This post reviews four written works (one lecture and three books). You can use subheadings to skim.
An increasing hope is that 2023 will be a good year. If so, most likely it won’t be the result of anything coming out of Washington, but instead due to average, traditional, ordinary Americans continuing to regain control of their country. Normal folks are fully awakened today after the Summer of 2020 and the COVID/China Virus panic.
Those extremely small, angry, vocal, forceful, and often elitist minorities across America have completely overplayed their hand. They reside today in a self-constructed house of cards.
Actually, there are two significant Houses of Cards in America today, one big and one small: 1) the house we build for ourselves as we move society further away from the reality of sound, time-tested social practices and 2) the house that the Radical Left and Right in America are trying to build. The majority of the American population (that actually crosses party lines) is increasingly seeing this with every passing day. All of my reading since Christmas, 2022 indicates this is true.
In our Green Shoots post (June 11, 2021), we suggested that Christianity was not in terrible shape in America and that a middle-class revolt against the elements of mushrooming central government was gaining steam. We continue to see this everywhere, both locally and nationally.
New Thinking: Let’s Start with Christianity
If you would like an extremely thoughtful assessment of the state of Christianity and Christian worldview in America and across the globe, consider reading the First Things 2022 (February 2023 edition) Erasmus Lecture by Anthony Fisher, O.P., the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Australia, entitled The West: Post- or Pre-Christian? (7 pages). Its assessment of the state of the faith is balanced and positive. It offers comfort in that, when it comes to challenges to truth, while everything changes, nothing really changes over a long period of time.
Christianity is moving ahead in the world as never before.
We Christians have been down this difficult path many times over the last 2,000 years, and we have found ourselves in a lot worse situations. By the way, First Things editor Rusty Reno is a PC Contributor, along with other authors referenced in the article. See the clip above from his interview being relevant to the overall themes in this post. He makes the point that all societies must have guardrails, and today’s America borders on close to none. Jonathan Haidt underscores this point in his worldview classic, The Righteous Mind (2012).
Press ahead. Be present as examples of good leaders and followers of the faith. Stay true to your beliefs. Go person to person, family to family, group to group. This is what has worked since inception for today’s largest religion in the world, a trend line that’s not straight or uniform, but is still accelerating ahead of the rest.
Now, How About Global Economics?
And then there are the smartest guys in the room who go to Davos every January. This past month is no exception. Talk about elitist universalists who want to take over every aspect of ordinary lives. How could we be so stupid to resist?
Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order (2022, 467 pages), edited by Michael Walsh, employs some of the best minds in journalism to define and breakdown the Davos or World Economic Forum (WEF) universal quest for dominance into political, economic, personal, practical, and ineffable categories. (Most of what Michael Walsh writes is a treat. A personal favorite is The Devil’s Pleasure Palace – lucky demon.) See The Great Reset is an Orwellian project concocted by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the WEF, to use the COVID pandemic to reset global capitalism along socialistic and European lines.
National governments in partnership with the largest global corporations hope to force “social justice,” DEI, and ESG top-down into virtually all aspects of Western society. Famous Davos advocates are Al Gore, John Kerry, Bill Gates, Jack Ma, King Charles, and Anthony Fauci.
No one doubts the world has serious issues or that most of these Reset advocates want to help.
Let’s just say, however, that the seventeen essayists Mr. Walsh assembled in Against the Great Reset do a masterful job of explaining why the attempted “Reset” is such a tyrannical, regressive, and even ludicrous project. America is not an elitist nation, and Europe is likely in the process of rejecting decades of European Union overreach.
Public sector central planning (political, economic, and social) does not foster progress. There is no reason for America to go there, and there is hope that we can stop it and reverse the damage already done. Rather than employing a NOT or STOP sign, however, we should consistently offer the best alternative pathway, based on proven CJC worldview (Classical Judeo-Christian).
As elements of such an alternative, America needs to focus on reestablishing First Amendment freedom and to get its budgetary house and borders in order.
Over the last few years, we’re increasingly noticing a new wave of feminism that might involve a majority of Western women who want to move beyond the Fourth Wave (a sexless, rigidly equal, many pronoun-filled society) to recapture the Second Wave (a society offering women equality in the workplace). After the First Wave obtained the vote in 1920, the Second Wave inaugurated by Betty Friedan in the early 1960’s arguably went off-course as early as the 1970’s when it began trashing the traditional family.
