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By David Warren   
Saturday, 18 May 2013
 
 
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The news from those United States, reaching the Great White North this last fortnight, has been quite surprising. It could be summarized under the headline, “Sic transit gloria mundi.” Apparently the president of our neighboring republic, who appeared secure, even unassailable after his election victory last November, now floats in the mire of political scandals.

Since most of the people reading this column will be Americans, themselves, I don't think I need do more than list these scandals: 1. Internal Revenue Service; 2. Benghazi; 3. Associated Press. They combine in an exceptionally unpleasant way, for partisans of President Obama, for they do not only further outrage his natural opponents. They outrage his natural supporters, including the liberal mass media.

Journalists who could forgive Obama almost anything, so long as he remained the mascot of emancipation and progress, suddenly discover that his Justice Department thinks little of tapping their phones. I think that is why America is suddenly privy to information on the other scandals, too.

I am not in the political prediction business – at least, not any more – so will not guess where all this is going. When I was in that business, I noticed that the best predictions were simply descriptions of present underlying realities. Deviations are temporary and illusory; the safest bet is always for a return to the norm.

The media, and the American liberal establishment more generally, will not be converted into Tea Party cheerleaders in the foreseeable future. They are the party of big government, and of the secular humanist agenda, and no mere scandal is going to change that. They will scramble back aboard the statist juggernaut at the first opportunity.

And Obama is not the issue. He never was. For all his charisma, had he not served the liberal agenda, he would never have come near the presidency. Should he cease to serve it, he goes under the bus.

Here is something I think people towards the “right” end of the political spectrum seldom understand. (That the “left” don't and won't, may go without saying.) It is that politicians have little power, and arguably none. Nor for that matter have the media any power, in and of themselves. Nor will voting change the direction of public affairs.

The people can change things only by what they are, not by what they say. They may swing a few points this way or that in the face of things like public scandals, but are, underlying, set in their ways.

Like it or not, the broad majority of North Americans, even when nominally Christian, have long since abandoned the Christian worldview. It would take a very ingenious trick to make them vote as if they hadnt.


         St. Paul Preaching to the Athenians on the Areopagus by Leonard Porter, 2009

This reality is brought home by the triumph of same sex marriage – something that would have been inconceivable to public opinion less than a generation ago. But it was apparent even during the Reagan administration, that supporters of both prominent political parties had bought into what I persist in calling the Nanny State.

Indeed, the failure of opposition to the Great Society innovations of the 1960s made the “new” reality perfectly clear. And the consensus for state invasion of territory traditionally occupied by family, community, and church, is what made the New Deal possible. For that matter, Woodrow Wilson could never have been elected if a “progressive” consensus had not already formed among the intellectual elites, and was already trickling down through the masses, prior to World War I.

We were not born yesterday, and yet, it is a presumption of the present political order that we must have been, for the Christian argument against Statism is consistently presented as if it were new, and as if the fully atomized “mixed economy” were something old and inevitable.

The argument was cluttered from the beginning by a false inference. Because the state was invading “private” territory (in America as in Europe) in order to advance outwardly Christian ideals, it was taken to be vindicating them. Those opposing the state could be accused of opposing the ideals. What kind of Christian could possibly be against helping the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the old, the disabled? The juggernaut of state rolled over them: not yesterday, but a century ago.

And that is why I have come to think participation in politics is a waste of time. Or, to go full-bore Shakespearean: “Thexpence of Spirit in a waste of shame.”

The outer limit of what can be achieved is purely defensive: to obtain some form of public toleration for the practice of Christianity, so that it need not go entirely underground. Here I am thinking less of the U.S. Constitutional protections for freedom of speech and religion, than of the rather older Edict of Milan, whose 1700th anniversary we are (quietly) celebrating. This freed Christians from direct persecution throughout the Roman Empire.

Granted, the Edict is not enforceable in U.S. courts, but then, neither are the Constitutional protections. As Chief Justice Roberts made clear in the Obamacare judgment, a year ago, the courts will no longer stand in the way of government legislation. If it happens to strip some minority of their most elementary rights, hey, let the people, if they wish, vote to restore them. The law is like paper money: whatever the government wants to print.

