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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
            Monday, December 1 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Frames of reference: 4

Liberal
Conservative
Revolution
Tradition

I was challenged to defend the assertion that liberalism is, on one hand, revolutionary, and on the other, why wouldn't that make it as American as apple pie, our nation having been born of a Revolutionary War. No one mentioned my referring to conservatism as being tradition oriented, so maybe that's a given.

Philosophically, I'm not sure that the American Revolution actually qualifies as a revolution in the sense it is commonly used in political science in this era. It strikes me more as a small step in a long evolution of English history toward recognizing human rights, from absolute monarchy to republican democracy. However, some Christian political philosophers have taken issue with whether or not one clause of the Declaration of Independence, the document that signalled the start of the war of American independence from England, is in itself "revolutionary," at least in comparison with a biblical view of authority, government, politics (in this excerpt):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

The words in bold type are the ones departing from a strict application of the biblical principles for human government. The scriptures are clear that governments are instituted not "among men," but "by God," and they derive their "just powers" not from the people (the most "revolutionary" idea here) but from God through devine revelation. It's not possible to adequately recap even one of the two governments in Christian history that best conform to the biblical ideas (in my opinion), but will assert that they are: 1. What, in the West (west of Greece, that is) is known as the Byzantine Empire, but which considered itself the Roman Empire, refounded by Constantine the Great after his conversion to Christianity (312 A.D.), and which ruled a sizeable and possibly the most enduring and powerful empire in human history, for fully a millenium, until the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 (39 years before Columbus "discovered" the American continents). And, 2. The Christian democratic government of the Netherlands, founded by Abraham Kuyper around the beginning of the 20th Century and continuing in at least partial power ever since (though much eclipsed in most ways by a much liberalized version of its original vision). The "Byzantine" Empire, of course, was Orthodox or what people influenced by the Roman Catholic tradition call Eastern Orthodox or Greek Orthodox. The Christian democrat experiment in the Netherlands, very much influenced by England's evolution under Protestant monarchs and parliaments, was Reformed Protestant.

I won't be able to apply any of the lessons learned via the Byzantine Empire, as this is already beyond the normal size of these "postcards," but I had to introduce the Dutch experiment because Kuyper, the first Christian democrat prime minister in Europe, called his party, which he based upon what he was convinced strictly biblical principles of government, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, and the choice of those words was no accident. The Netherlands lived under the threat of the French Revolution from the storming of the Bastille, in 1789, which launched the most bloody revolution the world had ever seen, into the 20th Century and, arguably, even beyond to the present. France's Revolution was led, like Hitler and Stalin generations afterward, by "philosophers" who proposed that the way to the future is through cleaning the decks, so to speak, washing them in the blood of thousands of traditionalists, especially believers in God, and especially in France, Catholics, and in Hitler's Reich, Jews. The French revolution and its spirit swept through Europe and I believe dominates the European Union even now. It is the most truly post-Christian, throughly secular/secularist government ideal established since the fall of the Rome-based ("western") Roman empire (fifth century A.D.). This is the same spirit, the same philosophy, that is easily discerned in all the current Democratic candidates for President of the United States, with the possible exception of Joe Leiberman, and it's why they all sound more like French President Chirac than President Bush or any of our previous Democrat Presidents except Clinton.

Kuyper was leader of the second generation of political figures in Holland to be studying the concept of godly government based on Christian principle. And so far as I know, it's the only one that has started with biblical theory and worked up from that, self-consciously, to produce a whole new governmental system. All the other European Christian democrats have learned from the Dutch Anti-Revolutionary Party (now known, I believe, as the Christian Democratic Appeal), though all the others are dominated by Catholics, and in some cases, probably, Lutherans, rather than Reformed Protestants. Though the Anti-Revolutionaries are not formally connected with the American conservative movement, there is much overlap in their ideologies. Like most American movements (political or otherwise), there isn't much formal philosophy (theory) behind our brand of conservatism but rather it tends to make up its program and platform as it goes along ("pragmatism" is often called the American motive force; even Republican politicians urge voters to vote their self-interest rather than voting for what's right, for example). But the voucher schools and President Bush's faith-based initiative program are basically beholden, indirectly, to Abraham Kuyper and his ARP, and the schools and organizations where he is studied and promoted, like Dordt College in Iowa, Calvin College in Michigan, a pocket in Notre Dame University, and pre-eminently, the Washington-based Center for Public Justice, a "Kuyperian" political think tank.

(And incidentally, it was my privilege to be the founder/director of the Kuyper Institute at Stanford University, 1972-83.)

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Quick reference for this series: First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh. twelfth.

Fun facts (or "facts," so it says, but take with a grain)

The only 15-letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is uncopyrightable.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter was Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today - Advent

A soldier asked the monk,,Abba Mius, if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, "Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?" He replied, "No, I mend it and use it again." The old man said to him, "If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?"
 
— Sent by Christopher Haas
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