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    Book Club: The Roots of American OrderChapter 2

    February 28, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Cindy has invited us to share our “random thoughts” on this chapter {or any other for that matter–this is a very informal thing if you didn’t notice} and I’m glad because random is about all my brain is capable of today. Lest you think I am pining away for my sweet Abigail, I must confess that mostly I am worn out after not only nursing her both day and night, but also planning and hostessing a birthday party for Daughter A.

    Not to mention babysitting the new goat, Wesley. For over an hour yesterday.

    In the rain.

    To say that it has been a long week or two is an understatement.

    All of that is to say that random is all I’ve got today. He he.

    I think I’ll post a few quotes and tell you what they made me think about, and any quotes that don’t get posted here will be posted in my Official Quote Post tomorrow, without commentary from me {you may be celebrating already}.

    On the very first page of the chapter, Kirk writes:

    To a wandering people of obscure origin, the Hebrews, or Children of Israel, occurred then a tremendous “leap in being”: that is, by an extraordinary perception, the Israelites came to understand the human condition as it has not been understood before.

    What jumped out at me here was the idea of understanding the human condition. When I was in high school, I read most–or perhaps all, as I can no longer recall for certain–of The Federalist Papers. It was Number 51 {concerning checks and balances} that I still remember the best. Especially this part:

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

    It’s a short little sentence, but it refers to the human condition, no? What I always find interesting is exactly what Kirk mentions later in regard to France:

    A principle difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution was this: the American revolutionaries in general held a biblical view of man and his bent toward sin, while the French revolutionaries in general attempted to substitute for the biblical understanding an optimistic doctrine of human goodness advanced by the philosophes of the rationalistic Enlightenment.

    I would add that the new governing documents also reflected this difference. Kirk actually says this later:

    [T]he American Constitution is a fundamental law deliberately meant to place checks upon will and appetite. The French innovators would endure no such checks upon popular impulses; they ended under a far more arbitrary domination.

    This naturally brings me to Random Thought Number 2, which is tied to that phrase “popular impulse.” It seems to me that whenever a situation is not grounded upon the Permanent Things, it naturally gives way to fads–to whatever is cool or popular at the time. This is probably why when churches abandoned liturgy, they slowly began to look more and more like the world. I don’t mean in their behavior {though obviously that has happened also} I meant in regard to how everything needs to be “relevant” and so we must worship like it’s a rock concert and minimize baptism and communion {or Eucharist, if you prefer} and use advertising to attract attendance.

    When we are not tied to Permanent Things, everything becomes arbitrary. In regard to government, then, a pretty important Permanent Thing to keep in mind is that man is sinful.

    This also helps in parenting.

    : : cough : :

    With this in mind, I loved Kirk’s explanation of the Decalogue:

    So the Ten Commandments…are not a set of harsh prohibitions imposed by an arbitrary tribal deity. Instead, they are liberating rules that enable a people to diminish the tyranny of sin; that teach a people how to live with one another and in relation to God, how to restrain violence and fraud, how to know justice and to raise themselves above the level of predatory animals.

    In other words, these laws are liberating. I find that interesting, especially in comparison to the many new laws passed in my state every year. Very few of them have the effect of liberating anyone {except criminals as we never can afford for them to serve all of their time}. Typically, they bind the citizenry.

    Some day we will strangle to death.

    But I digress.

    The Law was not a punishment or an oppressive burden imposed upon the people: on the contrary, it was the precious gift of Jehovah, by which Israel might exist in justice.

    Read More:
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  • Reply Sara April 1, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Four years later, I’m reading this book, and remembered your chapter posts and quotes. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 1, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Wow! You have a good memory! I hope you enjoy it — I’ve decided I appreciate this book even more than I realized at the time because I find I refer back to it time and again; it’s always coming to mind! β™₯

  • Reply dawn March 1, 2012 at 2:45 am


    It seems to be a good thing that I was listening to that Ken Myers talk on “It’s the Culture Stupid” (from here.) so I had something to talk about (I did finish the reading, though). :p

    In that talk, Myers questions whether we’re really Christian if we look like society … so much of the Bible talks about being a distinct, distinguished, separate people based on our faith and resultant outworking thereof. Kirk, “the Israelites, true, are Jehovah’s chosen people, in that God has chosen to instruct them directly, and not others; but for that very reason, God demands of Israel a righteousness greater than that of other nations.”

    I appreciate how the children’s catechism asks about the Ten Commandments and shows both how the law was intended and how we must think about it to obey it … even for children. I liked Kirk’s emphasis on the Law as a moral anchor that can be relied upon – even when it is impossible to keep. And Kirk’s refrain that the Law is renewed with the Covenant … and the Covenant, we know, is kept by God himself.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 1, 2012 at 3:49 am

      Dawn, ohmigosh! That link is AMAZING. What a wealth of knowledge right there for the taking. I cannot believe all those talks are free. This makes me extra happy I now own an iPod!

      I will have to listen to the talk to referenced–I always appreciate Myers’ grasp of concepts like Law and Sabbath.

    • Reply dawn March 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      I know! I was so excited when I found it πŸ™‚

      That’s where I was listening to Myers’ talk about what education is for … is that in the CiRCE talks too? Anyway, there are 4 years worth of talks there … should keep you busy for a while πŸ™‚

  • Reply Cindy Rollins February 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Do you know how to copy Kindle Highlights to a post?

  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 29, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Ours was a war for *independence* whereas the French were truly trying to overthrow the established order… a revolution.

    They continue to be mixed up. Guess no one over there reads Simone Weil.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      I am trying to train myself to call it the War for Independence rather than the Revolutionary War, which is what I was taught throughout all of my education to call it.

      I have never read Weil. Should I?

  • Reply rachaelnz February 29, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Thanks again Brandy, for sharing your thoughts. This book sounds fascinating!
    I appreciate your thoughts on the American constitution and the 10 Commandments – they are liberating, if only we would let them be and not resist.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      I think you would like the book! I *do* think that Kirk has a view of Law that is a bit too high, in the sense that it says more about it than the book of Romans, which tells us that sin uses the Law to bring us into bondage to sin and death. Without Jesus, Law cannot make man good {though it can convict him of sin, which is a good thing}. At one point Kirk seems to assert that Law can save, and I disagree.

      I know that wasn’t what you were really talking about, but I thought I’d throw it out there for discussion.

    • Reply sara February 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      Interesting. Every time he said something like that, I unconsciously added, “If only a man could perfectly keep the law,” knowing, of course, that only Jesus did that. No one was ever justified by keeping the law and if a person could be then a saviour would have been unnecessary. Gospel basics? Yes, but it’s good to keep reminding ourselves.

    • Reply Kelly February 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      But the thing is, as Dana pointed out elsewhere, he’s not talking theology here, he’s talking culture and government, and in that sense, I agree with what he said about the Law. Just think what a civilization without any law at all, or without respect for existing law would be like.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      Okay, that is a good point, Kelly. I do agree with Sara, though, that it is good to remind ourselves of where that concept begins and ends. So while Law “saves” a society to the extent to which it keeps the Order, Law is not salvific. Kirk specifically says that Law is revealed “to redeem man from sin and its consequences”–which isn’t what he says most of the time, but I consider that a theological statement, which is why I felt the need to preach to myself a little. πŸ™‚

  • Reply sara February 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    I thought as I was reading it that you would like the comparison of the American and French views of humanity.

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