David Brooks is not a man whose voice I would follow into a coffee shop without a good deal of skepticism -- however, I find this column generally worth reading. My view is that "moderation" is impossible without a transcendent view -- the best of which I find to be Christianity.
I totally agree that politics is not only "limited", it ought to be WELL down the list of personal priorities ... God, Family, Friends, Community, Vocation, Study, ... maybe a couple more, and THEN "politics".
Politics is a limited activity. Zealots look to the political realm for salvation and self-fulfillment. They turn politics into a secular religion and ultimately an apocalyptic war of religion because they try to impose one correct answer on all of life. Moderates believe that, at most, government can create a platform upon which the beautiful things in life can flourish. But it cannot itself provide those beautiful things. Government can create economic and physical security and a just order, but meaning, joy and the good life flow from loving relationships, thick communities and wise friends. The moderate is prudent and temperate about political life because he is so passionate about emotional, spiritual and intellectual life.
I strongly disagree that "government can create economic and physical security". It CERTAINLY can't create anything economic at all -- it is an EXPENSE! It can aid in physical security, but absent a moral and religious people, it is totally unable to protect individual physical security. Those are responsibilities of free men and women, and Brooks error in believing in the impossible shows how far from reality we live.
Beware the danger of a single identity. Before they brutalize politics, warriors brutalize themselves. Instead of living out several identities — Latina/lesbian/gun-owning/Christian — that pull in different directions, they turn themselves into monads. They prioritize one identity, one narrative and one comforting distortion.
Making "Christian" just another "identity" means there can be no "moderation". In order to put all our "hats" into persective, we humans need somewhere to stand that is transcendent. Without a point to stand that is beyond temporal earthly concerns, we attempt to make earthy things into heavenly, and thus we end up precisely where Brooks laments. Any "Christain" that puts their race, sexual persuasion, matierial owning, etc AHEAD of their Chrisitanity is certainly NOT a Christian in any form at all. To be a Christian is to seek FIRST the kingdom of God!
I PERSONALLY don't understand how one can truely transcend humanity without Christ and the Holy Spirit presenting inhuman goals to me like "love your enemies", however I withhold judgement -- perhaps a very strongly held philosophical position could suffice to provide the transcendent grounds to reach that even-handed non-emotional appraisal of politics as Brooks seems to have begun to wish for as he watches the forces which he would normally support tear down even our own history.
His paen to "humility" would be better said as "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom" ... for wihtout that fear, his objective is for naught.
Brooks echoes Proverbs 9:10 here, so this is not exactly new thought. It is just RARE thought in these days of the "latest being the greatist" ("progressivism") -- a cause for which Brooks regularly shills, however at least he has his moments where he realizes that Pandora is well out of her box and the abilility to limit her violence without naked force appears ever more unlikely.
Humility is the fundamental virtue. Humility is a radical self-awareness from a position outside yourself — a form of radical honesty. The more the moderate grapples with reality the more she understands how much is beyond our understanding.
All in all, a worthy read -- Brooks is at least apprehending our peril, although I find his appraisal of it inadequate and wishful.
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