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From temporary evil, to necessary evil, to positive good. How the South came to romantacize slavery.

18 Aug

In his book The Impending Crisis, David Porter writes about the change that took place in the northern and southern minds about slavery from 1830-1860.  Prior to this period, southerners joined northerners in considering slavery immoral, evil, and in tension with either Christianity, republican and founding values, or both.  And northerners joined southerners in assuming moral responsibility for it.  After all, Southern leaders had agreed that the slave trade was evil (and favored abolishing it in 1808) and agreed that the Northwestern Territory should exclude slavery in 1787.  There were more emancipation organizations/societies in the south by far than in the north prior to 1830.   Several southern states seriously considered joining northern states setting a target for emancipation. But between 1830 and 1860, as he says, “in an era of uninhibited romanticism, sentimentality, the southern upper class built a fully elaborated cult of chivalry,… castellated architecture, a code of honor, and the enshrinement of women.”  Their defense of slavery went from it being a temporary thing, a necessary evil, to a positive good for slave and society.  When compared to the “free labor” system of northern capitalism and industrialization, it was morally superior than the “impersonal, dehumanized irresponsibility of ‘wage slavery,’ which treated labor as a commodity.”  How did this happen?  How did the conceded paradox between slave labor and Christian/republican virtue give way to an ardent defense of the morality of slavery?  Potter suggests that before the philosophy of the South changed, the New England puritanical attitude about America and the South changed.   He blames radical abolitionism.  Abolitionism was a diverse movement with many motives, not most of which were righteous or humanitarian (though some were).  Abolitionists began to publish books, articles, songs, and pictures caricaturing the South as a wasteland of backwards, anti-progress (read capitalism), biracial, slow, uneducated, mixed race, people.  Slavery to them had no place in America, not only because it was distasteful, but also (and mainly) because it created a culture of disgusting racial integration, racial intermingling, and racial diversity.  Blacks impede the progress of whites and slavery disturbed the inevitable progress of white America from assuming its place among the great rich and powerful nations of the world.  Such a system made the south a drag on white American progress (influenced, as it was, by an inferior race in their midst) and robbed white “free laborers” of their racially superior rights to labor over blacks.  Lincoln himself explained his opposition to the expansion of slavery into western territories: “I am in favor of this not merely for our own people who are born amongst us, but as an outlet for free white people everywhere.”  As for the South, it was so far gone, so out of tune with the new vision of America’s destiny (more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian) that it needed an invading, cleansing, occupation, of a superior unpolluted species of men (New Englanders) with the right view of America (no blacks, no Catholics, no immigrants, no Native Americans, but instead an industrial and world leading superpower blessed by God and engineered by white protestants).  Think “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  Instead of socially integrating with blacks through slavery, America should socially segregate from blacks through deportation (or let them simply go the way of the “doto bird,” as one abolitionist said, when they get freedom and can no longer be fed, clothed, and protected by their masters).  Only then will real progress start and America can finally be what God had destined it to be, that “city shining on a hill.”  Some went so far as to support slave uprisings (e.g., financing the violence of John Brown and mourning his execution).  So demonized were southerners over this 30 year attack that the South developed a paradigm, a narrative, to try and occupy the moral high ground seized by their radical abolitionist attackers, making them fear northern moral crusaders as inevitably coming for them, their families, land, and “adopted servants” (as they like to think of them, erroneously).  This leads Potter writes, “Northern anti-slavery men had begun to abandon their tone of gentle, persuasive reproachful in discussing slavery and had fallen not only to denouncing slavery as a monstrous sin, but also to castigating slaveholders as hideous… One should not accept the apologia that the South would itself have got rid of slavery if this indiscriminate onslaught had not compromised the position of the southern emancipationists, but it does seem valid to say that, in the face of such bitter condemnation, white southerners lost their willingness to concede that slavery was an evil — even an inherited one, for which Yankee slave sellers [traders and creditors] and the southern slave buyers of the 18th century shared responsibility.  Instead they responded by defending slavery as a positive good.”  Porter pp. 458-460.