And yet it always was. The Edict of Milan did not come down because the rulers of old pagan Rome had a change of heart. They had a change of heart because, despite their persecutions, the people of the Empire were becoming Christian. Verily, they were becoming Christian themselves.

Emperors, kings, presidents, prime ministers, are so much froth. They do not even control their own destinies, as the current Washington scandals remind us. The more I consider the matter, the more I am convinced that evangelization is not the most important thing. It is the only thing that can make a difference.

 

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: http://davidwarrenonline.com/
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (14)Add Comment
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written by Martha Rice Martini, May 18, 2013
A GREAT article! But, Mr. Warren, the pernicious doctrine you declaim -- statism, progressivism -- has, in large measure, captured the CHURCH, thanks to Jacques Maritain and others, so that even the CHURCH must be evangelized!
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written by Manfred, May 18, 2013
This is truly an excellent piece, Mr. Warren. One need only remember that the persecution of the early Catholics went on for 250 years (Think of 1760 to today). Recall the Kulturkampf of Bismarck in the 1870s which drove many Catholics out of Germany. Catholics MUST return to belief in the dogma of Original Sin and the truth that Satan is indeed the Prince of this World. Robert Royal's recent column on Russell Shaw's new book on Catholicism in America says it all. In the 19th century there were two notable converts: Isaac Heccker who founded the Paulist Fathers, and Orestes Brownson. They finally broke on the future of Catholicism in the U.S., with Brownson stating that America would be less and less congenial toward Catholicism, and the present day proves how prescient he was.
Thank you again for this "keeper".
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written by DeGaulle, May 18, 2013
The engine of Evangelisation may again be Martyrdom.
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written by Maggie-Louise, May 18, 2013
Martha, Not long ago I suggested here that our first evangelization efforts should be directed toward out bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, and asked (half jokingly) how we could launch that effort.

I guess there is nothing for it but to recapitulate the last 2,000 years of history, and it won't be so easy this time. As least 2,000 years ago the culture had a religious sense--pagan yes, but paganism awaiting Truth. Now religion itself is despised. That will be a harder nut to crack.
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written by Grump, May 18, 2013
Good stuff, but disagree on Obama not being the issue. He IS, having split a once-united nation into two political, social and cultural camps, at war with each other. He will go down in history as "The Great Divider." Irretrievably cleaved, the United States of America will cease to exist as we know it. Despite scandal after scandal and bad leadership, he will never be impeached because the media have his back. White guilt is what got him elected and white guilt is what will keep him in office no matter what.

To update an old lawyer joke:

Terrorists break into a Democrat meeting and take all hostage. Then the terrorists announce that unless their demands are met they will release one hostage every hour.


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written by Sir Mark, May 18, 2013
Sorry, Grump, but are you saying that divide didn't exist under Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, or LBJ? I am a child of the 60's, and believe me that the divide was deep and wide even then. Obama has a lot for which to answer, but he did not create the divide. He is a product of it.
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written by ron a., May 18, 2013
Absolutely true. The real enemies are big business (advertising & materialism), Hollywood and the MSM (blatant expression of moral decay & transformation of values) and the academy (rationalistic, "progressive" [pushing for change and personal influence thru indoctrination], & closed to the Truth [a very proud group].) These, by the way, are not to be construed as separate, they interact with each other. It is THESE that shape the culture. Politicians, for the most part, are respondents.
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written by Randall, May 18, 2013
Mr. Warren gets to the heart of the matter. I'm afraid the United States, and western civilization generally, went off the rails long ago. Rebecca West described it this way prior to WWII (she saw it 'way back then'): western civilization is like a beautiful rose bush already cut down and tossed on the compost pile; we're like aphids feeding on the leaves still green.

