Uncategorized

Collectivist Man: Europeanizing the United States

PEOPLE MAKE CULTURES, but cultures make people. In The Character of Nations, Angelo Codevilla shows that over time, the distinctives of a political regime create a particular kind of individual unique to that political arrangement. He offered as contrasting examples the pre-1980’s United States and the Sovet Union of the same period. The character of Americans was in general different from the character of Soviet citizens, and that difference was due largely to the differences between the American constitutional republic and the Soviet communist dictatorship. The politics isn’t just different; the people are. And the politics is the engine driving personal transformation.

THE UNITED STATES AND LIBERTY

THAT THOUGHT WAS IN MY MIND as I observed the citizens of Vancouver, Canada on a recent visit to my son Richard’s ordination to the diaconate there. Though the effects of the Covid virus had grown negligible, 60% of people walking outside were masked, and vaccine passports were required for entrance in most business establishments. Though my visit postdated the “Freedom Convoy” of trucks protesting the mandates, I detected no evidence of protest or even resistance during my visit. Canadians had simply adjusted themselves to political edicts, and there seemed to be no dispute about them, only willing compliance.

This passivity is in stark contrast to the American spirit, which pushed back almost everywhere against the politicized Covid mandates. Obviously there were a multitude of exceptions, particularly in dense urban areas and in deep blue states, since they both reflect a majority of Leftists. Still, the pushback was significant, and recalcitrant, liberty-loving citizens posed a great frustration for Leftist politicians: “Why can’t these deplorables just do as they’re told?”

A hallmark of the United States from its Founding has been liberty — religious, political and economic. This liberty was enshrined in our Founding documents like the Bill of Rights. This was liberty Americans have traditionally insisted on, seen as their national birthright, to be defended to the death (and on occasion has been). The Declaration of Independence reversed the rationale for nations by insisting that governments are instituted to protect individual liberty:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men… (emphasis supplied)

For almost all previous governments in history, man was to find his purpose in the state; man exists for political purposes. This is collectivism, and it was true for ancient tribalism, notorious in Plato’s idealized society, the linchpin of the world empires, and obvious even in much of medieval Europe, despite its unmistakable Christian conviction. The United States’ grand experiment in liberty turned this traditional order on its head. The Founders, rooted in Protestant social theory, knew that individual liberty was so precious that the only rationale for political governments was to defend that liberty. If government doesn’t defend individual liberty, there’s no reason for its existence. The state exists for people; people don’t exist for the state.

Europe preserved the old collectivist ideal, and when the modern empires fell, the new secular non-imperial society simply replaced one collectivism for another. No one would suggest that the French and Russian Revolutions were less collectivist than the regimes they replaced. All to the contrary.

The unofficial European motto has been: “We’re all in this together, and the state makes sure we stay together.” The U. S. has countered with: “Give me liberty or give me death, and if the state doesn’t protect that liberty, it should meet death.”

THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPEAN COLLECTIVISM

BUT FROM THE 30’S ONWARD, and especially since the 60’s, elite Leftists in America have wanted to recreate the U. S. in the collectivist European image. They were devoted to fashioning the New Utopian Society of radical egalitarianism — not only economic but also religious and sexual equality. They were influenced by Cultural Marxism, first developed in Germany, Italy, and Hungary and imported into the U. S. during the mid-30’s by thinkers like John Dewey (see Ralph de Toledano’s Cry Havoc!). This Cultural Marxism wanted to accomplish by peaceful cultural subversion (“the long march through the institutions”) what Lenin in Russia (and later Mao in China) accomplished by military conquest: politically enforced equality.

The problem with the Founding American tenet of individual liberty is that it impedes the elite vision of society creating a new humanity that would willingly share all material resources, affirm all sexual lifestyles, and recognize the commonality of all religions — or, preferably, no religion at all (except their own secular religion, of course).

Collectivist Man is content to be an informal ward of the state, as long as it guarantees him unfettered sex, a monthly stipend, and a risk- and carefree life.

