Part III – Christopher Ferrara Interview
“Liberty, the God That Failed”
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Christopher Ferrara is on the Dude Maker Hotline. His book is Liberty, the God That Failed. I’m going to endeavor to get some of these from your publisher and get you to sign them because I want to sell them in our bookstore at our site. That’s what I think of this conversation thus far.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: We have a great comment on our Twitter feed. I just want to read it to you, Christopher. Christopher Ferrara, his book is Liberty, the God That Failed. He’s on the Dude Maker Hotline. By the way, I would say that the Birzer Effect is in full effect right now. I’ll explain the Birzer Effect to you in just a moment, Christopher. Here’s the tweet, “Our churches don’t disturb the political powers because they are now creatures of the State thanks to the 501(c)(3) bribes.” He’s correct. That’s exactly right. No one wants to say anything like this because we’ll take your tax-exempt status away. We’ll say you’re preaching from the pulpit, brother, and then we’ll come in and tax you. Religious institutions in the United States have almost been subsumed by the State, if that’s even the proper way to put it. They serve the wishes of the State.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting in a Novus Ordo mass, which I don’t go to anymore, and the priests would get up and do, instead of the silent prayers for the saints, the commemoration of the dead and all that, they would do these prayers that come out of the Protestant Church. Let’s all pray for this. Let’s pray for our military. Why are you praying for the military? [private FP-Monthly|FP-Yearly|FP-Yearly-WLK|FP-Yearly-So76]You can privately pray for your son or daughter who’s in the military, but for a church to actually pray and be leading in that, I always question that and wonder: Where does this come from? What are they trying to accomplish with this?
Christopher Ferrara: This is a key feature of what is called political modernity or the modern nation-states, that it instrumentalizes religion. It turns religion into a prop for the various projects of the State, including all of its wars. We look at the death toll of modern wars, hundreds of millions lost over the 20th century. It isn’t just a question of more efficient means of killing. The scholar R.R. Palmer notes that with the advent of the modern nation-state, the people, who are said to have created it, who are also involved in the wars, so the wars of the State became the people’s wars. For the first time in Western history, you saw the concept of a nation at war, not the king and his royal army, which was entirely composed of volunteers, but the whole nation, men, woman and children all involved in the “war effort.” Religion has been instrumentalized for the support of endless wars. We’re supposed to pray for the military, no matter what country they’re bombing, no matter what the rationale for the latest intervention. You’re absolutely right, Mike, that religion has become a prop for State power. Religious leaders are afraid to speak out against the state for fear of losing their tax exemption and worse consequences. The irony is we’re expected to applaud our religious liberties in the midst of this.
Mike: That is a great irony. I have to ask you in the few minutes we have remaining, in your introductory remarks, which were very well taken by yours truly — thank you very much for being so candid, Christopher. In your introductory remarks about the book, I heard a lot of Solzhenitsyn in there. Do you cover Solzhenitsyn? This was in his famous speech I think he delivered to a graduating class at Harvard or something. He kind of started this back in ’78 or so. Didn’t he publicly proclaim — he was a public figure, pretty much what you’re proclaiming?
Ferrara: I don’t cover Solzhenitsyn’s famous 1978 address in the book, I believe it was 1978. He talked about precisely what the book itself explores, which is the spiritual malaise of the West. He noted something very paradoxical but nonetheless true, that people, under persecution as they were in the Soviet Union, developed a deeper faith precisely because of the persecution than those who think they have freedom and let their faith fritter away in an atmosphere of absolute tolerance. He basically lectured his audience on the spiritual and moral corruption of the Western world. It really was an astonishing speech. You’re right, the theme that he essayed in that address is the theme that this book explores. It really shouldn’t be controversial. Everybody who is concerned about the state of the country today has touched on this in one way or another. I just make it explicit and present the kind of program for recognizing this truth and bringing it into public life in an effort to save this country. That’s what we’re talking about at this point, saving this country and the Western world from its own auto-demolition.
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Mike: It’s also, I think, informative, or should be informative to us, that even after the era that was the founding generation and the anti-federalists, that condemnation and that fear of Lockean principles and of the super-state replacing — I’ve talked about this many times on this show, that government, our vainglorious national legislature has all the features of a religion. It is a deity. It acts as though it’s a deity. It pretends to need no source for the authority that the president and the imperial congress seem to believe that their right is divine, just like a king. They try to cite the Constitution, but they don’t actually abide by the federal plan that it was supposed to institute, so they’re not really citing the Constitution as the wellspring from whence their power comes.
