An Actually Interesting Debate

by Patrick J. Deneen on June 21, 2009 · 93 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Most of the debates within the “conservative” wing today are yawners.  They pit one brand of worn-out “conservatism” against another (often with the assistance of screeds on talk radio), with nary an interlocutor capable of reflecting on the deeper set of commitments (and, more often than not, profound internal contradictions) assumed within a particular “conservative” worldview, so-called.

But Jason Joseph has noticed something – there are two iterations of contemporary conservatism, both almost entirely outside the mainstream of contemporary hackery – that have a set of interesting overlapping commitments, and an even more interesting set of  differences.  This debate pits the anti-consumerist, CSA-loving, small town-adoring, pro-hand working, suburb-loathing, bourbon-sipping denizens of the “Front Porch Republic” against the McDonald’s loving, Starbucks slurping, dentistry-adoring, Wal-Mart shopping adherents of Postmodern Conservatism.

I think I’m going to have to invite one of our goons to take on one of theirs.  Let’s have a knock-down, drag-out, fight-to-the-finish, winner-take-all, one-man-standing, n0-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners debate.  You, know – Jets vs. Sharks, and all that.  As long as we can have drinks afterwards.  Let’s find out once and for all whether there’s a place on the porch for the PoMo Cons, or whether there’s a place for the Front Porchers in post-modernity.  What do you think…?  Any one out there want to foot the bill for a title match?  We’ll let you keep the door receipts…

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar H.C. Johns June 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Amen to this. Given that they also represent divisions over an admittedly modified populism vs. some longing for the aristocracy, it would make for an exceptionally juicy debate…

avatar Jason Peters June 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I’ll play David to their Goliath at the free-throw line. One hundred tosses.

avatar Reg June 24, 2009 at 11:01 pm

What am I if I’m a conservative that adores my small-town McDonalds, buys my gardening supplies at Wal-Mart, works in a green collar job, and sips local microbrew?

avatar Patrick Deneen June 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Lawler tries to slip out of my headlock. But, let’s face it – this is the kind of matchup we’d be looking at:

Poulos

-vs.-

Stegall

avatar Kenneth McIntyre June 24, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I posted a brief reply to Lawler on the pomo-con website, but it is merely a silly bit of reconnoitring. I rely on you to carry the battle forward, Patrick.

avatar Will Wilson June 25, 2009 at 1:39 am

Bah! If being a PoMoCon means I have to slurp Starbucks, I may just turn in my membership card. I prefer homebrewed beer in dense metro areas, which I suppose makes me a traitor to both sides.

When brewing, I only ever use the finest fluoridated tap water. The commie mind-control drug just gives it an extra zing, y’know? That, combined with hops purchased over the internet so that I can avoid interacting with people and spurn generations of tradition results in a brew that is just so delightfully impersonal. It’s like putting fast food and minimum parking requirements in a bottle and then drinking it!

Consumption poses further problems, but fortunately my front porch is hermetically sealed so I can avoid being taught lessons in humility and patience by the elements while simultaneously avoiding looking my neighbors in the eye. That’s the kind of efficiency you’ll only find at Walmart, baby!

Seriously though — consider the gauntlet picked up.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 25, 2009 at 3:54 am

I’m having continence issues!

avatar Caleb Stegall June 25, 2009 at 5:57 am

“Two men enter, one man leave!”

PopCult reference as PoMoCon bait …

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 25, 2009 at 8:04 am

I’m a Kentuckian and a fan of family farms…but not necessarily in the Front Porch Republic model. I live in Louisville, tend a garden and try to buy local. But I also love my AC, my Wi-Fi annd my cable TV.

Just curious where I fit in to this debate.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 25, 2009 at 8:22 am

The late Fr. Jape disemboweled the PoMoCons at FT before they knew that’s what they were…

Excerpt:

“What can explain the cultural and intellectual insecurity on maudlin display at First Things? I think it is the manifestation of full blown snobbery brought by submission to the masters of Wall Street and 5th Avenue. A known and keenly felt inferiority brings on the curious combination of pretending to enjoy our plastic lives while fashioning ourselves as connoisseurs of fine leather, marble, and cherrywood. This brings the bizarre spectacle of people who plop their BK have-it-your-way Whopper drive-through on their ‘handcrafted Amish dinner-table’ and then turn around and pop in the latest London Philharmonic CD into their made-in-China Wal-Mart standard-issue under-the-cupboard CD player. After this kind of cultural diet, I doubt if the First Things crowd could recognize a genuine cultural artifact if it rose up and bit them in the collective bottom. But perhaps if Jake Shimabukuro really applied himself, he could put his wasted talent to some important cultural task such as making Whoppers. Now that is something everyone at First Things could appreciate.”

avatar Dan June 25, 2009 at 8:39 am

Interesting suggestion but wouldn’t know which side to root for. As my patron saint once said, and I paraphrase, “Revolution’s not my line. First and foremost, I’m a minister of God and an enemy of the devil.”

avatar Katherine Dalton June 25, 2009 at 8:48 am

Dear Readers: This is not the Communist Party, or your average tenure committee, scrutinizing for purity. I speak only for myself of course, but I am highly impure, see pluses to reasonably sized cities and urban homesteading, and just last night used air conditioning.

In any case, Mike from Louisville and others, read in peace. Any kind of perfection, including any group of stump-thumpers perfectly in accordance with your own varied views, is probably unavailable in this world or the next. All we ask is that all tomatoes be aimed above the belt.

I’m all for your debate, Patrick. I suppose I am on the older end of the age span here–hence I have always called the two groups you cite paleoconservatives and neoconservatives. The spots emphasized vary a bit, but it’s generally the same leopards.

avatar Patrick Deneen June 25, 2009 at 8:50 am

Mike,
Keep reading FPR (if sparingly, to save energy). I, for one, am not against modern gadgets per se – just our confusion in believing that a good life depends upon them, and an ignorance about the sources of destruction that often go into running them. As a Kentuckian, all you need to do is take a trip out to the strip-mined mountains to get a gander at the plunder needed to power the gadgets you love. If we used them a lot less, more of Kentucky would still be there, and not in the atmosphere.

avatar E.D. Kain June 25, 2009 at 9:04 am

But Patrick – didn’t you write for PoMoCon back in the days of Culture11 or does my memory deceive me?

Will:

I prefer homebrewed beer in dense metro areas, which I suppose makes me a traitor to both sides.

Me too! But I believe localism can be applied to neighborhoods within cities. Cities need not be comprised of chain stores and Starbucks after all. A really good walkable city with local pubs and haunts is every bit a part of the front porch vision (to my mind) as a small Kentuckian town.

avatar Patrick Deneen June 25, 2009 at 9:15 am

E.D. Kain,

Indeed, your memory serves. I admired what Culture 11 was trying to do, and threw my hat in the ring. However, I acknowledged at the outset that, for me, writing for an outfit called “Postmodern Conservative” was an uncomfortable fit:

I concluded in my first post there:

As for the title of this blog – Postmodern Conservative – it is a label that I can accept only under protest. It is a phrase that is inspired by Peter Lawler’s efforts to recommend a “postmodernism rightly understood” – a period that may or might arrive after the passing of the modern order. Thus, it is not to be confused with the trendy (or, really, tired) postmodernism of modern academia inspired by such thinkers as Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. It is instead a rejection of modernity in the name of the insights of premodernity – Thomistic and Aristotelian “realism” in particular. That said, it is a postmodernity that also wishes to retain a good number of the boons of modernity – Starbucks, McDonalds, suburbs and exurbs, the interstate highway system, orthodontic dentistry, etc….) – while rejecting its excessive materialism, individualism, liberalism, atheism, etc. I can sign onto the “postmodern” critique but have more difficulty accepting that we can easily retain all the good stuff (so called) while jettisoning the bad. My deepest suspicions are that it’s a package deal, and so I’m not sure I can fully accept the label “postmodern conservative” and might rather consider myself to be a premodern radical. With that understanding, I expect we will have some interesting conversations here, and I’m happy, pleased and honored to be here.

I agree completely with your walkable city observation. I don’t consider FPR to be anti-urban at all; indeed, I think many here, like me, are strongly in favor of increased population density in place of suburbs, exurbs and strip malls. But, it’s really not a matter of choice – we’re going to have to live closer together in the future. It’s just a matter of whether we’ll do so by choice, and thus in an orderly manner, or by dint of circumstance (esp. high oil prices), and in a much more disorderly and potentially chaotic manner. Based on past performance, I’m not putting all my money on the former.

avatar Russell Arben Fox June 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

A really good walkable city with local pubs and haunts is every bit a part of the front porch vision (to my mind) as a small Kentuckian town.

And to my mind too. Well said, E.D.

avatar James Poulos June 25, 2009 at 10:09 am

What, of course, could be more local than a local dive bar — and what closer a communal bond than the fraternity (bewigged as it may be) of kostume karaoke, awash in domestic brew…from a can…for working-class prices? No ibogaine or ether needed…

Any Pomocon/Front Porcher throwdown probably must contend with the strange happenings on display in the land of the hipsters. The hipster party is now so fragmented it makes the right look lockstep by comparison — rich hipsters, poor hipsters, poseurs, #generationperv, but also crunchies, folksters, urban farmers, and waitstaff, barbacks, artists, and on and on. Front porches are gratuitous when you live in a communal flophouse, swapping iPods as readily as you do vinyl records…

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 25, 2009 at 10:56 am

From Patrick: As a Kentuckian, all you need to do is take a trip out to the strip-mined mountains to get a gander at the plunder needed to power the gadgets you love.

Agreed. But as a corollary, all you need to see is the lack of opportunity for people in rural KY counties with little or no infrastructure or job prospects because they clung to small family farms despite their unwillingness to diversify in a way that makes them profitable. Meanwhile researchers at UK are coming up with all kinds of new ways to turn a profit, often using coal-powered gadgets, that would put those farms back in the black.

I guess I’m trying to see that the knife cuts both ways.

avatar A Bridge Between City and Country / Mike at The Big Stick June 25, 2009 at 11:00 am

[...] I find myself in an interesting position to view this possible debate. I am a child of both sides and I have always found it to be a strength. [...]

