Is Totalitarian Liberalism A Mutant Form of Christianity?

When the Obama Administration began its Kulturkampf against American Catholics my husband suggested to me that if the Church is forced to pay for its employees’ contraceptives then there should be an option clause for practicing Catholics.  An equivalent amount of the Church’s money spent on other people’s recreational sex should be given to faithful Catholics to cover whatever they do for recreation—for example, golf, tennis, fishing, or weekends at the beach house with hot rock massages.

In a post-Christian world gods don’t disappear.  Christ is simply replaced by the apparatus of the nation-state.  Political leaders assume to themselves the powers and prerogatives formerly associated with deities, above all, powers over life and death and reproduction.

The very same politicians who feign moral outrage over the Church’s moral advice to Catholic couples use coercive state power to venture further into bedrooms than any encyclical.  If a woman chooses to use the pill in defiance of three popes who have said it’s morally wrong, then it is still her choice.  The worst outcome for her is that she is left with an uneasy conscience.  She won’t be sent to prison, she won’t be named in public and she won’t be forced to pay higher taxation.  But if a woman happens to be Chinese and conceives a second child and is marched off to an abortion clinic then that is not her choice.  That is state generated oppression.

The attempt to use the powers of the state to control human reproduction did not begin with Barack Obama and his friends at the Planned Parenthood Federation.  It goes at least as far back as Joseph Stalin and his Bolshevik comrades who wanted more Soviet babies for more Soviet cannon fodder, and like a lot of Soviet practices it had an analogue in the Nazi regime.  In 1936 Heinrich Himmler set up a network of copulation camps to make genetically sound women available for fertilization by SS alpha males.

These kinds of policies tend to see-saw between those designed to promote the birth rate and those designed to reduce the birth rate.

Just last week the Singapore government decided to embark on a baby boom program. This followed a scary report in which Singapore came in last on a fertility table listing 103 nations.  Singapore showed a fertility rate of 0.78.  The response of the government was to engage the mint sweets company Mentos to sponsor a “National Night” commercial to persuade Singaporeans to conceive. On August 9, (the Singaporean national day) Singaporeans were exhorted to “manufacture life” and “make the birth-rate spike.”  The three minute hip-hop commercial included the phrase: “Just don’t wake the kids: cos they’ll be appalled by the stuff we gon’ do up in that bedroom.”  The commercial addressed its human subjects as though they were rutting reindeers.

When a culture ceases to be Christian, human dignity becomes an alien concept.  We no longer “make love” and “have a family,” we do “appalling stuff,” we “manufacture life.”

Meanwhile, across the globe, social engineers have decided that the next great human problem to be addressed is circumcision. Everywhere from Germany to the tiny “Apple Island” of Tasmania politicians are either banning the practice of male circumcision or promoting legislation to do so.

I can remember asking my grandmother about this tradition when I was a child.  I thought it was painful for baby boys and wondered why people did it.  My grandmother’s reply was that it makes a lot of sense in hot climates.  It’s much easier to be circumcised as a baby then to have more radical surgery later on if the boy keeps getting infections. As far as she was concerned it was not a theological issue, just a common sense practice in places like outback Australia and the Middle East—places that can be hot, humid and sandy.  For Jews and Muslims however it is also a religious rite.

As one trawls through the news reports one can easily find examples of politicians playing god and trying to solve the problems generated by the human exercise of free will by fettering its exercise.  They are aided and abetted by teams of social engineers employed by their various departments. The people who pay for these public servants are mostly the professional members of the middle class who are unable to hide their income and thus supply the lion’s share of national budgets.  They end up paying the wages of the very people who are trying to control the most intimate aspects of their lives.

One can of course spend hours debating the legitimate limits of human freedom—where it begins and ends—with reference to the fact that we are social beings, that we live in communities, that no man is an island.  However, wherever the lines are drawn, it should be far from the sphere of marital intimacy and the state regulation of religious practices.

A Deeper Theological Question
One of the deeper theological issues raised by politicians who behave like gods is what is their motivation?  Why do so many spend their energy promoting a culture of death?

