Catholic neocons reject social kingship of Christ, Blosser responds

It seems that George Weigel, Joseph Bottum, and (if they are to be believed) Richard John Neuhaus embrace the Rhonheimer heresy–namely that Jesus Christ has no authority over the United States as such, only over individuals in their ever-shrinking private lives.  Such are the depths of impiety to which Founderolatry leads.  The Pertinacious Papist has an excellent response here.

22 Responses

  1. While I generally agree with you and the P.P. on this, and am presently letting my First Things subscription run out for what I swear will be the last time, I’ll say one thing about the authority Jesus Christ has over the United States. Jesus Christ is, of course, Lord of all creation, and the U. S. is certainly part of creation. So He is Lord of the U. S., whether or not anyone “declares” this to be so. But when “He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” America will not be among the beings judged, just Americans. Curiously, this is just what the Judaizers at First Things can’t keep straight: the American nation has no special theological significance. America won’t be spending eternity anywhere.

    Presumably the value all Catholics, all Christians, should wish to see maximized is the number of souls united with God in Heaven. If maximal religious freedom is a means to THAT end, then we should maximize religious freedom. I can’t see how maximal freedom yields maximal salvation under the terms of the Gospel, but am open to arguments. I suspect the best system is one where dissent is tolerated, but also clearly discountenanced by the state. The Church has an exit, but it’s not just one outlet in a shopping mall of spiritual options.

  2. “Presumably the value all Catholics, all Christians, should wish to see maximized is the number of souls united with God in Heaven”

    Yes, another age of faith is what we should be aiming for. Since the last one was during the time of feudalism I am anxiously awaiting Bonald’s description of his neo-feudal ideas. My own knowledge of feudalism is far to sketchy to be able to support it, but I am certainly open to giving it a hearing.

  3. Hello JMsmith,

    I agree that America has no special significance. Christ is king of all nations. I’m just saying that our “separation of church and state” doesn’t exempt us.

    You are probably right about the ideal state for saving souls. Dissenters shouldn’t be martyred, but their outsider status should be made clear. In fact, a good model would be how liberals treat dissenters. They don’t actually kill or imprison them, but they are quite effectively marginalized. The only difference is that if I were in charge, I wouldn’t call this “neutrality”.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me just how desperate many supposedly “conservative” American Catholics try to conform Catholicism to American ideology. The other day Fr. Sirico wrote an article saying that Ayn Rand’s John Galt was a “Christ like” figure. While he of course condemned Rand’s celebration of greed and hatred of children I took the overall tone to be one of admiration of Rand.

    OT but Bonald do you by chance know of any book that critiques Whig historiography particularly from a traditional Catholic/MacIntyrean perspective?

    Thanks

  5. “The Myth of Religious Violence” by William Cavanaugh would be a good place to start.

    (See https://bonald.wordpress.com/book-reviews-history/the-myth-of-religious-violence/)

  6. I disagree that America has no theological significance. Is Israel theologically insignificant? Didn’t the OT prophets prophesy judgments upon particular nations? Do not kings walk in the light of the eternal city and carry their treasures into her? Shall not all nations be blessed in Father Abraham and his Seed?

    Nations, itstm, are not mere aggregates of individuals, but real entities.

  7. Hello Mr. Matthews,

    You are correct. I meant to say that America has not special theological significance, i.e. no more than Belgium or Venezuela.

  8. Belgium is a very good case-study for the subject of this thread. Historically, it is the old Catholic South Netherlands and, as a state, Catholicism was its raison d’être: what united Flemings and Walloons in a common citizenship was the Faith. Secularism has deprived it of its Res Publica – its common thing – and Belgian identity is becoming largely meaningless.

    I recall how the crucifix was quietly removed from the court rooms, without any public debate; in fact, no one seemed to notice. Now, what is very striking is that nothing was put in its place – not the royal arms, not the national flag, nothing. That pretty well sums up modern Belgium, as a polity.

    At a subconscious level, I think people realise it: the only ones that get married nowadays are the rich, Muslims and gays.

  9. That is a very interesting case. It reflects how I feel about Europe generally–since they rejected Christianity, I have a hard time caring what happens to it. When the showdown comes between the rich gays and the Muslims, my sympathy will be with the Muslims.

