Well, if there’s anything worthy of Mr. Sullivan left to consider this should just about destroy it. Big if, little to consider.
We are farther away – as Dr. Mead amply illustrates with specific historical examples – from a theocracy – or even theocratic public policies – today than we have ever been.
However, I do find it interesting that being a strong supporter of the only liberal, pluralistic democracy – with gay and abortion rights guranteed! – in the Middle East makes one a Christianist.
I’ll just add that yesterday we began a policy – at last – of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in our military.
None of the major Republican presidential candidates – to my knowledge – have stated that they will reverse that policy. They can’t. If they try, they’ll fail. And many conservatives will oppose it if they try to.
I can’t really think of any greater evidence of how far we’ve come that this.
This stranglehold that Sullivan thinks the religious right has on the GOP simply doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t.
What Mr. Mead sees as “progress” toward “liberty” I see as entropy, decay leading to collapse. He is, unfortunately, right that the tide is irreversable. I find that unutterably depressing. But in culture as in nature, entropy is unavoidable and irreversable. The “heat death” of our culture is inevitable.
“Many younger readers will have trouble believing that anybody older than Andrew Sullivan exists, but I am not only a good bit older than Mr. Sullivan, I’ve been immersed in American life much longer, and I can remember when the Right was really Right.” (Walter Russell Mead)
Sullivan, little more than a dilettante and a celebrity journalist in the worst sense of the word, simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Professor Mead is precisely correct; there was a time that “right wing” really meant “right wing.” Professor Mead is probably not old enough to remember it himself, but there was a time that right wing populism was led by none other than Father Charles Coughlin.
In many ways, Coughlin was ahead of his time. He practically invented the idea of using the air waves to reach a mass audience with a message of intolerance and even hatred. His radio show was incredibly popular; it reached millions of listeners and some people claim that almost one third of the nation listened to his broadcasts. Coughlin claimed to receive about 80,000 letters a week from members of his audience.
Coughlin practically defined right wing populism and when he wasn’t railing against Roosevelt, the New Deal and communism he was defending Hitler and Mussolini and blaming all of America’s problems on Jewish bankers and Jewish immigration.
On December 18, 1938 two thousand of Coughlin’s followers marched in New York protesting potential changes to the asylum law that would allow more Jews (including refugees from Hitler’s persecution) into the U.S., chanting, “Send Jews back where they came from in leaky boats!” and “Wait until Hitler comes over here!” The protests continued for several months. Some historians have claimed that Coughlin was funded, at least in part by Nazi Germany.
In short, Coughlin practically invented the idea of religious leaders preaching about politics over the air. Simply put, Father Coughlin was there first to pioneer religious broadcasting.
The true irony is that Andrew Sullivan is too vain and too oblivious to realize that it is not today’s “Christianists” who are the heirs to Coughlin, it is Sullivan, Walt, Mearsheimer and their fellow travelers who have inherited Coughlin’s mantle. Just as Coughlin raved about Jewish conspiracies, today its Sullivan and friends who do that. Just as Coughlin blamed Jewish bankers for all the troubles of the 1930s, today it is Sullivan and colleagues who complain when Jewish donors drop their support of Obama or Jewish voters, disgusted by Obama’s policies, vote Republican.
During Coughlin’s day there was plenty of anti-Semitism to be found in both the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant churches. In 2011, the evangelical movement has largely purged itself of anti-Semitism; today anti-Semitism is most likely to be found in the main line Protestant denominations and amongst secular leftists.
It was particularly hypocritical of Sullivan to criticize Christian Zionists who support Israel in the little tirade on his blog. When “right” really meant “right” far too many Christians justified discrimination against Jews and even persecution by the ridiculous notion that Jews were guilty of deicide. Today, tens of millions of Christian Zionists live by a different credo; they proudly proclaim the words of Genesis 12:3,
“I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (King James Version). Only someone as morally obtuse as Andrew Sullivan could fail to see this as progress.
To add irony onto to irony, the contemporary “right wing” Christianists that Sullivan excoriates are now far more “Liberal” than the secularists or far left wing Christians whom he prefers. It’s the Christianists that Sullivan doesn’t like who are repulsed by female genital mutilation, forced consanguineous marriage of young girls, capital punishment for “adultery,” requiring women to be fully veiled, stoning homosexuals to death, capital punishment for apostates and a host of other reactionary proclivities that characterize far too much of the Islamic world, including the Hamas terrorists that Sullivan excuses. It is the secular left as well as the religious left who are willing to pardon the most horrific practices in the name of muticulturalism. The Christianists, who Sullivan despises, object to bringing Sharia sanctioned practices to the United States; it’s the “progressive” Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks it might not be such a bad idea for Sharia to be incorporated into British Law. Of the two views, which is more odious?
Leon Wieseltier was right about Andrew Sullivan. Not only is Sullivan a clown, he has a serious problem. Sullivan’s criticisms of Israel are little more than a thin disguise for his contempt for Jews.
A few posts back, Professor Mead proposed the perfect formula for identifying an anti-Semite. He suggested that someone who becomes outraged at Israelis for behavior they are willing to excuse or not even notice when carried out by anyone else needs to viewed very skeptically. That definition fits Andrew Sullivan to a tee.
Americans have little to fear from James Dobson or Ralph Reed. It’s not they who have lost their moral bearings. It’s Andrew Sullivan, the secular and religious left, and many of today’s foreign policy “realists” who seem to relish their role as modern day Coughlins.
WRM, the problem is always one of discrimination and emphasis; what social arrangements at any given time and place should be kept relatively stable and what arrangements should be modified, in order that values may be rendered more secure, more equitably distributed, richer and more diversified (conserving and change).
“All morality (including immorality) is both individual and social (collectivist): individual in its immediate inception and execution, in the desires, choices, dispositions from which conduct proceeds; social in its occasions, material, and consequences. That which is regarded as anti-social and immoral at one time is hailed later on as the beginning of great and beneficent social change…. These facts do not signify that there is no enduring criterion for judgment but that this criterion is to be found in consequences, and not in some general conception of individual and collective.”
