Saturday, June 17, 2006

Should We Abandon the Lockean Settlement?

Check out this controversial article by Ross Douthat, and the thoughtful responses by Fr. Neuhaus and Daniel Larison. Fr. Neuhaus, in consistency with the mission of his journal First Things, believes that we (conservative Christians) must continue to support the American project of classical liberalism (natural rights orientation, democracy, non-establishment of religion, free markets). In American political speech, classical liberalism is what is meant by the use of the resonant term "freedom." It is what President Bush means when he talks about spreading "freedom and democracy" in the Middle East and around the world.

Daniel Larison and the folks over at The New Pantagruel argue that classical liberalism is neither Christian nor free. See also Larison's article "Imagining Conservatism in a New Light." I agree with their assessment, but am ambivalent about what this means for America's foreign and domestic policy. At present, I support implementing carefully considered preparatory measures to pave the way toward weaning our nation off its reliance on Enlightenment foundations. I also think we should continue to pursue a vigorous policy of promoting liberalism (classically understood, not the modern perversion) in Muslim and Communist countries. Liberal government is by far preferable to either Sharia law or godless communism, and would provide a safer atmosphere in which the Church could carry out its evangelistic mission.

Yes, I advocate cynically using supposed neutral political principles as a stepping stone for reintroducing Christianity to countries that have successfully repressed its advances so far. It's better for their suffering inhabitants, and it's necessary for our national security. And finally, it's the only realistic option available to us at this point.

What do you think?


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