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What Liberalism Is (Or has Become)

7/17/2005 - 4:00 AM PST

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By John Mallon
Catholic Online

In the aftermath of the 2004 election season it might be useful to have an updated definition of "Liberalism." In modern Western culture liberalism has moved from being an ideology to being an ersatz religion, with rules, dogmas and taboos all its own, but it is a religion without a god, so the rules are changeable according to political expediency. As such it has all the frightening potential to become an all-out tyranny as did the pagan ersatz religion of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s and the anti-religion of Communism throughout the 20th century.

I did not choose the word "ersatz" casually to sound clever and intellectual. I chose it deliberately, and even looked it up to be sure it was the precise word. Dictionary.com defined it thus: "Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial: ersatz coffee made mostly of chicory. See synonyms at artificial." It continued saying, "German, replacement, from ersetzen, to replace, from Old High German irsezzan"

It represents in many cases a virtual apostasy from traditional faith which enables a gradual migration from, say, Catholicism, to the paganism of modern liberalism, which seemingly allows one to claim to be Catholic by culture and upbringing yet not actually believing as a Catholic, having exchanged the immutable teachings of Catholicism for the fluid adjust-as-you-go presumptions of today’s liberalism. In the First Chapter of the Book of Romans St. Paul calls it "having exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (Rom. 1:23) In fact, for a perfect Christian interpretation of the modern evening news one may read Romans 1:18-32. There is nothing new under the sun.

I'm told that in Canada if you quote this passage of Scripture you can be arrested for "hate speech." Tyranny anyone? Free speech anyone? Freedom of religion anyone? O Canada.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding in the land that Christianity is primarily about morality—which the liberal faithful interpret as a violation of human rights or, "oppression." It is not. Christianity is primarily about Jesus Christ who said “I AM the truth.” Jesus Christ is reality. The truth of reality as established by the Creator of reality. We say in the Creed that it was in and through Christ that all things were made. Morality is discerned from that objective truth as much for our protection as anything else. We live in a generation that has enshrined rebellion, but rebellion against truth can have deadly results.

One may rebel against the cold hard truth of a red traffic light but in so doing one runs the high risk of killing oneself and others. It matters little if a group of people establishes a consensus that they have a "right" to run red lights. If that "right" were to be enshrined in law to appease the special interest group of red-light-runners the purpose of law would defeat itself, become self-contradictory and anarchy would ensue—ripe grounds for tyranny.

Modern liberalism has several presuppositions-turned dogmas of its own. One of which is that without legal abortion women are simply doomed. Forget the civilizing influence authentic religion imposes on men with regard to women—this is viewed as "patronizing." Feminist will blame "patriarchal" religion for the predatory culture which impregnates women and throws them to the dogs, thus in need of available abortion. But in fact, it is the abandonment of authentic religion, and traditional sexual morality that created this hostile environment towards women. Nevertheless, they persist in seeing traditional sexual morality as restrictive of their rights. It is a cold world where "rights" are the highest good. Love seeks surrender, self abandonment, self-donation. Yet, if modern feminism manifests anything it is a tragic unfamiliarity with love.

So abortion is the fundamental lynchpin of modern liberalism, the sacrament of the ersatz religion, stark in its fundamental "no" to the God of life. This ersatz sacrament is undergirded by the even more subtle "no" manifest in contraception. Both represent a fundamental despair of life and love. And they are the sine qua non of modern liberalism. Both involve the tacit reduction of the great ratification of self-donation in marriage to a self-oriented recreational activity, or worse, a drug to distract from the ennui and pain of life. As Saint Thomas Aquinas said, "Man cannot live with out joy. When deprived of spiritual joy he turns to carnal pleasures."

In our time this joyless living has lead to the liberal mandate of "sexual and reproductive rights." Rights become necessary when love is sufficiently out of the picture and sexual activity becomes a loveless enterprise “necessitating” abortion in the name of “compassion.” We are reminded of the words of Flannery O'Connor, which I never tire of repeating, "When you govern by ...

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