As indicated WRM, the general concept of American individualism suggests the relativism of social formula under different social conditions vis-a-vis United States history.
Very sober and rational analysis. Both sides tend to exaggerate the others supposed goals. One thing to nitpick however, those KKK people and other Southern “traditionalists” were by and large democrats and hated republicans as much as blacks, Jews, and Catholics. It wasn’t until recently that the South became solidly republican.
Libertarian: I’ve stood in one place for 35 years and America has moved steadily closer and closer to me. Maybe in another 35 years America will begin to resemble my dreams for it.
I’ve long ago stopped taking Sullivan seriously, but how can a professional writer possibly come up with this: “Its positions – once radical – are now litmus tests for every GOP candidate save one”?
I have a two word answer to your column:
We should recall that Jefferson used the term “Christianism” favorably. See his letter to Francis Van der Kemp of July 30, 1816. Of course, Jefferson meant by that term Unitarianism.
“Liquor by the drink, gambling, lesbian and gay equal rights, premarital sex, birth control, pornography, interracial marriage: on a whole variety of issues, some noble and important, some hedonistic and perhaps a bit more questionable, the United States has moved steadily and inexorably toward a more permissive and open stance.”
You are so right. You are winning, Andrew, and taking families and communities, whole swaths of our country, down the sewer with the ’60s premise that if it feels good, damn right you should do it. And to hell with consequences.
So relax. We nutty Christianists are charging the windmills. But I did read the last chapter and know how the war ends. We just have to destroy ourselves to get there.
While we are on the subject of history, it’s worth noting that the infamous billboard you reference was put up by members of Andrew’s favorite political party – the Democrats.
One caveat; while the political philosophy of most people in 1958 may have trended more collectivist, in that they would soon think sweeping social programs like welfare, and Medicare were good ideas, in practice, thnaks to the ever growing bureaucracy, our modern era is considerably more constrained in its economic activity than the 50’s.
People may want more freedom now, but I’m not particularly sure they have it.
In Andrew Sullivan’s defense, he is a drug-addled, delusional lunatic. So…there’s that.
The next big fight isn’t going to be on the social/cultural front, but rather on the individual responsibility front. We’re already seeing the tension between the social individualists who want to be free to indulge in their vices, however restrained or libertine, against those whose willingness to tolerate such behavior is predicated on their not having to underwrite the costs of the behavior and its consequences.
It will be interesting to observe the limits that iconoclastic individualists place on themselves when they can no longer rely on strangers being forced to support them.
This discussion show how useless the terms “right wing” and “left wing” are. Coughlin was originally a supporter of FDR (he was invited to the inauguration) but so far from opposing the New Deal as a whole, rather he opposed it because it did not go far enough. It is lazy to pigeonhole him as “right wing” because he was an anti-semite – that was no more an exclusively right-wing trope then than it is now. Two useful descriptive terms that might be more clear would be to describe him as a collectivist, and a populist (the latter is something that is more obviously a moving target).
Sorry, Walter, but there is no such thing as “liberal enough” or “fairly liberal”. The minute you decide to step aside from the lemming stampede you are not merely no longer “liberal enough” you are officially Bull Connors with a Sarah Palin poster over your Confederate Flag in the garage. Report for your self-criticism session immediately.
I finally came to the conclusion that the left was full of [email protected] in the 80s. Moslim Fundamentalist were everything that the left accused the ‘christianists’ of: seeking to establish a theocracy, murdering gays, repressing women and all-round @ssholes.
So when Moslim Fundamentalists made it onto the international scene I figured the left would be on them like white on rice. Instead the left either ignored them or excused them. At that time I realized the left wasn’t really interested in fighting real evil rather it fought the good fight against faux evil: Western culture. Safer that way I guess.
Wig Wag seeking to demonize Fr. Coughlin as ‘right wing’ is rather entertaining.
Coughlin was a progressive, and one of the first in America to openly agitate for ‘social justice.’ He was a nationalist, which, combined with his socialist tendencies certainly renders him a fascist in the mold of Mussolini.
An early supporter of FDR, he only broke with FDR when he thought FDR had become to comfy with financiers and industrialists.
Yes he was deeply antisemitic, but then again so were many other progressives of the day. Do not forget that Margaret Sanger, founder of what became Planned Parenthood advocated abortion as a means of controlling the population of ‘undesireables’ which included both blacks and jews.
History is a broad brush. Coughlin and his fascism tars the progressives and leftists as much, if not more than it tars conservatives.
Interesting points, Mr Mead. Now where in your schema do we position the growing masses opting for more and more government controls and fewer and fewer individual freedoms and responsibilities?
Father Coughlin was a virulent anti-Semite and a big name in radio.
He was, however, not Right in either the old or new sense of the word.
Coughlin began broadcasting after the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the property of his church.
Before the 1930’s, he didn’t talk much about economics or national policy.
In 1934, Coughlin was heard saying that “God is directing President Roosevelt.” While he was an ardent foe of socialism and communism, Coughlin apparently favored nationalisation (government take-over) of certain industries.
Coughlin also spoke heavily in favor of unions.
Other causes supported by Coughlin are described as ‘work and income guarantees’ and ‘redistribute wealth by taxes’. He also spoke heavily against unregulated free markets.
(All ideas and quotes shown above are from Wikipedia, and citations can be found there.)
While Coughlin was anti-Communist, he wasn’t necessarily Right Wing.
This is a little too polyanish. If the country was libertarian rather than libertine those opposed to homosexual “rights’ would not have their children forced to learn the liberal version of what is laughably called marriage or be sued because they did not want to be forced into association with sexual deviants. What social norms are now enforced by law are simply the polar opposite of those of 1964.
I can remember when the Right was really Right. I remember KKK billboards on the roadside, and I especially remember one showing a picture of Martin Luther King
This appears to me to be libel of “The Right”.
The Democrat Party was the Party of the KKK, and they by no means opposed the New Deal ad the money into brought into the South. These statehouses were full Democrats up until very recently.
