One Last Comment

One last comment of a politico-religious nature. I’m sorry if some of this might be off putting, but it does strike close to the core of some “First Things”. As a Lutheran pastor all authority has its roots from the 4th commandment – “honor your father and mother”. Luther’s small catechism adds the phrase “and other authorities” in his explanation to what does this mean. The fountain of all authority and our understanding of authority is rooted in the family.

Extending out from that Jesus called his disciples his “mother and brothers”. (Matt 12:49) He also commits his mother to his disciple. (John 19:26-27) The church is supposed to become the extended family. And the church has often in the past extended that out further in the form of civil society- think every St. Luke’s hospital, Denomination Charitable foundation and school ever established. At the founding, one was connected first to family, second to church and if those were tenuous then often to branches or missions of the church. These church missions would often find other private citizen corollaries – like libraries. Look up Ben Franklin and Andrew Carnegie and how libraries got their start. The mediating institutions were often the church at one remove.

The last, and least important ring of authority was the government. The US constitution was set up with checks and balances and a bill of rights because those founders feared the government’s intrusion into civil society. The government was assigned limited specific duties in order to give space for that society described above to flourish.

It is not just me after this recent election. Here is Jonah Goldberg although I could point at many others. If you have “conservative” friends who are feeling down this is probably pretty close to why even if they don’t have the words to explain it. That order of authority: family, religious affiliation, civil institutions, government seems to have been overthrown. We now “all belong to the government” as was said at the opening of the 2012 DNC convention.

One of the stark lessons of Obama’s victory is the degree to which the Republican party has become a party for the married and the religious. If only married people voted, Romney would have won in a landslide. If only married religious people voted, you’d need a word that means something much bigger than landslide. Obviously, Obama got some votes from the married and the religious (such people can marry their interests to the state, too), but as a generalization, the Obama coalition heavily depends on people who do not see family or religion as rival or superior sources of material aid or moral authority.

For those of us who, like the founders, are suspicious of governmental authority as a-moral and coercive, this election exposed just how poor our civil society has become that it would choose leviathan knowingly. The death of a moral order may not bring the chaos we fear, but it is still a death that will be felt and mourned.