Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grassroots nudges

As expressed in the previous post, I see hopeful signs in the Church, which is always reforming and always in need of reform (ecclesia semper reformans, semper reformanda). Grass roots Our political system and secular culture are also in dire need of reform, but, lacking divine guarantees, it remains to be seen whether reform will come to these spheres.

Reform in the Church may come from either of two directions. Our shepherds, ignited by the Spirit, may lead and teach and live with such righteousness that the flame spreads, and the whole Body of Christ is revived and sanctified. Reform may also come via the anawim (the "little ones"), the rank-and-file saints who, bit by bit, make the whole lump better by their holy lives.

Barack Obama The reader is invited to offer arguments, but I believe reform in the secular, cultural sphere will come, if it comes at all, only in this latter, grassroots way. Having severely criticized our political and secular leaders, I don't honestly think they are the problem, nor will any real solutions come from the top down. The horror is not that Barack Obama believes abortion and infanticide to be OK; the real horror is that such a man is a serious candidate for President. That leaders like Obama and Pelosi and Clinton are acceptable to voters reveals our culture to be a very troubled one - in the mainstream, not just on the fringes.

John McCain I'm old enough to remember when a divorced man would have had trouble gaining political favor. Today John McCain is seen as an example of moral rectitude, and, relatively, this is probably an accurate perception. The bar is much lower; in fact, it has dropped so low that one may wonder whether the bar even exists any more. Many and loud are the voices who applaud this development as "open-minded" and "tolerant". If someone like Obama is acceptable today, perhaps a future round of political candidates will feature a cross-dressing, pedophiliac, ax-murderer whose significant other is her horse.

The point is: our culture has drifted far leftward and far wayward in recent decades. I have serious doubts whether it will reform before it collapses. But if our culture is to reform, it will do so, I believe, in a grassroots manner. At the heart of this conviction is the following understanding of what culture is, and how it moves:

aquarium Cultural values and expectations are quite democratic, based merely upon what is considered normal by the mass of its members. Human culture is, in simple terms, the amalgam or accumulated weight of all the people within it and their respective values and personal character. Like water in an aquarium, culture is the medium within which we all live and move. If one fish gets sick, the water in the entire aquarium is adversely affected. Then, if more fish get sick from the polluted water, the condition worsens. Like a sick aquarium, goodness and decency become much more difficult in a polluted culture like our own. But unlike the aquarium water, human culture can be purified as well as polluted by its individual participants. If I raise my personal bar, that affects others around me, and the cultural bar is nudged a tiny bit upward. When I fail, the bar drops a bit.

I would find this cultural tug-of-war quite hopeless and distressing except for one thing: God helps us to cheat. That's what grace is, a way to tilt the scales in an undeserved way. Grace, so that, even when we sin, we may nudge the bar upwards by seeking His forgiveness. Grace, through the Word and Sacraments and prayer, to gain strength that we would not otherwise possess.

There's nothing wrong with employing God's undeserved grace in the effort to nudge the cultural balance, as well as in each person's quest for spiritual growth. If my guess is right, there's really no distinction, anyway: Become holier and better and closer to God, and the culture automatically improves a little. And, in this contest, it's OK to cheat.


Michelle said...

You wrote "I'm old enough to remember when a divorced man would have had trouble gaining political favor."

And this is certainly true. Our leaders personal lives have not always been shining examples of moral rectitude. But they were still effective leaders in many ways. Ronald Reagan was divorced and remarried. But he accomplished many great things and worked with Pope John Paul II to effectively resist communism and bring it down. By comparison, what did Jimmy Carter ever accomplish during his presidency? This Democrat was never divorced and professes to be a Southern Baptist.

Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner who had sexual relations with one of his slaves outside of marriage. Jefferson was also an anti-Catholic. He gave us our nation's Constitution.