Perhaps once we achieve the Nietzschean paradise of life beyond good and evil we acquire new spiritual pathologies?  There is an inverted association of eros with death, the attractive with the vulgar.

How do we deal with this?

First, I think we must recognize that the liberal tradition can take a totalitarian form.  (Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas have been making this point for some time).  Second, when it does, it usually tries to offer us a state apparatus as our new savior—our replacement for Christ. (William T. Cavanaugh has done some excellent historical research on this point).  And third, an anti-Christ never arises without him and his culture being parasitic on the Christian tradition. (Cardinal Scola has emphasized this).  Mutant forms of Christianity are always our worst enemy!

Perhaps the policies of the Obama regime represent the logical outgrowth of a mutant form of Christianity where Christ is replaced first by “Christian values,” then “Christian values” are replaced by concepts like justice and freedom and equality de-coupled from any connection to Christ, Christian culture or even Stoic natural law; and then finally these secularized concepts are re-coupled to the will to power of politicians and social engineers.

As David Bentley Hart has noted, when people reject Christ they have a tendency to reject everything that Christian civilization ever baptized of pre-Christian civilization. All the treasures of ancient Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem get thrown overboard in the manic attempt to snuff out the last trace of the Lamb of God in human culture. At present this seems to include the notion that human dignity is linked to the capacity for love and freedom and rationality.

Above all our new political saviors want to liberate us from the idea that we have been made in the image of God. They do this at the same time as giving themselves god-like powers.  If we start to believe that we really are just rutting animals this will give them even more power.  The Nietzschean nightmare will be complete—there will be one great herd of animals and a few Übermenschen to govern them, direct their wills, determine when they will reproduce, and how often, and an intermediate class of social engineers running the Health and Education departments, policing reproductive information and the compulsory national curriculum.  And this would be different from Fascism how?

Tracey Rowland


Professor Tracey Rowland is Dean and Permanent Fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne). She earned her doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge University and her Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. She is the author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition after Vatican II (2003), Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (2008) and most recently, Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010).

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  • givelifeachance2

    This is an acutely perceptive essay, especially for its focus on the state’s appropriation of the means of reproduction, but I wonder if its target is completely delimited.  It starts out speaking about totalitarianism and then zooms in on Obama.  However, just as in the 30s there was Stalin and there was Hitler…so today we have Obama and….if we zoom out we can see another totalitarian faction in the wings, wearing a neo-con costume.  The dialectic continues…

  • Al_Kilo

    Here is the problem, the Church offers no real practical alternative example.
    Read the latest Economist about financial mismanagement inside the US Catholic Church.

    Look at Church governance: it’s a mess. Canon laws are either twisted, deleted or ignored to fit agendas. Speaking of selfish use of genitals, if it was not for very secular state based legal systems, the despicable cover up of abuse of children would never have been discovered. They pompously say that they made changes. Fiddle sticks, they were forced.
    And still they have not offered any real contrition to those abused by Fr Maciel.
    And that is a “good” example? Secular PenState was 1000x better.

    Speaking secular governments, look at Honduras, the darling of catholic “new ecclesiast movements”. What a total dump that place is, where murder and chaos reigns, and journalist are simply executed.

    Look at the Spanish banking system, with all their OD University of Navarra graduates. Its a total mess, all in the name of “holy” “intransigence, shamelessness and coercion”.
    And now, according to these new catholic “spiritualities” we are to “worship” Ayn Rand, and put pregnant teenagers in jail.

    • Scott

      Sir –

      I sense a clear frustration and, in many instances, it is well-founded.  But, that does not take away from the writer’s points, or does it?  The men (& women) of the Church sin as it is part of our flawed nature due to our First Fall.  I suggest we try to live above that and offer fraternal correction to a society that is trying to kill itself. 

      • Al_Kilo

        Agree, but this is often better done by example first, words  come second, don’t you think (looking at myself in the mirror, of course :)?

