This article is Part Two of a two-part series highlighting the recent “Restoring a Nation” Conference in Steubenville, Ohio. You can read Part One by clicking here.
Hundreds of attendees recently gathered at the conference to consider how America can be renewed with pro-family, pro-work economic and social policies that promote our Common Good.
Two panelists gave passionate speeches encouraging a reform of our nation’s economic, social and trade policies, which they argue have decimated the Rust Belt and other areas of the country. This has happened, in part, by moving America’s industrial base overseas. They also argued that America must restore our public orientation towards God as our true and final end.
Professor Patrick Deneen, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and author of the popular book Why Liberalism Failed, argued that if you look at the state of many cities in America today, it would appear that the United States has lost a war.
“In a way, much like the people of the Soviet Union had been ideologically formed to believe that the world was getting better every day, as they were waiting in line to buy nonexistent toilet paper, we see things every day, we visibly see things in our world, and yet we don’t recognize in a fundamental way what we’re actually seeing,” Professor Deneen said.
The professor proposed a thought experiment, asking the audience to imagine they were from Mars, had come to visit earth, and were told that there was a great war 70 years ago. One side had lost the war after a massive amount of bombing and destruction, while the other had won the war and emerged unparalleled, successful and powerful.
Professor Deneen then displayed pictures of the United States (a victor in WWII) and contrasted them with rebuilt Germany (which lost WWII). From the pictures, you’d think it was really the United States that had lost while Germany emerged victorious. Here are a couple of examples:
— Patrick Deneen (@PatrickDeneen) October 9, 2022
“This is our world. This is what we see every day. And this is what we accept as normal, as what progress looks like,” Professor Deneen exclaimed. “There is another way. We don’t have to assume that this is the way it is.”
“I want to suggest that we actually lost a war… I think we should regard it as a national scandal and an embarrassment, that a nation of our wealth, our prosperity, our many achievements, have places that look like they were places that were defeated in a war. And that the places that were defeated are among the most beautiful places in the world…
“It’s going to right itself by good government policy, government policy that will care about our places and our people … I think we should be calling for a new Marshall Plan – a new Marshall Plan to help rebuild the cities and the places that have been defeated in this war that we have gone through … a new Marshall Plan for the United States … Look around you. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Professor Chad Pecknold is an associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America.
He began his remarks by sharing with the audience an insight into Steubenville where the conference was held. The day prior, he was driving around the town with a friend and noticed numerous men sitting on their porches with nothing to do.
Professor Pecknold asked his friend, “What do they do?” His friend replied: “They’re waiting for the mills to come back.”
“That image has haunted me,” the professor said. “These men, who’s good has been depleted in this war. One has to ask how far hope has fallen for people who only sit on their porches and hope for the mills to come back. We owe those men something more than benches.”
The professor examined what bulwarks our nation has in fighting against a civic orientation solely focused on materialism.
“The first way is through a public orientation towards God. This is something that is within the American tradition. We have it on our money. We have it on our buildings,” Professor Pecknold said. Additionally, the professor posited that “a restoration of the Sabbath, or blue laws, is the most concrete, material gift that we can give to our nation.” By elevating the good of the family and rest, we can reduce our consumerist tendencies.
Professor Pecknold also argued that the human person is not the most basic political unit. Rather, the family is. “The family is the most basic political good.” And therefore, laws and government policies should be ordered to promoting and supporting family life.
The professor spoke out against what he termed, “foul altars.” He noted that a nation needs common worship, and that when a nation fails to orient itself towards God, it will orient itself to a different religion.
He argued that in our society, “LGBT” activism and abortion have supplanted true religion, complete with their own liturgy, flag, and creed.
“Today America has foul altars which do not make us friends. Foul altars which do not unite us to the graces of God. Foul altars which cannot unite us to any common good. Foul altars which indeed require child sacrifice, the mutilation of genitals, destruction of the image of God and the union of male and female, husband and wife.”
“These are the altars which must be crushed.” Through politics, elections, and good government policy, “we have a duty to pull down these ramparts,” Professor Pecknold concluded.
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