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 25, 2009 at 11:05 am
avatar Bob Cheeks June 25, 2009 at 11:31 am

Back in 1964 when I graduated high school (no they didn’t have burn it down to get me out, but it was a close thing) you could 1.) Join the Army, hope you didn’t get your arse shot off in Vietnam and raise enough dough for college, 2). Go to college and work your way through, or 3). Marry the high school sweetheart, get a job in the at Midland Crucible making middle class wages and start a family at eighteen.(Or, as a single dude buy a GTO and drink heavily at the local watering holes).
A lot of pals did #3.
They shut the mill down in ’82, and my pals had to scramble to survive. Since that time, this area-the upper Ohio Valley-has faced one economic disaster after another. The kids have left the area for work. The central gov’t’s policies have greatly damaged if not destroyed much of the American middle class: Nafta/GATT, globalization, downsizing…I’ll be damned if I’ll forget, and I’ll be damned if I’ll ever support those traitors and their underlings who did this to my country!

avatar D.W. Sabin June 25, 2009 at 12:29 pm

One hopes that in the discussion between “post modern”…….ehhh, excuse me, I have to wash my mouth out with a little gasoline swab after using this preposterous phrase…but, any discussion between the so called paleo’s and neos would , I hope, at least touch on the subject of the fly-strewn gutted cadaver of the lapsed republic mouldering over there behind the competing town hardware store and its Walmart bully.

This morning, the imperious Zbigniew Brzezinski …..on one of the morning gabble fests one uses to prime their dyspeptic drip …..characterized the Mullahs and their Manichaean certitude as the Iranian Neo-Cons. The old didactic Carterite hit a a triple play on this adroit zinger, allowing me to ponder Kristol, Pearle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and all the rest of that wretched lot with black robes and turbans chanting in their circuit around a missile silo Kaaba. Fox News must be their Al Jazeera and we surely know that they bow down toward Lockheed Martin and all the rest of the Military vendors in a manner that would make Emperor Darius gleam with pleasure.

Arguing with a Neo Con is like arguing with the functionally insane but one simply needs to follow the money in order to understand the m.o. . After the debate, check your tires, they will be slashed if the car aint already up on blocks.

avatar Peter Lawler June 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Listen folks, the first use of postmodern was by Christian–mostly Catholic–thinkers to mean reflection on the failure of the Cartesian world. Walker Percy said his Thomism was postmodern, Guardini wrote of the end of the modern world (but not about any simple return to a premodern world), John Courtney Murray spoke of the necessarily anxious postmodern reflections that come with the culmination of modern thought and practice in the extremes of communism and impotent nihilism. Solzhenitsyn concluded his Harvard address with a vision of ascent that would include what’s true and best–while avoiding the excesses–of both premodern spirituality and modern techno-materialism. Now the dominant views of postmodern are either Heideggerian or hipster, but they’re not postmodernism rightly understood. So stop patting each other on the back and start thinking…

avatar E.D. Kain June 25, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I like all y’all for what it’s worth.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm

“So stop patting each other on the back and start thinking…”

!!!!!

avatar Bob Cheeks June 25, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Lawler is right.
There is a tertium quid, that among the minds participating can be explicated. Let the dialectic begin and let us avoid the ‘system,’ the ideologies of perversion that gave the world death and despair. And, let us seek God’s will.

avatar Josh Cooney June 25, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I agree with Ms. Dalton. This debate already took place. Over the past 30 years the paleoconservatives intellectually whipped the neoconservatives and Straussians. In America, however, stupidity and vulgarity almost always win out. Let the theocons and Straussians go back to the primeval ooze from which the came. Why are otherwise intelligent folk giving them the time of day?

avatar Peter Lawler June 25, 2009 at 8:56 pm

To Caleb–meant of course in the spirit of the pro-wrestling post here. !!!! is a pretty gentlemanly response. But if I were to be more serious I would still say there’s a kind of complacency (see esp but not only Cooney and Dalton) here, not that there isn’t among Straussians too. Only we postmodern conservatives are completely open-minded, not to mentioned meticulously fair and balanced and real ladies and gentlemen. For the record, I only have the vaguest idea what a paleoconservative is, and I don’t remember them winning any big debates in significant venues. But then I don’t get out much.

avatar Kenneth McIntyre June 25, 2009 at 9:18 pm

There are several problems with Professor Lawler’s brief lecture to ‘we the ignorant’ (but, boy, am I grateful that he reminded us all to ‘start thinking’). First, definition must at least begin with usage and I’m afraid that the term ‘postmodern’ is now much more closely associated with Foucault, Derrida, et al. than with his chosen antimodern postmodernists. Perhaps his next task will be to remind us all that bi-weekly originally meant twice-a-week, and thus the subsequent change in definition must be reversed. Of course, according to this ‘first iteration rules the field’ set of semantic rules, self-described American conservatives must relinquish the latter term, which in its American usage has little to do with its traditional meaning in English politics. It is certainly within the realm of philosophical analysis to question and clarify definitions, and I admire Professor Lawler’s bold attempt to alter the currently accepted meaning of the term ‘postmodern’. However, it is a species of silliness which can rarely be found outside of academia that claims the authority to issue diktats to the great unwashed on the usage of terms.

It is also quite clear that some of the critics of modernity also accept and appropriate modern conceptions in order to formulate their critiques, so that the use of the term ‘postmodern’ is still inherently ambiguous. MacIntyre explicitly acknowledges the influence of Hegel and, more significantly, Collingwood on the way he understands the history of the modern and pre-modern world. Murray’s work offers a peculiar mixture of the Catholic traditionalist and the naïve modern American liberal, emphasizing in his historically ignorant way the Catholic character of American experience. Percy was an interesting but erratic thinker whose best work (his novels) cannot be reduced to a set of theoretical propositions, despite the best attempts by those belonging to a certain school of modern political theory whose ignorance of the character of aesthetic experience continues to astound (start thinking…). Solzhenitsyn is a truly remarkable fellow in every way. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that he shopped at Walmart or had his coffee at Starbucks, if you catch my drift.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 25, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Peter,

I am pleased you took my meaning. “Comments” are relatively tedious means for both cage fighting and for more subtle forms of settling differences. One must work hard to strike just the right pixel.

I too have little use for terms like paleoconservative, and at my last internet gig, was often accused of being postmodern, though we aimed mostly at the premodern in common, or at least semi-common cause with the continentals.

But the American situation is uniquely odd given this background, wouldn’t you say? And the role of First Things a further oddity, no?

I am curious to know your response to the critique offered above of FT’s particular accomodationist two-step, as expressed by Gil M. and J. Bottom. Is that representative of the “thinking” that the folks over at FT engage in while the yokels are busy patting each other on the back?

avatar Patrick Deneen June 25, 2009 at 11:54 pm

The reason it’s an interesting debate (putting aside all the unhelpful name-bandying) is that there is actual agreement about something important – that nature is true and that it exists and its dominion is inescapable. However, how this “reassertion” will unfold is the source of some rather profound differences on the ground.

For PoMoCons of Lawlerian variety, this is a source of optimism – our human condition of alienation and misery will not be “cured” by any amount of technological manipulation, and so the misery and glory of being human will endure, and because of the inescapability of this condition we will all be stuck with virtue more than ever. That said, while the human condition will not be overcome by technological mastery, much of the natural world will be, and that’s ok, so long as we understand that we won’t cease being restless and alienated. So, no amount of McDonalds or living in suburbs will make us truly happy, but it’s ok to be stuffed and comfortable even amid our glory and our misery. Some fast food and poorly-built McMansions won’t make us any more or less miserable. For Lawler, everything is always getting better and worse, so a certain easy-going quiescence should be our default position most of the time. A basic Lawlerian dictum: don’t worry, be unhappy.

The PomoCons are revised versions of first wave liberals (according to Strauss, inaugurated by the thought of Hobbes and Locke), strenuously urging the expansion of human control of the natural world while believing that human nature remains untouched and untouchable by such efforts. Lawler is himself much more ambivalent about Locke, but accepts the Natural rights regime under the pretense that the Founders built better than they knew. He views the pre-modern inheritance as sufficiently vital to withstand the corrosiveness of Lockeanism, although there are times he’s not as confident about its staying power (see my lengthier assessment, here).

For (at least some) FPR’ers (if I may), there is a similar belief that nature will reassert itself, but that reassertion will take a very different form. If we don’t strive to conform ourselves to nature’s laws and limits, that reassertion will be quite unpleasant, even downright ugly. The effort to manipulate the natural world to the ends of human desire have been catastrophic, in the view of FPR’ers, and have resulted in a condition in which modern humans have lost the capacity to exercise prudence, wisdom, and above all, the capacity for self-governance (especially the ability to say NO). The reassertion of nature will be most fundamentally experienced not as a comfortable and well-fed condition of post-modern Augustinian angst, but in the form of a potentially catastrophic confrontation with natural limits and attendant human suffering. There is far less sanguinity among most FPR’ers about our future, though we agree with Lawler that we’ll be “stuck with virtue,” although it will be virtue that we will be forced to relearn by dint of circumstance, not necessarily by “choice.”

PoMoCons are uneasily but pretty firmly aligned with the Republican party as it has been forged in modern times by the likes of Reagan and Bush. FPR’ers are generally pretty discontent with the whole crew, Dem and Rep alike, seeing in the Democrats and Republicans an indiscriminate embrace of ill-used liberty, whether in the “personal” or economic realms. Many of us would like to see some sort of realignment, combining aspects of Marxian critique of the market (though many of us would point not to Marx, but to Chesterbelloc, Roepke, Schumacher, etc.) along with an attendant moral reassertion in the “private” realm. The touchstone for many FPR’ers is, of course, Wendell Berry and his unique capacity to combine a moral assessment of the economic and personal realms and his call for the restoration of living, vibrant and lasting communities of memory and gratitude.

There’s a legitimate debate here, and an interesting one. It’s not between neo- and paleo-cons or any other easily reducible set of labels, but two different visions of the reassertion of nature – an eventuality we all believe to be inescapable – albeit with profoundly different implications and potential outcomes.

That, in a nutshell, I think to be the crux of an actually interesting debate to be had.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 3:57 am

Patrick, this is a brilliant, and insightful analysis.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 26, 2009 at 7:01 am

Well put Patrick. I would add that while Lawler indeed lays down a pretty thick and effective theoretical covering fire, in my experience debating these issues, whether in the context of “crunchy” or “front porch” or whathaveyou, it has become clear that heavily at play in much of this is the simple “egophanic revolt” in Voegelinian terms. That is, the continued stuborness of the epiphany of self which eclipses and cuts off the more fundamental experiences of God, memory, membership, etc. As Saint Wendell has written, better than any argument is to pick berries in the early morning. This is why I think an analysis that penetrates to the root spirit of–taking the example I have been using–Meiliander and Bottom, is so important.

avatar Josh Cooney June 26, 2009 at 7:54 am

I realize it’s trendy to discount old terms and movements such as paleoconservatism but the term is somewhat useful and convenient. The labels crunchy and postmodern conservative should seek early retirement, however. I would add that paleoconservative carries much more weight than front porcher. Paleos have a large and serious body of work that crunchy cons and front porchers do not and never will.

