Classical Liberalism Is The Answer To The Absurdity of Our Times

Written by Dr. Everett Piper

Today we are in the midst of a cultural crisis where it seems that the one thing the left and the right can agree on is that our nation no longer enjoys a binding “cult” of ideological unity, common cause, common sense, i.e. sense that is common.

Many leaders of the public square seem content to elevate tolerance as the country’s only remaining virtue. But, in the same breath, it is these same cultural high priests who are then quick to make it clear that our intolerance is intolerable and that you and I should be excluded under their banner of inclusion.

The result of this foreclosed thinking is that our nation’s traditions of freedom have become a dark flag of tyranny almost overnight. What was freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, just yesterday is ideological fascism today. Rather than celebrating liberty, people who claim to be liberals now demand conformity.

Every day, we hear more about speech codes, censorship, trigger warnings, and micro-aggressions than we do about learning, pursuing and understanding self-evident truths. Our colleges, our churches and our courts, look more like indoctrination camps than they do places of open inquiry. Propaganda and power now reign where there used to be a hunger for truth, and a respect for a good debate and a robust exchange of ideas.

This is our fault.

For decades we have either been asleep at the switch or, even worse, we have been awake and simply didn’t care as we watched our next generation being taught that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as it works for you,” that all morality is relative, and that good and evil are merely subjective social constructs.

Year after year we’ve let the dominant narrative suggest that traditional orthodoxy is stupid and that liberation theology is the only “good religion.” Day in and day out, we’ve done little to stand in the way of pervasive messages of class resentment, racial animus, intersectionality, and entitlement. Why are we surprised at the result? Our leaders have lost their courage. Our congress has lost its consciences, our kids have lost their character, and our culture has lost its soul.

But there is an answer to this absurdity. As surprising as it may sound to many of you, I am going to argue the answer is found in classical liberalism.

You see classical liberals believed in liberty. Classical liberals understood the paradox of freedom and fences and liberty and law. Classical liberals understood the quadrilateral: that there are certain moral and intellectual laws tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience and endowed to us by our Creator.

As far back as Moses, and later from Jefferson, we are told that only by trusting in the “tension of liberty and Law” can we ever hope to protect our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and, thereby, be a free people and free country.

Freedom trusts in principles rather than people, power, or politics. Freedom honors the debate because it knows there is an answer — a true north – a “measuring rod outside of those things being measured,” as C.S. Lewis put it.

G.K. Chesterton once told us, if you get rid of the big laws, you don’t get liberty but rather thousands of little laws that rush in to fill the vacuum.

Freedom has never been found in the rules of government or the power of the people, but in the few and simple laws of nature and nature’s God. There is a reason that dozens of universities were once emblazoned with the motto “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” There is no liberty without Law and there is no freedom without humbling yourself to live within the fences of God’s truth.

Freedom is found in the self-evident truths given to us by our Creator, not in the self-centeredness that is entrenched in our arrogant and calloused human hearts.

The solution to today’s woke nonsense is to return to teaching the laws that make sense and one of those laws is this: Pride always goes hand in glove with power. Pride always leads to selfishness and control. Pride screams, I know best and you will submit. “Pride imitates God inordinately for it [makes ourselves equal to] Him, and wishes to usurp dominion over our fellow-creatures” (Aquinas). “Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.” (C.S. Lewis)

Today is not a time for arrogantly waving flags of pride as if we are elevating ourselves to the status of God. Today is a time to humbly pledge allegiance to a flag that declares we are one nation under God.

Freedom will never be found in pride. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Endnote: This is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Everett Piper at a “Humility Rally” in Bartlesville, Oklahoma on July 13, 2019

Dr. Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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