The Commoner.

Speaking for the common man. Voicing the concerns of those that appreciate the value of life and community, from the least to the greatest. Ringing the bell for Christian Democracy and Catholic Social Teaching in the US.

What is a Commoner?

It’s a good question.  Others may have other definitions, but for our purposes a  COMMONER is someone that either is, or is an advocate for, the common man (note I am being old school here, using the inclusive masculine).  A commoner is someone that is conscious of, and works for the progress of, the common good; someone that seeks the best for the most, starting at the bottom.  There is no formulaic prescription for solutions implied in the term.  A commoner is not a communist, nor a corporatist.

Some other relevant definitions:

Christian Democracy – a political ideology and movement that began in large measure as a response to the anti-Christian and anti-cultural nature of the French Revolution and Marxism on the one hand, and the anti-worker and anti-social nature of Social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism on the other.  It is distinct from Christianity as a religion, and most Christian democratic parties today do not have a religious criterion for membership or service.  Christian democracy as an ideology is a form of communitarianism.  It is a political philosophy focusing on the health of the community in all areas of community existence.  This community orientation is often considered right-leaning in regard to moral and cultural issues and left-leaning in regard to social justice, labor and socio-economic issues.  Christian democratic parties generally claim a strong social conscience, in the sense of great respect for the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death, emphasizing the alleviation of poverty, and maintenance of a basic level of societal protection keeping the weak from abandonment and destitution, and the regulation of market forces for the common good (advocating a “social market economy”). It may also be seen as liberal as it upholds human rights and individual initiative (read personal responsibility). It may be seen as federalistic and traditional in that it emphasizes sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity, and maintaining local and regional cultural distinctives, as well as upholding universal traditions. It may be seen as green in that it advocates positive stewardship of the creation, especially through using renewable energy, and avoiding activities that destroy the environment. Christian democracy is a significant force in the political mainstream of Europe and Latin America, but is less common on other continents. Christian democratic parties in Latin America are generally more inclined to be on the center-left regarding economics, while their European counterparts tend to be closer to the political center, or center-right, on economic issues.

Christian Democrat – someone that advocates Christian Democracy, or is a member of a Christian democratic party; in the American context the term is sometimes used in reference to Christian members of the Democratic Party, though this is a misuse of the term (largely due to ignorance of the term in the American political scene) — note that in the American context a Christian Democrat is equally likely to be a member of either the Democratic or Republican parties, or no party at all (given the de facto binary choice offered by the system)

Pilgrim Progressive – a term I use (coined by me?) to refer to someone that could have been a follower of William Jennings Bryan at the turn of the 20th century; someone that is progressive but not liberal (according to the original meaning of that term); someone that is a commoner (as previously defined here) motivated by Christian or other religious belief; for example if someone were a Jew or Muslim progressive that advocated universal health care, a living wage (and other economic freedom measures), and was pro-life on abortion, that person might consider himself a “pilgrim progressive”; the term intentionally plays off the title of John Bunyan’s wonderful classic Pilgrim’s Progress, and intentionally makes reference to the first American settlers that sought religious freedom and societal progress from a Puritan perspective

Catholic Social Teaching – a body of teachings that have grown in tandum with Christian Democracy; they are official teaching of the Catholic Church, but they are amenable to and embraceable by Christians of all stripes (I say this as a non-Roman Catholic — and a Calvinistic Baptist), and non-Christians as well; a set of social teachings that begin with the principles of human dignity, solidarity, and subsidiarity; the teachings were first understood as such from the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII called Rerum Novarum

12 April 2009 at 00:27 - Comments

Dr. Tim Keller and Jon Meacham on Christian America

11 April 2009 at 03:21 - Comments

Healthcare Vouchers Explained

This is absolutely the BEST PLAN for healthcare reform in America! I will have more to say about this later, but it can’t be explained better than this speech by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the designer of this plan.

SPEECH, PART 1 OF 3

SPEECH, PART 2 OF 3

SPEECH, PART 3 of 3

Q & A, PART 1 of 3

Q & A, PART 2 of 3

Q & A, PART 3 of 3

23 February 2009 at 02:33 - Comments
ShoshoneConservative at 17:17 on 24 June 2009
Interesting. I agree that, of the various plans that have been put out there, this is one of the ...

Give it back!

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski explains his idea for a National Solidarity Fund, voluntarily organized by Wall Street financiers that made billions in the last 20+ years, modeled on JP Morgan’s gathering of America’s wealthiest that bailed out Wall Street a hundred years ago. Why should common people (through their taxes) bail out Wall Street fat cats? Why can’t they bail themselves out? He is not calling for the government to run from the problem, but for those who received to give. Great idea, Zbig! He also has some good thoughts regarding Pakistan and Israel-Palestine in this interview.

17 February 2009 at 19:53 - Comments

Social Darwinism turns 200

As Bob Edwards has reminded us on his Thursday show on XM Radio (heard by me on Friday), Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday is the same as Abraham Lincoln’s. Bob had two Darwin authors on his show, James Moore and Sean Carroll. When I was listening to the program, it spurred me to once again ask myself, “Do you believe in evolution?” My answer to such a query is, “It depends on what you mean by evolution.” Though I have not read Origin of Species, from my understanding of what Darwin advocated, I would say that we probably do agree on a lot. I believe in natural selection (though I am not a philosophical naturalist). I believe in the mutation of species, i.e. genetic mutation. I believe that the natural world is governed (at least concerning secondary causes, where the Redeemer has first cause) by the principle of the survival of the fittest. Darwin believed in these things. I also believe in God. My understanding (confirmed by the radio program) is that Darwin believed in God.