And though I haven’t read Strauss, I have read Bloom, Jaffa, Bill Bennett and a few pieces from Mr. Lawler, including an introduction to Brownson’s The American Republic. I find their views rather bizarre and without any historical foundation. In fact, they seem not to care about history at all. And, to boot, Mr. Lawler believes that voting Republican is a conservative act. I’m supposed to take this kind of stuff seriously? Say it ain’t so, front porch.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 8:21 am

Josh, Is that the report of a tweleve pound Napoleon firing on infantry advancing on company front?

Caleb, Any debate that incorporates Voegelin’s analysis of the egophanic revolt (the inevitable result of man as a creature driven by the libido dominandi) will necessitate an analysis of Schelling’s meditation on Freedom as Metaphysics and Stein’s Being-in-the-mind understood as “He precedes all things, and all things subsist and cohere in him.”
What can of worms has Deneen and Lawler opened?

I hear John Prine singing, “Daddy won’t you take me down to Muhlenburg County, down by the green river where paradise lay…”

avatar Peter Lawler June 26, 2009 at 8:25 am

Postmodern conservatives aren’t first wave liberals and are anti-Cartesian in the spirit of Maritain/Percy/Deneen/MacIntyre, while thinking Maritain himself is too Kantian and Deneen/MacIntyre are too Marxist. So the latter think that the abstraction “capitalist” invented by Marx refers adequately to some real-world way of life and so are too hostile to the blessings of freedom, including even religious freedom. (M’s practical judgments are characteristically silly, while D is always too worked up about peak this or that.) PCs affirms the Declaration of Independence in the spirit of Chesterton in WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA (which I hear Pat likes) or the unjustly neglected Bruckberger, who saw that the legislative compromise between Calvinists and atheists produced a kind of Thomism that was better than intention than either of the factions. So we agree with Brownson (or my bizarre interpretation based on what he actually wrote) that our “providential constitution” shaped the statesmen who wrote our written Constitution–which is why what they accomplished practically was better than (and even qualitatively different from) their predominately Lockean theory. We also don’t use word like “egophanic,” thinking them modern deformations characeristic of a highly abstract world divorced from the language of common sense. No Straussian thinks I’m a Straussian, although there’s A LOT to learn from him (as Pat can tell you) and it’s hardly a point of pride not to have read him. What’s wrong with most Straussians is that they think that the fundamentally impersonal LOGOS of Aristotle is true, and the personal LOGOS of the early church fathers is false–a point made eloquently by our present philosopher-pope.

avatar John Médaille June 26, 2009 at 8:47 am

It seems to me that there are only three choices: modernism, post-modernism, or pre-modernism. Most “conservatives” have chosen to be modernists, which means they can’t be conservatives. But I see nothing wrong with the pre-modernists using post-modernist critiques. I think that among the earliest “post-modernist” works you have to include Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.” With a title like that, you would expect a Thomistic tome, beginning with first principles and proceeding by demonstration. Instead, you get a narrative, a journey from Hanwell to home, from madness to sanity.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 26, 2009 at 8:51 am

That’s an awful mouthful of “common sense” there Peter. I’m going to pick berries. (Actually, cucumbers)

avatar Josh Cooney June 26, 2009 at 9:08 am

Would you define or explain further what you mean by “providential constitution.” I think you wrote about this in the intro to Brownson but I don’t have the book on hand. (I’m not being a wise ass here, I do want to make sure I understand what you mean by the phrase.)

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 9:13 am

Battle Report: Morning, 6/26/09
A scattering of oblique musketry directed at FPR scouts opened hostilities this morning. Initial reports identify elements of Cooney’s irregulars responsible. They quickly withdrew.
In a more ominous note, a reconnaissance-in-force was initiated by the PoMoCon commander, P. Lawler, with a probe toward the FPR front where blood was drawn by the remark:
“We also don’t use word like “egophanic,” thinking them modern deformations characeristic of a highly abstract world divorced from the language of common sense,” obviously directed at the FPR command tent, occupied by C. Stegal.
Stegal, it is reported, merely grunted!
An air of tension now exists; whether both sides will hold their fire until terms can be arranged continues in doubt.

avatar Josh Cooney June 26, 2009 at 9:43 am

Cooney’s irregulars didn’t withdraw as much as they left the battlefield to go to the bar.

avatar Russell Arben Fox June 26, 2009 at 10:45 am

Actually, cucumbers.

Are your cucumbers ready for picking, Caleb? Ours are still leafing; nothing on the vine to pick yet.

This “debate” may have started out with just an aside and a snark, but it’s turning into something genuinely interesting, as Patrick promised. I’m going to have to dissent, if only slightly, from his estimation of the Front Porch Republic position, though. I don’t believe that FPR primarily represents a somewhat more apocalyptic attitude towards “nature’s laws and limits,” as Patrick puts it, than that embraced by many PoMoCons; rather, I think FPR, with its abiding commitment to “place”, invites a focus on, and an inquiry into, the context and the means by which one approaches (and appropriates) the laws and limits of nature. Peter accuses Deneen and MacIntyre of being overly Marxist, and Patrick can respond to that as he sees fit; to my mind, though, that’s a fine way to approach the dispute. Way back when Culture 11 was still in working order, I wondered if the problem with “postmodern conservatism” was that it simply wasn’t Marxist enough–that is, not quite able (or willing) to address the full extent of and connections within the cultural and socio-economic order of things (and thus really think thoroughly about what was to be conserved), choosing instead to affirm that the best way to “get beyond” modernity was to insist that properly understood, the modern world of individual liberty and property rights really is virtuous and/or Christian and/or natural or whatever…which suggests that the actual, pratical goal was to find intellectual justifications for politically supporting various partisan tools for tunneling back into and retrieving from modernity that which they believe was there all along. Maybe that’s an unfair estimation of what the learned folks at the original PoMoCon blog were doing, but the parallels they had with the First Things/theoconservative crowd (you know, the real America is actually Christian in some deep sense, the real John Paul II is actually liberal in some deep sense, etc.), especially once they resurrected their blog there, are I think too obvious to ignore. FPR, by constrast, is I think in different ways (obviously we have our own faultlines as well!) trying to say that whatever may be natural and/or virtuous about modern rights and property, modernity itself nonetheless takes us away from our places and traditions and thus the grounds for such things, as so that has to change the whole inconnected way one approaches the question.

Peter touches on another important way of formulating the differnces here, when he speaks of “the dominant views of postmodern[ism] are either Heideggerian or hipster,” presumably suggesting that PoMoCons are neither, having instead (again!) a “proper understanding” of how one should really relate to modernity. Now, anyone who has read Polous knows that he’s very much on the hipster side of things anyway, so who is going to stand up for the Heideggerian? Fault the Sage of Freiburg all you’d like (heaven knows he had many!), but he–among others–helped bring into contemporary parlance Hegel’s Sittlichkeit, the importance of situatedness, of place and Volk, to one’s ability to interrogate what is going on with, and what had gone wrong with, modernity. Heidegger with his skis and his writing hut up on a hillside in the Black Forest probably isn’t much of an intellectual hero to many FPRers (I say while raising hand, probably in isolation), but like Marx, he was capable of tying where one stands and sees the world and makes one’s work into his critique of modern life. If we’re going to conserve what’s worth conserving, we’re going to have to, I think, get radical, meaning getting down to the roots: not the roots of the Declaration of Indepednence or whatever–as important a document as it may be–but rather of where we place our feet.

I’ll have to write some more of this stuff up later.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 26, 2009 at 11:04 am

“Are your cucumbers ready for picking, Caleb? Ours are still leafing; nothing on the vine to pick yet.”

Just starting to fruit. My cucumber patch is my piece of heaven.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 11:12 am

Battle Report: FPR right @ Devil’s rock area, 11:37 AM

“What FPR’ers lament as the destruction of capitalism, Marx rather celebrates (even as he aspires to foment the next stage in human development). So, it’s really inaccurate to try to use the label “Marxist” to scare people off the Porch.”

With those words FPR First Corps cmdr, Patrick Deneen, under instructions of General-of-the-Army, Caleb Stegall, to “attack those people,” ordered his first division, Brig. Gen. K. McIntyre cmdg, forward against the PoMoCon position resting on a hillock adjacent the Chesterton Road.

McIntyre’s infantry, massed on division front, were quickly greeted by cased shot and McIntyre called for his flying artillery under the cmd of Col. D. W. Sabin. Sabin’s cmd boasting four tweleve smoothbores, six Parrot guns, and two Whitworth rifles, dropped trail and went into battery 1,000 yards west of the round top hill and expeditiously silenced the PoMoCon battery.

Reports have reached us that troops, artillery, and trains have been seen moving east along the Chesterton Road, indicating PoMoCon General-of-the-Army, Peter Lawler’s intent to hold this place.

avatar E.D. Kain June 26, 2009 at 11:15 am

I want to host a heated debate at the League just so Bob can narrate.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 11:24 am

E.D. My, my, this is erupting at a much faster rate than I would have thought…alotta angst here! Please feel free to pick this up at the LOOG, I gotta feeling we’re talkin’ conservative history in the making. I’m getting feelers from ABC, whose executive have indicated that once they quit kissing the arse of He-Who-Seeks-the-Truth are considering an hour on these contretemps. Bill Buckley, we love you, Dude!

avatar Peter Lawler June 26, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Bob, Pretty darn funny.

avatar Katherine Dalton June 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

All I can offer to my friends here, and the occasional impolite stranger, is the observation that many of the Front Porch arguments parallel arguments made by men who would call themselves, still, paleoconservatives. That may be pleasant news to you, or unpleasant, and of course you can call yourself what you like, but that is what I see. Yea, even among the cucumbers.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Battle Report; FPR position @ round top hillock, 2:35 PM, 06/26/09

Lawler’s Third Division, S. Goldman cmdng, has arrived to repulse elements of McIntyre’s command about to seize the hillock, while Sabin’s rifled pieces walk cased shot among the PoMoCon position.
Leading elements of Peters’ division of DeNeen’s First Corps have arrived and are immediately thrown into what has become a general assault for the round top hillock! The PoMoCon position is in doubt due to fatigue, a dearth of ammunition, and a lack of air conditioning. The butternut clad FPR troopers are shouting, “Yip, Yip, Yip,” scarring the hell out of the better educated PoMoCon soldiers!

South on the Chesterton Road, the regimental and national colors of J. Poulos’s division can be seen snapping in the air. It is reported that Poulos’s battle speech was, for the most part, understood by the command and given three ‘huzzahs,” which is appropriate for Georgetown alum. He has ordered his trains and artillery ahead and while the trains have parked in the rear, his artillery has mostly gone into battery and played shot among the formed ranks of McIntyre’s massed infantry.