The Dixiecrats were a major strategic component of the Democrat’s collision from FDR up to McGovern, and they helped to push Clinton and Carter over the edge.
Stop confusing Democrat machine politics in the South with “The Right” merely because they are not out and out Marxists. This is as ridiculous a bit of Democrat electioneering propaganda as the “theocracy” one.
Like everything that the Left soys, this to is a lie.
Father Caughlin is often described as a right wing populist because he hated Jews and because, after an initial infatuation, he criticized FDR. However, Caughlin’s attacks on FDR were from the left. His main enemies were Wall Street and bankers and he was upset that FDR was too soft on them. In addition to traditional antisemitism, Caughlin also played on the Jewish banker trope.
If he voiced any criticism of communism it was because of the antireligious atheism practiced by the Soviet Union.
The Left has been winning most of the cultural arguments, but its fear of the Right grows even as the country continues by and large to move culturally toward tolerance and acceptance of diversity.
Here, let me fix that for you:
The Left has been winning most of their fight t debased and degrade the culture, but its fear of the Right grows even as the country slides into profound moral decay
If you think, at your age, that this nation is moving “culturally toward tolerance and acceptance of diversity” you are ether morally deprave or quite out of your mind.
I had an email correspondence with Sullivan on precisely this topic a few years ago. He was expressing a longing for those “kinder, gentler days” before the Bush Administration and their Christianist minions took over the country. I asked him about those days, which included separate drinking fountains, the criminilization of homosexual acts and, of course, no Roe vs Wade. He had no answer then, and apparently still doesn’t.
Another name for political libertarianism could just as well be political Thomism. Read St. Thomas on law and think about it. And realize also how liberal the middle ages actually were compared to the Renaissance/Reformation era.
I agree with Jacksonian Libertarian. The trend is clearly more toward a Libertarian posture in our society. This is sort of a Hegelian synthesis in which the two oppisites come together in one new position which often takes on an alternative, sub-argument to gain common ground.
In the case of gay marriage (for example) the idea of using law to control marriage by BOTH sides, will eventually fall to the position that government ought to get out of the marriage business all together. That will leave both parties happy in that gays will find clergy who will be willing to marry them AND more traditionalists (Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, etc) will not be forced to recognize them as such by force of law.
There is in the US, in my opinion, an inexorable march toward more liberty. The only thing that keeps it from being fully actualized is government’s meddling and interference.
Athony, what pseodo-intellectual, liberal double speak:
As indicated WRM, the general concept of American individualism suggests the relativism of social formula under different social conditions vis-a-vis United States history.
It suggest no such thing. The acknowledgement of moral absolutes was a constant throughout Christian history here ad elsewhere. The penetration of the error of”moral relativism” into the “mainstream”is the handy work of the Left, and it really did not hot this level of penetration until the 1960’s.
The demoralization of American society was and is the goal of leftist “moral relativism”, and we know now that this was a articulated strategy and tactic of the Direct Political action teams of the USSR in the USA from the 1920’s onward. Most certainly, sodomy was not permitted in the USSR, no matter how their teams promoted it here.
One gathers, and hopes, that the cultural rot inflicted on this the Boomer Cultural Marxists will fade sway in time and that subsequent generations will rediscover the moral truths of prior generations. If not, then within a generation the rot of the West will be to great to reverse and its civilization will be swept away, perhaps by Asia or perhaps by Islam.
The left see themselves as some sort of pinnacle of “moral development”, “tolerance” and “Diversity” (and strangely assume that “Diversity” in the moral sense is a good thing), but the rest of the world knows them to be the decadent poltroons that they are.
They watch and bide their time.
OTOH you are quite correct that the libertarian (anti-statist) position is winning out over the statist position. My co-blogger Eric at Classical Values calls the restrictive rightists:
Statist Social Conservatives.
And they are getting beaten left and right. The next pillar to fall will be Drug Prohibition. Why?
Here is what Drug War corruption has come to. It includes the FBI.
This quote seems appropriate:
“Here a year or two ago me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I don’t have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to put you to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.” -Cormac McCarthy, “No Country For Old Men”
The trend is for the downfall of nannies, be they for the body or the soul.
But where the Right or the Left seeks to limit individual autonomy in either economic life, sexual expression (among consenting adults), thought or the arts, the cause of liberty tends to win.
Except for the eco-fascist movement, which has been relentlessly and increasingly restricting industry and home life for decades, and is seeking greater controls on Americans’ homes, travel, diet, and even fertility.
If Sullivan had identified the theocracy as environmentalism, he might have been onto something (I trust you are familiar with Michael Crichton’s essay identifying environmentalism as a religion?).
My what a frightened little boy Andrew must be. Between obsessing over Mrs. Palin and fretting over religious take overs of the USA that only happen in science fiction stories (Robert Heinlein’s excellent “If This Goes On” for instance), it’s a wonder he can get out of fetal position long enough to write such crap. The view from his P-Town living room must be really something to be able to see the alternate universe he talks about.
As Professor Read suggests, this ain’t your grand dad’s Right Wing. Even here in Colorado Springs (the gates of Mordor in terms of Christian Fundamentalists), the “Christianists” are a non-issue in public life. They go about their colorful rituals and the rest of the population goes on its way. They might as well be pagans for all the influence they really have.
King was a Republican and the folks opposing the civil rights acts were almost all Democrats.
Yes, Goldwater opposed one, based on a states right argument, but the folks opposing them on purely racial grounds were all Democrats in good standing, including Clinton’s mentor, Fulbright, and noted Democrat icon and Klan recruiter, Robert Byrd. These folks weren’t booted out of the Democrat party – they retired in good standing in the 70s and 80s.
Of course, racial classification has always been a Progressive staple. Wilson segregated the army, Holmes loved eugenics, and the progressive movement lent support to Jim Crow, which was imposed and defended by Democrats. (One of Wilson’s college roommates wrote “The Clansman”, inspiration for “Birth of a Nation”.)
It’s pretty simple. The Democrat Party, at least nationally, has transmogrified into or been captured by the hard left Progressive governing philosophy. Over the last 30 years at least, the Prog-Dems have succeeded in politicizing a great deal of daily life, from breathing, eating and drinking, work, industrial activity, energy, housing, and transport.
