A Proposal for a Jeffersonian Supreme Court

Leave a comment

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Mr. Trump’s executive order on immigration will be going to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has claimed, ever since Chief Justice John Marshall’s Marbury v. Madison ruling of 1803, that it is the final arbiter on the constitutionality of a given law. This was, in effect, an illegal seizure of power by the judicial branch of the government from the legislative branch. Thomas Jefferson feared that such a power-play would happen and thus was skeptical of the very existence of a supreme court. He suggested that the Court should play an advisory role on the constitutionality of laws rather than a coercive role. Yet critics may ask, “How can this practically work?” Below, I offer a suggestion.

Suppose there is a question concerning the constitutionality of a law passed by the U. S. Congress or by a state legislature, and the case reaches the Supreme Court. Suppose the court rules the law constitutional. Then it would remain law without further review. But if the court rules, that in the opinion of the majority, it is unconstitutional, then the law would be sent back to the legislative body that passed it for reconsideration based on possible unconstitutionality. If, after such reconsideration, the legislative body decides to rescind the law then the law is repealed. But if, after further review, the legislative body affirms the constitutionality of the law, then it remains law. In that way, the Supreme Court’s ruling is taken seriously, but remains only advisory. A flowchart is below:

supreme-court-reviews-law-for-constitutionality

Shake the Dust off Your Feet

Leave a comment

Those of us who are conservative struggle to know what to do in the face of a militant, hostile, and oftentimes violent version of social “democratic” liberalism. Cutting ties with family, friends, and professional associations is difficult, and most of us want to avoid doing that if possible. However, family and friends who are leftist ideologues make harsh, personal comments that make it difficult if not impossible to sustain meaningful relationships with those people. Professional associations in academia are condemning traditionalist positions; even the Society of Christian Philosophers leadership condemned the great Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne for his opposition to homosexual practice. These are times of cutting ties on both sides of our sharply divided political spectrum. Mostly it has been the Left who are cutting ties, unfriending people on Facebook, refusing to invite family members home at holidays, and in the case of celebrities, publicly condemning family members for their “offense” of voting for Mr. Trump (as Ashley Judd did). While conservatives tend not to break ties, there are times in which doing such is unavoidable. Below are some of the ties I have cut.

I rarely unfriend people on Facebook, but I have unfriended a few. Some were personally obnoxious and insulting to me; others were indirectly insulting by labeling all conservatives and Trump supporters as racists, sexists, etc. I can even let that go, but some liberals have posted the most obnoxious, mean, hateful posts that I felt I had no choice but to unfriend them. That has only happened three or four times (0ut of 700 FB friends), and I hated having to do it. I am not going to renew my membership in the Society of Christian Philosophers due to its treatment of Professor Swinburne. I decided not to renew my membership in the North Carolina Poetry Society due to a ridiculous sexual harassment policy that would forbid a single man from asking a woman who is a member of that organization out on a date–even if such asking takes place outside the context of a meeting. It is not merely the silliness that merely asking someone out is sexual harassment; it is the evil and arrogant intrusion into people’s private lives.

I am also not renewing my membership in the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Their meetings have become libfests on the unholy trinity of race, class, and gender. Life is too short for me to waste time on such ignorance and stupidity. I have joined online organizations–a conservative, pro-Trump group of academics and writers, and a group for conservatives of all varieties who are creative writers. Long ago I joined the National Association of Scholars rather than the American Association of University Professors. I am hoping for an organization for philosophers to be founded that is similar to the group for traditionalist scholars in English.

At school I do my job quietly (and hopefully well–I try my best) and work on my research project on ghosts, philosophy, and theology. I continue to do creative writing and have kept up my membership in the Horror Writers Association, which has thus far avoided falling wholly into the politically correct cesspool.  I gladly argue with open-minded liberals and try to avoid those who are not. I stay at home when not required by teaching or office hours or meetings, but if there’s an interesting lecture, film, play, or music concert on campus, I enjoy attending those. But in all of life there seems more bitter division and fewer lasting friendships between people who are ideologically different.

