Ours is an era which craves monsters, which needs demons we can all rail against in an attempt to drum up a feeling of collective moral purpose, however fleeting it might prove. And the pesky exacting standards of the justice system – which are exacting precisely because we used to take very seriously the process of ruining someone’s life by finding him guilty of a crime – get in the way of this desire to find a symbol of evil we can all be disgusted by.
from “Bill Cosby is Innocent“, Spiked Magazine.
Where does this desire in our society to burn witches and create new pariahs come from? At the same time every conceivable form of perversity is paraded across the media, we have this shrill mob justice that assumes every accused person who doesn’t carry sufficient victim status credentials is guilty.
He may be guilty, but shouldn’t he get a trial before his reputation is destroyed?
From Brendan O’ Neill’s excellent analysis:
This is what explains both the peculiarly speedy and strikingly authoritarian way in which gay marriage has been adopted by governments across the West who otherwise care little for freedom and choice – because officials recognise in it the opportunity to push further their instinctive hostility towards traditional communal and familial ideals that to a large extent exist outside of the purview of the state. Understanding the impulse behind Western officialdom’s feverish adoption of gay marriage is key to understanding what makes this new institution so illiberal and intolerant. Its great driving force is not any commitment to civil rights but rather an urge to coerce, a desire to reshape the views and ideals and habits of the public, to enforce a new morality that elevates individuation over family life, risk-awareness over commitment, and an openness to being guided through life by experts over loyalty to one’s family unit or community.
So when you criticise gay marriage, you’re not just criticising gay marriage, you’re challenging a new moral framework carved out by those who apparently know better than us what our private lives and relationships should and shouldn’t look like. You’re not just an opponent of gay marriage – you’re a moral heretic whose very thoughts and behaviour are seen as deviant, as running counter to a new, apparently better kind of morality. And that, as Eich’s treatment and everything else that preceded it has shown us, simply will not be tolerated.
Martin Luther referred to theologians who wanted to separate the Holy Spirit from the Word of God as “fanatics” or “enthusiasts.” Among these he counted Andreas von Carlstadt, a fellow professor at Wittenberg who took to smashing images and stained glass while Luther was holed up in the Wartburg translating the New Testament. Also Thomas Muenzer, an early Anabaptist who used Reformation teaching of the equality of all men before God despite differences in station as a pretext for rebellion against civil authority. Also Huldrych Zwingli, the Swiss humanist who denied the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine and was also possessed of a martial spirit, dying on the battlefield in the name of his Reformation.
The fanatical spirit manifested itself not only in its propensity for war and bloodshed but primarily in claiming a higher revelation from God than was to be found in the mere Word of God. Personal experience trumped the Scriptural word; personal revelations trumped ordinary morality as revealed in the Ten Commandments and natural law.
A few years ago I attended a free conference with various conservative Lutherans exchanging perspectives on theological issues that still divide the various denominations. Among the theologians present was Stephen Paulson, a traditional Lutheran from the mainline Lutheran denomination in the US, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Paulson had an interesting perspective on the theological afflictions of his own church body, chief of which was the legitimization within the ELCA of practicing homosexual clergy and homosexual “marriage.”
He said something to the effect of this: “The reason the revisionists in the ELCA are doing what they’re doing is not because they’re deceived and swayed by the popular culture. Actually they are convinced of their own rectitude–they have a higher revelation than us, in their opinion. They are more righteous than us because they have moved past the bare, unspiritual, literal reading of Scripture and the ten commandments to a new revelation: “what the Spirit is revealing now.” That is that homosexuality is now not only not sinful but a good gift of God. However those who oppose it are opposing the Spirit with the bare letter of Scripture, like the Pharisees. In other words, they are fanatics.”
The fanaticism of the pro-homosexual movements in mainline denominations has a counterpart in the new censoriousness we see erupting in American politics. The old fanatical demon is at it again. What’s different is that now it has the levers of power and legitimacy, even though it still pretends to be revolutionary. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. American progressivism is just a mutant puritanism, and we can see its various incarnations throughout our history: the American Revolution was one earlier mutation; the abolitionism of John Brown was strangely fused to a supposedly strict Calvinism. Among the spiritual heirs of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather are Boston Unitarians like Ralph Waldo Emerson (although they would not recognize this post-Christian mutant). The women’s suffrage movement, the temperance movement–nearly every social crusade in American history can be traced to a lingering puritan ethos in the United States, even while the predestinarian emphases of Calvinist theology have been emptied out. Nonetheless we see in them all a God not ever fully human, in keeping with Calvinist Christology. (Further examination might also reveal a similar tendency in Roman Catholic theology, but that is a story for another day and probably another writer. Besides, it’s hard to see that Catholicism has yet become fully American without simply becoming a species of mainline Protestantism.)
Secular fanaticism can be identified by its censorious spirit, its desire to legislate its view of perfection. It is theocratic with out any theos, possessed of a covenantal mentality that cannot separate the civil sphere from the religious. Thus the need to clamp down on immorality in the name of the common good. And it is fanatical in that it not only ignores the authority of the Scriptural word but also the codex of nature and reason. Thus we see it inveighing against moral traditions established by reason and custom–the death penalty, marriage between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation, the right to bear arms–as well as inventing new morality and persecuting dissenters–banning plastic shopping bags, tobacco and e-cigs (despite the lack of any evidence showing that they do any sort of harm to public health).
In the case of the Illinois “no-gun” sticker we see the pathological need of the new fanaticism to demonize those who raise any questions about the new morality. The last state in the Union to permit “concealed-carry” permits, Illinois relented only when forced by a federal court decision, and then vented passive-aggressive spleen by forcing schools, hospitals, and other public buildings to post a prominent “gun free zone” sticker–using the same iconography earlier used to demonize tobacco usage.
