Notable and Quotable

Those without the privilege of mobility must learn instead the rigid disciplines of standing still, that is, of making a stand. There are things we do in this house and things we don’t do, things the rednecks do or the gringos do that are not for us. Often those engaged in this kind of struggle will turn to religion. Though I served a small and not very moralistic (Episcopal) church, I saw this more than once. People go to church for all kinds of reasons, but the main reason that people of a certain age will start going to church is that their kids are starting to overdose on the dominant culture. They go to church hoping to find solid ground. Sometimes they go to the polls hoping for the same thing….

“The real problem of our time” George Orwell wrote in 1944, “is to restore the sense of absolute right and wrong when the belief that it used to rest on — that is, the belief in personal immortality — has been destroyed. This demands faith, which is a different thing from credulity.” It also demands conviction, which is a different thing from wanting to win at any price. The real problem of the left in our time is to restore those absolutes and to find that faith.

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One comment on “Notable and Quotable

  1. Charming Billy says:

    If more people on both sides of the issues were this thoughtful, our country would be a lot better off. I agree with many of his thoughts, even though I no longer identify myself as liberal, left, progressive or what have you. I wonder why he does. Maybe it’s because he still thinks along these lines:

    Ironically, one of the treasures bequeathed to us by the world’s ethical religions is the self-effacing hint that the basis of morality does not have to be religious. “Whatever you would have others do to you, do to them.” In other words, the most reliable sense of right and wrong comes from your own skin, your own belly, your own broken heart.

    Everybody has their own map of the liberal/conservative landscape. I find the most instructive way to orient yourself is to look at where you fall on the question of the moral authority. Do you tend to think, as this writer appears to, that our sense of right and wrong is subjective and relative, or that we don’t have to go beyond our human experience to authenticate it? You’re probably liberal. If on the other hand you think that our moral experience depends on and points to an objective reality–be it ever so obscured by our own fallibility–then you’re probably a conservative or headed in that direction.

    What authority lies behind the golden rule? Clearly it survive apart from belief in full blooded personal immortality; take the OT and Greek Philosophy for instance. But can morality be deracinated from belief in a transcendent, objective moral order and still remain a source of shared conviction and meaning? I don’t think so; and in today’s cultural and social landscape that puts me firmly, if not comfortably on the conservative side.