Christians Did Not Build “The Cathedral”

A guest post by commenter JMSmith:

If you are a conservative Christian, you have no doubt been assailed with the allegation that your religion leans to the left. This has been said by godless leftists, who wish to set you marching under the red banner, and this has been said by godless rightists, who wish to convert you, or purge you, or maybe just pull your nose. And because there are some trace elements of truth in this allegation, your may be tempted to believe what these mountebanks say.

You shouldn’t.

What you should do is remember that a Great Schism rent American Protestantism in the early nineteenth century, with the sundering fissure tearing through denominations, and even congregations. Protestants on one side of the fissure called themselves “liberals,” those on the other side called themselves “orthodox.” (Roman Catholics went through a similar schism somewhat later.) When someone says that Christianity leans to the left, they are championing the “liberal” side of the Great Schism, and insinuating (without argument) that liberal Protestants are the legitimate heirs to the Christian tradition.

If you are a conservative Christian, you are obviously standing on the other side of the fissure, and what you see across that momentous crevasse is a crypto-humanist heresy. That’s what orthodox Protestants said it was in the early nineteenth century, and they were right.

Liberal Protestantism is a new, post-Christian religion that in its early stages opportunistically spoke in a Christian idiom, but nevertheless preached a new gospel. Calvin Blanchard, a humanist author who supported himself through the sale of radical and pornographic books, exulted in 1860 that humanism was taught “under the name of ‘Christianity’ . . . in many of the most fashionable ‘Christian’ churches,” and that “the masses sleep as quietly under that doctrine, but thinly disguised, as they used to under preaching the most orthodox.”

The “orthodox” Protestants were correct—theirs was the more authentically Christian faith; but they were not victorious, and any vindication they have enjoyed, they have enjoyed in heaven. They have not disappeared, of course, but they are a small, despised minority. All respectable Americans today are Humanists, the difference between those who speak in a Christian idiom and those who don’t being very, very small.

* * * * * * *

To find the sources of the Great Schism, you must look into the polemical literature of American Protestantism in the Eighteenth Century, where you will find recurrent complaints of Socinianism, Arminianism, and (less frequently) Antinomianism. Arianism and Pelagianism were sometimes employed as substitutes for the first two terms, and for all practical purposes denoted the same tendency. What all of this meant is that, even at that early date, some American Protestants were beginning to lay less emphasis on the divinity of Christ (Socinianism, Arianism), more emphasis on the divinity of Man (Arminianism, Pelagianism), and less emphasis on the difference between a life that was “godly” and a life that was “good.” (Antinomianism).

Rolled together in a single clod, Socinianism, Arminianism, and Antinomianism constitute the Humanist Heresy because, when these tendencies are fully worked out, the result is humanism. Christ is then (at best) a great teacher and exemplary human being, and is no longer divine; sinful men are the victims of unfortunate circumstances, and are no longer fallen Sons of Adam; earthly life is then a pursuit of temporal happiness, and is no longer the porch of eternity where men work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

Dreadful forebodings of this Humanist Heresy can be read in a booklet written by Thomas Clap, President of Yale University, and published in 1755. The booklet was written to justify religious tests for Yale faculty, a precaution that became necessary because “sundry persons have of late risen up . . . and have by various means endeavored to introduce a new scheme of religion, and an easy way of salvation, unknown to the gospel of Christ” (emphasis in original). The full title of Clap’s booklet is, A Brief History and Vindication of Doctrines Received and Established in the Churches of New England with a Specimen of the New Scheme of Religion Beginning to Prevail.

The New Scheme of Religion that was beginning to prevail in 1755 had very nearly prevailed by 1855, and is, of course, prevalent today. This New Scheme had its source, not in New England Calvinism, as is so often alleged, but in books written by English Deists such as Thomas Chubb, John Taylor, James Foster, and Francis Hutcheson. The “fundamental principle” of this New Scheme of Religion, according to Clap, was that “the happiness of the creature is the sole end of the creation”; that man’s whole religious and moral duty was conscientious pursuit of happiness (due respect being shown for the happiness of others); and that sin was nothing but a failure to succeed in this pursuit or to show this respect. And such failures, when they occurred, were not interpreted as the consequences of of man’s original depravity, but rather as the consequences of “a contracted disposition or inclination.” For according to the New Scheme of Religion, “every child comes into the world like a clean white piece of paper.”

* * * * * * *

In 1755 we may be sure that the President of Yale University understood and approved the “doctrines received and established in the churches of New England,” so when you read Clap’s denial that the New Scheme expressed or developed these doctrines, you should begin to doubt the internet authors who tell you that the leftist programs of what they like to call “the Cathedral” originated in the Christianity of the churches of New England. In fact, you should begin to suspect that “the Cathedral” originated in what Clap called the New Scheme of Religion, and you should begin to understand that orthodox Protestants didn’t like this New Scheme any better than you like “the Cathedral.”

There is, however, at least one respect in which these internet authors are right about the connection between New England and “the Cathedral.” The spirit of political Puritanism did pass into the New Scheme, and from there it passed into Unitarianism, Humanitarianism and today’s regime of Political Correctness. An Episcopalian writer named N. S. Richardson, who made a close study of the Puritan temperament, noted its “perpetual officiousness” in an article he published in in The Church Review in 1868. Richardson goes on to say that, because the Puritan believes that he is “better than other people,” he “feels bound to keep ‘watch and care,’ as the phrase runs, over other people’s affairs.” And in order to satisfy this implacable itch to keep watch and care over other people’s affairs, the Puritan is ever eager “get hold of some great ‘moral idea’. . .and get into power with it.”

Puritans were only accidentally and temporarily Calvinists. So long as Calvinism provided them with a metaphysical foundation for sanctimonious browbeating, they were satisfied with it; but when this foundation began to lose its advantage, they were not slow in removing themselves to a more commanding position. Their primary requirement, after all, was a metaphysical foundation that justified their claim to moral superiority and the political power to impose their views on morally inferior men. They found this commanding position in the New Scheme of Religion and the Humanist Heresy to which it led, for here it was taught that one had simply to look “to the intuitive teachings of the soul for the disclosure of Absolute truth.”

* * * * * * *

By 1855 the perpetually officious spirit of Puritanism had taken up residence in the New Scheme of Religion. It took the form of a humanitarian movement that sought to “get into power” by exercising “watch and care” over American social institutions, all of which it condemned as affronts to the “moral ideas” of liberty and equality. It disapproved of marriage, family, government and, most of all, what was then called the “servile relationship” of master and slave. The grounds of its fierce officiousness, and of its claim to the political power that would be needed to redress these evils, was not scripture, or law, but “the intuitive teachings of the [Puritan’s] soul.”

As Clap had written a century before, they believed that “every child comes into the world like a clean white piece of paper,” and they believed that they had the inspired wisdom to reorganize society in such a way that every child would stay that way. Under their watch and care, the blood of Christ would be superfluous.

Orthodox Christians disagreed, and this disagreement caused the Great Schism.

To better understand this disagreement we can look into two booklets published by Nathan Lord, who was President of Dartmouth College until he was forced to resign after refusing to endorse Abolitionism. In A Letter of Inquiry (1854), Lord wrote that “humanitarian philosophy” had “insinuated itself into the church of God,” where it taught the doctrines of “man’s natural virtuousness, and his capacity to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness agreeably to his natural instincts, sentiments, ideas, and judgments.” In other words, it taught that there was nothing wrong with men’s natural desires, but that there was a great deal wrong with existing social institutions, which mostly thwarted or perverted these desires.

Later that same year, in A Northern Presbyter’s Second Letter, Lord again condemned as anti-Christian the new “humanitarian philosophy” that “denies, ignores, diminishes, or travesties the facts of natural and revealed religion which slavery presupposes.” The facts denied by humanitarian philosophy were, “the fallen, depraved, imbecile, disordered, and condemned state of the world,” and the consequent need of “ordinance for the better restraint, discipline, and correction of bad men, and some more than others.” In other words, orthodox Christianity taught that all men were essentially bad—some more bad than others—and that there was therefore a need for “ordinance,” or social institutions, adapted to this fact.

The New Scheme of Religion taught a very different doctrine. “Every child,” it proclaimed, “comes into the world like a clean white piece of paper”; and because it arrives in this immaculate condition, it does not require ordinance to “restrain, discipline, and correct.” It requires, instead, ordinance—if that is the word—that will liberate, tolerate, and affirm.

* * * * * * *

The climax of the Great Schism was, of course, the American Civil War. As with almost every war, this one was fought to decide many questions, some of them economic, some of them political, and some of them religious. In 1863 the landscape painter and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse (remembered today for Morse Code) wrote a pamphlet arguing that the Civil War was primarily a dispute between “two violently opposed sects,” animated by “two opposite gospels,” fighting to decide a “religious question.” The clash was between orthodox Christianity and the new “humanitarian philosophy,” and the question to be decided was whether man was fallen in his nature, or only as an accident of remediable social circumstances.

Morse was himself an orthodox Christian and a northerner, son and worthy scion of the great orthodox Christian crusader Jedediah Morse. He wrote that the orthodox Christians “speak of mankind as degenerate,” rebellious, and essentially “disobedient,” and that this was the reason they defended the traditional social order. Traditional civil institutions were, so far as orthodox Christians were concerned, instruments in “the divine plan adapted to man as a fallen being.” Together these institutions formed a “system of restraint” that caged the recalcitrant spirits of men and women, taught “the great lesson of obedience,” and in time promised to accomplish a “restoration of obedience in the human soul.”

Following the philosopher James McCosh, Morse approved this system of restraint, calling it the “the social system which God has ordained” for man in his “disciplinary state.” In this “system of restraint” there were, he wrote, “four great regulators” that enforced “obedience to authority” and trained men to duty. These were civil government, in which rulers had authority over ruled; marriage, in which husbands had authority over wives; families, in which parents had authority over children; and the servile relationship, in which masters had authority over slaves. In each of these “governments,” Morse wrote, “obedience is the central idea.” Without these governments there would be anarchy, for “the whole human race without government is barbarous.”

In the opposite gospel of the humanitarian social reformers, all of these institutions were suspect, if not sinful. Morse wrote that this was because they “deny the degeneracy of man,” “look upon human nature with unmingled feelings of pride and satisfaction,” and believe that “obedience, or subjection to authority, must be altogether blotted out of the social system.” The humanitarian sect was, even as Morse wrote his pamphlet, destroying the servile relationship by violence, but its members were also working to undermine Christian marriage with doctrines of women’s rights and “free love,” and to undermine civil government with doctrines of “democracy.” They hadn’t yet gotten round to liberating the children.

* * * * * * *

We live today under the watch and care of officious Puritans. As of old, they believe that they are better than other people, and they have got hold of a “great ‘moral’ idea” to get themselves into power. This regime has no official name, but its detractors use terms such as “totalitarian humanism,” “political correctness” and “the Cathedral.” I suspect that most conservative Christians feel intuitive distrust of this regime, and sense that it is at heart an alien ideology. But they will at the same time read writers on the left and right who claim that it grew out of Christianity, and more especially out of Calvinist New England. These writers, many of whom are exceedingly capable and interesting, may cause some conservative Christians to wonder whether it is, indeed, possible to be both conservative and Christian. This post attempts to answer that question. It is a sort of paternity test on the Humanist Heresy; and what it has shown is that the Humanist Heresy is not our baby. There is no reason on earth why we should pay child support.

JMSmith is an occasional commenter at the Orthosphere. He earns his bread as a professor of cultural geography, and since that is his real name anyone with a search engine and insane curiosity can figure out who he really is. In youth he was a rather rickety Protestant, in young manhood an equally rickety infidel. He remains rickety, but is now Roman Catholic.

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175 thoughts on “Christians Did Not Build “The Cathedral”

    • The author of Jim’s Blog has written a number of interesting posts on this topic, but I can’t agree with him on this. To be sure, many of the churches were annexed by the cathedral after 1865, but prior to that most of them opposed the new, humanitarian doctrines. This was not because they were indifferent to suffering, but because they believed the humanitarian doctrines were founded on the false premise of man’s natural virtue

  1. Pingback: Christians did not build the Cathedral – but Churches did. « Jim’s Blog

  2. Interesting post. Another piece into the great puzzle of history. Thank you.

    Was Morse really such defender of slavery? Did he address question of human dignity as an objection against slavery?

    • I’m glad you found the post interesting. As an orthodox Christian, Morse began his analysis with a presumption of human depravity, not dignity. He asked what sort of social institutions were best adapted to fallen men in a fallen world, and he answered that they were the traditional institutions that placed individuals under restraint. As I mention in the post, he was evidently influenced by the Scottish philosopher James McCosh, who wrote that “it is questionable if the mode of government best fitted to holy beings is at all adapted to those who have broken loose from the restraints of moral principle” (Method of the Divine Government, Physical and Moral [1851]). Morse clearly believed that fallen men (and women) had a capacity to become, “holy beings,” but he denied that men and women are naturally holy. If you’d like to read the pamphlet, there is a copy online at Hathitrust.org. The full citation is: Samuel F. B. Morse, “An Argument on the Ethical Position of Slavery in the Social System,” Papers from the Society for the Diffusion of Political Knowledge 12 (August 1863): 3-20.

      • Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read it carefully now but I have downloaded it.

  3. I don’t see a whole lot of Christianity in the West today as being hardcore anti-Cathedral. Most people are Christian Cathedralists, or as others have put it, Churchians practicing their Churchianity.

    • There’s a lot of truth in what you write. But there are occasionally hopeful signs. We had a unusually bracing homily this morning, in which the priest reminded us that we are not universalists and that some of us–maybe most of us–are headed for Hell.

  4. Thank you, JM Smith, for this well-written article. You’ve expressed what I’ve thought: Like every great lie, the notion that Christians are responsible for leftism contains an element of truth. Just enough to deceive those who aren’t paying close attention.

  5. Sort of off topic, but perhaps relevant. There is a significant number of people who aren’t actually all that religious, but who like to be “den mothers.” These people are often attracted to jobs as clergymen, especially if they have some small remnant of religious feeling left. They wreak havoc on churches.

  6. Christianity is somewhat more liberal than what came before it. It expands morality beyond the tribe, for example, and makes moral obligations more egalitarian in general. (For example, the active partner in gay sex becomes just as degraded as the passive partner. There are other examples.) Which is why liberal Christians can find some support for their position in the Biblical text and tradition. But Christianity never annulled non-liberal foundations of morality, like respect for authority, holiness and loyalty to your group, which is why liberal Christians have to ignore or make excuses for such an enormous amount of the Bible and Christian tradition.

  7. What all of this meant is that, even at that early date, some American Protestants were beginning to lay less emphasis on the divinity of Christ (Socinianism, Arianism), more emphasis on the divinity of Man (Arminianism, Pelagianism), and less emphasis on the difference between a life that was “godly” and a life that was “good.” (Antinomianism).

    You’re misrepresenting Arminianism … which is simply a name for the historically orthodox denial of the the unorthodox, and contrary to reason, doctrines the distinguish Calvinism from the rest of Christianity.

    • The term Arminianism is used in three basic ways in the historical documents I have read. Among theologians it referred to the doctrines actually promulgated by Arminius. Among the vulgar it was nothing but a term of abuse. Between these extremes, the term Arminianism was used to denote (and denounce) the idea that men are naturally virtuous. This may have been unfair to Arminius, but that is what a great many writers meant when they used the term. From a theological perspective this middle usage was crude, but from the perspective of culture history, it is the one that mattered.

      • So, “in the service of truth” what matters is misrepresentation, lying, and slandering of a good man?

      • Well, men are naturally virtuous. That’s why we have the natural virtues, and why Christianity “borrowed” them from the pagans. That doesn’t mean that natural men do not need, in some unseen, possibly unfelt, way of cooperating with the grace of God to practice virtue. But it doesn’t require Christian revelation.

      • Ilíon@ I think you will find that the ideas of most great thinkers are vulgarized, that the name of the thinker become the name of the vulgarization, and that this vulgarization has a greater impact on history than the original thoughts. I’m no fan of Marx, but I know he is not responsible for much that we call Marxism. Many people say that Calvin was not a Calvinist, Buddha was not Buddhist, Christ was not a Christian. Insofar as these claims are true, the way to solve the problem is to recognize that intellectual history and cultural history are only loosely connected, and that ideas affect culture only in vulgarized forms. A good way to think through this is to compare the cultural phenomenon of Darwinism with what Darwin actually wrote. The two things are related, but they are also different.

