Christopher Ferrara Interview – Parts I & II
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline and say hello again to the author of Liberty, the God That Failed, Christopher Ferrara. The first time you were on the program, I received multiple compliments on the subject matter because it’s subject matter that is, as you know in promoting your book, not standard fare for the mainstream. You don’t hear those sorts of things very often because we are taught from infancy that liberty is a God and that it has always been and always should be about the pursuit of liberty.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline and say hello again to the author of Liberty, the God That Failed, Christopher Ferrara. The first time you were on the program, I received multiple compliments on the subject matter because it’s subject matter that is, as you know in promoting your book, not standard fare for the mainstream. You don’t hear those sorts of things very often because we are taught from infancy that liberty is a God and that it has always been and always should be about the pursuit of liberty. While I think you can make the case — and I believe you do in the book — that our God does want us to have liberty, it’s not the kind of liberty that has been defined by man. I’ve given you that. Why don’t you expand upon that just a bit?
Christopher Ferrara: Well, we need to understand that the problem is, of course, all of us are more or less plugged into the matrix of modern civilization. Essentially what’s involved is looking into our past, taking the red pill of enlightenment, as it were, which all of us need to benefit from, and understanding what liberty really is.
Now, the modern conception of liberty is that it’s simply an absence of restraint, usually an absence of governmental restraint. So, in other words, freedom from something, say freedom from excessive government regulation, freedom from taxation, freedom from any restriction on what we would like to do, and usually the only limit imposed on that is that I don’t kill somebody or steal his stuff. That’s negative liberty.
The real meaning of liberty involves something that the philosophers call a faculty or a power of man. It was given to us by God. It enables us to do something. Liberty isn’t freedom from something so much as it is freedom for something. It’s our ability, our liberty, our freedom to pursue what it is that God has made us for. This is what everyone has lost sight of, all of us to one extent or another, because we’re plugged into this matrix of modern culture, which gives us what we think we want, entertains us endlessly. We forget that we were made for something. Ultimately what we’re made for — we’re all going to die — is communion with God.
This is what even the Greek philosophers were able to figure out. If you read The Laws of Plato or Plato’s Republic, they explore this question of: What is the good of man, and therefore, what does liberty really consist of? Even then, if you look at The Laws and The Republic, you see the insight — and this is without divine revelation — that if you pursue the spiritual goods, meaning God, the other things will be added onto you, the material goods, the goods of the body and so forth. But if you failed to pursue the higher goods, the things of the spirit, the things of the soul, you lose everything else in the process eventually.
The fundamental problem with liberty today is a lack of understanding that it is freedom for something, and it’s the freedom and the exercise of human freewill — that only we have; none of the other creatures in this world have it — and the exercise of freewill to attain the good. Pope Leo — this is a Catholic teaching but it applies to all matters, common sense — explains in his encyclical on human liberty that liberty is essentially our obedience to the supreme and eternal law, the authority of God. That’s for our good.
You mentioned in the preparation to the show an unfortunate woman at Duke University who thinks that she has liberated herself by selling her body for use in pornographic movies. This is not freedom. This is enslavement. She is not doing what she was made to do, which is the attainment of good, the fulfillment of her own human nature. She’s allowing herself to be exploited as the object of leering men and she thinks she’s liberated herself; actually she’s in chains. When a whole civilization consents to this arrangement, this idea that liberty is doing whatever you please at the moment, forgetting who you are and what you’re made for, the result is a social, cultural, and civilizational disaster. We need the correct conception of liberty in order to set things right.
Mike: Christopher Ferrara, author of Liberty, the God That Failed, is talking about the Duke University — I’m sure young Eric is well familiar with her. She has taken the stage name Belle Knox. The Knox part comes from, according to her, an homage to Amanda Knox. Why would anyone take Amanda Knox’s name? The woman is accused of murdering some Italian guy because she was tired of having threesomes with him. In any event, here’s the quote from Belle Knox, the Duke University starlet that is sweeping the American countryside, “My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering. For me, pornography brings me unimaginable joy. It is my artistic outlet: My love, my happiness, my home.” Christopher, joy is a word that used to be used in an ecclesiastical context. It wasn’t always used that way, but it was certainly used to express that feeling that one had gotten closer to God. Today, the only proximity to God that the word “joy” is attached to is a young woman screaming: Oh, God! Oh, God! What happened?
Ferrara: I began by a reference to a movie, The Matrix. This is the woman who is sorely in need of the red pill. She’s consuming the blue pill. She thinks she’s experiencing joy and that this is a wonderful thing that she’s been made an object of exploitation by the pornography industry. The problem with liberty wrongly understood, again, that liberty is just the freedom to do whatever one pleases, is that you get these paradoxes. So, for example, women’s liberation is actually women’s exploitation. I think you mentioned or someone mentioned in an email from your show that we now have a situation, for example, where, in the name of women’s liberation, 80 percent of women are working for corporations or various other businesses. They’re not in the home anymore. They don’t have children to look after. A reversal of what the situation used to be is that maybe 20 percent of women were working in the workforce and not home.
