May 22, 2013

"Old Time Religion"

Andrew C. McCarthy, No Special Counsel for the IRS Scandal | National Review Online:

...More important, pushing for one [a special counsel] sends entirely the wrong signals. It indicates that criminal culpability takes precedence over political accountability. Worse, it suggests that the evil here is the malfeasance of a few government officials. To the contrary, the problem is a perversely complex regulatory framework that gives the IRS -- which should simply collect taxes based on an easily knowable formula -- enormous discretionary power to discriminate and intimidate. That makes the IRS an un-American weapon, particularly when it is controlled by an Alinskyite will-to-power administration.

Sure, we can worry about prosecuting the weapon-wielders at some point. The urgent problem here, though, is the weapon itself. Our energy should be devoted to exposing the scandal in the light of day and shaming Washington into dismantling the IRS -- which is actually planned to swell markedly, and grow even more intrusively offensive, under Obamacare....

Among the Progressives (the original ones, not the current fakes) civil service was a kind of religion. They were passionate about getting government work out of the hands of supposedly corrupt political appointees, and into the hands of supposedly incorruptible permanent employees hired by merit and not connected to politics. Government employees were to be "civil servants," and when I was young that term still had meaning.

But they seem to have lost their faith.

When did they lose their religion? Are you astonished that I tell you that it was just at the same time as many other people were losing their various faiths? That the transition centered on the 1960's? (It was around 1963 that JFK pushed through teacher's unions.)

That was when large numbers of clergymen suddenly realized that the Civil Rights Movement was the center of their faith. Charlene left the Catholic Church in the 60's partly because a new priest in her parish thought the center of their faith should be the "farm worker's movement." (And this in a parish full of farmers.) There arose counter-revolutionaries who thought their faith was preserving the old things. Most people forgot that our faith lies in following Jesus.

When the transition to a new age happens, the ideas of the previous age suddenly seem absurd. They become meaningless. You "lose your faith" because the common expression of that faith no longer makes sense. The faith itself still make sense, but no one can tell you why in language that resonates and compels.

Wordsworth wrote, about the French Revolution, "Bliss was it in that time to be alive, but to be young was very heaven." That's exactly how young people felt in the 1960's. (I can report this to you, I was there.) "Bliss" is what you feel at first when you drop what seems like an oppressive and dreary old faith. (Later comes the hangover.) You feel like you are free, though actually you are just enslaved to popular ideas, because you have no solid ground to stand on to hold firm to eternal truths.

The 1970's and 80's should have been, but weren't, the time when every organization and faith confronted the question that change always asks. And that is, "How do we adapt and change, and yet remain the same in essence?" Which could also be expressed as, "How do we adapt, and still maintain our core mission?" Nobody did this, so we see institutions failing all around us.

Posted by John Weidner at May 22, 2013 7:20 AM
Weblog by John Weidner