When we're on our knees in the ashes, we'll be open to the voice of God once again.
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written by Maggie-Louise, May 18, 2013
Dear Sir Mark,

Obama is a product of Black Liberation Theology through Jeremiah Wright who received it from James Cone. Obama has never heard an authentic Christian word, only corruptions of them. David Hart (aka "Spengler") wrote a wonderful essay on Obama's early years in "The Peculiar Theology of Black Liberation". I'll bet you can still find it on the internet.

And you are right to target the '60s, although the divide was not very deep then in the general culture, although it may have been taking firm hold in the academy. Until the '60s, the grown-ups were in charge, and they had just fought two wars. Don't forget that it was the children of the WWII veterans who were the first generation to go to college in great numbers. Their poor parents had no idea that they were sending them into the hell-hole of leftist academia. I can pretty well date the age of the commenters here by their attitude that underlies their words--so sharp is the pre-60s and post-60s divide.
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written by Jack,CT, May 18, 2013
Dear Maggie-Louise,
I agree,I also find some of the
generational gap interesting.I see alot of partic-
inship and to be honest i am not suprised....
I as a Conservative agree with our opening comment
about "Obama is a product Liberation Theology",but
I am not completly convinced he is all that "Spiri-
tual!
I always felt we are a product of all of our experinces
and as a bi-racial man Obama has more than the "Black
Liberation" Theology to draw upon
There are many scandels at the present time and none
of them are linked as I see it.
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written by Grump, May 18, 2013
Sir Mark, I am a child of the 40's and would agree there has always been a divide in this country but never as deep as now and perhaps not so since the Civil War. I grew up when Ike was President and I remember a much more united and homogenous nation, not riven by race, religion, politics and culture. Homosexuality was widely condemned or outlawed, the idea of "gay marriage" was unheard of, much less ever mentioned by any politician especially the President. Journalists back then were objective, fearless and fierce defenders of the Fourth Estate, not lackeys and stenographers like they are now.

It would take too much band width to list all of Obama's crimes and impeachable offenses, his flouting of the law, his obvious disdain for Constitutionally guaranteed rights, his vigorous promotion of the culture of death, including but not limited to infanticide, the murder of innocents by drones and other unjust wars, ad nauseum. He represents and symbolizes all that is wrong with his country.
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written by Dennis, May 18, 2013
Ted Hesburgh, when president of Notre Dame, was essential in giving intellectual cover to all manner of evil within the Church. I remember the pornography fest one year. Abortion proponents collected speaker fees and degrees. Dissent was king. Nominal catholics had a friend at ND. And a microphone. He undercut the intellectual force of the Church's moral arguments: dissenters could coolly point to their honorary degree from ND and tell the Church to get lost. Horrid man.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, May 19, 2013
Grump summarizes it best for me. No need to say more.
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written by Sue, May 20, 2013
Yes to Dennis about Notre Dame. Hesburgh was bought up by Rockefeller and Catholics seem oblivious to the connection between Hesburgh and Obama.

Voris has a good research report on this, here's an excerpt from the script:"In the early ‘60s … John D. Rockefeller III approached Fr. Theodore Hesburgh who was then president of Notre Dame … and asked about the possibility of Notre Dame hosting a Population Council meeting at the university. In 1965 … Fr. Hesburgh invited Rockefeller-funded Planned Parenthood to hold a number of so called “secret conferences” at Notre Dame … through the intervention of Fr. John O’Brien … head of the theology department. Former Notre Dame professor ... and editor of the website Culture War Notes dot com … E. Michael Jones … offers these observations about the university’s wholesale betrayal of the Catholic Faith … as part of a self-absorbed trading of souls for foundation funding.
PAUSE FOR SOT These conferences were kept very quiet and only advertised to the most friendly of potential guests. Rockefeller needed a Catholic in the camp … so to speak and he found a willing one in Ted Hesburgh. Fr. Hesburgh sold out Catholic higher education … and, specifically, Our Lady’s university … for a share of Rockefeller’s millions … and the accompanying worldly respect … And there was plenty of it … For starters … amazingly … Fr. Theodore Hesburgh … actually served on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation as well as held other important positions over the course of 20 years within the organization … the same organization that is a leading proponent of the Culture of Death."

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