Lincoln and Kierkegaard: Why?

Long-time readers will remember, this is the time of the year I think about Mr. Lincoln most. I have my Lincoln books lined up on my shelf in front of me, over my stand-up desk. Mr. Kierkegaard is up with him now, as the theologian/philosopher I think makes most sense for this generation.

Mr. Leo Straus and the Niebuhrs were the theologian/philosophers for the 1950’s on through the 1970’s, some would say later still. We floundered for awhile after that because our two primary political parties melded too closely then. Theology seemed to die and philosophy in general to wane. They are making a comeback now, together, joined under the rubric of ethics, which is somehow acceptable again, so long as it does not fail to claim some scientific basis.

Mr. Straus and the Niebuhrs were pragmatic, nay, practical utilitarians, claimed by the so-called Liberals of Camelot and the Hawks of the Viet Nam era and beyond. Mr. Straus would not ask the Ultimate Theological Question about the eternal destination of the soul. He did repeatedly ask the moral/ethical question of the moment, “What will you do with your soul in the here and now?” He believed Liberalism had become entirely too relativistic in its orientation. Liberals, he thought, had sacrificed their inner core to form  a less perfect Union of dependent and, thus, committed voting bloc.

Mr. Straus thought God would choose democracy if there were God, for moral reasons. He did not think Americans should oppose Communism (remember Communism and the Cold War?) because Communism was evil, not because it was inferior. Communism was Totalitarianism, which was (and is) evil on its face and in it hindparts as well. Mr. Straus believed in the use of American military power to liberate the world from evil, for it was always in American interests to offer freedom at anyone who would take it.

Mr. Straus and his progeny liberated much of the known world and pushed over the doddering instrument of tyranny called Communism but may have found its match in the scattered brush fire wars of the 21st century. There is no enemy but every man is a foe. In the interim Americans have sacrificed their religious base for the sake of tolerance for a foe that would steal the rest of their freedoms.  The inner collapse may take the rest of our strength.

Yet, there were times before when the Union seemed doomed. Mr. Lincoln saved it once and there may be another one along shortly. Mr. Kierkegaard could help him and the two must be pronounced for today.

 

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