Author Topic: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism  (Read 823 times)

RandyBosch

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The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« on: October 29, 2018, 11:00:06 AM »
The linked article "The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism" by Helen Rosenblatt is excerpted by her from her book, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century, Princeton University Press, © 2018, and published today in Literary Forum, a very, very liberal literature review and commentary publication.
Here is the link: https://lithub.com/the-thin-line-between-liberalism-and-totalitarianism/
The history of "liberalism", its cousin "progressivism" involves historical leaders, nations, philosophers and notable religious leaders known to you all.

A key phrase, “When you banished God from the world, these Christian theorists said, every foundation of morality was undermined.”

Reading a variety of comments on several current threads, I note a gradual but very apparent ramping up of rhetoric from that found in post-WWII liberalism to that blossoming in early 21st Century progressivism - including in several expressions of the Christian church in America.

As Ms. Rosenblatt's thesis sets forth, and in a traditionally liberal (strange construct, that...) Literary Hub raises cause for alarm among post-modern liberals, the thin line has now being breached in our churches and nation.
In my opinion, that breach shows up in the move toward totalitarianism among some commentators on ALPB Forum.

I'm certain your mileage may vary, but are you paying attention?

Dave Benke

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2018, 11:20:34 AM »
The linked article "The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism" by Helen Rosenblatt is excerpted by her from her book, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century, Princeton University Press, © 2018, and published today in Literary Forum, a very, very liberal literature review and commentary publication.
Here is the link: https://lithub.com/the-thin-line-between-liberalism-and-totalitarianism/
The history of "liberalism", its cousin "progressivism" involves historical leaders, nations, philosophers and notable religious leaders known to you all.

A key phrase, “When you banished God from the world, these Christian theorists said, every foundation of morality was undermined.”

Reading a variety of comments on several current threads, I note a gradual but very apparent ramping up of rhetoric from that found in post-WWII liberalism to that blossoming in early 21st Century progressivism - including in several expressions of the Christian church in America.

As Ms. Rosenblatt's thesis sets forth, and in a traditionally liberal (strange construct, that...) Literary Hub raises cause for alarm among post-modern liberals, the thin line has now being breached in our churches and nation.
In my opinion, that breach shows up in the move toward totalitarianism among some commentators on ALPB Forum.

I'm certain your mileage may vary, but are you paying attention?

I had a long-ish conversation with a young adult educator in an inner-city area this weekend.  He describes himself as a secular Jew, agnostic.  When I asked about how he forms and makes ethical and moral decisions, his answer was quick and to the point.  He said, "I know what's right and wrong from within.  And what's within me has been within societies and cultures throughout history.  Those that believed in a god said that the moral basis came from that god.  I believe those morals and ethics are commonly shared by humanity through the course of history, hammered out in various circumstances."

So, for him, removing God/god from the equation did not end in a loss of morals, but a relocation of their source, which is in the human spirit commonly held. 

Of course, I referenced his conversation as being found in the Bible in Romans 1, with the link back to, guess Who - God.

What does the Thin Line say about fascism/populism/tribalism?  Is it in the author's opinion a reaction to the loss of God in public conversation?

Dave Benke

Dan Fienen

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2018, 11:46:54 AM »


A couple of books that have done much to shape my understanding of the intersection between religion and government are The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion by Stephen L. Carter and Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian World View by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.  One point that both of these books make is that one of the roles that religion plays in public life is as an alternative source of truth and value to that of the government.  The independence of religion from government and the "official" version of things is a valuable contribution that it makes.  As such, it works against the totalitarian impulses the government seemingly inevitably has.


(Which is another reason for the separation of church and state so long as that does not mean that religion is thereby excluded from public life.  If religion is to offer that independent source of truth and values it can neither dominate government or be dominated by it.  Either would end its valuable independence.)

For a number of reasons ranging from a love of exercising power and reaping the perks of such exercise of power, to the assumption that since I am the leader, I must know best and it is best that everybody follow what I say.  We saw it in attempts to stifle dissent from the prosecution of the Viet Nam War and see it in attempts to stifle dissent from mandatory acceptance of LGBT rights, broadly interpreted, today.  The choice of a woman to abort her unborn baby is to be maintained sacrosanct, the right of a baker to decline to create a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration is to be eliminated with prejudice.  Dissent from either position is unacceptable.