    • Many key concepts of Christianity are “contrary to reason.” Is it reasonable that we are condemned to eternal damnation for something that someone else (i.e., Adam) did? Is it reasonable that the death of one man could pay for that? Is it reasonable that the same man came back to life three days later? Is it reasonable that God is one, and three, all at the same time? The “reasonableness”—or lack thereof—found in a Christian doctrine has nothing to do with its truth.

      Ilíon correctly observed that at the time of the Reformation, Catholic teachings had become standard, orthodox. What Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers did was to point out what they took to be the errors in those teachings and, in essence, call for a return to pre-Catholic orthodoxy, i.e., Christian truth as taught in the Bible.

      Arminianism is a grave error—heresy, in fact. In contrast to the plain teaching of the Bible, Arminian doctrine is that election is conditional, when the Bible says that God chose his elect before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 9:11). Arminians say that atonement is universal, when the Bible says it is for God’s chosen people only (Ephesians 5:25; John 10:15; John 17:9). Arminius taught partial depravity*, when Scripture says that man is utterly ruined by the Fall (John 10:27–29). Arminianism holds that grace is resistible, when the Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign (Daniel 4:32–35; Romans 9:19; Revelation 19:6). Finally, the Arminian position is that one of the elect can fall from grace, when Scripture says those whom the Father has given to the Son are His forever (John 6:44–45, 10:27-29).

      Arminianism is contrary to the Bible in every one of its aspects. It is false, a perversion of the word of the Lord.

      *depravity having a specific theological meaning, and not our everyday understanding of it, to wit: in every part of our nature, sin has corrupted us to the uttermost (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 16:18; Romans 3:10, 5:19; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

      • Eph 1 is written to God’s holy people of Ephesus, and Romans 9 refers specifically to the descendants of Isaac. So does that mean Christ died to redeem part of the population of Ephesus and the descendants of Isaac? BTW, the “plain teaching of the Bible” — written by the Church fathers and preserved by the Church. Including the parts of the holy Scripture that Luther excised because he decided they didn’t belong.

  8. An Episcopalian writer named N. S. Richardson, who made a close study of the Puritan temperament, noted its “perpetual officiousness” in an article he published in in The Church Review in 1868. Richardson goes on to say that, because the Puritan believes that he is “better than other people,” he “feels bound to keep ‘watch and care,’ as the phrase runs, over other people’s affairs.” And in order to satisfy this implacable itch to keep watch and care over other people’s affairs, the Puritan is ever eager “get hold of some great ‘moral idea’. . .and get into power with it.”
    Puritans were only accidentally and temporarily Calvinists. So long as Calvinism provided them with a metaphysical foundation for sanctimonious browbeating, they were satisfied with it; but when this foundation began to loose its advantage, they were not slow in removing themselves to a more commanding position. …

    You (both the late Richardson and the author JMSmith) are misrepresenting, and falsely slandering, the Puritans. You (JMSmith) are, in fact, buying into the Leftist lies about the Puritans.

    … arguing that the Civil War was primarily a dispute between “two violently opposed sects,” animated by “two opposite gospels,” fighting to decide a “religious question.” The clash was between orthodox Christianity and the new “humanitarian philosophy,” and the question to be decided was whether man was fallen in his nature, or only as an accident of remediable social circumstances.

    Morse was himself an orthodox Christian and a northerner, son and worthy scion of the great orthodox Christian crusader Jedediah Morse. He wrote that the orthodox Christians “speak of mankind as degenerate,” rebellious, and essentially “disobedient,” and that this was the reason they defended the traditional social order. …

    At the time of the Civil War, this “traditional social order” (i.e. the “peculiar institution” of slavery — the anti-Christian “owning” of one man by another) was only a bit over two hundred years old — being itself an innovative overthrowing of the Christian-and-English “traditional social order”, under which slavery was not simply illegal, but unthinkable. There were no “legal” slaves in America until 1655 — when a black man obtained a court rulling that another black man was his property for life.

    • By this logic, it would make perfect sense to treat the 13th thru 15th ammendments as late accretions, foreign to the “traditional social order” in America. Actually, that’s not a half-bad idea.

    • I certainly do not mean to slander the people of colonial New England. I think there is a great deal to admire in the society they established and sustained for nearly two hundred years. My admiration falls off sharply when the Unitarians and transcendentalists became dominant, beginning in the 1830s. The principal leftist lie about Puritans, so far as I can see, is that the Puritans were sexually repressed. They were not libertines, but within the confines of marriage they obviously were as actively sexual as anyone else. In any event, I think makes sense to view Puritanism as a political phenomenon with no necessary religious or moral content. It is really just another name for Phariseeism.

      The traditional social order of Europe did not include the institution of slavery as it was practiced in antiquity or in the New World. It did, however, include other forms of the “servile relationship.” American Christians who opposed abolition generally supported measured to ensure humane treatment of slaves, and if they had had their way, the status of a slave would not have been vastly different than the status of a Russian peasant or a medieval serf. The point in reading the arguments of Morse and Lord after all these years is to revive the arguments, but simply to understand what the arguments were.

      • > The principal leftist lie about Puritans, so far as I can see, is that the Puritans were sexually repressed. They were not libertines, but within the confines of marriage they obviously were as actively sexual as anyone else.

        And were more apt to divorce than anyone else.

        Their marriage ceremony generally failed to make the women swear to the Pauline contract of marriage.

        They also failed to socially enforce male supremacy in church, which makes the consequences of hypergamy far more damaging – since the number of males visible to females drops to a small part of total males.

        In England, during the nineteenth century, their theological offspring were largely responsible for the society for suppression of vice, what we are apt to call “Victorianism”, whose program I would summarize as making sure that beta males did not get any, rather than making sure that sex was confined to indissoluble marriage.

      • Slavery was common in Britain and Ireland until the 12th century, when it simply became less economical. Still, to say that the “traditional social order of Europe did not include the institution of slavery” is to state that titled members London or Paris society who owned slave-plantations in the West Indies were not part of the “traditional social order”.

        While I truly believe your thesis to be viable, you’re making stuff up to support it, and that’s not working.

  9. Not much to disagree with in the OP. The etiology of the Cathedral is sound. My only quibble is that it amounts to the No True Scotsman Fallacy. If “Christians did not build the Cathedral”, then people called, and who considered themselves, Christians did.

  10. Um, is it something we’re just not supposed to mention (since I notice no one else has mentioned it, much less questioned it, in the course of *sixteen comments*), or does the OP sound like the author accepts antebellum slavery as an authentically and traditionally Christian institution the justification of which flows with perfect naturalness from the Christian doctrine of the fallenness of man? Because that’s how it reads to me. To put it mildly (though I have tons of other things to do and am not prepared to enter into a lengthy dispute), that is a theological and historical proposition that can be called vigorously into question.

    • (since I notice no one else has mentioned it, much less questioned it, in the course of *sixteen comments*) ..

      Um, can you not read?

      • Well, Ilion, I try. I certainly read the entire main post and virtually every word of the comments thus far. I doubt that I can keep up the latter, though. If you think I’ve egregiously misread Smith, either you or he is welcome to correct me. In fact, I’d much prefer _not_ to believe that the Orthosphere just hosted a pro-slavery post, even as a guest post, so I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

        One correction to what I just wrote in the previous comment is that the comment by RT, above, is certainly questioning the approval of slavery as a Christian institution. But RT is more tactful than I am and focused on the attribution of that position to Morse rather than on the appearance that the actual writer of the post, JM Smith, holds that position. After all, Morse is dead, while Smith is with us in this very thread, so discussing Morse’s position is more tactful than discussing (aka, saying, “What the hell??!!!”) about Smith’s.

      • Ah, I see, Ilion. I missed the last part of _your_ comment, above, in which you were vigorously questioning Smith’s position. My apologies for not having read to the bottom of your comment.

      • Oh Lydia, I remember you speech-policing on Auster’s site too.

        Elbow’s off the table, gents, Lydia’s here!

    • Failing to accept the justification, means, and intent of overthrowing antebellum slavery does not constitute a defense of it.

      The Bible, and (antebellum) Christianity, are quite agnostic toward many species of hierarchical social arrangements, which are generally accepted as natural and necessary for a well-ordered society.

      Christian doctrine neither mandates nor forbids slavery. But it does forbid unjust causes and means of war.

      • Yeah, except that the OP really does seem to be accepting a defense of it. That is, that it flowed from the idea of the fallen nature of mankind–that relationship of “servant and master.” After all, let’s face it: Morse _was_ talking about American slavery, not about some other kind or sort. And improving the lot of the slaves still fails to get at the issue of owning persons as property, which it certainly sounds like Morse is a-okay with. As for Smith, let’s just say he isn’t trying hard *at all* to distance himself from that position. Again, that is a deliberate understatement.

      • Biblical religion forbids slavery for much the same reason it forbids polygamy — “In their hardness of heart, in his mercy by not demanding moral perfection in all things, God *allowed* your fathers to do this immoral thing, but that time is over“. And, even when God did allow slavery — what was allowed wasn’t chattel slavery — he explicitly condemned the slave-taker to death.

      • Oh, and you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a clear just war doctrine in the Bible! Which is not to say that just war doctrine is wrong or that the Civil War was just. But the idea that the Bible “condemns” the Civil War but doesn’t condemn Southern slavery is just silly. The Bible simply doesn’t address every question we might want to ask, period, including all sorts of questions about exactly when war is just.

    • My post was not intended to advocate slavery. It is simply a fact that, in the early nineteenth century, many intelligent and orthodox Christians believed that slavery was an “authentically and traditionally Christian institution,” so if one sets our to faithfully report the opinions of intelligent and orthodox Christians from that period, one will have to report some awkward opinions. Of course I could have suppressed this aspect of Lord’s and Morris’s worldview, but I chose to be an honest reporter. And I suppose I could have ostentatiously deplored this aspect of their opinion, but the post was already too long and it was not about slavery. The post argues that the root of modern leftism is not found in orthodox Christianity. The opinions of Morse and Lord are offered as evidence in support of that thesis.

      • I thought it possible that you might say that, Mr. Smith. Yes, I do tend to think that it sometimes helps to “ostentatiously deplore” pro-slavery positions, especially when those positions are *obviously* being attributed to people with whom you are otherwise strongly and positively identifying your own position of Christian orthodoxy!

        In all honesty, I think it’s somewhat of a waste of time to deny that your post gives the strong appearance of agreeing with or at least being *quite* comfortable with these people’s positions on slavery and considering their position to be part of “Christian orthodoxy.” In fact, one might easily gather from your post that you identify opposition to slavery with the idea that men are basically good or with other aspects of deism, humanism, or anti-orthodoxy!

        However, if that was a mere matter of infelicity in conveying your meaning or a confusion caused by omission on your part, it’s easy enough to cut to the chase. Here are a few possible positions. Please feel free to fill in others if I’ve left anything out:

        1) I believe that it is always wrong to own human beings as property.
        2) I believe that it is never wrong to own human beings as property.
        3) I believe that it is sometimes wrong and sometimes right to own human beings as property.
        4) I am undecided about when and whether it is wrong to own human beings as property.

        It should be fairly easy to state whether one of these represents your own position.

      • Lydia, you should know that we reactionaries are more open-minded and forthright, and we don’t feel the need for constant rhetorical cringing to assure readers how nice and respectable we are. You are demanding that JMSmith condemn an institution that other men far better than you, such as Aristotle and Saint Paul, thought natural and per se at least morally neutral. Christianity is neither pro nor anti-slavery; the thing itself is not condemned by scripture, tradition, or natural law. The claim that it is depends on an ahistorical and Whiggish misinterpretation of the word “property”. It is undeniable that slaves are in some sense the property of their owners, but that does not mean that their owners can abuse them any way they like, and in fact slave societies–late imperial Rome, the Islamic Ummah, the South, Brazil–generally did recognize some restrictions on how slaves can rightfully be treated. “Property” to traditional peoples means that which one has authority over and responsibility for. Just because a person cannot rightfully be regarded at “property” in the consumer capitalist sense doesn’t mean he can’t be in another sense. Christianity does, of course, have a lot to say about how slaves are treated, and Christians may well be inspired to have these demands reflected in law. This, however, is no different from the relationship Christianity has to industrial capitalism and the treatment of its workers.

        I would say that there are two possible positions for a reactionary that you have left out:

        1) Slavery is not intrinsically immoral, but it is an institution very prone to abuse, and therefore it is good (if possible) for the state to act to make it rare or eliminate it altogether (if this can be done prudently without sacrifice to greater goods). I lean toward this position myself.

        2) Slavery is not intrinsically immoral, but at certain point in history it has been corrupted by capitalist notions of property. The main sign of this would be widespread buying and selling of slaves. Thus, a conservative slavery reformer might wish to restore a more familial understanding of slavery in which slave families and master families are organically tied together. The fact that pro-slavery institutions could be hostile to slave trading (e.g. the banning of slave importation in the Confederate constitution) shows how this slave reformer mentality can manifest itself.

      • Also, btw, the mere use of a term like “unfortunately” would have been sufficient to create some distance. As in, “Unfortunately, x and y also identified Christian orthodoxy with a pro-slavery position as part of their overall position concerning the fallenness of man.” Instead of which, you convey something very different by merely expounding _their_ view of Christian orthodoxy and, inter alia, then using pronouns like “we” and “our” to identify yourself with “Christian orthodoxy.” It’s difficult to see why the reader should not take you to be using these pronouns to identify yourself with “Christian orthodoxy” *as you yourself have just expounded it” historically! It would have taken very few words, strategically inserted, to avoid that impression if it is in fact incorrect.

      • Moreover: If it’s historical and theological accuracy we are interested in, there is a *theological* question as to whether Christian orthodoxy is in fact pro-slavery! Aside from your personal views of slavery, it is tendentious and quite frankly bizarre (though not unprecedented, unfortunately) to suggest that Christian orthodoxy is per se pro-slavery. To say that your post leaves that impression and does nothing remotely like trying to correct that impression is to say the minimum that could be said. So if we’re interested in accuracy, perhaps you could have tried harder for clarity and accuracy on that point: Viz. Christian orthodoxy does not entail support for slavery.

      • Lydia@ I am sorry that you are offended by my post. Really, I am. But please stop feeding your indignation by reading between the lines and speculating about the beliefs of a man you do not know. I’m not going to suggest that you re-read the post because I really, truly do not wish to cause you more distress. But what it argues, very broadly, is that orthodox Christianity was hostile to the idea of freedom in the modern sense of that word, and so cannot have been the source of “the Cathedral.” It opposed democracy, woman’s liberation, sexual freedom, and, yes, abolition. It’s opposition to abolition may have been “unfortunate,” but it is also strong confirmation of my thesis, which is that orthodox Christians did not “build the Cathedral.” A great many people think that opposition to democracy, woman’s liberation, and sexual freedom was “unfortunate” or “unChristian. Maybe orthodox Christian’s should have built the Cathedral. These are all questions anyone can discuss. But I wasn’t discussing these questions in this place. What that tells you about me is nothing at all.

      • JMSmith, let’s ask this question, then. (Remember, I said this isn’t _just_ about your personal opinions re. slavery.) Do you endorse the proposition that *theologically* orthodox Christian doctrine is pro-slavery? Pro-chattel slavery of the “own another man” sort found in the antebellum South?

        Theologically? I’m not just talking historically, here.

        Your post appears to endorse that _theological_ proposition.

        And in all honesty, your cagey responses seem to imply that you really are lumping everything together–that you really do think or wish to imply that it’s impossible to be anti-slavery without endorsing the entire modern leftist package (building the Cathedral). I’m going to do you the compliment to assume that you are _smart_ enough that you could, if you wanted, distinguish these, that if you wanted you could say that there is no necessary connection between Christian doctrine and being pro-slavery.

        Are you really so tin-eared that you don’t see that it’s taking Christianity from the frying pan into the fire to clear Christian orthodoxy of the accusation that it “built the Cathedral” at the cost of implying that Christianity *really is* intrinsically pro-slavery?

        If you’re so narrowly focused on answering what appears to be some out-of-the-swamp accusation from the alt-Right atheist camp that you can’t even *bother* to say, “No, I don’t think Christian doctrine is pro-slavery,” then that is a sign that you are being influenced by the wrong critics.

        We are influenced by our critics–especially by those whom we think it very important to appeal to and to respond to. If your target audience is some hard-right anti-Christian (I think I do know the type) who is actually going to find appealing a pro-slavery Christianity, and if that’s the only target audience you care about, then that is too narrow of a target audience. And it’s a target audience that is going to influence you badly.

