Friday, March 31, 2006

Hope for France?

Touchstone reports:
The religious books section at mainstream French bookstores like Gibert Joseph has grown dramatically in size over the last decade, and much of what has been added is serious theology (Gibert Joseph now has a separate bookcase for “Patristics” in its Left Bank store).

Expecting All Saints’ Day to be a national holiday drained of spiritual significance in France, I was surprised to see a religious procession marching down a bustling street that afternoon, with about 80 to 100 people carrying the banners of beloved saints. And for all the talk about the end of patriotic sentiment in Europe, this band of Franco-Europeans displayed an encouraging, though happily not exclusive, predilection for French saints.

More interesting stuff in the article. Not the wonderful news we see in Italy, but glimmers.

h/t: Amy

Friday, March 17, 2006

More Thoughts on Crunchy Cons

Having finished the book, and continuing to read the blog, I feel compelled to add a few thoughts to the conversation.

On the blog, Rod Dreher has been frustrated by what he sees as misreadings of Crunchy Cons, while we see a number of people questioning Crunchyism. The key questions among critics seem to be: Is CCism a set of principles or a set of preferences? What is Conservative about CCism? And if CCism is a mere sensibility, what is Crunchy about CCism?

What is Crunchy about Crunchy Conservatism?

Let me take the last question first. In reading CCism, I felt it was primarily a call back to traditionalist conservatism, a conservatism which places the emphasis on virtue rather than liberty. The 'Crunchy' part of the book is that it explores how conservatives have been rediscovering these quintessentially conservative notions and ways of life in aspects of the countercultural movements of the sixties; in organic food, neighbourhood cooperatives and environmental concern. That is the best way, I think of understanding the crunchy gloss to what is largely a paeon to traditionalist conservatism.

Is Crunchy Conservatism a set of principles or a set of preferences?

Earlier disputes have rotated around whether Crunchyism is an ideology or a sensibility (as Rod Dreher puts it). My personal view is that the actual differences between ideology, set of principles and sensibility are minor, and that most of the difference is emotional. The fact is that Crunchy Cons rarely makes arguments that can be reduced to aesthetic preference. New Urbanism is good, not for the aesthetic it produces, but for the community it nurtures. Agrarianism is similarly admirable, for the intimate connection it provides between man and creation. The Arts & Crafts movement is good, since it suits architecture to human use and places an emphasis on permanency & particularity. Slow food is good, since it nurtures family life and preserves particular local cultures. These are all principles, not preferences, and while they may occasionally conflict, it appears clear to me the CCism cannot be dismissed as yet another lifestyle option.

What is Conservative about Crunchy Conservatism?

This is perhaps the most interesting question raised, and probably the question which leads many conservatives to be skeptical or overtly hostile to CCism. Let me therefore point out that Crunchies, on account of their celebration of family relationships would likely be skeptical of Social Security and Medicare as they currently stand. Perhaps most clearly, Crunchies in their concern for the moral education of their children, will be the staunchiest supporters of educational freedom (vouchers, etcetera). That places Crunchies in strong opposition to the three largest entitlement programs in America.

What then, should be made of Rod Dreher's criticism of CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) cuts in Texas? It indicates the limits of the Crunchy anti-entitlement position, not the slim edge of the wedge. Firstly, the program was directed to the poor- not a generally available entitlement like the above. Secondly, it was directed to families- easing the burden of raising and educating children. So, while Crunchies are hardly libertarian economic conservatives, they are likely to favour much smaller government spending than is currently the case. This at least initially puts Crunchies firmly on the conservative end of the Republican party.

What about other policies? In its localist, devolutionary leanings, Crunchies are firmly federalist, confirming their position on the right. The real challenge to conservatism in its current form comes in Crunchy opposition to factory farming and allegiance with environmentalism. The factory farming issue correlates closely to other social issues firmly within the conservative movement- Crunchies see factory farming as intrinsically wrong, and thus support strong regulations preventing such evils. Introducing such moral views is hardly unconservative. The environmentalist leanings similarly draw on existing principles within conservatism. Worries about the future impact of such things as global warming or the current impact of air pollution draw hardly push Crunchies outside the conservative envelope- unless one adopts a libertarian presumption to 'conservatism'. Of course, the entire book argues that authentic, traditional conservatism does not contain a libertarian presumption. By arguing that Crunchyism violates that presumption misses the point entirely.

