Slipping Into Darkness

Read on conservative side of the Religious Right and one can catch a whiff of an anti-democratic spirit, a longing for something other. Is just the patriarchal longing by another name? Is something else at work?

On her Facebook page, Kristin Kobes DuMez ponders this in light of a new article at Sojo (currently paywalled) by David Gushee, “The Trump Prophecy.”

This is something I kept seeing in my research that caught me off guard—the lack of support for democracy in conservative evangelical circles. When you believe in a patriarchal, authoritarian chain of command, democracy doesn’t make sense. Plus, for presuppositionalists, why would you want corrupt ideas holding sway? The question I struggled with is how influential/pervasive these ideas are within evangelicalism more broadly. More prevalent than I one thought.

So I don’t see this as an after-the-fact turn to justify support for Trump.

This emerging taste for hierarchy is certainly culturally different from the traditional culure of the Plain Folk, or the Scots-Irish that have so nurtured the Religious Right, which in turn leads me to wonder if this perhaps is a continuing capture by (conservative) Catholic social teaching? On Right to Life, the Catholics won the narrative, so Evangelicals started talking about “Natural Law” and likewise got up in arms supposed abortifacients (even got Calvin to sputter about Plan B as I recall). Also look for the use of subsidiarity by Evangelical political thinkers. In this framework, Trad Catholics lean away from representative democracy so it’s not surprising that the ties to representative government also get loosened.

As an aside, we can note the use of “Natural Law” as a sort of catchall in the desegregation debate. C.f. G.T. Gillespie, “Segregation is one of Nature’s Universal Laws” in Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise, Zondervan 2019. p. 133. Further, the authoritarian turn may also be an instance of what Michael Lind describes as Southern Bourbonism politics with its aristo-oligarchic, Big House style authoritarianism; another dark shadow of the Cotton Kingdom.

The authoritarian turn also destabilizes Evangelical theology. The suspicion that is built into the Reformation and especially its Baptist wing gets dulled. To reverse the James II “no bishop, no king” we instead have “king, so bishop.” And to the degree the authoritarian is shadow of the Cotton Kingdom, it becomes a white box, a substitution of the Evangelical proclamation of good news for all into a good news (only) for some.

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It’s still the problem of the color line.

Rod Dreher spent a day sputtering about Sarah Jones’ exploration of Dreher’s stance on race. Her essay in The New Republic pushes on the tacit racial nature of Dreher’s words.

The blog post was classic Dreher, … (he) did not specifically refer to people of color, but he didn’t need to; he just invoked their ghostly outlines and let the reader fill them in. His defense of Trump’s remarks are damning, not only for him personally, but for a certain kind of conservative intellectual who believes he is better than the vulgar ethno-nationalists at Breitbart. It is the logical end of a train of thought that often trails off and goes unspoken, just as those minorities in Dreher’s post are not directly identified but targeted under broad euphemisms like “the poor.” It is a conspicuous silence that has been there all along.

Is Dreher an enabler of the racist alt-right? or the victim of one more over zealous  SJW (our Social Justice Warriors). Or could it be, as he argues, that her stance is basically one of privilege?

I don’t know Sarah Jones and her crowd, but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of them are lashing out so strongly at me over the “shitholes” stuff, and wildly distorting my words, because in their heart of hearts, they know that they would never live in impoverished neighborhoods marked by violence and chaos. Where in the DC area does Sarah Jones live? If she doesn’t live in a poor, violent neighborhood, why not? She could save money if she did. Where does Jonathan Merritt live in Brooklyn? Where does Jemar Tisby live in Jackson, Miss.? And so on.

This is deflection (Jones her self does not live in Washington, but in Roanoke, at some distance). Some part of Dreher’s discussion in fact lies with the question of race and what is at best, an indifference to race. DuBois observation for the 20th C is still pertinent, as policies and tweets of the administration have shown. I would suggest that this larger context, this cultural shift underway provides a frame for understanding conservative commentary. So what appears to a conservative as benign or even obvious, may be read in quite different ways elsewhere. To this we can also add the geographical frame. Think about it: Louisiana has a history, an approach to race; so does Appalachia; and for that matter in my case, so does growing up in a university town in the Midwest.

Now the case in point: it is difficult to read the paragraph from the perspective of Michigan without thinking of race; it’s the stuff of our region’s history. When Jones says “fill in…” — ah, we do this a lot, especially over by Detroit. Likewise, the question Jones asks of the Benedict Option — did it really only mention race a handful of times? That seems like a valid, if awkward critique, not in making Dreher a racist, but in pointing to a blind spot, itself the creature of a particular and local setting.

But before we mount that high horse, we should note, we all suffer from the same disease, simultaneously better than and yet worse than our words. It happens.

 

Sarah Jones: SJW Propagandist
Rod Dreher’s Race Problem

The Sadness of the Billionaire

michael-bloomberg-one-percentMicahel Lewis revisits the problem of the extremely wealthy over at The New Republic. Money may not be able to buy you happiness after all, what it can do is corrupt your soul. This is the dark side that’s been seen since the times of the prophets. Or I suppose, since Lord Acton spoke about power. In the end it is all the same: the intoxication of wealth and its freedom reduces the sense of mutual obligation that grants our lives value.