And now they come on! Oh, the bravery of Poulos’s blue-clad lads; bayonets fixed and glistening in the sun, kepis pressed hard against sweating brow…”Onward lads,” Poulos cries, battleflag in hand…”Onward lads,” and then he shouts: “So it’s to be expected that individuality comes in for great scorn among Front Porchers and sympathetic parties. But this is just the beginning of the story I want to tell. The individual is a thing incarnate — a noun, an irreducible being, a person; individuality is a disembodied superstition — an adjective, an abstraction, a fantasy with all the pelagian proteanism of the pantheistic All. To make a long story short, we can find evidence of two types of liberals — one thinking individuality to be descriptive shorthand for individuals, and one thinking ‘individual’ to be honorific shorthand for people fully experiencing individuality. Pomocons, I wager, tend to be staunch defenders of the first kind of liberals — and quite sharp critics of the second. I am, anyway!”

McIntyre’s troops, hard used in this summer heat, shot up by their enemy, waver under the onslaught of Poulos’s fresh command. The bayonet and clubbed musket do good work now…the battle roars across the countryside; men rage in horror, in anguish, and pain. Regimentals fall, are picked up, and fall again…there is courage to be witnessed before God!

avatar Patrick Deneen June 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Cheeks,

Enough! Defect to our Porch! Your wordsmithery and Chestertonian depiction of our Battle of Notting Hill mark you as a consummate Porch man. D.W. Sabin awaits with cooled Bourbon Manhattans and a hammock for your weary pen hand. Home, man, home!

Deneen, Maj. Gen., 1st Porch Corp.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Gen. Deneen:

Yours of the 26th Instant, has been recv’d at this place. I do appreciate not only your gentlemanly sentiments, which are singularly important, but your expressed kindnesses as well.

Re: defection, I am, sir, a man of honor. In my hour of anonimity, alone battling against imaginary giants, General of the Army, P. Lawler extended the hand of friendship and offered me an ‘associate’ blogging postion on James Poulos’s website. Whether or not James was aware of his invitation has vexed me since. Yet, given my inclination to fire freely across the political spectrum, using any number of delicious and delightful Voegelinian adverbs,nouns, and adjedtives, Lawler and James n’er cast me from the site. Blather on, they said, blather on. And, so I did: a tribute to a fallen friend, typed with tears in my eyes, that came out inchoate and malformed was not remarked upon by these friends; a vituperative exchange with the good General Lawler was brought to denouement by his apology! My railings in support of any and all Paleocon positions has not been thwarted. How does one abandon men such as these.

No, sir, thank you for your kind invitation but my loyalty is to these gentlemen, and while I may not agree with all that they proclaim I will attest to their keen insight, intelligence, honor, and common decency….and besides we were supposed to get paid, what happen with that?

I remain your most obedient servant,

Lt. Col. R. Cheeks
Late of the Army of Weekend Warriors

avatar Patrick Deneen June 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Cheeks,
Nobly put. And, for our purposes, better you remain in their good graces, boring within. In the meantime, we raise our tumblers of chilled bourbon and toast your able reporting from the front.

Huzzah!

PJD

avatar Carl Scott June 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm

“The Modern World’s Not So Bad, Not Like the Students Say,
In Fact I’d Be In Heaven, If You’d Share the Modern World with Me.”

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, circa 1971 or so…

Not Like the Students Say = Not Like the Front-Porchers Say, right?

Look, in response to some of the irrelevant meditations on food tastes and what not above, one can lament the end of the age of Sibelius and co., of Berryville, U.S.A and co., while still being grateful on a long drive for a Wendy’s. This Pomocon might even like to read Phillipe Beneton explaining with French brio all the downsides about McDonald’s and such, and then pop back into his mass-produced auto to listen to some more Sibelius. Or maybe some Modern Lovers or Beatles, if I’m feeling tired and not up to careful listening.

I mean, here we are folks. However bad many of the fundamentals are, we still have to live. And, we still have to think politically, because things can get worse, much worse. How many FPRers continue to make the grievous mistake of voting Demo 9 times out of 10?

Newsflash, you can’t have “Berryvilles,” you can’t have Gary Synder care for the local environment, you can’t have localist styles in music, food, etc., if you continue to whine about the creep of capitalism while ignoring and enabling the creep of do-good statism, massive deficits, federal law (or jurisprudence) messing with your toilets and thermometers and God knows what next. And you can’t have any of these things if the out-of-wedlock birth rate goes past 50% (we’re at 40% now, France is at the 50-mark). So you need federalism. You need social conservatism. You need Fred Thompson and yeah, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. Those folks, as tiresome as they may be, are right 65-75% of the time about the big issues, which is far more than we can say about the Dems. The Berry-esque stance that FPR represents will politically amount to NOTHING if cannot a) show itself capable of moderating the Dems on spending, centralized administration, and on its hell-bent opposition to any form of morals-legislation, including time-honored ones like marriage, and b) win working class patriotic (and often property-rights-loving) Red State adherents.

But rather than talk about the political here-and-now, and what-can-be-done-politically, FPRers like Deneen await the impending “catastrophe” which will sort things out, or not, and in the meantime, want to trace all our troubles to Locke, seemingly oblivious that our politics operates primarily in a PLACE called the U.S.A., and just as Rome couldn’t reform itself by saying Romulus was nothing but a brigand, we can’t reform ourselves by going head-on against Locke. Moreover, the empirical evidence from history, see historian R. Pipes’ book Property and Freedom, is that Lincolnian/Cobdenian/Jeffersonian/Lockean commitment to a natural rights doctrine of property tends more often than not to favor political liberty. But, it seems that FPRers place all in implicit opposition with, like the more candid among their fellow Dems, “an [economic] system that does yet exist,” as as James Ceaser put it in his classic and Strauss-informed book Liberal Democracy and Political Science.

You know so much about natural ecology, about American PLACES. Why do you, Mr. and Mrs. FPR, know so little about the “ecology” of our politics, about the history of its “ecological degradation”? You think you can think about reinserting PLACE in our politics, but without thinking about things like the takings clause , or about the role of the judiciary? About local governance v. state governance and federal governance? You want an AMERICAN place in which all the Lockean, Hamiltonian, and corporate “genes” and “species” in our politics and culture and economic structure have been Pausterized away, I suppose, through repeated readings of the likes of Berry and Synder and maybe Calhoun on a good day?

And so, good earnest folk, you wind up thinking yourself wise for voting to have the Dems-as-they-are control all three branches of government! Or for not voting at all! And now we’re seeing what that means.

avatar John Médaille June 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Carl, allow me to point out that we have had the Limbaugh’s, the Ingrams, the Thompsons, and had them even more then the so-called alternative. The gov’t didn’t whither, the debt didn’t shrink. It tripled under Reagan and doubled under Bush. Its hardly fair to tax Berry with not getting the Dems to shrink the gov, when your boys couldn’t shrink it when they were the gov.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 26, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Battle Report: FPR Right @ Round Top Hillock, 5:37 PM, 6/26/09

McIntyre’s Division has been driven to ground by Poulos’s artillery on the FPR right. On McIntyre’s left J. Peters Division has pressed forward and established a salient on the crest of the hill although taking withering fire from Poulos’s infantry supports on their right and Goldman’s shattered command on the left. Unfortunately, communications was severed with PoMoCon command on the Chesterton Road during the late afternoon and no further word has reached us.

Battle Report: FPR Center @ Kirk Kreek, 300 yds. west of round top hillock, 6:42 PM, 06/26/09

Lawler has ordered his calvary under Carl Scott to strike at the FPR exposed left flank, now hanging in the air. Described by Lawler as “a splendid fighting soldier without guile,” Scott advanced on company front, with drawn sabres, and the flying artillery in close support.
Scott taking a cutt of his chew remarked, “I mean, here we are folks. However bad many of the fundamentals are, we still have to live. And, we still have to think politically, because things can get worse, much worse. How many FPRers continue to make the grievous mistake of voting Demo 9 times out of 10?”
Scott’s attack was sharp and effective causing General Stegall to retort, “Who is more amenable to manipulation, control, and evaluation by the centralized techno-bureaucratic systems employed by the management classes–the porchers or the pomoochers?” And, that remark followed with an order to his chief of calvary, Brig. Gen. John Medaille, to “repulse those people!” Medaille advanced on brigade front, battleflags uncased, sabre’s drawn, ordered “Bonnie Blue Flag” played and with his feathered fez whirling like a dervish in the crepescular light of fading day said, “Carl, allow me to point out that we have had the Limbaugh’s, the Ingrams, the Thompsons, and had them even more then the so-called alternative. The gov’t didn’t whither, the debt didn’t shrink. It tripled under Reagan and doubled under Bush. Its hardly fair to tax Berry with not getting the Dems to shrink the gov, when your boys couldn’t shrink it when they were the gov.!” At this point, somewhat frustrated Stegall ordered D.W. Sabin’s artillery to the left to drive off Scott’s calvary which was done in all alacrity.

Message to FPR Cmd:
General Stegall,
3rd Division of First Corps is four miles from your location and will be up by sundown. Send scouts to align our front, with orders for attack or bivoac. Troops are hard used, twenty miles in ten hours, require rest, water, victuals; will fight if ordered.
Your Obd Svt,
K. Dalton, Brig. Gen.
3rd Division, Cmdg

Message to FPR Cmd:
General Stegall,
2nd Corps is scattered across twenty miles of countryside filling its trains with the victuals and supplies “requisitioned” from the technologically advanced PoMoCon farmers. As per your orders supplies have been paid for in script, and no FPR soldier has engaged in rapine, theft, or malingering unlike the crimes and injustices that the PoMoCon soldiers have visited on our people. I have ordered 2nd Corps trains to the rear and we are marching on the double quick to the sound of your musketry. With God’s help all three of my divisions will be up by day break and we shall defeat the PoMoCon host!
Yours in the Service of Jesus Christ,
J.M. Wilson, Major Gen, 2nd Corps, Cmdg

At sundown on round top hillock the wounded who could not be moved from the battlfield began to call out for “water!” The plaintive cry went unanswered and they began inexhorably to die from de-hydration or succumb to madness!

Communication with PoMoCon cmd continued severed while two hundred yards west of Kirk Kreek, Gen-of-the-Army Caleb Segall bent over his desk and by candle light wrote, “I’m an elected republican office holder and spend a good deal of the rest of my work hours fighting (in the nitty-gritty real world) against the those whose arms you claim FPR is running towards.”

In a state of high dudgeon, Stegall, sat on his camp stool, pulled a lemon from his pocket, sliced it with his knife, and took a pull of the sour fruit. “We will surely deal with ‘those people’ tomorrow!”
An opportunity had been lost, the heights on the right remained in PoMoCon hands. They are before him, they must be attacked!

A litter bearing Gen. McIntyre was slowly coming down the hill born by four men from the 13th Virginia. “I can’t speak for the rest of FPR but there is nothing that I have written that could rationally be taken as supporting the Democratic Party,” McIntyre muttered. His condition is unknown at this time.

