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Saturday, November 30, 2019


While doing my early morning web surfing, I came upon this piece by Ezra Klein in Vox, posted four days ago.  Taking his lead from two recent and much noted speeches by William Barr, Klein in effect looks at America from the perspective of the White Evangelical world, and quite powerfully captures the panicked sense of embattled defensiveness that dominates that world and explains its willingness to embrace an unregenerate sinner like Trump.  I confess I had not appreciated the desperation with which the White religious right perceives the world, nor had I fully recognized the reasonableness of that desperation.  Difficult as it maybe for those of us on the left to acknowledge it, accustomed as we are to defining ourselves as perpetual losers, the religious right has suffered nothing but defeats for several generations now, and there is for them no hope in sight.

First of all [I am here simply echoing Klein], the numbers are with us and against them.  Each year, there is a smaller percentage of self-identified White Evangelicals in America, a larger percentage overall who say they have no organized religious affiliation, a greater proportion of non-whites.  What is more ominous, the young are dramatically less religious and less White than the old, guaranteeing that short of racial genocide coupled with yet another Great Awakening, the situation will only get worse.

Look at it, as I am trying to do, from the perspective of a fifty-eight year old White Evangelical Trump supporter.  What is happening in his world [or hers]?  Well, women have utterly rejected their proper post-World War II Saturday Evening Post role as homemakers and mothers, deferential to, if not quite obedient to, their husbands.  Black people no longer know their place and expect us to treat them as though they were our equals.  Abortion is rampant, despite judges and State Houses.  Queers are out and running for the presidency, for heaven’s sake, and people who cannot even accept the gender God gave them expect us to make room for them in our toilets.  If I may invoke an old but still useful phrase, the world is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Oh, we can pack the courts, gerrymander the House seats, suppress the vote, hug the Electoral College to our breasts, and pray that the Rapture comes before things get any worse, but in our hearts we know we have lost.  Not even our stockpiles of Second Amendment weaponry can save us.  Perhaps it is time to retreat beyond the Exurbs to Sanctuary Counties where we can live by God’s Law and wait for His Second Coming.

Seriously, folks, this is not nonsense.  We are winning, we really are.  Now, let us be very clear.  Our victory is not against capitalism.  It is against Christianity, and beyond that, against religion broadly understood.  Deep, intractable, structural exploitation and inequality remain.  And capitalism has shown itself to be quite flexibly open-minded when it comes to these culture wars, for all that it is happy to use bigotry when it suits its purposes.  Still and all, a little victory dance in the privacy of our bedrooms is called for.


s. wallerstein said...

These people are more dangerous than the Wall St. capitalists themselves. If socialism triumphs, Wall St. will simply move its money from the United States to one or another fiscal paradise (much of the money is already there) and move their chief residences from New York to somewhere else where their money continues to buy the privileges that they are accustomed to.

The White evangelists have no where to go to anymore now that apartheid no longer governs South Africa and so they will resist the commie takeover with their guns.

Dean said...

Were I religious, I'd seek succor in the holy book. Nothing you or Klein enumerates would demoralize me. I'd invite my White Evangelical neighbors--the true believers, I mean, and not the cynical opportunists--to quit being such whiny babies.

Richard Lewis said...

I'd be very wary of extrapolating linear trends out of anything social. Which I know is a cliche, but it is true nonetheless. Just think of the crowing of Liberal pacifist types in 1905-ish, that nationalism was dead and international war unthinkable.

Another 'Great Awakening' of sorts may indeed be on the cards, although I think it might be somewhat more 'inclusive' in terms of LGBT and gender and emphasize monogamy and thrift in its social form and some kind of 'Me-too-Mike Pence' fusion when it comes to gender relations - i.e a re-segregation of genders that merges feminist and conservative themes.

More broadly, if large portions of the population (not just white people for goodness sake) feel utterly without meaning and worthless in the age of digital network cartels and Ivy league monopolization of all 'interesting' jobs where real creativity is permissible, there will surely be a 'spiritual' counter movement. And yes, socialism should fill that gap. But since it won't, religion might instead. The alternative is just globalized anomie, neo-feudalism and everyone with an IQ under 130 being plugged into virtual reality machines, out of the way of the people who matter.

Howie said...

If the future of American elections belongs to secular progressives,then the left ought not to be rejectionist against 'moderates' like Bloomberg and the mayor from Indiana, and me- if a progressive does not win in 2020, your day shall come. Trump is such a monstrous evil and ass hole that the focus should be cast on winning at all costs, even though the right and evangelicals view this as their armageddon and have made a deal with the devil for all their so called Christianity- let it be their Alamo and then we can build a better future on that solid victory

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

I think the key line in your post is how "capitalism is quite flexibly open-minded when it comes to these culture wars." As I understand it, it was Herbert Marcuse who noted the "terrible but beautiful" way that capitalism has the ability to absorb and nullify threats to its existence. Capitalism will easily survive (and prosper) the fade out (die off?) of the white evangelicals. So therein remains the challenge: how to overcome (or keep in check) capitalism despite that loss. Not an easy task.

-- Jim

Neverthelessly said...

"Seriously, folks, this is not nonsense. We are winning, we really are. Now, let us be very clear. Our victory is not against capitalism. It is against Christianity, and beyond that, against religion broadly understood."

Finally, the veil of words drops and behold! The bellicose truth.

Pascal once wrote, contrasting man's fratricidal cultural and political origins against the Biblically-revealed truth of his universal fraternity,

"What a long and strange war it is where violence tries to crush truth! Hard as it may struggle, violence cannot weaken truth, and its efforts only make truth stand out more clearly. Truth, however brightly it may shine, can do nothing to stop violence, and its light only irritates violence even more. When might is ranged against might, the stronger defeats the weaker. When discourse is ranged against discourse, what is true and convincing confounds and dissipates what is based only on vanity and lies.

But violence and truth can do nothing, the one against the other. Nevertheless, don't be fooled by that into thinking that they are at the same level as each other. For there is this extreme difference between them: that violence only has a course marked out for it by God's command, such that its effects redound to the glory of the truth which it is attacking, while truth subsists eternally, and triumphs in the end over its enemies. Because it is as eternal and powerful as God himself."

One might think they are strange allies, but the Left and Right, like Athena and Zeus, both carry the same aegis which, as with all myth, conceals from view the sacred spear of man's enduring Pride.

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