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Now we find so many women, and there’s even a kind of movement afoot, living long enough to regret their decision to enter the workplace and forego children. It’s a question of doing, in the sense of true liberty, what one is made for by God. If you deny your own nature, sooner or later you’ll have to pay for that decision. Women now are regretting so-called women’s liberation effect of being “liberated” into the workplace. They’ve lost the one thing that really mattered to them in the end and they desperately try to achieve it through in vitro fertilization and other techniques to have children, realizing too late that they haven’t fulfilled themselves.
Again, the idea is if we understand liberty in the sense of who we are and what our destiny is — once again, we’re all going to die and we’re all going to have to face judgment. It’s either going to be an eternity of happiness of an eternity of misery. If we understand misery that way and we understand that it’s a faculty that God gave us to pursue what we ought to, in keeping with our nature, exercising our freewill, then we understand what liberty really is. If everybody had that understanding, especially our leaders, this country would be transformed.
I think about this idea, it’s a dream scenario — this would appeal to everybody. I’m taking this from a Catholic perspective. Suppose everybody in the United States Congress and in all the state legislatures in America awoke one day to find that he was a practicing Catholic, maybe not a very good Catholic, just someone who understands what the Church teaches and tries to obey it. Evangelical Protestants can sympathize with this, too, because they get this to some extent. If that were the case, if we woke up and everybody was more or less a mediocre Catholic who followed the teaching of the church but wasn’t any kind of a saint, do you think we’d have Obamacare? Would we have legalized abortion? Would we have 250 channels of pornography? Would we have a 50 percent divorce rate? Wouldn’t our country be something radically different from what it is today? Wouldn’t we have liberty in the full and proper sense of the word?
Mike: What I find amazing and distressing all at the same time are the amount of men that I know that revel in their liberation from the pursuit of being chivalrous knights. You don’t find many knights in shining armor. You certainly don’t find very many knights that are pursuing chivalry and pursuing virtue, which, as I think Confucius said, the virtuous man pursues the good always; the man that is not virtuous pursues the convenient.
Ferrara: That’s an excellent point. What I found, especially researching the book, which took an awful long time, what I found is the way to get the truth, more often than not, is not through people who call themselves conservatives, but through the writings and other work of chastened liberals. You mentioned this idea of chivalry. I’m thinking of something that Camille Paglia wrote recently about precisely that problem, the disappearance of the chivalrous male and his replacement by the neutered male, who isn’t willing to be man enough to do something like father children and have a large family and do what a man was made to do. This is a liberal, a leftist who is honest enough to see a social problem where it exists. She doesn’t really have the solution, but at least she’s made a correct diagnosis. It’s so often the case that these chastened liberals give us more honesty in their analysis of the situation than people who think they’re conservatives.
Mike: As Charles Murray pointed out in Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2010. In 1960, according to the United States census, 83 percent of all American women reported that their occupation was household or stay-at-home mom or whatever the designation was. In the 2010 census, 83 percent of American women reported that their occupation was something other than homemaker. Murray says: You can’t just assign this to washing machines, dishwashers and electric refrigeration. This is not what has brought that about. What has brought that about is a concerted effort to blur the line so that there would not be a distinction between the genders. Is he right?
Ferrara: Yeah, I think so. I think this idea that women are liberated by being sent into the workplace is one of these paradoxes. In the process of being liberated, they find themselves working for men in major corporations, sitting in cubicles, letting their lives go by. Then, as I said earlier, at the age of 35 or 40, they realize: Wait a minute, I want a child. They desperately try to conceive one. There’s a movie Idiocracy. Have you seen the movie?
Mike: I promote the movie. Yes, I’ve seen it a hundred times.
Ferrara: The opening sequence is absolutely priceless, and, again, another admission by liberals, because no doubt Hollywood liberals made this movie. It’s a couple sitting there talking about how they can’t have children right now because the market just isn’t right, the asset portfolio isn’t ready. Then it comes back to them ten years later and they’re still thinking it over. Finally they have gray hair and the woman is trying to have a child by in vitro fertilization. Then her husband, in the next sequence, is dead, he’s gone. She’s still talking about having a child. This is a Hollywood movie and it satirizes this state of affairs. Liberals, once again, are telling us the truth about the social order. Liberalism has erected all around us this matrix.