The battle of the first day, except for desultory musketry, came to an end. Losses were severe on both sides.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 27, 2009 at 8:15 am

Battle Report; FPR Cmd, @ Kirk Kreek, 5:24 AM, 06/27.09

Over the evening hours reports reached this place of Brig. Gen. A. Fox’s (First Division, 2nd Corps) glorious assault on Goldman’s 3rd Division. Striking Goldman’s right brigade with oblique fire Fox ordered the colors uncased, bayonets fixed, and rising in the stirrups of his Roan gelding shouted over roar and din of musketry,

“I’m going to have to dissent, if only slightly, from his estimation of the Front Porch Republic position, though. I don’t believe that FPR primarily represents a somewhat more apocalyptic attitude towards “nature’s laws and limits,” as Patrick puts it, than that embraced by many PoMoCons; rather, I think FPR, with its abiding commitment to “place”, invites a focus on, and an inquiry into, the context and the means by which one approaches (and appropriates) the laws and limits of nature. Peter accuses Deneen and MacIntyre of being overly Marxist, and Patrick can respond to that as he sees fit; to my mind, though, that’s a fine way to approach the dispute. Way back when Culture 11 was still in working order, I wondered if the problem with “postmodern conservatism” was that it simply wasn’t Marxist enough–that is, not quite able (or willing) to address the full extent of and connections within the cultural and socio-economic order of things (and thus really think thoroughly about what was to be conserved), choosing instead to affirm that the best way to “get beyond” modernity was to insist that properly understood, the modern world of individual liberty and property rights really is virtuous and/or Christian and/or natural or whatever…which suggests that the actual, pratical goal was to find intellectual justifications for politically supporting various partisan tools for tunneling back into and retrieving from modernity that which they believe was there all along. Maybe that’s an unfair estimation of what the learned folks at the original PoMoCon blog were doing, but the parallels they had with the First Things/theoconservative crowd (you know, the real America is actually Christian in some deep sense, the real John Paul II is actually liberal in some deep sense, etc.), especially once they resurrected their blog there, are I think too obvious to ignore. FPR, by constrast, is I think in different ways (obviously we have our own faultlines as well!) trying to say that whatever may be natural and/or virtuous about modern rights and property, modernity itself nonetheless takes us away from our places and traditions and thus the grounds for such things, as so that has to change the whole inconnected way one approaches the question.”
Fox’s Charge, as it is now called by the men who participated, resulted in the wrecking of Goldman’s Division, though Fox’s command has taken significant casualties as well. We have learned that Fox, once accused of being a statist scalawag, was taken from the field of honor in a litter. It is reported he shouted to his men in passing, “We are all socialists now!!” receiving as a reply “Remember LBJ!”

At this hour the FPR line-of-battle consists of the remnant of McIntyre’s Division anchoring the right followed by the three brigades of J. Peters Division dug in at the Round Top salient, with the survivors of Fox’s command on his left sweeping down the hill toward Kirk Kreek, with Dalton’s Kentucky Division forming line-of-battle on Fox’s left and sweeping west anchoring on the Fruit Tree Orchard. Gen. Stegall has not moved Sabin’s guns for they bear a line of sight that is singularly efficacious. Medaille’s calvary is in reserve, as is the newly arrived division of Brig. Gen. Lew Daly (2nd Corps.) a command referred to as “The Workers Division.”

As reported, communications with General of the Army, Peter Lawler, have been severed (we have now learned that sappers from the FPR Special Forces penetrated deep into PoMoCon territory and unpluggedddd their phone line, leaving the PoMoCons confused and baffled) and we have recv’d no reports from the PoMoCon cmd since mid-afternoon of the 26th instant.

An eerie quiet prevails on the front. Stegall has ordered rations cooked for three days and his ammunition trains brought up.

avatar Peter Lawler June 27, 2009 at 8:20 am

I will write things about THE PROVIDENTIAL CONSTITUTION and THE STRUASSIANS, NATURE, AND HISTORY on your enemy’s blog. Meanwhile, I suggest that you get together with Carl and hope he’s as gentle as Grant on the terms of surrender on the who’s more realistic about the possibilities today front.

avatar Caleb Stegall June 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

Too late for that Peter, as I already accepted your tacit surrender when you refused to take the field and instead ordered your regulars to hide in the bushes and shoot at imaginary boogey-men on the left.

Now all that remains is composing doggerel about the deviant sexual habits of the vanquished enemy and festive victory songs around the camp fire. Peters will be along shortly to provide the verse and chorus.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 27, 2009 at 9:04 am

Battle Report: Front lines 9:58 AM, 06/27/09

Heavy fighting has erupted along the entire front. Both cmd hdqtrs have denied access, PoMoCon continues in black ops mode (silence). Troop movements unsure, FPR efforts seem poised to turn PoMoCons “Left” flank.

No further reports until late evening. Have been ordered to take beloved, first wife to book store to purchase 37th Bible, then onto the movies at the Mall. We watched Defiance the other night and for two hours were Jews fighting the National Socialists! It is good that, from time to time, I am reminded why and how Israel came to be; the cost in terms of blood was staggering. Shalom!

avatar Josh Cooney June 27, 2009 at 9:43 am

Ms. Dalton,

I’m sorry for my impoliteness. I was under the impression that manners and decency were not required when dealing with neocons.

avatar Josh Cooney June 27, 2009 at 11:06 am

“I suggest that you get together with Carl and hope he’s as gentle as Grant on the terms of surrender on the who’s more realistic about the possibilities todays front.”

What is so unrealistic about our vision.

Is it that hard to tend a garden or seek out some decent tasting food from a local farmer, rather than settle for the King Size Number 4 at the “local” Burger King?

Perhaps you find offensive the intimation that reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (as I’m doing today) is a more fruitful use of the human mind than passively watching the latest programmed, manipulative TV show, programmed and packaged by the manipulative managerial corporate elite in our “cultural centers” in Hollywood, New York and, now we can also include, Nashville.

Do you think I’m living in a fantasy when I think our government could find a better use of its stolen resources than to go around mass murdering women and children across the globe?

Maybe it’s the suggestion that cultures and constitutions develop over time from a particular people on a particular piece of land with particular customs and institutions, and not by some mystical body of transcendent natural rights that we can only understand by reading Socrates through Leo Strauss or by “close reading” of the “Great Books.” Talk about being unrealistic…

avatar D.W. Sabin June 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Speaking of deviant sexual proclivities, I just want to leave with an observation that if “voting Republican” is conservative, well….then so is donning a pink codpiece over ones gold lame tights, screwing down the nipple rings and launching into a full rendition of “Cabaret” while directing a squadron of fighter jets off a deeply mortgaged aircraft carrier so they can fly briskly off and bomb some mountain wedding party.

The distinction between that of the Republican Party and Democrat party is essentially like that between a sucking chest wound and blunt head trauma.

Triage is advised.

Dr. Kervorkian would be the perfect Chairman for the Republican Party of today.

Barney would function admirably for the Democrats. Not Mr. Frank, the purple Barney with the green belly and unfailing urge to say something nice about EVERYONE.

Love,
Tyrannosaurus Dex

avatar Bob Cheeks June 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Battle Report: FPR Hdqrs, 6: 35 PM, 06/27/09
Camp Near Kirk Kreek

Mr. President: I have the honor to report an account of the fighting on the second day of engagement between, the Army of The Front Porch Republic and the Army of the PoMoCons.
The fighting opened this morning near dawn and soon developed generally along the line of battle. Gen. Fox’s lodgment on round top hillock has held, with Gen. Peters on Fox’s right. Gen. McIntyre has returned to duty having recv’d a flesh wound the previous day, while Gen. Fox in his usual dashing style has returned as well from wounds suffered in his charge saying, “You can’t keep a good man down.”
Gen. Dalton’s fightin’ Kentucky Division was struck on the left flank as it advanced on a large PoMoCon Division (I. Kennneally) by the notorious Carl Scott’s three brigades of mounted cavalry and a battalion of flying artillery as Scott insultingly commented, “You clowns didn’t vote for McCain and now, How’s that Obama thing workin’ for ya?”
Well, sir, our whole command heard his insult and witnessed his flying the “black” flag of no quarter and we shall not forget! Genl’s Deneen, Wilson, Medaille, ect all commented on Scott’s irregular behavior and he has been branded “banditti,” which means that if we catch the scoundrel we shall torture him with three days of listening to Michael Jackson records while being tied up and unable to dance!
At this time Gen. Lawler, cmdg the Army of the PoMoCon, sent this message:
“I will write things about THE PROVIDENTIAL CONSTITUTION and THE STRUASSIANS, NATURE, AND HISTORY on your enemy’s blog. Meanwhile, I suggest that you get together with Carl and hope he’s as gentle as Grant on the terms of surrender on the who’s more realistic about the possibilities today front.”
My reply was swiftly returned:

“Too late for that Peter, as I already accepted your tacit surrender when you refused to take the field and instead ordered your regulars to hide in the bushes and shoot at imaginary boogey-men on the left.
Now all that remains is composing doggerel about the deviant sexual habits of the vanquished enemy and festive victory songs around the camp fire. Peters will be along shortly to provide the verse and chorus.”
With fighting along Dalton’s front intense and in doubt, I witnessed the most noble daring and bravery ever to grace arms when Col. Joe Carter, cmdg Dalton’s artillery battalion, dropped trail before Scott’s advancing mounted infantry and firing cased shot required Scott’s soldiers to retire from the field by company! Carter has commented that he joined the FPR’s army because he’s a redneck and doesn’t speak “academese” and doesn’t understand the PoMoCons. He recv’d the “yip, yip, yip !!!” of the FPR command all up and down the line!
At this time fighting along the front has subsided, we have cooked rations, cared for our wounded, and buried out dead.
I remain very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C.Stegall
Maj. Genl., Cmdg, Army of the Front Porch Republic

avatar Bob Cheeks June 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Battle Report: PoMoCon Hdqrts., 8:40 PM, 06/27/09
Camp on the Chesterton Road

Dear Mr. A. Obama, President, Sir, Leader of the People, Divine Inspiration, because Gen. Lawler has been evacuated with a slight flesh wound, and is on his way to visit you I have been asked to submit the day’s combat report.