Guns bad. Smoking bad. Yes mommy.
Of course the Illinois state legislature is bankrupt and likely to not pay its teacher’s pensions, but they are really good about smoking, guns, and gay marriage! That is to say, they are devout fanatics, and can be counted on to use force on moral issues dear to the piety of the left wing, regardless of whether their stances on those issues correspond with reason, custom, natural law, or traditional religion.
There is one other story illustrating the New Fanaticism in Illinois, but unfortunately I can’t link to it because it hasn’t made much press yet. The story is about Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. LCFS was at one time the second biggest non-profit placing foster children in Illinois, the biggest being Catholic Charities. However, the fanatics running the Illinois State legislature got wind of the fact that LCFS, Catholic Charities, and an evangelical agency involved in adoptions received funding from the state, but would not certify homosexual couples for adoption. Despite the fact that Catholic Charities and LCFS had been doing this work for around a century and a half, which was why they got state dollars in the first place, the Illinois legislature passed bills approving civil unions between homosexuals and then requiring agencies receiving state funding to certify these couples. Catholic Charities promptly closed. LCFS gave in to pressure from the state and kept their funding, becoming the biggest adoption agency in Illinois.
The story doesn’t end here, however. LCFS was affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the largest conservative Lutheran denomination in the country, which not only does not approve of homosexual marriage but continues not to ordain women and espouses the pre-enlightenment 6 day view of creation. In fact LCFS was the oldest charity in the denomination, beginning with an orphanage started in Addison, Illinois around the middle of the 19th century.
After a fairly long delay, considering the speed with which the Catholic church acted, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod severed its ties with LCFS earlier this year.
You might also remember how the federal government was going to try to force the Catholic Church and conservative protestants to pay for contraception under their insurance plans, including those regarded as early-abortion pills.
What can we learn from this? That the new fanaticism has no qualms whatsoever about dividing and conquering churches that fail to toe the line regarding the new public piety required by our theocrats in American government. That the new fanaticism is far more concerned about ideological purity than the welfare of children, who can hardly be imagined to be better served by an adoption system that cuts out the Catholic church–much less a society in which churches which have consistently been a source of strength for women and children are subject to state-sponsored marginalization.
What should we look for? Increasing pressure on churches to publicly renounce impure views regarding homosexuality. Increasing boldness of the state to tell individuals what their moral choices should be, and to make those choices for them wherever possible.
Monetary penalties on dissenting organizations leading to prosecution for holding “bigoted” moral views.
Which is to say, for holding moral views that correspond to the consensus until five years ago, not to mention reason, natural law, and the ten commandments.
Yep. What red-blooded American family doesn’t want their kitchen, laden with the abundance of the capitalist west, presided over by a poster of a glowering Soviet peasant? Just think how much better they must have eaten on the collective farms.
Besides, haven’t we always been at war with Eastasia?
Spengler asserts that democracy is simply the political weapon of money, and the media is the means through which money operates a democratic political system. The thorough penetration of money’s power throughout a society is yet another marker of the shift from Culture to Civilization.
Democracy and plutocracy are equivalent in Spengler’s argument. The “tragic comedy of the world-improvers and freedom-teachers” is that they are simply assisting money to be more effective. The principles of equality, natural rights, universal suffrage, and freedom of the press are all disguises for class war (the bourgeois against the aristocracy). Freedom, to Spengler, is a negative concept, simply entailing the repudiation of any tradition. In reality, freedom of the press requires money, and entails ownership, thus serving money at the end. Suffrage involves electioneering, in which the donations rule the day. The ideologies espoused by candidates, whether Socialism or Liberalism, are set in motion by, and ultimately serve, only money. “Free” press does not spread free opinion—it generates opinion, Spengler maintains.
Spengler admits that in his era money has already won, in the form of democracy. But in destroying the old elements of the Culture, it prepares the way for the rise of a new and overpowering figure: the Caesar. Before such a leader, money collapses, and in the Imperial Age the politics of money fades away.
Spengler’s analysis of democratic systems argues that even the use of one’s own constitutional rights requires money, and that voting can only really work as designed in the absence of organized leadership working on the election process. As soon as the election process becomes organized by political leaders, to the extent that money allows, the vote ceases to be truly significant. It is no more than a recorded opinion of the masses on the organizations of government over which they possess no positive influence whatsoever.
Spengler notes that the greater the concentration of wealth in individuals, the more the fight for political power revolves around questions of money. One cannot even call this corruption or degeneracy, because this is in fact the necessary end of mature democratic systems.
On the subject of the press, Spengler is equally as contemptuous. Instead of conversations between men, the press and the “electrical news-service keep the waking-consciousness of whole people and continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords, standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year.” Through the media, money is turned into force—the more spent, the more intense its influence.
For the press to function, universal education is necessary. Along with schooling comes a demand for the shepherding of the masses, as an object of party politics. Those that originally believed education to be solely for the enlightenment of each individual prepared the way for the power of the press, and eventually for the rise of the Caesar. There is no longer a need for leaders to impose military service, because the press will stir the public into a frenzy, clamor for weapons, and force their leaders into a conflict.
The only force which can counter money, in Spengler’s estimation, is blood. As for Marx, his critique of capitalism is put forth in the same language and on the same assumptions as those of Adam Smith. His protest is more a recognition of capitalism’s veracity, than a refutation. The only aim is to “confer upon objects the advantage of being subjects.”
- Seanad must be abolished to create better democracy (irishtimes.com)