Strangely enough, religion is actually one of the few subjects which can be fairly easily avoided, at least in private. But the Prog-Dems are very much engaged in removing the right to the “free exercise of religion” in the public square. The Republican Party has mostly been “brilla por su ausencia,” or ineffective, in defense of the classical liberal American tradition of free markets and free people.
In sum, you have the objects reversed. The left can, as you advise, relax. Since there exists no real “threat” to anything other than the Progressive goal of public sector control of the population. And, with no pushback from elected conservatives and libertarians, it can proceed apace with the dismantling of American exceptionalism and traditional values. The Right should be afraid, be very afraid, that attitudes such as that put forward here by WRM are prevalent. He fails utterly to recognize and account for the Progressive Blue Model undermining of the U.S. economy and culture. His many secular left friends are laughing behind his back at his naivete.
Andrew Sullivan is mentally deranged; the patron saint of professional left-wing hacks.
I’m all for individual liberty and increased tolerance, but I find it interesting that the more tolerant much of society becomes, the less orthodox Christianity is tolerated. The goal of the homosexual rights movement, and especially same-sex “marriage,” is to deligitimize traditional Christian morality, especially sexual morality, and affirm homosexuality as morally good at best and morally neutral at worst.
This is why those who believe marriage cannot be re-defined are targeted as bigots,and nobody likes a bigot. The real bigots are those like Mr. Sullivan who see Christians as hatemongers that are to be feared and shunned at all cost.
Mead, I do not have your personal knowledge of the history, but I find the political definitions of right and left difficult to pin on people between time periods. To claim that today’s Right is related in anyway to the “really” Right e.g. the KKK is wrong both in fact and in theory.
Slavery, the KKK (both the original and the remake), segregation and Jim Crow were the policies of the Democratic party. At the same time, the Democrats were also the party of unions and socialists. Though it appears bipolar, this is a matter of history and fact. That the modern Democratic party (the Left) no longer supports slavery et al, does not change their history.
In contrast, the Republicans of the past opposed slavery, the KKK, segregation and Jim Crow and they never aligned with unions or socialists. In fact, the Republicans of yesteryear are remarkably similar to modern Republicans (the Right). So why is the modern Right being saddled with the historical baggage of the Democratic party?
One of the reasons I will posit is that Left and Right, socialist and conservative, are not the primary political groupings. The more accurate (but imperfect) grouping would be the collectivist versus the individualist. The collectivist is tribal. It is always us and them. Thus they divide people by their tribe – the Marxist do it economically (class warfare); the racialist does it by race; the feminist by gender. Tribal loyalty is the highest principle, which is why the marxists, the racialist and the feminist would still support each other as fellow Democrats.
Thus the marxist and the racialist will say they stand against racism, but will rip apart a black conservative because he is not one of their tribe. Similar with the feminist and conservative women.
The individualist prefers the golden rule of doing unto others what you would have them do unto you. This does not mean that an individualist is a better person than a collectivist, far from it. It’s not a matter of personal sanctity, but a practical, nearly utilitatarian policy of “Well, I wouldn’t want to be treated like that”.
The ironic part is that Sullivan used to be a passionate and eloquent defender of Israel (and of the Bush admin, and of the War on Terror). Sometime in 2005 he turned on a dime and started hysterically denouncing those whose ENEMIES he used to denounce in sometimes equally hysterical tones. And any ostensible reasons for the turn he gave was so laughable (considering his earlier stances) that they were obviously handmaids to the real reason.
Sullivan loves his own riffs. I don’t.
Anthony, what’s the provenance of that quote you cited about morality, individual and social?
You seem to be saying that liberals shouldn’t worry, the Christian right won’t get their way on social issues. That just doesn’t square with political reality. It’s pretty clear that if you replace just one of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court you’d have a majority to overturn Roe v Wade, and in short order abortion would be illegal in many states. How is that not a radical reversal, away from individual liberty and to a religiously dictated social policy? Why is that an implausible scenario?
It takes a great deal of loyalty to careerism or political ideology for a writer to shamelessly and falsely associate the Republicans with race hatred, as Mr. Mead has done here. The Republican Party was founded on an anti-slavery platform. Worse yet for Mr. Mead’s reputation as an honest scholar slavery, Jim Crow and the Klan were mechanisms with which the Democratic South held down Black hopes for freedom while Republicans died to free them. Membership in the Democratic Party was a requirement to become a Klan member.
Despite the sacrifices that great men like Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (ALL REPUBLICANS) made in fighting the Democratic Party’s racist forces, Mr Mead lays the blame for racism on the heads of their comrades.
No doubt a career advancer in Mr Mead’s circle of friends.
But this great human movement toward less external constraint on individual freedom seems to be the essence of American life.
American culture, maybe. But American government has been going the other way for a long time: getting rid of legal strictures on gays liberates a minority, but drunk driving roadblocks (for instance) reduce everyone’s freedom. The sad thing is that most Americans, especially the younger ones, seem to be OK with this.
The critical thing to consider about any given morally wrong action, is this: Is it the kind of action which one may justly oppose with armed force, or is it the kind of action which one may oppose only through persuasion, but never by compulsion?
It is important to note that there is not now, nor has there ever been, a strong Christian orthodoxy on this question.
There has, of course, been a strong and obvious orthodoxy about sexual matters. It is obligatory on the Christian who is tempted to have sexual relations with same gendered persons to resist that temptation. That is orthodoxy; it has been for 2,000 years (not counting the preceding 2,000 in Judaism); one cannot plausibly change this without implying that everything in Christianity is up-for-grabs. The person who says that correct Christian sexual morality was utterly unknown for virtually its entire history until the last thirty years, and is now only correctly known by a minority of Christians who happen to have the misfortune to live in a debauched culture is not making a minor “tweak” to Christian thought; he is falsifying Christianity by saying that either Jesus was not God, or that we can’t know if he was, or that even if he was all the folks who knew him best were clueless about what he expected of us until very recently.
