• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Quote of the Day April 27, 2017
      NOTE: Today's Quote of the Day is an excerpt from the April 25 eulogy by Étienne Cardiles [left] for his husband Xavier Jugelé [below], who was killed last week on Paris' famed Champs-Elysees by Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old Frenchman, in an attack claimed by ISIS.I suffer without hatred. I borrow this formula from Antoine Leiris [whose wife, Hélène […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Signs of the Times April 25, 2017
      Although I didn't participate in last Saturday's March for Science in St. Paul, I definitely support what it was (and continues to be) all about. And what exactly is it about? Well, the march's organizers describe it as "the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and govern […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • Christmas at Litmanova December 29, 2016
      The Marian Shrine of Litmanova, Slovakia.Christmas 2017A forest chapel at the Slovakian Marian shrine of Litmanova.Stunning painting of the Sacred Heart inside the forest chapel.
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Demma)
    • Not Our President November 16, 2016
      To hear the simplistic denial of those who scream out with naiveté “give Trump a chance” as they condemn others engaged in selfless protest against a certain political and social tsunami in the making, is to ignore his life-time public embrace of policies that tens of millions reject as not just destructive, but evil per se. They are not mistaken.Those in st […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Demma)
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • Another World is Neccessary: Anarchism, Christianity and the Race from the White House July 30, 2008
      I’ll be presenting at the upcoming Jesus Radicals conference in Columbus, Ohio. My session (on the relationship between Church and State) will be on Friday afternoon. If you’re in the area, drop by. I’d love to meet some of the folks who frequent this site. Here’s the info: August 15-16, 2008 St. John’s Episcopal 1003 W Town Columbus, OH [...]ShareThis […]
      Mark Van Steenwyk
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • This little piggy April 27, 2017
      - Berryessa Snow Mountain National MonumentIt seems every day brings new scary awful stuff courtesy of Trump. Today it's his plan to have the wonders of oil drilling ans coal mining brought to our national monuments, like Berryessa Snow Mountain near where I live ... Don’t mess with California’s national monuments.But hey, the west coast will probably b […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

The Rise of Religious Fascism and the Cool Pragmatism of Generation Jones: Three Perspectives on the Current Political Scene

Three recent articles catch my eye as as valuable contributions to dialogue about matters religious and political. I’m mentioning them in a single posting because, in key respects, their themes overlap.  The articles complement each other.    Since the first article in the list is Chris Hedges’ recent impassioned argument that we need to pay close attention to the inroads of the Christian right in American politics, this article is a follow-up to Jayden Cameron’s recent posting of the Hedges article at Open Tabernacle.

Hedges warns us that we dismiss and ridicule this movement at our peril.  Its goal is a theocratic takeover of American government.  And it could easily effect that takeover soon, Hedges thinks.  Because his thesis is deliberately provocative (and, for some readers, overstated), Hedges’ article will provoke much-needed discussion of the intersection of religion and politics in American culture, and of our obligation to keep monitoring the intrusion of theocratically-motivated religious groups into the public square.

As my response to Hedges’ article following Jayden’s posting of it here notes, I’m struck by Hedges’ critique of liberalism—of his critique of the short-sighted way in which liberals dismiss religion and its power in public discourse; and of his critique of the shallow way in which liberals seek to respond to the emotional appeal of right-wing religion through reason and recourse to hard facts.

The liberal utopia has, in Hedges’ view, failed, and this is precisely why the apocalyptic fantasies of the religious right appeal to so many angry, marginalized citizens.  Liberalism has failed to produce a good (inclusive, offering opportunity for all) society because it is, in Hedges’ view, “gutless.”  It’s devoid of the values and solidarity (and emotive-based language flowing from values and solidarity) required to heal the social wound from which the malignant growth of fascism is now rapidly growing.

Hedges calls liberals to accountability, in other words, for their complicity in fostering this malignant growth in our society—for a complicity they share with those on the right who are deliberately fostering this growth as a check to progressive political and religious movements.  As Hedges notes, the solution to the social problems created by the fragmentation of our social and economic systems, a solution to which liberals should have moved long since, is one of solidarity: one that recognizes that dispossessed fellow citizens are human like we’re human.

