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January 19, 2009


A tapestry of the big themes of the culture war: Jesus Christ, the liberal media bias, the honorable George W Bush, and the War on Christmas. And Bill O'Reilly has been one-upped: not only do we say "Merry Christmas" at STR - we also buy stuff. :)

In the world of liberalism, as long as you love humanity as a whole, it is perfectly permissible to hate individual persons, unless those persons are the sort whose behavior, no matter how heinous, is the result of "root causes." So, you can hate George Bush, but not Osama Bin Laden, since the latter is doing what he does because the West made him do it, and besides the Palestinians are oppressed. In liberalism, the abstract stranger is always more important than the concrete brother or sister. In liberalism, you should care for your neighbor's children by not resisting the government's extraction of large sums of money from you to support them. On the other hand, to request that those who sire and beget their own children should care for them is "mean." However, if you choose to kill your own children prenatally, you are exercising a responsible choice.

This is why President Obama can speak eloquently and persuasively of the importance and necessity of sacrifice for the common good. But if his daughter is pregnant, she should not be punished with a child. So, as long as sacrifice is about the other and the all, not about the particular and the familiar, it will remain a cross that we claim to bear but never carry. We will bull***t ourselves, yet again.

Dr. Beckwith, I can’t help but think that you ought to be using your fine mind - and this forum - to consider the best arguments for liberalism and to explain and criticize these, rather than to simply rant against a caricature of liberalism, as you have done.

CT: I have. Read my articles here:


And other essays here:

Not all of them deal with liberalism, but some of them do.

With all these publications, I would think that your contributions here, on this blog, should somehow be more insightful - that they should raise the level of discourse a notch.

I mean, we (the readers of this blog) are only too familiar with these sorts of rants against "the liberals." Challenge us more. After all, you're not a cheerleader. You're a scholar for Christ's sake! (And I mean that in the most respectful way.)

Was the last part of your message paid for by the Retailers Association of America?

I am not against giving. I am against trying to make pagan rituals fit into the Bible text. And I am also against wasteful spending, encouraged for the sake of "the season", by people and to people who really can't afford it.

And if you are a true Christian you should be too. Because Yahhoshua did not encourage people to be in debt, nor do He encourage people to break the Word of God by celebrating God through the use of pagan traditions, you won't find Him doing either one of those in the Bible.

I read this from the Washington Post ...

Is Rick Warren really turning pro-homosexual marriage and lifestyle? Is he being tossed around by the waves and winds of our culture?

If the URL above doesn't work, read the article, "Pastor Rick's Evolution" in the opinions

I agree with CT. Liberals should be worhshiped. Their motives should never be questioned.

Perhaps the new administration can do us all a favor and put that philosophy into legislation.

Amy - loved the original post. My kids are almost grown and I have been disappointed with the way we celebrated Christmas over the years with them, and have internally leaned toward a grumbling overreaction like the one you described. Here's to next year. . .
Mr.Beckwith, I didn't think you were ranting; you just put a stone in my shoe (but I am not liberal, so maybe my reaction is biased?). I am looking forward to following up on the links you provided.
Peace to all

CT, it isn't a rant and you probably have a hard time refuting anything that Mr. Beckwith said. You see facts are so irritating.

I hear this stuff about Christmas being too commercial all of the time but if we are celebrating the birth of OUR SAVIOR what' the big deal. It seems like a lot of eastern philosophy has crept into our culture when we start to say that material things are somehow evil.

This is a dark day in American history that will be followed by great disappointment.

With all due respect, CT did make a valid point. I certainly sympathize with your disgust & venting francis (and this post isint really directed at you), but CT was simply suggesting 'you' (not you) address it in a bit more straightfoward manner. Because it was indeed a caricature of liberalism, and it would be much more effective to address liberalism for what it truely is.

In what way was it a caricature of liberalism?

and in what way do the link links that Dr. Beckwith provided not "address liberalism for what it truely is"

Oh, one other thing, how is CT's original comment not a caricature of conservatism?

What I am saying is and what I THINK CT was saying is that your original post was a bit more of an extreme caricature, far-left version of liberalism that really only represents the minority of liberalists. So it may not be entirely fair to address liberalism in that manner EVEN though I acknoweldge that there are certainly cases of this sort of liberalism. Not everyone who's liberal will end up there, and I do believe liberalism to be ultimately foolish, but if this is the case then a case against liberalism should (and can) be makeable with a full and direct view of it rather than an extreme form.