So the Christian teaching on chastity isn’t plausibly alterable without redefining the word “Christianity” to mean “something unknowable.”
But this is not the case with the Christian teachings on the proper use of force by government to compel moral behavior; or, indeed, on the origins of the legitimacy of government authority.
There is really no Christian orthodoxy to be had, in the last 2,000 years, on THAT topic. “Divine right of kings” was good propaganda at the time, but the educated were largely above it, and it never had the status of a dogma. The only authority to rule which a Christian can’t plausibly question is that of the Davidic line of Israelite kings, for reasons that are obvious if one is a Christian. But even then, the question of whether David had, as king, just authority to, say, execute persons for gay sex acts is very open to debate. And the just authority of, say, Louis IX of France to do likewise is even more debatable.
So I think you’ll find that Christians, when they don’t drift from orthodoxy, will increasingly have the same attitude about sodomy laws as they already have about laws prohibiting free speech (even blasphemy!): That while they believe the act is wrong, they’ll defend to the death your (political, not moral) right to do it.
To explain the former sentence better, let me carefully distinguish between political and moral rights:
A Moral Right is something which one is authorized to do under God’s Moral Law.
A Political Right is something which government may not justly prohibit you from doing, because doing so exceeds the government’s just authority.
This distinction will be especially well-understood in the U.S., because the American Right has such a strong Natural Law foundation.
American Christians, as time passes, will argue as follows:
1. God gives men free will, but limits our choices by His Moral Law.
2. It is permissible under God’s Moral Law to hire employees, to form voluntary political associations, and to use force against other men under limited circumstances.
3. When hiring an employee, one can delegate certain of one’s own just authority to one’s employee. But one of course cannot delegate authority that one doesn’t already have.
4. One’s authority to use force against other men is limited, under God’s Moral Law, to defending innocent persons against wrongful assaults on their dignity and rights.
5. Combining 3 and 4, we find that we can hire employees and delegate authority to them to use force to defend innocent persons against wrongful assaults on their dignity and rights. But we cannot justly hire employees for any other kind of use of force, because we ourselves have no just authority to use force for other reasons, and therefore have no such authority to delegate to employees.
6. The government are the employees of We The People (a voluntary political association). We hire the government and delegate to them much of our just authority to defend innocent persons by force. That is where government gets its authority to use force.
7. It is not morally right for two men (or two women) to mutually masturbate one another. It is not a Moral Right. But…,
8. No human being has just authority, under God’s Moral Law, to deter, halt, or punish voluntary gay sex acts by force, because doing so does not fall within the boundaries of “forcibly defending innocent persons from wrongful assaults on their dignity and rights.”
9. Since no individual has just authority to forcibly prohibit gay sex acts, they cannot delegate such authority to their employees, the government.
That’s the future of Christian orthodoxy on this matter.
You are, of course, right… errr… correct that America has moved leftward, but you fail to look at this from the POV of gay people. We, more than anyone, have seen retrenchment and reversal on many issues in many parts of the country. Nationally, of course we’re better off than we were in the 70s. But look at Europe: full civil equality and protection in many, many countries and supported by the Tories, for goodness sakes! THAT is were we should have been by now and would have been by now, heck by 1990 or 2000, were it not for the efforts of the GOP and its pandering to so-called “social conservatives”.
Sullivan sees all political issues through the lens of gay politics. If one is not completely in favor of summarily overturning millenia of civilizational norms in the matter of marriage, and not uncritically in favor of adding gays to the pantheon of approved “victims” in America, complete with affirmative action, waves of “civil rights” litigation and endless, saintly victimhood, then you are a knuckle dragging bigot, deranged by religious superstition. Now that Sullivan is a liberal, which he became after George Bush verbally defended the Defense of Marriage Act, he is apparently also in favor of unrestricted abortion, and imagines it can only be “Christianists” who could possibly have the slightest tremor of moral hesitation about unrestricted abortion policy.
Sullivan is a deranged crank who has come to loath his adoptive country, because its support of the gay political agenda has not proceeded quickly enough for his liking. One wonders why he doesn’t return to the ever so much more “progressive” UK.
The KKK was a wing of the Democrat Party, and MLK was a Republican supporter, I believe. You make the old error of equating racism with the right, when it is not really part of the philosophy of left or right, but is more prevalent on the left and always has been.
Andrew Sullivan has now provided his incredibly weak response to Mead’s take down of his ridiculous post. It can be found here,
In perhaps the most ridiculous statement in a thoroughly ridiculous response, Sullivan says,
“My concern is that fundamentalist religious thinking has now permeated every aspect of one major party – from foreign policy to economics and social policy. The social progress we have made has not disproven that – it has merely intensified the passion the Christianists feel.”
What Sullivan and his bigoted fellow travelers consistently fail to explain is why attitudes that repulse them when expressed by Christians fail to outrage them when expressed in a far more extreme form by Muslims.
There are few if any devout Christians left in the world who believe that women shouldn’t be able to leave their homes unaccompanied by their husbands or brothers. There are no Christians that I am aware of who believe that their co-religionists who decide to convert to another religion should be killed. While many devout Christians oppose granting homosexuals the right to marry or serve openly in the military, few if any believe that homosexuals should be subject to capital punishment. While the Roman Catholic Church may oppose divorce, there are no majority Catholic nations where divorce is illegal or where women are forbidden from leaving their husbands. While devout Christians may believe that adultery is proscribed by the Ten Commandments, no Christian that I have ever met believes that those accused of adultery should be killed by having stones heaved at them until their skulls crack and their bones break.
Many of these practices are ubiquitous in the Islamic world but while Sullivan feels motivated to excoriate Christians, he makes excuse after excuse for the horrifying practices that characterize many Islamic nations.
Anyone familiar with Sullivan’s bigotry has seen this on display many times in his blog posts. Numerous have been Sullivan’s rantings about how repugnant he considers male circumcision to be; few have been his comments on the horror of female circumcision. Sullivan is horrified that some devout Christians oppose gay people serving in the military, but he makes excuse after excuse for organizations like Hamas that believe that gay people should be put to death.