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Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church

18 Jul

Source: Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church

Bernie Sanders and American Laicite

26 Jun

Love this post from my fb friend David Koyzis, whose book Political Visions and Illusions (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001HL0E0M/ref=dp-kindle-redirect…) I continuously recommend to students. It touches directly on the subject matter of my own research with Mike Lavender on a church/state phenomena we think America is currently experiencing; a concept we call “American Laicite” (the tendency in American political and social institutions to depart from either a strict separation model, where religion is excluded from public life or accommodationist model, where religion is indiscriminately included in public life, towards a selective accommodationist model where religion is included, and can avoid chastisement or penalties, so long as it accommodates itself to a higher creed driven by an alternate secular, humanist, or progressive worldview or sorts.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a latecomer to the Democratic Party, positioned himself as a voice for the downtrodden against big moneyed interests, something that many Americans, especially the young, found deeply attractive. In so doing, Sanders drew on a deep tradition of social justice with biblical roots, as evidenced in his powerful address to Liberty University two years ago. Recognizing that “there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little,” he laudably demonstrated his concern for the economically disadvantaged in our society. However, judging from his questioning last week of Russell Vought, the President’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sanders appears not to understand that there is no justice where religious liberty lacks protection.

At issue was a blog post Vought had written as an alumnus of Wheaton College, a Christian university near Chicago, in response to a controversy involving one of its faculty members. The offending passage was this: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” While it may sound harsh to a nonchristian, Vought was in no way suggesting that Muslims cannot be good citizens or should be treated severely by the governing authorities. He was simply reiterating what the vast majority of Christians have believed for two millennia: that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:7).

But this appears not to satisfy Sanders, who has shown himself in this respect to be a good student of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the Genevan political philosopher who famously proposes an ostensibly tolerant civil religion at the end of Book IV of his Social Contract.

There is therefore a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject. While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the State whoever does not believe them — it can banish him, not for impiety, but as an anti-social being, incapable of truly loving the laws and justice, and of sacrificing, at need, his life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognising these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.

The dogmas of civil religion ought to be few, simple, and exactly worded, without explanation or commentary. The existence of a mighty, intelligent and beneficent Divinity, possessed of foresight and providence, the life to come, the happiness of the just, the punishment of the wicked, the sanctity of the social contract and the laws: these are its positive dogmas. Its negative dogmas I confine to one, intolerance, which is a part of the cults we have rejected.

Those who distinguish civil from theological intolerance are, to my mind, mistaken. The two forms are inseparable. It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned; to love them would be to hate God who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them. Wherever theological intolerance is admitted, it must inevitably have some civil effect; and as soon as it has such an effect, the Sovereign is no longer Sovereign even in the temporal sphere: thenceforce priests are the real masters, and kings only their ministers.

One needn’t dig too far beneath the surface to discern rather quickly that Rousseau’s offer of tolerance could scarcely be more intolerant. Anyone who believes that God has revealed himself in specific ways to specific people and that even the state derives its authority from God cannot be a good citizen of the republic.

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The history of the Science vs Religion Myth

10 May

From The Gospel Coalition:

Ronald Numbers grew up as the son of a fundamentalist Seventh-day Adventist minister, attending Adventist schools and being taught young-earth creationism until adulthood, where he lost his faith and became an agnostic. Today he is perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the history of the relationship between science and religion.

If you were to ask Professor Numbers for the “greatest myth” about the historical relationship between science and religion, he would respond that it’s the idea the the two “have been in a state of constant conflict.”

Timothy Larsen, a Christian historian who specializes in the nineteenth century, agrees: “The so-called ‘war’ between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured . . . . It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes.”

If these two historians—one an agnostic, one a confessional Christian—both agree this is a manufactured myth, then who is to blame for inventing it?

That distinction falls to American scholars from the nineteenth century: (1) Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and (2) John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

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On being a Southener

18 Apr

By Barton Swaim at New Criterion:

Two-thousand-eleven marked the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, the Battle of Bull Run, and the beginning of America’s bloodiest war. In Charleston and in fields outside Manassas, Virginia, war re-enactors put on lavish displays of martial conflicts. Essays and articles on the War appeared in all the major newspapers, books on the conflict were widely reviewed, and PBS again ran Ken Burns’s documentary series The Civil War, provoking at least one observer to express irritation that the Confederacy lends itself so easily to romantic portrayal. Once again (or so I imagine) people found themselves asking, perhaps with the red and blue map of Electoral College results in the back of their minds: Who are these Southerners? Are they the racists and political reactionaries we’ve always suspected them to be? Are they Americans in the deepest, most genuine sense, or is the South some aberration about which we ought to be embarrassed?

