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Why we are where we are

Liberal institutions of a modern democracy rely for their credibility, and their tensile strength under pressure, on cultural foundations those liberal institutions cannot, by themselves, create or defend.

Flames engulf an American flag and the Community Corrections Division building in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 24, 2020. (CNS pohto/Stephen Maturen, Reuters)

By early March 1865, more than a million Americans had killed or wounded each other in civil war; the killing, wounding, and maiming continued for another month or so. Yet amidst that unprecedented carnage, Abraham Lincoln, at his second inauguration as president, called the American Republic to recompose itself in unity by means of magnanimity: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to…bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves…”

Those luminous words, now engraved in his memorial in Washington, confront Americans with a hard truth: it is very difficult, if not impossible, to imagine either major presidential candidate, on January 20, 2021 echoing the sentiments of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. One candidate could not do so credibly because, whatever his personal amiability or claim to moderation, his party is committed to the inherent divisiveness of woke identity politics, and some of its most visible members loathe the idea that the American democratic experiment is a worthy one. The other would almost certainly not do so because magnanimity seems alien to his character and exacerbating division has become his habitual method of governance.

Lincoln’s command of the majestic rhythms of the English language is not easily replicable. But that’s not the issue, is it? It’s hard, verging on impossible, to imagine the president-to-be-inaugurated next January summoning the country to national unity through magnanimity because our political culture has become so coarsened that it cannot cast up presidential candidates capable of credibly making that kind of appeal. And one reason it cannot do so is that too many Americans aren’t interested in, or could not grasp the meaning of, any such summons.

How did we get here?

We got here, in part, because Americans have paid insufficient attention to Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde. The name is not well-known, but that defines the problem. For Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde diagnosed a primary cause of our current distress over half a century ago.

Böckenförde was a German constitutional law scholar whose “dictum” is familiar to, if often ignored by, political scientists: “The liberal secularized state lives on conditions that it cannot guarantee itself.” Put another way, the liberal institutions of a modern democracy – free speech, a free press, freedom of association, universal adult suffrage, majority rule and protection of minority rights, religious freedom, and so forth – rely for their credibility, and their tensile strength under pressure, on cultural foundations those liberal institutions cannot, by themselves, create or defend. Thus American democracy is not, and can never be, a machine that runs by itself. The cultural and moral lubricants of the machinery – indeed, the very rationale for this kind of machinery rather than some other kind – must come from somewhere else.

For over two centuries in the United States, that “somewhere else” was a public moral culture formed by biblical religion and natural law philosophy. Biblical religion taught Americans the built-in dignity and value of every human person as a person, irrespective of condition. The philosophy of the natural law taught Americans that there are moral truths inscribed in the world and in us, that we can know those truths by reason, and that knowing them teaches us our duties. These cultural norms underwriting American democracy were sometimes forgotten or ignored. But they were there, and people of character could appeal to them to reform the Republic and help it realize its promise of freedom in solidarity for all Americans.

The accelerated process of political decay we’ve witnessed in the past six months didn’t just happen. America’s once-noble liberal political institutions are crumbling because, over the past six and a half decades, the cultural foundations on which those institutions long relied have been deeply eroded by a soul-withering secularization (which even affects religious believers) and a debased public ethic of “I did it my way.”

The annus horribilis through which we’re living is telling us that America is at an inflection point. If that inflection point is to lead to national renewal, Catholics in the United States must be leaders in reclothing the American public square with the truths about the human person, the moral life, and the common good that make democratic self-governance possible. Absent those truths, there can be no summons to unity through magnanimity. For absent those truths, those words are empty husks.


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About George Weigel 297 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent book is The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), published by Ignatius Press.

38 Comments

  1. The two great sins of our day are abortion and sodomy which are in direct opposition of the”value of every human life” and “natural law philosophy.” It stands to reason that in order to help America get back on track we cannot vote for the party that wholly supports both of those positions.

