The "Dead Consensus"
June 6, 2019 1:58 PM   Subscribe

US conservatives appear to be having an internecine philosophical debate started by this creepily named manifesto, summarized well in the NY Times here. In a nutshell, the pro-Trump pundits behind the manifesto reject the old Republican political alliance which was run by libertarian/pro-business/plutocratic types, and which relegated religious conservatives to back-bencher status. Instead, they favor a more explicitly reactionary conservative movement that denounces liberal values and emphasizes more communitarian social welfare (presumably for favored groups only) and the imposition of their moral vision on the nation, including via strong government action.
posted by wibari (123 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Another interesting article on this topic, by Jane Coaston for VOX, "David French vs. Sohrab Ahmari and the battle dividing conservatives, explained: The fight isn’t about a National Review columnist. It’s about what conservatism is, and should be."
posted by Perplexity at 2:01 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


emphasizes more communitarian social welfare (presumably for favored groups only) and the imposition of their moral vision on the nation, including via strong government action.

hmm so you're saying this would almost resemble socialism, but in sort of a "national" way
posted by dusty potato at 2:04 PM on June 6 [238 favorites]


I've honestly been waiting for this shoe to drop. For us to move fully and completely into the "theocratic dictatorship is good, actually" portion of this shitshow.
posted by odinsdream at 2:18 PM on June 6 [89 favorites]


Adam Serwer: The real debate here is over whether to pursue a one party illiberal “democracy” where the state crushes its political critics and polices cultural expressions deemed “degenerate,” or whether to adhere to small-l liberal democracy. Everyone is too ashamed to say this directly.
posted by Iridic at 2:23 PM on June 6 [23 favorites]


internecine

Today I learned a new word and, well, let's hope so!
posted by ominous_paws at 2:23 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


well, let's hope so!

Careful what you wish for. It may turn out the libertarian wing of the Republican party was the only thing keeping them nominally committed to civil rights and free elections. If they go full-regalia fascism, we'll be hard-pressed to stop them from seizing power forever.
posted by Iridic at 2:30 PM on June 6 [30 favorites]


[Some] cultural conservatives... believe that the old conservative fusion mostly failed their part of the movement — winning victories for tax cutters and business interests while marriage rates declined, birthrates plummeted and religious affiliation waned; and appeasing social conservatives with judges who never actually got around to overturning Roe v. Wade.

This is hardly a new observation, to be sure, but I guess the difference now is that conservatives are the ones making the argument rather than liberals.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:35 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


a more explicitly reactionary conservative movement that denounces liberal values and emphasizes more communitarian social welfare (presumably for favored groups only)

This also does not sound too different from what Marie Le Pen's party was offering up in recent French elections.
posted by stannate at 2:43 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts? I find that dubious at best.
posted by panglos at 2:44 PM on June 6 [12 favorites]


The 2016 election laid bare profound but long-hidden ideological divisions among America’s conservative intellectuals.

conservative intellectuals

conservative

intellectuals

America’s conservative intellectuals

I mean, I guess you could call them that, but... If such a creature exists, this ain’t it.

I mean, “long-hidden”? I guess the authors of this half-baked claptrap just now found out about the completely basic thing that has always existed and everyone else has known about for-fucking-ever, that fiscal conservatives and social conservatives and just straight up jackbooted thugs can be totally different things?

Our society must not prioritize the needs of the childless, the healthy, and the intellectually competitive.

...unless they’re clergy.

We oppose attempts to displace American citizens.

Are they under the impression the US has a “one in, one out” immigration policy? Who’s being “displaced”?

We reject attempts to compromise on human dignity.

...until said human has been born.

Economic and welfare policy should prioritize work over consumption.

And it shall set us free!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:45 PM on June 6 [35 favorites]


we'll be hard-pressed to stop them from seizing power forever
It'll be just like WWII except everyone has switched sides!
posted by klanawa at 2:52 PM on June 6 [12 favorites]


Here Ahmari talks about his intellectual and spiritual path - more here - few things are as intense as the fervor of a convert...
posted by PhineasGage at 2:53 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts?

If by pro-life they mean valuing biological life, quite possibly. If they mean valuing the life of an embryo over a person, then yeah, no.
posted by avalonian at 2:53 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts?

It's a stretch, but not as big of one as you might hope:
As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds are now roughly tied with seniors as the most likely of all age groups to hold [support for the "illegal in all circumstances"] position on abortion -- although all four groups are fairly close in their views. This is a sharp change from the late 1970s, when seniors were substantially more likely than younger age groups to want abortion to be illegal.
posted by ragtag at 2:54 PM on June 6 [11 favorites]


Cultural conservative Alan Jacobs thinks Ahmari and the First Things crowd are shooting themselves and their movement in the foot.
Who are the “we” implied in “our order and our orthodoxy”? Social conservatives? Religious social conservatives? Christian social conservatives? Catholic social conservatives? What about Muslim social conservatives? What about faithful Catholics who aren’t social conservatives? Who, in short, gets access to the control room?

If you believe that there is a “crisis facing religious conservatives” arising from the dominance of a tyrannical liberalism, and you want to defeat those enemies ... how, exactly, do you further that goal by attacking…David French? What precisely is the strategic benefit of that? If you’re Ahmari, don’t you need people like French on your side? Or do you think you’re such a massive movement that you can do without people like French? Or do you think that French will be abashed by the incisiveness of your attack, your mockery of “Pastor French,” and will come over to your side, ultimately meekly submitting to the claims of the Catholic Magisterium?
and
As much as I am convinced that hegemonic liberalism will never be fair to even vaguely traditionalist religious believers, I’m not convinced that I personally [as a Protestant] would be any better off in Ahmari’s Utopia of Enforced Orthodoxy ... I’m truly not sure whether hegemonic liberalism or Orthodox Utopia would be more likely to let me keep my children. But hegemonic liberalism is happening now and Ahmari’s vision (like that of the Catholic integralists, if there’s a difference) hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell.
posted by straight at 2:54 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


imo, the depth of the failure of 21st century liberalism is becoming terrifyingly clear, and will become even more catastrophically so when the Republicans finally seize their fully-masks-off fascism moment. All this time that we could have been building and shoring up real, material power for our communities, the Democrats have largely taken every effort to divert Left energy to invest fully in their game of proceduralism, gentlemen's agreements, and the social contract. Literally none of that will mean a thing once the switch to full fascism has been pulled.
posted by dusty potato at 2:55 PM on June 6 [67 favorites]


It is honestly kind of wild to me that their party controls 5/6 of the federal government and totally controls around half of state governments and yet these guys are trying to evict each other from the movement over stuff like who watches what TV show and who's committed enough to which dumb culture war bullshit. The conservative position on cultural issues is both wildly unpopular and not nearly as important to their goals as the massive amounts of power their politicians are able to wield on every level of government.