Liberty is dangerous because people don’t know what’s best for them (a great theme of that early modern collectivist Jean Jacques Rousseau). “We elites know what’s best for citizens, so we must strip them of their liberty to give them what they need.”

LIBERTY MAN TODAY

LIBERTY MAN, THE MAN OF THE U. S .FOUNDING, still survives, but he’s under blinding assault by Leftists wielding the most potent cultural weapons: Hollywood, mainstream media, the public schools and universities and law schools. This assault is hard to resist over decades. In this way, Liberty Man is being gradually supplanted by Collectivist Man. Rugged individualism is demeaned as “toxic masculinity” and blamed for a myriad of cultural evils. Men are feminized and women are masculinized. Hard work and thrift and providence are degraded while leisure and laziness and reliance on state largesse are deemed noble. Christianity is judged a “judgmental” relic of the past hindering The Good Life, defined as maximum individual autonomy free from all constraints — except the state itself.

Collectivist Man is content to be an informal ward of the state, as long as it guarantees him unfettered sex, a monthly stipend, and a risk- and carefree life.

CONCLUSION

THIS EMERGENCE OF COLLECTIVIST MAN is one dire consequence of the loss of Christian culture, which is necessitates liberty culture. Christian culture stresses God’s sovereign government in the earth. Just below it is man’s self-government under God’s sovereignty. There are God-established institutional governments like the family, the church, schools, and businesses. One government is civil government (politics), perhaps the least important of all. Apart from God’s kingdom government, there is no more important earthly government than the self-government of the virtuous man. Because men have abandoned self-government, they’ve invited intrusive imposed governments, particularly the only government with a monopoly on violence, civil government.

To try to recover the society produced by the U. S. Founding, therefore, is not to grasp at provincial nationalism (“my country right or wrong”), but rather a restoration of the biblical Protestantism that has a God-honoring liberty at its heart. God has blessed America because it was founded on basic biblical truth. The fruits of that Founding have survived the widescale European collectivization project of the Left. But those fruits will eventually be depleted, and if we don’t recover, the U. S. will go the way of the collectivist European societies: politically dictatorial, economically deprived, and religiously desiccated.

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Bible

Recovering Regal Soteriology: Christ’s Kingship in Salvation and All of Life

Deeply entrenched ideas die hard, and this includes bad ideas, even (perhaps especially) bad ideas in Christian history. Examples abound, but one of the most prominent is the gradual shift from the cosmic soteriology (Jesus died and rose to redeem all creation) of the Bible to the individualized soteriology (Jesus died to save sinners) of the late patristic (early post-apostolic) church. In this way, it appropriated aspects of the Gnostic heresy that it formally condemned.

The Reformation recovered the biblical doctrine of grace alone in salvation, but it did not fully return to the Bible’s cosmic soteriology. It basically substituted accent on justification by faith alone for preoccupation with the sacraments as the means of salvation, but both sacraments and justification were interpreted in a highly individualized way.

Get the e-book here.

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Uncategorized

An Interview with Jeffery J. Ventrella on SCOTUS, Roe, the Current State of Law Schools, and ADF Victories



Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D. is Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs & Training for the Alliance Defending Freedom and CCL’s Distinguished Fellow of Law and Culture.

Since the philosophical complexion of the Court has changed since the confirmation of the three Trump appointees, is the Court likely to take up cases it otherwise wouldn’t? How will this changed philosophical complexion alter the direction of the Court?

The Court accepts only a fraction of the cases for which review is sought. Many factors contribute to the Court’s decision to review a matter, aside from the Court’s philosophical make up: what’s the Court’s current work load, does the matter provide a suitable “vehicle” for addressing an issue, are the lower courts split as to the particular issue, is the issue of significant national and constitutional interest, et al. How particular justices interpret the Constitution or an implicated statute, that is, their judicial philosophy, says nothing regarding these factors.