This cultural trend is partially responsible for the almost complete absence of fathers today in many large American metro areas.
Abigail Favale’s hot-off-the-press The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory (2022, 239 pages) explains how gender got separated from sex. Ouch. Big mistake! It thoroughly explains the severe problems the Far Left’s gender paradigm produces, emphasizing social construction to the exclusion of biology and human nature. Ms. Favale weaves a feminist’s sensitivity with a social scientist’s biology and medical knowledge into the presentation of a powerful and moving Christian worldview.
Granted, after the Second Wave, feminist Waves become confusing and run together, even to feminists themselves. The Fourth Wave involves something about postmodernism and the early all-out attack of men. But such “Fifth Wave” women like Ms. Favale want to re-emphasize family life, the latter being perhaps the true source (after God) of personal happiness. Indeed, in my own personal experience this is certainly true for men as well as women, but social science says especially for women.
This should not be surprising! Most women have a natural love for children and family, and they have been brutally torn between family and work since the Industrial Revolution began. Feminism’s most recent standards of rigid equality force 99.9% of the women to act more like men against their will 99.9% of the time.
Ms. Favale makes clear many women have had enough and are looking for a more family-friendly pathway . . . and she is not alone.
Watch Your Language!
The last new book to mention briefly is The Myth of Left and Right: How the Political Spectrum Misleads and Harms America (2023, Oxford University Press, 100 pages) by Hyrum Lewis and Verlan Lewis. Since worldview analysis emphasizes the importance of language and narrative to reason and human behavior, The Myth of Left and Right drew me in immediately. It did not disappoint.
We at Praxis Circle have been saying for years that words like “Left and Right” and “liberal and conservative” no longer make any sense – although we use them often in situational context.
What the Lewises so skillfully show, however, is that those polar extremes no longer fit securely in relation to broadly understood “essential” principles, in relation to positions embodied in various political party platforms over time, and in relation to stances within the same party platform at any moment. In other words, “the Right” has shifted to “the Left” and vice versa over long political time in certain ways.
A primary theme is that these terms are extremely polarizing – even to the point of inciting violence or riots – just when America needs peaceful solutions and might have a majority across party lines to make it happen.
The Myth of Right and Left explains the well-known facts of how the political designations Left and Right came out of the French Revolution in the late 1700’s, entered American public speak in the 1920’s after the Russian Revolution, with usage accelerating during the McCarthy era and spinning out of control over the last 20 years.
They can say that again.
The authors emphasize two theories for the how and why of “Left and Right”: essentialist word construction and social word construction.
Essentialists believe these terms have essences or foundational meaning that are then applied to the facts to determine platforms, and social constructionists believe that groups or tribes use the words “Left and Right,” “liberal and conservative” any way they want for political purposes. In other words, the essentialists believe the principles determine the meaning, interpretation, and action, and the social constructionists believe the tribe determines the political platform, then ascribes or makes up stories or principles to support them.
The book endorses the old chicken or egg problem: Does reason control passion or does reason follow passion? Not to hide the ball, the authors place their entire bet on one side. There is much social research on all of this applied to almost every conceivable situation. The Lewises cite some of it, most often when it suits their point.
Surprisingly, the authors are dedicated social constructionists, believing that the terms Left and Right have little or no underlying theological, philosophical, social, political, or economic essences. Furthermore, they believe the Democrat and Republican political platforms usually have little relation to each other. Instead, they argue the tribe determines platforms and solutions for whatever political reasons, then finds rationales and stories to support them.
While I applaud such outside-the-box thinking and agree that words like Left, Right, liberal, and conservative have lost much of their meaning, necessitating new word and concept development because “the times they are a changin’” (Bob Dylan’s understatement of the century), I believe that political parties and factions have both essentialist and social constructionist origins. Our Founders well anticipated the problem of political factions.
In fact, my own review of the many current political issues the Lewises list indicates that worldview analysis can explain almost every Democrat or Republican political position, both relative to each other’s platform and as part of each respective platform. Chicken or egg? Well, mostly both, along with the rooster, farmer, fox, chicken coop, farm, fox hunters, the church the hunters pray in before jumping on their horses with their horn and gun – you get the picture. A Praxis Circle of God, man, and world.
