Liberalism built on Christian principles is lost on modern elites

Liberalism built on Christian principles is lost on modern elites, by Dyson Heydon, former justice of the High Court of Australia.

The opening words of the Imperial Act that brought our Constitution into being [in 1901] are:

“Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of ­Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble federal Commonwealth under the Crown … ” …

[Those words] do not reflect what modern elites think. The public voices of modern elites are not humble. They conceive themselves to have entitlements and rights, not blessings. And they do not feel any gratitude to ­Almighty God for their entitlements and rights. Instead they ­desire to exclude any role for ­religion in Australian public discussion, and perhaps any role for religion at all in any sphere, public or private. They instantly demand an apology for any statement they dislike. They consider that what one does not condemn one must be taken to accept. They have failed to understand that that places them in a difficult position.

Some little time ago a particular point of view was publicised with the words: “Burn churches, not gays.” This summons up remembrance that the last organisation in the West with any power to burn places of worship was the Nazi ­regime, and the fact that regime moved quickly from burning Jewish synagogues in November 1938 to the attendees of synagogues soon after — in their millions. …

The tolerance practised by modern elites is tyrannical. They say: “You must listen to what I am going to say. Then you must either praise my virtue or shut up. ­Because if you try to say you disagree and why, you deserve to be, and you will be, hounded out of all decent society.” … The tyrants of tolerance react to what religious speakers may say with orchestrated vilification, ­in­sults, derision, scorn, fake outrage and bullying mockery. …

Modern elites do not desire tolerance. They demand uncondi­tional surrender. They want ab­solute victory for an uncontestable dog­ma that they see as ­unchal­lengeable — or at all events is not to be exposed to the risk of challenge. The modern elites call for their creeds to be tolerated. Then they call for them to be compulsory. Then they want them to be exclusive. This authoritarian claim overlooks the roles of both courtesy and reason. …

In almost every way the past five or six decades have seen a massive decline in courtesy, civility and mutual respect. …

But there is more wrong with the approach of the elites than discourtesy. Their approach disables them from presenting their point of view properly. To shout is not to argue. To censor is not to reason. To bawl is not to persuade. They do not understand that their own position can be presented more forcefully by conceding the existence of a case against it.

Modern elites call themselves “liberal” and “tolerant”. Genuine liberalism and tolerance is the product of a long historical process. Modern liberalism in any genuine sense rests on a belief in individual liberty, in the moral equality of individuals, in a legal system based on equal treatment of like cases, and in a representative form of democratic government. How did this modern ideal of liberalism arise? Out of the religion that is now the most ­despised: Christianity.

From the time Christ walked the earth trends began that, though at varying speeds and in different ways and subject to various setbacks, caused the modern age to develop. …

The process has been finely traced by Larry Siedentop in ­”Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism.” He points out that before the Greek and Roman republics emerged, ­society was based on families run by patriarchs. The Greek republics were in effect tyrannies or oligarchies. Rome originally was run by kings, then by a republican oligarchy, then by emperors whose power in the first and last resort rested on military strength. In these societies “citizens” were generally few in number. In different ways women, younger sons, slaves, captives and foreigners could enjoy only debased and limited roles. Even a genius such as Aristotle viewed slavery as inevitable: “Some are free men, and others slaves by nature.” Thus natural ­inequality, and the natural superiority of the few over the many, were basic assumptions. The world was seen as dominated by many inscrutable deities and an uncontrollable and immutable fate.

Christ revealed a different ­vision. He showed a concern for the ill, the socially marginal, the outsider, the destitute. He opposed self-righteousness and hypocrisy. He had no concern to associate with wealth, power or celebrity. His associates were humbler. Many of them were women. He saw little children as heirs to the kingdom of heaven. He encouraged a search for the beam in one’s own eye before identifying the mote in someone else’s. He ­encouraged his followers not merely to love their friends and neighbours but also to forgive their enemies. He urged them not to meet violence with violence. …

Siedentop … states: “Through its emphasis on human equality, the New Testament stands out against the primary thrust of the ancient world, with its dominant assumptions of ‘natural’ inequality. Indeed the atmosphere of the New Testament is one of exhilarating detachment from the unthinking constraints of ­inherited social rules.” …

Now the modern elites in seeking to marginalise or silence Christianity are not only rejecting the cultural tradition of Christianity. Not only are they rejecting a large part of the entire life and history of the nation — because Christianity is so integrated with the national life and history that to annihilate it is to destroy that national life, which can live only in memory. They are also rejecting that fundamental part of the Christian tradition that is the source of the modern world and of their own favoured position within it. They are doing it whether they realise it or not. …

The children of the Christian revolution, after denying that it was their father, are ­devouring the revolution. …

There are prohibitions in Australian human rights legislation against discrimination based on race, colour, ­descent or national or ethnic origin — but not religion. If the elites were able to proceed by force of law — whether by laws specifically directed against their religious enemy or that have a damaging impact on that enemy ­because of its unprotected position — some may think that the time for talking alone may have passed.

Read it all. A powerful argument that our elites are returning us to the practices of times before Jesus, where might was right.

Commenter Romano:

This should be nailed to the front doors of every ABC studio.

Commenter Pietro the Deplorable:

Great article Dyson. My wife and I seriously think that we are approaching the time of the “great persecution”.

We thought that the threat was from ISIS, but when Yes voters post signs saying….Crucify No voters…then we are amazed that the threat is from within. What’s more amazing is that was virtually no outrage about that. Imagine if No voters had posted a sign saying ….exterminate Yes voters. The outrage would still be boiling.

But why should we be surprised? Jesus said….If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. That’s happening now and will only increase. Whenever I am tempted to discouragement about this I remember that I have read the last chapter of the Book. I know how it all turns out….we win.

Commenter Big John:

Try and name a civilization that was actually built by atheists and you will find you can’t.

hat-tip Stephen Neil