Thursday, February 01, 2007

More on ‘liberal christianity’
Answers from the Revd Tripp Hudgins and Jorge Sánchez

Answering Jorge:

There’s some confusion here because the word liberal means different things in different contexts. Tripp and I have been talking via e-mail about the difference between classical and modern liberalisms. Though it stresses individual rights, classical liberalism is something I maintain is built on rule of law, on the truths learnt in the past (and thus tradition). One can be a Catholic and a classical liberal, no problem. (In the early 1900s, before the neo-conservatives muddled things, this liberalism had come to be known as conservatism.) Modern liberalism, from forms of Communism to political correctness, is a different kettle of fish. (This writer’s comparison of Mill and Kant shows some of the difference.)

There’s also liberal in the sense of liberality or charity. What I’m trying awkwardly to get at is liberality is not the property nor even a natural extension of theological modernism, another meaning of liberal and I think the sense that Fr Jonathan Tobias is using it.

Historical examples: Anglo-Catholicism is theologically conservative but often politically liberal historically. It largely began the anti-apartheid movement. The same was true of (Roman) Catholic Action in the 1930s, people like Dorothy Day, Catherine de Hueck and the young Thomas Merton. In one sense this is ‘liberal Christianity’ but not in the sense Fr Jonathan means.

From Tripp:
Oy. This is a sticky topic.
One thought — the problem is not with classical liberalism.
I get befuddled. I think one is so much the child of the other...
Politically they’re obviously not the same — the American old right is classically liberal.

But interestingly the Society of St Pius X (the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s group — monarchists in France) would agree with you! (The integrist position, criticised as ‘mediævalism’ or historical fantasy. I appreciate both sides so politically accept a via media, the English way, rule of law, religious liberty and tolerant conservatism, things that along with the Catholic faith inform my libertarianism.)

I’m obviously not so sure that English rule of law for example inevitably breaks down so that you end up with the modern left.
Interesting. I had not thought of it that way. I think that the English Law might not break down, just as you say, except that the culture around it has changed so much. If we tweak the law, as we have in this country, to make room for "the other" in our society, then the law seems to become more permeable, a reflection of a permeable society...except where fear reigns.

The old right is more liberal (
laissez-faire?) than the current leftward fundies. But the old guard right by definition allows for the loonies to exist and grants them the same right. Perhaps the failure is that they thought sanity would prevail. Heh.
Reminds me of the breakdown of the Episcopal Church. Archimandrite Serge (Keleher) once told me that in orthodoxy, in Catholicism, there is a kind of tension, and I think you can say that of tolerant conservatism. It’s a tightrope and I think I understand how many Anglicans fell leftwards from it.
American Protestant Christianity has always been heavily socially driven...

...the RCC and
[Orthodox] have both picked up on this cultural particular in the US. That cannot be a surprise.
I can see that.
...if Christianity is assumed, doctrinal chatter and musings become unimportant.
I think that might touch on a difference between the natural traditionalism of some Catholic countries and online polemics!

Why I don’t think classical liberalism dominoes into indifferentism

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