    • I would argue contraception is the Great Sin and abortion and sodomy simply logically flow from that. How is that? Well, God creates. He is the only Being capable of taking Nothing and making Something out of it. Neither Man nor Woman create a human soul. The standard way God chooses to do this is…sex. He is gracious enough to allow Man and Woman to enjoy the ride, but He is still the Person in charge.
      .
      No, the Church does not teach, and God does not demand, that Man and Woman have as many children as possible. No, God does not demand that people only have sex when they want a baby, but the universe God created simply does not allow for good consequences to happen when people decide to try to give God the heave-ho in this arena.
      .
      Don’t want a baby? Don’t have sex. In a position or circumstance where a baby is a really bad idea (I’m thinking the woman is on chemotherapy here, or has an interesting job that requires working with teratogenic chemicals, etc), don’t have sex.

    • Aug. 28, 2020: I used to read Weigel but he has become much too full of himself. How could he put Pres. Trump in the same category as Biden…who will make it legal to kill babies up until moment before birth? We don’t have to agree with the President on everything but come on Weigel…no President before Pres. Trump has ever championed the right-to-life as Pres. Trump has done, nor the Freedom of Religion. It seems that many intellecutal elites cannot tolerate Trump because he does not speak with eloquence, he is not as dapper as Obama is…but he has a heart for the American people and for America. Let us each ask ourselves, you too George, what are we doing for our country? For the poor and disenfranchised? Who among us reaches out – in person – to our poor and needy brothers and sisters. I think, George, that you are becoming an intellectual snob. It doesn’t become you. Take a step back and walk the streets with Christ and Mother Teresa…I worked with her in Calcutta and it was almost unbearable for me because I did not have her depth of love and charity…but I stayed because … I had to try to overcome my human repulsion in the face of such putrid smells and gruesome, repulsive images in front of me. I encourage you George to leave your computer and your high level interviews for a few months and go and work in the slums of Calcutta…or Washington.

  2. We read: “The philosophy of the natural law taught Americans that there are moral truths inscribed in the world and in us, that we can know those truths by reason, and that knowing them teaches us our duties.”

    The current disconnect seems to be that reason and natural law do not stand by themselves, but only as confirmed by the grandeur of a God who is both incarnational and transcendent.

    So, not St. Thomas Aquinas alone, but now St. Augustine—to whom Aquinas so consistently refers. These are stark and yet beautifully Augustinian times…“The City of God” and firstly the two competing loves: love of world OR love of God.

    So, yes “Catholics in the United States must be leaders in reclothing the American public square with the truths about the human person, the moral life, and the common good that make democratic self-governance possible.”

  3. William Winslow Crosskey (1894-1968) had a somewhat different take on the problem in his book, “Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States” (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1953). According to Crosskey, in an effort to preserve and extend slavery, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the concept of judicial review in the Constitution far beyond the bounds of what the framers intended, by this means permitting “legislation by judiciary” and the usurpation of the role of Congress by the Court and the Executive.

    The issue came to a head with Scott v. Sandford in 1857, in which Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney in his opinion conflated citizenship conferred by a state, with personality conferred by God by means of the natural rights inherent in every human being. Taney — ironically a Catholic who violated Catholic teaching in rendering his opinion — thereby shifted sovereignty from the human person created by God, to the abstraction of the State created by man. (Fulton Sheen addressed this as a philosophical problem in his 1925 doctoral thesis, “God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy”, intro by G.K. Chesterton.) This meant that someone could be a human being but not a person, an impossibility under the natural law theory embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (See “The Political Philosophy of Saint Robert Bellarmine,” 1926, by Rev. John Clement Rager.)