This is one reason that freedom of religion, especially for religions that do not conform to accepted societal ideas, is important, and often threatened.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 11:55:00 AM by Dan Fienen »
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Terry W Culler

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2018, 11:47:16 AM »
I suspect the young, if pressed further, would somehow assert that morality is imbedded in our spirits (can  an agnostic say we have spirits?) by some sort of evolutionary process in which it was found that those who were "moral" survived better than those who were not.  This is an observably ridiculous argument since immoral folks have been very successful over many centuries.  His argument is simply an attempt to defend the indefensible.  In reality, No God=no morals=quest for power=a life that is nasty, mean, brutish and short for most people.
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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2018, 11:50:30 AM »
I suspect the young, if pressed further, would somehow assert that morality is imbedded in our spirits (can  an agnostic say we have spirits?) by some sort of evolutionary process in which it was found that those who were "moral" survived better than those who were not.  This is an observably ridiculous argument since immoral folks have been very successful over many centuries.  His argument is simply an attempt to defend the indefensible.  In reality, No God=no morals=quest for power=a life that is nasty, mean, brutish and short for most people.

I've read articles (and no I don't recall references) that have attempted to discern the evolutionary benefits of altruism and similar virtues.  Contrast that with the ideals of Nietzsche.
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Dan Fienen

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2018, 12:56:59 PM »
Having posted about The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion by Stephen L. Carter I was glancing again at the book and came upon this paragraph on pgs. 264-265, discussing the ultimately failed Moral Majority led by Jerry Falwell and the follow up organization led by Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition.  (This was written around 1993.)

Quote
Secular liberals have rarely appreciated and have never seemed sympathetic to what Falwell instinctively understood: the powerful sense of an America spinning out of control in ways that are, for many religious people, profoundly threatening  Dismissing these fears as racism, sexism, or homophobia does nothing to quiet them.  Such insults will simply send those who express the fears rushing into the waiting arms of the next demagogue.  What is needed, especially from liberals who pride themselves on a politics of inclusion, is a dialogue that takes the fears seriously, a dialogue that teaches but also tries to learn.  Falwell's Moral Majority very briefly filled this dialogic vacuum that liberalism should never have allowed.  All too many liberals--Bill Clinton, there is reason to hope, will be different--have cheered Moral Majority's failure rather than trying to appeal in a constructive way to the emotions Falwell tapped.

Seems almost prescient twenty plus years later.  The Liberal/Progressive Democratic mainstream has made it quite clear that conservative Christians are not welcome among them unless we deny what we have believed about morality.  Before Trump ever arrived on the political scene we were branded with every label that has been applied to Trump and have been assured that all that we have to look forward to is a legal and social climate that is increasing intent on making living out our beliefs marginalized at best and preferably illegal.  Trump is hardly an Evangelical Christian, but he welcomes us.  Democrats, by and large, are not Evangelical Christians, but they seem intent on letting us know that we are not welcome among them and that if they have their way we won't be welcome anywhere.  "Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated."
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 01:27:38 PM by Dan Fienen »
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Dave Benke

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2018, 01:28:18 PM »
I suspect the young, if pressed further, would somehow assert that morality is imbedded in our spirits (can  an agnostic say we have spirits?) by some sort of evolutionary process in which it was found that those who were "moral" survived better than those who were not.  This is an observably ridiculous argument since immoral folks have been very successful over many centuries.  His argument is simply an attempt to defend the indefensible.  In reality, No God=no morals=quest for power=a life that is nasty, mean, brutish and short for most people.

Romans 2:14, 15 on the natural/general use of the law: 
 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.

I'm in synch with you on the end-game of your post.  However,
a) there is the natural law and we would say that comes from God; agnostics would say that what "is written on their hearts" comes from an "evolutionary process."
b) Meeks and others have demonstrated the radical shift that took place in early Christianity, as the Christian movement transformed public morals.  That needs to be emphasized by Christians, not necessarily in a tub-thumpy way, but as a historical fact.
c) On the other hand, Christians have not been immune from the quest for earthly power and the actions that accompany it.  And there have been pagan rulers or rulers who have promoted justice and equity with a high moral compass.

