A Voice in the Wilderness In Defense of "Mere Conservatism"

30Apr/12Off

What’s The Deal With Mary Jane?: Part 3

By: Caitlin Cogan Doemner, Contributor

Click for Part 1 and Part 2

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Legalizing Marijuana: Just Say “No”

If you’re only worried about the health of your lungs, the health risks of marijuana are less extreme than tobacco; unfortunately, if you also care about your brain, marijuana’s effects are significantly worse. Use of marijuana distorts sensory and time perception, inhibits coordination, impairs cognitive functions such as recall, learning, and problem-solving, and in larger quantities can cause disorientation, hallucinations, and delusions. Long-time users have been known to develop anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders.  The argument that because some dangerous substances are legal (like alcohol and tobacco), other dangerous substances should be legalized is short-sighted. We know that alcohol is responsible for killing an average of 75,000 Americans every year; tobacco claims over 400,000 annually. Legalizing marijuana will inevitably increase the number of users and the corresponding number of deaths. Legalizing marijuana is the equivalent of signing a death warrant for thousands of people every year.

Anecdotally, drug users start experimenting with marijuana, but eventually get into heroin, cocaine, or other harder drugs. While advocates of legalization claim that marijuana is not a gateway drug, “ a study of over 300 fraternal and identical twin pairs found that the twin who had used marijuana before the age of 17 had elevated rates of other drug use and drug problems later on, compared with their twin who did not use before age 17.” When society legalizes a drug, it implicitly endorses its use, and increased availability will inevitably increase demand. This increased acceptance and availability would almost certainly increase the chances of the drug finding its way into the hands of minors. Due to the psychoactive nature of the drug, smoking marijuana during one’s adolescent years can seriously – and permanently – impair a person’s cognitive development.snoop-dogg-smoking

While the scientific data about marijuana serving as a gateway to harder drugs may be inconclusive, its legalization would certainly serve as a “gateway drug” politically. The legalization of marijuana would set a precedent that could eventually result in the legalization of harder drugs or all drugs. The legalization of marijuana presents a slippery slope dilemma to legislators: When you begin legalizing vice, where do you draw the line? Gambling? Prostitution? While individuals may have differing personal feelings about the issue, public policy needs to act in the best interests of its citizens. For those of us who believe in objective morality, doing what’s right trumps doing what’s popular.

Government was instituted by God for the preservation of justice, which includes punishing evil, rewarding good, and protecting the weak. While many of our citizens may have the strength of character and body to use marijuana moderately and wisely, there are thousands of individuals who are likely to indulge in the drug without wisdom and develop an addiction. In 2008, an estimated 4.2 million Americans were dependent upon or abused the use of marijuana. Addictions enslave a person’s will, removing their freedom to choose what is truly in their best interests, and frequently negatively affects their personal lives, as well as their familial and professional  commitments. In accordance with Paul’s admonition to avoid putting stumbling blocks in others’ paths, the majority of citizens who could indulge in marijuana safely should accept the legal prohibitions as a means of aiding the wellbeing of their fellow citizens and protecting those weaker than themselves.

The toll on “human capital” would very likely offset any economic advantages of legalizing marijuana. Marijuana use not only harms the user, but frequent use can undermine socially constructive behavior: “Marijuana users themselves report poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures. One study compared current and former long-term heavy users of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking cannabis at least once in their lives but not more than 50 times. Despite similar education and income backgrounds, significant differences were found in educational attainment: fewer of the heavy users of cannabis completed college, and more had yearly household incomes of less than $30,000. When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the majority of heavy cannabis users reported the drug's negative effects on all of these measures. In addition, several studies have linked workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover. For example, a study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and a 75-percent increase in absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.” So, not only would fewer people attend college, but worker productivity would decrease as well.  The Drug Enforcement Administration says legalization of drugs will cost society between $140-210 billion a year in lost productivity and job-related accidents. Additionally, increased health care needs and more car accidents will result in higher insurance premiums for all.

Legalizing marijuana doesn’t make economic sense and will likely harm the most vulnerable members of our society.