To me, this division is sad. But world views are at stake, and human beings are naturally defensive about the fundamental values by which they live their lives. Since our real battles in society today are world view battles, I see the trend of division continuing indefinitely into the future.

 

 

Why I am not Theologically Liberal

Leave a comment

Sometimes “you can’t win for losing.” Fundamentalist Christians would consider me a liberal for not being a strict inerrantist on scripture–yet I have far more in common with a Fundamentalist Protestant than a theologically liberal Protestant or Roman Catholic. Definitions are important–a theological liberal will not be an inerranist on scripture, but that is not what makes him a theological liberal. Theological liberalism is an attempt to update Christianity for the contemporary period. Such updating may include substantial changes in Christian theological teaching, such as the denial of the full divinity of Christ, His bodily resurrection, His virgin birth as well as a denial of any subjective afterlife for human beings. Liberals may also accept substantial revisions to the doctrine of God such as, for example, denying that God knows the future and believing that God grows along with the universe. Some deny that God can utterly destroy evil. On moral issues, theological liberals tend to accept the rightness of abortion, premarital sex, homosexual practice, and trangenderism. All the above beliefs would be, to any traditional Christian, heretical. While liberals’ acceptance of social democratic economic liberalism is not heretical, one can argue that it is wrongheaded. In some cases, economic Marxists deny that human beings are fallen creatures, and such a belief is heretical.

Theological liberalism has its roots in the eighteenth century Enlightenment. During the age of reason some philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, held that religion should be bound “within the limits of reason alone.” The French were divided between deists such as Voltaire, who believed in a God that created the universe and let it run like a clock; there is little or no divine providence in such a doctrine. Later, in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution seemed to make biology like Newtonian physics–free of any need for a deity. In addition, modern Biblical study methods revealed that Moses did not write the first five books of the Old Testament, and the Biblical books in general are neither historically or scientifically without error. If Christians had read the church fathers such as Augustine, they would have known that earlier Christians recognized the Bible was not a science book. Instead, they hunkered down and accepted a modern, literalist interpretation of the Bible, making it something it was never intended to be. Theological liberals were correct in opposing the Fundamentalists’ strict views on inerrancy.

Theological liberals meant well. Friedrich Schliermacher, the “father of liberal Protestantism,” wanted Christianity’s “cultured despisers” to be open to a revised Christian faith that placed an emphasis on a “feeling of absolute dependence” rather than on specific dogmatic claims. Social Gospel liberals emphasized helping the poor and often supported a social democratic economic system, but some of them rejected the transcendent claims of Christianity about Christ. More recently, theological liberals have tended to become deeply politicized and influenced (though they may be unaware of the source) by the Cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School (Herbert Marcuse and his de facto disciples such as Saul Alinsky). They rejected the traditional moral teachings of Christianity on sexual ethics, holding that they are remnants of an earlier, outdated social and moral system. Their emphasis is on “social justice,” where “social justice” is defined in terms of the social democratic Left. Many of these do not accept the fundamental teachings of traditional Christianity about God and Christ I mentioned above.

I cannot accept theological liberalism. Without its traditional doctrines of God as Trinity, Christ as God incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary, raised from the dead, and the general resurrection of all people and restoration of the universe at the end of time, Christianity collapses into a watered down social gospel with little theological content. While Process Theologians try to insert more theological content, their concept of God is too limited to support the traditional doctrines of Christianity. St. Paul said if there is no resurrection, “we are of all men most miserable” (in I Corinthians 15). Theological liberals who deny the resurrection except in some vague “metaphorical sense” are indeed, “most miserable” even if they deny such.

The theologian most admired by liberal theologians is Paul Tillich, according to polls of theology professors. Yet Tillich, which interesting, was a mix of Schelling’s philosophy with a watered down version of Christianity. His concepts of religion as ultimate concern and his method of correlation, in which philosophy provides the questions and faith the answers, while not wholly original, are helpful. But overall he was a heretical thinker wedded to some kind of belief in a vague “transcendent.” It is sad that his experiences in World War I destroyed his traditional view of God.

Catholic liberal theology is pretty much a variation on liberal Protestantism with some Catholic language added.