Plus, there isn't even that much difference between the two groups. All of them broadly support 99% of the policies of the Trump administration, just like they supported 99% of the policies of the Bush administration and opposed 110% of the policies of the Obama administration. All of them want concentration camps for undocumented immigrants. All of them want the US military to be deployed more aggressively in the Middle East and Latin America. All of them want the police to be able to execute suspected criminals with impunity and be congratulated for their bravery in doing so. All of them want to disenfranchise as many Black and Hispanic potential voters as possible. All of them want women executed for exercising basic bodily autonomy. In terms of the practical issues governments and citizens are confronted with, they're essentially identical, and I have a suspicion that if any of this stuff did actually get proposed by a conservative politician with any chance of making it happen, everyone would just fall into line like they always do.
posted by Copronymus at 3:00 PM on June 6 [25 favorites]


this is scary stuff. the only bit of gallows humor i can offer is that i always thought the horseman of the apocalypse that would usher this all in would be some sort of fire and brimstone corrupt preacher, not such an obvious charlatan and clown. then again, an explicitly and overtly theocratic message hasn't had truly mass appeal in the US since before the 1960s, so i guess it sort of does make sense: trump is the TV-coated pill that makes the theocracy go down easy, like half-watching a reality show.
posted by wibari at 3:03 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


It is honestly kind of wild to me that their party controls 5/6 of the federal government and totally controls around half of state governments and yet these guys are trying to evict each other from the movement over stuff like who watches what TV show and who's committed enough to which dumb culture war bullshit.

The revolution eats its young. It seems the aspiring theocrats might be jumping the gun a bit. The purge isn't supposed to happen until your position is unassailable. I guess the jury is still out on whether they are actually in a position to start the purge and succeed or just end up fragmenting their coalition just when it most needs solidarity.
posted by tclark at 3:03 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts?

It's a stretch, but not as big of one as you might hope.

Actually, allow me to amend my own comment: the above Gallup poll was from 2010. Here's one from last year:
Age: Pro-Choice%/Pro-Life%
18 to 29: 56/38
30 to 49: 51/45
50 to 64: 39/57
65+: 44/52
Here's the longer term trend.
posted by ragtag at 3:05 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Furthermore, Sohrab Ahmari might want to pay close attention to history, should his movement succeed and the white nationalists in charge decide they have no further need of a token non-white among their brutal elite.
posted by tclark at 3:06 PM on June 6 [13 favorites]


Perhaps my greatest fear right below inevitable wide-scale ecological collapse is "trump, but competent and a 'for whites' socialist."
posted by codacorolla at 3:09 PM on June 6 [27 favorites]


As one example, consider how heavily liberal strategy leans on the general tactic of using the court of public opinion to forge enough consensus-- that something is racist, that someone hates women or queer people, that a policy discriminates-- that propriety and social pressure will force someone or something to give. As soon as the right flips the chessboard over and says "we don't care, we love this stuff" all that turns to sand.
posted by dusty potato at 3:10 PM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Pretty much, yep. Then the real horrors scale up m massively as elected representatives really go for blood.
posted by odinsdream at 3:13 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Ahmari is Iranian, let the white nationalists split hairs over who counts as white or not.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:13 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The fact that both Ross Douthat and Ramesh Ponnuru are having trouble understanding, let alone articulating, what Ahmari and his co-signatories are angry about hints that this is likely a momentary tempest more about personal style than about substantive beliefs.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:14 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


It's a stretch, but not as big of one as you might hope: "18- to 29-year-olds are now roughly tied with seniors as the most likely of all age groups to hold [support for the "illegal in all circumstances"] position on abortion"

That poll is from 2010, though. A 2018 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found a sizable gap opening up between 18-29 year olds and seniors:
-Just 44 percent of young Americans say abortion goes against their personal beliefs, compared to 60 percent of Americans over 65.
-Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of young people, compared to 51 percent of seniors, agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
-Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) young people, compared to 46 percent of seniors, agree that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions.
(Admittedly, only half of those respondents are Millennials, depending on how you slice the generations.)
posted by Iridic at 3:15 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


(whoops, didn't see Ragtag's comment on preview)
posted by Iridic at 3:16 PM on June 6


I read both articles and I feel even stupider now than I felt before I unfollowed David French on Twitter.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:21 PM on June 6


Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts? I find that dubious at best.

From the Pew Research Center: Views on abortion by age, 2018
Among adults under age 30, 63% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do a majority of adults in their 30s and 40s (59%). More than half of those in their 50s and early 60s (56%) and those ages 65 and older (57%) say the same.
posted by Little Dawn at 3:23 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Authoritarian religious nuts want the governments they helped install to be more authoritarian, specifically in their favor? The hell you say.

You can call it tribalism, Manicheanism, racism, whatever you will, but it pours out of the bottle the same way; they have zero interest in anyone's interests but their own being represented at any level of government and society. They're sure that they're right, so they're entitled to the might in their minds. See also the blatant disregard for voting rights in general, fair play and norms while in office, and for anyone who dares whisper the word "compromise."

Sometimes this proves beneficial, like how the Freedom Kook-us prevented Obama from selling American entitlements out a few years back. But when the systems are rigged so that "100% or nothing" attitudes increasingly deliver 100%, it's not so comforting any more.
posted by delfin at 3:28 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


I've been seeing rumblings of this split for years by following Front Porch Republic, The American Conservative, First Things, City Journal, et al.
The "illiberal democracy" pattern of Italy, Poland, Hungary, Turkey and others is moving.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:29 PM on June 6 [10 favorites]


Like, this is just a softly spoken blood and soil bit right? Stuff about "our" families and economies and land.