Further, I believe that the tremendous evidence that we find in nature that proclaims its great age is not false evidence. It is quite possible that we understand it wrongly, but it is being presented to us in nature as being very, very old (not just a few thousand years old). I take that evidence at face value. To those that say the oldness of nature contradicts the account of creation found in Genesis, I would say this… both nature and the Bible claim to be a revelation of God. I believe they are both revelations of God. I believe they are both accurate in their portrayal of reality. I believe that human beings are (given their fallen state) incapable of understanding either revelation perfectly. However, we can understand it. It is our duty to try to understand God’s revelations to us. It is our duty to make an ongoing, faithful and generous attempt to reconcile God’s revelations in such a way that they do not contradict each other, nor do they test each other’s veracity, but become yet more profound in the symphony.

ape_skeletons1

Still further, I would agree with Darwin that our bodies are related to other primates. Whether the first human body was a direct creation of God, or something God created derivatively from his previous animal creations, I don’t know.  I don’t think it actually matters.  There is no question that we are genetically cousins to other primates; and there is no question that we resemble, in many ways, other primates. This is not inconsistent with the idea that God’s creation of man was a unique and singular event. Genesis says that man was made of “the dust from the ground”. This does not mean that the creation of man was out of step from the rest of creation. All creatures are made from the elements of this world. The thing that makes the creation of man unique is that God made him “in His own image” by breathing in him “the spirit of life”. These unique features of man (as opposed to other animals) are not found in genetic research (except perhaps as a secondary effect), or in biological studies of other sorts. The image of God in man refers to those elements of man’s persona that are reflective of the persona of the immaterial God. It is a spiritual image in view here. Self-awareness, self-reflection, knowledge of right and wrong, moral capability and responsibility… these are the kinds of personal characteristics that define the image of God in man. There is a naturally unbridgeable chasm between this image of God that really is an essential part of every human being, no matter what stage of development, and the personalities of non-human animals. I love my dogs very much. They have immense personalities. They have affection for me that very much resembles love. They may be happy and sad, joyful and fearful; but they will never have genuine guilt feelings, because they will never have guilt (at least not in an innate sense; or any way that is not a learned response based on training from their human master). When an alligator kills a man, it is a very bad thing, but that alligator will not be guilty of doing bad, because it has no knowledge of right and wrong. It has no image of God.

Much of the discussion on the radio show pointed to Darwin’s opposition to slavery, and the fact that he considered himself a humanitarian (read Christian humanist), as well as a libertarian. While I do not doubt that he was a humanist, such fondness for the plight of other men did not spring from his theory on human origins, and natural selection (though his libertarian views may have  :-) ) . It was mentioned that many despots and tyrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, along with eugenicists (who were wrongly considered some of the sharpest people, until Hitler ruined it for them), claimed inspiration from the theories of Darwin. It is true. The scandalous thing is that while Darwin himself may have been a humanist, social Darwinists and eugenicists are more in line with the direction of his theories than he was. Social Darwinists and eugenicists tend greatly to be materialists, because they seek to explain the state of human affairs without God, and they seek to rest their theories on perceived winners; and the prevailing alternative to God in recent decades has been materialistic Darwinism. If Darwin did believe in God (which I do not doubt), then he could not have been a materialist, because materialists have no room in their worldview for an immaterial God, or supernatural events. This being said, the vast majority of his devoted followers are materialists. You would be hard pressed to find a devoted Darwinist that is not a materialist. This is because the direction of his theories, as well as the assumptions underlying them, goes toward materialism. While he may not have gone that far, he takes us on the road that goes there. There is nothing in a materialist framework (i.e. in a modern Darwinist framework) that provides a foundation for distinguishing right from wrong, or provides for a humanitarian affection for slaves. If it is a dog eat dog world, and people naturally seek personal advantage, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with stepping on others to get to the top (because there is no cosmic yardstick to measure right from wrong), then why should a person of privilege (like Darwin) be truly concerned with the plight of slaves? If the materialist is just concerned that the possible rebellion of the slaves would be an ugly event, then he is not truly concerned for their plight. He just doesn’t want blowback from his collective action with others.

Without a strong theistic foundation, Darwinism leads to philosophical materialism. Materialism is by definition a godless belief system. I believe that materialistic Darwinism leads naturally to social Darwinism (though most Darwinists today don’t want to go there, not because they think it is wrong, but because in this post-Holocaust era it is quite unpopular and politically incorrect, and rightly so). Social Darwinism has no room for altruistic actions. Let’s admit it, Social Darwinism IS Darwinism.  And, if it is true that Darwin believed in God, let’s also admit that Darwin was not a Darwinist.  If he was not a believer in God, then he had no basis for his Christian humanism.  I’m not saying he should have jettisoned his Christian humanism (in such a case), but he would have been more philosophically consistent.

14 February 2009 at 04:12 - Comments