The Puritan question

A guest post by commenter JMSmith:

In an interesting post, Foseti returns to the Puritan Question, and affirms that “one key tenet” of Neoreaction is that Progressivism is a “nontheistic Christian sect.”  No doubt there is much to be gained by understanding Progressivism as a messianic movement, and much to be regretted in the fact that Progressive chiliasts were so long cosseted in the cradle of Christian culture, but Progressivism is not a nontheistic Christian sect.  It is that old skin-changer Gnosticism, now divested of Christian symbols, acting under a new guise suited to the sensibilities of nontheistic men and women.

I suggest that the real Puritan Question is, what exactly is Puritanism?  To frame the question in Aristotelian terms, we should ask, which attributes are essential to Puritanism, and which are accidental?  And then, more specifically, we should ask, whether Christianity (however loosely defined) is one of these essential attributes, or whether it was only accidentally, contingently, and temporarily associated with this essentially alien spiritual tendency?

My answer is, obviously, that the association was accidental.

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Humanitarian Humbug and Hostility

A guest post by commenter JMSmith:

When we say that Western Civilization is post-Christian, we do not mean that Christianity has become irrelevant.  It will not be irrelevant so long as we continue to be defined in a vital way by our answers to the decisive question that Jesus posed to his disciples: “whom say ye that I am?”  To this question three basic answers are possible.  There is the orthodox Christian answer that he is the Son of the triune God, there is the infidel answer that he was a silver-tongued grifter, and there is the humanitarian answer that he was an exemplary human being and harbinger of what all men will one day become.  We are post-Christian because the first answer is not so popular as it once was, but also because the question itself remains vital and decisive.

Today the humanitarian answer is the most respectable, and quite possibly the most popular.  It avoids the offensive nastiness of the infidel answer and the metaphysical mysteries of the orthodox answer, so it appeals to people who aspire to be nice and normal.   Moreover, it carries the flattering implication that these nice and normal people are also more than a little Christ-like.  The question is, are they Christian?

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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.

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Is It Possible to Discriminate and Still Be a Christian?

This is a guest post by regular commenter Finn McCool

This very question has been percolating in my mind for many years now. I am a middle-aged man and I have never heard a sermon preached in any church which did not at least tacitly affirm the standard liberal view; i.e. that all discrimination is sinful. You may be wondering if I have any standing that would qualify me to speak on such a delicate subject. Well, I can tell you that I am an ordained presbyter, with orders in one of the conservative “alphabet soup” Anglican groups (e.g. ACC, ACNA, APCK, REC, etc.). I have an M. A. in Theology from a conservative, evangelical seminary, and I have been employed as a Bible instructor in a small Christian high school for close to ten years. I teach the Bible for a living, and in working through the scriptures I am daily reminded that the Triune God of the Bible is far tougher than the Unitarian god in whom “we trust” as Americans.

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Testing Among the Far Right’s Theories

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Various strands of the far right are divided on both normative matters (what is the good) and positive matters (what is happening/ how does the world work). Consider specifically positive theories of US elite behavior. Why does our evil elite behave as it does?

Furthermore, consider not proximal, instrumental causes but distal, more final causes. Saying “people talk and do nonsense about gay marriage, sluts, secular materialism, etc because it is high status to do so” is true. But it’s like saying “that wall exists because a carpenter cut, positioned, and drove nails into two-by-fours in just such a way.” And, let us tease out predictions, so that one can test among theories.

The more respectable part of the far right sees its conflict with modernity as a conflict of ideas within an ethno-cultural space which is not essentially contested. Modernity is what HBD types might call a meme disease or mind virus. Bad ideas have leaked into the Western elite mind, taken it over, and ruthlessly replicated themselves. That these ideas have differential effects on different sub-populations is incidental. Interesting, perhaps; relevant, perhaps, but not central. The ideas are central.

