National Conservatism seeks to harness the power of the state to “govern wisely;” to punish evil and promote the good of one’s nation. It seeks to do so as a return to the very principles of the American founding.
We can identify three pillars of Baxterian political theory which coincide with much of the post-liberal impulse and New Right energy: anti-liberalism, anti-secularism, and pro–nationalism.
Jesus Christ is preeminent in power and glory, exalted above every other power in this world, all of which are created powers. But what does it mean to say that Jesus is above all earthly powers? When we confess that Jesus Christ is above all earthly powers we are making a statement (among other things) about his relationship to the political powers of this world and age. But what statement is that exactly? How is Christ’s kingdom related to the kingdoms of the world? How should believers think about and pursue political power, if they should at all? Answering these questions, however briefly, is the goal of my talk.
The current moment is refreshing and clarifying. Progressives are no longer pretending to neutrality, but insist on actively using government to promote their vision of human flourishing—even if it is an increasingly anti-human one. Conservatives, in response, are awakening from their dogmatic slumber and remembering that they, too, have visions of the good life, visions that cannot be protected and promoted without the use of state power.
Modern dissidents need to seek out space-creating opportunities. We need breathing room, just like the Puritans did. We need to actively foster an attitude of salutary neglect toward us by the elites. All of this is the case so that alternative models for society—physical and digital, spatial and ideological—can be constructed and tested according to dissident principles.
On August 24th falls the feast of St. Bartholomew. Every year the Christian calendar celebrates the life and work of this Apostle of Jesus Christ. However, the day has a dark history as well. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the massacre that began on that date in Paris. By its end, at least 12,000 French Huguenots lay dead, murdered by their Roman Catholic rulers and fellow citizens. The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre permanently damaged the Protestant cause in France, nearly wiping out its leadership and frightening many of its surviving adherents into converting.
Rather than aim for perfection, conservative energy would be better spent rebuilding the foundations of virtue. We need laws that, for instance, encourage marriage, discourage divorce, and promote community through friendship and civil associations. The benefits of rebuilding a healthy society are uncontroversial. Moral regulations must build upon this foundation rather than grate against it. In this way, conservatives can support incremental progress toward traditional morality while avoiding the twin dangers of judgmental moralism and amoral libertarianism.
The religious context to the Revolution that Seward documents helps to illuminate the meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the rationale for so many ordinary Americans to take up arms against King and Parliament. Understood in the long heritage of resistance thought developed by Protestant political theologians, the basic claims of the Declaration of Independence sound not Lockean, but Protestant.
The demise of Roe and Casey opens new possibilities for America’s future. The sheer range of these new possibilities can be disorienting. The issue that animated the religious right for 49 years at the federal level has fundamentally shifted. Now what?
Only God can change the heart to perfectly love justice and to act on the basis of it. He does so primarily by means of the Word read, preached, and the sacraments administered. But God has ordained politics as a means of restraining evil as well as of teaching justice and virtue. We must not depend solely on politics. But we must never neglect its necessity and usefulness.