        Again: It is simply false that Christian doctrine is pro-slavery.

        If in fact all the orthodox Christians were pro-slavery and left the anti-slavery cause entirely to the Unitarians and to other heretics, then shame, eternal shame, on our forebears among the orthodox Christians.

        The least we can do is to make it clear that their interpretation of Christian doctrine was incorrect. If we cannot even bother to do that, then yes, that speaks volumes.

      • @Bonald
        Wasn’t slavery condemned by 2 Popes in 16th and 17th century? I think the first also declared natives as human beings. I am not sure if he condemned slavery per se or just the slave trade as you make the distinction.
        Historically, slavery disappeared in middle Europe (for example) during 10th century which was the time when this area was sufficiently christianized. From that I would conclude that slavery was never fully compatible with christian worldview and more acceptable forms of bondage (like serfdom) developed instead. Attachment to land and duty to landlord is different from ownership of another christian which was in contradiction to human dignity as understood by Church I guess.

      • Ah, Bonald, I just saw your response (another difficulty with threaded comments). I appreciate your forthrightness. I was not arguing that Christianity is per se intrinsically anti-slavery, though I do think that being anti-slavery is at least a natural out-working of the idea that all men are made in the image of God. However, I consider that the main post gives the distinct impression that *really orthodox* Christianity (as opposed to New England Unitarianism or other heresies) is definitely *pro-slavery* or at least has a strong natural tendency to be pro-slavery. Either Smith thinks that or he doesn’t concerning Christian theology. If he doesn’t, it would hardly be abject cringing to political correctness to clarify the matter.

        It’s funny that you should seem to associate Professor Smith with yourself as a “forthright” reactionary, when in point of fact he appears not willing to say one way or another *even regarding the theological thesis* that real, orthodox Christianity is naturally pro-slavery. It’s hardly forthright to write an article that leaves that distinct impression and then, when challenged on it, to take one’s stand on, “My article wasn’t about slavery” and refuse to answer the question. If Professor Smith takes your position, for example, he should say so. If he thinks as you do that orthodox Christianity is neither pro-slavery nor anti-slavery he also should have written his post somewhat differently and,if not, should have taken the opportunity to clarify in the comments.

        Finally, let me add that I think what you call reactionary forthrightness can too often take the form of being shocking merely for its own sake, which is a bad thing and can lead to dark places. Reactionary conservatives need to be especially careful about this, as they spend their political lives on a kind of cusp where it’s all too easy to fall off on the wrong side.

        In any event, if one is going to be shocking on the subject of slavery, one might as well say what one actually thinks rather than coyly attributing all the shocking positions to historical figures like Lord and Morse, *seeming* to cite them approvingly, and then refusing to say either what one thinks oneself about slavery or whether one really meant to say (what one appeared to say) –that orthodox Christianity as opposed to heresy will be pro-slavery because of beliefs about the fallen nature of man and the need for order and hierarchy.

      • How is it helpful to “ostentatiously deplore” an unavoidable fact or life (i.e., that some men cannot rise above the level of ward of some more competent person, whose oversight, therefore, is for them a mercy)? Helpful, that is, but for posing for our Cultural Masters?

        And how can you keep reading careful phrases such as “not intrinsically immoral” as “pro-slavery”?

      • Hopefully, this will appear as a reply to NickBSteves:

        Gee, NBS, I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would take your comment to be pro-slavery! After all, you only replied to a request that someone distance himself from the pro-slavery position by calling, apparently, slavery an “undeniable fact of life” and by characterizing it thus: “that some men cannot rise above the level of ward of some more competent person, whose oversight, therefore, is for them a mercy”

        Yeah, that doesn’t sound pro-slavery *at all*. Not a-tall.

        Honestly, your opinion isn’t all that interesting to me. I was more concerned that Orthosophere hosted the main post and that its author, Professor Smith, shows no interest in clarifying that he does *not* actually believe (as one might have inferred from the post) that Christian orthodox doctrine is naturally favorable to the institution of slavery.

        As for your position, however, you could choose to qualify it by saying that you aren’t in favor of chattel slavery or what-not, but you choose not to. You also are extremely touchy about any call to condemn slavery. You also seem to think that the injustice of the Civil War was much, much more obvious than the injustice of antebellum slavery. Oh, you also show, shall we say, something less than enthusiasm for the thirteenth amendment. Fine and dandy, all of that is your choice, but don’t be surprised in that case if, y’know, people think of you as pro-slavery. It doesn’t seem all that unreasonable an inference.

        If it’s Bonald you’re concerned to defend, he’s quite capable of defending himself. I would call his position, which I appreciate his stating so clearly (others might do well to follow his example), _moderately_ pro-slavery. If he objects to that designation, he can get indignant if he pleases, but he doesn’t seem to me like the indignant type.

      • I don’t expect it to allay all of Lydia’s worries, but we should insist that even if slavery is not intrinsically immoral that doesn’t mean it is heretical to believe slavery is intrinsically immoral. Orthodoxy is a subset of truth. The accusation of us being “pro-slavery” is only one side of this discussion. As Lydia has correctly pointed out, a plausible reading of the post and its comments thus far would be that categorical rejection of slavery is intrinsically heterodox. That is, it could seem that we are the ones who started the accusations. I certainly don’t think that Lydia’s anti-slavery position is heretical, and I doubt JMSmith does either. (He’s welcome to speak for himself.) It certainly can’t be denied that there have been many anti-slavery orthodox Christians in the last century and a half. Of course, everyone must also admit that many orthodox Christians saw slavery as morally unproblematic, starting with Peter and Paul. They may well have been wrong in this (as no doubt they held many incorrect beliefs on topics not related to the gospel), but since the apostles were–almost by definition–orthodox, this would mean that the moral status of slavery is not addressed by Christian orthodoxy.

      • Thanks, Bonald, that’s well-put. And I do appreciate someone else’s stating that my impression of the main post was not an unreasonable one.

        It’s not so much that I’m concerned as to whether Smith or anyone else thinks that _my_ position on slavery is heretical (this isn’t really a personal thing) as that I’m concerned with the implication that “all of us really orthodox Christians” should be generally favorable towards slavery, because we’re in favor of tradition, we recognize that man is fallen, we don’t think children come into the world as a blank slate, we’re in favor of order in society, etc.That seems to me to be _highly_ problematic as a position regarding Christian orthodoxy, and if it is _not_ Professor Smith’s position, it would be good if he would say so. (By the way, it’s more than a bit unclear how kidnapping people in a foreign country, holding them by force, and keeping them in servitude in their new country by force is exactly an example of “order in society.”)

        It’s important for even reactionaries to be willing to make distinctions, not just lump everything together. I find that unfortunately those with a certain kind of historical mind are often stubbornly unwilling to do that. They prefer to speak in sweeping terms of trends and tendencies and vague connections. But if I may say so, it ought then to be a case of live by the vague connection, die by the vague connection, so to speak. If a writer is literally _unwilling_ to say anything other than vaguely to connect the anti-slavery position with Unitarianism (as in the main post) and sexual libertinism (as Professor Smith repeated in his cagey response to me in one place in this very thread), then it seems entirely legitimate to conclude that he’s pretty negatively inclined towards the anti-slavery position, thinks it’s contrary to good social order, and associates it with all manner of modern evils not to mention theological heresy. That should scarcely be considered to be some sort of invidious misrepresentation!

        I appreciate the fact that Bonald is not making any such accusation.

    • The Dark Enlightenment, like the New Testament, is pretty tolerant of slavery. Those who disapprove, don’t really disapprove all that much. The strongest opposition is that slavery should have been allowed to wither away naturally, rather than expurgated with fire and steel.

      Nor should they. Stupid people, prone to violence, with short time horizons, needed masters.

  11. … OK, it seems that WordPress sends *all* posts to Limbo that reference Blogger.

    I had figured out that apparently the reason my posts were going to Limbo is that in the “personal details”, for the “Website” reference, I was using the URL of my blog. When, as an experiment, I set that reference to blank, posts I’d try to make here stopped going to Limbo.

    So, anyway, just now, I made a post linking to a post on my blog … and it went to Limbo. Fortunately, the meat of what I wanted to convey is in the comments on this WordPress blog — John Locke and the Origins of British and American Democracy A Reply to Ilion

  12. I think one essential element to take away from the abolitionist milieu is that they were not just anti-slavery but rather anti hierarchy in a very broad sense. Obviously such a stance is hard to reconcile with any notion of Christianity. That is the main reason why Christians of the day opposed the abolitionist movement.

    • So Christians of the day were too stupid or too unconcerned to do a little distinguo and say, “Okay, the other theological and metaphysical and political commitments of the abolitionists make me really uncomfortable, but they are right that slavery is wrong and should stop”?

      Look, sometimes it’s necessary to agree with people about one thing while agreeing with them about something else. We see that all the time nowadays. If you’re in the pro-life movement you know that you have allies with whom you don’t agree about everything else–some Catholics who are wussy on this, that, and the other thing. If the orthodox Christians couldn’t make those kinds of alliances and didn’t have the intestinal fortitude or moral courage to speak out against slavery, then that’s hardly something for us, the orthodox Christians of 2013, to be proud of. It’s a black spot on our Christian history.

      Frankly, I find it rather implausible as a blanket historical statement that _all_ the orthodox Christians were pro-slavery, but I don’t claim to know enough history of the time to refute it. What shocks me here is the unwillingness among most in this thread to see this claim, apparently, as a _problem_. I mean, after all, y’know, we members of the non-mainstream right are all “pro-hierarchy,” so I guess we wouldn’t want to be caught dead with those progressive abolitionists either. Phew! What a relief to know that our Christian brothers of the past had nothing to do with them.

      • I think you’re constructing a straw man and it appears you believe your long and rather tedious take downs of this straw man are some kind of nuanced argument.

    • I’m not sure what “straw man” that is, Ita Scripta. After all, _you_ are the one who has apparently associated abolitionism with being “anti-hierarchy in a very broad sense.” You have also just said that “Christians of the day opposed the abolitionist movement” for this reason.

      Now, it ought to be possible to be anti-slavery without being “anti-hierarchy in a very broad sense,” right? So why weren’t the Christians of the day _that_ kind of abolitionist? Are you saying that they _were_ more nuanced abolitionists, or what?

      I mean, if they refused to have anything whatsoever to do with speaking out against slavery and opposing slavery because they were afraid of getting “broadly anti-hierarchical” cooties from the abolitionists, that’s would be pretty bad, wouldn’t it? One would think they could have done better than that.

      I hope they did do better than that.

      • It’s my understanding that several denominations were divided over the abolitionist issue. Are we going to say that all the anti-slavery Baptists were unorthodox ipso facto? Or is there actually evidence to that effect? After all, Baptists usually are Trinitarian, right?

      • New Testament takes a fairly mild position on slavery. If you expurgate slavery with fire and steel, definitely acting contrary to the New Testament.

        Encouraging slavery to gradually wither on the vine is, however, arguably in accord with the spirit and letter of the New Testament.

        So yes, every Baptist that supported the civil war was heretical.

      • The New Testament takes an Anti-revolution view towards everything. Just because it does not call for a complete overthrow of society to ban slavery does not mean it in any way supports slavery or a legitimate government from banning slavery and putting down those who resist.

      • Sketty Thorson:

        > The New Testament takes an Anti-revolution view towards everything. Just because it does not call for a complete overthrow of society to ban slavery does not mean it in any way supports slavery or a legitimate government from banning slavery and putting down those who resist.

        Supposing this reading of the New Testament to be valid, the Union government was not legitimate, in that it grossly and extraordinarily exceeded its constitutional powers, which excess was retroactively justified on the grounds that slavery was such a vital moral issue. On any reasonable reading of the New Testament, you cannot do that on the moral grounds of slavery.

        Similarly, the Royal Navy program to eradicate slavery was aggressive war and a violation of the Law of Nations. If the King abolishes slavery in his domains, well, Christians should obey the King with in reason, and abolishing slavery is obviously within reason, but if the King abolishes slavery in someone else’s domains, that would be no different from Saint Paul freeing Onesimus, and clearly, for Saint Paul to free Onesimus would have been wrong.

  13. Of course Baptists are Trinitarian. That was a rhetorical question. Hint: They also believe in the Fall of man.

  14. @JMSmith

    Good post. But one I disagree with.

    (WordPress ate my original well considered reply)

    Firstly, the scaffold work of the Cathedral was set up by liberal Protestantism, the foundations laid by traditional Protestantism. ( (I don’t have time to go into it now.)

    Secondly, you’re right that it was the English deists who started the rot, but they were able to exert their influence into America through New England which always had a strong affinity to England and especially its dissident traditions.

    Thirdly, humanist ideology is different in countries where there is no Protestant tradition, Russian, Chinese and Japanese Humanism don’t have the overtly self destructive tendencies of Anglo Humanism.

    @yidia

    What we’re witnessing here is the classic “conservative” approach to issues. The traditional conservative(Burkean) approach is against innovation, hence they at the time supported slavery against the anti-abolitionists. It a classic old vs new debate as opposed to a right vs wrong debate.

    Take the Catholic Church’s position. It seemed to be OK with slavery (within limits) until fairly recently. It came to this enlightened position through the influence of the faithful and others who saw that despite tradition slavery was incompatible with Christian teaching. In other words, it was theological innovation which bought about this change in view.

    • Actually, I’m quite willing to agree that slavery is incompatible with Christian teaching _despite tradition_. Fine and dandy. So let’s say that then. If we’re too worried about losing our traditionalist, hierarchicalist, Burke Club Membership card to say that, then we have a problem, IMO. (Though actually perhaps it’s a bit of a slur on Burke himself, the historical person, to use his name in that way, as my impression is that he did favor abolition, though carried out in a gradual fashion.)

      • he did favor abolition, though carried out in a gradual fashion

        Bit like saying I’m in favor of letting out all the innocent prisoners in jail………..only slowly.

      • Not sure if this will appear below Slumlord’s comment about innocent prisoners in a jail. (Threaded comments are very confusing to me.) However, as I don’t see a better place to reply to it:

        I’m inclined to agree with you on that ethical point, Slumlord. But since I think it’s at least somewhat better to be a gradualist abolitionist than defiantly to defend the peculiar institution as Morse appears to have done (based on the quotations in the main post) as part of God’s order for the world or some such odious nonsense, I didn’t want to be unfair to Burke by appearing to classify him with Morse.

        Again, perhaps I was myself there showing the tendency to be influenced by one’s interlocutors, but I was just trying to be a little irenic towards Burke as part of being especially hard on the disgusting “God supports slavery” position.

      • Slumlord, in defense of “tradition” in Christianity I should add that, as Skeggy and I have both pointed out, there were historical Christian figures who were anti-slavery going back a long way. It may have seemed in the antebellum South that any Christian gentleman who supported tradition must not side with the abolitionists, but the Christian abolitionist did have things he could point out in response regarding history. There was an anti-slavery thread that went back into ancient times among Christians. More figures could probably be cited. I seem to recall that St. Patrick also preached against slavery, for example.

  15. Thing is, it would just be a *really good thing* if you chaps could bring yourselves at least to bother to say that no, you don’t *really* believe that Christian doctrine, being so hierarchical and all, is pro-slavery.

    If it helps you, Justinian didn’t seem to think it was.

    I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a New England Unitarian.

    • Really? Was that the purpose of the is post? Where I have I said otherwise? I do not agree with most things that even “orthodox” American Christians of the 19th century held.I merely stated what Christians of the day held. For me the slavery question is more an indictment of American liberty than any denomination question. I will concede that I should have been more careful and said that “many Christians” held to a certain view. Still the point should be made that one could be anti-abolitionist and anti-slavery at the same time indeed many Catholics in the North held such views.

      @slumlord

      Good comment.

      • I appreciate the clarification, Ita, I think. (If I understand it aright.) If they were anti-abolitionist but also anti-slavery, what did that mean? That they thought slavery a bad thing but didn’t want it stopped, ever, or that they took a gradualist approach, or what?

        In any event, I do contend that the original post gives the strong impression that orthodox Christianity, being pro-hierarchial, is truly naturally pro-slavery. If that was not what Smith meant to say as a theological matter (as well as an historical matter regarding what other people thought), he should have made himself clearer. He still has the opportunity to clarify on the theological point if he wishes to do so.

        After all, the question of what orthodox Christianity means, implies, leads naturally to, or entails on this issue should be rather important to anyone who apparently considers himself to be an orthodox Christian. One would think so, anyway.

