By DAVID J BEILSTEIN
WHEN I became a confessional Presbyterian of the Old Side/Old School variety, many influences came and challenged my thinking.
Dreher, who has written for a sundry list of conservative publications – including his own digs over at The American Conservative – contributes to such high-end institutions as National Review, and even a newspaper, The Dallas Morning News.
With an insightful blend of Wendell Berry’s best, of paleo-conservative non-interventionist angst, and a concern for constitutional fealty over and against bare national greatness “conservatism,” Dreher has been a maelstrom of classical liberal fecundity – with a defense of localism, and a rebuke to the stale sector of conservative intellectual impoverishment.
But there are times I disagree with the supposed moral high ground that paleo-conservatives and some libertarians take when it comes to the audacity of the left.
All in all, simply blaming the G.O.P. or impoverished expressions of conservatism are not enough, nor will they build and elect more constitutional conservatives. In a recent interview posted on YouTube, Dreher laments he had “hope” in the hope of Pres. Obama’s election and post-racial ascendency.
Much of this entheos was surely based upon ridding the White House and Oval Office within of former Pres. George W Bush, who consistent classical liberals like Dreher were blamed for, despite large problems with more than some of the Bush administration’s policies – for conservative reasons, not statist ones.
Of course, some of this is more than understandable – given the given’s – but Dreher’s hope in Pres. Obama’s agenda seems more misplaced than one is comfortable with – and is as inconsistent with paleo-conservative ideas about people and nation states as a conservative supporting Rick Santorum’s paleo-progressive, called conservative, bromides about “government belonging in the bedroom” and the resultant cheer such state-controlled rhetoric drew from ideological confused crowds.
Dreher is far wiser than this author pretends to be. And the man has a right to his opinion – but if there are large problems within what calls itself the conservative movement in America in our withering orbit, I suggest there are large problems with Dreher having hoped in Pres. Obama’s aggressively tyrannical form of progressivism.
Part of the problem – and I’m seeing a pattern here – and I can’t quite say I’m not sympathetic to it; that is, High-Church Christians having huge problems with the evangelical/charismatic patina the G.O.P. courts, and the conservatives it promotes to leadership positions.
Indeed, a connection – as Mr Dreher communions with the Eastern Orthodox Church, which explains why much of what Dreher seeks within Christ’s Church, is necessarily found in the administration of Word and sacrament. Likewise, the same churchly, normative moral teachings (dogma deemed normed by appeal to the Word of God) evangelicals look for society to occupy – and, if not society, than Government.
See Michele Bachmann and every traditionalist social conservative like her.
Nothing is being said other than the observation (at a glance) that High-Church Christian saints seem to better recognise the humble and “limited” role the triune God has bestowed upon civil magistrates. Likewise, whatever duties civil authorities have – it should be limited to the punishing of evil in a general sense (by the light of nature) and those authorities do so on behalf of law-abiding citizens. In a word, civil authorities’ duty does not consist of legislating laws or upholding laws for the sanctification by way of biblical imposition of morality on society at large which is at odds with the blessed St Paul’s words in Romans 13, nor the blessed St Peter’s big ideas explicated in his first Epistle, chapter 2.
And before we lose our heads, we might want to couch the Church’s militancy not in carnal means, but spiritual – of bread and wine, of the powers of the age to come, which is what the Epistle of the Hebrews is all about and doubly what St Paul outlines as the Church’s enemy in Ephesians 6.
Again, being a High-Church Presbyterian I can see the problems with this – and how limiting it is to the voice of a political party, which needs to win votes from all kinds of people regardless of views of ultimate significance.
Politics is not about things of “ultimate importance” but penultimate, and thus should limit them to acreage deemed provisional, or temporal in nature. This is where both Madison and Jefferson went – and if a product of the Protestant Reformation; meaning Anglican, Reformed/Presbyterian, or Lutheran, than one gets the same theological insights from that German of all Germans, Dr Martin Luther – who set the stage of the way we Protestors-of-Rome-and-her Pope, read and apply Holy Scripture in this age and the age to come.
But that still does not explain why Dreher would hope in the Presidency of Barack Obama, whose ideological and political gestation wars against everything Mr Dreher posits both in terms of the role of government, and the reality of culture and peoples.