The Personalist Project

It's been receding for some years now, but this is the first 4th of July when my faith in the American Experiment is completely extinguished. If I watch the fireworks tonight, it will be because fireworks are pretty, not because I'm celebrating. 

I used to love America. I had my concerns about its deficits and limits, but I loved the boldness, dignity and vitality of its propositions. I still think those proposition are great and true, but I see their utter impotence. John Adams said it in the beginning:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Maybe we will witness a great act of God and a religious revival, so that we become a moral and religious people again. But even if we do, things have gone so far, in my opinion, that we will need a re-founding and some fundamental fixes. For instance, we will have to make the judicial branch accountable somehow, and we will have to explicitly acknowledge both God and natural law. We will have to put away religious indifferentism.

Incrementalism won't avail, as I used to hope it would.

I feel as Newman must have felt, foreseeing the complete dissolution of the Anglican Church he had loved and served so long, and which he knew to the be the true source of England's greatness as a nation and Empire. Or as Dietrich von Hildebrand must have felt seeing Germany succumb to National Socialism. Or as Karol Wojtyla must have felt when Poland was overrun, first by Hitler, then by Stalin.

Thank God our hope is not in princes! It's not as if we can't go on living happy, fruitful lives— building a civilization of love. We may even find that the coming persecution will make for a much livelier, richer and more joyful life of faith. But the loss of America is a terrible one for the world. Today is a melancholy day for those who see it's come.

Comments (12)

Ian Skemp

#1, Jul 5, 2015 11:25am

I haven't lost my love for America, but I teach some wonderful kids that give me hope every year (some don't, but enough of them do). If it weren't for them, I may be in the same boat, based on what I see online, on TV, and in Washington. 

That being said, I still see the signs of moral decay. None more clearly than the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. He is certainly deserving of one, but the one that exists in DC seems odd to me. For one thing, they portray him as a mountainous figure coming out of slabs of granite. There is no humility, just defiance. Also, he is surrounded by numerous quotes that bring up words like "Justice," "Love," "Peace," and "Equality," but not one single mention of God, Christ, or the Bible. How strange. A pastor, whose worldview of justice and human dignity flowed from his belief in Christ and the gospels, is essentially edited to be a secular figure. Unfortunately, Dr. King is not the only victim of this modern revisionism. First Europe, now America's Christian heritage is seen as either irrelevant or something to move away from, or at least keep to yourself.

Ian Skemp

#2, Jul 5, 2015 12:02pm

Also worth noting...

In his keynote address, President Obama calls us all to maintain "faith in ourselves and in the possibilities of our nation." The omission of God reflects a troubling attitude. It's optimistic enough to make people feel good, but it's also vague enough to be meaningless. Faith in possibilities? I suppose it can mean whatever you want it to mean. What happens to a nation that is extremely powerful and energetic but whose faith is in something as vacuous as "possibilities?"

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Jul 5, 2015 5:39pm

I still love lots of things about America, including its original vision, its founding fathers and documents, its great achievements— its defeat of slavery and segregation; its victories over Naziism and Soviet Communism; its many great heroes and heronine; its marvelous ingenuity. But I'm rapidly coming around to Whittaker Chambers' conviction that atheistic materialism is (at least in one sense) "the winning side" in the battle for the soul of our nation that's been raging for a hundred years.

My son was recently at the Reagan library, where he heard Kruschev's prediction:

We will take America without firing a shot ... we will bury you! 

We can’t expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have communism. 

We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.

Seems to me he was right. We have been destroyed from within, though, as someone else put it, "there is a lot of ruin in a nation." It won't die overnight. We'll still be able to enjoy many of its benefits for a time. 

Rhett Segall

#4, Jul 6, 2015 9:26am

Ian, your reflection on Martin Luther King is a perfect application of the Emperor's New Clothes! Well done! The quotes referenced also manifests the pervasive presence of secularism in US society.

Katie, your sadness reminds me of the distinction between patriotism and nationalism. One's love of country absolutely includes unmasking its cancers. Imagine if we had lived in 1830. What kind of a stance would we have taken towards slavery, misogyny, child labor, etc:But as you note "Thank God our hope is not in princes..."