The Canadian View

Jonah Goldberg has consistently criticized Dreher's opposition of "mainstream conservatives" with Crunchies. Jonah has a point- at least so far as I can see, most American conservatives don't fit so neat an anti-Crunchy category as Rod appears to construct. But as a Canadian, I'm far more used to conservatism being a term of opprobrium than he is, and so it struck me with less force. Moreover, the anti-liberal strain of conservatism has more force in Canada. Much of American conservatism does seem to be infected with the Lockean paradigm of individual liberty above all; Canada has a strain of much purer Toryism. Those familiar with George Grant's Lament for a Nation for instance, will not be shocked at Dreher's conservative critique of elevating efficiency and the market above the community.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's All About the Orthodox

I finally got around to reading a report I'd downloaded a while back, on Turkey's treatment of its Orthodox minority and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I was so irate I had to get up a number of times and take a break (and it's not a very long document, either). Turkey requires the Patriarch of Constantinople to be a Turkish citizen, but has pushed out the Orthodox population by turning a blind eye to anti-Orthodox violence and interfering with Orthodox education. They've closed the last Orthodox seminary in Constantinople, and largely refuse to allow repairs to be made to churches. And, to make matters still worse, they actively interfere in the election of the Patriarch.

If this was Yemen or Libya, it would almost be expected. But Turkey is ostensibly a modern, secular state. It is a member of NATO, and is in the final stages of becoming a member of the European Union. Moreover, it is violating numerous treaties of which it is a member by this treatment, most notably that of Lausanne, which has had constitutional effect in Turkey since 1923.

On another note, the Russians are apparently still standing by a farce by which the Ukrainian Greek Catholics were deprived of much of their property and status:

On March 8-10, 1946, a "synod" of 216 terrorized priests and nineteen laypersons, orchestrated in Lviv under the leadership of this group, abolished the Union of Brest (1596). This purported to be a synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and to this day the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed it to be such and has steadfastly refused to repudiate either the synod or its own role in the charade. But as the Russian Orthodox Church authorities are well aware, the entire Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy was in prison, and the entire presidium of the synod had in fact already become Orthodox, though this was kept secret until the farce was a fait accompli. The action was followed by massive arrests, interrogations, abuse, trials, banishment and deportations, causing incalculable suffering and death.

Russian Orthodox authorities ever since have defended what was done as a canonically legitimate synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church that freely and legitimately abolished of the "forced" Union of Brest, and to this day they have refused to disclaim or condemn it.
This speech is five years old, and so I hope no longer reflects the position of the Russians.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Last Night

I spoke with my cousin Nicole last night, who just had her third child, and she asked me to be a Godfather to young Griffin. I am both overjoyed and honoured. I see that a Dilexit Prior is becoming a Godparent soon as well.

I also stayed up very late, finishing Crunchy Cons (which I ordered from Duthie's, which seemed appropriate). Simply stated, it's a brilliant book, engrossing and exciting. It's the kind of book that brings things into focus, that illuminates what was previously amorphous or only suspected. Go! Go, buy or borrow and read! Just to give a tiny glimpse of the depth to which it reaches, the final chapter is called "Waiting For Benedict."

I love books, but there have only been a few that have had such an illuminating effect on me: Father Elijah was one; The Spirit of Early Christian Thought was another.

There are illuminating books, like the above, and there are transformative books which are still rarer (obviously, the categories blend somewhat). For me, the biggest transformative books for me have been The Screwtape Letters (when I was 12 or 13 and found the truth of the Faith) and Dominion, which altered the way I see animals, and to a lesser extent, the environment.

again, on the sparse posting- I've moved, and no longer have internet at home (a good thing, I think)- so posting will probably continue to be irregular for the forseeable future.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Light Blogging

Everything's been quite busy, and I'm afraid the blog has gotten the worst of it. So blogging will likely be light at least until the end of exams.