Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lessons of Christian Democracy

Jeremy has drawn my attention again to a great web-site on family issues: The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society (hmm, sounds like Luther's three hierarchies). The web-site has a great name for what Christians stand for in social ethics: the natural family, which for reasons they explain far beats the alternative "traditional family" or "nuclear family." It also has great articles by Allan Carlson, John Howard, and others.

Among the Allan Carlson articles is the text of his recent speech on the history and lessons of Christian Democracy. Read the whole thing. I hope everybody reads the whole thing. He ascribes the failure of "Christian Democracy" in the US to the first past the post system and our ambivalent (as opposed to purely hostile) relation to the French Revolution. I think the problems may go with part of the fundamental program:

Notably, Christian Democracy has stood for organic society. The legacy of the French Revolution in both politics and economics was a quest for uniformity, which meant the suppression of diversity, the denial of “everything fresh and natural.” Christian Democrats have held that the spontaneous, organic structures of human life—villages, towns, neighborhoods, labor associations, and (above all) families—need protection from the leveling tendencies of modern life. For only through these organic structures could the human personality thrive.

Now, organic society means something real in a town with a cathedral dating from the thirteenth century, families who assume, even if they can't prove, that they date back even further, memory of craft guilds only recently weakened, neighborhoods named after old saint's relics, etc. But what does it mean in a town that was created in 1880 to take advantage of a railroad, whose residents from the beginning have bought land with the aim of reselling at a profit to the next in-migrant, and where the most visible insignia of patriotism and pride are the murals on the U-Haul trucks proclaiming "America's Moving Adventure"? A Christian Democracy in America is going to have to make peace with that reality. For a view of what Christian Democratic politics in America might look like, here's Allan Carlson on the recent tax bill proposed by Senators Brownback and Terry.

I have also posted this at the group Lutheran blog Here We Stand.