In our day and age, there exists an incessant compulsion to label everything, to categorize it, to take anything that smacks of the political and nail it down somewhere along the two dimensional spectrum that characterizes American politics. Every issue, every politician, every perspective is sorted accordingly, whether it be cast as far-left, center-right, moderate, or whatever. Everything, we are told, is reducible to the language of the spectrum.
Catholicism undermines this false paradigm. It’s not simply the case that Catholic political thought is necessarily hard to define, and therefore, to pigeonhole accordingly; instead it’s the case that Catholicism is incommensurable with the American political spectrum itself; it can not be placed anywhere on the line segment, because the Catholic understanding of politics differs fundamentally from the political philosophy that underpins the entirety of the American spectrum. An attempt to fit Catholic political thought on the spectrum is as futile as squaring the circle.
The reality is that the American political spectrum is not as diverse as we make it out to be. Though we divide it in two, calling those on the left liberals and those on the right conservatives, the truth is that both camps are simply different sides of the same coin. Both are the modern heirs of the political philosophy known as liberalism, a product of the Enlightenment project that openly and knowingly rejected Church teachings concerning the ontology of man and the nature of politics; it’s just that one faction prefers a more classical understanding of liberalism (what passes for conservatism in America), while the other favors a more progressive variant. Both are proponents of a flawed concept of liberty that manifests itself in the justification of unbridled economic self-interest and greed (forces that destroy the family, the local community, and the environment) on the right, and, on the left, a zealous advocacy for the implementation of moral relativism and the complete evisceration of social institutions and norms from the public sphere, freeing individuals to engage in grotesque violations of the natural law in the name of “self-fashioning.”
I reject liberalism and its central tenets as at odds with Catholicism. I reject its radical elevation of anthropological individualism over the pursuit of the common good. I dismiss its own dismissal of human teleology and the idea that society exists to inculcate the virtues necessary for man to reach his telos. I claim as errant its rejection of all forms of authority that are not consented to (which, of course, logically negates the normative relevance of God and an objective moral framework). On this basis, I refuse to be forced to take up residence anywhere on the American political spectrum. I am not a Republican, I am not to the right, and I am not a conservative (at least in the American sense of the word).
I suppose there are many labels that could, at least partially, describe my perspective on politics, including distributist, communitarian, traditionalist, and Red Tory. However, if I was forced to describe myself and my political views with a single descriptive word, I’d simply say, “I’m Catholic.” Or at least I try to be, as completely and comprehensively as possible. Politics included.
And that’s where this blog comes in. For although I feel confident in my ability to describe how liberal political theory is incompatible with Catholicism, articulating a comprehensively Catholic vision of politics that is prescriptive for this day and age is a more difficult task. Additionally, although enthusiastic about Catholic political and social teaching, I am still a relative novice on such matters. Writing on this blog will encourage me to engage in thorough self-education, to think critically about the ideas I encounter, and to organize my thoughts in a coherent and intelligible fashion. Furthermore, by presenting my findings in a public setting, I am hopeful that others can join me in exploring the richness of Catholic political thought and contribute to the discussion. This is why this blog exists.
The name I’ve chosen for this blog is “Above the Spectrum.” “Above” to reinforce the idea that a political philosophy derived from Catholicism does not belong on the same plane as the American political spectrum, but also to convey Catholicism’s relative positioning to liberalism: higher, elevated, transcendent. As a Catholic, I believe the fullness of truth is found in Catholicism. Just as I allow this belief to inform my understanding of theology and morality, I must also allow it to fully inform my understanding of politics.
And yes, “high above the mucky muck” is taken from a Tenacious D song.