My belief right now is that the participants in this "debate" (low key purge) are 110% aware that the first group to grab that ring is the only group that fucking matters. If Ahmari gets past the post first, then the people who marched with tiki torches get bent. If anyone else does, Ahmari is toast along with people who don't convert to whatever branch, sect, or split starts writing laws and the audacity to still be shouting when the dust settles.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:36 PM on June 6 [12 favorites]


Haven't conservatives always been hypocrites about "small" government and "liberty"? They have always championed feudalism, colonialism, genocide, slavery, segregation, imperialism, patriarchy, homophobia, incarceration, religious persecution, indoctrination, and all other forms of individual oppression when it suits their interests. This isn't some new thing.
posted by splitpeasoup at 3:38 PM on June 6 [20 favorites]


The goals aren't new, but hypocrisy and unapologeticness are notably different modes of operating. Hypocrisy assumes the presence of some sort of social contract that is being performing towards, and therefore opens up opportunities (whether greater or fewer) to negotiate power peacefully.
posted by dusty potato at 3:53 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


This divide isn't going away.

Collapse of the social order in 3... 2...
posted by signsofrain at 4:01 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I've been seeing rumblings of this split for years by following Front Porch Republic, The American Conservative, First Things, City Journal, et al.

tmotat, how seriously should this statement of dissent be taken in an American context? The manifesto reads like a blend of assertions and zealotry, but I have not followed the ongoing conversation, and would appreciate your insight here.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:04 PM on June 6


Our policy must accommodate the messy demands of authentic human attachments: family, faith, and the political community. We welcome allies who oppose dehumanizing attempts at “liberation” such as pornography, “designer babies,” wombs for rent, and the severing of the link between sex and gender.
We embrace messiness and authenticity... wait, no, not that messy! Get your authentic selves back in the gender box!
posted by clawsoon at 4:07 PM on June 6 [13 favorites]


Even as they denounce the Iranian Mullahs...
Can we stop calling it Conservative? It was always radical change for what wasn't broken in the first place but merely an offense to their elitist "values."
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:09 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


They could have saved so much time and energy if they had just reposted this.
posted by zaixfeep at 4:38 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Look on the bright side. They have 30 years to try to install their theocracy before the climate catastrophe causes the collapse of civilization. Climate change doesn't care about theology, and ideologues tend to be bad at reacting to a crisis.
posted by happyroach at 4:46 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


America’s conservative intellectuals... I mean, I guess you could call them that, but... If such a creature exists

Surely there must be some people in America with a grasp of theology and geometry and a rich inner life.
posted by acb at 5:01 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


This is what Mike Pence is about, right?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:17 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


acb: They don't teach enough Boethius in schools these days.
posted by SansPoint at 5:22 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


I would love to see conservatives try to rally disaffected white male reactionaries with an anti-pornography platform.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:25 PM on June 6 [15 favorites]


isn't (wasn't???) that Gavin Mcinnes' whole deal?
posted by Reyturner at 5:27 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


This has always been there but it's chilling to see this enter the public discourse.

Moderate conservatives might have to be in a position where they defend liberalism, a position they've made impossible for themselves through hundreds of coats of anti-Democratic rhetoric. I feel pretty fucked.
posted by fleacircus at 5:27 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


They already do. r/nofap. This is not a joke. They're the obsessed with self-improvement alt-right niche.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:28 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I would love to see conservatives try to rally disaffected white male reactionaries with an anti-pornography platform.

"Nofap" is a thing so I don't think it's actually that unlikely. Disaffected white male reactionaries will bend over backwards to blame anything other than themselves for their position in life, up to and including the "corrupting influences" of pornography and video games and what have you.

On preview: Hellfire beat me to it by a nose.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:30 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Anyway, since when has publicly denouncing corrupt influences stopped any of these chuds from enjoying it in the privacy of their homes? Hypocrisy is a hell of a drug.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:32 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


So, an Iranian born Catholic feels uncomfortable with the direction of the conservatism?

The KKK is explicitly anti-everything this guy is and 95% of the GOP. Yeah, I'm real sure they will take his concerns directly to heart.

"Intellectual" dark web, indeed.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:33 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


A slightly different take on the "crisis of conservatism". A tad more optimistic, perhaps?
posted by aramaic at 5:50 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


I would love to see conservatives try to rally disaffected white male reactionaries with an anti-pornography platform.

A huge number of evangelicals support trump, who's by all accounts essentially the antichrist. Evangelical leaders routinely get caught having affairs and absolve themselves with tearful confessions. Abortions are never really banned for the mistresses of powerful evangelicals. White male reactionaries, probably rightly, would see something like that and understand that they can basically just break that law as much as they want while it's used as a cudgel to punish people they don't like while rationalizing it as a weakness that God has already forgiven them for because they're so righteous in their other christo-facsist ways.
posted by codacorolla at 5:56 PM on June 6 [28 favorites]


This is what Mike Pence is about, right?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:17 PM on June

Ehnnn, About 300 miles north and slightly to the right.
posted by clavdivs at 6:11 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Oh, read this.


Here are some tags.Common terms and phrases

activists Amway Association Belli campaign candidate Catholic CBMC charismatic Charter Schools Christian American Christian Coalition Christian Right Chuck Colson church Citizens for Traditional Clark Committee Community Impact conservative Cornerstone Council for National Detroit Free Press Dick Dick DeVos Dick Posthumus director Domino's donations elected Engler evangelical Family Research Council Fellowship Focus Food for Africa Foundation for Traditional Free Congress Foundation funding fundraiser gave Gospel Films Grand Rapids Ibid James Kennedy John Birch Society Lansing leaders leadership Legatus legislators Mackinac Center Maranatha McLellan Michigan Christian Michigan Family Forum Ministries Monaghan Muffett newsletter Nicaragua Northwood University operations party pastor Posthumus prayer president Prince Promise Keepers public education rally received Reconstructionist Religious Right Republican Richard DeVos right wing Rightist Robertson says Senate shepherding shepherding/discipleship Spirit Sword TEACH Michigan Timmis tion Traditional Values University of Steubenville Whyman Word.

Pence is a piker religious wise.
posted by clavdivs at 6:19 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Didn't they just release Season 5 of this show with Elizabeth Moss in it?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:25 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


any of these chuds

Can we please not do this? Unlike the people we're talking about, the people mutated by the Contamination Hazard / Urban Disposal program did not choose their fate and had done nothing to deserve it; there were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let's not speak in ways that are a disservice to mutant cannibals.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:29 PM on June 6 [45 favorites]


Look,,, my list of acceptable slurs is already very short please do not take this from me...
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:35 PM on June 6 [14 favorites]


fwiw!
The pair examines where classical liberalism has gone wrong:
COWEN: I would say animal welfare — government should have a larger role. But also what counts as a tax-exempt institution, I would prefer our government be stricter.

ROBERTS: Well, I’m with you there. Yeah, okay, kind of.

COWEN: Well, that’s more regulation, okay?

ROBERTS: I guess.