Recently, there have been some new theological liberals who accept the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection from the dead–Jurgen Moltmann and Ted Peters, for example. However, they do not necessarily accept the moral views of traditional Christianity–Peters does not, for example. They are moving in the right direction, however.

It is clear that Jesus Christ made divine claims, even in the Synoptic Gospels, and such claims are central to Christianity, as the Church Fathers also recognized. I cannot call myself a Christian without believing this doctrine. The church’s teachings on sexuality are essential to the integrity of marriage and the bearing of children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The rules are there because they support the human good. To deny these teachings is not only to deny the natural law; it is to deny Christ.

I am grateful for the vibrant Evangelical movements in some of the liberal mainline Protestant churches. I am grateful for Roman Catholic traditionalists (though the legalism of some of them is unfortunate). I am grateful for my own church, the Anglican Catholic Church, which affirms the traditional doctrines and moral teachings of the Christian faith without lapsing into Fundamentalism on scripture (a few priests here and there may be that way, but the bishops are not). Hopefully we can live the faith better–faith is not merely an intellectual exercise–Satan is theologically orthodox–but it is a way of life, loving God and loving neighbor. Both doctrine and practice, truth and love, are essential to the teachings of Christ and His Church.

 

 

A Memo to College and University Students

1 Comment

MEMO

To: College and University Students
From: Someone who Does not Know Everything, but Knows Some Things
Re: Happiness and Success

You are not guaranteed happiness.
You are not guaranteed emotional satisfaction.
You are not guaranteed success.
You are not guaranteed to have any career you want; you must have the talent, skill, and hard work needed to succeed in that field.
You are not guaranteed a passing grade or any other grade in a class other than what you earn.
You are not guaranteed freedom from criticism of your views in class or in any other context.
You are not guaranteed that all your choices are good.
You are not guaranteed wealth.
You are not guaranteed “safe zones” in the real world.
You are not guaranteed that elections turn out the way you feel they should.
You are not guaranteed that everyone else agree with your opinions.
You are not guaranteed to know everything–or anything in particular.
You are not guaranteed protection from sickness, injury, death, loss of loved ones, or any of the other bad things that happen to all of us as part of the human condition.

On Donald Trump’s Victory

Leave a comment

The news media is in fits over Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, and it is good that some of them are admitting that they misread the pulse of the American people. I grew up in a working class background, and though I am in academia, many of the people I know are rural working class people. They are angry at the government for ignoring their values, mocking their religion, interfering with religious freedom, negotiating trade deals that outsource jobs, and political correctness. The media did not understand why people, including many women, voted for Mr. Trump despite his crude locker room talk that was broadcast to the world. What they missed was that many “ordinary folk” are so sick of people being condemned for every small breach of political correctness and being labeled “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” and other “ists,” that they found Mr. Trump’s crudeness to be a big middle finger extended to the politically correct establishment. They may not have approved of Mr. Trump’s actions, but in a world in which people are called out for “microaggression,” Trump’s “macroaggression” was, to his supporters, refreshing. The establishment does not realize this—that people can disapprove of a man’s speech and still overlook it. There were rough people in my extended family who said many wrong and inappropriate things, but we could still say, “That’s just Uncle Jim.” In a similar way Trump’s supporters hear him speak off the cuff or see videos of his poor behavior in the past and say, “Oh, that just ‘ole Donald Trump” and then vote for him.

Mr. Trump represents, to many of the vulgi populi, someone who is one of them despite being a billionaire. Alienated from the establishment culture, they find in Mr. Trump a champion who will stand up to a government that they believe screws them in every way. Mr. Trump did not mock their religion as Mrs. Clinton and her staff (and in a previous campaign, Mr. Obama) mocked them. Many common people see the ruling class as looking down on them, and right or wrong, they see Mr. Trump as being one with them, the people. Mr. Trump is a populist who represents an historic reversal of the policies that have been destructive to both Middle American values and the economy.

