife raising their own children in love and righteousness—in order to pass along the principles of civilization from one generation to another.

People can’t progress to being beyond a need for sexual morality, or beyond property rights. But many societies have decayed, or regressed, into sexual immorality and theft. Putting a government imprimatur on those things—or even government mandate for them—does not magically make them moral, good, or righteous. They lead inevitably to poverty and savagery.

So what we need is a moral revival—away from the pagan, selfish, prideful, life-sacrificing, liberty-depriving religion, and back to honoring God our Creator and right-giver, and therefore also honoring life, family, truth, and property ownership.

The question then becomes, how? Slowly, incrementally? Or fast, cataclysmically?

David Barton
screenshot from here
David Barton, at Wallbuilders, did a Facebook live this week (October 1), laying out the case for incremental progress in the right direction. He used the analogy of a football team, making relatively small progress down the field. From time to time they might make a long pass, but if they attempted the long pass every play, they’d probably be denied the progress they really want. He pointed out how slavery might have ended sooner if an incremental approach had been accepted at a certain point, but abolitionists insisted on all or nothing, and so the small step wasn't taken, and it was decades and war later before slavery was abolished.

I waiver between accepting small steps and wanting large leaps. We can celebrate small wins for civilization. But when we’re still wading in the muck of southern hemisphere tyranny and savagery, it’s hard to be patient enough to work our way up out of the swamp.

But the hopeful point is, social evils as long-standing as slavery can be overcome by a repentant people seeking to live the principles of civilization.

In my son’s elementary school, many years ago, the teachers used to give out awards—small things, such as a pencil, bearing the message “caught doing good.” It was an opportunity to interact with the kids when they were behaving in a way the teachers wanted to reinforce, and give them the idea that authority wasn’t always just looking for their mistakes. So, I’m in favor of catching people doing good.

Memorial Service for Sandeep Dhaliwal
screenshot from here
The outpouring of love in our local community for an officer, shot in the line of duty, was heartwarming. The incident happened just a few miles from our house. And the funeral yesterday was just a few miles further west. The love for this man, Sandeep Dhaliwal—and for his police brothers and sisters, and for the people of his religion (he was Sikh)—seemed unanimous.

Another heartwarming moment followed the upsetting trial of an officer who killed an innocent civilian when she entered the wrong apartment and thought she was facing an intruder. In the sentencing phase, the brother of the victim showed a sincere example of forgiveness, and asked if he could hug the convicted officer. She was found guilty and was sentenced to ten years, which is perhaps what society needed to do. But the brother—he was able to let go of the hurt and anger and see a contrite woman who had ruined her own life as well as his brother’s, and his compassion for her will be the most memorable part of that trial.

While both of these stories had people of various races and religions, these differences weren’t part of the story. Politics wasn’t part of the stories. Human love and decency were the important details.

If we keep finding the good, and refusing to accept the evil, maybe we can make incremental yardage toward the interrelated goals of freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

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