COWEN: Kind of.

ROBERTS: Yeah, kind of. It’s different standards.

COWEN: Higher capital requirements for banks.

ROBERTS: I’m okay with that. Yeah, that’s a good one. I’d prefer a laissez-faire world for banks, more or less. If we can’t credibly promise not to bail out banks — if that’s the case, we live in a world where banks get to keep their profits and put their losses on taxpayers — bad world. A more regulated world would be better than the world we live in; not as good as my ideal world, though. But there’s a case where I would be in favor — like you just said — more capital requirements.

You’re on a roll. See what else you can come up with for me.

COWEN: Spending more money for tax enforcement, especially on the wealthy.

ROBERTS: Not the worst thing in the world.

COWEN: You can spend a dollar and bring in several times that, it seems.

ROBERTS: I don’t think rich people cheat on their taxes. Do you? [laughs]

COWEN: “Cheat” is a tricky word, but I think we could spend more money.

ROBERTS: We could probably collect more effectively.

COWEN: And it would more than pay for itself.

ROBERTS: Yeah. That’s probably true.

COWEN: We’re actually big fans of government regulation today.

ROBERTS: Yeah, we’ve really expanded the tent here. [laughs]

[...]

I’ve been deeply saddened by the failure of people on so-called our side — the people who believe in smaller government — to think at all about that, to think at all about human flourishing by the people who are struggling. I think that has been a terrible mistake…

We don’t have a political home for our ideas, and I think the intellectual home has failed badly for our inability to make the case, either for liberty in and of itself, and to understand how and why people who are being left behind by our economy, and what policies might help them. I think that’s an utter failure of our side, and it’s a tragedy.
also note: niskanen and cato; oh and david brooks' The Coming G.O.P. Apocalypse :P
posted by kliuless at 6:42 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


>>Are millennials truly “the most pro-life generation,” as this manifesto asserts?

>>It's a stretch, but not as big of one as you might hope:


Yeah, the most notable movement in that polling in the "abortion should be illegal in every circumstance" polling, is that it went from 32% to 21% support among the 65+ age group from the 1970s to 2005-2009.

Far less remarkable there is that all the other age groups, including the youngest age group, have circled around approximately the 20% during the entire time period--see this chart.

Also see this more recent polling that seems to show support for abortion rights growing remarkably in the younger age groups in very recent years.

So, basically the exact opposite of what they are claiming.

(Though it's possible they are still technically correct--the best kind of correct, as we all know--in the sense that maybe more people are glomming onto the "Pro Life" label even though it doesn't really fully summarize their views (full article), or maybe it's gone from 34% to 38% in that age group (ie, still a minority, but a slightly smaller one), or similar such things. Regardless, the 18-29 age group is still the strongest supporters of the right to abortion.

In looking at those studies, I do have to say: My fellow Americans, what the $&*#$& is wrong with you!?

Why, oh why, do we see charts like this ("pro choice" walloping "pro life" in the 90s, now they are close to even).

Do you really fall prey to buzzword and disinformation campaigns that easily?

Or is it more that when our rights are under threat we rise up and defend them, but when they seem to be fully secured we relax and don't consider them all that important?
posted by flug at 6:45 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


The Left needs to revitalize its spiritual roots, which have atrophied over the past century. It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right. Spiritual life is the most important thing to the vast majority of people, and they would rather vote of someone who everyone knows only pays it lip service than someone who is openly dismissive of it.
posted by No Robots at 7:15 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right.

Is White American Jesus really a spiritual concept or more of a cultural identifier?
posted by Max Power at 7:20 PM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Is White American Jesus really a spiritual concept or more of a cultural identifier?

There are some Americans, indeed some from the evangelical Right, who have seen things clearly:
The stories about Jesus that survived the bigots, opportunists and delusional fanatics who wrote the New Testament contain powerful and enlightened truths that would someday prove the undoing of the Church built in his name. Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in. In Jesus’ day the institutions of religion, state, misogyny and myth were so deeply ingrained that the ultimate dangerousness of his life example could not be imagined. For example his feminism, probably viewed as an eccentricity in his day, would prove transformational.--"Jesus Was Not a 'Bible Believer' let Alone an Evangelical" / Frank Schaeffer. Excerpt from Why I am an atheist who believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
The point is that the Left has abandoned this field of discussion almost entirely.
posted by No Robots at 7:31 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


Like, statuettes of rotating neon Jesus?

I blame Edison.
posted by clavdivs at 7:36 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in

"10. Man generates life where he polarizes his creative force; if in the flesh, he begets sensuality; if in the spirit, spirituality. Can Christians grow in grace while habitually creating carnality? Can Christianity regenerate society through an unspiritual membership?"

- Newton N. Riddell, The New Man, 1914.
posted by clavdivs at 7:55 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right.

This is so utterly simplistic that it's nonsense.

Starting with the historical record that racist conservatives explicitly and intentionally targeted Southern evangelicals as their political and cultural footsoldiers (Vox: The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump), so, right off the bat, it's far less that the "contemporary Left" (which is who, exactly? The Democratic Party? George McGovern? Elizabeth Warren? Arlo Guthrie? The hippies at Woodstock?) scorned "spirituality" (note: as of the current Congress, only one member identifies as "religiously unaffiliated") as much as cultural conservatives explicitly and intentionally gained control of a large segment of white Christianity (easy, because that segment of white Christianity was already interpreting the Bible in favor of racism, sexism, and homophobia) and publicly equated conservatism with Christianity.

Blaming "The Left" for scorning spirituality thereby causing the perseverance of the Christian Right is buying into the Christian Right's persecution narrative, and ignoring the simple fact that what was "scorned" was a belief system already corrupted by bigotry and directly, intentionally, equated with political conservatism.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:46 PM on June 6 [39 favorites]


There's been a conflict playing out for years between the religious/social conservatives and the economic/libertarian conservatives. There were vast arguments about whether George W. Bush was one or the other, because he often played both sides, and was never clear which one he was really on and which one he was only pretending to be. I mean, that dominated the argument about him in the admittedly brief time before 9/11 sucked all the air out of the room. (Generally the discussion was something like: is he a born-again from Texas who is working his family's old-money connections to get in the White House to bring about the Apocalypse? Or is he a New England blueblood who carpet-bagged his way into the Texas governor's mansion and is pulling the wool over the silly hicks' eyes, so he can cut estate taxes? Or is he both?)

The unholy marriage of libertarians and god-botherers was never stable. Like an atom of Plutonium 241, we know it's going to go, and we can even make some general predictions about how it's going to go down, but we can't tell exactly when it's going to go.

