Defining Desirable Ends

C. S. Lewis pointed out a striking similarity between the political parties of Great Britain in his day. He wrote, “Nearly all parties agree in professing ends which we admit to be desirable.”[1] It might be politically convenient, especially when running for office, to say that the same is true in American politics today. Regrettably, I would contend that what was true for Lewis does not remain true in the United States of America anymore. We do not agree on which ends are desirable because we are operating from radically different philosophical foundations.

This might not be the type of article you were hoping to get from me and from this brand-new website. We all want to hear messages of unity and hope, and you might have been hoping that this website provides something that will make you feel good. We want to hear that everything is all right. We just need to come together around “American values” and everything will be fine.

The problem with putting on those rose-colored glasses is that we end up with two or more buildings. Starting with the fundamental assumptions of the left and constructing a structure on top of that groundwork leads to a different kind of building than starting on the right. One is built on abortion rights while the other is built on the sanctity of human life. One thinks that the building should be built with government contracts while the other wants the government to stay away as much as possible. One is increasingly warming to socialism while the other maintains the viability of capitalism.

The luxury that Lewis believed he had in Great Britain is no longer available for Americans in the 21st-century. Shared cultural assumptions are a thing of the past. Universally desirable ends are therefore also a thing of the past as much as I wish it was otherwise. You simply cannot build an identical building with a different foundation. The building might look the same on the outside, covered in the siding of self-professed “American values,” but with a different support structure underneath, when the storms of adversity come, the integrity of the foundation will be what determines whether or not the structure remains.

Yuval Levin once said, “To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.”

This definition encapsulates much of what this website seeks to do. We know what foundational beliefs are needed to keep our structure standing. We know what kind of walls we need to put up because we know what kind of ideological threats we need to keep out. We know what kind of roof to put on to protect us from whatever unexpected storms might come rolling across the plain. It would be irresponsible, and frankly disrespectful, of us to disregard what has worked before. Not that everything was perfect in the past, but if something has worked for two millennia, it is certainly worth serious consideration before rejecting it as irrelevant or outdated.

The authors on this website may have differing opinions at times on certain issues. However, gratitude for all those brilliant architects before us who have shown us the way to build will always underpin everything we write.

We refuse to sacrifice the past on the altar of progress.

Instead, we will use the past to inform our pursuit of desirable ends.

[1] C. S. Lewis, “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” in God in the Dock (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 196, Kindle Edition.

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