That they need jobs, education, the advantages others have, if we’re to build a healthy society.  As our social and economic systems have collapsed, we have offered no viable alternative to whole groups of citizens as they fall into a socioeconomic netherworld in which the hope for salvation appears to lie in lurid apocalyptic, anti-modern notions of Christianity.

And this problem (along with the concerns elicited by Christofascist forms of Christianity in political life) is not confined to the United States.  As Marci McDonald’s new book The Armageddon Factor notes, “the rhetoric and militancy of the religious right” has spilled over the U.S.-Canadian border into our neighbor to the north.  In an unprecedented way today, Canadians—who have generally been resistant to the intrusion of extremist religious views in their political life—are now coping, as their American cousins are coping, with the growing influence of the religious right in the political sphere.

McDonald notes that the goals of this movement in Canada are the same goals pursued by theocratic groups in the U.S.: the enactment of “biblical laws” that merge church and state and suppress dissent; the enshrinement of patriarchy as part of God’s plan for the human race; the “re-Christianization” of a nation that is increasingly secularized, etc.

When Canadians begin to head down the theocratic path, Americans ought to pay attention.  The political moderation of Canadians and the strong social security network our sister nation affords its citizens have, up to now, protected Canada from outbursts of the kind of theocratic religion on which some of us Americans thrive.

If this is no longer the case in Canada, then we may have a larger problem on our hands, as a human community, than we are now recognizing: we may be on the verge of a round of fascistic appeals to “tradition” and “orthodoxy” designed to restore the ostensibly threatened “order” of which fascists are so enamored in many cultures of the world.  This new round of theocratic fascism will try to dismantle the Enlightment and the modern worldview that intellectual movement spawned, and replace it with pre-modern, patriarchal systems of power and control (of male privilege disguised as “order”) that will set religion against religion and people against people, will subjugate women to men, and will try to eliminate gays and lesbians from society altogether.

I won’t comment at length on the final article I’d like to mention in the context of this discussion.  This is Will Bunch’s “Along Came ‘Jones’: Why My Generation Isn’t Saving the World” at Huffington Post.  I’m not commenting at length here because I’m not a member of what Bunch calls “Generation Jones”—the generation that succeeded the wild baby boomers of the sixties, a generation that was in college in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Bunch notes argues that Generation Jones is the generation now holding the reins of political power around the world.  And he sees a problem with this development: his generation has, he argues, a keep-your-head-low, cool realist-pragmatist, careerist approach to both personal life and politics.  Don’t make waves.  Meet immoderate passion with cool reason.  And these attitudes are not capable of meeting the challenge of groups like the theocratic extremists which, in the view of Hedges and McDonald, are eager to seize power in the U.S. and Canada now.

In Bunch’s view, the stance adopted by his generation to cope with the rise of Reagan to power in the U.S., of Thatcher in England, etc., is hardly designed to save the world.  This stance exemplifies precisely the kind of “gutless” liberalism Hedges excoriates.  And so the generation now coming to leadership is, therefore, singularly ill-equipped, if Bunch’s analysis is correct, to cope with the emotional excess and impassioned religious views of the religious right studied by Hedges and McDonald.

Is Bunch correct?  I rely on readers who are part of Generation Jones to let me know what you think about his analysis.

Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 9 June 2010.

Advertisements

11 Responses

  1. Bill, thank you very much for this piece. I’m a baby-boomer but have four younger siblings who are Generation Jones. The description for the Jones Generation is apt to describe them as careerist.

    I’ve worked with the Generation Jones folks and they do not want to rock the boat for sure. The problem with that is that we are stuck with the prospect now of the US government becoming a theocratic state.

    It would seem that Chris Hedges stance against liberalism as “gutless” is true, especially since one’s career is the ultimate moral authority driving their decisions in a narcissistic fashion, enabling corporatism and theocracy rather than confronting the issue as against everything this country has stood for since its founding.