    • Adam Baum

       S0, the Church needed to the correction of the civil government. The same civil government that defrauded the Indians, enforced slavery, passed the Fugitive Slave Act, purposely infected people with syphilis, poisoned alcohol in order to support prohibition, was willing to kill hundreds of thousands to “preserve the union”, denied certain of it citizens their rights with Executive Order 9066.

      Speaking of secular governments, consider U.S. governance, it’s a mess. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) routinely cites agencies such as the IRS and SEC for poor controls, and most recently it was revealed that the IRS’ brass ignored deficiencies in their controls, exposing taxpayers to fraud, we’ve now had four consecutive years of deficits over one trillion dollars.

      And despite all that, this government is still better than any other.

      You think boundless faith in government is a “practical alternative”? Well several tens of millions of souls who perished due that creed might take issue with that idea.

      • Al_Kilo

        Read my other comment. I don’t disagree, but the Church (that means all of us) would have better credibility if our deeds where consistant with our words. The Church, one would hope, would operate by higher standards.

      • Al_Kilo

        Never said that.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The totalitarian impulse in Liberalism goes back a very long way.

    Rousseau says, ““Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign [the People] is sole judge of what is important,” for “ if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.”  

    His conclusion is well known, “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body.  This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; [« ce qui ne signifie autre chose sinon qu’on le forcera d’être libre »] for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence.”

  • Al_Kilo

    This being said, lets by all means come back to the original meaning of “social justice”.
    For example, the Law of 1779 under Louis XVI abolished servitude (“main-morte”) in the kingdom of France. The text of the law contains this phrase regarding “social justice“ “…que les principes de justice sociale ne nous permettent plus de laisser subsister”
    In English: “.. .that the principals of social justice no longer allow us to maintain”.
    In other words, the original meaning of “social justice” was anti-tyranny, or the freedom from State coercion (in this instance, the French seigneurial system).
    In that sense, when a government imposes behaviors that cause the annual death of 1.2 million children in utero, this is the ultimate form of servitude, State coercion. This is done in the name of new dogmas imposed by the new elite, the new overlords: baby boomer ex hippies that now control reigns of power, the economy, that profit by imposing their  “sex with no strings attached” industrial complex, with the support of crony politicians and academics.

  • Usarownow

    How did C.S.Lewis put it; “When people believe in nothing they wioll believe anything’.

    • Augustus

       I think Chesterton said it first. Good observation.

  • “Mutant forms f Christianity are always our worst enemies.”

    I ask this seriously:  Is not Islam (bottom-line, historical origins and all that) a mutant form of Christianity?  In fact, a double-heresy, Jewish and Christian.

    Would this account for the attraction the Left has for classical, orthodox, historic Islam  – brothers in the same hood.  Of course they will slaughter each other (with Islam being ascendant) if given the chance, if Jews and Christians were evacuated from the picture.  But that does not prevent them, Islam and the Left, from being allies.

    • Al_Kilo

      The Anglo “progressives” “think” they are allies. But remember that Islamists were fiercely againts the Soviets. Some Islamists are using these Anglo useful idiots for cover. Read AJE. You will find lots of articles by Anglo “progressives” on UK or US feminism, how bad the West is, but not a word on medieval labor exploitation of maids in Qatar or Saudi Arabia. It’s all BS.

      • givelifeachance2

        Muslims colluded with Lenin, they were together in creating the terrorism starting in the 60s and they are deep in with the left up till today…what was Bernardine Dohrn doing over in Egypt before the Arab Spring, for example?  Iran chummy with Venezuela?  

        Totalitarians of a feather flock together.

        • Al_Kilo

          Clinton’s motorcade in Egypt was pelted with shoes recently.

  • Lisafeutz

    Insightful, factual. Does not blame Obama at all. Anyone saying that is not making sense, and being reflexively defensive about their candidate. Singapore a perfect example of government overreach. The State controls everything. Even gum is illegal! For years the semi-fascist posters proclaimed procreation “sinful” and now Singapore cannot replace their aging population!

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