Russell Kirk Counseled Canons Of Conservatism
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Let’s talk about Russell Kirk. One of the things not known or not admitted or buried by alleged historians or devotees of Kirk is that he carried on or tarried on in the footsteps of St. Paul. That’s what Birzer writes about.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Bradley Birzer wrote the great biography of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. It’s part of the ISI Forgotten Founders series. American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll is the title of the book. When I first read the book back in 2009, when Birzer came out with it, I had not begun what the theological calls a reversion into the faith, one true faith, of the Catholic Church. Since then I have, and I need to go back and re-read the book. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. At that time, if you want to talk about religious persecution – and boy is it out there, brothers and sisters, let me assure you. Being Catholic in America was illegal in some places. Maryland, from where Charles Carroll of Carrollton was from was one of those places. In order for Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s father to educate him himself, he had to send him out of the country, otherwise the Protestants of Maryland would have proclaimed the Catholic catechism to be taught to the child as anathema. They would have confiscated young Charles and his brother and shipped them off to some Protestant family in England. [mocking] “That’s not true. You’re making that up.” No, I’m not making it up. Look it up. I challenge you. Go ahead, look it up.
Bradley Joseph Francis Birzer, our friend Brad Birzer – actually, when I changed my name from Mike Church to Frederick Michael Augustine Mary Church, Brad was the inspiration for that because he had changed his name, gone his full confirmation name. You may know Thomas Earl Athanasius Woods or Kevin R. Constantine Gutzman. One of the great Catholic writers of the last part of the 20th century,
he is often called the father of modern conservatism, we are woe to he who might call him the Catholic father of modern conservatism, and he most certainly was, Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind. Bradley Joseph Francis Birzer decided to write a biography of Kirk. I believe the book is out because Brad had published on his Facebook wall a photograph of a page from the book – I guess he got an advance copy – that listed in the acknowledgements people that he thanked. Yours truly was on that list. Thanks, Brad. I’m not worthy of the compliment or being listed in your book. Nonetheless, I thank you, my brother. I appreciate it.
Today at the Imaginative Conservative website, we find this about the book and about Bradley, “Russell Kirk: Dogmatic Conservative.” We’ve spent the better part of the last seven years if not eight years on this show – this has never once waned, has never stopped. We’ve stood by the rampart here. What is conservatism? What is it? I have maintained all along that it is nothing more than a marketing term. It’s a marketing slogan. Conservatism will defy anyone trying to explain it or anyone trying to write it down. The reason is because it’s a way of life. True conservatism is lived through the conservation of what government and what family and what life is for. Life is provided to allow the human soul, implanted by Almighty God, an opportunity to make its way back to its Creator.
In other words, this life is a test. Fail the test and you don’t go back to the Creator. I don’t want to rain on your parade. I’m probably not going back. You don’t go back to the Creator if you fail the test. Thus, conservatism, conserving the vehicles and the public policies or traditions and institutions necessary to pursue that course of action. That’s conservatism. Bombing people in the Middle East that you can’t point to on a map, indiscriminately killing women and children in the process and writing it off to collateral damage is not conservative. If you think it is, explain to me, if our Lord himself were commander in chief, do you really believe he would pull the trigger?
Last night I was reading Romans 24. Read it, especially verses 12-16. St. Paul is accused of things he hasn’t done. He refuses to be white martyred for things that he hasn’t done. He says to the emperor: The only reason I’m here is because I’ve become inconvenient to the Jews. I’ve done nothing that I haven’t done my entire career. What are these guys talking about? He did drop in: If it please the king, I will state to you one of those things has been to defend and to preach the gospel of the Lord, our God. The king said, shockingly: You might convert me, Saul of Tarsus, into becoming one of your Christians. Thus they conspired to hand him back to the Jews but then decided just to keep him in prison. Of course, he went on the sojourn across the sea to go to Italy. The rest of you know the history of this.
St. Paul is one of those original conservatives. Let’s set up the institution and the traditions that will make it possible for generations that come after us to pursue the gate of Heaven, the narrow gate Our Lord talked about in St. John and St. Matthews’ gospels. That’s conservative. That’s the basis of conservatism. You’re not going to find that in Republican Party politics, my friends. Let me tell you something. That has become inconvenient. Someone announcing it, maybe someone you’re listening to right now, has become inconvenient to some to continue that enunciation.
Let’s talk about Russell Kirk. One of the things not known or not admitted or buried by alleged historians or devotees of Kirk is that he carried on or tarried on in the footsteps of St. Paul. That’s what Birzer writes about.
When Human Events asked Russell Kirk to define “conservatism” only months into Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term, the grandfather of American conservatism paused, pensively, and answered only with some reluctance.
I hesitate to call it a movement because it has never been asserted. There is no national conservative party. There are many conservative organizations but no central organization or plan of action. Thus, I think the word ‘tendency’ or ‘mood’ is more accurate than ‘movement.’ Nevertheless, there is now a proliferating, energetic and widely varied conservative tendency which becomes more and more coherent. It has taken us 30 years to explain this and to provide a common body of objectives.
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This was not the first such time that Kirk had avoided a precise definition of conservative. Throughout the entirety of his career, the greatest mind American conservatives have yet produced hesitated when defining his own ideas. They were, after all, deeply complex, combining Ciceronian universals with Augustinian particulars.
Mike: There’s that word, universals. What’s a universal, Mike? I don’t know, we might have to study philosophia perennis, another inconvenient truth, to find out.
End Mike Church Show Transcript