    • Gregory of Nyssa and John Duns Scotus were also opposed to slavery. Also, I believe the Shepard of Hermas suggested that Christians save up money to buy slaves in order to set them free and many medieval monasteries did so. Although I am not sure that slavery is necessarily wrong in every instance. For example, the Visigothic code sentences rapists to slavery. Are you opposed to such things and if so why? What is the difference between a life of hard labor in a prison and slavery. However I do believe that Ulpian’s and Aristotle’s defenses are quite clearly false even using Aristotle’s own reasoning.

      • The thirteenth amendment abolished involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime. This seems quite reasonable, if the crime merits such a punishment. However, note that in that case no one _owns_ the prisoner. He is a prisoner, not a chattel. That is an important distinction as it still means that it is immoral for a human being to be an owned thing.

        In any event, my point was not so much to *debate* the morality of slavery (one would like to think that even non-mainstream conservatives would be willing to agree that chattel slavery is wrong) as to point out that Christian doctrine is *not* naturally pro-slavery, whatever anyone may say about its general “hierarchicalism.” I consider the main post to have been far worse than unclear on that point. Indeed, it seems to me that the main post gives the distinctly contrary impression that “orthodox Christianity” is indeed naturally pro-slavery because pro-hierarchical. Since indeed I do consider chattel slavery to be deeply immoral, I consider this so odious a suggestion that it seems to me that, if Professor Smith did not really mean to imply anything of the sort concerning orthodox Christian theology, he should have made himself a good deal clearer. At a minimum, he should have been willing to clarify in the course of this thread when the…shall we say…confusing nature of his own post on this question of the implications of Christian doctrine was pointed out to him. So far, he has not been at all eager to make such a clarification.

        And let me add, in further response to Ita, above, that Morse at least certainly does _not_ seem to have been “anti-abolitionist and anti-slavery,” whatever precisely that phrase means. He seems to have been definitely pro-slavery! The quotations in the post are hardly equivocal on that point. Yet it is Morse’s voice that is held up in the main post as representative of “orthodox Christianity,” as the voice of order, as showing an understanding that man is not naturally good, that every child is not born a blank slate, and so on, and so on and so forth, without nary a word to say, contra Morse, that the pro-slavery position does *not* follow from doctrines about human evil and the need for order, obedience, and restraint.

      • > point out that Christian doctrine is *not* naturally pro-slavery

        Check Paul and Jesus on slavery. They may not be pro slavery, but they are not anti slavery either, and they clearly and vigorously oppose freeing other people’s slaves, while Paul gently encourages, but does not require, Christians to free their own slaves.

  16. To the author,

    I see that at least one respondent has seemingly accused you of slander; others take various issue with your arguments or think you are misrepresenting the facts. I will say that it is apparent that you have great feelings about this question, and have given it a lot of thought; furthermore I personally believe you have the basics of a plausible theory and I for one tend to agree with you in spirit.

    However, this is unfortunately a very poor essay. Linguistically you write quite well, but there is more to crafting an essay than command of the English language. You have made a number of theoretical claims and statements, and you have cited quite a few historical facts. The unfortunate truth is that many of the facts you cite do not bear on any of your claims.

    For example, you will state the (true) historical fact that in 18th century various American Protestant sects accused each other of various heresies, such as Socinianism or Arianism. Then you make a statement such as, “What all of this meant is that, even at that early date, some American Protestants were beginning to lay less emphasis on the divinity of Christ.” That may well be what it means, but you haven’t shown any evidence of that at all. These two things that you’ve placed side-by-side are not, in fact, connected – you’ve simply stated a fact and your thesis and then stated that the fact proves your thesis. This is not how it works. You need to illustrate for your readers in what manner the facts you cite support your claims. You can’t just say it and expect us to believe you. You use this strategy throughout your essay, but no matter how many times you say that a fact proves a claim, until you illustrate how that is all we have is your statement that they go together, and that’s not enough. Remember the words of your 5th grade English teacher: “Show don’t tell.”

    It also appears that you are using less well-known texts to cite historical evidence, which is commendable except that the reason why some texts are better known is that they, in fact, were the ones that were most influential. The concept of a child as a “blank slate” was not, for example, something invented by the “new scheme of religion” (which you name and yet do not provide evidence for its existence; every heresy of every Protestant sect has its ancient history within the Catholic Church – thus the use of 18th c. pejoratives like “Arianism” dredged up from the 4th century, so what was “new” about any of this?). In the 18th century the concept of the mind as “tabula rasa” was re-invented in fact by Rousseau, as part of the anti-clerical, anti-religious philosophy of the French Revolution. Thus if any American clergymen picked up this concept it was not their idea, and furthermore it was not part of any new religious movement but an anti-religious and anti-Christian trend. Another problem with cherry-picking from single texts rather than finding the source (more likely sources) of an idea or trend is that — and frankly this should be obvious and fits right in with your theory — a lot of your cherry-picked sources were probably lying. When rival philosophical or religious sects start beating on each other, they are likely to make some pretty outrageous claims about their opponents, and sometimes play up their own good nature more than might be recognizable to their wives, as we are all probably tempted to do.

    I think that your theory is sound, and I think it is probably supportable with historical fact; however, what you have done here is to believe so much in your theory that every fact you found, you fit into your theoretical jigsaw puzzle. The result is a Frankenstein’s monster of facts and ideas and conjectures which definitely hint at the true shape of the theory, but clearly are not meant to have been jumbled together as they are.

    I would urge you to take another crack at this, but do your best to remain objective and removed from your subject. Trust that the truth will out; don’t let yourself feel the need to force every little factoid into your theoretical box. You may have to do a bit more digging in history books, you may find that some of the things you thought supported your theory do not, and you may have to accept the understanding that not every fact fits the mold as perfectly as you might like (or think it should) – but I think at the end of it you will have made, if not a slam dunk case, at least a good case for your theory, and it will be the better for the extra effort.

    God bless you and keep you.

  17. For alt-Right, nothing lies between slavery and egalitarianism. They can not conceive of a rational hierarchy even though it was the rule all over the world. That an able race would rule other races, it is inevitable and not unjust. Thus English ruled India and yet Indians were not slaves. The English did brand some unruly Indian tribes as Criminal Tribes and yet these tribes were not reduced to slavery. This is the equitable solution. The absolute and default political equality should be denounced.

    The political rights must be won and not assumed merely by virtue of being born. The Eminent Ones must Rule. It is good for the Deficients as well. This ought to be good enough for Reactionaries as well but the American Reaction shows a strange hankering for the slavery, a a hankering sufficient to bring it into entire disrepute.

    • Yet the hankering of the left for recently existent socialism, still actually existent in a few places such as North Korea, which was and is the mass use of slave labor, somehow fails to bring them into disrepute.

  18. A number of comments have accumulated while I slept, so I’ll do my best to respond to them here. One of the central questions has to do with the nature and use of historical documents. My post relies on four: one by Clapp, two by Lord, and one by Morse. Admittedly, the documents are obscure, but none of these men was an insane attic scribbler. Two were college presidents and the third was a respected landscape painter and inventor. In my experience, it is in literature such as this that one finds the best expression of conventional wisdom. When you read the geniuses and the nuts, you get eccentricity. When you read a college president, you get conventional wisdom.

    We need to understand conventional wisdom because it is the great tide that moves history. “Reality,” if you will, is whatever happens to be floating around in the heads of men like Clapp, Lord, and Morse. If I am guilty of “cherry picking,” it should be very easy to find counter-examples. This is to say writers with as good a claim to expressing the conventional wisdom of the time who contradict Clapp, Lord, and Morse.

    Now, I assure you that you can find such writers, but they will not call themselves “orthodox.” I am, after all, describing a schism. To demolish my argument, one would have to show either that I have misrepresented Clapp, Lord, or Morse, or that they were highly eccentric voices within orthodox discourse. With respect to Lord and Morse, I’ve given them to you “warts and all,” to the great distress of some readers. And I haven’t put words into Clapp’s mouth. He described theological developments in the terms I have given, and he was not, I trust, a fool.

    A certain amount of misunderstanding also seems to have arisen from the word “orthodox.” In the place and period under investigation, that was the name of the conservative Calvinist party. A liberal Unitarian who believed himself the more authentic expression of the Christian spirit would, nevertheless, have described his opponents as “orthodox.” These people were characterized by strict trinitarianism, a robust interpretation of man’s fallen state, and the belief that a godly life was something more than a good life (more than being happy and nice, that is to say). Since I am not myself a Calvinist, I can’t say that I consider these men entirely “orthodox,” but as I say, their claim to the title is better than that of their rivals.

  19. Pingback: Christians Did Not Build the Cathedral, but… | The Reactivity Place

  20. For what it’s worth, I think chattel slavery is intrinsically wrong, for the same reason that I think the income tax is intrinsically wrong:

    But [to enslave a man] is to insult his inherent dignity as a man – as, that is to say, a rational creature beholden first and foremost to his own apprehensions of the Good, such as they are: to God, and to his duties under God, that derive from his privilege – the logos that is privy to him, and to him uniquely, as an individual creature ordered to the peculiar ends ordained for him by his Creator.

    Chattel slaves are doomed to treat the moral apprehensions of their masters as first and foremost considerations in their own moral economy. To only one such master may any man justly enslave himself – or, therefore, be by anyone enslaved – and so agree to the jurisdiction of his life: almighty God.

    • Right. The dignity of man as a being created in the image and likeness of God demands that he not be treated merely on utilitarian terms, as mere merchandise to be exchanged on the basis of nothing more than impersonal market forces. But chattel slavery is only a narrow subset of slavery, and we ought to be careful not to equivocate by treating non-opposition to slavery (the genus) as support for chattel slavery (its most morally noxious species). I’m sure we can all think up a case or two where large-scale slavery would be not only not-immoral but positively humane, and in fact, commenter “Bill” has already given us one such scenario.

    • What about “chattel” children, then?

      You’re turning an abuse of the thing into a category of the thing, and then condemning the category. And it’s a good trick, but it still only serves to condemn the abuse of the thing. The general relation, i.e., between master and ward is untouched by the condemnation.

    • [Downs Children] are doomed to treat the moral apprehensions of their masters as first and foremost considerations in their own moral economy.

      How does that read?

      • There is a difference between a ward and a slave, a guardian and a slavemaster. The true guardian has committed himself to defending the life of his ward with his own; that’s why the office bears its name. The slavemaster has made no such commitment to the slave who is his cattle. The guardian should care for his ward as a father cares for his children; so that, i.e., his ward has as much moral liberty as is needed to fulfill his duty to God under his own privilege. Thus the dignity of the ward is nowise impeached by his dependence upon his guardian.

  21. Slavery at least forces you to look your “hands” in the eye. “Freedom” in the bourgeois sense only forces you to pay them a wage. Wage slavery exists for most people, leaving them out in the open to starve to death if the economic conditions take a downturn. Therefore, socialism seems like a good deal to them compared to laissez-faire capitalism. The abolishment of slavery/serfdom makes the demand for the nanny state *inevitable*. The bourgeois capitalist system eventually eats itself. Richard Weaver’s “Southern Tradition at Bay” explains what slavery was in reality and how it was worked out as an honest alternative to the yankee system of wage-slavery. On a slightly utilitarian note, how has “freedom” worked out in *reality* for most of the descendants of the slaves?

  22. Perhaps my memory is not as bad as I thought. Anyway, I am not sure if infallibility applies to this:
    “…the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”
    Pope Paul III, Sublimus Dei, 1537

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul03/p3subli.htm

    • Sublimus Dei was a Papal bull, which touches on disciplinary matters, not doctrinal ones. Even doctrinal documents are not infallible unless they explicitly invoke apostolic authority in commanding the faithful’s assent to a particular teaching.

    • It should also be noted in the Catholic context, the resurgence of chattel slavery was vigorously opposed by Spanish scholastics and clerics who accompanied the initial Spanish Conquistadors. In certain French colonies a pretty brutal form of slavery was practiced in certain areas this legacy is on full display in modern Haiti. The French, however, seemed better able to get along with the Native peoples in North America. In the French and Spanish colonies retaining many “old world” characteristics that lasted even beyond their conquest by America.

      • Also how much was the reemergence of slavery beginning in the 16th century the result of the Renaissance’s fascination with classical civilization- a civilization completely built on chattel slavery?

    • RT, Paul III did say that (and no, that’s not infallible), but you’re missing the context. At the time, the point in discussion was not the acceptability of slavery, but, very specifically, the acceptability of the enslavement of the American Indians. The efforts of many individual clergymen, most famously Bartolomé de las Casas, eventually conviced both the official Church and the Spanish and Portuguese governments to outlaw Indian slavery, a victory which had been completed by the mid-16th century. (The colonists then developed shortcuts such as the “encomienda” system and bogus “just wars” during which enslavement was permitted. Peripheral areas, such as São Paulo in Brazil, for a long time just ignored the rules and sometimes expelled both government and Church officials when they tried to enforce them).

      But many of these same clergymen, including Bartolome de las Casas, demanded the introduction of African slavery in order to make it economically possible to free the Indians. The same Church that struggled to free Indian slaves held African slaves until the nineteenth century in Brazil; in fact, the best econometric studies of colonial Brazilian slavery are all based on the slaves held by the religious orders such as Dominicans, Jesuits, etc. – for the simple reason that, unlike the private slaveowners, the orders had long continuity (since their estates were not split by inheritance) and they kept meticulous records which sometimes survived.

  23. JMSmith’s response to Lydia,
    I have taken my time in responding to Lydia’s insistent demands for clarification. I had four reasons for doing so. I’ll explain these reasons and then answer Lydia’s question.

    First, I was hoping that Lydia might offer some clarification of her own position. She appears to be in possession of a dispositive argument that will show that Morse and Lord were well outside the frame of traditional Christian thought on the question of slavery, but she has yet to share that argument. She apparently believes that the fact that humans are made in the image of God is obviously incompatible with their being owned as another man’s property, but this is very far from obvious to me, and it was very far from obvious to a great many men who were better and more knowledgeable Christians than I. Some logical steps need to be added in order to make this into an argument. I’m not denying that such an argument can be made, would be very interested to hear such an argument, and would not be at all dismayed if it were an excellent argument, since I am in no sense rooting for Morse and Lord.

    Second, I saw (and still see) little reason to believe that Lydia is arguing in good faith. If you go back and read her many comments, I think you will be struck by their lack of charity. She forces the worst possible construction onto my words, implies without cause that I’m some sort of Simon Legree, ignores irenic gestures, demands a full confession, and then suggests that my refusal to acquiesce in this boorish behavior is an admission of guilt. This is mud wrestling, not rational debate. The discussion of difficult questions demands detachment and charity, an ability to entertain shocking ideas and a willingness to believe that your interlocutor is seeking the truth. I’m not at all sure that Lydia has this ability or this willingness.

    Third, the question she asks is not at all simple, and a satisfactory answer would require pages upon pages of qualifying discussion. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of slavery knows that the word covers a great range of social arrangements, some of which were unspeakably horrific, and some of which were much less so. In many cases the alternative to enslavement was to be massacred, or to be driven into a wasteland to starve. The arguments of someone like George Fitzhugh may ultimately fail, but they are not contemptible arguments. It is very hard to write a brief answer that does justice to the question and yet is not open to willful misreading and calumny.

    Fourth, the question of slavery is moot in the sense that it is no longer a real question. No one that I know proposes to revive the institution, and no one that I know is nostalgic for the days when it existed. What is more, none of the material causes of slavery are in force today or have any prospect of coming into force in the future. Debtors go into bankruptcy, criminals go to jail, countries are never actually conquered, and we live in a world of labor surpluses, not labor shortages. We live in a world where employers refuse to hire full-time workers; they certainly would not purchase a slave. I don’t see any reason to wrangle with a zealot over a moral question that neither us could actually face in any imaginable future. The limited moral intelligence I possess, I direct at the moral dilemmas I actually face.

    Now Lydia’s question is whether I believe that the orthodox Christian tradition condoned or condemned slavery. The tradition that I find in the records of what Christians have actually written on the subject is clearly ambivalent. In scripture, slavery (of a certain sort) is accepted as a fact of social life. Spending one’s life as a bondsman was something that happened, just like spending one’s life as a blind man. St. Paul actually uses slavery as a metaphor to make an important theological point, which would certainly be odd if he thought slavery was an abomination. At the same time, the humanity of the slave is upheld, and humane treatment of slaves is enjoined. I believe it is true that some early Christians released their slaves on religious grounds, but others did not and do not seem to have been excommunicated as a result.