But maybe we're entering the endgame.

I wouldn't get too excited, though. Political parties have come and gone in the US, and there's always been two dominant ones. The system is not stable with just one, and it doesn't seem to be stable with more than two; the third one always gets pushed into an alliance with one of the others. It's a bistable system; there will always be two parties.

That doesn't mean one party can't have a significant advantage over the other for a while. At different times there have been seemingly-entrenched Democratic and Republican majorities, leading to speculation that the other party was dead. It was never the case.

The Democrats could probably gain a supermajority for a considerable while if they found some way to cleave off the libertarian segment of the Republicans and isolate the religious conservatives; doing so would harm the Republican brand, and leave them with too few votes (no matter how motivated) to actually govern—there are a lot of religious conservatives, but not that many; not enough to outweigh a solid center-left coalition. This is what you'd expect to see in a parliamentary government, but in the US it's a much more fraught process.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:02 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


The Democrats could probably gain a supermajority for a considerable while if they found some way to cleave off the libertarian segment

I've had the most success getting people to see that Freedom From is vastly more important that Freedom To.

That said, so many Libertarians are actually authoritarian - they lie to themselves about what it is they truly want.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:19 PM on June 6 [16 favorites]


That said, so many Libertarians are actually authoritarian - they lie to themselves about what it is they truly want.

Mix together hardcore libertarians, monomaniacal theocrats, the materially insatiable, and just plain old psychopaths. Let them grab the reins of power.

And here we are.... :(
posted by Pouteria at 11:08 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I've long believed that the strength of the Republican party and its efficiency at getting things done is due to so many of its members' willingness to toe the party line and repeat the talking points regardless of whether or not it/they conflicted with their own beliefs and values, and those of their constituents. If that stops being the case and there's a fracture in the party, it could be a real game-changer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:52 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


That said, so many Libertarians are actually authoritarian - they lie to themselves about what it is they truly want.

If you believe that everybody should obey their boss, it's not a great leap to believing that everybody should obey one boss.
posted by acb at 1:35 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Look on the bright side. They have 30 years to try to install their theocracy before the climate catastrophe causes the collapse of civilization. Climate change doesn't care about theology, and ideologues tend to be bad at reacting to a crisis.

There's certainly no precedent for religious explanations of all-encompassing climate and weather events, plagues and other such phenomena that seem at a glance beyond the influence of mere humans. They definitely couldn't spread that any related suffering is a punishment for sins of their choice. /s
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:30 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I know that y'all have explained to yourselves why Trump is the face of theocracy, but I'm still flabbergasted.
posted by clawsoon at 4:45 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right.

At this point in time, the Right has only white evangelicals, Utah Mormons, and a portion of white Catholics. There are more American believers outside of the Right than there are inside.

I find it interesting you play into the Right's use of words. That you define the white faiths as being the same as the all-encompassing "spirituality". That there are no faiths outside of the Right-approved, predominantly white churches. Once again, someone falls into the trap of "white being the default" without even noticing.

To use the word "spirituality" is especially terrible in this circumstance. The Left has long been the home for spiritualities of all types. Including the non-Abrahamic ones, like Buddhism or Wicca, which are frequently scorned by... the Right.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:29 AM on June 7 [29 favorites]


Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker: Ross Douthat Describes the Crisis of the Conservative Coalition

"[P]art of what I think is best in what Ahmari wants and what some of the other younger religious conservatives want is a Republican Party or a conservatism that’s more informed by what I would call the fullness of the Christian sociopolitical tradition—that isn’t just an adjunct to a pro-business party and that actually has a Christian vision of the common good."

__

Eesh. The " fullness of the Christian sociopolitical tradition" is an awful long way of saying "Republic of Gilead."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:30 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


The Left has long been the home for spiritualities of all types.

But does the Left see these spiritualities as its primary motive force? It seems to me that the Left today is dominated by materialist scientism, where everything that isn't strictly Darwinian is scorned as woo-woo. Talk about the souls of plants and animals on this website is disparaged, for example. I'd love to see a party of the Left that came forward with a doctrine for the protection of the biosphere that was rooted in respect for the living spirit that inhabits every living thing. Nothing else is strong enough to deal with the challenges we have to face in protecting the biosphere.
posted by No Robots at 5:47 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


No Robots, we agree 100%. I'm noticing some interesting things going on with millennials w/r/t identification with magic and witchcraft on the queer/left/feminist side, versus extreme Christian Orthodoxy (either Eastern Orthodoxy or Pre-VII-Catholicism) on the other.

At some level, people have to decide on a fundamental belief about the world/Earth. In a broad animist/pagan view, the world/Earth is sacred, no one set of living beings is more entitled than any other, and we are home on Earth and belong here. Other living things are our kin and equals, even though we're all struggling to survive.

In the Christian Orthodox reactionary view, the world/Earth is a second-class citizen, a fallen, fundamentally unreal thing that is of no real spiritual consequence for living beings except as a sorting and weigh-station for human (and only human) souls. Capital-G God doesn't care about any other living beings except as they please or annoy humans. Humans don't belong in this world, and to identify too strongly with worldliness is to turn away from God.

Now the world IS DYING. How you're going to react to that news is going to be very different depending on your deepest spiritual beliefs about humankind's place in the cosmos.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:08 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


America’s conservative intellectuals... I mean, I guess you could call them that, but... If such a creature exists

There are genuine intellectuals who are conservative but their ideas have no impact on actual elected conservatives so they may as well not exist.
posted by atrazine at 6:14 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


No Robots: It seems to me that the Left today is dominated by materialist scientism, where everything that isn't strictly Darwinian is scorned as woo-woo. Talk about the souls of plants and animals on this website is disparaged, for example.

It's been a while since I've been in an Evangelical church, but when I was there they were even less friendly to talk of the souls of plants and animals. That stuff would've been condemned as New Age witchcraft, a celebrations of demons, a direct invitation to Satan to take over your mind. Metafilter might not be super-tolerant of it, but it's a lot more tolerant than my church would've been.
posted by clawsoon at 6:49 AM on June 7 [19 favorites]


It seems to me that the Left today is dominated by materialist scientism

This is probably the sanest way of doing things. Fighting the Collapse will benefit both the atheists and the believers. Universal health care will benefit everyone. In terms of reasoning for those things, using materialist logic is the safest and easiest way to get the point across. As soon as you start talking about the "souls of plants", then you turn off the non-pagans. If you switch gears towards "God told Adam & Eve to be good stewards of the Earth", then you'll turn off another group of people. Both of those phrases will marginalize and alienate the unchurched, the agnostics, and the atheists.