From Sullivan’s perspective when it comes to devout Islamists anything can be justified or excused on the basis of political correct multiculturalism. When it comes to Christians, their views are to be abhorred.
The irony is that for Sullivan and his friends on the secular and religious left, pluralism, liberalism and toleration now mean little, at least if we’re talking about the world’s Muslim population.
It’s for Jews and devout Christians that Sullivan saves his bigoted venom. But what is truly remarkable is that the Christianists that Sullivan disdains are now far more liberal than he is.
The article correctly states that US opinion has been steadily moving in a libertarian direction. However the actual size and influence of the US gov has been steadily moving in a non libertarian direction, at least on spending and economic matters, as it has constantly gotten bigger and regulating ever greater portions of US life.
Libertariansim will never actually triumph until the size of gov is actually reduced, not just restraining growth but actual reduction.
WigWag, Father Coughlin was highly left wing. He was openly supportive of Roosevelt’s early work, but ‘rebelled’ when Roosevelt failed to move to the left enough.
Mr. Mead: Thank you for the most cogent take-down of Andrew Sullivan I’ve read. I avidly read his writing shortly after 9/11; he’s fallen a long, long and unhappy way.
I’m grateful that Mead is at least a little dubious about abortion; otherwise his substantive postions look like Sullivan’s. If Sullivan’s rhetoric makes him a jackal, Mead is about as helpful as the family cat.
Like abortion, massive divorce and fatherless children are part and parcel of a huge social problem. The latter however, must be countered individually and culturally, more than politically, and serious Christians are doing that. These things ebb and flow from time to time but ultimately, the gates of hell shall not prevail.
As Belloc said, do not be concerned by the increase in forces already in dissolution. that little “remaining” light is not the last night of evening, but the first light of the next morning.
While I agree with the premise of this article, I am constantly amazed at the ignorance on display when libertarians write about what they think means to be a Christian.
Libertarians treat the Christians much the same way the liberals treat the Tea Party, lumping them all into some strange alien group, separate from the mainstream.
Look at it this way. You go to the local gym and a good percentage of people working out are fat, or at least not that fit. Do you talk about them and mock them as an entire group of “gymists”? No, each person there, no matter what shape they are in, is in better shape than they would be if they were at home sitting on the couch. Pointing out the fat ones and mocking the whole group just shows ignorance on the part of the observer.
Libertarians who do this to Christians are guilty of the same crime as liberals who smear the Tea Party. Christians are your friends and neighbors, just exerting some extra energy to making themselves and the world a better place.
@28,no attempt to double speak nor use left or right positions; I speak to, and continue to do so regarding WRM’s essay, his use of American individualism as a historic trend with ideological support.
My point was not religious per se but implying that reflective morality demands observation of particular situations, rather than fixed adherence to a priori principles; appeal to authority and precedent as well as christian tradition was not implied in my response.
Nevertheless, tradition from a historic past does not preclude the need of inquiry vis-a-vis moral matters; the obverse implies to me that a completely settled and closed mind is needed in moral matters otherwise (some voice so authoritative as to preclude the need of inquiry). I disagree.
Fear of Christianity is irrational. Christians simply want freedom to worship, teach and evangelize. Why aren’t these paranoids concerned with clearly stated Muslim objectives and intentions to so permeate western countries, including the US, that their ultimate takeover will result through simple voting and removal of traditional American intstitutions (kind of like Obama’s fundamental transformation)? If there’s doubt that the process is not underway, then try taking a closer look.
The Religious Right continues to wield disproportionate power for two reasons:
1. They are fanatically relentless.
2. They are willing to play dirty, lie, subvert democracy, and do anything else that has a chance of working to advance their agenda . Because, don’t you know, the end justifies the means. God is on their side, so any tactic they use is not only okay, it’s a moral imperative.
WRM wrote: “The Christianists (and the socialists) haven’t got a prayer of reversing this trend; American individualism has its positive and negative aspects, but there is little in American life more certain than that the trend toward greater personal autonomy is here to stay.”
Until the crash.
WRM is repeating the libertarian myth of progress. Indeed, one can discern trends toward liberty by narrowly focusing on certain issues, such as literal slavery, the franchise, and political expression broadly defined to include, say, cartoon depictions of child pornography. Or one can focus on certain other trends away from liberty, such as the loss of congressional sovereignty through the “soft despotism” of unelected regulators, jurists, and tax code interpreters; campus speech codes; public domain takings; regulation of money in political speech; cultural condemnation for the use of certain words (I hesitate to even type them here as examples, for fear of my entire note being automatically moderated into oblivion).
One can also define certain changes as being the signs of the victory of freedom (which smart activists know to do), such as the “Freedom of Choice” in abortion, whether or not they are true indicators of the expansion of liberty.
We do indeed worship liberty in this country. We are disposed to call every development for our side a victory for liberty, every setback a win for tyranny. Defining developments this way is a key facet of our civic creed. The expansion of individualism is not a force of nature like an undammable river. It is a precarious construct, a social contract that balances freedom of movement with the protections of law. Liberty can only exist under law, in man-made citadels protecting us against the encroachment of the state of nature. In that sense, many so-called advancements in freedom are actually perverse setbacks, undermining the foundation upon which we can truly be individuals.
I expect the learned WRM will be one of the public voices attempting to maintain the golden mean of liberty and law from drifting to the poles of anarchy or tyranny. Liberty depends on communio. There can be no radical autonomy or radical autocracy; both destroy themselves in the space of a generation, and we go back to negotiating terms of a new social contract.
Larger trends outside of the United States indicate that the libertarian faith in progress is an illusion, trends from which we are not immune. Russian revanchism and oligarchy, the Chinese laogai and blend of free markets with control, Salafism and Wahhabism and the Taliban, the anomie of childless, faithless, cowering Europe. Forget Andrew Sullivan’s hobbyhorses. He is living in a bubble inside a bubble.
Finally — if American ingenuity and industry had (once, in the past) demonstrated anything, it is that no river is truly “undammable.”