  2. As a member of Generation Jones, I don’t know that I’d call it “cool pragmatism” as much as “resigned cynicism.” We have been squashed between the Boomers and GenX, ignored, overlooked; so what’s the use of trying to rock the boat? After a while, you just give up on that and get on with putting food on the table. Activism’s noble and all that, but we’re really just trying to cope with the crap that’s been handed to us by those before and after us.

    • Wobbly and Butterfly, thanks to both of your for helpful responses. I can understand the psychology you’re sketching, Wobbly. I see it, in fact, in some members of my own family who fell into that period between the Baby Boomers and GenX.

      As someone who lived through the sixties, I can also say that the utopianism of my generation was often shallow and self-serving. We’re the same folks, after all, who turned around and voted Reagan into office, having gotten what we wanted from the system.

  3. Bunch’s comments are accurate as far as they go. Theocratic extremists are indeed more politically powerful than they used to be. However, atheistic (and a-theistic) extremists are also very powerful, and decidingly more charming.

    I have long maintained that Republicans confuse their politics with their religion, and Democrats confuse their religion with their politics. That polarity is growing more pronounced.

    In my opinion, political liberalism has failed not because it has refused to confront the right-wing leakage of religion into politics. It has successfully and rightfully defended against ill-conceived interpretations of Christian theology. If the Christian right believes in strict creationism, literal interpretation, and other pre-modern ideas it is not because the intelligensia on the left has failed to make its case. It is because a thoughtful and mature approach to faith is often much more difficult than a simplified faith, even an improbable faith.

    As a matter of observation, the Christian right does not care that the left has strayed into what it believes is sin and damnation. What the Christian right cares about is that it doesn’t follow the “Atheist left”. It is concerned with righteousness. Interestingly, the Atheist left’s primary concern is also directed at the right – namely, why doesn’t everyone understand how much smarter, more well-reasoned, and open-minded a leftist approach is. It wants to be right, not righteous.

    The right is intolerant; the left is intolerable.

    On the whole, I would have to say that true Christian values have taken over much of society on the whole. Much greater societal emphasis has been placed on the poor, disenfranchised, oppressed, and persecuted than 50 years ago. If anything, the Generation Jones is complacent because such great strides seem to have been made with so little effort.

    • Thank you for your reply, David. I was able to follow you, more or less, up to the final paragraph, and then it was as if I were riding in a vehicle that made such a sudden turn I suffered whiplash.

      ’You say, “On the whole, I would have to say that true Christian values have taken over much of society on the whole. Much greater societal emphasis has been placed on the poor, disenfranchised, oppressed, and persecuted than 50 years ago.”

      And I couldn’t disagree more. Only today, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Poverty released a study showing that one in four children in my state lives below the poverty line. Increases in child poverty and in families requiring more and more assistance simply to have food on the table are being reported all over our nation.

      I’m afraid that where you see the triumph of Christian values, I see sin: it’s sinful that we allow so many of our fellow citizens to be unemployed, to live in poverty, to go without ongoing adequate healthcare. It’s sinful that while we do that, we pump billions into building weapons and making war. It’s deeply sinful that we now target brown-skinned people in one of our states, asking them to produce papers proving their citizenship anytime they’re stopped by officials.

      Personally, I think that no society throughout the Christian era has ever been “truly” Christian. In fact, I’m of a mind to think that the more certain any given society is that it fulfills the mandates of the gospel, the less likely it actually does so.

      My own thinking about these issues is normed by the biblical concept of the reign of God, which I don’t think any social order ever fully grasps or fulfills, or ever will grasp or fulfill. All social orders (and all political ideologies) stand in need of constant critique, in light of Jesus’s vision of the reign of God. And Christians can never settle down in history and be comfortable with any political arrangement or political ideology, because of our commitment to the same vision.

    • Bill,

      If one looks at the overall social picture government is doing much more for the poor and oppressed than it was 50 years ago. Minority groups have greater opportunities and less (overt) discrimination. By almost any material measure, the average person is significantly better off than 40-50 years ago. For example, we are no longer drafting 18 men into foreign wars. That, by itself, is a significant societal advance.