Their public buildings resemble ancient temples. There are inscriptions up on the walls that resemble the relics that you would put up from martyrs and saints of ancient pagan religions and what have you. It is, for every practical intent and purpose, especially in its professing that it makes all equality possible, it makes all rights guaranteed, it brings justice otherwise we wouldn’t have it, it feeds the poor, it clothes the naked, it does everything that Christianity used to do or was supposed to do, but it does it at the end of the IRS’s gun. It acts as though a religion, doesn’t it?
Ferrara: I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s another of the themes of the book. This idea that the American nation-state, that Western governments today, in general, are religiously neutral is a conceit. There’s no such thing as a religiously-neutral State. As Christ himself said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” Every State takes a theological position either for or against revealed truth. If you say revealed truth is of no account in public life, you’ve taken the position that revealed truth has not been revealed. It is a private opinion. It isn’t really true and can’t be allowed to be true publicly.
That state takes a position that one of the scholars I cite in the book calls an “anti-theology” of the State and becomes effectively a confessional State of sorts. It’s an anti-revealed truth confessional State. What you get is a civic religion, the religion you just described. It has temples. It has a creed, which is an absolute tolerance of all opinions except the true ones, as we see when we try to express ourselves publicly. We’re expected to die for this religion. Before, people died for Christ in the Crusades and so forth, which were nothing compared to modern warfare. Today we die for the State. One of the scholars I cite, Alasdair MacIntyre, says it’s like being asked to die for the telephone company.
Mike: [laughing] I’ve never heard it put quite like that.
Ferrara: Let me jump in and say something immediately. This is not a knock on America. It’s not a knock on patriotism properly understood. Love of our country, the soil under our feet, our community, our fellow citizens, the land of our birth, that’s patriotism. What we’re talking about, you and I right now and what the book talks about, is idolatry of the nation-state, a form of government, not love of country. These are two different things. This is a distinction people have to fix firmly in their minds, otherwise they become adherents of the civil religion and they leave their own religion behind, whether or not they realize it. That’s effectively what’s happening. We’re all asked to subscribe to the civic religion, the religion of tolerance and what borders on worship of the modern nation-state, and to agree that anything in our religion that contradicts the projects and plans of the nation-state has to be put aside as a private opinion. How is that religious liberty? It’s not religious liberty. We sacrifice our liberty for what the state insists is a higher creed, which is basically to sign on to the civic religion, and effectively to engage in idolatry of the nation-state. Again, it’s not true patriotism.
Mike: That is so well put, Christopher. You said you couldn’t have put it better than I put it earlier. I’m going to say I couldn’t have put it any better than that. I was cheering you on. Christopher Ferrara is on the Dude Maker Hotline. His book is Liberty, the God That Failed. I’m going to endeavor to get some of these from your publisher and get you to sign them because I want to sell them in our bookstore at our site. That’s what I think of this conversation thus far. Final question because we’re almost out of time. From what you just said and the definition of patriotism, don’t you find it ironic that the one political party, which will deliver no salvation, by the bye, that purports to hold or have the market cornered on not participating in the worship of the State, which is the Republican Party, its controlling arm is made up of these people that practice this thing called American exceptionalism. If I understand what you just described as fake patriotism, that’s exactly what they’re plying as their principal product, right?
Ferrara: Yeah. American exceptionalism is a form of hubris or pride. It’s a fatal pride because by it you exalt yourself above the other nations. The true patriotism I’m talking about involves humility. It involves not only a love of country but a recognition that this country must submit to the higher law. That is what has been lost in the transition from what is supposedly the dark ages of monarchy to the supposedly bright new day of the modern nation-state, this idea that the State has to render unto Caesar as well as the individuals. You hear all the time about “You render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” You can’t confuse religion and politics, but they take out the other half of the equation. The State has a duty to God as well. Caesar must render unto God. When there is a disjunction between what Caesar owes to God and what the individual owes to God, as one of the scholars I cite in the book says, the nation finds itself at war with its own people. For instance, Fukuyama says this in a work that I quote, to the effect that the modern nation-state, which originated in the tradition of Hobbes and Locke, finds itself in a continual struggle against its own people, and that’s what’s going on right now. Again, I’d say it’s ultimately a moral and spiritual struggle, not really a political one.
Mike: Indeed. Folks, get the book Liberty, the God That Failed by Christopher Ferrara.
End Mike Church Show Transcript