A man who has no loyalties is a man whose identity is up for sale. The virtue of loyalty is but one sine qua non of the social ingredients necessary for a society to “stick together.” Roger Scruton has pointed out that loyalty has been disparaged by some and is viewed with suspicion by most. Is not loyalty just racism? Or chauvinism? Or nationalism?
To be sure, loyalty gone wrong is ugly. But loyalty done right is the most beautiful of virtues.
It is true that loyalty is exclusive and not inclusive; to be loyal to a group you must distinguish between this group and that one; to be loyal to your family you must overlook its faults; to be loyal to your nation you must love her despite her wrongs. Love covers a multitude of sins. That’s because love is loyal.
A bias that exalts the stranger and the outsider over and above the neighbor and the friend militates against a natural loyalty; a human and instinctual loyalty.
Thoughtful Christian conservatives accept that there is a sacred duty of hospitality, to include the foreigner. But they also recognize that the duty of hospitality is meaningless without a home to offer, and that a home is created by the habit of standing side by side with your neighbours in its defence. In other words hospitality can be offered only where there is also loyalty to a specific place. What makes me able to provide hospitality is precisely the fact that I have a place I call mine, that you do not, and I am offering and willing to share it with you. But if there is no distinction, then there is no hospitality.
The good statesman is loyal to his own nation and no other. This dutiful loyalty encompasses protecting a national identity. Before he introduces strangers into the community he must first ascertain that they also will be loyal citizens. That they too, will define their identity and their obligations in terms of the country where they now reside.
Making things complicated, governments now face social and economic migratory changes caused by global markets, modern mass transportation and the annihilation of traditional obligations, making social and political loyalties harder to come by. But loyalty is a part of human nature. A politics of prudence is based on human nature. What will politics look like without loyalty? Only cold coercion or heated negotiations remain.
Our loyalties answer the question of belonging: loyalty to God and church, to family and kin, to employer and friends, even to sport teams. Our identity cannot be understood without recourse to loyalty. That is, to whom and to what do we belong, so that we are prepared on its behalf to suffer or sacrifice? The three most important ways of belonging are the loyalties of family, faith, nation.
Notice: belonging is less of a choice, and more of a calling. Perhaps the most important loyalties are not chosen.
Just as marriage has been renovated and gutted as now a purely contractual tie, so too has the bond of citizenship.
But from the beginning, it was not so.
Globalists rejoice in a citizenship which resembles a commercial transaction. These cosmopolitans would have citizenship stripped down to mere contract whereby social benefits are doled out to nothing more than taxpayers, where the agreement is up for renegotiation any time, and of course, if all else fails, the tax-payers are free to find another seller.
In this calculated arrangement every obligation is transfigured into a mere contract. The conservative rightly mourns at the “loving” proposition being offered, and looks forward to a world of love and loyalty that has a touch more human in it. A world with a touch more loyalty in it.
[C]laims of religious experience through music are notoriously hard to evaluate and build upon unless one is prepared to identify at least something of the content of the “religion” in question. The category of “religion” or “religious,”….is a massively contested one, as is the belief that there is some kind of locatable core or essence of “religious experience.” Unless we are willing to clarify what we might mean by asserting that, for example, music puts us in touch with God (for the Christian, as for any theistic faith, this would mean with a quite specific God, we will be powerless in the face of the skeptic, who will see such claims as no more than hyperbole for a fervent emotional experience or as a way of masking our desire to have some kind of ultimate authority to back up our musical tastes! In short, a laudable attempt to connect with musical experience in the culture at large can easily trade away the distinctives of Christian faith, leaving the church more irrelevant than ever.
Citations & References1. Essays on Religion, Science, and Society, by Herman Bavinck, Baker Book House, 2013, p. 270.
2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, edited by Vittorio Messori (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985)
3. Essays on Religion, Science, and Society, by Herman Bavinck, p. 255. 4. Ibid., p. 256.
5. I admit that this is unsatisfactory, in that Bavinck would say that beauty is revealed in the true statement and the good action, but it does not directly address the question of the truth and goodness in, say, music or paintings. But at the risk of redundancy, a painting is not really an argument, except by way of metaphor.
6. Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, by Jeremy Begbie, SPCK, 2008, Kindle loc. 217.
Robert J. McPherson IISee More Essays
Robert J. McPherson II is a graduate of RC Sproul’s Reformation Bible College with an honors degree in theology. He has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Buckingham; conducting research under the guidance of Sir Roger Scruton. His thesis is on personal responsibility and social justice.