A few commentators, such as Pat Buchanan, correctly read the shift in American values against free trade and for a more restrained foreign policy—and the latter is a major shift for Southern voters. In the South, voters have typically been militaristic, supporting every U. S. military intervention in the world. Now they have shifted to a view I hear often in gatherings of the common people, that “We should stay out of that mess,” or “We should mind our own business and take care of things over here.” This move against warmongering is one I welcome, and the vote in this election is, in part, a repudiation of Mrs. Clinton’s militaristic wing of the Democratic Party.

As someone who did not fall prey to the academy’s emphasis on “multiculturalism” and “globalism,” I welcome Mr. Trump’s ideas. Like many rural people, I feel a connection with family and soil—to concrete reality, not to bloodless abstractions. I voted for Donald Trump and have no regrets. I wish him well as the country’s forty-fifth president.

The Midwest Region Leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Richard Swinburne, and Homosexuality

Leave a comment

Distinguished Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne spoke at the Midwest Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian philosophers and defended the view that homosexual acts were objectively disordered and morally wrong. This has been the traditional Christian position from the beginning, until pseudo-sophisticated contemporary “Christians” decided to oppose traditional Christian morality. For Swinburne’s sin against “diversity” and political correctness, Michael Rea, president of the Midwest Region of the SCP, on his Facebook page, sharply criticized Swinburne, stating that Swinburne’s views “are not that of the SCP” and that he (Rea) is committed to “diversity” and “inclusion.” Disappointingly, the Evangelical philosopher Tom Morris and the Thomist, Eleonore Stump, praised Rea’s post. The latter is a particular disappointment, for I have long admired her treatment of St. Thomas, and in the past she was wholly orthodox (with a small “o”) in her beliefs. I hope I am misunderstanding her point.

Rea’s statement that Swinburne’s views do not reflect those of the SCP is misleading–Christina van Dyke argued in a response to Rea’s post that the point was that the SCP does not have official positions on issues.  Van Dyke’s statement is disingenuous, since the tone of Professor Rea’s message was clearly negative toward Professor Swinburne’s positions, and the sense was that any member of the SCP should agree with Rea’s commitment to “inclusion” and “diversity.”

It is a shame that Christian philosophers have decided to exclude people because of their positions on issues, clearly a form of exclusion and a denial of diversity. I hope that orthodox Christians are not forced to form their own separate organization for the protection of their academic freedom, but they may be driven to that point.

So here is my own heresy against political correctness on the issue of homosexual practice: Homosexual orientation itself is not sinful, but is contrary to nature (objectively disordered). However, acting on homosexual desires is morally wrong and a sin against God. It is not the worst of sins; people who hate homosexuals are sinning far worse than homosexuals who act on their feelings. But bad behavior by Christians who oppose homosexual behavior does not make homosexual practice right. That has been the historic teaching of the church, and despite Pope Francis’ ambiguous statements, it is still the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches and a number of conservative Protestant denominations. I will never apologize for this position.

 

Historians and the Falsification of History

Leave a comment

Some people wonder why an academic like me is so hard on academia. I suppose it is because academia often claims to be pure, beyond bias, able to think critically as opposed to the idiots out there among the common people. Knowing that all those claims are false makes academia a hypocritical institution. This is seen in a number of fields, but one of them is history. Below are some examples of how historians distort history.

I once read a book on the attempt of the Confederate government to arm slaves near the end of the War between the States. The author claimed that very few, if any, blacks fought for the Confederacy and that those who were in support position were generally slaves. However, there are articles from the era of the war in the New York Times and Harper’s Weekly (check the May 10, 1862 issue for an artist’s drawing of blacks helping load a cannon) by reporters who witnessed a large number of blacks in the Confederate camp, some of whom fought fiercely against Union troops. There were free blacks who fought for the Confederacy, not just slaves; estimates of the number of free black Confederate soldiers are at a low of 5000, with some estimates much higher. With slaves included, who could have easily revolted or fled to the North with so many of the men off to war, 100,000 helped in the war effort in support units. While the Confederacy did not formally include blacks by law in the army until 1865, de facto from the beginning they were served the army, perhaps not formally, but in support positions that involved combat when units encountered Union troops. The units were integrated, unlike Union units. Authors who deny that evidence of such is totally missing are either ignorant of it (and thus are guilty of bad scholarship), explain it away (which is difficult to do, given that there are multiple eyewitness accounts of black Confederate soldiers), or ignore it (which is dishonest). Most of the time it’s probably the latter, since I can’t imagine a good researcher missing the references in Harper’s. Thus ideologically driven dishonest is the only reasonable explanation for historians denying a fact of which they have clear evidence.

