RAPID RESPONSE REPORT
DEFENDING HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY IN A POSTMODERN WORLD
11/14/2003† Vol.2† #11
WHAT IS NEO-CONSERVATISM?
If you do Google search for Neo-Conservatism you will find over 8000 documents!† Impressed?† I hope so; itís one of the hottest topics of conversation in Washington and in academia these days.† Itís been written that the presidency has been taken over by the neocons (NC), and that Bush is their puppet with Dick Cheney pulling the strings.† The state and defense departments are said to be in their control, and the Iraq war is part of a conspiracy.† These NCís are different than traditional conservatives in that they are powerful and well-placed intellectuals in think tanks, prestigious universities, and the media.† One other matter has reared its ugly head:† it is the charge in Europe, the Arab world, and among the old left that this is a Jewish cabal.
So who are these NCís, what is their worldview, and why is this important?
Somewhere around the late 60ís and early 70ís some Jewish intellectuals at Columbia, City, and New York Universities became disenchanted with Marxism.† They were concerned about its penchant for violence, its anti-Americanism, and its failure in domestic and social policy.† These men and some others began writing critical articles about Marxism, and advocated a tough stance against the Soviet Union, and supported a strong democratic Israel in the Middle East.† Their mouthpiece was mainly, Commentary, an intellectual journal published by the American Jewish Committee, and The Public Interest, a very erudite journal which from its beginning in 1965 began to question the role of the Federal government to eliminate poverty, crime, racial discrimination and other domestic evils.† Most of the writers for these two journals were Jewish academics and intellectuals who wielded a powerful influence on the culture.† Most had been leftist liberals, Trotskyites, and some hard core Marxists.† Shortly after these men (and some women) began to write about their change in worldview one of their former leftist friends (Michael Harrington) began calling them Neo-conservatives.† The name stuck.
Two of these leading intellectuals were Irving Kristol and Norm Podhoretz..† To see how these men changed in their thinking is a fascinating story.† A detailed account of this change can be found in Ex-Friends by Podhoretz.† It was Kristol who described an NC as a liberal mugged by reality.
When Reagan became president several of these NCís were placed in key positions in that government.† One of these was Elliot Abrams, the son-law of Podhoretz.† It is also the opinion of some that Reagan himself was an early convert.† He was a liberal democrat until the late Fifties.† Now it should be noted, however, that these intellectuals did not immediately flood to the Republican Party.† Two early NCís were powerful democratic senators, namely Senators Henry Jackson and Patrick Monyihan.† They believed the welfare state was headed in the wrong direction; they were for a strong defense, supported Israel, and opposed the Soviet Union.
The first Bush administration contained an increasing number of NCís, and with the current President Bush, it is safe to say that neo-conservatism is the predominant political philosophy in all areas of the executive branch of government.
Now the big question:† What do these new conservatives believe that is so different from the old conservatism, and what difference does it make?† In a nutshell, the NC political philosophy is built on entirely different presuppositions and worldview.†
The NCís were for the most part disciples of the late Leo Strauss who achieved notoriety as a professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago, known for its powerful and influential teaching faculty.† Strauss was born in Germany in 1899, educated there by Husserl and Heidegger, but left Germany for the States in 1932.† He died in 1973, but 30 years later he is so popular, about 60 of his students gather every 4th of July for a picnic in his honor!† Some of his students, or students of his students are: Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, Alan Keyes, William Bennett, William Kristol, (son of Irving), Allen Bloom, John Podhoretz, (son of Norman), John Agresto, and Bill Crouse.† The most influential in the current administration is Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of the Defense Department.† The least is the Crouse guy.† Yes, I was a student of a Straussian.† Did I learn anything?† No!† I thought his writings were the most abstruse I had ever seen.† I dare you to pick up his Natural Right and History.
Strauss, although Jewish, was a professed agnostic who proclaimed his love for the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible, but had a distaste for organized religion.† His political ideas came from a hodge-podge of political philosophers but the main ones were Plato and Aristotle.† He believed strongly in democracy and believed that a democratic nation should endeavor to spread these ideals.† He, unlike most intellectuals of his day was very opposed to any type of utopianism, one-world government, or the Soviet Union.† Interestingly enough he believed religion and patriotism were vital for the strength and health of a nation.