Several people who have commented on this thread including: Robert Dammers (9/21 at 11:41 am), Thomas D (9/21 at 11:56 am), Karrde (9/21 at 12:04 pm), Mark in Texas (9/21 at 12:31 pm) and Marius (9/21 at 8:01 pm) have objected to me calling Father Coughlin right wing.
It seems self-evident to me that at the very least, Father Coughlin ended up as a right wing ideologue. It wasn’t just his anti-Semitism; it was also his implicit and sometimes explicit support for fascists like Hitler and Mussolini. It is also clear that a large percentage of his followers were right wingers. Although Coughlin criticized the German American Bund, his criticisms were temperate and not particularly convincing. When the Bund held its largest rally in Madison Square Garden in February, 1939, surely a significant proportion of the people who attended were devoted followers of Father Coughlin.
At the rally, Franklin Roosevelt was famously referred to as “Frank D. Rosenfeld” and the New Deal was derided as the “Jew Deal.” I suspect that no reasonable person would deny that Coughlin helped to create an atmosphere in which this type of rhetoric was possible.
Rather than referring to the “left” or the “right” perhaps a better way to describe Coughlin was as a populist. To me, it is an absolutely wonderful sign of progress that most American populists today (as represented by the Tea Party) have shed their anti-Semitism and have now become some of the most vocal advocates for American Jews and strong support for Israel. I find it particularly ironic and even a little disquieting, that Andrew Sullivan and his ilk fail to see this as progress but instead lament it.
For those who insist that the labels “left” and “right” must apply, perhaps it is fair to say that Coughlin started off on the “left” but then rapidly moved to the “right.”
Of course moving rapidly between left and right is really evidence of the political immaturity that frequently characterizes ideological extremists. This type of immaturity is just one more example of how Andrew Sullivan resembles Charles Coughlin.
Sullivan calls himself a “conservative” but most of his ideological kinsmen are self described leftists. Sullivan has never provided an adequate explanation for how excusing the behavior of Hamas or other radical Islamist groups is “conservative.”
As for Coughlin himself, perhaps the best way to describe Andrew Sullivan is as politically incoherent. At the end of the day, Coughlin was little more than a clown; that description also fits Andrew Sullivan to a tee.
I haven’t seen many comments to this effect, so let me be one of the first to defend “Christianity,” and yes, even Christianists (whatever that is).
First, there is nothing wrong with your moral belief system informing your political actions. The left, much of it steeped in Secular Humanism or Atheism, uses their morals to inform their political action, and the Democratic party is certainly as imbued with this as the Republicans are with Christianity.
The ideas embedded in the R party are hardly extreme, but increasingly mainstream. Opening a campaign with a Prayer Meeting is (to me) a good thing. It beats the heck out of worshiping public employee bureaucracies.
If anything, I would make the case that our culture has become too libertine (not necessarily libertarian), and some folks wouldn’t mind reverting to the mean (whatever that may be)
Professor Mead’s lauding the great Mississippi river of individualism driving all before it is all fine and good, but I suggest he rent Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (a raunchy, but utterly realistic comedy looking 500 years into the future) to see where that is likely to lead.
I’m fine with a Secular Humanist party contending with a Christian one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, assuming it is even happening.
Listen my fellow posters, how about DEMOGRAPHICS. When all is said and done Is it not people of faith, Christianists and others who populate the world more than those who insist on aborting their babies?
Just like racist institutions, almost all non-feminist and morally conservative institutions are banned by anti-discrimination laws and policies.
Individual freedom is all we have left when the freedom of association is destroyed.
This is an odd sort of libertarianism – it bans all centers of “conservative” power, in the name of equality, individual achievement and self-expression.
Richard @47 and others are correct: the KKK was a strongly Democratic Party-identified group, and controversy existed among black leaders regarding communists’ true intentions for American minorities, too. Did the Highlander School have ties to the Communist Party or to communism? There were party members teaching there; the pedagogy itself was revolutionary and publicly collectivist, and this does matter. The communists were deeply involved in civil rights. Their sponsorship provided aid to many activists, but they were also exploiting these activists and the movement itself. Their goal was indeed radical and indeed aimed at no less than to undermine American government and replace it with a communist state. They were far more entrenched in American institutions than many scholars have acknowledged for decades — even today, as the release of documents from the U.S. and the former Soviet Union continue to amplify this case. There is also a strong argument to be made that the existentially debilitating welfare state would never have manifested in the Sixties if undercover and upfront communists were not so entrenched in the leadership of the civil rights movement and, moreso, the increasingly politically powerful Left. A decade earlier, did racist segregationists exploit the fact that communists were involved in civil rights in order to oppose integration? Yes, they did. Nonetheless, reaching into the past to tar the wrong party with the “racism” brush and excuse the other’s real racism while eliding the explicitly documented aims and actions of the CPUSA is odd.
I won’t comment on the hysterical and baseless accusations ala Walter Mead above. I will say, though, that those like him who support the sinful lifestyle of Homosexuals are in actuality cauing them great damage. It’s all of us who do all we can to get them out of this destrutive lifestyle that really care for them as individuals. Why? Besides all the damgage that ensues to them, their families, and even our whole society, the average lifespan of a homosexual is only in the mid forties, and it isn’t because of AIDS! Let’s love the homosexuals by helping them return to a normal and health lifestyle with the help of our Creator God.
Morality is a funny thing. Politics has become even become funnier, if more disturbing. WRM makes legitimate points using real facts, but I think it’s also interesting insofar as what’s not done with the facts.
For the sake of argument, consider in the abstract a more-or-less top-to-bottom establishment that not only was antagonistic toward constitutionally provided-for status of citizens and explicitly enumerated rights, but used the full force of its authority legally, socially and economically to deny those constitutional protections. The present-day right wing would call that establishment “treasonous,” I would hope (but you know what they say about hoping in one hand and … tting in the other, and seeing which one fills up first).