Jacques Barzun once remarked that Darwin’s Origin of the Species is one of those books on which people have always felt free to discourse without having read it. That’s true of the American South, too, and has been for a long time. “In the Southern states, gaming, fox hunting and horse-racing are the height of ambition; industry is reserved for slaves”: so wrote a twenty-six-year-old Noah Webster who had never been further south than New York. Exactly that sort of confident ignorance has long animated the American entertainment industry. Every Southerner has a favorite complaint: the apparent inability of film and television producers to find actual Southerners to play the part of Southerners; the routine association of the South with incest and abject stupidity; the location of all forms of bigotry in the South, even those for which Southerners aren’t known; and of course the amazingly resilient idea that the Civil War was merely and exclusively about racism—a belief lampooned by Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) in the television comedy “The Office.” Defending himself against imputations of racism, Michael remarks, “As Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘If you are a racist, I will invade you with the North.’”

Southerners themselves, or at least the writers and intellectuals among them, have long been preoccupied with defining Southern identity—often with results that confuse rather than clarify. Before the War, a number of influential Southern writers circulated the bogus notion that Southerners were descended from Cavaliers (mannerly, aristocratic, unmindful of money) and Northerners from Puritans (earnest, plain in habits, inclined to moneymaking pursuits). After the War, a disparate variety of journalists, industrialists, and politicians promoted something they called the “New South,” a region that would foster economic and cultural vibrancy without giving in to the worship of Mammon (or, for some, to racial equality). It was against this latter collection of hopes and ideas that the Agrarian intellectuals reacted in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. The twelve authors of that book—among them Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Frank Owsley—inveighed against the project, as they felt it to be, to make the South more like the North: more vulnerable to the cultural volatility and spiritual shallowness of an unregulated economy, more hospitable to radical individualism.

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Perhaps not all that was lost in the Lost Cause was a good riddance

17 Apr

Form Dr. Boyd Cathey:

it was a war between two ideas of government, and, in reality, two ideas of history and progress.  For the North, which now controlled the Federal government, it was a war to suppress what was seen as a rebellion against constituted national authority. For the states of the Southern Confederacy, it was a defense of their inherited and inherent rights under the old Constitution of 1787, rights that had never been ceded to the Federal government. And, more, it became for them a Second War for Independence against an arbitrary and overreaching government that had gravely violated that Constitution.

Thus, at Appomattox were set into motion momentous events in the future of the reconstituted American nation.  With the defeat of the South, the restraints on industrial, and, eventually, international capitalism were removed. The road to centralized government power was cleared. But even more significantly, there was a sea change in what we might call “the dominant American philosophy.”

In the old ante-bellum Union the South had acted as a kind of counter-weight to the North and a quickly developing progressivist vision of history. Certainly, there were notable Southerners who shared the growing economic and political liberalism of their fellow citizens north of the Mason-Dixon Line (e.g, DeBow’s Review). Yet, increasingly in the late ante-bellum period, the most significant voices in the Southland echoed a kind of traditionalism somewhat reminiscent of the serious critiques being made in Europe of “the Idea of Progress” and of the deleterious effects of 19th century liberalism.

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Consequences of secularization: replacing religion with secular and pagan ideologies, which is worse for us all

23 Mar

From Peter Beinart in the Atlanticlead_960

“Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent.

Some observers predicted that this new secularism would ease cultural conflict, as the country settled into a near-consensus on issues such as gay marriage. After Barack Obama took office, a Center for American Progress report declared that “demographic change,” led by secular, tolerant young people, was “undermining the culture wars.” In 2015, the conservative writer David Brooks, noting Americans’ growing detachment from religious institutions, urged social conservatives to “put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/breaking-faith/517785/

 

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