      I would attribute most of the advances to the liberal social agenda. Charity has become much more public, as opposed to private. Society is more free. Unusual behavior is better tolerated. Rules have been relaxed.

      Sure, injustice still exists. But, a fairly solid argument can be made that the government has never been more concerned with social justice than it is now.

      Its true that no society can reflect a true “Christian” spirit. However, that is because justice is the only reliable goal and the only reasonable measure of a society whereas love or charity is the goal and purpose of a Christian spirit.

      Although it appears that the liberal social movement has greatly improved the material lot of the most in need, it has also failed to inflame the passions of those whom it has benefitted, and even failed to inflame the passions of those who most loudly proclaim its undeniable triumph.

      Hedges’ claim that the liberal movement is gutless is accurate. But, that doesn’t have anything to do with the Christofascists. And, taking on the Christofascists directly doesn’t take courage. Does it take courage to argue with a creationist?

      In my opinion, liberalism is gutless because its aim is liberalism. One thing that I can say for Christofascists is that they really believe that they are doing God’s will. Liberals are doing their own will (and generally claiming that Christ would approve, or that what they are doing is Christ-like).

      What would really take courage, on the part of liberals, is find a theology or philosophy that is big enough to include the Christofascists, no matter what their beliefs. If the Christofascists are the whores, thieves and tax collectors of the modern world, break bread with them.

      • David, Jesus articulated that theology in two sentences, Love the Lord your God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

        I’ve frequently said it’s the last part of the second law that causes so many problems. What is authentic self love?

        Jesus seemed to imply authentic self love somehow involved the necessity of losing the self. I take this to mean losing the illusions are brains feed us about our exagerated separateness and novel uniqueness. We are in fact, far more alike than we are different. Jesus, who was by far the most unique of humans, celebrated the commonality of His humanity with us, not the uniqueness which separated Him from us.
        For me that is one of the biggest messages in the Crucifixion.

        It’s really difficult to get that message across in any system which prides itself on it’s separateness and defines it’s holiness in it’s opposition to the rest of humanity. It is going to be very difficult to cross any divides when those divides fuel illusions of self love based in our separateness and not our commonalities.

  4. Thanks once again, Bill, for a very insightful commentary. The Canadian connection is a revelation and makes clear that Hedges is not simply speaking through his hat! I remember how shocked I felt, together with my own circle of ‘progressive’ friends at the election of George W. Bush and his cabal. How could this happen, we wondered, an individual of such low intelligence and high religious fanaticism, speaking the language of evangelism and right wing Christianity. A born again Christian, from the bottle to the bible, who then defied the UN and charged into Iraq with a fanatical degree of fervor and righteousness. We’ve been given a respite with Obama, but the tepid, reasonable approach of the ‘liberal’ class is no match for the intensity of the true believer, and I find it more than believable that the dark elements in our society who brought Bush to power are now waiting impatiently in the wings for an even more glorious comeback. They must be countered with an equally fervent and impassioned commitment to inclusive justice that reaches out to all of the disenfranchised. For that we need great leadership.

    • How can this happen, indeed, Jayden? Studies show that some 48% of Americans believe in creationism–in the literal interpretation of the mythic stories of creation in Genesis. Some 48% of Americans evidently reject the sound, long-accepted science of evolution.

      We are, as a people, in some respects sitting ducks for charismatic religious figures with unsavory objectives (or for cynical politicians spouting “religious” rhetoric to which they have no commitment at all, but which is useful for them as they lead us by the nose).

      And I agree with you completely: as all this rolls forth, our liberal intelligentsia, who should know better, sit by in silence when they’re not actively colluding with the neocon groups who massage religious fanaticism and pander to ignorance to stay in power. We definitely need leadership–like that of Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, LBJ, and Martin Luther King–that knows how to touch the deep springs of authentic religiosity in our political traditions in this nation with the soul of a church. Springs that, as King liked to say (quoting Micah), roll forth towards a river of justice.

  5. Than you for this essay. I am from a mostly black deindustrialized ghetto town south of Philadelphia, and I didn’t agree with Will Bunch much. But then he sees life through the filters of an upscale writer/commentator. Not a working class man/woman, for instance.