While contradictions always exist and often become even humorous, there is much worldview integrity – or lack thereof, if truth and reason are absent – supporting the Democrat and Republican sides. In other words, if the Lewises adopted a worldview perspective, they would find much more essentialist consistency over time.
Of course, the analysis would have to change from emphasizing Left-Liberal (Change)/Right-Conservative (No Change) to . . . well, again . . . worldview analysis, emphasizing True and False, Moral or Not, as defined by various worldviews – but all of this is explainable. I found it astonishing that they did not take this approach. A full explanation of Left-Right polarity is not a binary essentialist/social constructionist choice.
I was also astonished that they embraced (without saying so) the social constructionist, reductionist approach Marxism made famous, because they are not Marxists at all. Hyrum Lewis is a brilliant Mormon philosopher, which I can attest to now that I am halfway through his excellent book, There Is a God: How to Respond to Atheism in the Last Days (162 pages, 2017).
I believe in tribal or group essences that are constructed through personal and social praxis, and that this is a good thing. I do not like the polarization, anger, or Cancel Culture that has gotten worse in recent times any more than the Lewises or most Americans.
Again, we applaud the Lewises’ new thinking, though we do not agree with all of it. We have commented on the importance of language many times and will continue to do so. As the Lewises clearly recognize, playing the language game is critical to success and winning in the public sphere, whether through persuasion, compromise, or pure majority rule. Most certainly, the Lewises are focusing on many of the correct issues, and Praxis Circle will build on that. We can start here and here.
In sum, the way out of this polarized social mess is through teaching civil discourse, emphasizing free speech, and focusing on the search for the truth (that has guided Western society for centuries). The underlying principles and narratives the Lewises call “essence” explain much, are often dispositive in politics, and are not pure social constructs.
We believe our CJC worldview and history’s praxis determines most “tribal” politics, recognizing it’s common to rationalize actions in hindsight. Yes, due to poor or dishonest communication and power games, Americans needlessly disagree and talk past each other.
Instead, we should seek to understand before being understood. We should first seek and discover where we agree and work outward from there. Christians must stick together in the public square or hostile institutions will continue to push us into a corner, even though in the U.S. we’re in the majority.
The tragedy? We only have ourselves to blame.
Truth doesn’t change, and there are many essential worldview and natural law constants, though history can only be understood within related frames of reference.
Spring is Here
Hard to believe, it’s only been a month into the New Year 2023, and you can already see the greens shoots we referenced in June of 2021 sprouting everywhere when it was still “pandemic dark.” It’s springtime all over creation, and we aren’t even in Florida. We regular people just need to stay the course, apply common sense to informed and educated analysis, and show up and to be heard and counted. That is what is so great about America. No one can take that away from us unless we allow it to happen.
In that Green Shoots post mentioned of June 11, 2021, we cited an article that estimated the Radical Left in America includes only 8% of the U.S. population. Let’s assume the same is true of the Radical Right, though we believe it is far less and almost completely lacking in definition. Yes, Left and Right are regrettable terms, but you know what I’m talking about in this context. The Radical Left want to eliminate male/female, the police, private ownership and existence, and our nation operating under the Constitution. And both the Radical Left and Right (whomever they are) seem to want to beat the crap out of each other.
Perhaps the majority of level-headed Americas in the middle can yank a card from the bottom of each House of Cards, Radicals in any direction in America being small minorities, and avoid the national House of Cards we’re engineering with the Deep State Swamp, the elimination of freedom of speech, religion, and association, the canceling of education, social science, and history, the bankrupting of the federal government, the destruction of the American family, the disassembling of our military and police forces, the failure to maintain our borders, our foreign policy of self-destruction, and the abolition of sex differences and morality, in general.
Such tiny tribes of malcontents on Far Left and Right represent small groups constructing the smaller House of Cards (#2 mentioned at top). Let’s prevent them from finishing us all off with the bigger one (#1).
The hope is we will restore order, prosperity, equity, and justice to America and the West, if we persist. Here’s one small but significant example. As ever, we have no choice but to try.
Join the party, Groundhog: It’s springtime in America.