Moreover, it takes four votes to grant review, yet often for prudential reasons, justices interested in granting review will not vote to do so unless they believe they would garner a fifth vote on the matter — in other words, if the appeal would only reinforce what the four think is “bad law,” then granting review is counterproductive. That said, the individual justices’ philosophical make-up can “nudge” the Court to examine fresh areas like religious liberty and life and these areas or interest are often signaled in the certain justices’ dissenting or concurring opinions. One example of this is in the COVID-19 church shutdown cases. The Supreme Court had repeatedly denied review in cases until new justices were confirmed to the Court.

The Dobbs case (Mississippi) has the potential to overturn Roe v Wade. What are the chances of that happening?

While there are no crystal balls for predicting what will happen and overruling a prior decision is a high bar given the power of precedent, in this case, the acknowledged lack of any constitutional justification from both Left and Right legal scholars should boost the chances of overrulingRoe, and the oral argument contained several encouraging interactions with the justices that align with overruling Roe. Here, the Court should prefer “right” to “decided.”

From a conservative Christian standpoint, what is the state of mainstream legal training in the U. S.?

Legal education today is a trade school imparting some basic analytic and practical skills, but it is also often an indoctrination device that precludes serious thought and discussion about the bigger “why” questions concerning law’s nature, the constitution’s underlying worldview, text, structure, and history, and its object, the human person and his flourishing.  Until we get “human” right, we will never get “human rights” right.

The jurisprudence or theory of law underpinning legal education is latent, but powerful and flows not from a fidelity to the democratically enacted text of statutes or our Constitution nor an objective moral tradition like natural law or related concepts, but from legal positivism, legal realism, critical legal studies, and critical race theory.  Rarely, are these driving forces acknowledged, let alone examined, and instead, they are merely assumed.

In fact, non-Christian scholar, Roger Cramton, decades ago called legal education in America a “religion,” this “religion” has only gotten more radical and bold since Cramton penned this article in 1978.

What are some of the cases ADF is arguing and what are some of your recent victories?

303 Creative – The Supreme Court recently granted review in 303 Creative, an important case that will determine whether a state under the guise of nondiscrimination laws can force creative professionals to speak contrary to their sincerely held religious convictions. The free speech rights of all people who wish to run their businesses in line with their faith are implicated.

Bethel Ministries v. Salmon: On December 10, the district court granted summary judgment in Bethel’s favor, ruling that Maryland violated the school’s free speech rights when it revoked the school’s eligibility to participate in a voucher program based on its religious beliefs.

Albemarle County

Seattle Union Gospel Mission

Meriwether

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Uncategorized

David L. Bahnsen on the Economics of War

I asked David to prognosticate the likely effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, and particularly the Western sanctions, on Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. His response is below. David is CCL’s Senior Fellow of Economics and Finance; Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, a wealth management firm based in Newport Beach, California; and has been named as one of Forbes Top 250 Advisors, Financial Times’ Top 300 Advisors in America, and Barron’s America’s Top 1200 Advisors.

For Russia, the economic consequences will be devastating. No amount of exports to China or imports from China will make up for their lost output of goods, and China cannot sell them anywhere near what they have been cut off from buying from the rest of the world. It is highly unlikely China will remain interested in getting paid in collapsed rubles for what Russia does buy from them, either. The trade consequences to Russia (in her role as a buyer and seller) are devastating. But most importantly, Russia’s access to her foreign reserves through the cutoff of central bank transactions puts Russia on a life line before she, well, goes broke. $640 billion of excess reserves essentially became $190 billion of excess reserves the second the central bank was cut off. This is a severe but not immediately fatal act that will play out in the weeks and months to come.

For Ukraine the consequences are obvious – significant uncertainty, reliance on foreign aid, erosion of imports and tourism, and massive wealth destruction out of the violence and destruction of war.

