Creating the Commission
There is a new America to be made, if we dare.
Look out your window. What do you see? What I see when looking out my window is America. Outside my window is a Cape Cod style house, painted gray, surrounded by dogwoods, a maple tree in front, and an American flag proudly blowing in the wind. Inside this house sits a family. A mom. A dad. And their twins, a boy and a girl. They sit down for dinner, sharing their day, ending their night in a cacophony of laughter.
This is twilight in America. For millions of Americans, this dream is dead.
Look out your window now. What do you see? You should see America. Instead, you’ll find a hollowed nation and a hollowed people. We watch as our cities burn, our statues are toppled, our factories emptied, and the liberal order reigns unchallenged. The “Empire of Liberty” has fallen. We are supposedly more “free” than we have ever been, but something is clearly wrong. More than ever, Americans lack any connection to their neighbors, families, and nation – not to mention God. How did we get here, and more importantly, how do we fix it? Do we merely need to “return to the founding” or are we building something new entirely? As the liberal order breaks before our eyes, something evidenced by the election of 2016, what will rise from the ashes of American liberalism?
While there are many contentious issues at the heart of the American tradition, it is important to go back to where it all started: freedom. What does it mean to be free? Freedom, classically understood, was geared to the formation of the human soul, whereby man would not only learn how to gain power over his impulses (true freedom), but learn how to be a good and proper citizen. Liberalism, the ideology of the Enlightenment, has complicated this vision. The word liberty is now conceived as “what one wants,” rather than “what one ought.” Instead of fulfilling our obligations as citizens, we are in a ruthless pursuit of a licentious liberty.
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How many American “conservatives” do you know that believe in their “right” to do “whatever they want?” This is a stark break from any notion of an “ordered liberty,” much less anything resembling a conservative tradition. Since its inception, the United States has been portrayed as the “Empire of Liberty.” But which liberty, particularly today, is it espousing? What caused the change in attitude? How did we go from “ought” to “want?” In 1835, after his extensive tour of the new United States, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that he was “inclined to believe that [America’s] posterity will tend more and more to a single division into two parts – some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Church of Rome.” In other words, America: Catholicism or paganism?
Nearly two-hundred years later, the words of the French liberal echo into the present. In the great conflict between the two liberties, Catholicism stands as the unifying force between seemingly opposed principles – that being freedom and obedience to Christ. The challenge for the Founders was recognizing that Catholicism is the only true universal framework under which ordered liberty and conceptions of authority are reconciled.
This is not to say that the United States has no virtue, or the American tradition has no true conservatives. Throughout the two-hundred years of the American experiment, moments have shown that despite its ideological complications, there is a beauty to the American tradition. Many of the Founders did not support much of the liberalism they are idolized for today. Support of state Churches after the founding and blasphemy laws are good examples of this. Men like John Carroll, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Gouverneur Morris, and other Federalists come to mind. These men, with a belief in national unity and using state power for good, can help serve as figures providing the basis of a postliberal vision for America moving forward.
Moreover, without trying to make it an overused platitude, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States recognizes an implicit account of government and provides many worthwhile aims:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Specifically, understanding “We the People” as an invocation of the political community and the “general welfare” as an intimation of the common good, there is ample room for a comprehensive American state that tackles more than libertarian wishlists and individualist enterprises, and does not see liberty itself as the final end of government.
However, our mission is also distinct. Mere variants of liberalism will not save the United States. Catholicism will. It is the religion given to us by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and is the only institution that can save the United States and the west. If the American right wants to save the United States, it must embrace Christ and reject the heresy of liberalism. Men are not mere individuals, but political animals and creatures of God. We are not free in ourselves, but free in the redemption of Christ. We are not our own cathedrals, but under the authority of Christ’s law. In this way, we seek not a “return” to the founding, but what one may call a “reversion” – a reversion of the United States to Catholicism, a tradition that began in 1492. We seek to baptize the United States into Christ’s Church.
We are launching The American Postliberal as faithful Catholics and patriots who have a love and support of the United States and its common good. We admire the virtue of George Washington, the courage of Abraham Lincoln, and the men who built this nation from the sweat of their brow. Through the lens of Catholic political realism, this mission will bring about a Catholic America and the revival of our republic. This is a realism of what it means to be human, to be born into community, to serve, to worship, and how the state orients itself to God. Thus, the issue is not, as some may claim, an issue of universalism, globalism, or nationalism. It is a question of whose universalism will rule: liberalism’s or Catholicism’s.
It is necessary to understand the important role Catholicism plays in rightly ordering the political community. Catholicism’s conviction about the union of liberty and obedience shows that it is the only force that can maintain the American nation and reconcile man with a positive vision of freedom and the common good. Therefore, we follow the Great Commission of Christ before His ascension to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Thus, we seek to build a better freedom for the land of the free – one of virtue, obligation, and service to Christ, Church, and nation. This task will not be easy, but no great feat has ever been.
There is a new America to be made, if we dare. Welcome to The American Postliberal.