First, and foremost, the Affirmative Action program is working really, really well and all the men sing your praises for such foresight and wisdom…Oh, praise your name, fearless leader! Also, your wonderful and egalitarian lending program has allowed many of our $19./month privates to buy some really, really great houses in some really, really exclusive neighborhoods, and all of this is because of your wisdom and Maxine’s and Barney’s. Please tell them we love them!
Now on to those silly old military matters!
Gen. Poulos, is holding on the round top hillock, but unable to push the FPR rebels off the hill. Following his remarkably brave charge of yesterday he reports he has lost his notebook containing all the postems of those wonderful ideas that oft find there way to the PoMoCon website, consequently he has ordered his division to bivouack while he searches the area
Goldman’s Division was treated rather rudely yesterday evening but order was quickly restored when Brig. Gen. Ivan Keneally’s infantry broke the left flank of Gen. Foxe’s command and stablized the front.
That wonderful and wacky Carl Scott has really, pi**ed off the weak minded FPR rebels by saying somethings to them he maybe shouldn’t have but, hey, it’s water under the dam now!
Sadly, I must report the injury to Gen. Lawler when that irrascible scoundrel, Col. D. W. Sabin of Stegall’s artillery managed, somehow, to sneak a brace of Parrot rifles up within three hundred yards of Gen. Lawler’s Hdqrts. He went immediately into battery and fired at least a dozen rounds of solid and cased shot while shouting:
“The distinction between that of the Republican Party and Democrat party is essentially like that between a sucking chest wound and blunt head trauma.”
All of which was overheard by the troops, and that wasn’t good for morale! Gen. Lawler had his wounds dressed and left immediately for Washington City to meet with you.
You see, O Gifted One, you have three divisions at the White House for your sundry ceremonies and, well, we really, really need them here! Our command is used up and we have no troops in reserve.

I am, Supreme Leader, your most obedient servant,
Maj. Taxem Johnson, Adjt.
Maj. Gen. P. Lawler, C-in-C, Army of the PoMoCon

avatar Owen Jones June 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Forgive me as an interloper commenting on your debate, but I only just ran across your site having noticed Caleb Stegal being associated with it.

It’s always been interesting to me the attraction to Voegelin among “agrarian conservatives,” which is what I assume this site is primarily about, although admittedly including broader and deeper things. I’m thinking of my quirky pastoral theology prof. always talking about the distinction between the “presenting problem” and the “underlying issue.”

The presenting problem here seems to apply to a number of things, but one example would be the failure of “modern conservatism” to address the culture in any way other than political sloganeering. And that sloganeering is little different than the sloganeering on the other side. The two sides, so to speak, share the same premises regarding the mantras of growth and material prosperity and the inevitability of progress, were it not for the stupidity of the people on the other side. i.e. they are both progressivist movements.

If there is an underlying issue I think it would be the alienation that is experienced by what we might generally call cultural conservatives from the prevailing anti-culture. This group is primarily composed of Christians who have come to question the fusion between Lockean liberalism and classical Christianity as being a fraud, but obviously it is not limited to such a group.

But alienation is not something unique to “traditionalists” either. The people running our government today seem to be compensating for their alienation by exercising their political power as an intrinsic virtue.

Alienation is alienation. It’s something requiring treatment, not a motivation for visionary thinking or political and social action. I think this is something that Voegelin was particularly good at addressing. His treatment was the recovery of Reason, not as a systematic metaphysics, but as an experience of recovery of true spiritual order in the soul. He argued that this was a more sure foundation than the recovery of religious faith, because of what he deemed to be the hopeless dogmatomachies governing religious institutions. Although he may have had a deathbed conversion on that question.

At any rate, he had a very un-Spenglerian approach to the underlying issue of alienation. He believed that a spiritual revival was inevitable and speculated that we were approaching the end of a 500 year trend of secularization.

Regarding the issue of elites, another presenting problem which seems to be the bugaboo of many conservatives these days, the fact is that every society depends on “elites.” While I trust my friends who are mechanics more than our contemporary elites, the truth is that my auto mechanic friends are not going to write plays or run large, complex organizations.

Voegelin was confident that secularization among the elites would eventually exhaust itself. I think this reflects Voegelin’s confidence in what he might call the Order of Being, although I would use more personal terminology. Food for thought at least.

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 28, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I have been looking for an opening to jump back in and thank you Owen for providing one…

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that, “The two sides, so to speak, share the same premises regarding the mantras of growth and material prosperity and the inevitability of progress, were it not for the stupidity of the people on the other side. i.e. they are both progressivist movements.”

As a self-described Progressive Conservative I share your opinion that both sides believe progress is inevitable. I certainly do. And I think in this case ‘progress’ is synonymous with ‘change’ not necessarily ‘betterment’ as many liberals would contend. As Disraeli said, the choice is not between change or no change, but between a change that respects tradition and custom and a change that is devoted more to reason and educated guesswork. I like to think of conservatives as ideally not resisting change but merely tapping the brakes when liberals are more inclined to hit the gas. we’re sort of like the defensive drivers of the political world.

Where does this fit into a debate between FPR folks and ‘post-modern conservatives’? I don’t know. I think it’s important that Front Porchers realize that they are still moving forward and not imply they are returning to anything. Even a life that completely simulates an earlier time is just an exercise in illusion. And quite frankly, there’s no need to move backwards in order to embrace forgotten values. Likewise the post-modern conservatives need to realize they are ignoring some of those things that make conservatism strongest and maybe they need to lessen their focus on the individual.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 29, 2009 at 10:39 am

Report of Brig. Gen. M. Shiffman, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of FPR
Camp near Kirk Kreek, 06/28/09
Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of operations of my division on the 28th instant.
By forced march the command arrived at this place, under guide from Army Hdqrts., late on the 27th instant and was ordered into bivouac. In the predawn of Sunday morning one company from each brigade was pushed forward as a skirmish line to determine the location and strength of the enemy. The advance probed a quarter of a mile east of Kirk Kreek before encountering the enemy’s skirmish line and halted under order on that line.
I await your orders and while so doing made the following speech against both Genls Kenneally and Lawler:
“Speaking primarily for myself, I find Ivan’s privileging of Pascalian psychology revealing, since Pascal makes concessions to the modern construal of nature that I want to join with the Pope (among others) in resisting. This also bears on Lawler’s muted characterization of FPR as pagan, which I will counter by wondering whether Lawler’s position is a bit too Protestant or Jansenist.”
The speech appears to have lifted the spirits of the command.
Mark Shiffman
Brig. Gen, 3rd Div., 2nd Corps
Maj. Gen. J. M. Wilson
Cmdg, 2nd Corps

Gen. Orders No. 54 Hdqrts. Army of the FPR
6:37 AM, 06/28/09

Gen. Deneen’s First Corps will engage the enemy commencing at 11:30 AM and hold the right, while releasing Sabin’s corps artillery to serve on the left in the vicinity of Kirk Kreek.
Gen. Wilson’s Second Corps, with Shiffman’s fresh division on hand and poised to strike Kenneally’s PoMoCon divison on his right oblique flank will order Shiffman, supported by Sabin’s artillery battalions and his own division artillery, to strike Keneally’s flank which is in the air.
By command of Major-General Caleb Stegall

Hdqrts. Army of the PoMoCon
11:35 PM, 06/28/09

Mr. President: I arrived with the army following our meeting to find it fully engaged with the enemy. The fighting opened just after noon with a prolonged artillery bombardment which caught Kenneally’s right brigade in the open and inflicted significant casualties. The notorious FPR rebel artillerist, D.W. Sabin, personally pulled a brace of Parrot rifles within 100 yards of our Washington First/Things Fellows Regiment, cmded by Lt. Col. V.M. Grammaticus, and hurled the following insult,

“Concerning so called “PoMo Cons” being more pragmatic or practical and hence , by implication “realistic”…..Sure, sure….if you refer to the kind of drunken economics of Prosecuting War where it is neither needed nor productive and doing it on levels of debt that would make the Byzantines blanche as “practical”…well I suppose the Neo-Cons are champion pragmatists.”
Col. Grammaticus, under fire of cased shot did boldy raise his right hand and delivered the Eyetalian salute which was deeply appreciated by the paisone’s of the regiment while shouting,
“You write that such a “morally bankrupting creed” as that of the PoMoCons is not, in any sense, conservative. Really? Corporatism and industrialism (though I believe they were mistakes) are nevertheless now embedded in this country’s customs and mores. Conservatism, in the sense I was using it, is a defense of the status quo, not an absolute defense, but a defense that argues that even if the status quo is abominable, it can only be changed gradually and carefully. The Front Porchers have yet to delve into policy proposals; but their radical discontent with industrial capitalism (while, I believe, well-founded) suggests that they are less open to compromise, concession, and gradual change, which is exactly the kind of evolutionary reform that Burke defined conservatism to be. That is why I believe PoMoCons, who seek to conserve much of the present order and correct it cautiously, are more purely conservative. But less us not confuse being more conservative with being right.”
Sabin, it is reported was unhorsed by the direct-fire comments and removed to the rear by litter.
Observing the advance on my right by a division size force I galloped, with my staff and a coterie of admiring students, to the scene of the conflict and delivered the following panygeric, threatening napalm and an illusory friendship:

“So now that we’re “cooking with gas,” as the great man says, let me say something to the Porchers-with whom we’ve just become friends–about Strauss and “us,” keeping in mind that there are big details here that Ralph and the Ralphians wouldn’t fully embrace….”
This peroation worked wonders at resoring order and confusing the FPR regulars, in a Straussian “sense” of the word, and with the gratitude of division commander Ivan, who spread rose petals before my handsome gelding, “Knownuts,” led the huzzahs of a grateful command as I made my way back to Hdqrts.
A map of the field will follow as will a complete list of casualties.
Peter Lawler
Major-General of Volunteers, C-in-C, Cmdg Army

avatar V. Maro Grammaticus June 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm

The battle reports are worth the whole fracas.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 29, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Col. V.M.G.,
Thank you for your kind comments. It is rare that return fire ever requires the indomitable D.W. Sabin to duck and dodge, let alone leave him prone upon the ground yet your magnificent verbiage did just that and to D.W.’s credit his salute of your excellence in service is worthy of any gentemen in the history of chivalry. It is a plesure to fight with both of you.
I remain, your obd svt,
Lt. Col. brevet Volunteers, Sgt. Robert C. Cheeks
Late of the Draft Dodgers’ battalion/Weekend Warriors

avatar Russell Arben Fox June 29, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Mike,

As Disraeli said, the choice is not between change or no change, but between a change that respects tradition and custom and a change that is devoted more to reason and educated guesswork….Where does this fit into a debate between FPR folks and ‘post-modern conservatives’? I don’t know. I think it’s important that Front Porchers realize that they are still moving forward and not imply they are returning to anything.