And for the United States, the only substantive implication in the short term is the exacerbation of supply/demand imbalance in global oil leading to higher commodity price inflation (the same can be said of several agricultural imports like wheat). This is not a reference to a new event but rather an acceleration of an already-in-motion event. It may very well turn into the catalyst that reforms beltway thinking about American oil and gas. Longer term, it is fair to wonder if some foreign countries may worry about the U.S. doing to their foreign reserves what we have done to China, and other countries becoming afraid of leaving foreign exchange reserves in dollars. But that is a ways off, and a likely needed trade-off to our geopolitical strategy, here.

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Economics

David L. Bahnsen on Inflation, Supply-Chain Shortages, and the Fed

David L. Bahnsen is Founder, Managing Partner, and Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, overseeing the management of over $3.5 billion in client assets.

Prior to launching The Bahnsen Group, he spent eight years as a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and six years as a Vice President at UBS. He is consistently named as one of the top financial advisors in America by Barron’s, Forbes, and the Financial Times (2016-2021). He has been a CCL fellow from its inception and is one of the most respected economic and wealth analysts in the country.


PAS. The latest inflation numbers have appeared, and they’re quite high. All along you have disagreed with a lot of the prevailing wisdom about inflation. What’s going on, and what are likely to be the short- and long-term effects of inflation?

There are really two different conversations going on around inflation but for a variety of reasons they are easy to conflate.  The bond market and the U.S. dollar has continued to take my side on the inflation discussion (okay, the better way to put it is that I continue to take the bond market’s side of the discussion), which is to say that long-term growth expectations are low, because long-term excessive indebtedness has put downward pressure on both nominal and real growth.

But the current price escalations are real, and the bond market’s sanguine response does not change the fact that fuel prices are higher, food prices are higher, car prices are higher, etc.  I have long felt that most people do not care what is causing price escalations; if prices are going higher it stings people regardless.  However, based on my day-to-day responsibilities in allocating capital, I don’t have the luxury of not understanding why prices are going higher.  And nor do I think it is helpful (whether myself from a capital allocation standpoint or a layman just making heads and tails of the daily economic news) to paint the entire story with one brush.  The fact of the matter is that there are different circumstances happening with energy vs. housing vs. automobiles, no matter how inconvenient or “complex” that makes things.

The narrative that the inflation was caused by recent bouts of government spending does not stand up to the basic scrutiny of the last 30-40 years of history.  The first $25 trillion of national debt was deflationary but the last $3 trillion was inflationary?  The first $5 trillion of quantitative easing couldn’t even create 2% inflation but the last $3 trillion of it created 7% inflation?  It is admittedly a potentially powerful political argument from a partisan standpoint, but I am only staying in an economic lane here.

Housing prices have escalated because of inadequate new supply, demographic shifts (late age household formation), a preposterous distortion in the cost of capital (low rates), and the increase of rent costs that have made home purchases more relatively attractive.  This is unhealthy and policy-driven inflation, and I believe it has been the law of the land for three decades, and created an affordability crisis in our country.

Energy prices have escalated because of an abandonment of U.S. production capacity (some policy driven, and some decision-making during COVID to excessively turn off rigs and wells), combined with a surge in demand that seems to have surprisingly surprised some people.  This is also unhealthy and policy-drive inflation.

The bulk of the non-housing and non-energy price inflation we see is a surge in demand for goods post-pandemic that has been met with an inadequate surge in supply.  In fact, that shortage in supply has been created by a perfect storm of supply chain disruptions, a grotesque inadequacy in semiconductor manufacturing, a lack of port capacity for imports, a lack of truckdrivers for distribution, and an overall lack of laborers at various stages of the supply chain.  Here, you see used and new car prices up 20-30% since 2019, and other goods and services up 3-6%.  So in both cases you see > trendline inflation, but an obvious inequity in the distribution of that inflation.  This screams for an idiosyncratic explanation, and the occam’s razor of it is that semiconductor manufacturing is the BIG problem, while supply/demand imbalances in food, consumer goods, etc. are the SMALLER problem.  But yes, both are problems.