The “fact” that it took a fair amount of help from the CPUSA (with it’s admittedly less-than-sincere motives) to make the constitution “real” or meaningful should be a mark of shame (and really worse) to conservative constitutionalists. But, it isn’t. Where were they? Those not actively antagonistic, were in love with Calhounian abstractions. The Warren Court, Truman, Eisenhower and ACLU became the enemies – the “traitors.” The real libertarians are not who the Tea Party think they are, certainly not the current crop of Republicans in Congress, the WSJ op/ed page, Rush Limbaugh, NR “Fusionists,” etc.
Mr. Sullivan often comes across as shrill and excessively self-interested. Nonetheless, I have come to see gay rights issues as a pretty close match for other minority civil rights issues. Don’t bother trying to persuade me that they’re not; I’ve thought about for a long time.
So, I’ll take shrill and self-serving over the creepy and even more obviously self-serving religionists, maybe not always, but 9 out of 10 times.
Call me moderate.
WRM, you’re a historian… how do you explain the fact that that Regency England (early 19th century) had similarly permissive social mores to today’s, and yet led to the Victorian era?
I’d say there’s a causal effect going on, there — people like Victoria and Albert, who directly experienced the awful effects of the promiscuity of the era of their youth, decided “that’s enough of that”, and a whole lot of the English (with the same experiences) agreed with them to the extent that the whole culture was transformed.
There is no historical inevitability. There are forces and counterforces, and there are restoring forces that take the trends of the times and swing the pendulum back the other way. Short of interviewing every single individual about the experiences of their entire lives, there’s no way to predict when and where these forces will act — but act, they will.
Good point, King — the Old River Control dam, run by the US Army Corps of Engineers, is keeping the “mighty Mississippi” from finding its natural course. Given its own way, the the Mississip would be finding the Gulf through the Atchafalaya river, quite some ways to the west of New Orleans.
I would heartily recommend “The Control of Nature” by John McPhee, on that subject. (And any other book of his on any subject, for that matter).
While I broadly agree with Mead’s article, I take issue with this statement:
“…these days, the right worries about keeping its own marriages intact more than about interfering with other peoples’ lives.”
If only that were true! Red states are so worried about the gays destroying marriage that they dont realize they’re the ones with the highest rates of divorce, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease as well as meth and painkiller abuse.
Late to the party but this is such a fascinating discussion and I have something to add on the topic of gay marriage. It was prompted by a diavlog between Ross Douthat and Dan Savage (!) on the meaning of marriage, to which I made the simple comment:
“Marriage is for children. Everything else is beside the point.”
Naturally this statement was condemned. One commenter in particular objected on what seemed quite reasonable grounds:
“No. It’s not. At least not for me, or for my religious fellow travellers. Marriage is for companionship; this is why we don’t terminate marriages once there are no more children forthcoming, and why infertile and older couples marry all the time.”
I then laid out the commonsense case (I won’t call it my case) for why he and Andrew Sullivan and the vast majority of elite opinion makers who write on this subject are mistaken:
“Companionship does not require the law. If raising children is not involved, you are talking about a domestic partnership. Also known as living together. As for spousal benefits with respect to Social Security, they were premised on the fact that one of the spouse’s was staying home to take care of the kids, and was therefore financially dependent on the other.
Tax law should not favor married couples unless they have children; in that case laws that encourage, and make it easier to have and raise, children would seem rationally justified as being in the interests of society.
Biological families are, and always have been, the most fundamental institution in any society, responsible for the procreation and acculturation of the next generation. The purpose of marriage is to strengthen the bond between parents while that process is taking place. The fact that we as a society have lost sight of this basic fact is a sad commentary on the state of our culture.
If you think my commonsense views on this subject are reactionary and out-of-date, fine; in my opinion those who disagree with me on this are naive sentimentalists who are living in la-la land when it comes to the role of marriage and the family in securing the future of our civilization.
P.S. The fact that some couples are infertile and decide not to adopt children is a red herring. There is nothing to stop such couples from continuing to live together or from separating as they wish. But when young children are involved, the state as an interest in securing that relationship until the children are grown, both with incentives and by raising legal obstacles to divorce without cause. Sentimental symbolism is not what marriage is about. Gay indignation is quite out of place, and guilt-ridden liberals should not be swayed by it. (On the other hand, there is a case to be made for legalizing gay marriages when and if raising children is involved; this is not about bigotry.)
Hopefully the next generation of Americans and Europeans will come to its senses on this matter.”
This prompted a retort:
“I honestly don’t see where one gets off on deciding what rights should adhere to people who are married in every other respect, but don’t have children. You want to overturn literally centuries of tradition and religious teaching, not for your own relationships, but for others’ because you have your idiosyncratic definition of what marriage is about. There has not been a time in modern history, where marriage has been limited to couples that are producing children. We do not prohibit the infertile from marrying, nor do we demand that married people produce children.”
“I don’t think your views are out of date. I think your views are an attempt to recreate history that never was. In other words, you’re the one who is trying to make up something new. the original, divinely stated purpose of marriage was companionship.”
Which I countered, perhaps unfairly at first:
“So you think this is a theological issue at bottom? I don’t. For those who are interested in informing themselves about some of the historical facts, here is a nice piece on the tradition of marriage in England. (Love, sex, and companionship are part of the mix, you will be happy to see, just as they were with me and my girlfriends back before I was married!) The best parts are toward the bottom so don’t stop reading.”
I don’t think the river metaphor holds up. The problem being that we are in a religious war as Pat Buchanan famously pointed out. Here the missing insight on the part of the general public is that leftism is very much a religion and there isn’t much room for compromise where differing religious beliefs are concerned.
But perhaps the comparison to a river does hold up if you understand that the river continues on through not only fierce debate but actual civil war as well. I hope it doesn’t happen but I would rather deal with reality than comfortable illusions.
Sullivan is either experiencing retardation, illusions or both. Most of mainstream “conservatism” doesn’t resemble traditional conservatism and religious devotion. If any it’s a mish-mash of individualism, libertarianism, capitalism and classical liberalism. Sure Sullivan may have seizures about Beck, Perry and Palin but these people to far-right wing blogs and religious orthodox websites on the Internet are simply liberals.