This is a good sentiment, but I’ll issue a couple of caveats nonetheless. First, I’m a moderate defender of “reason and educated guesswork,” so long as the kind of knowledge being employed is a local and practical one, rather than one supported solely by an ideological vision. Pseudo-Marxist and anti-meritocrat I may be, but I can’t close my eyes to the reality of specialization and expertise; sometimes, some people will know more than other people, and you want those people available when certain kind of decisions are made. The key is to prevent experts from becoming a ruling class, which we have certainly allowed in most areas of our political and economic life. Second, I would argue that movement can be forward and backward: the Victorian era in Great Britain, and the postwar 1950s in the U.S., for example, both were in important ways conscious movements away from the trajectory of their polities in the 1820s and 1930s-40s, and in that way achieved a certain degree of retrieval. Of course, it wasn’t truly a backward movement; technology and the economy continued their acquisitive pace. But it was a movement which had a nostalgic eye on what had existed before, and found new ways to make old standards a stronger reality than had been the case at the turn of the century or during the Great Depression and World War II.

avatar John Médaille June 29, 2009 at 8:24 pm

The terms of the question prejudice the answer, since it sets up a dichotomy between tradition and reason. Now I suppose there are some fields where tradition plays little role; when I was a surveyor I used the Pythagorean theorem without knowing much about the Greek mathematician. But ideas from the humane sciences are the result of particular cultural and religious traditions, and apart from them are unreasonable. Modern science, humane or otherwise, claims to emanate from pure reason, to form a universal discourse by which all other cultural discourses may be judged. Such a science, setting itself up as the “master discourse,” is willing to tolerate other discourses only to the extent that they are willing to submit to the master. Of course, this “master discourse” itself is the creation of a particular tradition, and to throw out its traditions is to throw out its discourse.

So the form of the question is invalid and pejorative to begin with. Post-modern front porchers realize that they speak through a certain tradition in an attempt to reach universal conclusions. This leads to a certain tension which involves both a high degree of self-confidence in one’s conclusions combined with a sense (I hope) of humility. We are not surprised if rival discourses do not see the universal in our cultural expressions of them, and we seek (when we can) to express them in terms intelligible to other traditions. But not all traditions and capable of reaching all truths, and this is especially true of the Enlightenment tradition, which in claiming to be the most universal becomes the most parochial.

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Russell,

First, I’m a moderate defender of “reason and educated guesswork,” so long as the kind of knowledge being employed is a local and practical one, rather than one supported solely by an ideological vision.

But doesn’t that make my point? Liberalism tends to veer much more towards the ‘experimental’ and seems to disregard old knowledge almost by default. An ideal conservatism should look forward and should be willing to try new things, but uses past experience as a helpful guide.

…the Victorian era in Great Britain, and the postwar 1950s in the U.S., for example, both were in important ways conscious movements away from the trajectory of their polities in the 1820s and 1930s-40s, and in that way achieved a certain degree of retrieval. Of course, it wasn’t truly a backward movement; technology and the economy continued their acquisitive pace. But it was a movement which had a nostalgic eye on what had existed before,

I’m not so sure I agree with that assesment. A lot of cultural barriers started to come down in the 1950′s. If you actually look at the span of the 20th century it may in fact be one of the most interesting decades in terms of change. Women started going to work, the Baby Boomers were having their formative years rooted in excess spoilage from their parents. The Cold War created a lot of certainty abroad. College campuses were bursting at the seams with ex-soldiers on the GI Bill. A lot was going on and i don’t think Americans were wistfully looking backwards. I think they thought they were living in a very exciting time and it is only now that we associate that area with nostalgia.

avatar Russell Arben Fox June 30, 2009 at 7:58 am

Mike,

Liberalism tends to veer much more towards the ‘experimental’ and seems to disregard old knowledge almost by default.

I guess I don’t disagree; I just want to preserve the possibility that “progressive” or even “liberal” responses to social problems can be enacted in such a way as to respect local and traditional understandings. Parts of Western Europe (in their farm policies, their approaches to recycling and commuting, and much more) have done a better job at this balancing act than America has, I think, perhaps because of our bigness, perhaps because our nationalizing judicial mindset.

A lot of cultural barriers started to come down in the 1950’s. If you actually look at the span of the 20th century it may in fact be one of the most interesting decades in terms of change….A lot was going on and i don’t think Americans were wistfully looking backwards.

Again, I guess I don’t disagree. Perhaps a better way to say it is that, in the midst of deep tectonic social changes–changes whose seeds were planted in the nation’s responses to the Great Depression and WWII, changes that didn’t find full fruition until the young Baby Boomers, in an arguably admirable honesty, revealed the full extent of the secularism and atomism that had taken root–there was a real desire for retrenchment, and to extend to as many as possible the blessings of that retrenchment. Suburbs have been around forever, but the massification of them–which surely sowed more problems than it solved–along with the corporate organizations which flourished at the time, were all in essence not too different from the Homesteading efforts of the government in the 19th-century: everyone ought to have a home, a stable job, a place to raise their family in security and stability. Look at Alan Ehrenhalt’s book The Lost City, to get an appreciative sense of just how the 1950s arguably exemplified efforts–even “liberal” efforts–to conserve religious authority, ethnic tradition, and neighborhood stability in the midst of change.

avatar Mike at The Big Stick June 30, 2009 at 9:01 am

Russell,

I just want to preserve the possibility that “progressive” or even “liberal” responses to social problems can be enacted in such a way as to respect local and traditional understandings.

For me thios is where my own view of ‘progressive’ diverges from the mainstream definition. I tend to think of progressivism as a bi-partisan phenomenon. For me it means a willingness to move forward, embrace change, etc. So in that sense, nearly all liberals are progressive. The trouble is that they are always looking forward. What you are describing sounds to me like my definition of progressive conservatism i.e. a willingness to move forward while still respecting tradition, custom, etc.

Perhaps a better way to say it is that, in the midst of deep tectonic social changes–changes whose seeds were planted in the nation’s responses to the Great Depression and WWII, changes that didn’t find full fruition until the young Baby Boomers, in an arguably admirable honesty, revealed the full extent of the secularism and atomism that had taken root–there was a real desire for retrenchment, and to extend to as many as possible the blessings of that retrenchment.

I think your argument is valid, but maybe it’s just misplaced in the wrong decade. I think the 1960′s, especially the first half, was where the real entrenchment and fondness for the 1950′s-style conservatism was strongest. I’m thinking about movies like Animal House which captured the tension between the conservative establishment and the increasingly rebellious youths. I’m also thinking of my in-laws who were at a small conservative college in Ohio from 1962-1966 and the pictures look like they could have been taken in 1953. One year later they were at Penn State for grad school and a completely different world which was very much on the leading edge of the counter-culture movement in a lot of ways.

avatar Owen Jones June 30, 2009 at 4:24 pm

There is no such thing as progress in history. Some things get better. Some things get worse. But the end will be just like the beginning: nothing. So where is the progress? Does history progress right up to the end, and then all of a sudden there is nothing, as if the stock market bubble were to go from 14,000 to zero?

If we do absolutely nothing, things will change. Change is a constant. But when politicians promise change, they are implying progress, out of the muck and mire of our present condition. The idea of historical progress is the illusion that all modern mass movements are based on.

Yet, it is unrealistic to expect politicians, businessmen, etc. to just reject it. Because there is a kind of magic to what they do that is very attractive, and at least when it comes to economies, it is hard to dispute that if you believe in economic progress and prosperity when opportunity is there in a free market, that it does not become a self-fulfilling prophesy. And it’s also unrealistic to say to a whole society that wanting to be prosperous is somehow unholy and demonic.

The dream of political progress is a lot harder to nail down. But that’s the dream that still attracts people to vote for people who promise it.

It’s really a spiritual problem at root, because someone who experiences spiritual progress in his own life is going to be cynical about the promises made by politicians that political progress can be fulfilling. The dream of progress is most attractive to those people who are alienated and feel like they are abused and misunderstood and their unhappiness is the fault of others.

With that said, I think there needs to be a philosophic critique of the secular premises behind our modern liberal constitution, and some way of anticipating something different, even if it is only read and appreciated by a very few for now. Some might argue that the premises of our economic relations should be revised as well, but I have yet to see anyone who can pull that off without revealing certain totalitarian sympathies.

avatar John Médaille June 30, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Wow, Owen, that’s a pretty bleak assessment. True, there may be no progress in the next administration, but none in all of human history as well? That’s the theory that “nothing really happens” which is the same as “the same things happen over and over again,” which is the cyclic view of history. But Christianity is based on a different proposition, namely that something really did happen in history, and something really does happen, and hence history really does have a point. Christian and Jewish history is linear: history has a beginning point, a climax, a denouement and a consummation. It is going somewhere.

There is a certain truth to the pagan, cyclic view; patterns tend to repeat themselves. But this repetition is always at a different level. Not always a higher level, but the general trend is upward, or so I believe. We even learn things from disasters like the Enlightenment. As Mark Twain put it, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

And do you really thing that the only choices are the current system or totalitarianism?

avatar Owen Jones July 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Sorry, John but you have misinterpreted the Gospel and the classical theological tradition and therefore missed my point. With Christ, it’s not about history anymore. It’s about the Church as the body of Christ as an eschatalogical sign. Everything looks beyond history. We are no longer bound by history or slaves to history. We are no longer bound by ethnicity or identity politics. In a sense, we are no longer even bound by culture or family. This does not diminish the importance of culture and family but puts it into its proper perspective.

The Christian no longer looks to history for guidance or a plan or anything like that, but seeks only the Kingdom of God.

That history will come to an end is both a theological proposition, and something that astrophysicists love to demonstrate. But the Kingdom of God has no end. And that is what a man of faith lives for.

In the Christian realm, history has no meaning. It is simply an in between or intermediate state of existence. And what is history? There is no one history. There are many histories depending on a culture’s myths. How a society derives meaning behind its existence. There are certain constants but they are all different, and they all come to an end. This does not mean that history is an eternal cycle at all. It just has no meaning in and of itself.

Karl Lowith has a pretty good book on this if you’re are interested: Meaning in History. But one does not need a book to get it. One needs to live the principles of the Gospel (I am saying this not as your guide or guru, only stating a proposition).

As for God entering history, the search for the historical Christ has been one of the most fruitless exercises in history. One knows Christ through faith. It is not that Christ has entered into history. That has it just backwards. History, for the believer, exists in Christ. Christ has relativized history, so to speak.

Regarding progress, can we say that the 20th century denotes human progress? I am just being empirical here. As I said, some things get better and some things get worse. If I get rich, I can call that progress, sure. But it is meaningless. If a society gets rich it is just as meaningless. Are many people materially better off? Sure. But it’s meaningless. Prosperity and even political liberty have no meaning. Perhaps they afford an opportunity for people to seek meaning and a higher purpose, because, as Aristotle noted, it takes a certain amount of leisure to philosophize and that requires prosperity. But look at modern philosophers with all that time on their hands!!!!

avatar John Médaille July 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Owen, you and I will have to disagree on the meaning of the gospel. I think there is a reason that he enters the particularity of time and place, that is, of history. I think there is a reason that the pilgrimage, the progress through time and space to a holy place, is such an important Christian practice. I flatter myself that in my own pilgrimage, there has been real progress: what I knew of God at 20 was less than I knew at 40, and I hope I know a bit more in my 60′s.