    Beginning in the seventeenth century, traditional forms of African slavery were distorted and enlarged by rapid increases in the demand for labor in Asia and the American tropics and subtropics. Prior to this, most slaves sold out of Africa were debtors, criminals, or dispossessed peoples who would otherwise have been massacred. The capitalist demand for labor stimulated an increase in the supply of slaves by providing incentives for African wars. This distortion began to alarm many Christians, as did the abuse of slaves on large plantations where overseers drove labor gangs. It was well understood that the worst abuse often came at the hands of the slave driver, who did not own the slaves but was paid in proportion to the slaves’ output.

    Christian writers on both side of the question sought to end the havoc in Africa by ending the slave trade. They divided over what should be done with the slaves already resident in the New World. Humane anti-abolitionists like Morse and Lord believed that abuses should be curbed, but that it would be best for all concerned if the slaves remained in a servile relationship with a benignly paternalistic master. You may find this hard to believe, and they may have been wrong, but they were not at all indifferent to the happiness or wellbeing of the slave. If you look at the line I quoted from Morse, you will also see that, if one reads him charitably, he looks forward to the day when this servile relationship under a benignly paternalistic master will no longer be necessary. I presume that is what he meant when he wrote that the ordinance would in time teach “the great lesson of obedience” and accomplish a “restoration of obedience in the human soul.”

    There are large patches of the Christian tradition about which I know very little. The parts I do know indicate that the tradition insisted that slaves were humans and deserved humane treatment. It was ambivalent or divided on the question whether they should be slaves in the first place. The monstrous abuses of the early modern period were widely recognized, condemned, and in some cases remedied. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, however, there was no consensus among Christians that slavery was always and everywhere a great evil. Those who denied that it was were not all self-interested plantation owners, either. Both Morse and Lord were Yankees.

    Christians who say that the tradition has always opposed slavery are fooling themselves, however little they may be fooling anyone else. Christians who say that the all anti-abolitionists were wicked men indifferent to human suffering are simply lying.

    I hope this answers your question. I will be happy to answer any additional question you may have, if you ask them in a civil manner and in a genuine spirit of inquiry. Feel free to take the discussion off-line. My e-mail address will not be hard to find.

    • Christians who say that the tradition has always opposed slavery are fooling themselves, however little they may be fooling anyone else. Christians who say that the all anti-abolitionists were wicked men indifferent to human suffering are simply lying.

      Very good point. I think the mischaracterisations by both sides is due to the presence of cognitive misers in the debate, who tend to think in terms of heuristics.

      The tradition of slavery, however, does pose a problem to traditionalists who assume that the past is some form of infallible guide for today. I think the key problem for “othosphereans” and traditionalists is recognising when it’s legitimate to make a break with the past. But that is off topic.

      Once again, though I think your original post is good, I disagree. The Cathedral is a product of the combination of Protestant “System 1″ Christianity and a biological disposition towards liberalism.

    • I’ll try to keep this brief, and will number points for brevity’s sake. To Professor Smith:

      1) I said expressly that I wasn’t attempting to argue here that slavery is intrinsically wrong. I was trying to ascertain your views on that matter, not to debate it one way or another. So I expressly prescind from arguing for my own position on that subject, even as I don’t ask you to argue for yours! I merely asked you to clarify what your position is.

      2) It seems to me that all those pages and pages, etc., you mention could nonetheless be boiled down to a simple version of one of my suggested possibilities, which is either that you think that it is sometimes wrong and sometimes not wrong for one man to own another man or that you are undecided on that question. There is no need to write a book to give either answer. Or you could choose one of Bonald’s additional suggestions above, which are quite brief.

      3) I did not ask you to summarize the entirety of what all Christians (in some sense of “Christians”) at all times have ever said on this subject. My second question to you was a theological question: Namely, do you think that orthodox Christian doctrine is in some sense naturally pro-slavery by virtue of the ideas contained therein? You note that Christians have differed on this subject over the centuries. If you are saying that some people whom you acknowledge to be *really orthodox Christians* and not merely somehow *wrong* about the implications of orthodox Christianity have held a strongly anti-slavery position, then I would assume that your answer to that question is “no.” Have I correctly understood you to be answering “no” to that theological question? If so, that’s an important clarification and one that the main post would have done well to render unnecessary.

      4) I have never said that the Christian tradition has at all times and in all places opposed slavery. I don’t think that. I think that is false. I do, however, think that there is a strand of anti-slavery Christian thought which goes back a very long way, much farther back than the 18th and 19th centuries.

    • By the way, I can’t help wondering what this “worst construction” is that I have allegedly put on your position, Prof. Smith. Is it that you might think the antebellum “peculiar institution” wasn’t wrong? Surely by your own lights that isn’t such a _horrible_ thing to attribute to someone. After all, you think overtly pro-slavery writers like Morse and Fitzhugh weren’t at all bad fellows, were sincerely wrestling with these issues in a Christian fashion, and had “non-contemptible arguments.” If we acknowledge that I have thought you might be of their company, it is odd that you would consider that to be such a horrible “worst construction” to put on your words! You can’t have it both ways: “What’s so bad about Morse and Fitzhugh?” “How terribly offensive! What bad faith! Lydia insinuates that I might agree with Morse and Fitzhugh!”

      In any event, what I’ve most pushed on is that you seemed to imply that Christian doctrine is pro-slavery because of the Christian emphasis on due order among men and on hierarchical relationships. It’s astonishing to me (though maybe it shouldn’t be) that you would characterize this as a horribly _uncharitable_ reading of what you have written! Perhaps Bonald is horribly uncharitable as well, because he seemed to think that was a not unreasonable interpretation of your words as well, though he hoped you would clarify that it wasn’t your meaning.

      Again, we get this back-and-forth. On the one hand, these positions are characterized as not so bad after all. On the other hand, I’m arguing in bad faith for thinking you might hold them! I’ve seen that done over and over again in the blogosphere, but really, scholars and academics should be above playing such games. Just cut to the chase and say what you think instead of playing the martyr.

    • I just Googled up your profile. Interesting job you have there. I actually think that people like yourself, who engage in big picture analysis, have a vital role for the Right in the future.

      In an above comment you mentioned.

      We need to understand conventional wisdom because it is the great tide that moves history.
      It’s not just conventional wisdom but how conventional wisdom develops that needs to be taken into account as well. The Cathedral is product of a warped version of Christianity. Or to to be more accurate, a variant cognitive interpretation of it. I don’t think historians have done a good job in the past of understanding the cognitive limitations of people when it comes to the spread of ideas.

      As for the Cathedral, I really recommend, given your profession, you read Corelli Barnett’s Audit of War. This was a profoundly influential book with regard to my thinking, and in many ways taught me how to think about culture, history and social pathology. I can recommend it enough. This is from a book review;

      [Speaking of Britain] According to Barnett, the rot set in with Evangelical Christianity and the Romantic Revolt. The 18th-century ruling class had been hard-headed realists, competing with a will in the world-wide struggle for trade and colonies. But the moral revolution of the early 19th century gradually divorced the governing class from realpolitik and immersed them in a dream world of philanthropy and humanitarianism. Victorian values, the opium of the bourgeoisie, were instilled by the public schools, whence generations of idealistic young men emerged in a state of permanently arrested development, their minds befuddled by cricket, Christianity and the Classics. Incapable of grasping the base motivation of the rest of the human race – the French, for example – they were no less ignorant of industry, science and technology, the foundations of Britain’s military and economic strength. The governing class were, in short, unfit to govern. Instead of organising the resources of the Empire in the national interest, they ran it as a branch of Toynbee Hall. Instead of adapting the educational system to fit the requirements of a nation competing for markets, they indulged in the fraudulent exercise, much trumpeted by Classics dons, of liberal humanism for the masses

      The rot, though delayed, spread to the U.S. and Australia through Britain’s cultural dominance of the times. I’ve got some disagreements with him, but he puts forth a very good case. Look, I get recommended a lot of books, but this is one I would reallyurge you to read.

      • That is a good quote. I’ll run down the book. I think you are right in what you say about the need to appreciate the cognitive limitations of people when we study the spread of ideas. Intellectuals always overestimate the intellectualism of the masses. The record of cultural history is in middlebrow literature.

  24. Lydia demands that we take the politically correct position on slavery. But no position, other than the very latest, can ever be politically correct.

    If, like Saint Paul, one takes a nuanced position on slavery, this will not suffice. Now one might suppose that one could satisfy Lydia with some subtle position that does not defy the bible,or Darwin, while acknowledging that some slavery was bad, and some measures against slavery less extreme than burning down Atlanta were good, but I assure you, you cannot.

    • Look, Mr. Donald, what I chiefly demand in _this_ thread is _clarity_. You’ve made your position clear. You’ll notice I haven’t attempted to debate you. I think your position outrageous, and I’m glad you’re not a contributor here, as I have some (mild) interest in just how far out in crazy-land this particular blog gets. But I made it quite clear throughout that I wasn’t trying to convince those who are favorable towards antebellum slavery to change their minds. I do, however, look for some degree of manly forthrightness. My impression is that Professor Smith has rather similar views to Bonald’s, above, yet he seems unable or unwilling to state his views with similar brevity and clarity.

      Moreover, as Bonald pointed out, the main post gives the distinct impression that everyone who takes the strongly anti-slavery position is a heretic and historically was a heretic, that their view is part and parcel of a larger package of New Religion that denies the fallenness of man. My impression from reading the thread (if I remember your comments rightly) is that you concur in this view. Again, at least you’ve been clear. Professor Smith, on the other hand, wrote a post that strongly gives this impression but then doesn’t want to, in modern jargon, “own it.” Instead, he wants to act like some sort of victim because of my allegedly “uncharitable” interpretations while continuing not either to acknowledge that those interpretations are reasonable based on the text and also while not clearly either embracing or disagreeing with the position in question–viz., that Christian orthodoxy is naturally pro-slavery and that all or most abolitionists are heretics or at a minimum do not really understand Christian orthodoxy.

      It’s not a question of what position on slavery would or wouldn’t “satisfy” me. It’s a question of stating outright–This is where I’m coming from, both on the question of slavery and theologically. Contra Smith, that doesn’t take a book to write.

      Sure, if one takes your position, I’ll think that’s a pretty bad position to take. But at least then we’ll all know where we stand.

      • Moreover, as Bonald pointed out, the main post gives the distinct impression that everyone who takes the strongly anti-slavery position is a heretic and historically was a heretic, that their view is part and parcel of a larger package of New Religion that denies the fallenness of man.

        I didn’t actually get this impression from the main post (i.e., that strong opposition to slavery is heresy) and I don’t think that was JMSmith’s point. His point was that the peculiar breed of abolitionism practiced by the actual, historical abolitionists was heretical because it was rooted in a heretical rejection of hierarchy and authority, and it is this breed of abolitionism that is part of the New Religion package. This doesn’t preclude the possibility of an abolitionism rooted in more authentically Christian considerations such as the dignity of man as a being created in the image and likeness of God.

      • Proph, I get the impression from the main post that strong opposition to slavery is part of a heretical package because it in some sense “flows from” the idea that mankind is naturally good and that hierarchy is all bad (both of which are contrary to Christian doctrine). There was no, precisely no, qualification in the main post to one particular type or breed of abolitionism. There could have been, but there wasn’t. I take this to be at least partly because the author was so focused on one particular question (“Is Christianity the fountainhead of modern leftism?”) and on an audience that has made that “accusation” against Christianity that he just really wasn’t concerned to bother with such qualifications.

      • There was no, precisely no, qualification in the main post to one particular type or breed of abolitionism.

        Sure, but I don’t think such a qualification is necessary considering the scope of the discussion is pretty limited. He is not talking about opposition to slavery generally but the peculiar form of opposition to slavery that took shape and triumphed in America in a particular time period, which happened to flourish alongside the New Religion; he is arguing the two movements are related to the point of being leaves sprouting from the same branch. At least that’s how I understand him and, granted, I’m not terribly bright.

      • Proph, let me also point out that even by your own account of the main post, it appears that all “actual, historical [19th century] abolitionists” are tarred with the brush of heresy. That’s pretty much what you say: ” His point was that the peculiar breed of abolitionism practiced by the actual, historical abolitionists was heretical because it was rooted in a heretical rejection of hierarchy and authority, and it is this breed of abolitionism that is part of the New Religion package.”

        Now, this is incredibly sweeping, and all the more so given that the main post identifies this New Religion with anti-Trinitarianism. Are we to believe that, when prima facie Trinitarian denominations which had previously recognized the doctrine of the fall of man split over the issue of slavery, all those who took the abolitionist position were ipso facto heretics on one of these other points? E.g., That they rejected orthodox Trinitarianism or that they rejected the notion that man is fallen or that they rejected the Christian view of just authority? Why think a thing like that? Can we “just tell” that William Wilberforce must have held these other heretical views, or at least some of them, because he was part of the 19th century abolitionist movement?

        The main post at a minimum tars all 19th century abolitionists with heresy on the basis of woefully inadequate argument. Surely that’s a problem.

      • I was speaking in generalities, not universals, and I assume JMSmith was as well. Thus it is not necessary to say “not all abolitionists are [were] like that.” So, yes, it is sweeping, which is not a problem when you’re discussing vast lengths of history and very complex social movements in the space of a blog post; sweeping is to be expected.

        I also understood him as saying, in effect, that when the abolitionists’ position is accepted on its own terms, then to that extent one participates more fully in the “New Religion,” which finds its most perfect expression in the denial of Trinitarianism, original sin, the divinity of Christ, etc. In other words he is, again, talking not about “abolitionism and the New Religion” but about “the abolitionism of the New Religion,” which is of course not exhaustive of the whole of abolitionism.

        Re: your initial question, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reactionary Catholic who thinks most 19th century Americans (even many 19th century American Catholics) were not guilty of at least *material* heresy on at least one issue.

      • I tend to like modern-day Confederate sympathizers and Southern agrarians, better actually than I like the historical Confederates. Today’s advocates of the Southern Cause, whatever else can be said about them, have definitely broken with the Cathedral’s narrative. At least one won’t hear them boasting that the march of history and progress are on their side. This probably predisposes my feelings toward them in a way that, as Lydia points out, may well lead me into error. On the other hand, the actual Confederacy was all “freedom” this and “self-determination” that. Orestes Brownson, a reactionary on the Union side, was not being unreasonable to see the Civil War as a victory of legitimate authority over Locke-inspired rebellion. Of course, this is not how most Yankees thought about it. JMSmith makes the fascinating claim that the Civil War was an episode of America’s orthodox-progressive dispute, but I don’t see that we reactionaries had a dog in that fight either way.

      • ” also understood him as saying, in effect, that when the abolitionists’ position is accepted on its own terms, then to that extent one participates more fully in the “New Religion,” which finds its most perfect expression in the denial of Trinitarianism, original sin, the divinity of Christ, etc. In other words he is, again, talking not about “abolitionism and the New Religion” but about “the abolitionism of the New Religion,” which is of course not exhaustive of the whole of abolitionism.”

        I find this somewhat confusing, Proph. Your first sentence just says “abolitionists” but your last sentence seems to be restricted apparently only to the part of the Venn diagram, as it were, that is “the abolitionism of the New Religion.” These are, as you say yourself, not the same thing. Which abolitionists’ “own terms” are those which “find their most perfect expression in the denial of Trinitarianism, original sin, the divinity of Christ”? I mean, if it’s only the ones who already deny those things, then that’s a tautology. If it’s some other group, then what proposition is it that really logically “finds its most perfect expression” in these other heresies? And what evidence is there that, say, Wilberforce (to pick just one historical figure) held to those “own terms”?

      • Proph, another point is that some denominations split over this issue in the 19th century. The Baptists, for example. According to the main post as you interpret it, would the abolitionist Baptists have been _more_ heretical than the pro-slavery Baptists? Would they have been more likely to end up denying the Trinity, for example? It’s difficult to see what good argument could be given for such a thesis, and certainly the post didn’t give any such argument.


      • would the abolitionist Baptists have been _more_ heretical than the pro-slavery Baptists? Would they have been more likely to end up denying the Trinity, for example?

        Of course they would. If you want to abolish slavery with fire and steel, you have to reject Jesus and the New Testament, so you have demote Jesus to being a mortal, to allow room for theological innovation, so Unitarian. Oh that poor backward Jesus, so ignorant and hateful compared to us enlightened moderns. If only morally superior people like ourselves had been around to enlighten him and make him as holy as we are.