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2018, 02:27:34 PM »
On the topic of tribalism/nationalism, I think some Christian criticism is misplaced. Per the readings yesterday, the eternal Gospel is proclaimed to every tribe. Per the readings for next week, the multitude robed in white comes from every tribe. Christianity does not proclaim some sort of tribelessness, but something every tribe has in common. And there is nothing greater to unite us apart from that eternal Gospel.

What the globalist/internationalist offers is an over-arching organizing principle that transcends tribes but that also emphatically is not the Christian Church. Hence, it offers the ultimate in statism, the state that rules over (and ultimately erases) all sub-states, the king of kings (but not Christ). That is what many Christians instinctively (and rightly) react against and are then called tribalists and dismissed as xenophobic, racist, or what have you. 

Neuhaus often commented that he expected to meet God as an American, meaning not that he expected God to be American but that being American was a redeemed aspect of who Neuhaus was, a good part of his identity in God's eyes, just like being Russian or Chinese would be a good and redeemed (though very different from Neuhaus) part of some other person's identity before God even in the eschaton.

The secular globalist thinks John Lennon's Imagine is a picture of perfection. The Christian considers it anti-Christian. The globalist hates borders, languages, and everything which gives the individual identity between the level of individual and the global organization. Christians acknowledge and appreciate all those differences while seeking to unite them in the eternal Gospel, which does not abolish but perfects particularities and brings them into harmony. Christians do things like bring the same Gospel into every language. Globalists do things like propose pan-religion and Esperanto for everyone. Christians propose peace between nations. Globalists propose nationlessness for all.

Yes, ultimately there is only one Lord. But it is important that it be THE Lord, not some worldly vision that unites us. 

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2018, 02:41:12 PM »

Peter, Amen.


I understand the attraction of Lennon's "Imagine" but I've always reacted to it with horror.  It is the more dangerous because objectively it is a beautiful song and masks the underlying totalitarian impulse with pretty melody and nice poetry.



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Steven W Bohler

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2018, 03:43:47 PM »

Peter, Amen.


I understand the attraction of Lennon's "Imagine" but I've always reacted to it with horror.  It is the more dangerous because objectively it is a beautiful song and masks the underlying totalitarian impulse with pretty melody and nice poetry.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
 
[Chorus]
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one


Says the man who lived in a guarded, gated, and secure building, where apartments cost in the millions.  Who, at the time of his death, was worth an estimated $200-250 million (his estate is worth about $800 million now).  Who was involved in lawsuits with Apple Computers (over the name Apple) and EMI (over song rights).

Imagine a world with no possessions?  I wonder if YOU can, John.

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2018, 08:52:43 PM »

Peter, Amen.


I understand the attraction of Lennon's "Imagine" but I've always reacted to it with horror.  It is the more dangerous because objectively it is a beautiful song and masks the underlying totalitarian impulse with pretty melody and nice poetry.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
 
[Chorus]
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one


Says the man who lived in a guarded, gated, and secure building, where apartments cost in the millions.  Who, at the time of his death, was worth an estimated $200-250 million (his estate is worth about $800 million now).  Who was involved in lawsuits with Apple Computers (over the name Apple) and EMI (over song rights).

Imagine a world with no possessions?  I wonder if YOU can, John.

Unless he's Elvis, the answer to your query is that John can no longer wonder.

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Steven W Bohler

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Re: The Thin Line between Liberalism and Totalitarianism
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2018, 09:15:14 PM »

Peter, Amen.


I understand the attraction of Lennon's "Imagine" but I've always reacted to it with horror.  It is the more dangerous because objectively it is a beautiful song and masks the underlying totalitarian impulse with pretty melody and nice poetry.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
 
[Chorus]
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one


Says the man who lived in a guarded, gated, and secure building, where apartments cost in the millions.  Who, at the time of his death, was worth an estimated $200-250 million (his estate is worth about $800 million now).  Who was involved in lawsuits with Apple Computers (over the name Apple) and EMI (over song rights).

Imagine a world with no possessions?  I wonder if YOU can, John.

Unless he's Elvis, the answer to your query is that John can no longer wonder.

Dave Benke

No, he doesn't have to wonder anymore.  And that is the saddest part.