    Following the Civil War, the 14th Amended was adopted in part to overturn Scott, but was effectively nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court in its opinion in the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases. As Crosskey maintained, the opinion in Slaughterhouse was so vaguely and “craftily” written that it effectively granted the Supreme Court near-absolute power. As he said,

    “So, the Court’s opinion in the Slaughter-House Cases was, undoubtedly, most craftily written; written so as to enable the Court, with a good face, in future cases, to jump either way: to observe the intended meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause if that seemed unavoidable, or, in the alternative, to destroy the clause utterly if this seemed safe. And the fact that this elaborate preparation was made also means that the majority Justices saw and fully comprehended the possibility of the intermediate, plain, and sensible meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause here expounded, to which, indeed, Justice Bradley called attention, in his dissenting opinion. So, the majority must, as the minority charged, already have determined, if they dared, to destroy this new provision of the Constitution completely.” (Politics and the Constitution, p. 1130.)

    Obviously, with the State sovereign instead of the human person, all it takes is governmental fiat by any branch of the government not merely to create law, but to change the definition of the natural law, but of human nature from which we derive our understanding. The shift from lex ratio (law is reason) to lex voluntas (law is will) lays the foundation for the current chaos by enshrining “might makes right” as the fundamental precept of the natural law, instead of “good is to be done, evil avoided,” as the solidarist jurist and political scientist Heinrich A. Rommen explained in his book on the natural law.

    As a result of this confusion over human nature and the shift from the actuality of the individual human person to the abstraction of the collective, any group that can demonstrate enough power to force its will on others becomes, de facto, right and virtuous as objective standards of right and wrong are abolished.

    • Mr. Greaney –

      I thank you for teaching me something more, and very significant, about the treachery of the “US Supreme Court.”

      How sobering it is…in the worst way…to see how unaccountable judges can usurp “the law of nature and nature’s God,” to the extent that only a civil war can over-rule their rebuke of reality.

      • I got what I know of constitutional law from my business associate, who was one of Crosskey’s last students, having him for a class in equity in the summer of 1959. Chicago was trying to purge the legacy of Robert Maynard Hutchins, and Hutchins had brought in Crosskey, and had then shown himself to be even more thorough in his research than Albert Venn Dicey, the English constitutional law genius. The Chicago law school assigned Crosskey the course in equity probably to force him to retire, but he walked into class and announced that despite the name of the course being equity, he was teaching constitutional law, and used his own text. My associate insisted I read it, and got interested in Crosskey’s focus on the Dred Scott case, the 14th Amendment, and Slaughterhouse, and realized it correlated with the Church’s struggle against what Pope Gregory XVI (and later Leo XIII) called rerum novarum — the “new things” of socialism, modernism, and esotericism. It’s an incredible story, bringing in Orestes Brownson, St. John Henry Newman, Blessed Frederic Ozanam (who at one time considered emigrating to America after reading de Tocqueville . . . who as Foreign Minister of the Second French Republic defended the “conservative liberal” Pius IX against the radical liberals who wanted to abolish Christianity) . . . the saga of 19th century Catholicism is a pretty wild story that the history books either ignore or gloss over with oversimplifications. And the historical events surrounding the Slaughterhouse Cases — I found contemporary newspaper accounts, and New Orleans and meat in the 1860s sounds like Chicago and liquor in the 1920s.

  4. Liberal institutions of democracy rely for their credibility on cultural foundations those liberal institutions cannot create or defend (Weigel). Whether the woke cannot bear the Institutions due to extreme socialist egalitarianism, or that their nemesis Trump is not a magnanimous Lincoln, who instead rules by division is entirely true or the author’s value judgment. Although there is arguable validity the premise itself makes reconciliation impossible. So what is offered? Nostalgia for Lincoln’s “majestic rhythms of the English language”, a President bereft of such immortal majesty. Assessment of Why we are here, the widely known secularization of our culture. Solution, that Catholics provide a true understanding of human nature, the common good. Catholics are themselves sharply divided, leadership wanting. Reality, which author Weigel seems selectively aware is that we do have leadership in the Whitehouse that is opposed to secularization, who calls it as it is, that the woke are determined Socialists and compromise for them is jettisoning the very values Weigel urges Catholics propose. Reclothing requires leadership. Neither the USCCB, nor George Weigel offer anything more than virtually unachievable generalities, and contempt for this administration and the person who is capable of addressing the truth and implementation of those Catholic values. Would that George Weigel act out of the box for a change and lead by example, support what remains perhaps the final hope for a morally revitalized Nation. Plebeian is humbling, good for the soul.

    • I think this is because George doesn’t consider our President elegant or eloquent enough to hold the office of President of the United States. Obama was eloquent and elegant in speech and in the way he dressed…but he wanted to push the limits of abortion, the killing of human babies in the womb as far as he could. And he voted against the born alive infant act which would have provided comfort for a baby who survived abortion. Pres. Trump has compassion and empathy for suffering Americans…I don’t want to be uncharitable but I think George just focuses on himself and important people he met…like Pope John Paul. I used to eagerly await George’s articles…no more!

  5. Mr. Weigel seems to still oppose president Trump, just as he did in 2016. He says here, “The other (Trump) would almost certainly not do so because magnanimity seems alien to his character and exacerbating division has become his habitual method of governance.” The Washington Post, on the day of his inauguration said, now the impeachment begins. How to deal with the politicians of death – Pelosi Biden, etc. in a magnanimous way? President Trump has been the most pro life president, and the most freedom of religion president we have had. He has nothing but obstacles put before him by democrats. To indicate that there is no real difference between the candidate’s for president is terrible. I wish our bishops would be so pro life. In my state there is a web site one can go to, with a name and birthdate and see what party the person has registered in. There are four bishops in my state. Three of the four (including my bishop) are registered as democrats. Look at the party platforms – what a difference. Look at the president’s accomplishments over the past three and one half years.

  6. Come on man! I can’t except much of this because I simply don’t understand what you mean. But mostly I have a problem with the author’s second paragraph. It makes little sense. We still have besides prayer, a very good way toward a solution in the candidacy of Donald Trump. In him we citizen’s can find hope.

  7. Why we are where we are is because 90% of Americans under 35 are utterly ignorant about truth and facts, emote instead of reason, and consider their subjective wishes to be absolutely inviolable and worthy of immediate fulfillment, on account of poor education at the hands of Democrat-leaning teachers. We haven’t seen the bottom yet. We’re far from it. Think total collapse of the society and China and Russia taking advantage of a weakened America.

  8. Well, all I can say is that in reply to Mr. Weigel, Father Morello speaks for me.

    Apparently Mr. Weigel is personally attracted to the repulsive fraud Biden and suffering from nostalgia for the old political alliance of the “Catholic-Democrat” machine.

    It’s worth re-iterating that if everyone took Mr. Weigel’s advice in 2016, we would have been 12 years into the total dismantling of our tottering country.

    After years of reading Mr. Weigel, I have come to the conclusion that he is generally involved in trying to get his audience to pretend that reality isn’t happening, and join him in detached longing for a siren of some eternally-out-of-reach “third way.”

    Unfortunately for the common folk, political reality in the USA is a binary, zero-sum game.

  9. I guess I would summarize my earlier post by saying that Mr. Weigel has no real idea “why we are here” or “where here is.”

    Per Fr. Morello, I think we would all prefer Mr. Lincoln, who lives on in our hearts and minds, and I trust, in the “eternal light” of Our Father and Creator. Yet Mr. Lincoln is not on the ballot, and do, Mr. Weigel is apparently at a COMPLETE LOSS to assess the situation.

    • Speaking as someone who wants to avoid endless wars, I’m grateful Mr. Lincoln is not on the ballot but I do wish he’d ghost write some speeches for President Trump.
      🙂
      Abraham Lincoln definitely wrote better and was far more articulate. Most people in his era were also.

  10. Perhaps the analogous decay in the Church is the result of the clergy, especially bishops, having lost faith, lost biblical religion, and abandoning natural law philosophy. By and large, bishops are empty miters, mere figureheads presiding over an imploding and corrupt church just as our feckless politicians are mere figureheads presiding over an imploding country with corrupt institutions. No leadership from anywhere it should be coming from.

  11. Lincoln’s speeches are very moving and his familiarity with scripture is apparent in them but actions speak louder than words.
    I think Lincoln could have found a better solution to a war that cost over half a million American lives.
    Donald Trump is far less articulate but how many wars has he drawn us into in the past four years?

    • What was the alternative you have in mind?

      The war against slavery was desired and started by southern slave states, and was a moral necessity for the United States of America, to repudiate the horror of treating millions of helpless people as if they were cattle.

      • Chris,
        A neutral agreement and truce would have been best. Like we ended up with Canada following our first civil war which was also about secession.
        And if we’d not entered the first civil war we might have avoided the second. Not to mention ending slavery peacefully and decades sooner. But we can’t go back and fix the past. Hopefully we can learn from it though.

        • I think you oversimplify what ‘ending slavery’ involved. Perhaps you are unaware of debates over the major question of ‘what do to with the slaves when you free them?’ It’s a serious question. Workable land in the South was pretty much all taken or claimed. The South did not have large industrial cities to absorb a new ‘working class’ of free blacks – some 3.9 MILLION people. There was no bloated Federal budget or concept of just printing more money to somehow ‘pay for’ all these unemployed, homeless, often unskilled, illiterate people suddenly to be dumped from the plantations to the countryside without a place to call their own, food to eat or a roof to shelter under. What on earth to do with them all, if they were suddenly set free? Ship them back to Africa? Give them 40 acres and a mule… somewhere, in their own territory? And how was all that to be managed – a vast bureaucratic, financial and logistical enterprise – under the very small federal government in the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War? In case you don’t quite grasp why the ‘north’ didn’t just let the South secede, the most burning question after the Revolution was HOW TO KEEP THE NEW UNION TOGETHER when all the new ‘states’ were so diverse culturally, economically, politically (they had their own constitutions) and religiously? Just trying to make the vast, sprawling territory less ‘these United States’ and more ‘the United States’ was a constant concern in the post-Revolutionary period. Holding it all together – not setting up a massive welfare operation for nearly 4 million suddenly free blacks – was constantly on the minds of governors and law-makers.

          The British often like to preen themselves on having ‘ended slavery’in their dominions much sooner than the US did (conveniently forgetting how much longer they sucked a great deal of profit from black slavery in the production of cotton and tobacco in the US and from black servitude in their own dominions). But Britain didn’t have the problem of having nearly four millioin freed blacks turned out of their shelters and onto the byroads and wastelands of England, Scotland and Wales. The United States DID have that problem, and law-makers and serious thinkers spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what to do with the black slaves -not to mention how to shore up the southern economy which was based on slavery – if the moral imperative of freeing the slaves was obeyed.

          Try to imagine – putting aside silly notions gleaned from Hollywood movies – what ‘freedom’ meant in practical reality for a slave once emancipation was declared. One day, you have shelter and food, but you are under slavery. You have never been allowed to make a single adult decision in your life. Most of what you have done, you have done in cringing fear of being physically brutalized if you disobeyed or disappointed your masters. You have been dehumanized all your life, and you have seen slaves’ attempts at asserting something like human dignity brutally put down, so asserting your dignity does not come easily or comfortably: you’ve had no practice at speaking up to get your needs acknowledged or met. You have been denied all learning apart from the crafts associated with your job as a slave; most likely you are a manual laborer without special skills. You can’t read. You can’t count. At best you are highly skilled at some trade like blacksmithing or cooking. You are likely to have been separated from your spouse and/or children, and even if you live within visiting distance and could unite with them, you’ve never had an opportunity to be the master or mistress of your own home, exercise full authority over your children, choose your own work or plan your own future. You are, in short, utterly unfitted for the responsibilities of freedom as an adult person in a free economy.

          Next day, you are free. You have nowhere to sleep tonight. No one will tell you what to do or where to go (except to leave his property and ‘move along’), no money, no way to get food, no concept of your legal rights, no prospect of a job, no clue how to track down and reunite with children or spouses who have been sold away… The most miserable of the ‘huddled masses, yearning to breathe free’ arriving in the US by their own choice and on their own initiative were vastly better equipped to survive in that country than a freed black slave was. At the very least, those ‘huddled masses’ weren’t hindered by an appearance that immediately classed them as being second-class, unable to enter into or fit into ‘white’ society on a competitive basis.

          Emancipating the slaves was fraught with very real moral responsibilities toward the emancipated – responsibilities that nobody was in a position to take on. It was fraught with grave dangers of all types and enormous challenges for those set free.

          Try not to view ‘setting the slaves free’ as some kind of no-brainer like locking the door when you leave your house. It was far more complicated than they taught you in 8th-grade social studies.

  12. We are here in part because of Lincoln, who is not to be praised or venerated as a hero, but Weigel is a Lincolnian nationalist.

    • The war against slavery was desired, fomented and started by the southern slave states who insisted on perpetuating the savagery of slavery.

      • Chris,
        Do you imagine Southern families wanted a Northern invasion and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives?
        Most people on either side of the Mason Dixon did not want bloodshed.
        It’s a shame that massive slaughter was not avoided. There were poor decisions made on all sides I think. Both North and South.
        Britain ended slavery without a drop of blood being shed and compensated slave owners for their losses. It’s a terrible pity we didn’t learn something from them.

        • mrscracker, read my comment above. The slaves in the British Empire were not living in England, unlike the slaves in the US who were living on private property. The slaves in the British Empire were conveniently living on what amounts to islands of slavery far removed from the personal space of any Englishman. Futhermore, depending on the island, there might have been a large or small number of slaves in residence, so with emancipation in the British West Indies, the situation was different on different islands. It was not some simple act of ‘freeing the slaves and compensating the owners and they all lived happily ever after.’

          The British sought to ‘ease in’ the transition from slavery to freedom by inaugurating a period of ‘apprenticeship’ during which period (up to six years) the ‘free’blacks had to work just for food while ostensibly learning a trade so they could be absorbed into the population of the West Indies as workers. The whole enterprise was vicious: the apprentices were abused in every possible way – including sexual abuse and flogging – while being made to work in terrible conditions, under just as brutal oversight as under slavery. Their ‘work’ included degrading drudgery like walking a treadmill for no purpose, just to keep them exhausted, chained and under no doubts about who was ‘boss’. It was just slavery again, except this time, by owners who were angry and had nothing to lose by abusing their erstwhile ‘property.’ Even when apprenticeship was abolished 5 years after emancipation, the free blacks were living on islands where the power was totally in the hands of their former masters (the British did not free the colonies; the blacks had no self-governance). Life was not one giddy whirl of celebration and joy for the blacks in the West Indies after 1838. They were still under British rule and still completely under the thumbs of the wealthy whites who held all the power and made all the rules and denied them all the avenues to power, wealth and education as they saw fit. They could be abused and exploited daily at the whim of whites, and had no recourse for justice whatsoever.

          The US had share-cropping; the British had ‘apprenticeship.’ It all came down to the same thing: freedom on paper, slavery in practice.

          Read the history of slavery in the British Empire. If the British compensated owners, it was only because the owners had the political power to demand compensation – before going on to bring in ‘apprenticeship’ which gave them free labor exactly as under slavery without even a concern about damaging their own ‘property’ if the abused a black person. The British are the ultimate hypocrites: they got paid for their slaves and got to keep them, too.

          It’s only in the later part of the 20th century that some of the former British slave colonies began to get self-rule and black people finally began to be allowed access to economic opportunities, higher education and political power on an equal footing with whites. Not much there to be proud of compared to the advances of black people in the US. Both countries have a huge blot on their histories when it comes to the treatment of African slaves. But don’t forget one little detail: it was the BRITISH who introduced the African slave trade to the Americas in the first place. They gave us the problem – and they had nothing admirable to offer in their ‘solution.’

          • Nel,
            Wasn’t it the Spanish & Portuguese who first brought African slaves to the America’s? The Dutch were pretty active also if I remember correctly.
            I saw an interesting article about East Indian slaves in colonial America. History’s always more complex it seems. I’m glad you’re interested in it too.
            God bless!

        • Mrscracker:

          Britain made itself rich beyond its legitimate means by financing, participating in and fueling the slave trade.

          All of the slave states were established in slavery as British colonies for the British economy.

          They were money-grubbing, slave-mongering hypocrites.

          Their hypocrisy of outlawing slavery in their own country while fueling it for CASH in their colonial empire is the only reason they couldn’t have s civil war over slavery…they outsourced it…they only wanted the money…not the crime that generated it.

          • Good morning Chris!
            Every single British colony in North America had involvement with slavery. Over 40 percent of colonial NYC homes had slaves. Connecticut had numerous slaves and plantation type holdings. Newport, Rhode Island was a major hub of the slave trade.

            The British were like every other historic empire in regards to slavery but they were unique in its abolition-even when it did not benefit them economically. British war ships patrolled the African coast looking for slavers. The British attempted to enforce anti slavery laws in British territories. The British freed American slaves during the American revolution and carried them to Nova Scotia where some of their descendants still live. One of those freed slaves had belonged to George Washington.
            Just because the British were ahead of us in all this doesn’t make them saints but I do think they might be given some credit.

      • That’s just so simplistic one doesn’t even know where to begin. Really, I’d say ‘go back to school’ but that’s probably where you learn your sound-byte history.

  13. Mr Weigel is another lost soul who continues to stumble over the stones in his path by looking downward in negativity at our President Trump.Who at this time of America’s history.Is our last best hope of keeping the barbarians from crashing through America’s front gate…..The barbarians have the “battering ram” of the socialist/democrat, MSM,Academia,Hollywood & Popular Culture,Not to mention Catholic’s who have lost their faith and would prefer to be “woke” and PC.Then follow the One True Truths of our Lord.Jesus Christ.

    • You’re right. Jesus is a stumbling stone and rock of offense to all religions who don’t have Him as Lord and Savior.

      Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

      “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and

      “A stone that cause men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

      They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for. 1 Peter 2:7,8

  14. Based on Mr. Weigel’s comments about President Trump he badly needs a refresher course on Saul Alinsky. The political left has been practicing his “Rules For Radicals” for quite some time now. President Trump did not establish the rules of engagement, Alinsky and his followers did.
    *
    President Trump is probably the only one who could take on a corrupted elite establishment. With social media President Trump has ink barrel parity with the legacy media. With Trump the left is finding out the hard way that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. When Trump talks about Fake News he is usually a very cheerful giver. Until the left gives up its Alinskyite tactics I don’t see how Trump can deescalate his rhetoric. The left is only able to stomach the establishment Republicans because they usually practice unilateral disarmament. The media only has to wag their fingers at them and they roll over and play dead. Trump’s brash behavior during the 2016 debates brought this into clear view. The people saw what a fighter looks like. Many voter blocs have seen more real progress on their issues under Trump than they ever saw under establishment/elite politicians. The establishment/elite politicians were too busy protecting their continuing access to their establishment/elite positions and perks.

