Sohrab Ahmari’s Integralism vs Rod Dreher’s Postliberal Liberalism

I wrote before on the Sohrab Ahmari vs David French antagonism seen in U.S. conservatism. A new theater in this growing schism between the postliberal and liberal (in a classical liberal sense) wings of the U.S. conservative movement has opened up between Catholic Integralist Sohrab Ahmari and Orthodox (post)liberal Rod Dreher.

I put “post” in parentheses for Dreher because, if you read his writing, he has taken the position of Patrick Deneen that classical liberalism is a victim of its own success and is rapidly collapsing in on itself. This has taken the form of the illiberal Woke movement. However, Dreher believes that something at least resembling classical liberalism is the only real option in a secular, pluralistic society.

Ahmari, on the other hand, believes in what is known as Integralism. I highly recommend this post by Rod Dreher for an analysis of what Integralists actually want. Briefly, though, Integralists want the government to “integrate” with the Catholic church, essentially adopting Catholicism as the state religion and legislating based on Catholic teachings.

Even Rod Dreher (who used to be Catholic but converted to Orthodox Christianity as a result of the pedophilia and coverup scandals within the Catholic church), one of the U.S.’s leading Christian public intellectuals, thinks Integralism is a bad idea. He believes this because (among other things) A) it’s just not going to happen in a country where Catholics are a minority, and even most Catholics in the U.S. would be unlikely to accept Integralism; B) we live in a pluralistic society where people (including protestants, Orthodox, Jews) shouldn’t be made second class citizens for not being Catholic; and C) the Integralist government would likely have to adopt monstrous policies, such as taking children from parents of non-Catholics if the children are baptized as Catholic (he uses the example of Pope Pius IX, who reigned from 1846-1878, and who oversaw the seizing of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child taken from his parents because he was secretly baptized as a Catholic by their housekeeper.

Above images taken from “Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy

 

I think these are true and valid criticisms. I would add one more as well. Integralists like Sohrab Ahmari think that we need to turn to the Catholic church in order to guide the population toward the Good. All this Woke-ism and radical gender ideology, critical race theory, rampant consumerism, and so on is a clear sign, according to the Integralists, that we have lost sight of the true Good. Thus, Catholocism is the only way we can redeem our hedonistic, self-centered culture and direct ourselves toward the true Good.

If you are like me, someone of the non-woke and non-religious variety, you an probably easily see how the word “Catholocism” could be substituted for “diversity, equity, and inclusion ideology” and it would only alter who is being talked about. Integralism, essentially, is a conservative Christian flavor of woke-ism. Both ideologies believe that they possess the Truth and know the path to the Good. Both ideologies believe that everyone else (the heathens or infidels, if you will) ought to be coerced into accepting their brand of tyranny.

I am a philosophical pessimist. I agree with the diagnosis that liberalism has largely become a victim of its own success. What I disagree with both the Wokesters and the postliberal conservatives (of all stripes) is in believing that this is due to some sort of imperfection in humans. An imperfection that the Woke believe can be fixed by adopting their deranged ideology. An imperfection that the conservatives believe is a part of our original sin for which we require God’s grace. For me, I think what liberalism has done is peel back the veneer of civility humans pretended to have prior to the conception and adoption of liberal principles. We’re a bunch of frightened apes who have the unfortunate affliction of consciousness, which has forced us to face the fact that we’re not just flawed, but inherently and irreconcilably terrible. Liberalism untethered us from the illusions of religion constructed to fool us into believing we are good, so long as we buy into the illusion. Barring some great cataclysm, there is no unseeing what we’ve discovered about ourselves.