I am Catholic.
I believe in and trust the magisterium of the church.
Nothing distinguishes me from Protestants more profoundly than that concept: the magisterium, or the teaching authority, of the church.
For me, the church is like Locke and Jefferson and Madison. They were learned men who read Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cato, Epictetus, Epicurus, and other Greek and Roman philosophers, often in the original languages.
Those philosophical and political founders interpreted and organized ancient philosophy for England and America. Just as the church in Rome interprets and organizes scripture.
Jefferson never expected the masses to share his education. So he assimilated great thinkers for his contemporaries and for us. Jefferson and the founders did for political philosophy what Rome does for Catholics.
By “first principles,” I mean the raw material of philosophical thought. Elon Musk reinvented the battery by ignoring modern, interpreted batteries and returning to the origins of stored electricity. Tesla is a battery company that also makes cars. And only by returning to first principles of electricity storage could Musk have made the car that defines the breed. Analogy wasn’t enough.
I thought of this while listening to Eric Greitens open his new campaign office in Crestwood tonight. Along with 237 dedicated people who braved a pop-up snowstorm the day after the Super Bowl, I was amazed at this man’s ability to inspire and lead so many different people.
The crowd was way more diverse than any Tea Party crowd I remember. And much younger on average. So many veterans and first responders.
Yet I met at least seven people who became active in politics because of the Tea Party. One man, now a member of the Lindbergh School District board remembered the Kenneth Gladney smackdown event where he heard me speak for the first time.
I can’t speak for the others, but what draws me to Greitens is his first principles approach to governance.
Greitens reads all the same philosophers Jefferson and Locke read. And he reaches remarkably consistent conclusions about the proper relationship of the person to the state.
But unlike the vast majority of conservatives who rely on Lockean and Jeffersonian interpretations of philosophy, Greitens went straight to the source. Reading Eric’s masterpiece, Resilience, which somewhat mimics Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic, I realized that America’s founders were not so much political philosophers as philosophical executives. America breathed life into stoicism.
Maybe Greitens can recite Jefferson and Locke. Maybe he can’t. I don’t know. But he can recite the philosophers that Jefferson and Locke relied upon to craft what we call naively our first principles. And Greitens is able to drop the weight of 18th century language and situations to make stoicism fresh in the 21st century.
As a Catholic, I’m fine with Jefferson’s interpretation, but I appreciate having a modern interpreter, too. I’m a little surprised that some of my friends, many of whom were not raised Catholic, believe we need an 18th century interpreter to filter our first principles for us.
I believe that Eric Greitens is the perfect soldier in our never-ending war against corrupt, coercive government. And I genuflect at his willingness to mimic our founders by putting his life on hold to breathe new life into the first principles of self governance and the good life.