Posted on: February 26th, 2011 Gay Issues & Red Tories: Blond & Milbank

The recent announcement of the Obama administration has rekindled my focus on the explicitly political dimension of Radical Orthodoxy and indeed the Gospel.

I continue to hold that the Obama administration’s abandonment of the Defence of Marriage Acts is logically consistent with the political philosophy (secular as it is) undergirding the US Constitution (this makes me a “liberal”), but on the other hand that the breakdown of the traditional family will plunge our secular society into social fragmentation and chaos (this makes me a “conservative”).

Hat tip to my friend Collins Aki, who pointed me to this (for more see here):

Radical Orthodoxy seeks to revive a credal Christianity that was progressively obscured from the late Middle Ages onwards, and it makes that recovered Christian vision the basis of a systematic critique of modern, secular society. “Modernity,” Milbank has said, “is liberalism, liberalism is capitalism and capitalism is atheism.” The problem with secular liberalism, for proponents of Radical Orthodoxy, is that, in removing God, it loses any grip on the notion of objective moral truth. Secularism leads to nihilism, because it leaves “worldly phenomena” such as morality “grounded literally in nothing”.

Milbank is convinced that Blond’s latest incarnation as a political thinker is continuous with his earlier identity as a theologian, and that Red Toryism is merely the “political translation” of Radical Orthodoxy. “Part of Radical Orthodoxy’s argument,” he tells me, “is that since the 1960s a kind of non-liberal left has faded away somehow, and what you’ve got now is a left that increasingly defines itself in terms of secular liberalism. We argue that if you want to criticise liberal capitalism, you’ve got to realise that this is the form that secularity will take. Capitalism gets rid of the sacred. If there’s no sacred, everything will be commodified. We argue that you need to re-enchant the world if you are to criticise or modify capitalism.”

The practical, political differences between Blond and his former teacher – Milbank identifies himself as a man of the left – are less significant than their shared commitment to this theological vision. “Phillip has always seen himself as a Tory, whereas for me the political resources lie in a Christian socialist tradition,” Milbank says.”

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12 Responses to “Gay Issues & Red Tories: Blond & Milbank”

  1. Kelly Jennings Says:
    February 26th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Hi, Matt – is it a given that the traditional family will break down?

  2. Michael Todd Says:
    March 5th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I would hesitate to use an “argument from silence” as to the constitutionality of gay marriage (or polygamy, pederasty, or bestiality for that matter). Neither should the foundation and source of rights be decided by majority vote. Only the Bible provides the sure foundation for our epistemology and ethics.
    As the West continues its descent into philosophical scepticism (“You don’t know that!”) and irrationalism (“That’s just how I feel!”) it’s little wonder that we no longer consider homosexuality to be a much of a sin.

    Peace of Christ,
    Michael Todd

  3. matt Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 12:00 am

    @ Kelly. Is the breakdown of the traditional family (that us, marriage construed as one man and one woman) a given?

    IMO, no and yes.

    No: Christian matrimony, like the Church, is something against which the gates if hell will not prevail.

    Yes: I don’t see how the consumeristic, nihilistic, narcissistic trajectory wh our culture is currently on can result in anything but the radical marginalization of traditional marriage.

    Hey, Christians should welcome such marginalization, perhaps!

  4. Collins aka Boo Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Just got on here, don’t have much time to comment now, but I am very eager to address this later. Hopefully sometime this week!I respect where you are coming from, and what it is you are trying to do (although I feel in 7 years we will be on the same page :)).

    As far as the other gentleman’s comment, and I quote: “Neither should the foundation and source of rights be decided by majority vote.” I can only respond with: Wow???? Seriously?? (Government 101?? “Democracy”???). lol

  5. Marjie Lawrence Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 9:51 am

    The breakdown of the family may indeed both result in and be a reflection of “chaos.” Broken relationships between spouses, inattentiveness to children, neglect of parents, distance from siblings — all in need of being put to rights in the kingdom of heaven. I wonder though, which of these are caused by gay people seeking the blessing of their committed relationships.

  6. Michael Todd Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I am in favor of democracy. It, however, does not in and of itself guard against oppression of the minority or other abuses. I’m sure you would agree that rights are to be based on justice rather than the shifting sands of public opinion. This, of course, raises the question as to what is just which cannot be separated from what is moral and good.
    Democracy is a good thing. But it, like money, sex, alcohol, food, and sports (also good things), can become an idol. We do not glorify God in THAT we vote but in HOW we vote. All I am saying is that we must look to the Bible as our foundation and source of what constitutes right and wrong and vote accordingly.

  7. Collins aka Boo Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 12:33 pm


    You are absolutely right that democracy in and of itself does not guard against the oppression of the minority (or ON the minority) that is why we have supreme courts from the state, to federal levels, and of course on the national level.

    As a Christian and member of the Church, I do believe that the Bible is my foundation and source of what I believe to be right and wrong, virtue and vice. And it determines, as you said, “HOW” I vote (and also, “THAT” I vote). Yet, I know that I, along with you, Matt, and everyone else (other than your Westboro church type~smh) understand that the cultural landscape of those days is not the same as it is now. And therefore it would not be wise to apply exactly the cultural hermeneutic of then to the cultural hermeneutic of now (which, for the most part we don’t do anyway. Although it has mostly been men who have picked which parts to hold on to and which parts to “eventually” give up). That would be like pouring “new wine into old wineskins”. So this is why we must be willing to engage in a conversation about these kinds of matter, rather than approach it in a unilateral way.

    Anyway, that is a whole other part of the discussion. As far as the political aspect of it goes, “all citizens are guaranteed equal protection of laws”. If marriage is something the law recognizes, then it must be recognized for all citizens.

  8. Collins aka Boo Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Marjie Lawrence,

    You are right. And moreover, our hope and Christ’s promise to “put the world to rights” doesn’t even feature marriages or individual families. ” The Eschaton does not acknowledge differences, only unique gifts of one redeemed body. As our Lord said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”…whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” The breakdown of the family has not come from gays and lesbians, but from those who have not done the will of God. Just as the angels declared to the shepherds when announcing the birth of Christ (and indeed, the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth, “Glory be to God in the highest; on earth peace; good will toward men”.


  9. Collins aka Boo Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    If interested, you can read my complete take on Gays, Lesbians, God and politics at the link below. I would love to hear your feedback, I hear Matt’s all the time (haha):

  10. matt Says:
    March 12th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Marjie, Thanks for reminding me yet again what Christ’s Body is all about.

    Some people in our rootless culture, so characterized by anomie, want not just the blessing (by church as well as civil magistrate) of same sex erotic unions, but the actual and radical revision of what constitutes Holy Matrimony.

    Three thoughts from me:

    1. These two attempts must be distinguished, for they are very different.

    2. I do think that, on secular grounds based on human rights, the former attempt is possibly compelling. The latter, is very different, I think.

    3. Those who disagree on this have the mind-blowing opportunity to model real Christian community before a watching world.

  11. matt Says:
    March 12th, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Collins, thanks for continuing to offer a theological, and not a secular, argument. (I am open to this line of reasoning.)

    And, I agree with your realized eschatology. However, by your reasoning, it seems to me that there would be nothing wrong with your sleeping with another man’s wife, with his permission. After all, in the eschaton there will be no marriage.

    Despite the fact that the kingdom has broken into the here and now, there is nevertheless a “not-yet” component which will not be realized until Christ is fully all in all.

    Paul, in his letters to the church at Corinth, addressed the issue of expanded sexual license based on a realized eschatology. I need to look into this more, but it is interesting that he resisted this posture.

  12. Libby Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 10:13 am


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