    A LOT of us GJ people tried to have lives grounded in idealism…that were also pragmatic. I mean it’s one thing to run through the streets shrieking “PEACE” and “SAVE THE EARTH” and quite another to get down to the nuts and bolts of doing that.

    So we had generational issues that came out of reality, as well as ideals. All the raving of the Boomers was fine, but they had an easy ride of prosperity, and everyone’s attention. The whole world is watching! They were the first reality TV.

    We, by contrast, had nothing left for us, and had to earn our way, if we could. We may have resonated with various earlier idealisms. Including non-Boomer idealism, like our WWII and Korean War fathers’ and mothers’. That for me was the biggest gap–Boomers saying that our fathers were murderers and in the wrong, for defeating Hitler and Tojo.

    In daily praxis, we came out of high school/college with the worst unemployment since the Depression, 20% mortgage rates, skyrocketing housing prices, oil crises, environmental disasters, political corruption…and a bunch of Boomers telling us how they were the stars of history, because they fornicated and got stoned at Woodstock, or pelted working class police officers with rocks and swear words in Chicago, or spit on returning veterans. Well, that surely is some accomplishment!

    I always saw the Boomers as the biggest bunch of elitist blowhards ever. But their not-very-well-conceptualized, and completely non-praxis-grounded, fulminations were magnified by the newly emerging power of the electronic/mass/corporate media. The mediated reality took over, and was turned into a highly lucrative series of memes. Che t-shirts and tie-dye schwag, anybody?

    I don’t buy into any of this religious talk. To me, religion is just a way that people mask their egos as superhero powers. I have known good people and bad people of all, and no, belief systems.

    But I will agree that Boomer liberalism failed badly. And that we have not yet had a frank, rational, discussion of how, and why. One that has lain outside of the usual bipolar political discussions (left v right, liberal v conservative, etc.). It sickens me, because I consider myself a very liberal person. But I also note that the real advances–queer rights, women’s rights, environmentalism, etc.–came out of the SEVENTIES and EIGHTIES. Not the Sixties. The Sixties generation of teens ranted and raved and drew attention to themselves. We put legs and wheels on this stuff, and made it work. And we still don’t get credit. The Boomers still claim it was all them.

    I find it fascinating that the comments and essay don’t mention Islamic religious fascism, instead choosing to beat up on home-grown “Christofascists.” In my view a lot of the reviling of those (admittedly concerning) people has been a mask for class war. I.e. that the nice upscale or more fortunate/ hopeful Christian people really don’t like the fire in the belly of the least of these, their brethren. The Boomers gave us a culture where it’s OK to be sexist if you bash men, OK to be racist if you bash whites, OK to be classist if you hate “rednecks.” It disturbs me terribly.

    Super liberal writer Paul Berman has written extensively on liberals’ failure to stand up to Islamic religious fascism. He attributes it to cowardice, and I agree. In my view the single most evocative quality of Baby Boomers–born between 1946 and 1954–is their cowardice. How they aided enemies of the US. How they have consistently bashed the US out of some naive view that if you just placate and appease, everyone will get along. That is a tremendously elitist, and cowardly, view.

    • Wicket, thank you for a powerful and articulate response. I find your contribution to the discussion valuable, because it grounds the analysis of these issues in the experience of working-class Americans who have been made marginal by the drift of our culture and economy in the latter half of the 20th century. And who are often overlooked in these discussions, precisely because they have been made marginal.

      From my vantage point–from the vantage point of a fairly privileged middle-class Caucasian who lived through the turmoil of the sixties as I went to college–the activism of many members of my generation was shallow and not grounded in any theoretical or practical solidarity with the kind of people you’re describing.

      And so it was doomed to fail as a transformative social movement–except insofar as it accorded some new privileges to my generation, particularly in the area of sexual behavior (though largely heterosexual behavior).

      It interested me very much that, when Reagan came along, the very people in my generation who had claimed to be passionate about building a more Democratic society put him into office. And we have lived with that choice of the baby boomer generation ever since–a maleficent choice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: