The Catholic movement that wants to use government power in the name of public morality.
Integralism, as defined in Galston's article, is bone-chillingly frightening. It basically seeks to toss the genius of our Constitution and indeed the genius of "an agreeable form of anarchy" on essentially religious grounds. That any scholarly or even intelligent commentator could support such an approach with full knowledge of US history is astonishing. By my lights, this is just state-supported religion rearing its very ugly head all over again, and it is unfortunately a direct response to the illiberalism being exhibited by the far left these days. And Twitter et al. make it seem like both extremes are indicative of ordinary American views when in fact the vast majority of Americans vigorously disagree on both counts--even those that are fervently religious. Hitch! We miss you and need you so very badly!!
Conservative Catholics need to look back on William F. Buckley and Michael Novak to combat illiberalism, instead of Ahmari and Vermeule to fuel the fires of the culture war.
I don’t actually view Catholic integralism as a present threat right now, and from a voting perspective it’s mostly irrelevant. It might be scary if it were implemented, but as of now it’s not something that should be a salient in peoples’ minds.
Religion is already being implemented by the government. Progressivism is a form of integralism, of a different religion, and one without a name. The approach progressives take on race, climate change, and gender are all religious, but since there is no formal church it’s not readily recognized as religion.
Which is a primary potential weakness of the first amendment. Restrictions are theoretically in place to prevent the government sponsorship of a particular religion, but if the religion isn’t self conscious, those restrictions are potentially powerless. While Catholic moral doctrine might be restricted from government sponsorship by notions of religious freedom, Woke moral doctrine might not be.
Rationally I do not see the logic of saying Catholics can’t use the government to compel prayer while progressives can use the government to compel the use of particular pronouns. The latter has already begun. Thus, for any liberal” who is concerned about religious control of the government, I would imagine more energy would be directed at a clear and present danger rather than a hypothetical one that yet exists and has no adoption in the government.
The fact that many so called “liberals” are sweating over Catholics but not the Woke is an indication that what these “liberals” care about isn’t the separation of church and state, but rather that the state is run by the church they prefer.
I think there is a fundamental philosophical question of whether the religious freedom doctrine of classical liberalism actually makes any sense in practice. Ultimately the government law must decide what religious practices are permitted(using peyote for a spirit journey apparently isn’t) and what religious morals are considered protected (can a wedding cake decorator refuse to decorate a cake for a gay couple). Thus some moral and epistemological system is codified into law -- if that system is tolerant of peoples beliefs about the world, people can believe the earth is flat, it doesn’t mean that the system doesn’t have its own working assumptions about it -- the earth is a sphere. And just because it is tolerant about various moral outlooks -- it’s not going to punish people for thinking gay people are sinners -- it won’t fund universities that don’t permit gay social clubs. If a religion is racist, it’s not going to allow people who follow that religion to discriminate racially against people at hotels they operate. Religions aren’t actually equally free. The religions that are most free are those which align most closely with the state in their morality and epistemology.
These guys are basically the Papists that the Know-Nothing Party warned us about in 1855. Thankfully, Integralism is just the internet fantasy of a handful of nerds and has about as much chance of happening as a Kermit the Frog presidency.
This is a fantastic thought-provoking piece by Galston. I often disagree with him in his WSJ opinion pieces. He has TDS.
One major quibble is his labeling of this Catholic big government movement as being a form of conservatism. It isn’t. It is just another form of progressivism. Liberal progressivism is a God-less religion. We are just talking about a clash of two religious doctrines… both backed by historical scholarship that seeks to frame a moral edict.
Ideological debate is on a spectrum where at one end, the right end, we have complete individual freedom (anarchy) and the other left end, complete collective authoritarianism. This is the full historical political conflict of modernity. Conservatism is simply the support for a previous landing on that spectrum that does serve the greater good of the overall human condition. It is the American liberal tradition. It is somewhere right of center on the spectrum. It does hold Christianity as a primary and needed moral social component; but certainly not a force of political authority.
This is a great overview of intergralism for those of us who have only dipped a toe into its beliefs because we wanted to understand why David French was so upsetting to them.
But as I read the article, I couldn't help hearing echoes of Persuasion's recent pieces on modern China. Absent the religious jingoism, isn't China a model for how an integralist government would actually look? It all seems to be there: government directing people into a right mindset; a fully authoritative executive and a well-developed and powerful bureaucracy to effectuate rightness; and a people quite accustomed to deferring to the government's determinations about how to live properly. And it very clearly demonstrates ways to deal rightly with heretic religions.
In fact, isn't this something like the dreams animating progressives? It certainly aligns with the desire to have government censor or correct unrighteous opinions expressed in public forums like the internet; it aligns with deplatforming those who use disapproved language or "appropriate" specified cultures in improper ways. If progressives had their way and their government, we'd all be minding our p's and q's, and behaving as directed.
Maybe I am being unfair or ignorant of the full philosophy of integralism. But these would be the kinds of questions I'd have about how it would work in the real world. The ideals and models that seem to implement or envisage it don't strike me as very appealing.
Promoting this from a buried comment. TL;DR: I think Integralism/Dominion Theology are linked to Mastriano, Lake and the many people running on the "2020 election-denying/Jan 6 was OK" platform.
"Prominent Christian leaders who support Seven Mountains Dominionism include David Barton, James Dobson, John Hagee, Bill Johnson, Lance Wallnau, and Paula White, while notable politicians who have embraced it include Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Charlie Kirk, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry."
I'm not trying to score some weird left/right political point (I'm unaffiliated). My point is that people with actual power are now espousing "I don't accept elections that don't go my way" as a policy platform, across the country, as a new norm. Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, etc. People running for Secretary of State, election officials. It's becoming an accepted part of elections, and that's sad for a country where elections are for the most part run by local volunteers, which I've always thought of as hard(er) to corrupt.
I don't see Democrats running on this sort of platform en masse the way I'm seeing Republicans? And this doesn't seem "conservative", as was said in the comments. The traditional conservatives seem to be getting pushed aside by these folks, both locally and nationally.
Based on the kind of stuff that guys like Mastriano say, I think some of them fall into some flavor of Integralism (IIRC Mastriano is Catholic?) or Kingdom Now dominion theology, so it's relevant to this discussion?
Theocracy is the enemy of our Enlightenment Republic- and of all free government
The “alliance of throne and altar” seems to have found in Vermeule its Lenin and danger should be recognized as such
Those who defend Constitution must govern wisely and effectively.
If (lower case) republicans and democrats do not provide order, justIce, and reasonable level of well-being, others will leap into the vacuum
"Sear the liberal faith with hot irons." Isn't that literally what the old-school Catholic Church that the integralists want to bring back used to do?
What a marvelously lucid account of current debates. I would add a couple of points critical of liberalism without proposing a fully integralist solution.
First of all, it is without a doubt true that the movement from ancient duties to modern rights is unstable, for rights may degenerate into mere interests.
Secondly and similarly, it is hard to maintain freedom as an absolute if there is nothing important left for us freely to choose. A dedication to freedom of speech thus depends on the belief that speech can ferret out truth. In the same way, freedom of religion will come to seem unimportant to us if we think that there is no such thing as revelation, that religion is just private daydreaming.
So I think an integralist insistence upon duties and truth and revelation to be an important and essential component to our national debates today. But rather than ever achieving an utterly implausible hegemony in America, I see integralist arguments as reinforcing the value of speech and of religion, by claiming plausibly that there is a truth to be sought.
The actual shape of our legislation and judicial decisions will thus come to be one imposed neither by liberals nor by integralists, but rather one formed by ongoing and intractable debates among many different sorts of believers.
We can be saved as a nation if we as a nation can think like philosophers rather than like theologians, forever searching for the truth without ever thinking that we (collectively) have achieved it.
Great article. The suggestions for reflection are important. If we fail to figure out the balance of individual rights and common good, we will be in a bad spot given how multi-cultural our country already is.
Be careful what you ask for because you may not get what exactly what you want after you set things in motion. There is no guarantee that Roman Catholicism would be the Christian brand of choice. Of course it would it would take generations of Christians killing other Christians (when they weren’t killing Jews, Hindus, etc.) to crown a winner.
Historically, the union of Church & State has generated huge violence wherever it has been tried. The indulgences corruption of the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1500's went a long way to help Martin Luther post his 95 Theses just a little over 500 years ago, setting off the Reformation and the 30 Years War a century later.
Lord Acton's comment: "Power tends to corrupt: absolute Power corrupts absolutely" is as true today as it was in the 19th Century, and infects the humans who are Popes, Bishops, radical sect leaders, and in the 21st century, Modi in India.
Union of Church & State has to be enforced in the street, and the results in the U.S. would outdo the horrors of the 30 Years War and the Holocaust together. Religion has a role in setting moral behavior but marriage of Church & State is no place to start.