I’m not saying that if a woman stays home and raises children that she’s living in paradise. Life is hard. It’s hard whether you stay at home or go to the workplace. Life wasn’t meant to be a Garden of Eden. We lost that way back when. It’s not a question of an idyllic version of home life, like on Father Knows Best. There’s a struggle to raise a family. It’s a struggle to be a woman raising children. All of life is a struggle. The point I’m making is that the struggle serves human good when you struggle in a way that fulfills your nature. However difficult that is, you’re, in the end, going to be happier if you do what you were made for. The fact is, you were made for something by God. If you lose sight of that, you lose sight of everything.
Mike: Let me ask you a question, Christopher. Was there a time that you would point to that if somebody asked you, and I’m getting ready to ask you, is there a time that you would point to that you would say man actually did have the proper concept of liberty and was faithfully pursuing it, only to be upended by scheming, designing men who were put up to it by Him from below, and who played the role of Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’s indispensable The Screwtape Letters, and were whispering in the patient’s ear: This is not the real kind of liberty you want, pal. There’s a real kind of liberty down the road here, but you’re gonna have to jettison the enemy, as Lewis calls God in the book. Talk to me about that.
Ferrara: Let me paint in the broadest brushstrokes possible. You’re just inviting me, aren’t you now, to engage in absolute heresy.
Mike: I am. I want the heresy.
Ferrara: You want me to be burned at the stake of modernity.
Mike: We’re conducting course study 101 at Remnants University here, professor.
Ferrara: What I’m going to say will be absolutely unacceptable to the vast majority of listeners, but I’m offering them what I believe to be the red pill. In answer to your question, I would say that throughout Western history, up until the time that we witnessed the final triumph of democracy at the end of World War I, men had a better conception of liberty in the sense that they understood that liberty is governed by the higher law. Laws and institutions must conform themselves to human nature, to divine and natural law. Now, this was done imperfectly. There was bloodshed throughout the history of Christendom. But, as I show in the book, whatever bloodshed we saw, whatever abuses we saw under this regime that was called Christendom, this was nothing compared to the advent of the modern nation-state and modern warfare. I’m not talking about more efficient means of killing.
One of the problems with the modern nation-state is that wars, which were usually limited affairs in the Christian State — the king would raise up an army and fight some other ruling family and they would be rather limited affairs. The problem with the modern nation-state is that war became the people’s war. Then you see for the first time entire nations being conscripted into combat, millions and millions of men. The first instance of this was the Levée en masse in France during the French Revolutionary War. The entire nation was enlisted in a so-called war effort to conquer Europe for this new idea of liberty. Then you begin to see, not hundreds of thousands or a couple million, but tens of millions, a hundred million victims of warfare. As you indicated in the last show we did together, the nation-state has become an object of worship.
To wrap up the answer, with all its imperfections, the nation-state, before it became the modern nation-state, understood liberty better and people lived their lives, with all of their struggles, more in accord with human nature and more in accord with the true notion of liberty, with no divorce, no contraception, no world wars, nothing like what we see today in terms of blood and destruction on a massive scale.
Mike: That is a heresy. We are taught from infancy to behold your nation. We use the word nation — I hear it used often, so many times that it makes me cringe. When I hear somebody talk about “this is good for our nation,” I think you have the wrong conception of what nation means, sir. The way you’re saying nation is one unit that has a bigger army and can blow more people to kingdom come than the other nation. Is that what a nation really is? Is that why we want a nation, so that we can militarily be superior to another nation? That doesn’t seem to me to be a very, number one prudent, number two very well-advised, and number three a very prosperous future to aspire to, is it?
Ferrara: No. What I’m trying to demonstrate in the book, what I’m crying out for people to understand is that Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, offers what is most ironically a completely libertarian vision of society.
It begins with the idea that God limits the scope of political authority, and God sets limits on what political authority can do. Unjust and immoral laws are eliminated on the basis of that principle alone.
Then there’s another teaching of the Church that applies to all men and all nations, subsidiarity. It’s the idea that political authority should be exercised at the lowest possible level, subsidiary function. What is appropriate to local governments should be left to local governments. What is appropriate to the highest levels of government, let’s say something like the common defense, should be left to that highest level. All other functions on the basis of their subsidiarity should be left to the people at local levels. That is another prescription for true liberty in society. Then it allows people to govern themselves according to divine and natural law.
Even the original colonies, if they had remained a loose federation as they were under the Articles of Confederation, would have been free individually to enact legal codes, and they did enact legal codes that were consistent with this idea that human law should reflect divine and natural law. The problem is, when those 55 men went into that room in Philadelphia, they fashioned a federal government that had power that never existed under the Articles of Confederation. The result was this relentless centralization of power, the culmination of which we’re living through right now. The anti-federalists, as you pointed out last time I was on the show, had it right from the beginning. If this whole idea of subsidiarity and the conformity of governments to divine and natural law had been followed and implemented in the states of the union, we wouldn’t be in this situation today.
End Mike Church Show Transcript