  15. I apologize to all the thinking brains among us but Mr. Weigel’s article (I read 5 times) seems to be an article, without naming him, praising Trump and his party. (Wait a minute!! let me explain.) The whole 2nd paragraph is about the two edge sword of truth and how Trump is not magnanimous, then at the end says magnaninity cannot save us, OK. It seems he then says that our systems of govt have to rely on something other than themselves. I would call that GOD, which Trump has constantly called upon and upheld. Basically we are free to choose life and God, or not. “This day I set before you life and death, choose life that you may be long lived upon the earth.” You are free to choose other but you have to accept the consequences. I also remember that the TRUTH is a two edged sword. As my evangelical friends would say “It is sheep and goats time” Choose carefully. IF Jesus or Lincoln were on the ballot it would be more difficult but we have dead babies body parts being sold etc or a man who calls it like it is and pulls no punches, and must be made out of steel to survive this onslaught of defamation. This is not business as usual folks. Choose life. Sodomy and abortion absolutely flaunt in the face of God. Anarchy is their center. John Adams, among others, in 1798 said in an address the Constitution will only work for a moral and religious people. The reason America excelled was that most immigrants came from countries who had been seriously both for many centuries. The culture was basically Christian and working towards that understanding. That is why so many diverse people and religions could find peace in that world. Christianity is the only one that allows for others in dignity. It is a reason for death in some. We cannot throw out Christianity, 10 commandments, churches etc and buy into some made up world without losing everything as culture. One Nation under God and In God we trust must mean something to us. This does not impose religion on anyone but absolutely requires that I live it opely with courage.

  16. We got where we are because God has been viewed as a cosmic bellhop….give us what we want but don’t tell us how to live. Everything around us is still His creation and His purpose is still the same from the beginning..”I will be your God and you will be my people”. When the Holy God is viewed as any less than that, all sinners are headed for destruction. It’s no wonder the Catholic church is failing in so many areas. Century upon century they (the church leaders) have omitted, tweaked, changed, etc., scripture to fit their religion. If scripture is followed properly and sincerely, you all should be united in all aspects of life. Step back and look at all the chaos within the church body. If the higher ups are too proud to humble themselves and repent of their rebellious sins against God, you laypeople need to step up, repent, read and study the scriptures yourselves….it really isn’t that hard to understand!
    Bottom line is do you want to follow these false teachers (creatures) and spend eternity in utter torment or follow Jesus (Creator) and trust in His work on the cross that paid the penalty for your sins? Eternal life in heaven only comes to those who put their whole trust in Christ.

  17. Nel ,
    Thank you for your comments but the British not only had some slaves living with them in the UK, the British themselves lived in large numbers abroad in their colonies, both East & West, amongst slaves. That was the case here also before American Independence.
    The British solution of compensating slave owners for their loss of property during the abolishment of slavery wasn’t perfect but surely it was a better plan than the wholesale slaughter of over half a million souls in our War Between the States?
    The 18th & early 19th centuries were a rougher time in many ways & convicts, political prisoners, indentured servants, imprisoned debtors, etc were treated very differently than today. Even in the late 19th century there are reports of public floggings in the States. I read about one in a small town newspaper involving a scam artist ( a white man) who was publicly whipped around the turn of the 20th century.
    In a perfect world the British would have abolished slavery & everything would have been instantly solved but even Toussaint Louverture, a former slave & slave owner himself, was against immediate abolition in Haiti because he realized the catastrophic financial effect it would have on his country. He preferred an emancipation plan similar to the British.

  18. Certainly a society that possesses great cultural institutions, yet loses the public moral foundation humbled by Christianity and Natural Law, will disintegrate into violent contumacious factions, where the “E pluribus unum” degenerates into a chaos that can only be reigned in by a totalitarian authority. Freedom for excellence and goodness is lost. The State becomes one of dependency and is rashly controlled by a most menacing might that makes everything “right”. This is because, without God, an understanding about what and who mankind is no longer exists, and only an unbridled consumptive nature remains.

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