Ideology: Unreason and Anti-Faith, Part One

During the last presidential campaign, “Conservatives” were frequently heard to complain that Donald Trump was not conservative.  They were and are understandably reluctant to spell out the criteria that made Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz more conservative than Trump, but, even without taking much time to read between the lines of their complaints, they were principally unhappy with his positions on immigration, trade, and his lack of commitment to what the first President Bush, echoing Adolf Hitler, described as “the new world order.  

Fans of the more prominent “Conservative” talk radio programs have convinced themselves that they are engaged in a “war of ideas” against the heirs of the 1960’s.  If only more Republican politicians would stoutly defend “Conservative” values, they would easily defeat the intellectually bankrupt forces of evil preaching envy and class warfare.  

What the GOP needs, “Conservatives” tell us, is a sharper ideological focus that will give greater prominence to the vast reservoir of “Conservative”  “ideas.”  If only the “Conservatives” were simply joking, if only they were entirely cynical about the war of words between the two parties, one might have some hope for a restoration of political sanity in this poor country.   But cynicism is rooted in the realities of human experience, and believing “Conservatives”—immune to the lessons of experience—are their own worst enemies.

There is no point in trying to wise them up.  I have lost my voice and developed writer’s cramp, trying to explain to “Conservatives” that in Washington there is no ideological conflict in which it is worth anyone’s trouble to take sides.  Whatever and however the candidates are chosen, the choice can only between the welfare state party of international socialism and the welfare state party of global capitalism.  For serious Christians, for anyone who believes that there is something valuable in our traditions,  for anyone with common sense or common decency, for anyone who knows who and what he is as a human being, a man, a European American, there is no ideological choice.  

It is the mark of the sane man to reject ideology and all its words.  That last word is not a typo.  Ideologies are empty notions, puffs of air connected to nothing solid, nothing real.  In accepting an ideology—no matter how apparently wholesome—a man takes the first step toward the intellectual slavery that will blind him to the world.

It is funny how ideology, Russell Kirk’s least favorite word, has so embedded itself into the conservative “mind.”  It is important to distinguish between the two basic senses in which ideology is typically used: The one pretends to take ideas seriously; the other looks honestly at political reality.  In the first sense, ideology is a social-political theory that pits one movement against another and give people an excuse to slander, deceive, enslave, and murder their non-believing rivals. Marxism is the  preeminent example of a principled ideology.  Since there is no “Christian ideology,” all ideologies are non-Christian. 

Every principled ideology—socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, feminism—can be explained as a distortion of one or another aspect of Christianity that is taken out of context and inflated into a universal theory that explains everything.  Socialism takes the Christian view of charity and community, as practiced in the Acts of the Apostles, and twists it into a totalitarian denial of personal liberty.  Libertarianism and capitalism take Christianity’s emphasis on the dignity of the human person and pervert it into a money-grubbing greediness that is contemptuous of charity.  Feminism borrows Christianity’s elevated view of women and turns it into a means of exploiting and degrading the weaker sex.  To accomplish this transformation of gold into lead, the bit of Christian faith that is borrowed must be heavily diluted with ideological solvents that make it thin enough to cover the globe.  Examined in this light, all ideologies, including those that might pretend to be based on Christianity, are anti-Christian.

For this reason, no Christian can put much stock in a political ideology that explains the world in anti-Christian terms.  There is no Christian Party in the United States, and no presidential candidate, with the exception of the impossibly zany Jimmie Carter, has run explicitly Christian campaigns, no matter how many Baptist Churches they attend for photo ops.  Unless they are blinded by the illusion that some “Conservative“ is going to outlaw abortion, Christians who wish to vote can feel free to vote for any candidate of either party, if one of them will help their business, increase their welfare payments, or cut their taxes.  One practical rule of thumb is to vote only for candidates who will take your call if they are elected. 

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

2 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    None would take my call, so why vote? I just wish the ideologues could get back to the basics of Christian teaching and civilization, but that’s hard for anyone to do nowadays.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    “None would take my call, so why vote?”