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Our New Civil War

Note to readers: I want to apologize to anyone who interpreted the inclusion of the MoveOn image below as an endorsement of the candidate shown. I chose that image, and I can assure you I did so only to illustrate themes in Professor Carlin’s column, since said image seemed to me an excellent, contemporary example of a Soviet-style propaganda poster. In any case, TCT never endorses any candidate. If we did, it wouldn’t be her. -Brad Miner

The American Civil War has often been called the “Second American Revolution.”  Well, I have the feeling that we are now living through what may be called the “Second American Civil War.”

On the one side are leftist “progressives,” who hope to turn the United States into a new and better country than it has ever been.  On the other side (the side that I myself favor) are those who wish to preserve the old-fashioned America, at least in its essentials.  I suppose we should call these people “conservatives” or “traditionalists.”

One of the great advantages the forward-looking progressives have is that even their enemies tend to be forward-looking.  A belief in never-ending progress is a traditional American belief.  Conservatives are slow-moving progressives.  Their motto is, “Steady as she goes.”  The progressive motto is, “Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes.”

Present-day progressivism has an agenda resting on four pillars, two of them negative or destructive, two positive or creative.

The two negative pillars are (1) anti-Christianity and (2) anti-American nationalism. Progressives seek to replace these with two positive pillars are (3) secular humanism and (4) “multicultural” cosmopolitanism.

(1) The attack on Christianity is an attack, not on liberal or modernistic Christianity, but on old-fashioned Christianity: I mean the Christianity of the New Testament, the Christianity of the Nicene Creed, the Christianity that is the common ground shared by Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism.  Progressives have little or no objection to liberal or modernistic Christianity, which is a form of religion that has cast overboard almost all the content of traditional Christianity. It is a semi-atheistic kind of “Christianity” that has welcomed, supported, and been inspired by progressivism.

The chief weapon progressivism has used against Christianity has been the Sexual Revolution, that is, the ideal of sexual freedom that has captivated America for the last sixty years or so.  Persuade the American public that there is nothing morally objectionable in fornication, sexual promiscuity, unmarried cohabitation, out-of-wedlock childbirth, abortion, homosexual conduct, same-sex marriage, etc., and the American public, having got rid of Christian morality, will quite logically proceed to get rid of the doctrinal foundations of that morality.

(2) The attack on American nationalism has intensified in recent years as progressives have repeatedly reminded us, along with our children and grandchildren, of the many sins that have been committed by the United States, these sins being a continuation of the sins committed by our predecessors in the colonies of British North America.

It’s a 400-year tale of horror: stealing land and something like a genocide directed against indigenous peoples, centuries of slavery, another century of Jim Crow racism, capitalist-inspired destruction of the environment and exploitation of workers, the oppression of women, and a  generalized hatred of many groups – LGBTQ people, people of color, Muslims, refugees, Hispanics, transgenders.

A tale of horror – but not unmitigated horror.  For there have been some good people along the way: Tom Paine, Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, and a few others.  Thomas Jefferson was half-good (because of the Declaration of Independence) and half-bad (because of his sexual exploitation of Sally Heming).  Theodore Roosevelt was partly good (because of his national parks) though mostly bad (because of his belligerent nationalism and militarism).

In short, a one-sided, Howard Zinn tale of US history.

(3) If progressives are successful in getting rid of that nasty thing, Christianity, they will need a new “religion” to replace it.  And they have long had one ready, going back to the days of John Dewey if not Karl Marx. This new religion is secular humanism, that is, atheism with a human face.  Mankind will no longer need to rely on that twofold myth of God – God as Creator and as the author of our moral imperatives.

We will be content to believe that the universe is a chance and meaningless thing; that our brief lives, along with the lives of our loved ones, are without any cosmic or eternal significance, and cease forever at the moment of death; and that the rules of morality are nothing more than convenient and temporary rules that help members of this or that society to get along with one another.

Aided by science and drugs (both medicinal and recreational) and personal freedom, we will live happy lives.  And when our lives cease to be pleasant, somebody (our relatives or the state) will do us the favor of euthanizing us.  A “Brave New World” indeed.

(4) Instead of being that petty thing, an American nationalist, each of us will become that grand and splendid thing, a citizen of the world – a cosmopolitan in the literal sense of that word, which comes from two Greek words, cosmos (= world) and polis (= city-state).  Once upon a time, progressives tell us, it made sense that mankind should be divided into a large number of tribes, cities, nations, etc.  But that time is past.

Now we live in a world that is increasingly a single world: a world unified by commerce, finance, communications, international travel, etc.  Nationalism (or patriotism if you prefer calling it that) is, and should be, a dying thing.  We need a global patriotism.  We should not say, “My country is the USA.”  We should say, “My country is the world.”  We should not say, “Make America great again.”  We should say, “Make the world great for the first time.”

So the progressives tell us.  And that explains why progressives have little or no objection to massive illegal immigration into America.  After all, aren’t we all fellow-citizens of the world.  Why shouldn’t our doors be open to everyone on the face of the Earth?

It is quite possible that progressives will prevail in the long run.  Who knows?  But who can be surprised if American-Christian traditionalists fight back in the meantime?  And who will be surprised if the fight sooner or later becomes bloody?

I fear we have a very unpleasant half-century in front of us.

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.



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