The less respectable part of the far right sees its conflict with modernity as a conflict with people/cultures. The world is made up of ethno-cultural groupings who are inevitably in a struggle with one another. Modernity, meaning the ideas of modernity, is, for this strain of the right, just a weapon which the currently ascendant ethno-cultural group happens to be using to great effect against the currently subjugated ethno-cultural groups.

I can’t resist quoting the Illinois Nazis from the Blues Brothers: “The Jew is using the Black … against you!!” Not all people-centric rightists believe this exact thing, but this is the kind of thing they believe. Contrast this with the idea-centric rightist view that progressives are caught in a delusional thought-pattern called “liberal creationism.”

On to our prediction-generating question: Whither progressives’ solicitous attitudes towards blacks as progressives’ power continues to grow?

On the idea-centric view of progressivism, we should see these attitudes harden, expand, and be promoted more forcefully as progressives’ power waxes. These ideas are, evidently, central for them. Furthermore, the rebellion of non-elite whites has been the big impediment to their expression—the courts’ giving up on school busing, for example, was synchronous with Reagan’s victory in the early 80s. As non-elite whites lose power, so progressives gain the ability to put these ideas more into force.

On the people-centric view of progressivism, we should see these attitudes end. Blacks have been a useful hammer for destroying two rival ethno-cultural groupings: Southern whites and urban Catholics. As rigor mortis settles in to those groupings and as they additionally become irrelevant in electoral calculus, hitting them becomes pointless and costly. Even better, there is now a much more congenial brown hammer which can be deployed. So, the black hammer gets put down.

So, when the day comes when progressives are so powerful that they will never again need big black turnout to win in FL and the rust belt, we shall see which prediction is bourn out. What year? 2030 maybe? By 2050 for sure.

The Great Courses

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Often, it seems, traditionalists only figure out that they are traditionalists well after their youth. Certainly that is the case for me. If you realize late that the default history you know and the default reality you inhabit bear little relationship to what happened and what is happening, respectively, then what do you do?

But it is worse. Knowing little about history, art, philosophy, music and a lot about economics and statistics once seemed not just reasonable but desirable. Adam Smith’s pin factory and the benefits of specialization and all that. But now knowing little of these subjects seems absolutely intolerable. Furthermore, burdened with obligations of career and family, it’s not as if I can go back to college. And where would I go anyway? What to do?

“Read books” is fine advice. But time constraints mean that it will take a long time. Converting time spent behind a steering wheel to productive use seems wise. So, I have spent a lot of time over the last few years listening to courses from The Great Courses. Here is a list of courses I found both high quality and conflicting with consensus reality in the US:

World of Byzantium

Philosophy of Science

After the New Testament

History of Science to 1700

History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

I have three questions for readers. First, what other courses from this or another provider are similarly both 1) good and 2) strong where consensus reality is weak? Second, I came across this specifically Catholic competitor to The Great Courses. It looks unpromising to me, but does anyone have experience with it? Third, does anyone have further general suggestions for post-formal-education autodidacticism?

Must a Traditional Man Accept Modern Marriage?

A guest post by Dalrock.

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Alan Roebuck recently asked Can Man Live Traditionally?

Alan answered yes, and went so far as to argue that a man has an obligation to marry even though this means marrying in a legal and social regime which has done all it can to eradicate traditional marriage, and even if this means marrying a woman who wouldn’t have been considered appropriate to marry by tradition minded men of past generations.

As a member of what I have dubbed the traditional marriage group within the manosphere, I asked Alan if he would be interested in me providing a response as a guest post. Alan very graciously accepted. I suggested this because while I differ in some important aspects with Alan’s position on the topic, I was impressed with his willingness to go against the grain of our thoroughly feminised culture and acknowledge the unpopular truths regarding what our society has transformed marriage into. While I think it is unlikely that opinions will be changed on either side, my hope with this exchange is that each of us will better understand the positions of the other. Continue reading

The Esoteric Traditionalism of Matewan

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Back when I was a neo-con doofus, the movie Matewan was a guilty pleasure. For those unfamiliar, Matewan is a fictionalized depiction of the events surrounding the Battle of Matewan. This was a violent confrontation, set off by a union organizing drive, in Matewan, WV between members of the United Mine Workers and the Stone Mountain Coal Company. One of the many intellectual benefits of moving to the real right is appreciating this film without guilt.

