In politics, we moved from our discussion of John Stuart Mill and Libertarianism to Niccolo Machiavelli and The Prince and his theory of the politics of power. It’s pretty straightforward: if you want to get and keep power, you must become indifferent to questions of morality and Christian values. You also have to be a realpolitik – realistic about the world, knowing that it’s better to be feared than loved or hated. You have to be un-virtuous in a subterranean fashion – accommodate evil and get it done quickly under the table.
Beyond this, though, you have to be a “political virtuoso” – you have to be as good at politics and reading situations and people as a violin virtuoso is with his instrument. You have to practice for hours and hours every day for years to reach this level; you can’t survive if you’re an amateur. You have to have insight and perception others don’t have; you have to have careful and precise observation so you know how things are now and how they can be changed in your favor.
Here’s the frustrating part. I’ll just quote Bauman: “CHRISTIANS DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! It’s not enough to send money to Focus on the Family, pray once in a while, and vote Republican. The guys we’re opposing know Machiavelli and they hope we stay just how we are right now. The typical Christian just hopes and prays things turn out well. Machiavelli says this is like rolling the dice and leaving things to chance, which virtuosos never do. God is in control of history, but He works through His people.”
Machiavelli said to be both a lion and a fox; Jesus commanded us to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. If we’re not wise in what we do, we can’t be harmless: we will inflict harm on our causes and ourselves.
Ronald Reagan is the best example of a Christian following Machiavelli’s principles. We’re starting to read When Character was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say about him later. Bauman also mentioned Phyllis Schaeffly as someone who knew what to do and did it well. He said she single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment by taking on both houses of Congress and 30 states and winning.
I asked Dr. Bauman why the Church is so terrible at influencing culture and politics and how we can change that. His reply was basically “the Church isn’t going to change. You have to learn and get involved and get good, fast.” Christian individuals need to study Machiavelli, study Reagan and Schaeffly and the like, and become virtuosos, not bumbling idiots who don’t really know what they’re doing or what their opponents are doing.
PS: See FB note for additional response to this + culture class from last week…