But we all have common ground on saving the planet because we will all benefit materially. There's no way of making everyone in their different belief systems happy without removing religion from the core reasoning.

That being said, the amount of spiritual language I see from lefty sources is quite immense. Christians using Christ and the Bible for inclusion and social justice. I see plenty from other faiths too. Especially at the grassroots level. Using their beliefs as justifications and arguments for their causes. When Muslims or Jews or Pagans or inclusive Christian churches come under attack, there's defenses from much of the Left.

Calling the Left "un-spiritual" is really just falling into the language of the Right. The Left gives more space to genuine spirtuality, and accepts the vast diversity of beliefs, far better than the Right does.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:57 AM on June 7 [27 favorites]


We need a powerful new spiritualism movement and it's the fault of *spins wheel* the Left that we don't have one!
posted by fleacircus at 6:57 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


things don't have to be made out of ectoplasm or whatever, instead of ordinary old stuff, to have great value
posted by thelonius at 7:00 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


things don't have to be made out of ectoplasm or whatever, instead of ordinary old stuff, to have great value

Sure, but in the same vein, just because you don't believe in ectoplasm doesn't mean that it is devoid of value as a concept. Speaking dismissively or derisively of it (like, you know, using the phrase "ectoplasm or whatever") removes part of your coalition and gives more space to the fascists.

I think this is what No Robots was complaining about in the first place.
posted by ragtag at 7:15 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


It seems to me that the Left today is dominated by materialist scientism, where everything that isn't strictly Darwinian is scorned as woo-woo.

And again, to the extent that this may be true, it can certainly be interpreted as a reaction to a conservative Christianity that dismisses and denies actual science (evolution, climate change, etc etc etc) in order to further its agenda. It's no surprise that one group of people will tend towards "scientism" (and science, y'know, actually has immediate relevance to our daily lives, viz. the computers we're all communicating with right now work because physics, not living spirits) when their political/philosophical/cultural opponents have seized on outright denial of science as a major part of their beliefs and platform.

But does the Left see these spiritualities as its primary motive force? [. . .] I'd love to see a party of the Left that came forward with a doctrine for the protection of the biosphere that was rooted in respect for the living spirit that inhabits every living thing. Nothing else is strong enough to deal with the challenges we have to face in protecting the biosphere.

Regardless of the extent to which I agree with this or not, I think you are drastically underestimating the extent to which Christianity is entwined with Western & specifically US society and culture. Which is to say:

Spiritual life is the most important thing to the vast majority of people

While this may be true (and tbh honest I think this is an unproven assertion), to expect a new non-Christian spiritual movement from the Left to achieve some kind of dominance or even major influence in less than 50 years seems pretty unrealistic, simply because for the vast majority of Americans "spirituality" means one strain or another of Christianity.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:29 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


If The Left is to pretend to be a polyglot multiculti thing, then it needs to politely remain silent on faith and spirituality. It becomes a matter of personal beliefs, not public ones. Organized Religion of any stripe can't be used as a formal appeal to moral law.

The left doesn't not have a place for faith, but it does not have a place for evangelical intolerance either.
posted by bonehead at 7:33 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Another interesting take on the supposed divide in the conservative world is this analysis of (yes) Tucker Carlson's enthusiasm for Elizabeth Warren's economic agenda. NYMag writer Eric Levitz says the Left should be worried if social conservatives toss aside their nakedly capitalist dance partners and make common cause with economic populists.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:03 AM on June 7


The Left needs to have a place for all spiritual traditions that lead to a leftist, inclusive ethos, full stop.

And part of a leftist, inclusive ethos is working in coalition with people who support your goals, regardless of how they arrived at that support, and not having purity tests about how they arrived at those goals.

If believing in animism or Buddhism or Unitarianism or Catholicism leads you to work towards civil rights, a social safety net, gender nondiscrimination, and responsible ecological stewardship, brother, grab a shovel. Tell me how that happened, and I will listen respectfully.

But please offer me the same courtesy when I tell you how I arrived at the same goals via scientific materialism.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:51 AM on June 7 [35 favorites]


I thought our society was becoming significantly less devoutly religious - especially broken down by generation - and one of the notable aspects of Trumpism is that he managed to attract people who seldom attend church to voting right based on nativism. Non-Abrahamic religious adherence is very, very low within the US and that's why it doesn't significantly color the moral discourse of the left or right and would be likely not just ineffective, but alienating in compelling voters using its rhetoric without a fairly detailed accompanying explanation and introduction.
posted by Selena777 at 9:28 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


A few weeks ago in AskMe someone recommended A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. I'm just getting started, but one of the things that it's already talking about is the periodic movements in the church to serve the poor, and how each of them would eventually get corrupted and co-opted. The impulse is always there, though, always lurking and waiting for the right conditions to spring out again, given the bare fact in the Bible that Jesus liked poor people and didn't much like rich people.
posted by clawsoon at 9:35 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The Left needs to revitalize its spiritual roots, which have atrophied over the past century. It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right. Spiritual life is the most important thing to the vast majority of people, and they would rather vote of someone who everyone knows only pays it lip service than someone who is openly dismissive of it.

Wow, y’all really like to get lied to, huh?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:53 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


I'll never understand why people with zero interest in religion or theology beyond dunking on its crudest manifestations feel like they're qualified to discuss it in any capacity.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:55 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


It is the contemporary Left’s scorn for spirituality that has led to the omnipresent zombie Right.

No. I am an atheist, but I mourned the recent death of Rachel Held Evans, a woman of uncommon valor. I admire the commonsense guidance of the Dalai Lama (who likes to fiddle with timepieces, like Doctor Strange).

"The Left," if I may speak for them, is opposed to those who constrain the human spirit, rather than support its expansion. Franklin Graham and the "prosperity church," what are they but worshipers of Mammon, who bend the knee not to something Above, but something Below?
posted by SPrintF at 10:05 AM on June 7 [17 favorites]


The left-leaning people I know in real life are secularists more than anything. They believe that religion or spirituality or whatever are personal matters, and that people with different views on the subject can work together in the public sphere without those differences getting in the way
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:53 AM on June 7 [28 favorites]


The Underpants Monster: The left-leaning people I know in real life are secularists more than anything. They believe that religion or spirituality or whatever are personal matters, and that people with different views on the subject can work together in the public sphere without those differences getting in the way
When an ideological liberalism seeks to dictate our foreign policy and dominate our religious and charitable institutions, tyranny is the result, at home and abroad.
Having to keep your religion in the personal sphere is read as tyranny to the authors of this essay.
posted by clawsoon at 3:56 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


That seriously reads like a pitch for the prequel Handmaids Tale: The Rise of Gilead. It really is ignoring current and future demographics of this country.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:32 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I'll never understand why people with zero interest in religion or theology beyond dunking on its crudest manifestations feel like they're qualified to discuss it in any capacity.