Filed under: The Plumb Line 1 Comment
25Apr/12Off

James Poulos

Our featured guest this week on The RJ Moeller Show is James Poulos.

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James is a columnist at The Daily Caller and a contributor at Forbes, Ricochet and Vice. He's been printed in publications such as The American Conservative, The American Interest, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Cato Unbound, First Things, Foreign Policy, and The Weekly Standard. Mr. Poulos also appears on shows like UP with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, or with The Young Turks on Current, or on RT’s The Alyona Show. After years in DC, James now resides in Los Angeles where, among other things, he is finishing a dissertation for Georgetown on the place of Napoleon in 19th-century democratic political thought.

RJ and James chat about everything from Aristotle to GOP Vice Presidential picks to Dick Cheney's fishing lure preferences (and anything in between).  Visit jamespoulos.com and follow him at @jamespoulos!

In the second segment, friend-of-the-show Eric Teetsel gives his review of the recent Q conference that took place in Washington D.C.

Stream the show on the application below, or find (and subscribe to) us on iTunes!


21Apr/12Off

What’s The Deal With Mary Jane?: Part 2

By: Caitlin Cogan Doemner, Contributor

For Part 1, click here

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Legalization of Marijuana: The Road to Liberty, Security, and Prosperity

In this article, I will be making a case for full legalization of marijuana on a federal level as opposed to simple decriminalization which punishes offenses by means other than prison (see traffic violations).

Most social contract theorists agree that the basis of government is to protect an individual’s rights from the infringement of others; therefore a government should only intrude into matters which affect the relationship between its citizens and others. On personal matters, such as what an individual chooses to eat or drink, the government has no right to intervene, unless such actions negatively affect another individual. For example, one should be free to get thoroughly drunk inside one’s own home, so long as the drunkard does not injure or threaten to injure another person (by getting into a car, let’s say). The government has no right to “protect” its citizens from themselves; hence, there is no law against gluttony. In so far as the government prohibits the individual growing and usage of marijuana, it oversteps its bounds.

If health is a concern, marijuana seems to offer fewer risks than tobacco.  Smoking tobacco has been proven to cause chronic obstructive lung diseases as well as cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, lungs, stomach, kidneys, and pancreas; smoking tobacco increases risk of coronary heart disease and strokes while decreasing bone density. All told, smoking tobacco causes more deaths each year than by HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. The health risks of marijuana are limited primarily to brain function; according to this study by the American Medical Association, even high use of marijuana did not affect lung health. In fact, marijuana seems to offer positive medical benefits, which is more than the tobacco can boast.

Unfortunately, these potential benefits to the drug cannot be adequately researched and utilized without legalization. For this reason, the California Medical Association, a group of more than 35,000 physicians, officially supports the federal legalization of marijuana. The legalization of marijuana will allow for regulation of the drug with specified standards for concentration and purity that will protect users and open up new avenues for studying the medical value of the plant for use in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and glaucoma, as well as pain management for a variety of other patients.

But what is medical value compared to increased justice in our legal system? The United States has the highest number of prisoners per capita in the world at 715 per 100,000 people. The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627. The others have much lower rates: England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63. Not only do we send an inordinate number of individuals to prison, we also give them significantly longer sentences than other nations. Coincidentally, this number began to skyrocket in the 1970s after President Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs (our previous average was less than 200 per 100,000). According to the CEPR, if we reduced the incarceration rate of non-violent offenders by even one-half, it would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion annually. This chart from the CEPR report shows how disproportional our incarceration rate has become in terms of population growth and traditional crimes:

chart_cepr_incarceration1-fig5Legalizing marijuana would alleviate some of the pressure felt in the correctional system currently and free up resources in the police and judiciary realms that would allow for a greater focus on violent crime.

Sun Tzu would tell you to not to pick a fight you can’t win.  Unless the United States government can eliminate the demand for marijuana, it will never eradicate its supply.  By keeping marijuana illegal and reducing the supply, we are only putting more money and more power into the hands of the drug cartels. Legalization would dramatically increase the supply of drugs, but according to this Australian study, it does not seem to seriously affect the number of new users (the report  estimates an increase of less than 1%). This influx of supply with inelastic demand would introduce capitalism into the market, increasing quality while decreasing price, strangling the deadly drug cartels that rule our southern border and reducing the domestic street crimes associated with drug use.