My point? the "bar" you speak of has really never existed in American politics. The high ideals we all yearn for as Catholics are found only in the Catholic and orthodox Churches. Most of the Protestant churches - since the Lambeth Conference in 1930 - now accept contraception.

Yes, McCain isn't perfect. But what is your goal here? To hurt McCain/Palin so that Obama/Biden supporters can benefit? Would you rather have Obama/Biden representing you in the White House? Obama professes to be Catholic and even says that he carries a rosary. This as he supports Roe v. Wade.

I'm voting for McCain/Palin. It's true that we've had better candidates. But an Obama/Biden White House would simply be a nightmare. Palin is ardently pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. Obama supports even infanticide.

Constitution Party as an option? You will only take votes away from McCain/Palin and help the Obama/Biden ticket.

Is this your goal?

Jerry said...

This post was meant to be about culture, not politics per se. I tried to convey that politics is not the real issue, but just an indicator of the root: the common values of the underlying culture. But your comments are well taken nonetheless, and may very well point to a tie-in theme. So thank you, Michelle, for some deserved and honest criticism, and hope that you will likewise accept this my response, and feel free to respond further.

I am well rebuked by your point that the bar of personal morality is mostly irrelevant in politics. I should not have referred to McCain's divorced status as if that ought to be a major determinination. The salient difference between McCain and Obama is not that McCain is divorced and Obama faithfully married, but that Obama supports and proposes immoral, inhuman, and unjust practices (abortion, infanticide, etc.) as a matter of public policy. So I stand corrected, and readily admit that a candidate's public policy positions are what count most (although personal morality and character are relevant as well). In public policy as well as in cultural moral standards, the bar has most assuredly slipped downward over the life of this Republic, the abolition of slavery being an exception. Within my lifetime, the bar has dropped with no exceptions whatever, this being my main point, which I still maintain.

Re. your reference to the Constitution Party: I presume that you have noticed the left side bar link to the Baldwin-Castle '08 site, and have deduced that this is my current political preference. If so, you deduce correctly.

The unstated premise in your argument is that only the two major parties are worth considering. I reject this either-or way of thinking. I could just as easily complain that your decision to vote McCain-Palin is hurting the Baldwin-Castle ticket. I could also justly claim that simplistic either-or thinking is hurting all salutary candidates who will not compromise their principles to accommodate a major party's 'big tent' philosophy.

I agree that an Obama administration would be a disaster. A John Kerry presidency would also have been horrible, so we compromised and voted for Bush. Likewise, Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 1992 and 1996 had to be defeated at all costs. Meanwhile, those salutary candidates who would really do something worthwhile were not even considered. At some point, somebody has to have the courage to leave the big tent. The Democrats of the early 1800's accepted the practice of slavery. The Whigs opposed it, but did nothing. It took a third party, the Republican Party, to abolish slavery. It may take another to restore legal protection to the pre-born, and/or head off the legal redefinition of marriage.

The point of the post was that, first, there must be a cultural shift of values.

Michelle said...

It's not that I believe "only the two major parties are worth considering." I'm just concerned from a practical standpoint that the Constitution party doesn't stand a real chance of attaining the White House. I have always been a Republican (for more than 40 years now). However, I would vote for a Third Party candidate or as an Independent if I felt a Third Party candidate had a real chance of winning the White House.

I just don't want to see Obama/Biden benefit from the loss of votes for the Republican ticket.

Anything.....anything is better than an Obama presidency.

Jerry said...

You wrote: "I would vote for a Third Party candidate or as an Independent if I felt a Third Party candidate had a real chance of winning the White House."

That real chance will come about only when people like you and me agree to leave the big tent and vote on principle. It's self-fulfilling, or self-defeating, depending upon your choice.

William said...

Palin will not be the next president. She is the bait to deceive dumb Christians into voting for John McCain as if anything she believes makes any difference. The only time a Vice President can cast a vote is the rare occasion when there is a tie vote in the U S Senate. John McCain is a paid up member of bthe one world government Council On Foreign Relations. Obama has connections with terrorist organizations and has been involved in some financial shenanigans. He refuses to honor our National Anthem and our Flag but millions of Christian halfwits will go into the polling place and vote him to be our next Commander In Chief.