  10. Bonald: “When the showdown comes between the rich gays and the Muslims, my sympathy will be with the Muslims”

    I think that is a short-term outlook. Due to their hatred of family and traditional order liberals are literally wiping themselves out. When people talk about the suicide of the west and the demographic decline they are talking about liberals.

    If the Muslims can be held off in Europe – hard to see how now they have their beachhead – then the traditionalists and Christians will take over in due time as the liberals proceed with their exit from this world. Liberals are a deadly short-term threat, but their only long-term damage will be to hand the historic homeland of Christian Europeans to a foreign Muslim population that will cling to Islam for centuries after the liberals themselves are gone.

    Put simply: long-term liberals are irrelevant. The strategic war is with Islam.

  11. Hi Mr. Griffin,

    I wish it were true that liberals are not a long-term threat, but if they succeed in converting all of our children–as they have nearly succeeded in doing–then Christianity won’t be around to see any post-liberal long term. The majority of young people support gay “marriage”, so demography is apparently not working in our favor. We have the babies; they get to indoctrinate them in the schools. Also, let’s not underestimate the liberals’ ability to convert Muslims.

  12. Andrew,
    I make no claim to authority on this question, and haven’t time to look up the relevant scripture, but will nevertheless stand by my statement that the U.S. has no theological significance. Here are my reasons:

    (1) The U.S. is not a true nation. Nation implies real or imagined blood relation, and I presume this is also true of the word translated as nation. Any Biblical author looking at the U.S. would say it is an empire, a collection of peoples living under the same government. The idea that the U.S. has a special world-historic role to play began after the Revolution, mostly among the radical democrats, many of whom were aggressively anti-religious.

    (2) To say that all nations will be blessed or judged does not necessarily imply that they will be blessed or judged as nations (i.e. collectively). The principle of a high school might say “all classes will be tested,” but they would not be tested as classes. I think these expressions simply express the monotheist claim that the God of Israel is the God of all.

    (3) Would a favorable or unfavorable judgment of my nation be weighted into some sort of salvific equation? Obviously my chances of being in a state of sanctifying grace are affected by my circumstances, but it’s hard to see justice in national demerits being added to the record of a righteous man who grew up in a wicked and apostate nation.

    (4) I agree with you that nations (and empires) are real entities that have properties not found in their parts, and that their actions can affect the spiritual welfare of the people in them; but I do not believe they are themselves spiritual entities. Once all the Americans have been judged, in other words, there is nothing left to judge.

    None of this is meant to disparage the U.S. There are many fine things in this world that have no theological significance.

  13. George Weigel’s comments on the competency of the state- that a state that is unable to fix pot holes should not be proclaiming Christ as king is interesting. It actually has a place in Catholic tradition. I think I belongs to an Augustinian view that sees the state as remedy for sin. One could almost construct a link between Locke’s view of the state and Augustine in this matter, both see the state’s role in maintaining property as fundamental.

    In the last 1000 years Catholic political philosophy has been far more Aristotelean- Thomist. A positive view of the state as the arena of human flourishing- as something necessary even before the fall. When we as traditional Catholics write on these issues we tend to take for granted the Augustinian tradition on the state.

    Don’t take me wrong, I am totally Thomist and think that the documents of the c19-20 on the modern state stick the tradition absolutely in the Thomist camp- it is just worth remembering that Christian political philosophy as it has come to develop was not instant and indeed was quite different at one point.

  14. yes America is of little significance, England on the other hand… 😉

  15. It is interesting that in the apparitions of the Angel to the children at Fatima he declared himself as “the Angel of Portugal”.

    I think if we take on the identity of belonging to a nation and do so uncritically and without praying for its conversion and making reparation for the sins of those who share our identity we will be judged for it.

  16. Hello Mark,

    Saint Augustine did think that the state was only necessary because of the Fall, but given that the Fall happened, I’m not sure how much that would practically restrict its operation. After all, he did encourage the state to suppress the Donatists.

  17. Bonald, this is my favorite site. It’s a privilege to be able to contribute to the discussion.

    I rather think that America has its own unique theological significance as do Belgium and Venezuela have theirs.