That the political philosophy of the Founders was based largely on the Christian worldview, I think is without question.† The conservative philosophy of Russell Kirk combined ideas from the Greeks, Romans and the Judeo-Christian worldview.† (See his classic, The Conservative Mind, and The Roots of American Order)
Paleo-conservative political philosophy primarily had a Christian base.† The political philosophy of men like the above-mentioned Russell Kirk, M. Stanton Evans, William Buckley, Jr., and of course, Edmund Burke, was based on a Christian view of God and the world.† In this they agreed with the founders.† Holy Scripture with its view of creation and the fall played a big part in the kind of government they designed.† They formed three branches of government to provide checks and balances because of a fallen humanity.† The Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches were taken from Isa. 33:22.† They believed in private property, individual responsibility, and human dignity, because man was created in Godís image.† The role of government was to restrain evil and provide a level playing field.† They sought a system that gave a balance between law and freedom which they believed came from the Bible.† NCís, however, though it now finds many points of agreement with the old conservatism, is not primarily based on a Christian worldview.† Do you find this surprising?† Many of our readers might find it so, since our president is such an outspoken Christian, as are others in his cabinet (e.g., Condoleeza Rice).† The fact of the matter is, NC has many points of divergence.† The paleo-cons fought hard for limited government.† The NCís in contrast are not concerned with the size of government, only that it be efficient.† Tax cuts are not to limit government, but to stimulate the economy.† According to the NCís if the economy is growing than you can always afford more government programs.† Compassionate conservatism equals more government programs!† The paleo-con foreign policy is all about defending our territorial sovereignty and not getting entangled in too many foreign alliances.† The NCís believe strongly that democracy should be actively promoted in the world.† This is a Straussian idea in that he observed that historically democracies do not go to war with each other.† Therefore, he taught: for a more peaceful world actively promotes democracy even if it means sometimes going to war.† NCís in the Bush administration have spoken openly of this idea as the solution to mid-east strife.† Bush himself made this his theme for a major speech last week.
Iím out of space and have been long-winded, so let me summarize.† The paleo-cons have, for the most part, merged with the NCís.† For example, there is now not much distinction on the staff of National Review. †Probably the biggest point of contention is the immensity of the increase of government under Bush.† They both agree on foreign policy and strong support for Israel.† But on the latter, there are some subtle differences.† The NCís support Israel because it is a democracy.† Paleo-cons agree, but there are many on the old right who have religious reasons as well for the support of Israel (Falwell, Robertson, et al.).† Those conservatives with a Christian or orthodox Jewish belief believe man has inherent dignity and worth since he is created in Godís image.† Therefore the old conservatives are more concerned about social issues, i.e. abortion and other pro-life issues.† The NCís are more willing to concede on these because of the political price.
The caterwauling you hear about the neo-cons is mostly from those given over to PM or from the left.† You see, trying to spread democracy around is seen as arrogance.† Their opposition is so emotional that it has taken a decidedly anti-Semitic and conspiratorial hue. (this must be a subject for future discussion).† While the left historically supported Israel at its beginning it seems to now wish for its demise.† Originally at its founding it had high hopes that it would finally be the communistic experiment that worked.† But when Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister he began implementing a more free enterprise economy (heís a neo-con).† Since the Likud Party came to power, the left, almost in mass, abandoned the support of Israel and now backs the Palestinians.†
All areas of life and thought must be brought captive to Christ.† There are no neutral areas.† That is our credo here at CIM.† This includes politics, political philosophy and economics.† These are very sensitive areas for most believers, and there is generally some resistance to bringing this area under the Lordship of Christ.† There are areas of NC that are congruent with a Christian world and life view.† There are other areas where I diverge and sometimes even oppose.† Iím leery of some of Straussís ideas, and I read and watch to see how some of his followers might be trying to implement them in the present government.† Strauss relied very heavily on Platoís view of government.† Well, old Plato had some very different ideas about who should government and how laws are derived!† Old conservatives believed laws were derived from nature and natureís God.† If you find Strauss too dense to read, as I do, you might do better to read The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom, one of Straussís students.† Bloom is really summarizing in a more readable way what Strauss viewed as the drift toward relativism and egalitarianism.† Both scholars do more than an adequate job of critiquing 20th Century relativism.† The problem with both is that they leave you hanging at the end with less than an adequate answer to counter the drift.
In the past on these pages we have noted that there are some startling changes taking place politically and spiritually in the U.S. Jewish community. †This move toward a more conservative political philosophy may be only the tip of the iceberg.† These changes are having, and will have, a significant impact culturally and politically.† Many of the Jewish intellectuals in the so-called, neo-conservative movement are also going back to their religious roots.† Others have converted to Christianity. These changes are huge topics of discussion in academia and in political circles. I canít express enough how earthshaking these changes are.† I hope you have time to peruse some of the following articles from the web:
The Neoconservative Persuasion, by Irving Kristol.† The Weekly Standard. 8/25/03.† This is a good concise article by the one many call the ďfounderĒ of the NC.† It should be noted that his son William is the editor of The Weekly Standard, a very influential magazine of political comment..†
Leo Strauss, Conservative Mastermind, by Robert Locke.† FrontPage Magazine. 5/11/03.
Expanding the Base of the Neocons,† by Suzanne Fields.† Townhall. †5/1/03.† Good succinct article.