        After ditching Jesus and the New Testament to allow for an arguably reasonable theological innovation, then one theological innovation follows another, innovations that are ever less reasonable

      • > the main post gives the distinct impression that everyone who takes the strongly anti-slavery position is a heretic and historically was a heretic,

        Check your New Testament. Everyone who proposed to free slaves with fire and steel was a heretic. That is a question of simple fact. You may argue that the New Testament and Christian Tradition should not be like that, but it is like that.

        The New Testament can plausibly be interpreted as supporting a policy of gently encouraging slavery to wither on the vine, but that is as far as it can stretch.

      • Lydia wrote:

        > “Look, Mr. Donald, what I chiefly demand in _this_ thread is _clarity_”

        And when you get clarity, you respond by screaming abuse [insults deleted as violations of our comment policy - ed.].

  25. Maybe this will add some “clarity” to the question of whether Christianity has traditionally been “pro-slavery.” Ask yourself if Christianity has traditionally been “pro-alcohol.” What you will see is that it has traditionally been tolerant of moderate alcohol use, while condemning abuses such as drunkenness. Compared to Islam, Christianity is “pro-alcohol,” compared to the regulars down at Micky’s Saloon, it is not. It permits Christians to drink alcohol, but it does not require them to do so (even Catholics can receive the eucharist under one species). The Christian view of slavery was similar: not prohibited, not required, liable to severe abuse.

    Then, right about the same time abolitionism appeared, there was a temperance movement that was definitely anti-alcohol. Many Protestants began to insist that Christianity was anti-alcohol, which was obviously rank nonsense. As a boy, I remember my Protestant minister telling me that Jesus drank non-Alcoholic wine! It was then I began to wonder what other lies he had told me. Think through this analogy. It has legs. I would point out three in particular to long-suffering Lydia: (1) in both cases the permitted practice is not required, and (2) in both cases abuses of the practice are condemned, and (3) in both cases there are good non-religious reasons to eschew the permitted practice.

    • But Prof. Smith, let’s remember that the strong anti-slavery position here is that slavery is not permitted, that it’s intrinsically wrong to consider other human beings to “belong” to oneself as slaves. The pro-slavery position is at a minimum that slave ownership isn’t always wrong. Now, one question here is whether that strong anti-slavery position is part and parcel of a heretical package, is contrary to Christian orthodoxy if one really understands Christian orthodoxy. Nobody accuses the pro-slavery side of holding that owning slaves is required! But it certainly looks to me like Morse and co. whom you quote in your main post believed that the strong anti-slavery position (vis a vis antebellum slavery) was necessarily part of a heretical package.

      At least when it comes to alcohol, one can argue that the Sacrament was instituted using fermented wine. Having been raised a Baptist, I know well that Baptists deny this, but they’re historically flat wrong. This gives us at least _some_ reason to say that the strong anti-alcohol position (that it’s always wrong to consume fermented beverages) is contrary to Christian teaching, though I would reserve the word “heresy” for worse things.

      One question then is whether it’s your position that the *strong* anti-slavery position is contrary to Christian orthodoxy, rightly understood. Now, for some reason you keep answering this question in purely historical rather than theological terms. I’m asking a theological question rather than a purely historical one, though I would point out that there are Christian figures much older than the 19th century abolitionist movement who appear to have taken a strong anti-slavery position (e.g. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester.).

      • If you are looking for theological opinions, you’d do as well to ask your mailman as to ask me. Certainly I have theological opinions, but they are the opinions of a self-educated layman. I claim no teaching authority in this area and am quite happy to be taught. I do know something about cultural and religious history, although I have much to learn here as well.

        Some of this argument seems to flow from our equivocal use of two words: “own” and “heresy.” I seem to recall C.S. Lewis writing about the first word in Screwtape Letters. “My wife” expresses a possessive relationship, but it would of course be sinful to act as if it was the same possessive relationship as that expressed in “my boots.” If I “owned” the Mona Lisa, I think we can all agree that I do not therefor have the right to burn it in my fireplace. Bonald’s comments on this are excellent.

        I’ve come to see that part of your reaction was cause by my use of the phrase “humanist heresy.” I’ll admit up front that this was as much a rhetorical device as it was a theological claim. I have no authority to declare anyone a heretic, but I am trying to capture the notice of internet readers who are easily bored. It wasn’t only a rhetorical device, though. I’m not sure what a heresy is theologically, but historically it would seem to be an error that eventually leads one out of the church. It is an error with which one unwittingly sets one’s foot on the road to apostasy.

        It does not appear that abolitionist sentiments invariably lead to apostasy, you yourself being a case in point. However, the whole suite of ideas discussed in my post clearly contributed to apostasy in many cases. And the reason, I think, is that it is very hard to stop the revolt against authority.

      • If you legally owned the Mona Lisa, it would be wrong for you to burn it in the fireplace, but it would probably be legal. In that sense (the legal, not the moral sense) you’d “have a right” to do so. An institution that makes human beings legally the property of others gives them the power and the legal right to, for example, stop those human beings from leaving and taking service elsewhere, and allows them to compel the service of those human beings. As Kristor has pointed out, this could not be farther from the rightful relationship of ward and guardian.

        I appreciate your acknowledgement (if I may so take it) that you overstated theologically in the service of rhetorically getting the attention of possibly bored readers. IMO, this sort of desire to shock or be edgy for the sake of being reactionary and “writing like the Internet” is not a good tendency and can have all manner of confusing effects, including effects upon the writer himself. Anti-Trinitarianism, for example, is a heresy in a perfectly straightforward sense that even those who aren’t specialists in theology can agree on. Your post as a whole associated at least the abolitionists of the time with that form of heresy. Perhaps you wouldn’t have done so without this desire to write in a way that would wake readers up. So…that’s not really a good idea. Distinctions do need to be made.

        (I’m Protestant, by the way, so I’m outside the Catholic Church. I doubt that this has much at all to do with my position on slavery, though, either historically or logically.)

      • IMO, this sort of desire to shock or be edgy for the sake of being reactionary and “writing like the Internet” is not a good tendency and can have all manner of confusing effects, including effects upon the writer himself.

        Responses like this make it easy for me to see why JMSmith would have reservations about “clarifying” matters for you Lydia. One can’t be too careful about phrasing when you are in the room. You might think it holding chaps to “manly forthrightness,” but to me it appears as a rude hastiness.

      • If you legally owned the Mona Lisa, it would be wrong for you to burn it in the fireplace, but it would probably be legal. In that sense (the legal, not the moral sense) you’d “have a right” to do so.

        In a properly ordered society the “owner” of the Mona Lisa would face all sorts of sanctions, formal and informal, for burning it. So the underlying problem seems to be centered in the licentiousness attached to the concept of ownership, as much or moreso than in its specific application.

      • One can’t be too careful about phrasing when you are in the room

        The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is “What does a woman want?”
        –Freud

      • @ Peter Blood: pish. Lydia is just *extremely careful* about terms. Philosophy, and for that matter plain speech, both require it. If I had a nickel for every objection I’ve had to deal with that arose from an interlocutor’s misprisions about terms, why I’d have about $15. What’s more, I have been conducted through about 80% of my own philosophical education, such as it is, as a result of confusion about terms, that has generated cognitive dissonance either in me or in my relations with interlocutors – cognitive dissonance which cries out for some fastidious tidying. The education, and indeed often the best insights, are to be found in the careful definition of terms, as arising from a better understanding of their relations.

        This is not at all about the fact that Lydia happens to be a woman; that notion is itself an instance of the intellectual noise that is generated by the confusion of terms. Would that one man in a hundred were as careful as she. There would in that case never have been such a thing as modernism.

      • Lydia is just *extremely careful* about terms.

        I agree based on other observations, but that is not the treatment she is giving JMSmith in this thread which I highlight. To be careful in this instance would be, for example, to withhold a judgment such as assigning motives of “desire to shock or be edgy for the sake of being reactionary” until it is clear that this is actually what JMSmith desired to do.

      • …cognitive dissonance which cries out for some fastidious tidying.

        And I think you’re just the man for that.

        This is not at all about the fact that Lydia happens to be a woman

        When talking with a woman, it always enters into it. As we can see here, JMSmith most certainly has some ‘sort of desire to shock or be edgy for the sake of being reactionary and “writing like the Internet”.’ And Mr. Donald has outraged her with his position on this.

        And this blog gets “far out in crazy-land”. It’s shocking, I know.

      • @ Bucky: it is indeed true that “trying to capture the notice of internet readers who are easily bored” is not quite the same thing as “desire to shock or be edgy for the sake of being reactionary.” I would never suggest that Lydia herself is ever going to be quite done with clarifying her terms, so as to be exempt from any further duty in that regard; nor, I wager, would she (indeed, I’ll wager my whole $150 on that!). That sort of complete settlement is foreclosed to any merely sublunary intelligence. This should rather encourage than discourage our mutual diligence with each other in calling out terminological confusions; it should rather encourage than discourage us to state our positions as carefully, and therefore forthrightly, as we can.

      • This should rather encourage than discourage our mutual diligence with each other in calling out terminological confusions; it should rather encourage than discourage us to state our positions as carefully, and therefore forthrightly, as we can.

        Agreed, and also add that in fora such as these, where hardly anyone knows anyone else personally, let alone deeply, we limit our calls for clarity to requesting such rather than insisting upon such.

      • Peter Blood, I have little interest in engaging with you but let me clarify (!) that my reference to Donald’s position as outrageous was not meant to be an expression of personal emotion but rather an actual statement about the nature and merits of the position. I consider his position to be objectively outrageous, in much the same sense that saying that cannibalism ain’t such a bad thing is objectively outrageous. (Particularly his position that “stupid people with short time horizons needed masters.”) This isn’t about me in some personal way and never has been.about me in some personal sense. This is about the ideas.

        As to whether Professor Smith “desired to shock,” I will admit that that is an extrapolation further than what he himself admitted. Probably the strongest argument that it is inaccurate on my part is the relatively small amount of shock he did, in fact, generate here. Perhaps instead he was assuming that he was so much among friends that no one would be shocked by some of the overtones that might be taken from his piece. That is also very possible.

        Be that as it may, and even if we grant arguendo that a desire to shock is unfair to attribute to Mr. Smith, the idea of *deliberately saying things that would shock liberals as part of our reactionary creds* is undeniably part of the reactionary blogosphere. I think it is a dangerous tendency, and I would suggest that people be warned about it. I say that with all solemnity because, as I wrote elsewhere, great seas of nut-ballery surround a small island of sanity when it comes to being a member of the reactionary right, and the temptation to take seriously what is otherwise “taboo” for the thrill of it is a very real danger that reactionaries ignore at their peril.

      • >

        my reference to Donald’s position as outrageous was not meant to be an expression of personal emotion but rather an actual statement about the nature and merits of the position. I consider his position to be objectively outrageous

        So everyone before our enlightened modernity, Saint Paul and Socrates both, was objectively outrageous.

        Seems to me that you are just childishly screaming abuse rather than making rational argument.

        A rational argument would attempt to explain why slavery is never justified, without appealing to leftist axioms which have logical consequences far more far reaching than merely abolishing slavery, which principles have abolished Christianity and appear to be abolishing civilization itself.

      • Prose that is simply “shocking” is self-indulgent, since it merely offends and disgusts the readers it should be trying to persuade. The internet is full of this, and plenty of it is generated by young men who are in some sense on “our side.” Whether I hit it or not, my stylistic aim is “arresting” prose with bold declarations that attract attention. The internet is a carnival with a million shills barking their wares; its not a cozy seminar full of tweed jackets, brown sherry, and the smoke of pipe tobacco. Think of my post as a cross between an academic paper and a recruiting poster and you’ll begin to understand my style. As Aragorn says in Return of the King, “we need more men.”

      • ” The internet is a carnival with a million shills barking their wares; its not a cozy seminar full of tweed jackets, brown sherry, and the smoke of pipe tobacco.” I absolutely agree, Prof. Smith! Let’s shake hands on our agreement on that one and perhaps down a glass of sherry on the strength thereof. In that case, I claim the same point for my own prose in the comments here, however. Since this isn’t a tweed-clad seminar, let’s not start accusing each other of bad faith and what-not for the use of strong and arresting prose when responding to things we strongly disagree with.

      • > The pro-slavery position is at a minimum that slave ownership isn’t always wrong.

        That is not a pro-slavery position, and calling it a pro slavery position is abusive, offensive, and insulting, denying the middle ground between the sadistic slave owner Simon Legree, and the sadistic horse thief and mass murderer, John Brown.

        It also puts Jesus and Saint Paul in the same camp as Simon Legree.

        No one is insulting and abusing you. Why are you insulting and abusing us?

  26. Re: slavery: Here’s an article that gives a summary of the historical development of the Church’s attitude toward slavery: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=1201&CFID=105060351&CFTOKEN=17005592

    Basically, the Church came to distinguish between just forms of slavery and unjust forms of slavery.

    I would guess that the American style of slavery would fall underneath the unjust form of slavery, for the reason Bonald mentioned earlier: that the modern notion of property led to slaves being treated as consumer goods. It seems to me that one of the most pernicious things about American slavery was the breaking up of families.

    Also, Scripture – according to some translations, anyway – does seem to condemn the slave trade. 1 Timothy 1:9-11:

    We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. [NIV]

  27. I’ve been saying for a long time now that it isn’t just slavery that is intrinsically wrong under modern conceptions of property: all “ownership” is intrinsically wrong under modern conceptions of property. The proprietor understood as tinpot god, completely unfettered triumphant Will, unchecked lord and master over some (any) material thing at all is morally problematic.

    When ownership is understood properly, as a cognate of stewardship and sovereignty, the supposed problems disappear.

    • That doesn’t seem _necessarily_ to solve the problems vis a vis slavery, though. Suppose, for example, that there were a lot of strong,very strict regulations on how an owner could treat his slaves, that he was obligated to treat them very well and so forth, to be responsible for their health, etc. But suppose that what was left in place was the bare minimum that he could lock them up or what-not or go and bring them back by force if they tried to leave and that he could compel their labor by force, and that they are in this situation for life unless he chooses to free them. And let’s stipulate that these are not people who have been sentenced for a crime but just, say, people who were born the children of other slaves owned by this owner. And let’s stipulate that we are talking about adult slaves with all their faculties intact. Now, I myself would say, and I imagine that many others would say, that that’s still an intrinsically wrong institution, even if the owner isn’t a tinpot god with an unrestricted will.

      • I am definitely not on board with the idea that any sort of vassal, bondsman, etc relationship whatsoever is intrinsically immoral. So addressing the perverse modern concept of property actually does solve the problem for me.

      • Does my description of an otherwise innocent adult person (that is, a person not sentenced for a crime) who can be brought back and his labor compelled by force, for life, solely in virtue of his birth, describe a relationship that you consider not to be intrinsically immoral? It isn’t just _any_ vassal or bondsman relationship. The latter, for example, would also include a scenario where the person’s labor can be compelled for a short and strictly limited period of time in virtue of a compact he agreed to. (E.g. A medieval knight might swear allegiance to a particular master for a year at a time.)

      • Compare the Congo under the Belgians, with the Congo today.

        Let us consider the Ashantee empire, where the owner could treat his slaves with the utmost brutality, and frequently did.

        Victorian gentlemen were typically pretty smart people, and according to Viscount Garnet, the ruling elite of the Ashantee empire, the aristocrats, were, despite being black, as smart as Victorian gentlemen, but the common folk were pretty much subhuman. The Ashantee empire routinely used enslavement and brutal punishment.

        Obviously, if the average subject of the Ashantee empire was as Viscount Garnet depicted him, you could not run the empire on libertarian principles. The Aristocrats really were the best people, and had to do what it took to make the rest reliably obey. The average Ashantee subject was probably better off subject to the arbitrary power of someone far more competent and far sighted than he was.

        If the Tutsi rule, you get a pretty normal sort of country. If the Hutu rule, you get mass murder, cannibalism, routine rape and murder. So Ashantee slavery and their extremely brutal system of justice and law enforcement was probably necessary and justified. Subsaharan Africans do better when their rulers enforce laws as firmly as necessary – and very firmly is often necessary.

  28. Pingback: Modernity reframes all authority as “abuse” | Zippy Catholic

  29. Does my description of an otherwise innocent adult person (that is, a person not sentenced for a crime) who can be brought back and his labor compelled by force, for life, solely in virtue of his birth, describe a relationship that you consider not to be intrinsically immoral?

    Correct. I do not (for example) take the view that serfdom, vassals, etc and all of the medieval feudal institutions were intrinsically immoral.

