September 2, 2014

Wisdom from Samuel Adams

flag2

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders. Samuel Adams

HT: Nixatron Blog

Comments

  1. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    David says:

    Virtues are freedoms. Our founding fathers were trying to point out that the failure of previous systems of government was that they didn’t recognize that you can’t control free men.

    Today we think of freedom as something mandated by force of law, custom, economic power or violence. We think of freedom as a sort of balance against the tyranny of the powerful. This is a mistake. Ask a monk what freedom is.

    The powerful are slaves to their empires.

    The founding fathers knew that recognizing the freedom of free men would give reason for those free men to willingly participate in the system they were creating.

    In the struggles here in America at large, our workplaces, our parishes, our communities and our homes we keep demanding that someone “recognize” our freedom. This is in fact the cries of children. Free men know they are free and need no recognition.

    Frankly the only people who have to worry are those in positions of power, because they depend on the goodwill of free men to survive.

    If you aren’t free from the passions in Christ, then no law, no sum of money, no army, no pan-Orthodox council, nor any other created thing can set you free. And if you are free, then nothing can enslave you.

  2. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Scott Pennington says:

    “No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved.”

    Fine. But what are liberties and how is virtue preserved? Democracy cannot posssibly preserve virtue. The modern history of Western culture should provide irrefutable proof of this.

    Liberties, if construed as freedom from government, are simply a license to follow whatever passions occupy the soul at any given time.

    Liberties, if they are conceived as rights, are seldom relinquished without a fight. But, of course, the right to an abortion on demand is one such “liberty” that will be rescinded only with great national turmoil.

    I’m not sure that our Founding Fathers, regardless of their good intentions, designed that great a political system. We really should concentrate on ignoring it rather than idolizing it and behave as if we are strangers in a strange land.

    America, if it ever was, is surely not now a Christian country. The churches have failed abysmally to inculcate virtue in the people. If the people were moral, then our political system might work. But democracy by its very nature corrupts public morality. It leaves the highest moral questions to the will of a majority or supermajority. If revealed religion stands for anything, it is the proposition that such decisions should not be left to the people. Otherwise, you’re left with the aggregate expression of public passions as the moral standard.

    To have faith in democracy is to have faith in man without God, or with only a ceremonial Providence for a god. A decent system of government takes serious questions of morality out of the hands of the people and enshrines them as unassailable postulates. What form this government takes in the sense of who makes the decisions is not really the point. The point is to establish Christian morality. The goodness or badness of a country or political system can be measured accurately precisely by its success at that task.

  3. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Fine. But what are liberties and how is virtue preserved? Democracy cannot possibly preserve virtue. The modern history of Western culture should provide irrefutable proof of this.

    Through religion. The advantage of Democracy is that you are free to practice your religion (among other freedoms), something socialism/statism (our only other alternative) will not tolerate in the long term.

    But democracy by its very nature corrupts public morality. It leaves the highest moral questions to the will of a majority or supermajority.

    Not really. Moral reform is never a question of majorities. Public policy is. But politics follows culture. To blame democracy, or more precisely, to blame democratic freedom for our present moral collapse, puts a responsibility on the democratic system that it cannot bear. The seeds were sown earlier.

    To have faith in democracy is to have faith in man without God, or with only a ceremonial Providence for a god.

    One can’t have “faith in democracy.” That’s one of its strengths. One must have faith in God in order for the civic freedom that democracy offers to flourish. Lose this faith in God, and you lose democracy — your civic freedom — even though this restriction of freedom (actually a fleeing from the responsibility of moral virtue that freedom, even civic freedom, requires) is always couched in the language of expanding freedom. This inversion of the moral lexicon of culture confuses a lot of people — including Christians. See for example: Using Human Rights to Squelch Free Speech.

    The point is to establish Christian morality.

    This doesn’t work, not at least if the hearts of the people don’t want it. If politics follows culture however, the focus has to be cultural renewal, that is, Christians need to be Christians. The preaching must become more prophetic (in the biblical sense of the term), and the works of God must be seen. This doesn’t require a majority, only faithfulness.

  4. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Scott Pennington says:

    “The advantage of Democracy is that you are free to practice your religion (among other freedoms), something socialism/statism (our only other alternative) will not tolerate in the long term.”

    And you are also free not to practice any religion at all, to practice neo-paganism, etc. Freedom is always a mixed blessing at best. I think too many people see the only alternative to democracy is some evil spectre like the former Soviet Union. There were many Christian empires and kingdoms. We should be more open minded.

    “But politics follows culture.”

    This is not necessarily true. It is more accurate to say they are a synergy, perhaps one a bit more out front than the other. Roosevelt changed the culture. The Warren Court changed the culture. Whether for better or worse, you can decide. Sometimes change comes from the top down.

    “To blame democracy, or more precisely, to blame democratic freedom for our present moral collapse, puts a responsibility on the democratic system that it cannot bear. The seeds were sown earlier.”

    Well, if you mean our fallen nature, I agree. But democracy definitely enables a gradual fall into depravity. “Vox populi, vox dei.” In that statement is contained the essence of what is wrong with democracy. It can never be “under God”.

    I wrote:
    “The point is to establish Christian morality.”

    You wrote:

    “This doesn’t work, not at least if the hearts of the people don’t want it. If politics follows culture however, the focus has to be cultural renewal, that is, Christians need to be Christians.”

    Yes it can work. I do not for a second suggest that you are going to convert everyone’s heart just because the government is officially Christian and rules according to Christian principles. What I’m suggesting is that that has a much better chance of succeeding than politics following culture. Create a governement with Christian laws. Once people become convinced that the rule of this law will prevail, they will amend their behavior to stay out of trouble. In such an environment, children and young adults would not have so many bad temptations presented as wholesome and natural. People could actually tell right from wrong because there is an overwhelming context. Now the only overwhelming context is a depraved media.

    Fr. Hans, try to remember that America has gone from being a country whose people were predominantly Christian and whose morality and law was informed by Christian morality to being a culture where Christianity is widely mocked, disregarded and rejected. It is now a country which has killed 50 million unborn babies in the past 36 years. It has destroyed family life, etc., etc. The decay took time and, not coincidentally, became more and more prevalent as the franchise was expanded and the country became more democratic.

    It’s a one way flow, Fr. Hans. Christian values can come to dominate a culture if imposed by the government (as was the case with Rome, Constantinople and Russia). But when it’s left up to the people, they will choose the golden calf.

    The best evidence, the thing that could convince me that the above is not true, would be some historical examples, some situation where a highly representative government actually preserved Christian values for some extended period of time without having them enshrined in some Constitutional provision that required 2/3, 3/4 or more of the vote to change.

    Apart from that, you’re dealing in theories and I’m dealing with historical facts.

Care to comment?

*