And lastly, in this flagging economy, let’s not forget the financial advantages of legalization. While people argue about the actual numbers, the revenue generated by the industry would likely be in the billions. Even with home growers avoiding taxation and the increased production decreasing prices, the savings of judiciary costs and influx of revenue would help balance the budget (at least, here in pot-loving California).


Filed under: The Plumb Line 1 Comment
18Apr/12Off

Charles Murray

While speaking to this week's featured guest on The RJ Moeller Show, Dr. Charles Murray, R.J. said he felt like Wayne and Garth bumping into Alice Cooper backstage: "I wasn't worthy!"

img-charles-murray_160950248897.jpg_item_hero_bw.jpgCharles Murray has been one of the preeminent thinkers in the country for three decades.  He is a political scientist, author, and renowned libertarian. He first came to national attention in 1984 with the publication of Losing Ground, which has been credited as the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. His 1994 New York Times bestseller, The Bell Curve, sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of IQ in shaping America’s class structure.

His most recent book, Coming Apart, describes an unprecedented divergence in American classes over the last half century.  It is a fascinating read, and a powerful assessment of our society, culture, and class-structure.

charles-murray-coming-apart-the-state-of-white-america-1960-2010You can follow Dr. Murray on Twitter at @charlesmurray!

In the second segment, R.J. and The Gang discuss George W. Bush's recent public comments on the danger of raising taxes, James O'Keefe's voter fraud video, and why Paul Ryan is so dreamy.

Stream the episode below, or find (and subscribe to us) on your iTunes for free!

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17Apr/12Off

The “Buffett Rule” Farce

From the good people over at The Heritage Foundation:

President Obama says his “Buffett Rule” — which imposes higher taxes on wealthy Americans and job creators — will help “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade.” But if you compare how much money his policy raises with how much he’d like to spend, you get a much different picture.

555477_387715817928409_100000699838294_1240902_230754242_nThe Buffett Rule would impose a minimum 30 percent tax on businesses and families earning $1 million. That would bring in $47 billion in revenue in ten years. Next to the President’s budget, which adds $6.7 trillion to the national debt, you can see that Obama’s answer to America’s budget woes isn’t much of an answer at all. Do the math, and you’ll find that the Buffett Rule would cover just 0.7% of all of Obama’s debt and .1% of Obama’s spending.

As you can see, that’s a small drop in a very large bucket.

What in the world is going on here?  How can politicians on the Left get away with spouting such nonsense about the need to tax "the rich"?

Answer: because so many of us don't know our stuff.  We don't know how to respond when our co-worker says "Yeah, but wealthy people should be paying their fair share."

So learn.  Equip yourself with information like this.  Go forth and indoctrinate.


11Apr/12Off

The Adult Conservative Orphan

By: The Good Friar

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To think that conservatives are so helpless and lacking in self-respect that we will take any candidate we are offered simply because we are told we have no alternative, is to underestimate the depth of our convictions. Presented with these two choices – one truly disappointing or the other truly awful – we may just choose to reject both

It was a year ago this last March that my father died unexpectedly. This followed on the heels of my mother’s death some 10 years earlier after a failed heart surgery. For the first time in my life this last year I experienced something I thought I never would – the feelings of an orphan. As the Republican primary season comes to its jagged and unfulfilling conclusion, I find myself wrestling with emotions similar to ones that followed painful losses in my family.

You see, I am an adult conservative orphan, no longer at home in either party.220px-Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981

The Democratic Party so long ago abandoned the majority of ideals I embrace that I would have to go back to my childhood of the late 1950’s or early 1960’s to find any tenet of the liberal faith I could embrace.

As for the Republican Party, I came of age in the 1980’s and found myself in the welcoming embrace of true conservatism under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. For the better part of that glorious decade I was pleased to call myself a Republican.