    • I’m not enough of an historical expert to say for sure, but I don’t _think_ all of those institutions met that description. Be that as it may, I understand. You’re saying that if they did, you don’t think they were intrinsically immoral in virtue thereof.

      • I’m not an historical expert either, but Wikipedia says (among other things) this:

        A lord of the manor could not sell his serfs as a Roman might sell his slaves. On the other hand, if he chose to dispose of a parcel of land, the serfs associated with that land stayed with it to serve their new lord, benefitting him from their long-acquired knowledge of practices suited to the land. Further, a serf could not abandon his lands without permission, nor did he possess a saleable title in them.

        Seems to fit your understanding of putatively intrinsically immoral slavery. I am not so ready to broad brush condemn basic institutions of medieval society as intrinsically immoral.

    • I’m with Zippy. To say that it is intrinsically wrong to compel someone’s labor by force, by virtue of his birth, is the same logic that leads to the modern liberal idea that any unchosen constraint upon our actions is ipso facto unjust. (Likewise with the founders’ idea that an aristocracy by birth is unjust.) This is why according to modern liberalism, it’s wrong to force traditional gender roles onto men and women, why it’s wrong to keep someone from ‘changing’ from a man into a woman, why it’s wrong to keep women out of the military, why it’s wrong to keep immigrants out of our country, why it’s wrong to restrict the franchise on the basis of unchosen factors, etc. These are all unchosen constraints. Hence, they are unjust, according to liberalism.

      Slavery may be immoral, but if it is, I don’t think the reason is because you’re compelling a man’s labor against his will. Unless there is a distinction I’m missing between labor and other unchosen constraints that makes a moral difference.

      • “Unless there is a distinction I’m missing between labor and other unchosen constraints that makes a moral difference.”

        Yup. There is. Definitely. We definitely need more “splitters” in this conversation, which seems to have far too much “lumping” going on. But again, my chief goal here is for people to state their positions re. slavery, not to argue them.

  30. But again, my chief goal here is for people to state their positions re. slavery, not to argue them.

    If anyone states their position on slavery and they do not sign on with the modern program in every jot and tittle then they are supposedly pro slavery.

    Which is why they decline to state their position clearly, since your intent is not to clarify, but to find grounds for screaming abuse at heretics and witches.

    I clarified, and you promptly screamed abuse [insults deleted as violations of our comment policy - ed.]

    • You’d be funny, sir, if you weren’t so absurd as not to be funny anymore. You write things about how black people “need masters,” you endorse what you yourself refer to as a “brutal system” as “necessary,” and when someone calls this position “objectively outrageous” you attribute your own position to St. Paul and say that the person who refers to it as “objectively outrageous” is “screaming abuse.” I don’t know if you think people don’t read your other comments or what, but your position is scarcely a moderate or nuanced one. You’d do better to leave the nuance to other people.

      As for hysterically referring to the term “pro-slavery” as “abuse,” that’s mere womanish whining. Compare: If a person says that he’s “pro-choice” on the abortion issue and makes it clear that he sometimes thinks abortion is a *good idea*, we understandably say that in that sense he is “pro-abortion”–that is, for the cases for which he thinks it a good idea. The reason he is “pro-choice” is because he really does think sometimes abortion is the best choice. So here. You’re “pro-choice” on slavery because you really believe slavery is sometimes a really good idea. Your own theories as to when it is such a good idea are probably somewhat, shall we say, more extreme than those of other people on here whom you wish so passionately to defend. But to say that someone who thinks slavery in various cases a good idea is pro-slavery is not abusive but descriptive. Let’s grow up a little and stop playing passive-aggressive games, shall we?

      • Lydia [insults deleted as violations if our commenting policy - ed.] wrote:

        > I don’t know if you think people don’t read your other comments or what, but your position is scarcely a moderate or nuanced one. … You’re “pro-choice” on slavery because you really believe slavery is sometimes a really good idea. Your own theories as to when it is such a good idea are probably somewhat, shall we say, more extreme than those of other people on here whom you wish so passionately to defend

        So Lydia, what is your position on John Brown stealing horses and sadistically murdering unarmed people in cold blood?

        Or are you going to say that sometimes fire and steel to abolish slavery is justified but not all fire and steel to abolish slavery is always justified.

        If the latter, does that make you “pro slavery” also?

      • My goodness…what an education!

        I stumble over this site. I have never visited before, as a Very Old Fashioned Catholic I innocently read a few articles and threads when BINGO….all this slavery fandango…

        Well, well.

        First things first…..Lydia!
        Where have you been all my blogging life??

        First you ask the BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS question about this fragile essay above.

        Then you ignore a provocative ‘blokeish’ attempt to shut you up.ie

        ‘Earl | August 27, 2013 at 6:55 am
        Oh Lydia, I remember you speech-policing on Auster’s site too.
        Elbow’s off the table, gents, Lydia’s here!’

        …did you hear that gents? Did you? Did you hear what Earl said because…
        (I’m assuming ‘Earl’ to be a joke name. I’m English and the name Earl means…well it’s a joke name, right?)

        Also, obviously…’like a drunken naked fishwife.’

        Then you repeat and explain your question.

        Then you field a number of responses that pretend to misunderstand your question.

        Then you patiently offer gentle guidance to the author of this essay in his truculent attempt at ignoring your question; ‘….yes yes…but can’t you see how others are BOUND to interpret….well you could always just say….now now Professor, no one thinks that you secretly own slaves it’s just that to ally yourself with manifest evil is always going to cause raised eye brows and….’

        THEN you admit to limited historical reading in this subject (Professor?).

        What’s more, you even began your lesson (er…on the 25th I think) explaining that you did not have the time to enter into a protracted debate!
        Yet, still found the time to confront a gaggle of * who seem as determined to simply argue with you as to defend any position or explore the relevant history.
        Sheeesh.

        SERIOUS QUESTION to LYDIA ONLY, thank you.

        Lydia,

        (I hope you had a good night’s sleep on the 25th. I know how these internet debates can defy all Laws of time, and with this lot as well. As I say Sheeeeesh) is this thread (though long) typical of the level of debate and historical reading (Professor?) on this site?

        If it IS where else might you recommend.

        Thank you in advance.

        John Richardson

        PS I nearly forgot.

        Professor Whateveryourealnameis,

        Defending The Faith by use of your above argument is a terrible idea. It is NOT ‘provocative’ in ANY sense; positive or negative. It is vainglorious and indulgent if sincere.

        It is BOUND to confuse and dishearten anyone who would take it seriously. So, little damage done there. In future, if you choose to employ such a toxic subject matter (though I don’t want you to be ‘offended’ August 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm) don’t. You cannot do it with wit or charm. Christianity gains nothing from you efforts here.

        Avoid defending those who defended slavery, especially if you decline to then defend yourself. It comes across as moral and intellectual cowardice.

        *Gentlemen, I have redacted my words here to avoid clouding this issue any further. Read your above comments. It makes sense to resent Lydia because she is reluctant to ignore stupidity (Professor?) sloppy thinking, and moral dishonesty.

        If she has humiliated you on other threads WE ARE ALL sure it was inadvertent.

        Trying to get back at her by ‘making stuff up’ will make you look the way you seem to be. No one thinks you’d like to re-establish slavery. No you wouldn’t. Pretending to have substantial grounds for disagreeing with Lydia instead makes you look like – James A. Donald | August 27, 2013 at 9:56 pm – instead. Donald had more charm when he was still in cartoons. Less lies as well.

      • Mr. Donald,

        It seems you support at least some forms of slavery as being moral. I don’t get why it would be insulting to be called ‘pro-slavery’ then. Lydia’s abortion analogy seems apt.

        And I don’t see how your position is comparable to Lydia not supporting the eradication of slavery by any means necessary. Going back to Lydia’s abortion analogy, it would be as if you were to say that if the person who supports abortion in a few situations can legitimately be called ‘pro-abortion’, then it follows that the person who doesn’t support abortion in any situation but who balks at the idea of bombing abortion clinics can also legitimately be called ‘pro-abortion’.

        Apples and oranges.

      • Ian wrote:

        > I don’t get why it would be insulting to be called ‘pro-slavery’ then.

        If I am “pro slavery”, so is Saint Paul, and so are most of the great men of previous centuries, including most major Christian religious leaders. But, in accordance with Alinsky’s rules for radicals:

        “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

        You want to choose one person, demonize that one person, selected almost at random, as pro slavery. Having deterred that one person, no one else will want be the next person to be deemed to be “pro slavery”

        Much like “racist”, except that you have overused “racist”.

  31. (Tried to post this somewhere in the nested comments, but I’m not sure I succeeded,so…)

    RT, Paul III did say that (and no, that’s not infallible), but you’re missing the context. At the time, the point in discussion was not the acceptability of slavery, but, very specifically, the acceptability of the enslavement of the American Indians. The efforts of many individual clergymen, most famously Bartolomé de las Casas, eventually conviced both the official Church and the Spanish and Portuguese governments to outlaw Indian slavery, a victory which had been completed by the mid-16th century. (The colonists then developed shortcuts such as the “encomienda” system and bogus “just wars” during which enslavement was permitted. Peripheral areas, such as São Paulo in Brazil, for a long time just ignored the rules and sometimes expelled both government and Church officials when they tried to enforce them).

    But many of these same clergymen, including Bartolome de las Casas, demanded the introduction of African slavery in order to make it economically possible to free the Indians. The same Church that struggled to free Indians slaves held African slaves until the nineteenth century in Brazil; in fact, the best econometric studies of colonial Brazilian slavery are all based on the slaves held by the religious orders such as Dominicans, Jesuits, etc. – for the simple reason that, unlike the private slaveowners, the orders had long continuity (since their estates were not split by inheritance) and they kept meticulous records which sometimes survived.

  32. To Mr. John Richardson,

    In America, “Earl” is not particularly well-known slang for anything. The closest slang term we have with the same meaning is “hurl” (a term featured prominently in the various “Wayne’s World” movies).

    In America, Earl might be found more commonly among older, more rural Americans, but it is not a joke name (though it might be a psuedonym).

  33. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2013/08/28 | Free Northerner

  34. John Richardson | August 28, 2013 at 1:04 am


    .. stupidity (Professor?) sloppy thinking, and moral dishonesty. …

    .. If she has humiliated you on other threads …

    .. Trying to get back at her by ‘making stuff up’ will make you look the way you seem to be.

    … Donald had more charm when he was still in cartoons. Less lies as well. ..

    The standard Alinksyite tactic: Call in the astroturf and the sock puppets to shout down argument and evidence with abuse and insults.

  35. John Richardson (8/28, 1:24),
    If my essay is “fragile,” feel free to knock it down. Show me a document that makes it clear that Clapp was wrong about the “New Scheme of Religion” or that Lord and Morse were way outside the orthodox Christian mainstream in the antebellum United States. Please point to the evidence of “truculence” in my responses to Lydia. Was it, perhaps, where I wrote: “I am sorry that you are offended by my post,” or where I said “I really, truly do not wish to cause you more distress.” I admit to limited historical reading in “large patches of the Christian tradition,” but my post was not about “large patches of the Christian tradition.” To adopt the mock-courteous tone of your message, would you please favor us with some of the fruits of your reading and historical understanding? Teach us, if you would, about the evils of “vainglory” and “indulgence.” Define (with illustrations drawn from the text) “stupidity,” “sloppy thinking,” and “moral dishonesty.” And finally, give me an example of “making stuff up.”

    Words should point to things, my friend. They are not just little puffs of smoke that you leave behind as you saunter scornfully through a room. If you say “fragile,” then show me fragility; if you say “truculent,” then show me truculence.

    And learning doesn’t come cheap, my friend. It is a long road, and hard; it has no end, but it has many surprises. Sniffy condescension and airy dismissals are not marks of learning. If you are not a poser, show us such marks. Show us you’ve actually trod the road of learning.

    • Seconded. Although I suspect there is no such defense of Mr. Richardson’s arguments against your post forthcoming. Not from him anyway.

      Mr. Richardson, yes, we all see the similarities between your style(s) (yours and Lydia’s). It’s just that she seems to be a lot better at it than you are, at least from my seat. Of course I’m basing this opinion on merely one post from you and hundreds I’ve read of Lydia’s. Also, there’s something about Lydia’s condescending posts (they are legion) that are strangely appealing to me in many cases, whereas you are just off-putting, pure and simple. I suspect (though I’ve not put all that much thought to it) that the reason Lydia never seems to cross “that line” with me personally, although she’s often on the edge of it, is because she also makes d*mn good arguments, and I tend to agree with her in principle probably at least eighty percent of the time.

      But since her style seems to be your “thing,” I recommend you take a trip over to W-4, where she tends to blow the pages up with her prolific comments (seriously I don’t know where she finds the time). If it’s just a vitamin deficiency of sorts causing you crave more Lydia, it won’t take long to get tanked-up over there.

  36. I have come here eagerly anticipating a reply from Lydia.
    Well, life is full of disappointments both large and small.

    So, with a sigh let’s respond to the responses I do have.

    ‘The standard Alinksyite tactic: Call in the astroturf and the sock puppets to shout down argument and evidence with abuse and insults.’
    This is how I understand what this blogger has written.

    Abuse = This is a lazy lie.

    Insults = ditto

    ‘standard Alins[k]ite tactic’ = Amusing in that it means I am a duplicitous Marxist according to this blogger. Revealing of his intellectual honesty (not to say capacity).

    ‘astroturf’ = Parochial. I’m pretty sure that it means; the worst least informed elements of old ‘working class’ anti-intellectualism, but that’s a guess really. It CAN’T mean an artificial playing surface. Can it?

    ‘sock puppets to shout down’ = No. That’s just confused. ‘Sock puppets’ MAKE false arguments on behalf of others (controlled from inside,see?). They don’t ‘shout down’ anyone. I’m unsure if I’m the ‘sock puppet’ or is it Lydia or the Chicken? Dunno.

    That was mercifully brief.

    Now to the Professor (unless Lydia responds in the interim. Obviously.)

    • Mr. Richardson,

      To answer your question. I don’t read a lot of threads here all the way through. I usually read just the posts and not the threads. This is for many reasons, one of which is that *in the main* I find the contributors more interesting and valuable than the commentators. I suppose that’s true of any blog. I especially recommend theological posts by Kristor, who is an Internet friend and a great guy. So I can’t say if this is entirely typical of the level of discourse in the threads. I hope not. I have occasionally, most unfortunately, seen some signs among the commentators here of the silly misogyny (see Mr. Blood’s comments above for an example) on display which I’ve previously not mentioned in this thread, and it’s my opinion that in some ways there is a bit of a platform here (mostly among commentators who are tolerated) for representatives of a kind of weird misogyny that is taking off on the right. (For the record, I’m a passionate anti-feminist, but this is something else again.) I generally don’t mention that here even when I see it, because that side of the blogosphere gets so dark that I quite seriously believe I should not interact with it, should just ignore it altogether. I mention it now because you were asking about this blog in particular and about my opinions and also because it’s somewhat on display (in the comments by Blood) even in this thread on an entirely different topic.

      Thank you very much for your kind words.

      Gents, I think that what John Richardson’s comments show here is that he also sees the eyebrow-raising nature of the appearance of sympathy for antebellum slavery on display here both in the main post and the comments. Perhaps “appearance of sympathy” is a good phrase, because it is general enough to encompass a wide variety of specific positions. Prof.Smith has even expressed respect for the “non-contemptible arguments” of George Fitzhugh, whom I Googled for the first time after Smith mentioned him. Sure enough, my eyebrows were duly raised. If anyone thinks that even such a qualified endorsement doesn’t have some rather surprising overtones, then that person needs to get a hearing aid.

      All I can say, Mr. Richardson, is that it’s possible, though somewhat difficult, to be a member of the non-mainstream right without having these sympathies, and that’s why I waded into this controversy. You might appreciate my personal blog (I have full comment moderation on). I wrote a post on the dangers of belonging to the non-mainstream right here, which I think you might find useful.

      http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-dangers-of-being-part-of-non.html

      There is a follow-up on the top of the page right now as well.

      Gents, I think it would be better for me now to bow out at this point. I do think I’ve drawn out Professor Smith and some others regarding their opinions on these subjects, and that’s useful for, well, someone like Mr. Richardson who comes along and reads. Thanks to whoever deleted purely insulting comments by Mr. Donald, above. Thanks even to Ian, with whom I would have lots of disagreements, for pointing out to Mr. Donald that the term “pro-slavery” doesn’t amount to screamed abuse in the present context and that it’s baffling that Donald would be so furious about it.