Another example is Reconstruction after the War between the States. Earlier historians recognized the corruption that permeated Reconstruction, but lately revisionists, mainly of a Marxist bent, have claimed that the reports of corruption and violence were due to biased Southern writers. Given that there are number of newspaper accounts from the time period of rapes and murders as well as letters from ordinary people detailing their fear of walking the street due to Carpetbagger-agitated gangs, this “historians'” conclusion seems more due to ideological bias.

In a conversation I had at an academic conference with a Marxist historian, he denied both the atrocities of Stalin and Mao. Given the overwhelming evidence for the brutal system of gulags, mass purges and executions, the starving of the people of the Ukraine, and the misuse of psychiatry in Stalin’s era, such denial is incredible. As for Mao, around 35,000,000-45,000,000 people died from the effects of his rule, directly through execution or brutality in prison or indirectly through failed agricultural policies. Did this Marxist forget about the Cultural Revolution? Again, this seems to be an integrity matter rather than sloppy scholarship.

While I am not a Classical Liberal, the claims of Classical Liberalism about what worsened the Great Depression should be taken seriously, and yet they are dismissed by most historians I have read with little or no argumentation. Usually the dismissal carries with it a tinge of sarcasm. Such a response, again, is due to ideological bias.

Many historians claimed that Alger Hiss was unjustly charged with espionage, as well as the Rosenbergs. KGB files opened after the Cold War ended have affirmed that Hiss was a Soviet spy, as well as Julius Rosenberg (his wife may well not have been involved). In fact, a number of people the much maligned Senator Joseph McCarthy accused of being Soviet spies turned out to be Soviet spies. The “anti-anti-communism” of leftist historians came into play rather than looking at evidence for or against the guilt of Hiss or Julius Rosenberg. To be fair, many historians have corrected earlier positions based on this new evidence, but the dogmatism with which historians held the earlier position is, at the least, fascinating.

Other events go unsaid by historians:

A number of prominent politicians believed succession was legal before the War between the States, including northern politicians.

Some early feminists opposed abortion on liberal grounds that forced abortion was one of the ways men would try to control and take advantage of women. Susan B. Anthony was opposed to abortion.

The Crusades began as a defensive war–vast swaths of the formerly Christian Mediterranean world had been conquered by Islam, and there were Islamic colonies throughout Europe, especially in Moorish Spain. The Crusades were an attempt to re-take the Holy Land which was lost when the Muslims defeated the Eastern Roman Empire’s troops in the seventh century.

Focusing on violent protests in the South against integration, historians often ignore the many incidents of peaceful integration and the growing grassroots movement for civil rights which may have been more successful with less bitterness resulting than the massive federal and military intervention liberals support.

Historians often play up the atrocities of Christians and downplay the atrocities of Muslims. By the way, I am sure the troops of the Eastern Roman Empire discovered that Islam is a religion of peace. My sarcasm is obvious.

Now there are some fine historians, especially among those who have studied intellectual history. Shelby Foote has written a masterful narrative history of the War between the States. Thomas Molnar, Modris Eksteins, John Lukacs, and Jacques Barzun have written some splendid intellectual history. Thomas J. DiLorenzio has written some works that bring more balance to the study of Abraham Lincoln. David McCullough is a fine historian who is fair who has a flair for style, a rare trait among academic writers. Paul Johnson is a good writer, though his own classical liberal bias gets a bit thick — he’s not a trained academic historian, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Michael Grant is a fascinating writer. I know there are many others, and when I get overly cynical, when I say “There are liars, damned liars, and historians,” I think of these individuals. May more like them come along.

 

 

Older Entries