Seen through one lens, the movie is straight-up socialist agit-prop. The protagonist is a former Wobbly, career labor activist, Joe Kenehan. The antagonists are a couple of drunken, degenerate, dishonest pinkerton goons. The movie is well-made and visually beautiful, but its plotting is crude and predictable with the socialist Kenehan as improbably angelic as the pinkertons are demonic. The Kenehan character is boring to watch and difficult to identify with.

So, how does the movie draw our sympathies to the UMW’s side? There is only one technique on offer. We are presented, over and over, with the clash between real, organic, traditional cultures on the one side and the cold, empty, but overwhelmingly powerful forces of modernity on the other. Modernity is played by, first, the railroad, and, second, the pinkertons.

Early in the movie, the pinkertons get off the train in Matewan and find, sitting at the train station, a pretty young woman. It seems that she spends her days watching the trains come and go. This seemingly stock character is not. Normally, Hollywood portrays this woman very sympathetically as a visionary and dreamer, a woman “too big for this small town.” Here, she is portrayed as empty, stupid, and essentially autistic. Naturally, the pinkertons are very unpleasant to her, but the interaction comes off less as the pinkertons victimizing her than three people failing to interact meaningfully because there is an empty space where
that-which-interacts should be. They who come from the railroad and she who hankers after it.

Later, the pinkertons go to a Sunday service at the local Baptist assembly and drunkenly laugh through “There is Power in the Blood.” Again, what one comes away with is not so much hatred for the pinkertons but horror at the contrast between the evident fullness, community, and rootedness of the townspeople and the yawning, tinny, broken emptiness of the pinkertons.

In another scene, Kenehan recounts his time during the First World War in prison with some Mennonites. He describes with evident awe watching, day after day, as the Mennonites pried the buttons off their prison-issued clothes, sure in the knowledge that they would be punished but surer in the knowledge that their traditions require that they take the buttons off.

In a climactic scene, the strikers (now consisting of blacks & Italian immigrants brought under false pretenses by the company to break the strike, along with the indigenous Appalachians) are at
their campsite. They are about to be dispossessed of what little they have left by the pinkertons. From nowhere arrive a bunch of Hillbillies who chase off the pinkertons via a show of force (evidently, they have been harboring a longstanding grudge against the company). As the pinkertons leave, one comments on a
Hillbilly’s outdated firearm, asking if it was used in the Spanish War. No, he replies, in the War Between the States.

One could go on in this vein. The case the movie makes for the UMW could not be more clear. The union will protect your culture and way of life. The company will destroy it. Whether this is actually true in the real world is of no moment. The sales-job presupposes traditionalism. As Bonald points out in one of his posts, Hollywood sometimes makes traditionalist movies by accident. We are so off their radar screen that they sometimes stumble accidentally into our territory—because we are right about how humans are, humans respond to traditionalist themes.

Esoterica in science

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Over the last century or so and especially over the last fifty years, Western elites have adopted a number of bizarre positions. These positions are held not because any evidence suggests them to be true, but, evidently, for reasons emotional, ideological, and self-interested. This, by itself, is not especially comment-worthy: people are like that.

They also, however, adhere with similar intensity to older positions: to modern philosophy, to a kind of Whiggish history, and to the machine—to the Mechanical Philosophy and the scientific program it lionizes. To themselves they are hard-headed, empirical rationalists; guardians, seekers, and producers of truth. Naturally enough, rationalists, realists, and truth-tellers deserve to be high, while spiritualists, super-naturalists, and fantasists deserve to be low. The Logos must rule.