Since then, with the brief exception of George W. Bush’s foreign policy initiatives, I have increasingly found my views no longer welcome or at home in the mainstream GOP. Since the era of Reagan we have nominated (and lost) with moderates such as George H.W. Bush, Robert Dole, and John McCain. And while the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election is still somewhat in doubt, this much is already clear – the true losers of this election cycle are the true conservatives of the Reagan ilk – we find ourselves no longer valued or listened to by the Republican Party.

Part of the blame for this stunning defeat rests with us conservatives. Ours was a pathetically, poorly thought-out and hopelessly divided strategy throughout the primaries. Rather than early on pulling together to unite behind one strong conservative candidate in the process, we repeatedly divided our votes among several contenders. The result was to effectively hand the nomination to the moderate candidate who rarely garnered more than 35% of the vote. For our foolish pride and unwillingness to put service above self, we deserve to have lost this fight.

On the other hand, the wealth, influence and power of the Republican Establishment have from the very beginning clearly opposed to nominating a Reagan-like conservative. The early endorsement by beltway opinion makers, the smirk of insider party officials toward anyone but their ordained candidate, and the ill-gotten counsel of former (losing) Presidential candidates all worked together to insure a serious conservative would never receive the nomination.

As a result most Evangelicals, Tea Party activists and Reagan Democrats are effectively shut out of the big dance by a group displaying the same high-minded callousness and snobbery as the jealous stepmother in the Cinderella fable.

Where does this leave us with months left to go to the convention? Look for the presumptive nominee to display his own brand of noblisse oblige toward the conservatives in the Republican Party. In the end, however, whatever gestures he makes toward us will only be seen as so much window-dressing since the entire point of his candidacy was to provide a Gerald Ford type alternative to the noxious “away game” crowd in his party.

The Establishment and the nominee are now banking on two outcomes that are not necessarily givens.

1)  The first assumption is that we conservatives will rally around the moderate simply because the other alternative in the White House is too unthinkable, and 2)  We will quickly forget the decimating and pitilessly negative ad campaign waged against all our candidates simply because we are asked to (and we may not even be asked).

Speaking for myself (yet suspecting other conservatives hold similar convictions), a moderate Republican in the White House who appoints pro-choice judges, raises taxes, and believes in coercive government mandates for health care (albeit on a state level) is only slightly less repulsive than an out and out liberal who rejoices in doing all these things and promises to do more.

600px-Republicanlogo.svgTo think that conservatives are so helpless and lacking in self-respect that we will take any candidate we are offered simply because we are told we have no alternative, is to underestimate the depth of our convictions. Presented with these two choices – one truly disappointing or the other truly awful – we may just choose to reject both.

As for the assumption we will dismiss the scorched earth campaign waged against our candidates by someone who professed to be one of us, is to assume we have no true core boundaries. In other words, the presumption that we can be so easily wooed back after such abusive behavior would put us in the same category as the spouse of an alcoholic who readily takes her husband back just because he’s acting nice today.

It will be hard to forget the Machiavellian campaign waged by the handlers of the well-funded front-runner. It was as mean-spirited as it was ruthless at times. To assume that a grin and a hand-shake will erase the collective memory of this cynical and unworthy behavior is to give new meaning to the word co-dependent.

So where does an Adult Conservative Orphan now go to find a real home which will consistently welcome him and all that is dear to him?

Welcome, my friends, to the likely birth of the Conservative Party – the legitimate and heir apparent to the party of Abraham Lincoln.  Only in a party that truly embraces and practices conservative principles at its core can the primary process as now constructed yield a truly conservative candidate.

And we have the tactics and results of the 2012 Republican primary season to thank for its long overdue arrival.


11Apr/12Off

James Taranto

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto is our featured guest this week on The RJ Moeller Show.

hc_tarantoJames is editor of OpinionJournal.com and author of its popular "Best of the Web Today" column. In August 2007 he was named a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Before the launch of the Web site in 2000, he was the Journal's deputy editorial features editor. He joined the Journal in 1996 as an assistant editorial features editor after spending five years as an editor at City Journal, the Manhattan Institute's quarterly of urban public policy. He has also worked for the Heritage Foundation, United Press International, Reason magazine and KNX News Radio in Los Angeles.

