Part 7 of my continuing series commenting upon the follies of modern day Jesuits. None of the following of course applies to Jesuits who are orthodox in their faith and are often among the harshest critics of the antics perpetrated by their brethren. An editorial in America, the Jesuit magazine, expresses concern about the dangers of polarization in the Catholic Church in America. Father Z, the Master of the Fisk, in one of his finest efforts, gives the editorial a fisking to remember here.
On June 14 we celebrate Flag Day — to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.
The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.
An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.
An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.
The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.
UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.
Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.
According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:
The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”
In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.
Okay, maybe not.
But one of his characters was more intellectually- and existentially-consistent that many (or even most) Americans of any religious affiliation, including Catholics. I’m talking about the hitman Vincent in the 2004 film Collateral, starring Cruise and Jamie Foxx and directed by Michael Mann.
“From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
I live in a small town, Dwight, Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Joliet. It is a lovely place, about 4400 people, set in the midst of a sea of corn and soybeans. My wife and I moved here in 1985 and have been very happy. Soon after we moved to Dwight I joined the local Rotary Club. There I met Jim Oughton and his brother Richard Oughton. Both had served in WW2, Jim as a naval officer, and Dick as a marine fighter pilot. They were also the two richest men in town, the scions of a family that had been the wealthiest family in town for well over a century.
We are twelve Christians who love our Catholic faith looking to engage the world through our writings to better express the teachings of Jesus for the betterment of the common good. American Catholic is the outward expression of this engagement with the world.