Tensions arise when the new beliefs come into conflict with truths produced by the machine, to which they are committed by the old beliefs. The tensions are not merely internal to the heads of Liberals, either. These two belief-sets are not equally strong in all Liberals, some of them lean heavily towards the machine and some of them lean heavily towards progressivism. Since progressivism is increasingly ascendant, the machinists retreat. One way they retreat, reminiscent of the way their predecessors the alchemists retreated before them, is into esoterica. That is they retreat into producing texts whose exoteric, open meaning is false and progressive but whose esoteric, hidden meaning is true and anti-progressive.

The most accessible example of this is race denial. The renowned Stanford geneticist (and cowardly machinist), Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, in the introduction to and again in chapter 1 of his 2001 book, Genes, Peoples, and Languages says explicitly and in almost these words that human “racial” differences are unimportant and are only skin deep. The remainder of the book is a detailed refutation of these claims, which refutation, however, never notices itself as such. By two pages from the denial in chapter 1, you know that race is at least blood deep. By the end, you know it is bone deep, gene deep. Exoterically, he never admits that race exists, that it is biological, or that it is important. Esoterically, the book is almost about showing the truth of these things. Cavalli-Sforza is famous enough that his behavior has provoked learned commentary. There is a fine series of blog posts on this by the anthropologist Peter Frost beginning here, continuing here and culminating in an informative seven part series (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven).

A funny example of this came to my attention the other day over at West Hunter, the blog of the physicist-turned-anthropologist Gregory Cochran. In the linked post, Cochran talks about the work of Dan Freedman with newborns. As it turns out, newborn babies display some of the stereotypical behavior of their respective races. Newborns display large differences in their willingness to accept externally imposed discomfort. Babies rank, from most to least accepting: Navaho, Chinese, Japanese, White, Black. As it turns out, you can buy a DVD of data from the experiment, a DVD entitled Cross-Cultural Differences in Newborn Behavior. Look at the word between “cross” and “differences.”

Interest, delusion, and parrots

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Perhaps Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch  is their most iconic work. A customer brings a dead parrot back to the store from which it was bought, claiming that it was dead upon purchase. The clerk/owner responds, persistently, that the parrot is not dead. Hilarity ensues.

There is something compelling about watching parrot mongers at work: asserting the sky’s pinkness, insinuating the evil of pink-sky-deniers, frothing and threatening. It’s not just for comedy sketches. Parrot-mongers are rife. Get the parents of an ugly, stupid, clumsy, and nasty child talking. Ask, in the Art History Department, about the value of a BFA. Ask an investment banker about the value of “financial innovation.”

Parrot-mongers look foolish. Somehow, they know they look foolish. Thus, they must have a reason for their parrot-mongering. Often, as in the examples above, it is soothing their pride or resolving the dissonance between what is actually true and which truth would be in their interest. While this is not benign, one sympathizes.

When this straightforward explanation is lacking, though, what is going on? Behind the Iron Curtain, the populace generally sold parrots for the Communist elite. As Havel, Solzhenitsyn and others explain, one sold the regime’s parrots, at one level, to avoid punishment and, at another, to reassure the elite that they remained in power. Still, though, this was about interest—the regime’s interest in resolving the conflict between the elite’s mismanagement of the country and, well, their desire to remain the elite. Furthermore, it remains very easy to see the connection between the lies, the people telling the lies, the elite mandating the lies, and the elite’s interest motivating the lies.

Putting the Communists to shame, the US is overrun with parrot mongers. But, in our case, the connection back to the interest of the elite motivating this is much less apparent. Whose interests are served by the race denial parrot? By the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming parrot? By the war between religion and science parrot? By the blank slate and gender equality parrots?

Commenters on the right, whether secular or religious and whether neo or paleo, have tended to take as our task refutation of the parrot-mongers. We have decided to be John Cleese. While this has value, pace the Asch conformity experiment, it seems overdone. It seems as if we, like John Cleese as consumer or like Charlie Brown as placekicker, are taking our tormenters at their word where their word is clearly not good.

If treating the parrot-mongers as honestly deluded is mistaken, then treating them as dishonestly interested in fooling us is better. But, then, what’s their program? Cui bono? And what is the right countermove?