For our money, Mr. Taranto is one of the best writers around and we were absolutely thrilled to talk with him about his unique college experience at California State University-Northridge, his recent interview with Cardinal Dolan, what it's like to appear on Fox News' late-night show Red Eye, and how a talented journalist like himself views and utilizes Twitter.  (Don't forget to follow James at @jamestaranto!)

In the second segment of the Values & Capitalism podcast, RJ finally recounts the full story of Rudy the Dog's recent harrowing exodus from Chicago to Los Angeles in the cargo hold of a United Airlines passenger plane.

rudy the dogRJ and The Gang also discuss NBC's blatant editing of George Zimmerman's 911 call, the lengths a pet-owner was willing to go to get his tickets to The Masters tournament back, and Dennis Prager's recent column on some differences between Right and Left in this country.

It's a jam-packed episode, and you can either stream the show live below or download it on your iTunes!

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10Apr/12Off

The Plumb Line: What’s the deal with Mary Jane?

By: Caitlin Doemner, Contributor

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Confession: I’m a drug-virgin. Though I’ve enjoyed the occasional cigarette, I’ve never even been offered a joint. Or special brownies, which I’d probably prefer. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to spell “marijuana” until Google helped me out.

So I started researching this article series by reading “How Stuff Works.” (I was unable to secure a doctor’s note for more “primary research.”)

First, the science.

Marijuana is the prepared version of the plant Cannabis sativa for use as a psychoactive drug and medicine. The major psychoactive compound is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, and the concentration of this compound determines the potency of the drug, usually ranging between 1 – 5%, with some samples as high as 22%. Potency is influenced by the climate conditions, genetics, harvesting and processing of the plant (usually its blossoms). THC enters the bloodstream most quickly through the lungs, but has more lasting effects when ingested. Once the THC reaches the brain it binds with cannabinoid receptors (hence the name?) to affect short-term memory, sense perception, coordination, learning and problem-solving. The “high” is often described as relaxing, creating a feeling of haziness or lightheadedness, followed occasionally by feelings of paranoia or panic. While the effects may wear off in a few hours, the chemicals stay in the body for 20 hours – 10 days. Fatalities from overdosing are rare, usually when hashish oil is injected intravenously.alan shlemon

Second, the history.

First referenced in a Chinese medical text in 2737 BC, marijuana spread across India and North Africa, reaching Europe as early as A.D. 500. It seems Muslims developed the blossoms’ resin into hashish since the consumption of alcohol was banned by the Q’ran. The Spanish brought it to the New World and the English grew it as a cash crop. Opium was still the preferred drug of choice until the Prohibition. The first campaign to brand marijuana as a “gateway drug” began in the 1930s and it became a symbol of independence by the “hippies” of the 1960s. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified it as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and LSD, and though the Mexicans eradicated known marijuana fields with herbicide in 1975, the country remains the United States’ number one supplier. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession of marijuana in 1973; California was the first state to establish a medical marijuana program in 1996, but voters have rejected more recent attempts to legalize the drug.

Third, the economics.

The Office of Drug Control Policy published a study in 2004 estimating that the nation was spending $12.1 billion in police and court costs and another $16.9 billion in correction costs annually on marijuana related charges.

This decade-old price tag was calculated by multiplying the criminal system’s expenses by the percentage of marijuana arrests; not an exact figure by a long shot, but ironically, the closest thing I could find to a hard number. This difficulty finding real data is the result of several factors.

First, and most importantly, the fact that marijuana is still an illegal drug and therefore, everyone in the industry is trying very hard to avoid statisticians, makes it difficult to gauge the size and nature of the market. Second, even on the legal side of this issue, figures like the above-mentioned justice system costs are difficult to assess because criminals are rarely being incarcerated exclusively for marijuana. Often, marijuana is just one piece of an arrest warrant and court verdict, so determining how much money is spent fighting the “war on drugs” is like deciding which shade of gray qualifies as white and which as black. Third, the largest costs are not quantifiable – what value do you place on a mom who neglects her children as a result of drug abuse? How do you price a man’s life spent in prison for marijuana charges? The social and human costs of drugs are the highest and least able to be evaluated.