What was Leo Strauss up to?† By Steven Lenzner and Irving Kristol.† The Public Interest.† Long, but a good intellectual history from the Straussian perspective.
State of Confusion, The Neoconservative Invention, and, The End of Neoconservatism, by Jonah Goldberg.† National Review.† These three articles all appeared at †National Reviewís website† in May of 2003.† The link will take you to the third article.† If you wish to read the whole series there are links to the first two articles at the top of the third article.† Three excellent articles by the son of Lucianne Goldberg.
The New CabalistsóLook Whoís Promoting the Idea of a Global Jewish Cabal, by Mark Steyn.† Jerusalem Post.† (posted on FreeRepublic).† I included this article because it reviews some of the negative reaction to NC and its ensuing anti-Semitism which grows stronger by the day.
THE DA VINCI CODE
The above-named book by Dan Brown has been on the best-seller list for over 6 months and has sold over 2 million copies.† Producer Ron Howard is making it into a major movie.† This page-turner has garnered even more interest recently when ABC produced a documentary which explores the main idea of the book, namely, that Jesus was married to Mary of Magdalene and even had children.† The book, though fiction, espouses the ancient theory that Christís marriage was kept secret by powerful figures in the church (Read the Catholic Church), and the major turning point was in 325 at the Council of Nicea which proclaimed his Divinity.† After that ďfamous cover-upĒ only a few insiders knew the secret, but nevertheless, it was perpetuated clandestinely down through the ages.† The main inside group privy to these secrets was the Knights Templar.† Other insiders were a few artists in Italy with the main one being the weird, but genius, Leonardo Da Vinci.† The writer spins his story around this great conspiracy of silence with a backdrop of a group of insiders who not only knew of the secret of Jesusí marriage, but also those who were his descendents.† Da Vinci, allegedly passed on these facts via secret codes in his paintings.† Everyone who has studied Da Vinci knows that his paintings are filled with mysterious signs and symbols.† Brownís story centers around the effeminate looking figure to the right of Jesus in his painting of the last supper.† The thesis is: that this is really Mary Magdalene, who according to ďauthentic history was one of Jesusí apostles.† Leonardo, when he was commissioned to do the painting, was supposed to have replied that he was about to do something radical or out of the ordinary.† For me it is completely understandable knowing the proclivities his sexual attraction. Why wouldnít he be tempted to paint an effeminate John, the Beloved?
This nonsense has been around for quite sometime.† What added fuel to the flames was the discovery of Gnostic papyri found in the Egyptian desert in 1948.† These documents without doubt prove that the ancient Gnostic heresy was prominent in the church (at least in Egypt) during the late Second Century.† These documents are also filled with pagan ideas of gods and goddesses.† This emphasis on the feminine has been the focus of many feminist theologians and scholars such as Elaine Pagels, Karen King, and Rosemary Ruether.† Their point is: that the early church, at least in the Second Century, was very open to female priests, prophets, apostles and even a feminized deity.† Hence the attempt to add the Gospel of Thomas to the Canon and perpetuate the idea that strong males in the church selectively chose the current canon and left out the so-called ďlost books of the Bible.Ē
Brown borrows most of ideas for his novel from two main sources:† the 1997 book, The Templar Revelation, a book that weaves together all the ancient sources supporting the myth, and Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982).†
I believe in a personal devil and it would not surprise me in the least if the movie version were released at the same time as Gibsonís The Passion of Christ.† There is a modern-day Jihad going on, even a conspiracy, to denigrate Christians in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.† This hatred seems to surface on a daily basis among feminist, homosexuals and the hard left.† They are emboldened as never before in their attempt to marginalize Christian belief.
The facts behind the ďMary MythĒ are groundless, and have been shown to be nothing more than one of many medieval myths.† You have to understand that medieval Italy was rife with these kinds of conspiracy theories (still is).† Brown, when interviewed by the media, says he began his research as a skeptic and not a believer (in the myth), but was driven to change his mind by the sheer weight of the facts.† So why did he write a novel about it?† For the simple reason that when you want to write about something controversial you write a fictionalized version, then when you are called on the carpet you can always say: ďItís just a novel!† It happens all the time.
The publicity this book and movie generate will be good grounds for discussion with unbelievers.† Here are some good sources:† Peter Jones, and expert on these early Gnostic writings, has critiqued them and comments on their current influence on our culture in his book: Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America.
For more resources from the web:
Breaking the Da Vinci Code, by Collin Hansen..† www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/144/52.0.html (11/7/03)
Was Jesus Married? by Darrell L. Bock.† Beliefnet
The Volatile Notion of a Married Jesus, by Virginia Heffernan.† The New York Times. 11/3/03.
Mary, Mary, Extraordinary, by Ben Witherinton, III.† Beliefnet.
The DaVinci Codeís Shaky Foundation:† Gnostic Texts, by James Hitchcock.† Beliefnet
For Christ and His Kingdom