  18. JMsmith, Thank you for the comprehensive reply. I was a bit daunted at first, but thought I’d give it a shot.

    1) The U.S. isn’t a nation… Perhaps. Rome–the city–istm, was a “nation” in the sense you mean. But, what was the Roman *Empire*? It certainly was a real corporate entity with a world-historic role, as were the three great empires that predated it. They all had theological significance. See Daniel 2:31-43.

    The Reformation may be distinguishable from the Revolution or it may not be. Yet, the colonialist belief that God had called the Puritans to build a “city on the hill” for all the world to see dates pretty early by any reckoning of the founding of this country.

    2) This is certainly a logically possible way to read such passages, but factually untrue when we observe how God dealt with nations as recorded in sacred history. The question whether nations are judged or blessed corporately is decided when we learn that nations can become polluted by sin (Lev. 18:28) and be destroyed for their disobedience (Deut. 8:20).

    Furthermore, that God dispensed “inheritances” to the nations by dividing them according to the twelve tribes of Israel (Deut. 32:8), suggests to me that the shape of national boundaries anticipate the distribution of future eschatological blessings.

    The God of Israel entered into a distinct covenantal relation with Israel–unique to Israel. And, because he is God of the Gentiles also, he may (and has, I believe) entered into special relationships with other nations as they enter the Church.

    3) I would never argue that national membership *determines* salvation. Individuals may be saved out of doomed nations and individuals may fall from elect nations. Yet, should we not consider whether the dimensions of the body of Christ, which are certainly large enough to contain all that Israel *means*, may not also include the nations?

    4) This distinction between real and spiritual entities, may be relevant. So an initial question I have is, how does national essence subsist, in your view?

  19. Andrew,
    I suspect some of our disagreement arises from the ambiguity of the phrase “theological significance,” and I confess I don’t quite know how to do away with the problem. I’m using the phrase to indicate beings destined for eternal life, whether in Heaven or Hell. Humans are the only earthly beings I’m familiar with that appear to have this destiny, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of other such beings. But it is also true that the specific eternal destiny of any particular human being will be affected by their circumstances, and so these circumstances are in a sense theologically significant.

    My resistance to the idea that the U.S. has special theological significance is grounded in my dislike and fear of messianic politics in America. (I equally dislike and fear the view that the U.S. is uniquely evil.) I think the rhetoric of messianic politics is routinely exploited by politicians to manipulate American sentiments, and that it occasions pride that clouds moral conscience. I also think that Americanism can too easily become a Christian heresy–essentially liberalism articulated in a Christian vocabulary.

    Your last question is interesting, and difficult. It seems to come down to this: is the “spirit” of a people only a metaphor? My sense is that it is, and that the “spirit” of a people can be reduced to the spirits of all the individuals through all the generations that form that people. These individual spirits have the same “shape” due to common heredity and culture, but they are not particles of some superorganic being. I’m not altogether happy with this answer, which is more nominalist than I like, but its the best I can do for now.

  20. How’s this for an acceptable middle position: The only spiritual substances on Earth with eternal destinies are human individuals, but we will still have national identifications in heaven and there give our allegiance to God both as individuals and as Americans. In that sense, the American “spirit” will be redeemed and subsist forever in heaven. The only thing I don’t like about this is that it would make national allegiance more permanent than marriage, since we know the latter does dissolve at death. I would have been more inclined to believe that marriage lasts for eternity, except that Christ has specifically told us it doesn’t.

  21. But what of the man who lived 20 yrs in England, 20 in France, 20 in Spain and 20 in the US, who had parents from Senegal and China but really loved Italian food…?

    Which nationality will he hold at the resurrection?

    Its ok construing a ‘last battle’ perfection of England in heaven, but I’m not sure about us individually holding glorified passport nationalities for eternity.

    It’s more complicated though because identity does alter heavenly glory- St Thomas asserts the different type
    of halos for those who fulfilled different vocations on earth.

  22. Hello Andrew.

    I’m very pleased that you like this site, especially since I think very highly of yours. And thank you for contributing to an interesting discussion.

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