Inflation is a presidency-killer and I believe that this will hang on President Biden in 2022.  My narrative change versus “Fox News talking points” is not because I have a different political point of view – I don’t, and I get it.  But I believe those arguing for the simplistic notion that excessive government spending out of COVID and excessive Fed QE out of COVID are missing something from the past and the future.  The real tragedy of excess government indebtedness is how it suffocates and stagnates future growth. The narrative that “it has created a red hot economy” is catnip for the current inflation blame-casting, but it is causing us to miss the forest for the trees.

PAS: What’s causing the supply-chain issues, and how long are they likely to last? What will solve them?

It is not one single thing – it is a perfect storm that involves labor shortages and semiconductor manufacturing inadequacy (two of the lowest hanging fruit out of as many as five different factors).  Marginally, it will begin improving Q2 and take into Q4 to be truly felt.

PAS: What do you predict the Fed will do to address the current economic situation?

The Fed will use the inflation headline narrative to drive some monetary policy tightening (that is, the tightening of policy that has been far, far, far too accommodative) – and will do so until credit markets force them to stop, which I believe will be sooner than people think.

PAS: Any specific economic advice for Americans in the present situation?

Ignore the media.  Save, invest, work, and grow. 


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Uncategorized

Can You Help CCL by 11:59 Tonight?

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope that you enjoyed your most rewarding Christmas in your life.

You likely know that many Christian ministries and other charities derive a bulk of their annual income in December due to the year-end cut-off for tax-deductible donations. CCL is no exception. 

Many of you have already sent a sizable donation this year’s end, and I’m deeply thankful; but if you haven’t, would you prayerfully consider a gift of any size? Any amount helps.

You can donate via PayPalor Venmo by 11:59 tonight.

Or just mail a check to CCL, Box 100, Coulterville, CA 95311 postmarked no later than today.

While much of the world is bemoaning 2021, for CCL, God is bringing the year to a triumphant conclusion — and he’s used you to do that.

May God rain down his blessings on you and your family in 2022.

Yours for the reigning King,

Founder & President, Center for Cultural Leadership

PayPal donation here.

Venmo donation here.

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Church, Culture, Uncategorized

Thoughts on Self-Respecting Manhood and the Use of Public Language, by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is Pastor of Lifespring Church, Crosby, Minnesota

I Corinthians 16:13….”act like men”.

There is something which has struck me over the past couple of years, as it relates to men in our culture. That is, the jettisoning of manly self-respect in what is said and what is not said public-ally. I think, by both common grace and saving grace (as a Christian has received), there is a distinction in the language of manhood on how we see ourselves and the world around us. There are things which are unmanly, necessarily including both the tone and content of our speech.

Over the past generation, through the unrelenting assault upon men, the result has been an increasing men who seem to be willing to public ally emasculate themselves in their talk. There seems to be a void of self-respect as related to being a man, in our dress but also, particular to this post, in our language. For example, here are some types of statements and tones I have noticed that my conscience recoils against and will not allow me to mimic or pass on in any way.

  1. I cannot give public “COVID” safety lectures (as written by the safety czars) beyond the basic reiteration of “use common sense.” I cannot lie nor repeat manipulative narratives regarding love or safety.
  2. I cannot make generalizations based upon a person’s ethnicity.
  3. I cannot use straw-men to gain authority, particularly when clarity is called for.
  4. I cannot make general public apologies according the law and language of the culture.
  5. I cannot use therapeutic language of “brokenness” “Lament,” “trauma,” or “toxic masculinity” to describe problems and solutions
  6. I cannot, as a pastor (and as a man) virtue signal via using the language of “weeping” or “lament” or “mourning” about general cultural situations in which I am not directly involved.
  7. I cannot use and will not sing effeminate, breathy songs in public worship.

Call me a product of toxic masculinity. There is woke-type of language which I, fundamentally, as a man, recoil against and cannot participate in, and when I see other men (particularly pastors) doing these things public ally, it screams as phony, insincere, and deceitful. Conversely, I have noticed that when a man turns to Christ Jesus and begins to willingly and consciously take real responsibility, facing his fears, his language changes to simple, clear, bold, nuanced; in summation: Manly.

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