Hi Lumbergh (and others),

My thoughts are not very deep here. I'm assuming that liberalism, like conservatism or Christianity, is the sort of thing that opponents all too often attack in the form of a caricature. This is the sort of complaint we have towards the treatments of Christianity by Dawkins, Dennett and Bertrand Russell. These folks have good minds and eloquent pens, but have used these gifts merely add to the polarization and the culture war, contributing to the resentment and hostility of both sides without really adding to anyone's understanding. Isn't it upsetting to consider that there are many people whose deepest exposure to Christianity will be through the books of Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins?

I think the underlying problem is particularly sharp in this age of the internet, when individuals can be highly selective in their sources of information. It's a simple fact that most folks prefer to read authors with whom they already largely agree with (their ideological friends). Influenced by this sort of preference, we soon find that the polarization and the communication gap only increases. Cass Sunstein notes these problems and discusses an interesting experiment in polarization here.

It is in this context that I sense an urgency for making an effort to push past the caricatures and for making a sincere attempt to charitably understand our ideological opponents.

The sword cuts both ways. It is not simply the liberals who should try to sympathetically understand the conservatives and libertarians. Christian conservatives need to make a sincere effort to understand the best reasons driving liberal thought, to try to sympathetically understand why liberalism has dominated our institutions of higher learning where intelligent folks think hard about the philosophical issues of political theory.

Due, however, to the polarization I mentioned, it seems that all too often the folks in one camp simply take for granted that there is nothing intellectually compelling about their opponent's systems of thought (sometimes they don't even grant that there is a "system of thought"). This, it seems, is why spokespersons in one camp can get away with attacking mere caricatures of the other camp. And then the problem, of course, perpetuates. Your question above ("In what way was it a caricature of liberalism?")is rather indicative. Can you, for example, name the foremost thinkers of liberalism? Can you outline the system of thought and the underlying justification? What are the principle texts? (If you're like me, then you suspect that there is a bit of a gap in your understanding here.)

I am not a scholar on these points, but Francis Beckwith is (or he at least approximates scholarship in these matters--far more, I assume, than most of the other readers). When, however, a person of Beckwith's stature does represent liberalism in the way he has, it is natural for his readers to conclude that this is in fact all that liberalism really has to offer (and thus liberals must be a bunch of naive fools). This, I think, is misleading, unproductive, and ultimately quite tragic.

>>Oh, one other thing, how is CT's original comment not a caricature of conservatism?

Well, it's certainly a caricature of my post, if nothing else. Definitely not an "attempt to charitably understand his ideological opponents." But what can I say? The "culture war" is "all that we really have to offer." ;)

Amy, I actually thought you stated your points very clearly--leaving little need for interpretation. As for "culture war", who says this is a small or unimportant matter? And to weave so many themes together strikes me as either a mark of ingenuity or an indication that you've had these these important themes on your mind for awhile. The bit where you call into question the questioners of consumerism struck me as a nifty little reversal. Let's just remember to have effective strategies (or would that be "tactics"?). Not every culture warrior should seek polarize the field of battle.

My church participated in Advent Conspiracy this past Christmas. It makes you examine excessive spending and commercialism. We raised money for an orphanage in India and for improvements to a shelter in California, in lieu of or in addition to giving other gifts. I thought that it was worthwhile but I agree with Amy, too. We need beauty at Christmas.

Thanks for straightening everyone out CT. Now if you would only take your own advice.

I have sympathy with CT's point as I understand it. Frank Beckwith doesn't give us a definition of liberalism or show us why "liberals" think what they do in this post. I think that Beckwith may be flirting with Bulverism.

Amy's point about the condition of our hearts effecting how we think of people should make all of us pause to consider our attitudes toward those with whom we disagree or agree.

Many on the Christian left have, for a long time, used the term fundamentalist as a catch all term for other Christians that they think are wrong. Jimmy Carter does this in some of his writings.

I think that it is more productive to stay away from using these kinds of terms or use them very sparingly unless we are willing to define them up front. It seems to me that if this is not done the conversation can degenerate into name calling or at least be perceived that way.

Well said william.

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