      Thanks to Prof. Smith for the dialogue. A couple of metalevel points for future reference, Prof. Smith, should we ever run into each other on the Web again: A) I always argue in good faith. I may be _angry_. I may even be more ticked off than I appear to be. I may think something you’ve said is crazy and be trying to be more polite than I feel. But I never intentionally misrepresent, and I’ve given up lying as pointless, because I’m very bad at it anyway. B) Saying, “I’m sorry my post distressed you” puts the whole thing on a personal level which, as far as I’m concerned, gets us nowhere. It’s always about the ideas, never about my emotions or yours, never about my being “distressed.” I was concerned here because I have _some_ interest (which perhaps is doing no good to anyone) in what gets posted as an actual post on this particular blog, and I thought your sympathies (and your defense of Christendom by associating all of real orthodoxy with support for antebellum slavery) ought to be challenged, since few others were doing so. But whether I was distressed by your post is quite beside any important point in our discussion. That’s why it wasn’t a very useful irenic gesture.

      Best wishes to all. Over and out.

      • I have occasionally, most unfortunately, seen some signs among the commentators here of the silly misogyny (see Mr. Blood’s comments above for an example) on display which I’ve previously not mentioned in this thread, and it’s my opinion that in some ways there is a bit of a platform here (mostly among commentators who are tolerated) for representatives of a kind of weird misogyny that is taking off on the right.

        I can see arguing that Mr. Blood’s comments regarding women were not relevant (I am inclined to think they had some relevance, but not enough to bring up in the conversation), but they have about as much misogyny in them as Lydia has misandry in hers because she lumps all of her interlocutors into the category of “chaps” and “gents.” That is, none whatsoever in either case. It is a reasonable, not a pathological, position to assume that a woman will argue and debate like a woman until proven otherwise–notthatthere’sanythingwrongwithdebatinglikeawoman! I can see where Blood too quickly ascribes what he sees as weaknesses in Lydia’s arguments to general weakness in feminine modes of argumentation, but this would be a simple fallacy in reasoning, not hatred of women. Hasten the day when we bury the misogyny bogeyperson. Alas, instead it is spawning a misandry bogeyperson!

      • Heck, these days it’s a reasonable position to assume that a man will debate like a woman until proven otherwise.

    • From the looks of it Mr. Richardson is an Englishman who stumbled wide-eyed into an American argument over slavery. For all his good intentions, I find him a source of unintentional comedy.

      Another point: the moral judgments of the Left are inverted. They say “good is evil and evil is good” (woe to them!). They are OK with murder. They glorify sexual lust. They push female supremacy. What are we to make of their horror of slavery? On closer examination it’s not the horror they make it out to be. And there are many things like that.

  37. JMSmith | August 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I’m going to respond to your post Professor, but somewhat under protest. Your post (cited above) & my comments to Lidia regarding the above essay; do deserve a response in the name of fairness. However, the fact is that I came to this site out of my Faith. Spiritual & intellectual. Not to engage in these jousts. Yet, here we are.
    This is my central point in writing:-
    Your fundamental error in ‘using slavery’ in your above essay is that this use is bound to divert intellectual & spiritual energy in the wrong blinking direction. We all need guidance and inspiration. Your clumsy efforts can hardly secure this.
    We of The Faith know The Truth.
    Your essay will neither console nor inspire.

    So, anyway……….

    “John Richardson (8/28, 1:24),
    If my essay is “fragile,” feel free to knock it down.”
    No.
    That’s not why I blog.
    If it is weak others with discernment will notice.
    They did so. In fact she even stated….

    “Um, is it something we’re just not supposed to mention …………………accepts antebellum slavery as an authentically and traditionally Christian institution the justification of which flows with perfect naturalness from the Christian doctrine of the fallenness of man? Because that’s how it reads to me.”

    That pretty much exposes the fragility of your argument. No need for me to repeat.

    As I stated to you directly……..

    ‘Defending The Faith by use of your above argument is a terrible idea. It is NOT ‘provocative’ in ANY sense; positive or negative. It is vainglorious and indulgent if sincere.’

    I suppose that a ‘robust’ effort would have readers thinking anew about ‘slavery & the abolition debate’ in pre-Civil War America and how that exposes and reveals the lie that, ‘……your religion leans to the left.’ as you stated in your opening sentence. Your essay did not achieve this aim if the (interesting, sans the insults to Lydia) debate that followed is any guide. Interesting, that is, for someone totally new to this site who wanted to know if it was worth ‘bookmarking’ as my post to Lydia explained.

    “Show me a document that makes it clear that Clapp was wrong about the “New Scheme of Religion….”

    Why?
    The substance of your essay was about explaining why, ‘…the allegation that your religion leans to the left…’ is false.
    Today’s religion that we follow NOW*. ‘Our’ religion that has never erred, though so many of the religious have erred in the past. Past historical errors, ‘missteps’ and even ‘outrages’ (not heresies of course) are little use when confronting our contemporary situation.
    So the debate immediately became one about the theological position of slavery in North America.
    This is the core of your error in employing ‘slavery’.
    When you write, “Think of my post as a cross between an academic paper and a recruiting poster………” you crystallise my objection.
    Your proficiency in ‘recruiting’ would be appreciated by our enemies as it would swell their ranks. Asking those who object to research documents further would not make any positive difference.
    None of this would matter if you were addressing a hostile audience (‘The Modern Mind Cannot Be Evangelised’) but you are not.

    “…or that Lord and Morse were way outside the orthodox Christian mainstream in the antebellum United States.”

    Again why?
    We are not all American and ‘the scar of slavery’ is a frightful bore to many outside of America. It has so little to do with our Faith today. Now.

    The reality is that your REAL message was…
    ‘…….the whole suite of ideas discussed in my post clearly contributed to apostasy in many cases. And the reason, I think, is that it is very hard to stop the revolt against authority.’

    This is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT MESSAGE to the ostensive one that,

    ‘…..your religion leans to the left…’

    Totally different for a host of reasons that are not even theological.
    Whose rebellion? Would that be slaves, their sympathisers or ‘owners’? Would it be those in England who ended Caribbean slavery by simply boycotting sugar (a Church pew organised ‘rebellion’?) without John Brown’s methods.
    Could anyone ever suggest rebellion against state socialism was not rebellion (Solidarity in Poland)?
    Hitler called his democratic assumption of power a ‘National Rebellion’ the March on Rome was surly a rebellion. New York itself had it’s own pro slavery rebellion during your civil war.
    Could it just be the habit of rebelling?
    All this need explanation.
    None of this is done in your essay nor the subsequent comment thread where your central idea that, ‘…. it is very hard to stop the revolt against authority’ finally appears.
    This is why the essay is so fragile and you proved unable to answer simple questions put to you be sincere bloggers.

    “Please point to the evidence of “truculence” in my responses to Lydia.”

    That would mean a mother load of cutting ‘n pasting.
    The fact is simple questions were answered of you. You repeatedly declined to respond instead answering questions not asked= truculent. Two brief examples….

    1)
    Lydia | August 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm
    ‘However, if that was a mere matter of infelicity in conveying your meaning or a confusion caused by omission on your part, it’s easy enough to cut to the chase.’
    She then did just that. Offered options to consider that other bloggers chose to considered and you ignored = truculent.
    2)
    I couldn’t find another specific example I read last night & refuse to scroll searching a third time (this is not really a complex issue I’m afraid) so this must surfice…..

    “Are you really so tin-eared that you don’t see that it’s taking Christianity from the frying pan into the fire to clear Christian orthodoxy of the accusation that it “built the Cathedral” at the cost of implying that Christianity *really is* intrinsically pro-slavery?”

    This really was the substance of Lydia’s post. To refuse to see that she is correct and to instead refuse to answer her questions = truculent

    3)
    This is a bonus example as I am annoyed i couldn’t find the other i had in mind. The example of abortion used above is excellent. You refused to enjoin this aspect of the discussion. The reason must be that you refuse to see it’s relevance = truculent.

    “Was it, perhaps, where I wrote: “I am sorry that you are offended by my post,” or where I said “I really, truly do not wish to cause you more distress.”

    No it wasn’t.
    The above was irritating to this reader for another reason as it came across as dishonest.
    You had simply refused to answer relevant questions and then apologised for causing the ‘distress’ that your refusal was bound to cause.
    However, this alone is now no longer a cause for me to imagine that you are dishonest as I now see that you write in this manner on repeated occasions. Hope that’s clear.

    “I admit [only after Lydia's similar statement, not admission] to limited historical reading in “large patches of the Christian tradition,” but my post was not about “large patches of the Christian tradition.”

    Confused Professor. Again.
    Your opening paragraph,

    ‘If you are a conservative Christian, you have no doubt been assailed with the allegation that your religion leans to the left. This has been said by godless leftists, who wish to set you marching under the red banner, and this has been said by godless rightists, who wish to convert you, or purge you, or maybe just pull your nose. And because there are some trace elements of truth in this allegation, your may be tempted to believe what these mountebanks say.’

    Once again,

    ‘…….the whole suite of ideas discussed in my post clearly contributed to apostasy in many cases. And the reason, I think, is that it is very hard to stop the revolt against authority.’

    When you then refuse to directly respond to a question because you are not referring to ‘large parts of the Christian tradition’ this seems hollow at best. At best, I’m afraid.

    “To adopt the mock-courteous tone of your message,……………….”

    Mock is most certainly the phrase and i am glad you are receptive to that at least. sarcastic, in fact. I have never sworn at nor abused anyone for any reason across the internet and never will. Despite the sore provocation we will all be familiar with. Sarcasm seems less demeaning.
    remember your catechism Professor (though don’t ask me for a direct ref please)
    Simply, ‘we do not have to tell the truth to those who are lying to us.’
    I don’t lie so sarcasm will do or ‘mockery’ as you put it.

    “….would you please favor us with some of the fruits of your reading and historical understanding?”

    Regarding what exactly?
    Is this an honest question? If not then you will not expect an honest answer will you?

    “Teach us, if you would, about the evils of “vainglory” and “indulgence.”

    See above.
    SERIOUS QUESTION FOR THE PROFESSOR.
    Think who would want your ‘recruiting poster’ on their wall. Lesson over.

    “Define (with illustrations drawn from the text) “stupidity,” “sloppy thinking,” and “moral dishonesty.” And finally, give me an example of “making stuff up.”

    I’ll do all that a little later today (GMT) if you write here that you want me to. ‘Stupidity’ is demonstrated by your idea of a ‘recruiting poster’ and intelligence is never a defense to to a person being or acting stupidly as we all (should) know.

    “Words should point to things, my friend. They are not just little puffs of smoke that you leave behind as you saunter scornfully through a room. ”

    Thanks.
    I’ll try to remember.
    Sarcasm see? weak on this occasion I know but I’ve got something to go and do so….

    “If you say “fragile,” then show me fragility; if you say “truculent,” then show me truculence.”

    Yes, I have.

    “And learning doesn’t come cheap, my friend. It is a long road, and hard; it has no end, but it has many surprises.”

    Huuuuum.
    Some surprises more surprising than other eh professor?

    “Sniffy condescension and airy dismissals are not marks of learning. ”

    No.
    Not marks of learning. Often though they can be signs of a fundamentally dishonest debate. Signs of disdain for certain ‘lines of argument’ regardless of intellect. In the case of my responses to your essay (and the cowardly insults towards Lydia) for example this is the case.

    “If you are not a poser, show us such marks. Show us you’ve actually trod the road of learning.”

    OK then Prof!
    You’re on.
    Forget all the above, what about this?
    Er,,,trod the road of…no surly that should read ‘the road TO’.
    Yes, ‘the road TO some learning’.
    Then again I suppose you said ‘learning’ not ‘some learning’, ‘learning’ in the ‘Lifetime Learning Courses For ex-Convicts Join Here Today!’ sense rather than the ‘I’ve learn that 2+2=4 today’ sense.
    Yet who would ever boast of such learning?
    I honestly doubt that anyone has ever said such a thing.
    Ok….treading the path….the pathway of (specific & not general) learning.
    Right, this should demonstrate my ‘marks of learning’ and ‘worn tread on the soles of my brogues’.

    I have learned once again, that exposing fragile & vainglorious (at best deceitful at worst) arguments can be laborious and does not guarantee that Lydia will read and respond to you question about the nature of this site. The whole point of posting here.

    How’s that?
    (don’t be sarcastic now….)

    Regs.

    John Richardson

    *sorry to shout. Don’t know how to use italics.

  38. Well, just when you fear you’ve wasted your time…..Lydia has a blog, followers growing by a number of +1. Also, a recommendation; Kristor.
    ‘So I can’t say if this is entirely typical of the level of discourse in the threads. I hope not’
    Me too, let’s see. Though if the above insults are what remains after some deletion that is not promising.
    She writes,’……that side of the blogosphere gets so dark that I quite seriously believe I should not interact with it…’
    Yes.
    How true, engaging only guarantees a form of spiritual contamination (the reason I no longer ever watch television). Who can say the above discussion is wholly spiritually healthy or inspiring?
    Why not?
    We/you should expect that from a conservative religious site.

    ‘I wrote a post on the dangers of belonging to the non-mainstream right here, which I think you might find useful’
    Can’t wait to be honest. Have to do a little work first. Then I’ll read it this aftern…..er…this evening.

    Regards.

    oh…and thanks for the response (not you prof. you’re still in the dog house with that chicken)

  39. Peter Blood | August 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    ‘From the looks of it Mr. Richardson is an Englishman who stumbled wide-eyed into an American argument over slavery. For all his good intentions, I find him a source of unintentional comedy.’

    Me too. We are what we are.

    ‘What are we to make of their [the left's] horror of slavery? On closer examination it’s not the horror they make it out to be. And there are many things like that.’

    Yeah, that doesn’t any take ‘closer examination’ just basic history.
    We all have basic history.
    So why associate ‘the left’ with hating slavery and ‘Christian orthodoxy’ with slavery itself. This seems an error at best.
    Hence certain objections on the thread. Everyone knows the democrats supported slavery and inspired murderous slavery riots in New York.
    Try this, it’s from the other day it’s American to boot:-

    http://egnorance.blogspot.co.uk/2013_08_01_archive.html

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013
    What Obama is doing is what Progressivism is
    Progressive commentator Julie Roginsky:

    So,
    it would seem that you have actually confirmed Lydia’s analysis after all. Though in a somewhat…ahem…’unintentional’ manner.

    Regs.

  40. Like Lydia and John Richardson, I’m going to sign out from this thread. I’m going to claim victory since, so far as I can see, my thesis that orthodox Christians did not build the cathedral still stands. There was some mild pushback against that proposition at the head of the thread, but the whole thing quickly devolved into red-herring dragging, smoke blowing, and hand waving. In thousands of vehement words, the two strong critics of my post did not point to a single historical document, frame a single argument, or (so far as recall) cite a single relevant passage from scripture. They did use the word “obvious” with some frequency.

    I am interested in the historical truth of my proposition. My strong critics are alarmed over the consequences of that proposition being true. When the truth has alarming consequences, some people say damn the truth. I say damn the consequences. Not that I think the truth I asserted has dire consequences. We’re not living in 1855!

    For those of you interested in the tactics of internet debate, there are lessons to be learned from the preceding thread. Lydia kept demanding “clarity” and blasted any answer she did not like as “evasion.” Her aim, I believe, was to force me into making a greatly simplified statement that she could then retail as an expression of naked racism. If my answer came with even a portion of the qualifications I would place on any statement about slavery, it was rejected as unclear and evasive. Of course if my answer had come without these qualifications, she would at once have pounced with the accusation that it was “crude,” “simplistic,” and “lacking in nuance.”

    I’m presuming that John Richardson is, in fact, Oscar Wilde, perhaps kept alive by a process similar to that described in The Portrait of Dorian Gray. I do have one remark to make in answer to his parting shot. Knowing “basic history” can be deceptive, since “basic history” is by its very nature the conventional gloss that is given to past events. Notwithstanding its name, “basic history” is not the basis of history. The basis of history is found in the documents and “basic history” is a greatly simplified interpretation of those documents. You can’t reject my thesis with an appeal to basic history because my thesis is that basic history is wrong.

    Enough. If the Orthosphere crew hasn’t decided to wash their hands of me, I’ll be posting a sequel to this post in the near future. It will probe a little father into the deep history of what I have called the “humanist heresy” and bring this forward to its late nineteenth-century expressions in Positivism and the Church of Humanity.

    Thanks to everyone who covered my back.

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