Monday, October 22, 2012

De Tocqueville, Morality, and Democracy

 Today’s secularism is an aggressive bulldozer. It will not tolerate any competition, pushing aside any opposition to its reign. Arrogantly, it believes that it can retain the benefits of Western civilization, while discarding its foundation – Christianity.

Alexis de Tocqueville, French statesman, historian and social philosopher, wrote “Democracy in America” (1835). It has been described as "the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written." According to Tocqueville, freedom and morality both found their American incarnation in Christianity:

  • Religion in America ... must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.
Tocqueville had been well acquainted with the demands for freedom and equality that had arisen from his own French revolution, albeit grounded in the hatred and murder of the clergy. This revolution had confidently sought to push aside anything that stood in its way.  However, with the advantage of decades of hindsight, this had become something that the French wanted to avoid at all costs. Tocqueville, therefore, wrote,

  • The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom.
He therefore appreciated the moral constraints that he found so ubiquitously associated with democracy in the USA:

  • I do not question that the great austerity of manners that is observable in the United States arises, in the first instance, from religious faith...its influence over the mind of woman is supreme, and women are the protectors of morals. There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated...
Continually, he found that the fruitful expression of democracy was inseparable from its underlying Christian roots:

  • In the United States the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people.... Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed and determinate.
  • I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
In contrast, today’s secularism believes that it can retain some of the fruits of Christian society without its roots. It seeks to replace the Christian foundation with its own materialistic, relativistic presuppositions and expects that these will support the house of their dreams. Secularism wants to retain the ideas of equality and equal protection under the law – the Bill of Rights - but it fails to see that their materialistic foundation can’t support this structure.

Historically, materialism has not been able to provide the basis of these prized values. Just look at the workers’ “utopia” of communistic, atheistic nations! Why have these nations been so characterized by oppression and violence? From a strictly materialistic worldview, there can be no possible basis for equality or “unalienable rights.” Regarding humans materialistically, we find that some are tall and some are short; some are likable and some are not; some promote justice, while some undermine it; some contribute to society, while some prove to be very costly, even undermining the common good. Consequently, as seen through the materialistic lens, some have a positive value and some a negative one. Is there therefore any basis for equality from this perspective? No!

Christians also have a materialistic lens. However, we are not limited to this lens. We also have a transcendent one. We see equality and great human value, even in the murderer, because God sees these values. We protect, because God protects, even the most unworthy. We maintain that all have unalienable rights because all have been created in the image of God. We, therefore, cannot deprive anyone of their unalienable rights, because they don’t come essentially from us but from God.

However, according to the lens of secularism, it is secularism that grants the rights. Consequently, it is secularism that can also deprive those rights. There is nothing in a materialistic worldview that requires that our rights be unalienable. After all, everything is in flux, and so too should our rights be so!

Even worse, there is nothing in secular materialism that would argue in favor of equal treatment. If some humans have a positive social value and some have a negative, there is no justification for not treating the negatively-valued humans in a negative way. Consequently, materialism cannot honestly value our understanding of equal and unalienable rights.

The same argument can also be applied to the concept of “freedom.” Where there is no material basis for equality, perhaps there is also no basis for equal freedom. (In fact, many secularists deny the reality of freewill and therefore culpability!) After all, some are intelligent and some aren’t. Some have ideas that are objectionable and some have ideas that we like. Some even vote “Republican” and against gay marriage. Why should their ideas be tolerated? Well, as secularism secures its grip, any ideas that impede its agenda are no longer tolerated. The popular vote can be overturned by a single judge. The charge of “unconstitutional” can be brought against any objectionable idea or popular vote.

The secularism of today has lost its taste for freedom as the quest for self-fulfillment has proliferated. Tocqueville warned that democracy is vulnerable in this regard :

  • Men who are possessed by the passion of physical gratification generally find out that the turmoil of freedom disturbs their welfare before they discover how freedom itself serves to promote it.
What is not honored – our freedoms and liberties - will eventually whither and disappear.
Tocqueville realized that the pursuit of “equality” could produce some bad fruit:

  • But there exists in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.
The argument in favor of “equality” can be applied in many illegitimate ways. It can be used to produce “equality” between parents and their children, depriving parents of their rightful authority in favor of the Secular State. It can be used as a bulldozer to push aside any sexual distinctions. Consequently, it is argued that we should be allowed to marry or to sex anyone and any number we please. It is only our appetites that should set the limit. Meanwhile, there is no longer a willingness to regard the many studies that have unequivocally demonstrated that children (and society) do far better, in a myriad of ways, with their biological parents.

Our personal comforts and pleasures tend to reign over concerns about distant abstract principles such as freedom and justice. Therefore, Tocqueville warned:

  • A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
Democracy is a fragile flower, which requires regular cultivation. While history is the test tube for our ideas, the future will cast its dispassionate verdict on them. It will also give us what we deserve. Already, anti-Christian secularism is bearing its fruit unto abortions, STDs, suicides, criminality, and broken families throughout the Western world, starting with its radical incarnation in the sixties.

We will reap what we sow, and sadly, we will probably find that Tocqueville’s words – “The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom” - have been prophetic.

No comments:

Post a Comment