Maybe because some of those religions spent centuries justifying the denial of their right to marry, to rent or own housing, to be safe from violence, etc. Because these religions have been the loudest voice fighting against giving them any of those rights and they are publicly--in this essay and elsewhere--plotting to grab enough power to take away what few tentative rights they have.

It's pretty silly to act like non-religious people are the ones poking their noses into the affairs of religious people who just want to be left alone.
posted by straight at 6:51 AM on June 8 [30 favorites]


Spiritual life is breaking free from convention and tradition, becoming truly emancipatory. It is imperative that it operate throughout the public sphere in order to provide a solid foundation upon which to confront the challenges of the times. If the Left has no use for it, then it must discard the Left. If the Left must die in order for a true spiritual democracy to take root, then so be it.
posted by No Robots at 9:01 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Spiritual life is breaking free from convention and tradition, becoming truly emancipatory.

Citation needed.

If the Left has no use for it, then it must discard the Left. If the Left must die in order for a true spiritual democracy to take root, then so be it.

If you discard the left for true spirituality you aren't going to get a spiritual paradise you are going to get a christo-fascist Gilead that will absolutely crush your idea of spirituality.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:00 AM on June 8 [15 favorites]


If the Left has no use for it, then it must discard the Left.

<wonka> Stop. Don’t. Come back. </wonka>
posted by Sys Rq at 10:02 AM on June 8 [12 favorites]


If the Left has no use for it, then it must discard the Left. If the Left must die in order for a true spiritual democracy to take root, then so be it.

If you're willing to abandon people working for leftist, egalitarian aims in the observable world due to disagreements over non-falsifiable metaphysics, I question the actual importance you place on leftist, egalitarian ends.
posted by murphy slaw at 10:07 AM on June 8 [17 favorites]


Sohrab Ahmari's follow-up, Against David French-ism:
It isn’t easy to critique the persona of someone as nice as French. Then again, it is in part that earnest and insistently polite quality of his that I find unsuitable to the depth of the present crisis facing religious conservatives. Which is why I recently quipped on Twitter that there is no “polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war.” (What prompted my ire was a Facebook ad for a children’s drag queen reading hour at a public library in Sacramento.)

I added, “The only way is through”—that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.

...

Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral.
David French talked about what happened next in The Cruelty Is the Point:
After reading his essay, a number of people asked, “But what does that look like. What do you mean when you make the case for enmity and against civility?”

I’d suggest that it looks a lot like what Sohrab did to me in his essay and what Trump’s supporters did to me in response. A man committed to “enmity” and who believes decency is secondary repeatedly misrepresented my approach to politics and my role in critical public controversies. As I said when I answered Sohrab, he created a fictional version of me. This article acted like a signal flare, calling a truly enormous number of committed Trump supporters to spend day after day attacking me in the most vicious of terms, including by spreading many of the same falsehoods in the original piece.
A drag queen reading to children is, in Ahmari's view, tyranny. He wants to throw away civility and decency in order to "defeat the enemy and enjoy the spoils". He wants to "enforce our order and our orthodoxy".
posted by clawsoon at 5:51 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]




That Reason article nicely explains the source of the ire of Sohrab and his co-signatories.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:44 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


truly shocking that Reason magazine sees this as a sign of the collapse of social conservatism and the ascension of Libertarianism as the driving ethos of the right
posted by murphy slaw at 8:01 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


Conservative Women and the Intra-Conservatism Debate:
Where are the conservative women in this intra-conservatism debate? The shot fired by Sohrab Ahmari at First Things prompted a debate, whether on Twitter or web-magazines, that has been almost exclusively between men (with a notable exception being Stephanie Slade’s piece in Reason).

...

Obviously there are reasons other than role constraints for the scarcity of vocal conservative women in the current discussion of conservatism and its mission in the political realm. Indeed, some of those reasons are unhealthy elements within conservative circles. I see two in particular: the censorship of women, which sometimes borders on suppression, and the failure to seek out and cultivate wise, temperate, intelligent women for the conservative cause.

If conservative men value the women in their midst, then they need to make a greater effort to cultivate conservative women’s talents, be flexible and work around the heavy schedules most women keep, open publishing spaces for them, reference their work, and do a better job of promoting them. Again, it is our philosophy that acknowledges an asymmetry between men and women. It runs counter to this to operate as if the marketplace of ideas should be a meritocracy in which men’s and women’s voices compete to be published in a forum in which they then become indistinguishable.

...

Regarding Ahmari, well. . . . In my former time as a Calvinist, I encountered the well-known phenomenon called (in those circles) the “cage stage.” After one converts to Calvinism (whether from outside of Christianity or across denominations) one often becomes wildly zealous, always looking for an opportunity to argue people into one’s position. Such converts require “caging” to give them time to settle down. I think caging (or at least tempering) oneself for a while is, in general, good advice for anyone that undergoes any kind of conversion of ideas; because newfound excitement and fervor can blind one to the sincerity and sensitivity of others who also hold deep convictions. Ahmari has undergone rapid and numerous changes of beliefs and ideas within a short span of time; and when one has easy access to publishing venues, it is tempting to broadcast arguments that haven’t had time to steep a while in the mind and heart.
I wonder how Ahmari will take to being told to calm down by a woman, if he deigns to notice it at all. I expect "suffer not a woman to teach" from at least some corners.
posted by clawsoon at 2:51 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


oh man that subhead

Women have an understanding of conservatism that goes deeper than policy ideas, because we uniquely understand human relationships.”

excuse me sir, you seem to be excluding voices from your discourse which bear valuable gifts provided by the essential immutable attributes of their gender

If conservative men value the women in their midst,

does anyone want to tell her
posted by murphy slaw at 7:28 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Her argument for affirmative action for women who are thinkers and authors, but built on conservative sex-differences-are-innate assumptions, will surely make somebody's head go asplody.
posted by clawsoon at 11:34 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Spiritual life is breaking free from convention and tradition, becoming truly emancipatory. It is imperative that it operate throughout the public sphere in order to provide a solid foundation upon which to confront the challenges of the times.

