What’s Wrong with the World

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Liberalism Archives

February 9, 2013

Puncturing the sanctimony

Anthony Esolen puts biting irony to good effect in an essay for Public Discourse, in the course of which he turns Social Democracy’s favorite passage from Scripture on its head.

“The least of these,” words of Our Lord recorded in Matthew 25 that Esolen has ironically taken for his title, are often cited as evidence of a Christian obligation to build national bureaucracies of compassion to alleviate want. Liberal folks who, balking at the interference in public of Christian virtue or discipline or moral instruction, would usually be quick to adduce a certain secular scripture on separation of church and state, at once casually discard their vigilance against religious teaching if that teaching appears to support welfare or Social Democratic policies.

But it is the sanctimony that Social Democrats can get up to, that fever-pitch of self-righteousness conflating support for welfare policies with personal compassion, which invites the kind of searing irony the characterizes Esolen’s essay, especially its conclusion.

“You declared a War on Poverty, aimed at me, when you should have declared a War on Vice, aimed first of all at yourselves.

“You loved your vice more than you loved me. You could afford your vices, but I could not. Your vices made your lives, as you thought, more exciting. I did not have your cushion of wealth, so the same vices destroyed me.

“I was lonely, and you bought me a whore. My sisters were lonely, and you made them into whores.

“I needed the Church, desperately, because when a man is poor, he must face his helplessness every day. But the Church would restrain you, so, at every chance you had, you derided religious faith, and thus you snatched from me my most loyal friend.

“I had no job, and you overtaxed the man who might have given me one. Then you gave the job to someone on the other side of the world, or you winked while men left their families thousands of miles away, crossing the border to work at low wages, and you yourselves hired them, and ducked the taxes that you yourselves established. In this way you managed to do mayhem to two families at once.

“I was in prison, and needed to learn a trade, but you teamed up with union bosses to make sure I would not. You gave me dull and useless classes in communication, and television.”

[. . .]

“I needed a father to show me how to love women, and you gave me porn.

“I once had virtue, the poor man’s heritage, but you trained me in vice.”

[. . .]

“I needed a father, I always needed a father, and you turned your back on me, and told me what you knew was a lie, that a mother or two mothers or a mother and a boyfriend would do just as well. When it didn’t work out, you blamed everything but your own selfishness.

“I needed a father, and you were too busy with your sexual innovations to notice it.”

That is what we call the prophetic voice.

Or, as Clausewitz put it: “Direct annihilation of the enemy's forces must always be the dominant consideration.”