As to whether the modern world represents “progress,” the answer is, I believe, “yes!” And “no!” The ability to move implies the possibility of moving in either direction. But the modern world undeniably represents movement away from a previous ethos. The fact of movement confirms the possibility of progress, unless one takes a really bleak view and says that all movement can only be downward. But even that would be a kind of progress, albeit a perverse one.

As for the search for the “historical Jesus,” I tend to agree with you. Every attempt to “recover” this historical Jesus apart from the gospels and tradition results not in a recovery of the historical man, but a re-creation of God in the image of man, or rather the image of a certain fashionable man, the fashion changing from generation to generation. That being said, the Jesus really did become the Christ at a particular moment in time. Christ now “hides” as it were in the gospel, in the Church, and in the Eucharist.

avatar Owen Jones July 3, 2009 at 9:00 am

Time and place is not the same as history. History is myth-making, a way of imposing order on time and place. History reflects a particular society’s “vision of order.” It is always particular. It is a way of giving power and meaning to the present. It is always flawed in some sense because, paradoxically, it deifies the present.

Back to the Incarnation. That particular moment in time is meaningless apart from faith in the Resurrected Christ. So it is not an event in history, not an event in time, but an event, as Eric Voegelin put it, in the “metaxy” or intermediate realm. The Gospel accounts of the Incarnation are written and understood only in the context of the bodily Resurrection and Pentecost. They are not facts placed on a time line but a representation of an eschatalogical experience or vision.

As an example, let’s perform a thought experiment on American history. American history involves certain mythic representations of its founding that combine classical Roman, Protestant Christian (Puritan) and modern enlightenment liberal visions, including constitutionalism. The contract theory of government is an outgrowth of the covenant theology of the day, etc. The events of the Founding are conditioned on an eschatalogical vision of America as a Shining City on a Hill. I don’t want to reduce American mythology only to that, but it is a powerful vision that still animates our politics, both on the left and on the right.

But any founding myth is subject to question. And that is what is going on now. What is America? What does it exist for? What is it good for? That is being questioned all around. Just going back to teaching the Constitution to public school children is not the answer (although I favor that of course). We are at a point not unlike the period in Ancient Athens in which the Homeric myths were called into question. So what is piety. To defend the Homeric myths, or to replace them?

When a society’s founding myths break down, what do you do? Do you go back to an earlier beginning? Are you going to dig up some ancient tablets that have been buried for centuries?

These are just some of the problems with looking at history as if it had objective content that we could all agree on.

avatar John Médaille July 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

Owen, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that; I just don’t see how it excludes the incarnation as an event in history. History is our knowledge of the past (on several levels) and the order we impose upon that knowledge. I am uncomfortable with the language of “myth” in that regard, since I think the term ought to be confined to the celestial or divine histories which human history (in the pagan account) merely recapitulates in an endless cycle. But okay, call our history “myths” if you like, so long as their is a proviso that the myths are tied to events which are presumed to have occurred in time and place. In other words, the “myth-making” (if we insist on that term) is highly constrained.

The incarnation is the insertion of the divine into the order of time. Christians look back to a specific person in a specific place and time, and forward to another event. Hence there is real progress, or there is no meaning to the incarnation.

avatar Mike at The Big Stick July 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

Owen,

I think ‘myth’ is a bit of an overstatement. I would think of the stories surrounding our country’s founding as more akin to tall tales or exaggerations. The facts are there for anyone who wants to find them. Not like King Arthur, for example, who has entered into legend.

avatar Owen Jones July 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

A nation’s founding is not about facts. Sure there are facts. But facts have no meaning. There is a mythic aspect to a nation’s founding, whether it harkens back to an archaic period, or is from a time when there were ample written records. Only through the myth does it take on meaning. I am using myth not in terms of the deconstructionists, but simply as an empirical observation. Transcendent truths can only be expressed through myth. A myth in that sense is not the same sense of myth as something that is just concocted, like an urban myth one reads on the internet.

America’s founding myth is problematic on certain pragmatic levels. If you were a loyalist who was strung up after the war, had your property seized or were forced to Canada or to the Bahamas, the myth of America’s founding does not really comport with your personal experience. Likewise if you were a slave. Or, as time goes on, people will question it as having relevance because they have not had the same experience of divine order. When the myth is called into question it creates a crisis for the society. That’s where we are today, where many societies are today whose cultures have been ruined by secularism. The myth of divine origin of their cultures no longer carries any weight.

Christ dedivinized history. But history has been redivinized by the “modern” progressive who believes in some innerworldly fulfilment with the advance of history being the vehicle. And with just a little more political power, we can advance it more quickly. This is the essence of the totalitarian impulse. It is why liberalism and progressivism of all types share the same intellectual roots and psychological impulses as the totalitarians.

There are few Christian attempts to categorize history in the first millennium. Eusebius was essentially in the business of myth making surrounding the virtue of Christian Empire. Augustin on the other hand saw history in terms of a winding down into a state of old age senility, whereas the Kingdom of God is equated with energy and growth. Generally, history is seen by Christians as simply a time of waiting, an in between time, intermediate between the Resurrection and the end of all things.

The redivinization of history is a modernist conceit, beginning perhaps with the myth of the Middle Ages superceded by the Renaissance. This is still the predominant myth that governs “modern” consciousness, and has been exported from Western Europe throughout the world. There is not a scintilla of historical fact that supports the myth. It arises out of what Voegelin terms the egophanic experience. It assumes that human beings have “moved forward” to the point that they can now control their historical destinies, either individually or communally. They have either acquired the requisite scientific knowledge or have arrived at some superior spiritual level or both.

The implication is that God kind of screwed up in the beginning, but now we can set things right and we will prove it, just give it a little more time. The proof is just beyond the historical horizon.

To say that God entered history in Christ gets it just backwards. History submits to Christ, becomes part of Christ. When we give more credence to history than is due, when we begin using terms like “moving forward,” it is because our experience of the presence of Christ has been largely effaced.

avatar Bob Cheeks July 4, 2009 at 8:23 am

Owen, Enjoying your discussion and some comments:

The Logos has been in the world since creation so I’m not sure what you mean by “Christ dedivinized history.” But, I recognize I may be slicing the bread too fine!
Dr. Voegelin taught that we, as being, are not obligated to participate in the psycho-pneumopathologies of modernity; e.g. we don’t have to be derailed by the deculturation of society.

And, I do appreciate this quote: “Or, as time goes on, people will question it as having relevance because they have not had the same experience of divine order.”
It seems your saying that one must ‘experience’ the idea of ‘freedom’ that was experienced by the founding generation or it will be lost and eroded, as Voegelin argues Christian orthodoxy was eroded, by a dogmatic presentation/interpretation of the events? This is delightful and I should like you to pursue this!

And, this “It arises out of what Voegelin terms the egophanic experience. It assumes that human beings have “moved forward” to the point that they can now control their historical destinies, either individually or communally. They have either acquired the requisite scientific knowledge or have arrived at some superior spiritual level or both.”
And, our beloved teacher also explicated the idea that, as a culture, we wax and wane in our egophanic revolt, our process of deculturation and recovery e.g. that is we collapse into sin and inevitably begin the process of repentance, forgiveness, and a pneumatic cleansing which define the act of recovery. On a certain level,I do believe that’s what’s going on at FPR, a process of dialectical recovery, we’re seeking to recapture the truth of reality…heavy stuff!

And, I am certainly in agreement with you re: the importance of the myth. We see in Plato’s Epinomis support for your position: “…he earnestly warned against discrediting traditional myth, because people whose faith in the myth is destroyed will not necessarily become philosophers, but rather will become spiritually disoriented and derail into some deficient mode of existence.”

avatar Owen Jones July 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Thanks Bob,

I can’t cite a source to say just when the formulation of the Incarnation as an event in history was put forward. I’m just speculating. But if you look at Patristic sources, I don’t find anything close to this kind of formulation. History is really not mentioned at all, except in those special cases like Eusebius. Most theological meditations in that arena are meditations on the meaning of the term ages of ages. St. Maximos goes on at great length on this, as this is the “time” in which the Church and believers exist, ie. not in historical time. This is what I mean by Christ dedivinizing history. The incarnation is not an event in historical time but an event in this in between time. (most protestants of course despise this sort of stuff).

My best guess is that what you had was a reaction to the German higher criticism in which the attempt is made to “demythologize” Scripture. So you peal away the mythical and what you get is the pure Gospel, the Kerygma as one smarty pants theologian put it.

This horrified a lot of people and in reaction to critical method, the result is this effort to historicize Christianity in order to validate its truth as objective historical fact.

Classically the only validation or proof is the illumination of the believer, and the glorification or deification of the intellect. Voegelin was fond of quoting Heb 11:1 to this effect, which is ironic since the Epistle to the Hebrews is virtually dispensed with entirely as a propaganda piece by the higher critical method types.

So fast forward, and unfortunately many people have bought into the historical proof approach, and insist that Christianity is true because it is somehow an “historical” religion, whereas all of the other ones are mythological. I would argue that you have an effacement of the experience of Christ’s parousia behind this, leading both to the critical method school and the reaction to it.

So what does this have to do with politics and culture? Well, all politics is theology by other means. And if we have divinized history and dedivinized Christ, the results are painful to watch. Instead of progress being experienced as a pilgrimage into a realm in between world and kingdom, time and timelessness, imperfection and perfection, it is immanentized, and the erotic experience of communion is no longer experienced in Christ, but in the progressive march of history. Being a part of the progressive movement, being a mover and a shaker, brings with it an ecstatic feeling of meaning, power, purpose. but history gets us nowhere. And so there is just more anger, frustration and alienation because history is not doing what we want and expect it to do.

There is of course this sense of the Spirit of God flowing in and through historical events, and there seem to be movements of history that are inexorable and must be played out to their conclusion. And some movements are clearly demonic. So history is not nothing. But again, there is no history apart from a myth that captures its “spirit.” Then you have Hegel, who more than anyone deifies history (and himself), but Voegelin at the end seemed to be quite taken with the subject of Hegel and history. Vol 5 is very interesting.

avatar Bob Cheeks July 8, 2009 at 4:22 am

Owen, delightful comments. I don’t think we have any or perhaps any significant disagreement. Sadly, I don’t have Vol 5 of the CW. If you haven’t read it, see EV’s CW, Vol. 12, The Gospel and Culture (see also, On Hegel, in the same volume). I think you will find it of interest. Also, a new young man, Thad Kozenski is roaming these pages and you will find him singularly interesting.
I am looking forward to your futher comments.

avatar Owen Jones July 8, 2009 at 8:05 am

Bob, I was referring to Vol. 5 in the archaic sense, not CW vol. 5.

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