Political Passion, Part I

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By:Thomas Fleming | April 18, 2014

Twice a year, at least, during Christmas and Easter, some Conservative Christians must feel like the hero of "I Led Three Lives," a 1950's television series starring Richard Carlson. The show was loosely based on the memoirs of Herbert A. Philbrick, the American double-agent who infiltrated the Communist Party, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, "Communist," Counterspy. (The definition of "loosely based," as Rockford fans of Uncle Don's Terror Theater will recall, is "having nothing whatsoever to do with," an observation Uncle Don made in the course of describing the film "version" of The Raven.)

Our careers are, however, a bit more complicated than the TV counterspy's. Instead of Philbrick's three merely political identities, we might describe ourselves as: Christian, "Conservative," and Counterrevolutionary.

The first term should need no explanation. Christians adhere to the basic traditions of the faith as found in the Scriptures and the Fathers. Some would cut off that tradition before, say, the 12th century, while others would mistakenly claim to trace their identity back to John the Baptist, but on the fundamentals, as taught in the Sermon on the Mount, the epistles of Paul and Peter, outlined in the Apostles Creed, and explained an justified by apologists from Justin to Augustine, there is not much room for disagreement. In this broad consensus there is no room either for the Social Gospel or the Megachurch "gospels" of success and entertainment (here in Rockford a megachurch pastor's wife preaches her message while jumping on a trampoline—shades of The Man Show!) or the revolutionary agenda of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that is closer to Marx and Engel's Manifesto than to the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian faith, in contrast with the aforesaid cults (I am not saying that the Catholic Church today is a cult but that too many of the bishops are cultists), defies every attempt to convert it into a creed, whether that creed is democratic capitalism, Marxism, or American exceptionalism.

To be good Conservatives, however, Christians have to lower their sights and defend things that, however worth defending, are on a far lower order of significance: The Constitution, private property, individual rights. Too often, they even fall into defending principles that are decidedly not worth their effort: the free speech rights of anti-Christian kooks and the religious freedom of Muslims and Moonies. And, when their government does things that are unconscionably evil, such as wage aggressive wars against the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia, most Conservative Christians will turn a blind eye or at least keep their mouths shut for fear of scandalizing their friends and relatives—good people, most of them, but too naïve to handle any truth that has not been diluted with the large amounts of high fructose ideology dished out by Rush and Sean and Mark.

What they dare not confess even to themselves is that conservatism, as it has evolved in recent decades, is as subversive of Christendom as Marxism, feminism, homosexualism and environmnentalism. And, as Conservative Christians begin to understand the truth of this and learn to reject not just Marxism and the Russian Revolution but also Classical Liberalism and the French Revolution that it spawned, they gradually become—as defenders of Christendom—some species of counterrevolutionary counterspy.

Christian Conservatives do not mean to be duplicitous—or should I say triplicitous?—but what are they to say or do at Easter, when their "conservative" and patriotic friends are going about their regular business of getting and spending, working and playing? How do they respond to the invitation to attend a Good Friday backyard barbecue or have Easter dinner in a restaurant? When their brothers-in-law want to spend Easter afternoon watching games on TV and their sisters-in-law turn on the Fat Albert's Easter Special or Yogi the Easter Bear in the evening—for the children, of course? For grownups, of course, there is always Bing Crosby and Judy Garland in Easter Parade, a tribute to that great Christian composer Irving Berlin.



4/18/2014 06:12 PM

  "The Christian faith, in contrast with the aforesaid cults, defies every attempt to convert it into a creed." I guess that makes Faith a theory instead of a thing ?

raymond olson
st. Paul
4/18/2014 08:10 PM

  ". . . a megachurch pastor's wife preaches her message while jumping on a trampoline—shades of The Man Show!" As well as, and probably more amusingly, the Leaping Beryllians of the old Peter Cook-Dudley Moore flicker, Bedazzled. As for me, and though Quakers do not observe holy days per se, I shall attend a Passover seder at my daughter's house. She has converted to reform Judaism and is bringing my granddaughter up in it. We shall be serious and respectful in our observance. I would, if I had to, insist on it. I expect that meeting for worship on this coming first day--Easter--will be reverent. In my experience, it is always so.

robert m. peters
4/18/2014 09:54 PM

  Triplicitious! Dr. Fleming, you have hit the nail squarely on the head! I have become after several years of Chronicles and the Abbeville Institute a counterrevolutionary counterspy among my own Conservative Christian kin, in the local Church, and among most of my friends with a few exceptions. A local "bastion of conservatism" has an "autographed" ("auto" as in signed by a machine) picture of George W. Bush on the wall, with employees who lament that Obama is dismantling the imperial military. and that he is "soft on Putin." My mother, approaching ninety-seven, is another counterrevolutionary counterspy. She asked just today what special dinner we were planning to honor our Lord's resurrection and to express the hope of our own resurrection. She would never think of going out for Easter dinner. She wondered if I could find, which will be difficult, some wild azalea to grace the Easter table. It blooms at this time of year; however, since there is no longer a commons, an open range, as in her day and as in the days of my youth, it is almost impossible to get to since one would now be trespassing. I do wish to all of the readers of Chronicles a blessed Easter with the joy which comes with the hope which our Lord's resurrection brings.

4/19/2014 12:22 AM

  Robert, I wrote this thing so quickly I left out the adjective political before creed. Cults turn a pRt of truth into the whole .

San Antonio
4/19/2014 01:46 AM

  Not to worry Dr. Fleming. Here in San Antonio with the exception of Our Lady of the Atonement parish you do not have to worry about these things anymore. Most Catholics around here are going to see Joel Osteen at the Alamodome. Pastor Hagee has major competition now. Liberal evangelicalism is the big thing here. The Catholic priests cannot do away with everything fast enough. I heard a priest two weeks before Lent reassure us during mass that we do not do fast and abstinence anymore. However, he did not tell the person writing the bulletin fast enough, because in it they reminded us that we have to fast and abstain on Good Friday and make sacrifices during Lent. We are told that in Mexico the stores raise the price of fish so high during Lent that the poor in Mexico can't afford to not eat meat during Lent and must eat chicken every Friday. Here in S.A. all the fast food restaurants have fish specials during Lent. This must be awfully confusing for all the recent immigrants. The best thing to do is tell the confused priest and any "conservative Christian", if you can find one that you eat fish EVERY Friday whether it is Lent or not. I also tell them I do not believe in Darwinism because it has been disproven by science which really drives the priests up the wall. I doubt if anyone in Olsteen's flock would even know what I was talking about. "Conservative" Christians are now leaving their churches faster than the Mainline Protestants are dying off down here. Fiesta has been expanded to eighteen days although no one seems to know what the Battle of San Jacinto was anymore. Many here will be drunk during the Easter/Fiesta festivities. Most people here do not even vote. 16% in Bexar county is a high turn out in a presidential election. These issues you raise simply do not exist here anymore.


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