MO: Who is your all-time political philosopher? Theologian? Do the two ever inform the other?
CC: That is a good question. As it happens, my favourite political philosopher is also my favourite theologian: Augustine of Hippo. And I think that it is precisely some of his theological insights – notably his theological anthropology and his eschatology – that are crucially constitutive of his remarkably sane and balanced political views.
For years I took John Howard Yoder’s word for it that Augustine was the architect of Christendom and that his kind of Christendom equals theocracy. Then, as part of my journey out of the swamps of left-wing politics I started reading Augustine for myself and all sorts of lights went on. It was Robert Markus (Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St. Augustine) who helped me to realize that Augustine’s mature thought was a repudiation of Eusebianism and that revolutionized my view of Augustine and convinced me that Yoder was wrong.
One other political philosopher who I greatly admire and from whom I have learned much is Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He and Pope John Paul II are two of the greatest Augustinians of the 20th century. I especially respect their view that the West is no better than the Soviet Union if it abandons belief in God.
MO: As an outside observer in Canada, what, in your opinion, is the greatest threat to American Exceptionalism?
CC: I define American Exceptionalism as the embodiment in the American Founding of the principles I mentioned above as the basic principles of Western culture. What is called American Exceptionalism is really just the fact that the United States is still a largely Christian nation with Western ideals and principles embedded in its founding documents.
Of course, Progressivism from Woodrow Wilson on has attempted to overturn the principles of the Founders and replace them with a worldview that owes more to Hegel, Marx and Darwin than to Jefferson and Madison. Progressives have pushed their statism during the 1930s the 1960s and now again under Obama. Even Reagan was only able to slow the growth of the state; he failed to roll it back in any significant way. So American Exceptionalism is under constant siege by progressives determined to build a European style democratic socialist state. But they are not able to succeed because of the conservative common sense of the American people who are even now rejecting the Obama agenda. But only a Christian people can resist socialism forever. Therefore, the greatest threat to American Exceptionalism is not the exploding debt, the welfare state or declining American military power relative to China or any other nation. It is atheism in the Ruling Class.
MO: If you could meet any historical figure in political history, who and why?
CC: I’d like to meet Constantine the Great because I would love to probe his faith commitments and figure out if he really was a believer or not.
[Author’s note: The subject of Constantine’s faith is a subject dealt with at length in the newly released Defending Constantine by Peter Leithart. I am currently reviewing it and at this point, heartily recommend it]
MO: In a given week, what are you reading in terms of magazines, thought journals, and news sources?
CC: Let me see if I can do better than Sarah Palin did with this question! I read the Toronto Star to see what the local leftists are saying and I read the Daily Telegraph to see how crazy politics in the United Kingdom is getting. I have to confess to reading the New York Times quite often, although I have sworn off columnists like Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman as harmful to my blood pressure. In my Feedreader I get blogs like The Weekly Standard, National Review, Newsreel Blog, Big Government, American Thinker, Acton Institute Power Blog, Michelle Malkin, the Daily Telegraph Blogs, and Peter Hitchens to balance things out. I also regularly read Christianity Today, First Things and Virtue Online, as well as a few Catholic blogs like Catholic Online and American Catholic. And I am a faithful reader of Mere Orthodoxy, of course!
I have never had cable TV and I stopped watching TV several years ago anyway so I have never watched much of Fox News and I have never in my life listened to conservative talk radio. I have a vague idea of who Rush Limbaugh is and someday I’d like to watch the Glenn Beck show just to experience it once. But I do read a lot of blogs that refer to them and I watch the occasional clip. I check the latest polls on a daily basis at Rasmussen Polls and Real Clear Politics and I’ve become a bit of a junkie as far as American electoral politics is concerned. I consider it a hobby although some might label it an obsession. Is it a sign of a serious disorder of some sort for a Canadian to know off hand that Alan Grayson is down by 7% in Florida’s 8th Congressional District? Or that a Republican (Dan Benishek) is currently leading by 16% in Bart Stupak’s old district (MI- 1)? I’d appreciate a little reassurance on this!
[Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next installment of Dr. Carter interview]