Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Tyranny of the Savior State

Americans would be wise to understand that the more power we invest in the state the more liberties we surrender. Perhaps this is what the majority of Americans desire but I doubt it. Nevertheless, it is never a good or noble thing for the state to take away the people's liberty under the guise of making life better for them. Even more tragic is when the people willingly give away their liberty to the insatiable appetite of the state.

Writing for Touchstone, Douglas Farrow examines the danger of the state assuming the role of savior. Specifically Farrow addresses the impact upon the family and the church that results from a "sacralized state."

Today we live in a society that shrinks in horror from the very idea of established religion, something the American Constitution in any case forbids. Yet we live, even if we live in America, in states increasingly ready to withdraw conscience clauses not only from public servants but also from doctors and druggists and so forth, requiring them to violate the teachings of their religion and the dictates of their consciences in order to demonstrate their allegiance to the state.

In Britain, and increasingly in North America, even churches and charitable organizations are not exempted from laws that demand conformity to state-endorsed ideologies loaded with religious implications. Penalties for violation include heavy fines or even imprisonment. Thus have we come round to accepting Erastus’s invitation to the state to punish the sins of Christians, supplanting the church’s sacramental discipline. We have come round, that is, to the de-sacralization of the church and the re-sacralization of the state, which is once again taking a tyrannical turn...

Tyranny can nowhere succeed without pulling down the two most prominent pillars of political freedom, the pillars that have always provided for a roof or shield over the individual and his conscience. One pillar is the natural family unit; the other is the religious community. Of course, these pillars are not everywhere equally strong or upright. They may themselves be transformed into instruments of tyranny by this or that form of idolatry. But they are pillars for the simple reason that they do not concede to the audacious and immodest state the total authority it craves.

The natural family unit confronts the state as an entity that claims rights not granted by the state but brought to it—rights the lawful state is obliged to recognize and respect. The religious community likewise claims rights and liberties that derive from a source other than the state, a source that transcends and relativizes the state.

These two pillars are beginning to crack, however, in the grip of a modern-day Samson. I mean precisely that muscular but (if he only knew it!) blind and captive creature called “the individual.” Not the individual of whom Kierkegaard spoke when he asserted, in view of the peculiar dignity bestowed on human beings by the incarnation of God, that “one is worth more than a thousand.” But rather the individual fancied by the likes of Bentham, whose dignity consists merely in the freedom to pursue his own interests in his own way, whose interests must therefore be balanced against those of his neighbor under the formula, “Each to count for one and no more than one.”

Even this individual comes to the state with rights of his own, rights that do not derive from the state; but the state is always the arbiter of his rights. Moreover, this individual is not natural (as the “state of nature” philosophers claim) but unnatural, just because he is naked and alone, brought into the world by no one, lacking kin or allegiance, unclothed by tradition—or at all events resentful of it. With such an individual the state that has tyrannical aspirations can happily do business, for he is the individual who has been taught to see himself as chained between the two great pillars of family and church, constrained and belittled by their conventions; who in his shame and fury is willing to call, not on God, but on the power of the state as if on God, to bring them down to the dust.

Read this important article HERE.

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