While I'm off on retreat, I thought I would reprint the five most popular posts of all time on the blog. This one is originally from March, 2012. Enjoy!
Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to be a religion in keeping with reason. When it identified its forerunners, these were primarily, not in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which cleared the road from the various traditions that cluttered it in order to turn to the search for truth and to turn toward the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. As a religion of the persecuted, and as a universal religion that was wider than any one state or people, it denied the government the right to consider religion as part of the order of the state, thus stating the principle of the liberty of faith.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 47-8
Reflection – We live in a time of creeping fascism. I know, I know—this is something I tend to harp on a bit on this blog, and it may get a bit tiresome. I promise I won’t mention contraception this time, OK?
I also know that the word ‘fascism’ has been devalued in recent decades to become a synonym for “I don’t like you very much, you poopy-head!” A mere term of invective drained of any positive content.
But fascism is an actual political philosophy, and it is a growing one in
Canada, the States, and Europe. It is, simply put, the philosophy of the exaltation of power of the state over all other social entities. Mussolini summed it up as “Nothing but the state, nothing without the state, nothing outside the state.”
In other words, the government has the right to call the shots in virtually every area of human life, without exception, and virtually every area of human activity is to be guided and governed by government policy, without exception.
The fascist regimes of the 1920s and 30s were ‘hard fascist’—jackbooted repressive regimes, brutally imposing the state’s authority by the most violent and thuggish means. And a ‘strong man’ at the head of it, making the trains run on time and promising peace and security through an all-powerful state apparatus.
The increasingly fascist regimes of the 21st century are ‘soft fascist’—made up of ever-expanding thickets of regulations and ministry policies crafted by faceless nameless bureaucrats in back rooms and enforced not so much by prison camps and executions as by a system of punitive fines and fees and inspections that force us all to live our lives under the constant watchful eye of our state overlords.
Well, this is the world we live in, and it is unclear how we can change it at this point. Simply voting for a different political party next time doesn’t seem to do it; they’re all in on it, apparently! And the courts seem to be on the side of the state most of the time (witness the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision that all families in
Quebec must allow their children to be taught that all religions are equally true). Violent rebellion is not an option for a Christian—which I guess leaves us with prayer and fasting!
But we have to be clear: the two bulwarks against fascism are, and always have been, the family and the Church. The family is prior to the state and has inalienable rights that the state must not transgress; the Church is not an organ of the state, and must vigorously resist government incursions into its operations.
As governments continue to overstep their boundaries in more and more intrusive ways, this means we have to be willing to accept persecution. It’s unfortunate, and we don’t welcome this. We wish that those faceless nameless bureaucrats and their elected bosses would come to their senses and realize the grave harm and evil done by fascism to basic human flourishing. But they don’t seem to be doing that.
In all this, though, the Church has a great opportunity to emerge as what it truly is: the great defender of human liberty and the rights of individuals, families, and other social groups against the state. And in this defense of liberty, to proclaim the gospel of Christ with renewed vigor and appeal—we are to be free in political society because we are made eternally for the freedom of love and truth, and this is vouchsafed to us by the revelation of God in Christ of his plans and purposes for human life.
So the crisis (and I do believe it is just that) of fascism in the 21st century, painful and unpleasant as it is, is a moment of hope and an opportunity for evangelization for the Church. So let’s take this opportunity, with prayer and fasting for sure, but also with bold proclamation of the freedom of the Gospel and the