So here is my plan: Instead of playing a numbers shell game of costs and savings, I’m going to look at the decision-affecting factors as objectively as possible and see what I can make of this highly-contentious issue, arguing first for and then against the legalization of the drug. My theory is that the number of zeroes after the dollar sign shouldn’t really affect whether or not legalization is a good decision. We’ll see.

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Coming Next Time: Legalizing Marijuana: The Road to Liberty, Security, and Prosperity


Filed under: The Plumb Line 6 Comments
6Apr/12Off

A Protestant Response to Chesterton

By A.E. Carnehl, contributor

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Why a man should accept a Creator who was a carpenter, and then worry about holy water, why he should accept a local Protestant tradition that God was born in some particular place mentioned in the Bible, merely because the Bible had been left lying about in England, and then say it is incredible that a blessing should linger on the bones of a saint, why he should accept the first and most stupendous part of the story of Heaven on Earth, and then furiously deny a few small but obvious deductions from it – that is a [Protestant] thing I do not understand; I never could understand; I have come to the conclusion that I shall never understand.  I can only attribute it to Superstition.
-G.K.C. in The Thing: Why I am a Catholic

If Protestantism is a positive thing, there is no doubt whatever that it is dead.  In so far as it really was a set of special spiritual beliefs it is no longer believed.  The genuine Protestant creed is now hardly held by anybody – least of all by the Protestants.  So completely have they lost faith in it, that they have mostly forgotten what it was.  If almost any modern man be asked whether we save our souls solely through our theology, or whether doing good will help us on the road to God, he would answer without hesitation that good works are probably more pleasing to God than theology.
-G.K.C. ibid.

G.K. Chesterton, unlike the other even more popular Christian apologist of the 20th century C.S. Lewis, was not ecumenical.  Although at the beginning of his career all of his works brilliantly defended “Orthodoxy” and true Christianity (especially Heretics and Orthodoxy), after he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922 this ecumenicism faded and was replaced by a militant Catholicity that flew in the face of all denominations of Protestantism.  Whereas C.S. Lewis described the Church as a hallway with many doors, and each door represented a different strain or denomination with each one contributing to the Church as a whole, Chesterton (after 1922) only saw Catholicism as the true Church.13740363

In such later works as The Thing (quoted above), The Catholic Church and Conversion, The Well and the Shallows, and parts of The Everlasting Man Chesterton deviates from his classic defenses of religion and morality and instead launches into long attacks on Protestantism, such as are found in the two above quotations. These attacks are often baseless or at least very unconvincing, but Chesterton continued with them nevertheless, mistakenly seeing Protestants as his main enemy after his conversion to the dogmas of Rome in 1922.  George Orwell, the celebrated author of 1984 and Animal Farm went so far as to describe Chesterton’s later more Catholic writings as “propaganda” and “endless repetition of the same thing”, and this endless repetition Orwell compares to the Ephesians who shouted at the Apostle Paul “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” rather than defend their pagan beliefs rationally in the face of the religious teachings of Paul.

Chesterton was one of the last Catholic voices of the first half of the century that rose so militantly against Protestantism; especially after Vatican II with its tremendous reforms, the line between Catholicism and Protestantism disappeared even more than it did with the emergence of modern liberal and existential theology during World War II.  With a whole slew of new Catholic theologians such as Karl Rahner who was greatly influenced by the atheist existentialist Heidegger, Hans Urs von Balthasaar who was good friends with Barth, and perhaps especially Pierre Teilhard de Chardin whose teachings often stood in stark contract to classic Catholic dogma and St Thomas Aquinas, the theologian whom Chesterton especially adored.  It would be interesting to see how much G.K.C.’s writing would have changed if he lived through more of the 20th century with its theological developments.

