As I spend quite a bit of time on this blog discussing other people’s political statements and actions, it seems appropriate that I take at least a post to outline the principles which lie behind my own political and social thinking. To do this properly, it is necessary to go back to the foundation for that framework, which lies quite simply in the fact that I am a Christian.
Now in my view this is not a call to bind all of civil society to the will of God by force, but it does mean that on civil matters Christian opinion and behavior should be consonant with Christian faith. As I understand it, this should be explained essentially as follows: that there is a civil (or “social”) arena and authority separate from any responsibility of the church, and that in this arena judgment should be rendered not necessarily according to special revelations but according to what can be called general revelation – or more usefully, natural law, which is the patterns for healthy society discernible by human reason and experience.
In more mystical moments, I tend to wonder whether this is a piece of sophistry allowing me to dodge any responsibility to consider Scripture too closely, hiding behind the secular premise. During attacks of hard-headed reason, I tend to wonder whether this is a piece of sophistry allowing me to claim a justification in faith for an obvious idea that does not really need an further basis but is itself axiomatic. I am not entirely happy with the thesis as I have framed it, but at the current moment I have not been able to improve it.
Practically, however, the question is: what do I view as the essential principles deducible naturally? I believe all of my political opinions can be traced back to, or explained in light of, one of three principles for a just society – or by some combination of them. I would call them honesty, family, and responsibility.
“Honesty” (alternatively: reality, consistency) I take in some sense to be the bedrock – almost nothing more than the restatement that there are natural principles. But also it implies the necessity of acknowledging reality, and in some ways I would describe this principle overlapping with the classical idea of prudence, as in not promising more than possible.
By “family” I refer to the fact that the natural family is the basic unit of maintainable society: and by “natural” I mean that the continuation of society requires male and female to come together sexually to create a child. In my view it is not possible to plausibly discuss social responsibilities without referring to the family; the lack of ingrained family structures in a society is one of the gravest danger signs; and on the other end, attempting to remove family responsibilities to a larger sphere – social or governmental – is fraught with danger even if it seems necessary: even as a lesser evil it is inherently unwise.
By “responsibility” I mean personal responsibility. It is not possible to perpetually abstract responsibilities by talking about “society”, or to perpetually keep a corporation “faceless” without problems, or even to maintain family and honesty without knowing accepted roles. Seemingly paradoxically, however, one of the chief responsibilities is to hold others responsible as one’s station allows: government and police over citizens, parents over children, employers over employees, teachers over students: an idea of social responsibility cannot cohere without personal attention.
From this sketch, you can likely deduce where I fall on many issues. However, I don’t know if it would be entirely correct. Rather than trying to summarize here, in future posts I want to look at some of the current concerns I consider most – ah, concerning.