Chalcedon placed an article on religious foundations sometime ago, which impressed me quite a bit.
Let’s just grab some quotes, and see if they don’t help you understand how foundations help Christian societies stay free.
The bolded parts are bolded by myself, and not in the original.
The italic parts are italicized in the original.
…foundations have a central and basic place in Christian history. To understand them, let us examine briefly the ancient pagan state.
The pagan state was a totalitarian divine-human order: the state was a god walking on earth. Its divinity might be manifested in the person of the ruler, or his office, or the state or people as a whole, but this divinity was believed to be there. There was no freedom from the state: everything was absolutely under state control, whether in China, India, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, or Rome. Religion was merely a department of state.
The one exception was the Commonwealth of God’s people, Israel. God and His law-order were accorded sovereignty over all things by all true believers. God’s prophets could rebuke kings, because even apostate men were aware of the sovereign word and its power….
The church in the Roman Empire could have readily become a recognized and legal religion by offering incense to Caesar and acknowledging his sovereignty. This the church refused to do. The Christians as citizens were ready to submit to Caesar in all matters of civil justice, but in those areas where God gave the state no jurisdiction they obeyed God. The Biblical faith is not in the state as an over-arching, all-governing institution which takes all others under its wings, but in God’s sovereign and over-arching law-order, under which church, state, school, family, vocation, and all things else exist as separate yet interdependent spheres of life. The state has no more legitimate right to govern the church and school than it has to govern the laws of mathematics and physics, and the realm of the church is similarly restricted. The realm of the state is justice and order under God; the realm of the church is the ministry of the word and the sacraments and the discipline of its body; the realm of the school is the development of learning and knowledge under God; and so on.
The triumph of Christianity meant the death of totalitarianism, and, as a result, the state at first tried ruthlessly to exterminate all Christians. For a time, the swords and axes of executioners worked from morning to dark to kill the lines of condemned Christians. Later, when extermination failed, infiltration and subversion became the strategy.
But Christianity began to create a new society, a decentralized and free society. And foundations very, very early were basic to that society. These foundations were free and independent agencies, free of church and state, dedicated to specific purposes: charity and welfare, hospitals and medicine, education, orphanages, missions, and so on. These foundations began to accumulate wealth to fulfil these purposes. The history books tell us that, by the end of the so-called “middle ages” much of the wealth of Europe was in the hands of the church. They lie. There was considerable wealth in the hands of foundations, Christian orders and foundations, who were doing a great work for rich and poor alike. A greedy church and greedy states were trying to seize and often succeeding in taking over these foundations for their own unchristian purposes. In this imperialism by both church and state, the state finally won.
But let us examine those foundations again. The church very early expressed its disapproval of the neoplatonic pagan flight of the hermits from the world. In fact, in 819, the Council of Aix made it plain that the Christian duty of monastery communities or foundations was to care for the poor, or, in one way or another, minister to Christian society. Some of these foundations were monastic and clerical; others were lay foundations. All were responsible for great progress.
The current era of the Mindless Total State is falling apart before our very eyes. Rather than mourn and weep for the destruction of an innately evil social order, we should start laying the foundations for something better. A lot better.
On the idiocy of the rationalistic dream of the State as God:
On the eagerness of intellectuals – including liberal & atheistic ones – to whore themselves before the State to protect their precious careers, see Chris Hedges’ The Treason of the Intellectuals.
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.
—Robert C. Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, 1852