The brilliant poet and essayist W.H. Auden puts Chesterton’s theological beliefs in their correct light when he writes, “If [Chesterton’s] criticisms of Protestantism are not very interesting, this is not his fault.  It was a period when Protestant theology (and, perhaps, Catholic too) was at a low ebb, Kierkegaard had not been re-discovered and Karl Barth had not yet been translated.  Small fry like Dean Inge and the ineffable Bishop Barnes were too easy game for a mind of his caliber.  Where he is at his best is in exposing the hidden dogmas of anthropologists, psychologists and their ilk who claim to be purely objective and ‘scientific’”.  Of course we will never know how Chesterton and his thought might have changed in light of new Catholic ways of thinking, but we can guess that he would have just as zealously followed the Pope and Roman dogmas during the 1950s and 1960s as he did in the 20s.

There are perhaps several underlying weaknesses in Chesterton’s defense of Roman Catholicism and critique of “Protestantism” (which he never really defines) throughout his later writings.  The first is that Chesterton almost always attacks a straw man of Protestantism rather than any single theology point for point.  Unlike his other pointed attacks against Nietzsche or Tolstoy or Russell or Shaw, Chesterton’s attacks against “Protestantism” were often too broad and general that they could easily be proven wrong by just citing a few examples.  Chesterton writes in his essay “The New Luther” that, “It is very difficult to imagine any doctrine that could make man more base, describe human nature as more desperately impotent, blacken the reason and the will of man with a more bottomless and hopeless despair than did the real doctrine of Luther”.gkc

G.K. writes this in his essay because he is dismissing some new movement christened “The New Reformation”, for how could any doctrine be blacker and more reformed than Luther’s?  Chesterton in this example is absolutely correct that Luther restored the reality of humanity’s impotence, but by doing that Luther merely echoed the Church Fathers and Saints Paul and John.  For it was St Paul who said that all have sinned and fallen short, St John who said that if we say we have no sin we lie to ourselves and are made into liars, and it was the great St Augustine who taught that original sin led to an enfeebled will and uncontrollable sensuality.  Chesterton, in his allegiance to Thomism and the Catholic thinking at the time, tended to think of man not in the biblical and Augustinian view, but rather, as a sort of demigod whose Image of God-ness is hardly stained or compromised by original sin.

Chesterton, who once wrote before his conversion to Catholicism that original sin was the only empirically verifiable Christian dogma, wrote after his conversion this attack upon Luther. The irony of Chesterton’s statement though is that Luther probably would have taken these words as a compliment of his theology – indeed, Luther’s last words were, “We are all beggars – this is true”.  Just as Luther strove to show man’s weakness and therefore absolute need for divine Grace, so did Chesterton focus on the other side of man by emphasizing his “imago Dei” and his saintliness and uniqueness above all other creatures.  Luther was speaking to the Renaissance while Chesterton was speaking to the Age of Doubt.  For Luther, just the opposite needed to be told, that man is not the measure but that God is.

For Chesterton in the beginning of the 20th century, it needed to be proclaimed that man had a free will, had a conscience, and had the image of his Creator stamped upon his heart.


Filed under: Chesterton 6 Comments
4Apr/12Off

Hannah Smith, Hunger Games & the HHS Mandate

The contentious debates over issues related to Obamacare and the HHS "contraception" mandate have flooded news headlines for the past few months, and our first guest on this week's episode of The RJ Moeller Show is the perfect person to ask about such matters. Hannah Smith is Senior Counsel at The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty - a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute that protects the free expression of all faiths.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01630243c68d970d-640wiMs. Smith has clerked for Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, is a graduate of Princeton University and BYU law school, and is a frequent contributor on Fox News.  As you'll hear in the course of our interview with her, Hannah is a fierce and articulate defender of religious liberty and freedom.  When it comes to the HHS mandate and contraception battle, she knows her stuff (and now you will too)!

In the other segment of the big show, Eric Teetsel joins R.J. to discuss the cultural (and now film) phenomenon: The Hunger Games. The two review the film, Eric discusses the ideological outline of the entire book series, and Harry Potter's name comes up more than once.

Listen to the episode by clicking the Play button below, or download the show on your iTunes!

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The basic ideas, ideals, and values that generally define and characterize the central tenets of what today might be termed "modern conservative thought."

We believe that a proper understanding of history, economics, and theology leads to certain conclusions. Many of these are the same conclusions our Founding Fathers arrived at in constructing a "more perfect union."

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