People bringing their spiritual beliefs into the public sphere are the greatest day-to-day threat to my freedom right now. I'm not the only one.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:08 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]




People bringing their spiritual beliefs into the public sphere are the greatest day-to-day threat to my freedom right now.

Erm, your love of freedom is a spiritual belief.
posted by No Robots at 10:00 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Erm, your love of freedom is a spiritual belief.

only if you are defining "spiritual" so broadly that it can include beliefs with no metaphysical component whatsoever, at which point you're just using it as a synonym for "good"
posted by murphy slaw at 1:55 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


better that than completely ceding the concept to the woo-merchants and dominionists.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:09 PM on June 12


To quote a great American of the Left:
But do you know what a Wobbly is? It's a kind of spiritual condition. Don't be afraid of the word, Tovarich. A Wobbly is not only a man who takes orders from himself. He's also a man who's often in the situation where there are no regulations to fall back upon that he hasn't made up himself. He doesn't like bosses –capitalistic or communistic – they are all the same to him. He wants to be, and he wants everyone else to be, his own boss at all times under all conditions and for any purposes they may want to follow up. This kind of spiritual condition, and only this, is Wobbly freedom.--C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings, p.252.
Freedom is the ultimate spiritual concept. High time the Left got behind it.
posted by No Robots at 2:31 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


i agree, the left should encourage good things, and shun bad things
posted by murphy slaw at 2:49 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


You have to look at the whole system of human endeavor. What do we mean by freedom? Here is one view from the Left:
The tendency of the material world is towards integration, cooperation and inter dependence. On the other hand the tendency of the spiritual world is towards self-consciousness and freedom. The more thoroughly we shall become integrated materially the higher shall we rise spiritually and the wider will then be our freedom. For freedom we are to look in the direction of Spirit, and not in the direction of matter. As St. Paul said: "Now, the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is also Freedom."--Harry Waton / The Fetishism of liberty
When the Left emphasizes the material to the exclusion of the spiritual, it loses the very notion of freedom.
posted by No Robots at 3:52 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


But do you know what a Wobbly is? It's a kind of spiritual condition. Don't be afraid of the word, Tovarich. A Wobbly is not only a man who takes orders from himself. He's also a man who's often in the situation where there are no regulations to fall back upon that he hasn't made up himself. He doesn't like bosses –capitalistic or communistic – they are all the same to him. He wants to be, and he wants everyone else to be, his own boss at all times under all conditions and for any purposes they may want to follow up. This kind of spiritual condition, and only this, is Wobbly freedom.

Huh. That’s a great encapsulation of the laissez-faire capitalist’s deluded libertarian useful idiot, but I’m scratching my head trying to find any connection whatsoever to the IWW Wobblies. Unions have bosses, the whole point of unions is more regulation and emphasis of the power of the collective over the power of the individual. To use Mills’ terms, it’s communism over capitalism over man. That quote is just an embarrassing load of “Army of One” nonsense.

As to its supposed endorsement of spiritualism, that the word “spiritual” is being used only in the sense of morale and conviction is plainly obvious. That quote, regardless of whatever the heck it’s on about, is hardly a ringing endorsement of religion.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:08 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Also left out was the first half of the quote:
'I am a Wobbly.' I mean this spiritually and politically. In saying this I refer less to political orientation than to political ethos, and I take Wobbly to mean one thing: the opposite of bureaucrat. ... I am a Wobbly, personally, down deep, and for good. I am outside the whale, and I got that way through social isolation and self-help.
this seems like an incredibly personal and idiosyncratic use of "Wobbly" which says very little about IWW members or leftists in general in the real world.
posted by murphy slaw at 11:41 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Adam Serwer: The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum
The past few weeks have witnessed a nasty internecine fight among religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy’s time has passed. Sohrab Ahmari, writing at First Things, attacked National Review’s David French for adhering to a traditional commitment to liberal democracy while “the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us.” Would the left have stood by liberal democracy in the face of such circumstances? In fact, the balance of forces tilted away from the left’s cultural priorities for most of my lifetime, and the left’s response was to win arguments—slowly, painfully, and at incalculable personal cost.
tmotat, how seriously should this statement of dissent be taken in an American context?
I am still digesting this, and will get back to you this weekend.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:54 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


From the Serwer piece: "It is power that is the motivator here, and the best that could be said for these American Orbánists is that they believe that asserting an iron grip on American politics and culture would offer the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Every authoritarian movement has felt the same way."

Or at least the greatest good for a given number of the right people... Who needs elections when the Elect are in charge?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:26 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


Who needs elections when the Elect are in charge?

Fabulous phrasing that nails a very common phenomenon.
posted by clawsoon at 5:51 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]


Wanting to get away from all the standard religions because [many obvious reasons], we settled on Unitarian Universalism. But after a few years we left that too, because it wasn't spiritual enough. Most people have a sense that science, for all its successes, can never give a _complete_ description of truth. The need for a connection to something larger is pretty strong, perhaps even evolutionarily selected for. You can't fight evolution, and certainly not at the same time as you are fighting Trump and global heating. Politically, the left loses wide swaths of people who would otherwise agree with most of its tenets, because it appears to oppose that connection. I am all for the left reclaiming spirituality from the hypocritical right.

@No Robots: Thanks for your contributions to this thread.
posted by M-x shell at 9:21 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I think the most tenable position on the role in religion in politics is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Fortunately, I don't really see Democrats/liberals/the left trying to prohibit the free exercise of religion to nearly the extent that the right sometimes claims. I am more worried about Ahmari and his allies attempting to establish a religion.

Prohibiting religious exercise and establishing a religion may seem like they are opposite extremes, but, of course, once you establish a religion it becomes very easy to prohibit the exercise of others.

Fred Clark has written a lot about how secularism isn't the same as atheism ("secular" means treating all religions equally) and how even the established religion is damaged by the establishment of a religion.

That excellent Adam Serwer piece linked above makes the point very well that minorities (including religious minorities) tend to embrace the principles of liberalism and secularism because to abandon them "would be tantamount to giving the state permission to destroy them, a thought so foreign to these defenders of the supposedly endangered religious right that the possibility has not even occurred to them."

We who are opposed to theocracy can and should try to be more respectful in how we speak of other people's religious beliefs. But being opposed to theocracy is, in itself, a sign of respect for religion and spirituality in general, not of disrespect.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:35 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]




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