Voting for the one who has a chance to win is like choosing which team you will support after the super bowl.

If Christians would all vote for the Constitution Party Candidate because it is a sin to vote queers, liars, and adulterers into the highest offices in the land Chuck Baldwin would be President. The truth is that Chuck does not have to win. All we need is 15% of the popular vote to turn things upside down for those corrupt thieving Democrat and Republican one worlders.

Anonymous said...

Let’s look at it like this. A third party vote will not hurt as much as you think.

If the Obama/Biden ticket would win the Presidency the conservatives will be up in arms around the country. The Republicans will use their minority power to block many bills at a procedural level because the atmosphere is so partisan in Congress. The conservative base has been very successful at defeating bills by pressuring the Congress, McCain-Kennedy. We would only lose a much ground as would be lost with McCain/Palin. Seems simplistic but it would be a reality. We still would not have a secure border.

Another point, we had 6 years of a Republican controlled Congress and we did not get abortion outlawed, smaller government, less spending, or more of our civil liberties back. We did get a tax cut, increased size in government, record deficits, pork spending out of control, Homeland Security (lost civil liberties), open-ended war, and generally poor leadership. Democrats for two years have been no different. Let us not forget border security.

If McCain/Palin wins we could expect some of the Republican minority to go along with another version of McCain-Kennedy, The Gang of Twelve attitude on judicial nominees, another version of McCain-Feingold only with more restrictions on any grass roots effort, and the loss of gun privileges. His record clearly speaks for itself and Palin as VP would unfortunately support him. McCain reaching out to the other side has been disastrous and could be devastatingly worse than partisan opposition to Obama. We will not have achieved border security at this point.

If you look at the primaries McCain and Obama barely received more than 40 percent of the total primary vote and don’t forget the third party voters no longer participating in the primaries. Approximately 60 percent clearly voted for other candidates and not for McCain or Obama. I will qualify this by saying that once all the other candidates dropped out only then did they even approach 50 percent. Obama lost most of the final primaries and Huckabee along with Ron Paul still managed to pull a significant number of voters away from McCain. It seems to me the third party is winning and unfortunately it happens to be the Republicans and Democrats. Voting for these third parties does hurt.

The two big box parties have convinced almost 60 percent of primary voters that they will throw their votes away. Why should they pinch their noses during election time and continue the slide towards socialism and vote for a candidate they didn’t want. Hillary supporters, Ron Paul supporters, Evangelicals, Social Conservatives, and Fiscal Conservatives from both sides of the aisle do not like the choice they have. The two big box parties have duped the majority of voters. I believe that a third party already has the votes to win and we would not lose as much ground as you think. The American voter has to wake up and see through this farce being propagated by the Republicans and Democrats.

A Baldwin Presidential run has the potential support of almost that 15 percent needed to shake things up as Ron Paul supporters look for a candidate to support. It’s closer than you think of actually becoming reality. Ron Paul had been able to win delegates and finish ahead of McCain in some cases. Ron Paul did suspend his Presidential Campaign too.

I apologize for not having the literary skills being displayed in this blog. I commend the contributors for your skill and eloquence. I like the topic and the discussion taking place in this blog.

Jerry said...

Anonymous: I think you have raised some very good points, and need not apologize for a lack of literary skills.

Jerry said...

All commenters: The debate over a third political party (Constitution v. Republican) started here, but some readers have carried it forward into the next two blog posts. Mostly pro-Republican moved, and pro-Constitution stayed here. I would suggest reviewing the comments made here, but offering any new remarks in the comments section of the next post, entitled Cultural tsunami, so that all debaters are on the same page.

I have only carried the latest comment (by Anonymous) over to that post.