For me, I have great difficulty in fathoming how God can permit the killing of well over one million unborn each year. And that's only in the US!


Tim Cronin

#5, Jul 7, 2015 12:08pm

The United States was founded on the masonic doctrines of freedom, equality, and fraternity. This is a flawed founding. Without acknowledging Christ and natural law the edifice was bound to collapse. We can only build a good nation on the cornerstone rejected by the builders if we want it to stand. 

Rhett Segall

#6, Jul 7, 2015 3:30pm

As a teacher in a Catholic High School, Tim, I've been accused of being a die-hard Catholic.(Guilty) Nonetheless, in fact the US is religiously pluralistic. I think then that the foundation of our nation could only be the natural law.  The task of the responsible citizen, then, would have to be making a persuasive case for the natural law. This will demand the hard and tedious work of clarification,


Tim Cronin

#7, Jul 8, 2015 9:09am

Hi Rhett,

In order to establish the natural law we would have to have an underlying philosophy that supports it. Right now the ideas of evolution, trans-humanism, and Gnosticism hold sway. Scientists with the human genome project are trying to bring about an evolution by technical manipulation. Bruce Jenner shows that society thinks we are our mind only and not our bodies (nature). In order for people to accept natural law at this point I think only a major conversion to Christ would accomplish it. We could have a country that acknowledges Christ and natural law while writing in religious pluralism (tolerance). -Tim 

Katie van Schaijik

#8, Jul 8, 2015 9:20am

I can't agree that the US was founded on Masonic values and ideals, though its founding was certainly infected by those. 

I also doubt that we need to "have" an "underlying philosophy" that supports natural law. Natural law is the truth to be found in moral experience. 

My concern with some anti-American Christians is that they seem to want to establish religion in law, by authority, which I think can't and shouldn't be done. They also seem to me to exhibit a fideistic tendency in their understanding of the relation between faith and reason.

The genius of the American founding, in my opinion, is that it demonstrated that even people with differing religious convictions can form a nation, provided they recognize natural law.

Among the limits of the founding is that it doesn't address the problem of what to do when large portions of the citizenry (secular relativists, Muslims, etc.) reject natural law. 


#9, Jul 8, 2015 11:23pm

Agree whole-heartedly (and sadly), Katie...As others have said, our young people of faith are signs of hope, but I fear they are wildflowers in a sandstorm. Where are our catacombs?

Tim Cronin

#10, Jul 9, 2015 11:46am

The Enlightenment philosophy was heavily influenced by secret societies such as the Masons, Rosicurians, etc. Locke, Bacon, Newton, Mozart, Voltaire, and Washington were all masons. Locke spoke of protecting "the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another" While Americans had plenty of Christian values, the structure of the government was clearly masonic/enlightenment based. Now that Christian values have receded we can see that this masonic structure allows Catholocism and Satanism equal footing before the law. Equality also now means marriage and sodomy. Life and rights are defined under the Lockean philosophy of an autonomous adult individual. For those who believe evolution (and Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus was a high level freemason) nature is meant to be changed by man as part of his evolution. Evolution directly leads to transhumanism. The masonic founding of American does not support natural law unfortunately. -Tim 

Katie van Schaijik

#11, Jul 9, 2015 11:55am

But we should take care not to identify the Enlightenment with its errors and excesses. It had its real insights and valid achievements too, which the Church has made her own. 

Same goes for America. It's founding is not reducible to its Masonic influence.  

Christians, too, believe in life and liberty, equality under the law, natural rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, etc. 

And there are real problems and dangers involved in mixing government and religion. Personally, I wouldn't want to go back to the pre-Enlightenment world.

Rather, I want to be counted among those working to build the new civilization in the here and now, taking into account everything we've learned on the journey so far.

Tim Cronin

#12, Jul 9, 2015 3:19pm

I agree that the Enlightenment philosophical turn from substance to self has led to some good insights. Especially the ones by Saint John Paul II. Yet I think we need to consider what Pope Leo XIII said: "About the 'rights of man,' as they are called, the people have heard enough; it is time they should hear of the rights of God". Without the rights of God, the rights of man will fail. A Christ honoring constitutional democracy that incorporates the legitimate progress of the enlightenment sounds best to me. 

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